PLEASE READ THIS, seriously. Thanks to a certain person, whom I will gladly point out (Storm...*cough*) this idea was born. IT IS A CONTINUATION OF WATCH THE WORLD BURN. It's still sad, especially in the beginning, but it should end on a slightly happier note later on. Because this second part has the potential to be rather lengthy, I've split it up. There will be at least one more chapter after this.
If you have not read Watch the World Burn, grab a box of tissues and please do, else this wont make a whole lot of sense...
Anyway, onto the story! Enjoy!
Soft, warm lips brushed against the shell of his ear, familiar, perfect. Hot breath fanned across his neck and jaw and Grimmjow let a smile tilt his pale lips, though he couldn't open his eyes to see his lover's face. His body felt so heavy but it didn't matter. He no longer felt the cold that rushed in while his blood dripped to the floor and soaked into the carpet. He didn't feel the pain of his weakening heart trying desperately to keep him anchored in the world of the living. He didn't notice as his lips took on a bluish color with the lack of oxygen as his lungs gave out and he stopped breathing.
He was with Ichigo again. That was all that mattered. He would never be able to mistake the way the smaller man felt against him; the warm lips at his ear, whispering words in a sweet, deep voice. The slim fingers dancing across his chest, feeling almost hot against his unnaturally cold flesh before they ghosted up to rest along the side of his face, thumb brushing along the smooth skin over his high cheek bone. This was right. This was how things were supposed to be. If they couldn't be together in life than he would bring them together in death. This was what he wanted.
A cruel twist of fate made him slowly realize what Ichigo was saying to him, his faltering mind slowly processing the whispered words against his ear as it shut down. A single beat of his broken heart thudded painfully in his hollow chest. A wretched, sobbing gasp tore from his throat, the first breath he'd taken in too long. The air burned going down but he could only focus on the whispered words ringing in his skull.
"I love you, Grimmjow... and I can't let you do this..."
"Clear!" The shouted words of the paramedic filled the bedroom, the smell of sterile equipment and rubber gloves trying to drown out the cloying scent of blood. The bluenette's chest heaved under the paddles of the defibrillator and a single, broken breath was pulled into his lungs.
A different medic holding a clear plastic device and forcing oxygen into the man's lungs brought his fingers to the side of the man's throat. "I've got a pulse."
The defibrillator was put away, a stretcher lowered beside the big man. One of the EMTs pulled a framed picture from the victim's lap, glancing at it as the bluenette was loaded onto the backboard and wheeled out of the house. He shoved the photo into another EMT's hands as he turned to follow the stretcher. "Call Dr. Kurosaki and have him meet us at the ER."
The other worker looked down at the picture shoved into his hands. Shaking his head slightly, the motion sad and regretful, the man pulled his cell from his pocket and quickly pulled up Isshin's number.
Isshin scrubbed a hand down his tired features, finally crossing his arms as he stared through the little window of the ER room where the man he considered his second son lay unnaturally still, a monitor keeping check of his pulse and multiple IVs set up to force fluids into his body, as well as to replace the blood he had lost. The elder Kurosaki shook his head, his dark brows furrowed, unable to hide the writhing emotions in his dark eyes.
First his son was murdered, now his son's lover was trying to join the boy. Isshin fingered the edge of the note the paramedics had found near by. The bluenette's blood had spread through the carpet and stained one edge but it couldn't hide the pain filled words written there, nor the tears that had tracked the page.
I promised to protect him and I failed.
I promised you I wouldn't do anything stupid and I lied.
I promised you I wouldn't do this, but I can't live without him.
I promised to love him forever.
It's the only promise I can keep.
Yuzu, Karin, Isshin.
I truly am sorry.
I'm going to see Ichigo again.
Grimmjow's doctor slowly exited the room, patting Isshin's shoulder lightly. It was comforting to know the doctor that had been assigned to the bluenette. The man was one of the best. Isshin didn't bother pulling his gaze from Grimmjow's form, his heart heavy and throbbing in his chest. He felt old beyond his years, worn down and ready for the tides to change. His children, all of them, including Grimmjow, were supposed to burry him, not the other way around.
"He's a tough bastard, Isshin." The doctor said as he stood by his colleague. "His body's fighting even if he didn't want it to..."
Isshin seemed to deflate. Oh but wasn't that the truth; Grimmjow didn't want to fight, he didn't want to try to live without what had been taken from him. He made that more than clear. Yet however selfish it may have been, Isshin wasn't willing to give up on him. He knew without doubt that Ichigo wouldn't have wanted this and he would do anything for his son. For his sons.
Without needing to ask permission, Isshin let himself into the room. He was doctor, after all, he knew what was going on. Grimmjow had been stabilized and while a tube fed extra oxygen to him, he breathed on his own and his heartbeat was steady and strong. Too steady and too strong for all the pain and loss that was etched across Grimmjow's paler than normal features, even in his unconscious state.
"Oh Grimmjow, my boy..." Isshin all but whispered, his voice raw and tired as he pulled a chair closer to the bluenette's bedside. "How are we going to make it through this?"
The older man sat lost in his thoughts and memories for a while, the steady and reassuring beep of Grimmjow's EKG monitor creating a background noise that let him know the boy was still fighting. The patterned changed ever so slightly, growing faster for a moment before it evened out again but a moment was all it took to shake Isshin from his mind, pulling his dark brows together and making worry gnaw in his gut. His dark eyes darted to the monitors, quickly scanning the younger's vitals and reading his signs. The older man stood from his chair and neared Grimmjow's bedside as blue brows furrowed and the younger man's features twisted into a pained expression, a deep, uneven breath filling his lungs and making his chest rise.
