Cherry blossoms were falling. The sky was purple, a light violet color, and the clouds glowed with an otherworldly light. Lightning flashed across his eyes.
I'm dreaming, he thought.
It happened to him often, these lucid dreams. A space and time where he could control his actions, where he went, what happened to him. Sometimes he was at his old high school, sitting in the corner and glaring at all his classmates and his teacher. At others, he would be lying down at the beach and unable to move, the tide slowly drifting in, tickling his toes and gradually eating up his body until he was underneath the water, drowning peacefully.
Unusually, he felt no pain in the dreams that he died. And he did so often. He had heard it said that if you died in your dreams you died in real life, but that had never happened to him and he wondered why everyone got so caught up in the meanings of these hallucinations. He'd once picked up a book and flicked through it; it had offered to explain the symbolism behind dreams and nightmares, but Grimmjow had only rolled his eyes and sneered before throwing it away.
No book could explain what he dreamt about.
Most of the time, he was walking through sand dunes, utterly alone. The sky was always black and a sickle moon hung crookedly amongst the stars. The sand crunched like freshly fallen snow underneath his feet and he was looking for something. For what, he didn't know. But he would when he found it.
The sand was shifting rapidly under his feet this time. The trees that had always been there had suddenly burst into bloom and candy-pink flowers festooned the formerly bare branches, as if bunches of cotton candy had burst through the sand.
There was no wind, but for some reason, the blossoms were drifting in the air, settling into his messy blue hair and landing gently across his path. He stomped over them unthinkingly. There were no footprints left after him, but Grimmjow never noticed. He was looking. Searching.
Blue eyes flickered across the sand dunes intently. Grimmjow growled a little under his breath, then abruptly turned on his heel and started to stride up a large, steep dune. He didn't know why he was going this way, but he could feel it. A presence. A voice. Something was calling him.
He didn't know how long it took him to get over the edge, but he was sweating by the end of it. As he reached the peak he threw himself over it, panting and glaring.
The sand dune formed part of a sort of crater, the middle of which had sunk deep into the earth of his dreamland. He saw green, water, animals, life. Grimmjow stared, eyes wide.
An oasis had formed in the middle of his bleak, barren mind.
And right in the middle of it was Ichigo.
He was lying against the trunk of some leafy tree, cross-legged and looking utterly at ease. Brilliant green grass spread at his feet, and there were wildflowers and butterflies and birds, all self-contained in that small area. Grimmjow slid down the sand dune as though in a daze, and he walked up to the intruder in his dream.
Ichigo looked up and grinned. The smile transformed him and Grimmjow felt his stomach slowly turn over, the back of his neck heating up in an intense blush.
"Hey," Ichigo said. "You took your time. Let's go already."
Ichigo reached out and took his hand, pulling himself up to his feet. They were nose-to-nose and Grimmjow could see himself reflected in deep, dark brown eyes.
Funny, he thought to himself dazedly, I don't remember them being so dark...they're almost...black...
Ichigo had long eyelashes and smooth, clear skin. Up close the smell of him was almost hypnotizing, and Grimmjow followed as he tugged on Grimmjow's hand gently and led him to the pool at the center of their oasis.
"You make me feel really weird," Grimmjow said abruptly. "And I don't know why."
Ichigo looked over his shoulder and gave him a grin, eyes crinkling at the corners. Grimmjow found himself melting.
"I've never felt like this before," he said. "It freaks me out. That's why I punched you."
Ichigo didn't answer. He let go of Grimmjow's hand and started wading into the middle of the pool. Water lilies and lotuses seemed to tangle in his hands as he spread them wide, going deeper and deeper, soon submerged up to his waist in clear blue-green water.
Without question, Grimmjow followed him. The pool was deceptively deep; within a few steps the water reached up to his thighs, his chest, neck, before his head finally sank under the surface.
There was no difference in temperature. He felt neither weightless nor heavy. He was just walking across a hard surface, something smooth like glass or steel, and his eyes were closed.
