Author's Note: So, here is my first shot at Bleach fanfiction. I usually write one-shots, so this will be doubly a challenge for me. There will be a number of pairings cropping up during the course of the story, but it will focus on one main pairing.
So, this chapter begins kind of in the middle of the story. Chapter Two will take you back and get you caught up on how we wound up here. Time-line is just before the Winter War arc.
It wasn't very often anymore that the Ninth Division Barracks was graced with a visit from the head of the Kuchiki clan's head, so it took the acting captain, and ranked Lieutenant, slightly by surprise to see the serene man enter through the office door.
"Kuchiki-taichou," he greeted, managing to stand from his desk without sending the chair over backwards.
He didn't bother to return the greeting, but got straight to the point. "How long has it been?"
Shuuhei's eyebrows knit, seeking clarification.
"Since Tousen deserted—how long has it been?"
Shuuhei bristled. "Sir, I…"
"Too long," Byakuya supplemented. "Too long has there been a hole in the workings of the Gotei 13. Even before the betrayal--" He said the word far too casually for Hisagi to be able to stomach, "Aizen and the others were clearly not positively contributing to the order and discipline required of the Captains." He walked farther into the room, casting a cold gaze out the window.
"You, Hisagi Shuuhei, are expected to fill his role."
There was silence in the small room, but Shuuhei's head was reeling, and he stared at the floor.
"Are you willing?"
Another half moment of hesitation persisted until Shuuhei's head snapped up as if waking from a trance and he said "yes." He suspected that Byakuya would have accepted no other answer.
"The captain's meeting to discuss your promotion will be tomorrow morning at nine and I have on good authority that the number of required recommendations will be met. I expect to see you there in a--" Byakuya paused to run a quick look over the man before him, "more suitably formal uniform."
Shuuhei ran a hand absently over his rumpled shitagi, an ineffective motion to smooth the winkles.
"Fukutaichou, are you listening?"
"Huh? Sort of?" Shuuhei scratched the back of his neck. "Forgive me, Kuchiki-taichou. This is a lot to absorb."
"It's really quite simple. Tousen deserted in favor of Aizen's cause, and you were the division's Lieutenant. Since your squad members are already familiar with you and your training techniques, it was felt by myself and a number of captains that you would be the most proficient choice to take over their captain's position."
"My captain's position," Shuuhei added.
"If you wish to still think of him as such, then yes," Byakuya muttered dryly. "Although for your sake, I hope you shall cease to do so."
Shuuhei's lips pressed together to form a thin line. "Thank you, Kuchiki-taichou, for this opportunity. I am honored."
"Hn," was the only response he garnered. "I will see you tomorrow morning at nine, then, Hisagi-fukutaichou. Don't forget to dress well—for the love of God try to find something with sleeves."
The din of the room that greeted him quickly subsided as he took careful steps toward his place between Kyoraku and Hitsugaya. Uncomfortably, as the chatter transformed into silence and all eyes turned to him, he tugged on his sleeves.
"Now that we have all arrived, shall we begin?" The General's voice boomed throughout the large room, stealing the attention of the gathered captains away from their newest member. Shuuhei sighed in relief.
"You are all aware of the purpose of this gathering, and so since I seem to only be able to hold order in these situations for a short amount of time, let us get straight to the point." He seemed weary when several chuckles and nods of agreement followed his prediction, but continued nonetheless. "Hisagi-fukutaichou, please step forward."
Without hesitation Shuuhei stepped out of line, squaring his shoulders for good measure. He felt the weight of each and every squad leader's eyes fall on him once again.
"Matsumoto-fukutaichou, Abarai-fukutaichou, Kira-fukutaichou and Kotetsu-fukutaichou, please come forth."
Shuuhei tried to hide a grin when the four vice-captains, and his friends, approached.
"Nominating captain, please state you reasons for suggesting Hisagi-fukutaichou as the 9th Division's captain."
"Sir," Hitsugaya began, taking a step forward and giving Shuuhei a brief glance. "Hisagi-san has shown sufficient leadership skills while acting as Vice-Captain to the 9th Division, and his strength has been proven an essential asset in battle on a number of notable occasions. Furthermore I have little doubt that the shift of power within the ranks of the 9th will be made smoothly, as the squad is already familiar and comfortable with Hisagi-san's authority." His eyebrow quirked slightly, "But I was not the only captain with Hisagi's name in mind. As I'm sure you're all aware, induction by personal recommendation requires six captains to speak on behalf of the candidate."
Unohana moved forward swiftly, shooting Shuuhei a quick smile before addressing the room. "I also recommended Hisagi Shuuhei for the position of Captain of the 9th Division." She smiled warmly again and turned her attention across the room.
Komamura stepped forward and declared that he too was recommending Hisagi.
"I too spoke for him." Heads turned toward the front so see Soifon step forward. She wasn't nearly as encouraging as the others had been, but Shuuhei managed a nod in her direction despite her indifference.
Finally, Byakuya moved quietly forward. "I also suggested Hisagi-fukutaichou for the position," he said, "for it has come to my knowledge that he has been able to reach Bankai."
