Secret Worlds: A Game

"Women and cats will do as they please..."

Byakuya and Ganju were both sitting idly by on the porch, their legs swinging in boredom as they waited for Kisuke to find the last member of their party. Kukaku was inside somewhere, sitting with her books; she had maintained to the very end that they were all too old for childish games, and that they didn't need her to watch them, and she thusly would have nothing to do with any of them for as long as she could possibly get away with it. Yoruichi was still nowhere to be found.

Eventually the sun began to set, and Kisuke wandered back into the yard, at a loss as to where their friend had gotten. It really wasn't such a surprise that she'd managed to allude him this long, but usually she gave up the game by the time he was bored enough to stop looking. She wasn't taking any prisoners tonight, and no matter how they called that they'd all given up she never appeared.

"I'm boooored," Ganju whined, shifting in place. "Let's play something else."

"I should be at home," Byakuya added, as though it made some difference to Kisuke. "It will be dark soon."

"I'm sure the almighty Head of the Illustrious House of Kuchiki can stay out past sundown," Kisuke drawled, turning to face Byakuya with his hands on his hips. "Are they afraid you'll get mugged?"

"I'm going home," Byakuya replied, with nothing to indicate that he'd heard Kisuke's remark except a poisonous scowl.

Kisuke stuck his tongue out at Byakuya's retreating back, then turned his inquisitive, slightly predatory gaze on Ganju. Ganju stared back, eyes wide, fiddling with the hem of his sleeve. There was something pleading in his gaze, and before another moment had passed Kisuke sighed and said, "All right. You can go home."

Ganju called his goodbyes as he scrambled away to collect his sister – who was, by that time, more than ready to leave – but Kisuke was already absorbed in a new pursuit: one that involved a much more thorough, slightly more thrilling search of the house, grounds, and surrounding areas.

It was easy, now, to gather reiatsu; to feel it flowing through him. He'd been trying that flash-step thing ever since Yoruichi had proven – against all odds, and her tutor's disbelief – that she was more than up to the task. He was having a little more trouble, much to his chagrin; not that it wasn't within reach - as was everything else he'd ever attempted - but just the fact that she'd gotten there before him rankled (just as the fact that he usually mastered kidou faster always rankled with her). They were forever competing in a race that had no end and no aim and no prize except the right to rib the other for falling behind.

He wouldn't be beaten today.

But just as he was about to Step away, something small and black jumped up onto the garden wall. He had the strangest sense of déjà vu, but it passed as the small black thing whipped its tail and coalesced into the form of a cat. It stared at him for a moment, its gaze eerily familiar, then it yawned, stretched, and curled up to catch the last rays of the setting sun.

As he watched the cat, Kisuke realized he had a choice to make. On the one hand, he could search for Yoruichi until he found her. On the other, he could focus all of his attention on the cat and count on Yoruichi's mile-wide jealous streak (along with her inability to go without being the center of attention for more than three minutes) to draw her out.

He went with the second choice, of course. He'd had Yoruichi figured out for years, and she knew it, and sometimes he was more than happy to play along, but he was feeling vindictive because of all the time he'd spent fruitlessly searching for her. Besides it was fun to watch her hiss and spit, too. If nothing else, he'd get a good fight out of it.

But as he was padding toward the cat, it lifted its head and looked at him, and he knew. He couldn't possibly have said how he knew, or how she'd done it, or why she'd done it, or why she was showing him, or why she hadn't shown him sooner, but he knew. She saw the way he paused – still for just a tenth of a second – and she winked at him.

Then she was off, on her feet – paws – and darting along the wall toward the house.