Thank you guys for your response to the previous chapter! And to those of you who just joined the ride, welcome and thank you for reading!
There wasn't much to do for the next few days except waiting. According to Tessai, the doctors didn't want to move forward with the second surgery until Grimmjow's mother showed signs of stabilizing over the week, or potentially, weeks.
The day after meeting Grimmjow's mother at the hospital, Ichigo finally remembered that he should give Shinji and Shuuhei a call. He owed them an explanation for his sudden disappearance after all; all they knew right now was that Grimmjow had a family emergency, which was hurriedly conveyed via a text message on their way to the Vegas airport. As he had expected, Shinji practically shrieked into the phone when he recognized Ichigo's voice.
"We were all so worried you little shit!" the blonde yelled over the phone.
Ichigo moved the phone away from his ear and grimaced and just let his friend vent. "Relax, we're both fine," he said when Shinji finally calmed down.
"I don't care about that ugly brute," Shinji huffed.
Ichigo could picture the blonde pouting on the other end, and he let out a snort of laughter before turning serious. He quickly gave Shinji an overview of the situation, even the change of status in his relationship with Grimmjow. He figured he at least owed his good friend that much.
Shinji didn't sound all that surprised. "Finally!" he exclaimed — Ichigo could almost hear the other teen roll his eyes. Shinji's voice became muffled after that, and Ichigo was about to ask him what was going on when Shuuhei's deeper voice came through.
"Holy shit, it's about fucking time," Shuuhei muttered dryly. "The sexual tension between you two was killing us."
Ichigo's mouth fell open. Was it really that obvious? It hadn't even occurred to him that there might be something more between them until Vegas, but it seemed like his friends were already one step ahead. Now that he thought about it, Shinji had confronted him about it before, but the idea had seemed so ridiculous at the time.
Well, now that Shinji knew, Ichigo wouldn't be surprised if all their friends knew within the next five minutes. Not that he minded, really. The blonde's lust for gossip was just irritating in an amusing sort of way.
"I assume he's the top," Shinji said gleefully.
Ichigo immediately blushed. "It's none of your business," he retorted.
The blonde let out a bark of laughter. "Is he any good?"
"Shinji!" Ichigo hollered indignantly, his face turning a deeper shade of pink as his mind wandered automatically towards their rigorous romp just that morning, which had been more than good.
Then, right at that moment, the bed bounced and Ichigo nearly fell off the edge in surprise. He whirled around and scowled at the cause of the interruption.
Grimmjow was undeterred by the look on Ichigo's face. If anything, his grin only widened and his eyes sparkled with an impish gleam. Ichigo groaned inwardly. That look never ended well...for him, at least. Sure enough, Grimmjow began to crawl over to him.
Over on the other end, Shinji was oblivious to Ichigo's impending doom. "You gave him your virginity, didn't you?" the blonde asked insistently.
Before Ichigo could suggest that they cut the phone conversation short, Grimmjow pounced on him from behind and flipped him around to pin him to the mattress on his back. Ichigo couldn't help but let out a breathless "oof" at the impact.
Shinji immediately picked up on that. "What's going on, Ichi?"
"Noth—ahh!" Ichigo's reply was cut short when Grimmjow cupped his face and licked the shell of his ear.
"Uhh...you'd better not be doing the nasty right now," Shinji said accusingly, his tone a mixture of curiosity and apprehension.
Ichigo opened his mouth to explain, but Grimmjow chose to move his tongue down to Ichigo's neck. One hand sneaked underneath Ichigo's t-shirt and tweaked a nipple before sliding down the length of his torso to knead his butt through his shorts. Ichigo bit back a moan, but a small choking sound managed to escape, and it wasn't lost on Shinji.
"Oh my god, you are!" the blonde screeched before bursting into laughter. A low murmur followed, and howls of laughter filtered through the phone speaker; Ichigo recognized Nnoitra's obnoxious cackles and Rangiku's giggles. Horrified and beyond embarrassed, he quickly hung up.
"You idiot!" Ichigo cried, squirming beneath Grimmjow as the larger teen buried his face against Ichigo's neck and laughed. "I'm gonna kill you!"
Grimmjow only laughed harder, and before long, Ichigo found himself joining in, albeit grudgingly at first. He would never live this down; Shinji would make sure of it.
