And thus we have reached the end. ^.^ I hope you all enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing, and pardon my partiality but I really, really hope you enjoyed this, KaiH (who did request this, which is why I ask for the understanding of the rest of you).
*sheepish* There was probably more 'away from Shinji' time than you would have liked (and, admittedly, more than I would have liked), however that was how the storyline worked out…
I really, really tired to avoid it, but for the sake of how things turned out in my head, it was imminent. However, personally, I don't think it was all that bad.
Now, here's a little bulletin; I'll make it brief so you all can get to reading.
^.^ Muscle Memory now has a sequel well in the making~! It takes place quite a bit after the main BLEACH story-line, meaning it's completely AU, but it is a direct continuation to Muscle Memory and features all the old cast with an original story-line.
If you wish to keep an eye out for it, you'll find it under this name: First Blood . Look forward to SzayelxAporro, GrimmjowxVicenta, Aporro being her usual bitchy self, Vicenta being too curious for her own good (not to mention the good of others), and random humorous appearances from the Ryoka Alliance! …Save Uryu. ^.^'' Considering he's a Quincy and I don't really think Quincy's end up shinigami…
And now, for the conclusion of Pay What You Owe!
Bleach is owned by Tite Kubo, meaning it does not belong to me. I am in no way, shape, and/or form claiming to be the owner/creator of these concepts, though I do claim any characters not apart of the original Bleach storyline (such as Anzu) mine. As such, I would appreciate fellow authors and readers to give credit where credit is due and not steal any of my characters and/or concepts. Thank you, and have a pleasant day.
As I finished packing up the shop, there was a knock at the door.
"We're out of business!" I called, collapsing some of the leftover boxes and leaving them by the trash. Growling irately when the knocking persisted, I turned to the door and shouted, being louder, "We're out of business!"
A brief pause, then the knocking started again.
I sighed and dropped the boxes still in my hands, storming over to the door and unlocking it sharply, throwing it open, "I said we—" I froze at who I saw, staring in shock.
Lilinette snorted and rolled her eyes, glancing back at Stark, "I told ya she wouldn't want us around."
Stark sighed irately, rubbing the back of his head.
Beside him, Halibel lowered her head and shook it.
They… they were all in gigais…
Lilinette was wearing a cute faux school uniform, the skirt a pink, black and light grey pleated plaid with a white dress shirt and a black cotton vest pulled on over it.
Stark was in a pair of dark pants with a baggy, long-sleeved grey shirt and his hair pulled back.
Halibel was in a loose pair of white dress pants with a dark blue halter neck, apparently foregoing her usual neck and mouth coverage now that she had nothing to hide…
None of them did. None of them had masks.
Because, again, they were all in gigais.
I stared at them, then closed my eyes and shook my head (hard, I'll have you know) before looking again, just to make sure I was seeing correctly.
By that time, Lilinette was twitching irately, a wide grin on her face and her (formerly covered) left eye going through spasm after spasm.
"Are ya gonna invite us in or not?!" She hissed, bristling.
After staring at her dumbly for a moment longer, I finally managed to step aside and give them room to walk in, watching in completely mute shock as the three former Espada just walked right in.
I shut the door, taking the moment to shake my head again, then turned to face them, "How…" I waved to their bodies, "How…?!"
"Some blonde dude in a stupid hat." Lilinette answered, waving vaguely and looking around, "You got any food here? These gigais just demand it like it's air."
"W-We used to…" I mumbled, "But… we're closing up shop…"
"So you bellowed." Lilinette snorted, jumping up onto the counter and sitting with her legs dangled over the edge. She tilted her head, "So, where're we going?"
"T-Tok— …Wait, 'we'?"
"Yeah, duh." Lilinette rolled her eyes, smirking smugly, "You converted us, you get to keep us. Now, food?"
I watched in shock as she, without waiting for an answer, turned her body around and slid off of the other side of the counter, opening the door that lead to the house and bounding up the stairs. At a loss, I turned to Stark and Halibel.