Slowly, blue eyes revealed themselves, blurry and unfocused but stunning in their intense color. They seemed colder than they once were. A deep, shuddering breath left the man as Grimmjow slowly let his head fall to the side, his gaze finding Isshin's worried face.
"I-Is...shin...?" His deep voice was quiet, confused and unsure as Grimmjow tried to focus on the figure standing beside him.
Isshin placed his hand in one of Grimmjow's, squeezing lightly in a comforting gesture. He was careful of the thick, white bandages wrapped around the bluenette's wrists, ending midway up his forearms. He knew what they hid, the doctor had told him the damage had been deep. "I'm here, Grimm..."
The younger man squeezed back but there was no strength behind it, whether it was from the wounds or the medication keeping him from feeling the wounds was impossible to tell just yet. Blue brows furrowed further as Grimmjow's eyes scanned over the room, trying to piece together what was going on. Something clicked and the muscle of the bluenette's jaw tightened before his breathing grew ragged and his brows shot up in a lost and helpless expression. There was no masking the horror, the vulnerability or the raw pain in his gaze. His watery eyes were directed back up at Isshin as a single, broken word tumbled from his lips. "why?"
Why was Isshin there? Why wasn't Ichigo with him? Why was he laying in a hospital? Why was he still alive? Tears rolled down the man's face as he closed his eyes against the pain that no medication could dull. Still too soon after his close encounter, Grimmjow lay nearly completely still, unable to move around much but his chest heaved with his emotion and mumbled words tumbled from his trembling lips as his fingers weakly flexed against Isshin's hand and the sheets on his other side.
Isshin's jaw worked as he tried to answer the man but his words failed him. There were too many questions in that one word and not enough answers. Guilt washed over the older man but he knew it was right that Grimmjow hadn't been allowed to die.
It didn't take long for Grimmjow's weakened body to give out on him and his head rolled back to the side as he slipped into blessed unconsciousness once more, his tears staining the pillow and clinging to his long lashes, his hand going limp in Isshin's own.
The elder man fell heavily into his chair, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, his head in his hands. After a minute, he whipped at his face and ignored as his fingers came away wet.
Drying them on his pants he scooted to the edge of his chair and gently rolled Grimmjow's arm over so that his palm was face up. Carefully unrolling the bandaging, he gave himself a peek of just what the EMTs had found.
Fine, dark stitching held the jagged wounds closed but even without being able to see passed the surface, Isshin could tell they weren't pretty. Running lengthwise down the underside of the man's thick arms, the cuts had not been simply a cry for help or a way to alleviate the emotional pain. The marks proved Grimmjow had been seriously trying to end his life and they tore at Isshin's heart. The scars would forever mar the man's golden skin, but Isshin knew it was the scars over Grimmjow's heart, the ones that no one could see, that would bother the bluenette the most. The elder man slowly rewound the bandaging, securing the end by tucking it under the edge of where it had already been wrapped.
He gently settled Grimmjow's big hand across his abdomen and leaned back in his chair again, bringing his hand to his face as he preyed with everything he had that Ichigo could hear him and would forgive him for nearly letting Grimmjow slip away.
The next few days were touch and go. Grimmjow's body refused to give up and fought hard against the damage that had been done to it but the bluenette's mindset was something else entirely. The few occasions he awakened, he said not a word and it was all too clear he could remember every horrible detail he didn't wish to relive.
At first the staff feared he would reattempt to take his life and measures were even taken to insure he didn't. He was kept under constant surveillance and a different room had been prepared, one that was used for patients that were mentally unstable and dangerous, with padded cuffs attached to the bed to keep the patient mostly immobile. But the extra precautions were unnecessary. One thing kept Grimmjow alive, kept him from seeing his attempts through until the end. One little phrase, barely a handful of words saved his life not for the first time.
"I love you, Grimmjow... and I can't let you do this..."
Grimmjow stared at the white wall at the foot of his bed as a nurse changed the bandages that wrapped his wrists and lower arms. The woman chattered to him, telling him about the lovely day outside and that she was happy to see him awake this time around. He didn't respond, he hardly even heard her. But the staff had grown used to the silence in the few days he had been there.
As the woman stood up, her job done, an almost hesitant knock at the room's door pulled Grimmjow's gaze away from the wall. His blue eyes slowly coasted toward his left to see two little girls slowly enter the room, Isshin standing just behind them. The older man stopped the nurse in the doorway, inquiring about how Grimmjow's wounds were healing but the bluenette's attention was anchored to Karin and Yuzu.
They seemed hesitant, even Karin's normally bold demeanor was lessened as the two looked in at him. "Uhh...Grimmy-nii..."
Karin's gaze snapped to her twin, her darker eyes seething. "Yuzu!"
Before the girl could continue to chastise her sister, Yuzu pinned her with an uncharacteristically stern glare. "Daddy said he and Ichi were both our big brothers now. That doesn't change because Ichi-nii..."
Both girls paused as Yuzu's words caught up to them, their eyes wide. Grimmjow snorted a frail laugh, tears blurring his vision as a slight but genuine smile tilted his lips, the first since he had woken up in the hospital.
Isshin watched as the twins looked back to the bed ridden man. They had been begging and demanding to see him since Isshin had told them he was sick and in the hospital. Of course he hadn't been able to tell them why he was sick. Like their brother had been, they were both too intelligent for their young age and they would have understood too well. But perhaps bringing them to visit would be good for their brother's mourning lover.
Grimmjow slowly lifted one his hands and waved the girls forward, the motion slow and stiff, obviously uncomfortable. They scrambled to his side, Karin running around the foot of the bed to his opposite side. They hardly paused before climbing up onto the bed to lay at the man's side.
