Babies: A User's Guide
By Dreaming of Everything
Disclaimer: I do not own any aspect of Bleach whatsoever.
Author's Notes: Well, he had to learn it all somehow.
So. He was now the owner of a name, Zaraki Kenpachi, and a baby, Yachiru.
He wasn't quite sure how to feel about either. And he was considerably less sure about what, exactly, one did with babies. Other than kill them, but he wasn't going to do that quite yet. Maybe later, if she was too much of a bother. Right now, though, it had the potential to be interesting, and she was certainly a fighter.
Yachiru had quickly fallen to sleep, lulled by the rhythm of his walking as he carried her cradled to his chest. Things had gone decently so far, at least. She had made some noise at first, happy giggles and cooing, but settled down quickly, eyes drifting shut.
She was waking up now, though, and her smile had faded, and now she was making ominous fussing noises.
He had a vague sense that babies weren't supposed to eat regular food, but he couldn't pinpoint where it had come from.
With a sigh, he angled his path in the direction of a small patch of farms, too small and spread-out to even count as a village.
They were an old couple who had lived good, simple, uncomplicated lives. They farmed, and lived off of the profits of their farming and what they grew and raised. They had raised three good, unremarkable children (and lost a fourth) who were just like them, though they had all moved off the farm, now.
A cold wind had been blowing all day, and as night fell it worked itself into a gale, moaning through shutters and singing through laundry lines. Rain had started to fall, pounding into the roof and the ground, and unsecured objects were blown around by the wind, clattering around the farm—it was not a quiet night.
"Evenings like this, I can almost hear our little Hana-chan crying," said the old woman, her voice wistful.
"No, I can hear it, too," said her husband, looking up from his carving. "And it's—"
Three thudding knocks sounded on the door, which shook slightly from the impact, pressed back into its hinges. The couple exchanged looks before the man hesitantly walked to the door. He opened it.
Zaraki Kenpachi more than filled the small doorway. He smirked, and the man took an involuntary step back.
It took the couple a few stunned seconds to realize that the source of the crying was coming from the man—or rather, coming from the bundle he had carefully wrapped in his cloak, cradled in one arm.
The man had subconsciously shifted himself between this horrifying stranger and his wife, no matter what he was carrying.
"It's a baby," gasped the woman helplessly.
Kenpachi scowled, ignoring the man altogether and focusing on the woman. "Fix it," he demanded, holding the bundle out to her. She accepted it without thought, unwrapping the child.
The swordsman walked into the house, uninvited, once the baby had been handed over, and took a seat at their kitchen table, utterly out of place, watching the woman suspiciously.
"Oh my," said the woman, then again. "Oh my."
And then years of practice took over. "Hm. My, aren't you a sweet one, little—" she breaks off, and looks to the stranger sitting at her table.
"Yachiru," he growled.
"—little Yachiru," she finished. "I've never seen hair like this, before. My, you've got a set of lungs on you. What's wrong, little one?"
She looks at Kenpachi again. "When was she last fed?"
He looks at her, blank.
"Ah." Some survival instinct keeps her from commenting any further on this. "What are we going to feed you? I think I have some formula from when my youngest grandchild visited—you don't look quite old enough for solid food, and now's not a good time to try, certainly. I'll start getting that warmed and then we can get you changed, yes?"
Yachiru is still wailing at the top of her lungs. Kenpachi is scowling harder, but paying attention to the woman. She seems to know what she's doing.
"I'll get the bottle, dear," says the man, and flees to the kitchen.
The old woman picks up Yachiru and bounces her a little, and the cries lessen for a moment. "Oh, you like that, don't you? Okay, now, let's get you changed."
Kenpachi stands up and looks over the woman's shoulder as she starts to change the baby; he hadn't even realized that there was something under her garments, let alone that it would need changing. He commits her actions to memory.
The woman pretends to ignore the man looming behind her, because she doesn't want to set anything off and there's certainly nothing she can do and he does seem honestly interested in learning to care for the child. She certainly doesn't have enough courage to ask him where he got her…
By the time she's done putting a make-shift diaper made out of old, clean rags on the child, the bottle is ready. She sits down and gets Yachiru started, and she quiets down in a way that's almost eerie. She's a phenomenally good-tempered child.
When the bottle's half-emptied she passes her to the stranger, and gives him instructions, though she stops short of actually touching the man; it's more than just his appearance that makes him feel so dangerous, even though that is a lot of it, with his scars and grimace and obvious strength. He seems more than half-wild, and she can't help but worry for the child.
When the bottle's emptied she burps the child and then rocks her to sleep. It makes her miss her Hana-chan so much she nearly starts to cry. She knows her husband understands.
They tell him he can stay the night, because she doesn't want the child out in this weather. He accepts, ungracefully, and it's for the child's sake, as far as they can tell.
They fall asleep eventually, though it takes both of them longer than it usually does, with the stranger in the house, and when they wake up he's gone, and the baby's gone too.
The storm had passed during the night, and now there's only scudding clouds and rain puddles where the ground couldn't soak in any more water. There's a line of huge footprints—much larger than their own—leading from their door to the gate. They don't bother to follow it.
When they go to town that Sunday for the market, they're not surprised but maybe a little relieved to hear rumors about "that frightening man who bought baby supplies."