The final chapter! This time, I'm sure of it!
Red Light Escape by Boogermeister
Chapter 33- Healing the End
"... I see, your grades are remarkable as usual." Tensa blinked out of his musing to stare at him. He was weeks away of becoming sixteen, and he had been waiting to get his driver's license despite of his stepfather Grimmjow's disgruntlement. His silky chesnut-colored hair waved around his now handsome face, his chocolate brown eyes were full of maturity but youthfulness as he gaze at the man across the restaurant table. After the past years, he still couldn't believe the sight in front of him.
His real father, Sousuke Aizen, was still alive after bouts of depression and an attempted suicide. Because of the age differences between him and his mother Ichigo, he was nearly 60 years old while Ichigo was in her mid-thirties. His once glossy chestnut hair faded into light grey by his temples and sideburns. Fine lines of wrinkles were evident on his forehead and at the corners of his thin lips. His narrowed bronze eyes were soft and full of content, now that he was happy that he could be in constant contact with his only son. Tensa blinked at him again, before glancing down in slight embarrassment. Somehow, his father complimenting him over mundane things would always get him bashful.
"You always say that..." he mumbled, his fingers fumbling at the sleeves of his navy-blue school uniform blazer. Despite having friends with other kids from the homeless shelters his parents helped to run, he went to a private school where one's family name was garuanteed for acceptance, with both father and stepfather being some of the richest people in the country seemed to help him further.
"But it's true... even with the money supplied towards your school's tuition, you seem to be rather too smart for the teachers to deal with," Aizen smiled lightly. "You... probably got your mother's intelligence, that's my opinion." Whenever Ichigo was mentioned, Tensa could sense his father stiffen and he frowned a little. It had been that way for some years now, since he had met his frail form in the hospital. When it was thought that Aizen was dying, his father reluctantly revealed that he really did have feelings for Ichigo but was too proud and arrogant to admit it then until it was too late. When Tensa's mother was already dating Grimmjow. His selfish ways in the end had caused his own marriage to collapse and his business nearly ruin due to his own extramarital affairs.
Back then, all Aizen wanted to do was to legally acknowledge Tensa as his legitimate son and to apologize for what had done to him and his family. He wanted to prove his apology by turning over all of his assets and important financial documents to him and Ichigo should he die, as a form of pentenance. Just anything to seek forgiveness from them. Ichigo had already did, as she mentioned the past with him had resulted with her beloved son and her relationship with Grimmjow. "If it weren't for you, I wouldn't have a wonderful son and a loving husband..." Ichigo smiled sadly. "I already forgiven you, now I know that you really love me and want to give Tensa your company. But..."
"What is it, Ichigo...?" Aizen was able to rasp out, inhaling the oxygen from the tubes attached through his nostrils as the heart monitor beeped calmly.
"I have loved you, Sousuke... you were the first man I have ever been with," she frowned. "It still stings in my heart since the day you've abandoned me, and I had never been the same. But I'm stronger now, I am a better person and a great mother, and I could never ask for a better life. I already have what I could ask for..."
Then, Tensa was silence, unsure of what to say to his father who was lying helplessly in the hospital bed. This man, the one person who had tried to break apart his mother's life, was weak and not a threat to her anymore. And yet... he couldn't believe it when his father had recovered soon after they had visited him, as if seeing his own flesh and blood seemed to have revived his health. That was when Ichigo decided to check up on him once in a while, and Grimmjow reluctantly agreed as he trusted her instincts for helping people as a nurse. But Tensa didn't bother to speak to his father for another few years. He still felt that the man hadn't really cared about him from the start, and it was just pity Aizen wanted to reach from him when he thought he was going to die. He was still alive in the end, and the child didn't wish to be connected to him.
But three years later, Tensa realized that his father would be truly alone, when his estranged wife had suddenly died. According to the media, his wife's death was said to be from an accidental overdose of her prescribed medications, though many people whispered that she had truly killed herself as she couldn't take being with a man like Aizen. Everybody even suspected that she commited suicide because of the fact Ichigo gave him a child and not her, as some high-class members of society eyed at Ichigo when she and Grimmjow went to the funeral. On paper, it didn't make any sense that the 'mistress' would go to the funeral of her so-called enemy, but in truth Ichigo hadn't any animosity towards her and that Aizen had invited her and her husband personally.
"Nothing can be done about it now... even his health getting worse again," Tensa had heard her say after the funeral. "Seems that the only thing that is keeping him alive is that I'm the only one who's looking after him."
"Hmm... still, don't get your hopes up, Ichigo," Grimmjow muttered. "Another couple of years and then he'll pass on."
