Disclaimer: Bleach is owned by Kubo Tite. The characters in this story are being used for my amusement and not for money purposes.
A one-shot by ShaggyDiz
The way she whispered his name left him trembling.
It was smooth and beautiful; a waterfall gently flowing down a small creek. It was gentle and comforting.
It left him trembling.
It was sweet as freshly pulled honey. The taste of her voice left him begging for it over and over again. It was delicious to him.
And yet, it left him trembling.
He looked out over the balcony of his home within the Seiretei, standing in nothing but his own nakedness. It was night, but he would have done it even if it was day. The cool breeze blanketed his skin, making him feel comfortable. It was more comfortable than his bed.
Especially with the person who occupied the bed at this moment.
The whisper of her voice filled his every thought, leaving him feeling cold once again. How could he find sleep within such a difficult environment? He looked over to his bed, seeing her lie there. She was on half of the large bed, the blanket only covering her from the waist down, revealing her smooth, lightly colored stomach. Her hair was undone, but it flowed everywhere, covering her breasts and extending over the covers to her thighs and beyond. He didn't understand why she let her hair out. It was much more manageable when it was tied.
Then again, he could at least understand the feeling of having her skin against his, instead of a large bundle of looping hair set between them. He didn't know why she wanted to feel his skin. It was rough and cracked and scarred after so many battles.
It left him trembling.
He couldn't understand it at all.
There was a shuffle in the bed. Zaraki turned around to look.
Retsu Unohana remained sleeping. She merely turned herself towards where Zaraki was supposed to be. He was thinking that it was only a matter of time before she awoke again.
He stared at her for a moment, seeing that her hair had come away from her breasts, revealing the pale skin in the moonlight. The taste came back to him. It was haunting him, and he didn't like it. The blanket still covered her lower body, and he was thankful for that respite.
Anything more and it would have torn him apart again.
He turned back to the open balcony. He did not want to see her, even though the image of her naked body in his bed remains a consistent thought. Everything that they had done and what they did no more than an hour ago haunted him.
It was some time ago that this had began: it was at first termed as secret meetings, though in the Seiretei, nothing is a secret if you have enough spirit energy to be detected. Somehow, he was thankful that Unohana was able to conceal her spirit energy, even in the loudest and most furious of their lovemaking.
Was it lovemaking? He was beginning to wonder about that. Every time she had come over, after the first time, he had been rough with her. There were times where he was too rough. He was twice her size, and could have easily crushed her repeatedly.
And yet, she held her own.
It was clearly evident that she wanted him, and he had no clue why. He didn't bother to ask any questions, but over time it made him feel worse for not asking anything.
Why does she want me?
Why does she stay?
He looked down at his body, studying many of the scars that he's received over the years. There were older ones and newer ones. Some of the more recent ones had almost faded into his skin, though they were still visible, and it reminded him of the person who gave him these scars.
He was thinking back to that moment, and wondered if that was how it all began. It seemed so simple to him. How did it not notice? He's been able to notice other things quite easily, though those involved unabashed bloodshed and feeling an opponent's ability to kill.
No, this was something else. It was something he's never noticed before, simply because he had never experienced it.
He let his mind wander; coming to a point in the past where it had all began…
The cracking of the wooden bell alerted Retsu Unohana to incoming wounded. It was something she had sensed a long while before, but she still couldn't believe that it had occurred. The door to the main Fourth Division station opened, revealing the child-like Yachiru Kusajishi carrying her captain. There was a smile on her face, which confused Unohana greatly, given the state of her package.
"What happened to him Yachiru-san?" Unohana asked her, leading her into the station towards one of the infirmary rooms.
"Ken-chan fought Ichi-chan! It was amazing!"
"Is that the reason why you're smiling?"
Yachiru nodded. "He hasn't fought like this in a long time. It made him happy to do this."
"I see. Bring him in here," Unohana said, opening the door into a large room. Yachiru walked in and dropped Kenpachi onto the bed before backing away.
"Take care of him Uno-chan. He wants to get better to fight Ichi-chan again!" And then the lieutenant was off, speeding out of the building, presumably towards another battle, or to the Eleventh Division headquarters. Unohana did not bother to speculate.
She directed herself towards Zaraki, looking at the bloodied mess that he had become. It was something she had never seen before done to the aggressive captain, and it made her wonder who this "Ichi-chan" was that had caused such damage to him.
"Is it one of those ryoka?" she asked herself. "No time for unanswered questions. It's time to fix you up Kenpachi-san." Unohana walked off to the side of the room, pulling out several rolls of gauze bandages that would be wrapped around Zaraki's wounds while she healed him. It was what she always did with her patients. It was this kind of care that allowed them to return to full health in no time.
