CHAPTER 2

Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach...

Onwards...

XOXOXO

If he hadn't been so used to the blazing sun and driving heat by now, he was sure he'd be one miserable soul. However, he was lucky to have an immunity to the Southern weather, making it possible to work the Mayor's sprawling front lawn without feeling the need to pass out. Already on his knees before a rebellious bush, Grimmjow sat back on his heels, dropped his hedge shears, took off his green, yellow and beige John Deere hat with one hand, and swiped the back of the other across his damp forehead. Then, he blew out a breath as he looked over the lawn. He'd made a lot of progress since the morning, and here it was going on four in the afternoon.

The other surrounding bushes were neatly trimmed, providing a fine work of art for the cement walkway leading up to the wrap-around porch of the house. The Mayor, an older man by the name of Barragan Luisenbarn, didn't ask for much. In fact, he'd only requested the few bushes hiding behind the low stone wall of the property be touched up because he had family visiting from up North, and he didn't want the place looking shabby. Grimmjow laughed. Not that Barragan ever had to worry about the huge ranch looking anything even remotely close to shabby. The house covered roughly the same amount of land two football fields would take up. It was amazing and all kinds of beautiful, and Grimmjow was rather proud to be the man in charge of its landscape.

The sound of an engine and tires crunching over a dirt road grabbed the blue-haired man's attention and had him looking towards the street, just past the stone wall of the Mayor's property. The black and white sheriff's cruiser made him smile as it slowed to a stop. The driver's door was thrown open, and Kenny's large frame emerged from the vehicle. The hulking dark-haired man was grinning from ear to ear, black shades hiding his eyes.

"Yo, lil bro'!" he shouted, far too loudly.

Grimmjow smirked as he climbed to his feet and replaced his hat, this time the bill facing backwards. He started down the stone walkway towards his older brother, wondering what the man could possibly want.

"What're you doin' here?" Grimmjow drawled, eyebrow raised skeptically.

"Ya make me bein' here sound like a crime! I can't stop an' check on my lil brother every now an' then?"

Kenny came around the hood of the cruiser and leaned against the passenger door. The shades were taken off and Grimmjow was able to see the barely contained mischief shining in the man's slate-gray irises.

"I ain't sayin' ya can't, but it ain't like ya make it a habit. Yer usually busy 'round this time," Grimmjow stated, eyeing the taller man.

Kenny shrugged. "Ya wanna get a beer from that place over on Hempton?"

Grimmjow pivoted on his heel and looked the yard over again. He could call it a day. The mayor had only asked for the area behind the stone partition to be done, after all; Grimmjow had only thrown in the rest of the lawn as a bonus since Mayor Barragan was such a loyal customer.

He turned back to Kenny and said, "Yeah, we can do that. Lemme grab my stuff."

Grimmjow ambled over to the bush he'd previously been giving his attention and grabbed his hedge shears. Then, he strolled to the other side of the yard where the rest of his tools were stashed. Once he had everything he'd arrived with, he made his way to his truck parked in the gravel driveway. He didn't have to worry about billing the mayor since the older man was pretty diligent with making his payments – not to mention generous on top of it all. Grimmjow stored his equipment in the bed of his pickup before sauntering to the driver's side and sliding inside the humid vehicle. He fiddled with the radio, until Kenny's horn blared from the street, sending the clear message of "hurry the fuck up." Grinning, the blue-haired man backed down the driveway. His older brother was a pain in the ass sometimes, but he still loved him.

They drove for about ten minutes before they reached the bar Kenny had mentioned. It was a laid back establishment with an Old West feel to it. The outside was a plain, dark wood and boasted a dusty, wrap-around porch. The entrance was a couple of large, sturdy, wooden doors that creaked loudly whenever opened, but the charm of the place was undeniable. Even the interior was interesting with its neon signs and private dance floor, where the patrons had their choice of all kinds of country music to choose from the silver and red jukebox in the corner of the raised platform. Grimmjow wasn't really a dancer, but he liked to watch. Especially when the dancers got good and drunk and hardly remembered there was a beat they were supposed to be following. That was pretty fun.

Grimmjow parked in the rear lot and hopped out of his truck. He met Kenny at the man's sheriff cruiser, and they both trooped to the front entrance. Grimmjow ignored the kissing couple they'd passed at the back of the building and refused to admit that he was a tiny bit jealous. But just because he wouldn't openly acknowledge it, it didn't mean his brother didn't pick up on it.