Grimmjow opened them. They were underwater, but he could breathe. He felt no fear. His eyes didn't sting, and he could see that Ichigo was floating before him, hands in pockets and a strange, calm expression on his face, like an almost-smile. His eyes here were startlingly bright, a molten gold. They appeared to be glowing. He had the appearance of a demon and an angel melting into the same body. The most beautiful thing Grimmjow had ever seen.
"I want to kiss you," he said.
Ichigo's mouth tilted in a crooked, teasing grin. "Gotta catch me first."
He sped away like a shot, bubbles rippling behind him. Grimmjow raced to catch up, but Ichigo proved to be a surprisingly strong swimmer and Grimmjow, while athletic, was muscular and preferred sports such as rugby or wrestling, whereas Ichigo was built for speed and agility: he was part of the track team and swam every day, one of the reasons his body was so lithe and lean. Ichigo moved through the water as if he'd been born for it, slipping through holes and sliding through the spaces between the buildings like an otter -
Wait a fucking minute. Buildings?
Grimmjow paused, looking around him. Sure enough, there were buildings, skyscrapers really, all sideways and underwater. There was a sky, and clouds, even a sun – it merely seemed as if it had all sunk into the middle of the ocean at a very odd angle.
"Where are we?" he wondered aloud.
"I dunno, really. I like to call it 'Atlantis'. Suits it, right?" Ichigo startled him by speaking. Grimmjow turned to look behind him and there he was, standing right there, head cocked to the side and a small smile on his face.
One foot moved. The other. Closer and closer he got to his prey until his face was but a breath away from Ichigo's, and neither of them moved. There was no time in a dream, yet it seemed to stand still for them anyway. Cherry blossoms were falling and one alighted on Ichigo's nose. Grimmjow brushed it away gently.
"I caught you," he said.
Ichigo raised an eyebrow. "More like I let you."
Grimmjow raised his hands and cupped Ichigo's face. He was being unusually tender, and he didn't know why. A soft fluttering in the pit of his stomach, like a bird in a cage, had him shaking slightly. He licked his lips. Leaned in. Closed his eyes.
It was the first time he had ever kissed or been kissed. Ichigo felt like heaven. His mouth was soft and his fingers were running through blue hair, causing shivers to run down Grimmjow's back. They breathed together, moving closer until their bodies were melded, chest to chest, fire crackling through their souls as lips moved against lips and tongues slid against tongues.
Long, spidery fingers wandered against the skin of Grimmjow's back and he groaned at the feeling. Ichigo's hands were warm, rough and callused, tracing random patterns and sliding up and down, leaving trails of white-hot acid their wake, like his flesh would drip away from his bones. He never wanted it to end. He wanted to stay close to this person, to Ichigo, for as long as he lived.
He was panting. Electricity was running through his veins, lighting up his nerves and making his very bones shake. Ichigo felt right in his arms. He fit there like he belonged there.
Grimmjow knew in that moment; he knew. There would be no one else. There had never been anyone before Ichigo, and there would be no one after.
They pulled apart, foreheads resting against each other. Ichigo's eyes were open and Grimmjow let himself wander in their depths, that swirling caramel gold glinting in the sun and crumbling into dark chocolate. He swallowed thickly.
It came out in the breath of a whisper, hardly spoken.
"I love you."
His response was a wide, mischievous smile.
"I know," said Ichigo.
He hadn't been expecting a punch. Anger, yes. Incredulity, of course. But, a straight out punch to the face?
When he thought about it though, it seemed natural that Grimmjow should react with thoughtless violence. Ichigo knew that whenever the other boy was confused or unsure, he masked it with anger and a swaggering sort of bravado, often lashing out and pushing away the people that tried to help him or get close to him. People had tried - Grimmjow possessed exotic good looks and a weird sort of twisted, obnoxious charm that interested people. But, the flipside to his personality was his blunt rudeness and utter disregard for anyone but himself. He was closed-up and mysterious, an enigma that refused to be solved.
