Yes, you can fully rant at me for how long it took for me to write this last, long chapter. But, hey- TADA! THE END! :D
In his mind, Ichigo could see his hollow grinning in what was probably supposed to be an innocent manner. 'sToP wHAt?'
'Stop making me think about him, okay? I don't what what the heck is with your obsession with the guy, but would it kill you to stop thinking of him every two seconds? It's irritating as hell and getting kinda creepy.'
'kInG,' the hollow chuckled, 'i doN't kNoW whAT iN ThE blAzIn' hELL yoU'rE tAlKiNg AbOut.'
Ichigo growled under his breath and leaned against the headboard of his bed. 'I'm talking about Grimmjow, you insufferable dick! Like it's not bad enough that I have to share my mind with you, now you want to fill up my mind with all your little pervert fantasies and thoughts about him? You're sick.'
'aS aMuSinG As i FinD yOUr dEnIal, i hAVe tO adMiT tHis Is GeTTinG oLD,' Shiro drawled in his warbling voice. 'wHEn hAvE i eVer bEEn kNOwN tO Be FoNd oF aNyThINg?'
'Man, don't ask me. I don't know how your weird, twisted mind works.'
'oI. i'M sTarTin' tO gEt oFFenDeD hEre.'
'Oh, yeah? Well, finally! About time for you to realize that your borderline obsessive fascination with Grimmjow is disturbing as hell! I mean, you're borrowing my mind for this! And you can't even bother being considerate for your landlord, or king, or whatever the hell you call me.'
'WoWWWWWW. i rEAllY DiD nOt tHInk YoU wErE ThIs dUmb.' Before Ichigo could defend his intelligence, Shiro continued his tirade. 'HoW oLD aRe YoU nOw? 16? 17? By nOw, yOU shOUld sToP beINg SuCH a dAMn pUssY AbOUt yoUr FeeLinGs anD mAn Up. YoU cAn pREteNd aLL yOU wANt, tHaT I'm to BlAmE FoR yOUr fEELingS fOr GrimMjoW, bUt wE bOtH kNoW tHe tRUth.' The hollow sighed. 'I DoN'T kNow WhaT iT is WItH yOu tWo anD aLL yOUr PreTendINg, bEcaUse HoNEStLy, nO oNe iS bUyInG thAT haLf-AssEd aCtINg.'
'Pretending? What the hell is that supposed to mean? And what the hell did you mean "you two"?'
Shiro face-palmed and shook his head. 'fORgEt iT, yOu'Re bOth IdiOtS. fiGurE iT oUt oN yOUr oWn, gEniuS, oR i'M tAkinG oVeR and PuTTing a StOp tO thIs buLL.' The voice faded as the hollow receded deeper into his host's mind.
Scoffing, Ichigo turned over on his side. 'Fine, I don't need you anyway.' First the hollow wouldn't tell him what Grimmjow had meant by his ambiguous "I forgot, you're shit with reiatsu" comment, and now Shiro wouldn't even admit that it was his fault that images of the blue-haired ruler of Hollows was occupying his mind increasing frequently. 'Bastard.'
Honestly, if not Shiro, who was Ichigo supposed to talk to about this little dilemna? The Shinigamis were still wary of his Hollow, but not enough to stop treating him like he was their heaven-sent savior. Even close friends like Rukia and Renji sometimes forgot that he was still that same stupid Ichigo that sucked at kido, and not just the hero of Seireitei. The Vizards had their hands full with trying to find a place in the worlds again, not that he had been that close with them to begin with. His family- 'ugh. Just- ugh. No.'- not to mention, Ichigo wasn't sure how to handle Shinigami business with them anymore. He sighed, crinkling his nose with a little frown. Now that his secret identity was no longer such a secret, his family and his human friends weren't quite sure how to take his double life. He could explain, and he did (sorta) but in the end, it was something that had to be experienced in order to be understood. His dad might have been able to help but Ichigo had already promised not to ask and to let him tell his story on his own time.
