Characters: Ikkaku/Tatsuki; lots of others
Ikkaku joined Yumichika in time to catch sight of a ghost darting behind a wall and Yumichika just barely cutting off a hollow before it had a chance to go after her. As soon as Yumichika saw Ikkaku out of the corner of his eye, he switched to the offensive, letting Ikkaku know in no uncertain terms that this was his hollow and Ikkaku gets to go after the ghost this time.
He rolled his eyes and ducked behind the building, almost tripped over the ghost (the hell's up with all the dead kids in this town, shit) and snagged her by the back of her shirt before she had a chance to take off again. He could hear Yumichika clashing with the hollow behind him, and as long as the fight sounds didn't stop, Ikkaku wasn't about to be worried.
She looked about ready to take off when Ikkaku shifted Hoozukimaru onto his shoulder, but relaxed again when he crouched down to get at eye level. It had been a while since he had to talk down a ghost, but send them off when they were still freaked out and they were in for a lot of pain. Ikkaku wasn't normally a considerate sort of guy, but once in a while he could be bothered to make the effort.
The ghost tugged on his sleeve and made a face. "Why's your friend fighting that thing?"
"It's called a hollow. You've got other things ta worry about."
"Gotta stamp your forehead." He flashed the bottom of Hoozukimaru's hilt to prove that it didn't secretly have a knife embedded in it or something. "Takes you to Soul Society."
"Is it scary?"
Ikkaku moved slowly, like he was trying not to scare off a frightened rabbit or something. Gently stamped her forehead, took a second to hope she ended up in one of the lower-numbered districts before slinging Hoozukimaru back over his shoulder and straightening back up. He turned at the sound of a shoe scuffing the ground and nodded at Tatsuki.
She cocked her head to the side and flashed him a half-smile. "I didn't know you were good with kids. It's actually kinda cute."
He scowled back. "You walk too fast."
Tatsuki hauled his and Yumichika's bodies around the corner and made them both stand at attention against the wall. She looked curiously at the spot the ghost had disappeared from and then frowned. "Looped around the block since there're people on the street. Why're there so many ghost kids in this town? It's not like they die more in Karakura or anything."
Ikkaku shrugged. "No idea. Maybe ask Yumichika, he actually pays attention when we get told this stuff. Worse with 'em than I am, though."
"You weren't bad at all, I thought. Maybe you could babysit for a living," she teased back.
Yumichika strolled around the corner like a satisfied tomcat, straightening his uniform and brushing his hair out of his eyes before diving back into his body and adjusting his jacket. "He already does, Tatsuki-chan."
Ikkaku flexed his arms and hands a few times as soon as he was back in the gigai and shot his partner a warning look. "Yumichika."
"You didn't tell her about Vice-Captain? I'm disappointed, Ikkaku."
Ikkaku grabbed for Tatsuki to put her in a headlock and maybe distract her while Yumichika began to expound on how much abuse Yachiru put him (and the rest of the division) through, but she ducked easily out of reach and then put Yumichika between them.
"Her name is Kusajishi Yachiru, and she's about, oh, comes up to just past his knees, I think--"
Ikkaku reached around Yumichika, but he kept Tatsuki behind him and moved away.
"Likes to chew on his head, kicks him whenever she wants to--"
Tatsuki flashed him a smirk from around Yumichika's arm. "No joke? Wow, she sounds adorable--"
"And did you know he keeps candy up his sleeves? Honestly, Ikkaku likes Vice-Captain more than anyone--"
"That's so cute--"
"Yumichika shut up my reputation--"
"Was never really all that great with Tatsuki-chan anyway."
"Well, my impression did get better after the first time we met."
Ikkaku grimaced at the memory and then grudgingly smiled back when Yumichika bumped him on the arm.
"Oh give me a break, Ikkaku, I know you hate having to bury children."
"He does? Why?"
Ikkaku shook his head and rubbed the back of his neck. "Yumichika's thinkin' too much. As usual."
"It gets a little rough out in Rukongai, depending on where you end up." Yumichika shrugged. "No one likes to send children there, but--"
"We gotta, an' there's no point talkin' about it. Let it go, Yumichika."
Tatsuki squeezed his arm and said, a bit sympathetically, "I already know you're a huge softie. It's okay."
"I fuckin' hate you both."
"And they remind him of Vice-Captain."
Yumichika backed up to lean against the wall with his arms crossed across his chest and motioned for Ikkaku and Tatsuki to go on ahead. "Don't you two have some more damage to inflict on each other?"
Tatsuki flashed Ikkaku a smile and shrugged, then looked at Yumichika. "It'd be fun if you came, too."
Yumichika waved airily. "I think I'm busy, but I'll come next time."
Ikkaku cocked his head to the side, frowned, nodded once, then pressed a hand to Tatsuki's back and nudged her down the street. "Go ahead first. I'll get some drinks an' we'll meet ya back at your place."
