This story contains OFFENSIVE material... and fan service.

HOUSEHOLD GODS

11. Pale

Sitting on the toilet, using it like a chair, Ichigo just watches Renji in the shower. His golden amber eyes staring back, he says, "I bled a bit."

He says, "I never bleed."

Ichigo's lips pull to the side and he asks, "why another tattoo?" In the shower, Renji lets the hot water roll onto his back. It washes away the petroleum jelly. It leaks between the dips and curves of his spine. Ichigo watches from the toilet. He looks onto the weaving flesh of the man's stomach. It's rippled and hard, unlike his own thin, boyish belly.

Renji tells him that a shower is the best thing you can do for a tattoo. Once the buzzing of the needles stop and you're skin is covered with petroleum jelly, you pose for your picture and go home into the shower. A hot water soak, it's the best thing for a new tattoo. He says, "I needed another reminder."

And Ichigo asks, "of what?"

"Of myself."

Ichigo's nose wrinkles, he says, "you're a little vain, aren't ya?"

The hot water stops falling onto his back and he wraps a towel around his waist. "With tattoos," he says, "I can stop pretending. I can be me."

Ichigo clicks his tongue. He reaches and pinches Renji's side, "you lost some meat," and Renji pats his stomach.

"You think?"

Ichigo nods his head forward.

"I keep dreaming about pizza," he says. "It's insane. Like every night in every dream, I'm eating pizza."

Ichigo says, "what kind of pizza?"

Renji, in the main room, he looks out the window and into the sky. Ichigo watches close behind. "When the souls pass on," he says staring into the clouds, "do you think they all go to the same place?" Ichigo hands him a shirt. "I don't," Renji says. "I think there are millions of different after lives."

"One for every person? I don't think there's enough space for that."

"My after life," Renji says, "maybe it'll be a pizza parlor. All day, every day, just pizza."

"That's a stupid after life."

"Why?"

"Eating pizza for eternity?"

"Yeah," he slips the shirt over his shoulders.

"That's lame. What makes you think that it'll stay one thing forever anyway? What if it's a changing cycle? Like this life."

"If it's like here," Renji says, "then it ain't no ethereal after life. Passing on, it has to be… heavenly, you know?"

"But what if it's not?"

And Renji smirks. "Deep dish pepperoni and cheese."

"What?"

Renji sniffs and shakes out his damp hair, "that's the kind of pizza I keep dreaming about."

Watching him, Ichigo thinks; will Renji pass on? Can he? What if tomorrow Renji has passed on into that after life pizza parlor- the one open after after hours? What would Ichigo do?

What could he do?

"Renji," he says and the man looks up from the bed. His hair is damp and tangled and sticking to the skin on his chest. "When you reaped my soul," and Ichigo stares at him, "you said if I was lonely-"

"Yeah," Renji interrupts. "I remember." He waves a hand into the air.

"I don't want family, Renji."

And Renji looks up. His brows furrowed, not understanding. Ichigo sits next to him. The mattress dips and creaks. He speaks to speak, saying, repeating, "you don't want…?"

"What I want," Ichigo says, "is my life back."

Renji grins. He says, "Can't have that back." And Ichigo looks to the floor.

He says, "I was fifteen. I never did anything."

"Doesn't do you any good," Renji whispers, "to live a life of regret. Won't do you good either to be dead and regret it."

Ichigo mumbles, looking at the rumbling fan, "I never did anything."

He never had sex.

Renji rubs the bridge of his nose with his thumb, saying, "you aren't dead yet, Ichigo." The corner of his mouth lifts, "not really."

And Ichigo laughs. He says, "idiot." His bottom lip curling under his teeth, he feels Renji next to him. An unwelcome thought nudges him in the head. Ichigo, he thinks touch me. His eyes shut, he tells himself to do something, to move. Ichigo says, "I have to work soon."

Renji nods. "Of course."

The fan shakes on the nightstand, blowing around the hot air. Ichigo leans onto his knees thinking touch me. His head is crammed full, stuffed to the corners with feelings of Renji; all he knows. His face behind his palms, and he thinks touch me.

"You okay?" Renji says, placing a hand on the boy's knee. Touch. Falling backward, pressed against the bed; Renji's eyes are stretched open. He looks up at Ichigo on top of him, Ichigo holding him down.

Ichigo saying, "Help me live." His bottom lip shiny from chewing it, he deigns; and Renji's eyes, shiny with fear- bright and ordinary. With Ichigo's breath at his neck, he thinks Ichigo well have to leave for work soon. Soon, he well take the bus and set tables. Lips are brushing against his. The boy's thin, dry lips mouthing, "please."