How could his world change so much in just one year? One year ago, his greatest struggle was being the weird delinquent who talked to ghosts and got in fights. Now, Ichigo had responsibilities in the human realm, Seireitei, and Hueco Mundo. Part of him wished that he had just been born normal, but that part was a midget compared to the part of him that felt like he had finally found a place in the world- even if that place was bridged between three worlds.
Growling, Ichigo buried his face in his pillow. He had friends in three different worlds but why was there never anyone for him to talk to? This was some complicated shit right here! He needed someone to listen and help him unwind the tangled web of thoughts he had trapped himself in. It hit him, with depressing clarity, how sad it was that the only person who he had to do that for him, was his cat. And even his cat was gone now.
The orange haired Shinigami hadn't seen hide or hair of Hyo since he left for Hueco Mundo. Keigo, Tatsuki and Mizuiro had later admitted that they had followed Hyo's lead to find him but they haven't seen him since then either. They told him not to worry, though, because cats just tend to go off sometimes, before you know it he'll be back, probably with a dead rat or something, blah blah blah. Ichigo didn't need to hear that. He knew his cat was smart.
'I wonder if Hyo shacked up with a nice little lady kitten,' Ichigo mused with a certain amount of melancholy, 'Great. Even Hyo has left me.' Yeah, a cat was a cat, but Hyo was his cat. He didn't want to lose his cat. Who was he supposed to talk to? To rant to? To cuddle with?
'Oh my god, I'm turning into a cat lady. I'm a cat lady with no cat.' The teenager paused. 'And no lady parts... wait, does that make me a cat boy? Catman? Ugh, that sounds like a cheesy superhero.'
The sound of something scratching at his window instantly put him on his guard. Grabbing his Shinigami badge a little warily, Ichigo cautiously opened his window. Something small and black jumped through in a blur and poised itself before him on top of his bed, blue eyes wide and owlish.
Staring at the slumbering face of the teenager, Grimmjow had never felt more useless. He literally had the whole night and he blew it. This time, nothing was stopping him. He had full control of his transformations, now that Urahara had completely analyzed and understood the shape-shifting. At any point of the night, Grimmjow could have easily switched back to his usual form, and simply told the orange-haired teen, "I freaking love you."
In fact, Grimmjow had walked out the Gargantua to Karakura fully prepared to just blurt that out, consequences be damned. Yet every step that brought him closer to the Kurosaki house, also brought down his trademark arrogance.
So many things could go wrong.
Ichigo could- 'No, he definitely would'- get freaked out if Grimmjow just popped up in his room all willy nilly. For all Ichigo knew, Grimmjow did not know where the orange-head lived. 'Great. So not only could Ichigo add "creepy" to the list of words to describe him, he would add "stalker."' Not to mention that didn't exactly know where to start.
So, hey, Berry. You may not know this, but I have kinda been in love with you for a while now. Like, since before I became the Shinigami's spy. Actually, you are my entire reason for finding my moral compass and if not for you, I would probably be dead in that alley because, surprise! I'm your cat! Yeah, I know, a real shocker right there. No worries, I already know all there is to know about you. Like what shampoo you use, how you don't like wearing red, how you kind of get scared by big boobies- after all, you told me all your secrets, remember?- so I'm definitely sure that I am serious about you. So serious that I almost died for you. Two times, if you recall. So, uh, do you wanna maybe love me too? Please?
Grimmjow's face drained of color as he slapped his palm against his forehead. 'Yeah, real fucking smooth. Why don't you just ask him to have your babies while you're at it?'
So, standing at the corner across the street from the clinic, staring into the dimly lit window of Ichigo's bedroom, Grimmjow chickened out. Not that he would ever admit that. Turning into his smaller form, Grimmjow steeled his nerves and ventured forward...
...Grimmjow really hated this form. It scared absolutely no one (except mice, and a few dogs). It made everything look weird and bigger and bright, even at night. He kept getting distracted at every random ball of yarn or flashing light, which made crossing those last few streets to the Kurosaki house take much longer than necessary. His fur had absolutely nothing on his usual blue hell-fire hairstyle. Urahara gave him a shit-eating grin every time the blonde caught sight of this form. He was tiny, and weak, and so freaking fluffy (which was admittedly comfortable, but damn it, the King of Hueco Mundo was not supposed to be fluffy)!
