Well, these last few weeks have been quite shit, if I may say so myself. It's almost as if, when the weather deteriorates – so does my life! I hate you England! Suck my (non-existent) dick!

Here's chapter... whatever it is now... Haha. Enjoy!

A/N: I hope my prejudices against winter don't come across too strongly.

The days roll into weeks.

It's now winter.

I hate winter.

There is nothing remotely charming about it; it just gets cold and icy, my nose goes all runny and my ass is always numb (the latter probably not weather-related).

Fucking brilliant.

Grace's stay in town is slightly extended. She decides she wants to stay for the Winter Festival in a couple of days, then she'll go back to work. She promises she'll come to visit again around Christmas. I actually find myself looking forward to it.

Speaking of Winter Festivals, the one Grace is waiting for, is this year taking part at our school. Apparently the teachers are trying to improve the street cred of us teenagers. Yeah, like that'll work.

And so, here I am, sat in a freezing classroom after hours, sticking letters onto coloured paper to make signs and posters which will eventually be stuck up around the school. It's just to trick people into thinking we're creative.

Thankfully I've been given this duty with Nel, Grimm and Keigo. My posse.

I cuss and scowl at the letter Q. How the fuck am I supposed to cut out the middle bit? Why do we even need a letter Q? How many words have a Q in them that are relevant to Winter Festivals?

None, that's how many.

Still, this whole boring and pointless ordeal has been made slightly better due to Grimmjow and Keigo, who are now making confetti and rubbing it in each other's faces.

You might be wondering why I'm not angry that they show no interest in helping, but I sort of think of it as looking after kids. They are more constructive when you leave them to it and try to get the work done yourself.

I look at the mangled snowflakes (confetti) Grimmjow cut out earlier and am thankful I managed to keep him away from the lettering.

Still, there's a lot left to do and I'm basically on my own. I'm not bothered really, but where is Nel?

"Have you seen Nel?" I ask the now-wrestling mass of arms and legs that is Keigo and Grimmjow.

They pause mid-fight and ponder my question.

"She went home at lunch; she forgot her food or something." Keigo tells me.

"Oh yeah, she also mentioned that she had PE last so she wasn't gonna bother coming back." Grimmjow speaks, but then he frowns. "I could have sworn she said she'd come back to help us with the posters though..."

"She told me last night she'd skip PE." Keigo says suddenly. I raise an eyebrow at him and he freezes, then looks away and going slightly pink in the face.

So that's where Nel went last night.

"Oh well." I say. "It's so bloody cold, Nel probably didn't wanna come back to school. Especially on a Friday."

We all agree and they go back to wrestling and me back to my posters.

I'm assuming that something has developed between Nel and Keigo? I don't really know, to be honest. I've been so wrapped up in my own little world with Grimmjow lately; I haven't paid anyone else much attention. Maybe they got on extra well back at Chad's party ages ago? I was so distracted by Tatsuki (when she saw me and Grimmjow groping each other) I kind of forgot to ask Keigo if he had a good time.

Ahh, well.

I try not to smile too widely.

Judging from Nels frequent and unexplained absences, as of late, Keigo had a very good time.

An hour of cutting and pasting letters later, I decide enough is enough, so we tidy up to go home. Grimm and Keigo clean up the mess in the classroom and I walk to Renji's empty office, to dump the posters on his desk so he can critique them on Monday.

On my way back through the school to collect Grimm and Keigo, I realise that an empty school is actually quite a creepy place. Long dark corridors, large silent classrooms, even the trees outside look lonely and isolated.

I pause.

Other than the wind which blows against the building outside, my ears suddenly register another noise.

Heavy, hurried footsteps.

I stand very still and try to figure out which direction the noise is coming from – Behind or in front?

The footfalls gets faster and louder and I realise my palms are sweating. I swallow and as I do so I feel the rapid pulse of my heart in my throat.

Jesus Christ I'm shitting myself.

Suddenly Nel is staggering out of the darkness.

"Nel!" I almost shout in relief. "You scared me shitless! Where have you-?"

I stop.

Little tiny pinpricks of fear creep down my neck.

Nel looks terrified and her eyes are glassy with confusion and unshed tears.

"Nel." I say, trying very hard to contain my rising panic. "What's wrong?"

She tries to swallow and runs a hand through her wet, messy hair.

"Your soaked..." I glance outside and then frown. It isn't raining. I shrug off my school jacket and wrap her up in it. As I do so my hand brushes her shoulder and I suddenly realise why Nel is so damp.


"Nel... Have you been running?"

Her eyes flicker to my face and it's as if she's only just realised I'm even here.

"Nel." I say a little more sharply. "What happened?" I grab her shoulders to give her a little shake but when I touch her, I realise that my grip might actually be the only thing holding her up.

I pull her into a hug. (As a side note, it's really weird hugging girls. Nel is so much softer than Grimm.)

She's shivering, but not with cold, not with fear. I feel the rapid drumming of her heart.

She's shaking with adrenaline.

"Nel, was someone after you?" I ask, hoping I'm wrong.

I feel her tremble more violently before a ragged sob tears from her chest. Suddenly she's tripping over her words in her hurry to tell me everything; stuttering and chattering her teeth, like she's just been pulled out of an ice cold lake.

"I came t-to h-h-elp you guys with the p-posters and stuff. T-then, I don't know. I-I heard a w-weird noise and I f-f-freaked out and ran. Someone chased me all the way t-to the school g-g-gates..."

The rest of her story is garbled as she bursts into tears.

I stand there for a good few minutes, whispering that she is safe now and that we'll all walk her home together. I stroke her back a bit until she calms down and then she drags me with her into the girls toilets so she can reapply her make-up and sort her hair out.

