He had never known that his lover was known for his romantic gestures until he talked to the man's three previous girlfriends. The three had caught him alone while shopping and Orihime, sweet but blunt as she was, had asked him what Ichigo had used to "catch" him. Before he could get offended at the choice of terminology, she'd continued by recounting the long and subtle courtship he'd used with her, multiple sweet gestures throughout the day such as a single rose in her locker, a love note on her desk, and chivalry in all his dealings with her that was so gallant no man she'd met since could measure up. Tatsuki, grinning, had then broken in with examples of how the orange-haired young man would check up on her every other morning and evening, to make sure she was taking care of herself, and on nights he'd known she had Kendo practice he'd have fresh clothes, a steaming cup of her favorite tea, and a good book waiting for her on her living room table so she could unwind in peace- and that had been before they even dated! His first girlfriend, the stern and severe Nanao, blushed lightly when they inquired into why she'd ever agreed to go out with a rough-hewn muscle like Ichigo and answered in her 'this-is-the-only-answer-you-get' voice that he had been quite the gentleman, courting her the way a young man should court a young maiden. Tatsuki smirked and leaned on her shoulder, proclaiming loudly that she was just a sucker for good books and having flowers delivered to her every week, especially when it was from a man that serenaded her at her bedroom window anytime she asked him to. Grimmjow had been quite shocked.
When again they asked how Ichigo had managed to catch the blue-haired man, he had fidgeted uncomfortably with the jacket he'd picked from the rack. "I just sorta jumped 'im one day and it was supposed ta be a one-time thing but it kept happenin' so next thing I knew we were doin' it regular. He ain't ever done that stuff with me, I told 'im it was only casual from the start and 'e agreed." The girl looked at one another, then shook their heads. "Oh, poor Ichigo," Orihime breathed, making him look at her in surprise. "What?" Tatsuki glared, while Nanao gave him a pitying look. "You don't understand," Nanao said softly, "Ichigo doesn't understand the meaning of a 'casual relationship'." Tatsuki glared harder. "And even if he knows what it is, he would never practice it for the life of him! Ichigo doesn't do casual, he can't do casual. He gets himself involved with somebody and that person becomes his everything." He fidgeted more, thrusting the hanger and jacket back on the rack. "Well he does with me! He's never done any o' that romantic shit, an' I don't want him to! He's seein' someone other than me just like I'm fuckin' someone other than him- we agreed back at th'beginning we ain't exclusive." All three shook their heads this time, even Orihime looking angry, and they swept out of the store, leaving him alone. Later, back at home, which he had suddenly realized he'd somehow started sharing with Ichigo when he wasn't paying attention, he paced restlessly as he tried to figure out if they were telling the truth. When he'd started moving himself into Ichigo's place, one belonging at a time, the man had never said a word. People had claimed their 'love' for him before, in twenty different languages and situations, and Ichigo had never made a murmur. It just couldn't be true… could it?
Sitting on the couch with his head in his hands, fingers tugging at his hair, he stared sightlessly at the floorboards. When he thought about it some more, he realized a couple of little things he'd never really paid attention to before- for one, Ichigo never left the house without letting Grimmjow know where he was or where he would be if he wanted him. Wanted, not needed. And 'wanted' was certainly the right word, as the orange-haired intern had never refused him sex anywhere he wanted it, even when he was clearly uncomfortable with the situation. Like that time in the linen closet at the hospital where they nearly got caught twice by nurses, that was fun. He never failed to respond to Grimmjow's calls or text messages, though it could sometimes take him a while if he was on duty, and Grimmjow's favorite things were always somewhere around when he wanted them. In fact, his favorite brand of booze, which Ichigo wouldn't touch for the life of him(he swore American liquor did shit to him and refused to speak of it no matter what Grimmjow promised in return), was always in the fridge or cupboard if he felt like drinking. Even the spare lube he kept in the jacket he'd thought Ichigo didn't know he owned because he only wore it when he was going out to find someone new to fuck, he realized with a sinking feeling in his gut, somehow was miraculously replaced when it was getting low, the condoms too. He'd figured he'd gone out and got some and just didn't remember, but now he suspected- was sure- that Ichigo was taking care of it for him even knowing perfectly well what they were for. He'd never made much of all the things Ichigo did for him before, but he'd never quite noticed all the little things that he took care of either.