But as he saw the delighted surprise on Ichigo's face, and that rare grin on the orange-head's face, so he guessed that he could deal with it.
A pair of hands reached towards and before he knew it, he was smushed tight against Ichigo's chest. "Where the hell have you been?! Did you find yourself a lady friend or something? Man, I have a crapload of stuff to fill you in on! So much has happened since then!" Ichigo was practically bouncing with excitement; Grimmjow would know, he was close enough to feel the boy's heartbeat.
Grimmjow supposed that now would be a good time to change back to his usual size but then the orange haired teen rubbed their noses together. Ichigo giggled (no lie, actual giggling, legit adorable "hee hee hee" giggling) and smiled, "I missed you."
Pressed against Ichigo's heart, buried in the warmth he thought he would never get to feel again, held in the arms of the one he loved most, Grimmjow decided it could wait.
...So he didn't say a word. Because he did not want to. Because he enjoyed being in Ichigo's company, cuddled up on the boy's chest, listening to the rise and fall of his breathing. Because Grimmjow liked the sound of Ichigo's voice, and the knowledge that whatever Ichigo was telling him was his most personal and secretive of thoughts. Because he loved hearing Ichigo talk about "that irritating blue-haired asshole, Kami, he drives me crazy but I can't help thinking about him."
Ears perked up at those words and hanging on every word, Grimmjow had to face the fact glaring him right in his face: he had grown soft.
'For Ichigo, only', he reasoned to himself.
Grimmjow's breathing had entirely stopped when Ichigo started talking about him.
"When I first met him, I thought he was such an asshole. I mean, he almost put a hole in Rukia! But then he broke Inoue out, and I though, you know, maybe he's not so bad." Ichigo paused in the middle of the pacing and turned to him. "Not that he isn't an asshole!" he said, with frantically waving arms, "He's rude! Aggressive, violent, blunt, and sooooo stubborn! Ugh, don't even get me started on how stubborn that prick is!" Apparently it was too late because Ichigo was already launching a full on rant.
The king-in-disguise felt his heart drop with each word. His tail went still and his eats flattened against his head. 'Yet another thing I hate about this form- how obvious it is what I'm feeling.' Where the hell was his beloved poker face when he needed it? 'Oh, right. I never had one. That was the Emo-car's thing, not mine.'
"Impulsive! He never thinks anything through! Like he doesn't even know that he's being an idiot, like he doesn't even care that I get worried!" Brown and blue eyes widened simultaneously. "No, no, nonono, that isn't what I meant," Ichigo frantically defended himself, despite the fact that he was only speaking to his cat and that his cat had said nothing to him. "I meant, we get worried! You know, the Shinigami, the Vizards, Nel and Harribel! People in general!"
One pointy ear twitched and "Hyo" flicked his tail. "Mrow."
Face-palming with an audible "smack", Ichigo groaned. "No, stop it! Don't smirk at me, you demon-cat! See? This is exactly what I'm talking about! He drives me crazy, with all the contradictions and the circular thoughts and everything always goes back to him!" The teenager plopped down belly-first onto the bed, making Grimmjow bounce off the pillow a little.
"He's such an asshole," Ichigo said sulkily into the pillow, for what seemed like the hundredth time that night. "One minute he's all 'I'm gonna rip your throat out, fucker!'," he said with an insultingly bad imitation of Grimmjow's voice, "and the next he's all 'Hey, Berry. I'm just gonna swoop in and save the day now.'" He punched his pillow weakly and Grimmjow stepped out of his way, settling in front of his face.
"And, and I think Shiro has a crush on him or something, because that has to be why I keep thinking about him... right?" As he spoke, his voice became increasingly small, so much that Grimmjow had to strain his kitten ears to hear anything. "I mean, it's not like I love him or anything, right?"
And with that, Grimmjow's heart stopped completely (not that it really needed to beat anyway). Ichigo sighed into the pillow and turned his head on to the other side.
Blue eyes wide and furry body still, the once-Sexta Espada waited for the orange-haired teen to elaborate.
