A/N: Will write for reviews? If I didn't love the pairing of Kish and Ichigo, I wouldn't write, period, but I can't say reviewers didn't inspire- and get me off my arse to finish the third story. :D. In my Harry Potter fics, I put hearts between names because I heart everyone who encourages with their reviews! The readers who reviewed Bath Time 2 and deserve hearts and thanks were…♥ 27Anasus27 ♥ Amme Moto ♥ anon ♥ AnonGirl88 ♥ Awholelottahoneytoluv ♥ AyamesGirl ♥ Bobisacoolname♥ butter fingers ♥ Celestial Wolf ♥ ChristianGirl88 ♥ dark dreamerx ♥ demonlifehealer ♥ DreamBeamz ♥ Dust-in ♥ Fireheartluver ♥ ichigo-chan ♥ IchigoGal ♥ Itsa Mia ♥ Josie ♥ Karma Avery ♥ KiaratheDemon ♥ Kish l0ver 100 percent ♥ Kish's kitty-kat ♥ Kisshu Kisshu ♥ Kori hime ♥ Kyakku ♥ lMl i n t chocolate xD ♥ Lelyn Black ♥ MaChIcHi-cHiBi ♥ Mew Lemon ♥ Mew Lizzy ♥ MewMidnight ♥ Mew Purin ♥ mew raven and mew cherry ♥ Ms. Envy ♥ Phantom of Spades ♥ pink-rose-bud ♥ P.O.J.A ♥ Princess of Thieves ♥ rock4ever ♥ roseheart92 ♥ SakuraXGaara Forever ♥ Spaceman Spiff (Emily) ♥ Starflower-Gem ♥ tlad ♥ tokyomewmewgal ♥ Trickstar ♥ xXKitsune-SamaXx ♥ and Yeyana Valentine ♥
Bath Time 3: Bubbles for Two
It was a dream come true…and a nightmare. Ichigo Momomiya stared at the mess that had once been her bathroom and said, "But…what about my party tomorrow night? I can't have guests…"
"They can use ours." Sakura patted her daughter's arm soothingly. "Your uncle was called away to an emergency on another site, but his crew will return to finish on Monday."
"Just put an Out of Order sign on the door with a note to use the other toilet," Shintaro advised. He slipped an arm around his wife and said, "You should thank your mother for giving you the bath you've always wanted."
Ichigo looked at the new rectangular tub made from Hinoki, a yellow cedar, and turned to throw her arms around her mother. "The ofuro is perfect! Thank you!"
"Your father is the one paying for the remodel," Sakura reminded with a smile.
Ichigo hugged her dad and kissed his cheek. "Thank you too! I feel like it's my birthday instead of Masaya's."
Her parents beamed. They thought Masaya Aoyama was a fine young man. Sakura called him 'handsome and responsible' while Shintaro admired the boy's skill at kendo. If Ichigo had asked to throw a birthday party for anyone other than Masaya, her parents might not have agreed. They would've certainly stayed home instead of making plans with friends and promising not to return until midnight.
Left alone, Ichigo gazed around the bathroom and imagined what it would look like when the new tiles were on the shower wall. It was going to be beautiful, and best of all, there would be no more mental images of Kish in the tub! He, like the old tub, was gone and soon to be forgotten.
A forest green bath towel draped over the edge of the ofuro caught her eye. The contrast of green cloth and amber wood wasn't helping Ichigo forget Kish. She snatched it off and vowed to buy new towels as soon as possible.
The next day, Ichigo panted as she rushed into the kitchen at work, lugging a huge bag. Ryou looked up from signing a delivery form to say, "Been doing some shopping?"
She grinned. "You're a genius at stating the obvious."
The blond owner of Café Mew Mew tipped the delivery boy and strolled over to watch her shove the bag in a storage cupboard. "I'm a genius at everything." He poked at the bag. "Why did you buy so many black towels?"
"They were on sale, and I'm tired of my old ones." If towels remind me of anyone, it will be Masaya! Ichigo thought defiantly.
Ryou lifted an eyebrow. "So I see. You're all hot and bothered."
"No I'm not. Ki...er…towels don't bother me at all- I could care less!"
"If you say so."
"I say it's time for me to get to work," said Ichigo, reaching for an apron.
She rushed away from Ryou's curious stare. On the way into the café, Ichigo picked up a china teapot with cherry blossoms painted on the side, asking, "For Mint?"
Ichigo delivered the tea, teasing, "If you keep wearing that uniform, one day a customer might ask you to take their order."
