Chocolate Hearts

By Diane Long

AN: This story is not a part of my other Tenchi story arcs. Its stands alone and assumes that Ryoko and Tenchi are already romantically involved. It is also based on the Tenchi Universe characters as opposed to the OVA folks.

Wearing her blue and yellow striped dress, Ryoko laid sprawled on the couch, stomach side down, a look of utter boredom glazing her face. Rain pattered against the roof and slid down the windowpanes. There was nothing on TV, nothing new to read, no sake to drink, and since the permanent departure of the other houseguests there was no one to tease. Closing her yellow eyes, she ran her fingertips against the rough texture of the tatami matting of the floor and tried to go to sleep for a while. But even that didn't seem to be working today. Eyes still closed, she tried to imagine what Ayeka and Sasami were doing right now, back on Jurai.

Her ears perked up at the sound of sock-covered feet making their rapid way down the main staircase. It was Tenchi, there was no doubt about it. His feet always moved quickly from step to step while Noboyuki's feet seemed to linger on the stairs as his feet fought to keep moving while his mind wandered, and Yosho's feet hardly made any noise at all. She pretended to be asleep, wondering what he might do.

He snickered. "Well, don't you look full of energy today," he commented, walking around to her side of the couch.

"Mmmmpf," she muttered, not bothering to look up at him. There had been a time when the merest of comments from him would have bolstered her spirits, but now that they had gotten to know each other, she no longer felt the need to vie so hard for his attention. And the absence of competition didn't hurt either.

Looking comfortable in blue jeans and a loose, grey sweatshirt, Tenchi kneeled on the floor beside her and smiled at her, sticking out a finger and poking her in the side. "Are you alive in there?"

"Stop it," she muttered and shifted her head a tiny bit so she could peer at him through slited eyes.

He complied, resting his hand upon his knees. "So what's up?"

"There's nothing to do," she complained.

Tenchi scratched his head. "There's plenty to do."

"It's raining, Tenchi," she pointed out the obvious.

"I like rainy days."

She grunted and let loose a deep sigh, causing the cyan tips of her bangs to flutter. "You would."

"Seriously," he said earnestly. "Rainy days are cozy."

She propped herself up on an elbow and looked a little more interested. "This is sounding better already."

He returned the smile and ran a hand over her fingertips. "It's all rainy out side, but in here it's warm and dry."

"But it's warm and dry inside everyday, Tenchi."

"True, but the rain outside makes you appreciate how nice it is on the inside."

"Maybe." She leaned forward. "I think I need you to prove it to me."

Tenchi laughed and leaned towards her as well. Ryoko would never change. He brushed his lips against hers. "See how nice it can be?"

Her eyes closed and her lips inches from his, she murmured, "I'm starting to see what you mean."

He closed the distance between them and kissed her again. "We could have a fire, some hot sake and maybe play a game," he murmured between light kisses, running his hands up and down her arms.

"Strip poker?" she teased, trying to pull him up onto he couch with her.

"I was thinking more along the line of Monopoly," he returned as he felt himself hoisted up to join her.

She chuckled low in her throat, a mix between amusement and danger. "Are you so sure? The last time we played you were so in debt to me that you had to do what ever I asked, no exceptions."

He slid a hand under her obi and kissed her neck. "And I still want a chance to turn to the tables on you," he said against her skin.

She ran her fingers lightly through his hair and snorted. "You wish. It's just not possible to beat a space pirate at Monopoly."

He shifted so that all of his weight rested atop her. Sliding his kisses from her neck to her lips, he kissed her soundly, merging their mouths in a mix of warmth and motion. He pulled back, the parting of their lips audible, and ran a finger down her check. "Then will you do whatever I ask, just because I ask?" he asked with a sexy edge to his voice.

Her eyes, already clouded with emotion, narrowed with mock suspicion. "Depends on what you are asking, my Tenchi."

"Would you take off your clothes for me? Right here in the living room?" he breathed into her ear. His time with Ryoko had given him the confidence to start to take the lead in their love play. "Grandpa and dad won't be back from town for another hour or so."

