Tite Kubo owns Bleach. I just borrowed the characters.
Note: This is dedicated to those readers who requested an Orihime chapter for Snack Time. I hope you like it.
"Why are you doing this, Orihime? Are you trying to impress Ichigo, or prove that you can cook 'normal' food?" Tatsuki sounded grumpy as her friend handed her yet another heavy bag to carry.
"My food is normal, Tatsuki. You have never given it a chance because you're so unadventurous, I mean where food is concerned," she amended as a mulish look spread over her friend's face. "I know you're open to new ideas and experiences, except for boys and food."
Sighing, Tatsuki blew the air out through pursed lips. She did not seem happy. "Why mention the two in the one sentence? There's a big difference between boys and food. One we have to have to survive. The other…"
"Makes you fat" Orihime tried to make a joke. If it had been anyone else she would never have dared to even try. In a way she was trying to express how she felt, that Ichigo was necessary for her survival, knowing that he was alive encouraged her to continue living. After her brother died and the problems her parents had caused when trying to make her return to their custody, she had wondered if the struggle was worth it. Only when her aunts and uncles stepped in and offered to support her and allow her to remain where she was did her burden decrease. While she was sad they lived in another province, so she couldn't live within the warmth of a family, it was better than returning to the hell from which her brother had rescued her. And now she was friends with Tatsuki and had her own place, she felt she was beginning to acquire her own 'family' of people she chose to be close to her, rather than those related by blood.
"Only if you get pregnant," Tatsuki said, stretching the joke even further.
Orihime blushed, not expecting that reply. For all the education they'd had about sex and the discussions her girl friends indulged in at lunch time, she still found the topic very embarrassing. It didn't help when Chizuru hugged her close or tried to kiss her. She felt not even the slightest spark of attraction to the girl and found her attention unwelcome, but she was too scared to say anything. Staying close to Tatsuki helped as she diverted most of the unwelcome attention away from Orihime. How could she tell the girl that she didn't like being hugged like that or treated like she was only an object to play with? None of the boys in the school grabbed her and groped her like Chizuru did, because Ichigo scared them off, but he couldn't stop them looking. Once more her mind returned to that desire to jab the girl with a compass or sharpened pencil the next time, but she knew she wouldn't and even if she did, would the lesbian get the message? Her preference wasn't for women or men generally, it all revolved around one special person.
"Honestly girl. It was a joke. Stop taking everything I say seriously, or I'll wonder what other secrets you might be hiding," was Tatsuki's reaction.
"Do you think he'll come?" Orihime asked once more knowing that the mention that she might perform an action could mean that it would later happen. If Tatsuki began to wonder, she might investigate and find out…Find out something Orihime was trying to keep private. Not that it would be easy because she told Tatsuki nearly everything, except those precious secrets that she barely acknowledged. The half realised potential ideas and plans that she never closely examined for fear that any sort of inspection might reveal the flaws.
Tatsuki snorted. "You've invited ten people to a meal but your main interest is if one, only one of them, attends."
But it's for Ichigo's birthday," Orihime stuttered and then flushed guiltily.
Stopping where she was, Tatsuki turned partially around to look at her friend, her eyebrows raised questioningly as her mouth rounded into a surprised 'O'. "You're months late. And why hold it on Halloween? Ichigo's birthday is on the 15th."
"That's the point," Orihime hurriedly added and hoped her friend would believe her. "I wanted it to be a surprise and he would have expected a surprise birthday party on the 15th July, not on Halloween. I'll tell everyone about the birthday part, later."
Tatsuki shook her head and the serious look on her face made Orihime dread what she would say next. "I don't understand. You're so clever except about food and boys," was the casual comment.
"What's wrong with Ichigo?" she said before her brain processed the question.
Tatsuki picked up the bags and continued walking toward Orihime's house, apparently thinking about her answer. "I've known Ichigo since we were both kids," she said.
"I know," Orihime said the usual sting of jealousy present as she was once more reminded of all those wasted years before she'd found Ichigo and fallen in love in an instant.
"He was a wimp when we met," Tatsuki said, looking ahead, her face impassive.