She pulled off the jacket and the top of his gi, and the sight that she witnessed dismayed her. The wounds that accumulated on his body over the years left many long and winding grooves in his skin. The new ones that formed in this fight would be easily healed and completely gone over time, but the old ones would always remain. She had begun to wish that she had attended to him a long time before this.
Unohana pulled over a wash basin and some clothes, soaking them in warm water before turning to Zaraki to clean off the blood that was becoming caked onto his body. It was going to be a long process, she saw: his chest, his right arm, and his face. She stared at his face the longest, and she was unsure as to why she had. She saw the freshly created scar that was formed on his face. That she could take care of.
Underneath that scar though…
She hadn't realized that after staring for so long, she saw Zaraki's eyes staring back at her.
"What are you looking at?" he asked weakly.
"You are awake? Good." She turned her head away, hoping to hide the suddenly rising heat that was coming to her face.
She could not understand why it was happening either.
"Fourth division? Who brought me here?"
"Yachiru-san did. You must rest," Unohana said to him as she turned back to him – the heat gone – as she began cleaning his wounds. "The battle left you in critical condition Kenpachi-san."
Zaraki looked at himself, slowly remembering the battle that occurred. He was wounded badly, and extremely fatigued.
"Why are you smiling like that?"
He looked over at Unohana, who was staring at him while ringing out the wet cloth in her hand. "My fight with the ryoka, Kurosaki Ichigo… he was the best fight I've had in years. It felt good to be able to do that once again. I wish to fight him again soon."
Those words worried her. "Is that all you live for?"
"It's all I know…"
Unohana nodded. She began working on his wounds, first cleaning them, and then dressing them with the gauze. All the while, she thought back to what she knew of him.
Kenpachi Zaraki was definitely a violent and bloodthirsty individual. He had gained the eleventh division captain's seat by killing the prior captain in combat. His power was overwhelming, especially now, even in its weakened state. She remembered the eye patch that was specially created for him to reduce his power.
She found that missing as she looked into his eyes again. Had it been gone all alone?
"Was it that good of a fight?" she asked him hesitantly. She really didn't want to know the answer, but it was something that she needed to know about him.
Silence filled the room, save for the dripping water and the sound of cloth being tied.
And all the while, Retsu Unohana carefully studied Kenpachi Zaraki.
And she found him, in her studying of his face, and the scars on his body, and the look in his eyes, that he was a tortured man hiding an equally tortured soul. The damage done to his body had doubly affected his mind.
She wanted to care for him somehow. She wanted to help take away some of his pain.
She decided then that he would be her main cause.
And Zaraki remained in the bed, too embarrassed to speak to her as she cleaned him.
He was embarrassed because he had no idea what her name was.
Zaraki had in fact found out about her name, though it wasn't until a few days after Aizen's betrayal, and the return of the ryoka to the human world. He had overheard her name being mentioned by someone within his division – Ikkaku maybe? – while she had strangely came by his office to see how his wounds were doing. Why someone would do that just for him, he didn't know. At least, not at that time. She explained that she had heard that he had been in combat with a couple of the captains, and could only get to him now because of the amount of injuries sustained to other shinigami.
"I'm fine," he had told her. She had stayed for a few more minutes, inquiring about a few other things with him. He couldn't remember if it was anything of a personal nature, or just strictly business. He only remembered her saying at the end of their conversation that she would check on him again from time to time.
And then she left.
Zaraki looked behind him. "Why did you come back again?" he asked himself. Unohana shifted in her sleep again, this time turning her small body away from Zaraki. The blanket still covered below her waist.
He turned back outside. "Ah," he muttered, "I remember now."
His mind started back to a time, around two months ago. The fighting between the shinigami and the arrancar was increasing. And yet, Unohana still had time to visit Zaraki.
He wasn't complaining at all about it. There were a few times he had gotten injured rather badly, but it was nothing that could have slowed him down. Still, Unohana showed up time and time again. She was there to heal him, and there to talk to him. Eventually, he began divulging information about himself.
And he didn't mind it, for a while.
He looked over to her again, and got a momentary chill. "Was that your goal all along?" he asked softly, expecting no response. "Did you try to get under my skin? Did you expect anything but this?"
Zaraki shook his head. He didn't understand why he was asking these questions to himself. He shouldn't be complaining, but he was. He wasn't used to this intimacy at all. "Death and violence:" that was the motto of the lifetime.
He scanned the room briefly; his eyes coming to rest on his sword by the window. His nameless sword. It was cut, jagged and worn out by years of use. It worked regardless. It still inflicted death and pain to those it struck. The greatest pain he felt from it was the fact that it had no name.
