Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach, because I'm not Kubo-sensei. The bleach I own keeps my whites white.
NOTE: No, I am not implying that Soi Fong is a tramp. Listen to the song or read the lyrics and you will understand why I chose that as the title.
The ice storm had left Tokyo covered in a fine sheath of glass. It was ethereally beautiful in the way that everything seemed to have crystallized overnight. Icicles clung to every overhang, reflecting dazzling streaks of light onto the pavement. Trees seemed to be encased in diamonds, living works of art. For a brief moment in time, it was like the crowded metropolis belonged to another world.
Of course, there was a downside to such beauty, Kyouraku Shunsui mused as he looked out the window of his office. It was suicidal to even consider driving until the salt trucks made their passes through the streets. Walking outside was akin to ice-skating, though there were many intrepid souls that braved the hazard, such as the woman currently crossing the street. She nearly fell on the slippery pavement but saved herself at the last moment with a smooth, muscular twist that was both graceful and efficient.
Soi Fong glanced up and met Shunsui's eyes through the window. She reddened and mouthed something that looked vaguely like a threat. He gulped.
The office door opened. "Shunsui, do you have the class lists for the next term? Retsu said she gave them to you for reviewing-"
He waved best friend into a nearby chair. "Just stay here a while, will you Jyuu-kun?"
Ukitake Jyuushiro looked at him quizzically. "What on earth is wrong?"
The answer appeared in the doorway. "An exchange program?"
Both men winced at the shout. "I beg your pardon, Soi Fong?" Shunsui hazarded.
"Don't play dumb with me, Kyouraku!" She crossed the room in the blink of an eye, her palms slamming down hard on the surface of his mahogany desk. "I want to know why my partner is leaving for Osaka for the next year!"
"You'll be getting a replacement partner for the interim," he tried to reassure her.
Mercury eyes flashed dangerously. "I'm getting a new partner?"
He was treading on boggy ground here. Soi Fong hated change; everyone in the studio knew that. "It does sound that way, doesn't it?" From his nearby perch, Ukitake rolled his eyes at the way his best friend was botching this.
Shunsui tried not to cringe. He hated it when women shouted. "I thought you'd like the break! You and Renji have won Nationals for three straight years now. We thought that both studios would benefit from the exchange. Different experiences, new ideas," he continued, growing enthusiastic. "New blood!"
"So Yumichika is getting a new partner, too," Soi Fong stated flatly.
"Yes, I will be briefing Yumichika-kun later on," Ukitake interrupted.
Soi Fong's fists were clenching and unclenching. Shunsui made a mental note to give her a stress ball. "I suppose since this is already out of my hands, I can do nothing but go along." She spun on her heel and headed for the door. "This doesn't mean that I'm going to like it!"
"Thanks for understanding, dear!" Shunsui called, silly with relief. She flipped him the bird as she rounded the corner.
Ukitake just laughed. For some reason he'd had a flashback to a similar situation almost five years earlier, when he'd had to placate another irate dancer over a new assignment. Hitsugaya-kun and Rangiku-chan had turned out all right, and he wondered if something similar could come out of this. Only time would tell.
It was a week later and Soi Fong was still pissed about the situation at hand. She was getting a new partner today – she hadn't had to deal with that sort of thing in over ten years. Renji had been her partner from the very moment that she stepped into the 8/13 studio, seeking to learn from the very best.
She bit her lip. She really did hate change. Her whole life was one big routine: that was what happened when one grew up in a family of professional dancers. She saw nothing wrong with that. Her relationship with Renji was the epitome of comfort and routine. They danced well together and understood each other. Even though she often called him every insult under the sun, they were friends. There was no reason to want or need another partner and now she had to start all over again with someone who would be gone within the year.
"Now, what could my bee be thinking so hard about?" A familiar, smoky voice teased.
Only one person in the world was allowed to call her "bee." Soi Fong glanced up from her perch on the locker room bench. "Yoruichi-san!"
"You sound so surprised to see me, Soi Fong," she laughed, flipping her purple ponytail over one shoulder.
"I was just thinking," was the quick reply as she tied the laces on her dance sneakers.
"About your new partner?" Yoruichi prompted. She knew her protégé well: she would alternately stew and worry until her temper frayed to the breaking point. Unfortunately, the person most likely to be there when her temper broke was her new partner. Yoruichi for one did not want to have to explain to Aizen why one of his dancers was sent back to Osaka on a stretcher. But then again, she knew exactly who Soi Fong's new partner was and was certain he'd give as good as he got.
"Sort of," Soi Fong admitted.
"You'll be fine, bee. It's only a year." The Shihouin heiress paused. "Did Shunsui ever tell you who he is, by the way?"
The younger woman scowled. She knew she'd forgotten something. "Nope."
"Oh joy." Soi Fong's frown deepened. The so-called "Bad Boy of Ballroom" was her new partner? She'd never met the man and never wanted to. She had no desire to deal with men like him – cocky, arrogant, and possessing an ego the size of the Hindenburg.
Yoruichi grinned. "You know what they call him, right?"
