Author: Sophia Prester
Characters: Zaraki and Yachiru
Rating: PG-13 for language
Disclaimer/Notes/Whatever: I do not own these characters or the story they appear in. Also, I apologize for presenting the two lists together the way I do, but it seemed to fit.
Zaraki's first memory was that of waking up in the middle of a forest in the northern ass-end of Rukongai. There might have been a vague recollection of a man in black, a sword swinging down towards his head, and a terrible, terrible hunger kicking around in his brain, but other than that, zip, zero, nada.
He was a man with no name, no past, and no idea of who he was until a pair of bandits jumped him. In that moment, everything he was supposed to do and be became crystal clear.
From that time on, he has never been curious about who or what he was before coming to Soul Society.
Yachiru will tell anyone who cares to listen (and a number of people who don't) that her first memory other than a vague impression of blood and violence was that of finding Ken-chan and being given a name.
This is not entirely true, although she believes it with all her heart. After all, she can even remember how many clouds were in the sky.
There is an older memory, but it is not as vivid, and it only comes to her in dreams. There is nothing more to it than a soft voice singing to her and gentle arms holding her close. She wakes from these dreams wanting to cry, but she never does. Instead, she sneaks into Ken-chan's room and crawls into bed with him, clutching on to one of his massive arms as if he were the world's largest teddy-bear. Of course, he grumbles about being woken up and calls her a brat, but he also reaches over with his free hand and and strokes her hair until she falls asleep.
For a long time, Zaraki second-guessed himself about naming the kid 'Yachiru.' For one thing, there were still times when saying that name out loud was like rubbing ground glass into an open and infected wound. For another, he thought there was no way that such a runty little kid would be able to live up to the legacy of her name. But it was the name he'd given her, the name she responded to, and he wasn't about to take it away from her again.
After a couple of decades, though, he only thinks of the original Yachiru upon occasion, and it's usually to tell himself that she'd be damned proud of her namesake.
Once, about five years after Ken-chan had found her, Yachiru asked him why he'd chosen to name her 'Yachiru.' He got very, very quiet, so she asked him again, because she though he hadn't heard her. This time, he yelled at her, and not the way he usually did; this time he meant it, and Yachiru cried for nearly an hour afterwards.
It was the only time that Ken-chan ever truly got angry at her, and one of only three times that Yachiru ever cried since he found her.*
*Crying when she was teething or when her diaper needed changing doesn't count. That was a different sort of crying altogether.
He never had any trouble finding plenty of good fights - be they against hollows or humans - on his own. The only reason he agreed to join the ranks of the Gotei 13 was that he thought it would be a hell of a lot easier to raise Yachiru if they weren't living out in the wild.
Even though she loves being a vice-captain and would miss her friends terribly, Yachiru often wishes that she and Ken-chan were still living out on the fringes of Rukongai. Things were so much simpler when it was just the two of them against the world.
There are only two things he regrets when it comes to Yachiru. One was the first and only time he ever made her cry. The other was not realizing until two weeks after the fact that he could have told that useless, stinking Seireitei bureaucrat that he'd found Yachiru in the 80th district, not the 79th. He constantly reminds himself that he and the kid are family as far as he's concerned, and that being assigned different names doesn't add up to a hill of beans, but it still bugs him.
At least three times a week, Yachiru demands that Ken-chan tell her the story of how he found her and gave her a name. It's her favorite story in the whole wide world, and she never gets tired of hearing it.
A few years ago, while waiting for a captain's meeting to begin, Ukitake asked him how on earth he'd wound up with Yachiru. Several other people wanted to know, too, so he'd wound up telling the whole freaking story about how he'd found an infant girl and pretty much adopted her as his own, because you just didn't leave a kid - especially one who couldn't even walk yet - to fend for itself in one of the crappiest parts of Rukongai.
He wasn't sure what it was about what he'd said, but he noticed that by the time the story was over, Kuchiki Byakuya had gone from simply disliking him to actively loathing him.
