Kurohyou Keikan

Yoruichi's Counteroffer

They were able to convince the captains that they would be able to find their way safely back to the shouten. For most of the journey they were quiet until Yoruichi finally broached a subject.

"You should tell Sōken," Yoruichi quickly felt the change in the boy's arms.


They stopped, just outside the compound so Ryūken could give her a hard glare. A familiar reaction to suggestions-or any real mention-about his family.

"Ryūken-kun," Kisuke stepped closer and tried a half-hug. "Don't worry, they have really nice uniforms but I think I'd rather be a Quincy...That bow!"

Yoruichi felt the tension start to leave Ryūken's frame and so decided to bring that particular topic up later. Right now, "You should see a zanpakutō."

"Any shinigami with shikai or above aren't allowed to carry their zanpakutō inside the Seireitei outside of war."

Yoruichi laughed softly and the quick taunt-like rule recital. "I always wondered why you knew so much about the shinigami, you made them sound like your mortal enemies-"

Both Kisuke and Yoruichi were surprised when Ryūken dumped the kitten in the other boy's arms before turning and disappearing in a hirenkyaku. "Ryūken-kun?" Kisuke gasped as he held Yoruichi securely.

"Put me down!"

Knowing he'd be alone the moment he did Kisuke paused, "Should I find a gate out of the Seireitei?"

"No!" Yoruichi stopped trying to wiggle free. "Straight to the shouten!"

"Hai!" Kisuke put her down and she was gone. "Whoa!" He straightened and watched her glowing, skipping form in the dark.

So he could still see reiatsu with his eyes, the stuff that flowed under the skin-a skill reinforced with his awakened spiritual energy (to a gory level).

Before his second sight had only made the skin seem thinner, showing the flow of blood in the veins. Whenever he tried to use it now the skin and tissue was no visual barrier to anywhere blood flowed in the body.

It would take some getting used to, but until he did, he had his reiatsu to play with.

Ryūken made himself stop when tears threatened. He was a few yards away from the west servants' entrance at the Shihōin palace. He was only relaxed a moment before he sensed another's reiatsu. "You've gotten faster?" He asked the night around him.

"I just guessed where you'd go...I can fit through a few more shortcuts than you in this shape," Yoruichi glanced up as Ryūken's gaze found hers as if he could see in the dark.

"I wanted to remind you," She quickly went on as he shuffled a few tiny steps closer to her, as if doubting the move even as he was making it. "That I know shinigami killed your clan...I remember-even though you ordered me to forget we'd ever talked about it."

"And you decided to ignore that order?"

Yoruichi took in his body language; the lenses of his glasses were glowing yellow from the palace lanterns, eyes hidden. "You didn't say please baka!" She moved closer, until she had to crane her head back to look up at him. "I figured you out, you know."

"Have you?" Ryūken muttered as he lowered onto his knees sitting back on his feet.

"You had a fight with him," Yoruichi moved until her front paws rested on one of his knees. "With your father." It was only part of the hypothesis she had developed over the years of their friendship, with the pieces of information she'd managed to glean.

"Why do you think that?"

"I've known you long enough Ryūken..." Yoruichi murmured softly. "If there's anything I've learned is your pride and equal hatred of being a Quincy."

"Hatred!" Ryūken started shocked.

"Not all of it! Just some...some things you'd rather not pass on from your father's generation to yours," Yoruichi saw the knuckles of his hands go white where his fists clenched in his lap.

"What do you know? Your father keeps all your birthrights from you!"

Both Ryūken and Yoruichi were surprised at the angry shout that spilled from him like an accusation. "You're right I don't know...but I understand being angry at otousan for not letting me make those choices for myself," Yoruichi knew she'd hit the nail on the head when surprise and guilt shown out from his luminous eyes.

"I don't care if the Ishida's were some famous Quincy inventors...What if I don't want..." He angled his glasses so they obscured his eyes as a breath shivered into his lungs-failing to calm him like he'd hoped. When he tried to continue the words came out in a trembling whisper, "What if I don't want to be a Quincy?"