Because Ichigo just fucking had to explain that or he would cause the third-almost-death of him, because what kind of selfish asshole does something like that anyway, because he should not be allowed to just drop the atomic bomb of what-the-fuckery onto Grimmjow's fragile dangling hope and then go the fuck to SLEEP.
Light snores came from that evil orange-headed demon beside him and Grimmjow hissed, fangs and claws bared. He turned his electric blue glare onto full power, 120% intensity and killing intent, hoping the sheer rage of it would strike through Berry's subconcious and his innate Shinigami instincts would make him wake. the. fuck. up.
Ichigo just kind of rolled over a bit in his sleep, his hand idly crawling around until it found Grimmjow's back. "Mrmm," the boy said as he scooped his furry little cat on top of his chest. And then he just went back to sleep.
'I'm gonna rip him a new one,' he thought, because how dare that fucker just roll over and sleep so peacefully while his cat was practically dying. The nerve.
Apparently, Grimmjow's third-degree glare was ineffective on the unconcious, or maybe Ichigo's guard was lower than sealevel when sleeping. The clock ticked and the teenager's snoring, which sounded like meditative deep breaths, were the only sounds in this hour of the night.
Resigning himself to a lifetime of uncertainty, Grimmjow let himself fall into the waves of sleep that lured him in with the steady breathing and warmth of a particularly annoying and infuriatingly adorable teenager.**
"Hrmmm," Ichigo yawned and snuggled into his blankets.
He should wake up. He really should. It was a Saturday, but he was kinda supposed to help out at the clinic today- no doubt old goat-chin was already down there. And he did promise to play soccer with Karin, who was pretty much getting close to kicking his ass at the sport by now. And clean the house with Yuzu, especially all the high places that she couldn't reach, though there were increasingly less of these places now. And there was homework, and the never-ending college process, and prep, and fuck it, he was going back to sleep.
"Mmmm." He wrapped his arm around the warmth.
Yup, nice and toasty under his blankets. Smelled good too. All nice and minty. Like some sexy toothpaste and winter or whatever. It was too early to make sense right now. Was Yuzu using new laundry detergent? Ichigo buried his face in the warmness and draped a leg around it too. All firm and smooth. He laid a cheek against the soft surface.
"Ahhhh," he sighed. This was bliss.
Nodding with his eyes still closed, Ichigo hummed, "Mhm."
"Good to know. Wow, someone could come in here and rip your brain out and you wouldn't even notice, would you?"
Ichigo mumbled an agreement.
"Glad you're having fun with this, Berry."
'Berry...' Bleary brown eyes cracked open, then winced at the sunlight coming in from the window that made that bright blue hair even brighter. "Unghhh," Ichigo closed his eyes and hid his face in that warm thing he was hugging. "Noooo," he whined. "The light... it burns."
A rough chuckle. "I see you're still not a morning person. This is great material for blackmail."
"Mmm," Ichigo nuzzled that talking warm thing. Why was it talking? What the hell was he hugging anyway? "Too early."
Something ran through his hair and he felt like a kitten being petted, it was that good. "Shh, it's okay. Go back to sleep."
"Hrm," he would nod but that would mean moving and moving would mean the hair-ruffling thing would stop.
"Sleep," it whispered.
So he did. For about ten minutes. Then it hit him.
The man grinned at him, propped up by an elbow and leaning on his side, blue hair blindingly neon in this light and almost as annoying as that fangy grin he had plastered on his face. "Mornin', Sleeping Beauty."
Ichigo half-shrieks, half-yells and fell out of his bed, crawling away for dear life in an awkward backwards crabwalk. "You- why- you- ugh, YOU!"
"You sure are fun in the morning."
More shrieking-yelling. "What. The. FUCK!? What are you even doing here?! Get out of here already!"
Grimmjow pouted at him, the fucker. How dare he sneak into his room and-and cuddle with him and look so guiltless. "But I thought you were enjoying it?" he said with big, sad blue eyes.
Ichigo threw a pillow at him, with a real shriek this time (no doubt about it). "Get. Out."