The second time Yachiru ever cried was when she found out that Abarai Renji was leaving to become vice-captain of the Sixth Division. She hid in her room to cry, not because she was ashamed of crying, but because she didn't want anyone to make fun of her for having a crush on Renji.
The same day that Kuchiki started hating Zaraki's guts was the same day Unohana decided that maybe he was worth talking to after all.
Zaraki sure as hell didn't mind, but he still wondered what had happened to change things.
Yachiru's latest objet de crush is Kurosaki Ichigo, but she's beginning to think that Hitsugaya Toshirou might be a slightly more attainable goal. Maybe. In any case, in another few months, she'll probably like someone else.
He's overheard any number of jokes about what's going to happen when Yachiru is old enough to start dating, and how he's going to terrorize/torture/murder any boyfriend she might acquire. Zaraki thinks the jokes are actually pretty funny, since he knows damn well that any boy that's stupid enough to try anything funny with Yachiru won't live long enough for him to even think about terrorizing.
Various seated officers who have wound up as a guest of the fourth division after sparring with Yachiru: Abarai Renji (two days), Madarame Ikkaku (one day), Aramaki Makizou (a week), Iba Tetsuzaemon (four days), Matsumoto Rangiku (two days), and Ayasegawa Yumichika (five hours).
Renji and Iba once tried to talk Hisagi Shuuhei into challenging Yachiru to a friendly sparring match, but he told them to get stuffed, he knew a setup when he saw one.
The reason Zaraki insists that Yachiru ride on his back nearly everywhere they go is not because he's worried about her keeping up. The problem is, she's so damned fast that on more than one occasion she's managed to get herself spectacularly lost before he even realized she was gone.
Yachiru's sense of direction is actually pretty good. The problem is that walls and buildings keep getting in the way of what she knows is the best path from point A to point B.
Zaraki still wishes that Kurotsuchi had pressed the issue of questioning Ikkaku about the ryoka, because then he would have had a decent excuse to snap the bastard's neck.
Yachiru and Ikkaku fight all the time, but each would be the first to kick serious ass in defense of the other (not that the other would need any defending, of course) because that's what family does.
Zaraki wasn't serious when he offered to execute Kuchiki Rukia. He only said what he did to see how her older brother would react. Byakuya's response simply confirmed Zaraki's opinion that he was a complete and utter prick.
Yachiru's closest friend among the other vice-captains is Rangiku. They have collaborated on fifty-eight different pranks together. Their most frequent co-conspirator is Iba Tetsuzaemon.
Zaraki doesn't define himself as a killer. The way he sees it, killing the other guy is an occasional side-effect of fighting. There have only been a few times in his life when he has gone after someone with the intent to kill and without any thought about the fight leading up to the kill.
His fight with the previous captain of the Eleventh Division was not one of those times.
Yachiru sees fighting as a game. The object of the game is to take the other guy down as quickly as she can.
She is very, very good at this game. So good, in fact, that she has trouble finding anyone else to play with her.
Contrary to popular belief, Zaraki actually enjoys doing the paperwork for his division. It's the closest he ever gets to anything resembling meditation.
When Yamamoto complimented him - and in front of all the other captains, dammit! - on the his attentiveness to detail and how the Eleventh Division's numbers added up properly ("unlike certain other divisions' numbers, Jyuushiro") Zaraki said that of course the paperwork was perfect, he forced Yumichika to do it.
One of Yachiru's most prized possessions is the "Yachiru's Room" sign that Yumichika gave her as a congratulatory gift when Ken-chan promoted her to vice-captain. The sign has flowers on it, and a little white mouse in a frilly dress.
Although she cannot quite put her understanding of this into words, she knows that the gift was tacit affirmation of the fact that it is possible to like cute, girly things and be a fearsome warrior at the same time.
Zaraki and Komamura have become halfway decent friends in recent weeks. Sort of.
