Bleach Fan Fiction ❯ Teeming and Toxic ( Chapter 36 )
[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Tite Kubo owns Bleach. I just borrowed the characters. I do own Atonomatsuri (the bird) and Piecrust (the jerk).
Teeming and Toxic
“Sit down, Ikkaku. I was only permitted to bring you here if I promised that you’d sit quietly and didn’t get agitated,” Ayasegawa scolded sweetly as he hustled the 3rd seat into a seat and forced him to sit down by suddenly kicking out his feet from underneath him.
It was effective. With an exclamation of shock, Madarame sat down with a loud thud, almost missing the chair, and began cursing as the movement jarred his injured arm. He grabbed the arm with his hand once he regained his balance, rubbing it gently as he scowled at his friend. “Wait until you’re hurt Yumichika. I’ll mess up your hair and hide your secret cache of hair products. Then I’ll ask the assistant captain to give you a new hair cut.”
Clapping her hands together in delight Yachiru again bounced on the bed causing Zaraki t curse under his breath. Her movement caused the stitches to pull and he didn’t want to go through the process of someone repairing them.
“Can that happen soon? I’ve always wanted to cut Pretty boy’s hair, but he’ll never let me. I think he’d look great with a Mohawk or do I mean a Mullet?” Yachiru sounded excited as she continued to bound up and down.
“Stop bouncing,” Zaraki muttered, but Yachiru didn’t seem to hear him.
“There’s a good reason why I haven’t let you touch my beautiful hair,” Ayasegawa raised a delicate eyebrow at his assistant captain. He shuddered slightly as he looked at her simple hair cut and tapped his chin thoughtfully and changed the subject. “But we need to talk about what’s important and I don’t think changing your appearance is a priority right now.”
Yachiru broke in eagerly before he could continue. “I want to grow my hair and get Ken-chan to plait it. Can you teach him? Do you think Ken-chan should plait his hair?” She leant on her knuckles intently. At least it meant she stopped bouncing.
Madarame laughed, tilting his head back as his throat worked around the escaping air, and pointing at Zaraki told him, “Yeah. I think it’s a great idea Captain. Plait your hair and you can hang the bells on the ends. It might take you less time to get dressed and give you more time for fighting. You can be Rasta Captain.”
Zaraki grinned without humour at his third seat, baring his teeth in an intimidating manner. “I’ll plait my hair the day you wear a toupee and fake moustache. And don’t make it the subject of one of your stupid bets with Abarai unless you want to be put on rations again, with no sake, beer, or meat.”
Madarame cease laughing and gulped nervously at the idea. Pleased, Zaraki nodded, knowing that the man was taking his threat seriously. Women plaited their hair; and Tosen. He didn’t want to be mistaken for either, not that anyone would.
Clearing his throat in an irritated manner, Ayasegawa cast a quick, reprimanding glance at his friend. Apparently satisfied that he wouldn’t interrupt again he continued. “Nemu told me that the Clown Captain has made a case for prosecuting you for the unlawful death of the previous Captain of 11th Division.” As Ayasegawa spoke Zaraki felt the humour that had begun while watching his friends fool around fade. That man again! Why couldn’t the dead stay dead and forgotten? The past was becoming too present. He had thought that was behind him, but three times recently, twice on this day, he had again been forced to recall the death of the man. It wasn’t that he felt guilt about it, nor was he ashamed. The main reason he didn’t want to think about it was it had been such a lousy fight. Hardly made him break into a sweat.
He wouldn’t let the vanquished captain defeat him this time. Trying hard, Zaraki forced out a laugh and it rasped in his throat, sounding unnatural. Taking this situation seriously would be a mistake. The others looked at him, worried expressions on their faces, obviously thinking he had lost it, but then Yachiru, always ready to laugh and joke, began to giggle. Then she began to laugh uproariously and shook her head. Her laughter made it easier for Zaraki to continue to laugh and soon Madarame and joined in. Shortly all four of them were laughing, but Madarame and Ayasegawa did not know the full extent of the joke. Nor did Zaraki, as he soon learnt.