Things progressed quickly after that; Grimmjow wasting no time stripping them both before bracing himself over Ichigo. They exchanged heated looks, and then Ichigo gasped as Grimmjow pushed into him slowly. They took their time; exploring and tasting each other languidly but thoroughly. When it was over, they settled bonelessly into the mattress and waited until their breaths returned to normal before cleaning up after themselves.
The next few days were much of the same. Grimmjow showed him around the mansion and grounds. Ichigo knew the other teen was trying very hard not to sound too proud of his home, but he could detect a hint of it in Grimmjow's eyes. No matter how unhappy he had been, this was where he had grown up after all.
"And this is our library," Grimmjow said in a tone that suggested that this was one place that he avoided at all costs.
Ichigo snickered. The large room was circular with an impressive high ceiling, the walls covered with built-in shelves that housed books of varying genre. The wooden shelves were made of rich mahogany, and right in the middle of the room, arranged neatly on top of a circular rug, were four high-back chairs and a coffee table that matched the color of the shelves.
As Grimmjow closed the door, Ichigo ran his fingers along the shelves and walked around the room, marveling at the well-stocked library. Most of the books that he could see were serious, non-fiction ones, but there were a good collection of romance and mystery novels as well.
"Those ain't mine," Grimmjow said as soon as Ichigo pulled out one of the romance novels.
"Could've fooled me," Ichigo retorted with a roll of his eyes. The books were old, but he could tell that they were lovingly cared for. Some of the wrinkled edges had been fixed with cellophane tape, while others had the entire cover wrapped in plastic.
He continued his exploration while Grimmjow plopped down into one of the chairs and rested his feet on the coffee table. They had nothing better to do anyway, so Ichigo knew Grimmjow wouldn't bother him if he spent more time in here checking things out. He continued to walk along the shelf, pulling out any book that happened to catch his eye until he came to a stop in front of two full shelves of photo albums.
"Found gold?" Grimmjow's teasing voice floated across the room.
Ichigo crouched down and touched the spines of the albums. He could tell that they were old from the faded and yellowed covers. Unable to resist his curiosity, he had pulled one almost completely out from its place before remembering that these were probably Grimmjow's family's personal photos, and he had no right to peek at them without permission.
But before he could shove the album back to where it belonged, Grimmjow piped up lazily, "Go ahead, it's just a bunch of stupid photos."
Ichigo rolled his eyes again and picked out the thickest and largest one. Even though it looked and even smelled old, it wasn't dusty. Ichigo wondered fleetingly how often this room was cleaned. Over the past few days he had seen more servants and maids than he ever thought he would lay eyes on in his entire life. It was a miracle Grimmjow didn't turn out worse. Grimmjow may have issues with his family members, but he wasn't short on any of the luxuries that they had.
Once the album was laid out on his lap, Ichigo lifted the cover gingerly. The first page was a black-and-white photo of Grimmjow's parents; Ichigo could recognize them easily even though they were much, much younger in there. Grimmjow's mother was as petite as her husband was tall and broad. Her hair was styled in a bob that brushed her shoulders, and she was leaning against her husband with a mischievous smile on her face. Grimmjow's father had an arm wrapped possessively around her waist, and instead of looking at the camera, his face was angled to the side, his eyes glued lovingly to his wife.
Ichigo glanced at Grimmjow, who was staring up at the ceiling with a bored expression. Had Grimmjow ever seen this photo? If he ever doubted his father's feelings for his mother, this photo alone was proof enough how deeply the man loved his wife. Or at least he did...back then. Ichigo sighed and flipped the page. Perhaps things had changed over the years, he really wouldn't know.
The next few pages were still of Grimmjow's parents; their visits to Paris, Milan, and a bunch of other places that Ichigo didn't recognize, photos of them with their friends having a good time by the pool, photos of them around the mansion. As Ichigo turned the pages, he noticed a significant pattern: Grimmjow's mother was getting thinner and thinner. Her eyes still sparkled, but her face had become gaunt, and more and more of her photos were of her sitting down indoors.
Then Ichigo flipped to the next page and came face-to-face with a black-haired toddler with large watery green eyes.
Ulquiorra looked serious even as a toddler. Out of the dozen or so photos of him, Ichigo saw only one that had him smiling in it. Ichigo's gaze lingered on that photo. Ulquiorra was facing away from the camera, his head turned towards his mother, who was holding him in her arms. She was sitting Indian-style on the floor and had her head tilted to the side, laughing. Young Ulquiorra was standing in her lap and smiling dumbly at her with an arm raised like he wanted to grab her hair.
