Disclaimer: All characters and other thingies within belong to their respective creators.

Note: Sougou Kyuugo Tsumesho is the name of the 4th's Healing Ward.

Hisagomaru is the name of Hanatarou's zanpakuto. In its unsealed form, it actually heals injuries instead of causing them. It has a gauge on the side that fills up as it heals, and once it's done the sword turns into a scalpel named Akeiro Hisagomaru that can release all the power behind the wounds it's healed in one go. In the fillers it was strong enough to heavily damage a Gillian.

This written for a challenge starting with the opening line of the story. It links slightly into my humor fic, Peer Reviews, but you don't have to read it to get this one. It'll help, though.


Gaining Respect


Hanatarou can't deny he's Soul Society's bitch, but there are days like this that make it all worth it.

It begins like any other, with a wave of awareness and fatigue and the nigh-irresistible urge to let himself close his eyes again. Then, inevitably, he decides it's not worth the dressing-down he'd get from 3rd Seat Iemura and he stretches reluctantly, rubbing the sleep from his eyes and dragging himself upright.

Hanatarou doesn't like conflict, and through extension avoids combat when he can. It does hurt his pride a little that people walk all over him, but he's grown used to it over the decades. After all, the alternative would be to fight, and Hanatarou doesn't want that. The time he stood up to Kuchiki Byakuya comprised the most terrifying three seconds of his entire life, and he has no desire to feel that kind of emotion again.

In that sense, the 4th Division fits him perfectly.

He dresses himself slowly, mentally preparing for another harrying day. Inwardly, he hopes that it's not his turn to clean the sewers; he's feeling particularly fatigued this morning and he's fairly sure he'd faint halfway through the menial labor.

He needn't have worried about the sewers. He opens the door to Sougou Kyuugo Tsumesho and walks into chaos on earth.

Shinigami are running through the normally somber halls, a cacophony of raised voices hitting him like a wall of solid sound. He learns in short order that there's been a fight that's ended with no less than three captains in the hospital, along with the entirety of the 11th Division. The wards haven't been so packed since Kurosaki Ichigo and his friends blew through Seireitei like a gale less than a month ago; groaning shinigami can be seen in every bed.

Captain Unohana, along with her vice captain and 3rd seat, are treating Captains Hitsugaya and Kuchiki. The 4th seat has his hands full with a giggling, pink-colored blur that's using shunpo to avoid him while scribbling on unconscious shinigami's faces with a marker, while the 5th and 6th seem busy for some reason, blithely ignoring Hanatarou's questions. Naturally, it falls to Hanatarou to tend to the remaining captain, and he makes his way to the ward at the end of the east wing. Then he reads the name on the room's door and feels quiet terror wash over him in a wave. Now he knows why his division's 5th and 6th seats were so "busy".

After all, it's common knowledge that shinigami who are assigned with treating Captain Zaraki Kenpachi's injuries often find themselves as patients instead of healers.

He enters the room and meekly introduces himself. Zaraki merely grunts, irritation clear on the captain's scarred face. After all, time spent recuperating is just that much time spent not getting into a fight. Taking his indifference as a good sign, Hanatarou moves carefully forward and begins his work.

Treating wounds is a relatively simple matter to Hanatarou Yamada. Like his captain, he's been blessed with a zanpakuto that can heal as well as harm, and he uses it to treat as many of Zaraki's wounds as he can. Before long the gauge on Hisagomaru's side fills up and sword transforms into its scalpel form. He sets it aside, switching to more traditional healing kidou and bandages.

Zaraki fidgets, and the half-applied bandage comes loose. He tries again, and once more Zaraki moves. He's starting to think - no, he knows - that the captain is doing it on purpose. The smirk on the older man's face is a good clue.

"Please stay still so I can treat your wounds, Captain Zaraki," he says, though his voice is so faint even he can barely hear it. The man's grin widens even more, exposing a set of canines that are far too sharp, Hanatarou thinks, to be those of a human being.

"Make me," he says, showing no inclination to obey the frail medic. This time, Hanatarou attempts a healing kidou, but Zaraki deliberately moves the injured area out from under the soothing light. It's obvious that he's decided to be difficult.