Shaking her head and wiping her face Yachiru smiled widely at each of them in turn. “That won’t work. I checked all the laws many times when we got here. I knew Ken-chan was going to be a captain and I wanted to make sure it was legal. Ken-chan killed that man and he adhered strictly to the rules. I made sure of it. He even had more than the number of people required to witness the fight, plus one or two Captains were there. I know because I invited them. They kept to the back.”
That explained a lot he hadn’t known. He hadn’t known about the Captains and wondered which ones she’d chosen. One day she might even tell him if he remembered to ask. “The old man wouldn’t have accepted me if there was anything wrong,” Zaraki grated. He remembered, after the `execution’, he had been brought before the Captains and questioned steadily, the same questions being repeated over and over. Speaking truthfully he kept repeating the same answers. Yachiru had impressed upon him the importance of the truth as it was easier to recall than elaborate lies. The whole thing had bored and irritated him so much he almost challenged each of them to fight him. He’d even been hauled in front of the Council and that had been even more tedious. Some of those people really liked the sound of their voices and seemed to take pleasure in saying anything, even if it wasn’t relevant, but dressed it up in pomposity and verbiage that appeared to make it pertinent. If Yachiru hadn’t been there to back him up and distract him he might have not fared too well. She prodded him awake regularly and he’d been standing at the time. After he had again been forced to repeat himself several times his promotion had been ratified. The monotony of the experience had made him force it to the back of his mind. It wasn’t important, just a pebble in his path on the way to being the most feared captain of the Gotei 13.
“Not only that, he wants the laws changed so that all Captains’ must have the ability to bankai,” Ayasegawa added quietly. His eyes didn’t leave Zaraki’s face as he spoke, anticipating an explosive reaction to the news.
“That again,” Zaraki sighed. He couldn’t raise much interest in that topic.
The startled expressions on his friend’s faces made him laugh. “The guy has mentioned it in the Captain’s meetings, more than once. I never mentioned it because it never went anywhere and it bored the intestines out of me. When Tosen was there he’d immediately support the proposal and talk about noble causes or some other tosh. Captain Fon never agreed, nor did any of the others except Ichimaru, once. But he shut up pretty quick when Aizen glanced at him. It always amused me to watch Yamamoto when they tried to change his rules. He’d close his eyes and draw his eyebrows together. The creases in his face would get deeper. The fools forgot who wrote those rules in the first place and you know how the old man hates to have his ideas questioned.”
“Oh,” Ayasegawa said and then smiled. His expression of relief amused Zaraki.
“I thought you went to sleep in Captain’s meetings,” was Yachiru’s input. “You said you did.”
“I said I wanted to, but it’s hard to fall asleep with your eyes open and while you’re standing,” Zaraki corrected her. Not only that but Yamamoto banged his damned stick every time he got close to catching a few minutes kip. The old man must be watching him. Before the traitors had left he’d wondered if Ichimaru was asleep as it was hard to tell what the slit eyed louse was doing.
Conversation became more general and soon Madarame began to look sleepy. Zaraki nodded at Ayasegawa who turned to his friend. “Time to go to bed, Ikkaku. The drugs have kicked in and you need your beauty sleep. It’s a pity you can only sleep for the night. A week might improve your looks,” the teasing tone in his voice roused his friend.
“I don’t care if I look beautiful, not like some people who are obsessed only with appearance,” Madarame jeered back. He still looked tired but as usual was unwilling to accept an insult from his friend. Ayasegawa seemed preparing to reply when Yachiru spoke.
“I wonder if Piecrust will be as pretty as he used to be,” she said reflectively. She moved the sweet she was sucking from one cheek to the other and seemed a little guilty. Rubbing the back of her hand against her leg she seemed to notice the paint streaking her uniform once more and a small frown puckered her forehead. She picked at the paint abstractedly as if it absorbed all her attention, but Zaraki knew that she was using it to focus her thoughts.
