Note: It wasn't until March 14th that I learned about the Japanese tradition of White Day (thanks to another author on the Samurai 7 LiveJournal community). I liked the idea and immediately dashed off this story as the companion piece to "Secret Admirer, Not-So-Secret Heartache." Enjoy!


TRIPLE RETURN

Shichiroji was grinning slyly at Kambei as the older samurai came out of the house, yawning and stretching.

"You're gonna have a busy day today, huh, Kambei-sama?"

"What are you talking about?" Kambei ran his fingers through his long brown hair and headed toward the river for his morning ablutions while the blond samurai trailed along behind him.

"Did you forget what today is?"

Kambei frowned as he knelt by the water's edge, scrubbing his face and washing away the last of the sleep. He glanced back at Shichiroji, who threw his hands up in mock dismay.

"Come on, Kambei-sama... it's White Day. You know, giving gifts to women, that kind of thing..."

The other samurai blushed slightly as his memory finally caught up with him. While Valentine's Day was usually the day when women gave men gifts, White Day was the day that men returned the favor... and if he really wanted to impress her, he would give her something triple the value of what she had given him.

In theory, Nasami had not given Kambei an actual present on Valentine's Day, although...

The white-clad samurai's flush deepened as he saw the grin on Shichiroji's face widen, and he knew that his former mate was following his exact train of thought.

"Uh-huh..." Shichiroji said in satisfaction.

"She didn't give me anything," Kambei protested weakly, but Shichiroji just leaned on his staff and chuckled.

"Oh, nothing tangible... except several kisses and, unless I misread your reactions later that night, a couple of dreams that left you rather-"

"Do I even want to know how you know that?" Kambei burst out.

"You talk in your sleep," was all Shichiroji said, and Kambei's eyes went wide in mortified horror. "Don't worry, the others didn't hear you. Neither did Nasami-dono."

"What... did I say?" Kambei asked slowly, not at all certain he wanted to hear the answer.

"Apart from occasionally whispering her name, you weren't all that coherent. But the moans and sighs said it all."

Kambei's blush became so hot that he felt as though his face were on fire.

"Shut up, damn you," he murmured, splashing more cold water on his face before rising and heading back toward the village.

"So now, you get to give it back to her in spades," Shichiroji went on cheerfully as though Kambei hadn't said anything.

"Do I look like the romantic type to you?"

"Yes."

"Shut up."


On the other end of the village, Nasami was busy training with Shino when she glanced up and saw Kambei approaching her, Shichiroji strolling nonchalantly along behind him.

She paused for a moment to wave at them both, then went back to training the farm girl.

"Come on, Shino, keep that naginata level. I know it's heavy but you have to make sure that you keep the blade edge poised toward your opponent."

"Yes, sensei," Shino said faintly, grimacing and hefting the heavy weapon again.

"Nasami-san, may I have a moment?" Kambei said quietly, and the samuraiko stopped to look over at him.

"Of course. Shino, take a break for a few minutes."

"Thank you, sensei," the peasant girl said gratefully, carefully leaning the naginata against a tree and taking a seat to stretch her aching legs.

Nasami wandered over, but was puzzled as to why Shichiroji kept glancing her way and smiling.

"All right, out with it, Momotaro," she said tartly, folding her arms and looking at him.

"Nope, not my story to tell," he said, grinning from ear to ear before strolling over to chat with Shino. Nasami watched him walk away, then followed Kambei a little ways into the woods to find out what he wanted.

"So what's got him looking like the cat that got the cream?"

"Are... are you familiar with the tradition of White Day?" Kambei asked her, but the samuraiko shook her head.

"No... should I be?"

"Well..." He blushed slightly and rubbed his chin. "You know what Valentine's Day is."

She nodded.

"White Day is sort of the opposite... where Valentine's Day is when women give gifts to men, White Day is where men give gifts to women."

"Oh," she said slowly. "But... Kambei, I didn't give you anything for Valentine's Day. You don't have to give me anything."

"That's not true," he said, his cheeks getting redder.

"What's not true?" she asked in confusion. "That I didn't give you anything, or that you don't owe me anything?"

"Both," he admitted. "You see... you did give me something on Valentine's Day."

