A/N: I couldn't help but write this after I got a glimpse of the Bleach Valentine's Day spread (you can see it in the new chapter at OneManga). A fluffy one-shot, implied RenIchi, but centers on GrimmUlqui. This is a lighthearted fic and takes place in the Bleach-verse Living World sometime after Ulquiorra and Grimmjow have been redeemed and allied with the shinigami.
Grimmjow tossed the chocolate candy heart up into the air, his eyes tracing the path of its ascent. The candy landed again in his palm with a thunk, and he repeated the action. Maybe this thing was supposed to be food, but he preferred it as a toy and a useful distraction from the overwhelming sounds of the Living World: cars and conversations and people walking by them the street. Up, down. Up, down. Up—
"Hey, gimme." Kurosaki's annoying voice sliced through his fascination like a razor; Grimmjow snapped a blue-eyed glare in the direction of the tone only to realize it wasn't directed at him, but at the other shinigami, the broad-shouldered one whose red hair had half-tumbled free of its binding. Renji.
"Fuck you," Renji mumbled around a mouthful of chocolate, but there was a smile in his eyes and his words were warm. The rest of the chocolate heart hung teasingly from his mouth. " 's mine. You want it, you're gonna have t'come get it."
Grimmjow rolled his eyes. Can they not stop with that shit for a goddamn second?
Ichigo's blush softened the good-natured rancor of his tone even further. "Fuck you, Renji," he responded, flustered, and reached out to give the shinigami a hard tap to the back of the head. Renji stumbled forward with a grunt, almost choking on chocolate, and then returned the gesture in kind. For a few moments there was nothing but a flurry of hands and curses, the two shinigami wrestling playfully over the half-eaten chocolate heart.
Between them, and just below the reach of their hands, Ulquiorra walked with measured steps, oblivious to the conflict. His green eyes were focused intently on the chocolate heart cupped in his own pale hand. "Hey," Grimmjow said, to catch the other Espada's attention--anything to avoid any more interactions with the two dumbass shinigami--but the green-eyed Espada did not hear, easily keeping pace with the three of them despite the fact that his attention had obviously been captured by the small candy. Grimmjow sighed and returned to tossing the chocolate in his palm up and down again; Ichigo triumphed in his brief skirmish with Renji. With a third of the redhead's candy now in his possession, the teenager popped it into his mouth and started chewing. Loudly.
Grimmjow gritted his teeth. "Kurosaki," he growled.
The shinigami didn't hear him, intent on his candy and on his lover; Ulquiorra might have been between their bodies, but the heat of their shared gaze could have ignited nearby buildings anyway. Fuckin' disgusting. Grimmjow's jaw tensed further. Bad enough to be hanging around in the Living World with fucking shinigami on a stupid goddamn holiday about love or some shit; he didn't want to have to deal with the plethora of quiet fuck-me glares and heavy-lidded eyes in addition to all the other bullshit. Kurosaki kept chewing, and Grimmjow's hand clenched around the small chocolate heart. Shut up. Shut up. Shut up.
Ichigo didn't shut up, and the chewing grew even louder, if possible.
Grimmjow lost his shit. "Stop chewing so damn loud!" Ichigo stopped, wide-eyed, and blinked; Renji arched an eyebrow. Neither seemed perturbed by the outburst; they'd grown used to Grimmjow's personality some time ago. Ulquiorra, paying no heed to the commotion, simply kept walking some distance ahead.
"I'm not chewing loud," Ichigo finally replied around a mouthful of chocolate.
Blue eyes narrowed. "The fuck you're not," Grimmjow snapped, "and if I have to keep walkin' next to you hearin' that shit, Kurosaki, I'm gonna take the rest of that thing and shove it down your throat."
Renji laughed, a wicked gleam in his dark eyes. "But he likes things down his—"
Ichigo flushed. "Renji, stop being such a dumbass." He batted the shinigami on the back of the head again, which spawned more yelling between the two of them; Grimmjow sighed. Forget it. Forget them. Goddamn shinigami.