Isshin surged a step forward, thinking to stop them and not wanting either to accidentally hurt the man. "Ah! Girls-" His words froze as Grimmjow carefully wrapped his arms around their small shoulders and they cuddled up next to him the way they used to with Ichigo. The smile on Grimmjow's face grew, loosing a touch of it's sadness.
"Dad said you were sick." Karin said, looking at the white bandaging wrapping Grimmjow's arms. She reached up and wrapped her little fingers around his wrist where it settled against her arm to emphasize her point. "But goatface lied to us. You hurt yourself."
Grimmjow flinched at the extra pressure to his wounds and his brows furrowed as his gaze fell from Karin's face to the blanket that had been thrown over his lap.
"No...he didn't lie to you." The bluenette's voice was rough and barely above a whisper. "I did hurt myself, but I did it because I was sick."
Isshin quietly lowered himself to sit in the chair beside the younger man's bed, his gaze never leaving the three of them as he listened to what Grimmjow said.
"Are you feeling better now?" Yuzu asked from his other side.
Grimmjow looked down at her, his muscled chest raising and falling a few times before he could answer her. "I'm trying."
"Better try harder." Karin mumbled, settling her head against Grimmjow's chest. "Coz you still haven't visited Ichi-nii."
"And you need to come take Tensa home." Yuzu pouted as she rested her head on the other side of his chest. "I think he misses you."
Grimmjow's arms tightened around the twins and he nodded, something determined sparkling in his gaze, something a little more alive than a few minutes ago. He looked over Yuzu to where Isshin sat but his thanks and his apologies didn't need to be said aloud. Isshin could see them both clearly written across the man's features. Minutes ticked by in comfortable silence as Grimmjow's steady heartbeat lulled the twins into a light nap.
Isshin watched as Grimmjow lay still, his head resting back against his pillows and his gaze trained on the white ceiling. He could practically see the man's thoughts whirling in his blue eyes. The older man almost hated to break him from whatever he had lost himself in, but his own thoughts were demanding to be given voice to. So he asked the question that had been burning a hole in his tongue for a while now. It was something he just had to know.
The EMTs that had arrived to take Grimmjow to the ER had told Isshin that the younger man had succeeded in his attempts. He had been dead when they found him sitting in his bedroom; no pulse, no breathing. They had held little hope as they laid him flat on the floor and began attempting to bring him back. But they had managed it.
Still, for those few minutes...Grimmjow had left this world and the last line of his note had haunted Isshin since he had gotten that horrible call the night Grimmjow was found. "Grimm... Did-did you get to see him again?"
Grimmjow didn't move but he closed his eyes and blocked out the world around him as he blocked in his emotions. The barest nod was Isshin's answer after a moment, accompanied by a shuddering breath before Grimmjow spoke. "I did."
Isshin wanted to ask, he really did. It took every ounce of his control not to ask what his son had done or said, but he refused to intrude on whatever last moment the two had shared. He didn't need to ask and the words tumbled from Grimmjow's lips without prompt. He wouldn't deny his beloved Ichigo's father that.
"He told me...he said he wouldn't let me..." His words faltered, his quiet voice trailing off, but the meaning was clear enough.
Isshin couldn't help the small chuckle that escaped him as he imagined Ichigo telling Grimmjow he wouldn't let him commit suicide, wouldn't let him join him in whatever afterlife there was. It sounded just like Ichigo. Even in death, his boy was a sweet and caring young man. And there had been nothing he cared for more than he had loved Grimmjow.
Blue eyes opened and cornered to look at Isshin. The small smile on Isshin's face was contagious and Grimmjow nodded slightly in agreement to the unspoken words that hovered between them.
When the nurse returned, she smiled as she opened the door to the quiet room, finding only Dr. Kurosaki still awake. She quietly greeted him and went about her business as the man watched. It took her little time to complete her check up, recording the bluenette's stats down in his chart. With the way his arms were thrown around the twins' shoulders it made him easy access and so she allowed them to stay curled up beside him. Still recovering from his brush with death, Grimmjow only stirred as the woman was readying to leave.
"So when can I get out of here?" Grimmjow asked quietly as she was walking out of the door.
The nurse paused in the doorway, turning back to look at him. "Well...I'll have to talk to the doctor, but...there are precautions we must take with patients that may be..." She paused, unsure how to phrase what she was trying to tell the man. It was a delicate situation, after all.
But Grimmjow understood and he nodded, gingerly clenching his hands into fists and feeling as the stitching pulled at the skin and muscle of his forearms and wrists. "With suicidal patients." He finished for her.
The woman nodded sadly and turned to leave once more. Eventually Isshin roused the girls from their nap with the intent to take them home. As they carefully climbed down from the bed, Grimmjow gingerly levered himself into a sitting position, throwing his legs over the side. Karin and Yuzu wrapped their little arms around his waist while they said their goodbyes and the bluenette smiled as he hugged them back.
Isshin pulled him into a fatherly hug, big hand patting the younger man's back. It was a comforting embrace and it meant more than just a hug to Grimmjow. Even without Ichigo, this was still his family. They would always be his family.
"Don't dwell on the 'whys', Grimm..." Isshin whispered as he pulled back, holding the man at arm's length and searching the blue eyes before his own. "There's a reason he helped the paramedics bring you back to us."
Grimmjow's gaze fell from Isshin's, sorrow swirling in their depths, but he promised the man he would try. All he could do was try.
Early the next morning, just before the nurse returned to administer his medication and check on his wounds, Grimmjow was awakened by voices in the hall. Worn out and tired and just a bit cranky, he carefully sat up and threw his feet to the floor. Standing oh so slowly and wincing at how weak his body felt, he tugged his IV along with him as he let his curiosity guide him to the door.
