This story woke me up randomly at 3 am. Not as in a dream; as in I woke up and the story was there, all it needed was to be written. Score for the writing-as-channeling-another-universe theory. Enjoy. Warning: There is lemon in here. If you are under the legal age for this kind of thing, or squeamish at all about different forms of bedroom play, get out.
Oh yeah, happy birthday you-know-who! :) (2016 - another victim of the great Editing.)
Orihime, Ichigo, Grimmjow. Six ways to say their names and every one correct. Their friends among the shinigami and the living had long ago learned to accept this; this strange, three-sided relationship had not dissolved as those on the outside expected. Instead it had merely grown, becoming more and more solid over the years; a triangle more mysterious than that of Bermuda, yet just as potent.
A tangle of flesh and limbs, of strawberry blonde hair and blue; three bodies curled together in a bed. Three chests rose and fell with gentle regularity, three hearts beat in time. Hand met hand met hand on the soft curving swell of her hip as she was sandwiched between two perfect bodies, soaking in the warmth, soft feel of skin like silk against her own. As the gentle lassitude of aftermath took over her, she reflected on just how this unlikely situation had come to pass.
Three years since her time in Hueco Mundo; three years since the Winter War. Things had gone back to normal after Aizen's defeat. The shinigami had pulled out of Karakura, with Rukia and Renji left behind to stand as guardians given how much trouble the damn town had been recently – there was also something about a honeymoon. Hollow attacks had dropped nearly to nothing. By some miracle, Ichigo had managed to pull his grades back up, and they'd both graduated, growing only closer together over those years.
Ichigo started medical school; she took university courses with an eye to becoming a teacher. They moved in with each other, in a nice little apartment with a balcony on the 25th floor of a decent high rise. Isshin wept melodramatically whenever they had supper at the old Kurosaki residence; complaining that they wouldn't give him the fairy-tale wedding he wanted. The truth was, Orihime and Ichigo were just happy the way they were. Anyone looking on them could see they were in love – two strawberry blondes destined to give the rest of the world saccharine overload.
They were walking home one night from dinner at Isshin's, Ichigo silently relieved that it wasn't Orihime cooking, and Orihime thrilled at having spent time with the people who were her family in all but law. Hand in hand they walked slowly through the sunset, enjoying the late spring warmth. The wind carried the scent of flowers, and somewhere out there they heard a lone cicada buzz three drowsy buzzes and stop. They paused in the empty street, smiling identical smiles of gentle, happy contentment, and kissed, arms around each other.
"Ain't that cute," said a voice both familiar and oh-so-unexpected. They broke apart, whirling to face the source of the low-voiced, sarcastic jibe. "I think I'm gonna get a cavity."
Squatting on his heels on the ledge of a roof, legs spread and hands resting on his knees, was a familiar blue-haired, blue-eyed figure. Dressed in what appeared to be the same outfit they'd seen him in last, except far more dirty and tattered, wearing the scar Ichigo had given him in that very first fight, he leaned from his perch, glaring down at them. Neither of them had ever expected to see him alive again. He'd disappeared completely after that fateful fight in the rescue in Las Noches, before the shit hit the fan and the war kicked off.
Orihime caught the now-empty body of her beloved as he rose in shinigami robes to face the arrancar. It was a practiced move for them by now – hollow attacks were rare but not unheard of, and Ichigo was not one to let himself go just because the heat was off. He and Renji sparred frequently; he kept in shape, kept his strength up.
"What do you want, Grimmjow?" Ichigo demanded, hand already on Zangetsu; fierce, determined scowl on his face. It was his best "I mean business" look. Orihime looked on with wide, fearful eyes at the creature who had frightened her with his violence and intensity, yet who had nevertheless saved her, and had her save Ichigo, all those years ago.
"You don't remember, Kurosaki? You made a promise." The arrancar gave a feral grin, a terrifying light in those blue eyes. "You'll fight me as much as I want. Or is your memory broken?"
"Ichigo—!" Orihime gasped.
