Characters: Ikkaku/Tatsuki; lots of others
"Right, okay. Now I'm done." Tatsuki slid down the wall, sore and tired and sweaty and pulled the collar of her t-shirt away from her neck. Ikkaku settled down far away enough that he wouldn't crowd, but pulled off his own shirt and used it to mop up his face and neck. He probably could've kept it up for a few more hours, but Tatsuki trained for speed and power. Not so much stamina. And Ikkaku didn't have the energy or time to get on her about it, especially since she would work it out herself eventually.
"I'm gonna head back soon, then." Ikkaku rubbed the back of his neck, but made no move to get up. Tatsuki had, at some point, figured out that even if she couldn't knock him over with a sweep, she could still break him down by aiming for his legs. For now, they were pleasantly numb. Wait much longer and they'd start aching.
"Take your time. I'd walk you up but I won't be walking for another ten minutes."
He nodded absently, pressed two hands against the wall and shifted forward to lay flat on his back, eyes shut and shirt crumpled up in the crook of his shoulder. He stretched his arms out to the side, arched his back, yawned, and then settled back down. Hoozukimaru snidely commented that maybe he should sit in on some academy classes if he was going to let a fight with a human girl wear him out, and Ikkaku snapped back that maybe he should look into what happens to soul cutters when they get melted down and recycled.
Tatsuki spared Ikkaku a glance while he stretched (it was hard not to notice, really), pulled her knees up and wrapped her arms around. If they were going to lounge around, then at least talking would cut down on the awkward silences. "What were you doing picking fights with the guys behind the school, anyway?"
"Testing this body out. Some punk picked a fight, an' I figured-- why not."
She made a disgusted sort of face. "So I won 'cause you were new to the body? If I knew that, I would've taken it easy on you."
Ikkaku mirrored her face and reached over to rap her knee with his knuckles. "Nah, you won 'cause you can fight. All there is to it."
Tatsuki mulled that over, then grinned back. "Yeah, okay. I can accept that."
They sat in comfortable silence for a few minutes, and then Ikkaku hauled himself to his feet. Tatsuki watched him stretch again, put his shirt back on, then scoop up his wallet and phone from where he'd left them on a nearby chair. He swaggered back over to her, extended a hand and pulled Tatsuki to her feet. "I should go."
"Yeah. It's getting late." Tatsuki elbowed Ikkaku lightly in the ribs while she checked her watch. "We'll do this again sometime, right?"
"'Course," he said, and clapped her hard on the shoulder.
Ikkaku paused by the kitchen table and leaned over to get a better look at a stack of papers. "Is that you?"
"Is what me?"
"Hey, it is. What I want to be in five years--"
Tatsuki practically dove across the kitchen to shove him away from her old assignment. "Don't look at it!"
Ikkaku craned his head around while Tatsuki pushed at his back, bracing his feet against the floor. "You drew that? 'S not bad."
"It was just an assignment. Go home! Go!"
He ruffled her hair and then turned to get away from her pushing. "Going, going. Ya draw a lot?"
"Not really. I like vale tudo better."
Tatsuki couldn't tell if that was incredulity or pride in Ikkaku's expression (probably some mixture of both) but he nodded once, decisively, and grinned. "Champion of the world ain't a bad goal."
"'Ain't a bad goal,' he says. 'Course it's not. It's the one I decided on."
It was sunset by the time Ikkaku stepped out of Tatsuki's door. He would've been disturbed at the sheer amount of time he spent sparring with her, but it would take so much more energy than he was capable of mustering. It was sunset, though, and the streetlights had come on by the time he arrived back at the Asano house. Yumichika motioned lazily at the dinner Mizuho had laid out for them (only Ikkaku, really, but she had enough tact to make enough for everyone) and cheerfully called Mizuho out of her room.
He and Keigo had already eaten, after all. If Ikkaku hadn't waited so long to finish up with Tatsuki-chan, then maybe he wouldn't have to eat dinner with just Mizuho-chan. And it was so rude to make her wait, too.
Ikkaku's reply had been a glare that expressed only the deepest kind of loathing, then resignation as Mizuho latched herself to his arm and dragged him towards the table. She wasn't ugly or uninteresting or even particularly hard to be around, but it was pretty damn uncomfortable. For him. Keigo and Yumichika were enjoying themselves way more than they should've been.