Just as he came to this earth-shattering realization, he heard the door open and the twenty-three year old he'd just been contemplating entered the house, balancing a bag of groceries on one hip and carrying all this work stuff in the other hand. Suddenly feeling like a bastard, for reasons he'd rather not examine too closely, he rose from the couch and took the huge bag of work stuff, which was incredibly heavy. "I'll put this by the couch, you handle th'food. I don't want ya crushin' anything." Ichigo smiled at him, one of his special smiles that made his heart skip a beat, and thanked him before starting to put the food away. After completing his self-appointed task, Grimmjow leaned against the couch and watched as Ichigo started to set out the ingredients for dinner. Dinner, he realized with a start, not his dinner. Ichigo took care of him the way a housewife would, and never said a word of protest. How the fuck had he gone this long without noticing? "You going out tonight, Grimmjow?" He felt something in him lurch. What the intern was really asking was if he planned to stay around long enough to eat and if he was going to go looking for a new fuck tonight, and he knew it. He'd just been too caught up in the pretense before to notice; Ichigo pretended he didn't know all the shit Grimmjow was doing and Grimmjow continued to believe he was in a casual relationship. "No. No, I'm crashin' here t'night," he muttered, raking his hand through his hair again. After a moment of silence, Ichigo quietly asked him what was wrong. Oh fuck, he knew his nervous habits, that didn't happen in a casual relationship! With anyone else he'd ever slept with, he didn't stick around long enough for them to catch on to them, and they weren't involved with him enough to give a shit or notice anyway. How deep in this was he, exactly?!
Feeling suddenly panicked, Grimmjow stood by Ichigo at the counter, his hands clenched into fists. Ichigo had been careful about it; he'd never called him by the pet name 'Grimm' outside the bedroom, never hovered over him when he got injured in bar or street fights other than to patch him up, and never questioned his comings and goings. But now that he knew, he felt like the worst kind of prick for putting a man who loved him through the shit he'd been doing since he started screwing around with Ichigo. "Oi, Ichi….do ya love me?" The young man didn't so much as flinch, calmly flipping the steaks in the pan. "Yes." If the teal-haired male hadn't grabbed the counter just then, he'd have staggered from the shock. "How….h-how long?" Still, Ichigo remained steady as he added a can of peas to the pan as he turned the stove off. "Since the beginning. The day I met you, I was in love." Grimmjow needed to sit. He needed to sit now. Again Ichigo proved his perceptiveness, because as he turned to dispose of the can he nudged the older man into a nearby chair almost absently. "Then why did ya agree when I said I wanted casual fucks? Why din't ya say sum'n, Ichi?" Dishing up the food, he chuckled. "Both of us know it would've made no difference, so why bother? I'm just going to be happy as long as you put up with me. Now eat- don't let it get cold." Obediently, he took the plate offered and started eating. He'd swore it was bullshit the first few times Ichigo told him microwaving changed the taste of the food, but then he'd proven it so by this point he knew better than to let a meal get cold, especially one as good as Ichigo's.
They spoke no more about the subject after that night, and nothing changed. Ichigo still treated him with that oh-so-subtle loving, and Grimmjow kept periodically going to find someone new to screw up a wall. When Grimmjow moved all his stuff back to his own apartment, Ichigo never said a word. And when Grimmjow stopped calling him, stopped visiting, again there was no protest, no outcry for him not to leave. Later, much later, he found out that Ichigo had moved after earning his doctorate, which he had abruptly earned only weeks after Grimmjow had silently ended their arrangement. The only farewell he'd gotten was a bottle of his favorite liquor and a single, sharp-thorned rose in his dressing room the night his band got signed. Huh, it looked like he'd received one of Ichigo's famous romantic gestures after all.