Mint smoothed her dark hair back and said coolly, "I dare them to try."
"Ichigo, table seven is waiting and I can't be bothered," Zakuro said on her way to the kitchen.
"You heard her- get to work," Mint said with a hint of a smile.
"Enjoy your tea," Ichigo said ironically.
After the café closed, Ryou asked Ichigo, "What kind of food are you serving at your party?"
She said, "Food? I've got drinks, and snacks, loads of pocky…"
"That's what I thought," he said. "Expect a catering truck."
"You don't have to send a caterer!" Ichigo protested. "I can order pizza."
Everyone in the room shook their head.
"You won't impress the birthday boy with ordinary pizza," Mint said pityingly.
"It's bor-ing," Zakuro added.
"I think if Ryou is kind enough to want to help, you should accept thankfully," Lettuce said with a shy smile for her boss.
Ryou said, "See? Lettuce would appreciate my generosity."
"That's not all she'd appreciate," Ichigo muttered.
"What was that?" Ryou asked.
"I said I appreciate your generous offer too," Ichigo said hastily. She asked, "Who will you find to cater?"
"The company I booked a week ago," Ryou said with a smirk.
"What? How could you do that without knowing my plans? I could've been slaving over a hot stove for days, baking and…"
The laughter of her friends drowned out Ichigo's protest. After a moment, her laugh joined theirs.
Upon returning home, Ichigo set the bag of towels on her bathroom floor and gazed longingly at the tub. Only a few more days and she'd be lying in it, relaxing after a long day. She sighed. It would be worth the wait.
After showering in her parents' bath, Ichigo got ready for the party. Masaya liked 'natural beauty', so she kept her makeup light. She chose a short, flirty pink skirt and top to match her hair.
She hurried into the lounge, still fastening an earring. "Yes, Mom?"
"We're leaving now. Call us if you need us, and have a good time."
Ichigo hugged Sakura. "I will, and thank you so much for making the house look beautiful!"
"I expect our home to look almost this good after the party," Shintaro reminded.
"Yes, Dad," Ichigo said, "thanks for saying almost, because I could never clean as good as Mom."
Her mother smiled. "You could if you wanted to."
Ichigo laughed when her parents glanced at each other and said in unison, "You just don't want to!"
Waiting for Masaya to arrive was nerve-wracking.
The caterer had set up a buffet in the dining room, her friends and their friends had arrived. Music was playing, guests were chatting, and Pudding was entertaining a group with her moves on a DDR dance pad she'd brought over. Ichigo should've been having a good time.
Instead, she kept peering out the windows, hoping to see Masaya walk up.
"A watched pot never boils."
Without turning, Ichigo told Ryou, "Sure it does, it just seems like it takes forever."
"Then stop watching and start dancing."
She turned and saw Lettuce, Zakuro, and Mint were dancing with a few friends while Pudding performed an intricate dance routine. "I can't dance and follow the pattern too- she's amazing."
"You don't have to hit any arrows, just dance," Ryou said.
Ichigo saw Lettuce watching Ryou and nodded, heading toward the green-haired girl. The next song that played was one of her favorites, by a band called Smile.dk.
Ai, Ai, Ai, I'm your little butterfly…
Sometimes, Ichigo felt like the singer- that she'd searched all across Japan for someone strong, that wouldn't regret to keep her 'in his net'. She swayed and sang along, "Yes I need, I need my samur…Ai! Masaya!"
He was standing in the doorway, watching everyone with a little smile on his face. Ichigo ran over. "I didn't hear the doorbell, I'm so sorry!"
Masaya shook his head. "Don't be. I was late. My fan club threw me a surprise party after kendo practice."
"Oh." Ichigo looked past him and said disbelievingly, "You brought them with you?"
The trio of girls standing behind the handsome boy giggled. "We're only the leaders," one of them said.
"I wanted to thank them, and you said friends were invited," Masaya explained.
"Right, sure, come on in. There's food in the dining room." Ichigo tried to sound hospitable. She felt hostile. She didn't want more competition for Masaya's attention!
"Ichigo's an excellent chef," Masaya told the girls. "You have to try her noodles."
"Yes! Go try them, while I give Masaya his birthday present." Ichigo waved the girls on. She led the boy she hoped would thank her with a kiss to the side and handed him a wrapped gift.
"I didn't expect a present as well as a party. This is very nice of you," Masaya said, carefully undoing the wrapping. "Is the gift wrap made from recycled paper?"