"Besides the Bad Boy of Ballroom?" Her mood was getting blacker with every passing minute. She knew she should have castrated Shunsui when she had the chance.
"La Pantera – the Panther."
She snorted. "Is that supposed to scare me or something?"
The heiress laughed. "Nah, just some food for thought. Anyway, I have to go. I still need to pack for my flight tomorrow."
"Back to California?"
Gold eyes winked at her. "You know it," she sang as she sailed out of the locker room.
Soi Fong got to her feet. Everyone was dropping like flies, she thought, appalled. She didn't quite understand the preoccupation everyone had with love. She watched almost everyone in the studio succumb to that golden arrow, but never felt the same urge to take the fall. Love was a mere curiosity to her – the only things that seemed to excite any depth of emotion from her was dance, the thrill of competing, and the stupidity of others. She shrugged. Perhaps she didn't have the capacity for it, but that was fine. As long as she had a roll in the hay from time to time, she couldn't complain.
Her mind went back to her mentor. In a way, she thought she and Yoruichi-san were in the same boat. Yoruichi-san floated from dalliance to dalliance much in the same way her professional partner did, minus the emotional attachment. Soi Fong had thought they were two of a kind, two modern women who didn't need any emotional trappings. Of course, that all changed when Yoruichi-san met Urahara Kisuke. Soi Fong was somewhat saddened at the loss of a comrade, but she also wished Yoruichi-san nothing but happiness.
She shook her head. Now was not the time to be thinking about such things. She wanted to warm up before she met her new partner. "La Pantera my ass," she muttered.
The man in question currently stood outside the 8/13 studio. He was tall with a lean, wiry build that spoke of tightly coiled strength and liquid feline grace. Electric blue eyes that matched his riotous hair swept over the building as a corner of his mouth jerked upwards into an ever-present sneer. "Never thought I'd step into this place," he muttered.
"Why not? 8/13 is not an enemy." His companion was a willow of a woman who looked elegant simply by existing. Her hair was long, straight, and black with blunt bangs smoothed back by a feathered headband. "Well Grimmjow, are we going inside?" Her contralto voice was dispassionate.
"Ain't right," he muttered, slinging his duffel bag over his shoulder. "But we're here, home sweet home for the next year, eh Sun-sun?" He pushed open the door and stalked in as she followed placidly behind him.
The first person he saw was a woman who appeared to barely come up to his collarbone. "Oy shorty!" he barked. "Where's Kyouraku Shunsui's office?"
The woman froze in place before pivoting slowly on her heel. "What did you call me?"
Grimmjow snorted. "I ain't got time for pleasantries, sweetheart. His office?"
Soi Fong's eyes narrowed. The man standing in front of her was, without a doubt, Grimmjow Jaegerjaques. Wonderful. "Ask nicely."
"Excuse me?" Grimmjow raised an eyebrow. Was the woman serious? But looking into that pinched little face, he was pretty sure she was.
"You heard me."
His face darkened immediately and he strode forward until they were toe to toe. He had to give the woman credit – she didn't even flinch. "No."
Sun-sun resisted the urge to bury her face in her hands. Not even a minute inside and he was already antagonizing someone. The two of them were throwing off some spectacular sparks though…she looked between them speculatively. Was that a hint of mutual interest? She hid a smile. It was, but they were too busy being annoyed to see it. The next year suddenly looked more promising.
"Ah Grimmjow, I see you're already getting acquainted with Soi Fong!" Shunsui interrupted cheerfully, clapping a hand on the tiny woman's shoulder in a silent warning. Soi Fong twitched angrily but stood down.
The blue-haired man frowned. "'Already getting acquainted?'" he echoed.
Soi Fong couldn't help the slightly savage grin that spread across her face. "Haven't you guessed? I'm your new partner. I expect you bright and early for practice tomorrow," she said in a voice that dripped sweetness and venom. "We have a lot of catching up to do." With that, she all but stomped up the stairs to the studios.
His partner? "Wonderful," Grimmjow muttered, an echo of her earlier thought.
Shunsui began steering the two Aizen Studio dancers towards his office. "Come! We have a lot to discuss before we get you two settled in!"
He was late. Soi Fong didn't know how late, but she'd already warmed up. Twice. She hated it when people were late. She was always right on time, if not early. Her parents drilled that into her head. She tried drilling that into Renji's head, with marginal success.
She walked over to the barre and began to stretch, her body automatically going through the motions. Kotetsu Kiyone was not the only classically trained dancer in the studio – her parents met as principal dancers in London's Royal Ballet. To their eternal amusement and slight chagrin, their only daughter decided to pursue ballroom after fifteen years of classical ballet training. She shook her head ruefully as she slowly brought her left leg up until her toe was pointing directly at the ceiling.
It was this position that Grimmjow found her in as he strolled into the studio. Butane-blue eyes traced the long line of leg in that nearly impossible position, also taking in the small, compact body lovingly hugged by spandex. He couldn't help it – he whistled.
The best way to describe the woman was that she snapped. It was as though her leg was on a hinge and her spine on a string. "You're late," she hissed.