Stark was leaning against an empty shelf, dozing, so Halibel explained calmly, "After the war, we hid away for a bit, but… we have nowhere to go now. The shinigami are sweeping Hueco Mundo, Las Noches is destroyed, and like we could very well go to the Seireitei… the man who gave us these gigais said we should find someone, if anyone, that we know and ah…" She paused, frowning slightly at the wording, "'Bum' off of them."
I stared at her for a moment, then leaned against the front counter and slapped a hand over my face, peals of laugher pouring from my mouth as I bent slightly and strained the still tender scar on my chest.
Feeling myself getting stared at, I looked up and waved off the odd looks Stark, Halibel and Lilinette (who had come back munching on a ice pop) were giving me.
"I woke up the other day in my bed when what seemed a second before I'd been on a battlefield." I explained, smiling wryly at them, "Any for a while there… I was wondering if I'd never have any tangible evidence that it'd all been real other than a scar and a sword."
"Ah…" Lilinette nodded slowly when Stark and Halibel had nothing to say to this, "So… can we stay?"
I glanced at her, thinking.
This was going to be a bitch to explain to dad… and Ryuken… and any family or friends that came over… not to mention my taxes when I had to list co-dependants…
…And this was so going to ruin the peace we usually had in the house…
…What the hell?
"Of course." I smiled at Lilinette softly, reaching across the counter and ruffling her hair, "Mi casa es tu casa."
Ha, see what I did there? I even used the informal.
Lilinette blinked, then grinned widely and flew across the countertop, wrapping her arms around my waist.
I flinched slightly but kept smiling and set a hand on her back, throwing Stark and looking and quirking a brow, "However, try to keep the Arrancar business to a minimum, okay?"
"No problem." Stark shrugged easily, "These gigais are draining our excess reiryoku and turning us into proper 'humans', anyway."
"WHAT?! I DIDN'T APPROVE OF THAT!! WHY IN THE FUCK WASN'T I TOLD BEFORE!!"
I rolled my eyes, smiling, as Lilinette barreled into Stark and sent him toppling, turning away from the commotion and leading Halibel upstairs to introduce her to my probably already more than slightly confused father.
It's not dead; I'm now letting it go.
Let life begin.
(Five Years Later)
Amidst all of the boxes that littered the front room, still waiting to be unpacked, I backed away and rubbed my forehead with the back of my hand, sighing in relief and looking over the work in front of me.
I'd finally finished putting together the small breakfront in front of me and now Dad's photo was at rest right where it would be…
"We're home, Dad."
A commotion downstairs made me stand and walk down the steps to the shop, where I opened the door and watched with a quirked brow as a teenage Lilinette threw a bottle of juice at the back of a sleeping Stark's head, nailing him.
Stark jolted up with a cry and a whine, scrambling to stand from his decidedly odd sleeping place on top of several crates of beer.
When the bottle that hit him crashed to the ground, Lilinette swore loudly and jerked off her shoe, throwing it at Stark and blaming him for the mess.
"That's coming out of your allowance, Nette." I called with a sigh, walking to Halibel and taking over setting up the cash register, "Could you go upstairs and start separating our boxes by owner?"
Halibel nodded and walked off, glad to be able to pass on the handling of setting up the technology. As much as she liked the conveniences, I knew she didn't much care for their installation and maintenance.
"'Zu, do I really gotta go to school here, too?" Lilinette asked with a whine, turning towards me from stocking the glass-front refrigerator with bottled tea, "It sucks ass."
"Yes, Nette, you do." I mumbled, plugging the register in and pressing a few buttons to make sure everything was in order, "And quit saying 'ass'; it's not ladylike."
Lilinette snorted, "Well, you didn't finish school."
"Hey, I flunked out after the war." I turned to her, glaring and pointing at her, "And, unlike me, you have the potential to go places. You do not want to inherit the family store; it's an ulcer you don't want." I waved her off, starting to stock the register with cash for change, "Leave the store to Stark and Halibel's illegitimate child."