Ichigo nearly cooed out loud at the heartwarming image, but managed to stop himself in time. Grimmjow probably wouldn't appreciate him doing that over his older brother's photo. So Ichigo continued to plough through the album until he got to the end. Ulquiorra looked older now, perhaps four or five. There was no sign of Grimmjow.
Frowning, Ichigo put the album back and pulled out the next one. This one looked like a continuation of the previous one. The first page was of Ulquiorra in a dress shirt and black slacks holding a tiny little violin by his side. The boy had a solemn look on his face, like he was going to perform at Carnegie Hall or something. The next few photos were about the same; Ulquiorra playing the violin, Ulquiorra bowing, Ulquiorra shaking hands with some middle-aged people who looked like they were dressed up for some kind of function.
Then, ten pages into the album, Grimmjow finally made an appearance. Ichigo nearly snorted out loud when he saw it. Grimmjow was tiny. As in, premature baby kind of tiny. He was wrapped up in a powder blue blanket and his face was all scrunched up, no doubt throwing a fit while this picture was taken. He was cradled against his mother's chest, her tired-looking eyes gazing at the camera with a proud smile on her face.
Ichigo couldn't help touching the photo. There was no way this woman didn't love her son. After staring at the picture for a few more seconds, Ichigo continued to flip through the pages. To his surprise, that was the only one with Grimmjow in it. The rest were mostly of Ulquiorra and his mother, and occasionally, Ulquiorra with his father. There were a couple with Tessai in it, his mustache every bit as bushy as it was now. There was one of Unohana in the kitchen, with Ulquiorra perched on the stool at the counter, his short legs dangling at least two feet above the floor.
But no Grimmjow.
Ichigo sighed inwardly. Ulquiorra wasn't lying when he said that Grimmjow was a mistake. It seemed like his parents, or more likely, his father was determined to pretend that the boy did not exist. Feeling depressed, Ichigo lost interest in the photo album and stuffed it back in its original place. His long face did not go unnoticed by Grimmjow.
"Yeah, now you know why I don't give a shit about those photos," Grimmjow said, his voice surprisingly quiet.
Ichigo walked over to Grimmjow and crawled into his lap. There really wasn't anything he could say to make Grimmjow feel better, so Ichigo settled for a simple kiss on Grimmjow's cheek.
"Sometimes I feel like I was a mistake, like I'm not meant to be here," Grimmjow muttered, slipping his arms around Ichigo's waist.
Ichigo almost choked on his own spit. Grimmjow had no idea how close to the truth he was. He was glad that Grimmjow couldn't see his face at the moment, because he knew he had failed to conceal his grimace. He was torn. It felt wrong to him that he knew the truth while Grimmjow didn't, yet he didn't think he should the one to breech this subject. Especially not now when Grimmjow was already under so much emotional stress.
Luckily for him, Grimmjow had spaced out just long enough to miss Ichigo's reaction. When Grimmjow let out a heavy sigh, Ichigo leaned in and gave the teen's lower lip a quick nip. "If that's the case, then you're the best mistake in my life," he mumbled, feeling his own cheeks heating up for delivering such a corny line.
Grimmjow stared at Ichigo for a moment, his lips twitching and eyebrows raised in disbelief, then his shoulders starting shaking with suppressed laughter.
Blushing madly in embarrassment, Ichigo gave Grimmjow a stinging smack on the side of his head and shoved him back into the chair. "See if I ever say anything nice to you again!" he huffed indignantly.
"Aww, I'm sorry!" Grimmjow chuckled and ducked as Ichigo aimed another hit on the other side of his head. Then his face turned serious and he pulled Ichigo into a tight hug.
Grimmjow didn't say anything, but the way he buried his face into Ichigo's neck told Ichigo enough. After a while, Ichigo lifted Grimmjow's head and bent down to nip at his lips again. Grimmjow growled low in his throat, his eyes sliding closed as he fought back for dominance. Ichigo bit back a moan when he felt Grimmjow's hands slip under the waistband of his shorts and boxers.
"Does...anyone..." Ichigo mumbled between pants, his breath becoming heavier as Grimmjow began to grind against him. "...come here?"
