It was a hot, sticky walk back to the Golden Blossom Guest Houses under skies threatening rain if the humidity raised another notch. Little was said, but Orihime heard the low growling and heavy sighs from both sides of her. She walked between Grimmjow and Ulquiorra, her arms wrapped around a bag of groceries beginning to wilt in the day's heat.
Grimmjow had three plastic bags of groceries in each fist as they walked, Ulquiorra with another five at Orihime's other side, taking up most of the space on the sidewalk, making the other pedestrians skirt around them. Nobody was getting out of the way.
Ulquiorra was disappointed in her; Orihime could feel it, nearly see it in his face. She didn't know how to make sense of her own feelings, and she wasn't sure explaining them to him would help. Things had changed.
He had changed, Grimmjow had -- so had Ulquiorra -- more so than she thought possible in such a short time. Maybe it was the lack of Hueco Mundo air that made it possible. Maybe it was getting the Arrancar knocked out of him by dying.
She looked to Grimmjow, his features not quite fuming, but less than the usual severity generally seen in his face. Maybe not all the Arrancar knocked out of him, but enough to make him more endurable to the Living society at large.
By the time they got to Ulquiorra's apartment six irritatingly muggy city blocks later they were all damp and hot. The door was open and sounds of metal and springs being worked were coming through it with an occasional muttering.
Ulquiorra and Grimmjow traded looks as they all reached the stairwalk landing, and then Grimmjow put an arresting hand to Orihime's shoulder as she moved to peek inside the doorway.
"Maybe he's -- Wait a minute," he said to her as Ulquiorra stepped to the doorway.
Ulquiorra braced himself for witnessing an unfatherly-daughterly moment on his furniture. But it wasn't. He sighed and was about to turn and speak to Grimmjow and Orihime when Starrk gave a loud sigh from inside.
"About time you got here, Four. Thought I was doing you a favor," he called out.
Ulquiorra went in, followed by a curious Orihime as Grimmjow stuck his head around the doorframe.
Starrk sat in the middle of the floor of the main room, the new futon in several large assembled pieces around him, a screwdriver in his hands, wrenches lying about him on enormous clear plastic sheeting and cardboard. On the old futon that had come with the apartment was a high pile of clothing on one side, appearing to be every scrap of wardrobe Starrk had brought with him in the duffle bag.
Ulquiorra frowned. "Are you putting it together or taking it apart?"
Starrk spared him a sour look and resumed unfastening the screw from the spring of one side of the futon, knuckles already scuffed and red. "I already put it together; now I'm taking it apart." He glanced up at the bags in their hands.
"Why?" Grimmjow took the bag from Orihime and shifted it to his left arm. "What'd you do wrong?"
Starrk mumbled a curse. "I'm done doing it wrong. I did it right the last time, but now it's too damn big to get through the bedroom doorway. I assumed you wanted it in there, right, Schiffer?"
Ulquiorra nodded, eyes on the black metal framework. "Oh, yes. Of course."
"Then I gotta take it back apart."
"What'd you get?" Starrk asked, the screwdriver twisting in his hand. "Food?"
Grimmjow let Ulquiorra answer, prodding Orihime ahead of him into the kitchen area where he deposited half the bags on the counter by the sink, the other half near the wall.
"We should put the cold things away first, before they melt completely," she said, making a face at the lone bag of refrigerated items they'd managed to get from the store before the manager had insisted they were done shopping for the afternoon. They'd been found nearing the refrigerated cases of food, the manager trailing them by the red footprints Ulquiorra had left from Aisle Nine in maraschino cherry juice. It was still splashed on his shoes. "We didn't get much. We'll have to --"
"We work at a fish market, Orihime," Grimmjow told her, watching as she sifted through the bag for the few packages of cold foods needing refrigeration. "Don't worry about him."
"Maybe I'm worried about you." She'd barely said it loud enough for him to hear, but he heard. She gave his grin a timid look as she opened the small refrigeration unit and set the few packages inside. "Grocery shopping didn't turn out so well."
"We'll get by." He watched her rummage through the other bags, a clinking sound coming from one of them. "You didn't have to get him that. It'll just get broken."