Or did it? It must have a name. That he knew.
He couldn't hear it. There was nothing he could do about it.
He pulled it out and looked at it. He said nothing to it, but just studied it. It looked heavily abused, like it was used to cut marble.
Zaraki returned the sword to its sheath. He would ask later.
He turned back to the outside and closed his eyes.
The voice came back to him, and he trembled.
He focused his thoughts again, remembering what he was thinking about before.
Two months ago. That's when it changed.
Unohana came over to the Fourth Division station house again, late in the afternoon as the sun was falling behind the wall and the shadows of the night were creeping in. Zaraki didn't mind too terribly, but he was going to eventually kick her out if it got too late. He was glad that no one was around at this time either.
"I brought some sake," she said. "Would you like some?"
He wasn't going to argue. He accepted the cup that she offered and took a slow sip from it. She did the same.
"This is good," he told her. "Where did you find it?"
"The Seiretei has an excellent liquor store by the south wall. Have you been there at all?"
"No. I'd probably get lost going there," he said, eliciting a laugh from both of them.
He realized something was wrong here: Kenpachi Zaraki doesn't make jokes. It had gotten too comfortable for him, and it left him confused and nervous.
"Yachiru could help you out," Unohana said to him softly after she recovered from her laughter.
"She'd get me lost," he said, albeit not in the humorous tone the previous joke had with it.
Unohana noticed immediately. "What's wrong?"
"Why are you here?"
"What… why am I here?"
"You're here for a reason. You keep coming over, and stay for a while, just talking, to me of all people. That's what confuses me the most. Why are you here, talking to me?" He said it much rougher than he would have liked, but it was too late to take it back.
Unohana didn't let it affect her. She turned away for a moment, staying at a random spot on the wall. "I came here because of you," she started, turning to look at him in the eye. Zaraki wanted to look away, but couldn't. Her eyes were powerful, and spoke volumes more than her soft voice ever would.
"I come here because I want to learn about you, Kenpachi Zaraki. When I treated you last month, I saw all of your wounds, and I saw the look in your eyes. I saw a million tortured souls all wrapped into one. A Sōkyoku of pain. I wanted to help you by trying to understand you, and by doing so, to help relieve some of that burden."
"And what did you learn about me? There isn't much to me besides what you saw that day," he explained to her.
She shook her head. "There's more to you, and that's what made me attracted to you Kenpachi."
Zaraki could not believe his ears. Attracted? To him? He almost wanted to laugh, but decided that laughing wouldn't be the smartest thing to do to someone who had confessed to such an intimate feeling.
"Why?" he finally asked.
"You care for others Kenpachi. In your own way, you do, from little Yachiru-san, to all of your subordinates. You encourage them to become stronger every day. I've never seen such a rowdy bunch of shinigami before, but you've picked out a good bunch. They all have their captain's strength, which is something else you have. It's more than just strength for battle, but strength of heart too. It's admirable Kenpachi. It really is, and that's what I find myself liking about you."
Zaraki listened, and slowly nodded after all the words were said. Never before had he been described with those words. He doubts that he would ever hear it again, but to him, it sounded… good. The nervousness slowly lifted off his shoulders, replaced with a happiness and humbleness that was different to him.
He didn't know how to express it.
"Are you fine Kenpachi?" Unohana asked him after some time had passed without him speaking.
"What? Yes, I'm good." He reached out and grabbed the bottle of sake
"Would you like me to leave?"
Zaraki looked out the window. The moon was climbing high.
"Stay for now. I wish to enjoy more sake with you."
He remembered the end of the night clearly: he walked her home. There was no need for it, as she was just as powerful as he was in some respects. She gladly accepted the company, and they made a peaceful walk back to her home by the Fourth Division headquarters. He had to look down from time to time to make sure she was still close by, given that she barely reached the middle of his chest.
Zaraki never realized how short she really was until that moment. He shook his head sadly. Why hadn't he engaged in these kinds of affairs before? Why was he constantly thinking about fighting?
Why couldn't he just merely step back and relax for once?
He might never know for sure, unless his companion here told him.
He remembered what happened after that night when he took her home. Unohana had started stopping by a little more often, always under the presumption of checking in on him, but always there to just be in his company.
And then, she eventually stopped going home at night. Zaraki started sleeping on his couch, allowing Unohana to stay in his bed. He figured that he should be the gentleman and allow her to sleep there, regardless of the fact that the couch was half a foot too short for him to sleep on. It was always late when it was decided that she should stay, so it was an impromptu decision. He was still clueless at the time about matters with women, and sleeping with them.
