A/N: Hello magnificent readers. I do hope you enjoy this chapter, and please read the AN at the end!
Chapter Ten: Si Je Reviens (If I Return)
Si tout doit recommencer
(If everything has to start again)
Si c'est qu'on ma dit est vrai
(If what I've been told is true)
S'il y a une vie après tu sais
(If there is a life after the one you know)
Si on peut vraiment choisir
(If we can really choose)
D'autre corps, d'autres desirs
(Another body, different desires)
Alors je suis d'accord
(Then I'll understand)
- Si Je Reviens, Steeve Estatof
I heard a heavy sigh as the door slowly opened.
"Damn it, Szayel, I thought I told you to leave me the hell alo-"
The low, rumbling voice stopped as wide blue eyes met mine.
What the fuck do I do now?
I could only stand and stare in silence. Stare at him - the filthy pyjamas, the slight pink to his eyes, the unshaven face, the complexion that betrayed ill-health - and feel my pulse slowly rise, panic, wonder what on earth might have happened to make him look like that. It overtook everything, the fear of him being in pain, pushing aside my jumbled thoughts and feelings to mix with my worry. My eyes moved to his lips as he licked them, my heart jolting in my chest when he opened his mouth as if to speak, only to close it once more. I wet my own lips, opened my own mouth.
We spoke at the same time, interrupted each other, stopping so that the other might take a step forward, make the first move, act out any cliché phrase you might think of to describe such an indescribable need to progress, only to be held back by your own fear. He was supposed to be the strong one, wasn't he? I stopped myself as soon as the thought entered my mind. No. No, I knew better - I couldn't think like that anymore. I had to be just as strong, stronger. I had to prove myself to him. Show him. This was my last chance.
I took a literal step forward.
As I expected, he backed away, his shoulders tense, eyes wide as I stepped over the threshold to his home - I knew now, it could never be mine again, not as it had been - into the light that filtered through the open living room door. His back against the wall, he stood up straight, his eyes narrowing - against the light? Against the sight of me? I had no idea - his eyebrows pulling together as he scanned my face, as if searching for something without really knowing what to look for. His eyes moved downwards, then, roamed my figure, and I tried to stand tall but my head still hurt and my muscles still ached and I needed him to see how pathetic I had become. Needed to show him that I had hit rock bottom again. Show him that it had taught me something.
"You look like shit."
His voice was so hoarse, as if unused. Had he left the house, recently? I tried to search his eyes, but they were cold, calculating, reminding me very much of his younger half-brother. The brother that I had imitated in order to force my way into his life once more. Once. The last time. This time. What was I waiting for?
I needed to tell him.
"Why the fuck're you here, Ichi?"
I felt a spark filter across my skin, my heart's frantic pace increasing further as he said my name. It wasn't Ichigo, or worse, Kurosaki. Part of me had been expecting that, expecting him to detach me from him in a way in which he had never done before. But no. Hope. Was that what this feeling was? I licked my lips - I felt so dry, dehydrated, I needed to keep going, moving forwards - said the only words I could think of.
I was too focused on the widening of his eyes, the way they were suddenly shining with unknown emotions - was he angry, disappointed, sad, did he even care at all? - to see the fist flying towards my face. His knuckles collided sharply with my cheek, the impact forcing my head to the side, skewing my balance, my hands having to reach out for the wall beside me. I could feel my cheek throb to the beat of my heart.
Head down, I watched his feet move and instinctually flinched - was this it, now? Why had I thought he'd still be there for me to turn to? I was so stupid - my shoulders tensing, waiting for the second impact, only to be surrounded by incredible heat. Those arms. Those powerful, protective arms.
He was holding me.
What does this mean?
I felt hot breath against my neck, cracked lips forming mumbled words on my skin. They had been so soft, before, those lips. I tried to relax, but my body refused to comply, my hands moving stiffly instead of gently as I had asked them to be as they moved to his shoulders. I tried to pull him from me - I needed to hear what he had to say - but was only rewarded with the tightening of his grip. It was almost painful, but I knew more pain than this.
His lips met my ears.
His voice was wet, something was dropping on my shoulder, an atmospheric rain, poignant.
"This is all my fault."
