Title: How the Cat got in the Hat – or, better, in the Woman. Or the Woman in the Cat.
Beta: Guttersnipe(FF(dot)net author)
Rating: M (for some curse words and non-descriptive sex)
Summary: A small story about how Yoruichi got her transformation abilities. After all, no other shinigami can change forms into an animal
Disclaimer: As sad as it is, I don't own Bleach or any of the Bleach characters. Many thanks to their inventor!
A/N: A story that started out as a crackpot-idea after seeing just how many lovey-dovey-romance-stories there are in the fandom. I wanted to do something different from (insert name) pining after Ichigo, Ichigo pining after (insert name), or Ishida trying to establish a relationship with whoever. To my horror, this turned out somewhat romantic, too. But at least I think I managed to skip most of the lovey-dovey crap…
A list of Japanese terms and their explanation, for the whole story (I'm not going to paste this every chapter):
bakudou - restraining arts (part of the demonic arts, kidou)
fuku-taichou - Vice-Captain
futon - Japanese version of bed. Ichigo doesn't have one, but nearly everyone in Soul Society does
geta - high wooden sandals
gigai - faux body
hadou - destructive arts (part of the demonic arts, kidou)
haori - open overcoat, usually about knee- or calf-length
hakama - traditional men's wear, easily recognizable by its characteristic folds. Exists both as skirt and pants version.
kidou - demonic arts (composed of destructive and restraining arts)
reiatsu - spirit pressure (I incorrectly use it for 'spirit energy' as well)
shouji - sliding doors
shunpo- flash step
shunkou - lit.: flash cry; Yoruichi's technique of combining hand-to-hand with kidou
taichou - Captain
tatami - rice straw mats, used for room floors
tessen - Japanese war fan. Ribs are made from steel so that it can easily cut through flesh with the right techniques. Made to look like a harmless wood- and paper-fan
waraji - straw- and rope sandals like all Bleach shinigami wear. Actually a monk's footwear
yukata - thin, ankle- or knee-length 'bath robe' that is tied shut in the middle. On hot days, it can also be worn on its own (women and men) or tucked into hakama (men).
zanpakutou - lit: soul slaying sword (Soul Slayer)
1. Of Women and Cats
He idly lets his reiatsu trail over her sleeping form, indulging in her velvety skin. Her body is perfect with long, toned limbs and pert breasts; immaculate curves, the goddess that she is. There are only a few signs of their earlier exertions; a drying film of sweat on their bodies and the scent of musk in the air being the most prominent.
They have spent many evenings like this; as many as their duties allow. Nonetheless, he rediscovers his awe of being so blessed every time.
His reiatsu continues exploring her, spreading over her whole form. It caresses her skin, slips and slithers into her every opening, until he can feel her body better than his own. He can feel every breath she takes, the slightest twitch in her muscles, the fine hair on her skin that rises in a trail of goose bumps despite the heat of the night.
She sighs quietly, unconsciously leaning towards him in sleep.
It is a heady feeling, always, despite him having done it many times before. He has spent so very many nights worshipping her with both his hands and reiatsu that her body has learned to recognize him, and instinctively lets him touch her.
He has enveloped her so completely that he can lay back and close his eyes, not needing to watch her to see every detail of her body. Her breathing is calm and deep, filling the small capillaries in her lungs with oxygen to fuel her body. Her breasts rise and fall, just as he can feel her alveoli expand and shrink. He can even feel the moist tickle of various liquids deep in her barren womb and it makes shivers run down his back.
Exploring her with his reiatsu as intimately as he does now is not something he can do while she is awake. Because she reflexively raises her own energy to tingle across her skin, he is prevented from making as close contact as he wants to.
While she is asleep though, her reiatsu is more relaxed.
In the beginning, many years ago, he had only caressed her with big, bold strokes that were about as subtle as his own hand. But, over many nights of practice and over many nights of getting her used to his reiatsu, he had refined his control. He had shaped and molded and restrained his reiatsu until he could feel every single hair on her skin, every depression of her pores. His reiatsu didn't touch her anymore; it flowed in gaseous wisps of iron control.