Grimmjow gave a noncommittal shrug and deepened their kiss. Ichigo hooked his arms around Grimmjow's neck and pressed himself into the larger teen, his body temperature spiking as his hunger built. Screw it. They could deal with it later if anyone did come in. For now, he just wanted to show Grimmjow how much he wanted him, and he wanted him so much now that he felt like he would spontaneously combust if they didn't do something about it.
Ichigo lifted his head at Grimmjow's tone of surprise. Grimmjow gave him a look and raised an eyebrow, smirking as he dangled a small bottle in front of his face. All the blood in Ichigo's body immediately rushed to his face as he realized that Grimmjow must have found it while he was taking off his shorts.
"Well prepared, are we?" Grimmjow asked teasingly.
"Shut up!" Ichigo punched him in the arm. "W-we've been...you know! Anywhere...just being..." His voice faltered as his attempt at explaining only made Grimmjow laugh harder.
Chuckling softly, Grimmjow gave Ichigo's cheek a long lick, earning himself another punch in the arm. "...prepared," he finished for Ichigo.
"Whatever." Ichigo's grumble was silenced easily with another deep kiss that left both of them gasping afterwards.
Ichigo hopped off Grimmjow's lap briefly to undress himself before climbing back on and resuming their frantic groping until the chair protested their combined weight. Even then, they only paused just long enough for Grimmjow to lift Ichigo up and lay them both down on the rug. Once Ichigo was settled on his back, Grimmjow broke away and crawled backwards towards Ichigo's legs.
Ichigo closed his eyes and groaned in anticipation as he pictured Grimmjow's head bobbing between his legs. He felt puffs of warm breath on his hip, then he jumped in surprise when, instead of the expected heat, he was suddenly engulfed in icy-cold slickness.
"Trying something new," Grimmjow murmured, keeping his eyes on his hands where he was coating Ichigo's length with copious amount of lube from the bottle he had found earlier.
"...huh?" Ichigo slurred as he tried not to thrust into Grimmjow's fist.
Grimmjow hummed to himself for another minute, then, instead of spreading Ichigo's legs like he always did, he straddled Ichigo's thighs and raised himself onto his knees. Grimmjow continued to stroke Ichigo, but his other hand was hidden behind his back, out of Ichigo's view. Ichigo propped himself up on his elbows and peered at Grimmjow curiously.
"What are you doing?" Ichigo asked, not really able to think straight with his pleasure-fogged mind.
Grimmjow's only response was a slight grimace on his face as he appeared to do something behind his back. Something in Ichigo's head told him that he should know what was going on, but it didn't click until Grimmjow began to lower himself onto him. Ichigo was too shocked to move, and by the time he realized what was happening, he was already half way inside Grimmjow.
"Shit!" Ichigo hissed, his back arching as he was pressed further into the welcoming heat. "Ahh...shit!"
Grimmjow shot him a glare before letting out a shuddering groan. "Yeah, that's real sexy," he said sarcastically.
"Next time gimme a warni—ahhh..." Ichigo's complaint was lost when Grimmjow raised himself briefly before slamming down all the way. "Oi...t-take it...easy!" Ichigo managed to croak between moans.
Ichigo never thought he would ever experience this. Grimmjow didn't seem to be the kind who would ever do this, so Ichigo was taken completely by surprise. Not that he was complaining, of course. As Grimmjow sped up, Ichigo couldn't stop himself from bucking up and meeting Grimmjow half way. The rhythm was a little awkward in the beginning as they tried to get their movements in sync, but after a while they fell into a steady pace. Grimmjow's thighs flexed as he moved, and Ichigo dug his fingers into them, clinging to Grimmjow even though he was the one pinned to the floor.
As the pleasure continued to build, Ichigo became bolder and decided to spring a surprise of his own. He waited until Grimmjow lifted himself up, then with a powerful twist and push, Ichigo flipped them over, knocking Grimmjow into the floor beneath him. Grimmjow's eyes widened, but if he was going to complain about this, he never got the chance, because the change to the angle immediately reduced his words into a string of muttered curses. Ichigo slipped his hand between them as he braced himself above Grimmjow, and then all too soon, it was over.
Panting heavily, Ichigo rolled off Grimmjow's body and sank into the rug by his side. Still high on pleasure and surprise, Ichigo began to chuckle, his eyes becoming wider as the whole experience finally registered in his mind.