"Orihime," her lover cut her off, sparing her one calm, sideways glance. She could see the intent in his eyes. He would fight. "Wait here. Don't get involved."
"Still protectin' the princess, ain't that a surprise!" Grimmjow taunted, then disappeared. He reappeared swinging Pantera against Zangetsu's ready edge. "I'm glad, shinigami. You haven't gotten slow."
"Of course not!" shouted Ichigo, and Orihime watched, heart in her throat, as the man she loved battled against the blue-haired arrancar. Three years had done nothing to reduce the cataclysmic force these two could muster against each other. Half an hour and characteristic collateral damage later (someone would have to get busy with a kikanshinki, no doubt), the fight ended in a pyrrhic victory, with both combatants too exhausted and wounded to continue.
She had run to Ichigo, healing him with her shun shun rikka. When she had finished and he stood again, unwounded, he shocked her by demanding that she heal Grimmjow too.
"No buts. Heal him too." Her lover was resolute, unyielding. So she had gone to the fallen arrancar, meeting his eyes with the same feeling of confusion that his radiated. She healed him. When it was over, he stood up, rolled his shoulders with a crack, gave them one last look of mixed confusion, aggression, and disbelief, and took off.
She and Ichigo had gone back to their apartment in stunned silence. Neither had spoken for the rest of the night, curled against each other; too busy processing the evening's events. They had gone about their normal morning, neither mentioning nor acknowledging the sudden reappearance of Grimmjow. They put it behind them. If they didn't forget about it, they didn't talk about it.
Then, one week later, it happened again. Again, coming home from Isshin's after a family dinner. Again, a sarcastic taunt, from a different rooftop. Another inconclusive battle ending with both opponents spent and gravely injured; Orihime healing both of them. Grimmjow lingering just a little longer, shaking with some unreadable emotion, before once more vanishing into the deepening night. Again, the two strawberry blondes walked home in silence, confused and lost in thought.
Another week, and the same thing after family night. This time, when they returned to their small apartment, Orihime asked, "why does he keep doing this? What does he want?"
"I don't know." Ichigo replied.
The next week, they were looking for him. He still spotted them first, but it was less of a surprise. And the week after that, and the week after that. And finally Orihime spotted him before he spotted them, one night, and called out a shy "hello Grimmjow!" in greeting. Both Ichigo and Grimmjow had given her a pair of identical, utterly incomprehensible looks. She had giggled.
The night had come to its usual conclusion, with the Grimmjow's usual unreadable, slightly confused look and disappearing act. Curled against Ichigo's chest that night in bed, she had smiled softly when he spoke, voice full of incredulous questioning, "Hello Grimmjow?!"
"It seemed like the right thing to say," she replied.
That set the pattern for the next weeks, until the day that Grimmjow greeted her in return, "heya, Princess," voice casual and soft, almost affectionate, before beginning his weekly brawl with Ichigo.
"I don't think he even knows why he's here," she had said in a voice of slight wonder, that night in Ichigo's arms.
"He's here to fight, that's all," Ichigo replied.
"There's more to it than that," she insisted.
Fall came and passed, the beginnings of winter set in. Saturday night, family dinner and a fight. It continued. Then, one chilly night, after the fight, they had arrived to their apartment to discover it cold; the French doors of the balcony pushed aside and the white drapery billowing in the wind. With tense certainty of something wrong, Ichigo had made his way resolutely towards the balcony to investigate, Orihime creeping a close distance beside him.
He was still caught by surprise at the sudden hand at his throat, the weight of the larger man pressing him against his own wall, and the sudden feel of hot lips on his own, demanding response. Orihime, too, was caught by surprise, staring in stunned silence at the incredible sight of Grimmjow forcefully kissing her boyfriend. The shock she felt only deepened when she realized Ichigo was kissing back, his face flushed and carrying an almost humorous expression of confusion and desire.
