Thank you to everyone who encouraged me through this story, it has really meant a lot to me. Really something that challenged me and made me grow as a writer; close to my heart. FF is being weird and I'm not sure if my replies have been going through, but please know I appreciate all the support, not only for this story, but for all the others. This story quite literally wrote itself and this felt like the end, so please take it for what it is and enjoy. This can now be marked complete. Thank you for being a part of it. -TPP
"You heard my voice
I came out of the woods by choice
Shelter also gave their shade
But in the dark I had no name
So leave that click in my head
and I will remember the words that you said...
...So when your hope's on fire
But you know your desire
Don't hold a glass over the flame
Don't let your heart grow cold
I will call you by name
I will share your road."
-Hopeless Wanderer by Mumford & Sons
Ichigo grips my hand tight. Our palms are sweaty from moving boxes all day, but we don't care. We're standing in the middle of Starrk's living room, our living room now.
Kisuke had finally swallowed his pride, had finally confessed his true feelings for Starrk.
Of course Starrk had reciprocated. He'd been in love with Kisuke for years. Kisuke had stopped running, had finally given in. Starrk had moved in with him immediately and the two were in that sweet-sick honeymoon phase where even Jinta didn't want to be around them.
Ichigo and I had continued to save through the summer, fall, winter, and the new spring semester was nearly over. I'd managed to survive a year of college classes, most of them drawing and design. Ichigo was excelling, taking on a paid internship with the science department, so we could handle the rent as long as we didn't get big heads and spend stupid money where it wasn't needed.
It was weird. I'd always considered Starrk's apartment my home, but now that Ichigo was here, now that it was ours…it felt complete.
I gripped Ichigo's hand tighter as I stared at the two photos on the wall, the ones Misaki had gotten framed for us as presents to our new space.
The picture of my mum and me, the only one I had, in a quiet, silver frame.
Her cross still hung around my neck beneath my shirt. I never took it off.
And a picture of Yuzu, Karin, and Ichigo, all of them smiling on the beach, a picture that had made Ichigo cry when he'd unwrapped it in a solid black frame.
He'd said that was the last time they'd been happy before the accident, a family day out weeks before her death. Yuzu had buried Ichigo half in the sand and Karin had gotten stung by a jellyfish, but it had been a good day. A normal, simple day.
He'd gotten her name tattooed on his left arm, beneath the crook of his elbow.
When I'd asked him why that area, he'd told me it had been one of his favorite areas to cut.
Moved and a little emotional, I'd asked Ichigo to visit the beach with me the next day.
He'd been a little confused when we'd gotten there and I'd stood on the pier, staring out at the waves and fighting tears.
I told him that this was my mum's grave, her freedom. We sat on the pier for hours. Ichigo bought me ice cream.
Then we went straight to a tattoo shop. I had re-drawn the bird, visualizing the last thing I had drawn for my mum before she died.
The final creation of mine that she had loved, that had made her smile. Her final smile.
Right above my heart. Forever. A shitty bird, but HER bird.
And then we just kept living.
School, work, arguing, instant ramen noodles, movies on the couch, touching each other in the dark because we needed the contact, not the sex.
We're laying on the floor of the living room in a nest of pillows, halfway through a movie when Ichigo kisses me, touches me. Then it progresses, and our pants are off.
I'm on top of him. He splays his legs out and I breathe into his mouth.
And he says, "I need you. Please."
And I can't deny him. I don't know how I thought I ever could.
He whispers to me as I work him open, my heart in my throat because I've never done this before. I've played, but not like this.
His legs are shaking. I want to talk him out of it, but I know he won't listen.
I'm terrified but aroused. Ichigo's always made me feel like that, the constant contradiction.
And then I'm pushing in, holding my breath because the fear is outweighing the tightness and the heat until I thrust forward, my instincts driven by the sounds he's making.
The monster is disappearing back underneath the bed.
Ichigo's arms wrap around me, his hips working against mine and we're trapped against each other and it's amazing. More than amazing.
