Gintoki woke up, and reached to wipe his mouth. His hand, covered and dripping in drool, swam in front of his groggy eyes. This large amount of spit was not because Sadaharu had decided to make the couch his personal koi pond, but rather because Gintoki was happily dreaming of eating the biggest parfait he'd ever seen.
"Damn it." He thought, looking down at his soaked kimono. "Another one dirty. When does Shinpachi do the laundry? Was it Monday? What day is it anyway?"
He rolled over off of his back to his side, and tried to sit up. And fell back down.
"Why am I even awake? It's too early..."
Then he remembered what today was. It was a day that struck fear and terror into the hearts of men and boys everywhere in Japan. It was White Day...
...or so Gintoki, in his half-awake state, mistakenly thought. In reality, it was the day after White Day, which along with the day after Valentine's Day, was Gintoki's favorite day of the year. This was the day that stores sold the left over chocolate cheap enough that Gintoki could buy enough to satisfy his craving for sugar. It didn't matter that the last few times Gintoki had been to the hospital the exasperated doctor had alternatively shouted and cursed at Gintoki about the imminent onset of diabetes if such copious amounts of sugar were consumed. It didn't matter that White Day chocolate was meant to be given to a girl. All Gintoki cared about was the chocolate.
However, Gintoki didn't think that it was his favorite day of the year. He was still laboring under the mistaken idea that it was one of his least favorite days. It did not help that Shinpachi had forgotten to change the calendar, when Gintoki staggered over to make sure he was right about what day it was. It also didn't help that Gintoki was also under the impression that he had slept an hour or two, when in fact it had been roughly 25.
As Gintoki walked to the convenience store, he strengthened his resolve to avoid those of the female species he might happen to know at all costs today. The problem was that earlier he had been going crazy with hunger, and it had only been an hour since he had woken up. There was no one to cook anything, since Shinpachi was off with the Otsuu fan club and had taken Kagura with him. There wasn't actually anything to cook. Gintoki had stared at the instant ramen bowls and candy wrappers which covered the floor (except for a small path to the bathroom). It was going to be troublesome going out today.
Hence, his disguise. While Gintoki tended to mock Zura for his stupid disguises, they did come in handy sometimes. This was one time that warranted a disguise: complete with wig, hat, and glasses. He thought, all things considered, that he had done a pretty good job putting the costume together, since his mind could hardly function with his current lack of carbohydrates.
He was in sight of the convenience store when a familiar face came walking towards him on the street. It was his resident stalker Saru-chan. "Of all people to meet on such a day," Gintoki thought, "it just had to be her." Naturally, Gintoki didn't think so well of his disguise that he wouldn't take precautions against meeting Saru-chan at such a time as this. Saru-chan was wearing her glasses, after all. She was also a ninja, and that counted for something, at least in Gintoki's estimation. Looking around for a place to hide, Gintoki found only concrete and pavement. The situation was becoming dire, and the convenience store, that shining light amidst a storm at sea, was so close, yet so far away. Then, Gintoki's mind thought beyond the normal hiding places--under bushes, behind trees--and had a flash of inspiration. He saw what looked like an empty taxi idling between him and Sarutobi, and decided to make a dash for it. In a flash, he had opened the door of the taxi, and fell on the floor.
At the same time as Gintoki opened the back door of the taxi, a man Gintoki hadn't noticed was sitting next to the driver's seat before opened his door, and got out of the taxi. Gintoki breathed a sigh of relief, as now the taxi was unoccupied, and he could safely peak out to see if Saru-chan had passed. The taxi driver could potentially get angry at him, since Gintoki got into the taxi without intending to go anywhere, but screw that. Gintoki would worry about that after he found out if Sarutobi was still around. That girl was just plain uncanny in sensing his presence. As Gintoki lifted his head from the floor of the taxi, he realized he wasn't alone in the taxi. He wasn't alone at all. And who was with him in the taxi was another person he did not want to meet, today or any day, but particularly today of all days.
To his shock, Gintoki found himself looking up the torn kimono of someone he knew would not take kindly to the fact that his eyes were roaming up to where her thighs met, and glimpsing a flash of pink silk. He now knew some of what that kimono normally covered, and despite liking the look of it, he started to fear for his life. He decided he might not live to see the day after White Day, but also decided that glimpse was nearly worth being killed for. Almost. The body, which was draped across the back of the taxi so immodestly started to stir, and the head turned. The eyes caught a glimpse of Gintoki, staring without ceremony at her, and widened in shock. Then her reflexes kicked in. With lightening speed she turned over and slammed Gintoki with both feet into the front seat. Luckily for Gintoki, the seat wasn't very hard.
