A/N: So sorry for the wait! This one is mostly Grimmjow/Nel, father/daughter fluff with bits of Ichigo thrown in. 'Cause I enjoy watching the readers melt under such cuteness.

Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach.

Grimmjow shifted on the bed, the blankets twisting around his legs as he stretched them. His eyes peeling open slowly, noting that the room was brightening as sunlight poured in through the window above them and Grimmjow groaned in frustration. He'd never gotten used to the artificial sun of Las Noches and doubted he'd ever grow accustomed to the real thing. Raising his left arm, he dragged the blankets higher, curled his knees up and replacing his arms protectively about his little charge, and bent his head down to avoid the star's gleaming rays. Nel wiggled, making an unhappy sound at being moved, before settling once more.

Grimmjow watched as she dozed off, mind wondering to the previous night. Ichigo hadn't reacted at all like he'd expected. Talking about it, no matter how briefly… His pride had taken a mighty beating when he'd broken down, crying like a little bitch and clinging to Ichigo like he didn't know what else to do. Ichigo had…had…comforted him. He didn't judge him, probably didn't even hate him even after all the misery he'd caused him and his friends. Ichigo felt anger on his behalf rather than against him and most importantly- he'd killed Ichimaru. His tormentor was dead. He felt immense relief knowing that. And yet he was still troubled. What would the child look like? Part of him wanted to know and another wanted to do away with it. It wasn't as though he hated the budding life inside him, it had never intended to do him wrong, but he didn't think he could stand it if the child turned out to be a replica of Ichimaru…

Long and thin, spidery fingers holding his remaining wrist against the floor; skinny, lanky body rutting and forcing that thing inside him; pale eyes open and watching, mouth curved into his trademark fox-grin as he relished Grimmjow's whimpers of pain around Shinso's blade as it dug into the roof of his mouth, the infected translucent green dripping through the bandages on the stump of his left arm and the blood seeping down his throat and from his nether regions…

"Oh, Grimmy~chan. couldn't ya wait 'til we won the war to fuck up?"

Grimmjow shuddered, the burn of salt water stinging his eyes for a moment before he blinked it away, taking deep slow breaths. It wouldn't do any good to keep reliving that ordeal. It was gone and past now; the only thing to left to do was to move forward. He'd spend the remainder of his pregnancy in the World of the Living, then leave the cubs with Ichigo and return to Hueco Mundo. Nel and Ichigo might not like it, but it was his decision. He was better off there anyway. The World of the Living was too just too strange now. Hueco Mundo stayed the same; century after century, for millennia, but the Human world was an ever-changing entity. Every few decades they made changes to their technology, their populations exploded, their cities grew larger – it unsettled him. He'd spent so long in the Hollow dimension; he had grown used the simplicity of his afterlife there. Wonder the desert, find prey, kill said prey, eat it, avoid stronger Hollows, and evolve. That was it. Grimmjow thrived at it. He was so close to becoming a Vasto Lorde- within the next half a century for certain. Vasto Lorde had no natural threats except more highly evolved Vasto Lorde. He'd just have to find away to get those god forsaken scientists out of Las Noches. If there was one thing he'd learned from Aizen, it was that a king should have a palace.

Setting that as his first task once he kitted, Grimmjow sighed, defeated, and threw the blankets to the far side of the bed. Damn sun. It had risen to the point where even the covers couldn't keep the brightness at bay any longer. He straightened out, rolling onto his back, stretching one final time. Sitting up slowly, he picked up Nel- careful not to wake her, and rose off the mattress. Their room was much smaller than his quarters in Las Noches had been, but it was sufficient. Aside from the bed, there was a desk and chair, a nightstand, a lamp and a small closet. He still wore the clothing Ichigo had given him the previous night- such things were of little concern to Hollows. If he'd become a humanoid without Aizen's intervention, he doubted he would have worn much more than necessary to conceal his private areas. Still, he couldn't complain. They were being provided with food, shelter and protection while having nothing to give in return and it wasn't like he was uncomfortable. Lifting Nel up so her cheek rested against his shoulder and she could breathe better, he exited the room. No one was in the hallway, but he could hear voices from downstairs and his nose picked up an unusual scent which made his mouth water. Curiosity leading him now, he made the trip to the house's lower level. His sharp hearing could detect the Kurosaki siblings' voices easily.