Yumichika clucked his tongue and said, “Why are you thinking of that?”
“But it was the one thing he had,” Yachiru persisted. She blinked and then ducked her head a she got to her feet. She went to the door and said “I need to have a bath,” before she left the room.
“What was that about?” Madarame asked sleepily. He seemed confused.
“Conscience. Something that never bothers you,” Ayasegawa said briskly and helped Madarame to his feet. They nodded to their captain before leaving Zaraki alone in the room.
Before he could settle himself into a different position, a nurse bustled in carrying a new pillow, plumped up and rearranged his pillows while not listening to his orders to leave them alone. He hated unknown people fussing over him when he was in bed. Most of all he hated pushy nurses who didn’t listen to patients but continued with what they were doing as if the person was simply a dummy which could be moved at will.
“Get away from me. I can arrange my own pillows. No, I won’t let you look at my foot. I want someone who knows what they’re doing. Stop trying to touch me,” he finally yelled at the nurse, wanting her to leave. Without meaning to he raised his fist, preparing to strike her hands away from him, but refrained. Retsu would be displeased if he attacked another of her pathetic subordinates. Looking at the creature, he tried to get a good understanding of her features so he could mention her to Retsu as a nurse who was bad with patients. That was the way she wanted to run things, so he’d comply, in this instance. He didn’t know why this woman irritated him so much. He’d never met the woman before but instinctively didn’t like her. For some reason he couldn’t get a clear look at her face as she was wearing a surgical mask over her mouth and her cap was pulled low over her forehead. Even more abnormal were the heavily tinted lenses she wore which hid her eyes. Her voice was muffled by the mask and changed in timbre as she spoke to him. He decided she was hiding her face because she was so ugly.
She marched out and returned with a tray of `hospital’ food which she insisted he ate. One thing he really hated was when people watched him eat when they weren’t eating. Moodily, he pushed the food around the plate, occasionally tasting a portion and making a face. Nodding, she finally left and he studied the food he’d been given. Someone had placed a large serving of natto on his tray which he didn’t bother tasting. The rest of the food tasted strongly of bad miso and, for some reason, salty gravy. The amalgamation of flavours was not appealing and the few tastes made him decide not to eat anything more. The only thing he enjoyed was the tea which tasted like tea, a definite advantage, and it was hot. Draining the pot dry he decided to demand a refill of the pot and a bun, a rice cake, a rice ball or an edible meal. Not these slops that he’d been served.
Hearing footsteps approach the room, he looked at the door. Instead of the nurse, Hanatoro entered the room and after greeting Zaraki moved the tray examined his foot efficiently. “It is healing very quickly. Are you certain the injury happened today? If I judged by the appearance I would think it was at least 4 days old.” Hanatoro lisped as he looked squarely at Zaraki.
“What? Oh, yeah. Happened today. I should remember because I was there when it happened,” not able to resist the urge for sarcasm Zaraki watched the 4th Division officer colour.
“Is there anything you need?” he asked, obviously rattled by the dismissive tone Zaraki employed. The fact that Zaraki was glowering at him might not have helped.
“Tea. More tea and something that tastes better than that,” was the demand as he indicated the tray.
A small grimace marred Hanantoro’s face as he surveyed the tray. “Ah, the gravy/miso meal. That is no longer served after the near riot by your Division when the ryoka were here. I think you must have upset your nurse. But wait. This is not right. You should not have been served food so quickly and none of our cooks dare make this food anymore.”
