Disclaimer: Bleach, its characters and its settings aren't mine
The mighty Kenpachi had fallen. He lay in the fourth squad intensive care unit and there was little hope for his survival. His surrogate daughter Yachiru wouldn't leave the captain's side, despite Captain Unohana's third attempt to put the child to bed. Eventually she'd settled for putting Hanataro to bed instead.
All was dark and quiet in fourth that night, but for the muffled little sounds of the pink haired child.
Until a voice spoke.
It was a soft voice, compassionate and warm. It was a voice she'd never expected to hear.
It was the voice of Captain Kurotsuchi.
He came into the room, but didn't come too close to sleeping Ken-chan, as though he could sense Yachiru's need for space.
"I'm so, so sorry my dear child. Your Ken-chan is a great warrior and a fine man. He's raised you into a fine girl, as well. You should be very proud of him."
Yachiru made a little sniffle sound, locked her tiny fists tighter around Ken-chan's blankets. She could hear his heartbeat through his chest, it was the clock of her life.
"I'd be proud of you too," said Captain Kurotsuchi. "You're everything your father wanted you to be. Do you know my Nemu?" he kindly asked.
Yachiru nodded a little. She wanted to cry more, but she had no tears left.
"Nemu is my little girl," he said, "just like you're Ken-chan's. That's why I'm here tonight, Yachiru-chan, because Ken-chan and I are alike, we both have our precious little girls as our vice-captains. And both Ken-chan and I love our little girls dearly."
The captain smiled at her. His skull face was very friendly tonight, not like when she'd played hide-and-seek in his lab.
"Yachiru-chan," said the kindly captain, "you know Ken-chan wouldn't want you here. He'd want you to go home to sleep in your own bed."
Yachiru sniffled again. He was probably right.
"Will you come home now Yachiru-chan? Ken-chan will be here waiting for you in the morning. You know he'd want you to sleep in your own bed like a big girl."
The Captain raised his arms a little, and Yachiru actually allowed him to lift her, cradle the little pink shinigami to his shoulder. Normally only Kenny, Baldy or Pretty were able to hold the child, or sometimes Braidy-chan. But she willingly went with the Twelfth Captain.
"I'll take her back to her division," said Mayuri. Captain Unohana nodded, realizing she'd misjudged the man for many years.
Outside the captain carried Yachiru quietly, knowing she was exhausted and beyond talk.
"Poor Ken-Chan," said Mayuri, to no one in particular. "Such a shame. Without Captain Zaraki I won't be able to use my ultimate weapon."
Captain Kurotsuchi seemed surprised she'd spoken.
"Oh, please forgive me, Yachiru-chan. I was talking to myself. I didn't mean to mention-"
"What ultimate weapon?"
"Oh, just something I've been working on. It would have ended the war, more's the pity." The captain sighed. "We're almost back to Eleventh Division, child. Rest now. You'll be in your own bed in moments."
But Yachiru was intrigued. "Can I see your ultimate weapon?"
"Oh no," laughed the captain. "Not for you, my dear. For you it's bedtime."
"But I don't want to go to bed, I want to see the weapon! Weapon weapon weapon!"
The captain laughed. "All right, I suppose it wouldn't hurt. But just for a minute, Yachiru-chan, and then you have to go to bed. All right?"
"Good girl." The captain turned towards the twelfth division.
A few minutes later they were in the deepest basement of the twelfth division lab complex.
Yachiru looked at the ultimate weapon.
"It's a cannon!"
Captain Kurotsuchi laughed. "No, silly one, it's not a cannon! Look!" He pointed to the side of the cannon, where words were written in large, elegant script. They said-
Not A Cannon.
"So it's not a cannon?"
"No Yachiru-chan, it's not a cannon." The captain laughed his warm and friendly laugh. He put Yachiru down, and she went for a closer look at the not-a-cannon.
"Pink is my favorite color," said the Captain. "So I paint all my favorite inventions pink."
"Really?" Said Yachiru, "but Nemu-chan isn't pink."
"She used to be," said the captain. He pulled something from his haori, a chocolate bar.
"May I have a bite?"
"Oh, I'm not sure that's a good idea, Yachiru-chan. This is a very special chocolate bar. It's made with the purest spirit sugar ever distilled. Why, one bite of a chocolate bar like this and you might never want a chocolate bar again. You'd better not."
"But I've never had spirit sugar chocolate," complained Yachiru. "What's spirit sugar?"
"It's very special," explained the captain. "This one bar contains over a ton of spirit sugar, the elemental essence of sugar. Eating this single chocolate bar would be like eating ten million of any other kind. No Yachiru, I really don't think that would be a good idea."
Captain Smiley (that'd be his new nickname) put the special chocolate bar down on a table. "Would you like a tour of my Ultimate Weapon? Gosh," said Captain Smiley, "it's really rather late. We should really get you to bed Yachiru-chan. Yachiru-chan?"
The captain went over to the giant pink not-a-cannon, to where Yachiru last had been. Yachiru took the opportunity to take the special chocolate bar off the table. It was a lot heavier then it should have been, and it exerted its own spiritual pressure.