As he made the bend, he could see Ichigo's sisters, already leaving the table. They appeared to have finished their morning meal and were slinging bags across their backs. They were headed out the door when he and his cargo reached to the first floor.

"We're heading out now! Bye Ichi-nii!"

"See you later, Onii-chan!"

The front door shut firmly behind them before their brother could answer. Said orange-headed male appearing in the kitchen doorway a moment later, wearing an apron over a grey muscle shirt and white sweatpants. He immediately caught sight of the Arrancar and after an awkward moment, waved, mouthing "Yo."

Grimmjow simply nodded in acknowledgement and at Ichigo's motioning, took a place at the table. Nel sleepily murmured, awoken by the twins' departure and tried burrowing herself into his neck. Failing, he wordlessly set her in his lap, as she yawned and smacked his growing belly weakly with a tiny hand, grumpy. His attention was pulled from his insolent cub by Ichigo bringing a plate of what he presumed was breakfast. Ichigo was quick to disappear in to the kitchen once more and return with two more plates, identical to his own, one being significantly smaller, to the table. A third trip brought a clear container filled with white liquid, glasses, and another oddly shaped jar with a dark brown substance inside. Whatever it was, it made his mouth water. Ichigo tossed the apron over an empty chair and took a seat across from him. After briefly explaining what everything was (pancakes, sausage, eggs, hash browns) they started to eat. He decided that he liked these 'hash browns' and the sausage things. Nel, more alert by the second now, grabbed two little meat rolls- from her own plate this time- with her bare hands and munched on them greedily.

Breakfast was a quiet, simple affair. By the end, Nel's face was covered in sticky syrup and crumbs and the child really didn't seem to give half a damn, reclining against Grimmjow, lazily licking her dirty fingers. Grimmjow ignored her for the time being, and instead, silently requested seconds by lifting his plate into the air by Ichigo's face, his expression incredulous. As if so little could fill his rumbling stomach! Lack of said stomach, and his own knowledge about having one notwithstanding, he would tear through a helping of thirds, and fourths and fifths by the time Ichigo had finished his second.

Ichigo watched his new almost-friend for any signs of pain or discomfort he might have missed the night before. The former Espada showed no indication that he wanted to talk and after the previous night Ichigo knew when to leave well enough alone. Nel was her usual self; stuffing herself with no regard for utensils, but at least she remembered what happened when she stole food. There was always time to teach her basic things like that later. He was surprised by Grimmjow's appetite considering that he must have never had human food before but he wasn't complaining- the blue-haired man was eating for two after all. That thought brought up a lot of things. First, how would acquiring a gigai work? He doubted that Urahara had any experience creating one for an expecting spirit. Separated gigais? Or wait until after the birth to provide for infant and…uh… 'mother'? Would he need prenatal vitamins? When would he start to show? Would he have mood swings? And if so, would they be violent mood swings? Was there a different term for a man who gave birth or was it considered a unisex word to Hollows? It just felt wrong, thinking of Grimmjow being called…"Mommy" by a child.

'Ya never listen!' Horimono griped. Ichigo got the mental impression of someone tossing their hands into the air, exasperated.

'I'm offended. I'm always listening to you… against my will, but still, I'm listening.'

'Bitch.'

'Poltergeist.'

'Pussy.'

'Incestuous clone.'

Horimono gasped. 'I-piece of shit-YOU!' His cheeks suddenly afire.

'Why'd you have to go exploring your body? Couldn't you just wait until I had a wet dream or something? Why'd you suddenly decide to jerk off while I was at school?' Ichigo sent the feeling of somebody's-face-is-too-close-to-my-face to his Inner Hollow.

'T-that was-'

'You were picturing me.'

'We have the same body!'

