Orihime stretched her arms high over her head, smiling out the window overlooking the street and sidewalk below, reveling in the gloriously hot sunny day outside, the perfect beginning to her month long summer break from school. No school or studies for a full thirty days; just beach, ice cream runs, friends, and sun. Lots of sun.
She turned back to her small apartment, giving it a quick look over, nodding in satisfaction that it was clean enough to lounge around for the day. Maybe she'd check out that new ice cream parlor near Tatsuki's house.
She crossed the room, her feet warm on the floor where the sun sprawled across the wood finish, bare toes wiggling as she went. Maybe she'd get a new swimsuit, too. Tatsuki didn't like to shop for clothes, but maybe she could convince her to go along. She flipped her hair into a ponytail and secured it with the yellow scrunchie at her wrist. It was going to be a hot day.
A sudden pounding knock at the door broke her thoughts of summer and heat and shopping, a loud angry knocking that continued as she skipped to the door.
She smoothed her peach tank top and pulled her white canvas shorts over her derrière better, frowning. She wasn't expecting anyone.
"Hello?" she called cautiously.
Orihime stood straighter, alert, brown eyes widening at the vaguely familiar tone. She unlocked the door and opened it a few inches. She peeked out.
Grimmjow stood in the hall, glaring back at her.
She slammed the door shut, twisting the lock and leaning her back against it, confusion engulfing her. "Go away!"
"I want to talk to you!"
She frowned, recalling the brief glimpse of him. Where was his Hollow's mask? She didn't see it. "No!"
"Open the door, girl!"
She pursed her lips and flinched as he pounded on the door. "Go away, Grimmjow!"
She wondered why he hadn't shoved a fist through the door or ripped it off the hinges. He hadn't even rattled the doorknob.
"Come on! Open up! I need to talk to you."
Orihime raised an eyebrow. Need?
"I didn't come to hurt you." His tone was less demanding. "Open the door. Orihime."
This prompted her to turn around. She unlocked the door, feeling very much like the cat just before curiosity killed it, opening the door a few inches. She looked up at him.
Grimmjow stared down at her, looking every bit his Sexta Espada self, except he was without the mask, his loose unbuttoned white shirt and black pants definitely not Arrancar-issue. After a few seconds his grim look turned into a glare again.
"I want to come in and talk to you."
Her fingers played nervously on the lock behind the door, shock evident in her wide eyes. "In here?"
A low growl came from deep within his throat as his eyes shifted past her to see into the sparsely furnished room. His attention dropped back to her. "Let me in."
She shook her head, stuttering for words. "I don't think --"
He pushed the door open, easily sliding her back a few feet, striding into the room, looking around at the modest but comfortable furnishings. He nodded at the couch, small table, kitchen area and doorways to the bathroom and bedroom. "You've got plenty of room."
Orihime paused closing the door, his words freezing her movements. "What? What do you mean by that?"
Grimmjow made a sweeping gesture to the main and kitchen areas. "This isn't too bad." He dropped onto the couch in one of those manly positions that took up nearly all the room without lying on it, arms spread out along the back top, and looked to her. "You live here alone?"
She nodded, her mind starting to numb as she closed the door to within inches. She blinked a few times, thinking maybe he would vanish back into her nightmares. Nope, he was still there. "Uh, are you lost?"
"Hell, yes. No. Yes." He sat forward, grumbling four-letter words that made her cringe. He rested his elbows on his knees and turned a sharp glare on her. "Are you going to come over here or not?"
She gently shut the door completely, skirting the couch out of his reach as she stepped closer to where he sat. "Uh, I thought you were dead. What are you doing here?"
"I am dead! That damn maggot Ichigo killed me and now I'm stuck here!" He jumped swiftly to his feet, making her shy away. He ripped open his loose shirt. One large hand slapped his abdomen. "Look at that!"
Orihime flinched, blushing a little at his tightly muscled chest and stomach, sans hole. "Oh, yes, that's ... very impressive."
"Impressive my ass!" he bellowed, eyes fierce on her. "Look at it. I'm filled in!"
This time she fought off an inappropriate giggle of bewilderment. "Oh, well, yes you are. Now you have a proper six-pack of abs. Very ... uh ... stunning."
He threw both arms up into the air with an exasperated groan. "I'm in Hell, woman! This is where Arrancar go when they die!"
She emitted a yelp and stepped back as he lowered his head and thrust his face within inches of hers.
"Look! No mask!" He straightened as she nodded rapidly. "I'm human! Can you believe it? Human!"
This time the giggles caught up with her and Orihime gave in to them. "You're human? Just a human?" She stopped laughing at the lethal look crossing his face, backing up a few steps. "I'm sorry. That's too bad, Grimmjow."
"You're damn right it's too bad." He slouched back onto the couch, looking at her expectantly. "Now what do I do?"
The finality in his tone made her stop laughing. "You're stuck here?"
"Yeah, I'm stuck here." His gaze wandered the rooms, resting on the kitchen before returning to her. "Why are you way over there? Come over here."
It was a voice that had demanded her compliance too many times to be ignored, so she obeyed until she was an arm's length away. She stopped and put her hands on her hips, frowning at him, attempting a stance at defending her castle, such as it was. "This is my place, Grimmjow. I didn't invite you here. You can't order me around like we're in Hueco Mundo."
For a moment he looked baffled, but then the tightness came back to his eyes, only to soften some as he got a better look at her apparel. A leering grin crossed his face as he gestured to the tank top and shorts, eyes sweeping up and down her legs. "Hey, I like that outfit a lot better than that white shit Aizen put you in."
"Oh, well ... thanks," she mumbled, her fleeting blush replaced with annoyance as she considered what appeared to be the stages of Arrancar Hell. "Why are you here?"
