One can never know where the next inspiration will strike. Not done with other stories either. But when one won't leave you alone, you have to sit down and write it out.

All the usual legal disclaimers apply. I don't own Bleach. I do have bleach under my kitchen sink, but that's for cleaning purposes only.


Rumors were nothing new to the Soul Society. But he was a man who hated rumors. The only ones he ever listened to were about fighters, fighting styles, and the such. Still, be around the Soul Society for any length of time, and you couldn't help but hear the rumors. Kenpachi Zaraki remembered the first time he became aware of them.

"It never would have happened if she'd been present."

That had been the first rumor he'd heard about her and it had not bothered him at all. He'd just defeated Kenpachi Kiganjo with one blow, not even breaking a sweat. In Zaraki's opinion, the man hadn't deserved the name of Kenpachi which was a name supposed to denote the strongest shinigami of each generation.

He and Yachiro were moving into the 11th Division at the time. Or she was directing the other members, ordering the furniture moved first one place, then the next and changing her mind constantly and driving the men crazy. But any time one of the shinigami had looks ready to rebel, they'd only have to look at Zaraki sitting alone in his chair with his unnamed sword. The man who'd defeated their vaunted leader with one blow. And by right of tradition, was now their new leader.

The new Kenpachi, who wore the title as his own personal name, yawned. He was bored. He'd beaten the strongest shinigami around and taken his place at the head of a so-called elite fighting squad. Now what? A life-time of watching Yachiro run around laughing and swiping sweets?

"She hasn't accepted him yet."

"He may be gone quicker than he came."

"They were friends."

"I heard they were lovers."

"Naw, she's untouchable. No one can get near."

"I heard that the fifth seed from that squad got hurt on purpose to see her."

"The last guy who dated her ...disappeared."

"Don't listen to him."

"Yeah? You know anyone who's seen her on a date?"

"Kiganjo was afraid of her."

"Took her flowers once. Saw him myself."

"She's older than him. More powerful."

"Never seen her fight."

"I heard she's frigid."

"Shhh! Don't say that out loud, but I heard it too."

"Naw, she's just quiet with her lovers. Kiganjo liked her."

"Like, like?"

"You sound like a schoolgirl."

"Shut the fuck up."

The whispers he ignored at first, until he realized it might be another challenger. Another fight. He'd perked up for a moment. What 'she' were they talking about? He barked out a command. Then men scattered. Kenpachi frowned. Elite fighting force? His ass.

"Retsu Unohana."

Kenpachi turned and looked at the two men. Ikkaku and Yumichika. Two members of his new squad that he knew from before. In fact, they'd greeted him as if his arrival and winning of the title were a fore-gone conclusion. Kenpachi snorted lightly, which it really had been, of course.

"Yun-Yun! Shiny!" Yachiro mock-frowned. "You drove away my helpers!"

Already having her number, Yumichika held out a bag of sweets absently. "I bought these and I don't even like them. How strange. I wonder if anyone ..." They were gone from his hand in under a second.

"They were talking about Captain Retsu Unohana."

"Unohana?" Kenpachi smiled evilly. "Strong fighter?"

Ikkaku shrugged. "Assumption only. She's the Captain of Squad 4."

Zaraki frowned. "Isn't that?"

"Medical." Ikkaku shook his head.

Disappointed, Kenpachi nodded. Medical? Not a real warrior after all.

"Rumor is she's dangerous though. In a battle. Though I've not run across anyone who has actually seen her fight." Ikkaku continued.

Yumichika smiled. "She's not terribly ugly. Maybe pretty in a pedestrian kind of way. Simple, clean lines. Not flashy. Quiet. Definitely not beautiful."

Kenpachi dismissed the beautiful comment with a frown and a wave of his hand. He didn't care what the woman looked like.

"She carries a lot of weight in the Soul Society. Been a captain for nearly 200 years." Ikkaku continued.

"So she's a good healer." Zaraki snarled. "Healer. Bah. I'll never need one."

"But Kenny! If she's been a captain sooooo long, maybe she's really, really strong!" Yachiru sang out in a sweet voice, grinning widely. "Maybe she'll play with you!"

Yumichika leaned against the door frame, posing prettily. "I can find no one who has ever witnessed her bankai."

"No one has seen Kenny's either!" Yachiru grinned, bouncing up and disappearing, only to reappear on Kenpachi's shoulder.

Ikkaku's smile widened, only to drop his jaw in shock with the next revelation.

"I don't have one." Kenpachi smiled nastily, watching Yumichika nearly fall with surprise. "Never needed one."

"But ...but ...but ...You're a captain!" Ikkaku stuttered.

"Baldy is forgetting how to talk." Yachiru looked mildly interested.

Suddenly, the pink-haired new lieutenant stiffened and looked toward the outside. Someone was approaching.

Kenpachi looked up, eager. No one from the Court Guards had approached him since he'd won his captaincy. Only the members of his new squad.

Quiet footsteps approached without hesitation. Zaraki smiled with anticipation. There was spiritual pressure, but if felt ...contained. As if there was a polite covering over that pressure. As if ...there were more beneath the surface. A lot more. Another fight? He stood and waited, letting a bit of his own immense spiritual pressure push outwards.

