Well that was a long wait... ^^; sorry... Hopefully it was worth it thought, and to help make up for it, this final chapter is extra long~

Enjoy!


Grimmjow paced his sitting room, Tensa following on his heal and pacing along behind him. He plowed one hand through his hair, blowing out a deep sigh as he did so. The healed scars on the underside of his arm caught his attention and he froze mid-step, pulling his hand away from his hair. He brought his other arm up to match it and studied the mostly healed but unfaded marks, still red and raised and foreign against his smooth, golden skin.

Shiro's scars were worse than his, more extensive and more noticeable. Shiro hated his scars and he only had them because of Grimmjow. The bluenette hated himself for what he did, not so much for the fire or the rage that had caused it, or even for burning the building down or taking Ichigo's killer with it, but he hated himself for what Shiro now had to go through. He hated himself for Shiro's scars. He hated himself for Shiro, because the albino wouldn't hate him like he should.

The pale man hadn't said so, but Grimmjow had been able to see it. There had been so much in the man's burning, watery gaze; pain, fear, disbelief, shock, betrayal, there had been a need for blood, for some sort of closure, but no hate.

He'd sat crumpled in the grass of the park for nearly an hour. Even after his tears had stopped, after his seething rage had cooled and left him drained, his lilting and shuttering screams going quiet, he'd simply sat, rocking slightly, back and forth, back and forth. Grimmjow had tried. He'd tried so hard to reach out to the broken man, but Shiro would have none of it, none of him, and Grimmjow didn't blame him.

After that hour, as Shiro sat in silence upon the cooling ground, his eyes wide and his mind lost somewhere else, Grimmjow had called a cab. There was no way the albino was going to let him anywhere near, let alone let him drive him back to his friend's place. The bluenette had paid the cabdriver for the trip to take Shiro home, he'd even paid him extra to walk out into the park and help pull the albino from the ground.

After seeing the taxi disappear into the city, just a blur of red tail lights lost in the sea of street and sign lights, he'd finally called Ten back to his own car and drove himself home. And that's where he was then; pacing back and forth, back and forth, in his sitting room and wondering where he was supposed to begin all over again.

Grimmjow finally dropped his hands back to his sides, still standing frozen in the middle of the room, his gaze trained on nothing in particular. He picked up his phone for the fifteenth time and sent another text begging Shiro to just send him a single message, just something to tell him he made it to his friend's alright.

Finally, after a few seconds, the phone buzzed in his hand and he nearly dropped it, not expecting a reply this time when none of the other messages had gotten one. Looking down at the screen, he quickly unlocked it and brought it to his ear as he realized it wasn't a text.

"Shiro-"

"I made it, but I ain't sure 'alright' is quite the word." The albino bit out in a rush of words, referring to Grimmjow's messages. His voice was low, raw and shaking through the odd distortion. "Quit textin' me."

"Shiro, I-" The call was disconnected and Grimmjow stood there with his phone to his ear until his screen darkened as it timed out and put itself back in sleep mode. His voice was barely a whisper. "I'm sorry."

Sleep was an elusive thing that night. The hours passed as Grimmjow lay upon his couch, tossing and turning as much as the narrow space would allow for. The next morning, as Tensa whined quietly at the door to be let out, Grimmjow pulled himself up with a stifled yawn. He stumbled to the front door, brows furrowed and blue eyes shadowed from the lack of sleep and abundance of worry, but instead of opening the front door to let the dog out, his gaze fell upon Tensa's leash again and he turned away from the door.

Ichigo had once told him that running was an excellent way to clear one's mind, to let everything else fall away and just think. So Grimmjow ventured down the hall and found a pair of gym shorts to throw on. A tight fitting tank top followed before he made his way back to the front door. Leashing his dog, he opened the door and let Ten do his business before they took off down the road, the sun barely above the horizon but warm and bright nonetheless.

Grimmjow started out at a slow pace, not overly fast, but the longer he ran, Tensa happily at his side and no longer tugging at his leash to try urging his owner faster like he had used to, the quicker their pace got. It never reached a full out sprint or even a hard run, but Grimmjow found that, even though his body was still in the process of recovering it's endurance, he didn't really mind the out-of-breath feeling or the slight burn the faster jog brought about.

Ichigo had been right. As Grimmjow ran, the back of his shirt beginning to feel damp and cling to his muscled body, as his feet touched down on pavement only to lift off again, he pulled air in through his nose and let it out in slow, deep breaths through his parted lips, he felt the stress of everything start to lift. It didn't change anything. None of his problems just melted away, Shiro was still hurting and still lodged in the bluenette's mind. Ichigo was still gone and Grimmjow was still dealing with all of it, with the mystery of what to do with himself, of how to cope without what had been taken from him. There was no running from all that had happened, but that was just it; he was learning to cope, learning to continue moving forward.

As his physical body put distance between himself and his home, as his feet carried him across the city and Tensa ran vigilantly at his side, a sort of calm settled over his mind. Ichigo would always hold the largest part of his heart. Nothing would change that and Grimmjow didn't want to change that, but Ichigo was gone and no matter how much he wanted to change that, he couldn't. Nothing could. But Ichigo had helped keep him alive and Ichigo's memory would continue to do so.

So while Grimmjow ran, he breathed deep and let the fresh air wash everything else away. His heart thumped solid and steady in his chest. His feet on the concrete and the miles he covered, Tensa panting slightly at his side, the sweat that trickled down his neck and between his shoulder blades, all of it created a rhythm, a quiet tempo that was very much alive.

Shiro's night went much the same as Grimmjow's; restless and sleepless. After he'd hung up on the bigger man, unable to bring himself to listen to the regret and guilt he heard in the man's single word, his name all but whispered in that heavy voice, he'd slid to the floor of his borrowed room, his back to the closed door and his head in his pale hands. He knew that if he had allowed Grimmjow to speak, if he'd sat there and listened, he would have cracked and broke all over again.

He barely remembered the ride home, just a blur of the city going by before he'd been sitting in his room. All he could think about was Grimmjow and his confession, about how the blue haired man had been the one to start the fire... Grimmjow's words echoed in his skull, his reasons for doing it, what he claimed Renji had done.

As Shiro sat upon the floor, the hard wood of the door against his back going unnoticed as his body settled into a numb state, he found himself believing the blue haired man. As much as he wanted to refute what he'd said, what he'd implied Renji had done, he couldn't. He just didn't know if something like that would have been a possibility, if the red head would have been capable of that. Under normal circumstances, after they had gotten clean, than no, Renji would have never done something like that, but he'd just learned not long ago that Renji wasn't clean. Addiction and desperation could change a person and maybe he just wasn't the same man as he was when around Shiro.

Shiro blew out a sighing breath as he cracked his eyes open to stare at the carpet he sat on. His neck and spine felt stiff but he wasn't sure he could be bothered to care, so he stayed where he sat, his knees drawn up and arms thrown across them, head resting upon his arms. He wished he could go to sleep and wake back up to find that it had all been a terrible dream, that he hadn't even texted Grimmjow and told him that he couldn't sleep, that they had never gone to the park and that the bigger man had never said a word about what he'd done. But that wasn't going to happen.

His motions slow and a little stiff, like his body was little more than dead weight, Shiro pulled himself from the floor as the sun lit the horizon. He turned and pushed his door open, forcing a deep breath out in a silent sigh, his ashen brows furrowed and his features twisted into an almost unreadable scowl.

He passed the sitting room, his roommate not quite passed out on the couch. The slim man straightened slightly, cracking his half lidded gaze open just a bit wider to watch as Shiro walked by. It was easy enough to see that he was high on something but the albino couldn't bring himself to care at the moment.

"Rough night?" The man asked, his voice too calm and drawling through the drugs clouding his system.

Shiro paused, his black on gold eyes glancing over to the man that was supposed to be his friend before he muttered a quiet "Tch." and turned away again.

"I got just the thing for you! Promise, they'll calm you right down, maybe even help you get to sleep so your not sitting locked in your room for another night looking like death warmed over."

Shiro's friend slowly, drowsily pulled himself from his couch and the pale man paused again, a little surprised he'd managed to stand in one try or that he'd even bothered to get up in the first place. The man fished something out of a bag and held his hand out toward Shiro, dropping a few little, unmarked pills into his white, up turned palm. Shiro stared down at the pills for a moment, his brows furrowing further and his lips thinning into a tight line. He'd never really been the pill type, but he'd tried just about anything he could get his hands on once upon a time.

With a deep breath, he pried his gaze away from his palm, grimacing as his eyes strayed to the angry, enflamed scaring that tracked his skin. He turned toward the kitchen, his original destination, and fished a tall glass from one of the cupboards, his friend trailing behind him the whole while. Standing over the sink, he filled the glass with cool tap water and glanced back down at the pills in his hand.

