Disclaimer: Right...like I could own Bleach...
A/N: See this? Right here? It's an complete fic! I'm so happy, because I suck at it. Yes, it's a one-shot, but I even have trouble with one-shots so there.
This little one I can lay the birth of at Eilwynn's feet. She did this little thing – which you can find a link to on her profile – about what kind of person that would be psychologically perfect for Ichigo. Tatsuki was the top girl. (The top guy was Byakuya, but that's another story. Literally.) The profiling isn't perfect obviously (especially if you take fanon into account) but it was an interesting read at the least.
So I thought I should try this – an Ichigo/Tatsuki fic. I managed to complete this before I went to bed – which doesn't mean that much since my sleep patterns are wack. Then I did a little more edits over the days, until I finally was ready to post.
This is my goodbye fic – not for good, unless ffnet continues being an ass, but until I come back from the cottage. Tomorrow, I will do some last minute clean up on my profile and laptop in the morning and then I will be gone for about two weeks at one of my Dad's friend's cottage, with my Dad in tow. I'll probably swim, eat, sleep, listen to music, read and write at various stages. Maybe I'll get another fic done, I don't know. But I won't have internet, unless I head into town and then not for long.
I find this rather chick flicky. But I think it works, for all the fluff. I also reference things brought up in Eilwynn's fic, Guardian. I really recommended it, it's a Remastered Bleach from the POV of Ichigo, with a little speculation thrown in for flavour, taking place during the first arc. A sequel, covering the second arc, is in the works as well. Go check it out, it is totally cool. Ichigo's narration is a combo of intriguing, thought-provoking, heart-rending and funny, all for various incidents.
Please enjoy and review at the end!
Edit: Fix a few minor errors and added proper line breaks.
Worth The Wait
When she realized it, it hit her with all the strength and subtly of a fist to the face. Which, being an experienced though young martial artist and the strongest girl currently in Japan, Arisawa Tatsuki knew exactly how much that could hurt – and how damn easy it was to see.
She was in an ice cream parlour with her best friend, eating her own double chocolate ice cream and doing her best to avoid looking at the horror Orihime was doing to her own ice cream.
It was worse when she knew, having not been able to say no the one time she had offered, long before, it actually wasn't that bad tasting.
Still, they had been talking casually. Or rather, Orihime had been going on all about what was good about Kurosaki Ichigo. Her crush – no love for him was cute.
And between one second and the next, she was agreeing with her.
That's when the facts hit.
Orihime tilted her head, her voice trialling off, as she saw how pale Tatsuki was suddenly. "Tatsuki-chan...is something wrong?"
Tatsuki blinked. "Um...I..." She shifted and looked down at her ice cream. Then Orihime's. "I...gotta go..."
Orihime blinked in worry. "Tatsuki-chan..." She stood when Tatsuki did and reached out with a hand. "Are you sick?"
Tatsuki flinched back. "Ano...maybe...I don't know." Tatsuki inwardly cursed herself. Since when did she EVER talk like that? "Sorry, but I have to go. I'll see you tomorrow at school!"
And with that she left.
Orihime stared. "Uh...bye Tatsuki-chan!" She called cheerfully after her friend's quickly fading form. She then looked at the discarded ice cream of Tatsuki's. She had barely touched it.
Orihime then gave a sweet smile, and thanked the fact everything had already been payed for. "Well, waste not, want not!"
And began to do unspeakable things to Tatsuki's ice cream.
She ate it too.
Tatsuki raced up the stairs and slammed the door to her room behind her. Her parents were out on business, so it didn't really matter. She jumped and landed face first on her bed.
Then she started to scream, managing to muffle it with her pillow after a bit.
When she was finally finished screaming, she rolled over, clutching the pillow to her chest.
Her room was average, for a girl who liked martial arts. There were posters of martial arts movies, medals of the awards she'd won during competitions and tournaments on the wall or on shelves on the wall. A pile of laundry was in a corner, mostly of training gi. Her closet was left open and showed her rather simple wardrobe – no dresses or skirts whatsoever. Not because she hated dresses – she had worn one for a business function of her family's once or twice without any complaint – but because they, as a general rule, inhibited fighting ability.
She stared at the cracked ceiling and tried to fix her head.
'I can't. No way. This kind of thing only happens in those stupid chick flicks the other girls are fond of watching! Not real life! I'm not...not...' She groaned. She couldn't even think it.
She sat up. "Okay, let's think things through rationally."
She took a deep breath.
Kurosaki Ichigo. From birth, the guy had natural orange hair. And when he was little, and went to the dojo Tatsuki was affiliated with, he was a whining sweet daydreaming cry-baby. But when his mother died, he got an edge to him and managed to reach the top in a few years. Then left abruptly, as soon as he had beat the top student there – Tatsuki herself.
After that...Tatsuki hadn't really seen him again. Sure, she saw him in the distance once or twice. And she heard the rumours and the one time she had dropped by his house, he hadn't been there.
Tatsuki was one of two friends that Ichigo currently had that knew of his time on the streets and the dick moves he had pulled. She knew he had gotten really bad. Drugs, fighting, and stealing. Maybe there had been worse, but that was the bits she knew for certain was real.
But, like everyone else, she didn't know the catalyst that got him out of there. She suspected that Ochi-sensei might have had a hand in it, from the way she treated him.
There was something that said it had to do with someone else as well – Tatsuki had once seen him laying down flowers for a small shrine. And when she looked that area up for incidents, she realized that it was a place where an innocent girl had been shot and killed not that long ago.
And knowing about Ichigo's ghost sensing, Tatsuki figured Ichigo had somehow met her. How, she didn't know – he had been damn scary back then. But that nameless little girl probably had a big role to play for his change, which was why she directed a prayer of a sorts towards that girl after Ichigo had left.
She'd like to think the girl listened to her talk, even though she felt stupid for talking to empty air.
But when they finally had the same school – high school – he had certainly changed. He was still tough, still grumpy and able to kick people's asses. But he was also in school, doing the work well and not connected to anything on the streets, aside from rumours about him.
She had been cautious at first, but it was quickly revealed that Ichigo was back to being a good Ichigo. Not the same kid as before, but she couldn't have expected that.