"You've been actin' weird for a while now, lil bro'. Wanna talk about it?"

Grimmjow shook his head and adjusted his cap. He really didn't want to tell his only brother that he was envious of the couples traipsing through the town, holding hands, kissing, sharing intimate moments and dinners and whatnot. He didn't want to tell Kenny that the reason he felt he couldn't have the same was because he was trying to protect the man's reputation. How could he? Kenny would curse the town and tell Grimmjow to do what he wanted, even if it meant the destruction of his own career – which it surely would. The townsfolk weren't very open-minded when it came to homosexuality, even though the times were progressing and suggesting that maybe they should be. Grimmjow just didn't want to risk it.

"I'm just thinkin' 'bout some things," he grunted.

Kenny gave him a sideways look that spoke volumes of how he really felt about Grimmjow's statement, but luckily, the man kept silent. They headed into the crowded bar and found a table near the back. As they passed through, several men and women addressed Kenny with warm affection. Grimmjow's chest inflated with pride. His brother was a damned good sheriff and didn't deserve to lose his standing because of Grimmjow's sexual preference. That was in no way fair at all.

At the table, Grimmjow ordered a beer and sat back, ready to wait for its arrival. Kenny had other plans, however.

"Why dontcha got a boyfriend, Grimm?" he asked.

Grimmjow's face paled as he stared across the small table at his brother. What the hell? Where had that question even come from? How was he supposed to answer it?

Well, he could lie, but Kenny would see through it like wet toilet paper. Yet, if he told the truth, it would probably make the dark-haired man feel bad. Damn, what a dilemma. Grimmjow rubbed the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes shut. He wanted to tell Kenny why he was conservative about having a relationship with another man. He wanted to so badly. Hell, Kenny was his brother and the only person he could dump his personal shit on. This, however... Whole 'nother bag of chips. He averted his gaze from Kenny's drilling gray one and stared down at the chipped wooden table between them.

Kenny gave a long-suffering sigh. "Ya think I don' know when somethin's wrong wit' you 'er Loly? I changed yer diapers fer Christ's sake."

True. But there were certain things that wouldn't go over easily no matter how close you were to someone. This just happened to be one of those things. Grimmjow did his own sighing as he toyed with the salt shaker. Although he really didn't want to tell Kenny what was on his mind, he didn't want to lie to him either. Grimmjow lifted his head and locked eyes with his brother.

"Ken, ya know how this town feels 'bout...uh...my sexuality and whatnot."

"Since when ya care what other people think 'boutcha?"

Grimmjow rubbed the tip of his nose and looked away again. He didn't care what other people thought about him. It was Kenny he was worried about.

"You know I don' give a shit 'bout that."

Kenny frowned as he sipped the beer the barmaid had just set before them. After he took a quick swig, he set the heavy mug back on the table and gave Grimmjow his cop face.

"So yer hidin' shit now? S'at whatcha sayin'?"

"Fuck, Kenny. Don't say it like that."

"Well, you are, ain't ya?"

Grimmjow grimaced. This was what he'd been dreading. Why couldn't Kenny just let up and give him a break for a change? The man was like a dog with a bone when he got his claws into something. Finally, Grimmjow just thought "fuck it" and threw caution away.

"Kenny, if these people find out I'm gay, whatcha think they'll do ta you?" he snapped.

Kenny sat back in his chair and folded thick arms across his barrel-like chest. "They ain't gonna do shit ta me. I suddenly look like a pussy ta you?"

His brother was being defensive, but this was bigger than that. Grimmjow knew there wasn't a soul in Denville that could challenge Kenny and come out of the encounter alive – hence the reason the man was Sheriff in the first place. However, it didn't mean Kenny couldn't lose the job he loved so much.

"Now, I never said that an' you know it," Grimmjow argued. "But what if they take yer job 'er somethin'? How ya think that'll make me feel?"

Kenny didn't say anything for a few beats. He just sat and stared Grimmjow down like the blue-haired man had stepped on his brand new pair of shoes. Then, Kenny leaned forward, arms slowly unfolding and bracing along the edge of the table as he scowled deeply.

"So, how d'ya think I feel knowin' my lil brother won't find happiness 'cuz a'me?"