It was tempting. That familiar pull of addiction, of need, told him that it would only take one swallow and a few seconds to down the pills and numb himself, to chase away everything that had happened. Nobody would blame him; his lover had been killed, he'd been severely injured and hospitalized for weeks and to top everything off, the icing on his shit flavored cake, a man he'd grown to trust had been responsible for it. He had plenty of reasons to do it, even if it was only a temporary reprieve.

Shiro sneered and closed his eyes briefly, upturning his hand above the sink. He listened to the pills rattle down the drain as he brought the glass to his pale lips. As cool, clean water slid down his throat, the pills fell into the garbage disposal and Shiro turned away from the sink. If his hands shook slightly and something like want crossed his mind, he ignored it and swallowed it down with the water. Just like the water, his mind was clean, clear, even through his pain and anger.

He didn't want that, not ever again. He'd struggled so hard to get clean and stay that way and as much as it hurt, as much as everything weighed down on him, he wanted to face it clean and sober and he'd do anything to keep it that way.

Not looking back and not looking at his friend, he left the kitchen, glass in hand, and retreated back to his room. He locked the door behind him, ignoring the muffled voice that trailed after him.

His phone sat on the bed where he'd thrown it and he crossed the small space to pick it up. Flipping it open, he found a single message. It was dated for earlier that morning and he wasn't surprised that it was from Grimmjow. Anger flared through his system, having told the man to leave him alone, but he opened it anyway. His fire melted away as he read it and felt the genuine sorrow that seeped through the words.

"I know sorry doesn't fix anything and I don't normally say it, but I am. I don't want to say goodbye, but if that's what you want, I will and I'll leave you alone. I'm sorry, Shiro, and thank you."

Ashen brows furrowed as the albino closed his eyes and pulled in a deep breath. He closed his phone and set it, almost gingerly, down beside him as he sat on the edge of the bed.

In the next few days, the two didn't speak. They didn't hear a word from one another. Grimmjow never got a reply to the message he'd sent after he'd gotten home from his run with Tensa and he figured that was the closest thing to a confirmation as he would get from Shiro.

He didn't blame the man for being angry and hurt. He'd already proven that he would kill for the man he'd lost, but he didn't quite get the feeling that Shiro wanted him dead or even harmed. Shiro was just hurting and Grimmjow understood that, so while he desperately wanted to be there for the man, he kept his distance. He didn't bother him and he left the albino alone.

A week passed and the two went about their business. Grimmjow got up and took Ten for a jog almost every morning. It was something both he and the dog needed and on top of the physical benefits, it helped to further even out the bluenette's state of mind, to set him at ease and ready him for another day. He finally gave in and cut his longer than normal hair. He gave Tensa a haircut too, partially because with all the extra physical exertion from their runs, the dog was shedding all over his house, but mostly just because he thought it would be amusing. And it was.

Ten say patiently at the dog groomer's while his thick, shaggy hair was trimmed and thinned. When he was done, he resembled a giant, black and white lion with floppy ears. Grimmjow walked him back to the car and patted his side, grinning down as the big dog looked back up at him, his ears down and his big blue eyes doing the puppy thing quite well.

"Now we both look good." Grimmjow laughed as he climbed into his car after closing the back door behind Ten. He ran a hand through his own freshly cut hair and looked over his shoulder at the sulking dog. "Don't worry, it'll grow back."

Tensa just continued to pout at him and huffed a breath as he lay across the backseat, drawing another chuckle from his owner. Blue eyes turned back toward the front windshield and they ultimately found themselves at the cemetery. It was quiet and peaceful and they went undisturbed. Like their other visits, Grimmjow sat before Ichigo's grave, Tensa laying at his side, and talked to the late man for nearly an hour. He told Ichigo about how he and Ten were running again and he smirked while he talked about the dog's new hair cut. He could just imagine Ichigo's laughter at hearing about his beloved pet's reactions. Grimmjow told him all about Shiro and what had happened between them, he even went so far as to apologize that he had been entertaining thoughts of them perhaps being closer than just friends eventually, before everything had happened, before he had hurt the man for the second time.

At the end of the day, after Grimmjow and Tensa left the cemetery and went back home, Grimmjow once again stretched out across his couch, still unable to sleep in his bed alone. In an odd, half awake and half dreaming state, he listened to the tags on Ten's collar jingle as the dog shifted to sit up, letting out a quiet whine but in his mind's eye, Grimmjow watched as Ichigo smiled and shook his head slightly in good natured exasperation.

Blue brows furrowed as Grimmjow shifted where he lay, still listening to both his waking world and his dreaming. In the back of his mind, he knew Ten only whined when excited and there was nothing the dog should have been excited about at the late hour, but still he watched as Ichigo smiled behind his closed eyes and he wasn't awake enough to concentrate on the dog. The younger man didn't say anything but he didn't have to and Grimmjow was vaguely aware, somewhere in his dream clouded subconscious, that Ichigo was referring to his visit to the cemetery earlier that evening, what he had talked about.

He woke up later than normal that morning, Tensa sleeping beside the couch like usual. Pulling himself into a sitting position, Grimmjow yawned and rubbed at his eyes for a moment before looking around his sitting room. He didn't know what he was looking for, exactly, but he found the room just as empty as it had been the night before.

Shrugging slightly, he stood and stretched his arms above his head, pulling his abdomen tight and relishing the relieving feel of it, before he padded down the hall to his bedroom. Tensa arched into a stretch of his own before trotting after his owner, his tail wagging slowly behind him.

They quickly readied and went for their morning run even though the sun was already high in the sky, hot and shinning. They weren't gone quite as long as normal, nor did they run as far, but it didn't really matter and the exercise was still cleansing in a way only physical exertion could be. By the time they got home, it was just passed noon and Grimmjow pushed his front door open as he unleashed Ten. The dog went straight for his water bowl and Grimmjow smirked as he pulled his sweat dampened tank top off and made his way down the hall for a quick, cool shower.

When he got out, he ran a towel over his head to collect most the water from his hair, before quickly dragging it down the rest of his body. He wrapped it around his waist and pushed the bathroom door open further, letting the cool air of the rest of the house billow in and send a shiver down his spine.

Stepping into the hall, he was about to turn toward the bedroom so that he could find clothing, but his phone beeped from the kitchen, telling him he had an unopened message come in while he'd been in the shower. Turning back toward the front of the house, he picked his phone up off the kitchen table where he'd left it the night before and quickly activated the screen.

Shiro's name flashed across the screen and, sever blue brows creasing into a frown, Grimmjow stared at it for a moment before he dared to open it. The message was simple, straightforward and blunt like always.

'Theres a burger joint on the corner of 15th. I'll be there in 10'

His odd, soundless dream from the night before returned to him and he realized exactly what Ichigo had been referring to with his amused exasperation and Grimmjow suddenly felt a little silly for thinking he would have needed to apologize to Ichigo when he should have known that the younger man would have only wanted for him to be happy.

A slight smile on his features, he checked the time on the message, quickly realizing he'd received it twelve minutes ago. Muttering a curse, he dropped the phone back to the table top and scrambled toward the bedroom to get dressed.

It didn't take him long to find the place Shiro had been talking about. It was a small, locally owned sandwich place only a ten minute walk from the apartment the albino was living in and when he got there, he quickly spotted Shiro sitting at a small, two person table situated in the gated off, outdoor section of the restaurant.

Grimmjow didn't say anything as he approached the smaller man from behind. He rounded the table and sat down across from Shiro, only then allowing his eyes to stray to the inverted, gold on black ones watching him.

"Yer late. Tha's a bad message ta send." Shiro said, his voice a little flat and his tone indistinguishable. There was a slight annoyance there, perhaps, but his eyes told Grimmjow he was just as unsure about everything as the bluenette himself felt.

"Yeah...sorry...I was in the shower when you texted me." Grimmjow ran a hand through his still damp hair and leaned back in his chair as a waiter walked up next to the table, handing Shiro a plate loaded with fries and a double bacon cheeseburger with everything on it. When the man asked if he could get him anything, Grimmjow smirked and pointed at Shiro's. "Make that two."

The waiter nodded and hurried off and Grimmjow looked back over at Shiro. The atmosphere grew thick, neither really sure what to do or say. Finally, after a few moments of silence, Grimmjow spoke up, his crystalline gaze never leaving Shiro.

"Not that I'm complaining, but-uh-why did you decide to change your mind?" Grimmjow let his gaze drift across the other patrons. The restaurant was busy with the lunch rush, most of the seats filled but they were outside and the day was nice. Then he chuckled at a ridiculous idea. "I'm not about to get shot or anything, right?"

"What? Ya think I got mafia ties, now?" Shiro also snorted a small laugh and shook his head. "Nah. I just..." The albino gave a small, one shouldered shrug, a grimace flashing over his features and pushing his short-lived smile away. "My roommate's doin' a deal right now and I needed ta get outta the house and away from it. I think yer the only friend I got that's not, ya know, a druggy."