Tatsuki wanted to hug Orihime when they met outside Orihime's house, but she didn't. It hadn't been very long, but between her showing up to class late and taking off right afterwards without waiting (or even so much as a quick farewell and Have fun at judo club, Tatsuki-chan!) and being distracted even through lunch, it felt good to have Orihime's undivided attention for at least a late dinner.
She looked tired, spiritual pressure worn and depleted, but satisfied and confident. Tatsuki recognized it; it was the same as when she had taught Orihime how to pull off a roundhouse kick with perfect form, speed, and had spent the entire day training her reflexes to execute it at the drop of a hat in case some creeper tried to come onto her. Orihime never did use the kick for its intended purpose, but her kicks and blocks could put any club member to shame.
Orihime cheerfully linked their arms. "Ramen again, Tatsuki-chan?"
She liked ramen as much as anyone, but Tatsuki shook her head and started down the street. "How about okonomiyaki? I just found a nice place."
Orihime didn't ask how, because even though Tatsuki rarely went out to eat by herself, and the club only ever stopped by a few places after practice, and they normally explored new places to eat together, she knew not to ask questions when she didn't want to answer any herself.
Ikkaku stepped out of the bathroom and into the guestroom with his pants on and a towel slung over his shoulders, steam still coming off his back. Yumichika looked up from his place on the bed and stared at him until he finally realized and stared back. "What?"
Ikkaku turned away to find a shirt. "Then quit lookin' at me."
"You know she likes you, right?"
He wiped his face with the end of his towel and glanced at Yumichika. Asking vague questions. Waiting for him to say something stupid. Ikkaku didn't think he meant Mizuho because. Yeah, no shit she liked him, all she ever did was hang off his arm. That would pass, eventually. "Alright, who are we talkin' about here?"
"Tatsuki-chan, of course."
A moment passed where Yumichika actually though Ikkaku had gone catatonic, but he looked, if anything, thoughtful. "What?"
Yumichika threw a pillow at his head. "You know what I'm talking about. Stop trying to pretend I don't know you as well as I do. She has a crush on you. And if she didn't before, she definitely does now."
Ikkaku caught it, then threw it back. "Huh."
"You're strong, you're upfront with her in ways that I'm sure would send Kurosaki Ichigo into spasms should he find out." Yumichika put a hand to his temple like explaining to Ikkaku was giving him a headache. "You're training with her, you're dangerous and exciting and new. And, as Mizuho-chan has so readily proven, you don't look bad at all. Of course she likes you."
Ikkaku's frowned, rubbed the back of his neck and stared at a corner of the ceiling. "Yeah, I know."
"You're not going to do anything stupid are you?" Yumichika teased, though Ikkaku picked up an undercurrent of seriousness in his voice.
"Tatsuki-chan's too cute for you to be stringing along, Ikkaku. If you just need something to keep you occupied, find someone who won't get attached."
He snorted, then pulled the towel off his shoulders and tugged on a shirt. "Who says I'm just keepin' busy? Someone wants ta get stronger, I'll train 'em."
"She's still alive."
Ikkaku absently rubbed his cheek and tried to work out exactly what the hell Yumichika was trying to imply. For all the ways they could practically have a conversation just by making eye contact, sometimes Yumichika just didn't make any fucking sense. "Arisawa's a smart kid. An' she'll be a monster when she dies."
"You just turned it into such an ugly, morbid conversation, Ikkaku. And that wasn't my point."
"So what's your point?"
"You know my point."
"Yeah, yeah. Got nothin' to worry about."
"Oh, yes," Yumichika drawled. "That's reassuring."
"Well, I believe that you don't think I have anything to worry about, but your definition of worrying things and my definition of worrying things have proven to be drastically different in all the years we've known each other."
Ikkaku shrugged him off. "Got no idea what you just said. But just trust me."
Orihime's room was familiar territory. It had been a while, but Tatsuki slipped back into the routine like they had never left it, and she shifted to sit on the pillow instead of on her ankle. Orihime smiled over her cup of juice and leaned forward. "Tatsuki-chan, you've been having fun, right?"