Whatever I had expected to hear, it hadn't been that. My reaction was instantaneous, my voice steadier than I could ever have thought it could be, my hands firmer as I pushed him away - I panicked momentarily at the thought, I didn't want to push this man away, not like he had done to me, so many times before - forced a little distance between our bodies. He wouldn't meet my eyes as I tried to catch them. The tears, though, I caught them. With my eyes, on my fingertips.
"No, Grimm. It's not your fault..."
I tried my best to swallow down the lump in my throat, but it didn't deter my voice from breaking, creaking - I sounded as bad as he did, now, who would have thought it could be the other way around? - my heart breaking to see this man cry. The few tears I had seen in the past had been sporadic at best, intermittent, dreamt at worst. But now, they fell freely from glassy azure, traced the contours of his cheeks - still perfect, under their harsh stubble - those which I could not catch dropping to the ground as soon as they were granted freedom.
"It was my decision. I wasn't strong enough- I thought I wasn't strong enough."
His eyes finally rose to meet mine, his head turning. My fingers, still tracing his cheek, followed the movement, and I couldn't help but stare at them, against his skin. I never wanted to stop touching him - not erotically, not in the heat of an argument, not in the slicing of pure, hot flesh - but the intimate caresses only recognised by those who had felt a desire such as this. It was still there, terrifying, deluded, an insanity of the heart. I wanted him to be a part of me, myself a part of him, to share the same soul, the same life.
Perhaps it was already so.
"I'm Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez. Nice to meet you, kid."
"My, my. Do you not wish to know if someone is interested in you?"
"Past your bedtime, eh kid?"
"You want this to feel even better, Ichigo?"
"You having your usual?"
"I miss you, Ichi. That's why I wanted to see you."
"I still love you. I never stopped loving you."
"C'mere. Let's curl up."
"Of course I want ya, Ichi. I... It's always…"
"I knew this would happen. I knew you two wouldn't be able to stay away from each other."
"It's always you."
"You'll never be good enough."
"I know now, Grimm."
His hands shifted to my waist, rubbing his thumbs across my ribs, over my back, up my spine. Gently, as if scared. One of his hands raised to my face, cupped my jaw, tender traces from fingertips fluttering across my cheeks. His eyes seemed to cry out, although the tears no longer fell. What did he want from me? It looked as though he didn't know himself. I bit my lips, pushed myself a little closer to him. I read him as though he were a wild animal - I needed to be cautious, take small steps, a quiet voice, lest I scare him, or worse, anger him.
"I'm good enough."
His eyes flickered, his eyebrows marring in confusion.
"And so are you."
I closed the small distance between our bodies, this time - I could do this, I had to do this - pushed up onto my toes, cupped his jaw gently, brought his lips to mine. It was the slightest caress, heavily weighted with hope and fear. I kept my lips on his, unmoving - I feared I might lose control, if I pushed against him any further - took in the scent of Grimmjow, unclean, unshaven, yet the man I loved nonetheless. I felt his shuddering breath against my face, his hands frozen, yet still on my body.
I pulled back, tempted to return when I watched him lick his lips again - I wished it were my tongue, or my lips, or any part of my body against any part of his - but I resisted. I needed to wait in order to find out everything, find out what my future would hold. Would it be spent with this man? Was such a thing even possible, after everything that had happened?
My heart leapt at the possibility as his hands moved to grasp my shoulders, pull me closer to him, his nose rubbing against mine as he spoke against my lips, on my lips, his heat too close yet not at all uncomfortable as it shuddered over me once more.
"What are you gonna do, Ichi?"
I almost moaned at that voice. It was dark, heavy, desperate, with none of the anger that it had previously held. His fingers dug into my skin as he tried to close an imaginary space between us, his body melding to my own as he pushed me against the closest wall, his breath heavy against the sensitive skin of my face.
I had to stop talking as his lips barely-brushed my jaw, had to swallow heavily as they danced over my neck, causing too many feelings for such little contact. I took a deep breath, tried to soothe the storm that was building in my chest, in my head - it was so like Grimmjow, to create such havoc, such destruction, little did I know he could also create - answered his question.
"I'm going to see Unohana."
He stiffened only slightly before nodding against my skin. What did that mean? There were too many questions filling my mind, barely held back by what little sanity I had left, by the pursing of my lips. But then, if I didn't ask, how would I find out? I had to be stronger, no - I would be stronger.