She held up the wind chime of pink-white shells and gold tone chains, smiling as it made a soft tinkling sound. After the Aisle Nine fiasco they'd made a quick trip through the floral department, where she'd coerced Ulquiorra into helping her pick out a housewarming gift for him, much to Grimmjow's annoyance.
"He chose a pretty one, and he has a nice breeze at the sink here, if he wants to put it in the kitchen," she said, testily holding it up to the open window. A gentle warm breeze mingled among the chains, making the shells bob off each other.
"One good gust and it'll shatter," he said, leaning his back to the counter, watching her eyes smile at the chime.
She rolled it back into the bag and pushed it against the counter wall. "It's tough. It can take it. It's meant to twist in the wind."
"It's not that tough," he added, looking to Ulquiorra as he appeared at the wide archway to the kitchen.
Ulquiorra looked from him to Orihime. "He's still taking it apart."
She turned from the counter and nodded to him. "We can get the mattress dressed, if you like."
He grinned a bit, catching Grimmjow's low snort. "That would be helpful, but you needn't trouble yourself with --"
"It's no trouble," she insisted, slipping past Grimmjow before he could utter a word.
Grimmjow watched her exit the kitchen with the other Espada. Despite Ulquiorra's deliberate phrasing, he knew what dressing a bed really meant. Orihime had already put the new linens on his own futon mattress. He resisted his first impulse and instead joined Starrk in the main room.
Ulquiorra had expected Grimmjow to act on some sort of impulse, too, but the Sexta didn't darken the bedroom doorway, even after a few moments. In the center of the room bare of anything except a small dresser was the new futon mattress, stripped of plastic, just lying there beside a shopping bag of linens topped by two pillows. Orihime pulled the khaki and green comforter and sheet set from the bed-in-a-bag bundle and began unfolding the sheets.
"Hmm, it looks like they only sent two pillows," she mused, frowning at the set as she shook out the sheets. "Didn't you get three?"
He nodded, catching the end of the sheet as she flipped it. "There should be another one."
"Well, maybe it's in another bag."
He watched as she smoothed her side of the sheet, following her example with his side of the sheet.
"Good thing you got a fan."
"Yes, that'll help."
She sighed and pushed a strand of hair out of her face, her sagging ponytail ready to quit on her. In the main room Starrk's grumbling was joined by Grimmjow's low cursing as the futon framework evaded further dismemberment.
"I think I know what you're -- what you were thinking at the store today," she said quietly, eyes on the subtle tones of the sheet design. She caught her lower lip nervously in her teeth, edging up to the conversation she really didn't want to have with him. "But he has changed. Don't you think?"
Ulquiorra sighed, watching her fingers press the sharp creases out of the fold spots of the sheet. "Yes, he has, some. If you're talking about Grimmjow."
She nodded, looking to him hopefully. "He kind of reminds me of Kurosaki-kun sometimes. Oh, but don't tell him I said that," she added quickly, glancing to the doorway.
She thought for a moment and then knelt at the mattress. "Either of them."
"I won't." He knelt on the other corner of the mattress with her, wondering how she could still smell of peaches even after a whole day of traipsing through the supermarket.
She turned the fitted sheet casing inside-out so that the zippered end was bunched together and proceeded to fit it over the mattress corner. "I guess it's kind of a different type of friendship now. Kind of like it's moved on to something else."
He frowned, pulling up the side of the mattress as she struggled to fit the sheet over it. "Friendships can change?"
She nodded, her ponytail nearly under his nose as they both hovered over the mattress in an attempt to enrobe it in the new sheet. "They can move into something, well, deeper, and they can also dissolve into something less close." She frowned, tugging at the sheet until it had conquered the side of mattress. She pulled it down in sections, scooting away from Ulquiorra as she settled the linen further.
He scooted along with her on his knees, tugging at the opposite side of the mattress with the sheet. "Less close?"
She nodded, eyes and hands on the mattress and sheet. "Sometimes friendships fall away. People change or grow apart. Develop different interests."
"But they can grow closer, too."
He followed her actions as she pulled the fitted side of the zippered sheet to the third corner, but the casing wouldn't allow both sides to be worked at once. He switched sides to kneel beside her, pushing the mattress farther into the sheet casing.