"Ya like it?"
Ichigo stared at Grimmjow, who had his brows furrowed as if he was worried. "Are you kidding? That was...awesome," Ichigo said, sighing in contentment.
"Good," Grimmjow said, grimacing as he touched the sticky mess on his abdomen. He sat up and immediately winced. "Because I don't think it's going to happen again any time soon..."
Ichigo latched on to the loophole. "But it will...eventually?" he teased.
Grimmjow shot him a glare before finally grinning. "Maybe," he said, laying back down to rest. "It was really good," he added in a lower voice, as if he was embarrassed to admit it. After a brief pause, he threw a sideways glance at Ichigo. "For my first time."
Ichigo's mouth fell open. He knew it! Grimmjow would never do it, yet he had just done it...for him.
Whatever that was written on Ichigo's face must be extremely emotional, because Grimmjow said hastily, "Now don't go all Captain Corny on me again..."
"Aww," Ichigo pretended to pout, but it only lasted a handful of seconds before the two of them burst into laughter.
After resting for another few minutes, Ichigo finally mumbled something about people barging in on them and rolled over to get up. But just as he was pushing himself off the carpet, something caught his eye. It looked like a corner of a book that was peeking out from underneath one of the chairs. Ichigo pulled it out, meaning to put it back on the shelves, but he froze when he read the cover.
It wasn't a book. It was a photo album, and on the cover, it said "My Little Kitten". Underneath the words was a small photo of a baby with a tuft of bright blue hair on his head.
"Grimm," Ichigo whispered.
"Hmm?" Grimmjow stuck his head over Ichigo's shoulder. Ichigo heard the boy's breath catch as he recognized himself in that photo. "What the hell?"
For once, Ichigo forgot about his state of undress and sat up straighter with the album in his hand. Carefully, with a glance at a very wide-eyed Grimmjow, he opened it.
"I don't get it," Grimmjow mumbled, feeling more and more confused as he flipped the pages. After the initial shock ebbed, Ichigo had insisted that they put on their clothes before they explored the album any further, but he knew his hair was a complete mess and his jeans wasn't even zipped up.
The first page was a photo of him as a tiny little bundle lying in a crib, sleeping with his eyes closed. He didn't know he had been this small; he never paid attention to the other albums ever since he found out that he was mostly excluded from them. The next few pages showed him in varying sleeping poses, sometimes with his thumb in his mouth, sometimes with little gloves on his hands. Each of the photos were labeled in neat, delicate handwriting that he recognized as his mother's.
"Kitten finally arrived, mama loves you so much little Kitten!" the label said next to the first picture.
The next one, placed beside the photo with his thumb in his mouth, said, "Aww Kitten is hungry!"
Grimmjow swallowed as he quickly turned to the next page. He looked a little older now in the photos, maybe one or so. Most of him showed him either crying or pouting, each labeled with "Don't cry baby Kitten, mama loves you" with tiny hearts drawn next to the words. None of them had his mother in them, it was always only him in the photo, so he could only assume that his mother was the photographer.
The labels went from "Kitten's first tooth" to "Kitten is going to school!". He was becoming older as the album progressed. The pattern wasn't lost on him — the older he got, the more the photos looked like they were taken secretly. He never looked at the camera, and when his face was visible he usually had a scowl on it.
"Mama loves you, Kitten," the labels went on to say. "I wish I'm strong enough to play with you, Kitten."
Then he came to a photo where he had a large bandage across his torso — he remembered that fight; it was the one where Tessai barely managed to get to him in time. He was talking to Tessai in the photo, his eyes narrowed in anger. Next to that photo, the words said "I'm sorry, Kitten. I wish I could've protected you." He was ten years old at the time.
Ichigo was silent next to him, but Grimmjow knew the boy was looking at him. He could almost smell the worry wafting from Ichigo. He wished Ichigo wouldn't look at him like that. He didn't get why his mother would keep something like that from him. Why was she always so distant if she loved him so much? Was it really like what she said...that she simply wasn't strong enough?
There was about half of the album left when the door suddenly swung open. Grimmjow's first instinct was to slam the album shut, then he looked up to see Tessai at the doorway. The man's lips were set in a thin, grim line, then he spoke.
"Your mother was just wheeled into surgery."
To be continued...