Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach.
Pairing: Unohana Retsu/Zaraki Kenpachi
Stop smilin' at me.
That had been Zaraki Kenpachi's first thought when he had met Unohana Retsu.
Or rather, the first time he'd seen her. It was a strange thought to have amidst the chaos and carnage of the day; he had just killed the previous Kenpachi - slaughtered might have been a better word, though - and with his predecessor's death, had taken not only the title as the strongest, but also, as the Captain of the Eleventh Division amongst the Gotei Thirteen.
And of course, that meant dragging politics into his conquest. It couldn't just be the blood and the battle he enjoyed, oh no. No, the political bullshit and fart-assing around had to come with it. In hindsight, Kenpachi supposed he should have known it would happen. But he wasn't exactly known for calm, rational thought.
Not like she was, even with her blasted smiles. Her irritating, polite, infuriating, gentle smiles. She was, always had been, so infuriatingly calm.
Even when his gaze had roved over her during the emergency meeting, she had not flinched. He had no allusions about himself; he knew, even at his best, that he was terrifying to all but the little girl who made her home on his shoulder. One would even go so far as to call him a sociopath, insane.
He was a predator; he gloried in the thrill of the chase, from start to fight to finish. And yet she had not flinched when he had glowered at her. And that had intrigued him, even then, even more so than the suppressed energy he had sensed about her.
But no, it had been the fact that she had not only not flinched, she had smiled.
This elegant, reserved little woman had smiled at him, a monster stained in blood and chaos, even as the other twelve captains scowled and shifted uncomfortably and argued over his fate and the havoc he had caused. And much to his chagrin, he had felt himself responding to it despite the blood and chaos of the moment.
He wouldn't go so far as to say he was spellbound or his knees weakened or any of that romantic crap he associated with Yumichika. In fact, aside from a slight fluttering in his stomach that could very well be attributed to adrenalin, it had irritated him.
Oh, it had amused him slightly too, because when that crackpot Shunsui and what's his face, Jyuushiro, had noticed him staring at her, they had stiffened on either side of her and shifted closer to her slight form, and rather like overprotective brothers, had sandwiched her between them like a pair of snarling dogs.
Mostly though, the smile had irritated him.
It had irritated Kenpachi because it had intrigued him more so. It had irritated because she was supposed to be scared. He had just killed the previous Kenpachi; he was the pure epitome of insanity and blood and every kind of hell that could come from the worst backwaters of Rukongai. He was frightening, ruthless, a predator.
And she...she was this dainty slip of a woman, who barely made a sound when she moved and wore her hair like he expected most young girls would wear their hair - albeit in an unusual manner - and was, as he'd later learnt, the Captain of what had to be the weakest fighting division in Seretei.
Captain Unohana Retsu.
He admitted, though only to himself, that he kinda liked the name. Retsu. The name was synonymous with everything he associated himself with - death and blood and power and cries of demons. It only intrigued him more, for even as he scorned such a strong name for such an annoyingly polite, gentle-natured woman, it had only made him more curious about her. About that suppressed energy, and the way even his own men scattered at her approach.
Still...that damn smile. It had caught him from the beginning, and it had continued to catch him every time he saw her. And goddamn, that had pissed him off like nothing else could. She was always smiling that calm, polite smile at everyone. It never changed. It infuriated him.
Stop smilin, dammit.
As time went by, it became an even bigger problem for Kenpachi. Because as time went by, it not only annoyed him because she smiled at him of all people, even at his worst, but because the smile never changed. Always polite, always calm yet revealing nothing.
And without even consciously realising, he'd wanted to know what was behind that smile. Who was she, really? Why was she so feared? What was that suppressed energy about her? And above all, did the did the damn woman have any other smile apart from that calm, reserved tilt of the mouth? Did she ever truly smile with joy or delight? Did she ever laugh, or grin as mischievously as Yachiru did, dimples and all (because he was fairly sure that even when she smiled that calm smile, he could make out the faintest trace of dimples). What did it take to make her truly smile?
And then, much to his chagrin, those thoughts had turned to more intimate thoughts - thoughte he of all people should not be having in his daily life of ruthless drills and bloody battles, because they were...intimate. Certainly, Kenpachi was a male, probably more red-blooded than most, even, (he'd spilt enough of his blood to prove that much), but such thoughts still didn't have any place in his life. The intrigue over the smile, wondering how that smile would change in certain situations, how those blue eyes would soften and darken with lust even as her mouth curled in pure delight and bliss...even tenderness, maybe.