"You're saying as if you want him to die..."
"Well, I'm not, but considering his health, there's really nothing we can do about it," he reasoned. "I'll talk to Tensa, if that's what you want. But I really doubt that he'd want to discuss it."
"I know, but it's just that... It's like history repeating on itself," Ichigo sighed sadly. "I've lost a parent, you've been a orphan since you were a teenager. And pretty soon, Tensa'll lose his father. This is terrible, Grimmjow..."
"... I know..."
Something must have finally went to his head, when Tensa went to meet his estranged father at last, after sending him an email a few weeks later. He was just as sickly as he had last seen him, but the teenager decided to confront him regardless. There was sense of hurt and anger in his voice when he began to spoke, but Aizen wasn't really nonchalant to his emotions. Rather, he understood it as he hung his head in guilt, much to Tensa's surprise and dismay. "... What? You won't try to explain your reasons of why you left us? Why you didn't even want me?" he frowned bitterly.
"There's no reason for my actions, Tensa..." muttered Aizen, absentmindedly clutching his walking cane as he was slumped in his seat. "I was nothing but an arrogant fool, I thought I was invincible... and then your mother changed all that-"
"If you truly loved her as you said you had, then none of this wouldn't have happened...!" scowled Tensa.
"... Would you rather have not know your stepfather in the first place?" he questioned and the teen blinked at that. "True, I was a cruel man by how I've used your mother... but remember what she had said. That she is now happy of how it turned out to be, that she is with the one whom she loved deeply." That much was true, but Tensa was feeling the anger within him, and Aizen couldn't blame him. "Ever since I first saw you, as a young toddler... I couldn't sleep for months at a time, because of how you saw me then at the courthouse."
"What're you saying?"
"You gave me the biggest smile I've ever seen, you smiled just like Ichigo..." he admitted. "I thought that it was strange, on the day I took the paternity test. I was beyond angry, but I was also afraid... afraid that I would be seen as some heartless being who wants nothing more than power and status. Truthfully, I was... but a year after I found out about the paternity, I became restless and depressed. A few more years had passed until I tried to speak to her about you, about a year after her marriage."
"I only asked a simple question, about how you were doing, but I guess it didn't come out right, because your stepfather was downright furious at me..." Aizen frowned sadly. "And after the birth of your younger sister, I attempted again... you remember the first time we met, right?"
"Yeah... but you didn't look like that you wanted to be around me in the first place," Tensa frowned stiffly.
"It looked like that but... then, I assumed that you were content being having a normal family that you didn't want me around," he explained. At that, Tensa's anger lightened as he glanced at his honest face. So that explained why the sickly man estranged himself from the teen for all those years. "Your mother can speak for that, it's the truth," muttered Aizen. "She and I had many discussions over the past few years. She understood that I believed for you to be happy with having Grimmjow as a real father-" His explanation was abruptly cut off, when he felt a harsh cough emitting out of his throat. He quickly took out a hankerchief before he coughed again into the cloth.
"Ah, are you all right...?" Tensa questioned out of surprise, they were sitting across the diner table from each other when he quickly got up.
"Y-yes, just another fit... It comes every now and then, I'm used to it," Aizen muttered, wiping his mouth with the hankerchief.
"... You're used to seeing blood after every cough, too?" he questioned. He saw the watery blood freshly stained on the fabric, and it was beginning to disturb him. He could see why his mother was concerned about this man's well-being. But Aizen smiled rather grimly, putting the piece of cloth away.
"All the money in the world couldn't really reverse my condition, Tensa," he muttered. "For now, I have to take medicines to control it. But the doctors said that only my will can make it work."
"What do you mean, your will...?" frowned Tensa.
"I've been depressed for so long, and the death of my ex-wife hadn't curb it away, as it seemed to make it worse" frowned Aizen, his bronze eyes dimmed forlornly at the thought. "Sure, Ichigo's tried to be around me. But it wasn't enough... besides, she's a busy woman with a job and taking care of four children and the house. She cannot really be there for someone like me..." Still standing, Tensa watched him reaching inside his blazer to pull out a medicine bottle. Tiny white pills rattled lightly as his father then tried to open the cap with pretty much no result due to his weakened hands.
"Um... Um, I can help you open it, if you want..." Tensa quietly offered, it was hard to see him like this no matter the hurt he had put his family through. Aizen looked up to him but he smiled plaintively and shook his head.
"You don't really need to, Tensa-"
"I insist, just please let me..." Tensa muttered. Aizen gazed at him, but a hint of gratitude was evident when he smiled again as he handed the orange-colored bottle to him.