"You don't have to be!" Yoruichi made an effort to climb into his lap if only to get closer to his face. "You..." She whispered hesitantly, the rest of her hypothesis on how the boy had come to live, not only in the Seireitei, but in a noble clan's palace. "Ran away from Sōken, all you have to do is whatever makes you happy."

Shocked Yoruichi could only give a startled meow when Ryūken hugged her. She wished this singular occasion had happened when she had arms to hug him back though.

"I want to protect my best friend," His voice was so faint only her feline ears picked out the words, his face hidden as his cheek rubbed along the fur atop her head.

"Then you'd better not only use your Quincy archery but the elite hakuda of the Shihōin's Onmitsukidō," Yoruichi didn't want the embrace to end. His fuzzy electrical reiatsu wrapped around her in his arms and chest and although it communicated his sorrow it also told her his intent, it was fiercely protective.

"We learn together hime," Ryūken seemed to realize he was smothering a princess in the shape of a cat. He though he heard a whine of disappointment as he quickly loosened his hold. "Sumimasen-"

"No," Yoruichi made herself move back to the ground. "In fact remind me to do that again as soon as I'm human."


"Race you to the shouten!"

Ryūken was in the act of pushing his glasses up his nose, mouth open to object when Yoruichi simply vanished. He stuttered a moment, "N-no shortcuts!"

Isshin was sitting on a box beside the shouten door, the lights in the front rooms weren't lit but Yoruichi could see dim lights reflecting from the back with her powerful feline eyes. She knew it was dark and wondered how Ryūken had still managed to tie her. She had even used unlit alleys and the Quincy had stayed just behind her.

Even after flash stepping so furiously both to the Shihōin palace then to the shouten the Quincy was barely breathing hard. Yoruichi could feel his prickly reiatsu still buzzing from hirenkyakuing as fast as he could.

"Ah," Isshin applauded as the two appeared in front of him at the same time. "That was fun to watch."

Ryūken nodded and didn't hesitate to scoop Yoruichi into his arms. She felt his heart thundering with exhilaration; it could be the only excuse for the blazing smile on the Quincy's stoic face. "I'm faster but you can jump further," He said with a soft chortle of laughter.

Isshin stood and led them inside. "Kū-chan and I convinced Furui-san you were spending the night here. She played a convincing you," Isshin closed the doors behind them and ushered them into the back.

"Domo arigatō gozaimasu, Isshin-sama," Ryūken murmured as they found Kisuke and Kūkaku asleep already.

"I told her to go to her room. She insisted that with Kisuke's constant questions she'd be fine," He glanced back to Yoruichi. "I figured he didn't have a place yet," He murmured about Kisuke.

"Enlistment isn't until the day after tomorrow," Yoruichi recalled as she was deposited on a pillow, eyes riveted to Kisuke's sleeping face.

Both of them were half-buried in pillows but Kūkaku's head was resting on Kisuke's stomach and she currently had her thumb in her mouth, the other fingers sandwiched with Kisuke's.

"Guess he fell asleep and his silence spelled her doom," Isshin chuckled and he moved toward the hidden stairs. "I'll be right back."

In truth Kisuke found that people spoke freely around sleepers, as if they weren't there at all. His curiosity was barely contained as both Yoruichi and Ryūken's reiatsu finished calming down to basically nothing after their race. Then utter silence.


"Koneko-sama?" He lifted his head up to see over the pillows just as Yoruichi did likewise, tiny ears angled forward and alert. "I thought you got lost."

"You're awake," Ryūken gave a soft nod, pleased that they could all talk for a few moments alone.

"I'm too excited to sleep," Kisuke glanced down where his hand was trapped in Kūkaku's and then to where her head lay cushioned on a pillow over his stomach.

He glanced back to see Yoruichi was now perched on a pillow right next to his head. "Isshin-sama said I could stay-"

"Do you want to live in the Seireitei?"

