Chapter 16: Un Mariposa [A Butterfly]
Wherein a change is seen.
A guardian fails to protect.
And a questions arise.
Grimmjow grumbled silently to himself as he poured over yet another batch of papers, unrecognizable blotches of color littered through out most of them, words scribbled in some type of foreign language on the rest. Urahara had said that in addition to keeping the little girl busy, enrolling her in school would help her mind develop a little more, maybe even enough to age a few years. While the blue haired male had been opposed to the idea, the blonde shopkeeper had a point, plus he made it obvious that it was what was in the girls best interests, he later noted it could also give him a chance to branch out and find a stable job so that he didn't have to stay within the Kurosaki household. That he didn't mind, but he did mind the fact that he didn't know if this school thing was such a good idea after all.
The thought was nice, of Nel being able to hang around human children with the same or similar mind-frame as she, but as he looked upon the stacks of papers that she brought back home day after day, Grimmjow really began to question the applicable function of coloring a dinosaur or making a turkey out of fingerpaints, surely this kindergarten thing wasn't helping to improve Nels intellect. If anything it was making sure she'd stay a child, but if it made the girl happy, then who was he to complain. He just wished she didn't whine so much when he threw her assignments away, there was so many of them it was getting ridiculous.
Nel had been attending school for a little over a week now and though it had served to keep the girl child out of his hair for most of the day, Grimmjow couldn't help but admit that he missed her, never mind the fact that he'd be out working part time jobs for half the day anyway. He could reluctantly admit that coming home and having her climb all over him in excitement was the best part of his day. Now, though, he'd get home way before her and would have to wait to either pick her up or have one of the Kurosaki offspring bring her home, since the school wasn't very far from Kurakara High School, it was usually Yuzu or Karin.
Speaking of the Kurosaki family, Grimmjow's mind drifted to one in particular; the oldest boy child, Ichigo. Ever since that day a couple of weeks ago, he hadn't had much contact with the orange haired male. It wasn't due to avoidance or anything, Ichigo made it clear that he had midterms to study for and while he'd love to play around with Grimmjow, his grades were his first priority.
"... Make me happy."
Ever since the young shinigami had told him that, the blue haired male had thought of any number of things to explain what he meant. Sure he got that he was tired of his humdrum life and needed something to mess up his pace, but that didn't mean Grimmjow would immediately know what would make it better. All he had done was fall for the guy, he wasn't sure nor did he know or was prepared for what would come after. The ex-espada pushed the piles of papers away from him and laid his head on the desk. The hard part was suppose to be over, right? He wasn't ever a really patient man, and it seemed as if patience was the main ingredient to make this thing work with Ichigo and himself. He supposed now he had to ask himself one question: What do I want from Ichigo?
It was difficult because he had never been in love before. What do people normally do when they're in love? Go out? All Ichigo does is study or bum around at home and if he ever does go somewhere it's usually with that big tanned guy and his other friends. Talk about themselves? There wasn't very much about Ichigo that he didn't know or even wanted to know, and likewise about himself. At least not at this point. All the things he could come up with after that were stupid and girly, if not childish. It was awkward because now he didn't really know how to act around Ichigo.
There was a burst of sound coming from downstairs and Grimmjow immediately recognized it as Nel's voice ripping him out of his conundrum. He smiled to himself, knowing she'd run upstairs to greet him after she removed her layers of school essentials. Sure enough, before he could think on it, the door to his and Ichigo's shared room slammed open and revealed the ex third in her child form, currently wearing a wrinkled bright blue school smock. Nel's grin was wide and her arms were full of papers. Grimmjow sighed and tried to look irritated but the expression didn't reach too far before the young girl had him laughing once more.
Many minutes later found him and the young girl splayed out over the floor organizing her many drawings. Every piece of paper Grimmjow lifted up off the floor had an in-depth story behind it, which Nel stumbled through over and over again. The blue haired hollow picked up a relatively large - compared to the others - piece of dull green paper and unfolded it. There was a splotch of orange with a black triangle below it and a splotch of blue with a yellow triangle below it, in between the two discernible figures was a comparatively smaller blotch of green blue and pink. All at once Neliel stopped what she was doing and looked up at the portrait and Grimmjow.
"OH! ah've been lookin for that one!" She shuffled her way towards Grimmjow and sat on her knees beside him in childish excitement, pointing to each figure in turn as she explained. "This one is Itsyugo, that one is Gwimm and das me." She finished pointing at the blob in the center. "We didn't get ta finish cause I was gonna draw Hat-san and Dondochaka, Pesche, Bawa Bawa, Yuzi and Rin..." the list went on and Grimmjow found himself smiling softly.
"So what's the story behind it?" He asked the girl, interrupting her pronouncing more names incorrectly.
Nel paused suddenly and looked at the picture again, this time a little sheepishly. After a moment of silence, Grimmjow looked at the tiny girl, tilting his head slightly in question. He noticed her looking away from him, twiddling her fingers. If he looked any closer he would have noticed the tip of her ears turn red as well.
"Well...?" He was confused, since the girl readily told him all about her other pictures, even if they were about nothing at all, she came up with a story on the spot just to keep him entertained. Her sudden reluctance was a bit out of character and he became slightly worried. "Nel..."