Grimmjow swallowed, feeling like an absolute heel. The look in Kenny's eyes was like a lance through the head and heart. A double homicide. He felt horrible. He'd never meant to put that glare in his brother's eyes, but the man had asked.

"Kenny-" Grimmjow started.

"Lemme tell ya somethin', Grimmjow," Kenny cut him off. Grimmjow winced at the usage of his full first name; Kenny only used it when he was pissed. "If ya think I'd put these people over you – my only lil brother – then you've got me sadly mistaken. You were there before this town, before this job, an' it's gonna stay that way. This town don't like that yer sleepin' with men, then tha's their fuckin' problem. I can't believe you'd doubt me like that."

Kenny climbed to his feet, dug around in the back pocket of his uniform for his wallet and dropped a few bills on the table. That done, the taller man left the bar without another word or look back. Grimmjow glared at the money on the table, not angry at the fact that his brother had paid and left, but pissed with himself for not trusting Kenny more. He should have known the older man wouldn't let the town treat him any way they wanted, let alone take his job from him. And not only that, but Kenny had made it more than clear that even if it did come down to that, he would choose Grimmjow's side every time. It was painful as hell knowing he'd let his brother down. What was he supposed to say to the man now?

Grimmjow didn't even finish his beer. He stood and trudged through the bar towards the entrance, hands in his pockets and eyes on the dusty, wooden floor. He was almost to the other side of the room and his freedom, when a hand on his chest stopped him in his tracks. He lifted his head a bit and met a pair of honey-gold eyes. When he took a closer look, he realized the eyes belonged to a girl he'd seen around town before. She had maroon hair that she always wore in two ponytails on either side of her head, and she was pretty short. Didn't say anything about her personality, however. The girl was a spitfire, if Grimmjow'd ever seen one. Actually, she reminded him a lot of his sister, Loly. He was sure the girls would get on famously if they ever met.

"Hey, Riruka," he greeted.

She smiled like she'd just won the million dollar lottery. "Grimmjow, how come you never got a girl? Why ya so mysterious?"

He chuckled and carefully removed her hand that was now wandering down the valley between his pectorals. "I'm jus' a mysterious kinda guy."

"Awww! We should meet up sometime. Have a drink or two, ya know?"

Now, how could he let her down easily? She'd drawn a crowd of curious gazes, and he really didn't want to hurt her feelings. He didn't want to embarrass her, either. Riruka wasn't so bad, but she wasn't his type, even if he had been interested in females. Grimmjow scratched the back of his neck and pressed his lips together.

Luckily, Riruka chose to press forward with her proposal. "How 'bout this Saturday?"

Grimmjow didn't have anything planned, but damned if he'd tell her that. "I'm sorry, Riruka. I got some other business ta tend to. Maybe some other time."

She pouted, but didn't throw a tantrum or call him any derogatory names. "Well, alright. I'll get that date with you someday," she said with a coy smile.

Grimmjow smirked and nodded his head. If only she knew. He left the bar and headed for his truck after Riruka retreated to the dance floor. He had a bottle of whiskey with his name written all over it, hidden in his room beneath the floorboard of his closet. He had to hide his alcohol from Loly because God knew the girl could put it away like no one else he knew. For someone so tiny, his little sister could drink him and Kenny under the table.

XxxxxX

When Grimmjow got home, Kenny's cruiser was already parked in the drive. Apprehension tore his gut to shreds as he hopped out of his truck and made his way onto the front porch. The light in the living room was on, and he could smell food. As inviting as the atmosphere seemed, Grimmjow really didn't want to go in. So, like a coward, he crept inside and hurried to the stairs that would take him to his bedroom. He wasn't ready to face Kenny yet; he just didn't know what he would say. He didn't want to see his brother glaring at him again. Didn't want to see the disappointment and hurt in those gray eyes.

He made it to his room without incident, only to find Loly inside, draped across his bed. She had a bright green lollipop in one hand and was using the other to work the cursor pad on his laptop. Dismayed, he closed the door and leaned against it.

"What the hell, Loly?"

The dark-haired girl gave him a quick glance before turning her attention back to the computer screen. "I figured you might come crawling in here after I saw the look on Kenny's face. What'd you do?"

"Hey!" Grimmjow countered, a bit peeved that she'd seen right through him. "How ya know it was me that made him mad?"

"'Cuz he said he didn't want to see your 'stinkin' face fer at least a day'," she returned, accurately nailing their older brother's voice without even making a visible effort.