Then problems had come. One day, Ichigo changed again – and a new transfer student had shown up.
Back then, all she knew he was suddenly hanging out with her, strangely enough. Now, though, she knew Kuchiki Rukia as what she really was.
Tatsuki had never truly gotten involved – for some reason, though Orihime had gained powers, she never had. She didn't know exactly why – at this point, she felt her power getting stronger and more solid, for a lack of a better term, but never found a real form to it. It was just there.
But there had been a war. And Ichigo had lost all of his powers.
For seventeen months, she had watched that guy fall apart. He wanted to protect people and, as much as he probably complained, he was used to seeing more than the average person. To lose that...it had been hard. But Ichigo was an idiot, like most guys, about this. So he kept his mouth shut. And slowly withered away inside.
She doesn't know what happened – there's this...blank in her head. A blank that she avoids for some reason, some deep instinct drives her back. A nameless terror. But now, Ichigo was a Shinigami again.
She can look out and sometimes see him dealing with another silly Hollow with no problems – all thanks to the fact the idiot couldn't control his power and it leaked out to infect everyone else around him.
Though she still couldn't understand how Chizuru ended up with it...
And there's something very comforting about the sight of him in Shinigami uniform.
In fact, there's something about Ichigo that has Tatsuki...letting down some of her guards. She trusts Ichigo, as even though he'll never probably tell her what's going on she knows now with no doubt he can handle it.
He makes her comfortable with herself.
Tatsuki then frowns and leans back. Okay, next step.
Tatsuki had never dated. Never. Like Orihime, but that was because she couldn't see anyone but her precious "Kurosaki-kun!".
In her case, she supposed it was because she was such a tomboy and because she could kick most guys' asses. Guys were pretty intimidated by that.
The only time she had been kissed had been because of that stupid Kon, in Ichigo's body. And only on the cheek.
She glared at the ceiling. That memory still pissed her off.
Then an image of Ichigo, the real Ichigo, doing that to her "just cause" burst into her head and she went beet red in response.
"NO!" She shot up again, and tossed the pillow at her door. She stared at it, as it fell down and felt her walls fall down with it.
Ichigo was strong. But weak in certain areas, like emotions and connecting to people about it.
Ichigo was smart. Very smart, but did his best to not seem to be so.
Ichigo didn't care what other people thought. But at the same time, hid his artistic skills, and his love of classical books and Shakespeare. In fact, he probably didn't even know she knew.
Ichigo was protective of those he considered friends or needed help. A long list, but who ever really protected him? And yes, he needed protection – from himself if nothing else.
Ichigo was a hot head and easily able to piss off others with a careless word. But he was compassionate and kind, especially to those, like ghosts, who had nothing.
Ichigo hates mystical and psychic things – despite technically being part of such things.
Ichigo sucks at remembering faces and names. It takes time for him to remember things right in those cases.
Ichigo has a weird sense of honour in battle – he'll generally fight fair, but heaven (if it truly exists) help you if you manage to piss him off. He'll pay you back for every hurt you've caused.
And Ichigo just plain sucked when it came to women. He never noticed Orihime's obvious affection and immodestly dressed women caused him to freak.
And Arisawa Tatsuki...loved him. Loved him for everything – for the good and despite the bad.
Tatsuki bit her lip and tried to not cry. Because...she couldn't do this to Orihime. Orihime was her best friend, her light in life. She was the greatest thing to ever happen to her, aside from Ichigo, and she didn't want to ever see her hurt or cry.
And since she loved...truly loved Ichigo, much like her, she couldn't help but hurt her. No matter what she did.
Tatsuki did her best to ignore the tears, until it came too much and she covered her face and let it all out.
She felt awkward the next day. Sure, she had managed to wash away all traces of the tears last night and as far as anyone could tell, nothing had changed.
But something big had changed. Very big.
Tatsuki spent the morning focusing with alarming strength on her school work. Not odd for her to do it, as despite her athletic skills she was plenty book smart, but generally she wasn't that intent on it. She was too active to sit still too long.
And when the lunch bell rang, Tatsuki stood. She had made up her mind. "Oi, Orihime. Want to eat lunch somewhere else?"
Her orangette friend blinked in confusion, then beamed. "Sure!"
The eating part of lunch was finished quickly. Tatsuki wasn't eager to talk to Orihime right then, so focused on her meal. Orihime picked up on that, and concentrated on her odder food choices herself.
But that kind of focus resulted in empty hands sooner than later and now Tatsuki was at a loss.
Orihime sensed that her friend was troubled and waited with patience. "Tatsuki-chan. If you need to talk to me about something, I'll gladly listen."
Her sweet voice made the sickening swirl of guilt in Tatsuki thicken. "I..." This was hard. Even harder than she imagined.
For lack of a voice, Tatsuki stood. They were resting under a tree, just the two of them. Tatsuki had chased off the others, managing to convince them it was important private friend stuff. She had even managed to convince Chizuru to not even spy. The redhead had look at her with rare grave eyes and left the two of them alone.
Chizuru wasn't dumb. She just liked to ignore anything but her own opinions at most times. Tatsuki suspected it helped her when it came to her lesbian status. There would always be idiots after all.
Orihime quietly joined her friend. "Tatsuki-chan..."
Tatsuki took deep breath. "I...Orihime, I have a confession to make."
Orihime stared at her, her grey eyes wide. "Tatsuki-chan...?"
Tatsuki took a deep breath. "About..." She sighed and turned to look straight at Orihime. "About Ichigo...I..."
One more breath. "I'm in love with him too."
There. She had said it.
Silence descended and Tatsuki waited for her sentence, head hanging down.
Tatsuki's head whipped up. "What?" Of all responses, she hadn't expected it.
Orihime gave a soft smile. "I know. In fact, I think all the girls know. Tatsuki-chan just was the last one to realize it." Orihime reached out and grabbed one of Tatsuki's hands. "Honestly, I was surprised it took you so long to realize it."
Tatsuki blinked. "It...what?"