She reached behind her neck and undid a button so she could slide the edges of her dress over her shoulders, exposing the pale rounded edges of her collarbone. "Like this?" she purred.

"Mmmm," he answered kissing along the bone. "Will you show me more of you?"

She pushed the dress down her torso completely so that her breasts were now exposed. She ran her hands over her taught nipples and pressed the mounds of flesh together. "Do you like what you see?" she growled playfully.

"I think we all like a sight like that," said a calm voice from the front door.

"Grandpa!" Tenchi shouted and scrambled off of Ryoko, who calmly sat up and pulled her dress back up, tying the belt with a frustrated sigh.

"Did you have to come back so soon?" she asked morosely. "It was just getting good."

Katsuhito shook his head as he carefully closed his umbrella and placed it in its stand. "Perhaps the living room is not the best place for such activities, my granddaughter. " His use of the endearment softened his reprimand.

"We didn't mean to," Tenchi protested, his cheeks a bright cherry-red. "It just sort of happened."

"What happened?" asked Noboyuki as he entered the room with his arms full groceries in brown bags. "Did I miss anything good?"

"You missed something very good I'd say," the priest said looking significantly at Ryoko's chest.

"I always miss the action!" Noboyuki wailed. "Life is so cruel."

"Listen old man," Ryoko growled as she noticed the direction of his gaze. "Keep your eyes to yourself. And that counts double for you," she added pointing at Noboyuki, whose gaze had joined his father-in-law's.

"Ryoko's feeling spry today," Katshuhito commented, ignoring Ryoko's growl. "Perhaps she needs to get out of the house Tenchi."

Tenchi looked over at Ryoko and took in her growing annoyance at his family. "That sounds like a good idea. Maybe we can go for a walk in the woods or something." Anything to keep them from further aggravating his volatile lover until she cooled down again would be good.

"Actually, would you mind going into town and picking up some sake? We forgot it," Nobuyuki requested with a fearful look at an already fuming Ryoko.

"You forgot my sake?" she roared jumping to her feet.

"Ha ha. Looks like we should go get some," Tenchi laughed nervously taking her hand and pulling her towards the front door as he grabbed his raincoat.

She let him, her anger fading quickly. She took his raincoat out of his hands and hung it back on the hook. "Let me teleport us there. It will be faster, and we won't get wet."

"Let's do it the hard way for once. You did say you were bored. This will give us something to do."

"The hard way?"

"Yeah, walk down to the road, take the bus. All of that. Have you ever done that here?"

She shook her head to indicate that she hadn't. "But won't we get wet?"

Tenchi took up his coat again. "Not if we wear these."

"I don't have a rain coat Tenchi."

"Oh," Tenchi said scratching his head.

"Wait a moment," Noboyuki said, digging into the hall closet. He came out holding a lovely pale lavender rainslicker. "This was Achika's. I'm sure she would have wanted you to have it," he said warmly.

Touched, Ryoko slid it on and accepted the matching boots from Tenchi's father. "Thank you, Noboyuki. I love it."

Tenchi smiled at Ryoko in his mother's raincoat. It felt right that it had gone to her. He took up a large black umbrella and motioned to the door. "Ready?"

***

Ryoko leaned close to Tenchi as the made their way down the slick stone of the shrine steps. It was the only way they both fit under the umbrella. "Are you embarrassed?" she asked softly.

"About grandpa? Not really," Tenchi answered after a moment of thought.

"I'm surprised."

"Yeah me too. But the thing is, after all that this family has been through, it seems stupid to get upset over something little like that."

"Little?" she growled dangerously.

"Not that the moment didn't meaning anything to me, because it did," Tenchi backpedaled, his voice cracking with nervousness.

"Oh, so you're saying my breasts are too little for you," Ryoko sniffed in an offended tone.

"No! I didn't mean that either! Your breasts are way too big for that to even make sense," he stuttered nervously.

"Now they are too big?" she demanded, hiding a smile. "What are you trying to tell me Tenchi?" He was still so much fun to tease.

