The five of them, Yohko and her grandmother, Ichigo, Rukia, and Urahara all sat on the floor around the now cold rice and no longer steaming tea. Together they stared at print outs of the images from Rukia’s phone, trying to decipher them. While Yohko looked her print out over, Ururu braided the hunter’s hair into pig tails.
“We’ve been able to translate the general message behind some of it,” said Urahara. “Something about hunters and hollows, death and protection, and a key.”
“What could that all possibly mean?” Yohko asked.
“It doesn’t matter what it means,” Ichigo said irritably. “What matters is that we find the Hollows that got my family, and send them to Hell.” Under the smooth skin of his narrow jaw, Yohko could see that he was grinding his teeth.
Rukia sighed. “I think that’s enough for today. Ururu, are our beds ready?”
The little girl nodded. “Mz. Mano and Rukia will have one room, Ichigo will have a room of his own in here, and Yohko will stay with me.”
“Then let’s quit for the night.” Madoka croaked with a wide yawn, shuffling to her feet with a groan. The group followed Madoka’s example, and left Ichigo to himself, all except for Yohko.
“Ichigo?” She asked quietly.
“What is it?” He answered quietly, brashly, his back turned towards the young woman.
“Thank you.” Before Ichigo could question her, Yohko continued. “Thank you for having my back earlier. Thank you for keeping me from going off the deep end after Azusa was lost. If I could have done the same for you, I would have.”
Ichigo just muttered something unintelligible in reply, but soon he felt slender, feminine but surprisingly strong hands on his tense shoulders. Yohko’s fingers began to massage the muscles, working out the knots and stress. Ichigo slowly relented, letting his kinks loosen and uncramp. Yohko’s hands were firm but gentle as they coaxed out his pain, and her breasts were soft enough to rest his head on, which Ichigo did.
Yohko blushed as Ichigo rested his head against her chest. She had never allowed a boy to do such a thing before, let alone one so harsh and unpredictable as Ichigo, but with his eyes closed and breathing even, he seemed calm, serene, and comfortable. What the boy needed right now was for someone to hold him.
Yohko smelled clean, fresh, like talcum powder. Ichigo let the scent flow through his mind and he drifted easily in a place between awake and asleep. The rhythm off Yohko’s breathing beneath his head and the steadfast beat of her heart were a comfort. It all reminded him of how he used to fall asleep on his mother’s chest after waking from a nightmare. She would wrap her slender arms around him, like Yohko was doing now, and Ichigo would listen to her steady breathing and the strong beat of her heart.
Now Ichigo looked up at the girl, who smiled softly down at him, not in happiness, but for comfort. Ichigo starred up at Yohko for long, silent minutes in the darkness of the room, before sitting up and facing her. Yohko’s smile faded as Ichigo’s stormy gaze bore into her. She had to resist the urge to look away or squirm, nor did she really have the opportunity after Ichigo grabbed her by the shoulders. Yohko did not have time to question what was happening before Ichigo pulled her small body to him, arms wrapping around the young woman, hugging her to his strong chest. Ichigo buried is nose and brow against the top of Yohko’s head, while she found her temple snuggled just under his collar bone. He was trembling ever so slightly.
Yohko could feel her heart begin to speed up beneath her ribs, while she could hear the same reaction from Ichigo’s own heart. His muscular arms continued to embrace the young hunter, and Yohko made no effort to escape from this moment. She let it be up to Ichigo how long the moment would last.
Secure with his thoughts and memories, Ichigo slowly withdrew, releasing Yohko from his hold and looking down calmly at her. He combed his fingers through a brown ponytail.
“I, um,” Ichigo began. “I needed that.”
“I wanted to relax you.” Yohko said. “You look like you haven’t relaxed in a long time.”
“Yeah, well, thanks.” Ichigo answered.
Yohko’s eyes cast to the side, where Ichigo was still fingering her hair. It was an oddly tender action, and it made Yohko feel a little tingle under her skin and in her belly. The feeling made her blush again, which was hidden by the darkness. Ichigo could feel a new kind of tension in the room, one of both need and awkwardness. Yohko could feel it too, the sort of feeling she felt when Osamu was possessed, the desire she felt for any number of guys at her school. But this was different; Ichigo was tough, strong, almost forbidden and definitely dangerous. Any crush that might be budding within her, she thought wise to quell it now, before things got out of hand.
“I’d b-better go to my room...” Yohko stammered.
“I was going to say the same thing.” Ichigo agreed quickly.
“We’ll feel better in the morning.”
“After a good night’s sleep!”
“So goodnight, Yohko.”
Yohko breathed a sigh of self satisfaction as she turned away from Ichigo, pleased that the situation was diffused with only a small amount of awkwardness.
On impulse, Ichigo grabbed Yohko’s arm by its dainty wrist, suddenly feeling a powerful refusal to let her go. The young man just could not see her leave, and he pulled her back to him sharply. Yohko spun on her toes to face Ichigo, and once again found her front pressed against his. His palm cradled the back of her neck before she could question it, and then the young Soul Reaper took the Devil Hunter’s lips with his own.