He didn't want to say the next words, but a little clarity went a long way in the Living World. "You think your friendship with Grimmjow has changed."
Her cheeks immediately grew pink, and he had his answer, but she nodded and said, "I know it seems odd. To feel one way about someone for so long, and hope for so long." She shook her head, stuffing the mattress edge into the sheet casing as he held it, pulling the zippered edges together and fastening them tooth by zippered tooth. "I hope we'll always be friends. I always want that."
He nodded, more of a scowl forming on his face as his fingers eased the zipper to the last corner of the mattress slowly being encased in khaki and green linen. "You do?"
She smiled, lifting higher onto her knees as the mattress resisted being folded over on itself under pressure of their work. "Friends are important. Especially friends that have been through so much together."
The sleepless night of work and long day in the hot streets and eventful trip to the supermarket drained Ulquiorra of his resolve. He nodded, sighing as he zipped the last part of the mattress closure, careful not to catch her small fingers in the metal teeth as she pushed on the mattress.
She smiled at their accomplishment and sat back on her heels as he lowered the mattress end to the floor. The sheet was pulled tight, smooth over the new bedding. "He'll always be special."
His eyes jerked to hers. "He's special?"
She nodded, her bubbly smile accompanied by a soft giggle. "He always will be."
Ulquiorra leaned closer. "Grimmjow will always be special?"
Now the giggle turned into a full fledged laugh, her eyes growing large. "Well, I guess, but -- That's not what I meant. Kurosaki-kun will always be special to me."
He frowned, his eye twitching just a bit. "You were talking about Kurosaki?"
She stood up, and it took a few seconds for him to get to his feet, his mind wrapping around the more confusing angles of what she'd told him.
"All that stuff about your feelings changing from one form of friendship into another -- what -- who were you talking about, Orihime?"
She put her hands to her ponytail and tightened the band there. "All sorts of friendships, Ulquiorra."
He frowned more. "When you said your feelings had changed -- who were you talking about?"
"Well, I don't think he's as scary any more..." she said meekly, raising one shoulder in a shrug.
"Okay, I think that's Grimmjow. But when you said you felt one way for someone for so long ... and then... always wanting to be friends still." He nodded slowly, comprehension slipping over him as her large eyes watched him with the same innocence that had gotten her to agree with him to go to Hueco Mundo. "You were talking about Ichigo."
She nodded, blushing a little. "He isn't interested in me. Not like I always hoped he would be, Ulquiorra, but he's still my friend."
"Like a brother?" Say no, he thought.
She nodded again. "Yes. I suppose so."
He wasn't sure why he felt more defeated than before, but he did. "As a brother," he said, trying out the word on someone else, "I think Ichigo is going to have a problem with Grimmjow."
She nodded, hands clasping together nervously before her. "Maybe."
"And, as you see me as a brother, Orihime," he said slowly, the fatigue of the night and day drawing at him, "I can say I have a problem with Grimmjow."
A new alertness snapped into her face. "You do?"
He nodded, fighting against what he did and did not want to say. "He's still an Espada."
"But he's not. Not anymore," she said, nodding quickly. "You know he's different now. And he is human. Living."
"But he hasn't changed," he added as a scuffling was heard in the main room. "Not that much."
She sighed, a small smile taking her lips. "Not a lot, not entirely, I know, but some."
He was dead set against admitting it.
"So have you," she added as he began to speak. "It's just part of becoming, well, Living, I guess. Neither of you have to compete to keep your ranks or please Aizen-sama. You can relax and enjoy life a little. It might take a while," she said, looking to the door as Starrk appeared there with a large section of the futon under one arm, a shorter side with a dangling spring in the other. She looked back to Ulquiorra with more of a smile. "There are lots of fun things to do in life."
Starrk was maneuvering the black metal frame pieces through the doorway, banging the doorframe, newly learned curse words trickling from him. Behind him Grimmjow was waiting impatiently with the rest of the frame in two pieces, eyes narrowing on Ulquiorra as he looked at the mattress on the floor and Orihime standing beside him.
"What the hell's going on in there?" he barked at Ulquiorra.