The driver of the taxi, startled, looked back at Otae, laying on her left side with her hands and feet bound, and her mouth gagged.
"Kick my seat, will you?" He sneered. "You won't be kicking anything by the time we're done riding you."
He turned back, waiting for his partner, whom Gintoki had seen getting out of the taxi before.
Otae lay, taking deep breaths to calm herself. Now that she'd kicked him, she realized that it wasn't another pervert or abductor trying to mess with her. To her relief, it was only Gin-san, in a somewhat horrible disguise.
"Where did he get that disgusting wig?" She thought, then decided there were more pressing issues to worry about.
Gintoki snuck a glimpse at Otae, and met her wide eyes. "What's going on here?" He groaned inwardly. "Just what kind of messy situation have I gotten myself into?"
As Gintoki reached for her bound hands, the man returned, opening the front left side door of the taxi. The man sat down heavily, and closed the door.
"Took you long enough."
"Not my problem I had to take a dump."
"Let's just get this over with."
The driver pulled the car from the curb.
"Did she give you any more trouble?"
"She tried to," the driver said, looking in the rear view mirror, luckily missing Gin-chan smashed to the floor of the taxi, "but you tied her pretty tight."
"That bitch nearly strangled me," said the other, feeling the red marks around his neck. "She isn't human."
"You've got that right," Gintoki thought. Then his fighting, and even stronger fleeing instincts, took hold of his mind. In an instant, when the car slowed down to turn right, he was ready. He unlocked and pushed open the door with one hand, then grabbed Otae with the other.
"See ya!" He shouted as he rolled out of the car with Otae.
They rolled to a stop, with Gintoki landing heavily on top of her. Otae tried to yell out, but only came out with "MMMPH!!"
"Eh?" Gintoki looked down over her, inches away from her face. "You didn't want out of the car?"
"No, you idiot." Otae thought. "When will you realize you used me to cushion your fall? Or maybe he already did and is making fun of me..."
"Oh, this." Gintoki reached behind her head, turning it sideways, and started to undo the gag. As his fingers brushed her hair, he had the thought that it was like silk. He had an insane desire to run his hands through her hair, and wondered why. This woman was nearly as gorilla-like as Kondo, so why did he think she had such nice feeling hair? And why couldn't he get that flash of pink out of his head? Such thoughts were interrupted by another "MMMPH!!" by Otae. Gintoki followed where her eyes were looking and cursed.
"Those guys again?" He sighed. "This is going to be troublesome." He wondered, as he picked up Otae and swung her over his shoulder, what the hell Otae had done this time to get such persistent guys after her.
Then he ran. He ran through alleys and down side streets, stealing a glimpse over his shoulder now and then, making sure they weren't being followed. Once, he took a turn too fast, and knocked Otae's head against an alley wall. At another point, Gintoki was running so fast he lost his hat and wig. Then one of Otae's wooden geta fell off and almost sent Gintoki smashing into the pavement. After some scrambling, Gintoki finally found what he was looking for: an overly large stash of trash bags in the corner of an alley. He dived behind them with Otae.
"Lucky that it's unburnable trash day, huh?" Gintoki whispered, as they sat huddled together in the garbage.
Otae just looked at him, still in shock from the bump to the head.
"I kinda like when you're quiet." Gintoki grinned. "You should do it more often."
Otae tried to scowl, but failed. It hurt too much.
"What's that face for?" Gintoki turned her head away from him. "I'm your prince in shining armor you know."
"Like hell you are" Otae thought.
He started to undo the gag. "Right, let's get this off. Such a pity though, we were having such a nice conversation..."
"Ouch," Otae thought, feeling the gag come lose, and knowing the rough cloth had left red marks across her cheeks and an ache in her jaw. Then rage overcame the pain.
"Those BAST--" Otae started to yell, but felt Gintoki put his hand over her mouth.
"Shhh," He whispered in her ear. "They're still looking for us, remember?"
Otae slowly relaxed, her mind going in every direction, trying to decide how to pay those rat bastards back for what they did to her, trying to ignore Gintoki's hand on her lips, willing the goosebumps that came from his breath on her ear to go away.
They sat, backs to the alley wall, next to each other--close to each other--his right leg halfway behind her feet, supporting them, his hand still over her mouth, holding her. He felt her lips pressing against his hand. She felt the blood pounding in her ears, and found it disturbing that it was pounding only partially because of the fear that they would be discovered.