"You're just as helpful as your mother..." he remarked.
"Well, Mom's a nurse and my grandfather's a doctor, the need to help people rubs onto me," he replied, opening the cap with ease. "How much pills do you need to take?"
"Just two..." nodded Aizen, and the young teen handed him the recommended amount. "... Thank you, Tensa, even though you really didn't have to help me," he said, drinking down a glass of cool water after taking the medicine.
"I know, I didn't have to," muttered Tensa, but frowned lightly. "I could be angry and frustrated because of what you've done to me and my mother. It'd be great that I would just snap and pummel you right then and there after everything she've been through. She'd told me about how she had to take up the job in Starrk's club, and how she wasn't proud to do so. All because you were the reason that she had to run away from home. It was all your fault, and you know that..." In his mind, it would have sounded lound and angry, but considering that they were in a public place, he was surprised that his rant was calm yet still bitter and straight to the point.
But Aizen wasn't even shocked by it, as if he had expected it to come out. A guilty smile twitched at his lips as he nodded. "I don't mind that you still harbor hatred towards me, Tensa... Throughout this whole conversation, you haven't acknowlege me as your father, but that was expected anyway..." Tensa scoffed lightly at that but what could he say about that? Grimmjow had been more than a father to him, but he had never called him father. Ichigo joked that he only wanted to call Grimmjow 'Geh-Geh' when he was a toddler, but his younger siblings often questioned him about why he always called 'Daddy' his first name. Another reason why he still felt a void in himself.
"You're just only my father by blood, but... if you truly wish to be in my life, then tell me now," frowned Tensa, and the older man blinked at him. "Not sure how Grimmjow will feel about it, though..."
"You honestly want me to be around you...?" Aizen questioned, mainly out of concern but a sense of eagerness was heard in his voice. But Tensa frowned as he glanced away.
"It'd make sense that I have to, anyway... if you die on me and I didn't have a chance to talk to you, then Mom would've been very disappointed in me. I don't want to see her cry, that's all."
"Hmm, I don't mind if you think like that," Aizen shrugged lightly, and Tensa frowned at him.
"Please... stop agreeing about me berating you, it's unsettling," he muttered quietly. He sat back down and saw him sitting up with a light smile, and he noticed that a renewed spark glistening in his eyes. "Um... please, I think if you want to meet up with me, we might find a way to-"
"If you want, I can meet up with you after school," suggested his father. Tensa blinked at that but he pondered about it. Sometimes he would be bored when he's at home, with everybody either out of work or at an after-school program. He still wondered if Grimmjow would be all right about this, but he knew that his mother would be happy over the situation.
"I... I'll talk to my parents about it, but I don't mind," he nodded, much to the older man's muted delight.
"Thank you so much, Tensa..." he smiled.
"Yeah... Don't mention it." And now, almost two years later, both father and son had been meeting up a few times a week after school. Sometimes the visits were more frequent during holidays and summer vacations. At first, Tensa felt awkward being around his natural father, not to mention that the man would come by the front gate of his private school in a chaperoned luxury car. But it wasn't long until he had gotten used to it, although initially his little siblings were annoyed by it. Grimmjow was surprisingly supportive of the meeting, saying that it was only right for Tensa to make amends with Aizen. As for the two men, the blunet still wasn't exactly eye-to-eye with him after so many years, but tolerated him for the sake of the family.
But Tensa's little sister Masaki felt jealous about him spending so much time with his real father, often going into a tearful fit that Grimmjow had been a better father. He couldn't blame her for being that way, but this was his way of finding himself. For the youngest twins, Tenshou and Rey (or Grimm Jr. he was called due to exact resemblance of Grimmjow), they didn't seem to mind having the older man around as the six-year-olds often asked random questions to see if he could answer them. Aizen amused them in turn by giving his own rudimentary questions and smiled when they thought they had the right answers.
Still, Tensa often wondered if his father eyed at Ichigo differently since admitting his true feelings towards her. There was a time when he had caught him grasping his mother's hands when they were talking in the dining room, but the gesture was completely platonic as Ichigo told him that he often does that. But Aizen knew his boundaries and preferred being around Tensa as much as he can. As usual, he mentioned about Tensa's near-perfect grades, much to the teen's bashfulness.
"Come on, don't you think you needed to be praised, Tensa?" Aizen smiled lightly, gping back to the subject. "You're birthday's coming up in a month. You've asked for car, haven't you?"
"Well..." Tensa frowned awkwardly.
"What's the matter?"