Those electric blue eyes had slid to her, freezing her to the spot and shaking her core. She had probably turned white as a sheet, she didn't know. One strong hand reached out and gripped her collar, pulling her into the press of their bodies. His other hand on her shaken boyfriend's crotch, Grimmjow seized her lips in an ungentle kiss. He used her gasp to push his way deeper into her mouth, pinning them both to the wall with his body.
And then they stopped, and stood in silence unmoving; theirs confused (and aroused, to be honest), his burning with some inner purpose only he knew. The tearing sound of sonido, and all three were in the bedroom, Grimmjow closing the door behind them, flicking on the light.
"What are you—!" Ichigo managed to get out before Grimmjow slammed into him again, all hungry lips and urgent hands. Clothes fluttered to the floor like a strange rain. Orihime could only watch, wide-eyed and weak kneed, as the arrancar manhandled her boyfriend into bed, grabbed the bottle of lube on the night-stand, and proceeded to fuck Ichigo right in front of her.
Two muscled male bodies coiled together, bucking and writhing. With every hard, deep thrust, Grimmjow would grunt and Ichigo would make a squawk of pain-pleasure. Orihime blushed and never lost the flush, unable to tear her eyes from the sight, strangely aroused yet absolutely terrified for both herself and Ichigo. So shocked was she, shun shun rikka never even occurred to her. This was surreal.
The blue-haired man lifted his head, hands still gripping Ichigo's hips, still thrusting hard. He turned his gaze to her. "Don't think – I'm done – with you – princess!" he growled at her between thrusts and grunts. Then his face twitched and his eyes went distant, mouth open in a feral half-snarl, low guttural groan from his throat, as Ichigo chose that moment to release all over the bed, moaning loudly. Two long thrusts and Grimmjow seemed to sag against him, Orihime temporarily forgotten. She realized he'd come too.
He pulled off her lover, and Ichigo collapsed on the bed with a whimper. She saw that he was still erect, his gaze still ravenous as it wandered over her. She took a step back into the wall, and found herself pinned by his hot, sweaty body as he methodically removed her clothes. He smelled of sex and masculinity – a unique mixture of himself and Ichigo – a heady combination for her already off-balanced senses.
His mouth claimed her, his hands roamed her, his body pushed insistently against hers. She gave a yelp as a dizzying sonido deposited her in the bed beside her spent and dazed boyfriend. She looked up at Grimmjow's face, his expression wild and starved, wide eyes devouring her. Then before she could really comprehend what was going on, he was inside her. She was already so hot and wet from watching them – all she felt was pleasure, and an odd awareness that he felt different from Ichigo – her first and only. He was a shade bigger, but not uncomfortably so.
She couldn't quite keep the gasps from escaping as he skillfully plied her body, bucking into her, hands seemingly everywhere. She turned her head to Ichigo, fearful of what she might see. Her boyfriend was staring at them with eyes that contained a mixture of fear, lust, and confusion, his erect cock in his hand. She was relieved to see no hatred, no anger, in his familiar umber eyes.
Reassured, she surrendered to Grimmjow, wrapping her arms around him and enjoying his touch. The arrancar's eyes glinted in triumph as he took her hard and wild, as she arched her back and came explosively. He produced another low growl as he stiffened against her, coming hard inside her.
Grimmjow levered himself up with one hand, pulling out of her and giving Ichigo a challenging glare. "Well, shinigami? You gonna fuck your girl, or do I gotta show you how it's done again?" he demanded. She turned her head to face her lover, who looked first to Grimmjow and then to her; his face turning red, then white, then red again.
"Orihime…" breathed Ichigo, sliding on top of her. She inhaled, dizzy with desire, and closed her eyes as she felt his familiar, welcome touch inside her.
"Ichigo…" she replied in the same tone, taking their accustomed rhythm. They knew how to move to please each other, their dance had long practice. He took her in long, slow strokes, fondling her breasts, kissing her neck and face. His face looked the way it usually did when they made love; relaxed, transcendent, like he was making love to an angel, and that angel was her.
