Disclaimer: Do you recognize it? Does it make money for anyone who would own it? If so, then that owner isn't me, despite all of my prayers to The Giant Flying Spaghetti Monster.
A/N: I did not mean to offend any Texans or real-life couples in this. I was parodying the stereotypes of macho cowboys and large, domineering middle-aged women with little henpecked husbands. So please don't be offended, Copper-neechan and Kian-chan and everyone else.
This is the sequel to my Valentines Day Ichihime fic, Matchmaker Shoten. But you don't have to read that to understand what's happening here, although it'd be nice if you did. :)
"Hear ye, hear ye! I now call this Ultra-Mega-Hyper Special, Super-Duper-Top Secret, Really Really Really Important Meeting of the Shinigami Women's Association to order!"
"Did I say you could talk, Vice-president?"
"No, but this isn't the Shi—"
"EXACTLY! Only I can talk, until I say everyone else can! Unless they give me candy, of course. Speaking of candy, is there any—oooh, candycandycandyMINE!"
Urahara Kisuke sighed mournfully as he watched the pink haired menace—er, monster—no, wait, demon—was there any way to describe the vice-captain of the Eleventh that wouldn't set her entire Division—including its captain—on the one doing the describing? Probably not, he knew. But anyways, whatever she was, at the rate she was going everything on the shelves would be gone within an hour.
I'll have to pull some strings to restock, he thought mournfully, thinking of all of those useful things he could have earned with the favors he had garnered; a new hat, that specimen tank that his smug former third-seat had sent him a picture of, fish-flavored chocolate for Yoruichi-san's White Day gift …
Ah, well, he flipped his fan open with an ill-disguised mournful sigh, at least I'll have money after all of this is over. Assuming that I don't end up in debt when this blows up in all of our faces, of course.
"Alright, then." The shopkeeper hastily flipped the fan closed as he stepped up behind the podium. "Let's get started, shall we? Is everyone aware of their part in the plan?"
"We have a plan?"
"I thought we did, but now I'm not quite as sure…" Urahara sweatdropped as he recognized the speaker "But if we did, then you would be the first to try for the objective: to make sure Kurosaki-kun and Inoue-san have the most romantic White Day of all time!"
There he was, sitting with an almost imperceptible curve to his shoulders, a slouch that wasn't there when he had his zanpaku-to in hand and a Hollow in sight. That certain slackness in his face and shine in his eyes that told her that his mind was at least three thousand and twenty seven miles away. His fingers drummed against his desk, once, twice, a full instrumental verse without the pianos or the violins or even a tuba. She could only see a bit of his face; one eye, one cheek, the tip of his nose and the edge of his lips—a warmth filled her and threatened to splash out all over the floor as she remembered the taste of the last, would she have to clean up bubbly, fizzy joy if she couldn't keep it down?—but she knew he would be attempting an attentive look, trying to follow along but failing miserably.
Smiling slightly, Orihime let her gaze linger on that bright orange-topped head for the length of one last sigh, before bending back down over her notes. He'd have to borrow them again, later—or rather, she'd have to lend them to him whether he liked it or not, she had gained quite a bit of practice when it came to overriding his protests with reassurances that no, she didn't feel like he was using her, and he worked so hard every night that he couldn't be expected to be able to completely pay attention every day, and she liked helping him however she could, really she did—and maybe they could even have another study date together.
Although this time, she would have to make sure that they actually got some studying done.
She chided herself as she realized that she had fallen behind on her notes, and charged into copying the equations on the board with renewed vigor. They marched across her paper to their solutions as soldiers did to victory, led by the princely pencil. She wondered, in the back of her mind, if she could find a pencil with an orange eraser. Then she could draw a little scowling face on it and dress it in a tiny shihakusho and perhaps even glue a plastic butter knife to the back.
Focus, focus, the bright-haired girl reminded herself yet again. Somebody had to take notes, after all, and with how overworked her Kurosaki-kun had been lately it shouldn't have to be him.
Her Kurosaki-kun. She couldn't help but flush at the addition, it had—for her—become a part of his name in the month since Valentines Day; that day of chocolate, sappy movies, stumbling confessions, and scowling singles. One of the most romantic days of the year, with one possible exception.