He grinned easily. "Am I?"
"Yes, you are." Soi Fong glared at him. "I distinctly remember saying that I expected you here bright and early."
"This is bright and early for me, sweetheart," was the snarky reply as he walked over to the barre.
Soi Fong rolled her eyes to the ceiling. "Good lord, here we go," she muttered. "Hurry up and finish stretching, will you?"
He grinned at her over his shoulder and she was startled by the quick jump in her stomach. "That eager to dance with me, sweetheart?"
"Not particularly. I've already got your dancing style pegged. And don't call me sweetheart." Last night she'd gone over footage of his dancing from her competition recordings. It hadn't taken her very long to see exactly what kind of a dancer Grimmjow Jaegerjaques was.
In fact, his style was eerily similar to Renji's – rough and unpolished, yet brimming with passion and flare and life. They both took to the dance floor with a raw masculine appeal that was thrilling to watch. It was a style that she'd had over a decade to observe and match to her own. Somehow she and Renji made it work, so she had no doubt that she could handle her new partner.
If there was anything Grimmjow couldn't resist, it was a challenge – and his new partner had just presented him with one whether she knew it or not. "That so, sweetheart?" he drawled. "Let's go, then." It was not entirely surprising that they launched into a paso doble.
It was precisely what she'd suspected: his technique wasn't spectacular, but his musicality was spot on. "We're going to have to work on your technique."
"What's wrong with my technique?"
"You haven't got any."
"Snob," he snorted, the critique annoying him. He was a pro and she said he didn't have technique? Who the hell did she think he was?
"I am not a snob!"
She glared at him. "I'm giving you constructive criticism. It's not my fault you can't handle it."
"I can handle criticism when it's well-founded, sweetheart."
She stopped abruptly, locking her elbow so that he could not spin her. "I believe I told you not to call me sweetheart."
"Oh yeah?" He leaned in close, as he had yesterday. "What are you going to do about it, sweetheart?" He enjoyed provoking her – hell, he enjoyed provoking a lot of people. That was just the way he was. But there was something inherently fun about making this woman mad. She reminded him of a hornet – small, but with a hell of a sting.
She moved so fast he could only blink. In a few seconds she had his arm twisted behind his back and his face shoved against the mirrored wall. Well hell, the woman was strong. "If I'd known you wanted me in this position, sw-"
"Don't you dare finish that sentence." Soi Fong could barely see through the flames that were creeping through the edges of her vision. "Or I will hurt you."
"Oh yeah?" She had no idea what he did, but somehow he turned the tables on her, escaping her hold and flipping their bodies until her back was smashed against the wall, his body pressing into hers. "How do you suppose you're going to do that?" There was no mirth in those eyes now – temper somehow made the blue even brighter, not darker as she would have expected. Her stomach jumped again.
Thinking fast, she jerked her knee up between his legs and stopped it just short of doing serious damage. She was pleased to see him flinch. "I have my ways."
Grimmjow released her with a look of – respect? "So long as we understand each other."
"Fine." She raised an eyebrow. "Now, can we get back to the dancing?"
Rukia winced as the shouts reverberated through the walls. "My god, they're still at it? You'd think they would give up after a month!"
Hitsugaya exchanged amused glances with Matsumoto and politely refrained from pointing out to his temporary partner that she and Ichigo fought almost every single time they talked. "One can only hope," was his only response.
Matsumoto bounced her four-month-old daughter on her lap as she watched her husband foxtrot across the room with Hisana's younger sister. "I find it rather nostalgic, actually."
"How so, Rangiku-san?" Rukia asked curiously.
"It reminds me of Zaraki and Kuukaku or even Ikkaku and Kiyone," she laughed. "Now those were some legendary fights!"
"I'll say," Hitsugaya said wryly. "I'm surprised the studio roof is still intact."
"But all of them are together now," Rukia protested, her brow furrowing.
Matsumoto raised an eyebrow. "And who's to say that those two won't end up the same way?" She ignored the warning look Hitsugaya sent her.
"Rangiku, please don't try and pull a Shunsui," he groaned. "There's quite enough pseudo-matchmaking going around these days," he remarked with a pointed look at his partner.
Rukia had the grace to blush. "Well it worked, didn't it? Anyway, I don't know if I can see Soi Fong with anyone. She's so…detached."
"Defense mechanism," Matsumoto said promptly. "Trust me, I've known Soi Fong since she first came to the studio, haven't I dearest?" she cooed at her daughter, who burbled with delight. "She pushes everyone away before they have a chance to leave her." She shook her head. "Poor thing. Her parents were always traveling the world to dance with their company and just left her here with the help."
Rukia felt a pang of sudden sympathy for the withdrawn woman. But still, Soi Fong and Grimmjow? They were like alley cats when they fought – no holds barred, fangs and claws out. It was like they genuinely hated each other. "But…they're so improbable," she said finally.
Matsumoto laughed gaily and even Hitsugaya chuckled. "Have you taken a look at the couples here, Rukia-chan? I'd say all of us were improbable and even downright impossible at one point and yet here we are." The look that passed between the blonde woman and her white-haired husband was so lovely that Rukia had to smile.