And Renji kisses him. His tongue slides up the roof of Ichigo's mouth. The touch of his soft lips pressed against the boy's. Spit gathers at the corners. Ichigo's hand leaves Renji's wrist and curls behind his neck, lifting and kissing deeper. He wants to feel Renji's skin. Contact. He wants more contact. Fisting Renji's shirt, he says, "take this off."

Renji says hotly, "you take it off."

Ichigo's hands, now under Renji's shirt, are rolling over his ribs. The boy's mouth is like suction on his neck, a moist vacuum moving over the cords of muscle. And now his shirt is off, tossed on the floor. Renji reaches up with practiced hands. His graze could be anyone's, touching anyone.

Moving; kissing; Ichigo, reacting. The boy breaks away. He says, "come on." His hands are eager, slipping under the waistband of Renji's pants. Renji's hand comes gently around Ichigo's wrist, tugging it away.

"Relax," Renji says. Ichigo's jaw clenches under the hot skin of his face. Blood filling his cheeks, he swallows hard. He's ready for this. Renji, as he rights himself over top of Ichigo, is thinking he'll never change. He'll always be this way. No matter how many tattoos or calories he eats at the end of each day; he's the same.

Inside him, he thinks, there are a billion different selves. He can be anything. He's turned everyone into a camera. Every person, a camera, ready to point and shoot at him. And he's always there, ready; posing; smiling. He makes himself into whatever you want. So why does he do it? How can he change?

Ichigo's ankles are in the air, his heels nudging Renji in the back. Red hair falls onto his chest. He looks up at Renji, into those deep, exotic eyes. Ichigo, he feels awkward. Renji, smiling, he says, "Don't worry. I'll take care of you." And his generous lips curl higher to one side.

There's a burning in Ichigo's gut. It spreads like a burst of fire under his skin. It tingles under Renji's hands. In his mind, he's playing out the next few moments. His breath is ragged and nervous. Renji, still grinning, brings his mouth onto Ichigo's chest.

Ichigo hands are running over Renji's back, desperate to touch. Their bodies melting together, Renji whispers, "ready?" And he feels the boy's heels dig further into his back.

Ready.

Ichigo wakes in the evening. He leaves Renji alone in the bed. Only me; this is what he wants to say to Renji. Don't have sex with anyone but me. I'm all you need now. Forget everyone else. Now, it's exclusively me.

Looking back to the bed, he sees Renji naked and curled under the sheets.

And he thinks, only me.

12. Youth

Karakura Town has a serial killer.

Everyone in town is talking about it. About how every Saturday morning that missing kid's body turns up, although you can hardly recognize it. It's always a pretty kid from the same neighborhood, the rich neighborhood. And every time, the kid's parents offer to dish out cash for their return.

Would you kill a kid worth ten grand? No ambitious person would; but a psychopath doesn't care about the money. He just wants to rip up the kid.

Each week, the murders get more gruesome. The killer gets more adventurous. This Saturday, they had to spoon the kid into a dozen plastic bags. Peeling intestines off a tree, the detective says, "I can't tell if this is brains or lasagna."

When the parents are brought into the office, the mother dabs her tear ducts with a tissue. She pats it dry before the water can cause her make-up to run. She sniffs and the diamonds in her ears rattle. She says, "How can Lindsey be dead?"

Lindsey, the lasagna in the evidence room's freezer, was such a bright and cheerful kid. Why did she have to die? This murdering bastard, she says, you better catch him.

The whole town is talking about it. Talking about the new kid who got shredded this Saturday. They found him in the neighborhood park with staples jutting out from his belly. It was a poor patch job. The thin metal staples, you could buy them at any Office Depot.

The detective, he starts tracking receipts from every office supplier in town, but it's futile. It's just a way to pass the time, just something to tell Lindsey's mother. "We have a promising lead," he'd say and finger the keyboard. After he hangs up, he gets a phone call from forensics. They found something interesting. Something note worthy.

"This kid's guts," they say, "they've all been rearranged." The abdominal aorta has been completely severed. Attached to the kid's kidney, is his colon. These tiny, thin staples, they're reshuffling his entire digestive system. The common iliac artery is like a staple-toothed snake latched onto the kid's spleen. He says, "the only time I've ever come close to making a mess like this," his voice is like static on the phone, "is when I tried to steal my neighbor's cable."

The detective, he says, "send me the pictures."