Orihime shook her head, long locks slipping on her shoulders. "Tatsuki-chan lights up whenever Kurosaki-kun is around. She's always worrying about him, and follows him when he enters a room until she's sure he's alright. Tatsuki-chan is in love with Kurosaki-kun – she just didn't realize it for a long, long time."
A dusting of red crossed Tatsuki's face. "I...but what about you?" She blurted. Orihime blinked in confusion.
"You...you're in love with him too! I can't...you're the best friend I have Orihime, the best I'll ever have." Tatsuki said, realizing with horror she was crying. "I can't do such a thing to you."
The puzzlement on Orihime's features lifted and she smiled. "But it is okay, Tatsuki-chan. I..." She paused. "I don't know if I'll ever confess to Kurosaki-kun. Or if he'll be able to return my precious feelings. But..." Her smile was sad. "I think it's great that Tatsuki-chan loves Kurosaki-kun. Because I know she's one of the girls I am certain will treat him great. I just want Kurosaki-kun to be happy. If Tatsuki-chan is that girl, I will be happy for the both of you."
Tatsuki stared at her. "Orihime...I...I don't deserve you." She said. Orihime was too kind. Too, too kind. So many other girls would be upset and break a friendship because of even a silly thing like a shared crush, much less love.
Orihime beamed and shook her head. "No. It's me who doesn't deserve Tatsuki-chan. Thank you, Tatsuki-chan. For telling me as soon as you realized it." She reached out and hugged Tatsuki closed. "It makes me so happy."
Tatsuki stiffened in her embrace, then finally relaxed and returned it. "Thank you...for staying." She said in return.
They stayed like that for a long time, until the bell had rung.
They ended up late for class still though – Orihime had insisted on clearing the tear trails from Tatsuki's face.
It was that little act that nearly made Tatsuki cry again – this time in happiness.
She was so lucky to have Orihime as a friend.
The rest of the day went as usual, except for the fact Tatsuki found that she apparently had developed an "Ichigo Radar" overnight. She always knew where he was and had a general sense of what he was doing.
And if she let her mind wander for more than a few seconds, it would automatically turn to think of a certain orange-haired individual. And how gorgeous he was.
She never really truly imprecated the beauty of another human being before. But now she was. Mentally, she drooled over his face – and damn, but she just realized that scowl could be so sexy – his bright hair – remembering the one time she saw it long and HOT DAMN – the way his muscles flexed and moved with every simple movement – remembers seeing him shirtless and seeing all the tight tanned flesh – and wondered, perversely, what he would look completely naked.
When she realized how hot that was making her, she brutally switched her mind to something much less arousing – like Orihime's recent culinary "achievement".
Then she realized that when things were idly, her eyes shifted to look at Ichigo as well. Which brought the thoughts back again...
It, she realized with woe, was going to be a long day.
Then something caught her eye.
For a moment...just a moment...she thought she saw Ichigo staring at her.
The thought – Ichigo was looking at me – pressed in the back of her mind, as she headed to the Karate club and, to the guys' horror, still managed to kick her opponents' asses despite her mind being anywhere but here.
Ichigo had been looking at her during class time. Whenever there was a break and/or the teacher had started to blather too long on one subject, Ichigo's eyes would roam and eventually land on her. It had been tricky to watch him without him noticing, but Tatsuki was pretty certain she had succeeded. After all if he had...
...what? What would he have done? Blush, look violently away? Hold her gaze? What?
Either way, she was certain, considering how much insight she had to the Substitute Shinigami's head, he wouldn't have ignored it. He sucked at any kind of lying in the end. At the very least, it would be painfully obvious that he knew something.
The thing about him looking at her, the thing that made it seem like it came out of the Twilight Zone, was that...it looked, if only a bit, like he was looking at her the same way she looked at him. Something soft. Gentle. Thoughtful. And...a little aroused.
The idea that any guy would see her as arousing was...odd but strangely pleasant. It was like she had just bit into a bun she thought was filled with meat and discovered it was chocolate instead. It wasn't like she had been looking forwards to eating the meat – it was merely substance of a sort – but she hadn't ever dreamed of chocolate.
And...her metaphors were betraying the fact she was starting to get hungry. So, after Karate was finished and she had cleaned up, she grabbed her stuff and headed to the nearby popular ramen-ya*. A big place now thanks to all the customers – not just high school students, but those who had been shopping in the market nearby and those who needed something cheap to eat – that helped it expand.
She halted outside though, as she realized – to her surprise – that she could sense Ichigo inside.
Tatsuki hesitated, and strained her senses a bit. She could also pick up Chad. This was weird – they both had jobs after all, and neither of them were the kind to skip on work for no good reason. And there was the third, more difficult signature to catch – Ishida. What was that guy doing with Ichigo here?
Curiosity warred with the fact she knew this was most likely a private conversation. Curiosity won.
Tatsuki pulled a trick she had recently mastered – suppressing her reiatsu, her spiritual signature, to almost nothing.
Then she ducked inside and quickly found where the boys were – in the back with the booths. And there was a nice booth free nearby theirs, in hearing range but difficult to see into with the high seat backs.
Tatsuki approached the counter idly first and ordered herself a simple order of tonkotsu* ramen and a soft drink, then asked if they would bring it to that table in the back. After she had payed in advance, she slipped to the back and took her seat. Just in time too.
Ishida had gotten tired of waiting for Ichigo to finish his meal and was pressing him into explaining what, exactly, had made him asked them here.
"So, Kurosaki. Why exactly did you ask for us to come here with you?" Uryū scowled at the Substitute Shinigami across the table from him and Sado.
Ichigo paused in his devouring of his ramen, and slurped up the noodles in his mouth. "Oh...uh..."
Uryū rolled his eyes. "Really. Kurosaki, as much as I don't mind getting a meal on someone else's paycheck," – at this he gestured at his own ramen bowl – "I'd like to know exactly what prompted you to ask for us specifically."
Sado said nothing, but his look told much.
Ichigo shifted awkwardly in his seat. "Um...yeah, that." He set his chopsticks to the side and fiddled with his hands. "Um...I don't really have anyone who can give good advice for certain." He made a face. "I mean, my Dad would get all hyper and excited and wail over Mom's poster, Keigo would get hyper as well and his choice of advice would..." He made a face. "And I don't know or want to know what Mizuiro would do."