'Uh-huh. So why was I-'

'Shut up! Z-zang-getsu was saying thin's a-and-'

'I would never have such inappropriate thoughts nor instigate any action of the sort. Ichigo-'

'Don't worry, Zangetsu. It's fine. I have absolute faith in you, you know that by now. He's just going through puberty, right?'

'Hm.'

'… I hate you.'

'That isn't what you were screa-'

'I SAID I WAS SORRY. DROP. IT.'

Ichigo silently assured his Inner Hollow that he would in fact drop it. He found that particular event immensely amusing, though. He hadn't been much better when he'd hit puberty at twelve but, he had Yuzu and Karin around to stifle his little inappropriate urges. Horimono had no such buffer with the war over and Ichigo's soul at peace. All three parts of Ichigo's soul shared his memories- that was guaranteed after completing Jinzen. However, unlike Zangetsu, Horimono didn't get to experience as much with Ichigo as the zanpakto. Zangetsu had always been there, dormant perhaps, yet ever present- Ichigo's conscience. Then, once Ichigo became a shinigami daiko Zangetsu was a conscious presence and because of Ichigo massive reiatsu, Zangetsu was an 'always-released-type' zanpakto. Constantly being in shikai meant that Zangetsu saw things as Ichigo saw them, all the time, unlike other zanpakto, who only got to see the world on the odd occasion they were released. Zangetsu was probably wiser than most other zanpakto based solely on the fact that he had more knowledge about the material world and human issues. In contrast, Horimono had arisen from the dark, hurting part of Ichigo's soul which had began to wither and shrivel with Masaki's death and grown, as people judged him, fought him, misunderstood him all the time. There was so little good for Horimono to fall back on, in the beginning. Now, they shared all their memories so he had good times to reflect on, enjoy, too. Since his awakening, Horimono saw things like Zangetsu saw them through Ichigo, but he didn't have to if he didn't want to and he wasn't particularly fond of school. Ichigo's job was only mildly interesting. The only real time he paid attention to the outside world was when Shinigami or Hollows were around- chances were that there'd be a good fight to watch, or Ichigo was out and about with Karin and Yuzu ('Cuz there's two o' them and one o' you, and everybody in this family is a magnet for trouble. Besides I like them more than you.). But puberty wasn't something Ichigo had expected any part of himself to go through again. Horimono, it seemed, had become the equivalent to an Arrancar within his soul. And that, apparently, meant that he had to go through "pubescence" of a sort, to reach "adulthood." It was quite funny. A bit weird. Way funny. He took pity the Hollow part of his soul and returned the conversation to the original idea.

'Anyway, something about not listening?'

'Che. I told you yesterday. If he's "mommy" then it's "papa". Common sense, dumbshit.'

'Mm. Ah, that's right! Sorry, it slipped my mind.' Ichigo was met with indignant huffing and felt Horimono withdraw. He was probably off to nurse his wounded pride. Focusing on the world beyond himself, his eyes caught an odd little scene. He had to get a handle on the drifting-to-sideways-lala-land thing.

Grimmjow had liked his meal so much that he'd licked his plate clean and now, he was licking Nel. She was held high on his chest with both arms wrapped securely around her, while Grimmjow craned his neck to extend his tongue out and lap at her chubby face. His tongue ran over her lips, nose, cheeks, and chin and only diverted to lick a small hand. Ichigo could hear the rasp of a sand paper-like tongue swiping away and much to his surprise Nel appeared rather bored with the whole thing. Was this regular Hollow behavior?

"Uh… Grimmjow?"

"Huh?" Was the reply. Blue eyes travelled up to him, meeting his gaze curiously. "What?"

"What exactly are you doing?" Ichigo asked, tilting his head. The look Grimmjow sent back was scrutinizing.

"Givin' my cub a bath." Grimmjow replied. "Don't you make sure yer cubs are clean?"

Ichigo blinked. "I believe in baths, just not tongue baths. Humans don't lick their kids clean."