"What?" Kisuke was thrown for a loop at the question.

"Yoru-chan maybe you should see if he even wants to join?" Ryūken suggested.

"Do you want to learn how to fight?"

"Fight?" Kisuke shook his head in bewilderment and he saw Yoruichi's very obvious roll of her yellow kitty eyes.

"The Shihōin guard, the Onmitsukidō is enlisting the day after tomorrow. I convinced the man in charge of the guard to open recruitment to anyone that shows skill."

"Skill in what?"

"Protecting others," Ryūken answered crawling toward them over the pillows. "You don't have to have a fighting style; all you have to be able to do is throw a punch. Can you manage that?"

"He's not clumsy!" Yoruichi said defensively.

"I know that!" Ryūken said, equally as defensive. He seemed as if he wanted to say more but at that moment Isshin appeared with Koganehiko and Shiroganehiko.

"Oh you're awake Kisuke-kun," Isshin nodded with a smile as Koganehiko moved to carefully pick up the sleeping Kūkaku.

Shiroganehiko moved quickly to support the thumb in her mouth, gently prying fingers apart. Kūkaku slept on oblivious as the two took her to her room at the shouten.

"Wish I could stay but I've got guard duty in twenty minutes," Isshin murmured in an apologetic tone as Kisuke sat up and stretched. "Kids there's a room at the end of the hall, next door to Kū-chan's."

Ryūken frowned inwardly at the idea of making Yoruichi share a room with the likes of Kisuke and him. He saw the kitten nod and was about to object for her when Isshin spoke again.

"Yoru-chan, Kū-chan had a futon set up for you in her room if that's all right. I think Shiroganehiko put your clothes with it," Isshin mused and Kisuke noticed the shinigami was quite distracted.

Having himself felt unsatisfied curiosity Kisuke recognized it as soon as he saw it in the dark-haired man. "Isshin-sama?"

He stopped at the door into the shouten proper and met the boy's gaze. "Kisuke-kun?"

"Is something wrong, you look anxious," Kisuke commented.

"I was just...Ukitake-taichō had me worried a moment when he sent me away."

"We just spoke about Quincy and how odd Kisuke-kun is," Ryūken reassured Isshin.

"Domo," Kisuke rolled his eyes. "Go Isshin-sama fulfill your duties as a shinigami, guard better than the two I snuck by tonight."

Everyone laughed as Yoruichi chimed in with, "Twice!"

"All right, Konbanwa," He called before disappearing out the door.

With a groan Kisuke got to his feet, half asleep from relaxing in the pillows eavesdropping. He grabbed the blue pillow he'd been using, knowing any other pillow would fail to be as comfortable.

"I'm going to go change," Yoruichi murmured and started ahead of the boys to the stairs. "We're not done talking."

Ryūken saw Kisuke bite his tongue-since when did he know how to do that?!-as the kitten disappeared behind the tapestry. "Yoru-chan is the heir of the 22nd head of the Shihōin clan. And like Yoru-chan, her mother-although the fiercest warrior and leader of the Onmitsukidō-was the only heir and her father wouldn't allow her to control the clan alone. She was lucky enough to fall in love (and have that choice), but unfortunate enough for it to happen with an overprotective baka that wouldn't know the pointy end of the sword from the blunt end."

As intended Kisuke was momentarily distracted by the Quincy's words as he held open the painting for them to pass through. "And the Onmitsukidō are like the police?"

"They protect and serve the Shihōin clan, whatever the head of the family orders are. The only official duties are to help the family and guard the Maggot's Nest."

"M-maggot's Nest?" Kisuke paused between steps and tried to meet Ryūken's eyes, but the stairs weren't lit.

"Where dangerous people are kept."

"But aren't bad people supposed to go to hell?"

Now it was Ryūken's turn to stare at Kisuke as the question popped out. "Soul Society is for souls with interrupted lives...Good or bad..." Ryūken explained. "But I wish to bring to your attention my choice of words."