Ichigo was determined to solve him, so much so that his stubbornness had been mistaken for obsession and his friends frequently asked him if he had hit his head in the recent past and needed hospitalization. He brushed away their concern. Yes, being punched in the face by the object of his affection had been embarrassing and slightly surprising, but he'd gotten over it. He couldn't really blame Grimmjow, if he was being honest with himself. Ichigo knew he would have reacted similarly if placed in the same situation.
There was no plan in mind. Ichigo hardly planned anything. He was the type of guy who ran in with all guns blazing, and fuck the consequences. Ishida was more the type for that sort of thing, being obsessed with chess and all, but Ichigo had no head for tactics and strategy. He liked things plain and simple, and it usually worked out for him, much to the chagrin of others.
Right now he was at the gym, in the space provided for the martial artists to train. He had just finished co-teaching a karate class and he was lying down on the floor, waiting for the others to clear out so he could take a shower and change his clothes in relative peace. The floor was hard and cold against his back but he was tired enough not to care. With finals coming up and a metric ton of homework to finish for the coming days, as well as socialising and life in general, he was feeling more than a little worn out. The Grimmjow Situation didn't help, either; Ichigo was honestly stumped as to what to do next. Everything he thought of just fell to pieces.
Sitting back and sighing, Ichigo closed his eyes. It was incredibly frustrating; he was a man of action, and this sitting around and overthinking didn't suit him.
He heard the sound of the door open and slam closed, but thought nothing of it. A slight frown crossed his face when the stomp of feet came closer and closer to him and he slit open his eyes to find a cloud of blue hovering over him.
Grimmjow's face was a mask of anger. Well, that wasn't surprising. "Kurosaki."
"Yeah, that's me. What do you want?" Ichigo sat up, leaning back on his arms casually.
The hard, pale mask cracked a little. "Talk. I need...we should talk."
At that, Ichigo raised an eyebrow. Talk? Grimmjow was similar to him in that they both preferred action to words, so this was unusual...but it intrigued him. He shrugged.
"That...day..." said Grimmjow, with some difficulty, "when...you know."
"No, I don't. What day?"
"Don't play stupid, fuckhead," Grimmjow snarled. "You know what I'm talking about. That day. When you...tried to kiss me."
"Oh right." Ichigo rolled his eyes. "That day. Why didn't you say so before?"
"You...why did you do that?"
Ichigo rolled his eyes again. He was sure he'd be doing a lot more of that before he was done with Grimmjow. "Whaddya mean, why? Why do people usually kiss each other?"
The other man was flustered, he could tell. "You - shut up! You were just tryin' to humiliate me, weren't ya? Tryin' to make a fool outta me, show me up, make me look stupid-"
"You do that fine by yourself."
The sound of Grimmjow's temper snapping was audible in the otherwise silent room. Blue eyes were intense and electric with fury, fists were clenched, and Ichigo could even see a vein pulse and tic in Grimmjow's muscular neck. He almost grinned to himself. He'd never been able to say no to a fight. And there was just something about the other man that made adrenaline course through him in a way no one else had ever come close to.
"What did you say?" The low growl thrummed across his muscles in musical vibration.
Ichigo stood. He stretched, noting the way Grimmjow's eyes followed every movement, his hungry gaze, a pink tongue darting out to wet dry, cracked lips. The tension between them was palpable, charged with a rainbow of emotions ranging from curiosity to resentment. Ichigo found it curious that he could stir up so much from the usually reserved and two-dimensional maniac. It had always been this way; Grimmjow had it out for him.
Rolling his shoulders to loosen himself up, Ichigo wondered if it was wise to pursue any kind of relationship he had with his arch-nemesis. Maybe the enmity between them was enough. Maybe Mother Nature had intended it that way for both of them.
He narrowly avoided the first punch. Feeling the whoosh of air rush past his cheek as he moved to the side, he scowled fiercely at Grimmjow.
"Hey, that's cheating!"
Grimmjow only sneered. "That was to get your attention, asshole. The real fight ain't even started yet."
The sneer deepened. "You know those don't exist with me. We're doin' this street style."