That face suddenly changed, surprise writ clearly on the lines of his mouth, his jaw, his suddenly wide-open eyes. A sudden, unaccustomed weight bore down on her, strong masculine hands gripped Ichigo's shoulders. The rhythm changed, becoming wilder. Ichigo made a strangled sound, thrusting into her, looking quite stunned at the sudden intrusion of Grimmjow in his body.
Not long, and she was over the edge, screaming out Ichigo's name. Who moaned loudly before unloading in her, groaning out first her name, then Grimmjow's name. Who grunted, cursed briefly, and came in Ichigo.
The night didn't end there. It ended hours later with her body caught between theirs, Ichigo taking her in front, and the totally unexpected, unfamiliar (but strangely erotic) feel of Grimmjow in her ass – something she'd never even thought of doing with Ichigo before. Thank goodness for lube. She would make an offering to the lube gods tomorrow. If there wasn't a shrine she would damn well make one.
Synchronized orgasm. She felt lucky it wasn't an Olympic sport; the practice sessions would probably exhaust her to death! They came together, all three. She wasn't quite sure where she began and they ended. Her mind felt a little bit blown.
Ichigo had had enough, he whimpered yet again and rolled onto his back, panting. Grimmjow bit her neck tenderly, his harsh breath loud against her ear. His hands massaged her hips possessively. As he exited her, she sank to the bed, feeling utterly exhausted.
The arrancar turned off the light. Standing close to the bed, he reached for his clothes. Orihime's hand on his ass gave him pause. In the darkness, she could barely make out his expression. It was the same unreadable expression he always got after fighting Ichigo. She knew with a sudden certainty that he would walk out, leave them… unless… unless…
She shifted her body, reaching out and taking his wrist. That unreadable look deepened. She pulled him to the bed, making room between her and Ichigo for his large frame. He slid into the offered space, his back to her, curled around Ichigo. Her boyfriend muttered something incomprehensible in his sleep. She curled up against Grimmjow, snuggled against his strong back, arm around him. Even in the near blackness she could vaguely make out the gothic '6' still tattooed to his back.
She knew he'd finally fallen asleep when she heard the gentle purr; the purr that lulled her off to sleep as well.
She awoke the next morning with an awareness that something was wrong. There was a lack of warmth beside her that caught her attention. She groggily sat up, catching sight of Grimmjow sitting cross-legged at the end of the bed, naked as a jay and watching her. Watching them. There was no expression on his face except for in his eyes, which were fixed on them, intense and blue. Beside her, Ichigo stirred, groaning as he awoke. She understood – she kind of felt like a truck had hit her, and she doubted her boyfriend was much better off.
They both looked at Grimmjow, who glared back at them. Orihime and Ichigo looked at each other, then back at the blue-haired arrancar, both wondering what the fuck had happened.
"What have you two done to me?!" Grimmjow demanded hoarsely, still staring at them.
"What the hell, Grimmjow?! What did we do to you? You sure acted like you knew what you were doing last night!" Ichigo burst out, wincing at his own sudden movement as he sat up straighter.
"Oh I knew what I was doin'," Grimmjow replied. "What I don't know… what I don't know… is why." He obviously struggled to say that. Holding them both with his gaze, he continued. "You promised me, you'd fight me as much as I wanted. You kept your promise; whenever I wanted. I see you, and I feel somethin'." He swallowed visibly. "I see her, and I feel somethin'." His eyes switched to Orihime momentarily before fixing once more on them both. They listened in stunned silence – the last thing they expected was a heart-to-heart with the violent arrancar. Well, ok, the second last thing. The last thing they expected with Grimmjow was, well… last night. "I don't want to fight her. What is this, Kurosaki?"
"The fuck if I know," Ichigo said. But Orihime thought she knew. That look Grimmjow always got after he and Ichigo fought, she realized it was readable after all. It was desire, longing. Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez had encountered the one opponent he had no clue how to battle – his own feelings.
