Characters: Ikkaku/Tatsuki; lots of others
Tatsuki pulled her workbook off her face when the phone went off. She used a foot to drag it within reach of her arm, then picked up. Didn't even get a chance to ask who it was before--
"I talked to Orihime."
"I heard. How'd that go?" Ikkaku winced a bit in sympathy-- Tatsuki wouldn't mention it unless it was important-- and tucked the phone between his ear and shoulder to search his pockets. Yumichika's body strolled aimlessly by and he snagged the back of its collar, then glared it into silence when it tried it protest.
"It was weird. You're probably busy--"
Ikkaku started down the street back towards the Asano house, dragging Yumichika's gigai behind him. "Patrol, but I got time. Talk."
"Still not telling me."
"You'll know before the year's out. Next."
"I hate how I can't even talk to Ichigo without feeling like he suddenly thinks he needs to protect me anymore. It's stupid."
"Hate to break it to you, but you can't handle what's about ta go down, so just trust him. I don't want you doin' anything stupid, either. Next!"
"You're an asshole."
Ikkaku could hear the frustrated, unwilling smile in her voice and grinned back. "Knew that already. Next?"
"Busy tomorrow morning?"
"Nah. Got anything in mind?"
"Teach me how to use the sansetsukon?"
"'S harder than a spear or a staff."
"I like a challenge."
Ikkaku snorted. "Yeah, sure. Make some ice."
"For the bruises."
"Who says I'll get bruised?"
"You will get bruised."
Ikkaku's voice changed from his normal lazy drawl to something a bit more excited at the prospect of a challenge. "Wanna bet lunch?"
Tatsuki laughed. "You'll lose."
"If I lose, you pay, an' if I win, I'll pay."
"What? Why? Shouldn't it be the other way around?"
"'Cause if I'm right -- an' I'm always right -- you're gonna be in too much pain to reach for your wallet."
Tatsuki's eyebrow twitched. "Know what? You're on. I'm still gonna win."
Ikkaku glanced at Yumichika's body as he hung up the phone. He raised an eyebrow and threatened cheerfully, "Not a fuckin' word."
Tatsuki hung up with a helpless, crooked smirk, then got to studying. It was easier to focus with some plans, anyway.
Ikkaku smirked, picked up the sansetsukon and knelt down in front of where Tatsuki sat clutching her nose. He pried her hands away from her nose and poked her forehead to make her tilt her head back. "'S not broken, but ya might bruise for a couple days."
"Ow -- no, I figured out that reiatsu thing. It'll be ugly tomorrow but after that no one'll be able to tell. Is my lip bleeding?"
"Yeah. Alright, so you're gonna remember--"
"The attack ends on the recoil, I know that now."
"I told you when we started."
"I didn't think it would come back and hit me in the face when we started."
"'S been comin' back and hitting you since we started."
"Yeah but not in my face." Tatsuki rubbed her shoulder and conceded that Ikkaku might have won this bet, but at least he was paying for lunch. She expected him to be smug about the win, but if anything Ikkaku had been teaching her seriously. Not with any intent to make her a master, but to get her competent with a three-sectioned-staff in as little time as possible.
Ikkaku, for his part, liked watching people get stronger. If they did because of him, all the better. "The whole point'a this weapon is flexibility. Speed and control, but you gotta start with control. 'Nother round?"
"Yeah, just... give me a minute. Are you sure you should be doing this barehanded? I got you in the shoulder."
He had ditched his shirt about an hour ago, when one of the chains on the sansetsukon had snagged on the sleeve and almost ripped a hole. It was a nice shirt, but the material was flimsy and Yumichika would complain. Ikkaku craned his neck around to get a look at the reddish mark on his shoulder, tapped a few fingers against a darker, uglier welt on his side, then grinned. "I do this kinda thing every day. When you're actually a risk with that, I'll start blockin' seriously."
"Great. Something to look forward to." Tatsuki grabbed Ikkaku's hand when he extended it and he hauled her up easily. "Where'd that one come from, anyway?"
"Spar. Yesterday. Good friend'a mine."
"Is he better than me?"
"Doesn't know judo, but he can throw a punch."
"Hm. Let's go again. I'm gonna make you start blocking seriously."
Ikkaku cracked his knuckles and rubbed the back of his neck. "My life."
Tatsuki ran her tongue across her split lip and tugged on the end of the staff Ikkaku still had slung over his shoulder. "C'mon!"
Ikkaku let her have it and backed away, arms up.
Tatsuki froze for the -- hell, she didn't how many times that thing had come back and smacked her in the face-th -- time while trying to judge how the section on the end would recoil. Her hand paused on the way up to catch it and Ikkaku's arm was suddenly in her face, letting the hit bounce off before it could get her in the nose. Again.
"I could've gotten that myself."
"Stop hesitating. You know where it's goin'."
"If I bring my arm up and miss--"
Ikkaku bumped the end of the staff lightly against her head. "Ya get hit in the face anyway. Weapon like this, you commit."
Tatsuki smacked his arm away and frowned. "How do you do that?"
"Know where it's going."
Ikkaku checked a clock on the wall. "Practice and drills. Ten more minutes 'til lunch. Go."
"I'm not getting anywhere. These drills suck."
"Drills teach ya not to hesitate."
"You say that a lot."
"Best advice I can give you." He moved to the edge of the mat, sat down with his back against the wall, then gestured for Tatsuki to get started. "Drills make it so you never hafta think in the middle of a fight."
"I know, I know."
"You're gonna have to start catchin' it yourself if you like your nose where it is."
