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Sight for Sore Eyes

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It’s the Blood War reunion. God, why is he here?

 

Drunk shinigami yelling slurred greetings, constant tugging on his bodysuit and their sake soaked breath hit Grimmjow continuously.

 

Why

             is he

                         here?

 

Realizing his detachment from everything around him feels like a weighted blanket of tension, anticipating a reveal of startling orange, a fiery blaze calling out amongst the greyed-out shadows.

 

His nerves are tingling, simmering in acid from the wait.

 

Why?

Would he even say anything to you?

Would you get your fight?

Would his perfect human life already be eons forward past the war,

             past his haunted memories of the wars?

                         ... Of you?

 

 

Opting for a shot of whiskey, he orders from Yoruichi and nods his thanks. He waits to feel the liquor burn his senses a little and let his buzzing thoughts suffocate under alcohol.

 

Sometime between shot 3 and shot ‘blurry pixels’, he figures he’s had enough for the night. But he glances up----

 

It’s him.

 

His

caring eyes.

His

soft smile.

His

warm skin.

           

 

And suddenly, the drunken burn just can’t compete

with the fire glowing in the coils of his belly 

at such a sight.



He turns away. His eyes feel dry and irritated. He wonders if he’s been staring at the sun for too long again.

 

As the greetings continue, they fall to the background and Grimmjow lets himself funnel his attention to watching some midget captain with pigtails he doesn’t recognize hit on Yoruichi---waiting for it to surely crash and burn.

 

Until they hit it off with an impassioned kiss and waltz off into the night.

           

Dammit, pigtails. Why does she have to make it look easy? Fucking hope the nosy cat bitch falls asleep during...

 

“Aren’t you cold?”

 

What.

 

And brown eyes are staring into blue,

suddenly,

before there is enough time to put up his armor.

 

 

“The hell are you on, Kurosaki?” Smooth as hollow guts, Grimmjow.

 

“You’re sitting by the open door allllll by your lonesome.” A hiccup here. “There’s hardly any body heat to keep you toasty.” A drawn out blink there. “Don’t cats like to cuddle into warm thingies?” Now he’s just giggling.

 

If there wasn’t an incriminating flush across Ichigo’s nose and cheeks, just so slightly peeking out from the back of his neck and adam’s apple bobbing innocently, the arrancer might take offense to that.

 

Instead, his chest keeps peeking out from his shihakusho, and Grimmjow can’t think.

 

“---Grimmjow?”

 

And his startled gaze jumps from his daytime reveries to dilated pupils and hazy irises. A brown so warm he gets lost swimming in their sweet embrace. He flashes back to days when he saw arrogance and entitled morals in them and scoffs at his blindness. 

 

He could never mix them up again, never confuse the trembling waves of excitement caused by one to the tension and fear caused by the other. Forget the building heat from----

 

----anyway.

Ichigo’s shit-faced.

 

And asking dumb questions apparently.

 

“I don’t get cold, dumbass. Hierro, ‘member?”

 

“Yeah, yeah, super skin, I ‘member. But everyone likes blankets. Here, take this!” And tan fingers remove the burgundy cardigan he was wearing, black detailing decorating the edges and pockets.

 

Well-worn. Well-loved. Oversized.... by choice? From use? Who knows, but it smells so distinctly of his favorite berry that it could belong to no one else.

 

He does not push the cardigan into his face to sniff. He puts it on. But why? Ichigo is wrong and drunk and loud and pushing his stinky clothes on him, but Grimmjow won’t push him away.

 

Never that.

 

So, he puts it on, this too-large cardigan that fatefully fits his muscled body just right .

 

“Wow, it looks good on you. Maybe it was too big on me? You always had more muscle, all big and bulky.”

 

“The fuck is that ‘posed to mean, shinigami?” He muttered out.

 

“You’ve always been good looking.”

 

What ...

            “What?”

 

“I thought that before too, during a fight in Las Noches. Your release form, too. Your hair whipped in the wind and your body flew like lightning.”

 

Is he in his own little world now? Ichigo’s molten eyes cloud over in his effort to pull words from his liquor-riddled brain.

 

“...It...uh--it-it made me realize some things.” Hiccuping occasionally, divulging his secrets in his liquored confessional. “That battle. You.” Trying to control the wobbling of his lower lip. “And your manic grin too.”

 

Me.

He’s looking

at

me .

 

And then it’s warmth and tingles. Shocks traveling through my body from my lips with all that foreign warmth and bitter aftertaste of sake that’s suddenly too hot from the mouth pressing into mine.

             I can’t think.

                         But it ends too quickly.

                                     I just started pushing back,

                                                 barely got to open my mouth

                                                             ... and it’s cold again.

 

 

I’m floating above and sinking below with the storm in my gut, the race in my chest that won’t settle, and the high in my limbs that makes me bounce back weightless above them all.

 

Nothing’s said further after that.