His hand grabbed the crown of her head and gently, but forcefully, turned her face around to meet his. Her face was uncertain and she looked on the brink of tears. He frowned. "Nel?"
"Ah... nmmm... uuuhhh... mm-mmm." She shook her head fiercely and snatched the paper out of Grimmjows hands. He stared at her with wide eyes as she got up and ran out of the room, clutching the now wrinkled paper with tiny fists. Frozen in shock for a moment longer than needed, Grimmjow got over it and felt the sting of surprise melt away into anger, he got up and chased after the girl, calling out her name.
Not having to look for long,Grimmjow found the girl huddled under the desk in Karin and Yuzu's room, a dismayed Yuzu attempting to beacon her out with a soft voice. As Grimmjow entered the room, the brown haired girl turned her mouse-like eyes to him, tears threatening to fall from them as well.
"She just ran in here so suddenly screaming, I don't know what's happening." Sighing, he hushed the girl and knelt down to see the little girl crouched underneath the desk more clearly. Her face was buried in the green paper that had started this mess as she clutched it tightly to herself. He couldn't hear her sobbing, which was good because she usually made a big display when she cried and didn't want her to ruin something she obviously cared so deeply for least she blame him for it later.
"Nel?" He called softly. "Don't be a brat, you're worrying Yuzu." The aforementioned girl shifted on her feet, twisting and twining her fingers together. She heard the blue haired male sigh audibly when there wasn't any movement from under the desk. "This is about the paper in your arms, right?" He questioned her gently, keeping his voice as low and steady as possible. He saw her teal green head nod up and down from behind the paper ever so slightly. "Do you really not want to talk about it that much?" This time her head shook very fast and didn't stop until she pressed the green construction paper closer to her face. "Alright, we won't talk about it, you can tell me later if you feel like it, okay?" There was a lengthy pause before the little girl made a sound of approval and peeked out from behind the drawing. He nodded, relieved of her cooperation. "So are you gonna come out now or do I have to drag you out by your teeth?"
Although he smirked, Yuzu heaved a perturbed gasp, but it quickly turned into a sigh of relief once Nel crawled out from under her desk. He picked the little girl up and didn't bat an eye when she attempted to hide the paper from him even though he had already seen it. Turning towards Yuzu, he gave the girl a small apologetic smile, sorry that she had been slightly startled when she was trying to study.
"Well... aren't you gonna apologize to her?" He urged the girl in his arms.
Nel once again looks sheepish and turned her head away from Yuzu. "Thowwy," she mumbled.
Yuzu smiled her most comforting smile and shook her head. "It's fine, I'm just glad Nel-chan is alright." She waved them out of the room and continued on with her studies as soon as they were gone.
Even though he had dropped the subject and he and Nel had continued going through her projects one by one as they hade started before her strange outburst, the thought never really settled in Grimmjow's mind. Other than the times when they were first together, Nel had never acted like that. She was always willing to tell him any and everything, whether he wanted to hear it or not. This was strange. It obviously involved him and the shinigami... but what was so special about that drawing in particular and why did she react the way that she had when he asked her about it? In the end Grimmjow became frustrated thinking on the same thing over and over and just deduced it to school making her act so wierd. If this was what she was like after only a week he'd hate to see what extended exposure would do to the little girl.
"Oi, Nel...?" He voiced suddenly and she answered him with a soft 'hmm?'. They had just finished going through all her assignments and she tucked them away in a drawer he had cleared out especially for her. "Are you sure this school thing is okay for you?"
She made a face. "Yeth, Nel likes thool." Nel said matter-of-factly, and Grimmjow raised his shoulders in defeat.
"As long as you're happy, I guess." He got up from his place on the floor and went to lie down on his bed. He had nothing to do and no where in particular to go, he thought. He had resigned himself to just napping until Ichigo came home, but that was disrupted when a small body followed him onto the bed as well. Grimmjow's eyes snapped to Neliel's curious face, the look she regarded him with was oddly mature. It was at times like this he was reminded that she wasn't really a child.
"Is Gwimm happy here wif Nel?" She had asked uncertainly and Grimmjow raised himself up on his elbows. Her concerned eyes followed him and he laughed slightly.
"Why would you ask that?"
"Because Nel wants Gwimm to be happy too... as happy as she is."
Grimmjow wasn't sure where this side of Neliel came from, but he was concerned that she was worried for him. Had he changed? Did he let some part of his sure-as-shit facad break and show something different underneath? If he was that careless and let her see some shameful part of him, then he was sorry. "Of course I am, chibi." He ruffled her hair with his hand but her frown didn't falter.
"Are ya happy wif Itsyugo?"
These questions were getting harder and harder, he thought, though didn't know why they were. As the shinigami's name came up, he began to get defensive. "Should I be angry at 'im?"
"Then say what you mean, brat, else I won't understand."
At that, Nel made a face that signaled she was obviously starting to get upset. "When you and Itsyugo are together, are ya happy?" There was annoyance in her voice and it took Grimmjow aback, the girl surprising him once more. This time as he answered her, he chose his wording a little more wisely.
