Disclaimer: I don't own the characters or the characters, and I certainly don't receive the royalty checks; I'm just doing this for fun and entertainment.
Many thanks to Celeste and Jaina for beta reading this, catching my silly errors and generally helping to make this a better piece.
There was still a slight chill in the air--not surprising given the time of year--but Yoruichi could have sworn there was a touch of something in it, some scent of life that said spring was not far away. The bedroom window was open enough to admit a cool breeze; not something she minded particularly, but if Kisuke were still around, she'd kick him out of bed and tell him to close the damned window. But he wasn't there to do her bidding, and the draft wasn't annoying enough to drive her from her chosen spot. Besides, the late morning sunlight was doing a delicious job of keeping off the worst of the chill.
She shifted on the futon, humming in lazy pleasure as sun-warmed muscles stretched and settled back into place. Kisuke might complain that the room got too much light in the morning, but she didn't mind it in the least, especially when there was such a lovely sunbeam for her to lounge in.
One arm rested across her eyes, darkening her vision even as the light of the sun played over her naked body and warmed her to where she could easily believe it was spring. Just a little bit longer, the breeze was saying, just a few more weeks. She took a deep sniff of the air, hoping to catch another whiff of that indefinable springtime something--and stopped.
She lifted her arm from her face, sat up a bit, and sniffed again. Her brows drew together and her mouth pursed a bit in consideration.
That wasn't springtime.
In fact, it smelled an awful lot like chocolate.
It was chocolate.
"Hmph!" She crossed her arms in irritation. Someone in the Urahara Shoten had chocolate and it wasn't her. This would have to be remedied.
Before she could come up with a plan (should she go in with ninja stealth, or stage a full frontal assault?) Kisuke sauntered back into the room. Even though it was well past ten and the shop should be open, he was wearing his ratty old bathrobe along with an infuriating "I know something you don't know" smirk that told her things could get very interesting very quickly if she wasn't careful.
"So, are you going to tell me what you're up to, Kisuke, or do I have to keep on guessing until I get it right?" she asked wearily, letting her eyes droop closed as if she could hardly be bothered to stay awake another second.
"Why on earth would you think I'm up to anything?" he asked with an air of offended innocence that she didn't buy for a second.
She rolled over and propped her chin on folded hands to look up at him. "Mmmm. I don't know? Maybe because..." she pursed her lips, pretending to think it over, "you're breathing?"
Kisuke barked with laughter then plopped down next to her on the futon. Something about the way he tendered his left arm told her he quite literally had something up his sleeve.
"Actually, I don't give a damn what you're up to, Kisuke. What I want to know is who out there has chocolate and when they're going to give me some."
"What makes you think you're getting anything?" He tried to cross his arms over his chest, but whatever it was in his left sleeve got in the way and poked at the fabric of the robe, making it look like he'd grown a second elbow.
Yoruichi gave him her best, most feline grin. "Because I have been trained since infancy in the fine art of how to hurt people a lot."
Kisuke tilted his head to the side, pondering that for a moment.
"True, true," he said breezily, "but surely you wouldn't try to hurt dear little Ururu, would you?"
"Ah." No...no, that wouldn't do at all. For one thing, Yoruichi did not care to think of herself as the sort of person who would knock over a small child and mug her for her candy. Also, it was a bit of a toss-up as to whether the thought of Ururu's pathetic, mournful face or the thought of triggering her berserker mode was more of a deterrent towards any such course of action.
"So... do you think Ururu might lend me some chocolate, then?" She craned her neck a bit, and took another whiff of that delectable odor--springtime could go hang itself. "Sweet merciful Buddha, it's not just chocolate...it's brownies, isn't it?"
"It is indeed! Triple-chocolate brownies with caramel and pecans! Ururu's been baking up a storm; you should see the little apron Tessai made for her--pink polka-dots and yellow trim. She looks like quite the chef."
Visions of disaster danced in her head and cold dread settled in her stomach. "You're letting Ururu work in the kitchen? By herself?"
Let's see...if she started running now, she might be able to get clear in time.
"Tessai's there with her," Kisuke said dismissively. "She's fine."
Yoruichi wasn't too sure about that. Some of Tessai's notions regarding nutrition were alarming to the point where even Inoue Orihime might be given pause. Still, those brownies smelled oh! so good! and just thinking about them forced her to stop and swallow, her mouth watered so much.
"Brownies, hmm? What's the occasion? And do I get any?"
"The occasion? Well, let me tell you..." With that, Kisuke launched into his typical lecture mode--a way of speaking that made him sound oh-so-learned to the uninitiated, but led anyone who knew him to wonder just how much of what he said was unadulterated bullshit, how much was gospel truth, and how much fell somewhere in the large middle ground between. Anyhow, somewhere in the midst of tales of an ancient Roman getting himself executed in some horrible way for being a prig about religion, of Valentine carols, of winged infant archers (it sounded too much like a squad of chibified Quincy to be a real legend, if you asked her) who went around shooting the unsuspecting with love-tipped arrows, and of the festival and parade that practically shut down the entire city of Guelph, Ontario for five days every February, one important fact leapt out at her: every February 14th (today!) girls would give gifts of chocolate to people they knew--crushes, classmates, parents, bosses--mostly men, but sometimes to certain women who were important in their lives as well, people such as best friends, sisters, mothers, aunts, and their bosses' on-again, off-again lovers.
"And you're encouraging all this?" she asked, perplexed and a little doubtful despite the allure of chocolate. Kisuke would often pull little jokes on Jinta and Ururu (the whole "haunted umbrella" debacle wasn't something she'd forget any time soon), but to do so to the point where Ururu was spending hours in the kitchen? With the exception of New Year's, they'd been content to let other living-world holidays slip past their notice until now. She certainly didn't mind that brownies were forthcoming but still, it was a puzzle. "Why? We never celebrated Valentine's Day back in Soul Society. Besides, it's a human holiday, Kisuke, a Western one."
