My deepest apologies, David, for the wait, but as a father and busy person, I know you understand and forgive. Thank you to nehalenia for catching typos and for supporting my crazy.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Bleach or its characters; Kubo Tite, Shueisha and others do.
Description: This short fic was written for the Live Journal auction helpjapan following the 2011 tsunami. The winner of my auction was davidj who requested a Kenpachi and Unohana story with the prompt “taking off the eyepatch.”
Rating: PG13 for a little swearing.
Musical excerpt (I could only find Spanish subtitles): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qdMKnrCFa0 (KenUno scene from Code 003 preceding Unohana’s solo song)
http://www.veoh.com/watch/yapi-bfqu10uI65o (“Oyasumi Nasai” from original Bleach musical No Cloud in the Blue Heavens)
Ridiculously long A/N: For one of the Bleach musicals (Code 003), Kubo Tite wrote an original scene for Kenpachi and Unohana in which the two captains discussed strength. Kenpachi lay wounded in a 4th division bed, and Unohana brought flowers to the room. When Kenpachi asked what the name of the flowers were, she told him to name them himself. After she left, Kenpachi said he understood. She sang a good-night song from back of the stage while Zaraki Kenpachi contemplated the flowers.
I’ve thought and thought about that scene, its little parable about imagination, and about the many incidences in Bleach that testify to the power of naming. When one names a thing one dresses it up with meanings, connects it to a personal history and imbues it with a strength beyond one’s immediate self. A name can cloak or obscure a meaning; a name can reveal everything.
I figured that the only time Kenpachi and Unohana interacted in canon manga would be times when she of the as-yet-unrevealed powers had to deal with whatever new gadget the 12th division had devised in order to hold back the 11th division captain’s reiatsu. Only Unohana would be strong enough to play with Kenpachi’s unleashed crazy in the name of making him well or making him a more disciplined fighter--of course, Zaraki was never thinking of discipline, only the PLEASURE in prolonging a battle.
So this ficlet is about Unohana replacing the old eye-patch with the new one.
Unohana Retsu? Zaraki Kenpachi? Unohana and Kenpachi together? Why do these two fascinate fandom so much? I began to ship them in 2005. Finally, a chance to write them again. Forgive the long intro, but ever since Kubo-sensei graced the pair with a scene in a sanctioned musical, I’ve wanted to write this. Here goes. ~deb, 2011
P.S. OMG, I FINALLY FOUND TIME TO FINISH THIS WIDDLE FICLET. The words above freak me out a little. Of course, Sensei had to complicate things by throwing in that wonderfully mad fight between this pair in-between the time I was prompted and now. Hoo boy. ~deb, July 2013
Flowers? What the fuck did flowers matter to him? Petals were things that if your fingers sweated on them they died. Or that bunch of flowers in the vase on the nightstand--? One exasperated huff and the whole thing would keel over and make a mess of water and twigs.
“Want them?” Zaraki asked Yumichika.
Yumi tossed his head and batted that ridiculous eyelash feather of his. Zaraki thought maybe Yumi used so much reiatsu to hold the heavy thing up that it served like a perpetual training weight. “Captain, let me tell you about gift etiquette,” Yumi began, and Zaraki knew for sure he didn’t want to hear any of that shit.
“Does that eyelash of yours make you stronger?”
“She gave these lovely flowers to you, and you have the nerve to re-gift? No!”
“You like flowers, and I don’t.” Zaraki raised one shoulder and rolled his neck. He always felt uncomfortable sitting on the examining table. 4th division equipment was so flimsy. He was going to break something, and then SHE would be unhappy about that. “Just take the damn flowers. I have no use for them.”
“What makes you think I have a use for them?” Yumichika graced the vase with a second glance. “I’ve never seen funny little blue thingies like that before. What are they called?”
Zaraki let out a growl loud enough to make his soldier jump a little.
