As delighted as I am with the current BLEACH parts dealing with Kenpachi and Unohana. There are some things I still want to know. This is my take on the situation and possible outcomes.
As alway, I own nothing of BLEACH or the characters within:
The patient looked only slightly worse than the medic tending to her.
Yachiru Kusajishi looked up into the wan face of she who had once been Yachiru Unohana. Neither spoke.
She had been Retsu now for well over a century, and so it should have been easy to return to that persona. A mantle of respectability and calm demeanor. But things that should be easy, often are the hardest to accomplish.
"You don't wear the braid anymore?" Little Yachiru asked outright, finally breaking the silence. "I haven't seen you with your braid since that fight."
Retsu shook her head without saying a word. How to explain what she didn't even understand herself?
"He didn't mean to hurt me." The pink-haired lieutenant spoke gently yet earnestly.
Retsu gave the younger shinigami a quick look, trying to sort out her own confusion within her mind. "No. I know he didn't. You stepped between him and his victory." It was a question she hadn't been able to ask, until now. She wasn't sure she could handle the answer.
Yachiru shrugged lightly. "He had passed over into a fighting frenzy. Ken-chan would have been very angry if he'd completed that particular victory."
From the doorway came the soft rustle of clothing. The two women turned to look at the two men standing there. "Head Captain Kyoraku. Captain Ukitake." Retsu offered the names with a deferential nod, feeling awkward without her usual braid. Though she had to admit, she didn't really miss it. She felt more free this way.
Shunsui nodded at the Division Four leader. The tone of voice was right. But, there was a haunted look in Captain Unohana's dark-gray eyes. And her hair remained unbound, no longer hiding the thick scar just below the base of her throat.
She wasn't the same as she had been when she'd entered into her battle with Kenpachi Zaraki. He eyed her almost sorrowfully as he doubted she would ever be the same again.
First a wild criminal, then a captain in the Gotei 13. A fighting captain and the first Kenpachi. Slowly losing her taste for life, become further and further apathetic. Looking for challenges and challengers, unable to satisfy something basic within her dark soul.
He and Jushiro both could recall when she'd gone on her 'tour' of the outer districts of the Soul Society. She'd said that she'd gone to 'clean them up'. But they'd both known she was going to find if a spark of life remained within her. She'd gone looking for a worthy battle. And they weren't even sure if she cared if she lived or died.
So they had both been shocked to see her return. Scarred, but alive. More than alive. Angry and upset. The apathy was certainly gone, but instead of seeking revenge over something she refused to name ...she'd changed.
She'd sought out members of the Royal Court Guard and had fought them for a boon. She'd lost, but only when the members had been forced to band together against her. Yet they'd ended up granting her that request. And that's how she'd learned to heal. Changing from a killer to something entirely new, she'd gone off to train with them.
Much later she'd returned a different person. Giving up the title of Kenpachi, stating she no longer deserved it. She'd been defeated was the only explanation she would offer. They'd all been shocked, thinking such a thing to be impossible. When asked where the new 'Kenpachi' was ...she had shrugged, saying he was 'coming at his own pace.' Then she'd sneered and said others could hold the title for him, until he decided to come and take it for himself.
She'd never spoken another word on the subject. Ever.
The name Yachiru disappeared entirely as she insisted on being called Retsu. Her mannerisms calmed and changed dramatically. Only when extremely annoyed could she offer just one look from her eyes and the world would freeze around her. Other than those small moments, Yachiru Unohana effectively died back then.
Shunsui looked over at Jushiro, who shrugged. They both looked back at the woman in front of them ...as if seeing a ghost. The thick varnish of 'Retsu' was stripped away. Only tatters remained.
Standing before them was a woman who had died so long ago. And yet, there were still touches of the new healer about her as well, not a full return to the old 'Yachiru'. This was someone new.
This was the third time she'd changed. A mixture of the old and new personalities. And Shunsui wasn't sure what to expect next.
Jushiro was the one who broke the silence, looking over at the diminutive lieutenant. "How can you say he didn't mean to hurt you, you nearly died. A child should not be in harms way like ..."
Yachiru interrupted with a rude noise, sticking out her tongue as she blew a raspberry at the man who outranked her.
Jushiro's eyes widened comically.
Shunsui fought hard not to smile.
"I'm alive, and I have no wounds." Yachiru pointed out coolly. "My injuries came because of Kenny's high spiritual pressure. I was too close."
"You could have died." Captain Ukitake pointed out in annoyance.
"I didn't." Yachiru made a happy face. "Kenny loves me. He'd never hurt me."
Shunsui's humor faded as he watched the young girl. "Even if he didn't attack you. Your close proximity to him during that fight caused you immense pain and injury. You should not have interfered." His eyes moved to that of the Division Four healer. "I do not mean that to infer that I wished for a different outcome for you."
