disclaimer: disclaimed.
dedication: les for dealing with my crazy.
notes: happy, but not for long. also, ridiculous thanks to everyone who reviewed her dark materials—you guys make my fucking life.
notes2: the title has nothing to do with anything.

title: taffeta roses
summary: That last beautiful summer when none of them were dead, divorced, or doing time. — Nnoitra/Neliel

.

.

.

.

.

He found her in the middle of the street at 2AM on a Tuesday-night-only-actually-it-was-Wednesday-morning, soaked through to the bone with her blue-green hair sticking to the pavement.

Nnoitra looked down at her like she was an alien life form.

"What'cha doin'?" he asked.

The girl shrugged, but said nothing. She didn't take her eyes off the black sky; too dark, no stars, no moon, thick with cloud. She turned her head and looked pointedly at the bit of pavement next to her. "Sit?"

There was a question in her voice, but not really. It was the same way they didn't even really like each other—because they didn't. Nnoitra couldn't stand her because the life boiled out of her, over the top and so alive and she couldn't stand him because he was sexist and a jerk-off and, oh yeah, ugly.

And even though they didn't like each other, there was something about living on the same street for fifteen years that just did strange things to one's view of friendship. Nel was one of the only girls. She'd put up with the boys (stupid Grimmy and pretty Ulqui and weird-old Baraggan and Szayel and his pink hair—) because she hadn't really had any girls around. Lilynette was too young, and Tia was too busy.

And so Neliel was one of the boys even though what she wanted was really to be one of the girls. And she had friends, she did, but they were school friends and they didn't have impromptu water fights or throw rocks at her window to get her to come out and drive in stolen cars with them.

(That was only the boys, even though she never talked to the boys at school.)

Which was probably why she didn't like Nnoitra very much.

But it was funny, because as much as they disliked each other (well, not even; she was indifferent, really), he always seemed to find at her lowest points.

And then he went and was his ugly self, and she felt better.

Nnoitra sat down beside her, forever gangly but somehow managing to look decent. Nel withheld the snort that wanted to make its way to her lips and looked back up at the sky.

"Things will be different this summer, Nnoitra," she said.

"Th'fuck ya talkin' 'bout?"

"I… don't know. But it's going to be…"

"Different," he parroted with a smirk and Nel felt her fists clench with the urge to close them around his throat because Nnoitra was just so annoying that she couldn't even think.

But it was too late for things like sleeping and Nel was tired, so tired; so tired she couldn't sleep and could only stare at the cloud-blank sky like it actually meant something. She didn't care what Nnoitra thought of her, but she sat up and looked at him with pebbles in her hair and road dirt smudged on her cheek anyway.

"It will be. We'll all be going… elsewhere… next year. And…"

The 'we might never come back' remained between them, unspoken.

Nnoitra looked at her though his hair, and Nel thought. "S'pose so."

For a moment, neither of them said anything, words lost to truth and silence and maybe the washed-out feeling that no one was right, anymore. And then Nnoitra reached around her, pulled her across asphalt and settled her between his legs.

Nel bristled and opened her mouth to verbally slaughter him. She didn't believe in the need for physical violence, but verbal violence was fair game.

"Shu'up, princess," he said before she could get a word out. "Don' think."

For once, Nel took his advice.

Instead, she leaned back against him, and wondered about why nothing ever stayed the same.

With a bitter twist to her mouth, Nel thought that sadness tasted disgusting.

.

.

.

.

.

School ended in a flurry of exams and angst and celebration over graduation, prom dancing exultation at its heels. Nel smiled cheerily for cheesy pictures with her friends and her parents, all dressed up in tafetta and tulle and ready to go. Arms wrapped around Nanao and Rangiku, the three of them searched out their friends for laughter and tears and quietly painful goodbyes to the people they'd all known and loved, the people they'd grown up with.

And oh, it was a party.

Nel danced until her feet were numb, and then she danced some more. She stole her stupid best friend from his date (he was already wincing from Rukia's frequent beatings, and it was funny because Nel totally knew they were going to get married) for a dance, fought with Grimmy for a dance or two, and very nearly waltzed with Ulquiorra.

Her idiots.

And on the night went.

Nel collapsed at the table with an exhausted laugh, shaking with the effort of staying awake. She was never the type of girl for late nights, but grad was different; this was different, just like summer was going to be and—

"Oi, bitch," someone said, and Nel jerked her head up because the only person who called her that was Nnoitra and why was—

He was standing there with his hands in his pockets and staring at the ceiling.

"What?" Nel asked in an exhalation of annoyance.

(The stolen moments in the middle of the night in the middle of the street were lost, because they didn't count. Nothing like that ever counted.)

"Ya owe me a dance."

Nel wasn't sure if she ought to be offended that he had the gall to even order such a thing (no, he couldn't just ask—that would be far too intelligent), or just pleased all over that he wanted to dance with her.

Maybe it was a little bit of both.

"Do I?" Nel replied, only it wasn't a question and he reached for her hand without permission because that was what Nnoitra did best.

Half-dragged to the dance floor, Nel grumbled, "My feet hurt."