He sped up his steps to leave them behind. "Ulquiorra!" Funny that he'd want the company now of someone he'd only ever dreamed of killing, but Ulquiorra had been an Espada, after all, and Ulquiorra understood in a way that no shinigami ever would or could. Perhaps more importantly, Ulquiorra chewed fucking quietly and didn't spend his time deploying heavy-lidded flirtatious gazes at would-be lovers.
The small, slender Espada halted at the sound of his name, looking back over his shoulder. His raven brows were still knit together in confusion, and he spared Grimmjow the briefest of glances before returning his gaze to the chocolate heart clutched in pale, elegant fingers. After a moment, he held it out, inquiring. "I do not understand this." His voice was as emotionless as ever, calm and measured, but the troubled set of his features gave away his obvious distress over the thing.
"It's like a—a thing they do," Grimmjow muttered, suddenly embarrassed for no particular reason that he could understand. Goddamn humans and their goddamn stupid traditions. "People, I mean. They give each other these things."
"Hn." Ulquiorra gave the heart another cursory glance, and his brow smoothed at the explanation. "What is the purpose of this object, then?"
Grimmjow sighed and started walking again, the other Espada falling into step beside him. How to explain? Sometimes he didn't know the answers any more than Ulquiorra did, although he tried to fake them when he didn't. "There is no purpose," he finally muttered, "not really." Not in the way you would understand it, Ulquiorra. "Unless the purpose is pleasure, or to show affection, I guess."
Ulquiorra pondered this in silence for a moment, then pulled his gaze away from the chocolate heart that was melting into smudges against his pale palm. "Useless," he declared calmly, but Grimmjow noticed that he didn't let it go, for all that.
The Sixth Espada—for he would always identify himself that way, regardless of what had happened, regardless of the fact that his mask was gone, that everything had changed—glanced back over his shoulder. Renji and Ichigo stood some distance behind, their wrestling and horseplay transformed into a half-embrace. Grimmjow's blue eyes narrowed at the sight, and he fought off a pang of envy that he didn't quite understand. Stupid bastards.
When he returned his attention to Ulquiorra, he found that the small Espada had walked a few steps ahead, gaze cast forward, seemingly indifferent to his surroundings. The clothes he wore looked somehow awkward on his slim, small frame, a little too new. He'd insisted on choosing his own clothes during his stay here in the Living World, and he'd chosen mostly green: a green jacket and a green scarf to wear over black pants and a black shirt. The headphones around his neck had been an omnipresent accessory since he had arrived here from Hueco Mundo; though he didn't often actually use them, he seemed to take comfort in knowing that they could deliver music on demand.
Grimmjow suspected that the choice of clothing in that shade of green, the same color of those haunting, depthless eyes, was deliberate: green was the only color that Ulquiorra could properly see or understand beyond the endless black and white of Hueco Mundo. The thought made Grimmjow sad for reasons he couldn't explain. Of all the Espada, he thought, Ulquiorra had perhaps suffered the most during this transition. For Grimmjow the shift had been remarkably easy; in some ways, the Living World was easier for him to understand. His visits here had provided him with enough information about how things worked, and his simple way of being—eat or be eaten, kill or be killed—forced him to adapt quickly and knowledgeably to unusual environments. He hadn't spent most of his life in the wilds of Hueco Mundo for nothing. Ulquiorra, though… Despite what he was--undoubtedly powerful beyond even the number he'd been given, a monstrosity among hollow and feared even in the Espada's ranks before they had been mostly decimated--he lacked so much in the way of understanding, of simple knowledge about how the world worked outside of Hueco Mundo, outside of his own limited perspective. Although Grimmjow knew the Fourth Espada could cut him down with a moment's notice—and no doubt would, given the proper motivation—he couldn't help the protective pang he felt at the realization of Ulquiorra's blended naivete and skepticism. He found himself wanting to explain so much, to ease Ulquiorra into this transition and give him the understanding he so obviously lacked and so obviously seemed to crave.