"Street style, eh?" Ichigo massaged his neck and let a slow smile curve his lips. "Fine. You're on."
With that, he ripped off his black belt and tore off his karate jacket, leaving nothing but his white pants on. Grimmjow found his gaze lingering a little too long on the hard, defined muscles on Ichigo's chest and abdomen before shaking himself internally and doing the same. The two were topless, stripped to the waist and without shoes and socks. They had no tape wrapped round their ankles or hands: there was no pulling back, no soft hits or pretending. This was to be a fight, a real one, to end all others.
Ichigo flexed his hands, standing on the balls of his feet and bouncing slightly. He could already feel the beat of his heart quicken, pounding against his ribs. His senses heightened, ears and eyes sharp for the first betraying movements, muscles twitching minutely under the blanket of anticipation that suffocated them both.
As expected, Grimmjow was the first to lunge. Ichigo braced himself as he held up an arm and blocked the punch headed towards his chest, recovering and sending a blow of his own. Soon the two of them were engaged in a furious, dangerous dance, punches and kicks thrown, engaged, blocked and return. Sweat ran down their bodies and covered their skin in a sheen. Hair was plastered to foreheads and to the back of their necks. Grimmjow felt the biggest smile spread across his face, threw his head back and cackled loudly as the pain sharpened and highlighted every color, intensified every feeling. Oh, how he loved to brawl like this!
Both felt as though they had been born to do battle. This was their purpose in life. Neither remembered being so evenly matched, so war-hungry and lustful for blood. Grimmjow's head spun at the image of Ichigo with his split lip and cut cheekbones, Ichigo in turn found his breath hitch when he saw one of Grimmjow's eyes swell and bruise.
Their knuckles were cut and bleeding; noses, eyes stung and there were numerous cuts and bruises scattered over their body. Neither knew how long the fight had lasted. All they were aware of was how they moved, how the other moved in time, perfectly executed and reacted. Ichigo felt like Grimmjow could read his mind, knew everything he was about to do, knew where he was weakest and where he was strongest. It was frustrating, but thrilling.
In a moment of tense, quiet calculation Grimmjow saw his chance and surprised Ichigo by sweeping his legs out from under him. He pounced and smashed Ichigo to the ground, turned him on his front and straddled his backside while he pinned the other man's thrashing arms to his back. Ichigo roared his frustration and bucked angrily, wiggling and kicking and attempting to dislodge his opponent. Grimmjow sniggered, a wide maniacal smile splitting his face while he leaned down to whisper in Ichigo's ear, breathing in his smell: frustration, sweat, sex personified.
"Ain't so cocky now, are ya?" Following some prickling, devious urge, he ran his long, wet tongue down the length of Ichigo's ear, nipping gently at the lobe.
All he heard was a muffled snarl. Ichigo bucked up once again and Grimmjow bit back a moan as it ground against his crotch, exacerbating the heat that had spread across his whole body. The crotch of his jeans felt far too tight and things were tingling and stiffening and becoming very, very sensitive.
His head was spinning. The room felt too hot. His heart was pounding so hard he thought his ribs would break.
Ichigo caught him by surprise, the sneaky fucker. Curving his spine like that and getting him with a head-butt - who knew the orange-head was so flexible?
Within seconds, their positions were reversed. Ichigo held Grimmjow by his wrists, holding them above his head and pressing down heavily.
"Who's cocky now?" he breathed, and punched Grimmjow in the stomach with all his force.
Grimmjow felt it as the strength of a nuclear bomb concentrated into one fist, connecting with his body and exploding a crater out of his flesh. It blew the breath out of him. He couldn't think for the pain. His vision blacked out for a second and the instinct to curl into the fetal position was overpowering. Breathing deeply, the pain cleared after a few seconds, and he saw Ichigo smirking down at him triumphantly.
"Looks like I won this time, bluebell."