"Grimmjow still thinks that I'm not good enough to drive by myself, and wanted to wait for a few more months until I get better at driving," he sighed.
"Well, he's simply worried about you, Tensa," nodded Aizen. "I could understand that, considering that he was in a car accident about twenty years ago and nearly died." Tensa understood that; Grimmjow had told him about his near-death experience and was left with permanent scars the teen had always seen on his body. He was told that he was one of the first people who didn't seem to mind the sight of it, as he couldn't really imagine his stepfather without the scars.
"Makes sense, but I just wanted to drive so I can help take my brothers and sister around," sighed Tensa.
"Makes more sense to do so," his father smiled.
"Yeah, Mom still doesn't know how to drive, something about having too much dealing with working at the hospital and looking after us," shrugged the teen. "Guess I could wait, though... there's really no rush to do so."
"Are you sure? I could discuss about purchasing a car with your parents-"
"Really, I wanna wait," he shook his head. "Better than having a new car collecting dust in the garage..." Aizen just smiled lightly but agreed with a nod. After two years, the older man didn't seem to want to push him further. "Anyway... you're gonna be there on my birthday party?" he asked, his voice laced with concern but anticipation. "Sure, I know that you didn't go to my last one... but it'd be nice that you would be there."
"... I don't think your sister would mind me being there, Tensa," he sighed.
"Me and Grimmjow had already talked to her about it," frowned Tensa. "I told her that it's important to keep contact with you because I felt something missing in my life and it involved you. She only feels threatened whenever you're around, but she knows better than to interfere."
"... Well, seems that she has the same fiery personality as Ichigo," said Aizen.
"But Mom's personality is a lot more brutal, if you ask me," sighed Tensa but his father let out a quiet laugh. It sounded surreal yet amazing to see him happy. The pale pallor on the older man's skin was now back into a healthy glow and he seemed to gain some enough weight now he was able to stomach his medicine. Crow's feet crinkled by Aizen's eyes as he smiled lightly, handing back his son's report card.
"I'll think about it, Tensa... but it won't mean I'll say no," he smiled. "I'll speak to you later, all right?" he asked as he stood up.
"Yeah, of course..." nodded Tensa and got up. "I'll see you later... Father..." Aizen's smile widened just a little at being addressed like that. It took a long time but he was still glad that his only son had been acknowledging him as his father for the past few months. "Don't worry, I'll going to see Grimmjow. So I don't need a ride home."
"All right then, Tensa," nodded Aizen, patting him on the shoulder. Tensa put up a light smile and nodded back, before leaving the small restaurant. He could walk a couple of miles to his stepfather's workplace as he walked lazily through the otherwise busy streets. His mind wandered to where he would usually think, about whether or not life would have been better if... his real father had decided to care for him and his mother from the start, after Ichigo found out she was pregnant.
Then his real father would have endured the scandal but still loved his mother, and all of them would have been a happy family. But then... Grimmjow probably would have stayed alone forever as he had been since his parents died, with no one he could love and be loved in return. And then Tensa wouldn't have known what a great man he was, and he wouldn't have the siblings that he have adored and protected as the first-born son should... It seemed terrible to think like that, yet he was really glad that to have Grimmjow as his stepfather. Many men wouldn't openly go into a relationship with a young mother, but the blunet didn't care and warmed up to him the moment they had met.
That was why he enjoyed being with the man since he could remember, as he finally arrived at the Grind Publishing Inc. building. Since he had been coming here since he was two, he had been a frequent visitor to the workers as he breezed by the security and the front desk for the elevators. He then waited another minute until he reached the top floors. It was busy as usual, but some of workers paused to greet the teen who was passing by, usually ended with that he was starting to look more like a handsome adult.
When he made his way to his stepfather's office, he noticed the assistant's desk next to the closed door was void of the assistant himself. "Oh well..." he simply shrugged, opening the door and slipped inside. At just forty-two, Grimmjow seemed to be just the same man to his eyes with minimal age evident on his face. The man was focused with his cyan eyes peering down at his paperworks through his wire-rimmed glasses until he glanced up to notice who came in. "Geez, Tensa, you couldn't give me a call before coming here?" he smirked lightly.
"You didn't mind before, anyway," smiled Tensa with a shrug of his shoulders.
"I wouldn't if you bring me some lunch," he joked as he stood up, the bones in his body cracked lightly from sitting so long. "Man, by the year, I seem to be feeling like an elderly person..." he frowned to himself.
"What is it with you whining about getting older, Grimmjow?" Tensa asked, plopping his school bag onto the leather couch on the side of the room. "It's not like you're getting grey hair... yet."
