Hope Dangles On A String

Chapter 1.


'Drowning in anger from all these lies

I can't pretend everything is all right. Please don't let me fall forever. Can you tell me it's over now?' -Red

And that's it.

That's all.

It's over.

I light a cigarette. Nicotine will save me from the onslaught of nerves.

It doesn't matter.

It doesn't help.

It's eating me up inside.

My stomach heaves, but there's nothing.

There's always nothing.

"You're the same," she stated, her dark eyes as large and as shiny as they have always been. I can't help thinking how amazing she looks tonight. Her short black hair just beginning to grow, brushing her shoulders. Shredded white Death Of Chappy Bunny tank, the one I bought for her when we first got together, when I'd promised her I'd take her to see them in concert. We'd driven for hours, jamming to ZANPAKUTO's newest album and debating whether the new front man of AIZEN'S ARMY was better then the one that had died from a covered-up overdose. I remembered how sexy she had been, shit-faced drunk at the concert, the amazing sex in the back of my old man's piece of shit station wagon afterwards.

She's still looking at me, looking powerful in that tight miniskirt. I can't help thinking about how those short but slender legs would wrap around me as I would pound her into the mattress, how I'd grunt and she'd cry and we'd sweat and when it was all over we'd feel closer than ever.

I take another drag of my cigarette as she continues.

"You don't even care. That's why this shit has to stop, Ichigo."

Inhale, exhale.

"You have nothing to worry about," she says, tiny pale arms crossed over her chest, hiding her small breasts, "Not that you would. You're selfish."

"I'm selfish," I repeat numbly, flicking my spent cigarette onto the paved driveway in front of her parent's monster house, "That's one way of looking at it, Rukia."

"Orihime said she'd come with me to the clinic," Rukia says, her arms still crossed, rubbing absently at her elbows. I wonder if she's cold, "Now you know. So just leave."


"Fuck you, Rukia Kuchiki," I say. I don't yell it. I don't scream it. I don't even think I really mean it. I just don't know what else to say.

I feel betrayed, and lost, and alone, and it's making me squirm.

I want to rip out of my skin.

I want to hunt the fucker down and grind his face into the pavement, until his bones and blood are ground to dust as fine as chalk.

I want to strangle Rukia and break her, then hold her and make love to her. Then break her again. And again and again until all of this insanity disappears forever.

"You can't," I say brokenly, putting my hands in my pockets. I don't trust them. I don't trust myself not to do something stupid and pointless, so I put my hands away, even though I can feel them shaking.

"You're not ready to be a daddy," she says quietly, and for a moment I believe the hurt in her voice, "and I won't be guilty for this, Ichigo. You will NOT make me the bad guy!"

"You slept with him!" I burst, surprised at the strength of my voice, "You swore you fuckin' loved me and now you've got his abortion inside you!"

For a moment I regret my words. Her face pales, agony is replaced by anger.

"We weren't together!" Rukia screams back, fire in her eyes, "We were separated for months, so don't you dare preach to me, Kurosaki Ichigo! Nel told me herself that you two fucked in the bathrooms at VIZORED'S when you were both blitzed out of your mind, that you and Grimmjow tag-teamed Cirucci not even two nights later at a party when she was so drunk she might as well have been unconscious. You make me sick! You're sick and I want you off of my property right now!"

"Shit happens."

"Fuck you! Get out of here and don't come back!" Rukia bellows as I turn away from her to begin the long trek home.

I don't look back. I don't have to.

There's nothing back there for me anymore.


I don't go home. I can't.

I head to Grimmjow's instead.

I mount the side staircase of the apartment building, bypassing crude messages in kanji and English in spray paint.

I take a right down the hallway on the third floor, stopping in front of a partially-open door that has Silverstein's 'Your Sword Versus My Dagger' blaring from sick speakers Grimmjow boosted from somebody we used to know in high school.

'In all these city streets the people look the same and I can see your face and I can hear your name, I wasn't asking for the world…!'

I push the door open and step inside, slamming the door closed behind me.

Several faces look over at me, some familiar, some not.