I shut my mouth as he opened his, furrowed my brow as he pushed back from my neck to study my eyes. I didn't get it. It reminded me of all that time ago, when I would start asking him something - usually a request, that I would later turn into an order - but he would cut me off as soon as I said his name with a 'no', a teasing smirk. But he hadn't said no, the smirk wasn't there. I moved my face further from his, pushed a hand to his chest. Was he fucking with me?
"Do you even know what I wanted to ask you?"
His eyes didn't dance with their renowned teasing mischief, his lips didn't tilt at all as he replied.
"I don't give a fuck, Ichi…"
I almost panicked again - almost pushed him away, images of punching him, repaying the favour, flicking through my mind - but I knew I had to trust him. Now, like never before.
"Whatever you want me to do, I'll do it."
I was once again reduced to a staring silence. My heart was in my throat and I had to swallow it down, but it wasn't working and then his lips were on mine again, but this time it was Grimmjow that was moving forwards, his lips firmer than mine had been, more assured, confident in their decision. Was this what he truly wanted? I don't know why - perhaps it was his actions that told me, perhaps it was instinct - but that's what I believed. What I knew.
His hands moved to cup my face as he pulled back, his lips leaving mine to push against my forehead. I closed my eyes, hummed, but then I was brought back to reality by his voice, a reminder of what I had to do.
"What time's your appointment?"
The nerves that still lingered behind my ribs, that had slowed to a waltz in my stomach, began to once again rise up, their tempo increasing as I thought about going back to that place, starting this battle all over again. No, I couldn't think like that. This wasn't the same situation at all. I knew, now, that it wouldn't end the same way, either. This time, I would win.
I felt him shift an arm to glance at his watch. He made a soft sound in his throat, nodded once. His hold slowly left mine, and as the cloth of his tee shirt left my fingertips, I almost reached out for him once more, forced him back into my arms. I didn't want to let go. I needed him to never let go.
"Lemme shower and we'll head off. You want tea?"
I blinked at him a little. He was really coming with me. That fact slowly sunk into my pounding brain. I cleared my throat a little before nodding.
"I can, er, I'll make it myself. If that's okay?"
He raised an eyebrow at me, his eyes holding onto mine for a little while, before he simply seemed to dismiss any thoughts he had been having, nodding at me again, moving towards the bathroom.
I watched him close the door behind him before I left the hallway, moved to the kitchen. Everything was still where it used to be, although the small room would never have been left in such a state had I lived there, still. Dirty plates and bowls, old take-out boxes and chopsticks were piled high over the counter, covering what I was sure would have been filthy surfaces. I rearranged them a little, rooted through the cupboards.
The only clean mug I could find was my own, sat alone on a shelf.
I stared at the small box of tea-bags in my hands. It still had my name written on it, from when we had play-fought over who appreciated Rooibos the most. My scrawled handwriting was proof of that particular win.
The clicking of the boiled kettle made me jump, made the tears spring free from full eyes. I shook my head, closed my eyelids. Deep breaths. Today was the first step. Hadn't I always been told to take it one step at a time? I just had to get through today. I knew I could, with Grimmjow at my side.
Cradling my too-hot mug in cold hands, I moved into the living room, intent on getting some not-so-fresh fresh air on the balcony. I stopped, however, as my eyes roamed over the chaos that seemed to have spilled over from the kitchen. There was an old blanket draped haphazardly over the sofa, cushions I didn't recognise spilling onto the floor.
Strewn over the coffee table lay beer cans, crisp packets, more take-out boxes - letters? I moved over to the small, low table, my eyebrows furrowing, not recognising at the first the different shapes and sizes of paper, of cards, the handwriting. I reached out, picked up one. Another. Again.
"Happy Birthday, Grimm
"Try not to let me drink you under the table this time, old man!
"Got no fucking clue how I've put up with you for three years
"But I guess it's not all bad, I mean you are paying for dinner...
"(Love you really)
"I've run to the shop, seen as SOME douche used the last of the tea-bags. No more Rooibos for you! Be back before you know it x"
"I don't know where the fuck you've gone, Grimm, but give me a call when you get home. We need to talk."
"Sleep on the sofa, asshole."
"Fuck you, I'm gone."