Stretching, Zaraki heard his vertebrae crack removing the crick he’d felt forming after that damned nurse had rearranged his pillows. What was the kid talking about? He’d heard some complaints about the food from Madarame and the others but he’d ignored them and no one had told him about the riot. Pity as he would have liked to join in and shake up 4th Division. A bit of mindless violence would have been fun at that time, or any time. But that was before he’d begun making all these friends, especially Retsu, and this kid was a sort of ally. He actually had begun to like his sense of humour, but he didn’t want everyone to think he was becoming soft. It was bad that people knew he had a weak spot where Yachiru was concerned.
“So? I was served food early. Maybe she was scared of me. It’s crap food anyway. Who serves natto? I’m hungry.” Zaraki said wanting the guy to stop acting weird and get him some real food.
Grabbing the tray, Hanatoro dashed out of the room.
“What’s the emergency?” The yell did not produce any answer and Zaraki grumbled and moved the pillows once more. One of them seemed wrong, it smelled awful and it felt like it was moving in his hands. He threw it to the floor and managed to find a configuration that suited him. Staring at the door he waited for someone to come and explain what was going on. He tried to get out of bed but moving his foot made it hurt. He was beginning to feel tired.
“Stop moving, fool. Patience is poultice for all wounds. If you keep your foot immobile it will heal quickly,” Atonomatsuri scolded him.
Feeling a guilty relief that he was being told not to move, he relaxed and closed his eyes. The tiredness increased. It came over him quickly and sleep was claiming him. Everything could wait until he had a nap. Recently he’d spent less time snoozing because of all the stupid things that happened. Now he could sleep and no one would pester him to complete his paperwork, or train them, or whatever. With any luck he wouldn’t dream of the Hollow again. The bed was comfortable and the pillows were now. In fact he couldn’t recollect feeling this at ease in a bed that wasn’t his own.
“Take off your eye patch immediately, Zaraki. Act quickly, think slowly,” Atonomatsuri’s voice was urgent and startled him from the slight doze into which he’d settled.
Exhausted and sighing loudly, he answered the annoying creature without yelling. “Take off the eye patch. Put on two eye patches. Use my will. You’re telling me to do something again without giving an explanation. Now shut up. I’m trying to sleep.” There was no point in keeping the frustration from his voice. On occasions she tried to help him, but he could never tell when that was.
“Reason often makes mistakes, but conscience never does,” the bird muttered under her breath. “We talked about trust, remember?’
The reminder made Zaraki laugh harshly but it took considerable effort to force the laughter out. “You blathered on about it before. Forced me to admit something I didn’t believe.” And then she’d used it against him. It was something he heard women did and he suspected the female vulture would stoop to anything a woman would do. It didn’t seem honourable, or fair.
“You’ve been poisoned,” was the terse reply.
Poisoned? The last time he’d been poisoned the dratted bird’s vile tongue had been the cause. She’d done it deliberately and nearly killed them both. Who would have poisoned him and why? He was tired and couldn’t care, didn’t care. A rusty chuckle emerged from his mouth. “Yeah. Someone poisoned me. That would happen in 4th Division,” he said thickly.
The bird sounded even more exasperated as she broke in, “Last time you were in 4th Division as a patient, Kurotsuchi attacked you.”
The heavy silence that followed gave him time to remember that she was correct. A great many events had occurred since that time and with his mind being fogged by sleep he’d forgotten. He closed his eyes again, ready to accept sleep. The Clown Captain was locked up. Being locked up meant he was no threat.
The agitation in Atonomatsuri’s voice increased. “Listen to the sound of the river and you will get a trout. If you don’t listen to me, we both die. Do you understand or do I have to tell you again? Remove the eye patch. Now!”
Lifting heavy hands Zaraki pulled at the patch and slowly removed it as he fought the tiredness in his limbs. If he did this the bird might let him sleep.
Before he could do anything more, or speak to Atonomatsuri again, Isane and Hanatoro were in the room forcing him to sit up and swallow some mess they insisted he take. After forcing it down his throat he felt a wrenching in his abdomen.
“What the hell was that?” he gasped. He felt like he was going to vomit.
“An emetic,” Isane said as she thrust a large bowl in front of him.