Having heard this before, it was easier to control the quick answer that sprang to her tongue. Instead she said, "Hmmm?"
"If he dyed his hair, it would save him a lot of trouble. Instead, he flaunts it and gets into fights all the time. That's why he became friends with Chad, to help him fight."
If she hadn't been carrying so many bags, Orihime's hands would have flown and touched her own hair. It was hard to be different, or to have such a difference so noticeable and obvious. The main reason she didn't colour her hair was because of a promise she'd made to her brother. "I think you're wrong about Chad," she said instead. "They are friends, but it's in spite of the fighting, not because of it."
"And he hardly notices you, at least not as a girl," Tatsuki continued as if she hadn't heard. "Most of the other boys drool when you walk past but he only notices you when you talk to him, and sometimes not even then."
That was the factor that Orihime had been denying. In the classroom, in the school generally she had almost become used to the intense scrutiny she received from the males. Mostly she tried to block it out, to pretend that most of the boys in the class were trying to undress her with their eyes, or look down the front of her shirt, or up her skirt, or the ones like Keigo who had his eyes constantly fixed on her breasts. Even when she wore a bust minimizer bra, it didn't seem to help. She knew it was only because of Chad, Uryu, Tatsuki and Ichigo that she wasn't subjected to half the male population of the school pressing up against her, or propositioning her every moment of every day. Chizuru was bad enough, but she never took a hint even when delivered as part of a beating. If everyone else noticed, why didn't Ichigo?
"I sometimes wonder if he remembers I'm a girl," Tatsuki mused. "He seems to, but only when his father teases him about me. Usually he treats me like one of the guys. At least most of the time." She stopped talking and Orihime noticed that she seemed to be thinking hard. For some days she'd noticed that her friend was worried about something and had hesitated, wondering if she should ask. Her friend never seemed to worry about asking the difficult questions of her, but that was different. Tatsuki was observant and ready to help.
This time she was going to ask, but ask the question that she'd put off asking so many times. It scared her to think what the answer might be and the consequences of asking, but every time she was with her friend the question was there, always at the side, looming later each time it remained unasked and unsaid. She imagined a small question mark that had grown larger over time with different aspects growing on it. Now it had spiky arms and deep holes had opened up in the body of the question mark. Thorns grew over the surface and it oozed a deep red substance that looked both sticky and toxic. It was no longer a question mark but a festering monster that grew larger and more powerful every time she failed to ask the question. It was only a matter of time before it grew big enough to take over the world of her imagination. Then she wouldn't be able to daydream about Ichigo in class! That couldn't be permitted to happen.
Grabbing at her courage with both her hands she said, "Tatsuki…Can I ask you something? Something important?"
The girl turned to her with a frown firmly planted in the middle of her forehead. "As long as it is not about last nights homework and whether I find Keigo interesting, sure."
Here was her chance. She cleared her throat, swallowed, coughed a little, swallowed hard again and prepared to speak. The fear of the answer made her skin tingle and while she didn't want to ask the question, she knew she must. "Do you like Ichigo?"
Tatsuki's expression didn't change. "Sure."
That wasn't the answer or reaction she expected. Dissatisfied, she tried again. "I mean, I know you like him as a friend, but do you like him as anything more? Have you ever done anything with him?" She felt dreadful about asking the last question, but she wanted everything clear between them. If there was anything more than friendship between Tatsuki and Ichigo she needed to know.
Tatsuki's expression was now frozen on her face. Slowly and deliberately she placed the bags she was carrying on the ground and then standing straight she crossed her arms across her chest. Feeling weak in the knees, Orihime also carefully placed her bags on the ground; awaiting the storm she felt building. Why had she asked the question? All this time she knew to ask would be a mistake and instead of listening to her common sense, she'd permitted her instincts to guide her into what promised to be a confrontation. What would life be like without her friendship?
"Are you asking what I think you're asking?" The voice gave nothing away.
Swallowing hard again, Orihime nodded, not certain she could talk over the fear that was throbbing through her body.
"What do you want to know? If I've kissed Ichigo? Had sex with him? What?"