I started as I heard the shower turn off in the bathroom the other side of the wall, replaced the notes as accurately as I could with such glazed vision, tears once again falling as I moved to the balcony, pulling open the door. As I stepped out, I noticed that the once healthy and proud plants drooped miserably in their pots, the chair lying defeated on its side. Picking it up, I sat down on the cold plastic, took a sip of my cooling tea, fished out a cigarette.
This place was haunted.
"Kurosaki-san, please come in."
I jumped slightly, looked up at the woman who I hadn't seen for almost four years. She didn't look a day older, her cheeks still rounded by her soft smile, her eyes kind when they weren't shut in contemplation. I nodded, moved to look at Grimmjow. He was already standing at my side, a hand offered out to me. I took it, pretended not to notice the slight shake to it. I knew my own probably wasn't faring any better. Hand in hand, fingers linked, we followed Unohana into her office.
The drive hadn't been awkward, as I thought it would have been. Perhaps it was the lethargy I felt - seeping into my bones, numbing my mind - the exhaustion of emotions bared, lulling us into a silence which neither wished to break. Grimmjow had emerged from the bathroom almost at his former glory - clean-shaven, hair styled, teeth brushed - the slight lankness to his frame the only betrayal to his wavering strength, and we had left with nothing but knowing glances.
"I must say, I hadn't expected to see you again."
The chairs were as uncomfortable as I remembered them. I squirmed a little under the woman's soft gaze. It should have been comforting, but it had something behind it. Authority, perhaps. Knowledge. I nodded, not knowing what to say. She stared at me a little longer, as if asking me to elaborate. When I couldn't find the words, she prompted me.
"Would you like to tell me what happened?"
I had to look away from her, look at the hands now linked in my lap, only one of which my own.
It wasn't easier to say, the second time around.
I nodded again. The word made me want to be sick.
"I see. It is not uncommon to slip back once, or even twice. Many people are still able to resist the urge to use again. Perhaps you should go home, give it some time-"
I could see Grimmjow from the corner of my eye, the quick motion of his head as it shot to look at me. I wasn't surprised. I myself was shocked at my outburst, but the jumping of my heart showed my panic, my reason. I knew I couldn't just go home. I knew it wouldn't be fine, not without getting this out. Unohana simply leaned back in her chair, linked her hands.
"I mean- I- It wasn't like that."
I tried to find the words, thankful for the silence of the other two. Not that I expected Grimmjow to speak. His hand, warming my own, was enough.
"It wasn't like I wanted to just do it one more time. It wasn't like I thought I could go back to how I was after a line or two. I wanted to use, and keep using. I wanted to give my life up for it... Again."
The hand around mine tightened. Unohana nodded.
"What would you like to do, Kurosaki-san? We could use the same treatment as last time, but I don't think it would be as effective in this case."
I moved my eyes to hers. I needed to show her I was being honest, that I could do this.
"I just want drugs out of my life. Completely. Cold turkey."
She narrowed her eyes, although her smile remained intact. It was only slight, but I noticed it. I swallowed heavily. I knew what was coming. She was sure to chew me out for breaking the rules of my rehabilitation.
"You've been taking other substances, in place of cocaine?"
I nodded, watched as she moved forwards to grab a pen from the side, readied it above a notepad.
"Please list them."
I couldn't look at her, couldn't look at the tightening hand in my lap, choosing instead to study a blank wall as I took a deep breath, tried to remember everything I had taken over the last seven or so months, listed them slowly.
"Temazepam, Tramadol, Cocodamol, Valium, Ketamine, MDMA, Marijuana, Alcohol… Nicotine. Although I'd quite like to keep my cigarettes, and maybe the occasional beer, if I'm giving up all the others."
I gave a wry smile, although I was completely serious.
Unohana leant forwards again, rested her elbows on her desk, her head on her linked hands. Her eyes flicked over to Grimmjow briefly before settling back on mine. I wondered if my cheek had started to bruise yet, if she had already made presumptions.
"May I ask what made you want to start using again?"
I felt the man beside me stiffen, his hand loosen around mine. I squeezed it, held it firmly in my own, where it was supposed to be. I had to show him. If I could do this, he could too.
"A lot of stuff happened. A lot of big changes. But I can't blame that. It was me. I wasn't strong enough to cope with things. So I chose to escape reality instead of dealing with it. I… I want to be strong enough."
"It is already a huge leap forward, Kurosaki-san, to be able to realise that. To want to be free from usage is the most essential factor in becoming free from it. Please remember that."