He wanted to ask what that was but was too busy heaving the contents of his stomach into the bowl Isane was holding. Wanting to swear he had trouble gasping for breath as he felt as if he was slowly being turned inside out. Damn, he hated being sick.
“It’s crude, but effective,” he heard her tell Hanatoro. “Very clever that you noticed the meal could be used to cover the taste of poison but we don’t have enough time to analyse what type it is. We had to rid him of it as soon as possible.”
“Thank you assistant captain,” Hanatoro answered quietly. “Captain Unohana will be very displeased that Captain Zaraki has been attacked again while in 4th Division.”
“Yes. Yes, she will.” The concern in Isane’s voice was not lost on Zaraki who had finally stopped being subject to the clenching of his stomach.
She removed the bowl and poured him a glass of water. “I’m sorry Captain. We believe you’ve been poisoned. We had to extract it. Once we get the food analysed we will have a better idea of what was used.”
Hanatoro proffered a wet flannel and Zaraki gratefully took it to use on his face and hands. All the activity had woken him up and despite having been forced to vomit he was still hungry.
“Where’s my food?” he demanded.
Hanatoro and Isane looked at him, apparently astonished at his question. They exchanged a glance and Isane asked very reasonably, “Don’t you wish to wait?”
“No.” Why wait? It’s not like he was going to get less hungry.
“Your stomach will be tender and probably reject food,” Isane told him. She seemed concerned. “I’d prefer to wait until Captain Unohana returns and we can ask her…”
“You can ask me what, Isane? Is there a problem?” Retsu’s voice came from the doorway.
Both Hanatoro and Isane coloured and again glanced at each other before they looked at their captain. Isane had caught her bottom lip between her teeth and it appeared she was thinking what she should say.
Impatient with this sort of behaviour Zaraki spoke. “I’m hungry and your subordinates won’t feed me. And I want some tea.”
Ignoring him, Retsu walked close to her assistant captain and steadily looked into her eyes. “Isane, what happened?”
Stumbling over the words, Isane answered. “We believe that someone may have tried to poison Captain Zaraki.”
Retsu did not move, did not even blink as her second in command stated her belief. It seemed she was waiting.
“He was served the gravy and miso meal. We no longer serve that and he was also given natto. You gave explicit instructions that we never serve the Captain natto or rhubarb.”
Retsu looked at Hanatoro who nodded in agreement. “We administered an emetic to the Captain and made him empty his stomach.”
“Yeah, great place you run here, Retsu,” Zaraki began, preparing to say more. He hated being ignored.
“Be quiet Captain. I’m trying to find out the facts.” Quiet as her voice was, there was no doubting that she did not appreciate being interrupted. In spite of himself, he shut his mouth and let her continue. She was possibly still irritated by Piecrust’s actions and blamed him, as his Captain, for allowing it to happen.
“The food is being analysed for poison, but there was no tea left to analyse,” Hanatoro explained.
Retsu answered quickly. “Make certain everything is checked for poison, Hanatoro. Immediately,” she instructed and he nodded, leaving the room almost running. “Tell me everything Isane.”
“I don’t know everything. I wasn’t here. Hanatoro came in to check on the Captain and noticed he had already been served his meal. He thought it was suspicious, but when the Captain brought to his attention the type of meal he knew something was wrong. I think he acted without thinking and came looking for you but found me instead. Please, Captain Unohana. I tried to act in the best interests of our patient.” Isane seemed distressed that she may have done the wrong thing.
“The poor girl doubts herself, doesn’t she? I wonder why? Her Captain seems to have a lot of confidence in her, but she has so little. If you worry about what people think of you, it means that you have more confidence in their opinions than you have in your own. I wonder who broke her confidence.” Atonomatsuri was musing aloud and he hoped she wasn’t going to suggest he made friends with her also. For a bird who hated him, she seemed intent on assisting him in making friends. As the adrenaline rush began to fade he started to feel a little tired.
