She looks at him, and sometimes, it is hard for her to believe that he was once small enough to fit cradled in her arms, that he was once small enough to actually need her. Sure, he is not that large now, still a good deal littler than most of the Shinigami, but he’s no longer the tiny babe, crying for attention.
He is timid, and he is clumsy, but he is one of the best healers she has ever seen. He is diligent and strong, determined to the end. He has the potential to be a vice-captain someday soon, perhaps even a captain, if only he would let himself see it.
She is never more surprised when she learns of all he has done for Seireitei. How he was ready to stand against Kuchiki Byakuya for what he believed. But then, thinking back on his inner strength, a part of her always knows that there is more to Yamada Hanatarou than people can see. She knows that she shouldn’t have been surprised, that her son has always had it in him to be something great, something wonderful.
She looks at him now, watches as he goes about his duties with the same care as before. She watches, and she smiles and thinks that he follows after his mother in more ways than one, even if they don’t share the same name. Circumstances as they are, it would have been more of a burden for him to carry hers. She wants him to make it on his own, carving out his future with his own two hands and not relying on his family’s influence like so many others.
The events surrounding the ryouka invasion have changed him, but no more than what was there before. What has always been hidden has finally begun to shine, showing everyone else just what kind of gem lies beneath the surface. And maybe, he is finally starting to see it for himself.
She is so very proud of him, of everything that he has done. It makes her wish that she could tell Seireitei with pride in her eyes that this is her son. And she knows that she doesn’t tell him enough. Hanatarou knows that she loves him, that her heart is filled with thoughts of him every time she lays her head down at night. She offers some prayer and some thanks to a deity she can’t see that he is alive and well and making it on his own.
And maybe she does spoil him just a bit. Perhaps she does give him a kinder smile, a warmer greeting. Maybe there is truth in her third-seat’s barely hidden jealousy. But Hanatarou deserves it so very much.
A mother’s love will never change, after all, and Unohana Retsu is determined to let her son, her only child, know that. Despite all odds, she will always be there, watching from the shadows and cheering him on with her own type of support. Though she can’t embrace him as a mother should anymore, her smile is enough to convey her feelings, her love.
She wants him to keep looking forward, trudging ahead and making his own destiny with that unfailing determination. Retsu knows in the end that he will make her proud no matter what he does. He has already proved that in more ways than one.
She has only to sit back and watch his future unfold.