Characters/Pairings: Kenpachi, Yachiru, implied Kenpachi/first!Yachiru
Word count: 1, 199
Summary: The child reminds him of that woman, the one woman he used to admire, and though it hurts to look back on his past, he can still find something worth living for in the present.
A/N: Written for table #5: light, prompt #11: truth of 12_stories.
The light of the full moon, brilliant and hanging bright in the dark night sky, filters in through a broken window pane, casting ethereal glows unto the dirty floor made of broken planks of wood, so old now that they've gone rotten.
An owl hoots in the distance, as if answering to his incoherent murmurs, but he's too deep in slumber to hear it. Curled up on the floor, back facing the window, he's hunched up and withdrawn into himself, arms folded across his chest as if he's guarding something precious within his heart.
And he jerks awake upon the sudden poking he receives in his side, hissing and slapping the child's hand away on instinct. Still laying in her sleeping position, she stares up at him in puzzlement while he tries to get a firm grip of himself, to control the ache deep within his chest. It burns; the pain hurts him like no blade has ever did – or ever will – and he swallows the lump that has just lodged itself in his throat.
"Ken-chan, somethin' wrong?" She sits up, big, bright eyes never leaving his. He, in turn, doesn't want to look at her – no, he can't look at her. She's grown so much now since first they met, and recently he's been plagued by dreams, sometimes nightmares, of her namesake – the one woman who ever had the chance of stealing his heart, his soul.
The ache deep inside him is what drives him over the edge, what confirms the fact that the woman still has his heart even though she's been dead for years. He hates it, this feeling, and he blames her for it. He blames her for everything she has done for him, to him, for how much she cared for him when no one else would.
For making him love her.
He shakes his head, trying his best to rid his mind of those mental images – images of her; she and her bright smile, her eyes, her ridiculous dance in the rain – but it doesn't help when Yachiru crawls over to him and pats his knee.
"Ken-chan, what's wrong?"
He immediately scoots away, coming to sit beside the window.
"Nothin', runt," he mutters, though he can't deny that it's a complete lie. "Jus' go back t'sleep."
"But you were callin' my name."
"I was what?" He turns to look at her and, upon seeing the confused frown across her face, let out a scoff. "Don't be stupid, I wasn't callin' yer name."
"But you were sayin' 'Yachiru', 'Yachiru' so many times, Ken-chan."
"I wasn't, brat. Now shut up an' go back t'sleep 'fore I cut ye up and roast yer ass for breakfast."
That age-old threat manages to silence her, but only for a moment, and soon she's bombarding him with questions as to who he was referring to.
"If you're not callin' me, then who're you callin'?"
"It's none of yer damned business, idiot!" He lies back down, crooks his elbow and tucks his forearm under his head to act as a pillow, and squeezes his eyes shut. But even behind those eyelids he can see her, the damned woman. He curses her, insults her, calls her every single name that he can manage before finally reaching his breaking point and, with a snarl, his hands shoot out and grab Yachiru under the armpits, and he lifts her up so that she's right above him.
"Shut the fuck up, 'Chiru, ye're only makin' this worse!"
"Makin' what worse?"
And that's when he catches himself, realizing what he has just said, and that those words aren't actually for the child. They are words right from the very bottom of his heart, a few of the many he wants to spit out at the woman for leaving him, for abandoning him.
As he stares up at the child, wide-eyed, he finally gives in to the actual truth behind all his hatred, his bitterness:
Even after all these years, he still misses Yachiru.
He doesn't want to admit it. Dwelling in the past is one weakness that he can't tolerate. History's history, what's the use of bringing it back up again? It doesn't matter one way or another – nothing can be done to bring a dead person back to life – so why is he still mulling over events that happened years ago?
"'Tis yer fault, Yachiru," he growls at the child, "ye fuckin' brat."
She tilts her head to the side in wonderment, and he puts her down. Despite how much he just wants to throw her to the other side of the room, to smash her and squash her like a little housefly, he can't bring himself to. Instead, he places her gently on the floor, turns his back on her with a huff, and tries to go back to sleep.
With the coming of those dreams, those bittersweet memories that strike such nostalgia within him, he now despises even slumber. Sometimes his emotional boundaries are crossed so much to the point that he even hopes to the so-called "shit gods" to let him sleep into oblivion, to allow his death to be quick and painless.
But Yachiru always told him not to take life so easily, not to just throw it away like a rag doll. She had taught him to appreciate what life offers, even if they are just humble luxuries, and she even said that, if someone has the urge to lay a finger on him, he should kill that individual before getting killed himself. That's the only way to live in the 80th District, and he's taken her words close to heart.
He hates how much her words have stayed with him, how much he's attached to her teachings, her advice, her care…her love.
"Ken-chan, it's cold." Her whisper shatters his thoughts, pulling him back to the present. He pushes away all those incoming memories of Yachiru, stashes them away in that overflowing treasure chest inside him to be dealt with at a later time, and rolls around half-heartedly to face the child.
"I'm cold." She hugs herself to further emphasize the fact. His anger has dissipated, and now, as she stares up at him with a hopeful gleam in her eyes, he's only capable of letting out a dreary sigh. He reaches out to take the back of her collar and pull her towards him, making a mental note to work for some better clothes before winter comes around.
Her face instantly brightens up, her two front teeth flashing in a wide beam, and she hastens to his side like an eager puppy being offered milk. She plops herself down, curls into a ball and snuggles up to him.
"I'm Ken-chan's 'Chiru!"
He can't help but smile at that. He reaches out and absently ruffles her hair, giving a soft laugh as the child settles comfortably in his strong, secure arms.
Just like the one before her.
He tightens his hold around Yachiru and, reminiscent of how her namesake used to kiss him goodnight, bends down to briefly nuzzle the child's hair.
"Right, my 'Chiru."