I scan the room and see no obnoxiously bright blue hair and wonder where my friend since secondary is if half a dozen people are chilling, drinking, and doing drugs in his living space.

"What up, mothafucka?" Renji says from his place in a whicker chair that's pulled up to a glass coffee table covered in playing cards and blow. He's currently using one of his many credit cards to straighten a rail that he created on top of a scratched up hardcover yearbook that boasts our senior year at Karakura High. A white and black bandana is tied around his head, his long crimson hair pulled back into a messy tail. He'd decided to grow it out again after a chick had told him last summer that all lead singers of good bands had long hair. Renji was an idiot who would believe anything, although I had to agree that his band was fucking solid, if not the best in the city at the moment.

I watched him snort a rail with a cut straw, sniff, and look up at me, "Grimm made a beer run. Take a seat, mi amigo."

I pulled up a metal folding chair that had been in my way up to Renji's space, nodding to the busty blonde sitting to Renji's right, her top so small and tight I could imagine her tits falling out at the smallest sigh or sneeze.

"We're headin' out to VIZORED'S later," Renji said with a maniacal grin at the same time I heard Keigo yell something from the direction of the bathroom, "You didn't forget, did you?"

I shake my head side to side even though I'm lying. I completely forgot about Renji's band's gig tonight. Which was understandable, considering I had just learned that my on-and-off again girlfriend of nearly five years was planning to have another man's abortion the following day. Life was funny that way.

"We're going to slay tonight, bruh," he continued, snorting another monster rail I hadn't noticed before, "There's gonna be, like, five hundred people and plenty of bangin' bitches for everyone. I order you ta' cut loose tonight, man."

"I don't know."

"What the fuck?" Renji says exasperatedly, "Fuck, Ichi, it's over. You guys, like, broke up over a month ago, didn't you? Didn't you work all this shit out for the final fuckin' time? She's a rich-as-shit stuck-up bitch with a freaky prick of a brother who, to me, looks like a fuckin' chick."

"Shut up, Renji." The only reason I don't punch him in the face is because although he's brash and can be a huge idiot, he's loyal and has had my back since I was old enough to sing my ABC's. I'd done more stupid shit with the fucker than I cared to remember, several instances in which had resulted in police escorts, handcuffs, and threats to be locked up in county.

"What? He does," Renji says petulantly, too wired to comprehend I wasn't referring to Rukia's one and only brother, the heir to the Kuchiki fortune, Kuchiki Byakuya.

Who, for the record, had sucked me off last summer when he'd been too drunk to know any better. I'd been too drunk to care or really comprehend what was going on, only realizing that it wasn't Rukia when I realized how long the silk black hair was that my fingers were threaded in. Rukia had been passed out in the living room as he milked me dry, my hands in his long black hair, tugging harshly.

"You're right. Kinda," I say.

I let Renji ramble on about what the band was thinking about performing that night as Chad and Keigo take a seat on the black leather couch across from us, beers in their hands as Keigo goes on and on about some chick he's been trying to bang for the past four months. I see Ikkaku's bald head gleaming as he fidgets with the stereo system and suddenly the music is replaced with some underground track I've never heard before and the bass is powerful and I'm leaning back and starting to drift when the door to the apartment bursts open and Grimmjow walks in like a fucking rock star in pimping black Chucks, dark Levi's and a white V-neck with blood splatters that declares 'I Killed Your Mommy' in bold black Gothic lettering all down the front. His blue hair is untamed, flopping over his forehead, aviator sunglasses hiding his steel blue eyes, an unlit joint tucked behind his ear.

It takes me a second to notice Gin has come in behind him as quietly as the animal he resembles, his snake eyes slit open to reveal pale blue orbs, his silver-tinted hair swept out of his face, his ensemble uniquely Gin. Only Gin could wear skintight white jeans and a black V-neck with a zombie pony on it and not catch shit for it.

He smirked at me as he carried plastic bags over to the kitchen area, throwing them down before plopping down on the abandoned loveseat, eyeballing the blonde girl who's name I didn't know with the big tits and who was apparently mute.

"Where the fuck's Starrk?" Grimmjow said, dumping the case of beer by my feet, "Fucker better not be sleeping in my bed again."

