Nope, I don't own it. Warnings: language, violence, and a few of the dreaded original characters. Fic chronology: Five months after Yachiru's adoption, a few years before Kenpachi becomes Captain.
Kenpachi Zaraki leaned on the bridge over the Inuzuri river. The ice was melting, time to hit the road again. He glanced backward. Great, he was being followed again. For reasons known only to the kamis, small children tended to be swept up in his wake. His odd gift had a few compensations. The brats always heard stuff he could use. Didn't hurt in attracting interesting people either.
Five months ago, fate, that malicious bastard, had arranged it so he ended up with a bratlet of his very own. Fuckyouverymuch, jerk. He didn't blame the kid at all; she'd gotten screwed over too.
His original plan had been to keep the second Yachiru alive until he found a nice family for her. Three months in, he'd realized he'd gotten fond of Yachi and decided to keep her. It was stupid and selfish of him, but she was thriving.
As long as Yachiru was clean, warm, fed, and got a lot of attention, she was happy. She'd learned a lot too: she was beginning to toddle, and she used new words every day. The worst illness she'd had all winter was a bad case of sniffles. Kenpachi'd found a job in a bath-house for the winter, and prowled Inuzuri with Yachiru in his "free time." Inuzuri offered poor sport- the most fun he'd had all winter was when a mugger had tried to jump him. A noble had probably taken an Interest, so everyone minded their manners. The job was boring as shit, but they got a place to wait out the cold.
His escort quickly melted away, and he returned without incident. No one else was up and about. Yachiru was still snoozing when he got back. Good. If she'd woken up while he was gone, she'd have fussed.
Kenpachi began to think of what they'd need for the journey. His sword and The Box, to begin with. He'd take the winter rations, as he'd rather keep the money for emergencies. It wouldn't be long until the game came out and he could hunt. He'd take the rags along too. Yachiru was gradually getting the hang of toilets, but accidents happened. Once she was trained, he'd cut the unused ones up for bandages.
The baby sling went; even after Yachiru grew out of it, that, a rock, and a little luck would get them dinner. He only used it when she was sleeping, so she'd never miss it. The rattle, the lotus root chew-toy, the brush,and the toy mousie-with-wheels went, because he'd never hear the end of it if they were left behind. He'd almost finished the little wooden sword, so that went too.
He'd pack the blanket, the pot, his chopsticks, the rice bowl, and the little wooden spoon. There was nothing else he cared to take.
The uniform would be left behind. The ladies could have that for their rag pile, to make up for everything. They'd been pretty good sports; a few helped him out from time to time. The men had made a bit of a stink about a baby bunking with them, and then ignored him.
Yachiru woke up, squirmed out of the blanket and looked up at him.
"Good morning, Yachiru. C'mon, let's go take a bath."
"Up!" she demanded.
"All right, all right. I'm gonna be glad when you can walk without tripping all the time."
A little while later, Kenpachi headed out. He had to go see the boss, and he hoped one of the women would be up. The night hawks slept late, the attendants were up bright and early. He wandered over to a bowl of water he'd set out sometime around New Year's. Completely melted.
"So, it was you!" Atsuko chuckled. "Checking out your ugly mug in that bowl?"
She was a pretty chestnut-haired girl who appeared to be in her early twenties. She was nice, too- she'd helped scout families with him. When the adoption plan fell through, she occasionally watched Yachiru.
"I set it out here so I could see when the ice melted. Besides, you like this ugly mug."
"Do not!" she said, reddening. Kenpachi knew she had a crush on him. If he hadn't been so worn out, he might have taken things further than just flirting.
"What are you up to so early?"
"Gotta go see the Oujo. I'm scramming. Mind takin' charge of Yachiru for a bit?"
"Don't tell me, the boss wants to put her to work? Or she's still annoyed about the morning performance last week?"
"Nah, last time I went to have a chat with the bosslady, Yachi got into the ink."
"It's not as funny when you're trying to wash inky brat-prints off the wall," he informed her.
He set Yachiru down. "Go on, go to your auntie. I'll be right back."
Yachiru toddled over to Atsuko. She managed fifteen steps before she tripped, and sat down hard. Five more than yesterday, he noted. She giggled as Atsuko scooped her up.
Kenpachi came to a vague species of attention when he reached Okada-san's desk. He didn't like calling anyone 'boss," but she'd been better than most. Okada had just said he couldn't kill the customers, but she allowed him to beat the living shit out of the guys that misbehaved. She kept her girls safe and healthy, and refused to put anyone out front who wasn't tough enough.
She'd also allowed Kenpachi to live in the women's quarters, as long as he didn't bother them. Any interest in either sex had vanished, so it wasn't as much fun as he'd originally thought.
"Are you here to inform me that your contract has run out?" Okada asked.
"Yeah. I said 'till the ice melted,' and I'm sticking ta that."
"Pity. I could give you a raise. I'm sure that the little one could use some new clothes. She seems to grow every time I see her."
"This ain't about money."
She nodded. "Even I know that there are some things money can't buy. Well, then. I'll pay out your contract, and a bonus. You've earned it."
Atsuko happily returned Yachiru. He snagged some soup and rice from the kitchen and fed her. Then he packed up their possessions, and scrawled a note.
He lifted Yachiru to his shoulder and headed out. There was no one in Inuzuri he needed to see: Rontu's debt to him had been paid, and she didn't like company anyway. She'd been the first Yachiru's friend, not his.
The passle of brats he'd once shared a farmhouse with were either dead or grown, and he'd only ever seen them in passing. The only person he actually needed was the little one clinging to his back.
"Hey Ken-chan," Yachiru asked that evening. "Where 're we goin'?"
"Ever heard of the Seireitei?" he replied, poking the fire.
"It's all those tall buildings that you showed me, right? The place where the sky-flowers come from?"
He hauled her into his lap. Winter wasn't over yet and she might catch a cold. Small trusting eyes turned Kenpachi's way, and he felt his heart give a lurch.
"Right. That's where the shinigami live. There are thirteen divisions, with a captain leading each. They hunt hollows, and try ta keep this world from being even more fucked up."
"Are captains strong?"
"The strongest, that's why they're the leaders. Thing is, when the charters were written, there was a little loophole. Anyone who kills a captain in a duel can take over his division. An' that's what I'm gonna do."
"Whichever one has the Kenpachi in it."
"You'll be the cutest little officer in the Gotei Thirteen. I'll teach ya the things ya need ta know, so you'll be ready."
"Sounds fun," Yachiru said, burrowing into his chest.
"Yeah," Kenpachi agreed, ruffling her hair. He unpacked the blanket and draped it over them. When Kenpachi finally slept, he dreamt of the battles to come.
A.N. Hana is Japanese for flowers, hanabi is fireworks. Thus 'sky-flowers.'