Time: A few weeks after chapter fifteen. Ichigo is disturbed, Grimmjow's getting maternal, and Nel is Nel.
Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach.
It was one of those things you don't notice until you see it happening. Nel had been getting bigger lately and not in the 'chubby-child' sense. The crack in her Hollow mask had been healed by Orihime soon after the Winter War, leaving only her facial scar behind at Nel's demand- she said it was "manly" in her huffy, prideful way. She hadn't "grown up" which had concerned them, but he thought that this new growth was her body and soul finally settling in. She'd always been a healthy eater, and he had thought it was just a Hollow thing. Then again, it wasn't as though Nel had a visible Hollow hole- how did that work anyway?
Nel had grown much happier, and fiercer, in the weeks since the boys were born. Her mask had begun to produce horn-like protrusions, and she'd become a little taller. She'd started jumping around a lot-like a baby goat- and rubbed her head and mask on things. Her favorite thing to rub on so far was Zangetsu- much to Ichigo's horror (whatifshecutsherselfohmygod), Horimono's curiosity, and the zanpakto's amusement (apparently all parts of his soul liked children to a degree). Zangetsu was so amused, he'd requested to materialize- which Ichigo allowed because Zangetsu never asked for much of anything- and scooped up the ibex cub, sat himself on the couch with all the grace which comes with being Zangetsu, and scratched her mask- driving Nel mad with delight. All the while looking as stoic as ever- the only way Ichigo knew he was amused was because of their bond as zanpakto and master.
Grimmjow, he'd noticed, was actually protective of Nel- which he figured was the result of hormones and 'cubs-are-rare-so-protect-them' instincts or something because he had never particularly liked her at all. He had held and cuddled and mothered Nel quite a bit during pregnancy, but he'd also wept and screeched and craved things and thrown Ichigo out and panicked and growled and demanded sex every day and refused sex everyday and just been pregnant. Ichigo thought it was an inability to deny his maternal instincts what they wanted, as he'd also, somehow, for whatever reason, herded Yuzu and Karin into his nest on multiple occasions. Yuzu still got herded into the nest every other day. Karin had managed to escape such a fate by simply being her rough-and-tumble, and most recently 'I-will-bite-you-in-the-face', self.
Ichigo had grown used to strange happenings in his life. It was actually pretty commonplace. But there were still things that freaked him out and/or made him uncomfortable. The sight of Nel suckling Grimmjow's milk was one of those things.
He had innocently entered the nursery- having moved Grimmjow and the babies to it at the panther's demand- looking for Nel because his sisters wanted to go to the little water park-exclusively for cubs, to the indignation of some- Urahara had recently built in Casa de los Angelitos. What he saw upon entering was Grimmjow curled on his side around their sleeping offspring, rumbling drowsily as Nel nursed.
Ichigo stood very still for several moments before he Shunpoed over to Grimmjow. Kneeling beside the bed, Ichigo waved his hand in front of his mate's face to get his attention. Blearily, blue eyes regarded him, unconcerned, looking for all intents and purposes like a milk laden mother cat content with her brood.
"What?" Grimmjow yawned.
Ichigo's eyes were slightly wide. "Why's Nel…ya know?"
Grimmjow looked at the sire of at least two of his cubs like he was stupid. "She's hungry."
"But why is she nursing?"
"She's a cub. Cubs nurse. It bother ya or somethin'? I can make 'er stop if ya want," he cut himself off to yawn again, "but she's kinda," Grimmjow looked down at the little she-cub, "goin' ta town at this point."
Ichigo blinked and shifted to watch his adopted daughter with a bit of morbid curiosity. "It doesn't bother you?"
"Well, it did at first. I mean, she friggin' bit me." Grimmjow scowled, "But she ain't so bad now. Tugs a little too hard," he glared at the oblivious child, "but I got enough milk for all of 'em. Hell, I'm making more since she started nursin'."
Ichigo's eyebrows rose in surprise. "Really? Is this…Is this why she's been growing all of a sudden?"
Grimmjow snorted, "Course it is." He extended his arms to the twins and kept Takeshi from rolling over Takeo in his sleep. "Cubs nurse 'til all their teeth come in, and even a little while after. Milk from a 'mother'- and don't think I don't know what you all call me behind my back," Ichigo scratched his head sheepishly, "has the stuff to make cubs grow. Without one, cubs can survive on Hollow meat for a long time, but they need ta nurse ta grow at all and the meat's got to be pre-chewed or really tender. She'd be this age forever if she didn't get lucky and find you, and if you hadn't gotten lucky enough to catch my eye."
"And if you hadn't been lucky enough to get knocked up by me."
Grimmjow glared at him, a slight flush on his cheeks. "Che." He returned his sight to the sleeping cubs, whispering, "How was I 'posed ta know I'd go into heat? Shit never happened before. But, anyway, ya want her ta stop or ya gonna go 'way?"
Ichigo pouted. "I can't join you, Grimm?"
"Not unless ya start lactatin'. The nest ain't fer ya ta be in, which is why ya got yer own den." Grimmjow pulled kosodes and a blanket over himself and the cubs, including Nel, hiding the little ones from view.
Ichigo sighed, dejected and a little disturbed. Nel was the size of a four year old now, an age at which very few children still nursed from their mothers, and it was just uncomfortable to see. However, Nel was a Hollow, and if Grimmjow was fine with it, he supposed he could live with it too. Ruffling Grimmjow's hair as he left, aware of the eyes glaring daggers at his back for taunting the panther, he moved the dimmer switch down, darkening the room, and left without a word.
A/N: Hope you like it! I myself was a little disturbed when I pictured it, which is the main reason I wrote a chapter based on Ichigo's human view on such things. Also, remember, Ichigo and Grimmjow aren't quite together yet-their relationship isn't what it is in "Strawberry Seeds, Blue Flowers" at this point in time. Grimmjow isn't really inclined to sleeping in the same bed as Ichigo unless they're having sex, even if he's trying to warm up to the idea, because he doesn't love Ichigo- more like he's tolerating the father of his cubs or a friend-with-benefits. So, I hope I portrayed the relationship well. Please review!