"Now then," He said, after what seemed like hours, still keeping his voice low, "if you've calmed down, let's get to untying your hands."
"Somehow it seems I'm less calm now," Otae thought, head bowed, as Gintoki took her hands in his and started on the knots. As the knots seemed to tighten rather than loosen, Gintoki became increasingly frustrated, and put his head down close to her hands to examine the problem up close.
"Maybe if you took those glasses off, idiot," Otae said, reaching up with her hands and pulling off one of the last remnants of Gintoki's disguise. Her fingers brushed the ridge of his nose as they swept the glasses off, and Otae felt the blood pounding, rushing further to her head.
"Ah, right" was the only thing Gintoki could think to utter, before going back to unbinding her hands, willing himself not to want her touch again.
Close up, he soon found the catch to the knot, and was unwinding the rope from her hands. Gintoki found himself turning her hands over to see red burns from the rope around her wrists, and small cuts threatening to open up from clots of blood. He had a nagging suspicion that his lips would soon want to smooth away those spots, standing out so dark against her white skin.
Then he felt a splash on his arm.
"Damn, is it raining now?" He asked. "What is this, some sort of TV drama?"
He glanced at his arm, and tried to quell the thoughts that rushed to his mind.
"My, my," He chuckled. "It's raining blood? Now it feels like we're in a Jump comic. Where's the sand ninjas?"
He looked around, bemused, joking to try to hide the fact that he had realized it was he who had caused this blood to flow. Otae felt the blood running down her head, and the pounding in her head was so loud she could not think of much else. She thought of the gag, reached for it, and held it to the side of her head to stop the bleeding.
Gintoki also stopped his soft, forced laughter, and looked at her. Her hands were turning white, pressing the gag as tight as possible to her head. His clenched his left hand into a fist, so hard that it started to turn white as well.
"My bad," Gintoki said, putting his right arm behind her neck around to to her bleeding head, and using the other on her arm to slide her hands down to rest in her lap.
"I carried you like you were a bag of rice, and didn't think that you'd get hurt." He held the gag in place tight to her head.
"This is gonna be tricky, untying your feet with just one hand," said Gintoki, giving Otae one of his sheepish half smiles.
"I-I can untie them," and Otae pulled up her legs up to her chin, and started to untie the knots at her ankles.
"Just stop touching me so," she thought, finishing up untying the knot, and rubbing blood back into her legs. "I'm not your doll that you've broken," she said out loud, as Gintoki tied the gag around her head tight, stopping the flow of blood.
"Uh...I know that. I've never owned any dolls anyway. And they wouldn't look like you do if I did. OWW!"
Otae found she still could elbow people in the ribs, and had done so, almost breaking Gintoki's bones in the process.
"Thought you said to be quiet," she said, undoing the last knot.
"I didn't expect that attack. Would've surprised anyone," Gintoki said, petulant. "Let's get out of here. Someone might've heard that. I know a good ramen place near here actually."
Gintoki got up, still holding his ribs. He held out his hand to her.
"You're thinking of eating at a time like this?" Otae asked.
"That does remind me," He said, still with one hand held out, the other now absent-mindedly messing with his curly hair. "I haven't eaten sugar in a while..."
She put her hand in his, and he lifted her into his arms. She stared at him, eyes wide, hands around his neck. His face was so close to hers.
"...and I'm really feeling the lack of it now." He said while trying to smile, mouth twitching. "Is it ok if I put you down?"
"Yes. I'm fine." Otae said as he put her down. She continued to look at Gin, who was turning the color of his hair. "You on the other hand..."
Gintoki had started to sweat, and was leaning with one hand on the alley wall. He had been running purely on adrenaline until now, and once he had stood up he had realized how weak he actually was. Of course, he also didn't know that he hadn't eaten for roughly 28 hours now.
"I'm not that heavy though...you're over-reacting..." Otae muttered, and bent under his arm braced against the wall. "Let's go."
They started to walk, Otae supporting most of Gintoki's weight.
"I'd rather you carry me in your arms, if it comes to this." Gintoki said in a small voice.
"I'm just kidding. Don't hurt me!!"
"YOU'RE the one yelling!"
"SHUT UP, YOU..." Otae trailed off, realizing they weren't alone.
"These guys just won't let go, will they?" Gintoki thought. "Otae, you have a fanclub it seems!"
"Fanclub? Like hell we are." The two men in front of them drew their swords. "We'll leave you alone, if you give us the woman."
"Yeah," Gintoki said.
"Gin-san..." Otae groaned, her head in her hand.