"Um," Kisuke lowered his voice to a whisper as they came to the small hallway and jumble of doors. "You said the Maggot's Nest was for bad people."

"I said 'dangerous,' Kisuke-kun," Ryūken corrected just as quietly-why?-Kūkaku would sleep through the destruction of Soul Society!

"A jail for good people?"

"Why would you say that?" Ryūken moved to slide open the door, the room empty but for the two futons in pristine white linens.

"Yokatta! I'm glad I bathed," Kisuke muttered blinking as Ryūken lit the lanterns at the head of each futon. "From what I've gathered with just bits and pieces the shinigami and the Quincy don't like each other. I've seen you break a fifth seat's kidō obviously you could be considered dangerous."

"I suppose."

"You're not bad. You're trying to get me a way to live in the Seireitei, answering all my questions," At the last part he gave Ryūken a big grin. "Would you get put in there?"

Ryūken was saved from having to answer-since they'd mostly likely kill him on the spot-as a faint knock sounded on the shoji doorframe. "Enter."

Kisuke turned away as the door slid open just enough to fit Yoruichi's slender body through, then she shut it behind her. The moment she'd opened it her eyes had sought out Kisuke's only to meet the back of his blond messy head.

Someone had gone to get clothes for her from her bedroom so she was in her third favorite yukata and second favorite slippers. When Kisuke didn't turn at her arrival she gave Ryūken a perplexed frown.


At the sound of her voice butterflies leapt to life in his stomach. It was feminine but there was some part of it that brought to mind the black kitten. He though he'd battled back an unexplainable blush but then she put a hand on his shoulder and it burned anew.

"Are you all right?"


"I'm finally myself and you're shy?" Yoruichi teased. "Turn around."

When she spun him around she was faced with tightly closed eyes. A careless laugh blew hot breath over his chin and the joyous sound was so surprising his eyes fluttered open.

"Now, how bad was that?" Yoruichi grinned even though he hadn't moved his gaze from her eyes.

They were still gold.

After a startled moment he focused on that, trying to calm the hell butterflies that had taken up residence in his belly. He had been worried since Yoruichi had revealed her secret-always on the backburner stewing deep in his mind-that their developing friendship might be devastated in its infancy because the human princess wouldn't be koneko-sama.

Something had pulled him to her, not only her but Ryūken-although drastically different-they felt like kindred spirits. He'd felt a faint echo of this the day he'd found himself in that lake.

He'd followed it to Tessai.

Boy, did he not want he and Yoruichi (and thereby he and Ryūken) to go the same way.

"He's not even looking at you," Ryūken observed loudly.

Yoruichi distractedly listened to Ryūken as intense green eyes aflame with fear and curiosity bore into hers. "Do you want me to turn back into a cat?"

"No!" Kisuke's eyes quickly took in her face, the only important part. She was obviously human-a little shorter than he-there'd be two legs and arms, toes and fingers, no tail. After the first quick sweep he was helpless to stop the soft smile that curved his lips, he tried to connect the kitten and the girl.

Although his eyes roved over every detail of her face-completely ignoring below her chin-Yoruichi felt a blush at his gaze. Committing each freckle and eyelash to memory, the feline slant and shape of her eyes. "Well?"

"I like your hair," Kisuke found himself blurting out. "I thought it'd be black."

Yoruichi surprised him by flipping a long bound length of purple hair over her shoulder that reach down to her waist. "I couldn't be a purple talking cat now could I?" They both laughed even as Kisuke's fingertips brushed the ends of the shorter hair cut to frame her face, it had made him think all of her hair was short, but she had a tail. "The front part kinda looks like kitty ears."

Ryūken's body went very still, spine straight, eyes narrowing behind his glasses at Kisuke's far too familiar touch; he hadn't been all that pleased when she had touched his shoulder. He was sure he made a noise, something that alerted Yoruichi and as she turned her head, so did Kisuke to fix their eyes on him.