"Actually, I'm pretty sure I saw him go in there," Renji says, his brows drawn together like he was thinking really hard.

"Bitch," Grimmjow hisses, snatching off his sunglasses and throwing them on the glass table before disappearing to wake up the sleepy bastard that was one of his oldest friends.

Some time later, after Starrk had been roused and he was sitting on the floor sharing Grimmjow's joint and most of the beer and several of the bottles had been drank, Renji announced that it was time to hit the club, that CRIMSON FAITH, his band, had been blowing up his phone for the past twenty minutes and they were waiting on him to set up.

"Let's bounce," Renji says again, dipping his fingers in a glass of lukewarm water and rubbing his nostrils before standing up and grabbing the blonde's hand who followed silently behind him. Chad and Keigo head out after, Keigo already smashed and Chad looking like an annoyed baby sitter, Ikkaku's headphones on and the world forgotten as he followed the others out closing the apartment door behind him. Gin got off of the couch, stretching like a lazy cat before sliding next to Starrk on the floor and planting a kiss on his cheek, "Ready 'ta bounce, baby?"

"Mm," Starrk grunts, passing the remainder of the blunt over to Grimmjow before turning to his boyfriend and kissing him on the lips. I look away.

After a couple of minutes, Starrk says, "You boys comin'?"

"In a minute," Grimmjow says, finished with the blunt and getting up off the floor and heading down the hallway towards his bathroom, "Gotta piss first."

I pull forty in American out of my pocket, what's left of my stash from my week in California with my old man at a medical convention in San Diego, "You got two grams?"

"Someone's ready to party," Starrk says with a smile as he pulls two plastic baggies out of his jean pocket. We've known each other for years and we're pretty tight so he's always given me a good discount on the snow. We swap, and by the time I've opened a baggie and pulled out my keys and done three or four bumps of blow, Grimmjow swags back in, looking at me with a devilish smirk.

"What?" I snap, already feeling like my brain is full of lightning.

"Nothin'," he says snarkily, jumping to the couch and pulling a razor blade from the coffee table and without another word begins to divvy up his own stash, making eight monster lines, "Now that you're over that Rukia bitch."

"Watch it," I say.

"Fuck you," he says back with that sexy as hell slight German accent. I fucking love it, when his voice goes all deep and dark and commanding.

But I'll never admit that. I still remember the first day he came to my middle school, our first day of secondary. I'll never forget it because the other kids called him gaijin, outsider, and he beat three of our male classmates so bad that two of them went to the hospital, the third was lucky with only a couple of broken fingers. His Japanese had still been rough at the time, not to mention his exotic looks were either feared or envied.

He had easily been the most destructive student in the school. Of course I had to meet him.

"What the fuck you staring at?" he'd growled in broken Japanese, his snarl intimidating. Twelve years old and he struck more fear into me than any adult I had ever come across.

"Your hair," I had said back with a smirk. I'd been so damn cocky back then, thinking I was hot shit because I'd been in a dojo for over five years, "What are you? A smurf?"

He'd drawn his eyebrows together and practically growled at me. Thinking back on it, I'm pretty sure he'd been frustrated that he didn't understand what I was saying to him more than what I had actually said, but he must have understood 'blue' because in the next second he was slamming his body into me, pushing me to the ground, attacking me like a wild animal.

I'd fucking loved it. I'd given as much as I got, both of us walking around the next day with bruises on our necks and faces and cuts on our knuckles. We continued to do this. Again and again, and one more time before he had learned how to insult my ridiculously orange hair, calling me 'Safety Cone Strawberry' which had resulted in us both going to the infirmary, me with two broken knuckles and the school nurse wailing that Grimmjow had to be taken to an emergency room because I had managed to break a blood vessel in Grimmjow's eye with my punch.

And the next time somebody dared to make fun of me, Grimmjow showed them what was up, claiming he was the only one allowed to make fun of my pansy ass. One day after school I'd seen him hanging out with a bunch of older kids, a cigarette hanging out between his lips as he spoke rapidly in a language I didn't understand to this kid with wavy brown hair and tired grey eyes. Grimmjow had looked comfortable, untouchable.