"Damn, Six, not in my ear," Stark grumbled, angling the metal through the doorway at last.
Ulquiorra sighed, watching Orihime step carefully around the newly cased mattress. "Family business," he said.
"Did you ever find Lilynette, Mr. Starrk?" Orihime asked as she tried to take the small end of futon frame from Grimmjow. He didn't let her, handing her the screwdriver and wrenches instead by a few fingers.
"Oh, yeah. She's sleeping in the other room."
Ulquiorra, Grimmjow, and Orihime all looked at each other, and then she wedged herself behind Grimmjow who was still working his way through the doorway with the frame and looked into the main room.
Starrk dropped the framework on the wooden floor, sending an echoing clatter through the apartment.
On the main room futon the pile of clothing flinched. Orihime gave a surprised 'eep.' "She's under all that stuff?"
"Yup. Oh, she borrowed one of your pillows, Four." Starrk sighed at the futon frame pieces. "Found her this morning. She's all sung out. Soon as she sleeps off her fun -- and has a long shower -- we'll be outta here," he said to Ulquiorra."
Grimmjow glanced out the doorway as Orihime turned back to the bedroom, his eyes resting on the mound of clothing that was shifting slightly. He looked back to Orihime. "You're done here, right?" He nodded before she could answer. "Let's go."
Then she heard it, too. A low, frantic meowing from below. "Oh, little kitty," she said wistfully. She turned out of the doorway, looking to Ulquiorra. "Do you want to hang up the wind chime first?"
Grimmjow growled, drowning out Ulquiorra's answer as he shook his head. "Hurry up."
* * *
Princess tried to zip past Orihime and Grimmjow out the door when they opened it fifteen minutes later, but Orihime was ready for her.
She scooped up the soft wad of orange fluff, cuddling it close as Grimmjow stepped into his apartment behind her. "She's so cute, Grimmjow. See? She doesn't get lost. She waits on you."
He nodded, closing the door and making a beeline for the bathroom. He discovered little mess, and turned back to Orihime as she stood in the center of the room by the futon, holding the kitten close. It purred in an awkward rattle, arching its back and nosing around her neck, its eyes on Grimmjow all the while. Her nose was faintly green from sniffing the air fern. Orihime looked to the plant, but it was still intact in its pot at the coffee table.
"What did you and Ulquiorra talk about?"
Orihime gave Grimmjow a weak smile, deciding the inquiry in his face wasn't quite as caustic as she'd seen before, more genuine curiosity than temper. "You."
This time the growling noise he made wasn't low, and the kitten bristled in Orihime's arms, its small hum of purr turning into a soft attempt at a return snarl.
Grimmjow stopped. "Not you," he said to it, putting a hand to its fuzzy head, rubbing between the ears that pricked forward. He looked to Orihime. "You're done with him now."
She shook her head, arms tightening on the kitten as Grimmjow's stare sharpened. "He's still my friend."
She nodded, holding Princess to one side of her chest as Grimmjow's arms encircled her waist, pulling her as close as the kitten allowed. This time she was ready when he kissed her, freeing one hand to rest at his chest as his lips pressed to hers, a touch gentler than she thought he was capable of, not the bruising force she'd have thought would come from an Espada.
Her hand roamed higher onto his shoulder as his arms tightened around her, one hand easing up to the back of her neck beneath the tumble of auburn ponytail, until there was a sputter of a squeak from the kitten.
Grimmjow's face turned to look at the fidgeting orange fur in Orihime's arm. "Put her down."
Instead Princess scrambled up his arm to his shoulder, small tail at his ear as she moved to behind his neck and looked over his back.
Orihime smiled and let both her arms wrap around his waist, hesitantly at first, but less bashfully as Princess turned to look at her, leaning to Grimmjow's temple to watch her. Orihime let herself lean to him, returning the kiss he pushed onto her lips, the warmth of the day trading for a different, more welcome contact.
It was a long kiss that sapped her breath and left her with a melting feeling that began to affect her knees, until Princess came to her rescue and pushed her forehead against her eye.
"Dammit," Grimmjow muttered, wiping the kitten's face away, only to have it bat at his hand.