"Well, I suppose. I'm still not holding my breath."
"A word of advice? Don't let Yachiru rope you into the bet."
"Bet? What bet?"
"Oh honey, I keep forgetting you're new here." Matsumoto grinned. "She's had a bet going on Soi Fong for years. The girl's got unerring instincts about the people in this studio."
"She's twelve," Rukia said, aghast.
"She's not relevant to this conversation," Hitsugaya interrupted, looking annoyed. "Can we continue this foxtrot?"
"I hate you," Soi Fong muttered to Matsumoto under her breath. "Why the hell did you drag me out tonight?"
"Going out has never bothered you before, Soi Fong!" she laughed. "Besides, it's been too long since Toushiro and I have gone out dancing and I thought we'd assemble as much of the old crew as possible."
"And Aizen's dancers are part of the 'old crew?'"
"I said, 'as possible,' my dear." Ice-blue eyes danced merrily. "Besides, it would have been horribly rude not to invite them, don't you think? Now, be nice!"
"I'm not nice," Soi Fong muttered, rolling her eyes. She trained with Grimmjow every day so she didn't see the point of seeing him after hours too. She hated him, to be honest – but she seemed to be the only one who did. He slid easily into Renji's place, making fast friends with Hisagi and Ikkaku. Sure, he was rude and uncouth at times, but everyone else had just become used to him.
She scowled, staring daggers into his back as he chatted with Hisagi at the other end of the bar. She could not deny that it was vastly tempting to forget he was such a bastard. There was a sort of magnetism to Grimmjow that she'd noted the moment she met him. He had such a devil-may-care attitude, tempered with extreme confidence and pure ego. She had a thing for strong, confident men – but not this man, even if he was screaming hot. Her temperature rose just looking at him.
Soi Fong had never experienced such primal feelings before, feelings that made her want to shove him up against the nearest wall and-well. She blinked. That was unexpected. She admitted to the occasional daydream of beating the crap out of him, but she never quite pictured that before. She racked her mind for excuses and blamed it on his outfit.
He wore a black collared shirt that was open at the throat, the sleeves rolled up to his elbow. Forget broad shoulders or nice abs – she had a thing for forearms, always had. The shirt was paired with dark, well-fitted jeans, showing off his unique coloring. There was no denying the fact that he was very, very attractive at this point in time. The fact that Soi Fong was acknowledging it made her very unhappy.
"Why don't you ask someone to dance?" Hisagi yelled over the music.
Grimmjow raised an eyebrow over his beer. "Like who?"
"I don't know…how about Soi Fong?"
He grimaced. "No thanks."
Hisagi grinned. "Why not?"
"I suffer enough abuse from the woman during the day and you want me to ask for more of it now? I think I'll pass." But he glanced over his shoulder at her anyway, shaking his head at the way she hid her tiny, trim figure in blousy plants and a long-sleeved top. In the past few weeks, he'd gotten to know his partner quite well. She was unbelievably passionate and sensual on the dance floor, but the moment she stepped off it, she became a completely mouthy, argumentative tomboy. He couldn't quite get over the difference.
And maybe, just maybe, he wanted to see the vixen tonight. He finished off his beer, making a quick decision. "I'm going to see a girl about a dance."
"You do that," Hisagi agreed, eyes twinkling. He winked at Matsumoto, who flashed him a conspiratorial grin in response.
Soi Fong turned around. "What?"
Grimmjow rolled his eyes, his hand going to her elbow and yanking her up. "You heard me. Let's see what you got."
"Are you blind as well as stupid?" she demanded, following him onto the dance floor. "What the hell do you think we do all day?"
"I have half a mind to call you stupid," he shot back. "That's ballroom. This is salsa."
"You do have half a mind, you moron. I can salsa in circles around you if I wanted."
His lips curved. The woman just had to keep throwing out challenges – how could he resist? "Why don't you let me be the judge of that?" The salsa was his dance, as far as he was concerned. It was free and unrestricted. It didn't really require rules or form: all one needed was rhythm and a connection to the music and the partner. Oh yes, a connection was absolutely essential, he thought as he whipped her through a complicated combination of cross-body leads, locks, and turns.
Now she knew why they called him La Pantera. He moved like a dream, sinuously and fluidly. It was surprisingly intoxicating to dance with him like this – somehow he made the experience seem new and fresh, like she'd never danced it before. This did not mean that she could not keep up, for she followed him as well as she'd ever followed anyone, matching him step for step. "Surprised?" she taunted over her shoulder as he twisted her into a hammerlock.
"Marginally," he agreed. Who would have thought that she could dance salsa so well? He'd figured it was too wild and too unpredictable for his uptight partner, but she danced like she had Latin blood in her veins. He should have known that a woman with a temper like hers could more than handle the salsa. Clearly, the vixen was out. "I didn't think you could handle it."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"That you don't have enough emotion in your dancing," he said without thinking.