She felt a grin break out across her face, uncontrollable and as easily restrained as the wind outside of their classroom window, which snatched playfully at the new leaves at that very moment. She risked a glance out of the corner of her eye at the date written on one corner of the board, far from the equations that were still being scribbled down: March Fourteenth.
White Day, it's finally White Day!
She wasn't a greedy girl, not by even the strictest of standards. For the most part, her desires were simple: cooing over those cute puppies in the pet store window with Sado-kun, exchanging sewing tips with Ishida-kun, watching Renji-kun and Kuchiki-san bicker over who had done more to take down a Hollow, and sharing her red-bean and wasabi flavored cookies with her Kurosaki-kun. She was always wonderfully surprised by how quickly they vanished once he had them, she could look away for the briefest of moments and they'd be gone down to the last crumb.
However, she was like any other youth—or, indeed, sentient being—in her desire to have something from her loved one, something to hold, some tangible proof of those hesitant kisses at the doorstep and evenings spent cuddled up beneath a blanket, accompanied only by some silly movie and red bean paste-covered popcorn and each other. Something to hold when his hand wasn't within reach.
"That's it for today." Ochi-sensei's voice snapped her out of her blushing reverie, although the red tint of her cheeks only deepened when she realized she'd probably daydreamed her way into missing at least half of that day's notes. She glanced down at the notebook on her desk, then back up at the blackboard; the latter had become so full that the teacher had almost been forced to write on the wall, while her sheet of paper seemed to her to be pointing an accusing finger at her in its blankness.
"Here." Suddenly, that evilly empty white paper with those faded blue lines was replaced by a completely different sheet, one that was the blackboard in inverted miniature. She blinked, and looked up, up, up. She loved how tall he was, how she always found that orange hair in front of the light at its zenith, a sun in the sun—or in this case, a light fixture, but really that wasn't anywhere near as poetic and didn't come even the slightest bit close to describing how regal her Kurosaki-kun looked, more regal than ever silhouetted and standing tall.
Not that he didn't usually look like anything other than the epitome of nobility, a long-lost prince whose… hand was waving in front of her face. Huh?
"You were daydreaming even more than usual today, so I thought I'd take the notes for once." The one in her thoughts and sight moved his hand to stroke the side of her face, and she leaned into the caress, smiling at the roughness of the calluses brought on by hours of swords and souls. With her smile, his trademark scowl lifted just a little bit to show the smile hidden beneath; so bright that the tiny bit of it he let through the clouds eclipsed his hair, the light fixture, even the sun itself.
She giggled at the mental image of her Kurosaki-kun accepting a job as the new sun, or rather the "new and improved solar overseer", but then her eyes widened as something occurred to her. "Kurosaki-kun, don't! If you do that, the sun will need to work as a garbage man and his wife will leave him because of the smell and take their twin children with him and he'll…"
"Get a room, you two!" A thunk, a collision, and a sweatdrop from Ochi Misato. "Oops."
She hadn't thought she'd thrown the chalk that hard… and why had they been so close anyways? Her goal had been to knock Ichigo's head forward just enough for them to kiss. Unless…
…Nah, this was Kurosaki Ichigo and Inoue Orihime, for Kami-sama's sake. The day that that those two made out in public with no outside interference whatsoever was the day shinigami disguised themselves as students and snuck into her classes.
"Oi!" She called, and a dark-haired head poked its way around the doorframe. "When you're done sneezing, get the lovebirds to the nurse's office! And tell your partner that you two are up next!"
"Be careful, Ochi-san, as Inoue-san's forehead has been known to crack solid brick walls on occasion. If your efforts fail, or you cannot manage to find a clear shot, then the two of you will lure them into a small room together and lock the door. Closets are ideal for this, but any room both cozy and secure should do."
"How did we get locked in here, again?" Ichigo asked, glancing at the ruins of the door while he slipped back into his body. From their vantage point right around the corner, Arisawa Tatsuki and Kuchiki Rukia quietly began banging their heads against the wall.
"Please remember to relieve Kurosaki-kun of his badge and Inoue-san of her hairpins. We don't want them breaking out too soon, after all."
"I'm not really sure." Orihime admitted, scratching her head as the muttering Tsubaki returned to his spot in her hairpins. "But what if Nurse-san was kidnapped by aliens because of her medical skills? They might have needed her to cure an epidemic of ginormous proportions, but they would of course leave a temporary replacement in the form of one of their own school nurse's, who wouldn't have the slightest idea how to treat humans other than locking them up to keep them from straining themselves while they were healing!"