I sit on the counter between two sinks as Nel leans into the mirror, applying foundation under her eyes to hide the redness.

I'm a little confused if I'm honest.

"Why are you doing that?" I ask, not understanding why she is suddenly calm and putting on make-up. "Let's just go get Grimm and Keigo and go home."

"No." She says, firmly. I'm a little taken aback. Five minutes ago Nel was about to pass out, and now she's suddenly all badass.

"Why not?" I demand, a little angry at her stony attitude.

"Because," She says, turning to face me, all evidence of her crying eradicated. "We are not going to tell Grimm or Keigo what has happened."

My jaw drops.

"Why the bloody fuck not?" I nearly shout. Is she stupid?

"Its nothing, Ichigo! It was just a weirdo. A nobody."

"Yeah fucking right!"

Aizen...Aizen...Aizen... A voice in my head whispers.

"Ichigo..." For a moment I am afraid she's going to pull the puppy dog trick, but she just gazes at me in all seriousness. In a way it's worse because I get the feeling that if I do tell Grimmjow, Nel will not only make the consequences dire for me, but she will never ever forgive me.

"Grimmjow... he's my big brother. I love him to bits. I'd do anything for him. Imagine what he'd think if he heard I was stalked? He'd worry so much... He's told you about Aizen." She smiles sadly. "I was cut up badly, Ichigo. Imagine what he'd think if I was in trouble again? I haven't seen him this happy since forever... You've changed him, Ichigo. Or rather, you've simply made Grimmjow be Grimmjow again. It's like... for the first time in his life he's acting like his real self. I will always love you for that, Ichigo."

I try not to blush; I really feel very flattered.

Her face drops and she looks like she's going to cry again, but she sucks it in.

"But I couldn't bear to bring up all of that shit again. And if... if you do..."

There is a short silence filled with the unspoken horrors of what Nel could do to me. But really... I should have risen above it.

I know I'm being an idiot. I know it's bloody dangerous.

And yet, despite it all, when we go back to the classroom to find Grimmjow and Keigo writing swear words on the board, I keep my mouth shut.

It could have been a one-off weirdo who followed Nel, or it could have been someone much more dangerous who I'm sick of hearing about...

But still, I don't say a word.

I lie to Grimmjow and realise with a grim smile that it's not the only secret I've kept from him.

When I go to bed that night, I reflect on the only reason I held my tongue.

Nel loves Grimmjow so much she's willing to sacrifice her own safety and mentality, just to maintain his happiness for a little bit longer.

Not even a few weeks ago, I did exactly the same thing.

Sex, I muse, is brilliant at distracting people.

Grimmjow is panting heavily behind me and I can't help but groan and bite a pillow as he rolls his hips and clenches my waist in an immovable grip.

Saturday we don't really accomplish much. When I go over to Grimm's he's still in his pyjamas and refuses to get dressed. We lounge about and watch The Last House on The Left which Grimmjow deems almost as gory as Saw.

"Oh my God! Did his head just blow up? In a microwave? Is that even possible?"

Grimm then tried to coerce me into putting objects into the microwave to see which would explode. I (thankfully) distracted him by making an origami hat which he wore proudly for the rest of the day.

I laugh at him and he laughed at me laughing at him and everything is fine.

But I suddenly have a pretty disturbing thought.

What if, when I tell Grimmjow (because no matter how much I deny it, I am going to have to spill the beans sooner or later) that some fishy shit has been occurring - he is angry with me for keeping secrets from him?

I mean, I'd be pretty pissed if there was something this big Grimmjow was keeping from me. Actually... no, I'd be more than pissed, if I'm honest; I'd be pretty fucking livid.

But then would I understand and forgive Grimm if he begged and begged and said he loved me and that was the only reason he lied?



But this isn't about me forgiving Grimm; he's gonna have to find the heart to forgive me.

Early Sunday morning we hear a lot of shuffling and banging coming from Grace's bedroom. Grimm goes to investigate, only to rush back into the bedroom seconds later, looking a quite upset.

"Whats wrong?" I ask from the bed, trying to keep my voice even; my brain automatically assuming the worst possible scenario.

"Mum's just got a call from work. They need her back by lunchtime." Grimmjow looks miserable.

At least she's safe. I sigh to myself.

Grimmjow mopes about for the next few minutes as I try to help Grace carry her bags to her car. She quickly dashes into Nel's room to say goodbye. I hear sobbing and cooing and begin to feel a little upset myself.

Grace reappears and I find an excuse to go into the lounge as she says goodbye to her son. I peep around the door and smile at the sight of Grimmjow hugging his mother. Then she ruffles his hair and blows a raspberry on his cheeck. This is followed by loud complains and "Mum! I'm not a freakin' baby..." but Grimmjow is loving every minute of it.

Before I even begin to think about my own mum and how much I could do with a hug, Grace swoops down on me, crushing me against her and nearly lifting me off my feet.

"Your brilliant, Ichigo. Absolutely brilliant." She tells me.

Suddenly, quite unexplainably, I feel myself get a little emotional.

Don't go. I find myself begging, wordlessly.

At the sight of my watery eyes, Grace strokes my face and tells me she'll be back for Christmas and that she'll bring a shitload of cake and presents.

I try to smile at her but her words don't ease my guilt one bit.

I'm a liar. I'm not brilliant at all.

She gives her son another hug and then she's making her way out the front door. We watch her drive off from the kitchen window. Grimmjow is mouthing words at her and waving frantically.

"Bye all!" She cries from her car. All too suddenly, she is pulling out of the car park and then disappearing down the road.

I feel sick to my stomach.


I'll try to update a bit sooner, next time. Thanks for being so patient, everyone! I love your reviews! :D