Moments like these were hard to come by, Soi-Fon thought lazily to herself as she watched the clouds drift slowly by overhead, although she wasn't sure if that was because the Onmitsukidō demanded so much of her attention, or whether the rigorous discipline she'd learned as a child simply refused to let her rest once in awhile.

A breeze stirred, and grass tickled her bare arms; her haori had been discarded and made into a makeshift pillow, and her waraji had been kicked off. She could feel dark, damp earth between the curl of her toes.

It was nice. If she were being completely honest with herself, she couldn't remember a single time she'd been allowed to be alone, to lay still, and just...breathe for a moment.


That was her choice.

Except it hadn't been, had it?

Soi-Fon frowned, disturbed at where her line of thought was headed, but she was interrupted as a hand thumped lightly on top of her head.

"Stop thinking so loud. I can't sleep."

She smiled and craned her head back to offer a rare smile.

"They'll be wondering where we went. Yamamoto-taichou--"

"--can stuff it," Yoruichi finished calmly, and slung an arm around Soi-Fon's thin shoulders, pulling her closer. "He can handle things perfectly fine, has been for hundreds of years. Anyway, what would you be doing right now, anyway, if I hadn't come along?"

Soi-Fon considered it carefully.


"As usual," Yoruichi finished, grinning. "The Squad needs a break. You need a break. Everybody wins."

"You sound like Urahara," Soi-Fon remarked disapprovingly.

"Still on about that?" Yoruichi drawled. "Careful, Soi-Fon. You'll make me jealous."

Soi-Fon blushed lightly.

"I told you, I'm not in love with him!"

Yoruichi smirked.

"Good," she remarked, satisfied, and twirled one of Soi-Fon's braids idly around her finger. "Cuz you're mine."

"Possessive," Soi-Fon murmured, suddenly feeling sleepy, comfortable.

"You love it."

A hand stroked lightly along her cheek, tracing her cheekbones, the curve of her chin, the shape of her lips. Soi-Fon felt her face flush a little more, with embarrassment, with pleasure; as a child, she'd never known a woman's touch--not a mother's, or a sister's, or even a friend's. She'd been fighting and training and then fighting more since she was a girl, since before she could remember, until the weight of a sword in her hand felt natural; until the copper smell of blood in the air, and the ache in her limbs after a hard battle was familiar.

But not touch. Not intimacy. It still frightened her, sometimes; even these moments together could still make her catch her breath uncertainly when Yoruichi touched her, or kissed her, or simply held her close like she was doing now. But it also made her feel as though she were a Hollow, and there was a gaping hole in her soul that only Yoruichi could fill.

It calmed her. The rest of the time, it was as though she were awash at sea, struggling against the waves, but when Yoruichi came, it was like a hand pulling her free. Pulling her up out of the water, to press Soi-Fon close against her chest, to embrace her, to whisper soothing words, promising that everything was alright. Nobody ever made Soi-Fon feel like this. And that added to her fear.

But also to her love for Yoruichi: as a mentor. As a friend. As a mother, a sister. And a lover.

Soi-Fon sighed quietly, and pressed her face into the curve of Yoruichi's neck, inhaling that familiar scent of sharp perfume, and feline musk, and feeling relieved. Feeling safe.

Yoruichi pulled her closer, resting her chin on top of Soi-Fon's head.

"You okay?"

Soi-Fon smiled again, small, barely visible, but one of pure happiness nonetheless.

"Yes. You're here."

"Of course," Yoruichi murmured back, amused. "Silly. I'm always here."

Soi-Fon's lips tenderly brushed the side of Yoruichi's neck, and Yoruichi hummed a vague tune under her breath.

Always here.

In this moment.