He sighed heavily, eyes lingering on her bare legs until she finished her blush. "Huh? Oh, I don't know where else to go."
"I don't know where to go."
A nauseated feeling caught her stomach, making her grimace. "Where to go?"
He nodded, eyes roaming the room, tilting his head to see better into the bedroom across the room. "What's in there?"
Orihime shook her head almost violently. "No ..."
He shrugged and looked back to her. "I need to crash here for a while."
The feeling in her stomach was now working into a spasm at the thought of the large Espada in residence. "You can't."
He scowled. "Why not? You've got room."
He nodded as she shook her head. He patted the couch back top with both hands. "I'll stay right here. I won't get in the way of whatever shit you do all day."
He leveled a scowl on her that made her falter in her defense of herself. "Why not?"
"It's inappropriate, for one thing," she said, summoning her courage.
He threw off the comment with a wave of his hand. "You put up that shrimpy tot of a captain and his lieutenant with the jugs." His eyes dropped to her chest. "Why not me?"
Her arms crossed over her own jugs, face coloring again. "Shrimpy tot ... you mean Captain Hitsugaya?" A brief flare of resentment surged in her as her arms tightened. "You can't talk about Captain Hitsugaya that way."
He shrugged, fingers of one hand drumming along the top of the couch back. "If you've got room for two people, you've got room for me."
She swallowed noticeably, taking a few steps to her side. The room seemed to have already shrunken with his hulking presence, even while seated. "No."
"Where else am I going to go?"
She thought furiously. If possession was nine-tenths of the law, Girmmjow already owned her couch. She frowned, standing as straight as she could, mustering her resolve. "You've been to the Living World before. Don't you know anyone else here?"
"That damn Ichigo." He made a move as if to spit, but resisted.
"No, that's probably not a good idea," she said bemusedly.
"Another thing," he opened up one side of his shirt to expose his chest, "they removed my scar, too! Can you believe it? Now I've got nothing!"
She uncrossed her arms and made patting motions with them, eyes shifting to either side of the room where the neighboring apartments were. "Shhh. Not so loud, Grimmjow. I have neighbors."
He looked to the walls and dropped his shirt.
"I'm, I'm sorry about your," she cleared her throat, eyes glimpsing his torso, "your scar, but you'll have to find another place to stay."
His eyes narrowed on her, and Orihime silently called upon Tsubaki -- who refused to answer. "I'll get you later," she mumbled in promise to the power sprite. She returned Grimmjow's pointed look. "How human are you?"
She collected every nerve in her body and shook her head. "I'd like to help, but I can't."
"Just a few days. Maybe a week," he decided for her, eyes roaming the room again. "Not bad, I guess."
Something in his manner spurred her into action. "No. No. Not here, Grimmjow," she said, now crossing the floor to the back of the couch. "Come on. You have to leave now."
"Where am I supposed to go?"
"I don't know, but you can't," she said, grabbing one of his arms and trying to pull it up, "you can't stay here. You have to leave." She wrapped both arms around his elbow when he refused to budge and braced her knee against the sofa back to heave him up. He didn't move. "Come on."
He looked down at his arm wrapped in hers, grinning at his appendage pressed against her chest as she strained to get him off the couch. "Keep trying."
Orihime's cheeks turned a bright shade of red and she dropped his arm and backed up a step, one hand pushing a stray strand of hair behind her ear. "You can't stay, Grimmjow."
"Where else am I supposed to go?"
"I don't know. What do Arrancars usually do when they ... die?"
"They go here. And I'm an Espada, not some trash Arrancar, girl."
"My name is Orihime."
"I know, I know. I keep forgetting." He looked down to his shirt loosely folded over his stomach. "And another thing, I keep hearing these noises."
She gave him a wary look, desperation eclipsing her fears. "What kind of noises?"
He patted his tight stomach. "Here. I think it got filled in wrong."
Orihime tried not to look at his bare stomach or chest, but found her attention drifting. "Are you hungry?"
"Hell, I don't know --"
"Don't say that," she snapped, brow furrowing.
"You asked me, so I'm answering," he quipped.
"Not that. The swearing." Her slipping boldness resurfaced. "No swearing."
He looked as if she'd punched him. "No what?"
She balled her fists at her sides in determination. "Not in my apartment. No swearing. Please." She smiled a little. "It's a rule here."
He was on his feet, making her shrink back a little. "A rule? You're giving me rules?"
She held her ground as best she could. "If you're going to be here," she choked on the next words, the pitching in her stomach worsening, "for a while -- just a little while -- then no swearing."
"Hell, no, I'm not --"
She clapped a hand over his mouth, standing on tiptoe to reach him, surprising both of them.
He glared at her over her fingers.
"No swearing." She slowly removed her hand.
"You and your damn rule ..."
Back came the hand.
This time he grinned behind her hand. "You have soft fingers, Orihime."
Down came the hand, a blush flooding her cheeks. "No swearing, Grimmjow," she said shakily, clasping her hands before her.
He made a non-committal shrug.
She looked to his shirt. "Please button that up."
He glanced down at the shirt ends. "I can't get them to work."
"The buttons?" she said suspiciously. "Didn't you button your own shirts in Hueco Mundo?"
"Do you remember any buttons on that monstrous fu-- "
She threw another hand over his mouth, which was immediately ripped down by his.
" --ing white shit Ulquiorra made you wear? We didn't have buttons." He grinned, raising an eyebrow as he put both hands on his hips, making the shirt splay wide open. "I don't know how to work buttons."
"At least you got the zipper closed," she mumbled, not catching herself before her eyes dropped to his crotch for a split second. She shook her head, glancing back up to him. "Maybe you can figure buttons out later."
He looked disappointed.
"Now about that noise," she said, trying to rally to the new obstacle to her school break, "I think you might be hungry."