Cackling like the Wicked Witch, the king jumped out of the bed, all predatory and limber. Sauntering like he owned the place, Grimmjow slinked over to him with a coy, cocky smile. "I think I liked you better when you were hugging me."
Holy crap, Ichigo could feel his face heating up.
"And when you were snuggling with me"- it was definitely starting to feel like a volcano in here.
"And when you were purring against me-"
"Gah! Stop it!" With his hands over his ears and eyes closed, Ichigo felt like a kid again, hiding from the scary things. Hear no evil, see no evil. Peeking an open, Ichigo snapped, "What were you thinking? Are you fucking crazy?"
Grimmjow winked at him. "No crazier than when you first met me."
"That-" Ichigo lowered his hands and glared at him. "Ugh, fine!" Eyeing the unexpected guest suspiciously, the orange-head crossed his arms, "So? What are you doing here?"
'Seriously, speak of the devil,' the teen thought, as he slowly remembered falling asleep mid-rant about this very insufferable being before him. Poor Hyo, Ichigo didn't even remember to feed him last night. 'Cat...' Ichigo's eyes widened, 'Oh crap.' Frowning, he took a look around the room. He walked past Grimmjow to look under his bed. Nothing. He pulled his covers off, looking for some hint of blue-black fur. Nothing. He looked out the window. Which was open. With a heavy feeling growing in his chest, Ichigo turns to Grimmjow. "When you came in... did you leave the window open?"
"Uh... no?" Grimmjow fidgets a bit. "It was already open."
"Oh." Ichigo slowly sits on his bed. "Oh."
"Hey, uh- are you okay?"
It feels like he can't even breathe. Where did Hyo go? Did he leave again? Why? "He's gone..."
The bed sinks in beside him- Grimmjow just sat down. "Who's gone?" If the situation was any different, Ichigo might have laughed at the tough-guy-macho Espada's tone. Grimmjow sounded so nervous and confused right now, like anything he said could be wrong.
"Hyo... my cat." Ichigo turned to Grimmjow, getting a little desperate. "My cat is gone. He just came back last night and god- I am so stupid, I left the freaking window open and now he's gone again!"
"Oh. Um, maybe he'll come back?"
"He won't! He just keeps running away and every time he takes longer to come back- last time it was months before I saw him again and this time he'll never come back!"
"...You really do care about that cat, don't you." It wasn't even a question, it was a fact.
Ichigo didn't reply. He knew he was getting hysterical but he couldn't just calm down; his cat was gone, again, forever, he had no freaking idea.
"Alright, fine." Grimmjow stood up, sounding nervous. Why was he so nervous? "Look over here for a second? Just don't get mad, okay?"
Ichigo nodded. Why would he get mad?
Exhaling, Grimmjow tried to smile at him but it came out more like a grimace. There was a faint, almost undetectable burst of reiatsu, and then there was nothing. No reiatsu whatsoever, no Grimmjow in sight. Just...
Blue eyes- 'blue eyes, blue like Grimmjow-blue eyes'- gazed up at him. "Mrow." His tail flicked and he batted a paw- 'the paw that was missing, the paw Grimmjow was missing- meekly against Ichigo's foot... black, furry paws. 'Just like Grimmjow's release form.'
"Oh my god."
Hyo- no, Grimmjow- turned back to himself, wait, no, his actual form- no, his Arrancar form. "Ichigo?"
"Oh my god."
"Look, I'm sorry for not telling you earlier. Szayel drugged me with something after that time you cut through me- no, the first time- and I honestly didn't think you of all people would be the one to save me. I was going to leave right after I was healthy again but I had nowhere to go and I couldn't even talk so I decided to stay but I was definitely going to tell you as soon as I was back to this form but then the Espadas, and the war, and Aizen, and I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry. Just please don't be mad?"
The orange-head slowly turned to him. "Y- you're Hyo."
"You are my cat. You are my cat. You are my cat."
"...Oh my god. Oh my god, I told you everything!" Ichigo jumped to his feet and glared at Grimmjow. "I told you everything! All my habits, all my thoughts, all my secrets, my fucking secrets!"