 

 

 

They have a fight.

 

Again after too long. Kisuke sets it up. I’ll give that man a kidney if he asks. Not necessarily mine, but it also doesn’t have to be for him either.

 

For the clash of steel and claws ringing in Grimmjow's ears for hours to come, it’s worth the trouble.

 

Until, Ichigo mentions his missing cardigan.

 

“I can’t believe someone took that. It’s obviously mine! What kind of asshole is a sweater thief?”

 

“...Not my problem you can’t keep track of your shit Kurosaki.” And with that, Grimmjow chases daydreams of trading clothes with Ichigo out of his mind like Ichigo chases him around the sands of Hueco Mundo for being a little shit.

 

It’s fine. He still has the memories of clutching the cardigan to his face that night on his bed in the renovated and redeveloped Las Noches. He still has the hours he huddled it as a pillow until the scent of chocolate, sweat, and steel faded completely from the fabric.

 

No one can take it back from him.

 

And they still have their fights.

What they will always have.

Never challenged.

Never changing.

 

 

The testing of steel and strength.

The spilling of blood

and release of restraint...

has never felt so incomplete. 



But Ichigo never misses their Thursday battles. It becomes a ritual, a promise.

 

Until he misses. With a text. “I’ll be busy.”

 

Kisuke, glances the text from over his shoulder in the shoten and gives him a knowing look filled with sympathy. “There’s always next week, Grimmjow.”

 

The fuck. Who in the hell does this berry think he is?! Obviously, he needs to be reminded who he is. No one plays Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez like that.

 

His boot clad feet sonido away across Karakura to the Kurosaki clinic until he’s cemented in his steps by Ichigo’s blaring reiatsu.

 

And he’s not alone.

 

He’s walking in peppy steps, t-shirt blowing in the breeze and raising his goosebumps, but he only has a dumb smile on his face...

                                                And his eyes are only on the soft laughter of the princess.

 

 

Over her shoulders are the cream sleeves of an oversized letterman jacket.

 

They don’t fit her perfectly.

 

Her smell is getting all over it.

 

And then, the desperate hunger for blood and victory that Grimmjow hasn’t felt touch his consciousness for so long comes gushing forward.

 

Carnal, simplistic instinct. The good times, before all this.

 

Instead, he turns around and runs back to the shoten before slipping through his garganta. Running back to his cardigan and trying to see if he can still smell him there.

 

Urahara’s kidney gathering privileges are thoroughly revoked. Damn con-man, why the fuck is there already another reunion?! These shinigamis live upwards a thousand years, and yet they’re throwing a party every goddamn year for this?

 

Bullshit.

 

What else is bullshit? Them.

 

            Him, smiling so bright so far away the light doesn’t burn my eyes anymore to watch. Not with all the rain blocking the view anyway.

 

             Her, clinging so tightly to him, keeping everyone further away to keep from popping their ‘bubble of intimacy’ the black haired mini-Kurosaki grumbled earlier.

 

God, he hates her. Hates them, with their constant touching, non-stop giggling. How can someone be that happy?

 

But when he finally works up a threatening glare and turns to tell them to ‘fuck off’, the words are lodged in his throat at Ichigo’s glimmering eyes and wide smile. Directed at him and for a split second, feels like it’s only for him.

 

And the words stay stuck there for another half hour. They aren’t the right ones anyway.

 

And her. She treats him kindly, like any other war buddy that came to their rescue, as if he didn’t threaten her life.

 

As if he didn’t completely use her for her powers.

 

As if he doesn’t owe her everything for giving him back his arm, and with it, 

                                                his power,

                                                            his pride,

                                                                        his status,

                                                                                    his destined fight with Ichigo.

 

He doesn’t deserve this. Deserve him. What could they even have together? Nothing with his human life, let alone the fact he’d eventually go on to take over Soul Society, no doubt. While Grimmjow stays in Hueco Mundo, with Nel and Halibel ruling cannibalistic monster ghosts. With his kind. Doing what’s natural to us.

 

Not this. This delicate, tingling softness. This weakness that starts in the knees and shoots up through the spine until the tongue feels too big in my mouth, too choked to speak.

 

And then he glances up and catches a peek over the bar. It’s Kisuke and the cat lady. But they’re whispering and he catches their glance at him.

 

Brimming with knowing and pity.

 

That’s how obvious it is, isn’t it? To anyone really looking, and that’s how he knows Ichigo isn’t looking at him, not the same way.

 

“... Grimmjow, are you okay?”

 

He looks up to two pairs of concerned faces. So innocent and ignorant to his aching, it has his tumultuous emotions swirling between envy, rage, despair, and longing.

 

And apparently making him hyperventilate too, and that’s what finally caught their attention.

 

He slams his cup down on the table hard enough to shatter it, exhaling a breath that could swallow someone whole.

 

“You don’t have the right to ask me that.”

 

He gets up. He walks away.

