It had started with Ikkaku.
"Hey, Ichigo!" shouted the third seat. "Aren't you taking part in today's holiday?"
Ichigo didn't think much of the other man's attire at first, which consisted of a pair of jeans with a strawberry stitched
into the pocket, and a light pink T-shirt complete with strawberry on the front. "What holiday?" Ichigo asked, scowling. Not
that that was a new thing for him or anything.
"I dunno, Matsumoto told me about it. She had that kid's older sister force me to wear this ridiculous get up," Ikkaku
replied, also scowling slightly.
Ichigo shrugged at that. "Dunno anything about it," he muttered. "Anyway, I'll see you later."
Then it was Hitsugaya, of all people.
"It's Hitsugaya taicho," came the immediate response. "What do you want?"
Ichigo scowled at the prodigy's back. "What are you doing?"
"Oi, did you hear me?"
"Are you blind?"
"Then what does it look like I'm doing?" He patted down a pile of dirt and began to dig another small hole.
"Um..." Ichigo leaned over and read the packet of seeds. "Planting... strawberries?"
"Oh." It was quiet for a moment, then, "Why?"
Hitsugaya sighed and put down the small shovel, a tic beginning over his eye, and looked over his shoulder at the other
male. "Why? Because Matsumoto said she wouldn't drink for an entire day if I did."
Ichigo snorted. "I would've gone for a week."
"I'd have to wear a tutu for that one..."
Ichigo stared at Hitsugaya, who stared back, unrelenting. "I won't say a word."
Hitsugaya nodded. "Good."
With that, Ichigo wandered off.
Third came Yumichika, who seemed by far the most into it.
"Kurosaki-kun!" the fluttery fifth seat greeted out of nowhere, suddenly attaching himself to Ichigo's arm. He beamed prettily
up at Ichigo, though the effect was lost on the shinigami daiko and he gave up with a sigh, relinquishing the boy's arm. "So,
how has Abarai fukutaicho been today?" he asked curiously.
Ichigo blinked. "Renji? How would I know?" he demanded, scowling. Where'd that come from? Come to think of
it, he hadn't seen Renji all day, not that he particularly cared.
Yumichika lifted a brow. "Wow... I thought you guys were... you know... 'it'."
"It? It what?" Ichigo scowled again.
The fifth seat shook his head. "Oh, nevermind. You're as oblivious as Kuchiki taicho some times," he muttered. "Well, I'll
be seeing you!" With that, he waved and trotted off.
Ichigo frowned when he saw there was a strawberry on the back of his otherwise white T-shirt. What was with the strawberries
all over the place?
Then, of course, Inoue had to make herself known.
She tackled him. "Kurosaki-kun! I was so happy for you when I heard!" she cried, smiling brightly. "Here! I made you something!"
"What?" he asked, stumbling along after her as she dragged him down the street toward the park. Once they reached their
destination, he saw a familiar-looking white box sitting on a bench.
She picked it up and shoved it at his chest. "I was so excited that I didn't make it like I usually make cakes, Kurosaki-kun,"
she admitted. "It's just a plain old cake, I'm sorry about that."
He wasn't. "Uh... That's okay, Inoue," he muttered. "Don't worry about it."
Orihime beamed. "I hope you and Abarai-kun enjoy it!" With that, she danced off, in the general direction of Tatsuki's
"Uh, yeah," he called, waving after her half-heartedly. Suddenly, her last sentence registered and he scowled. "This is
for me and Renji?" he grumbled to himself. "Why?" He opened the lid of the cake and looked inside. He couldn't tell
what kind it was, but it had pink frosting with two little strawberries on the top, and the words 'Kurosaki-kun and Abarai-kun
forEVER' beneath them. "What the hell?"
Having decided that he may as well share it with Renji, since that was the intention behind it anyway, Ichigo figured he
may as well search the redhead out. On his way to the Shoten, where Renji usually was when he wasn't in school or fighting
a hollow, Ichigo ran across Chad. He waved. "Oi, Chad! What's up?"
The bigger boy shrugged and stared at Ichigo for a moment. "What's in the box?" he asked finally, his eyes lowering to
the white cardboard in the strawberry boy's hands.
"Huh?" Ichigo looked down at it. "Oh, this? It's a cake that Inoue made...?" It came out as a question rather than an answer,
as Ichigo wasn't quite sure why Chad cared in the first place.
"Oh." A few more minutes ticked by before the big half-mexican spoke once more. "Is it safe to eat?"
"..." Ichigo hadn't thought of that. Inoue may have said she hadn't done anything weird to it, but that didn't mean
it was true. "Um..."
"Want me to taste it?" Chad offered, blinking at him blankly.
"Uh, no, that's okay. If she did something strange to it, I wouldn't want you to get sick," Ichigo replied, scratching
the back of his head. "I'll tough it out."
Chad nodded, shrugging. "Don't eat it if it looks weird," he muttered, continuing on his way.