"What the hell are you talking about? I've been a goddamn pro for over ten years and you're telling me that I have no emotion?" she snarled as he pulled her into a double-handed turn. "I'm yelling at you now, aren't I?"
"You call being angry 24/7 emotion? It's not enough." His hands traced down her back, the feel of his fingertips tracing bare skin causing lightning to streak down her spine. Soi Fong fought the urge to arch her back into that inadvertent caress. He grinned, catching the unexpected spark in her eyes. "There you go, my little bee. That wasn't quite what I meant but I'm sure we can give it a go."
Oh, but the man was infuriating. "Who the hell are you calling your little bee, kitty?"
Grimmjow chuckled darkly. "Oh, you're going to pay for that." He yanked her a little closer, a hand lingering at the small of her back as they went back to the basic step. "How should I make you pay, bee?" he all but purred in her ear.
His low, velvety voice had desire all but slamming into her stomach. The reaction was so savage and unexpected that she did the first thing she could think of: she punched him in the jaw. Then she fled, her feet taking her towards the bathroom as quickly as she could. Heat was all but buzzing across her skin and she needed a few seconds to gather herself together.
The hairs on the back of her neck prickled when she was only a few feet from the door. The only thing she could think was "Danger!" Every instinct was screaming it. Suddenly, the world tilted crazily and her back was flat against the wall, Grimmjow's lips bruising hers almost brutally. Her eyes were wide open with surprise, looking straight into that butane-blue stare. There was no finesse here, just a heated exchange of rage and newly discovered frustration and desire.
Her hands, which had flown to his shoulders to push him away, relaxed. Damn, but it had been a long time since she'd kissed anyone and the man seemed to be a bloody expert. He was the trigger to her bomb and they were both exploding. Nothing had ever felt so sweet. Her nails bit into the strong muscles of his shoulders instead, urging him closer. He growled with approval, pushing closer and deepening the kiss until she was boneless in his embrace. "Damn, bee," he murmured against her lips.
Reality smacked her hard in the face. That sounded almost like an endearment, and dear god that scared her. And when she got scared, she got mean. She shoved him, hard. "Don't you dare touch me again, you…you…!" She really did run this time – all the way out of the club.
Grimmjow let out a string of inventive and highly offensive curses, just barely resisting the urge to punch the wall. The woman was going to drive him absolutely mad. What was he thinking? He rubbed his jaw gingerly, wincing at the soreness that still lingered there. After she punched him, he came after her with the express intent of…something. He hadn't planned to shove her up against the wall and kiss her until both of their brains fried, but the fact remained that he had.
But why? He knew women, considered himself a connoisseur of the female species, and he knew what he liked. He liked women like Matsumoto: tall, curvy, amiable, and flirtatious. He certainly didn't like tiny, malicious women who were the very definition of the word shrew. So why was he so utterly fascinated by her? He shook his head. It was natural to think of her; he danced with her every day. But even that did not explain why his idea of women was suddenly getting a thoroughly violent reeducation.
The woman was a challenge, he decided. And he would be damned if he wasn't going to take the bull by the horns. His lips curved upwards into a sly smile. The game was changing.
When Soi Fong was conflicted, she danced. There was nothing else to it. It was the best sort of relief, channeling her emotions through every limb until both body and mind were exhausted. So was it any surprise that she streaked back to the studio and shut herself in the ballroom? Moonlight streamed through the large windows, providing the perfect, ethereal backdrop for her private dance.
She kicked off her flats and began, pouring everything into fast, furious movement. Was there something wrong with her? She danced with Renji for years and never felt a thing, even though they had a very real chemistry on the dance floor. It was pretty much the same with every other man at 8/13. Hell, she danced the very same salsa with Hisagi many times before without batting an eyelash. How could one dance, one kiss, be so different?
Maybe it wasn't the dance or the kiss that bothered her so much. It was the way Grimmjow's voice sounded when he called her "bee." No one but Yoruichi-san was allowed to call her that, but the mere sound of it coming from his lips…well, it sounded like a promise, and that was what scared her. Promises were so frighteningly close to…dare she say it? Love.
Soi Fong almost scoffed. Love. That had nothing to do with her relationship with Grimmjow. She'd closed her heart off from that kind of emotion. She could grudgingly admit to the lust and that was about it. She didn't need the pain and complication that it brought – she'd seen almost everyone in the studio go through the rigors of that pesky feeling and frankly, she wanted nothing of it.
She bit her lip, her movements slowing. There were rewards, of course. She'd seen those, too. Love seemed to bring extreme highs as well as extreme lows, so maybe there was some sort of balance to it. However, she thought briskly, even if she were open to the idea of loving someone, she sure as hell wasn't going to fall for someone like Grimmjow. He seemed like just the sort of man who left a trail of female wreckage wherever he went. No, there was too much of a risk when it came to men like him.
When her body finally gave out, she collapsed back on the floor, panting slightly. She had to admit that an affair with him would be spectacular. She imagined that it would be all raw passion and sheer power. Her skin tingled just thinking about it and she laughed out loud.