Grimmjow just nodded slightly, unsure what to say or if anything really needed to be said at all. The waiter arrived with his order and the two ate in a peaceful enough quiet, nothing but the din of the crowd around them and the occasional passing car from the road for noise. After what had happened, it should have been awkward, there should have been accusations and apologies, anger and sorrow, but there was none of that. None of it was needed. Eventually an easy conversation was struck up and the two found themselves able to laugh and enjoy each other's company, just like they had before Grimmjow had managed to figure out about the fire they were both involved with.

Eventually, Shiro leaned back in his chair, patting his now full stomach with one pale hand while he pushed his plate away with the other. Grimmjow absently noticed how he wasn't quite as careful about his movements anymore, not quite so gentle on the wounds that had still been painful the last time they had been together. It brought a smile to his handsome features, glad to see the albino was healing swiftly. He still wore long sleeves though, the scaring on his arms still kept covered as much as possible.

"So, ya think King or Red would be angry at us if we, ya know...moved on?" Shiro asked, still casually leaning back in his seat, though his gaze had drifted away from the bigger man to stare unseeingly into the crowd. "It's not like we gotta forget 'em ta do that..."

A smile quirked one corner of Grimmjow's lips as he too leaned back in his chair. His startlingly blue eyes dropped to settle on the table top as he imagined Ichigo shaking his head at him, telling him he was silly for thinking such a thing without using any actual words. "Ichigo wouldn't be. I can't really speak for Renji, but I'm sure he'd want you to be happy too."

Shiro nodded just once, his gaze still turned away. "Yeah. I think yer probably right."

Blue brows furrowed slightly as Grimmjow listened, trying to figure out what the pale man was getting at. Before he had a chance to speak up, Shiro continued, his startling gaze raising to finally look back at the bigger man, piercing and unwavering. The gold of his irises burned with an unwavering determination, the pain that had been there before pushed to the back to be dealt with later.

"I know I should hate ya... I tried, but I don' and I don' wanna either. I know yer hurtin'... an' I ain't tryin' ta replace Ichigo. I don' wanna do tha'... but I know I really like ya. I might- I might even... well, I ain't even sure I'm capable of feelin' 'at yet, but I know I like ya an' I wanna give this a shot." Shiro was trembling as he spoke, his lilting voice quiet but determined. Then his commanding gaze fell away from the bluenette's face and settled off to the side somewhere. "I'm sick a feelin' like shit. I'm sick a hatin' myself an the only person tha's been able ta make me ferget ta feel tha' is you."

Grimmjow's brows furrowed as he looked at the man. He brought one hand up to frame the albino's face and gently turned Shiro's gaze back to his, letting his seriousness and his sorrow to show in his frigid eyes. "Shiro... I-I did terrible things... I hurt you...I-"

"Ya didn' know me. Ya didn' know Renji... Ya were broken an' lost... Le' me find ya again..." Shiro's quiet, distorted voice took on an almost brittle edge but there was still strength in his eyes. The bluenette looked conflicted, like he didn't know what to say or what to think. His fingers trembled around Shiro's face as he struggled to hold his emotions in. "Ya don' gatta say nothin'... jus' think 'bout it at least..."

Shiro began pulling Grimmjow's hand away from his face so that he could stand and leave the man in peace. Before he could pull away though, Grimmjow found his voice.

"I don't want to think about it." He whispered as he surged forward and leaned over the small table. He wrapped one hand around the back of Shiro's neck, lacing his fingers in the soft strands of ashen hair there. His other held Shiro's chin as he connected their lips.

The kiss was gentle and chaste, over as quickly as it began but it rendered the smaller man speechless as his eyes widened and getting up to leave was completely lost on him. Neither man noticed those around them as the rest of the world seemed to fall away. Neither had been intimate in any sort of way since their respective lovers had been taken from them and the suddenness of Grimmjow's actions stunned them both, but it wasn't entirely unwelcomed.

"Don't go back there..." Grimmjow all but whispered as he pulled back a few inches, his bright blue eyes piercing and sincere. "Stay away from your roommate and what he's doing... You can come back with me...I'll take you to pick up whatever you need and then... maybe we can give this a try and see what happens."

Shiro drew a shaky breath and nodded slightly, unable to pull his inverted gaze away from the blue haired man he had befriended during his stay at the hospital. It felt like forever ago, though it wasn't more than a month. Still, it might as well have been a lifetime ago with all that had happened in that time.

Someone at the crowded shop 'aww'ed and the barest hint of color rose in Shiro's pale face as he and Grimmjow leaned back in their chairs once more. A small smirk tugging at the bigger man's features, Grimmjow ignored the sound and stood, grabbing Shiro's hand. They paid their bills and left. When they made it to Grimmjow's car, they climbed in and simply sat for a moment, not saying anything, not looking at each other.

Finally, Grimmjow broke the quiet and the thoughts that had been clouding them both. "You want to swing by and pick up your stuff or give it some time and head to my place for now? See what happens before we do anything?"

"Nah, if we're ganna do this, we might as well just go for it, ya know? Let's go pick up my shit." Shiro directed his vision out the window, looking back into the sea of people sitting in the open air section of the shop they had just been at. "B'sides, I don' really wanna be around them anymore than I gotta be."

Beside him, in the driver's seat, Grimmjow nodded just once and turned the key in the ignition. The ten minute walk to the place Shiro had been staying turned into a fifteen minute drive with the lunch time traffic, but neither particularly minded and neither were in much of a hurry.

They pulled into the parking lot and Shiro seemed to sink further into his seat as he looked about, recognizing several of the cars and knowing his roommate must not have finished his business just yet. They sat for a few minutes but no one came out, so it was decided that they wouldn't wait and Shiro let himself into the apartment, ignoring the few looks cast his way as his roommate tried to get him to join them.

Grimmjow, who was originally going to wait in the car, ended up following him in, not wanting to make him face those from his old life alone. So he hovered behind the albino, silent and rather imposing to everyone other than Shiro. To Shiro, he was a support column, a silent reminder that he'd changed for the better and that he was strong enough to stay clean this time around and truly leave all this behind.

The big man stood just outside the door that he presumed led to the albino's bedroom, his thick arms crossed over his chest as he leaned against the door frame. He trained his vision ahead of him, at the wall opposite Shiro's borrowed bedroom, but he kept an eye on the rest of people in the apartment out of his peripheral.

When the door knob twisted from inside the room, Grimmjow stepped away from the door and followed Shiro back down the hall. The smaller man didn't have much, just a few necessities that he'd boughten since being released from the hospital. Everything he'd had had burned with his apartment and he carried only a single bag as he and Grimmjow made their way back toward the front door.

As Shiro pulled the front door back open, his roommate stood from where he'd been slouched in a chair, the rest of his friends still staring at the two intruders. Shiro resolutely kept his gaze away from the man and walked out the door. One look from Grimmjow silenced the man and answered his unspoken questions before he could try to stop the albino.

Grimmjow climbed into the driver seat of his car and started the engine, looking over as Shiro tossed his bag in the back and climbed into the passenger seat. The smaller man sat and leaned back in the seat, tilting his face toward the ceiling of the vehicle as he blew out a held breath.

"Well tha' wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be." He said, a small smirk tugging at his features as he glanced over at Grimmjow.

Grimmjow chuckled and put the car in drive. He pulled out onto the street, drove passed the burger joint they'd had lunch at and cruised back to his house. The drive didn't take long, about the same length of time as it took to get to Shiro's friend's place since the lunch traffic had thinned and Grimmjow parked his car in his driveway hardly twenty minutes later.

They climbed from the car and as Shiro pushed the passenger side door shut, Tensa's deep barking sounded from inside the house. He paused in pulling his bag from the backseat and looked across the car's top to Grimmjow. "Is he ganna hate me now?"

Grimmjow frowned at him, his sever brows pulling together in question.

"Uh, ya know, coz I hit ya last time..." Shiro's gaze slid sheepishly off to the side and away from Grimmjow's searching gaze.

The bigger man's snorted laugh pulled the albino's gaze back. "Nah, just don't laugh at him and you wont have any problems."

"Laugh at 'im?" Shiro cocked a brow and hefted his bag up, closing the backdoor as he followed behind Grimmjow.

The blue haired man smirked and nodded, walking up the few stairs to his small porch and front door. He didn't bother explaining and instead pulled the door open, stepping back to let Shiro in. The smaller man glanced up at him before stepping through the doorway, coming face to face with the big dog.

Shiro paused in the doorway for a moment, covering his grin with his hand and stifling his amused laughter. He dropped his bag next to the door and moved to let Grimmjow in before kneeling in front of the dog, running his fingers through what was left of his shaggy hair.