But it wasn't enough. It was never enough. He could have counted every single hair on her body if he'd had the time and quiet, but counting hairs just didn't interest him. He wanted to go deeper, feel more of her body than he could with his own fingers.
At first, he tried medical kidou.
But he quickly discarded medical kidou, even though it let the medic's reiatsu ghost through the patient's body to see internal damage and all.
What he wants has nothing to do with medical kidou. He is not interested in letting his reiatsu phase through her without resistance. He wants to feel her, to explore her, to know her on a level that no man has known a woman before.
So he shaped his reiatsu densely enough to feel the resistance of her calluses, her skin, her mucous membranes, and invaded her body deeper than ever before. He gradually started exploring those small openings he had always neglected. They were even more sensitive than her most sensitive patches of skin, and it took him many nights to shape his reiatsu finely enough to not tickle her awake when he poured himself into her ears, her cervix, her nose, her lungs.
That is the second reason why he always waits until she is deeply asleep. There is a phase of sleep when her muscles relax completely, when her heartbeat and breathing rate slow to a minimum, and when it takes strong sensory impulses to wake her up again. It takes an hour until she is deep enough, but then he has about twenty minutes during which she is practically dead to the world.
He had, very early on, learned the dangers of her waking up to his explorations. More than once, he had only barely dissolved his reiatsu before she turned around and slugged him a good one. His body still remembers the bruises and the occasional broken bone she had given him during this period of experimentation.
The third reason for waiting for her to be asleep, though, is the most important one: minimizing the danger to her.
Very early on, he found out that, because his reiatsu is so close to her, it cannot only explore but also rend.
As long as he had only been exploring her outer skin, there had been no chance of serious injury. Even her most tender spots were too thick to be hurt by small fluctuations in his control. Those soft tissues far inside her are different though. As thinly spread as his reiatsu is, it can still damage her if she makes sudden, unanticipated movements that break his concentration.
There were a few close calls when he was startled out of his explorations due to outside influences. His reiatsu, reflexively acting on a perceived danger, broke apart into sharp splinters to defend him while still deep in her body.
He was lucky that he didn't kill her.
Of course, he immediately healed her afterwards, and on the one occasion she woke up from it, he told her that one of his medical kidou went wrong. She believed him. Fourth division did too.
So he has learned to restrict his explorations to that short period of time when she is so deeply asleep that she seems almost dead; a time of night which is the quietest in all of Soul Society. It has slowed his studies, but if there is one thing he has in abundance, it is time.
Nowadays, many years after his first explorations, her reiatsu is so used to his that it just ignores his intrusions whenever she is unconscious. Sometimes, this also carries over into her waking hours, but only on a microscopic level. He seriously doubts that she has honed her perception sharply enough to sense the invisible mingling of their auras at the outermost edges. A few years ago he wouldn't have sensed it himself, and he had already studied her for years back then.
A small twitch of her eyelids reminds him that he has to retreat soon. He can feel her heartbeat getting stronger, her respiration getting deeper to prepare for her first dream phase. Watching her while she's dreaming is nice, too, but it has nothing on the indescribable rush of pouring himself against and into her, timing himself to her rhythm in every minute detail until he loses himself in her.
With a sigh, he lets his reiatsu fade into nothingness. The tendrils become immaterial enough to phase through her body, giving him a hollow echo of her health when they return to him.
He aches to reach out again, to recapture the sense of closeness he has achieved, but he controls himself. Instead, he slowly lets a physical hand trail across her tanned stomach, carding curly hairs with his fingers. With his other elbow, he props himself onto his side to study her with his physical eyes. He likes it, how her legs fall apart as his hand travels further south, a muscled thigh resting against his hip.
He watches how her breathing grows faster and faster, her eyes roving agitatedly beneath her eyelids. Slowly, so very slowly, he pours his physical body against her in an aching attempt to reach the same closeness as with his reiatsu. This time, he explores her with his mouth and his skin and his eyes, and he is rewarded by small sighs of pleasure.
She is still more asleep than awake when her hips begin to undulate softly, breaking the paralysis of her dreamy state. Her hands slowly fist into his hair, holding his head against her skin as her reiatsu gently pulses with arousal.