Stark absently threw a package of chocolate coated peanuts at my head, which I caught with a smirk. "Halibel and I are not sleeping together." He grumbled, standing up and starting to stock the beer.
"Of course not," I teased, rolling my eyes, "You fall asleep halfway through foreplay." This time I took a box of pocky to the head. Snickering, I grabbed Mom's sword from the shelf below the register and slung it over my head and across my back, walking out from behind the counter and heading to the door, "I'm going out; Stark, Lilinette, if I see more mess on the ground than merchandise stocked when I come, it's coming out of your pay and allowance, respectively."
A threat which, money wise, really only hurt my pocketbook when it came to Lilinette. Thank god Stark only wants to be paid in Ho Hos (though it does make taxes a bit annoying).
Before any whining could be heard, the door shut behind me with a jingle of the bell and I looked skyward, smiling.
It was good to be back in Karakura Town.
I walked along the edge of the Onose River, enjoying partially clouded sky and the crisp, cool air.
A sudden, dull but loud roar interrupted the calm and I looked ahead, blinking.
A Gillian? What was one of those doing out in the open…
One hand flying back to check that my sword was still there, I ran towards it, drawing up my energy and preparing.
By the time I got there, though…
Shinji, Rose, Love, Lisa, Hachi and Kensei were standing back and watching as Mashiro and Hiyori tag teamed the Hollow, which actually had several smaller Hollows accompanying it.
I sighed, shaking my head as the six tensed upon being surrounded. Their clothes were torn and their reiatsu was ragged…
"See, Stark?! I toldja I felt Hollows!"
Attention jerked up towards the street, where Stark and Halibel were looking down at the fight dispassionately, the former rubbing the back of his head in annoyance, and Lilinette was grinning at the Hollows and cracking her knuckles.
Her eyes did a sweep of the battlefield, and when she saw me she blinked, then whined, "Damn it, Anzu's already here!!"
I felt myself getting stared at, so I looked to the vizards and smiled.
They were staring at me in shock, yeah, but my attention automatically went to Shinji, who—
"Agh, no time." I sighed, raising my hand and snapping my fingers as the Hollows pounced.
A blue plate flashed to life beneath the vizards, and when it looked like the Hollows were going to land on them they crossed the threshold of the plate…
And were promptly electrocuted and thrown back.
The Gillian roared and I looked up at it as it started to charge a cero, grabbing the hilt of my sword with one hand and pointing to the massive Hollow with the other.
The Gillain's head grew bulbous and it screeched before it exploded, a brief red flash accompanying the black as its body disintegrated.
By the time I looked back down the vizards, all except Hachi had their zanpakuto drawn and the rest of the Hollows were fading to ash and disappearing.
I smiled at them again when they turned towards me.
"A-Anzu…?" Mashiro mumbled, a slow, wide grin forming her face.
"Yo." I grinned back, saluting.
Before anything else could be said, she flashed in front of me and pulled me into a fierce hug, making the others behind her grin and shake their heads.
Kensei stormed over and grabbed the back of her jumpsuit, growling as he pulled her off, "Alright, Mashiro, let her breathe." He nodded down at me, "How've you been, kid?"
"Pretty good, actually." I answered with a nod, smiling when he smirked and shook his head.
A few scattered greetings with the others that I really didn't pay much attention to because of the nearly overwhelming out-of-body experience that had fogged my mind, and then him…
Shinji grinned that grin. "Hey, Anzu…"
I glared at him flatly, "Hey, asshole."
Shinji blinked, shocked.
I smirked at him, "That's for leaving without letting me say goodbye."
"Ah…" Shinji nodded, laughing mirthlessly and lowering his head.
"And this…" I walked up and wrapped my arms around him, reaching up and cupping his jaw when he blinked at me, "Is because you have no idea how much I missed you."