 

.

.

.

 

It’s once he enters the hallway that the pressure in his chest centers in his hollow hole and presses against his eyes. His vision goes blurry and salty and he knows what’s happening, but can’t accept it.

 

When did he get so weak ?

 

When did he get so soft?

 

How did he allow himself to become so pathetic?

 

He scrambles into a random room in the Shoten before his knees give out.

Weak.

            Pathetic.

                        Worthless.

 

And finally he realizes, 

he is weak to these emotions.

 

Just as they ruled his instinct as a based hollow, commanding his evolution and hunger, they command his heartache now. 

 

And just like he realized his route to survival, he realizes it now. 

 

He has to give in. He can’t rule what he doesn’t recognize and it’s been so long since he felt he knew his own body. Hating what it’s doing to him.

 

But he can’t run away. It’ll only weaken him. 

 

He slumps down to the floor as his knees give out on him and concentrates his focus inward. He doesn’t notice the first tear that gathers behind his closed lids, nor the first that escapes his eyes and slides down his cheeks, some pooling in the crevices of his mask fragment. When he comes back to his body, he’s already gasping for air like a dying soul, tremors overtaking his form as he steadies his hands on the floor in front of him. He ‘s aware of his surroundings just as the sliding door opens and reveals familiar soft eyes. 

 

It’s not Kurosaki though.

 

Well, not his Kurosaki, not Ichigo. (As if that claim has been holding up recently.)

 

But one of the mini Kurosaki’s. The twins Ichigo would probably collapse an empire for. They’re teenagers now like he used to be when this all started. Grimmjow knows that from his many chats between goading Ichigo into fighting him seriously. What are their names again? Kari? Yuzen? 

 

And why is she here? Did she always have glasses?

 

“Hi there, hollow-san,” she says, “I heard someone and followed it here. I’m Kurosaki Yuzu, Ichigo’s sister. I’m here if you need a shoulder to cry on! Normally I can’t come to these events since I can’t see spiritual figures but these glasses Urahara made are a prototype for devices to circumvent that.” 

 

Well, that answers that. But in the face of her bright countenance I can’t tell what my luck is.

 

A powerless human girl with hardly any real understanding of hollows and their evolutions, or personal experience with him and his past. His allegiance, his blood, his persona.

 

Someone who knows nothing about who he is or should be, yet the very sister of his heartache.

 

He can’t tell if this is the grace of the world shining on him or Fate sending bitter Irony to come spit in his milk.

 

“Hollow-san? It’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it, but I’d like to sit here with you. This celebration is to help lift spirits for everyone that sacrificed something for the war efforts against the Quincy, but it’s okay to not be happy or strong all the time, even if we’re in peacetime now.”

 

She pats his knee. She touches him fearlessly when he’s killed over less. But her softness is new to him. It isn’t the bubbly exuberance or Nel nor the warm fire of Ichigo.

 

No, this is a quiet warmth. The persistent heat of a familiar blanket, forgettable in its consistency but irreplaceable in its significance.

 

“It’s Grimmjow, shortstack. Not Hollow-san .” Urgh . The very words insulting in their stiff niceties and generalization.

 

Her caramel gaze, soft and gooey, sucks him in, eyes taking him in. They catch the light in the room and glimmer in a way so familiar...

                        It’s almost as if

                                    He’s seen someone with these kinds of eyes

                                                Someone like

                                                                 like

                                                                 like the princess.

Someone exactly like her.

Warm.

Soft.

Safe.

 

Isn’t that why Ichigo wants her? Who wouldn’t want a human woman like that? Even now, with a relative stranger, Grimmjow is feeling the soft reassurance someone like this can bring when allowed. Would that make the pain go away? Searching for someone like this...

 

And he realizes all the ways he probably never compared.

 

Not to the princess.

Not to his sister.

Not enough for him .

 

The first sob is strangled and torn from fighting its way from his grinding maw.

 

From there, it avalanches into the losing battle of his pride.

Instead, he takes his first breathes

releasing

that once suffocating loneliness,

the bitter sting simmering to a numbing after wash.

 

And the pip squeak-----no, Yuzu , she was instantly pulling the shaking bulk into her arms and maneuvering his head into her neck, quickly succumbing to sympathetic tears as is her loving nature.

 

And there they stay,

                                                Grimmjow,

shaking,

gasping,

choking

                        on the emotions fighting to crawl out his throat

and lay claim to the outside world.

They demand their fury be felt,

their existence recognized.

                                                Yuzu,

dribbling snot against his soft locks

and quietly leaking as she rubs his broader back.

 

 

“Hey, is everyone all right in here? I heard-----“

 

 

And that’s what Kurosaki Ichigo walks in on.

.

.

.

 

Never in his twenty something years has he been more confused.

 

The existence of shinigami? 

Magical and far-fetched, but he’ll bite.

 

Talking swords spirits? Haunted souls becoming cannibal monsters?