“It seems I must question you, Captain Zaraki,” Retsu sounded very formal and her expression while appearing serene as normal did not hide her authority. Once more, Zaraki was reminded she was one of the original Captains and none questioned her power more than once.
“Yeah. Seems so,” he said wondering what form the questioning would take. He’d let her lead this time, aware as he was that her ire against him was still very present. Yawning, he rubbed his chin.
Isane seemed to take Retsu’s words as a dismissal. After dipping her head slightly at Zaraki, she left, looking even more worried as she tugged slightly on her small braid.
Retsu settled herself in a chair and regarded Zaraki with little pleasure. “In the last few days you have caused me more trouble than any of the other Captains. Now there seems to be another attempt on your life while under my protection. Please explain the events, if you would be so kind.”
He couldn’t miss the bite of sarcasm in her words. Keeping a firm grip on his temper he explained the episode. Retsu listened and asked the occasional question to clarify some details. His description of the nurse made her frown and shake her head slightly. As he spoke he found he wasn’t speaking as clearly as normal.
“None of the people who work in 4th Division match that description,” she said.
Zaraki snorted. He’d worked that out for himself, without the assistance of the bloody bird or anyone else. It was so damned obvious that it still annoyed him that he hadn’t even questioned why this person had gone to such lengths to conceal the face. He’d dismissed it thinking that the person was very germ conscious and that wasn’t too unlikely.
Retsu bent down and picked up the pillow Zaraki had thrown to the floor and examined it with a frown on her face. She quickly got to her feet and took it from the room. He watched her leave and kept his eyes on the door waiting for her return. He found he was blinking more and more often.
On returning a few minutes later drying her hands on a towel Retsu glared at him. “You have angered someone very much, Captain. I am unhappy that this person has chosen to attack you while you are in my Division,” she sighed and rubbed her eyes tiredly. “I will ask for you to be guarded by some members of your Division for tonight. Please select those who will show the greatest amount of discretion. In light of this I may also be wise to offer your 3rd seat the same amount of protection. I wish tomorrow was over.” The last words were uttered under her breath and Zaraki found he was nodding in agreement.
“What was with the pillow?” There had to be something wrong with it or she wouldn’t have reacted that way.
“It had a family of mice living in it,” Retsu said shortly. “Mice with lice. Not life threatening, but unpleasant, nonetheless.”
Suddenly the room was full of male 4th Division senior officers who seemed intent on removing him from his bed. Before he could ask the reason, Retsu spoke.
“You will be bathed and checked for lice. Then we will move you into the same room as your 3rd seat. It will be easier to watch over you both, if you are together.”
Zaraki immediately began to fight against the people trying to remove him. He wasn’t managing to fight them off as effectively as normal because he felt waves of exhaustion overcome him. “No way. I’m not letting any of your perverted subordinates get their hands on me,” he yelled.
She smiled at him and he stopped struggling at the malicious nature of her grin and because he didn’t have the energy. “Iemura and Hanatoro will do an adequate job. I could supervise if you wish?”
“No, don’t,” he managed to say. The idea made him nervous. He hated the thought of other people bathing him, and he didn’t want an audience, but a sudden rush of tiredness overtook him.
“Also, early reports on the poison tests indicate you won’t be able to bathe or do much else. You’ll be fortunate if you remain awake for the next few minutes. We’re administering the antidote now,” Retsu said. He felt a very faint pressure on his arm and then felt nothing.
Ahem. I do not wish to relive the past month. Therefore no explanations will be provided for the late update. *rubs back of head* And this didn’t have the hearing either like I promised in the last note, did it?
Now, if I can stop people from trying to kill Zaraki or Piecrust or Madarame etc, maybe I’ll get to the hearing next chapter or maybe it’s a red herring. I wonder if Zaraki and Madarame will enjoy being room mates?
Thank you to Boadicea who reviewed the last chapter.