"Huh? Yeah, 'course I have!"
Orihime didn't finish her sentence, but Tatsuki knew she meant Ikkaku and Yumichika. She probably didn't know that Tatsuki had been going out and taking on hollows with them, but it's not as if that was crucial information. Tatsuki didn't think Orihime knew that she even knew they were soul reapers, which worked out just fine for her.
She flexed her arm and clapped a hand over her shoulder. "Well, I'm learning a lot of new ways to fight! Do you really think I'm not having fun?"
Tatsuki leaned back on her hands, straightened her legs out, wiggled her toes and grinned back. "You're getting to know Ichigo better too, right?"
"A little better than I did last summer!"
Tatsuki waited for Orihime to bring the cup up to her lips and start drinking before she asked, "So did you jump him yet?"
Orihime choked and just barely managed not to spit juice all over the table before she squeaked, "Tatsuki-chan!"
Yumichika sighed, leaned back on the pillows and nudged Ikkaku with his foot. "I just got a call from Rangiku-san. She says everything's normal and we have twenty minutes before our shift starts."
Ikkaku grunted irritably from his position at the foot of the bed and rolled off to stand and stretch. He snagged the pants he had worn earlier that day off a chair and reached into the pocket for his soul candy dispenser while Yumichika began to rifle through the bedside drawer for his.
"'S it really our shift?"
"That might be why I said it is, Ikkaku."
Ikkaku frowned, sat down on the floor with his back to the bed and let his head drop onto the mattress. "We can't make Renji do it?"
"As it turns out, Urahara-san pulled some strings so the Yasutora boy would have someone to train with pretty much all the time. He just happened to be available as long as the rest of us pick up his shifts."
"Loses every fight an' still gets to do the fun shit."
"What? He won't take it personally."
Yumichika shook his head and popped a piece of soul candy into his mouth. "Time to move. We get to have fun tomorrow. Training. Getting stronger. You know, fun stuff."
Ikkaku rolled his eyes. "No, I get to argue about bankai with Hoozukimaru for hours. Fun stuff."
Yumichika paused by the window, one foot already out. "Well, as long as you've got plans. I don't suppose the other night was enough to convince you to work on it? Renji's catching up."
"Nah. 'S good for him."
Yumichika's expression was a little nostalgic, but he just shrugged and waited outside. "Come on, if you want any time at all to sleep tonight."
"You know how I used to complain about the guys in the club who'd lose and say they took it easy on me?" Tatsuki folded her arms over the low table and dropped her head to rest her chin on a wrist. "He doesn't do that."
Orihime tilted her head to the side to look Tatsuki in the eyes and smiled. Back when Yachiru-chan had first intercepted her and Maki-Maki and dragged them off to meet their captain, she had felt both Ikkaku and Yumichika probing her curiously with their own spiritual energy. People who fight and people who don't-- they had sorted her firmly into the latter before she had even opened her mouth to say hi. It wasn't about whether someone was a guy or a girl for that division (being outranked by a little girl who comes up to your knees would do that to anyone), but whether or not someone could fight.
"He wouldn't, Tatsuki-chan. Do you like him?"
Tatsuki sighed, rubbed her eyes and shrugged. "It's just-- y'know. I fit in with the guys until I start beating them, and then they suddenly remember I'm a girl. He doesn't even notice one way or another. It's kinda nice."
"Have you jumped him yet?"
"You know, technically..." Tatsuki looked up and saw a sad sort of look on Orihime's face. Right, yeah. But she wasn't supposed to know. "It's not like I like him or anything. He's just... fun to fight." And that wasn't even a lie. Tatsuki was never in the habit of lying to herself, or to Orihime. They didn't tell each other everything-- every friendship needs some distance-- but as far as she was concerned, there wasn't much to tell.
"Be careful, okay?"
Tatsuki knew Orihime didn't mean Ikkaku and Yumichika-- if anything, they would bail her out of any situation she might get caught in while they were around. She probably meant whatever was going to happen soon. Whatever had knocked out the judo club so badly that time nearly a month ago. Something Orihime would be caught up in, but tried her exclude her best friend from.
Tatsuki shrugged, flashed her an easy smile and took another sip of juice. "Yeah. You too, Orihime."