"I'm not sure," she answered evasively. Crap! She should have remembered his fanatical…er…fervent devotion to keeping the planet green.
"I'll recycle it myself, to lessen the environmental impact," he said with a smile.
Big of you. The sarcastic thought jolted Ichigo. Masaya wasn't accusing her of causing the deforestation of the rainforest, he was merely trying to do his part to save the environment! She shouldn't react so negatively.
He un-wrapped the kendo practice sword of spilt bamboo, exclaiming, "A shinai! What a fine gift. My fan club gave me a bokutu. I'm blessed to have such thoughtful friends."
Outwardly, Ichigo smiled. Inwardly, she screamed Ahhh-h-h! I scrimp and save to buy a bamboo sword and those leeches outdo me with a wooden sword? It's not fair!
"Masaya! Pudding wants to see you dance-dance!"
Within seconds, the hyperactive girl had dragged Masaya over to the DDR pad. Ichigo stared numbly. He hadn't kissed her in thanks. He hadn't done more than smile and tell her his fan club had given him a more expensive present. What could be worse than that?
Masaya's dancing was worse. He moved like a robot, stepping with a deliberate preciseness lacking grace or rhythm.
What else could you expect from Pistachio the wooden boy?
Ichigo's eyes opened wide. She didn't think of Masaya as a Pinocchio!
Really? He's got no strings, but his movements are jerky as a marionette's!
She covered her ears with her hands, to block out thoughts that sounded like Kish.
"Are you okay?" Lettuce asked.
"I've got a headache," Ichigo said. She looked around and said, "Where's Ryou?"
"He's getting us some food." Lettuce blushed as she added, "He ordered shortcakes, just for me. Isn't that kind?"
Ichigo smiled, although the sight of Masaya stamping on arrows while everyone around him clapped and cheered threatened to give her a real migraine. She said, "Why don't you kiss Ryou in thanks for being so kind?"
"I couldn't do that!" When Ichigo gave her a meaningful stare, Lettuce asked uncertainly, "Could I?"
"If you don't, there are other girls who will!" Ichigo rubbed her temples. "I'm going to find a pain reliever and lie down. I don't feel so well." The pain in her head and the knots in her stomach were from emotional rather than physical reasons, but she didn't want anyone to know.
"Oh, poor Ichigo, should I make you a cold cloth for your head?"
"No, I'll be fine after a short rest." Ichigo smiled at her friend and walked down the corridor.
Inside the bathroom, the plan to grab a bottle of pills from the cabinet was forgotten when her eyes met those of an alien lounging in her brand-new tub.
"Hello kitten." Kish watched a pink bubble float upwards and then popped it.
Ichigo screeched, "Are you insane? You don't have bubbles in an ofuro!" She pointed stiffly to the shower area. "You wash up first and then relax in crystal…" Her voice faltered. She didn't want to see Kish in crystal clear water! The first and last time he'd stood up in her tub was still a vivid memory. She didn't need another heart-stopping view of his smooth, muscular body!
"No bubbles? I can remove them."
She sprang forward to grab the hand that was about to wave the concealing foam away. "Keep the bubbles!"
Amber eyes gleamed with amusement. "As you wish."
Ichigo realized she was holding hands with her personal alien menace and tried to jerk away. Kish wouldn't let her go until he'd lifted her hand for a kiss. She leapt backwards. "Why did you do that?"
He watched her rub the skin he'd kissed with a smile that revealed the tips of sharp canines. "I like to kiss you," he said.
She remembered again the first time they met, how Kish had leapt down from a building to kiss her. She could remember every time he'd kissed her. Why didn't Masaya pursue her that way? He was so calm…almost unemotional.
Like a block of wood?
To distract herself from disloyal thoughts, Ichigo crossed her arms and demanded, "Why do you keep coming back? Isn't it obvious I don't want you in my tub or in my life?"
Kish was making a pyramid of soap bubbles. "You want me," he said matter-of-factly, blowing a bubble to the top.
She slapped the bubbles out of his hands. "I want you out of my bathroom!"
"Fine. Take a bath with me and I'll leave."
Her eyes narrowed. "Leave and never return?"
Ichigo was tempted. No one was going to knock on the door- the bathroom was out of order. It would be a secret…and rid her of Kish. Although a little voice at the back of her mind whispered she was tempted in other ways, she ignored it. "Deal."
Kish's grin was wide and wicked. "You have no bathing suit this time."
She smirked. "I have underwear."