Renji and Ichigo are sitting in a booth at Subway. Ichigo, he calls it 'Chubway.' Renji sinks his teeth into a dry, brown veggie sub. Chewing, he says, "I got Friday's reap this week."

And Ichigo grunts, "Sorry, dude."

"I can't wait 'til they catch the creep," he says, lettuce rolling around in his mouth. "I haven't watched The Late Show in ages."

"You watched it last night."

"Yeah," he says, "but I meant on Friday nights." He puts the rest of the sandwich in his mouth. "That creep's up all night dicing those kids, and I gotta wait around 'til they kick it. The whole time, I'm just thinking about Letterman. By the time I get home, it's already over! Rukia is sleeping on the couch and everything."

Ichigo chews, he says, "you're the most self-absorbed person I've ever met." And he smiles. Looking at Renji's frowning lips, Ichigo laughs. Some soggy food drops out of his mouth. "Don't pout," he says, "it's unbecoming." Renji wrinkles his nose.

He says, "idiot."

Ichigo; he's really the only person who could adore Renji. He's the only person more obsessed with Renji than Renji. He nudges Renji's thigh with his knee, saying, "I miss you on those nights." Ichigo grins and winks, still chewing.

Renji's brows lift, he says, "quickie in the bathroom?"

And Ichigo points to his sandwich, "after my sandwich."

All the rich mothers are talking about whose kid will be next. Their bets are on Lucy, the pretty blonde with pigtails. The one who skips in her driveway every evening. Her mother's face, the entire time, is watching from the window. Little Lucy, just skipping, she's next.

They say it'll happen in the morning. When her mother is stretching herself out during her AM yoga class. Nobody in the neighborhood is as flexible as Lucy's mother. Lucy's mother, they call her 'The Pretzel'.

They all know that Lucy's mother's breasts are fake. Just silicon; like her lips. Every piece of her, even her perfect toes, all fake. Their husbands, they always offer to mow Lucy's mother's lawn. They always sweep her driveway and move her furniture. All the husbands want a go with The Pretzel.

Mowing her lawn, they watch her practicing yoga in her sunroom. Through the large, shiny windows they watch The Pretzel bring her ankle to her ear. They watch her hips bend and pop. She reaches to wrap her arms around her calves, and now they're mowing her lawn with a hard-on. Sometimes they'll stop in front of the window, just behind the front stairs, and press their crotch against the shaking handle of the lawnmower. They watch The Pretzel as she presses her belly to the floor and lifts her breasts off with her elbows. The cobra. That's what the yoga position is called. The husbands love that one. They'll watch from behind the stairs, grinding into the handles and letting their imagination soar. Staring at The Pretzel's ass, they imagine they're sinking into it. They're ramming into her ass.

Behind them, in the driveway, pretty Lucy is skipping.

In the bathroom, in the last stall in the men's washroom, Renji and Ichigo are sucking face, soul kissing. Ichigo is pressed up against the aluminum walls, the toilet paper dispenser digging into the back of his leg. Renji lifts Ichigo's knee up to his hip; in his mouth, Renji asks, "How do you want me?"

Ichigo's hands are pressed flat against the man's torso, tracing over the firm mounds. He just groans. All around him, in every direction, there's Renji. Maybe it's a limb or his hair or his mouth, but either way Renji surrounds him. It's like imagination; like never in your wildest dreams come true.

And straight from your imaginations, he's asking you, "How do you want me?"

Her Husband didn't come for dinner that evening. He called at five o'clock from The Pretzel's house. He said he was sorry; he was still fixing The Pretzel's phone line. He expected to be home late. The damn phone just doesn't seem to want to work.

Well imagine that, she had said and hung up. On the caller ID, The Pretzel's phone number blinked. She says, "Fucking moron. Stupid, lying bastard."

She says to her son, "your father is the turd o'the world." This makes her son laugh and she says, "now go to bed." And he trots up the stairs in his dino pajamas.

Her nails are lacquered in a deep, wine colored red. Long strands of her copper bangs stick to the creases of her eyelid. She pushes the strands of hair over her brow with her long, trim fingers. Then she dials her neighbor, Ann.

She says, "Ann, has your husband come home from his business trip in Paris?"

And Ann says, not 'til Sunday.

So she says, "that's what I was hoping to hear."

Ann says she has been hoping to hear that his plane had drowned in the Atlantic Ocean.

"Ann," she says, "what are you doing this Friday night?"

And Ann says, "I thought you'd never come around."