Crouched on a rooftop, Ichigo the substitute shinigami wished desperately for a hollow to pop up. A good dozen of them. No, make that at least twenty-five, maybe fifty. He fairly radiated a furious energy that just begged to be unleashed on some worthy prey, and the completely silent night only exacerbated his condition. Shifting his weight onto one leg, the opposite leg started bouncing rapidly, trying to burn off some of this fury, some of this restless need to destroy, before he went back to that room and that fucking whore and killed him and his customer. He'd suspected him of cheating, but not like that. God, never like that. If he'd just told him, Ichigo wouldn't have cared- no, he couldn't go down that path. With an uncontrollable growl, he dug his nails into the tiles of the roof and shuddered with suppressed killing intent, forcing himself to hold position until an actual enemy showed up. With his eyes closed, his body statuesque, and his senses open as wide as he could force them, he was on Grimmjow so fast the Arrancar swore the kid was in Bankai. Grimmjow drew his favorite opponent to Hueco Mundo, and he was surprised when, once there, Ichigo let out a hollow-like scream and became encased in hollow armor, pouncing on a nearby weakling and tearing it to pieces. He did that for almost an hour before Grimmjow finally got his attention again. In his resurrection form, he crouched next to the still-mostly-hollowfied Ichigo and butted his head against the softly keening teen's shoulder. "So what set ya off like that, shinigami?" The keening stopped.
Flexing one blood-covered claw, Ichigo asked quietly, "Grimmjow, do you remember what a harlot is?" Grimmjow resisted the urge to duck away from those deadly claws….or lick them clean. The urges were almost equally strong. "Yeah. Used to call 'em two-bit wives where I came from." The thick lizard tail thumped the sand in agitation. "It turned out the one I was courting is one. I don't have an issue with that so much….that part I can't stand is he never told me. I wouldn't have cared, if he just…" He raked his claws through the sand. "I need to kill some more." Recognizing that restlessness as the same as what he himself suffered from, Grimmjow was quick to direct him to the Menos Forest. As he watched Ichigo decimate the ranks of some pretty powerful Gillian, he reflected that the teen's harlot would never know what he missed, the stupid fuck. It was hard to find a mate that didn't care about your dalliances but still cared about you, as he knew from experience. He couldn't help his promiscuous nature; the panther in him often demanded sex from whoever was nearest. It was like he was in constant heat, he swore. Hmmmm…maybe Ichigo would be interested in a personal whore- so long as he didn't lie about what he was. Yeah, that sounded like a good idea. Ducking underneath a Gillian arm that had been ripped off and tossed his way, he decided he'd make his proposal after the shinigami's killing mood wore off. And he might want to take cover in the meantime.
The last thing Grimmjow had ever thought he'd want was a pet, much less a hybrid. And he certainly wouldn't have chosen anything other than a cat if he did, he had an affinity for those animals after all. But here he was, watching from the patio while his new lizard hybrid basked in the sun on a large rock in his backyard. He didn't know what he'd been thinking- oh right. He hadn't been. He'd been too busy drowning in those fuckin' tea-brown eyes. The thick green tail waved back and forth lazily, and those amazing eyes opened to look up at him. "Sir? Do you wish something of me?" Grimmjow sighed. "Naw. Just lookin' at that kinky tail o' yers." To the human's surprise and gratification, the hybrid flushed a cherry red. "K-kinky?!" Oh oh oh, he'd found a lil' virgin hybrid? He hadn't thought they could reach maturity and still be virgins! Suddenly in a much better mood about his unexpected purchase, Grimmjow crossed to the rock, grinning from ear to ear. "Yeah, baby, kinky. I'd be real interested in seein' exactly how flexible that tail really is…" his lecherous grin added a leer to it, "why don' we go inside and experiment a lil'?" The lizard was off the rock and backing up now, the long loincloth that was his only clothing swaying with his movements. "I don't think I want to go inside….sir," he added almost as an afterthought. Grimmjow's eyes lit up and Ichigo knew that couldn't be a good sign with how perverted his new Master apparently was. He was right. "I knew you were a kinky lil' thing the minute I saw that tail. We can have our fun right out here too, pet. I ain't shy." Fifteen minutes of dodging later, Ichigo decided he hated the nickname "pet" more than anything else he'd ever been called.