"Awww, ya don' like yer new haircut?" Shiro cooed, ruffling the dog's ears. Ten wagged his tail happily, enjoying the pale man's attention, his tongue lolling from his mouth in a canine smile. "I bet yer ganna have all the doggy babes wantin' ya ta sniff their butts now."

Grimmjow choked a laugh as he bent to grab his guest's bag. Shaking his head slightly, Grimmjow carried Shiro's things down the hall, toward the back of the house. Shiro stood and followed him, looking around a bit at his surroundings. Tensa trailed behind them, his tail swaying slightly as he looked passed Shiro and to his owner as Grimmjow pushed the rarely entered bedroom door open.

Shiro hesitated as Grimmjow stepped through the doorway and dropped the bag on the bed. He took note of the way the bigger man didn't cast his gaze around the empty room, didn't raise his eyes from the carpet and the way his steps faltered slightly when he passed before the dresser. He dropped the bag on the mattress and turned right back around, leaving the room again. Shiro's gaze strayed from the bigger man to glance about the room, taking note of the large bed, the rich colors. He gave the photo sitting on the otherwise bare dresser top a quick study, his ashen brows furrowing as he put the pieces together and formed the obvious conclusion that this wasn't just a spare room.

He turned back to the door, looking up at Grimmjow and the set of his features as the bigger man stood in the hall. He didn't look at Shiro, didn't really look at anything as he patiently allowed the albino to look around the room, his long fingers tangled tightly in Tensa's fur.

"Grimm..." Blue eyes slid in his direction, settling on his own and almost determinedly staying there as the bigger man avoided looking at the room Shiro still hovered in. "I know yer tryin' ta be a good host an' all, but I'm really alright wit' the couch. Ya can stay in yer room, I understand."

A small smile twitched onto one side of Grimmjow's lips as he looked off to the side, his gaze straying to the bed for a moment. "It's not quite like that... I-uh-I'd prefer that you stay in here, and I can take the couch..."

Shiro frowned for a moment before his brows rose and he understood what the bigger man was telling him. He looked back behind himself and at the perfect, untouched state of the room. It wasn't dusty, nor did it smell as though it hadn't been entered, but it certainly whispered of a forced emptiness. It seemed colder than it should have been. "Alright. Fer tanight at least." He agreed quietly.

Grimmjow gave him a small smile and nodded before motioning for the albino to follow him. They headed back down the hall, leaving the bedroom behind. Grimmjow gave his friend a quick tour of the house before they settled in the sitting room. They spent the rest of that evening in a comfortable quiet. Even when they talked, it was conversation of no consequence spoken in low volumes so as to leave the peace undisturbed. Grimmjow ordered a pizza for dinner and they sat and watched a movie, Tensa curled on the floor at their feet, looking rather relaxed and happy.

It was like nothing had happened. Things were the same between them as they had been ever since their meeting in the hospital. Neither pointed blame about what had happened, it never even got brought up and while they both knew that it would have to be discussed eventually, both were content to leave well enough alone for the moment. It could wait.

When it finally came time for the two men to sleep, well into the night and the surrounding neighborhood silent, Grimmjow half trailed his guest to the bedroom and bid him a good night in the hallway before returning to the sitting room. He stripped from his shirt and lowered himself to the couch, laying upon his back to stare up at the ceiling for a moment. It was odd to have someone other than himself and his dog in the house again. It gave the place a more lively feeling, yet a more surreal one all the same. He half expected to turn and see Ichigo wonder down the hall from the bedroom, yawning as he pulled a t-shirt over his head.

A small smile twitched onto Grimmjow's lips as he closed his eyes, tossing one arm over his eyes while his other hanged off the edge of the couch to brush his fingers over Tensa's much shorter coat. His thoughts centered around something that was gone, never to return, a ghost, but he welcomed the memories, no matter how real they seemed, and he drifted off to the sound of a cool summer night alive with nothing but the quiet chirp of crickets and moving bodies while the calming smells of jasmine and vanilla floated through the opened window in his mind's eye.

Just down the hall, Shirosaki a little awkwardly stripped to his boxers before climbing to lay upon the large bed occupying the house's only bedroom. He felt like he was intruding on something private and sacred as he lay there and slowly looked about the untouched room. The room itself was undeniably beautiful and it held an air of deep passion, but it was a ghostly air. The pain the unused bedroom held was just as deep and just as strong as that love had been.

Everything had been taken from Shirosaki, his home, his possessions, everything. When Renji had been killed, everything went up with the apartment, but when Ichigo had been taken from Grimmjow, the bluenette was left with everything as a reminder. Grimmjow couldn't get away from what had happened. He couldn't escape the memory of the man he'd loved and lost.

Shiro blew out a sigh and stretched out across the mattress, avoiding looking at his scared limbs as he raised his arms and crossed them behind his head. He didn't climb under the blankets as he closed his inverted eyes and after a long, emotionally wearing day, what with confronting Grimmjow and leaving his roommate behind, the albino quickly fell asleep.

Unlike Grimmjow, Shirosaki's dreams weren't peaceful. They hadn't been since he'd awakened in the hospital to find out what had happened. In his sleep, the albino tossed and turned, twisting himself up in the blankets he'd purposefully left spread across the bed. Ashen brows furrowed as Shiro jerked away from what only he could see. Panting with his nightmares, a few muffled whimpers crawled from his throat as his hands fisted in the blankets he lay on.

Behind closed eyes, Shiro saw nothing but fire, but it wasn't his apartment building burning this time, nor was Renji in sight. With wide, inverted eyes, Shiro watched as black smoke poured from a small, residential home. Glass shattered as the heat broke the windows. Standing inside the house, blue eyes locked with his own but the big man didn't move, didn't try to get out. In his dream, Grimmjow stood rooted to the floor as burning wood fell from the ceiling, refusing to leave the home he'd lived in with Ichigo. Shiro's lilting voice was a raw scream as he begged the man to leave, to get out and to safety.

Sleeping peacefully just down the hall, Grimmjow was jolted awake as a distorted voice cried out in the dark. Tensa started barking as something thumped from master bedroom, jumping from where he'd been laying on the floor beside the couch and running around it and down the hall. Grimmjow rolled from the couch, landing on his feet to quickly follow after the dog.

"Shiro?" He called as he neared the closed door Tensa stood in front of, growling and pawing at the wood. He didn't receive an answer as panicked gasps met his ears before the door was thrown open and his pale guest stumbled into the hallway, barely staying on his feet.

Eyes wide but unseeing, the albino stumbled from the room, all but collapsing into Grimmjow's solid form as he ran into the man. Tensa bared his teeth and snarled as he rushed into the abandoned room before wandering back into the hall when he found nothing.

The smaller man, clothed in nothing but his boxers, clung to Grimmjow as he panted and trembled. As he started to sink to the floor, Grimmjow grabbed hold of his lean and heaving shoulders and lowered himself to match, searching colorless, fear stricken features. They sat upon the floor in the hallway as Shirosaki fought to regain control of himself.

"Shiro?" Grimmjow asked, his voice quiet in the overwhelming silence of his home. "You ok?"

A few moments went by, the albino unresponsive, before he finally nodded. He didn't move however, his hands clutching almost desperately at Grimmjow despite his shirtless state as he trembled, his chest heaving and his eyes wide and focused on the wall hardly a foot away.

"Still having nightmares..." Grimmjow more stated rather than asked, a wince pinching his features as he tentatively pulled the smaller man a bit closer, letting the shaken albino rest against his solid chest.

Shiro nodded again, confirming what the blue haired man had thought. His panting breaths sent puffs of warm air against Grimmjow's muscled torso but their frequency began lessening as his breathing returned to a more normal rate. After a moment, his frightened, adrenaline fueled trembling lessened as well, turning into more of a slight shiver instead. Grimmjow felt the man swallow as the muscle of his jaw tightened for a brief moment as Shiro began to slowly allow the rest of his tense body to relax.

"Come on." Grimmjow said in a quiet voice as he slowly climbed to his feet, pulling the smaller man with him. Shiro stood under his own power, but his hands didn't leave Grimmjow and he stayed pressed against the blue haired man. "Let's get you a blanket, ok?"

It wasn't cold in the house, nor outside, but Shiro had yet to cease his shivering as the memory of hot flames refused to leave his mind. Grimmjow led him back into the bedroom and sat him down on the edge of the bed. Pulling up an edge of the thick comforter that lay spread out on the bed, one corner twisted where Shiro's tossing and turning had messed it up, he pulled it loose and draped it over lean shoulders.

Shiro finally released the big man, his long fingers curling in the edge of the blanket to pull it close, his grip hard enough to whiten his knuckles had they not already been colorless. He sat hunched over slightly, his bare feet flat against the plush carpet as his legs hung off the edge of the bed. Finally closing his wide eyes, he took a deep, even breath and furrowed his brows.