And not only that, but as time went on further still, those smiles were accompanied by soft words that somehow carried the weight and wisdom of ages through them, no matter what they talked of. He could still remember the night they had talked of pain, and how she had dug into his very core with that simple statement: "I think the worst kind of pain would be not knowing who you truly are, or where you belong."
It had gotten to him. Unohana Retsu was getting under his skin in every way possible. And he couldn't handle that. So, in true Kenpachi style, he had sought to end it once and for all.
"Stop smilin', dammit."
Zaraki Kenpachi had never thought it was in him to feel regret. Especially not over something so trivial in his mind. But the moment he'd snarled those words at her, the heavy stone had dropped and settled in his stomach when that smiled disappeared, replaced by a frown and, worse still, the slightest hint of hurt in her dark eyes before she'd turned away.
She hadn't smiled at him after that. She had still smiled at everyone else - that soft, polite smile - and hell, even laughed quietly when Yachiru tore her way through the Fourth Division, only to end up cuddled happily at her favorite BraidyMum's feet with a bar of candy. She'd even smiled at Ikkaku and Yumichika, and that cross-dressing pansy, Kuchiki.
But not at him.
And that had killed him far more than any physical blow could have. He hated it; it made him feel weak, but it had burned him up inside - though he'd never admit to jealousy - to see her smiling at everyone else, only for it to fade when she caught his gaze. She never looked away, of course, and that made it so much worse.
Goddammit woman, smile at me.
Kenpachi didn't know what had come over him. Perhaps, if he'd been a less intractable soul, he might have said he was smitten with Unohana Retsu, though he'd ingest poison before admitting it even to himself. He only knew that he wanted her to smile at him again, and he'd do anything to get what he wanted. He was Zaraki Kenpachi, after all. And Zaraki Kenpachi had never cared much for the rules; he followed a basic code, certainly, but he still liked to get his own way.
So when she had passed him without so much as a solemn nod that one evening, he had grabbed her. Grabbed her by the shoulders and with little thought and a distinct lack of finesse or gentleness, pinned her to the wall outside the Fourth Division, and with her trapped against his frame, had ravished her mouth until she had softened under his hands, her body pliant against his.
When he had finally released her (or her mouth; he rather enjoyed having her slight form pressed into him), she had stared at him, eyes wide and dark and cheeks flushed.
A small strand of hair had escaped from her braid and blew over her features with every panting breath, and though he'd been tempted to move it out of her face, he had refrained from doing so. Because he was still unhappy; he still hadn't gotten what he wanted.
"Goddammit woman, smile at me," he snapped, though the harshness of his tone was belied by the husky edge he couldn't quite keep out of it. But he'd done it; he'd said it, he'd acted, even against his better judgement.
And then it didn't matter, because the flutter in his stomach was back, and the familiar intrigue as her kiss-swollen lips tilted upwards. And then it had gotten that much worse, because it wasn't that polite, gentle smile. Oh, it was still gentle, but this...this smile had dimples. Well, one dimple - Kenpachi was chagrined to realise he'd been somewhat innaccurate, but goddamn, that one dimple in Retsu's right cheek was so damn...so damn cute.
This smile had dimples and crinkled eyes and delight mixed with gentleness, and it just about killed him with the sheer radiance of it. Hell, no wonder she didn't smile like this often, if this was what it did to people. And without realising, he'd grinned back at her.
Before he could respond to the annoying flutters in his stomach though, a sound close by had broken the spell of intrigue, and Retsu had used this distraction to duck under his arm, clearing her throat and smoothing her robes as if nothing had happened.
That had stung him, to be honest, and he'd turned to leave for his own division and maybe break a couple of walls on his way. But then she'd cleared her throat again, softer this time, and he had been forced to glance over his shoulder, silently cursing the hold the damn woman had over his actions.
But...she was smiling at him. And it was that infuriatingly gentle, calm smile, and yet there was something else...there was warmth to it. The faint gleam in her eyes was exactly as he'd imagined it in the past, though of course, Kenpachi's knees did not weaken, and he'd merely grunted in acknowledgement before heading for home.
When he'd turned away though, he was grinning the widest grin that could ever be seen on him outside of battle. And even as it scared every soul who encountered him on his way home, Kenpachi couldn't have cared less.
Damn woman and her smiles.