Uryū growled. "Get to the point, Kurosaki."
Ichigo sighed. "...There's this girl I like..."
Any further talking from him was interrupted by Uryū's spluttering. "Wha-wa-what? Really? You...finally started to notice girls?!"
Ichigo scowled at that. "What the hell's that suppose to mean?"
At that Sado spoke up. "Um...Ichigo, you've never really been...interested before." He told him. "I mean...even with Yoruichi-san and Matsumoto-san..."
Ichigo spluttered at that. "Dammit! That doesn't mean I'm not interested. They just didn't really fit my type."
Uryū stared at him. "How are either of them not anyone's type?" He cut Ichigo off before he could speak again. "Never mind that, who is it? Inoue-san?"
Ichigo blinked. "What does Inoue have to do with anything?"
Hear that everyone? That was the sound of the world doing a "facepalm" in response to Ichigo's oblivious nature.
Uryū pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration. "Okay, then who?"
Ichigo shifted. "It's...not that important. Just...how would you, in general get a girl's attention and..." He hesitated. "Make it clear what you think of them."
Uryū stared at him. "And you came to us?"
Ichigo scowled. "It's not like I have that many options. I figured you guys would be the sanest."
Uryū wasn't sure if that was either an insult or a compliment, but he decided it would be best to ignore it anyways. "...flowers generally don't go wrong. Just go into a flower shop and ask for help in that regard."
Ichigo frowned in thought. "I'm...not sure if she's a flower kind of girl..."
"Is it Kuchiki-san? Then, perhaps a stuffed animal. I could make one if you like." Uryū offered.
Ichigo gave him a horrified look. "What?! Rukia? Are you...ewww..." He made a disgusted face. "No. It's...not her. Jeez, you guys, she's like a sister to me..." Ichigo wondered how many people thought that about them. It would certainly explain how Byakuya treated him. If that was true, he'd better set the record straight the next time he saw him.
Somewhere far away, a certain cherry blossom related taichō sneezed.
"It's not?" It was Sado's turn to be surprised. "I thought..."
Ichigo rolled his eyes. "You thought wrong, Chad. So, really, what can I do?"
Uryū frowned in thought. "Hmmm...chocolates work well...except you'd eat them yourself." An accusatory look at the young man across the table caused him to squirm. What, he actually expected him to ignore a box of chocolate left right there in the open? It's not like he labelled it as for someone else!
Chad thought about it. "Perhaps...you should just take her to a nice location and tell her straight up. The scenery should be pleasant and relaxing. Any gifts could come secondary. Otherwise, it might seem like a bribe."
Ichigo digested that thought. "Yeah...I think that would work..." Still thinking, he picked up his chopsticks again. "Thanks guys, this was helpful."
As the three guys dug into their meal, Uryū wondered if he should mention the fact one Arisawa Tatsuki had been listening.
Then dismissed it. After all, the worst that would happen would be her punching Ichigo for not only not seeing Inoue's feelings, but for not being able to return it.
Unknown to him, said girl was focusing on her meal with a fervour, trying to keep her blush down.
There was tiny grain of suspicion forming in her mind from the conversation she had just overheard and she didn't want to pursue it yet.
Didn't want to hurt herself by accident.
After all...it couldn't be right? That would be too much like a chick flick...
Tatsuki stayed much longer than the boys, as they practically shot off as soon as they were finished and Ichigo – reluctantly – payed for them. She suspected it was because Ishida had bought something somewhat pricy.
She ended up staying long enough that she ordered a large platter of gyoza* and a glass of ice cold water to keep her company.
She wasn't sure she was reading the signs right, but if, and this was a big if mind you, Ichigo...was at least interested in her, she was somewhat insulted.
She liked flowers! Just because she liked sports over more feminine pursuits didn't mean she couldn't be girly. She could draw well, knew her Hanakotoba* – thanks to her Mom and her persistence – and did know about make up and how to use it. Just because she preferred not to use any of those talents and knowledge didn't mean she hated it!
But Ichigo was a worry wart, especially when it came to making a good impression on others and what others' thought, despite what he said. Sure, he wouldn't dye his hair, but he still didn't like rumours about him – especially ones that suggested that he was a bad guy or a nice guy.
He was ridiculously picky in that regard.
When she finished her gyoza and paid for it, she stepped out of the ramen-ya and, instead of catching the bus home, decided to wander around.
Mostly because she was feeling like her life was turning into a bit of a chick flick and that was one thing about being a girl she would never like. They always seemed a bit forced at times, and the plot was practically the same every time despite how many details they changed.
It was while she was doing that that she felt it.
A Hollow. A strong one at that. She lifted her head and – maybe scented is the right word, but somehow she figured out where it was. And, not sensing anyone else nearby, cursed and ran off in that direction.
Straight into a monster from a nightmare, much like the rest were.
This one had a Mask that looked like a cross between a pumpkin and a fly's face. Not pleasant to look at. It's body was bulbous, and had multiple spindly limbs, all that looked razor-sharp in the light. And it was chasing a poor ghost. Tatsuki didn't get a good look at said ghost, as instead she swooped down and picked up a good sized rock.
And threw it at the damn Hollow, the rock shattering against it's back. The Hollow whirled around and stared at her through it's Mask. Then it licked it's lips.
"Tasty!" And then it pounced.
It was sheer luck and training that helped Tatsuki manage to dodge the beast, rolling on the ground and cursing. By more luck, this area was mostly deserted, only a few stray cats around who quickly left when one of the Hollow's legs slammed into a nearby wall and left a deep groove.
The reason it hit the wall was because Tatsuki had managed to duck at the last moment. If that had hit, it would have taken off her head.
Tatsuki took advantage of the fact it was partially stuck and tried to kick the thing, only to find it was...sticky. It wrenched it's limb out and Tatsuki went with it.
Seeing the mouth of that thing coming close, Tatsuki pushed her reiryoku through her limb and managed to break the hold on it, causing her to drop to the ground. She managed to twist and take the fall with bended knees.
Then a spurt of pain hit her and she glanced over to see a black thin limb through her shoulder. And red soaking through her uniform shirt.