She couldn't raise her eyes to look at her friend once the questions were asked. Her face flushed and she felt deeply humiliated at her breach in the etiquette of their friendship, but she nodded again. If the answer came back that Ichigo and Tatsuki had slept together what could she do?
"Of course I've kissed Ichigo. I've known the guy forever and once or twice we experimented with kissing, but nothing else…"
As the relief overwhelmed Orihime she felt she could look at her friend and almost missed the rest of what she was saying.
"Ichigo is an idiot where woman are concerned and he's not my type. As for having sex with him, don't make me laugh. He'd be the last guy…." And then as if realising what she was saying, Tatsuki stopped talking, pressing her lips firmly shut.
Did that mean her friend liked someone else? If so, that was wonderful. Not only didn't she have to worry about competing with Tatsuki for Ichigo, but she might be able to match make.
Tatsuki had picked up her bags and was again walking toward Orihime's apartment. Hefting her own supplies she followed walking quickly now that the question which had been weighing her down had now been removed. Having that removed she almost felt she could run up the stairs, but considering the bags she decided it was a bad idea.
"Was he any good?" she asked, her curiosity still unsatisfied.
Tatsuki shrugged, "I don't know. We were about 11 at the time and all I remember was wondering if all kisses were so wet."
11! That was so long ago. They were still children. She felt tempted to question her friend further, but the expression on Tatsuki's face warned her away The image of the distressing question mark shrank, losing all it's additions as it dwindled to nothing. Now she would never have to stay awake, fearful of losing her friendship with the girl who was now entering her apartment.
"Orihime, I don't mean to tell you what to do, but I could help you cook. Make sure that the food is edible."
Used as she was to Tatsuki's attitude to her food, Orihime only smiled and replied carefully to her friend, "You gave me recipes and I'll follow them. Mostly I wanted you to do the decorations. That's why we bought so many pumpkins. After you hollow them out I'll make pumpkin soup," she thought for a moment and sighed. "I did want to make a pumpkin juice drink to keep with the theme, but I don't know if you cook it first or if it's raw?" As she talked, she brightened. "We bought lots of pumpkins. I could do both."
Tatsuki was unpacking the bags. "I think pumpkin soup is a better idea. What about the rest of the food?"
"I've already made the cake," Orihime told her proudly. Opening the fridge she extracted the cake that had taken up many of her evenings with planning. "See. Do you think it's a good likeness?"
Her friend turned to look at the cake and her astonished expression made Orihime feel a sense of pride and achievement. "You made a cake of Ichigo?"
Orihime looked down at the cake and smiled widely. "Only his head. Do you like it?"
"The eyelashes are too long, the eyes are too big and he's smiling. Why didn't you use his normal expression of a scowl?"
Realising that her friend was teasing her she giggled as she replied, "I want him to smile when he sees the cake."
"Uhuh," Tatsuki said as she unloaded the last bag. "Do you have a very sharp knife? If you want me to make something out of these pumpkins it will have to be sharp. And why Halloween anyway? And pumpkins? All this stuff is the American version of the original day. If you wanted to be authentic we should all stay home and pray to whatever god to protect us from the evil spirits, not dress up as them."
Reaching into the right drawer, Orihime located her sharpest knife. It was quite long and she used it often. In answering the question she decided to go for the direct approach. "This is more fun. Have you got your costume ready?"
Pointing to her schoolbag, Tatsuki emulated Ichigo and scowled at her friend. "It's bad enough that it's a Harry Potter themed party, but did you have to tell each person which character they were?"
Astonished at the question Orihime just stared at her friend, her mouth open before she replied. "But everyone would have come as Harry or Hermione. It would have been silly."
"Then why am I Professor McGonagall? Why that old bat?" Tatsuki asked as she took the knife from her friend and began cutting the top off the pumpkin.
Orihime got together the ingredients for the snack she was preparing before she answered and as she was carefully washing the chillies she said, "I couldn't see you as Hermione or anyone else. I like the Professor. She's nice, intelligent and kind."