"Er…" The orangette blinked down at his nakama, finding himself surprised by what she could come up with even after all of his experience with her… unusually active imagination. "Sure, let's go with that."
"Then we have to save her!" The girl leapt to her feet, running towards the door—only to find a gentle grip on her arm holding her back. She twisted slightly and looked back over her shoulder at the substitute shinigami. "Kurosaki-kun? What are you—eep!"
The makeshift matchmakers stopped bemoaning their forgetfulness long enough to exchange confused glances at the strange new sounds that were emerging from what should have been their captives. The latter echoed the squeaking, while the former could offer no more than a shrug… until, that is, the two who they were spying on suddenly came out of the room.
Only one of them actually did so of their own power, though.
"K-Kurosaki-kun!" The brunette squeaked from her place slung over the other teen's shoulder. "I can walk, really!"
"Splinters," he told her simply, despite the fact that they were already several steps beyond the threshold to the infirmary and any remnants of the door. In fact, they were heading right for—
"In the event that they do manage to break out, then run for your lives until they stop chasing you, after which it would be much appreciated if you followed them at a safe distance. The last plan will need as much help as it can get, if we're forced to use it…"
"Are you saying you don't think we can handle it?"
"To be frank, Yoruichi-san, I believe that all of the taichou's and fukutaichou's of the Gotei Thirteen couldn't manage it. And that would be assuming that they worked together as a seamless team, which as we all know is impossible. No offense."
"With my vice-captain? None taken."
"Taichou! How can you be so cruel?"
"Do some paperwork for once and maybe I'll tell you, Matsumoto."
"As I was saying… that is only our last-ditch effort, and hopefully one we won't have to attempt. But more importantly; the next maneuver will be a tricky one, but I trust the three who were assigned to it will perform an admirable job."
"Hey!" Renji shouted, rushing towards the bright-haired couple with visible relief. They had almost missed them, and in fact the two had been walking away. "We're giving a random couple a chance to win a romantic dinner for two at a restaurant of their choice, and all you've got to do is k—"
"Oh, really?" A very large, very intimidating woman suddenly stepped in front of him, effectively blocking his way. "That's wonderful! Isn't it wonderful, dear?"
"Please… help me…" The tiny man whose wrist she held in an iron grip whimpered pitifully.
"Hold on just a cotton-pickin' second there little lady!" A man in a cowboy hat, who somehow managed to speak Japanese with a Texan accent, strode over to them with a giggling blonde stick figure of a woman trailing along after him. "I do believe that there boy was atalkin' to us! Ain't that right, son?"
"Actually…" The redhead tried to edge around them, only to be caught by the blonde.
"Aw, he's such a little cutie pie!" She squealed, squeezing his cheeks and finger-combing his gigai's short hair in a way that set off sniggering behind them. "What do you say you and I get to know each other a little better, sweetpea?"
"Now wait just a gosh-darned second!" The cowboy's face reddened and he shoved the grateful shinigami away from his newfound admirer. "Are you makin' a move on my girl, sonny boy? Cause I don't take kindly to men who make moves on other men's girls, if you know what I mean."
"I'm not, I'm not!" Renji knew he was babbling, but he couldn't help it. He craned his neck, trying to see above the overly tall hat at where his targets had vanished. "If you'll just excuse me…"
"No, I will not just excuse you, you no good punk!" The well-muscled man stomped his foot, scowling down at the redhead in a way that would have terrified any normal human to the point of fainting. Thankfully, he was up against a shinigami who had once served under Zaraki, who managed to get away with merely crossing his legs to keep his bowels from emptying. "What in blazes is wrong with my girl?"
"What isn't?" The large woman retorted. "I mean, just look at her! She's probably destroying what's left of her gray matter with whatever eating disorder she has!"
"I'd never hit a lady, ma'am," he tipped his hat at her before continuing, "but if you keep that up I'll be forced to talk to your husband about shutting that there mouth of yours."
The aforementioned husband tried to squirm free of his 'loving' wife. "Not a… lady…"
"Maybe you should talk to 'your girl' first," the woman snapped, ignoring—or perhaps not even noticing—her spouse's feeble struggles, "or she won't be yours for much longer."