His face fell. Ichigo almost laughed. Kish looked like a little boy deprived of a treat. Her tiny smile disappeared when he commanded, "Disrobe, then…slowly."
The arrogant way he leaned back in the tub, arms resting on the sides, gave Kish the appearance of a pasha waiting for a dancing girl to entertain him. Ichigo's fingers were shaking as she undid the buttons on her blouse. Why did he have to stare fixedly? It made it hard to breathe. Tension arced between them so intensely; she could feel cat ears quivering to spring out. She almost hissed. "This isn't a strip show. Close your eyes."
He smiled knowingly. The moment his eyes closed, Ichigo kicked off her slides and wriggled out of her clothes. Within seconds, she was climbing into the tub. Her foot slid against a male one, putting her off balance. Ichigo fell forward, straight into Kish's chest.
"Heh-heh, that tickles," he said.
She pushed away, wiping her mouth with the back of a hand. "Stay on your side of the tub!"
Kish smirked. "You're the one who fell for me."
Her lips twitched even while she rolled her eyes. "Ha-ha."
"At least I make you smile, however reluctantly. Aoyama, the human statue, only makes you sad."
Ichigo was glad her new tub was deeper than the old one. She felt less vulnerable with only the tops of her shoulders and neck exposed. "I didn't come in here because I was sad. For your information, I had a headache."
Her eyes grew huge as one moment Kish was on his side of the tub, next he was on hers, his knees brushing the outside of her thighs as he massaged her temples with his fingers. "Why did you not say so? I will make you better," he said confidently, running his fingers through her hair.
The scalp massage would have been soothing if anyone beside Kish was giving it. The water concealed his body, but the concern on his face and the rapt concentration he gave the task was even more disturbing. It was as if he truly cared about her.
The idea was almost as alarming as the butterflies that fluttered in her stomach at his touch. To distract herself, Ichigo asked, "Why is your hair down?"
Kish's hair usually hung in pigtails draping over his ears. Now it brushed her cheek. "Do you like it?" he asked.
Dark green hair framed a lean, dangerously compelling face. "No," she said honestly. "It makes you look less alien, more a-human."
"A-human? Don't you mean attractive?" He chuckled, tucking her hair behind her ears. "Or perhaps appealing, the way you appeal to me."
Kish began tracing her features with his fingertips. Instead of shoving him away, Ichigo whispered, "Why do I appeal to you? I'm not beautiful like Zakuro or…"
His fingers stilled her words. "You are the most beautiful girl on this planet."
Her lips twisted wryly. "I think pollution has affected your eyesight."
Kish started rubbing her bottom lip with the tip of a finger. "Kitten, you are the one blinded. Why do you think I keep returning to your bath?"
His eyes glittered with laughter. "Aside from that."
Her shoulders rose and fell. "I don't know. Maybe you're bored, and the chase amuses you, or you see me as a challenge, or…"
"Or I l-care for you?"
Ichigo's heart jolted. What had he almost said? She swallowed hard. "L-care…Don't you mean like?"
His hands cradled her face while she sat transfixed by the expression in his eyes. So softly, Ichigo had to strain forward to hear, Kish said, "I love you."
Love? How was she supposed to respond to that?
Kish pressed his lips to hers, providing a way. Ichigo kissed him back hesitantly, unsure where this moment would lead. They fought on opposite sides. Were they going to declare a truce between battles to date?
Aren't we doing that right now? she thought.
He pressed his mouth to hers more firmly, kissing her in a way no other boy ever had. Hungrily, passionately, as though he couldn't get enough, as if he was determined to leave no part of her mouth unexplored.
Ichigo's head felt light, almost dizzy as his tongue slid along hers. She loved the way his skin felt beneath her fingers, the way his kisses made her body shiver and her breath catch. In a daze, she hardly noticed when her cat ears emerged and her tail slid around his waist. Too caught up in stroking down Kish's back, Ichigo enjoyed the way his muscles tensed as she reached his…
"Shorts? I got all worked up and you were wearing shorts?"
Kish caressed her ears and rubbed her nose with his. "Fun, wasn't it?" Watching her mouth open and close, he said, "I did not visit your tub to bathe. I wanted to be with you, to make you want to be with me." Staring deeply into her eyes, he asked, "What can I do to make you love me?"
Ichigo's heart turned over. She'd never asked Masaya that question, because she'd known there was nothing she could do- he wasn't the one for her. Looking at Kish, she quit fighting what he made her feel.
She tucked a strand of hair behind Kish's ear and smiled. "Kiss me again."