He opened it a crack and peeked out just as an odd voice cried out, the tone high pitched but distinctly male. There was a strange quality to it and Grimmjow didn't catch what had been said but he did catch as an elderly nurse began good-naturedly chastising the young man for whatever he had said.
Blue brows furrowing, Grimmjow stifled a yawn as a pale figure was wheeled toward the room across from his own. Slumped in the wheelchair at a seemingly uncomfortable angle, it was clear the man was being heavily medicated. An IV of clear fluids was set up to pump liquids into him and it seemed the majority of the man's visible body was wrapped in loose gauze. Grimmjow recognized a burn victim when he saw one and whatever had happened to the man had been more than a simple stove accident.
Both of the man's arms were wrapped in the bandaging, his hands wrapped as well where they sat in his lap. The side of his pale neck and face was red and irritated from the heat of the flames and his white hair had been cut short to get rid of the dead, singed areas.
"Shhhh..." The nurse that pushed the wheel chair shushed the young man, shaking her head slowly. Her tone was friendly enough, a hint of amusement in it, like she genuinely enjoyed taking care of her charge. "Other patients are trying to sleep. I'm not even sure why you're awake right now."
"Tch." The young man made the effort to tilt his head up to look at the woman, squinting in the harsh lighting of the hallway before he let his head roll to the side. When he spoke, his words were slurred through the lilting tone as though he would fall asleep at any minute. "Maybe ya shouldn' wake me up at stupid hours ta take tha' damn medicine. S'not like it actually helps. An' where we goin' anyway?"
The nurse chuckled, stepping around the chair to open the door to the young man's new room. "You get a new room now that you don't need to be in intensive care any longer and that medicine is a burn salve. It should help with your healing. The doctor thinks most of the scarring shouldn't be too bad, just in a few places. Pretty lucky, really. With how pale you are it would have stood out horribly."
"Don' care 'bout the scarrin'." The man mumbled, his demeanor taking a swift turn from teasing to sulking and obviously upset. "Why ain't ya let me see Ren yet?"
The nurse's attitude changed as well and before she wheeled the man into his room, she knelt down in front of him, patting his knee lightly. Her face showed genuine sorrow as she spoke in a sad, slow tone like she had explained this before. "Oh honey...Ren didn't make it...remember?"
"Oh yeah..." The young man's distorted tone was a harsh whisper before he fell silent, his ashen brows furrowed into a deep scowl. "... I couldn' save 'im..."
He said not another word as he was wheeled into the room. Bringing the chair up beside the bed, the nurse helped lift the young man to the bed and folded the thin blankets over his legs. She settled the saline bag for the IV drip on it's hook beside the bed and before she even made it back out of the room, the pain medication that had been given to the young man had knocked him back out again, leaving him laying still and motionless in the new hospital room.
Frowning slightly, Grimmjow shook his head and gingerly made his way back to his own bed. Something tugged at his insides and made them roil for the young man, but this was a hospital, he shouldn't be surprised to see other injured and recovering people, nor people with tragic pasts like his own.
Only a few hours later, as the sun was finally lightening the sky and the city streets were beginning to bustle with activity, Grimmjow watched as his nurse recorded his stats down in the little chart she carried with her every time she checked up on him. Everything showing mostly normal signs, she set her chart aside and began unwinding the white bandaging from Grimmjow's wrists and forearms to check the progress of his healing.
He clenched his hands into fists, rotated his wrists and went through a few other motions that his nurse dictated he do while she gently probed at the muscles and ligaments running along his lower arms. While he held less strength than he should have, the lady assured him it would return as he continued healing and began using the damaged muscle more. Next she checked the stitching it's self, making sure his flesh was healing and the wounds were clean.
As she picked up the white bandaging to begin wrapping his arms back up, Grimmjow spoke in a quite voice, though his naturally gruff rumble was present once more. "Can you leave that off?"
"Hmm?" The nurse paused and looked up at him. She smiled sweetly and rolled the bandaging up before setting it on the table beside the bluenette's bed. "Oh, of course we can. We only keep the stitching covered for so long because most patients don't really like seeing their self inflicted wounds."
Grimmjow shrugged, glancing down at the dark stitching and the puckered tracks they covered. They were just marks. They would heal and fade until they were nearly invisible, until only he knew what they were. He had struggled, but Ichigo wanted him to live, so he would and he wouldn't be ashamed of his scars. "There's nothing wrong with scars."
"No, there isn't." The woman smiled as she stood, silently happy at how far the young man in her care had come since his arrival only a short while ago. She turned toward the door, bidding her charge a good morning and telling him she'd be back later, and made to leave. Just as she was opening his door, something shattered in the hallway, loud and startling and very unexpected. The nurse gasped in surprise as she jumped, then threw the door open and took off into the hall as the commotion got louder.
A little slower, Grimmjow jumped from his bed and followed after her as shouting erupted from the room across the hall, the lilting voice familiar and very unhappy.
"How dare ya say tha'!" Menace and anger roiled through the voice, edging near threatening.
Something else crashed to the ground with a hollow clatter as Grimmjow exited his room and slowly, almost hesitantly crossed the hall toward where his nurse had gone. A habit instilled in him by his deceased lover, the bluenette could never stay away from trouble, even if it didn't concern him. He almost always had to step in if there was something he could do, something Ichigo had done countless times while they had been together.
The door to the room opposite his own was already thrown wide, allowing him to see as a tray that had held a few bottles of pills and a glass of water slid across the floor. The glass had already been thrown across the room, shattering against the door and raining broken shards across the tile. The cap came off one of the bottles, scattering pills to mix with the glass as they slid across the room.