Ichigo is breathing through his mouth. His hands are glued to the sides of Renji's face. He can feel Renji's thigh rubbing between his legs and he says, "I want," and then a billion images pour into his head. Ichigo starts unbuttoning his pants. Renji smiles to one side.

His lips speak against Ichigo neck, saying, "Oh, I see." And his voice hums against the boy's skin. Renji brings his mouth onto Ichigo's neck, sucking enough to leave a mark before getting onto his knees. Kneeling in front of Ichigo, his breath like an itchy tickle on the boy's groin, Renji laughs and says, "tasty."

Ichigo says, "That's not funny."

And Renji smiles wider, looking up and laughing louder. He leans forward and bites Ichigo on the thigh. He says, "Yummy."

Ichigo's face scrunches up. He says, "I was so into you a minute ago."

"And now?"

"Not so much."

Renji licks the under side of Ichigo's phallus. His fingers rubbing the way you'd scratch a cat under its chin. Sucking the side of Ichigo's head, Renji pulls away and says, "liar." Then he draws the entirety into his mouth.

Ichigo's hands are at the sides of Renji's head, gripping him like a ball. Strands of red hair are tangled around his finger. He watches Renji's head dip close then pull away. He watches those generous lips moving quickly and deftly around his dick. That gorgeous mouth draws him in deep and hard, taking him right into his throat.

Spit seeps around Renji's lips, glistening in the corners; and Ichigo starts pulling. He starts lifting his back from the aluminum walls and pressing into Renji's throat. Renji can hear the boy swearing and sighing. Renji, he's thinking it's hard to breath when Ichigo does this.

Ichigo, staring at the ceiling, looks into the fluorescent lights. Everything is just feeling too good. He doesn't want it to end yet, so he starts thinking about anything to stop from shooting his load. He thinks about Gary the cat; how he was just a pile of slimy bones in the corner of the garage, webbed together like a half eaten turkey.

Friday evening, Lucy didn't come home from school. Her mother, The Pretzel, is worried sick. She asks a mother, has she seen Lucy?

And the mother says, "Oh honey! She's probably dead in a gutter by now!"

Everywhere, in every store around the neighborhood, Lucy's face is posted. This night, The Pretzel doesn't do yoga. She waits in the porch, chewing her fake nails and clutching a missing poster of Lucy. All the Husbands are crowded around her house. They say, "Don't worry. I'll help find your daughter." And they put up more posters.

All the wives have put their own children to bed. Their husbands, out putting posters up, are not home; and so the wives gather at Ann's. One mother, in Ann's basement, is wearing a dark cloak. She hands another to the new one. She says, "sorry, I got a bit of bleach on this one."

The new one looks at Ann, who is saying, "It's so you don't get dirty, honey." So the new one puts on the cloak, her dark wine nails peeking through. Her coppery hair falls over her new dark shoulders.

And she says, "girls night in."

Renji is flipping through his cell phone. It's the day of Friday's reap and Renji is strolling along the usual path. Clicking through screens, the text message pops up. It read familiarly.

The address never changes. The murders, they're always in the same house, in the same neighborhood and with the same creep tearing apart the little kids. And Renji is always walking down this same street. He does it almost every Friday. Once he gets to the same house, he sits in the shrubs that cling to the sides. He props himself in front of the basement window and waits. He waits for the kid to die, so he can reap his soul and maybe make it home in time to watch Lettermen.

Tonight, the leafy branches are crawling under his shirt. He scratches and peers into the window. He can hear the muffled voices.

A woman's voice, it says, "now Lucy. Don't you cry! What would your mother say?" And the small kid is gnawing on the fabric stretched across her mouth, the fabric that is stained dark with tears. And the voice continues, "Lucy," she says. "This is for the best. You know, you'll just grow up to be a whore. Yes, Lucy, a whore."

Renji watches the dark figure pace around the kid. The muffled voice keeps leaking quietly through the window. The entire neighborhood is quiet, he thinks. It's like nobody is home.

The woman's voice says, "Do you know what a whore is, Lucy?" And the kid shakes her head and cries. "Do you know what a penis is, Lucy?" The kid shakes her head again. "Oh come on Lucy. You've got to know what a penis is. Well, I'll just remind you. It's Daddy's hotdog."

Renji plugs headphones into his cell phone. He fits the tiny speakers into his ears and uploads a play list. The melody beats in his ears and he sits, leaning against the cool cement of the house and looking into the stars. To keep the shrub from creeping up his shirt, he sits on the damn plant. Its leafy arms are crushed under his ass. He settles in for the long night.