"You sure you're ok?" Grimmjow asked softly, leaning forward to watch the man's features. This time, he didn't receive an answer, not even a nod as Shiro remained sitting where he was, unmoving with his eyes closed as he tried to rein himself in and get himself under control.

Grimmjow frowned, a worried expression tugging at his features. He straightened, taking a step away from the bed but a pale hand reached out, long, thin fingers hooking around his own to halt him. Surprised, Grimmjow looked down at Shiro's black nailed fingers before looking up again to meet his startling gaze.

"P-please..." Shirosaki's voice shook slightly, barely forced from his throat.

"I'm not going anywhere, I was just going to get you a glass of water." Grimmjow reassured him, still standing. "I'll be right back."

"I don' wan' it...jus' d-don' go yet..." Golden irises fell away from Grimmjow's vivid blue, looking off to the side with a haunted expression on his pale features. "...please..."

Grimmjow's frown deepened but he nodded and carefully lowered himself to sit on the edge of the bed next to the still upset man. "Ok." He all but whispered, his blue eyes anchored onto the door frame and hallway beyond. After a moment of slightly awkward silence, Grimmjow let out a silent sigh and gave in to what his intuition and even what his body told him to do. With slow, gentle motions, he wrapped a strong arm around the smaller man's shoulders and pulled him close again. Letting Shiro rest his head against his bare chest, Grimmjow settled his chin against feathery, ashen hair as they sat, gently, slowly running his hand up and down one of Shiro's arms in a comforting motion.

For the first time since he'd left the hospital, Grimmjow sat in the room that had once been his favorite, but had since become untouchable and forbidden to him. His gaze strayed from the doorway, drifted across the room to settle on the dresser and the picture that still sat on it's top. Ichigo smiled back at him and a small, lopsided smile twitched onto on corner of his lips. He let his gaze travel passed the photo, took in the passionate colors, the plush carpet, the simple but beautiful bed frame and head board. His eyes took in the dark color of the sheets before white took up his field of vision as he peered down at Shirosaki.

"I'm sorry, Shiro." He said quietly, the sound rumbling in his chest where Shiro's head rested.

"Nah, 's not yer fault..." The smaller man didn't move as he replied, his voice equally quiet in the room he knew Grimmjow didn't like entering. "an' I should probably be apologizin' fer makin' ya sit in 'ere wit' me..."

"No." A small smile could be heard in Grimmjow's voice. "I-I think I needed this... a reason to come back in here instead of one to stay out."

"I guess neither of us got ta apologize then."

Grimmjow could feel as the man's fingers flexed where they anchored in the blanket as Shiro began fidgeting slightly, finally calming down enough to realize just what exactly they were doing and how they were sitting.

"Guess not." Grimmjow smirked. Using one arm to steady himself, the bigger man eased himself into a laying position, gently tugging Shiro to follow him with the arm still wrapped around the man's lean shoulders.

The albino seemed to hesitate, but not for long, and lay down next to the bigger man. Curling close, he laid his head back upon Grimmjow's chest, his hand resting next to his face, fingers comfortably curled against the relaxed muscle below his palm.

"Is this really ok?" Shiro whispered in the dark after a few minutes.

"I think so..." Grimmjow's arm tightened for a moment, a reassuring and gentle gesture. "Yeah, it's fine. Renji and Ichigo wouldn't want us to live the rest of our lives alone and miserable."

A small smile tugged at porcelain features as Shirosaki finally let his eyes slip closed again. "Yeah, yer probably right."

The rest of the night was peaceful. Tensa slept curled up on the floor at the foot of the bed, silently watching over his master and his master's new friend. Neither man stirred in their sleep, nor awoke from nightmares or memories. There was something comforting about being close to another man, about being close to each other. It felt right, natural.

It wasn't until the sun was high over head that either man stirred. Grimmjow skipped his morning run, comfortable and sleeping more deeply than he had in a long time, even though he lay in the bed he'd shared with Ichigo and hadn't been able to touch since. When he did finally awaken, he stretched before curling his arm back around the man at his side.

"Mornin'." Shirosaki yawned, not bothering to move, one arm slung across Grimmjow's abdomen near his waistline. "Yer phone was ringin'."

Grimmjow groaned, reaching up with his free arm to scrub his hand down his face. "Why didn't you wake me?"

"Ya were sleepin' well 'nough ta not hear it, so I figured ya probably needed the sleep." Shirosaki shrugged slightly before he and Grimmjow began climbing from the bed. The albino unashamedly bent and began pulling a pair of jeans over his boxers as Grimmjow sat on the edge of the bed and stretched again, groaning in appreciation at the few pops and cracks that ran down his spine.

From the kitchen, his phone began ringing again. Grimmjow sneered lightly and looked over at the small clock that sat on his bedside table like he'd done a million times before. His brows furrowed as he read six am flash across the screen. He looked to the opposite side of the room, seeing warm sun filter through the shear curtains that covered his window. He shook his head, realizing it really had been quite a while since he'd been in his own bedroom and that the clock obviously said the wrong time.

When his phone persisted, starting up again almost as soon as it had fallen silent, he finally stood and left the room, leaving Shirosaki to finish getting dressed in privacy. Snagging the phone, he quickly activated it and answered with a sleep roughened voice. "Hello?"

"Jesus, Grimmjow... Everything ok?" Isshin's voice filtered through the speaker, worry underlying his tone.

"Oh, hey, Isshin." Grimmjow greeted, walking around the counter in his kitchen to drop into one of the chairs at the table. He stretched his long legs out under the table, tugging at the waistband of the pants he'd slept in. "Yeah, everything's fine, why?"

"I've been trying to reach you for nearly an hour... I was just about to drive over and make sure you were alright..." Isshin told him, sounding a little apprehensive. "You sure everything's ok?"

"Oh..." A sheepish expression crossed the younger man's features as he reached up to rub the back of his neck, easily seeing why the older man had been so worried. The last time he hadn't been able to answer his phone, Isshin had gotten a phone call from the ER. "Sorry, Isshin... I was asleep still...just woke up, actually."

A quiet, relieved chuckle sounded from the other end. "That's a relief to hear. You've been sleeping better lately? We haven't talked in a while, how have you been holding up?"

Grimmjow shrugged to himself before realizing he'd have to answer the question because Isshin couldn't see him. "Alright, I guess, better these passed few days. Slept in the bedroom last night. I forgot how comfortable that bed was." Grimmjow gave a short laugh as he shook his head. His blue eyes cornered as Shirosaki finally wandered slowly, almost cautiously down the hall, like he didn't want to intrude, to join him in the kitchen. He gave the albino a small smile before going back to his conversation. "What about you, how have you and the girls been doing, old man?"

Isshin chuckled again. "We've been ok. It's rough and going to take time, but we're alright..."

Grimmjow heard the older man take a deep breath and he fully understood, swallowing as his blue brows furrowed. Watching his expressions, Shiro also frowned and stepped up behind the seated man. Brash and quick to act as always, the albino hardly hesitated as he took a seat at Grimmjow's side and took his hand, offering what little comfort he could. Grimmjow looked at him again, a small but thankful smile on his lips. It made a matching smile cross the pale man's own features.

"So anyway, like I was saying; it's been a while. Why don't you join the girls and I for lunch? Yuzu's cooking~" The older man pushed away the heavy demeanor he'd adopted during their conversation, preferring something a little more light hearted now that he knew the young man he saw as a son was well and unharmed.

A genuine smile settled on Grimmjow's features, showing off his commercial worthy teeth but he looked over at the man sitting beside him. "I'd really love to, Isshin, but-uh-maybe another time... I kind of have company right now..."

Beside him, Shirosaki shook his head and whispered, recognizing the name of Ichigo's father. "I can find somethin' ta do fer a few hours, ya don' have ta skip goin' coz a me."

Grimmjow furrowed his brows at the pale man, a sure enough sign that he wouldn't be doing any such thing. From the other end of the phone, there was a pause before Isshin's joyful laugh filtered through the speaker. "Good! Bring him too, Grimmjow my boy. I'd love to see how he's healing up."

"What?" Grimmjow sounded a bit confused, his sever brows raising. "But-"

"Son, I may be getting old but I'm not naive or blind. I noticed it before the two of you ever even thought it was possible." Isshin sounded more amused than offended, but there was an underlying seriousness to his voice that let Grimmjow know he wasn't just joking, that he was being honest.