He doesn't know how long they move together in that half dream, half conscious dance. He only feels her reiatsu against his, her skin against his, her body against his, and slowly, he feels less empty. He is alone in his body, but she is there flush against him, moving with him in a way that can almost fill the hollow ache.
The end almost takes them by surprise, her fluttering muscles snapping the last of his loneliness. For a brief moment, he can feel that they are one again, feels more than hears her breathe his name.
The hand that, by now, is almost painfully fisted in his hair, relaxes and pets him until their last shudders subside. The cooling sweat on their bodies is refreshing on this hot night, and he is too comfortable to move from his position half on, half in her. Humid warmth wraps around them from where they touch, saturating them with their moist scent. Her breaths raise and lower him like the ocean, quiet in their strength. He knows that he should get off of her to let her breathe easier, but he is too relaxed and too content to actually do it unless she helps him with a forceful shove.
He decides that his Goddess of Flash is more than strong enough to make her discomfort known should she need to.
After a while, the petting becomes slower and slower, and finally, both of them succumb to sleep.
On one of his outings to the real world, he runs across a little, black cat. He is in one of his modified gigai, testing it out for motion, sensation, and function. None of the humans he has talked to so far realized that he's different from them, but somehow the alley-cat cannot be fooled. From its position on top of a few discarded wooden planks, it stares at him with huge, yellow eyes that remind him of his goddess.
He crouches down a few feet from the cat, studying it intently. "What are you doing here, neko-chan?"
It doesn't react, nor even blink. He can see the tip of its tail twitching, but he has too little knowledge of cat psychology and physiognomy to know what it means. They keep staring at each other, neither of them wanting to look away first.
Finally, he sighs and gets up again, wobbling a little bit as the combination of geta and imperfect gigai control almost rob him of his balance. He whips out the fan he always hides in his sleeve, using it together with his cane to help him balance like a high wire artist. When he is steady again, he scowls at the cat from behind his fan.
"You must have great strength to cause me to fall with your mere presence. And, look," he snaps his fan shut and tugs the lower edge of his haori around for the cat to see, "you even dirtied my clothes by making me crouch down in such an unclean place."
He can feel Benihime sniggering softly in the depths of his consciousness, and he knows that it is ridiculous to talk to a cat. But it is amusing.
In an exaggerated gesture, he crosses his legs and leans on his cane for support.
"You," he snaps his closed fan around to point directly at the cat. Benihime's snickering escalates. "You will come with me and work for me until you have made reparations!"
He holds this pose until even he feels ridiculous. Clearing his throat slightly, he straightens up again and fans himself, more to hide his embarrassment behind the paper and steel ribs than for real physical need.
He takes up Benihime again, twirling her idly around his finger. He still thinks it a stroke of genius to mask her invisible form (to mortals) as a cane in the Living World. Originally, he got the idea from the Captain Commander's version, but he has added his own twist.
He looks back at the cat and decides to let it be. It probably wouldn't have been a good idea to take it to Soul Society, anyway.
Bringing the tip of his once again closed fan around to his temple, he salutes the cat. "Bye-bye, neko-chan!"
With an exaggerated bow, he turns around on his heels, and to the amusement of Benihime, barely manages to keep his balance.
"Yeah, yeah. Laugh it up," he grouches. "I'd like to see you do better in this gigai… Hm, maybe I should work more on the nervous interface to allow for better control… or…"
He trails off, in deep thought, absently touching the tip of his fan to the corner of his lips in a thinking pose. He is so absorbed in his thoughts that he doesn't see the small black shadow darting in front of him. As a result, he feels something soft connect with his shins, trips over it, and seconds later finds himself strewn across the mud of the alley-way. He has instinctively begun to unsheathe Benihime, but he doesn't sense any immediate danger. Instead, his eyes connect with the unmoving yellow ones of the black alley cat – which is sitting right in front of him, looking somewhat smug.
"Maybe I shouldn't wear geta on gigai," he comments from his position on the ground. Benihime laughs, and for the first time, the cat blinks.
He blinks in answer. "You agree?"
He struggles to his feet--not an easy achievement in such high shoes--and curiously inspects his shoulder and elbow. His haori is very dirty.
