When the dust and dirt and grit had cleared, Yoruichi found herself on one knee, her outstretched hands hanging inches from Soi Fon's bowed head. In the narrow space between her palms and the younger woman's raven locks was Soi Fon's left hand, traces of the nullifying kidō still pulsing across the open palm. In her right hand the younger woman carried Suzumebachi, the stinger pointed towards Yoruichi's exposed flank, where already a hōmonka had flowered into full bloom.
"Why?" the bowed head whispered. "Why do you always make me break my promises to you? A hundred years ago, you made it impossible for me to stay by your side. Today, you made it impossible for me to protect you."
Yoruichi closed her eyes at the sound of the younger woman's pain. Gently, she tipped the bowed head upwards and brushed away the falling tears.
"Soi Fon, would you break a promise for a day, if it meant being able to keep it for an eternity?"
Soi Fon only looked at her, pain and bewilderment evident in the indigo eyes.
"You weren't the only one who suffered, little bee. How do you think I felt, waiting all these years?"
"You didn't have to wait." Soi Fon whispered. "I was there the whole time. I loved you that entire time."
"You didn't love me, Soi Fon, you worshipped me. There's a difference. I didn't want the love of a servant. I wanted the love of an equal."
Soi Fon looked away. "What makes you think I'm your equal now? What have I done to make you believe that I've grown that much?"
"The fact that you were willing to walk away. The fact that you weren't willing to compromise on what you believed you deserved."
They stared at each other then. Yoruichi knew that she had no right to expect Soi Fon to believe her, not after that first massive betrayal. So she waited, hardly breathing, for the younger woman's response.
Moments passed before Soi Fon finally smiled a small, shaky smile. "If I'd known, Yoruichi-sama, that playing hard-to-get was all it took, I would have tried it a hundred years ago."
Yoruichi laughed, golden eyes shining with gratitude and relief. "Some things, Soi Fon, can only be learned in the mortal world."
Rising to her feet, she extended her hand towards the younger woman. Soi Fon allowed herself to be pulled up - and suddenly found herself caught in the older woman's fierce embrace. "I will make it up to you, little bee." With a sigh containing all the pent-up longing of a hundred years, Soi Fon leaned into Yoruichi's embrace. After a few moments, she pushed herself away, and with a mischievous glint in her eye, told the older woman:
"I think I'll leave the hōmonka on your ribs for now, Yoruichi-sama. Just in case you change your mind."
Yoruichi grinned and ruffled the younger woman's head. "It'll take more than a tiny sting to skin a cat, little bee. Come on, let's head back home." Then with her trademark smirk, she added over her shoulder. "And don't worry, I'll run slowly enough so you can keep pace."
Soi Fon only smiled. Without the burden of suffering, all your strength can go to wielding your gifts. It was only a matter of time. And she and Yoruichi had all the time in the world. Together.