Her head whirled. With blood loss and something like fear.
She wasn't...strong enough. Sure, she knew she could handle most things – low level Hollows had learned to fear her long ago. Not that anyone else knew she sometimes went out and beat up stupid Hollows, though only enough that when Ichigo came over – and he always did – he could easily purify them with a careless swipe.
But this was obviously a stronger Hollow than she was used to.
She dropped to her knees and gritted her teeth, pushing her reiryoku in her hands and gripping the limb, slowly pushing it out with a gasp of pain.
Only for another to hit her and send her flying.
And Tatsuki...got angry. Whirling back on the Hollow, she glared.
How dare this stupid Hollow be so strong? How dare she be so weak? How dare she allow herself to have to be protected? She was Arisawa Tatsuki and she didn't need help! She was strong and she was going to be stronger!
Even years later, she would never be able to describe what it felt like.
But she saw the results.
Many long metal strands suddenly whipped out from behind her and attacked the Hollow, trying to catch it. It managed to dodge most and lightly slash a few of them, causing the strands to pull back and Tatsuki to wince in pain. Which was weird – they weren't part of her were they? It then attacked her, sending something like a pseudo-Cero at her. She braced herself for impact.
And got nothing. Nothing but the sight of a steel cocoon of a sort covering her, taking the hit. She flinched, feeling like she had been hit hard enough to bruise, then the cocoon opened, looking a lot like petals before it disappeared from her sight.
The Hollow was obviously surprised and she took advantage of that. Another stream of metal strands whipped out and this time they got the Hollow.
And Tatsuki charged at the pinned Hollow and jumped up, up, up into the air and came down hard, heel first. Straight on the mask.
The Mask cracked and shattered, taking the Hollow with it.
In the sudden silence, Tatsuki panted, somehow managing a light landing on the ground.
The sound of that familiar voice made her whirl around – and something followed her. Feeling that, she craned her neck around to see it...
And blacked out.
Ichigo cursed as the whatever-the-hell it was disappeared and Tatsuki dropped to the ground, using Shunpo to reach her in time to catch her.
He looked her over and gave a sigh of relief when he realize she was alright. He would have gotten here earlier, but Kon had decided to put up a fuss. That was annoying and he was going to have a talk to him about that. A long talk, one that probably involved his sister Yuzu and Ishida.
He carefully shifted Tatsuki in his arms to a more comfortable position and turned to head towards the best place at this time.
After all, he had managed to catch the tail end of Tatsuki finding her own powers finally. And, sad as it was, Urahara was his best bet for this kind of thing.
He just hoped he didn't comment on how he was carrying Tatsuki – in a style most would call "bridal".
Lucky for Ichigo, he had encountered Tessai first and the big man had only given him a look before taking Tatsuki from him and checking her out. There was only a little damage, a few cuts and bruises that was all. The worst was a shoulder wound, that had already begun to heal strangely enough.
Ichigo had been relieved that the fainting thing was common for when someone suddenly got powers. Thinking back, he had to admit that he had done that when Rukia had given him his power. And when he had, inadvertently, used Getsuga Tenshō the first time.
He rested beside her futon, siting on the ground near her and waiting, impatiently, for her to wake up again.
Tatsuki was one of his important people. And she was a very strong girl. He didn't like seeing her looking this weak.
A soft groan attracted his attention. "Oi, Tatsuki!"
The girl opened her eyes and winced. "Ow...I feel like I was just sat on by a rhinoceros,"
"You weren't." Ichigo said dryly. "However, you just missed being squished by a Hollow."
Tatsuki looked over at him and winced. He wasn't sure what she saw in his face, but if was half as angry looking as he felt, she deserved it.
"Tatsuki. That wasn't the first time you've been Hollow hunting." It wasn't a question.
Tatsuki winced again. "Uh...no."
Ichigo sighed. "Look, you are strong. One of the strongest people I know. But if you hadn't activated your powers then, you probably would have been eaten by that Hollow. Please, try to know your limits." He begged her. It was a stupid thing for him, of all people, to say, but the sight of Tatsuki of all people falling down hurt had him scared.
Tatsuki nodded slowly then halted. "Wait. Powers?"
"Yup." The voice came from a certain pain-in-the-ass Shopkeeper and ex-Shinigami Taichō.
Urahara Kisuke entered the room. "Arisawa-san, you were very lucky today. And strong." He added. "You managed to pull out your powers through sheer will power, and nothing gave you a key. You forged yourself a key all by yourself and that is very impressive."
Tatsuki sat up, wincing at her sore and stiff body. "I suppose so, though I don't feel that impressive right now."
Urahara chuckled and pulled out his fan, waving it in the air. "That is the usual thing. No one who does something amazing feels amazing. Just tired and a little sore."
He looked her over. "I suppose you'll need training. I can't see you ignoring your newly gained power."
Tatsuki nodded. "Of course."
Urahara beamed. "Great. Now, how about you spend the rest of the week as normal, then on the weekend, Ichigo will help you figure out your power."
"Wait. Wait. Wait just a minute here." Ichigo interjected. "What do you mean me?"
Urahara looked innocently at him – and he sucks at innocent by the way. It just makes him look eviler. "Why, who else? Do you really want me to have the duty of training Arisawa-san?"
Ichigo looked at him and felt his stomach drop. 'He knows. Fuck."
"Tch." He said instead. "Fine. I'll do it."
Urahara laughed and turned back to the door. "All you need to do is take her to the underground training area and attack her. She should respond in the proper manner."
Ichigo glared at him, but didn't say anything.
Tatsuki blinked. "Attack me?"
Ichigo sighed. "Yeah. From what you're like, you'll need to recreate the situation where you gain it in the first place."
Tatsuki felt a chill, like someone had just walked over her grave. "And that means..."
Ichigo turned to look at her and suddenly grinned. Tatsuki wasn't sure she liked that grin, though it was actually kinda cute, in a I'm-probably-going-to-kill-you way. "I attack to kill. You either bring out your power and live or don't and die."
...this was going to hurt.