Kisuke looked surprised and confused and very worried as he saw Ryūken's angry (and very proper) posture. "Ryūken-kun?'

When the Quincy glanced over to see the grin that lit Yoruichi's face his irritation was driven out by dread. "Don't mind Ryū-kun," She moved to drop down at the edge of the futon Ryūken sat in the middle of. "He just wants his human Yoruichi hug."

"Yoruichi-" Ryūken protested as the girl threw herself across the futon, wrapped her arms around his waist and squeezed.

Kisuke couldn't contain the laughter as he saw Ryūken's eyes go wide in alarm, and immediately swung toward the other boy.

Maybe he'd rather hug in private?

"Argh! He's trying to get away Kisuke!" Yoruichi tried to squeeze Ryūken but he was just as serious about getting free.

Before thinking-surprise, no doubt the lack of honorific's fault-Kisuke hurried across the small room and threw his arms around Ryūken, chest to back effectively sandwiching the Quincy between them.

Yoruichi gave a laugh that put Kūkaku's maniacal cackle to shame as she wiggled her arms from between the two to capture fistfuls of Kisuke's borrowed clothes, to trap the boy even more.

After a moment of struggle Ryūken made himself go still, knowing if he got too upset his reiatsu wouldn't stay easy to control, to blot out. He was breathing only a little harder than usual. "This is so wrong."

"No Ryū-kun!" Yoruichi sighed into his ear; she and Kisuke had rested their chins on opposite shoulders. "All I wanted was my hug."

Kisuke pulled his head back so he could meet Yoruichi's gaze. "You should have made me leave," He murmured. "Or waited 'til tomorrow when you could do it in private."

Yoruichi knew the sharp boy was right when she felt the little bit of relaxing Ryūken's muscles had achieved so far regress at Kisuke's words. She pulled back and watched Kisuke compensate, chin on shoulder so he could see her.

"Gomennasai, Ryū-kun," Yoruichi met the brown eyes as they strained to peer at Kisuke without moving his head.

"It..." Ryūken frowned as he met her golden eyes and he tried to pull off a frustrated sigh but the exhale of breath noticeably trembled from his lungs. He clenched his teeth together angry with himself for this weakness, this embarrassment over simple human contact. "It's fine."

"Hm," Kisuke whispered in his ear, distracting him. "Don't seem fine."


"Heh, definitely not fine," Yoruichi moved her chin back to Ryūken's shoulder and she felt one of his arms move from their stiff position at his sides to curl around her with a tentative squeeze. "That's better."

Kisuke felt Yoruichi's grip loosen as her arms slipped between he and Ryūken to hug only the Quincy. Knowing he'd quickly become the third wheel he pulled back.

Ryūken's firm grip on the arm curled around his middle stopped him. As he gave an insistent tug for escape, Ryūken glanced back over his shoulder. "I don't do this often."

"He means get all the hugs you want now!" Yoruichi exclaimed, arms tightening around him. "While you still can!"

With a nervous laugh Kisuke moved his arms back into place. He hadn't gotten many hugs growing up with Tessai but for somehow he knew he liked them. It wasn't like he was starved for physical touch because surviving alone with Tessai in Rukongai had taken away his concept of personal space.

He knew what it was but had eventually developed a level of comfort with others invading it. The only one that had done it frequently had been Tessai and until their last conversation he'd only moved to touch him to help him (keep him warm, fix his hair).

The boy in his arms was relaxed now, one arm tight around Yoruichi, the other stretched back to press between Kisuke's shoulder blades.

"I could fall asleep like this," Kisuke mused with a happy chuckle, tilting his head to rest his ear on Ryūken's shoulder.

"This is inappropriate enough," Ryūken grumbled, but he didn't release either of them.

This was why Yoruichi was so uncouth? He'd thought she'd forced enough hugs on him for their purpose to be clear, but they'd always been brief and cut short by him. The warmth that being this close physically generated a different type of warmth, happiness? He felt safer.