"But...I...what about...Ichi..." Grimmjow stumbled over his words, unsure what to say or how to explain himself. There was no fooling Isshin. There hadn't been when Ichigo was alive, when he'd first met the older man and had to endure a father's interrogation and there wasn't any fooling him now. Finally, he found his voice, though it came out as a whisper. "Isshin...I still love Ichigo...Even if-"

"I know you do, son, and I didn't mean to make it sound like I thought otherwise. I'm not upset by it, I'm actually really happy about it! I want you to move on, Grimmjow. I want you to be happy. That's what Ichigo would want." Isshin's voice was sincere and a little fatherly. He was relieved to hear that his deceased son's lover was trying to pick himself up finally, glad to hear that he wasn't denying himself what he knew the younger man needed. And he knew the albino from the hospital was perfect for that. They had gotten along so well, so naturally even while in the hospital. They were good for each other. Isshin could see that and he was thankful for that. "Bring him with you. I'm sure the girls will want to meet him!"

Grimmjow's deep voice rumbled with his laugh as he glanced over at his pale companion. He gave the smaller man's hand a gentle squeeze. "Alright, I'll ask him then. When do you want us over?"

"Well, it's almost noon already, so any time is fine." Isshin's classic, goofy smile was audible in his voice. Grimmjow told him he'd be over soon, Shiro too if the man wanted to tag along, before they ended the call.

After telling Shirosaki what the phone call had been about, and telling him that Isshin had extended the invitation to him as well, the two moved to the sitting room, taking up a place on the couch while the pale man ran his fingers through what was left of Tensa's hair.

"Ya really think it's alright fer me ta go? I un'erstand, ya know...this is Ichigo's family, are they really ganna be ok wit' the idea a me bein' wit' ya?" Shiro didn't meet Grimmjow's piercing gaze, instead focusing his attention on the big dog sitting on his feet and bugging him for a petting.

"It's fine, Shiro, they wont mind. Isshin's an honest man, he wouldn't invite you if he wasn't genuine in wanting you there." Grimmjow finally pulled his eyes from the man next him and leaned back. "But if you don't want to go, no one's making you. I understand it might be a little...awkward for you..."

"Nah, I'll go then." Shiro glanced over at the bigger man before he stood and wandered back down the hallway.

Grimmjow trailed behind him, all his clean cloths still in the bedroom. The albino quickly snagged his bag and went to the bathroom to change into something a bit nicer while Grimmjow pulled on a pair of clean jeans and a dark grey t-shirt.

After they readied, Grimmjow gave Tensa his morning bowl of food and told the big dog to be good before he opened the door for the smaller man. Ten sat down a few feet from the door, giving his owner puppy eyes as he tried to leave. Chuckling, Grimmjow told the dog they wouldn't be gone forever and locked the door on his way out.

The car ride was short and mostly silent, it wasn't until they were pulling into the Kurosaki family home that Grimmjow broke the quiet. As he pulled up the driveway, he decided he'd better give Shiro a quick rundown, just in case.

"Ok." The bigger man shook his head good naturally. "They're not really family, but they might as well be. Isshin's got two younger, twin daughters, Karin and Yuzu, that refer to me as their big brother. Yuzu's really sweet, she wont give you any trouble. Karin's a bit more feisty, you'll like her, but it's hard telling what she'll do... and Isshin...well, he's usually a bit...eccentric, not like when he's working at the hospital. He hasn't been the same since...everything happened, but he sounded more like his old self on the phone this morning, so it's hard telling what he'll do too."

The whole while Grimmjow spoke, Shirosaki stared at him in silence, his inverted eyes a little wider than normal. Grimmjow pulled the key from the ignition and looked over at the smaller man as he remained quiet. "What's wrong?"

"Yer makin' me nervous." The pale man answered bluntly, not bothering to skirt around the truth of it. Not only was he meeting those Grimmjow considered family for the first time, but it was also the family of the bigger man's deceased fiance and he didn't want to be seen as the one that was trying to replace Ichigo.

"Oh, heh, don't be." Grimmjow chuckled and climbed from the car. He rounded the vehicle and looked up at the Kurosaki home with a fond smile. "They're very nice people, you'll be fine."

The door was thrown open before they had made it half way there. Yuzu and Karin came running out as fast as they could, launching themselves at Grimmjow. "Grimmy-nii!" Yuzu exclaimed happily as the big man bent to hoist her from the ground. He ruffled Karin's dark hair, making the young girl glare up at him in a poor attempt at looking angry.

Laughing, Grimmjow carried Yuzu back to the door, Karin demanding his free hand while she followed. Shiro lingered behind a bit, but not because he was shy. He only wished to give the bigger man time with those he was close to. He knew how much they had helped Grimmjow after the accident. The two girls clearly saw him in the same light he saw them and when they stepped inside, it was obvious their father did as well. Grimmjow set the little blond girl down as Isshin closed the door behind the albino. Stepping around Shiro, he pulled Grimmjow into a fatherly hug before he finally turned to Shirosaki.

He shook the albino's hand, subtly glancing at the healed burn scars that covered his hands. He didn't miss how the man wore long sleeves even though the sun shown warm and bright outside. "It's nice to meet you under less painful circumstances."

"Yeah, you too, Dr. Kurosaki." Shiro smirked as he released the older man's hand, stepping a bit closer to Grimmjow as he let his strange eyes take in their surrounds for a brief moment, including glancing over Karin and Yuzu. "Ya got a real nice place, and a beautiful family."

A small smile creased Isshin's scruffy features as he laughed. "Thank you, and please, call me Isshin."

Yuzu tugged at her father's shirt, gaining his attention. "Daddy, is he one of your patients?"

Chuckling, Isshin nodded and looked back up at the pale man. "He was, but he's better now."

"Oh, that's good." Yuzu smiled up at the colorless man. "Were you in the hospital because you're so pale?"

Isshin's features dropped for a moment, a look of shock flashing through his eyes before he settled for the beginnings of an apology. Shiro, however, found it very amusing and he let out a watery laugh as he waved the apology off.

"Nah, I'm just weird lookin' naturally." He told the girl, wide smile never leaving his features.

All the while, during the entirety of the small conversation and introduction, Karin watched the way the pale guest moved and the small interactions between him and Grimmjow. They hardly seemed aware of any of it, but the young girl didn't miss the subtle, almost natural way they moved together, the way the pale man didn't stray from Grimmjow's side, or the way Grimmjow glanced over to him every so often, almost like he was checking in on the strange looking man.

Karin's eyes narrowed, a scowl crossing her features as she glared up at the tall, blue haired man her brother had been in love with. "I can't believe you..." She scolded in a low, warning tone.

"What?" Grimmjow's features twisted with confusion as he looked down at her, unsure of what she meant or how to take her apparent and sudden anger. At Karin's side, Yuzu glanced to her twin for a moment, studying the set to her more serious features, before her eyes widened slightly as if she realized what was going on, though nothing was said between them.

"What?" Karin spit out, more than a little venom in her voice. Beside her, Yuzu pouted and glanced at her twin again but said nothing as she redirected her lighter gaze to Grimmjow, a question shining back at him. "Don't give me that. You're just going to replace Ichi-nii?"

Grimmjow's mouth fell open but nothing came out before his jaw closed, the muscle tightening as his crystallin blue eyes widened into a helpless expression. His brows pulled together as he looked down at the girl, at the sister of the man he'd intended to marry when he was finally able to. Grimmjow shook his head slightly, at a loss. He didn't know what to say, didn't even know what to think or even feel. Part of him felt guilty with the girl's accusation. He thought she had every right to be angry at him, but then, part of him wanted to refute what she said. He wasn't replacing Ichigo, nothing could replace Ichigo...but Ichigo wasn't there anymore...and Shiro was, even after what Grimmjow had done, Shiro was still there.

Standing behind the girls, Isshin's brows shot to his hair line, a look of something close to horror crossing his scruffy features. He shook his head and shot Grimmjow an apologetic look before he reached forward and grabbed his dark haired daughter's shoulder, gently but firmly pulling her toward him and away from the two young men standing in his home. His eyes strayed over to the pale man in Grimmjow's company, giving the man the same silent apology. "Karin. That's enough-"

But Shiro wasn't looking at him, only at his daughter and his stern words were cut off by a lilting, not quite timid voice. There was something in the albino's strange, inverted eyes, something strong and determined, something not easily broken as he took a small step forward, almost placing himself in front of Grimmjow.

"Nothin' could e'er replace yer brother in Grimm's heart and I ain't tryin' either." Shiro's voice seemed to falter just slightly, like the girls anger shook him just as much as it did Grimmjow and Isshin, but his words were sincere, honest. He may not have spoken such things aloud yet, but it didn't mean he hadn't thought them, didn't mean he didn't believe them. "But tha' don' mean he can' heal an' I can' stand by his side. He can' be alone ferever an' he don' gotta stop lovin' Ichigo jus' coz he's wit' someone else or jus' coz he's tryin' ta be happy again."

Wide, watery blue eyes darted away from Karin's slowly softening features, grazing over Isshin to see his expression mirrored on the elder man's face before settling on Shiro's back and squared shoulders. It was Isshin who reacted first. A slight upward curve tilted his lips as he studied the pale young man Grimmjow had chosen as his companion, and even if the two hadn't worked anything remotely permanent out, he could see the strength of their unspoken bond. They had both been through a lot and it seemed they had already been through a lot together.