Everyone followed her imperiously pointing finger to see Renji's 'crew' being accosted by the blonde, who had a hyperventilating Kira by one arm while she backed the forcibly-smiling Hisagi up against the side of the nearest building, trailing the index finger of her free hand down his chest as she did so. "That's a qu
The cowboy turned the bright red of a perfectly grown tomato, and Renji blinked. Was that steam coming out of his ears? How was that even possible? Before the fukutaichou could recommend a trip to the hospital for treatment for whatever was happening, the tourist stormed towards the. "KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF MY GIRL, YOU YELLOW-BELLIED SONS OF A—!"
"HEY!" Bellowed the middle-aged woman. "THAT'S MY FREE MEAL YOU'RE STRANGLING!"
And there was much swearing, sumo wrestling, and gratuitous violence. Meanwhile, Ichigo and Orihime skipped off without the slightest clue of the havoc being wreaked behind them, too wrapped up in the story the latter wove about giant robot Godzilla's and chocolate antelopes to notice the screaming coming from behind them.
"Meaning that you expect them to fail miserably."
"Of course. But they will try their hardest, and one can always hope for the best! And when they fail, the next group will be waiting just around the corner! They'll have to be, to pull it off…"
"Why are we here?"
"For this!" Matsumoto Rangiku literally sparkled as she whipped out a long, wobbly beige strand of…
"Not just any noodle!" The woman crowed, whipping it around as others would a lethal weapon. "This is a specially-designed, reconfigured, road-tested, new and improved Deluxe Noodle King XXXXXL™"
Hitsugaya blinked, and stared at his vice-captain for several long moments before managing to regain control of his tongue. "How in Hueco Mundo do you road-test a noodle?"
She shrugged. "Don't ask me, Kurotsuchi-taichou's the one who made it."
The white-haired captain groaned. "I'm going to regret asking, aren't I?"
He ground his teeth, wondering—not for the first time, and certainly not for the last—if she acted the way she did simply for the sake of one day watching him being wrapped up in a straightjacket and carried into the Fourth Division, raving about Aizen, bunnies, and breasts. Eventually, he gave up his pondering and crossed his arms with that slightly annoyed, somewhat exhausted, and borderline terrified air of one who has far too much experience for their own peace of mind. "Why Kurotsuchi would make a noodle."
"I…" she hesitated "I'm not really sure I want to know the answer to that, taichou."
"For once, Matsumoto, I agree with you completely."
"Alright, then!" The woman punched the air, and the noodle slapped the ground where her captain had been standing mere moments before. "Now that that's settled, let's get going!"
"To the restaurant, where we will serve Ichigo-kun and Orihime-chan spaghetti and they'll both try to eat this noodle and their lips will meet and fireworks will go off and bells will ring it will be true love forever!"
There were a lot of things that Hitsugaya could have said to that statement. He chose the one he thought was least likely to produce an insane answer. "What restaurant?"
"…This wasn't thought through very well, was it?"
"Why do you think it was Plan D?"
"And if all else fails, there's always the final plan."
The sunset was beautiful, it's amber rays piercing and refracting off of the river to form a golden glow that seemed almost solid in the air. It reminded him of protection and healing, of whimsical dreams and soft smiles, of the retching sounds his Inner Hollow was currently making over his King's sudden sappiness. It reminded him, to put it simply, of all of those moments that made life worth living.
"Kurosaki-kun…" The warm, wonderful presence at his side murmured, her breath whisking a few bright spikes of ginger away from his ear. The puffs against his neck were scented with chocolate, the very same that he had managed to create after nearly blowing up his family's clinic during his first few hours of trials. He bent his head down towards her, dropping his usual scowl at the light in her eyes, which was only enhanced by the way that her gaze reflected the explosion of color in the sky.
"Yeah, In…" His smile faded, suddenly, his brow furrowing as something occurred to him. Even as she opened her mouth to respond to him, the arm that he had swathed around her shoulders drew her closer against him. "You know what? We've been going out for a month now… Orihime."
He caught a glimpse of widening autumnal eyes before she buried her face in the shoulder of his jacket. He could feel the heat of her blush even through the thick, heavy fabric, and he felt his own cheeks grow warm when her muffled voice drifted up to his ears. "Ichigo…"
He was herIchigo. Her Ichigo. It was, in her opinion, the only words that went better together than 'her kurosaki-kun' had.