Goes along with the package.

 

Finding long hidden plans of world destruction and old grudges over unfair persecution and betrayal?

Couldn’t be a shonen lifestyle without that.

 

But his rough and tumble rival sobbing over his tiny, completely non-spiritual, little kitchen-mom baby sister?

 

 

His drunken imagination was more impressive than he originally thought.



 

Until that familiar lop of tousled strands lifts-------and he can’t breathe.

 

Grimmjow’s cheeks feverish red, his tear tracks only emphasizing their color under the room lights, but--

 

Those eyes.

 

He’s seen them a thousand times by now in every lighting and expression-----he’d thought.

 

But never this way,

Clouded in pain unlike their battles

            No glory or pride,

                        Only the shame of defeat dimming the light there.

 

Pain, so familiar to him, but opposite to his image of Grimmjow, he questions himself.

 

The look of loss he once saw in the mirror when his mother died. The looks after realizing he’d lose her soft touches and comforting smiles.

 

But Grimmjow... he’d always been destruction and ferocity, sharp edges and hard corners. Flexible, unbreakable, and coated in the veil of victory. Even in loss, his pride reigns him a King at the face of Death.

 

But here, defeat and loss have wrapped him in our cold, iron embrace... and Ichigo feels his fear inching up the soles of his feet as he scrambles to find reason.

 

In his dissociated observations, Grimmjow breath hitches and diggs into Yuzu’s shoulder, alerting her of the foreign presence of their shared moment.

 

“Ichi-nii, get out get out! We are having a moment. Can’t you read the room, gosh, what type of world savior are you?”

 

“Wha—but I---I’m just checking on you two, I can help!” Taking abortive steps forward, he’s stuck to the every flooring he’s standing as matching glares in raging blue and stormy brown fixate on him.

 

“No, this is our private experience. You need to leave, Ichi-nii, and please knock next time before barging into rooms. You could be disturbing intimate moments.”

 

Stunned, shunned, and shamed, Ichigo warily steps back where he came and closes the door without a creak in the floorboards to announce his departure.

 

Yuzu turned back to Grimmjow with the question on her mind promptly choking at her throat and falling from her mouth.

 

All the answers right in front of her.

 

If all her TV dramas and romance manga prepare her for anything, it was recognizing tortured longing and heartbreak at a glance, regardless of how subtle or unlikely a character.

 

.

.

.

 

“Grimmjow, wanna ditch this place? I was feeling like having some pistachio gelato at my house and no one will be there, not crowded like the shoten.”

 

“The hell is gel-AT-two? And if you think I’m so weak as to accept pity from some human, you’re asking for your gut to get ripped out, little girl.”

 

“Not pity. I’m maintaining my gracious figure while indulging in sweets. You'll keep me from getting fat, and will help comment on my dramas as payment for food. Even, right?”

 

Getting up, Yuzu straightens out nonexistent scuffs and dirt from her sunflower print dress while glancing down at her newfound mission.

 

Little does Grimmjow know, when he reaches for her hand, completely engulfing her palm in his, he sets off a new reality in the making.

 

><><><><><><><><><><><>< 

 

The butterfly effect of that night creates waves the very next morning.

 

Last night the Kurosaki family came home to find a lethal, deadly arrancar cuddled by a human teen, Kurosaki ‘sweet as spun sugar’ Yuzu on the couch with incriminating tubs of gelato scattered on the living room table.

 

“What the hell! I’m putting itching powder in her socks, I can’t believe she finished The Goods without me. We’ve been saving that stash for a month now.”

 

After several loud stomping steps fail to rouse the couch’s cuddle pile, silence fills the space without dominating the tension loaded atmosphere. 

 

Well.

 

At least Karin’s priorities are clear.

 

 

 

And Yuzu and Grimmjow keep growing closer, much to everyone’s surprise, and Ichigo’s and Jinta’s dissatisfaction.

 

It starts with constant outings, with Grimmjow escorting her back from who knows where , safe and sound.

 

Then it’s those two watching her melodramas on the couch under her favorite blanket.

Then it’s sharing snacks and shopping in town or at the Shoten together.

Then cooking meals together in the kitchen to music, even singing while doing it.

 

Who knew Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez, former sexta espada, could sing with a deep velvety voice that dripped with sultry, gravely seduction?

 

Apparently Yuzu did, and had been keeping that tidbit for herself. What happened to sharing between siblings?

 

A burning emptiness thuds in his chest when he sees Grimmjow’s glimmer of upturned lips, so subtle, but still the gentlest expression he’s ever witnessed on the arrancar.

 

And all for his sister.

 

These days Ichigo is lucky if the blue haired maniac even looks in his direction. He’s already long cancelled their regular fights in the bunker without so much as an explanation.