"And old and wrinkled," Tatsuki had cut open one pumpkin and was scooping out the contents into a bowl she'd found.
"At least you're not one of the nasty characters," Orihime offered unconvincingly. She'd thought her friend might be pleased to be given an intelligent and central character.
"I suppose Ichigo is Harry?"
"Of course. It's his party so he has to be the main character." As she finished washing the chilli's she cut them open and spooned the filling inside. It didn't take long and she put them in the fridge to chill as she began making the meatballs.
"Who are you? Or should I guess. Choo?"
"No. And I won't tell you," she was making the meatballs very quickly and placing them on a tray to put in the oven. "You'll have to wait."
"The party is in two hours and we'll both be changing here. I'll know soon enough. Wait. You're going as Ginny Weasley, aren't you?" Tatsuki had finished hollowing the pumpkins and she brought the bowl of contents to Orihime. She looked at her friend sharply and Orihime blushed.
"Who else could I be?"
"You could have been the professor," Tatsuki said acidly.
They continued to exchange words as they worked. Soon the food was ready and Orihime helped Tatsuki finish the decorations.
At the appointed time, dressed and excited, Orihime waited for the first guest to arrive. As she heard the first knock she opened the door, hoping to see…… Uryu. She couldn't hide the disappointment that spread over her face. Trying to be polite she smiled at him and welcomed him in. "You look good. Where did you get the costume?"
Uryu had a strange look on his face. "Why did you choose this character for me?"
She wondered why he seemed upset. "I like Lupin. And he's a werewolf. I thought you'd be pleased."
Pushing his glasses back on his nose he tried to change his expression but instead looked even more perturbed. "I've never thought of myself as a werewolf," glancing past her he obviously noticed that aside from Orihime and Tatsuki, he was the only guest. "I appear to have arrived early."
"You're punctual. Come in. Have a pumpkin juice or soft drink."
There was an awkward silence as Orihime gave him the drink. "I should put some music on. I have the soundtrack of the latest Harry Potter movie," she said and proceeded to do something. It was better than nothing.
The next knock had her at the door in a trice and she opened it, her heart in her mouth to see: Rukia, Renji, Urahara and Yoruichi. This time she stretched her lips wide as she searched behind them for the familiar shock of orange hair.
As if noticing the look Rukia said, "Ichigo's coming with Chad. They won't be long."
"Come in. You all look great." Orihime told them as they filed past her. There was a pause and then loud laughter as her guests looked at each other.
"You're Choo?" Tatsuki seemed incredulous as she looked at Yoruichi.
"Don't I look convincing?" The woman smiled, showing her sharp eye teeth.
"Ur, you look great. Really," Tatsuki said. "And I know I don't look wonderful."
Urahara shook his head. "Don't say that to me. I don't think I'm cast correctly. Why am I Ron Weasley?"
Orihime smiled. "I can see you as him. The tie looks good."
"And you can see me as Draco Malfoy?" Renji looked strange with a blond wig perched on his head.
"And me as Moaning Myrtle?" Rukia was rather dour in her comment which matched her appearance perfectly.
Rather than assure everyone that there were reasons, Orihime began serving them the pumpkin soup she'd prepared, adding a little dash of sour cream and paprika. They were small portions and suitable for eating while standing.
"It's fine," assured Tatsuki. "I was here when she made it and there are no strange ingredients."
"Hey, it's not bad," Renji said and began to eat avidly.
The rest of the guests ate the soup as another knock came at the door. Her heart was in her mouth as she opened the door this time. Before she could welcome her guests she was caught in a passionate embrace as Chizuru held her close. "I've always had a thing about Ginny Weasley. I think that she and Hermione are soul mates. That's why you chose me for Hermione, isn't it?"
Tatsuki delivered a quick uppercut and Chizuru quickly released Orihime.
"Ow. Why did you do that?" the bespectacled girl asked, aggrieved.
"Don't grab the hostess. It's bad manners," Rukia said mildly. "Have some soup."
"Do I have to eat soup? It'll get in my beard," whined Keigo.
"Hagrid wouldn't complain," Mizurio assured his friend. "I'm worried about melting my make-up with the heat of the soup though," he laughed.