"I won't," Ichigo answered, waving goodbye to his friend before continuing himself.
Once more, Ichigo was stopped before he reached the Shoten. By Yoruichi-san, no less.
"Ichigo!" she chirped, slinging an arm around his shoulders. "Whatchya doin'?"
He scowled. "I'm looking for Renji. What's with the get-up?" he asked, looking pointedly at her rather odd clothing.
She tugged on the edge of the tye-dyed shirt and turned so he could see the back, which had- yes, you guessed it, a strawberry.
"It's a tribute to eternal love!" she chirped happily.
"What the hell are you on about?" he demanded, his scowl growing more pronounced. He pointedly stepped away from
her when she attempted to sling her arm around his shoulders again.
She pouted but didn't try to do it again. "You and Renji, of course," she said as if it were obvious.
What? "What's with everybody today?" he demanded irritably. "Everybody's fussing around with strawberries, and talking
about me and Renji. Why?"
Yoruichi grinned mischievously. "Why don't you ask him? Maybe he knows!" With that, and a final glomp, she was on her way,
going back to doing whatever the hell she'd been doing when she'd spotted him.
Ichigo scowled again. "That damn cat," he muttered. "She's a demon, I swear it."
Matsumoto was leaving the Shoten when Ichigo arrived, and he stopped her. "Hey! What's with the strawberries?" he demanded,
remembering Ikkaku saying something about her being behind it all.
She beamed at him and promptly hugged him in much the same way she did her captain. "Oh! So cute! Ichigo-kun's so adorably
He shoved at her shoulders, his back starting to hurt since she'd forced him to bend over in order to suffocate him with
those massive... things. "Mmmph! Mmmph!" he grumbled, trying to breathe.
"Oh, I did it for Renji!" she continued, as if unaware that the boy she was currently smothering was dying from lack of
oxygen. "So maybe now he can confess! I decided to make it a holiday, even! Tatsuki-chan agreed to help Orihime-chan with
the cake- did you know that girl could bake? - and then Urahara-san provided the decorations! It's so cute!"
Ichigo's legs collapse underneath him, and for a moment, he truly thought he was going to die like this. What a way to
go. Finally seeming to notice that he was turning blue, Matsumoto released him and he crumpled to the ground, gasping in the
glorious, wonderfully sweet air. She leaned over him and patted his head.
"You're so cute, Ichigo-kun!" she chirped before skipping away innocently. Except the effect was pretty much ruined when
her breasts nearly fell out of her school uniform.
Suddenly, Ichigo felt all that much more sympathetic towards Toshiro. The boy had to deal with that all day, and
still managed to find time to work? Go Hitsugaya.
"Oi, what the hell're you doing on the ground?"
Ichigo looked up to see Renji standing in the door of the Shoten. The redhead was scratching underneath his headband and
looking at Ichigo bemusedly, before seeming to notice the white box the strawberry boy had dropped. "Huh? What's this?"
Ichigo sat up, but wasn't quite ready to stand yet. "It's from Inoue and Tatsuki," he answered, rubbing his neck and blushing
for some reason unknown to him. "They made it for the both of us, for some reason, and I was looking for you to give you your
"Oh," Renji muttered, leaning his broom up against the doorjam before lifting the cardboard lid. "What the hell?" he asked,
glancing at Ichigo in confusion.
Ichigo shook his head, shrugging and pulling himself to his feet. "Don't ask me," he grumbled, swaying slightly. He felt
dizzy all of a sudden - probably due to nearly being suffocated to death - and had to grab Renji's shoulder to keep from falling
over again. "We'll probably hafta check it for food poisoning, though..."
Renji nodded, automatically lifting one hand to steady the other male. "You okay?" he asked, brow furrowing in something
akin to worry, though not quite; he'd seen Ichigo worse off than this.
"Yeah, just need a few," Ichigo answered, scowling as he remember the reason for his current condition. "I don't see how
Toshiro can deal with that woman," he added.
"Who, Matsumoto-san? What'd she do to you?"
Ichigo nodded. "Yeah. She... suffocated me..." A blush spread across Ichigo's face as it occurred to him just what
she'd smothered him with.
Renji snickered. "I wouldn't worry about it. She does that to everyone at least once."
"You mean she's done it to you?" Ichigo asked with a malicious grin.
"Nope," was the completely blunt answer. "I usually throw Hitsugaya taicho or Rukia at her when she tries."
"... Damn." Ichigo scowled. "Why didn't I think of that?" He shook his head and sighed. "C'mon, let's get some forks
and see if this thing's edible," he suggested, motioning toward the potentially lethal sweet in Renji's hands. "Who should
try it first?"
"You," Renji answered, smirking.
Ichigo shrugged. "Okay, I'm willing to be the bigger man."
Renji scowled at this. "What? Hey! I'll try it, then!"
Well, that was easy, Ichigo thought. He sat on the couch and accepted a fork from the redhead, readying for the inevitable.