 

Though... Ichigo can guess it’d have to do with his impromptu date with Inoue. A nauseating cavern rips at his gut in the memory of his cowardice. Leaping at the chance to meet with his sunny faced friend then meet the eyes of thunderstorms and ocean waves.

 

Relegated to watching from a distance at the threat of Yuzu’s stern rebuttal of his presence or worse, Grimmjow frozen shut out of his very existence, his mind paces in circles trying to parse what those blue eyes are thinking these days.

 

 ><><><><><><><><><><><>< 

 

Her presence is the feeling of fullness of downing a hot drink to evade the chill of winter desolation, but not the hearth of fire that consumes the oxygen around it. Her love is warmth, but not heat.

 

Still, no one can make him burn like Ichigo.

 

If only someone could tell Jinta that, the little jealous bastard. After the war and being an envoy for Halibel between the Seireitei and the Shoten, he’s become a bit of a regular in overnight visits.

 

To say he’s one of the family would be over exaggeration in his eyes, despite the cat bitch’s rancorous claims while barging into his room any hour of the day.

 

He just has the bare minimum of respect for them to avoid lashing out his claws at his necks even at their pestering for business.... and in exchange for the occasional battle... or dinner... and weekend drinks.

 

That’s it.

 

But Jinta and Ururu have gotten stronger and might be lesser annoyances than the adults, sadly enough. In the time he’s come through the Shoten,

 

Except now he’s trying to give me the cold shoulder for “stealing his girl”, when the limit of their current interactions include the pipsqueak buying candy from the store and Jinta embarrassing himself in an attempt to offer Yuzu his soul and eternal devotion for 300 ¥.

 

I swear, if it wasn’t so entertaining, I would even feel bad.  

 

 

No one seems to understand our relationship.

Our own version of give and take.

They assume I can only take,

must be stealing something from her to be close like this,

within striking distance of her bare jugular.

 

If only they saw----

 

The way her shoulders sag sometimes when she’s cooking from exhaustion she denies

The way her eyes dim watching her siblings glance over and nog at beings she can’t feel or see

The way she, too, has thick skin and hard bones against any snot nosed brat making jabs at her hair and family too.

 

 

She might smile through it all, but I’ve been smoothing out the creases.

Clumsy

                         Too much force

                         Biting

                                                         And strained in my efforts.

 

But it still makes her laugh, and I soak in the victory of being someone’s something again.

 

 

While waiting for the dark chocolate cake to bake in preparation for their fluffy colonnade frosting (a new recipe they are experimenting with), Yuzu turned to her blue companion and pulled up her stool for him.

 

It was the Emotions Stool.

 

The embarrassing tool of evil when they had their regular chats gone therapy sessions where they work through their feelings. Largely, it’s Yuzu breaking down human emotion and coping tactics to Grimmjow, but if she didn’t share then the hissy panther wouldn’t sniff twice vulnerability for no one.

 

It was working surprisingly well----except the one Thursday that ended in tears, a small house fire, and a broken oven.

 

But that day Grimmjow realized his original hatred towards Ichigo was because he was projecting his helplessness and bitterness with Aizen onto a more accessible target.

 

It was still a win.

 

And if Yuzu had to bamboozle the firefighters, electrician, and her father about how the fire started, then so be it. No one was allowed to question her domain over the kitchen or how she ran it.

 

However, their baking time escapades soon caught the attention of one scruffy faced doctor worried for his doe-eyed daughter’s virtue in the face of a sky haired arrancar.

 

Eventually, on a day as bright and sunny as any other, Grimmjow suddenly stiffens, his hair rising on the back of his neck and his body angled in preparation for... something.

 

Two blurs, black and orange, come into view in his periphery and he responds automatically. He dodges a high kick, and pulls in the ankle for a classic leg sweep. When an arm comes around his neck in a chokehold, he elbows the fucker right in the nose and judo flips them over his shoulder.

 

Now that the black and orange figures come into full view, he spots a pained Ichigo and an impressed looking older man—likely the infamous father Yuzu complains about. Getting a clear view of the sorry fools assaulting him, he realizes Ichigo and his father tried to get the jump on him in their meatsack human bodies. 

 

Idiots, the lot of ‘em.

 

“The hell is this, Kurosaki?”

 

“This”—wheeze—“is an intervention. Ah, shit, my nose! What the hell Grimmjow!”

 

“No, son, let papa handle this. Arrancar, this is a shovel talk in defense of the glorious virtue of the little angel you’ve been cohabitating the kitchen with. That’s right, the perfect, the sweetest, the purest Kurosaki Yuzu.”

 

Ichigo’s sperm donor rants on as Ichigo delicately tests the stability of his nasal bones before finally getting impatient and elbowing him in the side from the floor.

 

“Look, Grimmjow, we just want to clarify your intentions toward Yuzu since you've been spending a lot of time together.”

 

Is he insinuating what the fuck I think he is? If Grimmjow had the situational awareness he had a moment ago, he’d have detected the barely repressed resentment and self-pity slowly seeping out of Ichigo, bittering the space between them with a foul undertone.