"Well...I... er..." he groped for the right words to calm her down.

She laughed, the sound of a clear, ringing bell and snuggled in even closer. "I was just teasing you. Cool out."

"Ryoko!" he complained loudly.

She giggled in a most un-Ryoko-like sound. "I have to keep you on your toes. What if that Princess comes back?"

"Don't you want her to?" he asked seriously.

"Don't ask silly questions," she shot back. Of course she missed Ayeka. It was so boring around without her to spice things up. But she wasn't going to admit that.

He let it go, knowing what was in her heart.

"Its weird to walk in the mud," Ryoko commented after a while. "It's all squishy. I can't remember the last time I walked in the mud." She scuffed her boot through a puddle to emphasize her point.

"You could float."

"Yes, but I wanted to try out my new boots."

Tenchi stooped and pulled her into a hug. "I can't tell you how much it means to me to see you wearing my mother's coat. It's like it was meant for you."

She snuggled into his chest, enjoying the damp feel of his coat against her cheek. "I feel the same way. It's like a wedding present."

"Listen to you. I should take you out on walks more often," he teased. It was nice to see her thoughtful side every now and then. "And who said anything about getting married?" he asked as the rain blew around them.

"Me," she said firmly, daring him to gainsay her.

He started walking again and tugged her along with him. "Ryoko, you know I don't want to move too fast."

"That doesn't mean you have to marry me tomorrow. It just means someday," she said stubbornly.

"And you are so sure?" he asked, curious about her certainty.

"Of course I am. Aren't you?" she asked, her big eyes searching his fearfully.

"Ryoko, I love you. Isn't that enough?"

"Forever?"

He knew the answer to that one. "Forever."

"Then we will get married when you get over your issues," she said firmly.

"If you say so," he agreed. Ryoko was typically right about these sorts of things. "Here we are," he gestured to the bus stop and stopped walking.

Ryoko peered down the road. "Now what?"

"We wait."

"Wait?" Ryoko asked as if this was an entirely foreign concept.

***

After the longest twenty minutes of Ryoko's life, the two were seated in the last seat of the bus watching the countryside roll by as they headed towards town. Its bright orange seats, though covered with a layer of grime, seemed almost cheerful against the gloom outside the windows.

Ryoko sniffed. "It stinks in here," she said pinching her nose.

Tenchi nodded. "Yeah, buses get like this on rainy days. Something about the wet weather makes the smells worse."

Ryoko grimaced. Her senses were more acute than Tenchi's. So what was a mildly unpleasant smell to him was a terrible stench to her. To distract herself she looked at the graffiti other people had written on the bus. Many people had proclaimed their love for others here, complete with little hearts, and other cruder drawings. Other people had just written swear words, and there were a few advertisements about who to call for a good time. Ryoko shook her head slightly one side of her mouth bowing into a smile. In this way, Earth wasn't very different from the rest of the universe. Smiling she charged the tips of her fingertips with the barest spark of power and ran them over some of the writing, erasing it down to a molecular level.

"Tenchi, do you have a pen?"

He had been looking out the window and started at the sound of her voice. "Uh, sure," Tenchi said rummaging through his pockets and handing her one. He watched with growing distress while she started to write `Ryoko - n - Tenchi' on the seatback in front of her. "Oh no, don't!" he protested. "The bus driver will see us and we will get in trouble."

She chortled mischievously and drew little hearts around their names. "You worry too much."

"Oh no," he groaned. "This is illegal. We could go to jail." He buried his head in his hands and refused to watch.

Ryoko snorted thinking of the felonies she had committed in her past. Compared to them, this little misdemeanor hardly seemed to count. In fact, to her mind, it was such a minor, tiny thing, it didn't really count as a crime at all. Humming, she continued to write and draw until they reached their stop.

They stepped off the bus and into the busy streets of the town and looked around. The rain didn't seem to be slowing things down for the city dwellers. People hurried through the rain laughing and making plans under their umbrellas or shields of folder newspapers. Bicyclists splashed through the puddles and didn't seem to mind the damp at all.