"Karin." Isshin said in a stern voice that his features didn't quite match. "I think you owe these two an apology."

Karin's dark brows furrowed as she crossed her arms over her chest and stared up at the odd looking man Grimmjow had brought to her house. "Sorry." She mumbled in a short, sharp voice. Then she turned her eyes back to Grimmjow and her petulant frown slowly dissolved into something a little lost.

Blue brows furrowed slightly, but a very small smile tugged at Grimmjow's lips as he knelt to sit back on his haunches and be on the young girl's level. She watched him lower himself, than his piercing cyan eyes captured hers and she could only stare at him for a moment, nearly drowning in what she saw.

Karin was young, but she wasn't naive and she understood more than what most kids her age did. She stepped forward as he held his hands out to the side, stepping right into the embrace he offered her. The girl's arms circled around Grimmjow's neck as he wrapped his big arms around her tiny waist, giving a tight but gentle hug. Hiding her face against his shoulder, she swallowed and struggled to find her voice. "I-I'm sorry, Grimmjow... I just miss him..."

"I know you do, Karin...me too..." Grimmjow whispered back.

The little girl sniffled, her face still hidden against his shirt. She did well at covering the slight quiver to her voice. "But you're moving on..."

"I have to...If I don't, I don't think I'll make it, Karin...it'll kill me." Grimmjow hugged her a little bit tighter when something warm soaked through his shirt where she hid her face. "I'm sorry... I probably should have told you about Shiro sooner, but I didn't know what to do... Now I do, and I know that I want to be close to him..."

"But w-what about Ichi-nii?"

Grimmjow let a small but genuine smile tug at his features as he pulled the deceased man's sister back to arm's length so that he could look at her. She quickly rubbed at her eyes, hiding all traces of the few tears that had streaked her features. "I'll always love Ichigo, he'll always be here." Grimmjow tapped at his chest lightly. "But Shiro was right... I can love Ichigo and still care for someone else."

"You wont forget about him?" Karin asked, her voice uncharacteristically quiet but just as stern and demanding as always.

"Of course not." Grimmjow told her.

"What about us?" The blue haired man grunted a derisive sound at her question and Karin watched his smirk widen just a bit.

"How could I forget about you?" He asked as he wrapped an arm around her waist and straightened, effortlessly lifting her to drape over one broad shoulder. An almost relieved giggle escaped her as she clutched the back of his shirt and kicked her legs a bit. "You're a turd, but you're the only family I have."

"Hey! I am not!" She defended as Grimmjow kicked his shoes off and wondered further into the house.

Grimmjow glanced over at Isshin as he toed his shoes off, still hoisting the older man's daughter over his shoulder. There was an almost nervous look in his crystalline eyes, something edging on questioning and apprehensive. Isshin nodded his approval of all that the younger man had said and, as Grimmjow's smile finally took over his features and he continued into the sitting room, the older man clapped a hand over Shirosaki's lithe shoulder, extending his arm out in invitation toward the direction Grimmjow had gone. His smile was warm, relieved in a way, as he followed behind the pale man, his other daughter's hand held in his.

Later that afternoon, after they'd all eaten lunch, they once more congregated in the sitting room, the tension from earlier no where to be found. Grimmjow sat in the middle of the couch, his strong arms thrown out to the sides, draped over the back of the couch. On one side sat Karin, on his other sat Shiro. Isshin sat in a chair across from the three, Yuzu quietly sitting in his lap. The older man watched as a shit eating grin spread across the bluenette's features, his vivid gaze cornering to glance at Karin as she focused intently on the game she was playing.

He chuckled, seeing what was to come before it happened and as Karin glanced up at her dad, Grimmjow swiftly but carefully pushed her from the couch so that she landed on her butt on the plush carpet. Grimmjow threw his head back in laughter as her look of surprise heated into one of retaliation. Shiro's lilting voice was added to the mix as the dark haired girl shot back to her feet and waisted no time in pouncing.

Still laughing, Grimmjow allowed himself to be pulled from the couch as a wide grin took over Karin's features as well. After only a few minutes, the two stopped in their horse play, Karin sitting triumphantly across Grimmjow's back, her arms crossed and a victoriously smug look on her face as he lay on his stomach, his elbow propped on the carpet and his chin in his hand.

Isshin grinned and chuckled as he watched his daughter and the young man that might as well have been a son. Still sitting with him, Yuzu giggled as she clapped and quietly cheered on her twin. Across from them, a smirk stretched Shirosaki's pale lips. "Ya loose, Grimm."

Grimmjow snorted and looked over at him. "Hey, she's tougher than she looks." He said playfully, making the grin on Karin's face grow even further.

But the grin turned into something a bit more curious, edging on sly as she shifted to look at the albino seated on her couch. She studied him with narrowed, calculating dark eyes for a minute. "Have you two slept together yet?"

Shiro's brows shot to his hair line as Grimmjow choked on air. "No!" Grimmjow quickly answered. "I mean, last night we did, but not...not-"

"-we didn' have sex." Shiro finished a little more bluntly than Grimmjow was planning. The smaller male could tell the girl could handle it, she was smart, she knew exactly what she was asking about. "We jus' slept in the same bed."

"Oh. Have you even kissed?" Her features scrunched up in an almost disgusted expression. Gold on black eyes shied off to the side though, the albino falling quiet. When Grimmjow didn't say anything either, Karin huffed. "Well? You haven't, have you?"

"Well...kind of..." Grimmjow said a little sheepishly, his deep voice quiet.

Karin rolled her eyes and stood up, letting him climb back onto the couch next to his guest again. She turned to look at them, her arms crossed and her expression set. "Then how do you even know you like him? What's wrong with you, Grimmy? Kiss him!"

"Uhhh..." Beside the big man, Shiro snorted a laugh, covering the lower half of his face with his hand to stifle it as his ghostly features just barely tinted a light shade of pink. Grimmjow's blue eyes darted across the room to Isshin and the older man shook his head and held his hands out in front of himself, showing the younger he'd get no back up this time. He finally turned his vision back to Karin, the girl tapping her foot as she waited for an answer. "We haven't quite gotten there yet... I-I'm working on it."

She threw her hands up in the air and rolled her eyes before sitting down on the floor in front of the couch with an exasperated sigh and going back to the game she'd been playing before Grimmjow had interrupted her.

Grimmjow and Shirosaki left a few hours later with the promise to come back soon. After the initial meeting, it seemed the albino was growing on the Kurosakis, Karin included. As they stepped out the door, Isshin pulled the bluenette into a fatherly hug, offering the same to Shiro. The three, Isshin, Karin and Yuzu, watched and waved as the two young men climbed into Grimmjow's car.

The blue haired man turned the key in the ignition, bringing the engine to life, but he didn't put the car in reverse as he sighed. Beside him, sitting in the passenger seat, Shiro raised a curious brow and looked over at the bigger man.

Grimmjow gave him a sidelong look before turning in his seat and leaning forward. Before he could mentally talk himself out of it, before the albino could react, the bigger man pulled Shiro into a deep, breath taking kiss. It didn't last long and there was no tongue or teeth, but it was passionate and warm in an incredible way.

From the front of the house, Isshin smiled softly as he closed the door and turned back to his twin daughters. "That'a boy." He whispered, his voice barely audible.

The young man his son had loved was moving forward and while Isshin knew Grimmjow had been genuine when he'd said he'd always love Ichigo, he was still allowing himself to heal, to work to find happiness again. After what had happened, Grimmjow deserved that. He deserved to be alright, to heal and to breath, to find love again. Ichigo would have wanted nothing less and so Isshin welcomed it and knew the bond he was creating with Shirosaki would save both young men.

••• A few weeks later •••

The sun sat low on the horizon, wispy clouds trying to cast a shadow over it's golden rays. The light patter of rain on the window pane was soft and calming, as was the smell of fresh air and stormy weather to come that drifted through the slight opening. The sheer curtains fluttered lightly on the gentle breeze.

The large bed creaked quietly as the two upon it shifted, the larger half laying, half kneeling in the center. Sitting up slightly, pulling away from the albino laying below him, Grimmjow pulled his shirt over his head and let it drop to the floor. He settled his big but surprisingly gentle hands upon Shiro's still jean clad thighs, slowly, carefully running his hands up toward the waist of the smaller man's pants and the edge of his shirt.

Grimmjow hesitated, only letting his fingertips glide under the hem of the albino's shirt, just barely brushing the warm skin above his hip. Breathing just a bit heavier than normal, he looked up, letting his piercing blue eyes find Shiro's heated but nervous golden ones.