It was Grimmjow's turn to blink. "How do ya clean 'em then?" His attention was diverted to Nel when he saw her shaking her head rapidly. She raised her arms into an 'x' over her chest and was staring at Ichigo with big pleading doe eyes. Intrigued, Grimmjow turned to the Vaizard and raised a questioning brow.

Ichigo, too, noticed the little one's actions and a teasing, knowing grin pulled at his lips. He stood, his chair scraping the tile floor, and began the trek upstairs, motioning for Grimmjow to follow. "Let me show you."

Grimmjow followed Ichigo, despite Nel's squirming, the bathroom. Once inside, Ichigo shut the door and sat himself down on the rim of the long white tub. His hands worked the knobs until, much to Grimmjow's surprise; water came spewing out of the short nozzle beneath them. He edged closer, sniffing the air questioningly, and stopped beside the younger man, hunched over to better observe the strange phenomenon; he'd seen this before, but it was still fascinating. After a few seconds, Ichigo moved the knobs again and the torrent of water abruptly stopped.

"Nel doeth'nt wanna get wet!" The small Arrancar cried. She'd given up trying to fight her way out and instead clutched at Grimmjow's arms as tightly as her tiny limbs allowed.

Ichigo just sighed, shaking his head.

Grimmjow gave Nel an astonished look. "Why?" Didn't the child know the wonders of water? He knew the difference between bathing to clean oneself, and bathing to relax- had he known that this room existed inside the house, he would've brought Nel up here to clean her messy self. 'They didn't have washrooms inside the house when I died.' He noted.

"Becauthe Nel get dwippy an' hew haiw get'th th'ticky undew hew mathk an' Nel thwipth on the floow an' Nel can't thwim an'-" Nel's voice quickly got very high pitched, her eyes shut tight, nearly screaming at the top of her lungs, and her little palms got clammy. Grimmjow's paternal instincts didn't much appreciate the cub he cared for being in distress. Slowly, he lowered her a bit on his chest and eased into a deep rumbling purr. She almost immediately stopped, steadily going limp against him, her racing heart calming as the soothing vibration tickled her bones and the sound hushed her wailing. Her grip loosened on her caretaker and she used her hands' placement to push back into the relaxing rhythm.

Ichigo watched, not for the last time he was sure, as Grimmjow and Nel pretty much disappeared into their own world. Grimmjow really thought that he wasn't going to be a good parent? Really? Ichigo, while experienced with little girls and the tantrums they could throw, hadn't been able to calm Nel so quickly even once, despite his best efforts. He supposed that Grimmjow's insecurity came from being a Hollow, living in Hueco Mundo and his rather violent, short temper. A year ago, if someone had told Ichigo that he'd see Grimmjow playing 'daddy' to a little girl; he would have dropped to the ground laughing at the absurdity of it. So, the very degree of affection he had for Nel- because it the warmest expression on the man's face Ichigo had ever seen- was unbelievable.

Grimmjow turned away from Nel for a moment, and quietly told Ichigo to turn the water back on. A bit unsure, Ichigo hesitated for a moment but went along with the request anyway, curious. 'What's he planning?'

Unlike before, the flow was much gentler now and Nel didn't startle. Ichigo moved away from the facet to make room for Grimmjow on the rim of the bathtub. The blue-haired male sat, one arm securely around Nel, while the other reached out and experimentally tested the water. It was warm. Slowly, making certain that Nel saw his hand; he pulled it close to her and let her investigate for herself. One of her tiny hands tentatively reached out and touched his wet palm, quickly jerking away and reaching out again to repeat the action, and finally, to grip a dripping wet finger. She craned her head back, eyebrows furrowed, searching for approval. Grimmjow's purr- too soft to hear but strong enough for her to feel- rose in strength just slightly. Allowing Grimmjow to pull his hand away and beneath the flow of liquid once more, Nel's eyes were wide with awe as he twisted and turned his fingers in the water, before forming a small cup. This time, he stopped his hand above her head and abruptly released the water. Surprised, Nel blinked as droplets rained over her eyes and cool trails raced down her scalp. Seeing her flinch, Grimmjow guided her little hands to her head- the parts she could touch, what with her mask in the way- and spoke softly, "Water ain't gonna hurt ya."