Ryoko stretched. "The bus was fun one time, Tenchi. I don't know about you, but I'm flying home," she announced.

He chuckled and opened the umbrella again and took her hand, drawing her under its protection. "That's fair. Ready to go get some sake?"

She nodded vigorously. "Yeah. And I get to pick it out."

"Oh man," he muttered. Ryoko had very expensive taste.

"I did ride on that stinky bus with you," she said in a pouty voice, circling a finger over his chest. "I think I deserve a little bottle of sake, don't you?"

He laughed again, enjoying her antics. He slid an arm around her shoulders and started walking. She was so playful and free. Just being around her made his heart lighter. These days, the thought of him choosing another one of the girls instead of her seemed impossible.

As they walked, Ryoko's wide eyes took in the sights of the town. Everything seemed so polished and shiny in the rain. Being out in the weather was worth it, she decided as she admired the way the glowing shop signs were reflected in the mirror-like sidewalks.

Tenchi watched her animated face with a growing sense of contentment. She was so many things all at the same time, tough as nails, seductive, playful, honest, a liar, and on rare occasions like this one, utterly innocent and impressionable.

"Oh!" she said, pausing her steps and looking into the plate glass window of a department store. Inside was an elegant display of evening gowns in rich shades of crimson and scarlet velvet. "So pretty!" She touched her fingertips to the glass and soaked in the beauty of the dresses.

Tenchi looked too, squeezing her shoulders as he did so. "You'd look great in that one," he commented, nodding towards a deep claret-colored gown whose neckline dipped low to display the mannequin's shoulders and cleavage.

"Do you really think so?" Ryoko asked dreamily.

Tenchi nodded, his voice going thick. "Oh yeah." The thought of her in that gown, her creamy skin taking on the rosy hues of the velvet, made him want to forget the sake and have her teleport them home right away.

She looked for a moment longer, her breath clouding the glass as she leaned closer. The rain fell all around them in a soft percussive rhythm while they stayed warm and dry under the shelter of the window's awning. It was a magical moment, both exposed and very safe and protected.

"Ready?" she asked him.

Something in her wistful expression galvanized him into action. "Wait. Do you want to try it on?" he asked mentally tallying the contents of his bank account.

She looked back at the dress, and then back to Tenchi's eyes. "What do you mean?"

He kissed her forehead. "I'd like you to have that dress."

"Oh Tenchi," she sighed, leaning her head on his shoulder. "That's very sweet, but let's just go get the sake, ok?"

"What?" he asked not believing his ears. "You don't want a pretty dress?"

"Where would I wear it?" she asked, being bizarrely practical.

Then it hit him. He never took her anywhere. She, a worldly and far traveled space pirate, was stuck hanging around his little house in the country. No wonder she was bored. And she never complained, well, not really. At least not about that specifically. He leaned in and kissed her firmly, it was a expression of deep love and respect he felt for this woman who had changed his life. He took her hand and pulled. "You are getting that dress."

"What are you doing?" she squawked following after him as he twisted through the store's elaborate revolving doors. Once in side he approached a salesgirl. "Those dresses in the window, where are they?" he panted.

The girl tittered. "In the bridal department, fourth floor," she said with a gesture to the escalator.

Tenchi thanked her with a quick bow then dragged Ryoko to the escalator.

"Tenchi what's gotten into you?" Ryoko asked as they began to rise up the steps. Water dripped from their coats and the folded umbrella making small puddles on the steps.

"I want to do something nice for you," he said simply.

Ryoko grinned, finding her balance again. "Something nice from the bridal department?" she cooed.

He rolled his eyes while his grin remained firmly upon his lips. "Don't you ever stop?"

"Do you want me to?" she asked.

"Never," he said firmly as they stepped off of the escalator onto the fourth floor.

Sitting in a soft chair strategically placed by the dressing-rooms, Tenchi waited. After twenty minutes of changing, and trying-on several sizes of the dress, Ryoko stood before Tenchi in a perfectly fitting confection of velvet and silk. He had been right, it looked even better on her than he had hoped. She twirled for him, the long full skirt belling out around her ankles while the snug fitting fabric of the bodice hugged her torso like a second skin.