Neither had been with another man since they had lost their first loves, but they were inexplicably drawn to one another. But the sex to come wasn't what was causing either to hesitate, not any more. This would be their first time with each other, but they knew it was right, that it was what they wanted. They both knew their respective pasts were gone and buried, that neither of the deceased men would mind, that they would be happy that the men they had left behind were finally beginning to heal.

"They don't bother me, Shiro..." Grimmjow whispered, still not moving from his place where he knelt between the albino's legs. He would be patient for as long as he had to, so long as Shiro was comfortable in his own skin once again, skin that Grimmjow had played a hand in marking.

Ashen brows furrowed as Shiro looked down at the bigger man, searching Grimmjow's face. He wasn't so vain that they bothered him from an imperfection aspect, but they hurt him to see. He still remembered the fire like it was only yesterday, he still had nightmares, and his scars were a reminder of his failure. Other's saw the marks and their first reaction was pity, a pity he didn't want. It burned him nearly as badly as the flames had. He didn't like other's seeing his scars. He didn't want that part of his life open to the public. He didn't want the accusations and judgement that came with them, nor the self loathing.

But this was Grimmjow and the bluenette had scars of his own. They marred the underside of his muscled forearms, pale against his otherwise golden flesh. Shiro gently threaded his pale fingers through the man's tussled hair, letting his black nails scrape lightly at the man's scalp. "I know they don'..."

"I'm going to touch them, ok?" Grimmjow told the man, knowing Shiro needed the warning and needed the choice to stop him should he want to. Golden eyes edged away from Grimmjow, unable to hold his gaze, but the pale man nodded and gave him permission.

Grimmjow smiled softly, reassuringly as he began moving once again, letting his hand slip under the smaller man's tight fitting shirt and graze across the slightly raised, flame marred flesh on his abdomen. The scars weren't bad. They had healed far better than had been expected, but they were still there and they were still noticeable against Shiro's pale complexion. They tracked across the tops of his arms, his palms and the sensitive skin along part of his ribcage; the places the flames of his burning apartment had ravaged the worst as he had dug through the rubble, desperately searching for his lover.

The smaller man's breath hitched as he squirmed slightly under the almost too gentle touch. The bluenette slowly peeled the tight shirt up and off, making Shiro raise his arms so that he could discard it to the floor next to his own and continue. Blue eyes took in the expanse of pale flesh exposed to him, taking in Shiro's lithe build and toned torso. The scars didn't detract from the pale man's good looks, no matter what Shiro thought.

Without warning, Grimmjow dipped lower and let his lips graze what his vision had already taken in. Shiro's breath caught in his throat, the muscle of his abdomen going rigid. He froze, unsure how to react as his mind rebelled but his body accept the intimate touch. Grimmjow pressed a kiss over the worst of the scars upon his ribcage, letting his tongue wet the heated skin before moving to another location.

Shiro snapped out of his shock, his hands latching onto the man's broad shoulders as he shook his head. His fingers trembled, his black nails digging crescents into tanned flesh as he pushed against the bigger man. "Gr-Grimm...please, don'-"

Before he could continue his request for the bluenette to stop, Grimmjow spoke in a husky whisper against his abdomen, his eyes raised to capture Shiro's own once more. "Your scars are beautiful, Shiro. Don't be ashamed of them."

"But I-I..." His voice trailed off, unsure and still struggling to accept all that was happening. But that's why Grimmjow was there, they were helping each other heal, both the physical and the emotional scars.

"They're proof of your strength." Grimmjow told him, the muscle of his corded arms bulging as he pushed himself up. Not breaking eye contact with the smaller man, he rested his forehead against Shiro's, a smile tilting one side of his lips. "They're proof that you were meant to survive."

Ashen brows furrowed again, something shinning in the albino's odd, inverted eyes. Shiro wrapped his arms around the bluenette's neck, not glancing at the marks that tracked his colorless flesh, and pulled the bigger man down against him. White lips sealed over the more colorful pair in an almost tender way. With his well earned strength, Grimmjow kept most of his weight off the smaller man, letting his corded arms hold him up but he slowly allowed his lower half to settle against Shiro's.

The albino shuttered, a soundless gasp parting his lips as the larger man's rigid length settled against the inside of his thigh, unmistakable and heavy even through Grimmjow's jeans. Not willing to let the opportunity presented to him go to waste, Grimmjow smoothly invaded the other's mouth, letting his tongue peek between Shiro's parted lips.

White hands first flattened against Grimmjow's broad back before colorless fingers were curling and black nails were digging into golden skin for purchase. A small moan escaped Shiro's bared throat as his tongue caressed against and tangled with Grimmjow's.

As Grimmjow kissed the pale man, letting it grow even deeper and more heated in their mutual need, he kept the weight of his upper half supported on one arm as he slowly coasted his other hand down Shiro's side. The smaller man shivered against him, another barely there moan passing through his throat to be swallowed by the bigger man above him. Grimmjow's hand found the waistband of the albino's jeans. The tips of his fingers hooked inside as he slid his hand to the front and deftly unbuttoned Shiro's pants.

Pulling the zipper down, Grimmjow looked down at the pale man, finally breaking the kiss as he slowly reached between their flush bodies and inside the smaller man's pants. His big hand settled against the other's trapped and aching erection and Shiro gasped as his back arched off the bed. His hands tightened in their hold on Grimmjow, one sliding up to anchor in the thick blue hair at the back of Grimmjow's head.

Grimmjow gave the man's member a small squeeze, a smirk tugging at his lips as he looked down into heated, swirling golden eyes. Another, louder moan escaped pale lips as those inverted eyes darkened and Shiro lifted his hips, grinding across the front of Grimmjow's.

It was as clear of an ok to move forward as he was going to get, so Grimmjow pulled his hand from Shirosaki's pants in favor of beginning to tug the smaller man's jeans down his long legs. He took things slow, didn't rush it and made sure both himself and Shiro had time to think about it and time to stop it if they chose to.

But neither really wanted to stop, even if they were a bit hesitant, a bit unsure, and Shirosaki watched as Grimmjow, once more seated between his legs after discarding the pale man's pants as well as his own, dripped a sweet smelling lubricant onto his fingers. Grimmjow leaned forward once more, resting his forehead against Shiro's and searching the man's captivating eyes. As he connected their lips in a slow but deep kiss, the bigger man eased a single finger forward, slowly slipping it between colorless cheeks and into the man's entrance.

Shiro's breath hitched as he arched upward, pressing his body flush with Grimmjow's. Grimmjow's breathing came in a light pant, warm and steady against his collarbone as the bigger man broke the kiss in favor of slowly, teasingly licking at the side of Shiro's ashen throat. Black nails scraped against Grimmjow's chest as he withdrew his finger and eased a second in, slowly thrusting them in and out as Shiro's brows pulled together and pleasure twisted his porcelain features.

After taking his time with preparing the smaller man, Grimmjow dragged his teeth down Shiro's neck, brushed his warm lips across his clavicle and placed a few burning kisses against his alabaster chest as he pulled his fingers from the smaller man's body. A breathy whimper accompanied the loss as Shiro writhed under the bigger man, panting in slightly elevated, fluttery breaths.

Grimmjow lined himself up but paused, pulling back from Shiro's mostly smooth flesh for just a moment. He caught burning gold with his own darkened blue. He didn't speak his question aloud, he didn't need to. Shiro understood that the bigger man was giving him the chance to pull it to a halt, but the albino hooked one lean leg around Grimmjow's waist and pulled him forward as he leaned upward, catching Grimmjow's lips with his own again.

The bluenette smirked against him and finally pushed forward, slowly seating himself deep within his pale lover. As the head of his thick member pushed passed tight muscle, Shiro's body tensed and he held his breath, but the further in Grimmjow slid, the closer he became to loosing himself in the bigger man's heat and he once more broke their kiss as his head tilted back and a delicious moan permeated the quiet room.

Grimmjow buried his face in the man's bared neck as he slowly pulled back, groaning his own pleasure against flushed, heated skin, before thrusting forward again, deep and powerful.

When they were done, Grimmjow spilling himself deep inside Shiro with a growl that reverberated in his muscled chest as Shiro's seed splashed across his abdomen, they both collapsed to the bed, panting and quivering in the pleasurable aftermath. Grimmjow shifted to pull the smaller man close, smoothing his still shaggy white hair away from his face. Shirosaki turned toward the big man, wrapping one pale arm around Grimmjow's waist as he used his other to cushion his head. His odd gold on black eyes trailed his own colorless flesh, took in the faded, angry red of his scars, before going back to settle on Grimmjow's features, not a trace of the usual self loathing to be found his golden gaze.

Neither would ever forget what had happened, nor would they stop loving those they had lost. The tragedy they had endured would forever be there, scored across their flesh and living deep in their hearts and minds, but they were learning. They were growing and they were healing. The scars were there and always would be, but they were beginning to fade, if only a little.


Thoughts, please? Did you enjoy the story? What did you think about the ending?