She realized that his fights with Ichigo were not just something he did; in his own way, they were an expression of affection. On some level, it seemed to be the same for her boyfriend, oddly enough. She had actually grown quite fond of the arrancar, expecting his Saturday-night appearance and his usual greeting. She realized she would be upset if he had suddenly stopped showing up after family dinner. And last night… well, that had been something on a whole different level. Any reservations she might have had were washed away by the fact that Ichigo had been a full participant, by the fact that Grimmjow clearly wanted both of them. She thought about it. This didn't seem wrong. In fact, something about it seemed so very right.
Resolutely, she broke the silent stalemate between the two men by leaning forward and grabbing Grimmjow's arm, pulling him towards her. She saw a flash of almost-panic cross his face. Their lips fastened, Grimmjow staring wide-eyed at her as they kissed. His blue eyes were full of helpless desire. He looked so… lost.
He clung to her like a drowning man in the ocean. She could feel his pounding of his pulse, the harsh grind of his breath. Ichigo made no protest, merely watched, witnessed. He looked a little bit shell shocked. Orihime stood firm and faced Grimmjow's volcanic need head on; unafraid and unhesitant. She leaned back on the bed, pulling his body against hers, opening her legs for him. With a sound almost like a sob, the arrancar joined with her.
She held back nothing, not her voice as she moaned, not her pleasure, not her body's response. She gave herself without hesitation, showing him in the only language she could that she accepted him, that they accepted him. Grimmjow took her gift, comprehension dawning on his face. Everything was going to be ok.
Neither of them paid much attention to the sound of the cap being flipped on the lube bottle, or the squelching noise that followed shortly after. That is, until another pair of knees slid between their open legs and a pair of masculine hands gripped Grimmjow's ass. He paused in his headlong dive into Orihime's body to glance behind them with a surprised look.
"Do you even know what you're doin', Kurosaki?" Grimmjow demanded.
"You managed well enough last night, how hard can it be?" Ichigo replied, clearly flustered. Grimmjow stiffened, flushing, with a most astounded expression on his face as Ichigo found what he was looking for and pushed his way inside the arrancar's body. Then he closed his eyes in a cat-like look of pleasure and moaned. Orihime could feel him swell and pulse inside her. He bucked hard against her.
They settled into a rhythm of hard, slow thrusts. Whatever Ichigo was doing to Grimmjow, he seemed to enjoy it immensely. He didn't stop moaning. When she came, he made a choking sound and another sob, and collapsed against her; in her own ecstasy she felt his own gushing orgasm. His hands were tangled in her long strawberry hair. He still clung like a drowning man.
"Oh god," said Ichigo, groaning as he came.
Orihime kissed Grimmjow, running her fingers through his wild blue hair. It was so much softer than she expected. The patch of azure pressed against her sunset swatch proved the veracity of its colour. God, she loved the feel of him inside her. She caressed his cheek, even the fragment of jawbone that was all that remained of his hollow mask. He looked so damn lost still, even scared; like he couldn't quite believe what he had initiated last night, and didn't know what to do from here.
She sighed happily, whispering Grimmjow's name. It broke his trance. He caught her eyes, silently demanding… something, an answer to some mystery, some desperate question. She smiled back. Whatever he found in her own storm-grey eyes seemed to satisfy him. She felt him relax, nuzzling her neck.
Ichigo stretched out beside them, slipping his legs to tangle into theirs. He reached out to Orihime and tilted her head towards him, kissing her, while Grimmjow watched. Then he did the same to the arrancar, who seemed to melt into it, arm snaking around the shinigami.
The euphoria of sex was starting to wear off and Grimmjow was starting to feel heavy. Ichigo had grown in three years, but the arrancar was still a few inches taller, and far more powerfully built. He was no feather. And she was sore. The exertions of last night and this morning had been far wilder than she was used to, even if it was terribly fun.
"Um, guys?" she interrupted. The both looked at her. She blushed. "I'm kind of sore…"
Ichigo turned red too, and Grimmjow gave a smug chuckle, grinning a very self-satisfied grin. He lifted himself off of her, the whole bed shaking as he flopped beside Ichigo, arm gripping her boyfriend's shoulder.
