The Cat and The Bee

I do not own Bleach or its characters.

Chapter 1: Rukongai High School

Soi Fong groaned under the covers as her bedside alarm began screeching at her, urging her to get up. She grudgingly reached out, groping at the air until she made contact with the clamorous device, then tapped the 'snooze' button with her palm, silencing it instantly. The girl sighed in relief as she shut her eyes, eager to get a few more minutes sleep, but...

"Soi! Did I hear your alarm go off?" As if to taunt the sleepy teen, her father's voice drifted through her open bedroom door from downstairs. She groaned as she lazily decided that she had to answer.

"...Yes, Dad..."

"Oh, okay. Well, hurry up and come get some breakfast before you have to go." Soi Fong reluctantly shook off the covers to be hit almost instantly by the cold air filling the room. She hugged herself in an effort to keep from freezing, curling into a little ball on the mattress to try and hold onto her warm bed for a while longer.

Come on, Soi Fong, she told herself through chattering teeth. Just gotta get up and get dressed... Before she could regret her decision to greet the day, the girl lept out of bed and ran to her chest of drawers, hastily grabbing her longsleeved white uniform shirt and black knee-length skirt. She glared disdainfully at the rather flimsy piece of attire.

Jeez...why do they have to make us wear these? I'd give anything to be allowed to wear actual pants on a day like today...

In reality, the late summer day was supposed to get warmer later on, but all Soi Fong knew was that she would be cold until about noon. It didn't help that she was such a petite girl, she thought with a bit of a sigh as she glanced in the small mirror on her wall. She was only at about average height for her age, and just about every other aspect of her anatomy was compact and slender, giving her a rather cute but unremarkable appearance. Not that she cared too much about things like that, but it was times like this she wished she had a little more meat on her bones. After changing quickly, she felt a little warmer than she had in her long sleepshirt, but the draft through her jammed window still chilled her to the core. Ignoring her discomfort, she walked through the open doorway to the worn and neglected stairwell, remembering to skip the termite-infested fifth step on her way down.

"Ahh, there's my little girl!" her father said with a smile as Soi Fong walked into the tiny kitchen. It was nearly as cold in here as it was upstairs, but she had learned to ignore the little discomforts of this house--it was all her father could afford and she was grateful for what she was fortunate enough to have.

"Hi, Dad," she returned his greeting sweetly as she walked over to the pantry and grabbed a box half-full of corn flakes, then absentmindedly reached up to the nearest cabinet and pulled out a chipped ceramic bowl. Her father was enjoying the last few years of his thirties, his face still retaining a youthful exuberance that belied the wrinkles growing on his forehead and below his eyelids. Once Soi Fong had sat down with her bowl of cereal and a glass of milk, he prepared himself the same, being careful not to take too much of the opaque drink so as to stretch out its use.

"So, are you looking forward to school today?" he asked despite knowing the answer already. Sure enough, Soi Fong snorted over her cereal, turning around to give him an almost catlike glare. He chuckled at her nonverbal display of annoyance at the thought of the place, having gotten this reaction many times before. "Oh, come on, I'm sure it's not that ba--"

"It is," she said perfectly deadpan, thinking about the annoying upperclassmen who had made her life a living hell from the moment she had set foot on campus a few weeks ago. She had not voiced these happenings to her father, however--it would just be something more for him to worry about.

"Hmm. Well, at least you've made some friends by now, right?" Soi Fong nodded, but she had turned her face away from him, as if he would be able to tell that she was lying just by sight alone. "Well, don't worry about it, Soi-- you're a nice girl, you just need to open up a little more."

"...Sure, Dad," she agreed while rolling her eyes, having heard this so many times that she had stopped believing it around the beginning of junior high. She quickly finished up her cold cereal and milk, then rinsed the bowl and cup out in the sink before letting them dry on a nearby dishtowel. "I've gotta go, bye!" she called as she ran out of the kitchen and to the front door, slipping on her shoes and grabbing her bookbag on the way.

"Have a good day!" her father called from the kitchen as he glanced at his watch, and seeing what time it was, ate the remainder of his breakfast and headed to his bedroom to grab his suitcoat for work.

Soi Fong stepped out into the brisk morning air, instantly regretting that she hadn't grabbed a coat beforehand.

Oh well, she thought with a sigh. If I hurry, I'll be all right.