Grimmjow cringed and stared down at the floor. He really felt like shit now. Kenny had to be truly pissed at someone to not want to speak to them at all for more than a couple of hours. If Grimmjow had still been a kid, he'd be crying right about now. He hated having his siblings upset with him. Loly eased her head in his direction, a small frown pulling at her eyebrows.

"So, what'd you do, Grimmy?"

Grimmjow took a deep breath and shook his head. "I didn't tell 'im somethin' I shoulda."

"Liiiiike?"

"Tch! Can't I sulk without you pokin' yer nose in it?"

"Of course not!" she exclaimed, expression genuinely appalled. "So spill!"

"Goddammit, Loly! I tol' 'im I didn't wanna date anybody 'cuz I didn't want him ta lose his job! Ya happy now?" Grimmjow snarled.

Loly rolled her eyes and turned back to the computer. "Boys," she drawled. "You're so dramatic. You and Kenny are being ridiculous, fighting over something so stupid. Just go kiss and make up already."

"What? Don't be stupid. Kenny'd rip my head off right now."

"Hmm. You might be right."

Grimmjow snorted. Then he realized that his sister was using his laptop, and right when he went to scold her for it, she spoke up.

"Hey, Grimmy? Who's Ichigo Kuro-somethin'?"

The blood drained from his face as he crossed the room in three long strides. He reached the bed and grabbed his laptop by the screen before lifting it away from her.

"What the fuck, Loly! Ya readin' my email now?"

She sat up on his bed and folded her legs Indian style. Her face was as devious as it could get. "I didn't do it on purpose, you know! It sorta just popped up while I was checking my own messages."

"Liar," he growled.

He couldn't believe she'd invaded his privacy like that. What the hell had she been thinking? Evil little girl. Woman. Female.

His words didn't even faze the brat because she gave Grimmjow an impish grin. "So, who is he?"

"Nunna yer business!"

"Ohh? And here I thought I had to play matchmaker. Guess you've got it covered, huh, Grimmy?"

"Get out."

"Aww, Grimmy, don't be that way!"

"GET OUT!" he roared and pointed at the door.

Loly giggled and slid off his bed. She ambled over to the door still grinning up a storm, and when she reached it, she turned back and blew him a kiss.

"Good luck!"

Before he could retort, she was out of the room, the heavy wooden portal shutting behind her. Grimmjow huffed a breath, rolled his eyes, then plopped down onto his bed. His heart immediately began racing as he set the laptop down and turned it towards him. So, he had a message from Ichigo, huh? An unexplainable giddiness settled over him and made his fingers fly over the keyboard as he entered his email account information.

He remembered being bored one night after work and Googling pen pal websites. Don't ask him why because he really didn't know. But he'd ended finding an interesting site that didn't seem like it was filled with creeps. In fact, it was a melting pot of different cultures. He'd created a profile and a couple days after, he'd started emailing Ichigo Kurosaki, a chef from Japan. When Grimmjow read Ichigo's messages, he couldn't help smiling at the endearing way Ichigo sometimes struggled translating something into English. The guy had a really good grasp of the English language, but every now and then he'd make a mistake that was entirely too cute. Grimmjow found himself wondering what Ichigo's voice sounded like more often than not. He'd wait, though. He didn't want to push the other man and mess up the camaraderie they'd already established.

The window for his email popped up and sure enough, Ichigo's name was in his inbox. He clicked the envelope, hands slightly shaking with nerves. He always got jittery whenever he had a new message from the chef. From what they'd talked about and the things they'd shared with each other so far, Grimmjow really liked Ichigo.

Konnichiwa, Grimmjow. Genki?

I'm fine with working and classes. Too bad, I haven't found anything in my price budget yet, and I still have to finish my business courses. Hopefully, by the time I do, something will come along.

I had a bad weekend. I got in a fight with my friend over something so stupid, and the person I was seeing cheated on me. I also had a fight with my oyaji. He's still being dumb about me coming to America as a chef – ano kuso-ttare. I hope your weekend was better than mine, LoL. I would hate for us both to be sad.

But for happy news, I have another recipe for you to try! It's called Nikujaga... Umai da! It's a Japanese beef stew. I think you and your family will like it. At least, I hope so. I'm attaching the recipe in English at the bottom of the message, so you should really try it.