The samuraiko looked puzzled. "No, I didn't. I would have remembered giving you a gift." Then her eyes abruptly narrowed. "Unless Okara and Komachi-"

"No, no, no, nothing like that," he said hastily, remembering the fiasco where the two girls had swiped Katsushiro's gift for Kirara and given it to Nasami, causing all sorts of emotional misunderstandings. "It... it was more of what you gave me... afterwards."

"But I didn't give you anything!" she said in exasperation.

Kambei gave up trying to spare them both the embarrassment, and suddenly turned to face her, pushed her back against a nearby tree, and kissed her full on the mouth. For a moment, she barely managed to get out a startled yelp before she closed her eyes and let out a long, slow sigh into his mouth.

When the kiss finally ended, he pulled back slightly to meet the eyes of a very bemused Nasami. "And as I'm sure you recall by now, you gave me several of those."

"Oh." Now she was blushing just as hotly as he was. "So... this whole White Day thing means that now you have to give me... um...?"

"Yes and no."

She frowned at him.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

Kambei sighed and leaned forward to kiss her on the tip of her nose. "You know, for a very bright woman, you can be sort of dense."

"What?" she exclaimed in outrage.

"I figured that if anyone would know what one of the perks for women on White Day would be, it would have been you."

"What perk?" she asked, her curiosity temporarily overriding her indignation.

"Well..." he drawled, moving closer to her and watching her cheeks turn pink. "You see, if a man really wants to impress a woman..."

He bent his head and kissed her again.

When they came up for air, he brushed his lips against her temple. "He gives her a gift that is triple the value of what she gave him. Now, since there is no financial value of a kiss..."

He kissed her again until he thought both of them might swoon.

"I'll just have to go for quantity instead."

"But I don't remember how many times we..." Nasami began.

"Oh, don't worry, I remember exactly how many times you kissed me that night."

"Really? How many?"

"Thirty-seven."

"So if you're supposed to give me three times whatever I gave you..."

He moved close once again and lowered his lips to hers.

"I think you're done training Shino for the day."


Later...

"That was thirty-seven... so now I get... how many more?"

"You can do the math..."

"For some reason..."

"Hmm?"

"I'm having trouble concentrating..."


Much later...

"Sorry, Nasami-san, I lost count..."

"Again?"

"Guess we'll have to start over."


Much, much later...

The stars were just beginning to come out when Kambei finally lifted his head from hers again.

"One hundred and eleven," he murmured huskily, swallowing hard at the sight of her with closed eyes, slightly swollen and pouty lips, and a look of pure bliss on her face.

"Yes," she whispered, opening her eyes and looking at him. "Well, at least that many, considering you lost count a couple of times."

"I don't remember you complaining," he said with a quiet laugh.

"I wasn't!" she protested. "Well... maybe a little, because you stopped."

He grinned, an almost wolfish grin that brought a spark to Nasami's eyes that he had to admit he liked.

"And that was just the first part of what I owe you for Valentine's Day."

"Wha-?" Nasami's eyes widened. "But I KNOW I didn't give you anything else! You're not tricking me a second time, Kambei."

"Well, this is something you didn't know you'd given me," he admitted, taking her hand and bringing it to his lips. She smiled, pleased at the romantic gesture, and tilted her head to look at him.

"So... what did I give you that I didn't know I gave you?"

For a moment, his courage temporarily faltered, and he wondered if he could actually say it.

"Um..."

"Well?"

He gave up, hoping that the dim light would mask any further blushing on his part.

"You gave me some... very... interesting... dreams..."

Dim the light might have been, but he could make out that she had gone red as well.

"Oh. Like... that kind?"

He slowly turned her hand over and gently placed a kiss on the base of her thumb.

"Very much like that kind."

"Uh-oh..."

Kambei pushed up the sleeve of her robes and began trailing kisses along her wrist and up her arm.

"So... um... Kambei-san... does that mean that now you have to-"

She squirmed slightly as his tongue lightly traced patterns on the inside of her elbow.

"Everything in triple..." he murmured against her skin.

Maybe later, Kambei thought to himself as Nasami melted against him, he'd thank Shichiroji for reminding him.

Like much later.