Tatsuki rolled her eyes. "I don't even know how it's not already crooked."
"Hmm. Wake me up when when you're done."
"Patrol all night, remember?"
Tatsuki swung the last section of the staff in a few quick circles, then moved her grip back to the middle. "Do you ever sleep?"
"If Yumichika doesn't talk all night, sure."
"Ichigo used to just ignore me and go back to sleep. We were seven, though."
Ikkaku was, for all appearances, already asleep. But he had enough experience talking through half-consciousness that Tatsuki wouldn't have been able to tell if she hadn't been looking straight at him. "You ever tried ignoring Yumichika? Don't."
Ten minutes later, Tatsuki had figured out how to catch the last section of the sansetsukon. Partly because if she didn't and it got her in the nose -- again -- it would hurt. A lot. More than the first few times, and Ikkaku wasn't around to make sure the hardest hits didn't connect because he was asleep against the wall. Tatsuki couldn't really fault him for it, though.
Besides, after ten minutes were up and he didn't (through some strange supernatural inner clock) wake up, Tatsuki decided to let him sleep for a bit longer and went off to take a shower.
She arrived back in time to see Ikkaku awake, and doing his own drills with the normal staff. Stepping hard, moving the staff like he'd been using one since the day he was born. The lightest touches sent it spinning in whatever direction he wanted it to, sharp eyes following every arc, every swing, every thrust. Tatsuki's arms had started hurting after the first half hour or so, but Ikkaku looked like he could keep it up all day without breaking a sweat. She grinned.
"Looking good, you showoff."
Ikkaku grinned back, clamped the staff down against his side with his elbow as it swung up, then dropped it and reached for his shirt. "Shower?"
"Heard the water going. Pipes're behind that wall."
Tatsuki frowned, pursed her lips and said, "I was gonna let you sleep for a while."
"Hey, more'n enough time. Hungry?"
"Starving. Wanna get Yumichika-san to come with us?"
Ikkaku tossed her his phone while he started picking up the weapons. "Call him up."
Yumichika linked an arm through Tatsuki's, snagged Ikkaku by a belt loop and dragged them both into a Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki restaurant, "Because Tetsu-san wouldn't forgive us if we had it any other way!"
Ikkaku flashed him a crooked smirk that Tatsuki had come to recognize as his warmest, most affectionate expression and Yumichika beamed back.
"Who's Tetsu-san?" she asked once they had all settled down.
Ikkaku drummed three fingers against his side. "Vice Captain of the Seventh Division. Useta outrank him. Great guy."
Yumichika brushed his hair behind an ear and said, voice dry, "I swear, every time those two meet, someone ends up in the infirmary. Ikkaku likes it rough, you know."
Ikkaku choked on a mouthful of water and ducked his head behind the table so he wouldn't spew any of it onto the griddle or their food. He settled for smacking Yumichika on the shoulder for implying that he and Iba-san ever did anything besides fight and drink. 'Cause that's all they do, okay?
Tatsuki snickered, paused briefly at Ikkaku's offended glare, then outright burst into laughter. He scowled back and jabbed impatiently at the okonomiyaki cooking on the griddle, but Yumichika elbowed him on the arm and his expression relaxed again.
Tatsuki picked up one of the spatulas after Ikkaku finally put it down and absently prodded at the edges of the okonomiyaki. "You know, I've never had it like this before."
Yumichika reacted with mock-horror while Ikkaku settled into his usual resigned expression and slouched into his seat.
"No, the place I usually go to is Osaka-style."
Yumichika exchanged a glance with Ikkaku before he grinned and started portioning out the okonomiyaki. "Then it's a good thing we're introducing you now, hm?"
"Everyone in our division does everything Hiroshima style," Ikkaku supplied unhelpfully. It had been at Iba's insistence at first, and nothing else ever worked out for the man, so the division eventually adopted his style. To counteract his shitty luck.
"What's that got to do with me?"
Ikkaku ran his teeth along the edge of his glass of water and grinned. "When you die an' join the Gotei-13, you'll be goin' straight to 11th."
Tatsuki took a second to be torn between being pleased that they had already decided that she'd end up a soul reaper-- with them no less, and freaked out that they had already decided that she would be a soul reaper. With them. It showed in her face, probably. "I haven't even started cramming for college yet and you're already making plans for when I die?"
"Not everyone goes to college, but everyone dies eventually, Tatsuki-chan."
"And for you, better not be for a good long time, got it?"
She nodded slowly. At least they weren't planning on her dying any time soon, but hell, Tatsuki figured she had a few good decades ahead of her. Even if the idea of going to Soul Society was pretty intriguing. "Do I at least get a tour of Seireitei or whatever? I mean, even Ichigo and Orihime were there."
"Maybe after this assignment's over."
"Yeah, figure the men could always use some ah, incentive ta do better."
Yumichika shook his head and started eating. Ikkaku made a vague sort of 'forget-about-it' wave and said, "You could probably kick most'a their asses. Be pretty funny."
"Though of course that's not the only reason you want her to visit, right, Ikkaku?"
Ikkaku's tone said that he actually couldn't think of any other reason Tatsuki should visit or would be able to make herself useful, but he agreed anyway. "Yeah. Sure. Plenty'a other things. Maybe."
Tatsuki didn't bother suppressing her grin, and kicked him hard under the table. Yumichika laughed, leaned close to Ikkaku's ear and drawled, "We've been flirting with the idea of recruiting humans with potential, anyway~"
Ikkaku put a hand on Yumichika's face and shoved him back down into his seat.