She walked down the rickety wooden steps of her front porch and into the street, away from the cramped but somewhat comfortable place she called her home, taking a left once she reached the sidewalk. After about thirty minutes walking in the slowly thawing weather, she finally reached the grounds of Rukongai High School.

To be honest, Soi Fong was glad to be going to school here, despite the distance from her home. It was one of the hardest in her district to get into, but after three years of dedication and study her hard work had paid off. She had initially been reluctant come to Rukongai, but when she'd learned that they had a very strong literature program, she'd taken to it instantly. Reading was one of the few passions that Soi Fong had, and she had indulged it to the point where she had grown antisocial in the eyes of her peers. She didn't mind not having friends, though-- she wouldn't know how to behave around them anyway.

As she walked gratefully into the much warmer halls of the building, she saw a familiar face standing not far from where her locker was stationed. She groaned at the sight of that short grayish hair and devilish grin, but surrendered to the fact that there was no other option but to approach him. She tried to keep herself calm and apathetic as she neared the tall boy leaning against the row of metal containers. Too soon, however, he noticed her and spoke.

"Well, well--lookit whose it is. Heya there, shorty." Soi Fong narrowed her eyes as she looked past him and walked up to her locker. "...Now, that ain't too nicelike, little miss Fong... won't even say 'hello' when someun says it to ya first?" He had leaned closer, his wicked smirk making his presence all the more disturbing. The Chinese girl sighed and responded, but kept her eyes on the contents of her storage space.

"...Hello, Ichimaru," she said as icily as she could. Ichimaru didn't flinch in the slightest as Soi Fong's weak attempt at intimidation, however.

"There...that wadn't so hard, eh?" He said casually as he leaned closer.

"...What do you want, Gin?"

"Nothin'," he shrugged his shoulder in an unconvincing display of innocence. "...Just wonderin' if you did that assignmen' for third period, is all."

"I'm not giving you anything," Soi Fong said determinedly, forgetting that she was over a foot shorter than the lanky teen hovering imposingly over her. "If you want better grades, then maybe you should do it yourself."

"Ooh... someone's forgettin' the natural order o' things, ain't they?" Ichimaru taunted, still not giving her any more personal space then the few inches he was currently permitting. "Don't get all high an' mighty just 'cause you're smart. But, if you really were smart, then ya'd know better than ta just up an' refuse my reasonabl' requests like ya' been doin'." Soi Fong only continued to glare at him, refusing to let such a petty bully get to her. She'd dealt with his type before and they were all the same-- all they knew was how to flex their muscles to intimidate 'weaker' people who had something they could use-- in her case, academic ability.

"I don't care what you 'request,' I'm still not going to help an idiot like you cheat."

...Oh, damn... she clapped her hand over her mouth on reflex when she saw Ichimaru's grin actually falter. She knew he was angry at her now. His full wrath she'd been able to avoid so far simply by controlling the urge to cross the line with what she said to him. He didn't mind what you said, just as long as you don't insult him-- that much was clear about Gin.

"Oh, I get it..." the boy said solemnly as he stared at her through his narrowed eyelids, " that's how it is, eh? Ya think I'm dumb, eh?" Soi Fong wanted to beg for forgiveness, but she knew it was too late to turn back, so she simply closed her gaping mouth and met his gaze (which she honestly couldn't read from his perpetually shut eyes) full-on. "... Geez, I'm nice to ya' all this time an' all ya ever do is give me crap. Well, I've gotta pay you back fer that, don't I?" In spite of herself, Soi Fong let out a gulp, knowing that now he was actually going to do something to her. "...But not right now, eh?" He said as he leaned away from her, replacing his sneer as he turned around to walk away. "...See ya after school, kid." With that, Ichimaru headed down the hall to his first hour class.

Soi Fong's mind started racing. What would she do about this? She'd always been so careful at never provoking her antagonists, resisting but never instigating, and now she'd just gotten herself singled out by the biggest jackass she'd ever met.

Well, I guess there's not much I can do now, she thought with a sigh as she grabbed her books for class and shut the locker with a bang. Just deal with it when it comes.

After all, despite the fact that she was of above-average intelligence, she was essentially a nobody. Gin would 'put her in her place,' and then she could go back to her comfortable anonymity. It was, as he had said, "the natural order of things," and Soi Fong had no intention of stepping beyond that.

A/N: Well, that's the first chapter in a series. I don't know how long it'll be, though. I know it was slow, but I'm planning to introduce Yoruichi next chapter. I hope that my fellow YoruSoi fans enjoy this fic!