Shuuhei's eyes flew wide open, and shot directly to Renji, who was smiling innocently. Several scattered murmurs drifted between captains.
"Is this correct, Hisagi-fukutaichou?" Yamamoto's voice was stern.
Closing his eyes briefly, he turned to the General. "Yes, sir."
"And there is witness to it?"
Renji hesitantly lifted his hand.
Shuuhei bit back a groan. This explained why there had been six captains willing to agree to his captaincy.
"It took a while, but he got it," Matsumoto giggled. "Ren- er, Abarai-fukutaichou was the catalyst, Kotetsu was along to put them back together, and Kira and I were there for moral support!"
"Without the supervision of a Captain?"
"Sir, with all due respect," Kira commented. "Bankai training rules express that the officer undergoing training must be under the supervision of his Division's Captain, and at the time, Hisagi-san was the acting captain of the 9th division due to Tousen's..."
"Betrayal," Renji finished, with a resolute tone of voice.
"Abarai-fukutaichou, you were the acting catalyst in the training process, where was your captain?"
Byakuya cleared his throat. "I was in attendance, sir."
The five vice-captains stared at the 6th division captain with shocked expressions, but with one look from Byakuya, they all resumed a more neutral face.
"And you did not take on the role of catalyst yourself? Would you not have better control over your reiatsu than that of your Lieutenant?"
"General Yamamoto, I have every confidence in the abilities of my Lieutenant."
Renji stood a little straighter.
"Very well, the case has been made on behalf of Hisagi-san. Captains, please resume your places in line."
Shuuhei stood alone, supported only by his fellow lieutenants, at the scrutiny of the captains.
"Of those who were not one of the people recommending Hisagi, who is in favor of Hisagi Shuuhei to become the Captain of the 9th Division?" Yamamoto boomed.
Ukitake and Kyoraku where the first two to step forward, chuckling to themselves and each other at their simultaneous decision. Ukitake offered Shuuhei a reassuring smile, which despite the sick feeling in his stomach, he was able to reciprocate out of politeness, even if it did look as though it pained him to do so.
"The Gotei 13 requires three supporting votes for the movement to be passed," the general reminded.
"General Yamamoto, sir!" Renji exclaimed. "There are not a full 13 members to vote, this is fuckin' ridiculous!"
"Silence, Abarai!" Byakuya snapped.
Renji's mouth slammed closed.
"I'm your third vote," Zaraki grumbled. "Don't get your panties in a bunch." He lumbered from his place in line to stand next to Hitsugaya and put a fond hand on top of the boy's head, which he swatted away almost immediately.
"Then we have made a decision. Kuchiki, I expect you to deal with your subordinate's insolence when you return to the 6th, but please try to refrain from turning this meeting into a circus. For now, would the vice-captains please retrieve Hisagi-taichou's effects?"
"Hai!" they responded in unison, scurrying away.
"Hisagi Shuuhei, Captain of the 9th Division of the Gotei 13, please come forward."
He hadn't made a coherent thought since Zaraki had stepped forward in his favor, nor did he deem himself capable of doing so. Absently he moved across polished marble, facing the General, but not looking at him.
"Do you accept the responsibilities associated with this task, Hisagi?"
"Yes, sir." As if he had a choice.
In front of him appeared the four vice-captains, each of them holding something different in their hands.
"Your commission, Hisagi-taichou," Kira explained as he handed the rolled scroll to him. Shuuhei looked down at it, and Kira thrust it forward once again, whispering "take it," before shoving it into his hand and returning to his place in line. It took a moment before Shuuhei was able to snap into action and place the rolled parchment in the folds of his uniform.
"Your zampakutou, Hisagi-taichou," Renji said, offering forward the sword that had been taken from him the minute he entered the building.
"Thanks," he said quietly, accepting the blade and returning it to its regular home, pressed against his hip where its weight was familiar and welcomed.
Renji clapped his shoulder in a companionable manner, and made way for Matsumoto, who carried with her the 9th division haori of billowing white fabric.
"Your haori, Hisagi-taichou," she said with a smile full of pride. She shook out the garment and reached around him to drape it over his shoulders, her breasts pressing against him as she did so. Had the new captain been in a more rational state of mind, he would have found pleasure in this, but as it was, he let her finish, and whispered a muted thank you to her as she straightened the garment on his shoulders.
"Hisagi-taichou." The final greeting was from Isane, who in her hands held a bouquet of small yellow buttercups, the symbol of the 9th division.
"Kotetsu-san," he whispered.
"Hisagi-taichou?" Her eyes widened and the flowers fell to the floor in time for her to catch him as he toppled forward.
Gasps rang out in the hall, but nobody moved except the four vice captains at the front. Renji and Kira exchanged concerned glances as they lifted Hisagi's weight off of Isane, each of them hooking an arm around their shoulders.
"Take him to the fourth!" Isane shouted after them, who with Matsumoto's help was gathering her wits about her as well as regaining her balance.
Chatter erupted among the observing parties, and Yamamoto sighed, lifting his hand to massage his temple. "I present your new colleague, Captain of the 9th Division, Hisagi Shuuhei."
Author's Note: Stay tuned for more next week, and let me know what you think!