All was (relatively) quiet at Urahara Shōten. Aside from the sound of Jinta tormenting Ururu – yeesh, they were teenagers now and still had that act down pat – and the echo of someone training hard in the training area downstairs, it was a peaceful day.
It was the latter sound that Urahara's mind was on.
It was amazing loud, considering he soundproofed the place. Then again, he hasn't really fixed it up in recent years. He should get around to it some day – after all, he has more guests who needed it nowadays.
But right now, he decided to jump down to the place and see just what was going on.
A chunk of rock nearly took off his head and if it wasn't for Shunpo, it would have.
"Yo!" Ichigo said, idly flapping a free hand at him, blocking the fist of Tatsuki's with his Zanpakutō. His action irritated his opponent and Tatsuki kicked at him, sending him flying through the air in an impressive impromptu display of aerial acrobatics.
"Now, now children. I think that was enough." Urahara said, smiling. It was only the first day, and already Tatsuki was showing good proficiency at her powers.
When the two settled down enough to stop actively trying to kill each other, Urahara looked over at what form Tatsuki's power had taken. And blinked in surprise.
Tatsuki looked like she had been covered in liquid silver-coloured metal, forming a strong barrier between her and danger. In fact, it molded in such a manner to look much like a full body catsuit, the only free bit being her head and neck, which merely now looked like they were part of an animate statue and was of a lighter colour. Her eyes were now a glowing red, somewhat intimidating to look at. Urahara was vaguely surprised Ichigo was capable of fighting her looking like that, as it show cased her form quite wonderfully, but Ichigo had a strange mind set in battle and it could be difficult to distract him.
The strange part was the thing he could see behind her. It looked like a monstrous sized flower, made of bright steel. Urahara couldn't tell what kind it was, mostly because identifying flowers wasn't his strong suit. It was currently open, showing a strange centre as there was a bunch of thick strands surrounding a round brilliant red jewel.
"...a flower?" Urahara had to blurt out, staring in shock.
Tatsuki glared. "Yes." She bit out.
He tilted his head and looked it over. "I can't really say it suits you..."
He was then caught off guard, as the strands he had noted before suddenly grew and attacked him, immobilizing him and lifting him up in the air. Upside down.
"What? Because I'm a tomboy?" Tatsuki snorted. "News flash, old man, all girls like flowers. And I know Hanakotoba as well, idiot!"
Urahara really wished he could do something, but he didn't want to risk accidentally hurting Tatsuki. He had managed to examine the strands while he was up and had realized that them, and the flower, were closely attached to Tatsuki. In fact, he believed that to hurt one could hurt the other. They were both obviously tougher than normal, but Urahara was quite powerful himself.
It was an interesting arrangement. Much like Ichigo's expression when Tatsuki had declared she liked flowers.
Urahara laughed. "I see, I see. I'll keep that in mind." He paused. "Um...could you let me go? The blood is rushing to my head."
He had a moment to regret it – seeing Tatsuki's vicious grin – before the girl dropped him.
Oh ground, why must you be so hard and cruel?
He got up quickly – yay for Gigai that were made to be as strong as a Shinigami's form – and popped out his fan. "So, do you know what it can do, aside from those...strands?"
Tatsuki shrugged. "Some, I guess. First, I'm much tougher, stronger and faster like this."
Ichigo nodded. "She's able to keep up with me with Shunpo most of the time. Not in Bankai..."
Tatsuki grumbled at that. "Well, I just wanted to see if it would help."
Urahara absorbed it. "Makes sense. What else?"
Tatsuki shifted back and forth, the flower moving with her. "The flower's always at my back, so I can't see it. Which means I don't know what kind of flower it is." She seemed somewhat irritated by that.
Urahara laughed. "I'm afraid I can't tell either – flowers aren't my strong suit."
"The flower also is semi-independent." Tatsuki continued, peaking Urahara's curiosity. "It's not fully aware, but it tends to do things by itself, if only a little. Like what it did to you recently. I didn't tell it to grab you, it did by itself. I was irritated with you, so that is probably what it responded to."
Urahara nodded. "But you are capable of giving direct orders." He commented, thinking of how he was "let go".
Tatsuki nodded. "Yep. The strands can be used to grab and pin down an enemy, but they also can be shifted slightly so that they are sharp." She demonstrated by pulling out a strand and showing it's form. Urahara could see that it was now sharp along the edge and instead of being a pure rectangular form, it narrowed to a point.
"The petals of the flower can close, and thus act as a defence." Tatsuki added, putting the strand away and showing him this as well – the flower moved closer, and it had been pretty close before, and seemed to swallow Tatsuki up. After a moment, it opened again, revealing her having not moved from her position. "I can take a lot of damage, but the flower's even tougher."
Ichigo nodded. "Yeah. She was able to take a nameless Getsuga Tenshō in that."
Urahara gave his old student a look. Ichigo scowled. "Hey, she asked me to!"
"I don't think it's finished either..." Tatsuki said, ignoring the by play between the two guys. "The...flower feels asleep, like there should be a fully intelligent entity commanding it. And..." She bounced up and down on her heels. "My body feels not quite finished either. I guess I still have to train before I can unlock it fully." A thoughtful expression crossed her face. "Maybe some actual battle experience would help as well.
Urahara considered that. "Well, I think this was enough for today – it's already dark. Come back tomorrow, same time." He looked her up and down, as the metal retreated and the flower disappeared in sparks. "May I ask where your focus is?"
Tatsuki laughed. "Awhile back, I got a tattoo on my upper back of a flower. Ichigo saw it light up when I called out my powers. It's been awhile though, so I don't remember what flower I asked for." She brushed her shoulder length hair back and made a face at what she felt. "Ugh. I need to clean up."
"I have a fully functional shower." Urahara chirped, pointing upstairs.
Tatsuki idly thanked him, and headed to the ladder. Urahara looked over at Ichigo, who was watching the girl go.
"You know, delaying things won't help you at all." Urahara pointed out.
Ichigo winced. "That obvious?"
Urahara laughed. "Not really, but I know what I'm looking for. I have experience after all." He gave a small smile, a different one than he usually gave. It was actually truly kind. "I don't think you should let this girl get away."