"But Mizurio…" Keigo was building up to another complaint.
"No names. Remember I am He Who Must Not be Named," Mizurio said as he gratefully took some soup and began sipping.
Tatsuki had given up trying to eat the soup and was sitting on the floor laughing. Uryu lips were twitching hard and soon he began to laugh also.
"You really know how to pick 'em," Renji said as he looked from one guest to another. "Can I have more soup?"
As Orihime served more soup she glanced at the time. Ichigo was over a quarter of an hour late! Would he ever arrive? Trying to calm herself she realised that it did give her time to inform her guests of the other reason for the party.
"Um, could I have some quiet?" she asked, but couldn't make herself heard over the din.
"Shut up everyone," Renji said and everyone seemed to hear.
"I see you've learnt some manners," Yoruichi said.
Urahara cocked and eyebrow and smiled before commenting, "At least he didn't punch anyone."
Steeling herself against speaking to such a large group, Orihime said, "I know I said this is a Halloween party, but it's also a surprise birthday party for Ichigo."
Rukia rolled her eyes and shook her head. "His birthday's in July. Don't you remember the party?"
It was getting tiring being reminded of that fact all the time. Were people so obsessed with dates and facts for some reason? "I remember that party but I wanted to give him a party too and he would have expected a surprise party on his birthday, so this is a real surprise," she explained once more.
Her guests exchanged amused glances and her face flushed.
Tatsuki must have noticed and quickly said, "It's a party and we're going to have fun. Did you organise any games or anything? What about ducking for apples?"
Thankful for the excuse, Orihime rushed to her bathroom and picked up the bucket she had prepared and brought it into the room where Tatsuki had placed a towel. As they were about to commence the game another knock was heard. Taking a deep breath and smoothing first her hair and then her clothes Orihime opened the door to find Chad towering in front of her. Trying to appear as if she wasn't looking past him, her eyes searched frantically for any sign of Ichigo. Meanwhile her guests had crowded behind her and were laughing at Chad's costume.
The long grey hair and beard didn't suit him and the pointed wizard's hat reached above the door.
"I didn't think Dumbledore was that tall," Yoruichi commented. "Nor did he look so young."
Chad remained impassive and nodded at Orihime. "Thank you for inviting me."
She couldn't prevent the desire to ask the question. "Where's Ichigo, I mean Harry?"
'I'm right here, Orihime. Behind Dumbledore." Ichigo emerged from behind Chad and she gasped. His orange hair was now dark, the thick rimmed glassed looked adorable and the way his shirt hung out from his pants charmed her. He'd even drawn a zigzag scar on his forehead. "Are you Ginny?" Ichigo seemed surprised. "I thought you'd want to be Hermione."
Recalling her manners she invited them in and shut the door. Finally her Harry was here and the party could really start. A quick motion set Pink's "Got to Get This Party Started' replaced the soundtrack and she made a decision. "Because we're all wearing makeup, I thought we could dance, but you have to dance with the person you're paired with in Harry Potter." She grabbed the apple bucket and put it away.
Before anyone could choose partners, Yoruichi seized Ichigo and kissed him. The room erupted into cheers, catcalls and startled exclamations. Orihime tried to drag her eyes away from the sight of the object of her affection being kissed by someone else. It must be a bad dream. This couldn't be happening and it almost looked like Ichigo was kissing her back. Tears threatened and she blinked hard many times to try to prevent them from falling. She felt Tatsuki pat her on the shoulder and that made it even more difficult not to cry.
Ichigo pulled away, after a few minutes hesitation, wiped his mouth and asked, "Why did you do that?"
"As Choo, I have to get your first kiss. Do you want to dance?"
Tatsuki giggle slightly and muttered, "Too late."
"I think he's meant to dance with Ginny," Rukia said tactfully. "Orihime, there's a slight problem with your suggestion about dancing. Not all of us have partners in the book or if we do, they're not here."
Feeling grateful to Rukia, but still very upset by the kiss Orihime tried to think.
"I don't want to dance with a man," Chiruzu protested. "I want to dance with Ginny."
