A/N: I think I like this pairing. Bleach is not mine.
Tatsuki discreetly studied the not-human male that had taken up residence in Urahara's shop. She thought she had seen odd before, but Grimmjow took the cake, iced it, and served in in thick gooey chocolatey goodness.
He was definitely the sore thumb out of all Ichigo's strange acquaintances, and Tatsuki included the late Isshin in that sentence. There had been a war, and Ichigo was involved, and somehow one day there was this teal-haired fiery-eyed scowling-faced muscled bully in Karakura town.
Tatsuki bumped into him when she followed Ichigo, Orihime and Chad to Urahara's shop. Grimmjow was there, by himself, in a corner, just seated all hunched up with his arms about his knees. Ichigo had greeted the guy but was repaid with a snarl; Orihime's bright beam was drenched with a fierce glower; Chad's tentative wave entirely ignored.
Tatsuki didn't say anything, but sat in the room with Grimmjow while the other three traipsed after Urahara to chat with their Soul Society friends in the den. She stayed there doing her homework, never acknowledging Grimmjow's presence.
He had ignored her too, but when the trio emerged from the den and called out to Tatsuki, she gave him a nod and a brief smile. "Bye," she said.
Grimmjow's brow twitched. "Bye," he answered, and his eyes narrowed.
That had been their first exchange.
Each time Tatsuki tagged along with Ichigo and Orihime, sometimes Chad, sometimes Ishida, she would sit in the same room as Grimmjow. Their first few conversations – if they were considered conversations – were just a hello and then, at the end, a goodbye.
One evening after karate practice, Tatsuki decided to drop by Urahara's shop. Not for any reason, but to see if Grimmjow ate human food. She bought four tubs of ice cream, all different flavors.
He did eat human food, but he had never tasted ice cream.
Tatsuki had taken a scoop of each: mint, chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. Grimmjow had first eyed the concoction warily, but upon seeing how the others wolfed down theirs, he had taken the first small spoonful.
"It's... cold," he said, surprised. "And sweet."
"You like it?"
"Yeah," he admitted, almost too softly, but his eyes were defiant when he glanced up from his bowl of ice cream. "It's interesting."
Tatsuki shrugged. "I like it too."
Over time, Tatsuki stopped following Ichigo and Orihime to the shop. She headed there when she wanted to, not when she had a reason or an excuse.
It took some time, but eventually Tatsuki figured out that Grimmjow was once on the enemy's side, but had defected. He was not human initially, but now with the help of a fake body Urahara had constructed – Tatsuki did not want to understand how the blond shopkeeper did it – Grimmjow could pass as human.
And no one had bothered to teach him how to live as one.
Urahara left him to his own devices, while Ichigo, Chad, Ishida and Orihime thought of Grimmjow as someone powerful and could take care of himself. The shinigami would have nothing to do with him. Tessai had followed his boss's example. Ururu and Jinta were afraid of him.
Grimmjow hadn't helped matters, reacting violently to the smallest provocation. Once Ichigo mentioned the lack of a mask or something and then Urahara had to physically separate them from slaying each other.
It irked Tatsuki that no one saw the truth.
"Come with me," she said one day.
Grimmjow looked up from his customary corner. "What?"
"Come with me." She almost smiled. "Trust me. It'd be okay."
The tall male peered at the brunette, trying to sense her motives. Eventually he unfolded from the floor and stuck his hands in his jeans pockets. "Fine. Lead the way."
She took them to the top of the hill. There was a small shrine nearby, but Tatsuki ignored it in favor of the clearing in the back. From there you could see the entire town.
Grimmjow lost the hunched look he had in the shop. As he drew to his full height, Tatsuki saw the beginnings of an arrogant smile. She smiled herself.
"What's so funny?" he snapped.
"Nothing. Just enjoying the breeze," she replied, having noticed that the snap was less biting and bitter than his usual comments.
Eying her with some suspicion, Grimmjow unbuttoned his shirt. He closed his eyes and tossed his head back with a leisurely sigh that surprised Tatsuki. She watched him luxuriate in the cool breeze and warm setting sun, the teal of his hair becoming an oddly vibrant emerald in golden-red light.
He cracked open an eye. "Thanks."