I nodded, watched as she finally settled her eyes on Grimmjow.
"Jaegerjaquez-san, I am happy to see you are still supporting him."
I could see him turn away from her gaze, away from me. I wasn't surprised that he hadn't escaped her scrutiny.
"I haven't been."
Her eyebrows raised, eyes flickering between the two of us. I squeezed his hand again.
"Which is why I came here today. I want help, too."
"Are you also using hard drugs?"
I felt my eyebrow raise. Grimmjow, drugs? The thought was almost funny. I could see why she asked, though, why she looked confused. Although, when I looked closer, I could see the curve of her lips was just a little more pronounced than earlier, as though she knew what he really meant, but wanted to make him say it. I watched him as he raised his free hand to his face, massaged the bridge of his nose.
"No. I want to know how to properly support Ichigo."
I couldn't take my eyes off him as I watched his determined eyes lock on Unohana's own. As if sensing my gaze, he turned those eyes to me, lifted our hands slightly before dropping them back on my thigh. I don't know why the action felt so reassuring.
"I'm not going anywhere. Not this time."
The silence was so pronounced, the only thing I could hear being my own frantic pulse. Had I gone deaf? Grimmjow was still looking at me, I could feel the heat of his gaze as it moved over my features, returned to my eyes, flickering as if searching. Did this mean-
"I'm very glad to hear that, Jaegerjaquez-san, and am of course more than happy to help., although I am afraid the advice I can give you is reasonably limited."
We both jumped. Started paying attention. I swallowed heavily as her words sunk in.
"Be strong. Be a team. A new environment might also help - the idea of a fresh start is very important, especially after a relapse such as this. You see, as far as Kurosaki-san is concerned, this is no longer a matter of rehabilitation.
"This is a matter of recovery."
Grimmjow had nodded at Unohana before turning back to me, his hand slipping from my own, moving to my shoulder, pushing himself up to stand.
"I'll be waiting outside, Ichi."
I hadn't wanted him to leave, but I knew he had to. There were some things I could only do myself. I thanked Unohana, left the room with a promise of hard work to match my new-found determination, her words running a never-ending track around my mind.
"It would seem that Jaegerjaquez-san is blaming himself for your relapse. You realise this, don't you, Kurosaki-san?"
"Yeah, I know."
"May I ask, do you think it is his fault?"
"No. Well, not any more. I- we broke up. A lot of shit happened. But it wasn't his fault, I know that now. I just didn't understand what was going on his head, not until recently."
"Is that so? Well, let me tell you something. I believe in you two, Kurosaki-san. I can see it. You're both so different to how you were when I last saw you. You'll be okay, this time. Now, go. I don't expect to see your ridiculously bright head anywhere near my office anytime soon, understood?"
Closing the door behind me, I leant back against the wood, closed my eyes, let out a long breath. When I finally pushed away from the door, looked up, Grimmjow was standing before me, his hand outstretched. I took it in my own again, felt myself relax despite the circumstances.
"C'mon, we're getting out of here."
His hand held mine over the gear-stick. Pulled me out of the car. Up the stairs.
It only left when we pushed through the door to the flat, as Grimmjow walked swiftly into the bedroom. The door swung shut behind him, left me confused, my hand too cold, still reaching out for something that was no longer there. I moved almost nervously - did he want me to follow him? - to push open the door.
The bed was slightly rumpled, the window open as usual, a cool draft hitting me as the door shut itself once more. This room held none of the mess, none of the disrepair that the rest of the flat seemed to, though.
"Why is it so tidy in here?"
I gazed out of the window as I asked.
"I haven't been able to sleep in that bed."
I stared at it a little - it didn't look like there was anything wrong with it - before I followed Grimmjow's voice to see him rooting around the bottom of the mirrored wardrobe. I wanted to ask what he was looking for, but the words died in my throat as he leant back to look at me, continued to speak, his eyes wary.
"Not since you were last here."
I felt my mouth fall open slightly, my chest ache at his confession, but before I could do anything about it - but what would I have done, really? - Grimmjow was moving back to stand, pulling with him a bag. He threw the empty, open fabric onto the bed, before pulling things out of drawers, stuffing them inside.