"I'm an idiot." Why was she panicking so much? The only thing between them was mutual dislike and mutual lust. Love definitely didn't factor into the equation, so there was no need to even think of it. There was absolutely no reason, she thought as she got to her feet, that they couldn't have a fling. It worked out perfectly anyway, since he was going to be gone in a year. She would have him out of her system by then, she was sure of it.
She found herself at the door of his apartment before she knew it, blessing the fact that he was staying in one of the studio-owned apartments. It had to be a sign.
The door swung open almost as soon as she knocked. Grimmjow smirked and leaned an arm on the doorframe, towering over her. "What brings you to my door, bee?"
That smirk, combined with the wicked gleam in his eyes, stirred the flames within her. "I should think that it's perfectly obvious, kitty," she mocked. "I want you to finish what you started."
"Seems to me like you're the one who ran away," he drawled. But she was pleased to see that his eyes heated.
"I'm not running now, am I?" She stepped inside, her intentions clear as she scraped her nails lightly on the skin exposed by his open shirt.
Grimmjow hissed. "No, you're definitely not." He yanked her into his arms, slamming the door shut behind her.
Soi Fong sank into a grand plié, enjoying the gentle pull in her muscles as she bent her knees. She felt utterly relaxed, boneless, and, well, satiated. A satisfied grin tugged at the edges of her mouth. "La Pantera indeed," she mused.
The studio door slammed open and Matsumoto skidded inside, dragging Nanao behind her. "Rangiku, is this really necessary?"
Matsumoto ignored her best friend and slammed the door shut. "You!"
"Me," Soi Fong said warily. The blonde was on the warpath, she could see that clearly.
"Why on earth is Shunsui cowering in his office, convinced that you're going to do something horrible to his person?"
"Why are you more concerned than I?" Nanao muttered.
Soi Fong frowned, confused. "I didn't do anything! I just said 'good morning.'"
"And you smiled. My dear, you never smile." When Soi Fong just shrugged, Matsumoto edged closer, peering at her face. "Good lord, you're glowing." Her eyes lit up with unholy glee and Soi Fong felt the extreme urge to run. "You got laid!"
Nanao pinched the bridge of her nose. "I'm sorry Rangiku, could you say that louder? I don't think they heard that in Osaka."
"You had wild, animalistic sex with Grimmjow!"she insisted jubilantly. "Come on, spill!"
Soi Fong sputtered. "The hell I will!"
"Yes, please don't," Nanao said dryly. "Rangiku, I don't think any of us need to know about anyone else's bedroom activities."
"Oh come on, I want to know if he's really as good in bed as they say!"
"You're married – with a daughter," Soi Fong said, horrified.
"So? I'm just curious! Come on, Soi Fong!"
Soi Fong couldn't help it – her mind flashed back to the night before and she turned dull red. Matsumoto caught it and crowed triumphantly. Even Nanao looked grudgingly interested. "That good, huh?"
"That good." The three women whirled around to find the man in question leaning in the doorway, looking supremely smug. Soi Fong wished the ground would swallow her up. "Now, if you ladies will excuse us, we have some dancing to do."
"Vertical or horizontal?" Matsumoto asked impishly. Nanao buried her face in her hands.
"Who knows?" He smirked.
"Someone's feeling self-congratulatory," Soi Fong said under her breath.
Was it possible for blue eyes to burn? His eyes seemed to smolder with intensity. "Bee, I don't think you're in the proper position to argue." That sinful smirk grew as she turned redder with the way that his voice seemed to caress the word.
Matsumoto glanced between the two of them. "My, my." She fanned herself. "I think we'd better get out of here before the room explodes, don't you Nanao?"
"That is a very good idea," Grimmjow agreed, not taking his eyes off his partner as he advanced on her. The door shut behind him.
"You can't possibly be thinking – there are people around!" Soi Fong hissed as she backed up.
"What am I thinking, bee?"
Dear god, he was prowling. And leering. "You're making lewd threats!"
"No, I'm having lewd thoughts. There's a difference."
He chuckled and pulled her to him. "Sweetheart, it's impossible not to have lewd thoughts about you." She shuddered when his teeth nipped teasingly at her lower lip. "Kiss me, bee."
Her mind was quickly fogging over. "The hell with it." She seized the collar of his shirt and pulled him down to close that last remaining bit of space between them. Bombs, she thought faintly as their tongues dueled. Most definitely bombs. They were going to tear each other apart, she was sure of it. Finally, she managed to wrench herself away. "No monkey business in the studio though," she warned.
He winked. "Suit yourself, bee."
As she watched him walk over to the barre, Soi Fong wondered if she was going to be able to keep that promise. "And don't call me bee!" she said belatedly.
They settled into a comfortable routine, and that was quite all right with Soi Fong. They fought, they danced, and they made love as winter melted into spring, spring into summer, and summer into fall. Yet as the months progressed, their relationship began to change. They still fought, but not nearly as much. They became companions and friends. He became an indelible part of her routine and she did not even realize it. Everyone in the studio watched with much amusement as the one woman who swore she would never fall in love finally succumbed to its embrace.