He could have stood there for a lifetime with her pressed against his chest, but he knew that someone would eventually come around to bother them, and while silence was golden, her voice far surpassed even diamond. "What were you going to say?"
"It's nothing," she burrowed deeper into the folds of cloth, and he didn't buy it for a second. Burying his head in strawberry-scented strands, he waited. "It's just… please don't get too mad at them, Ku—Ichigo. They were only trying to help."
"They followed us around—probably for a while before we caught them—and played Disney love songs whenever we stopped. If whoever came up with that wanted to help us, he's an even bigger idiot than I thought he was and evolution will thank me for removing a certain part of his body."
"Fine… I'll only beat him half to death, happy?"
For a fleeting, precious moment that was gone too quickly even as it seemed to last forever, their worlds narrowed down to nothing—and yet everything. All that existed was his hand tangled in her hair, her arms wrapped around his neck, and that beat that their hearts skipped when their lips met.
Rukia and Tatsuki paused in dragging the battered bodies of their allies long enough to flash each other victorious, smug smirks. Then, the latter glanced over her shoulder. "Are you two getting this?"
Chad and Ishida answered with the soft click of camera shutters. Keigo and Mizuiro moaned—quietly, as they didn't want the duo to stop lugging them to some semblance of safety to abandon their efforts—and the remains of the boombox exploded for the third time, sending debris flying towards… the matchmakers held their breath, eyes widening until the danger had passed by less than an inch from the couple's head. They hadn't even noticed, engrossed as they were in their make-out session.
Rukia felt a smile spread across her face, slow but impossible to restrain even if she had wanted to. "Happy White Day, you two."
"CANDY!" An all-too familiar war cry shattered the serenity as a pink blur hurtled past the matchmakers. Her purpose? To turn Ichigo's head into a stepping-stone and knock the unfortunate couple out for the second time that day. Yachiru then went on her merry way, chasing after an unfortunate red dragonfly, sparing not a glance back at the formerly romantic evening that was left in ruins behind her.
"Codename: Play romantic music and pray to the Giant Flying Spaghetti Monster that Kurosaki-kun doesn't kill you."
"Er… the what? And what did you mean by 'hope that he doesn't kill you'?"
"Please, Ise-san, I've already purchased tickets for myself my staff on the next flight to Hawaii. I'm not crazy enough to stay in the same country if we have to resort to that. Do you have any idea how Kurosaki-kun would react if he found out about this? If not, then I'm sure that Kurosaki-san here would be happy to enlighten you."
"…Do you have room for one more on your plane out?"
A/N: Hear that? It's the review button, calling your name. And if you don't hear anything... then could you review anyways? Please? Don't make me break out the puppy-dog eyes!
Here's a bit of a bonus, too. ^^
"My daughters are so wonderful!" Kurosaki Isshin crowed, swinging his arms jauntily as he practically bounced down the road. "They actually spend time with their daddy, unlike their older brother!"
"You remembered what Urahara-san said, right?" Karin whispered to her sister, who nodded.
"Yup!" Yuzu said over the box of clothespins in her arms. "I switched all of the calendars to say it's yesterday. There's no way he'll find out that it's—"
"That it's what?" Isshin asked, his head popping up between them. The brunette twin shrieked and leapt backwards, while her darker-haired counterpart reacted on instinct.
"OW!" Tears rolled down the doctor's face, and he clutched his head where the soccer fan had kicked it. "Karin, why are you so cruel to daddy?"
"Maybe because you snuck up on us?" She retorted, revealing her family resemblance to Ichigo in the scowl she leveled at their father. "You know, if you—what are you looking at?"
The man seemed not to hear her, too busy gazing off into the distance in an overly dramatic manner. "My Daddy senses are tingling."
"Your what are whating now?"
"Ichigo's reputation is ripe for humiliation!" He cried, and took off running. "SUPERDAD, AWAY!"
The Kurosaki twins stared at each other for a long moment, until Yuzu slumped over with a heavy sigh. "Do you think they managed to at least get them to kiss yet?"
"For Ichi-nii's sake, I hope not."
Both looked up at a sudden yelp, just in time to see their father practically trample a familiar redheaded figure. The brunette gasped. "Jinta-kun!"
Karin rolled her eyes as her sister dashed off. "Am I the only one who's still sane? No, wait, sane people don't talk to themselves, do they?"