LoL! The fair sounds like a kimodameshi. That's um...how should I put it? I guess in English you would say a test of courage. Similar to a haunted house, but different locations. The rules are complicated. Maybe I can tell you about it in person one day? I agree with you. I think meeting would be fun since you seem like a nice guy.

I have to tell you, I don't know how to swim. I almost drowned as a kid when my oyaji threw me into the local pool, and since then, I stay away from them, LoL. You can teach me if you promise not to try to drown me too. Don't worry about not catching on to my culture all at once. I'm still getting the hang of American customs and food, naraba, kore de, oretachi 'even' da ne? Well, I have to create tonight's menu, so sore ja, Grimmjow!

Ichigo

Nikujaga

Ingredients

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 ounces beefsliced thin (short ribs work great)

1 onionthick slices

4 yukon gold potatoescut into large chunks

1 carrotcut into large pieces

4 fresh shiitake mushroomsstems removed and quartered

1/2 cup sake

2 cups dashi(low sodium beef stock also works)

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons soy sauce

5 ounce bag shiratakidrained and rinsed

3 ounces green beanstrimmed

Instructions

Heat a heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat until hot. Add the oil, then stir-fry the beef until cooked through. Transfer to a bowl, with tongs or a slotted spoon, leaving as much of the oil in the pot as possible.

Add the onions and fry until translucent. Add the potatoes, carrots, and shiitake mushrooms and continue stir-frying for about 3 minutes.

Add the sake and bring to a boil until you stop smelling alcohol (1-2 minutes). Add the dashi, sugar, salt, soy sauce, and then return the beef to the pot. Simmer, partially covered for 30-40 minutes, or until the meat is tender and the carrots and potatoes are very soft.

Add the green beans and cook uncovered until they are cooked through. Serve immediately, or refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to develop.

Grimmjow grinned and failed miserably at keeping a blush at bay. Ichigo's messages were always warmth and fuzz-inducing. Perhaps he was looking too deeply into this thing. Ichigo was miles and miles away – although, the man did have plans to come to America and open up a restaurant – and there was no real guarantee they would meet. Not to mention, Grimmjow didn't even know what the guy's sexual preference was, so there was no reason to get his hopes up. What they had at the moment was a tentative cyber friendship, and Grimmjow wasn't in a hurry to mess it up. Then, he frowned as he read through the message again. Ichigo had said the person he'd been seeing had cheated on him. So, the guy was fresh out of a relationship, but he hadn't been very specific.

Maybe... Nah.

XOXOXO

A Few Days Later

Ichigo glared at the pale-haired man standing across his kitchen table.

"You said I stole your girlfriend, idiot! Did you somehow forget I'm gay?" he snapped.

Shiro gave him a lopsided grin as he rubbed the back of his head. "C'mon, King! Ya know I was drunk."

"You're always drunk."

"Wha'? That ain't true."

Ichigo grumbled as he moved to the refrigerator and grabbed a couple bottles of beer. He slid one across the table towards his friend and shook his head as he studied the strange eyes carefully watching him. Shiro was an asshole, but he was an endearing one. It frustrated Ichigo to no end, but there was really nothing he could do about it. They'd been friends their entire lives, and he understood the way Shiro operated. Didn't mean he had to like it, though.

"Shiro, you're either drunk, or whoring around. You don't know the meaning of being faithful, which made that whole fucking tirade of yours pointless. How long had you been having sex with Mila-whatever-her-name-was? A few days? And yet you called her your girlfriend? You're a freak, you know that?" Ichigo ranted.

Shiro just grinned and nodded. "Yer right. I'll do better, 'kay, King? Don' be mad at me."

"Whatever."

There was a brief moment of silence where all they did was exchange looks and grins, until Shiro took a seat at the kitchen table and chugged half of his beer. After that, he licked his lips and set it down, arms going across his chest.

"So, ya still thinkin' 'bout goin' ta 'Merica?"

Ichigo pursed his lips, his thoughts immediately landing on his new friend, Grimmjow. When Grimmjow had proposed they meet, Ichigo had been giddy for the rest of that night. He wondered what the man looked like. What did he sound like? The curiosity was driving Ichigo crazy.

"Yeah, I'm gonna go as soon as I finish classes and find an affordable place," he replied.

Shiro smirked, and it made the hairs all over Ichigo's body rise. What the hell?

"Ya sure it ain't got somethin' ta do wit' somebody named Grimm-jow Jaeger-some-shit?"