Two police officers stood in the room, hands at their weapons from the pale man's violent and sudden outburst. The burn victim pushed his nurse away as she tried to calm him. His chest heaved with the force he had put into swiping the tray from his bedside and his golden eyes blazed with his anger as he stared down the officers from where he sat in his bed. Grimmjow had no doubt the man would have been up and in their faces had he been capable of moving that swiftly.
"Ren's been clean for almos' four months, don' ya dare come in 'ere and tell me he wasn'!" The man bared white teeth as he clenched his hands into fists in his lap. Through all his anger, Grimmjow could clearly see his sorrow shining in his gaze and the way his hands shook as the fisted in the white hospital blanket. "We got clean tagether."
"The results from the autopsy say otherwise." One of the officers said, his voice a controlled, neutral tone, no sympathy to be heard. "We think his murder was connected to his habit."
The pale man seemed to freeze, his anger draining and giving way to that sorrow Grimmjow had seen. It wracked his gauze wrapped frame, making him tremble as he blinked away tears and shook his head, his gaze dropping from the officers in his room to his hands. His voice was much quieter than it had been only moments ago and brittle around the edges as he spoke. "Yer-yer sayin' he was killed coz a drugs? Tha' he owed someone money?"
"It's a possibility." The officer told the young man. "We can't know for sure."
"Yer not ganna keep lookin' fer 'is killer, are ya?" The young man asked, his voice very nearly a whisper as he leaned forward and settled his head in his hands. He already knew the answer and he understood the reasoning, but it still angered him and it still hurt. He would find no closure and his lover's killer would go free.
"There was very little evidence left behind to continue the investigation." The officer all but confirmed what the young man had said. "Everything went up with the apartment."
"Get out." When no one in the man's room moved, unsure how to take his rapidly changing attitude, he rigidly turned about, throwing his feet to ground so that he sat on the edge of his bed. His features pinched in pain, his upper lip curling away from his teeth but rage and sorrow warred in his gaze and his voice was once more a distorted yell full of too much emotion for the poor man to control. "I said get the hell out!"
The officer that had remained silent tapped his partner on the arm, his eyes a bit softer than the other's. He told the pale man to give them a call if he had questions as the two left. The man's nurse edged back to his side, worry obvious in her kind features as she gently patted his knee and sat beside him on the bed.
"Shiro, honey, calm down..." She shushed her charge as she tried to get him to lay back down and take it easy.
The man called Shiro snarled at her as he pushed her back and away once more. He surged from his bed and unsteadily to his feet, the simple action constricting his chest with how badly his body burned, even with the soothing salve covering the worst of his wounds. He ignored it, uncaring that it hurt and uncaring if it wasn't good for his recovery. He hadn't been able to save his lover and no one knew how the fire had started and now all he wanted was to visit his grave and no one would even let him do that. So he would leave on his own.
The man's nurse as well as Grimmjow's scurried after him as he angrily rushed out into the hall, one hand braced against the wall to control his wavering gate. They tried to calm him and get him to return to his bed with gentle voices and soft words but he ignored them.
As he was passing by where Grimmjow had been standing, unsure if he should help the poor nurses or return to his own room, the bluenette made up his mind. He knew the look plastered the man's ashen features and he understood exactly what it meant; defeat and self loathing. Grimmjow reached out, snagging hold of the man in a firm grip that stopped him in his tracks and more than likely didn't feel too well against his flame ravaged skin.
"Ya better le' go a me." Shiro warned in a low, clipped tone, knowing it wasn't one of the nurses snagging hold of him. They had been too afraid of hurting him to touch him, at least not with the strength behind the grasping hand. Somehow the pain of that strength didn't seem so bad.
"No." Grimmjow rose a blue brow, his deep voice quiet but rumbling. He didn't know why he was making this his business, he didn't know why he cared, but he did. A thought struck him and only served to harden his resolve further; Ichigo would have been happy to hear he hadn't stood by while the man went and did something stupid.
The smaller man spun on Grimmjow, his features showing more anger than pain now. His fist came around at a surprising speed as a lilting growl filtered between clenched teeth. His less than stable emotional state made him unpredictable, but he was still recovering and he was quite a bit smaller than the blue haired man.
Grimmjow hardly flinched as he caught the man's fist in his palm, wrapping his long finger's over the man's hand and holding it motionless a few inches from his own face. Burning, golden eyes danced like the flames that had fed upon the man's flesh, swirling and enraged in the dark abyss they nestled in. Those eyes drilled into Grimmjow's own frigid blue orbs for a few moments before dropping slightly. He glanced to the big hand covering his own, then lower still as something darker marred the man's golden skin. His gaze froze on the under side of Grimmjow's corded forearm, taking in the jagged stitching that trailed from his wrist.
Grimmjow's fingers slowly loosened in their clenched grip, but the man didn't pull his fist away until his eyes rose back to the bluenette's face. As his arm slowly lowered back to his side, a strange sort of understanding passed between the two, not a word needing to be spoken. The pale man's anger was forgotten, replaced by something else entirely, something they both could sympathize with. They were in the same situation and they both understood, both knew what the other was going through.
The anger once again died from those fiery eyes, leaving the albino looking drained and tiered, his boyish features slack as he looked up at the taller man. His ashen brows were furrowed, his nostrils flared slightly as he panted with the simple exertion of storming through the hall but still he made no move to go back to his room. He simply stood and continued taking in the man with pale blue hair.
Grimmjow's eyes slowly widened as he studied the smaller man, took in the set to his jaw, straight nose and his high cheekbones. Even his expressive, passionate eyes. The slight irritation from the heat of the fire couldn't hide it. The pale young man looked so much like-
"Oh dear, are you boys alright?" The two nurses finally caught up, breaking the spell the two seemed to be frozen under.