"There are more males here. Does that mean we have to dance with each other," Uryu observed wryly.
"Ichigo, can I dance with you?" Keigo was becoming hyperactive.
"Ur, no thanks, I'd prefer to dance with Ginny," Ichigo said hastily and smiled at Orihime.
"I suggest that we all choose our own partners as Harry has already made his choice," Urahara said with a laugh in his voice. "Choo, Yoruichi, will you grant me the honour?"
"Why, Ron, I didn't know you cared," she flirted back.
"But no more kissing teenage boys, unless it's me," he said sternly. "It's too easy to lead them astray."
Orihime couldn't help but notice a fleeting hopeful look pass over Uryu's face before Ichigo took her hand and she didn't notice anything else except what it was like to dance with him.
He danced divinely, even when he accidentally trod on her foot her the third time. He was smiling at her, while he frowned. "Sorry," he apologised again. "Dancing is different to fighting."
"Oh, Ichigo, I mean Harry. It's such fun dancing with you."
Ichigo's face went red and he looked away. "Um, yeah. It's nice dancing with you too, Ginny."
The room was really too small for dancing and after bumping into those who actually bothered to dance, they gave up. Orihime had collected a number of bumps that she was positive would turn into bruises. Before another activity could be suggested she hastily served some pumpkin soup to Chad and Ichigo, feeling guilty that she hadn't done so earlier. Then she started serving the other snacks she had so carefully prepared.
Keigo grabbed a snack, swallowed it whole and then his face went an interesting puce colour and he grabbed his throat and started to choke.
"Oh. I should have mentioned the chillies are hot," she said guiltily.
"Chillies are meant to be hot," Chad said complacently and selected one to eat.
Keigo shook his head vehemently and made motions with his hands to try to indicate that it was a bad idea, but Chad ate it anyway. As the tears streamed down his face and he coughed, Orihime wondered what was wrong. She picked up a chilli and bit into it. It seemed fine to her.
"What did you stuff the chillies with? I thought it was cream cheese," Tatsuki said.
"It was, with some wasabe and Tabasco sauce added," was her simple explanation. It tasted fine to her and the brown sugar she added complimented the bitterness of the cheese.
"I think I'll avoid the chillies. Orihime, maybe you could tell us what ingredients you used in for example the meatballs. Did you vary the recipe I gave you?" Tatsuki eyed the food very warily.
She had tried. She had really made an effort to make the food nice, but while some of the snacks were conventional, she couldn't resist adding little touches to male them more interesting.
"I put some peanut butter in the meatballs and a little bit of Vegemite."
Ichigo straightened his shoulders and took one, placing it carefully in his mouth. As she watched she saw him try to smile with enjoyment but he failed and swallowed the mouthful without really chewing. "That was interesting," he said hoarsely.
Taking her friend by the shoulder, Tatsuki led Orihime over to the bench. "Divide the food into two trays: those where you followed the recipe, and the ones to which you made changes."
"But," Orihime didn't think this was fair. It was her party and Tatsuki was taking over.
Rukia came over and looked at the trays with interest. "I'll help and I'll even try your experiments. I might even send some to Ran, if you don't mind."
The offer impressed Orihime and restored her good mood. As they sorted through the trays, Rukia popped the various 'original' snacks in her mouth. She swallowed each one valiantly and even appeared to like some of them. Then, teasingly she encouraged Tatsuki to try some and she assured Orihime that some of them 'weren't bad'.
"I'll try some too," a loved voice said behind her. Ichigo stood there, looking brave and noble as he selected one of her experiments. This was one that she's only altered a bit and she was gratified by the surprised and pleased look that spread over Ichigo's face. "That's really interesting. It's good."
The rest gathered around and began to sample some of her more original creations and gobbling the more conventional fare. People began laughing, tasting, choking and joking and daring Keigo to eat the more adventurous creations. As was to be expected he took each dare and then cried, each bout of tears causing more of his facial hair to detach. He began to look like he was moulting,
Out of pity, Orihime poured him a glass of lemonade. "Don't eat anything else," she whispered. "There's cake to come."
