Characters: Zaraki Kenpachi, Kusajishi Yachiru
Word count: 750
Summary: Kenpachi doesn't know what "those things hanging from the ceiling" are called, but he knows that if they ever fall, he'll always be there to keep Yachiru out of harm's way.
A/N: Set pre-series, when Kenpachi and Yachiru are still somewhere in the Rukon. Written for Table #9, prompt #5: picture of stalactites of 5_prompts.
Also, some shameless pimping: Round 2 at bleachbigbang is now on! Author sign-ups last from June 1st to June 30th.
Her voice filled with childish inquiry shatters the silence, sending echoes bouncing off the cave walls and spiralling deeper into the depths of darkness. She raises her head at that, blinking as she listens to her own words being hurtled right back at her, and she ducks under his arm, snuggling closer.
Kenpachi himself turns around to lie on his back, grumbling in irritation, having being jerked out of his semi-slumber by the girl's question. Without even bothering to open his eyes, he places a hand on her head and pushes her down so that she was lying back on the ground.
"T'morrow, brat," he mutters, but when she wriggles out of his hold and sits up, he opens an eye to check on her. It's as if she's not listening to him, ignoring him, as she tilts her head back and gazes up at the rocky ceiling.
"What're those, Ken-chan?" She points with her tiny index finger. He groans, turning over so that his back is to her.
"I said t'morrow, runt. Go back t'sleep. One more word an' I'll roast yer ass for breakfast."
That age-old threat seems to have worked, for the only thing that follows it is a peaceful silence, broken only by the soft trickles of water down the cave walls. Kenpachi settles his face in his forearm, breathing a quiet sigh, but just as he's about to drift off into slumber, he feels an insistent tug at his haori.
"But Ken-chan! What're those things hangin' from up there?" Her whiny tone makes the short hairs on his arms bristle, his teeth to bar in a very unsettling way, and he instantly sits up, slapping her hand away from his ragged clothes.
"The fuck're ye talkin' 'bout, runt? There ain't nothin' hangin' from shit-gods-know-where!"
She purses her lips and jabs upwards. He follows her finger and comes to rest his eyes on the ceiling, on the icicles that hang from it. And he scoffs.
"Yeah, so what?"
"Ain't got no fuckin' clue." He hooks his fingers under her kimono collar and pulls her down again before she can stand. No doubt she wants to explore, to find knowledge of the unknown, of things that he himself doesn't know, but that can wait till tomorrow. He picked the cave just for shelter from the storm; only the gods know what lies within its depths.
"Shut up, runt." With one hand he restrains her, the other stripping off his haori, and he wraps the thin piece of cloth around her, trapping her small frame to his chest so that she can't escape. She tries to fight him, but her efforts are in vain as he lies back down, easily keeping her within his hold.
"What's got ye so worked up 'bout 'em anyway?" he asks after she has calmed down, despite the pout she sports. She looks at him, shoots him a glare that causes him to bark out a laugh, and then up at the ceiling.
"Looks like they're gonna fall down soon," she says, wide eyes blinking in acute awareness. "Like they're gonna fall on us." A blink, and she burrows deeper in his haori, pressing herself against him as if the ground beneath them is breaking away. "I don't want 'em sharp things to fall down on us, Ken-chan!"
He has to laugh at the seriousness in her tone, at the insistence and insecurity and paranoia. All those unnecessary bullshit that he doesn't approve of. But the look in her eyes when she tilts her head up to him is filled with fear, and he finds himself tightening his hold around her.
"Dumbass, they ain't gonna fall on us," he says, shifting his position so that not too many rocks are digging into his bare flesh and that she's comfortably in his arms and untouched by the rough ground.
Her stare is brimming with suspicion as she swallows. "What if they do fall on us?"
"I ain't gonna let 'em. Things should stay where they are." Seeing her unchanged expression, he breathes a weary sigh. "Listen, runt. I ain't gonna let 'em, all right? Now go back to yer damn sleep."
"But what if they do fall down on us? What's gonna happen then, Ken-chan?"
He gazes into her wide, worried eyes for a moment longer, and then, absently brushing those pink strands out of her face, flashes her a smile. "Then let 'em fall on me. I ain't gonna let 'em hurt ye, Yachiru."