"I should go," she said, still remaining close. "It's going to rain soon, and I want to put your groceries away first, so --"
"Wait out the rain," he said as she slipped away from his arms. He sent the kitten a mock glower as Orihime went to the kitchen counter where the few bags of canned groceries were mixed with the refrigerated items. The kitten rubbed its head on his jaw. "See what you did?"
He looked to the kitchen where Orihime was humming, putting the few packages and cartons in the small refrigerator. There was something homey about her actions, and for once his wasn't the usual opportunistic glimpse of her derrière as she bent to put the canned items in the lower shelves.
Something he realized he liked.
Then the sound of wind chimes out the kitchen window from the above unit made the sensitive notion sweep past Grimmjow, and he wanted to growl something that would have sent Princess into a spasm of claws on his neck.
Orihime was oblivious to the thoughts crossing Grimmjow's mind. Instead she held up a can of cat food.
"Where do you want the baby food?"
The rain had set in by the time Orihime and Grimmjow reached her apartment two hours later. It wasn't raining hard, but enough to make them hurry. They arrived more than damp, and she was anxious to change her shirt before it became obscenely clingy.
Grimmjow stayed near the bathroom doorway as she disappeared into her bedroom, the door shut to him as she found a dry shirt. He pulled at the loose shirt he wore that was heavy with rain, tempted to shed it despite the startle it might give her.
She emerged a moment later in a dry yellow tank top, her hair fixed back into a perkier ponytail, a smile on her face as she handed him a tan shirt.
"It was leftover in the laundry, so you have a dry one now," she said, offering him the button-up shirt, her other hand behind her back.
"Thanks." He took it and immediately pulled off the wet shirt.
Orihime leaned against the doorframe, averting her eyes as he changed shirts, a blush seeping across her cheeks.
"Aren't you past that yet?" he asked with a grin, watching her allow a timid peek back at him. "You can look, Orihime."
Her face heated a bit more as she looked back, eyes resting on the area on his abdomen that had once been a Hollow hole. "You really are human -- Living -- aren't you?"
He nodded slowly, studying the thoughtful expression on her face amid the blush. "Yup. Living, Orihime. Just like you."
She nodded, watching his fingers fasten three of the middle buttons on the tan material. "It still seems so ... different, seeing you as a Living person now."
He tossed the wet shirt into the bathroom, where it landed to hang over the shower curtain rod. He leaned closer to see her face in the poorer light of the hall, the rain outside making a gray cast over her apartment. "Can you get used to that?"
She nodded, smiling a little, eyes drifting over the fit of the shirt over his shoulders, to his face devoid of the bone mask she'd learned to fear six months ago. "I can."
"Good." He saw her hand move behind her back. "What have you got in your hand?"
"Hmm? Oh, uh, these were in the laundry, too." She sheepishly pulled her hand from behind her, showing him the pair of navy boxers he'd left at her apartment when he'd moved out. "I forgot to bring them to your place earlier."
He nodded, and was about to take them when a different look descended upon her face. He wasn't sure what it was, what was in it, but it was more than alarm, more than panic.
"Oh, no ..." she said, not the usual words she voiced when she felt the familiar reiatsu.
"What is it? Are you sick?" Grimmjow put a hand to her cheek, fingers lifting her chin as he frowned.
"No. No ... It's ..."
A sudden pounding at the door broke off her speech for a catch in her breath. He was about to ask more when she put a hand to his chest, fingers gripping in the tan cotton.
"Are you ready to ... accept my friends?"
Another louder, more insistent knocking.
"Orihime?" Ichigo's voiced called. "Are you home?"
Grimmjow's head snapped to the apartment door, eyes glinting at the voice as his hand dropped to Orihime's shoulder, fingers gripping too tightly.
He glanced down at her, hand loosening as she gave him a feeble look.
His hand slipped from her and he strode to the door.
"Wait!" she said as loudly as she dared, skipping up to meet him before he could reach the door. "You promise to let things go? Everything in the past, and everything --"
"Hell, no," he said dryly, biting back other words. "Not everything."
She stepped around him as he reached for the doorknob, her hand on his as he gripped the knob, her face imploring. "Most everything?"