Captain Unohana nodded, her fingers moving restlessly over the pitcher of water she held. A sign of nerves that Retsu never would have shown. "I take no offense. Yachiru should not have stepped between Kenpachi and I."
"He didn't want to kill you." Yachiru sounded so sure.
"So you snuck in where you had no business being? Nearly getting yourself killed?" Captain Ukitake was obviously appalled.
"Uhm. Yes?" Yachiru smiled brightly as she responded, hiding any discomfort she might feel for her actions. Then she cocked her head to the side. "You know, if you're visiting sick people ...it's polite to bring candy."
Shunsui nodded and handed over a gaily wrapped box as he studied the youngster before him. He wasn't even sure she had any remorse for her actions, even if it was breaking several big time rules in the Gotei 13.
"He's coming this way." Captain Ukitake sighed, pushing his long hair back behind one ear. "Almost here, actually."
Yachiru smiled as she popped a sweet into her mouth, while Retsu stilled.
"It's been months! It's about damned time!" The little girl giggled, talking with her mouth full.
Captain Ukitake's eyes bulged. "That is no language for a child! Especially a young lady! And you should swallow your food before speaking!"
Yachiru blew another raspberry at him, grinning as he sputtered in indignation.
Retsu looked at Shunsui. He looked back at her.
It had been months. Months since the battle against the Vandenreich had ended. Ichigo had already healed and returned home to the world of the living, despite being badly injured.
In the end, it had taken the combined efforts of several to defeat the powerful group. But taking the brunt of the battles had been Ichigo and Kenpachi Zaraki.
Only, after the end game of the mighty war, Kenpachi had ...not returned.
They knew where he was, of course. It was hard to hide that much spiritual pressure. Only, no one knew what he was doing out on the mountainside.
Some feared rebellion. Other's feared genocide. Some speculated he would commit ritual suicide, finding no one else worthy to fight.
Retsu wasn't sure herself. But she hoped they were all wrong.
When she'd first met the man that would become Kenpachi Zaraki, he'd been an unnamed child. Ridiculously powerful and wilder than nature itself.
He had crossed swords with her and she could feel his utter euphoria in finding someone even able to fight him back after his first stroke.
Only, she hadn't been strong enough. And she'd felt his fear and longing almost tangibly. For the brief moments that they had fought, he had not been so terribly alone. And he didn't want to go back to being alone with no one to match him.
She'd been able to tell immediately when he instinctively had reached inside himself and started to put crude seals around his power. Shutting himself off from vital parts of himself. Weakening himself so as not to lose ...her.
Retsu ...no, Yachiru. She had still been Yachiru then. She had been appalled and angry. Not with him, child that he was. No, with herself. SHE had been the reason this pure fighting force had been lessened. Reduced.
She was not worthy. At that moment she had walked away from her title and even her name. Letting it fall away as she'd fled in shame. Hoping that without her there to limit him, the child would break apart those seals and become whomever he was meant to be. She couldn't bring him back to the Gotei 13. They would have tamed him, kept the seals in place. No, for him to have a chance he had to remain free.
She'd fled. Reinventing herself. Retsu Unohana. A healer. Swearing away from killing.
A lot of time passed before she saw that child again. A child no longer, however.
And the sight of him had made her flinch. Sick over her actions. He was still shackled. Weaker than he should be. Those seals? They were rock hard and almost insurmountable. He hadn't been free after all.
She'd grieved then. For the sin she had done him. For not being strong enough to fight him that he'd had to lessen his own being just to be around the Gotei 13, and her.
Retsu had seen the hurt and anger in his eyes when she'd turned from him. Rebuffing him at every turn until he stopped trying. He had seen her smooth braid and her calm words as an insult. But she'd not been able to face the harm she had caused him. Nor was she able to break those seals so deep within him.
Or so she'd thought then.
So they'd kept their distance. Her with self-loathing, him with confused hurt and anger.
Then came Ichigo Kurosaki.
That boy. That simple boy had turned out not to be so simple. And he had changed everything.
Kenpachi should never have lost to him, even by such a minuscule amount. Yet only she had realized that, and only she knew why. He had come so close to true death. And in doing so, when he'd healed ...he had come back stronger. That last seal? Had weakened.
A fluke? Maybe.
But then had come the battle in Hueco Mundo. And Kenpachi had won against that Espada, Nnoitra Gilga. But again, it was a closer battle than it should have been. Once more, Kenpachi been quite injured, even resorting to using both hands on his zanpakuto. Yet, when healed ...he'd come back stronger. One of the seals within him weakened as well.