“I’m out.” Yumi waved bye. “I wanted to say hello to Captain Unohana, but you’re on your own here. Ever since you’ve changed your hair, you’ve been in a foul mood. The bells--” Yumichika’s fingers gestured around his scalp as if playing an invisible lyre. “The bells were so festive.”
The soldier was gone before Zaraki could growl again.
The stupid blue flowers were positioned just this way and just that way, their stems stuck in places she thought were important. She taught an ikebana class, and Zaraki had considered taking it once because he suspected it might have something to do with fighting. The old commander’s class on kendo was good; she had been his best pupil after all, and it was peculiar that she didn’t teach the kendo class in the academy but taught the STICK YA FLOWERS HERE one instead.
There was only so long Zaraki could stare at the vase though. The flowers only reminded him that he hadn’t done his homework. Last time he’d been in this very room, she’d asked him to give a name to those stupid flowers.
He’d forgotten all about it.
The flowers had died before he could name them, so what did she expect?
Oh damn, here she is now. She’s going to ask me their name.
Zaraki could hear the voices of the 4th division captain greeting the 11th division fifth seat in the corridor. The sound of their talking was like so many bells making noise--none of it was important. Yumi the jingly bell and Captain Unohana the more sonorous bell. Zaraki could make out something about how Yumichika was complaining that his own captain had made fun of Yumi’s eyelash, that it was time for a new eyelash style--
I never said that.
Then her presence filled the room--all trivialities forgotten.
“One of most interesting assignments I’ve received yet,” said the beautiful captain of the 4th division. “At the least the most interesting from the science division.”
“Bunch of freaks,” said Zaraki. But they were freaks everyone needed, even him.
“You’ve changed your hair,” she noticed. Her lips were pink, not so pink as the little girl’s but a color like when the sun is coming up in the morning.
“Too much trouble,” said Zaraki.
“Troubles have their pay-offs,” she said and floated in that way of hers, like she owned the whole day, towards the little stand where the vase was. “The science division told me that the reiatsu collected in those little bells was of much service to them, so I’m sure you have their infinite gratitude for having worn them for so many years.”
“Eh,” said Zaraki. “It was a deal for the patch.”
“And now Captain Kurotsuchi has devised a new patch for you.” She lifted her little hands and held the palms over the flowers--as if casting some spell on them but Zaraki knew she was just looking for which stem to move. It never made any sense--moving one flower from one place to another place, but that was what ikebana was all about, apparently.
“This one sucks. Keeps falling off in battle. It’s no good if your opponent can accidentally knock it off.”
“And you….” She pulled one stem out of the vase, held it for a moment and put it back, it seemed, in the very same place. “You are man who needs some measure of control. Even if that control is as simple as going from totally restrained power to totally unrestrained power.”
Yes. What she said. He needed not to have dumb-asses knocking off his eyepatch before he was ready.
“Have you named the flowers yet?”
She had this way of catching him off-guard so hard that his face felt hot. No one else did that.
“I--uh--I noticed that those were the same ones you brought me last time I was here.” Maybe he would get points for noticing that.
Amazingly, she floated away from the vase of flowers and approached the examining table. “Well, let’s get rid of that old eyepatch, shall we? It’s useless.” Then without further ceremony, her little hand reached for his face.
Zaraki’s face backed away. “Wait. Don’t you have to warn people? Tell your soldiers to clear out first?”
She laughed, a sound like bells again. With one swift gesture she reached behind his ear and loosened the strap that attached his eyepatch; it fell into her left cupped palm. Her right palm covered his eye at the same time.
Zaraki never felt pain when a captain-level sword pierced him, let alone a medical needle or any puny device that wasn’t even a weapon, but there were five stinging sensations around his eye now. Something was penetrating to the bone around his eye-socket, and she was holding it fast there.
“It will be just a moment,” she said. Her voice was always warm and gracious. Especially in this place, her division’s headquarters. She sounded like she was about to serve tea and cakes, but she was holding some weird contraption from Kurotsuchi Mayuri over his eye, and the thing was stabbing into Zaraki’s very skull.