"...I guess... well... It depends. But for the most part bein' around him ain't terrible, I s'pose." It was true... since his little confession and the lack of significant change in their day to day routine, Grimmjow wasn't opposed to the thought of being around Kurosaki. He guessed in the very near future that that would probably change but for now being around the teen or not being around him didn't have a positive or negative affect on his well being.
"Is Icchi happy?"
An impossible question. He couldn't tell her that no, Ichigo was in fact not happy with his life, that he wanted help - from him no less - to change his state of life to a more desirable one. Even though it ate at him to know she cherished Ichigo as much as if not more than him, he couldn't muster up enough courage to tell the girl that even though he isn't now, he planned to make Ichigo happy someday soon.
But for now he huffed a sigh. "Gee, kid, I dunno."
Nel regarded him wryly but didn't ask anymore questions which Grimmjow was glad for. He laid back down and looked up at the ceiling, relaxing more when Nel laid her small head on his outstretched arm. They made eye contact before Nel reached her hand out and pinched the bridge of Grimmjow's nose. The blue haired male snorted slightly as he watched the little girl snuggle closer to him, falling into a midday nap.
About an hour later, Ichigo found the two in that same position, Grimmjow dozing off moments after Nel had. Ichigo smiled vaguely at the scene and the childlike way Nel squeezed onto Grimmjow's nose in her sleep. They were an odd pair, resembling a father and daughter cuddling up the way that they were. The Orange haired teen tilted his head curiously, not completely noticing the way he would have disregarded that thought in the not so distant past. He couldn't deny it though, they made quite an adorable sight, enough to make him take out his phone and snap a few photographs. This was sure to be blackmail material for later in the future. As he smirked at his pictures, Ichigo failed to notice a very awake hollow glaring at him, only when the male speak did he turn his attention to the ex-espada.
"You are going to delete those." It wasn't a question or statement, but an outright command. Ichigo gave the man a challenging stare.
"And what if I don't?"
It seemed as if the blue haired man was thinking of something fitting for the Kurosaki. Ichigo could feel his brain working to come up with a retort. After a while he guess it fizzled out because Grimmjow sighed. "Whatever, I don't care." Taken aback buy the sudden retort, Ichigo frowned.
It wasn't like him to disregard an issue like that, normally Grimmjow fought with him, tooth and nail, about every little thing. Though lately he had been picking his battles a little bit better, it was probably his attempt at a more distinguishable change due to his confession a couple weeks ago. Ichigo thought it flattering that Grimmjow was willing to change his character to show he was serious, but he didn't wish for the male to go too far with it, If the blue haired male changed too much he was afraid he would start disliking him again. Concerned, he frowned again at Grimmjow who once again closed his eyes.
"You know you don't have to hold back because of me. If you're angry it's okay to say so." He guessed he hit the nail on the head because cerulean eyes popped open once more, found his face and glared.
"Don't flatter yourself, Kurosaki. I just don't feel like having your stupidity be the reason for waking up the brat."He motioned toward the sleeping girl on his arm that still had a firm grip on the bridge of his nose. It sounded funny to hear him talk but Ichigo made the wise decision not to laugh. Instead he put his phone away and walked towards the pair on the bed.
"Why, is there something the matter with her?"
Grimmjow didn't care to rehash the situation that occurred with the girl earlier that day to Kurosaki so he shook his head no. After all it might not have such a big deal as he made it, but he still had to wonder.
Ichigo snorted. "How chivalrous of you, Grimmjow." At the dangerous squint of blue eyes, the orange haired teen explained what he meant. "You being protective and allowing her to sleep cuddled in your arms that way. It very much resembles a doting parent." After a moment he smiled. "You make an adorable father, Grimmjow."
Though the statement wasn't meant to be demeaning in any way, in fact it was almost meant as a compliment, but that didn't keep Grimmjow from perceiving it as such. He pried Nel's little fingers off of his nose and pulled her childlike body away from his. He didn't know why he was surprised still when he knew the substitute shinigami would always be able to rile him up like this. Even as he took his time getting up off the bed, Ichigo stood there, hands planted on his hips and a challenging smirk on his face, as if he was begging the blue haired male to do something to him.
Standing up to his full height, Grimjow walked the few steps it took to stand directly in front of the Kurosaki. Though he didn't tower over the teen menacingly, he did have enough height on the other to cause the boy to tilt his head back slightly in order to look at him. He didn't know what he expected before he got to this point, though a little part of him did hope that the other would have run away in - if not real then mock - terror. But now, looking down at Ichigo and into his caramel brown eyes, all of his faux anger seemed to dissipate. At first he was prepared to yell at the male in front of him, but now, noticing all the little golden brown freckles that littered the shinigami's face, all he wanted to do was kiss him. Instead he refrained and merely walked passed the teen and out of the room, his destination downstairs to the kitchen where he could smell the dinner Yuzu prepared.
Ichigo paused mid frown, what was he expecting? Certainly not that. He knew Grimmjow had mellowed out, but this was ridiculous; something was wrong and he had to wonder if that something had to do with Neliel.