"B-b-but…!" Nel stuttered, even as her little fingers explored the foreign moisture upon her person.

"It doesn't hurt now, does it?"

"N-no but-"

"But what?"

"It…it'th scawy, Gwimm!"

Displaying more patience than Ichigo thought possible, Grimmjow waited for Nel to explain her fear of water. Nel struggled to find the right words, and then she came close to crying- to her credit she fought through it- and appeared to start some impromptu charades. Eventually, Nel just shook her head, pointed at Ichigo and turned into Grimmjow's body, hiding her face in his clothes. Turning to the younger man, Grimmjow opened his mouth but Ichigo cut him off, already knowing the question.

"There was an incident with the washing machine the other day."

"Washing…machine?" Grimmjow repeated, his eyebrows furrowing.

"A machine we use to wash our clothes." Ichigo explained, standing. "Since we're gonna be here all day, I might as well show you so you know what everything is." Mimicking the Vaizard's example, Grimmjow stood and moved into the hallway, waiting for Ichigo, who had to turn off the bathtub facet. The Arrancar would follow Ichigo down to the 'living room'- Why was it called that?-, through the kitchen and back into the garage. In the far corner, were two, nearly identical boxes. Machines. Whatever. Nel, at the sight of them, clung tighter to Grimmjow and glared at the machine with the lid at the top open. The other was similar- the only difference he could see was the positioning of the openings. Ichigo gestured to the target of Nel's glower and explained. "This is a washing machine."

"And the other one? It washes stuff too?"

"No. That's the dryer."

Putting aside the curiosity related to the 'dryer' he asked, "What happened with this one then?" Grimmjow nodded at the designated 'washer.'

Ichigo crossed his arms and sighed. "Nel fell in while it was running."

"Runnin'?" Grimmjow took a step back, expression incredulous. "This thing runs? Like a row-bot?"

"What?" Ichigo blinked. "No, no. That's not what 'running' means in this context. It was…" He searched for a description which wouldn't confuse his former rival more. "…performing its' intended task. To wash clothes." Grimmjow stepped closer to see inside and Ichigo continued talking. "You fill the basin with the stuff you want to wash; usually clothes, sometimes blankets. Add soap and close the top. You pick settings telling the machine what kind of material is inside, cotton for example, and whether it's 'colors' or 'whites'. Then it fills with water and does the rest."

Simple enough. "How'd it make Nel afraid of water?" Grimmjow straightened, noting Nel's growing discomfort, subconsciously beginning to rub her back.

"Yuzu had it open and was double checking the rooms for any clothes she might have missed, before starting the wash. Nel hopped in and the lid accidentally shut on her. The center piece right here spins, pushing the clothes and water around so they mix. She wasn't in there for long, though, so don't freak out or anything." Ichigo hastily finished as Grimmjow began to growl at the Maytag. "We heard her screaming and pulled her out. She was scared and tried running to you in the Clinic, but she slipped and fell. She let us dry her off and spent the rest of the day with you. We tried giving her a bath that night to get the soap off, but she wasn't having it."

Thoroughly upset by the memory, Nel blew a very insulting raspberry at the appliances before bravely retreating into Grimmjow's t-shirt once more, sniffling. Understanding the situation now, Grimmjow spent a moment in deep thought, then asked, "That tub upstairs is supposed ta fill with water, right?"

"Yeah. Have you ever even seen a modern bathroom before today?"

"Aizen had a toy bucket in everyone's quarters but none of us ever used it. We'd go to the Sento when we wanted to clean ourselves. We didn't have our own little washrooms."

'Toy buckets? '"The toilet?"

"Those things. We don't make shit like humans, even if we happen to eat solid food. We can't afford ta let any meal go ta waste. It doesn't give us reiatsu unless we just killed it though. It's like…like placebos? I'm sure that's what they're called. I ain't had human food since the day I died, I think. Anyway, I need to borrow that room."