"Hey, I'll have you know that I found three strands on my head last week and it freaked me out," frowned Grimmjow before walking up to the teen who was now seating and his face quickly turned serious as he sat next to him. "So... how was it today?" he questioned quietly. Tensa sighed, they both knew that he was talking about Aizen. It had always been like that since he decided to contact his real father.
"Oh... he thought it would be funny to buy me a car for my birthday," he replied, watching his stepfather's reactions. But Grimmjow snorted in amusement as he shook his head.
"Better him than me, I'm not gonna waste 200 grand for a car that could get damaged within days of getting it," he smirked.
"Sh-shut up, you're already a billionaire. 200 grand's nothing but small change for you," frowned Tensa.
"True, but it's my money, kid," he said but his frown went serious again. "Is that all, Tensa...? I don't think he would just talk about that."
"I know," sighed Tensa, scratching through his hair. "We all know about the so-called 'surprise' party you guys are giving me, blah-blah-blahh... anyway, I was thinking that... well, I was wondering if I can invite him to the party. And... if you and Mom are okay with that." From the answer, Grimmjow's face seemed blank and Tensa was afraid that he might say no. After all, his biological father attempted to take away his stepfather's company years before he was born and it didn't help that the former spilled Grimmjow's relationship with his mother to the public when Ichigo was still a stripper. True, the blunet had lightened his grudge at the older man, but it didn't mean that he hadn't completely let go of it.
"... I see..." sighed Grimmjow, removing his glasses as he glanced away. Again, Tensa dreaded at the sight of his emotionless face, with anxiety bubbling in his throat. He knew it wouldn't be a good idea as he stared down at his lap.
"F-forget it, Grimmjow. If it bothers you that much-" he muttered.
"No, it actually doesn't, Tensa," Grimmjow calmly replied, and Tensa looked at him in total surprise. "You're beginning to see him as your father, so it would've been wrong to be against it," he said as he glanced at him. "It's true that there was a time I wanted to stomp him down after everything he had done to me... But as the years went by, I learned that the anger wasn't worth it. That me being angry would've been in the way of me being happy with Ichigo, as I tried to let it go. And trust me, it was much more difficult than I expected it to be anyway..."
"So, you're okay with him being there, Grimmjow?" Tensa asked, trying to make sure.
"Yeah, it's not like he's a threat to me, at least not in the way he was many years ago," sighed Grimmjow. "Although... I still dread the day that I might get related to Renji. Yuki still has that dumb puppy-crush on you from what her monkey-ass father told us, saying that you two will get married one of these days. I still find that threatening."
"Heh, don't worry about that, I only love her like a second sister," Tensa smiled with a brief laugh. Grimmjow had to chuckle, as two of them got off the couch.
"Come on, let's go home," he smirked, patting him on the shoulder. "I can do those paperworks later..."
"Okay." Almost a half an hour later, they reached their home, a three-storied mansion with far more than enough rooms for a family of six. The entire family was present, as Ichigo greeted her loving husband with a kiss when Grimmjow entered the kitchen.
"About time, I thought you're gonna stay in your office longer tonight," smiled Ichigo, patting her hands on the apron tied around the pale teal nurse's uniform she had on.
"No, I'm starving, girl," smirked Grimmjow. "You're going back to work tonight, Ichigo?"
"Yeah, the hospital's swamped at night," sighed Ichigo as she went back to makinig dinner. "I often wondered why people get sick or injured at this time. There would be even more mothers bursting in saying that their water broke."
"Well, people gotta work, maybe they keep holding it in until the end of the day," he joked, and Ichig pouted at him. "Come on, you know that's true," he smirked. "After all, the twins were born just when everybody's about to go to sleep."
"Please, they were too impatient to get out, I think they got that from you."
"Tch, I'm not that impatient," he scoffed softly before moving to hug her from behind, watching the simmering stew being stirred. "... Tensa wanted to know if his father can come to his birthday party, Ichigo," he muttered. Ichigo paused in her stirring for a moment but quickly resumed.
"I see..." she sighed.
"What do you feel about it, girl?" he asked softly.
"What do you mean, Grimmjow? I'm all right with it, now that I'm cool with him," she smiled, laughing a little. But Grimmjow was still serious as he nuzzled into her neck.
"You say that, and I'm also okay with him being there," he said. "The question is, are everybody else okay with it?" At that, Ichigo frowned a little. Everbody knew that she had settled the score with her son's father but many still had their opinions on him of being the same cruel man who had done her wrong. However, some had gotten over the drama, one was her old friend Rangiku.
