A/N: Hey guys! Less than a month later... not that bad honestly, all things considering haha. I'm sorry I take forever to upload, but I can honestly say I am really happy with this chapter. I hope you guys enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

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Chapter 11 - Relapse

"Come to me,
Just in a dream
Come on and rescue me."

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Most of the time, I'm a fairly intelligent guy. And though I certainly do have my idiotic moments, this wasn't one of them, because the minute that I crossed the threshold into Departures, I knew that there was no turning back.

I was under no illusion; I was presenting myself with the potential failure that was a rekindled relationship with Grimmjow. But I had committed myself to this path, whether it would end in destruction or not. I wanted him, I wanted what we could have, and I didn't want to wait any more.

Possible self-destruction be-damned.

It was a good thing that I'd solidified my resolve because, when I turned the corner toward the section of seating that our group inhabited, I was immediately aware of Grimmjow's intense aura. It was like a sixth sense, that odd tingling that began crawling up my arms giving me goosebumps.

"Ichigo!" Renji greeted, pulling my gaze away from the backside of a blue head of hair to Renji's contrasting red as he stood to greet us. Shinji and I made our way over to the circle of cozy red chairs without any hesitancy, but I had to make a conscious effort to keep my body language casual.

"Hey." I smiled slightly at him and then I gestured to the group. "Guys, this is my friend Shinji. Shinji, meet Renji, Yumichika, Ikkaku, Shūhei, Nnoitra, Starrk, and Grimmjow."

Shinji grinned at the guys seated around, eyes pausing momentarily on Nnoitra before they drifted over to Grimmjow. Grimm, of course, was simply sitting there staring at me in a way that was making my skin tingle in anticipation. Shinji stuck out his hand, directing Grimmjow's gaze away from me. He assessed the blonde, and then a grin stretched across his face as he extended his hand "Sup."

Watching them I was overwhelmed with the strangest sense that I had just initiated the final step of blending together my old life with my new life. It was weird but welcome, and I collapsed in the chair next to Grimmjow with a deep breath that was suspiciously similar to a resigned sigh. Shinji nodded thoughtfully, but moved over to an empty seat between Nnoitra and Starrk and wasted no time beginning to chat amiably with the others. I simply watched him for a moment, trying to decide whether I should join the conversation to smooth over any tension, but things seemed to be settling in just fine. I felt Renji cast me a hesitant look, his concern tangible, but I shot him a smile and stood abruptly to get myself a drink.

I made it to the bar and ordered, leaning forward onto the bar with something akin to tension and anticipation keeping my spine rigid. I was excited by the opportunities that lay ahead, of course, but the looming fear of a repeat of Grimm and my last relationship attempt was haunting my mind.

I didn't get much time to contemplate further, or to wallow in any form of regret, because I wasn't at the bar alone for more than ten seconds.

Grimmjow slid up behind me, planting his hands on either side on my body on the bar. He was pinning me in from behind, taunting with the warmth of his body. I shuddered just slightly, and then melted completely to the feel of him, tilting my head back so I could smile up at him.

"Hey." My eyes were soft, my smile warm and accepting, and I watched the effect it had on Grimm. His eyes, which had originally been slightly aggressive, softened to matching warmth and he slid his lips down to lightly brush mine. It was sweet and simple but, as always, the slightest touch made my body flare up in desire for more.

"I'd meant to come over here and let ya know how irritating it is when ya don't greet me properly, but ya seem to have taken all the wind out of my sails." Grimmjow muttered, lifting his gaze to gesture at the bartender for a drink of his own. My rum and coke slid onto the bar in front of me, and I took a sip as I turned around in Grimm's arms to grin up at him.

"Would I ever do something like that?" I teased, but I couldn't help the mischievous flicker in my eyes that betrayed me. We both knew that I was aware what not saying hello to Grimm properly would cause – slightly irritated, jealous possessiveness. Grimmjow stared down at me sternly for a moment, and then groaned quietly as he leaned down for a kiss that lingered just a little longer than a peck. I leaned back away from him after a moment, tossing a disapproving glance at him as my gaze shot about the room. I wasn't into serious public displays of affection, except for maybe a kiss or two- we were men and I knew it made some people uncomfortable.