"Yeah, we're fine." Grimmjow answered the woman as he slowly turned away from the pale man, his heart heavy but pounding almost too fast in his chest. Fine. By the time Grimmjow made it back to his own room, closing the door behind himself, he wasn't sure if fine was quite the right word but what made him hesitate the most was that it hadn't stung quite so much as the last time he had told that lie.
Dropping to sit on the edge of the hospital bed, Grimmjow let his head hang, tentatively running a big hand through his naturally messy hair. He closed his brilliant blue orbs, a deep, controlled breath hissing between his teeth almost soundlessly.
"You're ganna have to help me out here, Ichi..." The bluenette whispered to the empty room, lifting his closed eyes toward the ceiling and tilting his head back as he drew a deep breath, forcing himself to stay in one piece. "Is he why you wouldn't let me join you?"
He sat in silence for a long time, nothing but the sounds of the staff bustling through the halls to carry out their duties breaking the quiet. He didn't hear a thing from the pale man occupying the room across from his and he guessed the albino with the strange eyes had just as much on his mind as Grimmjow himself did.
Grimmjow didn't have the answers to any of his questions. He probably never would, but he knew there was something about the fire scared albino that drew his attention and he couldn't shake the feeling that Ichigo had wanted him where he was for a reason. That was enough for him. He would live as Ichigo had beg of him and he would do his best to honor his memory and his sacrifice. It would have to be enough.
The blue haired man was roused from his thoughts as the door leading to his room creaked open. He looked up, elbows resting on his knees and still seated on the edge of his bed. He frowned as he realized hours must have passed since he had returned to his room but the expression softened as Isshin stepped in and quietly neared him.
The older man seated himself beside Grimmjow without a word, a concerned expression on his features. The two sat in mostly comfortable silence for a moment before Isshin finally decided to break it. "You alright, Grimm?"
"Yeah, just thinking." Grimmjow admitted, knowing the older Kurosaki was talking about how he had found the bluenette, seemingly drawn in on himself.
"You better not be-"
"I'm not." The younger cut Isshin off before he could finish his thought. "I was thinking about...about Ichigo... and what was going to happen after I get out of here. Where I'm supposed to begin."
Isshin only nodded, letting his gaze drift away from the young man he considered a second son. He had wondered the very same on several occasions since Grimmjow had been brought to the hospital, but he was immensely relieved to hear the boy seemed willing to at least make an effort. He was a strong young man, he'd make it through this.
"I want to visit him." Grimmjow said quietly. Karin had been right the other day. He hadn't visited Ichigo yet. He hadn't been able to before his stay at the hospital, hadn't been strong enough to face his lover then. Now he felt he was but he couldn't.
"As soon as your doctor releases you we'll go together." Isshin promised.
Grimmjow let a deep, nearly silent sigh pass his lips as he continued to stare toward his door, sitting on the edge of the bed next to Ichigo's father. "Why aren't you my doctor?"
"Conflict of interest. I wouldn't be able to remain unbiased, so I'm not allowed to be your doctor." Isshin chuckled, a bit of his usually goofy demeanor showing through. "But I am your new friend's doctor."
Grimmjow arched a brow and turned a curious look upon the older man, not entirely sure what he was talking about but able to guess well enough.
"Shirosaki was asking about you. Well, 'the blue haired ass hole' actually, but how many of those do you know?" Isshin chuckled again and shook his head. "It's the first time he's really said anything to me, aside from when he had been in ICU and too drugged up to know what he was saying."
The younger man grunted an amused sound, a slight quirk to his lips. His own curiosity was working on burning a hole in his tongue, but he could feel Isshin's eyes on him. The older man had a knowing look on his face, like he knew Grimmjow wanted to ask about the albino in return, like he could see even further than Grimmjow had dared to look just yet.
"Not that I condone sneaking around the hospital after hours or anything..." Isshin began, once more looking ahead to give Grimmjow that little bit of extra privacy. His voice was carefully controlled, but he couldn't hide the slight waver from his once future son-in-law. "But perhaps you should go ask him yourself. You two might be good for each other."
Grimmjow could hear the slight undercurrent of pain that accompanied the man's words, but he could also hear the caring and hope in his voice. As much as it killed Isshin to think about moving on, to tell Grimmjow that that's what he should do, the older man knew it needed to happen. He had no doubt that Grimmjow would forever be in love with his son and would refuse to let go of that love, but the boy deserved another chance at happiness. Ichigo would want him to be happy, he had been too kind to allow the man he had loved to live unhappily.
Grimmjow fell silent, unable to find the words to respond. Maybe there simply wasn't a way to respond. It wouldn't happen that same night, but another meeting between the two was inevitable. Not more than a couple days later, or nights rather, Grimmjow lay upon his assigned bed, his arms crossed behind his head while he let his mind wonder where it would on a sleepless night. He'd had a lot of those lately; sleepless nights. His mind wouldn't shut down and his body wouldn't settle into a comfortable state, like something was missing now. But he guessed that was to be expected. He'd had Ichigo at his side almost every night for nearly two years.
The thought was a painfully one but the memories that it brought were beautiful and Grimmjow refused to let the pain of it all make him forget. He'd suffer through the hurt if it meant keeping the good.
Laying upon his bed and listening to the quiet of the sleeping hospital, he began to let his mind drift to other things when a quiet sound caught his attention. The door to his room had been left open a crack, the bluenette's way of making the small space seem a bit more opened since he wasn't used to sleeping behind a closed door. A very quite whimper reached his ears and he knew it to be coming from across the hall.
As he listened, concentrating on the almost inaudible sounds from the albino's room, he wondered what the man Isshin had called Shirosaki could possibly be doing this late at night. His mind conjured up a rather lewd image but he sneered and pushed it away. The sounds were all wrong for that. There was more pain and fear in them then there was pleasure.