He wanted to quip out a slew of things, partly because he knew the voice on the other side of the door was the one that had gone through much trouble to best him in Hueco Mundo, had sent him to his death and hence the Living World, but mostly because he also knew Ichigo Kurosaki had cared about the auburn-haired girl with the sweet smile standing in front of him enough to brave Aizen and the hordes of Hueco Mundo to rescue her.
And he'd have to face Ichigo periodically if he was going to remain a part of Orihime's life, and that was something he was unswervingly determined to become.
He nodded slowly, watching her smile widen, brown eyes light up at his answer. He took his hand from the knob as her fingers wove between his, squeezing gently. "Let him in."
Orihime's hand fell from his so she could open the door, the boxers still in her other hand, forgotten.
Ichigo looked back at her from the hall, his blue t-shirt soaked and hanging, orange hair plastered to his head.
"Ah, Kurosaki-kun, you're wet," she said, stepping back as he came in, Grimmjow to her side.
Ichigo's attention was on the kitchen counter. "Hey, we missed you at the beach. Rukia met us there. Is your cold better? You got flowers; were you that sick?"
"No. I thought you were camping." She closed the door as he frowned at the vase of flowers, almost able to feel Grimmjow's glower from over her shoulder.
"Yeah, we got rained out. Yuzu said she seen you at the park. Said some guy --" he said, turning to look at her, his gaze catching sight of her guest. For a moment his eyes widened in earth shattering surprise, every shinigami reaction lurching into forward motion even as they were shot down by Grimmjow's defiantly fierce glare from Orihime's side.
"What the hell are ... What ..." He stuttered several of the words on the fish pad list, bringing a few in return from the Espada.
"... you shit head, ass --" Grimmjow said despite Orihime's hand suddenly locking onto his elbow.
"Please, Grimmjow, you --" she said.
"What the hell are you doing here?!" Ichigo yelled at Grimmjow. He grabbed Orihime's shoulder, but she put a hand up, an inadvertent cuff to his chin that made him take another look at the Espada.
"He's okay. He's --"
"Grimmjow?" Ichigo looked to her with surprise. "Okay?" He frowned in confusion at the Espada, taking a longer, more thorough look at him. A chuckle broke from him as he realized there was something less than lethal about the situation. He pointed at him, finger wagging.
"It's okay, Kurosaki-kun," she said quickly as a growl surfaced from Grimmjow, his arm tensing in her hand, moving a step closer to Ichigo, crowding her between them. "He's okay. My friend. He's --"
"Ha!" Ichigo pointed at Grimmjow, a snort and laugh erupting from him. "He's got no mask!"
"Shut up!" Grimmjow reached for the other guy until Orihime pressed her back to his tan shirt, pulling his arm before her to cradle in both arms.
"He's nice to me," she said by way of explanation, smiling as the arm snugged to her waist, fingers pressing to her side.
"He's Grimmjow!" Ichigo stuttered.
"Yeah, so what? She likes me." He grinned at his former opponent. "Got that? Me, Kurosaki."
Ichigo looked from him to Orihime, frowning, disbelieving his eyes, attention falling to her fingers pressing at the back of the arm around her, then up to the smile on her face. "But he's dead."
"This is where Arran --- Espada -- go when they die," she said simply, smiling hopefully at his realization.
"Here? The Living World?" Ichigo shook his head, the surreal feeling swamping his mind being replaced by the contented look on her face. "Why not Hell?"
"Nnoitra went straight to Hell," Grimmjow said.
"Yeah," Ichigo said slowly, nodding, blinking at Orihime a few times, "yeah, I can see that." He looked sharply back to Grimmjow. "But why are you here? At her place?"
"He's been ... He was ..." She sighed, Grimmjow's fingers at her side pressing softly. "He's adjusting. It's been about a week and a half, and he's doing well. Oh, he even has a pet."
Grimmjow's glare on Ichigo had only diminished a degree, maybe two, but he was finding it hard to maintain a foul mood when the scent of Orihime's peachy shampoo was right under his nose. He sighed, feeling her settle closer to his chest. "Admit it, shinigami; I'm here. You're going to have to get over it or go around it."
