Disclaimer: Though I do own a bottle of Clorox, I do not own Bleach.

Warnings: None

Cold

Sometimes Yachiru liked to assert her independence.

"Ken-chan," she whined one night as he set up camp. "I don't wanna share a blanket!"

"Too bad. It's cold. Scrawny kid like you's likely to freeze your bits off sleeping alone," Kenpachi told her, shaking out their blanket and letting it fall on her head.

"I will not!" she denied, burrowing out from under it and pouting. "I'm plenty strong!"

"Strong don't mean nothing in the cold, kid," he said, banking the small fire. "Strong folks freeze just the same as weak ones. Of course," he added, "weak ones freeze faster."

"Why do weak people freeze faster, Ken-chan?" Yachiru asked, momentarily distracted.

"Because they're pansies and flowers die in the winter," he told her, trying to figure out the most likely place to sleep.

Yachiru looked interested. "What's a frozen person look like, Ken-chan?"

"Like they're dead, because they are. Now get over here so we can sleep," he ordered, lounging against a log and glaring half-heartedly.

She glared back and threw the blanket at him. "No!"

He sighed, well acquainted with her moods, and wrapped himself up. Sometimes it was best to just let Yachiru discover what a huge moron she could be on her own. Made the lesson stick better. He closed his eyes and settled in for a wait.

He listened as she ghosted around the campsite, making hardly any noise despite the dead leaves covering the ground. He listened as she mumbled to herself, her words caught by the wind and tossed carelessly aside. He listened as she ventured closer to the fire and prodded the cooling ambers with a stick, trying to stir them back to life.

He knew she was listening, too.

"Ken-chan," she whined after a bit, sounding lonely. "Are you asleep?"

"Yeah," he grunted, cracking one eye open.

"Oh," she said, frowning at him. "Are you going to be for long?"

"Depends."

"On what?"

"On how long you sit there like an idiot."

"The longer I sit here, the longer you'll sleep?"

"Yeah."

"Oh."

The silence dragged on and Kenpachi wondered just how bitter the night was going to get. Then a small form wiggled under the blanket, nestling beneath his chin, and he stopped caring.

"Are you still sleeping, Ken-chan?" she whispered, patting his cheek with a cold hand.

"No."

"Good," Yachiru yawned, and was asleep in the next breath.

Kenpachi sighed and pulled the blanket closer around her neck. He stared up at the clear winter sky and ignored the icy cold seeping up from the ground. He'd been through colder nights than this.

"Yo, Yachiru," he asked finally. "You sleeping?"

No reply, and he could barely feel her slight weight atop his chest.

"Thought so," he said, and watched the stars move across the night.

-the end-