Noting the moving truck in front of the empty house next door, Ichigo grabbed his bad and hurried out the door. He didn't have time to ponder who his new neighbor was right now, he needed to get to class. Of course, his luck was in full swing so he managed to slam into someone right outside his door. Apologizing, and helping the blue-haired man up, the orange-haired young man was surprised when the stranger introduced himself as a new college professor and asked for directions to Ichigo's college. He offered to walk him there, and the man grinned and said he'd be delighted. It turned out that Professor Grimmjow Jaggerjack was not only a professor, he was Ichigo's new psychology professor! At the end of the semester several people accused Ichigo of getting his A grade because he just happened to be the Professor's boyfriend(they'd hooked up about four months into the semester after endless pestering by Grimmjow), but when this accusation was made publicly Ichigo and Grimmjow exchanged a look, then laughed. "That's not why he got an A," Grimmjow said when he could breathe again, wiping tears of mirth from his cheeks, "tell 'em the real reason, Ichi." Chuckling, Ichigo smirked at the rest of the class. "He's my fuckin' next-door-neighbor. Fucker always knew when I didn't do my homework or hadn't studied, and he'd throw shit through my window until I stopped procrastinating. Hit me in the head a couple of times, too. But the real reason I got an A is pretty simple- he promised if I managed an A that I'd get to top." While the class stared at the pair, dumbstruck, they grabbed their bags and left, laughing all the way.
Grimmjow was the star jock. Ichigo was the street thug. These were their school classifications, and this is what had them at each other's throats. It was only after Grimmjow saw Ichigo take a knife to the ribs and a bullet to the shoulder for no other reason than the local delinquents didn't like his orange hair that he realized that perhaps there was more to the situation than what he saw on the surface. And it was after he saw Ichigo limp home, alone, not even attempting to ask anyone for help, that he started to wonder if maybe the teen's reputation had stemmed from a misconception rather than an actual tendency toward violence. And it was when he saw Ichigo at school the next day, his limp so well hidden you'd never see it if you weren't looking for it and his face set in it's usual scowl that was just the slightest bit strained at the corners of his mouth, that he convinced himself that Ichigo needed help and one way or the other, he was going to provide it whether the orange-haired male wanted it or not. That, of course, was when he went over to him, picked him up in one smooth move, and carried him to class. All questions were met with a snarl until it was Ichigo who asked, and to him the reply was a growled "Yer too sexy t'let walk around normally. Someone'll try ta jumping ya if I don't keep an eye on ya." Laughing at Ichigo's red face, Grimmjow carried him all that day and Ichigo refused to question him any further.
Grimmjow had to admit, Ichigo cooked like a God. Since he couldn't boil water for ramen without setting something on fire, even something as simple as grilled ham and cheese was a feast fit for a king. It was beyond his ability, certainly. Still, there was nothing quite like the feasts the young man prepared whenever he knew something momentous was up, like when Grimmjow told him he was going to ask for a raise so Ichigo could quit his second job and still keep the apartment. He'd come home that night to a roast and five sides, and he didn't think he'd ever eaten that well in his life before. Still, he never told Ichigo that he worked so hard to advance at his business not because of the bigger paycheck, but because of the fantastic meals that kept topping the one before for every little step up the achievement ladder he got. He was almost afraid to make partner; the cooking of the meal alone would take a full day for all the food he imagined Ichigo would make, and it would take them two weeks to work their way through. Of course, if he ever made boss it would be a feast from medieval times, he was sure.