Spirit sugar. It sounded nice. Around a mouthful of the chocolate Yachiru asked "how does it work? Can Ken-Chan really help?"
"Why yes, Yachiru-chan," said Captain Smiley. He opened a door at the near end of the not-a-cannon. "Ken-chan would go in through here," he pointed into the dark opening.
"Exactly like that, Yachiru-chan. Oh, but Zaraki-kun would have his sword out - why don't you pass me your scabbard - yes, just like that - oh, it has wheels on it, that's useful-"
"Then what happens?"
"Well this end here is in the Seireitei," explained the smiling captain Smiley, "and that end there is pointed at Aizen's base of Los Noches in Hueco Mundo."
"I feel funny."
"That might be the chocolate, Yachiru-chan."
"What happens then? Would Kenny-chan Kenny-chan Kenny-chan go - would Kenny-chan go out-Out-out that end? That end there? That one that one that one that one there? There there there there there there there-"
Captain Smiley calmly closed the door, sealing Yachiru inside the not-a-cannon. He turned on the intercom so the little girl could hear his voice.
"In a few minutes you're going to meet the people who hurt Ken-chan. Oh what's this? A note from Captain Grampa-sama? Oh dear, Yachiru-san, I just got world from the Captain Commander - Ken-chan is dead. Very well, you're about to meet the people who killed Kenny-chan.
Through the triple reinforced steel barrel he could hear the pink dynamo spooling up, powered by the most powerful distillate of sugar every produced. He waited a moment or two longer while the pitch rose, until the cannon – then the lab itself started to vibrate, then he calmly pulled the lever.
Two things happened. First, the gateway built at the far end of the cannon opened, revealing the darkness of Hueco Mundo. Second, several thousand liters of compressed air were released, firing the Vice Captain towards the distant target of Los Noches.
The Captain chuckled over a job well done, turned and-
-looked into the brilliantly angry face of Captain Unohana.
"What? What are you doing in my lab? I have no time for you, woman, be off." He made shooing motions at the other captain.
"Mayuri," she said very calmly, though she accidentally omitted his title and any honorific, "I arrived just in time to see that, but I want to here it from your own mouth. Did you just launch Vice Captain Yachiru into Hueco Mundo?"
"What business-oww! You hit me! What did you- oww! Stop-oww! Stop hitting me, you damned woman! What did I ever do to you? Oww!"
"You launched a defense child into Hueco Mundo alone!"
"Pah! I have no worries about the subject, woman! The girl just enjoyed the largest single dose of spirit sugar ever distilled!"
"You jacked her up on sugar?"
"Spirit sugar, madam," said Mayuri stiffly "Now if you'll excuse me, I have important work to-oww! Would you stop hitting me! I-oww! Madam, if you don't stop-OWW! If you don't stop I'll be forced to take steps-"
To his chagrin Captain Unohana laughed in his face. "You and what army, you horrid little man? I won't leave enough of you for the vultures!"
"I don't see why you're so upset! We've just struck a deadly blow-OWW!"
"Go and get her! GO AND GET HER NOW!"
"Madam," shouted the twelfth captain. "If you would calm yourself-" this time he managed to dodge, "-I assure you there's nothing to worry about!"
"How on earth could you do this to a child!"
"OWW! That's not a child! That's Zaraki's whelp!"
Unohana paused in her assault and considered this.
"If you would be so good as to observe the large monitor-" Mayuri pointed to one of the walls, snapped his fingers. An image of Los Noches appeared.
"Oh my," said Captain Unohana. A few moments later she was forced to add another very heartfelt "Oh my."
Perhaps fifteen minutes had elapsed.
The Winter War was over. To put it very mildly, Las Noches had lost.
To a bruised and beaten Mayuri it seemed a great deal longer then fifteen minutes. How that cursed woman could believe he'd deliberately hurt Zaraki's little girl while the brute was still alive he'd never know-
The captain flashstepped around a falling pillar.
The Winter war was over, the arrancar dead or scattered. Los Noches and her defenders had proven no match for the Seireitei's ultimate weapon.
Mayuri found the little girl curled up and asleep on what remained of Aizen's throne, the power of the spirit sugar expended. Mayuri pulled her Zanpakuto from the Arrancar she'd impaled with it, carefully put it back in its wheeled scabbard.
She'd saved thirteen trophies, which Mayuri casually kicked into the sack he'd brought. Hopefully she wouldn't miss the heads; Zaraki would not be pleased if Yachiru had developed a taste for collecting heads. It took some effort to store them properly; really, it was beyond a child's attention span. Besides, finders keepers. Mayuri was a practical man and good heads were hard to come by. It'd be a shame to waste them.
Mayuri paused a moment to give Gin's head a particularly hard kick before retrieving it and adding it to his sack. Then he carefully slung the sack over his back and picked up the little girl.
She'd wake tomorrow in her own bed and all of this would seem like a dream. Zaraki, knowing the brute, would probably have checked himself out of the hospital by then.
Mayuri looked down at the little girl, and for a moment he thought of Nemu, when she was sleeping and beautiful and her every imperfection hidden.
"Rest easy child. You've done a good thing. Your father will be proud."