Renji had gotten into some tussles with him, but eventually he had to give his respect to the blue-haired delinquent. We'd become a rag-tag family of sorts, watching each other's backs. How strange that family had been: a little bastard with crimson hair, a motherless misunderstood orange-headed only son, and a blue-haired mixed blood.

Renji and I had managed to get into a lot of trouble together in our day, but when it came down to trust, I had to pass the award to Grimmjow. He'd taken a fall for me more times than I can count while still acting like the cocky loaded gun he was.

We knew each other's shit. We knew each other's pasts. We spoke our minds and took nothing back, and when it came down to fists and blood, it just meant we fucking cared too much to feel more. We were inseparable.

And I can't fuck that up, even if I do want him more than I've ever wanted anybody.

Rukia was a distraction. A needed one, but still, just a distraction, something to keep me thinking straight. Literally. And now that she was gone, now that she had fucked me over for the last time, I had nothing to distract me.

I was brought back to the present by Grimmjow snorting two of the rails, slamming one right after the other. He rubs his nose, looks at me with those impossible blue eyes and smiles and I think God, what are you doing to me?

He passes me a cut straw.

I lower my head.

I do a line. And another.

I throw my head back.


I'm awake.


The show is killer. The raddest thing I've ever seen, Renji dominating the small stage, everything so heavy and hard and my body is on overdrive and over-sensitized and I'm sweating and drinking and higher than a kite and I'm not thinking about Rukia or the guy that's fucked me over or the baby in her belly that's going to die tomorrow.

Renji's clutching the mic stand, leaning into the crowd that's gyrating and screaming and feeling and sweating. They're halfway through a cover of this sick song by Disciple when I feel someone tugging on my arm and it takes me a full minute to realize who it is and my body stiffens and I feel trapped.

"Hey you," Nel says above the music, pressing herself against me. I want to throw up but don't.

I breathe heavily, the music still destroying as I pry her fingers off of me.

"Don't be like that," she pouts, putting her hands on her ridiculous hips. Everything about this girl is ridiculous, from her long sea green hair to her heart-shaped angel face to her impossible body that would make my dick hard just at the thought of touching her again.

But I'd done a lot of coke and my dick wasn't up for the challenge at the moment, neither was my fucked brain, "What the fuck do you want?"

"Just saying hi," she says with that stupid lisp I hate so much. Her legs are long and covered in fishnet stockings, her white t-shirt cut low to reveal breasts that I want to touch so bad but don't because this girl will destroy me if she gets her claws into me again. She knows it's over between Rukia and me, obviously. She's the one that helped construct the crumbling of the dynasty.

But I can't blame Nel for my problems. Rukia and I were fucked from the beginning, and there's no one to blame but myself.

This thought depresses me.

I feel her against me again, her fingers sliding on my thighs as she presses against me and begins to move to the music and for a second I'm feeling really good before I remember and I push her away, "No."

"What-the-fuck-ever," she says, grabbing my chin in a strong hand before patting the side of my face with the other, "Let me know when you're done moping like a lovesick middle schooler. Christ."

And then she's disappearing into the crowd, hoping I'll go after her.

I don't.

I head to the bar instead, and I've barely had time to order a double whiskey sour before I feel hands on me again. I turn to my right, surprised to see her and then I'm grinning like a retard as I pull her into my arms and kiss her on the cheek.

"Hey you," she squeals, kissing me on both of my cheeks before letting go of my face, "How the fuck are you?"

"God I missed you," I breathe, staring into her large brown eyes. Inoue and I went back, way back, and now looking at her I can't believe the bombshell she turned into. She let her hair grow long again, although now it's streaked with this crazy shade of purple that's not quite right but expected of somebody as different and unique as Inoue. She'd gotten taller, although looking down I notice she's wearing these kick-ass baby blue pumps that give her at least five inches, skinny jeans, and a jade green top that show off her bodacious cleavage and I can't believe I haven't seen her in over a year since she moved off to Tokyo to attend a prestigious culinary school.