Grimmjow had no such issues, no surprise there, and he scowled slightly before pulling away and grabbing his drink from the counter behind me. He set some money down on the bar and snaked a hand down to my lower back out of a habit formed long ago, and I let him guided me back to our circle of friends.

The feeling was exquisite, and haunting. I tossed a look up at him through the side of my eye and saw the strangest combination of warmth and control. The perfect description of my new Grimmjow: controlled, aggressive and passionate. I liked it, and I liked that I was getting to experience a new side of him.

Shinji was laughing loudly at something Starrk had said, sarcasm was clearly a type of humor they had in common, and I relaxed further. I should have known that Shinji would get along well with the guys without any help from me. I pulled away from Grimm's hand, needing more motivation than I'd care to admit, and settled back into my chair. Sipping slowly at my drink and trying to ignore the tightly wound anticipation that was fluttering through me, I focused on trying not to let my eyes keep darting over to look at Grimm and almost didn't notice Shinji turn his attention again to Grimmjow.

"So, yer not quite wha I expect'd."

It wasn't very often that I wished Shinji was any different that himself, but at that particular moment I wished he didn't speak quite so plainly. Grimmjow had never been known for tactful handling of people and, though I guessed he'd developed that skill a bit if he was running a company, I still couldn't help but cringe slightly as I turned to watch his reaction. He tilted his head slightly to the side, intent, but his grin was still in place.

"I'm not surprised strawberry found someone like ya to hang around with." I scowled at the implication that I was predictable, as always, since it was likely the only insinuation that peeved me no matter the context, but Shinji wasn't perturbed. The other guys were chatting idly among themselves, likely to keep it from seeming like a big deal, but I was sure all of them were listening almost as curiously as I was- though maybe with a little less apprehension.

"Someone had ta keep 'im comp'ny." Shinji relied smoothly, neither accusation nor taunt in his voice. Grimmjow still managed to maintain his calm façade, but I could sense the slight tension that tightened the skin around his mouth and eyes at the comment. I was immediately ashamed. I knew Shinji was just testing Grimmjow, baiting him slightly, but I still regretted the pain I might have caused Grimmjow by leaving. The memory of it stung.

I reached over to Grimmjow's closest hand, which was resting on his right knee, and squeezed. It took a moment before the tension evaporated enough that his hand softened to mine, but then he squeezed back slightly.

"As long as strawberry calls ya a friend, I hope ya consider me one too. We might as well get used to each other." Grimmjow replied smoothly, as if there had been no mention of an unsavory past in our relationship. He and I were on the same page, and everything else seemed secondary. I did notice, however, that his grin had a slightly aggressive edge. I squeezed his hand again, hoping he'd understand that I appreciated his attempt at forming a friendship but also warning not to get too possessive. Shinji just watched us speculatively, head tilting curiously with the ever-present grin, and he nodded. After a moment he turning to jump back into a conversation between Nnoitra and Starrk that sounded suspiciously like an argument over how many hours a day was "too much" sleep.

Grimmjow was still giving Shinji an odd look, but when he felt my gaze he turned and lifted our intertwined hands to nip lightly at the pad of my index finger and grin mischievously.

I felt tension slip away, and a rush of warmth take its place. This man was the reason I'd put myself through a lot of pain, sure, but I couldn't have been in that much pain if I hadn't also experienced that much pleasure. And with Grimmjow I'd found that happiness and sadness, pain and pleasure... they all tended to be just different sides of the same coin.

"Why do I feel like I just passed a test?" he purred playfully, reaching with his free hand for his drink and taking a long pull. I took a moment to devour the sight of him, dressed in slacks and a soft sweater that clung to his body subtly, taunting me.

His relaxed posture, as he sat almost slouching in his chair with his long legs stretched out in front of him, hinted at the lazy and methodical tormenting he used to dish out before he would satisfy me. As if he had all the time in the world.

That lazy sensuality had always caused me to melt into him, since it contrasted curiously with the outwardly fiery personality he had. It made me want to strip his out of his clothes, devour the sight of his beautiful body and re-familiarize myself with the once familiar taste and texture of his body.