"How about you, Berry? You sore too?" the arrancar smirked. Ichigo turned even redder, refusing to answer. "Heh, I thought so. Me too." Grimmjow's grin widened and he closed his eyes briefly. "We had fun, didn't we?"
"Yeah…" Ichigo admitted weakly. He still looked a little shell shocked.
"Oh no!" Orihime sat bolt upright, startling both men. They gave her nervous looks, clearly wondering what could inspire such a response. "I forgot! I have a final tomorrow. I need to study! Let me go make pancakes!"
"Shit!" Ichigo swore. "I totally forgot! Tomorrow is the start of finals!"
Grimmjow's brow wrinkled in puzzlement as Orihime launched herself out of bed and out of the room, grabbing her housecoat from a hook as she ran. Finals? Study? Pancakes?
"Oi, Berry," he said, pushing himself up on his elbow. "Pancakes?" The word dripped with incredulity.
Ichigo sat up, giving him a look. "Just don't ask what's in them and you'll be fine," he said. "I'm going to get a shower."
"I'm comin' with you," Grimmjow said.
"You heard me…"
A little while later, two much cleaner men joined her in the kitchen. Grimmjow was wearing Ichigo's spare housecoat, which was a bit too small on him. Ichigo was wearing his other one. Orihime smiled cheerfully at them, forbearing to comment on the length of their shower, or the noises she had heard coming from the bathroom while they bathed. As they sat cross-legged at the low table, she placed heaping plates of pancakes in front of them. Grabbing some condiments (syrup, jam, red bean paste, ketchup, curry…), she joined them, with a smile like the sun breaking through the clouds.
Ichigo started eating, clearly unconcerned with whatever he was putting in his mouth. Orihime tucked in with great gusto, shoveling in mouthfuls of bean-paste covered pancake. Grimmjow stared at the food on his plate with a slight look of concern. Finally, he took a bite.
"What—," he changed his comment before he could finish uttering it at Ichigo's deadly warning glare and silent mouthed 'NO!' "—good pancakes, Princess."
"Thank you!" she beamed, finishing her pancakes. "You guys got dishes; I'm going to get a shower."
After she left, Grimmjow turned to Ichigo. "What the hell is in these?"
"Don't ask. Don't ever ask. Just eat them and try not to think about it," Ichigo said. This was surreal. He was eating Orihime's bizarre food with a man who had tried to kill him (and who he had tried to kill) more times than he could count off hand. Somehow that had all changed in the space of a night. Grimmjow had screwed Ichigo's girlfriend and it didn't bother Ichigo. They'd fucked, for god's sakes, multiple times, and he'd liked it. If the unreality of the situation affected Grimmjow at all, the arrancar hid it well.
"What's the matter, Kurosaki?" Grimmjow demanded. Ichigo started.
"Huh, what?" the youth managed.
"You're starin' at my chest. I mean, yeah I'm damn hot, but, that's kind of weird."
Ichigo flushed. "I'm trying not to think about breakfast," he lied. In truth, he was trying to muddle through what the hell had happened over the last 12 hours, how his familiar relationship with Grimmjow had changed from opponents to bedmates. And why this unexpected development didn't bother him more. But he wasn't going to say that.
Grimmjow just laughed, and Ichigo realized that he'd never heard an honest laugh out of the guy before this. It had always been a maniacal cackle, or a sarcastic chuckle. It was somehow reassuring to hear a real laugh from the arrancar. Proof, maybe, in some subtle way, that Grimmjow was capable of real emotions, real reactions. That what had occurred between the three of them was just as genuine; was not illusory or concocted.
"You're somethin' else, Kurosaki," Grimmjow said.
"You can call me Ichigo, you know," Ichigo said, eyes averted, trying not to blush.
"Hah, but where's the fun in that, Berry?" But the way Grimmjow was grinning, Ichigo could tell he was pleased. "I don't care what you call me, you just better not forget me." His voice was low, a rumbling purr that sent a shiver of something that wasn't quite dread, wasn't quite lust, up Ichigo's spine. Forget Grimmjow Jeagerjaques? The world would end before that happened.