He shrugged. "When in Rome..."
"We're not in Rome, Kisuke," she pointed out with deliberate patience. Really, she should know better than to let him go on with these little mind games of his. "And please, get to the point--when do I get my brownies?"
"My, my, my," he said, fingers touched lightly to his chin. "We're regressing to childhood over this chocolate thing, aren't we?"
Yoruichi took a deep breath. "Kisuke? Do you actually remember when we were children? And that one time I broke your leg in two places? Let's just say that if I don't get my chocolate I might just keep on regressing, if you know what I mean."
Kisuke actually winced, and it didn't look like he was just doing it for effect. "Well... There may be a slight problem with that. You see, I was doing a bit of research, and I found out that cats shouldn't be allowed to have chocolate. Theobromines and all that. I can print you the article, if you like. Anyhow, I told Ururu about it--all in the interest of your safety, of course."
Yoruichi looked him hard in the eye then leisurely shifted onto her side so he could get a good, long look at a body that may have some hint of feline grace but at the moment was absolutely, positively one hundred percent human. Her smile was gauged to let him know that if he didn't tread very carefully in the next few seconds, it might be the last look he got at that body for a long, lonely time.
"It's not my safety you should be worried about right now." Her smile became a touch more genuine, if only because it amused her to see how Kisuke was trying so hard not to ogle.
"Well, she felt so bad about it, I told her I'd make sure you got some sort of present," he said brightly, pulling the mysterious object from his left sleeve. It was something long, thin, and encased in sparkly pink paper.
"Gimme!" she said, swiping it from his hands, and rolling to sit cross-legged so she could hunch over the gift and give it the attention it deserved. This in no way made up for the lack of brownies, but it was a start.
"Are you sure?" he asked even as she was tearing through the wrapping--the paper was several layers deep, done just to frustrate her, no doubt. "It's not one of our traditions, after all."
"Screw tradition." If it meant getting gifts, she'd adopt traditions from Greenland, if need be.
She couldn't have shredded the paper any faster if she'd been in cat form, but as soon as she got in far enough to see the gift itself, she stopped. The little bit she could see was a thin black plastic wand, flexible and whippy. She unwrapped the rest of it with some trepidation and was not all that surprised to see it end in a tuft of electric blue feathers interspersed with violently green bits of mylar. A shiny paper tag just under the feathers had a picture of a Siamese cat who was either stoned or clinically insane, and the words KATZ KLAWZ CAT TEASER.
"It's a cat toy," she informed Kisuke in a voice that had more than a hint of fang and claw to it.
He beamed at her. "Why yes, it is!"
Before she could react, he plucked the toy from her hand then reached out and wisped the feathered end of the toy across her knee and down her inner thigh, only to flick it up with a twirl and flourish before it got anywhere really interesting.
She lunged, grabbing for the toy, but he scooted back out of reach, laughing.
"Of course, if you'd rather have brownies than the...cat toy..." He leaned in and flicked it at her again, tickling the top of one breast. "Well, I'm sure something can be arranged. If you really want this," and here he flicked and twirled the feathers against her belly-button, earning a sharp eee-yeep! and a glare for his trouble, "you can have it back in an another month."
He attacked again, just a little too fast for her to retaliate. She caught herself batting at the end of the stupid toy with her hand and cursed as Kisuke howled with laughter.
"One month," he stated. "That's the other part of the tradition. In one month, there's this lovely holiday known as 'White Day.'"
"Hah!" She shifted to hands and knees and crouched back ready to spring. She would tackle him if she had to.
"Silence!" he ordered, bopping her on the nose with the toy. "On March fifteenth, those who received chocolate on Valentine's Day are supposed to, in return, give gifts to the people who gave them chocolate."
"What? You're making that up!"
He smiled, slowly, knowingly. "Maybe I am and maybe I'm not." He trailed the feathers down one side of his face, and she fought back a shiver at the thought of what they would feel like on certain parts of her own body. "If you give me chocolate today, then I will give you the," he paused, "cat toy in a month's time."
Yoruichi settled back as Kisuke stood up to leave. "Who says I want the stupid thing, anyway? And you'd better tell Ururu to set aside some of those brownies for me."
Kisuke inclined his head in mock-courtly agreement. "And tell her I shall. She ought be done with the kitchen in a few hours, so you should have plenty of time to make my gift this afternoon, if you put your mind to it."
"I'm looking forward to it!" he caroled. "Home made chocolate is the best!" Then he clenched the toy between his teeth as if it were a blue, fluffy rose, and turned and left the room with no further comment.
What an arrogant, insufferable, manipulative bastard...
Still, she supposed she wouldn't have him be any other way, really.
"Chocolate, huh?" There had to be some way she could turn this situation around to suit herself. All she had to do was put her mind to it. She pursed her lips and tapped her fingers together--so many possibilities, really.
An idea slid into her mind and she smiled as she pondered a few variables regarding weight and the relative strength of cat teeth and plastic grocery bags.
A stretch, a delectable rippling of skin and bone, and then a little black cat jumped up and sidled through the barely open window. Yoruichi took off across the rooftops, tail up like a banner and whiskers pitched forward smugly. Shoplifting a jar of some really good chocolate sauce--something silky smooth and laced with rum if she could find it--would be an entertaining challenge. No matter what Kisuke had said, it didn't matter if her gift of chocolate was homemade, store-bought, or freshly stolen.
No, what really mattered was the presentation.