"You like?" she asked extending her bare arms as if she were about to take flight.

He nodded mutely, wondering if his long banished nosebleeds were about to return. It was odd really. That dress covered 90% of her body, but the ways in which her shoulders and arms were revealed made the dress seem almost scandalous.

She hugged herself and twirled again, this time watching herself in the three-piece mirror. "This is so much fun!"

He beamed, enthralled with her happiness. He needed to help her find that smile more often. "Do you want it?"

She clasped her hands under her chin and swayed, watching the hem of the dress swish around her ankles. "I really do," she said, catching his eye in the mirror.

He nodded and handed the saleslady his credit card, not knowing and not caring how much the dress cost.

***

Ryoko hugged the dress's box to her chest as she practically danced away from the cash register. "Thank you Tenchi!"

"You're welcome. And if you help me figure out what's going on in the arts scene in Tokyo, I'll take you somewhere where you can wear it," he promised.

"Really?" she crowed. "I already know what I want to do!" she said spinning around him like a top. "The Tokyo Opera's putting on Madame Butterfly in two weeks. That's what I want to do, Tenchi!"

"I didn't know you liked the Opera."

"Yup. Its all about tragedy, betrayal, and destruction," she said seriously. "Story of my life."

"Sounds exciting," he said wistfully. He motioned to a bench framed by potted palms and sat down, Ryoko joining him. "Um, Ryoko? Are you bored at home?"

Her joyous smile faded. "Why do you ask?"

"Its just that when I think of all of the amazing things you've seen and done, I can't help but think you are bored in my little country house." Maybe even bored with me, he didn't say.

"Tenchi, are you nuts? Those times weren't good for me. Exciting maybe, but cold and hard and mean." She took his hand. "And lonely. Don't you know what you mean to me?" Her eyes peeked at him above the rim of the box, tears pooling at the corners.

"I think I know. But Ryoko, you were so bored today, and that made me worry I was holding you back from something more important."

"More important that you?" She rolled her eyes. "Tenchi, I don't know how to explain this, particularly right here in the middle of a department store, but for me, to have the kind of life where I can even get bored is a gift." She slid the box down into her lap and took his hands. "It means that I'm not worried, or scared, or looking over my shoulder for danger."

He nodded slowly. Her words made sense.

"And to go out like we are today and just wander around. This is what normal people do, isn't it? I've always wanted to do this. I never would have guessed that the rain would make it so magical. I wouldn't trade this day for any of my adventures. I swear it, Tenchi." Her lips twitched, an impish smile growing out of her earlier sincere expression. "I never guessed that buying a dress would be more fun than stealing it though."

He smiled and took her hand. "I'm glad, my Ryoko."

"What, you don't want to go to jail either?" she teased.

"Hush," he whispered and pulled her in for kiss, which she eagerly returned, her lips parting under his.

"Wow, a PDA," she chuckled as they pulled apart. "I'm impressed."

"So rude!" sniffed an elderly woman in a slate grey kimono with a dark blue obi.

Ryoko winked at her and wrapped her arms around Tenchi. "You are just jealous," she mocked as she and Tenchi faded out of sight.

As they appeared back out on the sidewalk Ryoko ran ahead of Tenchi as he opened the umbrella. "Hey slow down!" he called.

"I want to buy you a present now Tenchi!" she exclaimed. "What do you want?"

"You don't have to do that," he protested.

"But I want to!" she said excitedly pulling on his elbow. "Come on! What do you want?"

They continued along the sidewalk peering into shop windows as they passed. All the while Ryoko was watching his face so she could tell if anything caught his interest.

"Ryoko... I don't mean to be rude, but, how would you pay for anything?"

She spun on her toes and jabbed a finger into the fabric of his slicker. "Oh don't worry about that. I have lots of money. Lots and lots."

"Ummm.... I've never seen you work. I don't want to know how you got it, do I?"