Until she decided one day, while getting ready to bed, that he should join her. Zaraki did not know how to answer that in all honesty. There was no stumbling over words, or making excuses. He merely could not answer as he stood there, watching her getting comfortable in his bed. Unohana got up and hugged him at that moment.
It was the first time that they had been in contact with each other intimately.
It left Zaraki cold, but he didn't show it. He looked down at her and nodded, deciding then that he would join her.
That was a month ago.
And a few days later, they consummated their young relationship.
It left Zaraki cold, much like tonight.
He felt cold every time she stayed with him.
He felt cold every time he got on top of her.
He felt cold every time he looked into her eyes, wondering why she wanted him so badly.
He felt cold every time he tried to tell her, but found the courage to speak leaving him as she pulled herself close to his body, snuggling in for an uninterrupted sleep.
Much like tonight.
It left him cold because this wasn't who he was, and he did not know how to get out of it either.
There was a shuffling behind him. He decided not to look behind him for once.
The shuffling was replaced by a soft plodding of feet coming towards him. A hand came to his lower back, tracing a line around him until it came to his stomach. Zaraki looked down and saw Unohana looking up at him, her arms slowly coming to a close around him and pressing her naked body against his.
"I heard you talking to yourself," she said to him.
"I want to help."
"I'm beyond help," he told her plainly.
Unohana laid her head on his chest. "You keep saying that, and yet I'm still here. Do you want me to leave?"
"Yes… and no." He cursed his weakness.
Unohana read his mind. "You're not weak or worthless by having me here. I'm here for one simple reason Kenpachi Zaraki."
"What is that?"
"I love you."
He almost laughed. She loved him? Kenpachi Zaraki? Surely she must be crazy. Surely she must have fallen and hit her head somewhere along the way to his place, coming to the false conclusion that she was in love with him. She could have been dreaming right now for all he knew. Heck, he could have been dreaming himself.
But Zaraki turned his eyes away from her, and the words left him trembling.
"What is bothering you so much?" she asked him.
"This… I… this isn't me Unohana. I'm not comfortable in this."
"How so?" She started rubbing his back slightly, hoping to calm him down.
"My life has been nothing short of violence and pain. How can I expect to be comfortable in something like this? It's impossible for me to have love, or find love."
"Do you love me?"
He responded quickly: "No."
Unohana nodded against his chest. "I see."
Zaraki stared at her for a few moments. She didn't move from his chest, or remove herself from embracing him. "I don't love you Unohana, and I don't know if I can find it in myself to love you."
"I see." She turned her head to look up to him. A tear was running down her face. "Then I will help you."
"To love you?"
"No. To love, period."
"How?" he asked her, genuinely confused but mildly sarcastic.
"I've already seen you with the potential to care, Kenpachi. I can help you find love in that. The world isn't always about finding the best fight. It can be happy and joyous at times in many ways. I want to help you find that happiness and joy that you never had.
"You told me about your days living in the eightieth district of the Rokungai, about how you always fought to survive, and how you became the person that you are now. There is more to you than just that though. You found Yachiru-san, and you cared for her and protected her. Don't you see Kenpachi? You've had this potential for caring and kind heartedness all along!"
Zaraki listened to her speak, taking in each word and phrase bit by bit, finally coming to understand what she was talking about. Somehow, it was slowly making sense to him. He did raise and take care of Yachiru for many years. But there had to be more examples than just that. Hadn't she mentioned before how he watched over the members of his division and trained them to be proper fighters? That was required of him to do that. Was there more to that remark that he thought?
"As for loving me," Unohana continued, breaking into his thoughts, "I hope that you will eventually. I can understand about now, and your confusion. Take all of the time you need Kenpachi. I'll be here waiting for those words to come out of your mouth."
"I… understand, Unohana," he said to her. For a moment, he felt trapped in her statement, but as he thought about it, he realized that he had all the time in the world to understand this feeling of love. He would explore it some, give it thought, and give it size and dimension.
Maybe someday he would properly understand it.
"What's this?" Unohana said, turning her head to her left. She loosened herself from him and walked past the balcony opening. "Is this your zanpakutou?"
Unohana pulled it from the wall to look at it. It felt a little heavy in her hands, given its size, but she was able to handle the sword. She pulled it out from the sheath. "Your zanpakutou is definitely a reflection of who you are," she said to him. "It's rough and jagged like you are." She smiled up to him.
"Is that a compliment?" he asked.
"It may be one. It's who you are though Kenpachi, and your sword reflects that aspect of you. It doesn't have a name though." Unohana pulled it out completely.
"I don't like having a name… I gave myself one long ago to make sure of that."
"It's a pain to not have one, right?"