 

Ichigo’s father—what’s his name again? Goatface?---only sees his goal, so he barrels on with question after question of ‘what do you do together?’, ‘how far have you gone?’, ‘are arrancar virile?’, and ‘how do you plan to make a life in the human world?’

 

All the while Ichigo’s face darkened every second, clenching his fists to the point of cutting into his soft human skin, and hunching in on himself to avoid facing the situation before him. Angered by reality and his own cowardice in warning Grimmjow away from Yuzu.

 

And Grimmjow---seeing this, only saw shame and discomfort, figured it must be the foul odor radiating off the younger shinigami in waves, at the very thought of Grimmjow pursuing his ‘precious, human sister.’

 

And that----obliterated the camel’s back.

 

“Shut. The. Fuck. Up.”

 

“Now, listen here arrancar---“

 

“No, you listen , shitty ass shinigami reject. Yuzu and I have nothing like that going on. She is pack as far as I’m concerned, like family . And I’m gonna keep hanging around ‘cause I don’t give a fuck ‘bout your delicate shinigami sensibilities over having an arrancar defiling your precious cubs because she can take care of herself, unlike you failures.

 

“She has been keeping this entire house alive since she was a tiny human. Proving food, shelter, managing finances—whatever that is—for a bunch of stronger spiritual beings that don’t know how to take care of themselves.

 

“Yuzu could take over the world. Be the next Aizen or Uruhara, no problem. But instead, she wastes her time taking in strays like me, so if you think she’d let herself get ‘tainted’ by the likes of anyone , you don’t know your own daughter.”

..

..

..

 

The silence following rings louder than a power drill and weighs heavier than concrete.

It feels like shame.

 

Isshin, looking like a scolded puppy, finally breaks the silence.

 

“Argh, you’re right, arrancar! How can I doubt my beautiful, perfect little girls! They’ve never failed me before, and hearing your impassioned speech on my little angel has shown me the light. You’d be a perfect suitor!”

 

In a flash, he appears before the Kurosaki Masaki poster in the hallway---“sweetie, happy days before us, I’ve found the partner meant for our Yuzu. Unconventional, yes, but sure to fend off or rid Yuzu of all those vile men trying to paw at her. He can continue on my legacy, though I doubt he can provide progeny... I’ll need to ask Urahara—“

 

And he’s been lost to the world yet again.

 

“God, he’s more of a lost cause than Jinta.” Grimmjow sighed in defeat, accepting it more gracefully than Ichigo has ever seen, and disengaged.

 

Ichigo, on the other hand, is still stunned into silence. He watches his blue haired rival---the individual he thought he knew best out of everyone in wide-eyed disbelief as his image of Grimmjow was completely clawed apart.

 

It feels like loss all over again.

 

 

Grimmjow, having forcefully ignored the rantings of a madman and seen Ichigo’s growing despair at the situation, couldn’t help the hurt coursing through him.

 

Does the idea of his family liking me disgust him now? Why is he looking at me like that after all this time? How dare he think I want Yuzu like that?

 

How can he suddenly try paying attention to me and get it all wrong?

 

Maybe Yuzu’s wrong for once... there’s no happiness in fixing this.

 

With a downturn expression and a dragging gait, Grimmjow grabs his cardigan and pantera from the counter and decides to wait for Yuzu at the Shoten. He’ll text her using the phone he got from business with Urahara.

 

But then he’s stopped by a firm, bordering desperate grasp on his forearm, stopping him midway to the door.

 

Blown chocolate brown eyes stare up at him, iris barely a sliver---no, not him, just slightly lower... at his shoulder?

 

“You still have it?” He asks too breathily, with his gaze too incredulous.

 

Oh.

The cardigan...

That cardigan

His cardigan.

 

 

“What—What do you mean still ? You said someone stole it at the last party, you fucker?” 

.

.

.

 

His tan skin gets paler as he averts his eyes. Coward. Too bad, because Grimmjow needs answers.

 

“Don’t give me that, bastard shinigami. So, saying you remember that night?”

 

“What does it matter? You didn’t correct me anyway.”

 

“Because it obviously wasn’t important if you forgot! So why make a big deal about it?”

 

“Big deal? Of course it was a big deal” Ichigo shouts, stomping forward into his space and crowding the entryway, “I admitted that I was attracted to you, that I’ve been attracted to you since the first war! That—that you made me realize I was gay, you fucking moron!”

 

---Now he’s ringing my neck at the collar of my jacket, the asshole—

(and Isshin conveniently retreats into the clinic)

 

“I even kissed you, and it’s not like you said anything after it, about me, about what you thought, or even when I brought up the cardigan at our first fight----“

 

“SO WHAT!” I scream back, so exhausted from keeping the thoughts inside around him, “ You kissed me after giving cryptic ass compliments about my looks, you acted like nothing changed afterwards, you lied about remembering, and then you started dating big tiddy McGee---“

 

“I said yes to Inoue because I thought I had to get over YOU!”