A brief flash of the three of them huddled together for comfort and solace under the pristine futon blankets flashed through his mind. It brought another memory, just as happy and comforting, but decidedly more melancholy of when he used to sleep in the protective arms of his father.

"Are you at the maximum hug allowance?" Yoruichi asked, sensing even the small coiling of his muscles as he thought of Sōken.


Pleased the princess gave a contented sigh and wound her fingers back in Kisuke's tunic.

"But you'd better speak to Kisuke-kun about something or he'll be drooling in my hair," Ryūken announced drily.

"All right, good idea you'd be too modest," Yoruichi teased. "Ryūken told the Head of the Guard to stuff it-"

"Yoru-chan!" Ryūken actually heard Kisuke jerk awake as he moved abruptly back to catch Yoruichi's gaze. "I didn't-"

"I'm only kidding!" Yoruichi kept her face firmly hidden against his shoulder. "This baka lied to the Head of the Guard to distract him so I could sneak back into the palace."


"You wanted the truth, ne?" Yoruichi laughed softly and this time didn't argue when Ryūken tried to break the embrace.

They didn't move far from each other, Ryūken turned so they made a small circle on the futon. "I distracted Furui-san and of course he wanted a pound of flesh when he found out I'd lied to him. Princess here, decided to ask Furui-san not to hurt me..."

Kisuke smothered a pleased grin at the blush that cut off the Quincy's next words.

"He only calls me that when he wants to really call me nasty names," Yoruichi told Kisuke in a conspiratory half-whisper.

"I don't-"

"Gomennasai, Ryūken-kun but you said 'princess' the same way Koneko-sama said 'baka' a moment before," Kisuke informed the Quincy.

"I told Furui-jiji that Ryū-kun was my only friend," Yoruichi made Ryūken's face burn even brighter. "He thought it was bad, me becoming friends with a common gardener."

"Furui-san offered to become my sponsor so I could join the Guard," Ryūken recalled and shook his head, still displeased with the trick the old man had tried to pull.


"I don't have a family, noble or otherwise. In fact if anyone met Sōken, "He didn't want to continue that line of thought. "You need one...I don't know why they're so into it..."

"Families..." Yoruichi tried to explain, she'd heard it a few times. "Without them you have to prove your name has honor alone."

"Huh?" Kisuke's eyebrows lifted in confusion.

"Furui-jiji only cares that a candidate be raised among warriors, taught to be a fighter from the first step...Even taught a personal style of fighting. The Onmitsukidō actually looks for members like that in order to bring new ideas into the organization," Yoruichi described.

"So he wanted to make you a guard, are they less common than gardeners?" Kisuke prompted.

Ryūken shook his head with a huff of breath that sounded suspiciously like laughter. "The only reason he decided to do it was to get me as far away from Yoru-chan as he could, he'd no doubt make me move to the trainee barracks."

"It's a building on the opposite side of the palace grounds, the furthest from my room."

"That's not nice," Kisuke frowned; surprised that hadn't occurred to him.

"I told him I'd do it if he let Yoru-chan join too."

"Does your family have a fighting style?" Kisuke suddenly asked Yoruichi. "Ryūken-kun said your mother was a skilled fighter."

Surprised Yoruichi nodded sadly, "She taught one person-her gundanchō, her highest corps commander-before I was born just in case, but as long as Otousan forbids it she can't teach me."

"Just in case?"

Ryūken listened intently as Yoruichi described the unexplained early death of her uncle Sousosei. He had known there had once been more Shihōin (obviously), but his tightlipped stance on the topic of his family had the unexpected consequence of Yoruichi also withholding information.

"Since it happened decades before my birth all I have is otousan's bedtime stories and whatever I can overhear while I prowl the palace as a cat," Yoruichi's gaze was directed at the swath of white blanket showing in the middle of their circle, she didn't know if she would get upset and if she did she wouldn't let them see it. "By the time he died Okaasan had already fallen in love and married a noble from one of the lower noble houses, and the Shihōin didn't object since she was second born. Ojiisama took him in and treated him like a son, especially when Sousosei-sama died."

