Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach or its characters. Tite Kubo does and I don't believe he's left me anything in his will. (tear-stained-cheeks)
As if sensing a lingering presence, Ichigo was startled awake by the probing stare of a pair of inquisitive yellow-gold eyes hovering entirely too close to his face.
"So what's a 'Tatsuki'?"
"A wha?!" Disoriented, the teenage boy blinked blearily as the rest of his current mentor's dark feminine features focused into view. "Yoruichi?! Christ! What the hell?" Meaning to scratch his head, he nearly poked himself in the eye instead, "Did you wake me up?!"
"You woke me up first," the frowning woman countered moodily, sitting back on her heels to give him the personal space she so often invaded, "With all that mumbling… how's a lady supposed to get any sleep?"
Finally reaching his head, Ichigo scratched audibly against his scalp as he sat himself up, stifling a yawn, "Yeah, whatever. I thought cats slept most of the day…"
"Well, I'm not a cat right now, am I? And I probably would if you didn't require so much attention and supervision. Honestly, you're a nightmare," she grumbled, tucking her legs beneath her and absently picking one of her own cat hairs off her cotton sleep-shirt. Ichigo realized he was more than relieved that she was actually wearing clothes this time. "But back to my question- you never gave me an answer."
Torn between annoyance and exhaustion, the bleary teen tried to talk through his yawn, "Whaa ques…shun?" He was seriously reconsidering just laying back down again. Maybe she'd take the hint.
Yoruichi shot him a bored expression, "A 'Tatsuki'- what is it? You were fighting with one in your sleep. Is it some kind of monster in your world?"
He surprised her by chuckling, "Some might say that…"
Ichigo's eyes grew distant with memory for a moment, a small smile tugging at the corner of his lips. The flit of emotion did not escape his sensei, who watched with new interest as he all but faded into his recollections.
'Tatsuki… haven't thought of her in a while…not since coming to Soul Society…' Ichigo felt an inexplicable twinge of guilt mix in with that familiar happy warmth currently flooding his stomach, 'weird that I would have a dream about her…'
Eventually sensing the dark woman's gaze on him, Ichigo quickly recovered himself. "…But nah. She's just a… friend. A classmate," he reassured her.
However, a sleek eyebrow instantly rose disapprovingly, "She?! So you do fight girls! Hmph, well I wish I could say I was shocked…"
But the teen just knowingly rolled his eyes, "Oh, believe me- Tats can take care of herself. You wouldn't give me such a hard time if you knew her."
Attempting to feign disinterest, the woman casually continued her query, "Oh, so she has powers?"
Ichigo absently shook his head, "No. I mean, I don't think so…"
"So she's not like the others?"
She watched as a wistful expression softened his eyes. "She's not like anybody…" he murmured.
"Oh…" Yoruichi was definitely intrigued. This was the first hint she'd seen of her newest star pupil's more personal side; she wondered what sort of girl could evoke such uncharacteristic behavior from him. She had to know more. "Is she pretty then?"
But this finally snapped Ichigo out of his temporary reverie, "What?! What kind of question is that?!" He scowled reproachfully at her, but as his face involuntarily took on a darkening red hue Yoruichi's curiosity mounted.
"It's a simple one," she persisted, "Is she?" When he didn't answer she prompted him a little, "Does she have long flowing hair? Pretty eyes? Come on, you can tell me."
Ichigo now warily eyed the woman with mounting trepidation; this line of questioning was suddenly veering into uncomfortable territory. He knew where Yoruichi was going with this, what it must have sounded like. However, he wasn't entirely comfortable discussing Tatsuki- his first fighting partner, his first and longest real friend- with her, or with anyone really… especially since he suddenly wasn't too sure what all of those odd, amorphous feelings surrounding her really meant. What was she to him? Their relationship was… complex at the very least; mentally Tatsuki occupied a private place full of confusing emotions and truths that he had not yet properly sorted through. How could he even begin to explain all of that to a mysterious, shape-shifting former shinigami captain who he'd just met? Was it really any of this strange woman's business?
Glancing over at his feline-like, Cheshire-grinning sensei, however, Ichigo regrettably realized that at the moment she was more like a dog with a bone- regardless of his reluctance he wasn't going to get any kind of sleep tonight until he gave her something, however insignificant. He sighed.
Wilting in surrender, he finally responded, "Um… She has really short hair, okay?" When that didn't seem to satisfy the attentive woman he quietly added, "And… uh… black eyes…"
"Black?" Yoruichi mirrored him doubtfully.