In minutes, it had been filled with clothes. He pulled it up over his shoulder, raised an eyebrow when he saw me staring, my face blank despite my whirring thoughts. He placed a hand on my cheek and I flinched unintentionally, surprised. I hated the look of hurt that put on his face. His brows were furrowed, now, his eyes still holding on to something reserved.
I didn't know the answer to that, so I replied with the question that had been bugging me since we had come back.
"What are you doing?"
He opened the door, held it there, gestured with his head for me to leave first.
"I thought I told you, we're getting out of here."
It was only once Grimmjow had driven me to my family's house, once he'd helped me pack a few things, once we were on the road, steaming coffee in our hands, that I thought to ask where it was exactly we were going.
"I phoned Szayel while you were with Unohana. We're going to the summer house."
My brain wasn't working very well.
"But it's not summer."
His eyes left the road in front of him to give me a pointed look, a raised eyebrow.
"What, you wanna go back to that shithole?"
"You're the one who turned it into a shithole."
How had this conversation happened? I looked out of the window, the smallest smirk pulling at my lips. I had almost forgotten how easy it was just to talk to Grimmjow.
"True. But that's not the point. Remember what Unohana said?" He put down his coffee in the cup holder, moved to grab my hand once more. "A new environment."
When I actually thought about it, it made sense. Would I really be able to think straight, if I was back there? Would I be able to accept this as a beginning, not a continuation of a traumatic past? But wait- I tried to search his eyes. They were focused on the road. I took a moment to watch him drive, lick his lips, before I asked him. A loaded question, one with too many meanings to clearly answer.
"A new start?"
His eyes did not stray to mine, but his hand gripped my own a little tighter.
"If I haven't shown you that already, there's not a lot more I can do, Ichi."
The summer home was another beautiful building, owned by Grimmjow and Szayel's father, passed down to the two sons to use as they wished. It wasn't huge, like Szayel's manor. It was a small villa, clean and neat and simple. As we walked through the door I dropped my bag to the floor, took the time to gaze up and around. We'd never been here before - I supposed we never had found much time to get away, just the two of us. As I looked around, I felt no pang of tears, no pressure on my chest. Why would I? This place was so unfamiliar, so untainted with memories.
It was perfect.
Grimmjow dropped his bag next to mine. I caught his eyes, wondered if the uncertainty in them would dissipate with my own anytime soon. If we could really start again. He took my hand in his own, pulled me with him through the house, into the kitchen. No matter how many times he did it, no matter how often his hand touched mine, it felt like the first time. I took a seat at the breakfast bar, continued the journey of the room with my eyes, as Grimmjow set the kettle to boil.
A steaming mug was placed under my nose. I looked up to see Grimmjow taking a seat opposite me, his hands wrapped around his own mug. Once he was seated, his eyes lifted to mine.
He nodded, looked down at his mug, took a sip. I followed suit, appreciating the soothing burn of the hot liquid. Rooibos. Unspoken questions weighed down the air, made it feel heavy around my shoulders. How were we even supposed to start talking about this, about us? How were we supposed to fix something that had felt so broken?
"Y'know, the whole Inoue thing… I really did break up with her when I said I did."
I nodded. The pang that usually accompanied her name was still there, but it had considerably lessened. His voice only soothed it further, low and unsure and vulnerable. He was showing me things I had never seen before, opening himself up for me to see, and I was more than grateful.
"I… I only got together with her because I thought it was what you were supposed to do, you know that?"
He was shaking his head, seemingly to himself, as he sighed.
"Jeez, I'm such an asshole."
I allowed my lips to quirk just a little.
"Well I'm not going to deny that…"
His eyes shot up to mine, almost worried, but calming once they read my own. He shook his head again, his own lips tilting as he traced his hand around the rim of his mug.
"Did I ever tell you about that girl I helped get away from Yammy's?"
His eyebrows pulled together in confusion.
"That time he put you in hospital?"
"That was Inoue."
Grimmjow choked on his tea, spluttering, almost dribbling all over himself, and I couldn't help but let out a laugh. His reaction was so genuine, so Grimmjow.
"How the fuck did you find that one out?"
"She told me last night."
"Wait, wait- last night?"
"Yeah, at Szayel's."
"Szayel knows her? Why the fuck didn't he say anything about it?"