Ichigo's head quirked to the side. "Um, sure, okay. Do you need me to show you how everything works?"

Grimmjow shook his head, no. "I saw ya do it. I'll remember." With that, the blue-haired man turned and headed inside.

Ichigo called after him, "There are towels under the bathroom sink and the rest of your clothes are at the base of the stairs. If you need something, I'll be in the living room."


Ichigo sighed, once both of his guests were out of ear shot. "Well, so much for explaining everything."

Running a hand through his hair, he returned to the kitchen. Unsure of what he should do while waiting for Grimmjow to…do whatever he was going to do with Nel, he ultimately decided to go through his Kidó texts- from Tessai- despite Horimono's protests that there were more important things to think about.

He walked to the book shelf in the living room and grabbed the volume labeled, courtesy of Urahara, "Demon Arts for the Dimwitted." He'd given the shopkeeper a good punch to the head for that one. Nonetheless, it was very well-detailed and actually worth time and effort. Settling himself on the remains of the recliner, he flipped open to the last marked page, 289, and started reading.

Most Kido didn't come naturally. It was one of his least favorite things to do, in fact. His sheer reiatsu levels made control so goddamned difficult to perform even the simplest of spells, but during the war Tessai had insisted that Ichigo learn some basic Shinigami practices. Not all battles could be won through pure strength of will and reiatsu, after all. Much to everyone's surprise, the Kidó he showed most proficiency in were Bakudō. He couldn't pull off a Hadō #31Shakkahō without it blowing up in his face, but he could cast Bakudō # 81Dankū almost as easily as using Getsuga Tenshou.

Tessai theorized that Zangetsu's shikai form was really a bluff. More than one person- Byakuya, Renji, Ikkaku, Kenpachi- might say that Ichigo was a berserker. His zanpakto was a cleaver, whose total length matched his height with no tsuba, and he had insane reiatsu levels for one so young. They would be wrong. The zanpakto is a reflection of its' master. Ichigo considers himself, in a sense, a shield. His blade was no tsuba because he doesn't care about what injuries befall him, so long as those he seeks to protect are safe. Behind him.

Zangetsu could actually be wielded as a shield thanks to his size, and with Deadly Darts, Ichigo didn't have to always resort to melee combat in every battle. Ichigo's temporary fullbring powers had affected his zanpakto in ways that helped him. With an actual hilt, his grip was better, stronger, and the slight change in shape of the blade reduced drag and friction with each swing. If Zangetsu were meant solely for close combat, his blade would be shorter for better maneuverability in tight spaces, thinner, but that would limit Ichigo's ability to protect others and Zangetsu's ability to protect Ichigo. That is impractical. Zangetsu does not do impractical.

The barriers around, in and on the Kurosaki Clinic had been set by Ichigo- with some help from Tessai and Hachi, after eighteen months of training. The uniqueness of the reiatsu of those living within required the invention of completely new spells to properly mask. The first Bakudo was a barrier which acted like a screen. You might feel the reiatsu inside, but you wouldn't be able to define what or who it came from. You would only know that reiatsu was there and that it was powerful. So powerful, Hollows avoided the Clinic like the plague. The ones in the house, completely hid reiatsu. He had one in his closet, in the garage, and the bathroom. They weren't always up, unlike the barrier around the entirety of the house. They would activate by drawing a symbol the size of one's fist, in blood, on the floor. A pin prick on the finger would generate enough blood and the symbol was easy enough to remember: the swastika of Zangetsu's hilt while in Bankai. A little odd in design but it was all he'd been able to think of at the time, and as Urahara pointed out, if someone who didn't know what his Bankai looked like attempted to use the wards, they would fail and be found. Not that he'd let a stranger get that far.

Several minutes went by and realizing he just looking at the words and not really absorbing the material, he put it down and gave up trying to distract himself. Taking a slow breath to remain calm, he drew up the memory from five nights ago. Some things…some things just couldn't be unseen.


