Cradle Snatchers

Yachiru was confused. Very confused. Her head ached with trying to figure it out.

'Ne, Ken-chan?'


'Why can't I go swimming?'

It wasn't fair. It was hot and big meanie Ken-chan wouldn't let her go in the pond! The special pond right it the middle of the courtyard. It was nice and clear and there were even fish in it! And it was never busy, no-one else seemed to want to swim. Maybe they were scaredy cats, she thought.

But nasty old Ken-chan - when she started trying to take off her stupid hot shikakushou, he had grabbed her and pulled her out. But why?

'Well…' Zaraki hesitated, 'Its 'cuz I don't trust any o' these guys who're hangin' around, Yachiru. Ya never know with guys like them.' He nodded his head in the direction of a group of 7th squad recruits, who immediately raced off; terrified at having been actually looked at by the Squad Eleven captain.

'Guys like what Ken-chan?'

Zaraki ground his teeth. How do you explain that you're simply playing the 'over-protective father' to a child who alwaysneeds to have her own way?

'Ya know,' he shifted uncomfortably, 'cradle-snatchers. And the like.'

Cradle-snatchers? She'd never heard of them before.

'You mean thieves? Cos if they're thieves why don't you just chase 'em away? Like you always do? Are they special kinds of thieves? Should I help to fight? What is a cradle-catcher?'

'Cradle-snatcher. And no, they aint thieves. Not really. They're much worse than that.'

Under his breath he added, 'Dirty rotten perverts.'

'Just stay away from 'em Yachiru. And you aint goin' swimmin' either,' he declared, then braced himself for a major hissy fit from his tiny vice-captain.

The reaction was not what he'd expected however.

'Hai, Ken-chan! Why don't you swim with me? That way the label-bashers will have to stay away, ne?' she beamed up at him.

Zaraki paused. If he was there then no one would dare look at Yachiru funny.

That wasn't the worst idea…

Anyone who happened to walk past the pond in the Court of Pure Souls that afternoon was in for a bit of a shock.

In the pool splashed Yachiru, laughing her head off, wearing nothing but a bathing suit.

Sat on the edge, still wearing his captain's shikakushou but now soaking wet, was Zaraki.

Renji complained later to Rangiku about how, when he had walked past, Zaraki had given him such a ferocious look that he felt the buildings around him begin to crumble.

And then when he had waved to Yachiru, who was shouting over at him, Zaraki had chased him, with a look on his face that greatly resembled that of a wild mountain lion, yelling: 'Keep walking pervert!'

Rangiku said that was very interesting, because when she had walked by, she had gone up and spoke to both of them, without getting chased or glared at or called a pervert. She did, however, get very wet.

She also said that the pond in the Court of Pure Souls was currently being de-frosted, because her Captain had walked past and faced much the same treatment as Renji had. The only difference was that he had stood his ground, and was now being fixed up by Captain Onohana for his trouble.

When Renji asked why, Rangiku laughed and said that when her captain had released Hyourinmaruand the pond had become frozen, Yachiru had been in it, and got both her feet stuck under the ice. Zaraki then ran at Hitsugaya, screaming: 'Tryin' to keep her from runnin' away?! That's sickening, even for someone like you!!'

Renji couldn't help laughing. It was always good to know that someone was worse off than you.

Rangiku laughed as well and said she was planning on using the incident as the new way to blackmail her captain into giving her extra days off.

Later that evening, back in the 'safety' of the Squad Eleven compound, Yachiru asked why Ken-chan had got so mad with Pencil-Brows and Shorty-chan.

'They were lookin' at you funny,' he mumbled. In truth he felt a little embarrassed about the whole thing, especially now women kept smiling at him and saying what a good, responsible father he was.

Yachiru blinked at him from over the top of the fluffy towel she was now wrapped in.

'Were those two the maple-dashers you told me about, Ken-chan?'

'Cradle-snatchers! And no… I mean, maybe… I dunno…' he paused, feeling slightly sheepish, 'But it never hurts to be too careful.' He told her sternly.

'Ken-chan, d'ya think the gable-nashers would've done something bad? Like, to us?'

'Well, not to us…' he looked at her, all wrapped up in her big fleecy towel and with her feet in a bowl of hot water, 'forget it, kiddo. 'S not important anyway. Go to bed.'

'Kay!' she smiled and scampered up on his knee, 'Night-night, Ken-chan!'

'Night, munchkin.'

As he watched her bound off down the corridor, he couldn't help thinking: although he may have now been in Onohana's bad books, although Hitsugaya had swore faithfully he would pay him back, and although he was now stuck with the bill for repairing the pond, it didn't really matter.

Not a lot did matter to him. But one of the things that did was Yachiru.

And even if it cost him a big chunk of his budget and a couple of frosty glares, he wasn't gonna to let her get hurt. Especially not by all them perverts at the pond.

Hopefully, the black eye and broken arm he had given shorty would serve as an adequate warning to others. He chuckled under his breath. It was then that he noticed the bill lying on his desk.

Zaraki opened it and winced.

He hoped that Yachiru wasn't going to want to go swimming very often.