"Furui-san says it was as if she was born to lead Onmitsukidō," Ryūken murmured to Yoruichi and she lifted her eyes to his in surprise.

"She was a gundanchō before Sousosei-died," Yoruichi continued. "She was sōshireikan for over a decade before I was born and..." She quickly moved her eyes away.

"She died having you?" Kisuke asked bluntly and he noticed how tightly her fingers were clenched together in her lap.

"I overheard Otousan say that she didn't even get to hold me," She looked up startled as Kisuke leaned forward and untwisted her fingers so he could take her hand.

"So who knows?"

"No one will tell me her name but I know Furui-jiji and Otousan know her," Even though she still felt frustrated the warm reassuring squeeze of Kisuke's hand was a comfort. "I used to use my other form to get information but I haven't been able to figure out where they keep the Onmitsukidō's history."

Although Ryūken tried his best to ignore the hand holding, the Quincy couldn't help shooting Kisuke a pointed look. As he looked up however he found Kisuke was already looking meaningfully at him. Confused Ryūken followed Kisuke's leading eyes down to where Yoruichi and his hands rested on her knee. Ryūken glanced up to the dejected princess before his hand moved of its own volition to weave their fingers together.

Yoruichi looked up with teary eyes a smile splitting her face. "One day I hope Otousan will see how alike Okaasan and I are."

Both boys got a squeeze from Yoruichi's fingers. "I suggested he open the recruitment to children of Rukongai so that I could enlist as an orphan. The extra influx of Rukongai kids and a mask and Otousan won't even notice me," The tears vanished as pride shown brilliantly from her golden eyes.

"So tomorrow we'll teach you what little we know and if you're as fast a learner as you seem you'll be enlisting with us the day after that," Ryūken was pleased as Yoruichi's fingers clung to his.


Kisuke bit his bottom lip, eyes slowly rolling upward as he pondered all of the questions jumping up and down to get his attention. "What will we call you?"

Ryūken's brown eyes met Yoruichi's yellow, both startled that they hadn't thought about that themselves. "Um..."

"We have some time, let's all sleep on it?" Yoruichi suggested.

"Good idea," Kisuke said between a yawn. "This is the first time I've slept in a real bed."

Yoruichi released Ryūken, got up and tugged on Kisuke's hand until he followed. "Then you'll have to do it properly."

Ryūken watched in mild dismay as Yoruichi threw the covers back so Kisuke could get under them.

"Bedtime Ryū-kun," Yoruichi said in a sing song voice. She waited until he grumbled and turned to get in his futon.

"Domo arigatō Koneko-sama," Kisuke murmured as Yoruichi tucked him in like Geboku always did for her.

"My name is Yoruichi," Yoruichi gently objected as she leaned over to blow out the lantern beside his futon. "If we're going to be friends you'd better forget that, 'hime' and 'sama' nonsense."

"Hai!" Kisuke nodded his mouth gaping open as he yawned again and this time it jumped to the princess.

"Oyasuminasai," She yawned with a smile and gave Kisuke's blankets a pet before crawling over to Ryūken's bedside.

"Do you always have to be so informal?" Ryūken murmured as she pulled the covers up and tucked in the Quincy as well.

"Always Ryūken..." Yoruichi echoed with a nod and a cocky grin as Ryūken sputtered a moment. "Always..." She leaned over to put out his lantern.

"Oyasuminasai," Ryūken grumbled in a surly tone, mostly because she had had that grin on her face again right before blowing the light out. This time-in the semi-privacy of the dark-it didn't bring on a flood of dread but nervous anticipation.

He felt her hand press down in the futon near his arm so she could lean down and whisper in his ear, "Oyasuminasai, Ryū-kun."

Ryūken thought that would be it but then she pressed a kiss to his forehead while gentle fingers plucked his glassed off, folded them and placed them by the dormant lantern before quietly leaving the room through the shoji door.

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