He didn't say anything. They swayed on the nearly-empty dance floor and half way through Nel kicked off her shoes because she was sick and tired of the pain and the whole thing, the whole idea of it.

Hated that he hated her, that she didn't hate him, that they were dancing; hated the times when they were almost friends. Hated when they weren't almost friends. Hated the whole thing.

The whole thing.

The whole thing.

.

.

.

.

.

Lazy summer heat suffused Nel's body. She was lolling on her deck with Tia, half asleep and enjoying the sun.

"I missed this," Nel murmured.

Tia made a sound low in her throat, and Nel sleepily opened one eye to glance at the other girl.

"What?" Nel asked, raising herself up on her elbows and blinking warily. "Tia Hallibel, are you giggling? What are you giggling at?"

Tia waved her off. "Don't be silly, Neliel. I'm not giggling. I'm simply amused."

There were very few things that amused Tia Hallibel. Nel continued to eye her, suspicious. "At what?"

"You."

"Why?"

"Nnoitra."

Nel choked on her spit. "What are you—are you crazy—I mean—"

Tia brushed a shock of violently blonde hair out of sky-blue eyes and pursed her lips as she surveyed Nel.

"Don't give me that," she said. "Grimmjow told me."

"Told you what?"

"That you were dancing at grad."

Nel stared. "…So?"

"With Nnoitra. You danced with Nnoitra," Tia said, completely straight-faced.

"…So?"

For a very long moment, Tia stared at Nel, gaze even. And then she shrugged, tossed a bottle of sun bronzer at Nel's head, and dropped back into a deep sort of snooze.

Nel was utterly confused.

This was nothing new.

.

.

.

.

.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"

The shriek echoed loud and clear through the street, cutting sharply through clear blue. Nel stood on her driveway, brandishing a gushing hose in front of her like a knife.

Grimmjow had a water gun.

A very large water gun.

"I swear to God, if you don't put that thing down…!" Nel threatened, thumb hovering dangerously over the spout.

The smirk that broke out across his face was terrifying, and for a moment, Nel thought that blue-haired-and-crazy was actually going to douse her.

But he didn't.

He was lowering the gigantic gun and Nel eyed him warily, hazel eyes narrowed to slits. Her hair was in her eyes and all she could see was strands of blue-green and that creepy smirk and—

"Nel, watch out!"

Nel whipped around just a bucketful of ice water descended on her head.

She clutched the gushing hose close to her chest pointed outwards to keep a buffer of freezing cold between her and whoever had just doused her. Nel looked up through soaked hair at Nnoitra, and wondered why he was such a douche.

"Really?" she said. "Really?"

He grinned like an insect and Nel vaguely contemplated squashing him.

"Tia!" Nel yelled over her shoulder, careful not to take her gaze off of Nnoitra.

(He was never going to pull one her, again.

Nel wouldn't allow it.)

"Yes?" Tia replied from somewhere behind her, and Nel thought about their matching tattoos, inked quietly and hidden on both their hips because no one would think to look there for a tattoo and how even thought it hurt, she'd gritted her teeth because—

"You might want to get Grimmy out of here. This might get messy."

"Mhmm," Tia hummed, and the subsequent yelping indicated that she'd grabbed Grimmjow's ear and was dragging him away.

Nel smiled at Nnoitra, but it wasn't a pleasant smile.

"You just like making me mad. Don't you?" she asked.

He didn't even dignify her with a verbal reply. Nnoitra just smirked his Nnoitra smirk and Nel idly picked at her nails.

The sun was hot. Nel's skin was already drying.

Nel held the hose, pushed her hair out of her eyes, and then jumped on him, if only to power-soak his face.

Bitch, please.

/ / /

Half an hour later, they sat side by side, leaning back against the paneling of her house in the late afternoon sun. It was a good place to let the dry air pull the moisture out of them both; water wars were exhausting.

The hose gushed sluggishly at their feet.

Nel looked up at Nnoitra through her bangs. He was stretched out (sometimes she forgot how tall he was), with his fingers tangled up in the curling tips of her hair. The blue-green looked odd against his plaid shorts—then again, blue-green always looked odd against jailhouse orange.

"You really goin' away?" he asked. His voice was rough and very, very quiet.

Nel took a breath in.

"Yes, I think so."

Nel waited for a reply, and got nothing. She blinked up at him curiously. He was fiddling with her hair and wouldn't look her in the eye.

"I told you this summer would be different," Nel murmured.

(She would have smiled if she could have but she couldn't work up the energy.)

"Ya did," he said, and then paused. Nel watched his throat work; it looked like he was fighting with the words in his throat. "Look, Nel…"

"What?" Nel asked, and tipped her head up.

He was scant inches away, and Nel blinked at him, half a mind to shrink down and out of his space because—"What are you doing?"

"I'unno," he muttered. "I'unno."

"Maybe you should—"

"Shu'up, Nel," he grumbled, and caught her lips on the way down.

(and we fall and fall and fall—)

.

.

.

.

.

fin.
notes3: shitty ending. whatever. it's 2:30AM, i'm too exhausted to give a shit.
notes4: please don't favourite without leaving a review, because reviews make me happy and flaily and wonderful. :)