Toward Eternity

Bakageta

Summary: Unohana had nervous butterflies, and seeing Byakuya did not help. One Shot, Sequel to He Kindly Stopped for Me, setup for future ByaHana in Mercy's Eyes Are Blue.

Notes: You don't need to read 'He Kindly Stopped for Me' but I'd like to think you get more out of it if you do. This occurs roughly five years after the events of 'He Kindly Stopped for Me' and slightly before the Quincy Massacre, or about two hundred years before the current bleach story arcs.

Since then 'tis centuries, and yet each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses' heads
Were toward eternity.

-Emily Dickinson


Unohana Retsu knelt outside a shoji encased room in the bowels of the First Divison, inside were the First Division Taicho, Yamamoto Genryuusai; her own captain, Shiba Isshin-Taicho; and three unknown Captains. She could hear the low murmur of their voices but couldn't recognize any individuals other than her captain. As Third Seat she hadn't met many, or heard many, Captains in her short career as a Shinigami despite her rank. Her advancement in the Fourth Division depended upon the outcome of this formal meeting.

Needless to say she was nervous. If this went well she and the current Second Seat, Iemura Yasochika-Fuku-Taicho, would switch positions. If it went badly she would remain where she was for Kami knows how long. All that kept the meeting from proceeding was Iemura's absence.

A sudden flash of reiatsu and Iemura was beside her.

"Sorry I'm late." He said breathlessly, He had obviously used shunpo to cover the distance between divisions. "There was break through with--."

Retsu held up hand. "It's okay Yasochika-Fuku-Taicho, I know how things go in hospitals."

Iemura nodded and shoved his glasses further up the bridge of his nose. Retsu wondered if he would say anything else but he seemed to have become locked in an internal monologue. She hoped he wouldn't be mad if he had to move down in the ranks, he seemed nice enough.

A quiet thump and a distinct call of "Yasochika." and Iemura stood to enter.

As he entered, Retsu craned he head to see as far into the meeting room as she could without seeming impolite. She couldn't see anyone other than Yamamoto-Taicho and Shiba-Taicho.

She heard more talking loud enough to hear but just quiet enough that she couldn't make out any words. It was infuriating.

Retsu sighed and wondered which three Captains Shiba-Taicho had brought to recommend her. It was likely that two of them would be his good friends, Kyoraku-Taicho and Ukitake-Taicho. But, if the third was also a friend, Urahara-Taicho for instance, it would seem suspicious to Yamamoto-Taicho. There had to at least be a pretense of a lack of bias. Her promotion depended on Iemura and the mystery Captain's opinions of her.

There was some final sounding mutters and the she was invited in. Their decision had been made.

Both Kyoraku-Taicho and Ukitake-Taicho were there she noted, but when she saw the third captain she nearly gasped out loud. Kuchiki Byakuya was the third Captain. As she walked to her position next to and slightly behind Shiba-Taicho she wondered why he had been chosen. A debt between noble heirs? Retsu couldn't think of any other reason.

There was no way Byakuya owed her, if anything it was the other way around. He had stopped the hollow who had been going after the Royal Family whose doctor she had been while still living and he had sent her on, keeping her from a decline onto Hollow-hood. What had her Captain bartered to get his opinion. Or, had her Captain hoped Byakuya's opinions towards her were the same as his own. She hoped this was so, because as the future head of a noble house Byakuya's opinion held more weight. If he dissented it was possible he could override the other two Captains.

When Retsu next looked up from her humble bowed position they had moved past the opening formal stilted language and were making the official declarations of their positions of her promotion.

Iemura went first, as it was his position that was being considered.

"I, Iemura Yasochika, Vice-Captain of the Gotei Thirteen's Fourth Relief Division accept the position of Third Seat of the Gotei Thirteen's Fourth Relief Division upon the ratification of Unohana Retsu's right to the Second Seat and position of Vice-Captain of the Gotei Thirteen's Fourth Relief Division."

Kyoraku stood and spoke.

"I, Kyoraku Shunsui, Captain of the Gotei Thirteen's Eighth Reserve Division, recommend Unohana Retsu for the position of Vice-Captain of the Gotei Thirteen's Fourth Relief Division."

Then Ukitake stood.

"I, Ukitake Juushiro, Captain of the Gotei Thirteen's Thirteenth General Division, recommend Unohana Retsu for the position of Vice-Captain of the Gotei Thirteen's Fourth Relief Division."

Then it was Byakuya's turn. Retsu could feel the butterflies fluttering in her stomach.

"I, Kuchiki Byakuya, Heir to head of the Noble Clan of Kuchiki and Captain of the Gotei Thirteen's Sixth Field Division, recommend Unohana Retsu for the position of Vice-Captain of the Gotei Thirteen's Fourth Relief Division."

Were she anywhere else Retsu would have gaped. Sure, she was glad the decision was unanimous, but she couldn't help but wonder why Byakuya had recommended her.

"Then it is decided." Yamamoto-Taicho intoned. "Unohana Retsu, You have been found worthy in the eyes of your Captain, in the eyes of your Vice-Captain, and in the eyes of three of the Gotei's own Captains. In the face of such support I, Yamamoto Shigekuni Genryuusai, Commander-General of the Gotei Thirteen and Captain of the Gotei Thirteen's First Command Division, can do nothing but ratify Unohana Retsu's right to the Vice-Captaincy of the Gotei Thirteen's Fourth Relief division. Do you accept?"

Yamamoto-Taicho held a Vice-Captain's badge in his hands.

Retsu stood and bowed before approaching the Commander-General with her answer.

"I accept."

She took the badge and returned to he Captain's side. There was a few more minutes of conversation and then they were dismissed.

As soon as they were outside Isshin enveloped her in a bear hug and swung her around in a circle.

"Congratulations Retsu-Chan! You have succeeded gloriously in the Trial that I, your Psuedo-Father and amazingly handsome Captain, have placed upon you! May you become a powerful healer and experience almost as much success as I do! Now, before we begin our journey of learning and healing, do you have any questions!?"

"Just one Taicho." Retsu said smiling openly and broadly for the first time since she had been told that the Fourth division had reserved the Third seat for her.

"Then ask away, my flowering young apprentice!" Isshin shouted so loudly that Iemura, who was walking four meters behind them, covered his ears.

"Why did you ask Kuchiki-sama to come?"

Isshin thought for a moment before answering.

"Because, Retsu-chan, Kuchiki-kun is honest about everything but matters of his own heart. If he says you are worthy, than you are.

Notes:

-Fourth Division Captain Shiba Isshin- I've read at least one other fanfic that had Isshin as a Shiba and at least one other that had him as Fourth Division Captain. It seems plausible to me, and I wanted to try my hand at writing him.

- First Command Division, Eighth Reserve Division, Thirteenth General Division, and Sixth Field Division- Since the Second, Fourth, and Eleventh Divisions are specialized it made sense to me that the others should be too. I based my choices off of how the Captains themselves acted with the exception of the Eighth, which I has been called a reserve division in another fanfic whose title I can't remember.

-I completely made this ceremony up. It just makes sense to me that captains and vice-captains shouldn't be just picked out without any support from others in similar positions.

Author's Note

If anyone knows the names/authors of the fanfics mentioned in the notes, please tell me, I would love to give credit where credit is due.

I also ask that you review, even if you just copy-paste good job into it. I accept anonymous reviews too, so you have no excuse. Remember that for most authors reviews feed their egos and encourage them to write.