Her tiny nose stud glimmers as the lights change and she smiles at me again and I want to unload everything that's been happening to me but I realize where we are and it's not private and I feel closed in again and don't say anything.

"You look amazing," I finally say, twirling her around once and she hugs me again.

"Me? Look at you, Kurosaki Ichigo. You're the hottest thing in this place!" she screams as the music changes to ear-shattering proportions, "You finally took my advice and let your hair grow out! And isn't that the shirt I gave you when we graduated?"

I look down: I hadn't even thought about it. I'm wearing black Lucky jeans and a white t-shirt that says DON'T RAIN ON MY PARADE and there's a picture of a fluffy cloud smoking a joint.

I laugh and am flooded with memories and then we're both laughing and then I feel a punch between my shoulder blades and the air leaves my lungs and I spin around to defend myself when I'm met with another familiar face and I'm throwing my arms around Inoue's longtime girlfriend.

"Fucker, stop flirting with my girlfriend!" she growls playfully, ruffling my hair even though I'm a good foot taller than her. She looks up at me with those dark defiant eyes and I'm smiling like a maniac because this girl is small and petite like Rukia but as badass as they come. I remember when I met her in high school how she took no shit from anybody, how anybody that called her dike got their teeth knocked out, even Grimmjow was slightly afraid of her and I'd instantly respected her for it.

"She doesn't like dick," I remind her and they both laugh and we talk and talk and after four more rounds of drinks I spot Grimmjow disappearing into the girl's bathroom with this dark-haired slender chick and I slam my empty glass down and feel ridiculous.

"What's wrong?" Inoue asks in concern. Renji's voice has been missing for a while now and I realize the stage has been cleared and generic bullshit is now playing and I laugh as I wipe my face with both hands.

"I'm sitting here talking to smoking-hot lesbians instead of fucking with Nel," I laugh out, which makes Tatsuki grin and Inoue blush even though she's laughing with me.

"How far you have fallen," Tatsuki says, grabbing Inoue's hand, "We gotta bounce. Inoue's brother is waiting up on us. We'll be in town for a few more days, hit us up, alright?"

"Fuck yeah," I breathe, hugging them both one more time before fighting my way to the bathroom. I don't know what's possessing me but I push open the girl's bathroom door and step inside, realizing belatedly that I'm holding a PBR and I don't even know who's it is or why I'm holding it.

And then I register that there are two stalls and I can hear these nasty sounds coming from one of them and grunting and I feel my face getting hot and then I hear Grimmjow cuss and the other moan and then it all crashes into me that it's a dude.

The door pushes open behind me but before the girl can get inside I slam my hand against it and bar it with my body. I hear her yelling at me and pounding on the door but I don't budge and I don't know why I'm here or why I'm doing it but for some reason I have this morbid fascination with masochism or I'm a pervert and I'm still high and really drunk and my words slur as I tell the bitch to fuck off and that I'll be done in a minute.

The noises coming from the stall don't stop until I hear Grimmjow cuss repeatedly as he comes and a hand slaps the wall of the stall and then I hear jeans sliding and belts buckling and the stall door opens and the black-haired slender person I had mistaken for a chick is actually a guy with green tear tracks tattooed down his face and a black ESPADA t-shirt. He looks at me with uninterested green eyes and I try not to think about the sounds he was making and instead say, "Fuckin' great shirt, bro."

He nods his head, his face looking dead as I move aside and he leaves through the door I had been blocking and Grimmjow's leaning against the graffiti-covered wall near the sink. I watch him light a cigarette and suddenly the bathroom smells like sex and I'm feeling horny and ashamed and weird.

"I hate this place," Grimmjow says, blowing smoke out of his nostrils before bumping my shoulder as he passes me. The contact is innocent but my skin feels otherwise and I'm almost swaying on my feet and he must notice how loaded I am because he says "come home with me" and I follow him like nothing has ever been wrong with me.

An hour later I'm lying in the middle of Grimmjow's giant bed listening to a mix cd as Grimmjow finishes a phone call from the tiny balcony connected to his bedroom. He has the sliding glass door open and I can see the light from his cigarette as he talks and leans against the railing and I suddenly think I want you to touch me all over.