"That was easy." The men smirked, one holding out a hand, beckoning for Otae.
"Yeah" Gintoki said, reaching for his bokuto in his belt. "Like hell I am."
"Huh?" He said, looking down. There was no bokuto.
He looked up.
Otae stood between him and the men, holding his bokuto with both hands.
"What do you think you're doing, woman?" One of the men said.
"You're nothing but a whore," said the other.
"Why didn't you just accept his chocolate? You're pathetic for bringing this pain on yourself. And on your friend too."
"What?" Gintoki thought, getting dizzy now. He looked at Otae, without a shoe, a bandage tied around her head, and wearing a ripped pink kimono, but standing strong, tall, resolute. "This is all because of White Day?"
"She wouldn't accept anything from our master yesterday. Do you know how influential he is with the government?"
"It was insulting."
"So we were ordered to deal with her."
"Using any means necessary to do so."
"Even to the point of having a bit of fun with her first, before we brought her to the master." The man licked his lips, running his eyes up Otae's ripped kimono.
"She needs to learn her place."
"Hold on," Gintoki said, looking at Otae, who was silent. Just standing. Ready to fight anyone. Willing to protect him.
"Eh?" The men shifted their eyes to him.
Gintoki scowled, thinking, chin in his hand. "You said 'yesterday'. Does that mean today isn't White Day?
"What are you saying, dumbass?" One said, with a gaping mouth.
"Uh, what day is it?"
"Do you not even know what day it is?" The other said, fully intent now on Gintoki.
"Weeellll..." Gintoki said sheepish, with his hand in his hair again, happy to have escaped one of the worst days of the year.
"You stup..." was all the men ever got out, for Otae chose the moment they were preoccupied as a perfect chance to catch them off guard. Gintoki watched her, as her rage--normally directed to him or Kondou--ignited, and swept away all those in her path. He thought then that he was lucky not to be on the receiving end of this particular swordsmanship, for underneath the rage was perfect form, quick reflexes, and years of dojo training. He also decided then that he'd never let her within reach of his bokuto again. It became a lethal weapon in both his and her hands, and he never wanted her to use it on him. Unless he one day had a death wish.
By the time he had finished these thoughts, Otae had finished with the two men. She stood over their bodies, still gripping the bokuto with one hand. Now though, Gintoki thought she looked beautifully frail, as she continued to stand with her back to him, framed by the light coming in slanted over the alley walls. He took a step towards her.
"Stop right there."
Gintoki turned and looked behind him, where the voice had come from. There were men on both sides of them now, drawn by the sounds of the men taking Otae's beating.
"Just how high up was this guy you refused chocolates from?" He asked, flummoxed. "You know, my philosophy is to take chocolate whenever you get it and not mind where it comes from, even if it's from under your desk and you don't know how long it's been there. You just brush off the dust and eat it."
The men started to tighten ranks and move in closer to them, swords raised. Otae and Gintoki were now backed up against one wall, and some of the men were nearly within a sword's reach of them. Otae tensed, ready to spring into them, when she felt arms around hers, and looked down to see Gintoki putting his hands on top of hers, holding the bokuto together with her.
"You're not alone," He whispered for the second time in her ear.
"It's a clique line, but it's true. You don't have to fight alone. I'm here, with you."
She started trembling, bending her head slightly to hide the tears coming to her eyes.
"Let's go together, Otae," Gintoki yelled, as they rushed into the enemy, raining blows on every side.
Ikumatsu turned as the door to her shop opened. She gasped, dropped her knife, and ran to where Otae stood.
"What happened?" She asked, looking worried.
"Don't ask right now," Otae replied. "Just get something sweet."
Otae stood, leaning against the door frame, supporting a barely conscious, white faced Gintoki. They moved towards a booth, and Otae helped him sit down in it. Her hands wanted to linger on his skin, to run her fingers through his hair. Her skin still burned from his touch.
Gintoki just sat, resting his forehead now on the table.
"Sugar..." He mumbled.
"Bring a lot of sweet things." Otae said.
"I'll see what I can find," Ikumatsu replied ironically, "and I'll bring bandages too. Seems like you need those more."
Otae took a seat across from Gintoki, and stared at him. Her mind wandered, wondering again where he got those stupid clothes for his disguise. As if aware of her look, he raised his head after a few moments.
"Don't worry," He said, "about the guy."
They stared at each other.
"You don't worry either, Gin-san."
"I'll protect you." Otae said, looking at him.
"That's my line." Gintoki grinned, and put his head back down on the table.