So much had changed, and yet some things never would. The fiery personality would peek out at times, the flash of heat in his gaze I now associated with lust and possessiveness was also associated with his slight teasing smiles. The lazy sensuality now extended beyond his posture and into his personality, as if he had more control than he had in the past.

I shivered, unable to prevent that thought as it continued until I was wondering about the new and erotic bedroom possibilities, and it didn't escape Grimmjow's notice. He eyed me slowly, his gaze causing more shivers as I almost felt its physical caress, and he leaned over to purr in my ear.

"It looks like ya weren't just taunting me with those text messages earlier."

"I've never been a tease." I responded quietly, attempting to maintain some sort of outward composure. It probably wasn't fooling Grimm, but then again he'd always seen right through me.

"I spent all day wondering, remembering the ways we used to fuck, and yet it felt wrong. Like that old ya wasn't who I wanted any more." His purred deepened, "I like this stronger, determined, older strawberry. Someone who isn't afraid to challenge me, and yet still soothes my soul in a way no one else has. There's something here that wasn't there before."

His voice, so close to my ear, so seductive and vulgar and sweet, made me glad I was sitting down.

"Maybe that's because you don't want to fuck anymore. Maybe now that emotions are on the table it's not the same thing. Maybe you just want me to love you until you're sore all over and can't possibly stand until dawn."

I may have been taunting myself with the images I was suggesting, but I had never backed down from Grimmjow's verbal seductions. We'd always been equal partners in the bedroom and, though he had always been bigger and slightly stronger, I had never lost in a battle of words.

I smiled to myself as I watched his eyes flare with heat before he shut them, leaning away and fidgeting slightly as he leaned over to swallow the rest of his drink. He wasn't conceding defeat, Grimmjow seldom let things slip that easily, but I knew he was playing a game of anticipation. I took a sip of my own drink and turned purposefully to talk to Renji on my right, though I let Grimmjow continue to hold my left hand. On this field I was his match, and so we'd see who held out the longest.

For a while he let me socialize, occasionally jumping into conversation himself when Ikkaku called for his opinion, and it seemed to be turning into an argument. Because of this, it took a while before I noticed that Shinji had leaned over until he was basically inches from Nnoitra while they talked about something. I couldn't hear the subject of conversation, as the bar had increased its number of patrons exponentially in the time we'd been sitting around, and Grimmjow and Ikkaku were loudly trying to drag everyone else into their conversation.

"Seriously, do you remember that time junior year when Grimmjow and I got into a fight? I totally kicked his ass!" Ikkaku was gesturing at Grimm and talking generally to the circle, eyes seeking someone who would agree with him.

"I'm pretty sure that I kicked your scrawny little ass so bad that we didn't talk for a month." Grimmjow grinned threateningly, as if the memory was a happy one, and I raised an eyebrow skeptically. He felt my gaze and turned, planting yet another kiss to the back of my hand that was still entwined with his. "I promise I avoid picking fights with pathetic losers these days."

"But you still pick fights? Don't think I didn't notice the qualifier." I laughed wryly, and Grimmjow just kept grinning. My laugh was quickly drowned out by Ikkaku's outrage, and the conversation bled into another series of arguments about who had done what first. Then it was who had dated that hot, busty orange haired chic in college, and then who won certain games.

"I'm pretty sure Yumichika won that game actually," I finally offered my opinion when I got sick of listening to them argue. "I remember because his Halo character had a really… unique uniform." As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure he had to have used a cheat to get it quite that flamboyant. Maybe not, but either way it was something that stuck out in my memories. The guys stopped arguing to look at me incredulously, as if I'd committed some sort of great fault by stating my opinion, while Yumichika simply smiled and nodded at me.

"Ah yes, it was quite beautiful. We should play that game again sometime." Shinji and I laughed as everyone else groaned, and then the circle split once again into smaller conversations.

It was all easy- too easy.

Comfortable in a way that seemed foreign.

After resisting for so long, it felt like I was cheating being this content with Grimmjow's touch.