Hanatarou doesn't quite know what happens next. He feels a thin tendril of anger work its way into his heart. Not only is he fatigued well beyond the norm, but people have been pushing him this way and that since the moment he stepped out the door of his room, and now he finds himself with a homicidal maniac who's insisting on playing petty games with him. Normally he'd be content to give a tired smile and let it go, but today, for some reason, he thinks that he's had quite enough of it.

He knows it's madness even as his fingers curl around Akeiro Hisagomaru's tiny handle. As he brings the scalpel up, he realizes he was wrong. This isn't just madness. It's his own death held right here in his hand, descending towards Zaraki Kenpachi's chest. Like a passenger in his own traitorous body, he watches with a mild sense of detached horror as Akeiro Hisagomaru makes contact. He screws his eyes shut and hopes the end comes quickly.

There's a deafening roar as his zanpakuto releases all the energy it had gathered in a single blast, slicing across Zaraki's chest and slamming into the far wall. As the dust settles, Hanatarou opens his eyes cautiously and nearly faints from horror.

A new slash decorates Zaraki Kenpachi's chest, starting from the bottom of his ribcage and extending across to the opposite shoulder. It's long, moderately deep and almost certainly painful. Blood oozes slowly from the wound, but that's not what makes Hanatarou so scared.

The captain is looking down at him - even sitting, the man towers head and shoulders above his diminutive frame - with an expression that would be best described as wonder. Slowly, one scarred hand comes up and touches the cut, and Zaraki's gaze shifts from Hanatarou to the blood on his own fingers and back again.

Captain Zaraki Kenpachi's lust for battle is legend among the ranks of the Gotei 13. Rumors of his bloody exploits have spread throughout Seireitei, and the 4th Division is no exception. Hanatarou faintly remembers a story he heard from the 6th's vice captain, Abarai Renji.

"Captain Zaraki's a war maniac," the redhead had said as he received his treatment. "When I was in the 11th, I remember how he was always searching for people to fight. Most shinigami couldn't even cut him, you know - but whenever he found one who could, he'd insist on a fight until someone ended up here."

Well, Hanatarou has certainly cut Zaraki. The blood's slowed to a trickle, but it's there nonetheless, the splash of bright red somehow looking at home on the fierce man's frame. Hanatarou's gaze moves from the wound to meet Zaraki's own and he freezes, transfixed by the other man's tawny eyes.

"I clearly told you to stay still, Captain Zaraki," he finds himself saying, though every instinct in his body is screaming at him to drop and grovel at the man's feet for forgiveness. He's amazed at how he can say something like this when death is imminent. His voice doesn't even quiver noticeably, and in a moment of wild speculation Hanatarou wonders if this is what it's like to be brave. "You've aggravated your injuries."

There's a short, tense silence as Zaraki stares at Hanatarou incredulously, as if he's not sure he's heard the younger man correctly. Then he starts laughing.

Even Zaraki's laughter is savage, exploding from deep inside him in great, harsh barks. It's a while before his roars of amusement die down to chuckles, then stop altogether. The captain is smiling; not his usual ferocious smirk, but instead a strange sort of half-smile that looks out of place on Zaraki Kenpachi's features.

On the face of a gentler, softer man, the emotion there might have been called respect.

"So I have," he says roughly, and lays back, closing his eyes. This time he does not move as Hanatarou slowly begins to apply healing kidou to his injuries, including the new slash adorning his chest. The 4th Division's 7th Seat moves in a daze, as though he himself can't believe that he's still alive.

The moment he finishes, Zaraki rises, grabbing his zanpakuto and snatching his tattered captain's haori in one swift movement. He leaves without sparing Hanatarou a second glance, muttering something under his breath about "getting a rematch". The tall man's reiatsu flares about him as he walks straight through the wall, apparently deciding that exiting through the door is too much of a hassle. It's only then that Hanatarou realizes he's not going to die.

He sits alone in the empty room for a moment, gazing blankly at the hole in the wall. He doesn't quite know what to think.

Then it occurs to him that he's one of the few shinigami in all of Seireitei who has ever managed to make Zaraki Kenpachi bleed, and Hanatarou allows himself a quiet smile.