"Are ya freakin' kidding me?" Renji yelled at Rukia over the phone. "Partner's in love and I ain't there to see it? I can't rub her face in it? Of all the-!"
"My bee's in love?" Yoruichi squealed delightedly when Shunsui called her. "Of course I'm coming back, I wouldn't miss this for the world!"
"Damn amateurs," Zaraki said off-handedly to Kuukaku, who roared with laughter. Ikkaku, who was being pestered by Yachiru to up the odds on the bet, had to agree.
Needless to say, everyone was anticipating the end of a bet that had been years in the making, while the two most involved remained blissfully unaware.
It was late fall now, edging towards winter once more. Grimmjow and Soi Fong sat on the roof of the studio, watching as Tokyo's many lights began to blink on.
Grimmjow glanced at the tiny woman out of the corner of his eye. He knew all too well that he was leaving soon, but he wasn't quite willing to give her up. Not yet, not when there was still so much he wanted to know about her. The trick was to ease her into the idea until she thought it was her own. He knew his woman – and she was his woman, there was no mistaking that. Being with her consumed everything he had and yet he still had more to give, as crazy as that sounded. But she was it and he knew it. For Soi Fong, he was willing to take the risk that he'd never allowed himself to take with any woman: the gift of his heart.
Why was he taking that chance? Perhaps it was because he understood her inside and out. He knew all of her strengths and weaknesses. He knew all of the safeguards that she oh so meticulously maintained around her heart. He knew that she struggled all these months to stonewall herself from him so that his leaving would not hurt her. The woman was driving him mad in that respect because she kept dropping hints about it. Oh, he knew that it was her way to prepare herself, but he wasn't about to let her drive him away. If she wanted that (and he knew she didn't), she was going to have a fight on her hands.
And though he loved fighting with her, this was one fight he was not going to concede.
Soi Fong was deep in thought as well. The date of his departure was looming like a big dead end. Her life was going to change and go back to the old routine, but she found herself dreading it. For some inexplicable reason, she liked this routine and wanted to keep it. She wanted to keep him and she really wanted to hate him for it, but she couldn't. Truth was that she didn't hate him at all and hadn't for a long time, but there was nothing she could do about it. She couldn't ask him to stay any more than he could ask her to go.
That was why she always kept it in the back of her mind that he was leaving. As long as she could keep reminding herself of that, it would lessen the pain. She snorted. And pigs could fly. As much as she wished that things could remain the same, it was naïve to think that they could continue their relationship in the same vein. Their relationship was too volatile to last over such a long distance. They just weren't suitable for each other in the long run. If she kept telling herself that, maybe she would believe it. There was only one thing she did believe: she didn't trust either of them enough to make it work.
How long, she wondered, until they got tired of each other? Until they no longer fought for the sake of riling each other up and just fought? Until tussling in bed could no longer made up for their sheer incompatibility? How long until he left her behind? No, she decided, it was best to let him go now, when she wasn't so wholly invested in this strange thing they had between them. But damn, she was going to miss it.
"Something bothering you, bee?" She was getting that crinkle between her eyebrows that indicated that she was thinking heavy thoughts. It was funny that he knew that.
Damn. Since when had she become so transparent? "Just thinking about what'll happen when you go back to Osaka. I'll have to retrain Renji all over again," she said lightly. It wasn't so far from the truth.
He scowled. If the damn woman was going to keep bringing that up, he was going to explode. "Go back to dancing with Mila Rose, I guess," he said just as irreverently, hoping that she was going to drop the subject. Hope springs eternal.
But of course, she didn't. She talked about future plans for the studio; about their new contract with Shall We Dance? and the possibility of a tour. She kept right on needling him about a future that didn't include the two of them together until his fuse, never long to begin with, snapped. He didn't want to argue over something as important as this, but she was just asking for it. "Christ, bee, will you stop talking about that?" he exploded. "Stop talking like my leaving is so automatic for you!"
Soi Fong blinked. It wasn't that his anger was so unexpected, but the entire tone of it changed. "But you are leaving, aren't you?"
"Well, yes but-"
"No buts," she said brusquely. "Why on earth are you being so touchy?"
"Because you're acting like my leaving means this has to end!"
"This?" She turned to stare at him. Her voice was nonchalant, but inside she was shaking. The way he was acting…she knew what she wanted him to say but she didn't want to hope. "What do you mean by this?"
"Don't play dumb with me, bee," he growled. "Don't pretend that there ain't anything between us."
"Just what is between us, Grimmjow? I want to know!" she demanded. "By all means, enlighten me!"
A muscle in his jaw twitched. "I can tell what you're thinking bee, and I'm telling you right now that it's more than just sex."
"It is, and you ain't gonna cheapen it by pretending otherwise!"
His voice always seemed to regress into a rough twang when he was feeling backed into a corner, she thought. Funny how she picked that little thing out. Her shoulders slumped. "I'm not going to cheapen it, Grimmjow, I know there's more to it," she said tiredly.
He frowned. "Then why the hell are you protesting so much?"