Shinji kissed me back when I kissed him, hesitantly at first and then with a bit more fervor when Hiyori started groaning and complaining.
"Agh, Anzu, wait…" Shinji sighed and shook his head, pulling back, "We can—"
"Shinji." I pressed a finger to his lips, staring at him pointedly, "I'm twenty-four, not eighteen. I've had a lot of time to think about it."
Shinji blinked, then nodded, "I see…"
I nodded, smiling and jerking my head back over my shoulder slightly, "Let's talk, huh?"
"Alright." Shinji nodded, smirking and wrapping his arm around my waist while waving his fellows off with his free hand, "You all head ba—"
"You all follow Nette and the others back to my place." I cut him off, nodding to the vizards and smiling, "I'll make dinner when I get back."
"WOOT!" Mashiro cheered, "None of Hiyori's crappy cooking tonight!!"
"What was that, you little bitch?!"
"Hiyori, Mashiro, please do refrain from fighting…"
"Shut up, Hachi! Hey, aren't they Arrancar?!"
"So what if I was?!"
"Lilinette, don't fi—"
"No one asked you, Stark!!"
"Ow, ow, ow, ow!!"
Snickering and shaking my head, I wrapped my arm around Shinji's waist and lead him off down the riverside, the evening calm once again.
I sighed, dangling my legs over the edge of the bridge and looking at the panorama of the town in front of us, smiling, "It hardly seems like five years, yet here we are…"
"You look great." Shinji said, leaning over and nuzzling my hair aside to get to my neck.
Snorting, I rolled my eyes and elbowed him, glancing up at him with a sharp smirk, "The fact that you had to mention anything at all means I've obviously aged a bit more than you thought I would."
"So?" Shinji quirked a brow, smirking back, "You wear it well. Makes you look hot."
"Hmm…" I leaned in, "Thanks." I kissed him, taking advantage of our alone time to really relish the feel and soak in the nostalgia, the bittersweet memories, the familiar taste and smell and the everything that made me feel like I hadn't been gone a day.
"'Zu… you're crying…"
"Oh, son of a bitch." I mumbled, pulling back and wiping my eyes.
"…Anzu, listen, about how I left, I—"
"I don't want to hear it." I cut him off, glancing at him sharply, "I said I've thought about it, and I know why you did. I also know why you tried to stay away from me." Heaving a sigh, I looked down at the water and waved vaguely, "It was a myriad of things, right? You promised my mother, you were warned of by Ryuken, you didn't want me involved with Aizen, you knew that eventually it would end because of the longevity differences between our two species, whatever the reason… But Shinji…" I glanced at him, smiling, "You're worrying on too large a scale…"
"…Is that so…?" Shinji asked, his tone slightly muted as his eyes searched mine.
I nodded, "Humans are short-lived creatures; you can't focus on such a large spectrum when it comes to us." I leaned in, nuzzling his chest, "You have to focus on the now, on the moment…"
Shinji quirked a brow and smirked, "Now that hardly sounds like the play-it-safe, monotony-loving Anzu Kimura I used to know…"
I shrugged, pulling back and smirking up at him, "Things change. However, it seems no matter what changes in my life, all roads lead back to you. Shinji, no matter how it ends, I want to be with you. Here and now."
Shinji stared down at me silently for a moment, his gaze smoldering and wandering my eyes, my face, my body, back to my eyes again before he pulled me against him tightly, his mouth smothering mine.
When we finally parted for air, I finished what he wouldn't let me five years ago, "I love you, Shinji."
"Love ya, too, Anzu." Shinji mumbled back.
"And if you ever—" I laced my fingers through his hair and pulled him back, poking his nose and growling, "Ever try to leave me again, I can promise you I will hunt your sorry ass down."
Shinji flinched, smiling sheepishly.
I smirked back at him, "Because current interest rates aside…
"You still owe me 3,306 yen."
.:_| Fin |_:.