I roll over onto my side and pull my cell phone free from my jeans and scroll through my contacts and stop when I reach Rukia. I stare at the screen for nearly thirty seconds before pressing the call button and I hold it up to my ear and I listen to it ring and ring until it's her voice mail and her shitty voice and I unload all of my guilt and shame and anger onto her again, telling her how she never deserved anybody like me and how I hope she's happy with the fucking choices she's made in her life and how I hope the man she's with cries every goddamned day over the child they've chosen to get rid of. I remind her what a bitch she is and I feel sick as I realize tears are streaming down my cheeks and I do nothing to wipe them away as I tell her I'll never talk to her again and I'm fine with it because I'm putting it all behind me and that she can forget that I even exist and the world will be a better place for it.

And I regret everything I have just said because it isn't the real truth and I know what I really have to say.

"You were right. It was always me," I say breathily, "I've always been the problem. I'm just one big problem, and you were right, and now it's over. I'm sorry."

I hang up and throw my phone, uncaring of where it lands as I roll back onto my back and stare up at the ceiling covered in posters, many of them signed and I pretend that I have a rad life like Grimmjow, am as crazy and as carefree as Grimmjow, that I'm the kind of guy that can command a room with my body language alone and that my grin either strikes fear into other's hearts or stirs heat in their groins. I think about being the kind of guy that can go out to the club and fuck another male in the girl's bathroom like it's no big deal and don't care if somebody I know walks in and witnesses the whole thing.

I put a hand over my heart and breathe slowly, the salt from my tears feeling strange as they dry on my face.

I'm too wired to sleep; too tired to stay awake.

The music has changed tracks, something off of Red's album 'Innocence and Instinct', and I'm wondering what a Christian band is doing on one of Grimmjow's cds but I find myself humming along to 'Take It All Away' regardless:

'You've stripped me down, the layers fall like rain

It's over now, just innocence and instinct still remain…'

The bed shifts as weight is added. He lies beside me quietly, staring at the same nothingness. Neither of us say anything because there is really nothing to say.

I finally crack because I'm worried he sees my tearstains, even though he really hasn't even looked at me and the room is dark and the moon is really our only light.

"You fucked a boy in the girl's bathroom," I say.

Grimmjow rubs over his abdomen with one of his hands, his tattooed knuckles grazing skin I wish I could lick, "Yeah. I guess I did."

"Did you even know his name?"

"Schiffer or something. Starrk deals to him sometimes."


"What?" Grimmjow turns his head to stare at me but I ignore him as I continue to stare at the ceiling.

"I fucked Nel there once," I say as if this makes sense.

"You're drunk."

"So're you."


We listen to about three more songs before I finally say, "Would you ever try to fuck me in the girl's bathroom?"

Belle Epoque's 'Keeping The Innocent' is slamming my brains as I wait for Grimmjow to answer:

'Try your best, you might just get them to follow you, but it's better than giving in…

I can see them, getting closer, make your move this will all soon be over…'

"Christ, Ichigo."

'We are the chosen ones, we are called to endure…holding fast our words, we will endure…

Hold me down, drag this out, I will fight with my eyes wide open…

Hold me down, drag this out, I will fight with my eyes wide open…!'

"I can't even fucking hate her," I say, beginning to ramble from my nerves, "Five fucking years with that bitch and we end like this. What's wrong with me? What the fuck is my problem? Even after everything, I can't fuckin' hate her. I want to. I want to so bad."

"Fuck that cunt," Grimmjow says, "You don't belong with her."

"I don't belong anywhere."

"Don't pull this emo shit on me," he says right before saying, "you belong with me."

I don't know what to make of this, but I'm feeling high and drunk and vulnerable so I cuddle into his side and throw my arm across the tan strip of his stomach not covered by the white wife beater and try to hold myself together because he doesn't fight it.

'…if they are broken, we will teach them. If they are broken, we will hold them. If they are broken, we will keep them, we will keep them…'


I know I promised to focus on my other stories, but this dream I had would not leave me alone and it led me here. Please review I'm curious.