Ichigo scratched the back of his head. "Yeah..." He looked at the ladder, then something that looked like an "aha, an idea!" expression crossed his face. "I'm not letting her go."
Ichigo made a point of exiting his home earlier than he did yesterday. That was because he had to go get something before heading to Urahara's.
It didn't take long to find a flower shop near Urahara's place and with a tinkle of bells he entered.
An old lady was behind the counter and she placed down her magazine and smiled at his appearance. "Hello young man. What can I do to help you?"
Ichigo shuffled his feet and stuffed his hands in his jean's pockets. "Uh...well...I..." He swallowed. "I kinda want to get flowers for this girl and..."
"Ah, I see. No clue what to get?" The woman stepped out from the counter. "Anything about the girl?"
Ichigo shifted back and forth. "Um...she knows Hanatokoba and I'm not that good at...talking so..."
"You thought you'd put the message in the flowers? That's sweet." She cooed, causing Ichigo to blush.
"Now," She began briskly. "What kind of message do you want to give?"
It took some time, but eventually Ichigo ended up paying for right kind of bouquet and leaving out the door.
"Thanks, obaa-san." He said, before shutting the door behind him and walking quickly off.
The old lady smiled indulgently. "Ah, young love. And such a nice young man – his girl must be very lucky."
Once he had gotten a good distance from the flower shop, he took the pill that was Kon. "Okay, I want you to head back, going that," He pointed at the road he chose. "route. No detours." He glared at Kon, who winced and nodded. He wasn't going to upset Ichigo anymore – not after...that unspeakable thing he had done. Sicking both Yuzu and Ishida on him? Pure. Evil.
Once he saw Kon was doing exactly as he said, he started to walk towards Urahara Shōten. It wasn't a far walk, and soon he was sneaking through the door. He was lucky to run into Ururu.
"Oi, Ururu!" The named girl whirled around and blushed upon seeing Ichigo...with flowers?
"Kurosaki-san..." She said quietly.
"Um..." He shifted awkwardly. "Could you keep an eye on these please? I...well..."
Ururu gave a shy smile and took the bouquet from his hands gently. "Sure. I'll keep an eye on them until you are ready to give them to Arisawa-san."
Ichigo blushed vividly. "Uh...what?"
Ururu duck her head. "Urahara-dono told me..."
Ichigo sighed. "Yeah, he would." He then grinned. "Thanks Ururu."
She beamed at him. "You're welcome!"
Tatsuki exited the shower at Urahara Shōten still towelling her hair dry. This time, she had made a point of bringing a pair of sweats to wear during the training, so she would have clean clothes on the way back.
It was weird that despite she seemed to both get covered in metal and get a new outfit, her real clothes were still underneath and she still could get sweaty.
If there was one thing about sports she didn't like, it was the stink of sweat that showed up in your nose when you were done. Which was why she kept as clean as possible.
She picked up the small daypack she had left by the door and had stuffed the now dirty sweats in and slung the strap over her shoulder. Well, time to head home.
"Oi! Wait up!"
Tatsuki turned to see Ichigo, still in Shinigami form. He also looked a little wet, and Tatsuki vaguely remembered that Urahara had, so he said, installed a second shower for his visitors' convenience.
"Yeah? What is it?" It was with great effort that she kept the blush off her face. It was fine with Ichigo as training partner and teacher – he did have experience, though she didn't remember it, as a Fullbringer, which was what she was now. So he had at least a basic idea of how to handle her abilities.
Ichigo scratched the back of his head awkwardly. "Um...do you mind coming with me for a moment?"
Tatsuki blinked. What?
"Um...sure." She agreed. She didn't really see the harm. And Ichigo probably just wanted to ask her something...
...she hoped it wasn't about some girl he liked. She wouldn't be able to handle that.
Ichigo grinned. "Great."
Tatsuki then found herself in Ichigo's arms and before she could work to complaining, she lost her breath to the series of Shunpo steps he was using.
Gah...it was kinda of a sick feeling. But it eventually stopped.
"Dammit! Ichigo, let me down!" Tatsuki yelled, glaring up at him. Ichigo smirked. "Sure."
And set her down carefully beside him. "Careful though."
Tatsuki would have snapped further at him, but stopped as her breath left her in an amazed gasp.
They were on top of the tallest building of Karakura – a massive skyscraper with a tall lightning rod on top. And they were on top of the lightning rod, standing on the small frail platform that was there in case repairs were needed.
And it was beautiful.
The lights of the city was spread out beneath them, looking like an exotic star scape. And above them was the real stars – the brilliant lights of the Milky Way.
"Beautiful, isn't it?"
Tatsuki could only nod dumbly. "It's...beyond words. So beautiful...how do you come down after seeing something like this?" Her question was meant to be rhetorical, but Ichigo answered nonetheless.
"Because there are people down there worth more than the stars themselves."
Tatsuki turned to look at him...and stopped.
She swallowed. "Are...those flowers?"
Ichigo gave a sheepish grin. "Well, you did say you liked them?"
Suddenly it hit, like a bolt of lightning. She blushed and gently reached out and took the bouquet. There was enough light here to see the flowers clearly, especially with the newly discovered night vision of hers. A side effect of her Fullbring and something she had told Ichigo about earlier in the week.
"These..." She trialled her hand over the bouquet and looked up at him, stunned. At his look, she turned back to the flowers. The bottom and outer edge was filled with tiny white flowers and spiced with larger pink flowers.
"Pink Carnation and Edelweiss...I admire your strength and courage." She said softly.
"I do." Ichigo told her. "Even with all of the others I've met, you are still the strongest girl I know. Not just physical – you are strong at heart and soul. You don't give up on your friends and you will always be there to back them. You gaining a Fullbring just makes you shine brighter."
Tatsuki stared up at him and he blushed under her gaze. "That...was a little corny, wasn't it?"
Tatsuki shook her head, slowly – she was starting to see the value in chick flicks. "No. It was...perfect."
She then hid her blush to look at the next flower. The middle was filled with red distinctive flowers. "Red tulips...I trust you."
"I always have." Ichigo admitted. "I...know you will do what is right, or what you believe is right. You'd never hurt people without good reason and you will always protect others. I trust you even with my sisters."