Waving to show that he'd heard, Grimmjow mentally noted the clear bags by the stairs for later and instead made a beeline for the restroom. Once inside, he pried Nel off his body and had her sit on the toilet lid. Crouching, he opened the small doors and found the mentioned towels. Pulling out two and hanging them on one of the bars on the wall, he walked to the bathtub and finding a rubber stopper on the edge nearest the wall, placed it properly over the drain. He then pulled and rolled the knobs until warm water poured out, beginning to fill the tub. Turning to face Nel, his voice was strong, "Yer getting in."

Nel scowled, "Gwimm-"

"Shut it." Grimmjow was not about to have a cowardly child on his hands. Rambunctious, fine. Grimmjow could handle rambunctious. A fear of water was plain cowardice of the unknown. It was unheard of in Hueco Mundo, water. It never rained. There were no rivers or lakes or streams. Unfamiliarity with the element wasn't uncommon but he didn't much care. He did not do well with cowards, large or small, grown or cub. He was not going to have it. Period.

"Hmmmm~ph!" She pouted. Nel knew she wasn't going to win. She could be stubborn, but Grimmjow would outlast her any day. And if she gave him too much lip, he wasn't beyond corporal punishment, as she'd learned a time or two in the last month. She didn't like having a sore bottom.

Certain that Nel wasn't going to argue, Grimmjow pulled his clothes off. The only thing he left on was the underwear, and then he helped Nel out of her raggedy dress. She had on underwear of her own, pink bottoms, and those too were left on. Picking her up once more, he pushed the knob to halt the flow and stepped inside.

Hollows typically knew about water as an exclusive-to-the-World-of-the-Living commodity. It didn't mean they couldn't enjoy it. Grimmjow might never say it, but he really liked water. Swimming came naturally, and there was just something about being submerged that rubbed him in all the right places. Staying in the Living World for long wasn't much of an option, unfortunately. Shinigami always ended up coming around and ruining his fun. One of the best things about Las Noches was, in fact, the (public) bathroom. When he wasn't on some mission for Aizen, he was prone to long showers or baths in the huge Sento at the center of Las Noches.

The desert sand had never been very appealing, anyway. The granules got into fur, under claws, in the creases of bone armor- it was a downright pain. He particularly enjoyed the humidity created by hot water. But, right now, the bath wasn't for him.

Nel was unmoving. Her eyes wide and little form tense as she grew closer to the clear liquid. By the time he sat in the water, she was hardly breathing. Nearing the end of his patience, he suddenly pulled her away from his body, at arm's length, and promptly released. With a squeal and a 'sploosh' Nel hit the water like a stone. Terrified, she was instantly clawing and flailing and scrambling her way to him.

However it may have looked, he had no intention of letting her drown. As she fought the water, his hands itched to scoop her out and it took a lot more will power than he expected to keep from doing so. Instead, he forced himself to stay still, albeit his hands were ready to catch her should she fail.

She managed to keep her head above the water and while struggling for longer that he'd have wished, she finally reached him. She was soaked and trembling, and he smelled, more than saw, her crying. A tad guilty- he was getting weak damn it- he pulled her out and up to his chest. He started purring when her sniffles turned into full on sobs but it took much longer for her to calm this time- for the sense of betrayal to fade away. It was for her own good- a panther's cub should know how to swim.

Finally, she was silent. Slowly, he began to recline. Nel didn't react as her feet disappeared into the water aside from digging her fingers into him. Gently, without realizing it at first, he pushed her up by her bottom and her arms wrapped around his neck to the best of their ability. He didn't know how long they remained in the water, but his hands were pruny and the water was lukewarm when Nel stirred and sat up. Drowsy, his eyes were half open and he moved a hand over her head, rubbing her mask, for once, her expression was blank. Grimmjow wasn't the least surprised when she snatched his middle finger and bit down hard. Her teeth may never be especially sharp, but they were strong and fueled by disgruntlement more often than not. It wouldn't be long before she was capable of breaking through his Hierro.

"You done?" His finger emerged from her mouth, wet with drool and two pale crescent moon shaped red marks.

He was met by a powerful raspberry, crossing little arms and pouting. "…Nel thill doethn't like watew."