She'd spoken with Head Captain Yamamoto about the matter, but he had forbid her to take any actions.
Yachiru would have fought back or might have even disobeyed, but Retsu was another matter. She had warred with herself over the whole situation. Yet in the end, she wasn't sure what she could do without attacking Kenpachi head on.
Then had come the Vandenreich. And the order from the new Head Captain. To 'teach' Kenpachi Zaraki the art of killing. To release him from the seals that he himself didn't even know were there.
It would mean her death. And she'd accepted that as her due. She had done this to him, or had at least been the cause of what he had done to himself. It was only just and right that she release him from his home-made prison.
Kill him, or bring him to the point of death over and over and over again. Wearing herself out as she built him up. Re-energizing him, healing him, whatever it took. But each time he crossed over, he became stronger. And the seals got weaker and weaker.
It was as those last seals crumbled within him, with the light of battle lust in his dark gaze that she saw her approaching death. And welcomed it.
Then a little pink-haired child had stepped between them. A child he had named for her in the first place. Yachiru.
At first, it didn't look like he even recognized her. But then he had managed to turn aside at the last second, but not before his immense spiritual pressure had done severe damage to his lieutenant.
In the end, he had turned over the two to the medical division. Leaving to fight the Vandenreich on his own, being joined later by a stronger Ichigo Kurosaki as well. Others too, of course. But those were the heavy hitters.
And she had survived. Though she could admit to herself that she was not sure if she was glad or saddened by that fact.
"Did you hear me?" Shunsui called to her, snapping her out of her reverie.
Retsu nodded quickly. "He comes." Her mouth felt dry as she spoke.
"No. I'm here." Kenpachi no longer had to duck to enter the room, the spikes in his hair were too long now and the weight of them hung down his back. The bells were a thing of the past.
He looked more alive than ever before. Certainly he hadn't looked this vital since she'd last seen him as a child.
Retsu met his eyes by sheer force of will, unsure what she'd find in his gaze. He smiled, but it wasn't gentle. There was something wild about him again. She fought the urge to flee, instead lifting her chin and facing him head on.
"You've been gone a long time." Head Captain Kyoraku commented dryly.
"I needed to get some things straight in my head." Kenpachi said almost quietly, those his gaze didn't turn toward his 'leader'. He instead moved to look down at Yachiru. "Bad move."
"You would have regretted it." The little pink-haired shinigami smiled and stood up on the bed. She still didn't reach his collarbone. "I missed you."
"I missed you too." The big warrior sighed, handing her a box of candy with a large bow on it.
Captain Ukitake frowned as he studied the Division Eleven leader. "Your spiritual pressure is ..."
"Contained." Kenpachi growled, shooting a quick glance over at Retsu. "This time I'm aware of it, and in control."
"Took you long enough." Shunsui commented.
Kenpachi shrugged. "There was a lot of it to learn how to control." His words were a vast understatement, and they all knew it.
Shunsui nodded, grateful that it didn't look like Captain Zaraki was going to turn rogue after all. "I'll need a report."
"Later." Growled Kenpachi. "Unfinished business here." He turned fully to stare at Retsu Unohana once more.
The Head Captain shifted his weight uncomfortably on his feet. "You have no cause to kill her. Not now."
"You were willing to sacrifice her to me earlier." Kenpachi turned the full force of his gaze on Shunsui.
The new Division One leader actually winced, but nodded.
"Go away." The large warrior growled in general.
Shunsui nodded, resigned. Captain Ukitake balked. "I will not leave her here to you, it took her a very long time to heal from ..."
He was interrupted as little Yachiru tugged on his captain's haori. "Time to go." She smiled brightly.
Shunsui smiled lazily. "There are some out there worried you might rebel against the Royal family."
Kenpachi shrugged. "I don't want to rule. It's a pain in the ass. And if I destroy everything, where's the fun after that? No."
"I need to tell them something." The new Head Captain waited, almost holding his breath. He wasn't sure what to think of his Division Eleven leader, not anymore. The man was crazy powerful. And highly unpredictable.
Kenpachi finally turned and shot him an irate look. "Just tell them I don't care about ruling. I have no intention of rebelling. There are only two things I care about. Fighting and Yachiru."
Captain Ukitake put his hand on the pink-haired girl's shoulder and nodded.
Shunsui though, smiled and shook his head gently. "Which Yachiru?" He asked pointedly.
Kenpachi grinned full out, feral and with a lot of teeth. "Both."
The smaller Yachiru grinned and bounced on her toes despite still being wrapped in bandages and wearing a fuzzy pink night dress. "Let's go!"
Shunsui moved out the door.
Captain Ukitake looked worriedly at the healer they were leaving alone with basically a living weapon. "We should stay, perhaps."