 

.

.

.

 

What.

What...

What?!

 

“Don’t lie to me.” 

 

Barreling over his shocked and hurt expression, 

 

“I get it. She’s soft and sweet and smells nice. She’ll build you up and give you the perfect little human life you want after the bullshit wars right?

 

What I don’t understand is how now, you can’t see it? That I don’t want to see this and you don’t need to keep shoving your concern in my face when you obviously can’t see what’s going on!”

 

“Please. Grimmjow, please , just tell me what’s going on. I don’t understand. Don’t shut me out. 

 

What could possibly bring you to tears? What do you share with Yuzu that you can’t share with me? I love my sister and she’s an angel, but fuck, I can’t stand the way you’ve been ignoring me to spend time with her. 

 

The way you go soft for her,” he whispers at the end, despite himself.

 

“Well, fuck you asshole! Unlike someone , she saw my shit for what it was. Was there for me, and if you don’t like it, then maybe karma is a bitch I fuck with after all.” 

 

“Well sorry I can’t read you mi—“

 

“I can’t stand seeing you with the princess.”

 

“Prin—do you mean Inoue? What, you don’t approve of our—“

 

“I can’t stand seeing her clinging onto you like another limb. That way you smile for her. 

That she has you...” It’s choked out between bared fangs and snarling lips.

And I ... don’t.” 

 

.

.

.

 

“Grimm—

 

“Just don’t.”

 

“No. I just told you why I started seeing Inoue. You are who I want. You have been from the beginning. It was always you.” 

 

“But then---“ And Ichigo stops him dead with that look. The one where he’s ready to take a fleet single-handedly on half his reiatsu or die trying. 

 

“I was sure... that you’d never want me. That no matter how much I hoped and wished and wanted, you’d never be mine. So, I only choked out a half-assed confession when I was drunk out of my mind with longing.” He’s not even looking at Grimmjow now. Ichigo’s eyes are faraway, in a safe place of distant longing and memory. 

 

“And when you acted the same after... I thought I fucked it all up. That this was your way of turning me down. So I realized I needed to move on. Before I ruined what we had. Because I’d rather have that than none of you.” Ichigo’s shoulder sag another inch, the sigh leaving him shorter. Who knew determination added so much goddamn height to the fucker?

 

But that doesn’t answer all of Grimmjow’s questions. “And now? Can’t say what we have now ain’t something grand. Ya even skipped our fight for her. I saw you two together, ya know? I couldn’t stand the sight.” Grimmjow’s fist clench into claws, his feral nature surfacing to meet his needs for destruction. 

 

“Of her—with you. Instead of me. Knowing you picked her over me. I wanted to hate you both. But I couldn’t, and ran away, like a fucking coward.” 

 

“I’m sorry.” Looking up, feeling disconnected from his body as those words slowly dissolve into his brain and connect with the image he sees before him. 

 

Cloudy eyes lost in conflicting emotions. Regret, prominent among them. Clear tears gathering on the red lined lids as he chokes out, 

 

“I thought I needed to push my feelings aside, so I rushed into her arms for a distraction. I was so--desperate--pathetic--cowardly--in trying to lose those thoughts that I was sure would ruin our relationship that I crumbled it apart myself without knowing. I pushed you away. I was the one that hurt you. I was the reason for your tears that night too, wasn’t I?”

 

The following tremble of his soft, bitten lips is answer enough. 

 

His arms desperately rush to embrace him, having been so eager to touch for so long. All their edges are worn down right now. Both of them feeling as raw and open as if the defenses have been ripped through seamlessly, shaking in wait for the next strike. 

 

Ichigo leans up into Grimmjow's ear and speaks his confessional to the one person he’ll unquestionably accept judgement from,

 

“I don’t deserve it, but I love you Grimmjow. I’ve wanted you for a long time and never wanted things to become like this. Hurting everyone and using people...

 

But if you still want me, then I want to be yours.”

 

Scoffing Grimmjow whispers his ruling into his ear, “you’ve always been mine, since the day you cut your mark into my skin. It’s about time you realized.” 

 

He drags his mouth tenderly down his lobe and against his jaw, teasing him as he brushes them against his soft lips, Ichigo shivering at the sensation. 

 

“But if you offer yourself on a platter like this,” he continues, smirk growing, “then now everyone will know it too. Unshakeable and unquestionable.” 

 

His face breaks out into a cheek stretching grin. Not like his battle hungry faces, emphasizing his canines, but soft and excited. Like a child given the gift they’ve been waiting patiently for.

 

Happiness 

Tenderness 

Radiating from his creases 

 

And Ichigo has never felt such pleasure in suffocation. The air trapped within his lungs, he’s frozen in time, his mind determined to capture the sight before him.