Her friend had tried to date other men in the few years after breaking up with Gin. But when Ichigo honestly assured her that Gin still loved her back then, she decided to take him back and the couple were inseparable since with two young children. In the years since Grimmjow and Ichigo had been together, many of her old friends in the stripclub had long since left to pursue their own lives.
Despite still being a terrible cook, Orihime was doing great as a baker of pasteries and cakes and owned a bakery. And, much to Grimmjow's surprise, she was married to the blunet's lawyer Ulquiorra. How did they get to know one another without them knowing was confounding and puzzling. During and after Starrk and Tia's relationship had went to the next level and had a child of their own, Tia herself pursued her career as a marine biologist and worked in a local aquarium. And as for Rangiku; her days of shopping for extravagant things had dimmed since having her own children but dealed with her life and owned a beauty salon.
As for Ichigo's other friends, their lives were just as normal. Tatsuki worked as a high school coach; years of mistrust of the other woman by Grimmjow, who was overly protective of Ichigo's feelings, had already settled now that the blunet knew that the tomboyish woman would be there for his wife from then on. And it had been several years since Rukia and Renji had married, after their oldest daughter Yuki vividly gushed about weddings she had seen in fairytale movies so many times. Then, the couple weren't married yet but Renji decided to tie the knot to make their family happy.
Years and years had passed for everybody, for better or for worse, and right now Ichigo wasn't sure which was either now that the father of her first child wished to go to Tensa's birthday party. "... If Tensa wants Sousuke to come by, then who are we to tell him no?" she sighed, with Grimmjow's help she put the food onto plates and then placed them on the table in the dining room.
"Hmm, so you would accept it whether or not you like it," nodded Grimmjow.
"I didn't say I wouldn't like it, I'm just concerned about it."
"That's true... Kids, dinner's ready!" Grimmjow called out. Almost immediately, all four kids scrambled into the room, with Tensa giving a piggy back ride to Rey as the blue-haired child giggled. "Come on, playtime's over. You can do it again tomorrow," smirked Grimmjow and took his look-alike into his own arms.
"Can you play with me tomorrow, Daddy?" Rey asked innocently.
"Sorry, Junior, I only got weekends to play around. You always asked me that..." sighed Grimmjow. Rey just shyly pouted, his waterly blue eyes narrowed to match his father's own eyes. His twin brother Tenshou appeared more like Ichigo with shaggy light orange hair and toffee-brown eyes, although his personality was more subdued and introverted compared to the entire family due to the twins being born prematurely. The parents knew that the result of having one or both kids having developmental problems, but Tenshou was doing fine despite of his personality thanks to his more out-going half.
"You leaving, Mommy...?" Tenshou mumbled, tugging at his mother's nurse uniform.
"No, not yet, Sweetie," smiled Ichigo before the rest of the family settled down. "... Tensa, is there something you wish to speak to me about?" she asked quietly, after a moment of eating. Tensa paused digging into his food and glanced up a little at his mother. But like any father would, Grimmjow merely tuned out of what was to come as he devoured on his meal. The twins were too busy pushing their veggies around rather than eating them. But one member of the family was listening intently, as Masaki was eating slowly.
At ten years old, her wavy auburn hair was held back with a ponytail as her light blue eyes just gazed at her plate. She knew that the discussion was going to, and frowned lightly. As much as she loved her brother, she still found it difficult to accept the fact that Tensa kept meeting with the man who didn't want him in the first place. Grimmjow often blamed himself as he believed that the only daughter had picked up his dislike of Aizen years ago, when he was still distrustful of him. He had told her many times that this was something that Tensa must do as the teen had been feeling a little depressed about his identity. After all, Tensa really appeared as an brown-haired outcast in the family with orange and blue hair and he was the only one who kept his mother's maiden name instead of taking 'Jeagerjaques'.
"Oh, right... I've been wondering that, um..." muttered Tensa, trying to get the right words to come out as he took a deep breath. "I know that my birthday's coming up but... and you guys are giving me a party and everything but, um..."
"... If you wish to do this, Tensa, you must consider what you're doing," nodded Ichigo with a small smile. "You can do whatever you want, but think carefully. Speak to your Grandpa or your aunts about this, or maybe someone else. Okay, Sweetie?" Tensa knew that she knew, but it would be difficult to convince the rest of the family about his decision. He knew that his grandfather loved him but he turned deaf whenever the conversation involved his birth father. Isshin didn't really approve of Ichigo keeping contact with Aizen but knew that it was for the sake of the family and kept most of his opinions to himself. His twin aunts were more or less forgiving, as Yuzu simply accepted Tensa's decision to keep in touch though Karin threatened to put him in the grave if Aizen dared to break his heart.