"You're welcome." She closed her eyes too, letting the wind play with her hair. And maybe, just maybe, she was replaying the little smile he had shown her.
"You're spending an awful lot of time with Grimmjow, Tatsuki-chan," said Orihime one afternoon.
Tatsuki shrugged. "Every now and then."
"Who's spending a lot of time with whom?" asked Chizuru, plopping herself down next to Orihime. Her hands sneaked over Orihime's shoulders and down to her waist, but to Chizuru's surprise it wasn't Tatsuki who disengaged her groping digits: it was Ishida who joined them wordlessly.
"No one you know," Tatsuki answered and sauntered away. She was not spending a lot of time with Grimmjow, just afternoons, and most of the time she spent it teaching him to read and write in Japanese. Now and then they would have ice cream, and maybe take in a movie, which Tatsuki would select because Grimmjow had no idea what genres there were nor who the actors were. Or even the concept of tickets until she explained it to him.
She sighed softly. They really had no idea what they did, bringing him here.
Grimmjow frowned. "So all I need to do is press the buttons in this order?"
"Yes, and put it to your ear, like so."
"And you will be able to chat with me."
"Uh-huh." Tatsuki nodded and sat back on her heels. "Once I start my part-time job, I may be able to save enough to buy you a cell."
Grimmjow looked startled. "A cell?"
"Cell phone," Tatsuki clarified. "It's a portable phone, and you can send messages on it. That way you can also keep practicing your language skills."
Grimmjow's lip curled, but he soon blew out a breath in resignation. "That part-time job thing... you're gonna be busy, yeah?"
He made a sound deep in his throat. "Y'know, I just wanna say, uh, thanks. You've been doing lots to help me cope and um. Yeah."
"You getting soft on me?" teased Tatsuki.
He bared his teeth and snarled, "Shut it."
Grimmjow was almost as endearing as Orihime in some respects, in Tatsuki's opinion, though she would never tell him that. He was like... he was a big tomcat, all swagger and pride and independence. And because of the swagger and pride and independence, no one had seen the truth behind.
Grimmjow had been yanked out of his comfort zone, his territory, and thrown into a brand new, confusing and chaotic world which was dominated not by strength but by technology. He had no period of adjustment, no time to adapt; he was expected to land on his feet and start running.
That had been what Tatsuki saw that first time in Urahara's shop. Grimmjow, keeping to a corner, feeling defensive and claustrophobic all at once, needing help and too proud to say it. Like a cornered beast, wounded and lost.
Tatsuki broke out of her ruminations and gazed at Grimmjow again. He had the most beautiful profile, she privately thought, as haughty as a prince and twice as charismatic. There was a hint of loss about his eyes now, as if something had been forcibly taken from him. She had no idea what: Grimmjow was not one to over-share.
"You admiring the view?"
Tatsuki blinked at Grimmjow's smirking tone. Then she grinned lopsidedly. "Yes, I am. It's really rather remarkable."
He tiled his head and examined her. "You're a strange girl," he finally concluded.
"Bit rich coming from you," she zinged back.
He chuckled. Then he placed his hand on the back of her head and leaned down to press his mouth against hers.
He smells spicy and soft, Tatsuki thought muzzily, before her hands slid up a broad muscular back and pulled him closer.
Ichigo sprayed his mouthful of water across the table over the hapless Keigo. As he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, ignoring Keigo's whines about having to find dry clothes, he nudged Chad.
The tall Japanese-Mexican actually coughed with surprise. He nudged Orihime, who gawped openly, prompting Ishida to turn around and see for himself why everyone had reacted. He nearly choked.
Tatsuki strolled forward, teal highlights streaking her hair, hand in hand with a former Espada.
"Hey guys," she said. "Scoot over, Ishida."
Grimmjow squeezed in beside Tatsuki with a grunt and grabbed two apples, tossing one to Tatsuki who caught it expertly. "What, not gonna accept me into your little group?" He slung an arm over Tatsuki. "Too bad, I ain't going anywhere."
Tatsukii shook off his heavy arm. "Shut it, Grimm. Eat that apple."
The others just exchanged glances.
Tatsuki glanced around and then grinned. "What?"
"What is he doing here?" asked Ichigo.
"What are you, blind?" smirked Grimmjow.
Tatsuki rolled her eyes. "Just say hi, Grimm."