Deciding to take Isshin's advice and indulge his curiosity, Grimmjow frowned as he rolled off his bed and landed soundlessly on his feet. He padded to the door, happy that he wasn't feeling nearly so weak and drained as when he had first woken up in the hospital, and peeked into the hallway, finding it empty and deserted. Crossing the hall, he carefully and quietly pushed the door to the object of his curiosity open a few inches before he paused, listening intently for the pale man's voice or snarl, movement, anything. All he heard was a continuation of the small sounds he had heard from his room; barely there whimpers and an almost choking cough sound.
Brows still furrowed, Grimmjow pushed the door open just enough to slip in and quietly spoke, asking if the man was ok. He didn't receive an answer so he edged further into the darkened room. He found the pale man twisted in the blankets of his bed, ashen brows furrowed and a weak sneer on what should have been sleep slackened features. Another whimper crawled from his throat as he twitched and fidgeted with his nightmare.
Grimmjow shook his head, wondering why he was there. He turned to leave but as he did, a choking, sobbing sound fled the man's throat, the sound painful and desperate. The bluenette couldn't bring himself to leave and he closed his eyes for a moment as he mentally sighed, turning back toward the bed and the sleeping albino.
He slowly crossed the room, watching the man as he tossed and turned as much as his injuries would allow for. Not sure what to do, the bigger man hesitated before settling his hand lightly on the man's forearm, giving a gentle shake in the effort to wake him. The man didn't stir, instead jerking his arm away with a grunt like the touch had burned.
In his nightmare, the albino crashed through the flame ringed door of his shared apartment, his arms crossed over his head as he shouted a name. Sirens shattered the predawn air but they were too far away and would arrive too late. He searched the burning apartment, coughing and gagging as he breathed in more smoke than oxygen but still he shouted a single name. No one replied, though he knew the man was home, so he pushed on, delving deeper into the inferno that raged in his home. Hot flames licked hungrily at his flesh and burning wood crumbled around him, the air too thick with black smoke for him to see and the weakened floor boards shuttering under his weight, but he couldn't give up. He had to save him this time...
"...dammit..." Grimmjow mumbled, carefully seating himself at the edge of the bed to be a bit closer. He tried again, careful where he touched and trying to avoid the gauze that no doubt hid still painful burns. "Hey...it's just a dream...Shirosaki."
The fire's roar was deafening and he could hardly hear his own, distorted voice as he called out to his companion. He'd searched almost every room, there was only the bedroom now. He had to be there. Gold on black eyes stinging, tears of pain, fear and caused by the choking smoke streaked his ashen features, leaving dark, soot like trails against his pale skin. Plaster from the ceiling crashed to the floor to his right, sending a shower of embers and a blast of heat into the dead air. Crossbeams followed, making the hollowed out floor shutter and groan under the extra weight. Inverted eyes widened as the floor bowed and seemed to ripple beneath him. The gust of lifeless, over heated air pushed at the wall of flame before him, breaking it just long enough for him to glimpse a figure struggling to raise from the floor, bloodied and disheveled.
The name felt strange on his tongue, foreign, but the man's colorless brows rose slightly as he said it, so Grimmjow tried again, gently grabbing the man's shoulder as he gave another light shake. This time he spoke a bit louder, shortening the man's name to what he had heard the nurse call him. It seemed to fit better. "You're dreaming...It's not real, Shiro..."
The albino covered his face with his already flame ravaged arms and leapt through the flames toward the man he had been searching for. The floor buckled with his weight and he stumbled, his eyes locking with Renji's. He hit the floor of the apartment below his, embers and flame riddled wood raining down around him as black smoke poured through the gaping hole, a deep, desperate voice ringing hollow in his skull before it was drowned out by sirens and blackness.
"No, don't! Get back, Shiro!"
Shiro jerked awake with a startled intake of air at the deep, rumbling voice. Trembling from the replay of what had landed him in the hospital, the event that taken his lover away, he fought through the clinging emotions and memories that ran rampant in his sleep sluggish mind. In the darkened room, all he saw was the large shadow of a man. He was the right height, even the right build and Shiro's eyes widened as tears blurred his vision. How could this even be possible, was he still dreaming? He didn't know and he didn't care. He fell forward, a single name tumbling from his lips and making it through his choked tears.
Grimmjow froze as the man buried his face against his shoulder, blue eyes wide with his surprised shock. He didn't know how to react to the albino mistaking his identity, but the smaller quivered against him, hot tears quickly soaking through the thin material of his hospital issued shirt as lithe shoulders shuddered with the man's silent crying.
Gingerly, almost as if afraid to touch him, Grimmjow settled a hand across the man's back in a comforting gesture. He rubbed slow circles as he squeezed his eyes shut and let his other hand carefully come up to rest upon the back of pale hair, holding the man close and wrapping him in his strong embrace. The smaller man's warmth was almost familiar, almost comforting in a strange way. He was very nearly Ichigo's size and Grimmjow mentally chastised himself for comparing the two yet again.
Grimmjow steeled himself, never pausing in his comforting motions as he spoke in a quiet rumble, almost reluctant to pull the man back to an obviously painful reality. "I'm sorry, Shiro...but I'm not Ren..."
Shiro froze, his entire body going rigid at the deep voice. He held his breath, desperate to stem the flow of tears that streaked down his pale features and almost afraid to move. The big man holding him close didn't pull away or push him back and Shiro almost wanted to start crying anew. He wanted to loose himself in the other's comfort and go back to pretending, if only for a few more seconds.