 

A moment he will never take for granted. That he vows to repeat often.

 

Broken from his daze by Grimmjow’s enlarging image and growing body heat as the distance closes between them once again.

 

At the first press of lips, he’s gone. Deflated into mindless bliss. Incapable of anything but feeling 

 

His softness against his lips

His breath against his cheek

His arms around his waist 

His heartbeat against his chest

His Grimmjow, in his entirety. With him. 

 

 

Until, Grimmjow grabs his shoulders to push him out of his embrace, making his blood freeze over in dread.

 

“What’s wrong? I thought---“

 

“Get your shit together Kurosaki. Stop being a coward and chase after what you want like you’ve always done. Like you should be doing.

                                                           

Because I’m not anyone’s second best or little secret. If you’ve got the balls to get a clean slate,

then you can come find me.”

 



Grimmjow’s not denying his desires anymore,

But he’s not letting his emotions override his judgement, either.

He’s done being led by the nose by his knee jerk reactions.

He knows his worth now, even with the temptation of having Ichigo.

 

That...

he can thank Yuzu for.

 

 

In the silence that continues, those eyes----he sees the determination he used to hate blooming in them. Burning away any lingering confusion or fear clouding their shine.

 

Nodding, Ichigo promises to only come back when he’s done right by them. Inoue and Grimmjow both.

 

But when he walks away, head held high and shoulders centered, like a true world savior, Grimmjow can’t help but worry that Ichigo will think this ( he) isn’t worth it. Not all this.

 

 

 

In the meantime, he needs to give Yuzu updates when she gets home while he pointedly ignores the scruffy doctor’s muffled cries (of joy?) while peering through the crack of the clinic door.

 

Yuzu’s ecstatic for him and her brother. She also plans to threaten Isshin and Ichigo with her own shovel talk tonight about respecting boundaries.

 

She doesn’t even have the decency to seem surprised this happened. Instead, she looks like she finished her prime-time drama, and the ending she was holding out for went canon. A relieved sigh after being confirmed in her predictions.

 

Grimmjow doesn’t bother thinking too deeply on it and returns to Las Noches, staring up at the blank ceiling from his bed. He’s wondering if the fantasy is ending yet, and reality will come crashing down on his fragile, beating hope, or if he’ll get the happy endings from the romance dramas he watches with the kid.

 

 

><><><><><><><><><><><>< 

 

 

Ichigo comes back. Just 2 hours later, in fact.

 

Running into the desert dunes of Hueco Mundo, out of breath and frantic, while flaring his monstrous reiatsu like a beacon for Grimmjow. As if he couldn’t notice him amid a crowd with no spiritual power on smell alone, or feel the draw of his presence across any distance.

 

Instead, the arrancar flashes into sight a couple feet behind him, cardigan wrapped around his waist still.

 

When turning around and spotting it, Ichigo’s eyes glimmer with hope and the tension in his neck settles just so.

 

“I did it. I sat down with Inoue and broke up with her. I explained everything, about me, about you, about us . If you’ll still take me---“

 

I stop his commitment manifesto by walking up and slamming the old cardigan into his chest.

 

His sparkling eyes instantly dim out, their lights switched off as all his muscle tense, bracing for crippling impact.

 

“I don’t un—“

 

“Get me a new one.”

.

.

.

 

“...What?”

 

“Get me a new one. This doesn’t smell like you anymore. It’s not like ya stopped buying stupid oversized shit that doesn’t even fit you anyway, asshole. ...You should really be sharing with your boyfriend anyway. It’s common practice for humans, ain’t it?”

 

And just like that, slowly, the lights flicker back on. One by one. Someone in there tirelessly bringing the stars back into the space of his orbit, where they should be.

 

And his smile.

Fuck,

that smile.

 

So bright,

Everything else whited out

In face of the sun

 

So warm,

it could make

the desert

bloom.

 

And it does.

 

Roots of contentment and happiness sprout across the wind beaten and lifeless expanse of Grimmjow’s inner world are overthrown by new life, completely overtaken by forces acting upon them.

 

With that, he throws himself at Ichigo, holding like the lifeline he is, and lets the storm of emotions filling him flood his defenses once again. Tears trickling down his eyes, sliding down his estigma onto the collar of Ichigo’s shirt as he lets his fears sweep away.

 

Ichigo holds him through it all, strong and firm. Just like him.

 

This time, the tears don’t feel like his hollow hole is ripping him apart, even with the source of his afflictions in front of him.

 

No, it’s a high-pressure steam room finally cracking open a window. It’s air, release, relief after the long wait with his emotions following out like a bursting wave overtaking any obstacle impeding his destination.

 

And Grimmjow feels unafraid to take the jump into their unknown depths.

In his wet, ragged voice, he whispers his final secret into the shoulder holding him up,

 

“I love you, Kurosaki Ichigo. You bastardized strawberry.”