He could feel when the pressures met. He waited for the hesitation, the weighing of an opponent. Then he stilled. Nothing.

His pressure slid off the newcomer, as if sliding off a table without resistance. As if his pressure meant nothing. And there had been no hesitation in the footsteps.

Zaraki grinned. Whomever this was, they were strong-willed at least. And not a coward. Good.

Then she was there. In the doorway. Looking at him with gentle eyes and a small smile. Ignoring the large presence of his spiritual pressure and sparing not one glance for anyone but him.

She was alone. In a fighting barracks. Facing a man who had just cut down their strongest warrior with only one blow. She was sure of herself, this one. Or a fool. Her captain's coat wouldn't protect her, not here, not from him.

Her appearance made little dent on him. Pretty enough in a tame way. Too put together though. Too neat. Like nothing could ruffle her. Was she looking for a fight?

Ikkaku looked around and Kenpachi let that catch his attention. He too looked around. His squad was suddenly back, brave with this stranger here. But really, how good could she be if she hadn't been the one to hold the Kenpachi title?

"I am Captain Unohana." The woman bowed slightly. Even her voice was quiet. Not lacking in volume, everyone present could hear her. But there was a quiet gentleness to her voice.

"Kenpachi Zaraki." Yachiro spoked up, pointing down at his head from her perch on his right shoulder.

The medical captain looked at the young lieutenant and smiled gently. Kenpachi shifted his weight. She looked like she did everything gentle. Did she fight gently, he wondered idly. So, so this was the one who his men had been whispering about. What was the big deal?

"Captain Kenpachi Zaraki." Ikkaku corrected, only to earn a scowl and slap across his bald head from the now irritated Yachiru who obviously didn't like being corrected. "Ow!"

The woman blinked slowly and there was a soft pause. Then a slight nod. "So I hear."

Kenpachi straightened, staring down from his much greater height to the woman studying him. He started to take a step toward her. A menacing move he'd used all his life, mostly without even knowing he was doing it.

But she didn't back away. Nor look worried. She simply looked up and he stopped. Froze. Dark eyes weighed him for a long, timeless moment. He knew he could move, but something in him just stopped. Nothing was keeping him from being able to move, but ...he somehow, just couldn't. Not while she looked at him.

Yet, there was no threat in her gaze. She just ...looked at him. He pushed against her with his spiritual pressure. A challenge. And his pressure flowed around her like she was a rock in a stream, not even making an impression on her quiet strength. Strength he couldn't get a read on.

Nothing about her was impressive. Nothing was flashy. Not her looks, not her spiritual pressure, not anything. She was quiet personified. Yet ...yet ...he wasn't moving. Why?

Kenpachi Zaraki didn't like puzzles. He had no patience for them or any other games. Life was fighting, surviving, getting stronger. Deliberately he scowled at the silent woman and focused on his hand, moving it deliberately to the hilt of his zanpakuto. A threat.

A hiss of indrawn breaths filled the room.

Yachiru grinned and jumped from his shoulder, sensing the coming fight.

The woman, this Retsu Unohana, smiled.

His hand hesitated.

"Welcome to the 13 Court Guard. Captain ...Kenpachi Zaraki." She smiled and did the unthinkable. She turned her back on him and walked away. Not ran away, he could never mistake her leaving for escaping. She walked away from him. Slowly. Without fear. "Or is that Kenpachi Kenpachi Zaraki?" She teased, without looking back at him.

"Huh?" Yachiru looked sweetly confused. "What did braid-lady mean by ..."

They all stopped as the departing captain looked back, directly at Yachiru. Giving the youngster a look much like she'd given Kenpachi.

The young lieutenant frowned, then grinned. "Re-chan?" She changed the nick-name on the spot.

The captain gave the pink-haired fighter a long, measuring look and nodded. Then turned and walked gracefully out of the barracks.

The whispering started immediately.

"What was that all about?" Kenpachi scowled.

"She brought you your captain's haori." Yumichika pointed to a nearly folded garment that the captains all wore. It was sitting on the chair he'd vacated. Behind him.

Kenpachi's frown deepened as he realized the strange woman had brought that, and had left if for him and he'd not even noticed. Damn.

"Did you see how she accepted him?"

"He must be okay after all."

"I can't believe she said that!"

"I thought she loved Kiganjo."

"She has some balls coming here like that."

"You're an idiot."

"Am not!"

The whispers were getting louder. Zaraki looked around, frowning, making his new team draw back cautiously. Quiet again. He nodded.

Yumichika blew on his fingernails gently, and buffed them on his coat. "She called you Kenpachi Kenpachi Zaraki."

The new captain bared his teeth. "An insult?" He asked, hoping to challenge the woman. What made him uneasy, he usually struck down.

"Hardly." Ikkaku snorted. "She gifted you with the title, and calling you by name with the title. She's saying you have a right to not only the name, but also the rank, and a place here."

"Kenny doesn't need her stupid say-so!" Yachiru frowned, pouting that there had been no fight after all.

Kenpachi looked around the room as his new squad gathered around him. For the first time looking at him like he could be there leader. Had she done this? Had she given him what should have been won in his battle? Bah.

Stupid woman.

He didn't need her and he didn't need her approval.

And the next time they met would be her last, if she didn't watch her step.