The train of thought led him to do something he wouldn't have considered otherwise; Grimmjow closed his large hand around Ulquiorra's shoulder. The Fourth Espada glanced at the hand with supreme indifference, then lifted his eyes to its owner. "Grimmjow." The Sixth Espada heard the unspoken question: what are you doing? He ignored it. Carefully, he tossed away the candy heart that had melted into smears and streaks of chocolate all over his hand, reached out, and swiped his thumb over Ulquiorra's unsmiling mouth. The caress left a smear of chocolate in its wake.
For a moment, unable to read the expression in the green eyes that met his own, he entertained the idea that Ulquiorra might try to kill him. As much as the thought excited him--and it did, it always did, for he was what he was--he knew they were also supposed to be past that, by now, and so he simply waited. After a long pause Ulquiorra licked the chocolate off his lips, and his brows knit again. The sight almost made Grimmjow want to laugh. A hollow Ulquiorra might be, yes, and an Espada too, a nightmare and a monstrosity both, unafraid of killing or being killed, and yet…
….troubled to the edge of his sanity by a small chocolate candy.
" 's good, right?" Grimmjow prompted. See? Pleasure. He found that he was patient in a way with Ulquiorra he couldn't be with anybody else. Once, that hadn't been so--once, he'd been nothing but impatient to get into a brawl with the elegant, silent Fourth Espada--but coming here to the Living World and leaving Hueco Mundo had changed that. They were allies now. And Grimmjow realized, too, something he hadn't realized before--that Ulquiorra's previous position as Aizen's pet was not something to be envied, and carried with it an unfathomable cost. Maybe things will be better for him here.
Ulquiorra frowned down at the heart in his hand. It was clear he did not know how to respond, and so he simply didn't. His green eyes narrowed slightly, though, as he refocused his attention. "The shape is changing," he noted analytically.
"Melting," Grimmjow supplied.
The Fourth Espada looked somehow troubled by the thought, and Grimmjow caught the echo of something like sadness in those green eyes. "It's okay," he muttered gruffly. "Still tastes the same." And then, remembering Ulquiorra's understanding of the world—that anything outside of his vision no longer existed—added hurriedly, "And there're more, even though you can't see them."
"I am not a human," Ulquiorra said, bluntly. The statement seemed out of place and would have sounded matter-of-fact to anyone else, but Grimmjow heard the echo of faint loneliness in the tone, the simple acknowledgement of his own inability to understand so much. He heard it, because he felt it, himself—that they no longer belonged: not in Hueco Mundo, not in Soul Society, not in the Living World, not anywhere. And the things that humans did, the ways that humans were, seemed even now an unutterable mystery, something fathomless and confusing. Grimmjow rebelled against the thought. It doesn't matter if we're not human.
"So?" he asked recklessly. Ulquiorra glanced up, seemingly startled at the unexpected response. And Grimmjow did what he'd been wanting to do for a goddamn long time, what his instincts wanted to do and told him to do. Stop thinkin'. You're Grimmjow fucking Jaegerjaquez. You live by instinct. It's the only way. He scooped up the remnant of chocolate from Ulquiorra's palm, licked it from his own fingers, and then leaned forward. Mouth met mouth, and after a moment of non-responsiveness, he felt Ulquiorra yield, only slightly. Lips parted. And his mouth wasn't cool at all, as Grimmjow had imagined--had he imagined?--but warm, and he delved into it with his tongue, sharing the remnant of the little candy heart the only way he knew how. This is pleasure. Do you understand? Do you understand now? And when he felt the tentative response, Ulquiorra sucking at his tongue in an effort to catch the fleeting sweetness, he knew the answer was yes.
When Grimmjow pulled away, he heard a noise; he glanced up to find Kurosaki and Renji standing there gawking, eyes huge, mouths trying to form words that wouldn't come. This time, his feral grin came easily. "The fuck's your problem?" he asked, raspy and sharp and possessive, and before they could answer, turned and started walking again. After a moment, he felt more than heard Ulquiorra fall into step beside him.
They weren't human, no. But they belonged to no one but themselves. And maybe each other, too.