The stinging sensation started to go away.
Her reiatsu was pressed against his; he could feel it. There was no one else around who could bear his own strength that close, especially right where the restraint of the eyepatch had been, but sure enough, her little hand was held fast there. The shape of her palm over the 12th division contraption felt …. hot. It felt …. good.
“Oh it’s a new eye-patch,” Zaraki said.
“Yes. You should be starting to feel it curb your power now. I just have to hold it in place a little while longer as it adjusts to your soul.”
Zaraki slumped his shoulders and waited. He felt relaxed. He could wait. This was good. This was all very good. The last time he’d had an eyepatch fixed in this room, she’d knocked him out cold for the procedure, and the whole event had been humiliating and stupid. This wait felt like something worthwhile, and the feeling of her little hand over his eye…it was a good feeling. He was actually comfortable sitting here.
“There,” she said after what could have been a long time or a short time--he had forgotten about time. She took her palm away, and for some reason Zaraki couldn’t understand, his strength felt the same way he had when he had first come in--held back from the absolute freedom to wreak havoc and kill people like pulling meat off skewers at dinnertime--but there was a loss somehow. What was that feeling? He felt less than himself … just a little.
“This eyepatch won’t fall off?”
“No,” she said. “Not unless your opponent is as strong as you are, and even then, he or she would have to pry it off with some difficulty. The patch should even be a little troublesome for you to pull off with your own hand in battle.”
It was at that moment Zaraki realized that the vague sense of loss he was feeling had to do with the shape of her hand.
“So we’re done now?” He asked.
“I’m not sure about that,” she said in a tone that was very ominous.
She met his eyes. Her eyes were always so un-readable. They were a pretty color though. Blue … blue like?
“I believe that I gave you an assignment the last time you were here. You were supposed to come up with a name for the flowers.”
“Pssssssh.” Zaraki knew how to make a noise that sounded more like disdain and contempt, but he didn’t want to actually spit from his mouth in her examining room because she wouldn’t like that. “Why did you expect me to do something like that? My fifth seat is the one who is always going on about flowers. I should have asked him what to name them.”
“Oh? What did Ayasegawa-kun say about the flowers?”
“Oh not these in particular. The ones you gave me before died--they flat out died before I could even got well enough to tear out of this place against your bossy medical advice.”
“They’re not very hardy flowers, are they?”
“On the contrary.” She was fingering the blossoms now. Her hands were so little, her fingertips even more tiny. Her fingertips brushed over the petals with no clear intent. She seemed to just be petting them as one would a friendly animal. “The plant itself is very strong,” she said. “It dies every autumn and comes back the following year. Harsh winters and droughts have no effect on the root system. The flowers themselves don’t last for long, but that isn’t the purpose of flowers.”
“Oh I remember now,” Zaraki cupped his chin as if doing so would hold the memory. “Yumichika went on one time about how flowers looked the same as a person dying by the sword. I didn’t get it at first. Then I figured he was talking about how both were all open and bright and … beautiful?” It was something smart Yumichika had said once, and it was a little interesting to Zaraki because it was gruesome.
“That’s very poetic,” she said. “You are not beyond poetry, it seems. Or giving names with poetic meanings?”
There was a long awkward pause.
“Ok, you got me,” said Zaraki. “I got a name for your flowers there.”
Her blue eyes lit up. “You do?”
“Yeah. I named them after something I really want.”
“Oh?” Her smile was a little one; the corners of her mouth were barely up. Her eyes were blazing though.
“After the only thing I want, in fact.”
“And that would be?”
Zaraki rose from the examining table. At his full height he had to look down to meet her gaze, and she had to tilt her head at a very drastic angle in order to keep her blue eyes transfixed on him.
“I named them True Strength.”
She laughed again. She bent her head over the flowers and took a deep breath, inhaling whatever it was women appreciated about the smell of flowers. “I understand,” she said.
Yes. She was the only one who ever would.