In any case, Zaraki is glad to have a worthwhile sparring partner, and Komamura quite obviously needs to have someone - anyone - to fight right now.
Aside from Ken-chan, Yachiru's favorite captain is Kyouraku Shunsui. He's silly, and even though he always jokes with her, she can tell he's not talking down to her. When she gets to be captain one day, she's going to wear a kimono over her uniform the way he does (except hers will be lavender, not pink).
His recent fight with Tousen has Zaraki thinking more and more that there's something to be said for a fight that challenges his wits along with his strength.
Between that and finally learning the name of his zanpakutou, he's starting to worry that he's turning into a great big pansy.
Yachiru is still upset that she didn't get to fight anyone during all the excitement that happened with the failed execution, Aizen's betrayal, and so on. She's also miffed that she wasn't allowed to go to the living world with Ikkaku and Yumichika.
Even so, the look of sheer horror on Ken-chan's face when she asked him if she could go was one of the funniest things she's seen in a long time. Yumichika didn't stop laughing for nearly twenty minutes.
Zaraki's first reaction when he finally learned his zanpakutou's name and saw how it manifested was that maybe he would have been better off not knowing.
It took Yachiru nearly three months to figure out why no one else could see the huge black dog that had started following her around and that even spoke to her on occasion.
Zaraki knows all about Ikkaku's bankai, Renji's real reasons for tranferring to the Sixth Division, and the true nature of Yumichika's zanpakutou. He also knows that Yachiru's been keeping some sort of secret from him for the past couple of years, but he has no idea what it is.
Yachiru's shikai is an axe. A nice, big, shiny axe.
Shortly before finding Yachiru, Zaraki came across the body of a young woman who had been stabbed multiple times. It wasn't all that unusual a thing to see in that part of Rukongai, and he nearly forgot all about it.
A few days after he found the brat, however, he finally realized why he had a nagging feeling that he'd seen someone with a pale purple kimono the same color and pattern as hers sometime not too long before.
He has never told Yachiru any of this.
Yachiru does not know and never will know this, but she is one of the rare souls who was actually born in Soul Society.
Another thing she doesn't know is that the men Ken-chan killed the day he found her had been sent in search of a female infant who was rumored to have exceptionally strong reiatsu. The men didn't know what the soft-spoken, bespectacled shinigami wanted with the kid, but when they were paid that kind of money, they knew better than to ask questions.
While he was being treated for the wounds he received in his fight with Kurosaki Ichigo, Zaraki and Unohana came to an understanding.* He's worried that Yachiru will be furious with him when he tells her.
*It's not the sort of 'understanding' in the rumors that have recently been flying around Soul Society, although there's a better than even chance that those rumors will eventually become true.
Yachiru was scared of Aizen when she and Ken-chan entered the Gotei 13, but Ken-chan told her not to be stupid, hadn't she ever seen someone wearing glasses before?
It wasn't until recently that she wondered if she was really scared of his glasses after all.
When Yamamoto told them about Aizen's army of enhanced Hollows, Zaraki's first thought was, of course, that it was going to be one hell of a fight.
The thought that followed hard on the heels of that one was that if the nerds in the Twelfth were right about these Arrancar things, then it was a damned good thing he got Unohana to agree to look after the kid if anything happened to him.
The third time Yachiru cried was two days after Ken-chan was taken to the Fourth Division headquarters. The wounds he'd gotten in the fight with Icchy were severe, and for a while the medics thought they wouldn't be able to save him, but that wasn't why she cried.
She doesn't know why she cried.
Maybe it had something to do with the fact that she hadn't slept since they'd arrived at the hospital. She was so tired and so worried about Ken-chan that she didn't even fuss or try to bite when she was pulled onto Unohana's lap. For some reason, when Unohana started singing to her in a soft, soft voice and gently wrapped her arms around Yachiru, the tears started flowing and would not stop for the longest time.
Yachiru really does remember the number of clouds in the sky the day she got her name.
So does Kenpachi.