Ichigo scowled deeper, watching Orihime's hand clutch at the arm around her. He looked back to Grimmjow. "No mask. Just human?"
Grimmjow nodded, but Orihime felt the rumble of a growl in his chest at her back.
"You're, you're okay with him being here?" Ichigo asked her, his tone taking on a different concern now. "It's okay with you?"
She nodded, watching his eyes become less somber. "Did Yuzu tell you she saw him? At the park. We didn't exactly make introductions, but I think --"
"Yeah, that's why I'm here." He shook his head. "She said some guy matching his description saved ... eh, that damn Kon from some boys."
She nodded. "See? Even Yuzu understands."
That was enough for Ichigo. Almost. "He's been ... Well, I guess -- Hey," he said, frown snapping back into place as he looked at her hand, "are those boxers?"
Orihime looked down at the navy material in her hand. She shoved them beneath her arm at her other side. "...No."
"Oh. Okay," he said, suspicions still high.
"Are you done?" Grimmjow asked, staring down Ichigo's bewilderment. "Got enough answers?"
"Grimmjow," Orihime said lowly, looking up at him.
"He's getting too damn nosey," he muttered, eyes still on Ichigo. "You don't owe him any answers." He looked down at her, frowning as his inquiry turned more personal. "Do you?"
Ichigo shook his head slowly. "Orihime, you want him here? I mean, here?"
"You're okay with all ... this?"
She nodded, smiling more. "I'm sure."
Ichigo looked to Grimmjow. "I guess if she's okay with it. If she's happy." He sighed. "I guess its okay, in some ..." He shook his head. "Okay, then."
She smiled wide as he put a hand on the doorknob. "Oh, how was camping?"
He looked back as Grimmjow released her and let his hand drop to take hers. "Wet. Lots of rain. We came back early." He shook his head again. "Damn, I was only gone for a few days and all this ... this shit goes down."
She stepped to the door as he opened it and went out, his pointed stare still on Grimmjow behind her. "Tell Yuzu I said hi."
"Yeah, I will."
"I will." Ichigo was still looking at Grimmjow, returning the Espada's glare. "Be good to her."
"I know what I'm doing, Kurosaki," he growled.
"Be nice to --"
"I am nice to her."
Ichigo pointed a finger at him, wanting to add something, but unable to find anything lethal enough he could repeat in front of Orihime's endearing smile
"I mean it," he said.
Ichigo shook his head, making a few drops of water shake loose, and left down the hall, pulling the door shut after him.
Orihime turned to Grimmjow, sighing as he plucked the boxers from her hand and took her in his arms, this time no kitten to break them away from each other. He reached behind her and twisted the door's deadbolt lock.
She smiled as he lowered his face to hers, a slow kiss meeting her lips that brought her arms around his neck.
"No more company tonight," he murmured, feeling her fingers play at the nape of his neck just below the blue hair. "Got it?"
She nodded, her sigh brushing against his cheek, lips moving to his as his arms grew stronger around her. "Got it."
Author's Note: Thanks to everyone who read, favorited and reviewed this story, and especially to the reviewers: Gosurori-Otaku, xXHitsugayaXx, Samebito Ryu, Not So Anonymous, Kumo the wolf alchemist, errihu, venG, Nehan Shinzui34, Britt-Ulquiorra, darkness surrounds me, UlquiorraxOrihime, Only if you wish it, bleachlover, Blu inu, topmia, HOTTEST-VIP-ELF-SONE, Bitchy Red Head, TheEncryptionKey, Cheshire Cat, tomia, figgy pudding, 4differentpersonalities, iPocky, Hmegimi-chan, Ryokokalinchan, Lauren, dustori, Tiny Cherie, Kenpachi Ikari, LolWorthy, annabelle, uogcraze, Shadowstep-Prime, chancewriter, smellypants, Waca, AmIOtaku, ShadowAngelCora, moxious, DrakonGurl, LilBrokenDolly, Kiichigo*, CatgirlKitsune, NinjaLuffer1215, poohxebony, YaoPrincess16, bleachUlquiGrimm, UlquiorraNoKokoro, Karasu, angelicdemonPRINCE, and labyrinth of chaos.
Thanks so much!