"Okay, so try it." It was silent for a moment as both men stared at the cake. "Should I try it...?" he asked finally.
"Maybe we should make sure it looks okay on the inside, first," Renji suggested.
"Yeah, good idea..."
Renji cut it with his fork, having not bothered to get a knife, and they checked the inside. "What are those orange and
yellow chunks?" the redhead asked worriedly.
"It looks like... pineapples in a carrot cake," Ichigo answered, his brow furrowing.
"Pineapples? What're those?"
Ichigo rolled his eyes and picked a slice of pineapple out of the surrounding cake and held it out on his fork. "Here,
try it. If Inoue hasn't done anything weird to the cake, it should be fine."
Renji straightened and took the fork, shoving the food into his mouth bravely and chewing quietly for a moment. "It's...
actually kinda good," he admitted, sounding surprised. "You said Arisawa helped her with this? That must be why..."
Ichigo nodded, realizing he was probably right. "Yeah. That must be it." Knowing Tatsuki, she probably got out the ingredients
for Inoue and then monitored the cooking.
"But what are the orange bits?" Renji wondered aloud.
"I think it's pieces of carrots. Carrot cake, I'd said." Ichigo lifted a brow and cut off a piece, shoving it into
Renji blinked, seeming to remember this. "Oh, yeah." He watched Ichigo chew carefully for a moment before adding, "So?
Is it okay?"
Ichigo nodded, taking another bite. "Yeah, it's okay. An odd combination, but otherwise fine. Tatsuki seems to have curbed
Inoue's tastes for the moment."
"At least for this cake," Renji added, taking his own bite and finding he rather liked it.
For the next fifteen minutes, the two talked about various things, polishing off the cake rather quickly between the two
of them, before Ichigo remembered the other reason he'd wanted to talk to Renji. "Hey, can I ask you about something?" he
spoke up, interrupting Renji's muttering about Rukia's cruelty.
"Huh?" the redhead asked intelligently, blinking. "What about?"
Ichigo twisted his lips thoughtfully. "What's with this whole strawberry thing today, do you know?"
Renji's brow furrowed. "Strawberry thing?"
"Yeah, you know, like a theme. Everyone's been going around, talking about you and me, and wearing strawberries on their
"... Really...?" For some reason, the color had completely drained from Renji's face, almost as if he'd seen a ghost. "Kurosaki...
Has anyone said anything... strange about me?"
Surprised, Ichigo paused for a moment, thinking over the day. "Well... Inoue said something about being happy for me, but
before that, Yumichika said something about us being 'it', whatever that means... And of course there's Matsumoto, who said
something about... you..." Something clicked, and suddenly everything was made startlingly clear. "Um, Renji?"
The redhead gulped, seeming to snap out of some reverie. "Uh... Y-yeah?" he asked, looking a little nervous. "What... What
did Matsumoto-san say?"
Ichigo's eyes narrowed. "She said something about confessing. Did you do something I should know about?"
Renji paused, the color returning to his face a bit. "Did I... do something?" A strange smile crossed his face, and he
looked relieved for some reason. "Uh... yeah. I, uh... Told Inoue that you... were, uh... a virgin."
"Liar!" a voice floated in from the other room, and both turned to look at the door leading to Urahara's tea room. The
getaboshi was eavesdropping, apparently.
Never mind that. Ichigo glared at Renji. "Are you lying?"
Renji gulped and scooted away. "Well... Uh, you see... I can't really... I... Well, taicho-"
"Renji, confess!" added in Yoruichi, also from the other room.
"THEN STOP LISTENING!!!" the redhead shouted, his face turning an angry red. Or maybe it was embarrassed, though Ichigo
didn't really care. At any rate, there was no answer from the duo in the other room, so Renji looked back at Ichigo. "Well...
You see, I've... kinda got this... thing..."
Ichigo held up a hand. "Don't say it," he said, frowning in annoyance. "Just... don't."
Renji looked disappointed. "Oh... Okay."
Ichigo frowned and leaned over, covering Renji's mouth with his own, much to the redhead's surprise. After a moment, however,
he pulled away and sighed. "Don't say it if it makes you that uncomfortable," he finished, staring into Renji's cherry-colored
Renji blinked. "Oh. Yeah, okay," he agreed, looking a little lost. "Um... Can I kiss you again?"
"That's a stupid thing to ask," Ichigo muttered, rolling his eyes.
"Uh, right," Renji nodded, suddenly appearing to come back into himself, and kissed Ichigo back. They parted seconds later
when there was a soft snicker and looked toward Urahara's tea room. The getaboshi was leaning out the door, a black cat perched
on his shoulder, both watching rather maliciously.
Ichigo shuddered. "Uh... We should leave," he muttered.
Renji was inclined to agree, barely concealing his own shiver. "Yeah, that's a good idea..." With that, both disappeared
out the door.
They wouldn't be seen for the next three days.