Grimmjow was backed against a wall now and cornered by an angry Ichigo. "Uh, yes. Yes, you did, but-"
"Shut up!" Ichigo poked his finger into his chest like it was Zangetsu he was wielding. "I told you my fucking deepest, darkest secrets and you couldn't even fucking tell me that you've been impersonating a cat- my cat- for months?!"
"SHUT UP!" The teen's eyes looked like sharpened pieces of amber and he was using his tone like a weapon aimed to kill. "I trusted you and you took advantage of that! Were you even a spy then?"
"Well, no but-"
"You could have given away all my weaknesses, all of Seireitei's plans to Aizen and I would be as fucking clueless as ever! You could have betrayed us all and I wouldn't even-"
"Hey!" Grimmjow glared back at him. "I betrayed Aizen for you! I risked my own fucking life for you! Don't you dare doubt my intentions!"
"Y-you did that for me?" He should be happy about that, and he was. But he was also angry- more angry than he had ever been in his whole life, embarrassed, shamed, shocked, betrayed, and maybe just a little bit relieved. Ichigo didn't even know what to think anymore. There were a hundred thoughts swirling like a tornado in his mind and he was stuck in the middle of it all, too confused to stick with one thought. Among all the chaos, one thought managed to stay for a moment longer.
..."Someone changed my mind about Aizen and the war. I guess a random act of kindness saved me. It showed me the right thing to do. When I was completely vulnerable and at my lowest, that someone, someone I would have never expected to, helped me. So, uh, my decision was how I decided to repay him"...
"Oh my god, it was me? I was that someone!?"
"Yeah, it was you, you moron!" Grimmjow yelled. "You got a problem with that?"
"Don't you call me a moron, you moron! I'm still mad at you!"
Furrowing his brows, Grimmjow shouted back, "You said you wouldn't be! You're a liar!"
"I'm not a liar! I didn't even know what I was promising to!"
"LIAR!" Grimmjow shouted on the top of his lungs. "WE HAVE A LIAR IN THE HOUSE!"
"SHUT UP! I'll kill you, you fucker!"
"Not if I kill you first!"
"Ha!" Ichigo smirked, "You can't kill me! You like me!"
"Yeah, that's right! You like me! You did all that for me so that means that YOU," he stabbed Grimmjow in the chest with his finger. "LIKE. ME!"
"Oh, yeah? Well, you like me too!"
"Damn straight, I heard you last night! Remember? I was there! You were all, 'Oooh, Hyo, I don't know what to doooo, I like Grimmjow soooo much!'"
"Wha- you- urgghh!" Ichigo punched his jaw. "You're not allowed to use that against me, I didn't know!"
Grimmjow punched him in the stomach, "Well, you know now! So what are you gonna do about it?"
They paused to catch their breaths. Both were panting from the exhertion and the yelling.
"What do you mean?"
The king breathed deeply. "You like me. And I like you. So what now?"
Ichigo looked at him, and tried to breathe normally again. "I guess, we're a couple now, right?"
"Oh." Grimmjow blinked. "Yeah, I guess so. That was a lot easier than I thought."
"ARGH!" Ichigo punched him again. "I'm still mad at you!"
Rubbing his shoulder, Grimmjow raised an eyebrow. "Would a kiss make it better, sweetie?"
"So yes or no?"
Wheeee! I did it! It took one whole year more and 20 chapters more than expected, but I finished! And I couldn't have done it (well, I could have, but it wouldn't have been half as fun) with out you all! So thanks for reading, and thanks for all the lovely reviews! I'm going to start fixing this fic up soon (or not, we all know by now that time is a strange concept for me). So, for one last time, thank you readers, and thank you reviewers! It's been a wonderful and long journey, I love you all, and I am going to work on replying to reviews from now on.
Speaking of reviews, leave me one if you are as incoherent and stupid in the morning as Ichigo is. I sure as hell am. Or a cat person. Or if you love this chapter or series. Or if you have any suggestions for this series, since I'm going to start rewriting soon.
** Hur hur, I honestly considered ending the series right here. It would be funny as hell. For me.