"I'll try, Mom..." Tensa sighed. He turned his head and caught eyes with his little sister's, and frowned in sympathy. It wasn't like she was angry, but she was sad that she was angry about the situation. It was true, Grimmjow was a father to him, even adopting him as his own child weeks before he and Ichigo got married. But by the end of the day, he felt that it wasn't the same. Tensa understood Masaki's anger about it, she was still too young to understand how important it was for him. Grasping her small hand, he then put up a small smile. "... You know that this is what I needed, Masaki," he muttered quietly.
"... I know, but it's just not fair," she mumbled.
"It's just not as fair if I were to avoid contact with him, Masaki," he sighed. "I loved Grimmjow as if he was my real dad, but this is something I have to do. You understand, Doll-Face?" he added with his nickname for her.
"It's hard to," she frowned.
"I know, it was hard for me to understand the situation also when I was younger," nodded Tensa. "But it's okay, I don't dislike him as I thought I would when I decided to have him in my life. I'm only asking him to come by for my party and that's it, okay?"
"... Yeah, okay," Masaki nodded.
"Mister Aizen's coming, Tensa?" Rey piped up with interest.
"To the birthday party, yeah," Tensa smirked a little.
"Is he gonna eat all the cake?" he asked with his grin missing a couple of teeth.
"You're gonna do that, Rey," Tenshou quietly argued.
"No, you don't know that...!" the other twin pouted, but Grimmjow cracked a smirk.
"Oh, we do know that you'll try to eat the birthday cake," he smiled. "You'd do it on any birthday, no matter what." Rey pouted again but soon grinned sheepishly at the opinion. "You tykes are really okay with Aizen coming to the party?" Grimmjow asked.
"As long as he's, um, bringing presents, Daddy..." muttered Tenshou.
"Yeah! Because he can't get cake if he doesn't have any present for Tensa!" grinned Rey.
"I'll make sure of it..." chuckled Grimmjow. Ichigo smiled a little before she noticed Tensa glancing at her. Her smile widened softly and her oldest son couldn't help smiling back. All she could hope for her friends and family to accept Tensa's decision of having his birth father around.
It was a lot warmer than usual, especially at night, but Tensa inhaled deeply as he sat in the grassy ground of the backyard. He had lived in the mansion for over eleven years, and it had barely changed much aside from one of the many bedrooms altered for his twin brothers. Before then, he remembered living in the penthouse when it was just him with Ichigo and Grimmjow. He was told that his mother were at first staying there after a terrible house robbery, but it became their home after Grimmjow wanted to stay together once the settlement was done involving his real father.
Thinking about it, he had never once mentioned Grimmjow as his father, even as a toddler. But it had never bothered anybody so he wasn't corrected for it. Grimmjow was a great father figure to him, eager to have as many fun as possible with him regardless of his old injuries. As a little kid, he had asked Grimmjow about how he got his scars. "Some man in his car hit mine, and I got hurt..." his stepfather simply answered, but he knew the specific truth behind it once he got older. Now that he was a teen, he soon figured out about a thing or two from the adults.
He knew that Renji once had a crush on his mother but settled to have a friendship with her, after hearing a pointless arguement between the red-head and Grimmjow over Ichigo. Now Renji's daughter Yuki has a crush on him, prompting countless jokes of the two men being in-laws one day. He also knew that there was a rift between the family and friends because of him when he was a baby and that caused his mother to run away from home. And he wasn't an idiot about how his mother and Grimmjow first met, when he heard about Starrk being her boss at the stripclub. He wasn't ashamed at all about Ichigo being a stripper in the first place, as that was fate that her life changed during that time.
His mother admitted that it was her fault that she kept the affair with Aizen a secret until it was too late. But for some reason, she didn't really regret the affair... all because she had Tensa.
"... What're you doing hiding out here, Tensa?" Tensa glanced over his shoulder to see his father walking calmly up to him. "Is something the matter? I thought you were enjoying your party," Aizen said, nodding at the house filled with laughter and enthusiatic conversations.
"Just wanted some fresh air, that's all," muttered Tensa. Aizen smiled a little and nodded, with his cane he carefully sat down next to him. "What about you, why're you here...?" the teen asked.
"Oh... your brothers were quite a handful," he smiled a little. "They insisted on me bringing a present for you or else I won't get a piece of cake. I don't know how they would think of it."
"Oh, right..." Tensa smiled lightly. "Are you sure that's the reason, though?"