"Really? Orihime will you marry me?" Keigo asked hopefully.
Mizurio tapped his friend gently on the head. "I can't take you anywhere, can I?"
The mood lightened and instead of playing games, they all relaxed, snacking and chatting. Time passed quickly as she watched Ichigo, happy that he was eating her food and not acting like she was trying to poison him. When she glanced at the time, she noticed the hour was getting late and there was still the most important event.
After she made excuses, she went to the fridge and surreptitiously placed candles on the cake which she tried to light with the minimum of noise and fuss. When all were lit, she picked up the cake and singing 'Happy Birthday' walked up to Ichigo and placed the cake proudly in front of him.
"Wow, Orihime. Did you make that?" Demanded Chizuru and only a quick duck prevented Orihime from receiving another unwelcome embrace.
"For Ichigo. Happy belated birthday," she said a large smile splitting her face.
She watched as Ichigo looked at the cake and then with disbelief at her. "A cake for me? How did you… I mean you even got the hair colour right. It means a lot to me Orihime that you went to so much trouble."
She handed him a knife and said, "Blow out the candles, make a wish and then cut the cake. I'm sure you'll like it. It's your favourite."
"Chocolate!" Ichigo exclaimed and blew out the candles while everyone sang Happy Birthday, although a few people insisted on singing Happy Halloween instead. Greedily he cut the cake and took the first piece. Without hesitation he bit into it and looked pleased until another expression replaced the look of happiness. He chewed a little longer, swallowed and put the cake back on the plate.
"I can taste the chocolate, but there's something else, isn't there?"
He'd noticed. It thrilled her that he'd actually paid attention to her cake and she admitted, "Chocolate and Karashi Mentaiko."
The room once more fell silent and everyone carefully put the piece of cake they were holding down except for Renji who took a large bite and another. He finished the cake before Rukia nudged him in the ribs and he looked at her curiously. "I couldn't taste it. I just had a chilli," he explained. "Is there something wrong with it?"
"But they're your favourite food," Orihime said sadly to Ichigo.
"Separately, not together," he said. "I appreciate it, but I can't eat the cake."
Yoruichi waved her hand at the two of them. "Kiss her. She went to all this trouble for you and you're complaining about the cake. That's pretty ungrateful."
Orihime flushed and swallowed hard. She didn't want to kiss Ichigo in front of all these people.
"I don't see you eating it," Urahara said gently as he stroked her hair.
"I don't like it, but it wasn't made for me," Yoruichi answered as she looked keenly at Ichigo.
"Yeah, kiss the girl," Renji said as he pushed Ichigo closer to Orihime.
"NO," Chizuru appeared distressed.
The last comment seemed to affect Ichigo and he quickly bent and kissed Orihime swiftly on the forehead. "Thanks for the party, Orihime."
She touched her forehead where his lips had briefly lingered. Her first kiss from Ichigo. How she would treasure that.
Urahara made a large gesture as he consulted his wrist. "Look at the time. It's school tomorrow. I think we should all thank our hostess and permit her time to clean up before she sleeps."
Chizuru hurriedly said, "I'll help with it."
"I can't trust you. I'll stay too," Tatsuki said with conviction and began to collect the dirty plates.
It seemed that this was the signal to everyone else. Soon a frenzy of activity made certain that all the plates were clean and some decorations were even taken down before Orihime could protest. "Please, leave some of them up! I like them. They'll remind me of how much fun we had."
Ichigo looked at her and smiled and her heart went all droopy. "See you tomorrow, Orihime."
As if that were a signal, everyone else wished her good night and thanked her for the party. Minutes later, after trying to avoid further unwelcome embraces from some of the guests, Orihime was alone in her apartment with a few jack o' lanterns for company.
"I wonder if I should throw him another surprise party next year," she thought and dreamily went to bed thinking of pumpkins and kisses.
A themed chapter and in Australia this is a day late for Halloween but as we don't really take it as seriously as the US, I don't think it matters.
This may be the last Snack Time chapter for some time. At present no ideas have presented themselves and I need the time for other projects.