She laughed with delight. "Probably not. But for the sake of my honor I have to inform you that piracy is hard work. And in the past for me." She smiled an odd smile, a mix between relief and fondness. "Thank god that's over," she whispered. "But I'm glad that it has left me a rich woman, nonetheless."

"Well, I guess I can't argue with that," he laughed, making sure she was covered enough by the umbrella. Tenchi paused in front of a martial arts supply store's window and admired the training gis and wooden practice weapons.

"See something you like?" she asked eagerly, peering at the display over his shoulder.

"Look at that hakema," he breathed. "That's a real indigo dyed one."

Ryoko looked at the deep blue divided skirt that covered the lover half of the mannequin. "Doesn't Katsuhito have one of these?"

Tenchi nodded. "Yeah, but his is just made with blue dye. Indigo is too expensive for a shrine keeper's budget. But the color is unbeatable. Look at how it almost glows with blue and purple."

Ryoko phased her head through the window and checked out the price tag. "Well tough luck, Tenchi," Ryoko said phasing back though the glass.

"What?"

"After I buy that for the old man, the bank of Ryoko will be closed for the rest of the evening."

"Wait, I didn't ask you to buy this."

"No, but it is too special to pass up. Sorry, you had your chance earlier."

"You're going to buy that for grandpa?"

Ryoko nodded and drew Tenchi into the store with her. With Tenchi's help she selected a properly sized hakema and took it over to the cash register. They breathed in the spicy smells of incense, sword polish and fresh cotton as the clerk approached them.

"Nice choice," the clerk commented, sizing her up as if trying to determine whether someone like her could afford the garment. "What art do you study?"

Ryoko put on a demure face and simpered much like she imagined Ayeka might in a similar situation. "Who me? I wouldn't even know where to begin. This is a gift for the priest of the Masaki shrine," she said pulling a large wad of yen out from her pocket. "I hope this is enough," she said demurely.

The man chuckled and eyed Tenchi knowingly, as if to say `women'. Tenchi just bit his lip and tried not to wonder where Ryoko had gotten all of that money.

"Well, since this is for a Shinto priest, I will give you a small discount," the man said soothingly.

"Oh really?" she squealed. "That would be so kind."

The man carefully wrapped tissue around the hakema. "It's the least I can do for a pretty lady like you. That comes to a total of $200,000 yen."

Ryoko straightened out a number of crumpled bills and pressed them into the man's palm, then shoved the remainder back into her pocket. "Thank you sir," she said meekly, barely containing her glee until they exited the store. "Did you see that?" she chortled as the door closed behind them. "I saved 10%"

Tenchi just shook his head and grinned along with her. A pirate who knew how to bargain was indeed a sight to see.

"Are you ready to go home?" she asked. "All this walking is making my feet tired. Oh! What's that Tenchi?" She pointed to a display in a candy store window. Large red heart shaped boxes were displayed against swaths of red and white crepe paper. Some of the boxes were made with satin, others paper, and still others a shimmered in tones of gold and silver.

"That? Those are boxes of chocolate. You give them to someone to show how much you love them."

Ryoko nodded and started moving on.

"Wait, do you want some?" Tenchi asked, still feeling generous.

"Nah. Who needs chocolate hearts when they've already got the real thing?" she said dismissively.

Tenchi kissed her cheek and slipped his arm around her shoulders and they started walking again. His typically greedy little pirate had surprised him once again.

"However," she added, " I wouldn't say no to a heart shaped bottle of sake."

Tenchi slouched his shoulders and pretended to think. " I don't know, I saw what you wrote about Ayeka on the back of that bus seat."

"Aw Tenchi, nobody from earth can actually call that number!"

"I don't know...."

"Tenchiii...."

Still teasing each other they continued towards the liquor store, both knowing full well that Ryoko would get whatever she wanted. The passers-by watched the young couple and sighed wistfully. To be young, in love, and sharing an umbrella in a gentle rain shower had never looked so wonderful.

The End

Happy Valentine's Day 2002