"Hmm... well, I'm still invisible to your grandfather's eyes, a few other people barely acknoweldge me," he replied honestly. "The only ones who bother to talk to me are Ichigo, Gin and his wife, and the twin boys... I must've been that terrible to cause bad things to them."
"... You can't really blame them, you were with Mom almost twenty years ago before you walked out of her life," sighed Tensa. "It's not like they got a grudge against you but considering your actions, I suppose it's hard to overlook it just like that." Aizen sighed deeply at that, gazing up at the night sky.
"That's true... but I've already suffered enough for what I done," he muttered, a hint of sadness evident in his voice. "I'm slowly dying anyway, my condition cannot be cured. My only hope is that I could live long enough to see you graduate high school..."
"But... it don't have to be that soon," Tensa frowned. "Rather... I would have you see me graduate college, for that matter." Aizen blinked in surprise at that and looked at his son. His comment made his sick heart jump in excitement, as his thin lips stretched into a smile.
"You honestly believe that, Tensa?" he asked.
"Yeah..." Tensa nodded. "Although I'm not sure which career I want to follow through, either business or maybe I wish to become a doctor. Who knows...? But I want you to live another ten to fifteen years. Just long enough for you to be a grandfather or something..."
"Heh, such great dreams you have, Tensa-" chuckled Aizen.
"But I'm really serious," frowned the teen. "I really want you to live long for me. It's only fair since you've missed the first several years of my life." Aizen stared at him for a moment, his suft bronze-colored eyes twinkled under the dark navy sky.
"I'm still sorry about that... but I promise," he said. "I promise to keep on living for your sake, Tensa. I want to stay here for you no matter what." Tensa smiled at that and nodded.
"I'd like that to happen, Father," he smiled.
"Hmm... not that I'm complaining, but 'father' sounds so formal," said Aizen with a light smile. Tensa blinked at him but laughed a little, moving forward before finally standing up.
"I dunno, it sounds all right to me," he grinned. "But maybe one of these days, I could call you 'dad' but this is taking a while to process this form of relationship."
"I suppose that'd make sense," nodded Aizen. His son reached his hand out and he took it, slowly standing up to his feet. "Are you ready to go back to the party now, Tensa?"
"Of course, it's still my birthday," smirked Tensa as they started to walk back to the house. "So... guess you're not gonna get cake since you didn't give me any present."
"Oh, who said I didn't get you a present?" smiled Aizen.
"Huh? You got me a gift?" Tensa questioned. "What is it exactly?"
"Oh, that... Well, this past week I talked to your stepfather about your present, and we agreed that I will the be the one to give it to you." At that, Tensa paused in his steps and frowned at him.
"Aw, don't tell me..." he frowned.
"It was already sent here by the garage as you were out in the yard," he smiled. "I came here to inform you but our conversation to another direction."
"But I still don't even know how to drive...!" huffed the teen. "I don't even have a learner's permit anyway!"
"You don't say," his father mockingly commented. Tensa frowned but soon let that go as a small smile twitched at his lips. It wasn't that he would dislike the obvious present. But he was glad that his actual parent was being there for him now. He had already forgiven the man, as did Ichigo and Grimmjow, and had accepted him into his life. As they reached closer to the back door, Tensa felt a gentle squeeze on his shoulder and glanced up at Aizen.
"What's wrong, Father...?" he asked.
"Nothing... just that I'm glad to be your father, Tensa..." smiled Aizen. Tensa grinned back, before turning to open the door. Everything was perfect to him. Friends and family was already there for him. But his real father seemed to help adding to his support. Through the crowd, he saw his mother and moved to hug her and kissed her on the cheek.
"Oh! What was that about, Tensa?" Ichigo smiled in surprise.
"Nothing, I'm just glad that you're my mother," grinned Tensa. Ichigo laughed before catching eyes with her former lover, who simply nodded before looking ahead. But she just smiled softly. Their relationship, though a brief and terrible one, resulted in the child who was hugging her now. She hugged Tensa back, kissing through his hair.
"Happy birthday, Tensa..." smiled Ichigo.
"Thank you, Mom," grinned Tensa.
Finally! Whooh, over a year and I'm finally done! Yays!
Now that I'm done with this, I'll focus on 'Warrior'! But I'm also thinking about a new story but I'm not sure how to plot out the concept right. It's just an idea; that Ichigo, a Japanese-American tourist goes on vacation in a foreign country with his friends, but gets lost and relies on a snarky yet flirtatious local to get back to his hotel. It sounds wacky both on text and in my mind but for now I'll see what happens.
Read and review.
I'll upload a new story ASAP!