Title: Coming of Age

Author: St. Harridan

Rating: T

Fandom: Bleach

Character(s)/Pairing(s): Zaraki Kenpachi, Kusajishi Yachiru

Theme: 1 – The vacuum of time

Genres: Angst, Family

Warnings: Kenpachi-style swearing.

Words: 1590

Summary: Kenpachi ponders over Yachiru's coming of age and his role as a father figure.

Disclaimer: Do not own Bleach.

As he twirled the pen around between his long fingers, staring blankly down at the scattered mass of documents on his desk, Kenpachi wished he could just torch them and set the whole of Seireitei on fire. A huge bonfire of wretched paperwork and other useless bullshit. Smoke would engulf the fortress, rising up as thick grey turrets in the sky to block out the glare of the evening sunset. And when it was all over, only charred remains of what was once the great military headquarters of Soul Society would linger amongst dust and debris.

It was boring days like this that Kenpachi really considered the thought of shitting his captaincy and going off somewhere else to enjoy life. But as he thought of the big bonfire that was burning Seireitei, he couldn't help but recall the fire deep in the lush forest of the 79th District, years ago, when bandits struck and raided the brothel, slaughtering everyone there. In turn, Kenpachi had killed them all and spat in their dead fucked up faces. When he remembered that incident, a vision of a round, chubby face began materializing before his very eyes, a light of innocence in the cold, bloody depths of darkness.

Kenpachi's fingers stopped twirling the pen around, dropping it down on the desk with a loud thud that made a certain child in the corner of the office look up in curiosity. He was aware of her staring at him but he pretended not to notice, all the while acting natural as he avoided her ruby orbs that seemed to pierce through him and strip his soul bare. When she turned her attention back to her artwork, he sneaked a peek out of the corner of his eye.

Now that he had the time to examine her, really look at her from head to toe and back, he realized that she indeed was growing up. Her bright pink hair had grown longer, hanging past her shoulders from merely being chin-length. There was a slight bump in her chest, indicating... Kenpachi sniffed, mentally slapping himself for being such an idiot. So that was why she had been so particular about female undergarments. Instead of settling for the usual thin singlet, she had gone for...what did they call it? A god damn bra? Well, whatever it was, Kenpachi reached his boiling point at record time when she picked out a fluffy pink set. There was no fuckin' way he was letting his brat run around in some slutty lingerie.

Despite his strong disapproval, she hadn't gotten angry at him. There was no crying, unlike what she used to do when he didn't let her have what she wanted. But he had to put up with some sulking; she didn't talk to him during the walk home but that was easily cured by a costly trip to the candy store.

Yes, Kenpachi saw the change in his little runt now as clear as day.

There was no whine when she came to his room in the middle of the night, crying over some god damn nightmare with a demand to sleep next to her Ken-chan. Hell, she never came to his room nowadays for that sort of comfort any more. She was strong and brave enough to combat her night demons, and Kenpachi was proud of that since now he could lay spread-eagled with the whole bed to himself but he couldn't ignore the slight feeling of...emptiness when he tried lulling himself to sleep with a part of the bed lacking its usual occupant.

When the hell did she grow to be someone so...different? How could Kenpachi have missed it? She was with him everyday. Every single minute of everyday, hanging onto him and cheering him on. Was it because he wasn't paying attention? He always kept an eye on her. Always. And he didn't like the way other boys were now staring at her. Whenever a male – young or old but it was often the former – so much as sent a look her way, Kenpachi's reiatsu would spike, sending out a subtle warning that was strong enough to frighten the man away. If a man stayed his gaze even after Kenpachi gave off the warning, he would be driven through a wall in less than a second. If that wasn't enough, he would be in a condition where only Unohana-taichou could keep him alive. That never happened though, because most were already scared off when they felt the reiatsu's reprove.

Kenpachi didn't give a fuckin' rat's ass about what others said about him. Aggressive, reckless, brutal, whatever. He didn't give a damn. There were no rules that he played by but if there were, he'd play by his own. Nobody had the right to tell him how to live his life, or how to bring up a child. If they tried, not even Unohana could save them. He'd do anything just to keep his little brat out of harm's way, be it physical, emotional or spiritual.

The only catch was, she already knew how to take care of herself. Her swordsmanship could rival Yumichika's and the amount of her reiatsu was more than impressive. She...didn't need him any more.

Picking up the pen, Kenpachi considered hammering it into the desk but he went for scribbling on a sheet of document instead. With his fingers squeezing the inanimate life out of the pen, he scribbled on and on and on, the sharp nib producing furious scratching sounds that reverberated off the walls and seemed to echo back to him, laughing at the jumbled thoughts in his mind. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck-

The tip of the pen ran straight into the desk, ripping a hole in the paper and snapping its tip clean off.

"What'cha doin', Ken-chan?"

Kenpachi looked up and found himself staring straight into Yachiru's bright ruby eyes.

"Paperwork. What d'ye think I'm doin'?" he snapped without thinking. Yachiru blinked at the pen that was protruding out from the hole in the desk, tilting her head to the side in puzzlement.

"Doesn't look like paperwork to me."

"Shut up. Go 'way. Ye're distractin' me." That wasn't really a lie. Kenpachi masked his growing distress with a convincing growl as a flicker of hurt flashed through her eyes and she turned away. Damn it! Kenpachi, ye fuckin' idiot. He pulled the pen out roughly, sending splinters flying in every direction, and pointed the broken tip at her when she started out the door. "Where d'ye think ye're goin'?"

"Outside," she replied, blinking at him innocently.

"What for?"

She shrugged with a nonchalance that hid the slump in her thin shoulders caused by hurt. "Dunno."

With that, Kenpachi could only watch as she turned her back on him and shut the door. As always, words didn't come easy to him and he was always left speechless halfway through a confrontation with Yachiru. Yachiru...the only person who had the power to bring him down to his knees, though he would never admit that.

Dumping the pen into the trash, Kenpachi laid back and tried to clear his mind but the more he tried the more jumbled his thoughts became until he could no longer see clearly, forcing him to snap his eyes open with a colourful curse. Rounding the desk, he went over to Yachiru's where plain papers, crayons and colour pencils were scattered about. That was her private little space, in the corner of the office where she would tend to herself while he sorted out his own work.

Kenpachi peered down at the used paper on the desk, nudging away a red and a pink crayon that were in the way. Most people – those who didn't know him well – would refer to him as a brute, useful only for fighting, and though their theory was proven many times over, they were wrong. The demon's heart melted then as his eyes roamed over the rudimentary picture of himself sitting on the rough ground with a bloody sword in hand and a little pink-haired bob at his feet. After quite a while of staring at it, his mind blank, he jerked out of his reverie and slammed the side of his fist into the wall.

"Che," he scoffed, a slow, self-condemning grin tugging at the corners of his mouth as he cursed himself for being so harsh. Another curse for being such an idiot as the obvious truth that he stashed away in the back of his mind, doomed to be ignored, rushed over him as wild as a tempest. Yes, he didn't want her to grow up...but there was no stopping the god damn laws of nature, was there? He could try and find a way to break the laws but it was no use.

As much as he didn't want to, he had to go with the flow. He had to watch her grow up, standing on the sidelines and offering guidance whenever she wanted it – no, he'd give her guidance whether she liked it or not.

Yachiru would grow into a fine woman, Kenpachi was sure of that. But he was also sure of one more thing – he picked up the piece of art and placed it carefully in a drawer so that it wouldn't crumple – that no matter how old she was, she'd always be his little runt, his little baby girl. Nobody could change that fact.

Not even time itself.