I drag it out as long as I can. It's fucking stupid, but I want him to remember this first time for the rest of his life. I don't want to rush. I want him to feel everything.
So we're making love.
I dunno. It's intense and fucking scary, and when he's inside me, this is what it feels like, but my heart is pounding so hard and blood is rushing in my ears and my hips snap harder, my fingers dig harder.
I want him to smell like me. I want him to feel me for days because he's mine and nobody will ever hear him like this or see him like this. Over my fucking dead body.
I bite his neck. He screams and cums.
I can't stop. I want to fuck him into the floor. I want to own every part of him, memorize every freckle and ancient cut mark, name them all.
He tugs my face to him, kisses me deep.
"Cum, baby. Cum for me, love."
I explode. I grip him tight, ignoring how sticky we are. I'm still inside him.
My whole body tenses when I realize I didn't wear a condom.
He rubs circles into my sweaty back, breathing into my ear, "It's okay. I love you."
I attack his mouth again before dragging him to the shower and sucking him off.
We manage to find the bed. He's too sore to take me, but I don't care.
We fall asleep together, my fingers in his hair, and I don't care what they write in books and sing in songs, this is my heaven.
Ichigo winces when he sits at breakfast. He kisses me when I hand him his coffee.
Black. Two sugars.
"Was it…okay for you?" I finally mumble, afraid of his answer.
Even though it had happened less than 12 hours ago, I still felt like it had been a fever dream. I'd fantasized about it once or twice, but now that I'd actually done it, I was afraid of what are sex life would look like now.
Ichigo takes another sip of his coffee, then looks at me, "Grimmjow, it wasn't just okay. It was…I had no idea. That it could feel like that. You're always passionate, but that was…it was worth the wait."
My whole body burned at the words. He sounded honest, flustered. He wasn't trying to make me feel good: he genuinely believed it.
Ichigo tried to hide his blush behind his mug, "So –um, what about you? What do you think?"
I stirred my cereal, smirking despite my shyness, "I could…if you like it, then…yeah. I loved it."
1 Year Later.
"Ichigo, my precious son! Bring daddy the barbeque sauce!" Isshin hollers from his place at the grill. He honestly has no business being there. He always burns the meat, but mum doesn't have the heart to take the duty away from him.
"Okay," I say, getting up from my comfy spot next to Grimmjow. I hand him my beer and disappear into the kitchen, rummaging through the condiments. Mum is mixing a salad at the island counter, Karin painting frosting onto the birthday cake with the aid of Jinta.
"Your father almost done burning the meat?" Misaki teased, making me snort.
"Then I think we're ready. Kids, help me take all this food to the patio."
"Yes ma'am," Jinta jumps up, hoping Misaki hadn't just seen him sneak a lick of frosting from Karin's finger.
I winked at Karin before heading back out to the patio with the salad and barbeque sauce, smiling when I hear Grimmjow laugh. Mum had insisted on throwing a birthday party for him and I'd been quick to agree, inviting everybody from the music store and a few of our friends we'd made in college. Urahara, Starrk, and Shuhei were chilling on the patio, talking music as usual while Wonderweis, a weird-cool kid from one of Grimmjow's painting classes studied a rose bush. Chado, one of the few friends I'd managed to stay in contact with from high school had decided to wander over to my dad and help him with the barbequing. He was a good cook, actually worked for a restaurant so I had faith we wouldn't starve.
I sat the salad down on one of the tables and dropped the barbeque sauce off to my dad before rejoining Grimmjow on the patio lounge chair we'd been sharing. He handed me my beer back, a smirk on his lips as Shuhei continued to try and convince him he was not crushing on a snake-eyed customer.
"I invited him," Grimmjow said, making Shuhei's face turn almost scarlet, "I'm sure he'll turn up sooner or later."