He was laughing his ass off, but between gales of laughter he did attempt to apologize. Grimmjow would never get over this, he knew it in his bones, but it wasn't what he'd intended! Hell, how was he supposed to know that Grimmjow would run over some kid's pet duck his first time out in a boat?! Still, grinning, he watched said duck swim away with a few angry quacks and leaned over to pat the blue-haired man's shoulder comfortingly. "Look Grimm, it's fine. You didn't kill it." Grimmjow groaned and lowered his head further, face still hidden in his hands. His muffled "fuck you and fuck boats" was not lost on Ichigo, who only laughed harder.
With every wing beat, Grimmjow could feel his stomach flip. With every tail twist, his heart leapt into his throat. He didn't have the heart to ask to be let down though- the new Cero Espada (formerly substitute shinigami Ichigo Kurosaki) had unlocked his second resurrection form and it was a full-fledged dragon, and he'd been so excited that he wanted to show Grimmjow and asked him to go flying with him. Not only was this his superior, this was Ichigo. If the Cero wanted to go flying, how could Grimm tell him that he couldn't stand extreme heights?
9. Best Friends
They'd been friends from the birthing den, always having each other's backs (or as was sometimes the case, tails) whether it was against an enemy or their own disapproving elders. Grooming between Ichigo's ears, Grimmjow silently blessed the disastrous fire that had forced their pregnant mothers into the same birthing den, because the cubs of a panther and lion would have met no other way. Nudging his litter-mate onto his side, he began grooming Ichigo's flanks and the orange lion let him, huffing a little in irritation. Though almost adults by now, Ichigo hadn't shown any signs of wanting to break from his friendship with Grimmjow and the black big cat showed no inclination to strike off on his own. It was then, after observing several animals and their mates (it was spring after all) that Grimmjow thought that maybe Ichigo was the mate he chose. Only hours later, after watching Ichigo viciously chase off fifteen other adolescent and adult lion males from the territory he shared with Grimmjow, the panther felt his ears lying flat and his tail bottlebrushing; he decided privately that he was really glad he'd never bothered arguing the lion's dominance. Grooming between his claws to remove the blood from his last hunt, he also decided he wouldn't be challenging it anytime in the future and he was very, very glad that Ichigo had chosen him.
As the Espada streaked through the air, searching for his favorite shinigami, he'd been surprised when the reiatsu led him not to a park or other deserted place, or even the kid's den, but a strange small building that fairly radiated noise. Covering his ears with his hands, he kicked open one of the upper windows and entered, trying to get a more definitive bead on where the fuck the owner of the reiatsu field he was standing in the middle of was. He found him after only a moment of looking, but that was only because people were beginning to back away from him. He was moving in a way Grimmjow had never seen before, a way he hadn't known anything could move, and it was far better than anything the humans were trying. It was like they were trying to copy what he was doing and failing miserably. In the middle of the circle was Kurosaki, twisting and thrusting and grinding against the air, and somehow that movement woke something primal in him that he hadn't felt since he was still a panther adjucas. A human approached, sidled up to Ichigo and tried to move against him, move with him, but couldn't keep up and dropped away again after only a moment. Was this what humans and soul reapers meant by 'dancing'? The movements seemed to be matched to the beat of the noise in his ears, and Grimmjow found himself drawn down into the crowd, up against the moving shinigami, his hands somehow finding their way to those sweet hips and ignoring the roar in his ears that came with that action. He wasn't sure if that roar came from the blood that was rushing through his body or the noise of the club around them. Despite his own incredible speed and flexibility, it took all his concentration to keep up with the lithe teenager, who continued to move without ever opening his eyes to see his dance partner. This single scene would later dominate Grimmjow's mind during the fight with Ichigo in Hueco Mundo, marked by the heat, the scent of Ichigo, the feel of him under his hands, and that constant, pounding music.