Tatsuki took off down the street and Ikkaku made a vaguely apologetic gesture when he turned to address Yumichika again. "Should've noticed earlier, 's my mistake. Turn around."
Yumichika pursed his lips. "I'm fine."
He turned a bit and slid his jacket off his shoulders so Ikkaku could see a trickle of blood seeping through his shirt from a cut on his back, though it wasn't bleeding so heavily that it would soak through to his pants. If he concentrated a bit harder, Ikkaku could easily pick out Yumichika suppressing it with his spiritual pressure.
"See? Nothing. It'll heal in no time."
"Dumbass, don't just leave it like that. Asano house's on the way. Get it taken care of."
"When did you get so thoughtful, Ikkaku? I thought I was hiding it so well."
"I'm always thoughtful! An' you didn't have plans today." And, Ikkaku didn't add, there's no chance Yumichika would pass up a chance to laze around with him when they didn't have anything better to do.
"Maybe half the time. And I do now."
"All the time."
Yumichika laughed, brushed past Ikkaku and led the way back. "Of course. What was I thinking?"
Ikkaku clomped into the basement with a bag of drinks, as promised, slung over one shoulder, with Yumichika in tow. Tatsuki grinned at them, then leveled the staff in Ikkaku's face as he approached.
"Wanna see how hard I can smack you with this now?"
Yumichika vacated the area and settled on the steps. Tatsuki took a swing at Ikkaku's face, but he caught the staff before it could connect and jerked it backwards so Tatsuki lost her balance and stumbled into him. Ikkaku steadied her with a hand on the shoulder, and she brushed her hair out of her face.
"I hate it when you do that."
Yumichika stretched his arms and sighed. "You were telegraphing, Tatsuki-chan."
"No one in the club ever notices."
Ikkaku handed back the staff and picked up the sansetsukon she had discarded in the corner. "We're not your club."
"I get more power if I let my arm swing out."
Ikkaku made a vague wave in Yumichika's direction and bumped her knee to fix her stance, then adjusted her grip on the staff. He'd done it earlier, but Tatsuki kept falling back into the habit of holding it like a sword. Hands too close together, stance not wide or solid enough. She was letting her karate (and, he supposed manga-reading) bleed into it.
Yumichika brushed his hair out of his eyes and leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. "But then your opponent knows how you attack. It's a small sacrifice, but in the end, you'll have the upper hand."
"Are you two reading each other's minds?"
"Nah. He's been fightin' years longer than you."
Tatsuki rubbed her nose. "I'm good, though."
"Age and experience trumps talent, Tatsuki-chan. And I'm simply loaded with all three."
Tatsuki rolled her eyes. "Okay, now who wants their ass kicked?"
Ikkaku tossed Yumichika the shinai.
"Looks like I'm up. Though the one administering an ass-kicking will be me."
"I think," Tatsuki said after a while, "we should both pummel Ikkaku and see how he likes it."
Yumichika shrugged. "Two on one isn't his style."
Ikkaku stood up, wiped his hands on his jeans and scooped up the three-sectioned staff. "'S alright when I'm the one. Won't go easy on either'a you, though."
"Look at him being all overconfident! I bet we can take him."
Yumichika knew Ikkaku's strength better than anyone, but he shrugged and hefted the shinai in his hands. "Well. I suppose we can try."
Ikkaku wrapped the chain of the sansetsukon around his bicep, caught the end and pulled so the last section flipped in a graceful arc and landed in his other hand with a dull smack. "Yumichika knows what he's gettin' into. You'll learn."
Tatsuki licked her lips in a predatory way that actually sent a chill down Yumichika's spine. And might have, for a few seconds, made him fear for Ikkaku's life. Ikkaku, on the other hand, just grinned back and tangled the chain of his sansetsukon around her staff when she went for him, jerked it out of her hands and smacked her across the shoulder with it. Then he handed it back and motioned for her to get ready again.
Yumichika hefted the shinai in his hands and circled around behind Ikkaku, taking a swing at his neck that he knew would be blocked. Tatsuki closed in from the front as soon as Yumichika's blow bounced off the section Ikkaku had blocked with, and threw a kick at his ribs just for good measure.
He deflected the staff, took the kick with a grunt, clamped his arm down on her leg and reeled her in to swipe out a foot and knock her last leg out from under her. Tatsuki landed awkwardly on her hands, kicked her other leg up before Ikkaku had a chance to knock her over and distracted him long enough for Yumichika to poke him between the shoulderblades with the shinai.
"That's a point. I think we have one very dead Madarame Ikkaku on our hands."
Tatsuki got to her feet, grinning, and high-fived Yumichika. "And that's called teamwork."
Yumichika moved to the left and Tatsuki mirrored the movement on his right. Ikkaku bared his teeth and rolled his shoulders. "Alright. I got it now."