"I don't care. Ah," He cut her off before she could protest, "Yer learnin' how ta swim."

"B-but-!"

"But nothin', Brat." With a hand on her belly, soft and a bit pudgy- Pantera was quite pleased with that fact- he pushed her backwards. This time she wasn't startled, more along the lines of apprehensive. She grabbed his wrist and extended her legs behind her and much to her own surprise, her face said it all, her toes touched the bottom of the porcelain tub. Her head was still above water and she was definitely frightened, but like he expected, the fear didn't last. She released his arm and started moving around, using one of his legs at any given time as a rail while she circled the bathtub. When she made it back to him, he initiated play. Because he was bored. Yes. Bored.

He lightly splashed her in the face and was amused by her indignant cry. "Gwimm! Don't do that! Nel doethn't like watew!"

"So?" He antagonized. "I said I don't care."

She retaliated with both hands, failed and tried again with one. Succeeding, she giggled and began smacking the water excitedly. Very pleased now, Pantera pestered him into playing with more fevor, and for once, he didn't argue with his zanpakto. Chances to relax like this, were far and few in between. He had two cubs to look out for, no mate or fraccion to have his back, was wanted by Shinigami... this was…nice. Watching the little girl smile at him, laugh so sweet- it made a distant part of him ache.

'…I'm pretty sure I had a couple o' brats then…'

'Did I?' He thought faintly, splashing at her with a little more enthusiasm.

'It's in the past, Master. We have new cubs to look after. We are safe; no one will find us here, we will not be hunted, food is abundant. There are more important things to think about.'

Grimmjow wasn't so distracted by playing that he didn't catch on. Pantera was subtle. To himself he thought, 'What are you hiding about back then?' Nevertheless, he let it slide. It was true; he definitely had other things to worry about, Nel and his unborn cub being at the top of the list. How to repay Ichigo, too. What could he give? What would Ichigo take? Grimmjow didn't appreciate being thought of as a freeloader. But what could he barter? There must be something.

Nel broke him out of his thoughts with a smack of cooling water to the eye and an annoyed, "Hey!" He was so off his game a child could catch on? So not gonna fly.

The rest of the day went by in a similar fashion. He and Nel played in the bathroom, alternating between baths and showers, play and lessons. By the time they exited, Nel was sleeping in his arms, exhausted and he found himself wishing to join her. Rather than going down stairs and uncaring about how early it probably was- the sun was still setting- he decided to simply go to sleep. He and the developing little one were still digesting Ichigo's reiatsu ball from the night before, and presumed that Nel must be as well. It may have been inconsiderate to use so much water and not even come down to say 'goodnight' or something, but Grimmjow's instincts just wanted him to curl up around his cubs in the warmth of their bed. So that's what he did, having the presence of mind to at least dress Nel in a tiny nightdress he found in the closet and throw on a clean pair of "BOXERS" the bag said.

'Ichigo must o' brought 'em up.'

Drifting off, he sighed, a little content with that thought. They weren't really friends, but they certainly weren't enemies anymore. Ichigo had protected him for less, back in Hueco Mundo. Too damn protective he was. Still, it was that trait which led to the haven they resided in now.

"I've sworn to protect you, Nel and this baby. I'll protect them whether or not you stay. I'll protect you from Soul Society even if you leave. Being a father wasn't a turn I'd expected my life to make this early on, but I'd rather be a teenager raising four kids on my own than let any one of them be killed. I'm just that kind of person, Grimmjow."

At the very, bare bone least, there was the orange haired idiot. There was Ichigo.

A/N: Have you turned to goo yet? Lol. Sorry it isn't longer! I know that Grimmjow's kinda OOC in this chapter. I wrote this chapter over and over and over so many times until I got it here. I know where I want to go with the story and how I want it to end, but it's the actual getting there that's going to be difficult. Notice the cliff hanger? It'll get more intense next chapter, I had some heart wrenching stuff planned here, but changed my mind and gave fluff instead. It's so short when you look at the last chapter. Anyway please review!

~Vehlika Clearskyes