Ichigo's face paled drastically. How the fuck did the creep know that? He glanced around the room, wondering just how Shiro could've gotten his hands on that kind of information and froze, hands over his back pockets.

"Where's my phone?" he deadpanned.

Shiro's grin almost covered his chin as he went into his own pocket and held Ichigo's phone in the air. "Ya mean this?"

"Where? How the hell?"

"Ya know, ya leave this thing lyin' all over the place? S'not good, King. Somebody could steal it."

Ichigo scowled, reached across the table and snatched the device. "Fuckin' sticky fingers," he grumbled.

"So, it's got nothin' ta do with that guy?" Shiro continued as if he hadn't just put Ichigo on the spot. "I mean, it kinda sounds like it."

"No!"

Shiro arched a pale brow and smirked again. "Yer lyinnnn'. I c'n always tell when yer fibbin', King. Knock it off, 'kay?"

Ichigo's scowl deepened as he glared at his friend. Times like these really made him hate the guy. Made him hate the fact that they'd known each other their whole lives. Shiro's incredulous chuckle made Ichigo press his lips into a thin line.

"What?" he snapped.

"Yer blushin'. Say, King...ya seen what this guy looks like?"

The albino was annoying with his perception. "No. Why?"

And that filthy grin was back with a vengeance. "Well, I kinda asked him fer a photo fer ya."

"WHAT?!" Ichigo hollered and jumped to his feet, heart rate climbing to the ceiling. "ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS?!"

Shiro had his hands over his ears, but his smile never faded as he nodded. Ichigo wanted to curl up and die. What would Grimmjow say? Would he think he was weird? Too forward? Ichigo didn't even know if the man was...into guys like that. What would the man think about the photo request? Holy shit, he was having a heart attack.

"I can't believe you did that," he said, still stunned. "I think I'm gonna kill you as soon as I finish having this stroke."

Shiro cackled and lowered his hands. "So, ya do like 'im. Dontcha think seein' what he looks like before ya get all hard fer 'im might be a good idea?"

Ichigo cringed, plopped back into his seat and dropped his head to the table, eyes squeezed shut in misery. "I hate you so much right now."

"Ahh, c'mon. It ain't the end a'the world, ya know. Least this way ya get ta see what yer crush looks like."

"Shiro, stop talking for a minute. You're only making me want to kill you more."

Shiro went quiet, but not before he laughed. However, the silence gave Ichigo time to think. So, Shiro sent Grimmjow an email requesting his photo. Ichigo's stomach went south as he unlocked the screen of his phone. He had to know exactly what his idiot friend had said.

He went into the email application and then the 'sent' folder. What he saw made him roll his eyes. It'd been simple enough.

Ya got a pic?

"Don't touch my phone ever again, Shiro. I'll cut your fucking fingers off if you do," Ichigo casually stated.

Shiro was cackling again, but Ichigo's mind was still on the abrupt message. He opened up a new one and began typing.

Gomen, Grimmjow. My friend thought it a good idea to send you that message. You don't have-

He was mid-sentence when his phone vibrated in his hands. He jumped and stared at it for a second before it finally registered that he had a new message. He left the one he was composing and almost had another heart attack when he read the name in his inbox. The little paper clip beside the subject title "Me" didn't help, either. The guy had actually gone and sent his picture! Ichigo squirmed in his seat and fought with himself. He didn't want to open the email in front of Shiro because God knew the man would never let him live it down if Grimmjow was hideous or something. But if he was good-looking, Ichigo wouldn't be able to live that down, either. He'd be pretty excited and unable to hide it.

Fucking Shirosaki.

"Mmm, let's see what he looks like, King," Shiro's warbling voice said from over Ichigo's shoulder.

Ichigo jumped, nearly falling out of his seat with fright. "What the fuck, you creep!"

Shiro just put a steadying hand on Ichigo's shoulder and smiled. "Wait, I'll do ya one better. I'll go get yer laptop so we can see it nice and big, huh?"

Ichigo's face flushed at the way his friend had phrased the suggestion, and of course Shiro caught on. He gave Ichigo a saucy smirk.

"King, ya perv'. Only I get that priv'lege, ya know?"

"Just go get the fucking computer!" Ichigo griped.

He was resigned to his fate. He knew there was no way in hell Shiro would let him get away with keeping something like this away from him. With a sigh, Ichigo locked his phone's screen and tucked the device into his pocket.