"Because!" She threw up her hands and began pacing back and forth. "I can't deal with you throwing this at me! You know we can't make this work – we argue all the time!"
"Setting us up for the fall already?" He crossed his arms, disgusted. "You've already got it in your head that I'm going to walk away eventually, I get it. You're not giving a hundred percent because you feel like you need to keep something in reserve if that happens."
"When it happens," she corrected.
A corner of his mouthed turned upwards into a sneer. "You're a coward."
"You heard me, coward," he said coldly. "You think you're saving yourself by holding yourself back from me? Let me tell you sweetheart, regret hurts a lot more, and you will regret it."
For the first time, Soi Fong was truly speechless. This was a whole new level of anger coming from him – it was as though he'd shut down. There was no fire here, only ice. Those eyes – those wonderful, bright blue eyes that sparked with electricity and fire, were frozen. Nothing had ever frightened her more.
And through the fear came acceptance. All of her walls and all of her routines were meaningless. She had never really lived because she spent so much time running and hiding. Yet here she was, turning away the one chance she had to really live – wasn't a little heartache worth it? Maybe it was – after all, he seemed willing to risk it and he was one of the last people she ever would have thought could do it.
"Tell me honestly, do you even like me?" She was about ten feet away from him, looking irate and plaintive all at the same time.
For some reason, all of the tension leaked out of him at the vulnerability in her voice. She'd just surrendered, whether she knew it or not. He walked forward slowly, approaching her like one would approach a frightened deer. "Soi Fong, I like…everything about you."
Eyes the color of smoke flew up to meet his, surprised. He almost never used her name, always choosing to call her "bee" or "sweetheart" to rile her up. "Oh come on," she scoffed, trailing off uncertainly at the look in his eyes. "Are you kidding?"
"Nope." He grinned, still edging forward. "I'm absolutely serious."
"Even when we're fighting?" she asked scornfully.
There. She was right within arm's length. He wrapped a hand around one of her braids and tugged her forward into his arms. "Especially when we're fighting," he purred against her lips.
Her knees turned to jelly. God, she hated that he could wreak such havoc on her system. "You're a certifiable lunatic."
"When it comes to you, bee? Yes." He began trailing kisses along her jawbone.
She could feel her eyes rolling back into her head. "Now hold on…just a damn…minute!" She shoved him away. "Will you stop that? I can't think when you do that!"
He smothered a laugh. She was just cute when she was flustered. "Now that's promising," he drawled. "Maybe I should just distract you all the time so that you forget about this nonsense."
"It's not nonsense, Grimmjow," she snapped. "We'll never work!"
The lady really did protest too much, he thought. It was getting boring, especially since she really didn't seem to believe herself anymore. "Says who?"
She wracked her mind, but no one turned up. To be honest, it seemed like everyone in the studio was rooting for them, if Matsumoto's horrible teasing was anything to go by. "Just…just…people!"
"People? Or you?" Grimmjow rolled his eyes and grabbed her shoulders. "Listen to me. We gotta take a risk here, bee. I'm okay with that. How about you?"
"But…" His words penetrated her brain. "You want this?"
The woman was going to be the death of him and he was not ashamed to say that he looked forward to it. "Sweetheart, what have I done to make you think that this is not what I want? I've been trying my hardest to get you to see things my way." He jerked her chin up, forcing her to look in his eyes. Whatever he saw there made him smile triumphantly. "And I think I've succeeded. I've got you right where I want you, bee."
"Oh? And where's that?" she said crossly, trying to mask the way her heart was galloping in her chest. Those remarkable neon-blue eyes seemed to glow back at her.
"Here, with me."
She slapped a hand over his mouth when he leaned forward to kiss her. "That…was horribly cliché." A slight, extremely uncharacteristic giggle escaped her. "If you ever say something like that again I'm going to beat you up."
His eyes crinkled up at the corners and she could feel his smile against her fingers. "Nevertheless, bee, it's true." His voice was muffled.
Slowly, she removed her hand. "No more talk about leaving," he said firmly. "We take each day as it comes."
"Yes, we will," she agreed. She felt as though a burden had been lifted.
"Good. It's going to be an adventure, bee." With that, he swept her off her feet and headed towards the door.
"Grimmjow!" she shrieked, clutching his neck. "What the hell are you doing?"
She could only see that wicked, wicked grin before he claimed her lips with his own. "Starting the adventure, of course."
Needless to say, Yachiru won the bet.
A/N: Yow. Grimmjow is hot hot hot! The author cannot apologize for any fangirl fainting or drooling that occurs over the course of reading the story, as the author suffered from many, many hot-flashes while writing. Grimmjow just inspires that. As I told MatsuMama, it should be illegal for a fictional character to be that sexy. So yeah. It's crack and I absolutely love it. After writing three pairs that are more or less canon (that's just my opinion), it's been wonderful to get back to crack. I just love the challenge. This story is probably one of my personal favorites when it comes to this series.
Anyway, big hugs and many cookies go out to MatsuMama for stepping in and being the most wonderful beta ever (poptate is in Kenya, lucky girl!). I could not have done it without you, sweetie!