Grimmjow fought the urge to spit in his face. All he did was snarl; lips curling back to expose sharp white teeth that were unnaturally pointed. Ichigo laughed softly, but it turned into a sigh and he leaned down until his forehead pressed against Grimmjow's chest. He could feel the thud of a strong, healthy heart pumping blood, heat radiating from Grimmjow's skin like a furnace, slick with sweat and emitting some sort of sharp, lemony sort of scent that had his mouth drying out in seconds.
Both of them were panting, exhausted. Glancing to the side, Ichigo could see through the windows that the sky was a light purple darkening to indigo - it had to be late. How long had they been there? Surely not that long.
Ichigo breathed out harshly. He was sweaty, tired and felt disgusting, and was pretty sure Grimmjow shared his sentiments. It was hard to swallow, the room was that hot. His mouth was dry and there was not a muscle in his body that didn't ache.
The rasping breath of the man below him made him pause. He remembered the feel of that wet tongue dragging itself down his ear, the way Grimmjow had bitten down gently on sensitive flesh and the way he'd ground his hips against Ichigo's ass, alerting him to a very impressive-feeling arousal. That same arousal was pressed against his own now, and the heat and hardness of it was almost unbearable.
"Grimmjow." His voice was low, rumbling in his chest.
"You wanna know why I wanted to kiss you?"
Grimmjow didn't answer, staring at him with those startling blue eyes, eyes that Ichigo had lost himself in. Eyes that had been haunting his dreams for nights on end and invaded every thought. Deep as the ocean and cold as ice, now they were unusually soft, curious, and Ichigo found his hands sliding down Grimmjow's arms and settling on his shoulders, feeling the contraction of muscle and bone beneath that perfect, smooth skin.
He moved forward until their noses were a hairsbreadth away, breath puffing warmly over Grimmjow's slightly parted mouth.
"I wanted to kiss you," Ichigo said, "because I like you."
It took a moment for the words to sink in. Grimmjow's mouth curled and his expression was disgusted.
"No one likes me," he spat. "Not even my own parents liked me. Don't you give me that bullshit."
"It's not bullshit," said Ichigo. "I like you. I want to kiss you. Let me kiss you."
It was not begging. Ichigo never begged. Neither did Grimmjow. The two stared into each other's eyes, feeling the pull, the magnetism, that drew them to each other. Grimmjow's heart was in his stomach and he could feel the blood pump through every vein and artery. He wanted to kiss Ichigo. Oh, how he wanted to, the urge was insane in its intensity, but-
"I've never done it before," he said.
Ichigo blinked. "Huh?"
"Kissed," Grimmjow snapped. "I've never...kissed anyone before. I...I don't know how."
The admission had him reddening from head to toe, squirming a little. A fierce glare stopped Ichigo from teasing him, and instead the orange-haired man traced the outline of Grimmjow's thin lips with the tip of a finger, smiling slightly.
"That's OK," he said. "I can teach you."
Grimmjow vaguely remembered that they'd made their way to Ichigo's tiny student apartment and near fallen inside. The adrenaline from their fight was wearing off and they were starting to feel the full effects of their injuries, both muttering and cursing from the pain, shoving each other while at the same time holding each other up.
Like oil and water, he reflected vaguely. That's what we are. Oil and water.
The inside of Ichigo's room was messy and chaotic. Textbooks and papers were strewn over his desk and the floor was covered in clothes and clutter, old mugs still half-full with tea and water, dirty plates, books and wires connecting to the TV and game consoles in one corner. The bed was hardly made, the covers rumpled and hanging off the bed. Ichigo stumbled into his tiny bathroom, only big enough for a sink, toilet and minuscule toilet while Grimmjow flopped onto the bed, dog-tired. He buried his face into Ichigo's pillow, inhaling the scent of Ichigo's hair and letting it lull him into a doze. He was half-asleep when he felt a hand slapping his back, and swatted it away in irritation.
"Fuck off!" he barked, turning on his side and hissing in pain.
"Shut up Grimmjow, you stink and you're all sweaty, go take a shower."
"Go fuck yer mother."
"Ugh." He could practically see Ichigo pinching the bridge of his nose in exasperation. "At least brush your teeth!"