Late morning found them in the living room, clothed and sprawled in positions that did not involve sitting, the two humans studying intently. Grimmjow lounged on the couch, observing them as they read and scribbled notes.
"So why the hell are you doin' this again?" he asked, after he had sat there in silence for what he had apparently deemed too long.
"Because if I don't study I'll fail the test," Ichigo and Orihime replied simultaneously. Their faces shot to each other, identical surprised expressions. Grimmjow started laughing, only laughing harder when they both shot him a glare.
"What are you studyin'?" he asked when he'd caught his breath again.
Grimmjow laughed again, earning him a dirty glare from Ichigo.
"What's so fucking funny?" demanded the shinigami.
"You two. You're a motherfuckin' riot, you know that?"
Ichigo grumbled out something unintelligible, and Orihime giggled, covering her mouth.
"See? Princess gets it," Grimmjow insisted, causing Orihime to stifle a real laugh.
"I gotta keep studying. If I fail this test I'm fucked!" Ichigo muttered.
"You don't say?" the arrancar drawled.
"Shut up Grimmjow." Ichigo buried his face in the book.
Silence. Two studying university students are not all that interesting. Grimmjow finally fidgeted, stood up, gave a joint-cracking stretch, and walked towards the balcony.
"This is boring. See ya later, Berries." He slid the French doors open.
The two looked up at him. "Supper is at six!" Orihime chirped with a slight smile. Grimmjow paused in the doorway, giving them that look, which had been so unreadable before. But now, Orihime knew what that look was. She smiled back at him. The door slid shut, Grimmjow vanished somewhere into the sky.
"I told you there was more to it," Orihime said quietly.
Ichigo sighed. "Yeah, you did. I didn't think… it would be that, though." His hand groped out, found hers. She gave his fingers a squeeze.
"Are you upset?"
"No." His answer was quick, unfeigned. "Just… confused."
"It's ok, Ichigo. Everything is going to be just fine."
As the supper hour neared, they both got more antsy, neither sure if Grimmjow would return. Orihime began preparing supper. At 5:56 the buzzer to their apartment rang, making them both jump. They gave each other confused looks, wondering who that was. Neither of them suspected that it was Grimmjow – they had quite naturally expected him to arrive back the way he came, through their balcony.
"Yes?" Ichigo spoke into the receiver.
"Oi, Berry! Open the goddamn door, will you?" came Grimmjow's tinny voice. As Ichigo held down the door release, the two humans exchanged another look. He came back!
Six o'clock on the dot and Grimmjow pushed open their door, just as Orihime was putting a steaming hot pot on the table. Both she and Ichigo stared. It was Grimmjow, all right. There was no mistaking the eyes or the hair. But his mask fragment was missing, Pantera was nowhere to be seen, and he was wearing street clothes rather than his battered arrancar uniform - faded jeans, a cable-knit charcoal sweater, and a black leather bomber, all of which looked very good on his muscular form. Kicking off his sneakers, he walked in like he owned the place, hands shoved in his pockets.
"Where did you get a gigai?" Ichigo demanded as the arrancar sat wordlessly at the table.
"Where else? Hat-and-Sandals," Grimmjow said. At Ichigo's blank look, he quipped sarcastically, "come on, you don't actually think they were unaware I was hangin' around Karakura-town, do you? Didn't you wonder even once where the fuckin' cavalry was when I was beatin' yer ass?"
Ichigo urked, looking mildly embarrassed. Come to think of it, the lack of shinigami at the presence of an ex-Espada was rather uncharacteristic. But that meant… "You mean to tell me they've known about you this whole time?"