As the bar got livelier and livelier, our group simply stuck to our corner. Grimmjow hadn't let go of my hand except to fetch us more drinks. I could tell that he was feeling the same sort of odd comfort, because every once and a while his hand would tighten around mine, and then he would relax as if he had to force himself to remember that I wasn't running away.

We were anxious, both too excited and too concerned, and as the evening progressed we shared only a few more words. Instead, we talked to the group, laughing and harassing each other as we always had, all the while keeping our hands intertwined. As if that alone could fill the need.

And it could, at least for a little while.

Around nine thirty I started getting antsy, fidgeting a bit more, since I knew that the evening was heading toward the end. Once I noted Starrk passed out in his chair I knew that Grimm and I could leave without getting too much shit for it.

However, Grimmjow seemed to be content letting me fidget, not in any hurry of his own. Shinji was arguing quite animatedly with Nnoitra about something, and it didn't escape my notice that his hands were constantly brushing up against the taller man's shoulders and arms. Curious, I stared openly. When I'd said I had no clue which type Shinji was into, I wasn't kidding- and I could never have pictured him and the irritable dark-haired man hitting it off. And yet, something about the aggressive look in Nnoitra's eyes held a hint of… interest? Fascinating.

I laughed quietly to myself and turned to mention something to Renji, who was already looking at me. I was startled, surprised that I hasn't felt his stare.

"What?"

Renji simply eyed me for a moment, as if he was assessing me, and then turned to stare out the windows with a thoughtful gaze of his own. Grimmjow had just left to go to the bathroom, and rather than follow him I'd decided to let the temptation build. If I had followed him… my body hummed at the thought. Grimm and I both knew what would have happened if I'd gone with him, which was why he'd asked in such an aloof way. His eyes were burning, scorching right through me, but I knew that he was testing my resolve as much as our craving.

So I'd said no, and he'd wandered off alone.

That had been a few minutes ago, but Renji must have watched the exchange.

"You're oddly relaxed tonight," he finally answered my question. "I expected you to look a bit more concerned, more corned and desperate."

"I'm not sure I should be flattered." I responded dryly, but I raised an eyebrow curiously. "You didn't really believe that I was ready."

"It's a hard thing to guess," he sighed, taking a long pull from his drink and keeping his gaze fixed outside. "You said you were, but I can't imagine you turning Grimmjow away even if you hadn't been ready. That pull has always been too strong."

"I have to say, in some sense I agree." I nodded thoughtfully, a wry smile pulling at my lips. "I'm surprised that I can just sit here, touching him even slightly, and yet be able to relax and enjoy him holding my hand. I guess it's been so long since I could just enjoy his presence that it almost seems a shame to waste it."

"Are you wasting it?" Renji asked, glancing over at me pointedly. I glanced around the room, at my friends, and smiled.

"No, I don't think I am."

When Grimmjow came back from the bathroom, he slid quietly up behind my chair. I couldn't see him coming, but I'd felt his presence a split second before his hands slipped onto my shoulders. I leaned my head back to smile at him, and he leaded down to whisper in my ear.

"Are ya ready to go?" With his purr directly in my ear, the hum of it echoed all the way down to my bones. I shivered slightly, and I felt his responding smile at my ear. "Come on, Strawberry, I want ya to see my new home."

It was both a taunt and a sincere request, and the sentiment surprised me- as did my own response. Immediately I could no longer curb my desire to see Grimmjow's new place, I wanted to see where he slept and where he ate, I wanted to immerse myself even more in this newer version of Grimm. But even more pressing, I wanted to carve the memory of me into everything he had there, make it so that every time he looked at the shower or the kitchen he saw echos of me imprinted on his home.

Obviously my possessive streak was still a bit stronger than I'd like to believe.

I looked over at Shinji where he sat, now chatting happily with Starrk since he'd woken up in response to someone pestering him. I glanced over at Renji, whose lips tilted in a slight smile in response. And then I leaned my head back again to stare up at Grimmjow's face, into those azure eyes that had haunted my dreams for the past few years.

And then I smiled, a wide, face-splitting grin that caused a flash of something unnamable to shoot through those dream-worthy eyes.

"Yeah, I'd like that."

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