"Got no toothbrush."
"Use mine, then."
"Fine," Ichigo deadpanned. "Your breath's gonna stink in the morning and there's no way I'm gonna kiss you then."
At that, Grimmjow slowly cracked an eye open. He frowned and mulled over the consequences of his laziness. Usually, once he found himself in a bed, neither hell nor high water could convince him to get out of it again until he wanted to. It was one of the reasons he missed so many of his classes. But, the thought of a kiss...
It made his stomach roll, both in fear and excitement. He didn't know this feeling. It confused him. And, when he was confused, he usually dealt with it by punching someone in the gut, but if he did that to Ichigo there would be no way anyone would be getting anything tonight.
Grimmjow wanted it. He knew he did. If a real kiss felt like anything he had felt in that dream, then he wanted it and he wanted it badly. He considered his options.
"Where's the fuckin' toothbrush then?" he muttered.
"Go to the bathroom first. You're not doing it in here."
It took much longer than it should have, involved an incredible amount of moaning and whining and bitching, but at long last both Ichigo and Grimmjow were relatively clean. They fell into bed together, already half-asleep with exhaustion and ready for a long, restful night of sleep. Grimmjow felt himself tense when an arm slid around his waist and pulled him close to something large and solid and warm, but gradually relaxed as Ichigo's body heat seeped through him.
"You OK?" Ichigo mumbled behind him, words muffled by the pillow.
"'Course I am."
"Ever done this before? Sleep with a person in their bed?"
"No," Grimmjow said stiffly, feeling irritation sting.
"Mm. 'Kay. G'night."
His voice faded, and the sound of deep, even breathing replaced it. Grimmjow held himself frozen still, stiff and unwilling to move. He didn't know what to do. The bed was small and hardly fitted the both of them. He couldn't stretch his legs out and one of his arms was getting cramped from being tucked under his head. Ichigo's skin was warm and still damp from his shower, orange hair brushing again the back of Grimmjow's neck. He could feel Ichigo's breath seep down under his skin and tickle his stirring, awakening soul.
How did he do this? Why was it that every word and every action from this one person, whether imaginary or unconscious, could slice straight to the center of Grimmjow as though Kurosaki had threaded a silver-tipped needle and sewed up his very being? Every touch was electric fire, every glance from molten brown eyes a shock up his spine, every smile or laugh something that made his chest and his heart ache.
He wanted Ichigo, wanted him as he'd wanted nothing or nobody else before. He wanted to possess him, to own him, to lock him away inside a gilded cage and chained to Grimmjow's side. But, he knew he never could. And, he never would.
Ichigo would of course only resent him. Grimmjow couldn't understand why someone like that could possibly want him, the deranged, sociopathic madman who constantly picked fights and got along with nobody. Lazy, rude, arrogant, bloodthirsty - he was in every sense a monster. He had no one. So far, he had needed no one.
Why did Ichigo have to go and fuck everything up?
Grimmjow squeezed his eyes shut. He was shaking. Some black hole was opening up in his gut, spewing out his insecurities, his faults, taunting him with his imperfection. He would never deserve to be loved. His own parents hadn't loved him; if they hadn't, who else would?
The feeling of a warm, callused hand running up and down over his stomach had him freeze. Ichigo shuffled closer to him until their bodies were melded together, legs tangled and tanned arms wound tight around Grimmjow's abdomen.
"Relax," said Ichigo, in a rough, husky voice. "Just relax and go to sleep. I'm here."
A soft, barely-there kiss behind the sensitive skin of his ear. He could have purred.
Ichigo muttered something else under his breath, but it drifted away towards the end as he sighed and fell back asleep. Grimmjow frowned a little as he shifted, trying to get comfortable. If his hearing hadn't failed him, he could have sworn Ichigo had just told him that he loved him.
It was impossible. He knew that. He'd misheard. A slip of the mind. But still, something wound tight and tense inside him softened just the slightest, and Grimmjow found himself drifting into a deep, dreamless sleep without a problem for the first time in years.