"Yeah, black," he repeated guardedly, "Like, jet black. Like…" his voice grew a bit distant again as he seemed to concentrate on a mental image, "…like the color of wet ink…"
"Ink, huh? That's strange."
As he watched his sensei wrinkle her nose, Ichigo felt an inexplicable pang of defensiveness, "Coming from a lady who changes into a cat!"
However, she wisely backpedaled, "No, it's good! So she's got dark, seductive eyes-"
"-Wait! I never said-!!"
But Yoruichi was on a roll. She smiled conspiratorially as she leaned closer, "What about her figure? Is she shapely? Does she have big boobs like Orihime-chan?"
Unfortunately for the curious former-captain, to say that Ichigo was instantly horrified would have been a gross understatement. "WHAT?!? I am NOT gonna talk about Tatsuki's b-… her br-… THAT with you, Yoruichi!! God, what's wrong with you?!" Utterly flustered, the poor boy could only retreat back under his covers, rolling over and pulling them over his head with finality. His muffled voice issued out of the top of his blankets, "I'm going back to sleep! Leave me alone!!"
Yoruichi pouted, crossing her arms, her amusing inquisition having been brought to an abrupt end. She was disappointed and a little insulted. "Fine! But next time keep your kinky little rough-housing fantasies to yourself! Some of us are trying to get some much needed rest!"
"WHAT?!?" Ichigo immediately sat back up again, only to find that his sensei had disappeared. Catching the tail-end of her shadow on the floor as it passed behind the shoji, he hollered in her direction, "Wait a minute- I've got a question for you!"
He noticed with relief that she paused and slowly backed up just enough for her ponytail to return to view. "Before the 3rd degree you said I was fighting… with her. What gave you that idea, anyway? I mean, what'd I say?"
Moving back into the doorframe, the dark woman gave him a thoughtful stare before deciding to answer, "Well, let's see…" Of course, she would not be denied her good-natured revenge. Tilting her head back, Yoruichi tapped a finger on her chin as if struggling to recall some obscure piece of information. Ichigo fought the urge to throw his small pillow at her.
After what must have been a dramatic enough pause, she continued, "…You were flailing around under your covers, yelling what I now realize was her name- 'Tatsuki!'…" (This was delivered with dramatic flourish, causing Ichigo to blush.) "And you were mumbling- cussing with that foul mouth of yours- things about 'tackling' and 'spin kicks'… Then you practically screamed out 'No you don't!'- that part was rather clear-" At that he nearly interrupted her but she pressed on, too wrapped up in her tale to stop, "-That was before you were muttering something about a- what was it?- ah, yes, a 'friggin' nosebleed'! It all sounded rather violent for a so-called friendship…"
As she watched him, Yoruichi noted with acute satisfaction that Ichigo's face was turning an even deeper shade of crimson than before. She couldn't help but smirk. "Yes, rather violent indeed! I rushed in because I was certain you were being attacked! But then I saw that huge, dopey grin on your face and knew you must have been dreaming…"
His embarrassment was deliciously palpable. What the teen couldn't say out loud was written plainly all over his face. His expression alone had been worth the trouble…
However, Yoruichi's smirk slowly morphed into a truly pensive expression as she seemed to recall one last thing, "It's strange, though… right before you woke up you said something unusual- the word 'Someday'…"
"I… I did?" Clearly Ichigo had not expected that last part- His sensei found the genuine confusion twisting his features to be his most telling face yet.
"Yes, you did. I can only guess what you… must've… meant…" she trailed off once she realized that he had not heard her. He was lost, oblivious in the face of this most recent revelation. She wasn't angry; Yoruichi found it oddly comforting that in some ways the prodigal substitute Soul Reaper with the weight of the underworld on his shoulders was at least in some aspects still just like any other teenage boy. Allowing her young pupil to marinate in his thoughts, she quietly retreated from the room once more.
So deep was Ichigo's contemplation that it was a while before he actually sensed the woman's absence. Allowing himself a long sigh, he laid back down, settling his hands comfortably behind his head. "So… 'Someday', huh?"
It took him quite a while to fall back to sleep after that.
A/N: Mutant plot bunny run amok. Where's the Tatsuki love? Right here! Yeah, it's a long shot but I think he thinks about her… Please review?!
And thanks for reading- Mira :)