He looked confused, disturbed even, muttering something to himself about insanity and questionable relations. I couldn't help but think he shouldn't have been so surprised. I mean, it was Szayel. But the fact that he hadn't known any of this, that he had also been kept in the dark, was a little reassuring. I wasn't going to explain it all to him, not right now, in any case. The details could wait. For now, I just wanted the look of guilt to be erased from his features. To do that, there was one thing that I knew I did have to explain.
He stopped his muttering, his eyes back on mine at once.
"Renji didn't mean anything to me."
I saw his hand tighten around his mug, his shoulders tense.
"Don't say that if it ain't true."
I felt my own hand grip into a fist as I tried to push myself forwards. I needed to get the words out, just as he had.
"It is true. I just… I didn't know what else to do, and he was there and- and I ended up totally screwing him over."
I swallowed heavily. I supposed I did feel a little guilty about it, now that I remembered the whole fiasco. I offered Grimmjow a small smile.
"I guess you're not the only asshole here."
His smile mirrored mine a little before he took a sip of his tea, stared off to the side for a while.
"If you could do anything right now, Ichi, what would it be?"
I was thankful that he hadn't let the silence become uncomfortable, but was also confused by the obscurity of his question. I knew the answer, although I didn't know if it was the one he was looking for.
"I'd be with you."
His eyes finally met mine again, then. His gaze was steady as he nodded slowly.
I hadn't thought that far.
"I don't care."
"Yeah, you do. You don't wanna work for that sandal-hat guy your entire life, right? You know that if you did, anything we tried to do, wouldn't work. You don't enjoy it, it ain't fulfilling, it's a boring as shit routine that would take you back to square one… C'mon, are you telling me there's nothing at all you'd like to do, if you had the chance?"
I thought about it a while, sipped my tea with concentration. I couldn't look at him.
"I guess… I guess I'd like to work with recovering addicts. I know I wouldn't be able to, not yet, but-"
"Then do it."
My eyes flew back up to his. How did he make things sound so simple? My mind was protesting, telling me that things just weren't that fucking easy, but I promptly told it to shut up. I wanted, just for a little while, to pretend that they were. A simpler existence, as though just the two of us existed.
"What about you?"
He shrugged and I almost chuckled. I knew he wouldn't have an answer, even after pressuring me into one. I watched as he stretched a little before placing his elbows on the counter top, staring into his tea, his hands on the back of his neck.
"I guess I could do anything, really. The logical thing to do would be to try to set up my own business, I mean I've basically done it before."
Something wasn't quite adding up.
"Wait, what about Espada?"
He shrugged, looked up at me.
"Well, actually… I kinda got fired." He admitted, rubbing the back of his neck.
"How the fuck did that happen?"
I was genuinely shocked. The Grimmjow I knew was very much work-orientated - he'd never had a day off in his life, much less lost a job. His eyes seemed to darken as they moved back to gaze into the cooling tea.
"I didn't show up for a while. Apparently you're not s'posed to do that when you're a manager." His voice sounded heavy, sarcastic, but then his eyes were shining up at me, his mouth curling into a smirk, the likes of which I hadn't seen in far too long. "Did you know that?"
I couldn't help it. I let out a still-shocked laugh, shook my head at him in disbelief.
"What are you going to do?"
His head tilted. I watched as his characteristically disobedient hair fell to one side, one of his eyebrows raising with a confidence I hadn't seen for far too long, his smirk widening, and all I could think was this is the real Grimmjow. This is the man I love.
"Don't you mean what're we gonna do?"
This was it.
This was really it.
I swallowed. Nodded.
He spoke. He knew.
"Anything. We could do anything, Ichigo."
A/N: Okay, so here's the deal, beloved readers. I'm quite happy to leave Recovery here, but I'm also willing to write an epilogue (which will of course include an immense amount of fanservice, by which I mean sex.) In fact, I may already have half a smut-filled chapter written, but I'm afraid I can't offer you anything in the way of speedy delivery (I'm sorry, but my course has somehow got more intense? Seriously I didn't think that was possible) So basically, please go vote on the poll on my profile, and you will (hopefully) get what you want :')
Until then, I'm going to leave this as incomplete, and I hate to say it, but the way this course is going, I highly doubt I'll have much time for writing. I suppose the next full-length fic you can expect from me is 'Perfect Soul' which is, (sorry GrimmIchi devotees), IchiRuki.
In any case, please let me know what you thought of this chapter. Lots of love x