"Yep." Grimmjow raised an orange slice from his bowl of food, giving the morsel pinched between his chopsticks a suspicious look. At Ichigo's tiny head-shake, he shrugged and ate it unflinchingly. "I showed up there before I even went lookin' for you, told them I wouldn't cause no trouble, I just wanted to fight you some. I told them I probably wouldn't even kill you. Aizen's dead; I don't give a shit about that stupid war. Hueco Mundo is boring as shit. They let me stay. Sometimes I even help out at the shop, so Sandals gave me this gigai. Renji says he's bored, by the way. Since I came back to Karakura, you haven't been by to spar with him." He slurped up noodles noisily.
Ichigo and Orihime exchanged glances.
"What all do they know?" Ichigo asked, slightly afraid that Grimmjow had spent the last several hours relating his bedroom conquest to their shinigami friends.
"Mostly that I kick your ass every Saturday night," Grimmjow said.
"What?! You do not kick my ass every Saturday night!" Ichigo sputtered. "I kick your ass every Saturday night!"
"Whatever, Berry. I kick your ass," Grimmjow smirked. Orihime, who had the dubious honor of patching them up after the Saturday night ritual, forbore to comment that they pretty much kicked each other's asses. The only clear winner was the dirt when they both finally fell over from exhaustion. She giggled.
"What?" Both Ichigo and Grimmjow demanded in identical flustered tones at her giggle, then glared daggers at each other. This turned her giggle into a full out laugh.
"I don't see what's so funny," Grimmjow grumped.
"Oh, it's just that neither of you ever actually win," she tittered. They both scowled. "It's true!" she insisted.
After the dishes had been cleared and everything had been put away, Grimmjow leveled another feral grin at the two young humans. Orihime blushed when she caught what was in those mad blue eyes. Ichigo blanched. Grimmjow's grin widened at the sight.
"Time for some dessert, don't you think? I feel like some berries and cream," he purred, licking his lips.
Perhaps fortunately, Grimmjow in a gigai proved to have somewhat less inhuman endurance than Grimmjow out of a gigai. However, it was not quite enough to prevent either Ichigo or Orihime from spending the entirety of their exams the next day cursing the invention of chairs. Grimmjow was waiting for them at the apartment's lobby when they came home. And the next night. And the next. After that, they cut him his own copy of the key. Some months later, they bought a larger bed, though it might well have been a waste of money. The three of them never really utilized all the available space as it was. They were always too close together.
Eventually their friends found out. Ishida had nearly fallen over. Chad had taken it in stride. Renji's eyes nearly burst out of his head, and Rukia had giggled like she'd gone insane. Tatsuki had given Orihime a very jealous look. When it became obvious that these three weren't going anywhere else, everyone had eventually come to terms with the fact.
Isshin got used to the addition of Grimmjow at Saturday night dinners, to the point where he treated Grimmjow just like he treated Ichigo – up to and including random ineffective assaults and melodramatic wails that the three of them were still not married. And on the walk home, Grimmjow and Ichigo still fought. Orihime had, after all, laid down the law about fighting in the apartment.
The lack of "I love you" never bothered her. The words were superfluous, she knew that both Ichigo and Grimmjow loved her; she knew she loved them, and she knew they loved each other. Even if they did have decidedly funny ways of showing it (normal people brought each other flowers and chocolates. Grimmjow and Ichigo brought each other lacerations and flesh wounds). While it wouldn't have bothered her for them to tell her they loved her, she silently agreed that it would be just weird to hear Ichigo and Grimmjow saying it to each other. It was a perfectly balanced arrangement, and that was probably the most surprising thing of all.
Orihime never once regretted reaching out to that scared, needy arrancar; taking that step, and sealing what would become this intense three-way relationship. Though he had been the one to change their dynamic, Orihime knew that he could have just as easily fled from his own unfamiliar emotions. Ichigo's lack of fear and judgment, and Orihime's open acceptance had finished drawing him in completely.
Ichigo, Grimmjow, Orihime. Six ways to say their names, and every single one of them right.
There you have it, peeps. Surprise story. Believe me, it was as unexpected to me as anyone else. I don't normally write Ichigo or Orihime - they're decent characters, but definitely not my favourites. Where the hell this came from, I could not tell you.
Now I really should get back to work on Dead Moon.