A couple minutes later, Shiro sauntered into the kitchen with a smug grin, Ichigo's laptop fit snugly in the crook of his arm. Ichigo's heart began pitter-pattering behind his ribs. When Shiro pulled up a chair beside him, his heart began pounding against them like a battering ram. He was so nervous. Was Grimmjow handsome? Was he ugly? Would it matter? Hell, what was he saying; of course, it would. Damn, that made him seem so shallow, but it was the truth. There had to be some type of attraction there in order to make anything sexual work. Not that he was thinking there would be something sexual between them. Ichigo sighed and told his mind to shut the fuck up; it was making him feel like an idiot.

Shiro set up the computer and slid it over to Ichigo. "Here ya go. Let's see what Lover Boy looks like."

Ichigo typed in his account information and hesitantly went to the message from Grimmjow. It was now or never. He took a deep breath and downloaded the picture, hands shaking and heart beating so fast, it hurt. Once it was finished, he went to click the link that would bring it up in his picture manager, but froze. He was paralyzed with fear and nerves. Ichigo saw Shiro's confused frown from the corner of his eye, but was helpless to do anything about it.

Shiro sucked his teeth and grabbed the laptop, sliding it back in front of him. "King, ya big wuss..." he mumbled and heartlessly clicked the link.

Like a kid, Ichigo squeezed his eyes shut. He didn't wanna know if Grimmjow was a troll. He really didn't.

Shiro whistled and Ichigo could hear the grin in the man's voice when he said, "Ya know, King. I don' like guys, but this one's pretty nice-lookin'."

Ichigo very slowly opened his eyes...and stared. He saw a short message first.

Haha! Hey, Ichigo. I was kind of curious myself, so I figured I could send you mine and you'd send me yours. Deal?

Grimm

Then, Ichigo saw the picture. His shoulders sagged in relief as he realized Grimmjow was far from the ugly side of the spectrum. In fact, the more Ichigo looked, the more he realized the man was so deep into the hot side of it, his image was nearly smoking. What Ichigo was looking at was a man who appeared tall, but was leaning against a wooden railing. Probably on a porch or something. He had bright, Summer sky-colored hair, arresting, sea-blue eyes, a straight, almost regal nose and a wide, carefree grin. He had on a backwards beige and green hat, a white, short-sleeved, v-neck tee, khaki cargo shorts and no socks or shoes. He was smiling at a little dark-haired girl off to the side of him, who had to be the niece he was always talking about. But Ichigo was still stuck on the man himself. His body was something Ichigo had never encountered before – like all the guy did was work out and swim. He was very well-built (stacked arms, perfect torso, strong-looking legs), and the man had never even mentioned it once in his messages, so Ichigo knew he wasn't a health nut that lived in the gym.

Was he real?

"King, I swear ta God, ya get a boner in front a'me an' I'll kick yer ass," Shiro said.

That got Ichigo out of his reverie. He smirked and glanced over at his friend, whose eyes and facial expression were extremely nervous.

"OK, I'll wait 'til you leave, then," he retorted.

Shiro shook his head and slid the laptop in Ichigo's direction. "I'm appalled, King. I never knew ya were such a freak."

"HA!" Ichigo quipped. "This comin' from the master of all sex addicts? Gimme a break, Shiro."

The albino grinned and rose from his seat. "Yeah, but tha's our lil secret. I'll leave ya ta yer impendin' meat-beatin', King. Call me tamorrow."

Ichigo just chuckled and turned his eyes back to the photo on his computer screen. How was he supposed to respond to this? If he complimented Grimmjow, wouldn't the man think he was...uh...well, you know? But it wouldn't make sense to just gloss over it since Grimmjow thought it was Ichigo that had asked for the picture in the first place. And that thought turned a whole new page of trouble. Ichigo suddenly recalled that Grimmjow wanted him to send a picture in return.

What a pickle.

For the time being, however, Ichigo sat back in his kitchen chair and saved Grimmjow's impeccable photo before ogling it some more. The puzzle of Grimmjow's looks: solved.

Oyaji: old man

Ano kuso-ttare: that asshole

Umai da: it's really delicious/great

naraba, kore de, oretachi 'even' da ne?: like this, we're even, yeah?

Sore ja: until next time/catch you later

Gomen: sorry

Next time...