Instead, he oh so slowly straightened, gingerly pulling out of the man's hold as his eyes finally adjusted to the dark room and he was able to make out the bigger man's features. The man with light blue hair from across the hall looked back down at him, his liquid gaze heavy with knowing sorrow and apology. Shiro couldn't hold his gaze as he crossed his hands in his lap and lowered his eyes to match.
"I shoulda known..." He whispered in a hoarse, distorted tone. "Ren's gone."
Grimmjow wanted to apologize, but he didn't. He wouldn't. Apologies didn't bring the dead back, nor make the pain of lose go away. Sorry wouldn't make the albino feel any better.
"Wha' ya doin' here?" Shiro asked, hiding a wince as he adjusted his position on the bed and allowed himself to lean back against the pillows a bit.
The wince didn't go unnoticed and Grimmjow automatically stood, helping the man untangle himself from his blankets to find a more comfortable position as he spoke. "You were having a nightmare..."
The moment Grimmjow realized what he was doing and the situation caught up to him, he stopped and stepped back, giving the man a bit of space. But he didn't leave, not just yet.
"Yeah." The pale man didn't bother denying it. There was no point in lying and he was beyond being able to be embarrassed. His emotions were too raw, too drained for embarrassment. "Got a lot a those lately."
Grimmjow simply nodded and slowly lowered himself to sit on the edge of the bed, the need to give the pale man some space suddenly absent as it seemed the albino was willing to open up, if only a little. Now seemed as good a time as any to indulge his curiosity and he found he was surprisingly comfortable in the young man's presence. They sat in silence for a few minutes, neither looking at the other nor knowing what, if anything, to say.
"The nurses think they're tricky, but I ain't stupid. I know wha' ward a the hospital we're in. They're worried fer nothin', I'm too much a coward fer tha', but obviously you ain't." Shiro took a deep breath, his chest expanding below his hospital clothing. He pointed toward where Grimmjow's hands sat in his lap and the bluenette rotated his hands so they were palm up, looking down at the stitching in his flesh. "Ya don' seem very suicidal ta me. Wha' made ya change yer mind?"
"Blunt." Grimmjow mumbled, blue brows furrowing as his eyes stayed trained in his lap.
"I get told tha' a lot."
"Being blunt isn't a bad thing." Grimmjow grunted an amused sound and looked back up. "My fiance saved me and convinced me not to try again."
"Oh." Shiro's ashen brows rose in slight surprise. "Congrats."
Blue brows furrowed slightly but a small smile crept across his features. "Thanks, but we're not getting married anymore."
"Why not? Seems like she still loves ya, if she's tryin' a save ya."
"He..." Grimmjow corrected, a lopsided grin on his handsome features at the surprised look on the albino's features, but the expression faltered as he continued. "and he was shot. He didn't make it."
"...Oh...tha's why yer 'ere..." Grimmjow only nodded. "I...I didn' mean ta..."
The bluenette shook his head and looked back up at the albino again. "Don't. You didn't know and I'm not ashamed of my attempt or my failure."
"Tha's good." Shiro's strange eyes darted away from the captivating blue ones before him briefly before returning the gaze again. "Ya seem like a good 'nough guy. Too few a those in the world ta be loosin' any."
Grimmjow snorted a derisive laugh and finally asked the question he had wondered about since he had first seen the strange albino, deciding to be as straightforward as the young man in his company. "Must have been a pretty bad fire..."
"Yeah...took down half a the complex by time it was put out. Er so I hear." Shiro got quiet for a moment before he picked up again. "When I got there, everyone was jus' standin' outside watchin'. No one even knew he was still inside..."
"You're talking about... Ren?" Grimmjow hesitated to ask, to say the name Shiro had cried out while he had awoken. Shiro nodded and continued in a quiet voice. By the time he had finished his story, Grimmjow was stunned the albino had survived. He also thought the young man incredibly brave and strong to be able to run through a burning building the way he had. It was a miracle that the firefighters had found him before the rest of the building had collapsed.
"I don' really member much after tha', jus' flashes a bein' in the ICU." His ashen features twisted into a grimace as he lightly rubbed at his chest. "The buttons on my shirt had melted. I member that...when the EMT pulled 'em away..."
Grimmjow made a face of his own, his eyes wide even as his brows furrowed from imagining the melted plastic being pulled from the albino's flame ravaged flesh. He couldn't bring himself to imagine the scream that must have torn the man's lilting voice raw.
"The fall saved my life. It's weird. Wit the way Ren was tryin' ta tell me ta stay back, i's like he made the floor give out ta get me away..." Shiro shrugged. "I know tha' sounds stupid..."
"No it doesn't." Grimmjow shot back, his voice a bit sharper than he had meant it to be. He continued, his voice softer. "It's not stupid. I'm not much of a believer, but I think it must have happened for a reason."
The two continued to talk for most of the night and the halls around them were beginning to come to life with bustling nurses and a few patients by the time Grimmjow stood from the edge of the bed. He stretched his muscled arms above his head and yawned before turning to bid the equally tired looking albino a temporary farewell.
As the bluenette was crossing the small room, Shiro's lilting voice tugged his attention. "Oh, my name's Shiro, bu' ya already got tha' figured out... tha' goofy doc wouldn' tell me anythin' abou' ya..."
Grimmjow smirked over his shoulder as he twisted the door knob. "Nice to meet you, Shiro. I'm Grimmjow."
Not long after Grimmjow returned to his own room, their respective nurses would find both recovering men sound asleep in deep, peaceful rest. When next they awoke, the world would look just a bit brighter for the two men.
I've actually been sitting on this for a while now, debating on whether to share it or not, since I really was kind of fond of how the first part ended, but you know how I am when it comes to Shiro So I finally polished it off and finished the last few paragraphs.
So what does everyone think? I really would appreciate your thoughts