To the uninformed, the last would have seemed odd. But Tatsuki knew, very much so, that his younger sisters were the most important people in his life. To have him actually trust another with them – something she doubted he even did fully with Rukia – was touching. The only other person who had that right was Sado, and he was his best friend.
Then she looked at the centre piece of the bouquet. The brilliant red flower made her blush grow. "...Red rose..." She swallowed and looked up at him. "I love you."
Ichigo responded with a blush of his own. "Yeah...somehow, you've become the most precious person I have. I know you can handle yourself and I trust you enough to know you will. But...I still think...that if you don't have to protect yourself, you don't have to...do you understand? If...you need help or anything..." He trialled off. "I'd be there. No matter what."
Tatsuki stared at him. "I..."
Ichigo turned away. "Sorry...I guess this is all sudden and I can't expect an answer right..."
Tatsuki shut him up, grabbing him by his clothes and pulling him towards her. By some miracle, she didn't lose the bouquet.
Not that either of them noticed. They were too busy putting truth to an old fable.
The first kiss is the best.
Despite the romantic night they had – mostly just talking and hanging out, spiced with a few more kisses – they went back to school no differently.
The only big difference was that they were together, though no one else knew.
Well, Orihime knew. Tatsuki had immediately told her best friend in confidence. Orihime had beamed and squealed, especially over the description of his confession. And there had been no trace of pain in her eyes – Orihime had been telling the truth about how all she wished for was Ichigo's happiness.
It had a popped a bubble of worry inside Tatsuki like it was nothing.
Tatsuki suspected Sado had been told as well by Ichigo, but she wasn't sure what his response was. Probably something lame like a thumbs up.
Some time next week a special art gallery was coming. And Ichigo had managed to secure tickets. Tatsuki was looking forwards to that date.
But right now...right now, she had another date. One she was enjoying just as much as she will enjoy the art gallery. If in a slightly different fashion.
The ground where she had been standing shattered under the wave of the Getsuga Tenshō Ichigo had sent at her. Tatsuki grinned though – she had figured out another bit of her Fullbring recently.
Ichigo cursed as the metal seed pods she had planted exploded and the flying miniature flowers shot at him with something that looked like lasers.
Of course, he managed to get away and Tatsuki was pulled into close combat, trying to deal with the strong Zangetsu's blade.
They were dusty, sweaty and a little bloody.
But both of them were grinning like mad and ridiculously happy.
Soon, Tatsuki would be joining Ichigo on his patrols. And that's when things would get really interesting...
But that was later.
Right now, there was a spar to finish.
And a boyfriend's whose ass she needed to kick at least once.
A/N: Goodness me, this fic was pretty long for a one-shot. Or maybe that's because the writing was difficult. I took multiple breaks and the story evolved as I went.
Like Tatsuki gaining powers. Originally, I didn't want to do that, but after the conversation in the ramen-ya (which popped up when I realized that I was writing metaphors that showed I was hungry and so they must mean Tatsuki is hungry...) I wasn't sure what to do with Tatsuki. I needed to give her something to do, otherwise she'd confront Ichigo and I didn't want that to happen. Thus, the Hollow.
Which ended up being a tough enough bastard I realized I was writing myself into a corner – at this rate, Ichigo was going to have to save Tatsuki and FUCK THAT. I don't really like rescue romances, unless both parties rescue each other at various times. So, I made her gain powers. It's helpful, as a prototype for powers I plan on giving her to most fics where she gets such a prominant role.
Also, any ideas for what kind of flower would be nice. I want it pretty and with a good meaning as well if possible. When I come back, I'll collect the ideas and make a poll out of it to help me choose. I'll point out I already have a poll up and I'd like it if you'd check it out before I come back and close it.
For the scene with Tatsuki and Orihime, I was thinking of this: ( ) watch ?v =OFx0yGfnRG4. Ignore the vid if you don't know the anime, just listen to the song and look at the lyrics. Dammit, I'll come out and say it: All of the Bleach girls could damn well sing that song with their opposite in the "shipping wars". I HATE Die For My Ship people. It's annoying.
As for Kon...I actually like him, but I couldn't think of another way to bring him into the fic, so here he is being a nuisance.
As for the confession...well, some of that came from another fic. Much pervier and full on Yuri/Het fic set in Ranma 1/2 with a succubus Ranma. Can't remember the title right now, but the line "Because there are people down there worth more than the stars themselves." was inspired by a scene in there where succubus Ranma takes Nabiki flying – I think she actually said something along those lines. I thought it was sweet and it fit Ichigo. Plus, stars are gorgeous.
Thank you for reading and review please! I like to hear others thoughts!
Reviewers get magic tarts!
Ramen-ya: A restaurant for ramen. This kind of place tends to have the best ramen, though there are other restaurants that serve it. I'm not quite sure about the look, but it works for my fanfic I guess.
Tonkotsu ramen: "pork bone" ramen (do not confuse with Tonkatsu). It usually has a cloudy white colored broth. It is similar to the Chinese baitang (白湯) and has a thick broth made from boiling pork bones, fat, and collagen over high heat for many hours, which suffuses the broth with a hearty pork flavor and a creamy consistency that rivals milk or melted butter or gravy (depending on the shop). Most shops, but not all, blend this pork broth with a small amount of chicken and vegetable stock and/or soy sauce. The noodles are thin and straight, and it is often served with beni shoga (pickled ginger). In recent years the latest trend in tonkotsu toppings is māyu (マー油/麻油), a blackish, aromatic oil made from either charred crushed garlic or Sesame seeds. [(mostly)quoted from Wikipedia]
Gyoza: Chinese dumplings. They tend to also be served in ramen-ya. And I gave Tatsuki a big appetite, but I myself tend to eat a lot when worried or thinking things through so it doesn't seem odd to me to have her do the same.
Hanakotoba: Japanese language of flowers – literally "Flower Word(s)". Don't quote me on the flowers I used and the meanings I gave them. I looked these things up online from various sites and I'm not certain if they are completely true, especially with the combinations I gave. However, it is my fic and I didn't want to have Ichigo just hand over a bunch of roses. I wanted a message for him to give along with it.