Yachiru frowned and tugged on the taller man's arm. "No, they need to be alone."
"Why?" Captain Ukitake resisted.
Yachiru blew out a frustrated breath, put her hands on her small hips and scowled. "Look, do I really need to explain the birds and the bees to you?"
Shocked, Jushiro's eyes widened. "You shouldn't know about those things!"
Yachiru rolled her eyes and tugged on him again, this time he followed her out the door looking stunned. "When a man likes a woman they ..."
"Stop!" Captain Ukitake shouted even as the door shut behind them. "I beg you, stop!"
The healer and the warrior were left alone, staring at one another.
Retsu took a deep breath, drawing his gaze to the thick scar that resided just below the base of her neck. He reached out with light fingers, tracing the marking there.
She stood there, letting him.
His gaze moved up from her scar to her eyes. She shook her head at him gently. "You should have killed me."
"I love you."
Tears pricked her eyes as she stepped back away from him, breaking the touch that he had on her. "I limited you."
Kenpachi shook his head. "Those seals? They released some memories too. Took a while to come to terms with it all. But I don't recall you ever forcing me to put those seals there."
"You did it to keep me around. To be able to fight at my weaker level." She protested. "It was wrong, so very wrong."
The large male sighed. "Is this why you turned away from me?"
Retsu nodded raggedly. "You arrived at the Gotei 13, so strong. Able to beat the impostor Kenpachi effortlessly. Only I knew that you were so much weaker than you should have been. Those seals crippled you, and I couldn't face it."
"You could have told me." Kenpachi started, then frowned. "No. I'm not sure I would have listened. Not then."
Silence filled the room once more and he stepped toward her. Retsu turned her back on him and he growled, catching her loose hair. He tugged and she stilled. He stared at the back of her head. "I hated your braid."
"I hated your seals."
"Yachiru died. I was Retsu by then."
"I don't like Retsu at all."
She turned and gave him a soft snort with a disbelieving look. "You just told me you loved me."
"I loved Yachiru. I tolerated Retsu, but even as her you could still be scary as fuck. I admired that. This person here? The two of you? I adore you."
She rolled her eyes and gave a breathless laugh that held no humor. "I don't even know who I am right now!"
Kenpachi shrugged. "I don't know who I am anymore either."
"If Yachiru hadn't stepped between us ..."
"I would have killed you. And I never could have handled that." Kenpachi groaned and rolled his neck.
The healer shook her head. "I can't go back to being Yachiru."
Kenpachi let her loose hair slip from his fingers, savoring the silky feel. "You can't go back to being Retsu either." He smiled. "You'll need a new name."
He actually chuckled low in his throat. "I have loved you since you met my first attack and turned it aside. The shock and joy of that moment have never left me."
Retsu looked at him with longing and shook her head. "You were a child."
"We were both monsters." Kenpachi reached for her and she didn't step away, putting her hand in his. "Do you love me?"
She searched his face, seeing his hard expression at odds with his words. He was afraid of her answer. "I loved you before I met you. When I first saw that pile of corpses, I knew. And there you were. All wild eyes and holding a zanpakuto longer than you were tall. I loved you before I realized that you were only a child."
His hands took her by the shoulders and he stared down into her face. "No more turning me away."
The healer shook her head, something light and airy bursting somewhere deep within her. Returning parts of her soul back to life.
"I'm a complicated person." She warned him in a whisper.
Kenpachi's eyes widened and his lips turned up. "Me too. Plus I'm basically a killer."
"Me too." She stared up at him with longing. "Are you going to kiss me or not?"
Kenpachi's smile disappeared, then he grimaced. "I want it to be right."
Startled, her hands rose to his chest, leaning into his strength. "This is right."
He still held back.
She frowned, then her mouth dropped open in shock. "Have you never kissed anyone before?"
Unbelievably a pink stain covered the tip of his nose as he stared into space somewhere over her head.
She slapped his chest and he grunted. Finally he looked down at her. "Look, it's not like any of the women I met along the way could hold a candle to you. Nor could they put up with my spiritual pressure. It would have torn them to shreds."
She would be his first. It was a heady thought. The healer's eyes widened and she took a deep breath, then stilled as she saw his eyes drop eagerly to her chest at the movement.
Slowly, she took his hand from her opposite shoulder and slid it, palm facing inward, inside her robe.
Kenpachi stopped breathing, his heart rate picking up madly.
She smiled at him with encouragement and heat. "Come here."
Kenpachi leaned in and she captured his lips with her own. His fingers spasmed on her chest, drawing a gasp of pleasure from her.
His mouth opened eagerly as she showed him the way. Delighting in the fact that he was a very quick learner.