Zaraki nodded. He was beginning to wonder where this conversation was going.
"It's screaming. I can hear it screaming, but I can't hear anything beyond that. I think that's why you can't hear it."
"I haven't even heard it scream anything before," Zaraki admitted.
"What? You should be able to hear it, even when you fight. Well, given how you fight, I don't think it really likes it. I think that's the reason why it screams Kenpachi." Unohana moved back in front of him and turned around, facing the balcony, and she leaned back into Zaraki, letting her smooth naked body be supported by his scarred body. "Grab my hands," she told him.
"And do what?" he asked.
"Listen. All you need to do it listen."
Zaraki wrapped his hands around hers, and let himself listen.
There was nothing. It was a steady, empty vacuum where there was no sound, save for his breathing and of the woman he held onto. He tried to focus as hard as he could, but even with that, he couldn't hear anything. He couldn't understand why his sword was silent. What was Unohana trying to do anyway? He was beginning to wish for once that she'd just leave him to wallow in his own misery.
Unohana's voice – her sweet as honey voice – cut into his thoughts: "Kenpachi, loosen up your grip. You're trying too hard."
"Did I hurt you?"
"No, I'm fine." She turned her head to the side, trying to look up at him. "You need to relax. Don't worry; I'll be here to help you."
Zaraki nodded, loosening his grip on Unohana's hands and closing his eyes again. His body went lax. He decided this time to not focus as hard; instead, he wanted to open his mind. Was that the problem before? Was he trying to hard? Unohana had just said that he was. He opened his eyes and looked down at her. She had her head forward, focusing on the sword, and nothing more.
He felt something much more different this time than before when he stared at her. There was no anxiety or distress by being this close to her. Before, he would have run away. He stood here now, with her buttocks against his thighs and his pelvis pushed against her lower back, and he did not tremble. Zaraki was comfortable for once in this predicament. It left him confused, no doubt, but still at ease with this situation.
There was no more time for thinking. Zaraki closed his eyes and opened his mind.
In the distance, he heard a faint sound. "What was that?"
"Be quiet," Unohana told him sternly. "Just listen and you'll know."
Zaraki stayed silent. He opened his mind again, and again he heard a sound in the distance. It was low and fuzzy, unknown to him or to anyone else that could be hearing it. He tried to set his sight on the far off sound, but it faded away from him. It discouraged him somewhat. Why did it just retreat like that? Zaraki gave some thought to it and realized then that he couldn't go after it. He needed the sound to come to him. He decided to try a new tactic. He opened his mind completely, not centering on anything at all, and allowing the darkness to come and swim around him.
The faint sound in the distance grew incrementally louder.
Zaraki opened his eyes and took a slow step backwards, supporting Unohana as he did. She put the sword down before turning around to face him. "Did you hear anything?"
"It was low, but I heard something," he said to her.
She nodded. "Would you like to try again?"
Again Unohana nodded. She returned Zaraki's sword to its sheath and leaned it against the wall. "Whatever you did, keep doing it exactly like that."
"I will." He stepped forward, and for the first time in their relationship, he gave her a hug. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," she said, returning the embrace. "Are you ready for bed?"
"I am. I think I'll be able to sleep nicely tonight."
"That's good. I'm glad to hear that Kenpachi. When we wake up, would you like to listen again?"
"I would." They separated from each other and climbed into the bed. Unohana slid next to Zaraki once they were underneath the covers, finding a comfortable spot for herself and her massive length of hair, and was soon asleep.
Zaraki stayed up a little longer, staring at the ceiling and letting his mind wander onto the woman who lay sleeping beside him. Who knows? He may end up loving her someday. She said he had time to consider it, and he will. His eyes soon closed; his mind settled on the whispered sweetness of her voice.
For once, it did not leave him trembling.
Note: tremito means "trembling" in Italian.
Author's notes: well this was an interesting experiment. What first started out as an attempt at a random smut story (randomly inspired by a crack pairing smut story by Goku's Daughter) turned into this: a character piece dealing with love and understanding of one's self. It came to a point where I decided that writing a random sex scene just wasn't going to work within the context of this story, and it made it that much stronger as a result. Will I consider doing a smut story? Possibly, if I can get a good idea along the way. I have less than three weeks remaining on this current summer session, so once that's over with, I'll think of something to do.
I definitely enjoyed writing this one a lot. This became the longest one-shot I have written, topping out at 4993 words (nearly a thousand more than the last story I uploaded, Kioku (which is in desperate need of reviews if anyone likes Xenosaga at all)), and employing some new things I learned as a result of this English class I'm taking right now. Hopefully that'll carry into my other works.
As always, read and review.