"At least now I know that pain stimuli are faultlessly transmitted by the gigai." There are a few pebbles embedded in his flesh and without a flinch, he plucks them out. "Yeah, it works, alright. Maybe it would be better if it didn't work…?"
Suddenly, he turns to the cat that has jumped to a higher position, on a dilapidated wooden fence. A wide smile comes over his face at the disinterested look in its yellow eyes.
"You know, neko-chan, you are an excellent research assistant," he rejoices. "I've always needed someone like you to help me test out my new inventions! Within less than ten minutes, you have helped me with the gigai control issue more than a whole team of my seated officers. I'll take you with me to the twelfth division, and I'll make you my vice-captain!"
The cat's tail flicks a little bit. But when he suddenly appears next to the cat with an arm slung around it, the cat screeches and puts its claws to good use.
"No? Even when I bribe you with a dish of milk a day?"
The cat doesn't take notice of his words and continues to hiss and scratch at him. In response, he raises his reiatsu a bit, and suddenly, the cat's claws can't penetrate his skin anymore.
He chuckles, inspecting his bloody hand. "You are really a great help, neko-chan! You clearly demonstrate that reiatsu works in this gigai in the way I want it to! You know, I'll extend my offer of a dish of milk to a piece of fish a day. What do you say?"
Gripping the cat by its neck, he lifts the feline until its eyes bore into his. He increases his spirit pressure until the cat is reduced to trembling slightly, wide golden eyes staring wildly at him. He smiles again.
"So you agree? No objections?" He waits a bit, but the cat doesn't move. His smile widens. "That's a good little neko-chan. No, not neko-chan; vice-captain neko-chan! You're going to be a good vice-captain!"
Twirling Benihime's disguise around until he can bring its tip against the cat's forehead, he is ready to make use of one of the cane's unique features. He gives the feline a slight tap, and its spirit is seamlessly separated from its body. The body falls down motionlessly while he keeps his grip around the spirit's neck.
"Sorry, neko-chan," he almost sings to the freaked-out, paralyzed cat soul, "can't take you with me if you're in there. Soul Society is called Soul Society for a reason. I also have to leave this gigai before I can go through the portal."
He grabs the clinically dead, physical body of the cat. "But don't worry, neko-chan! I'll take good care of both your spirit and your body. I'll bring it along just like my gigai, and then you can be my vice-captain for as long as I want! Erh, pardon; as long as you want, of course."
He dances around for a bit, physical body tucked under one arm, cat spirit under the other, and Benihime snagged on his wrist.
"Oh." He suddenly stops, holding the body and the spirit out in front of him. "You're still linked. What to do, what to do…"
He pauses a bit, studying the intact chain between soul and body.
"I know!" he cries suddenly, drawing and sheathing Benihime before either cat or its body can succumb to the pull of gravity. As a result, the soul link is severed, and he catches the two, now separate halves, once again.
Afterwards, he stares at his own hands. "Wow, neko-chan," he crows in delight. "You've shown me how to use shunpo in this gigai! If I didn't need you in my division so badly, I would immediately promote you from vice-captain to captain! The others are going to be so envious of my new fuku-taichou! Wait for a second and I'll join you in spirit form!"
He deposits both cat and body on the ground, covering the cat with a blanket of reiatsu to make sure it won't run away. Quickly, he brings Benihime's cane end to his own forehead and pushes his soul out of the gigai. Well, his head comes away freely, but he has to struggle quite a bit to get the rest of his body out of the gigai.
When he is finally done, he lies on the ground, panting, once again staring into the cat's eyes that are completely terrorized.
"You know, neko-chan," he muses, in all seriousness, "I think I'll have to work a little bit more on the separation."
Picking himself up, he immediately snatches Benihime from the ground, reveling in the feeling of closeness to his zanpakutou. In his gigai, it just never felt like that. Another thing to work on, but for now…
He unsheathes Benihime and thrusts her blade into thin air in front of him. He feels for the expected resistance and then turns her around, just like a key in a lock. Sliding gates pop into existence, opening one after another to spill bright white light. He once again turns around on his heels, this time infinitely more graceful in his geta. In one grand motion, he tucks Benihime into his sash, picks up the cat, its body, and his gigai, and steps into the light.