The woman's voice, she says, "Lucy. When you grow up, you'll be eating every man's hotdog because you're a little whore." The woman smiles. "Aren't you? Lucy, aren't you a whore?" The little girl keeps crying; her nose runs. Snot trails down her chin. "You're so disgusting, Lucy. Do you know you're going to die? I'm going to kill you."

The kid starts thrashing, screaming into the wet fabric. 'Don't kill me' is what she is yelling. 'I'm sorry' are the words that aren't coming out clear. She'll try not to be whore. She's sorry, so don't hurt her. Please.

"Lucy," she says, "before I kill you, I'm going to make you virtuous again. We'll make you into a lovely, innocent girl. When you die, you won't be a whore. We'll make you beautiful." And in her hand, a tiny knife gleams, catching the dim light of an electronic candle.

Renji is holding onto his knees. He knows not to look, but he does anyway. He peeks into the basement.

The little girl, Lucy with the blonde pigtails, is taped into a chair. Her head is tilted toward the ceiling and bright blood is flowing down her neck. Her cheeks have been cut out.

Under the surface of her cheekbones, Renji can see the kid's gums and teeth. Beside the girl's feet, is her small squishy lips turning black. The girl, although he can't hear, is sobbing. He watches as the dark figure stops in front of her. It reaches, and pinches down on the girl's tongue. Then the hand slides into the girl's mouth. The girl, her eyes are almost popping out of her head as this hand reaches down her throat. Renji doesn't hear, but the girl is gurgling.

Lucy's jaw is snapped in half, her chin dangling over her cherry colored neck. An arm slithers down her esophagus, stretching it too extremely and causing it to spilt apart. Lucy gurgles, and blood dribbles onto her lap.

The woman, she clenches her fist around something deep down in Lucy's gut. Lucy, who snorts and tries to breath, isn't even shaking anymore. The arm down her throat starts to retreat, but it takes something with it. And now, in front of this little girl's face is her small intestine. The fleshy cord is being pulled out of her mouth.

Pulling out Lucy's innards, to the woman, is just like unraveling a sweater by a thread. Lucy, she thinks, is just her mother's favorite sweater. The woman, the dark figure, she's just unraveling a sweater.

The long, stretchy guts are coiling by the woman's feet and soon Lucy stops gurgling. The kid just slumps over, her ribs leaning onto her hips. Her head falls forward and between her teeth is a jelly cord of intestine.

Renji is holding onto the phone so tightly his knuckles blanche. His eyes are wide and wet. He peels his fist off the phone. This is fucking crazy, he thinks and flips the phone open. His fingers are trembling, but he dials anyway. He tells himself to stop, to not dial that number. You can't dial that number. It's against the rules- these unwritten rules.

He dials that number.

After a few minutes, he climbs into the basement through the window. The women, the wives, they're in the next room getting their mops. Renji looks at the kid. She stands next to him, just as pretty as she was when she was alive. Her cheeks are wet from old tears. She says, "Shinigami," and her lips curl, "what the fuck is a whore?!"

And sirens whine in the background.

That number.

13. Mix

Rukia got a call on her phone.

Sitting at the table, all three jumped at the shrill ringing of the black phone.

It never rings.

No one calls the black phone.

Rukia swallows. In her head, there's a thought she's trying to push away. Don't hope, she tells herself. You are not about to pass on. You aren't. So don't hope. And she grabs the phone as it screams in her hand. She looks at Renji.

Renji is fucking terrified. He stares at the black phone. He wants to shout, 'don't answer it!' a ball of guilt rolls in his stomach. He'd broken the unwritten rule and now everything is breaking apart. Like dominoes, the rules are knocking each other out.

Rukia flips it open and presses it to her ear. She whispers, "Hello?" And then she frowns. After a minute, she shuts the phone.

Ichigo's fork is frozen in mid air, the stabbed tomato already dropping back onto the plate. And he asks, "Who was it?"

Rukia says, "The black phones cannot be phoned." She says, "The black phones have no phone number." She places the phone next to her plate. "You don't phone the black phone."

Ichigo says, "then how do you get the text messages every day?"

And Rukia says, "Magic." She looks at her plate. "God," she says, "is the absence of science. Death, is a fairy-tale."

Ichigo hears Renji breath in sharply. Renji says, "This is my fault." He holds his head saying, "My god, Rukia! Who was on the fucking phone?"

And her lips part, "Byakuya," she says. "It was my brother."

Stick around for the final Chapter of Household Gods.

Coming up next.

Don't miss the drama.

I'm rolling my eyes too, don't worry.

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