I'd been surprised when Gin, or Snake Eyes, had showed up to the music store one day. I'd immediately gotten jealous of him, as Grimmjow seemed at ease around him and I hadn't known him at all in high school, staying as far away from the delinquent as possible. He'd gotten his act together, apparently, since he had graduated and was currently enrolled in the same university as us. Grimmjow had described it as an easy friendship, one that had developed out of a mutual loneliness.
"He understood me when nobody else did," Grimmjow had said, "Then I met you."
Needless to say, Gin had managed to integrate himself more into our life. Now that I knew more about who he was, he was nothing like what people had said in high school. It made me a little ashamed, but to be fair, it had never been logical to have Grimmjow be introduced into my life either.
Fate had done its thing.
Misaki called everybody to attention. Everybody filed to chairs at tables, Isshin blessing the food before everybody dug in.
True to form, Gin showed up halfway through the meal, eyeless smile on his face.
He plopped down next to Shuhei. Grimmjow elbowed me when I snorted.
Later, Karin and Jinta schooled us in soccer. I eventually gave up and just tackled her to the grass, getting us good and dirty as her boyfriend tried to defend her honor, but he got put in a headlock by the birthday boy. Jinta fought for a bit, but it was half-hearted: it was that brotherly thing acting up again.
Grimmjow blew out his candles, opened presents. Cds from the guys, some new shirts from my parents.
"Where's yours, lover boy?" Starrk had ribbed, smirking at me.
"He got my present this morning."
My dad practically choked on his beer. My mum rubbed his back soothingly while my sister's face turned almost purple.
"Get your minds out of the gutter," I mumbled, pulling up Grimmjow's hand to show people the silver ring inlaid with a circle-cut orange and blue stone married in an infinity symbol.
"Oh my god, that is the sappiest thing I have ever seen," Jinta announced.
"So you guys are gonna tie the knot finally, eh?" Urahara said, slipping his arm over Starrk's shoulder, "About time, my boys."
"Way to go, Ichigo!"
"It's not an engagement ring, you idiots," Grimmjow said, avoiding eye contact with Misaki.
"Uh-huh," mum said with a smile, "Of course, honey. Whatever you say."
Everybody cheered and laughed, despite my blustering attempts to explain my ring present. I'd wanted to get him something I thought he'd wear: he didn't really do bracelets and his mum's necklace was so special I didn't want to try and override that. And when I'd seen the ring, I'd thought it was sent straight from heaven, a sign.
Grimmjow had kissed me, told me it was an amazingly thoughtful gift.
The more I thought about it, than yeah, it was an engagement ring of sorts. A promise ring.
Did Grimmjow know that too?
I grabbed Grimmjow's hand, feeling insecure.
I don't know why I worried.
He squeezed back.
I guess it really bothered Ichigo that our family now considered us engaged.
Doesn't bother me what they think, but it made Ichigo retreat into his head for the rest of the day.
We helped Misaki clean up the kitchen, the leftover cake tucked away in the fridge. She kissed us each good night and hugged me a last time, whispering happy birthday.
It made me miss my mum so much, but Misaki is amazing. My mum would have really, really loved this woman.
Starrk gives us a ride back to our apartment. We lay on the couch for a bit, watch tv before retreating to bed.
He kissed me goodnight, but I wasn't letting him off that easily.
"The ring can mean whatever you want it to."
He smiles and kisses me and kisses me and kisses me.
I take him twice before he passes out. He usually snores really loud after we fuck. It's soothing to me.
I wrap myself around him.
I still don't know what the ring really means, but it doesn't matter.
He fought monsters for me. Continues to fight them.
And the beautiful thing is I never asked him to.
We're not alone anymore. No longer lost.
I send a quick prayer. I'm not very religious, but I like to think my mum made it to heaven. I hope she can see the life I'm carving with Ichigo.
I finally drift off. I dream about the ocean. Yuzu's tugging on my hand, pointing at the seagulls overhead.
She has Misaki's eyes.
I've never even met her and I love her.
Ichigo pushes me into the sand, kisses me silly.
And when I wake up, I'm still in the paradise.