Went to a con this weekend (Chibi Pa). This story would have been posted two-three months ago but the rules for the fanfic writing contest were strict in that the stories had to be original (not 'recycled'/previously written/previously posted) fanfic works so this is a short story that I submitted. This story happened to win the Adult Fanfiction Award as well as Best Overall Work, so I thought I would share it.
Warning(s): extreme angst, adult themes, adult language, mentions of sex.
Little Lion Man
By: The Petulant Prodigy
Even though I know it's a scam, psychics scare the shit out of me.
This emaciated albino sitting in front of us even admitted he doesn't know how to read Tarot cards. The crystal ball is probably plastic. I don't know why I'm still standing here. Ichigo is just eating it up, eating it up like all his previous gods were lies and this is the only possible thing that he could hope to believe in anymore.
The next question to leave Ichigo's lips is, "And how will I die?"
Shirosaki's eyes are as cheap and fake as his name; the mustard yellow irises floating in black sclera are an illusion created by colored molded plastic, contacts he probably purchased with his mother's stolen credit card off of Ebay.
I know this as surely as I know my father is dying a state away.
"Muffins," he finally mumbles, stroking the smooth skin of the large snake in his lap, "It will end with muffins and other nefarious baked goods."
Shit. Total and complete shit, this kid is. I want to shake him until his skin paints the walls, until his teeth rattle like dice and his tongue turns grey.
Death isn't a fucking joke. Death isn't anything.
"We done here?" I growl.
Ichigo nods, a solemn expression on his face, as if he has accepted that fate is a live-in nanny snorting cocaine off of the crib frame when the parents aren't looking.
And I think to myself: this is what determination looks like. This is what it means to hate your own fucking life more than you hate fake psychics.
Ichigo stands up from his cushioned seat, stance rigid. He nods to Shirosaki once, barely a dip of the head, before we head towards the doorway draped in musty towels.
"Ah, and the other one," Shirosaki croons, his demon eyes on my face as he smiles with all his teeth, "check your voicemail. Your father sounds absolutely terrible."
There is no voicemail.
I go through two packs of cigarettes and a six-pack of cheap beer before I call my mom.
"Sweetie," she answers, an endearment I have never understood, "Darling, how are you?"
"Fine," I lie, "How's dad?"
"Oh honey, you know how the pain is," she enunciates, every syllable clipped and clear and calculated. This is what has always made my mother dangerous.
"I was just thinking about him."
"I know, pumpkin."
"Has he said anything about me?"
"No. Well it was lovely hearing from you. I'd like to take a nap now."
"I love you."
I hang up and light another cigarette.
My thoughts continue to dance on the peripheral of my sanity.
Dad wasn't getting any better. A part of me was overjoyed.
Dad hates faggots. Dad hates me.
Ichigo is jittery with his speech. This may be due to the caffeine.
We are sitting in a corner booth of a small diner, his smile wide and his eyes like shiny plastic buttons. His freckles look like cinnamon sprinkled across his nose and cheeks with the fluorescent lighting.
I love cinnamon.
I'm not drinking my coffee but it's a dependable prop. Neither of us are hungry but the waitress with dangerous cleavage continues to check on us every few minutes, desperate for tips. She refills Ichigo's coffee without being told to do so, a shiny platinum blonde wind-up robot who dropped out of college because she had decided to follow her heart, or something as equally tragic.
Ichigo says, "It makes sense. I'm a Cancer, after all. That's irony, right? A Cancer having cancer?"
"So every ass hole lucky enough to be born under that zodiac sign has a death warrant?" I say half-seriously, running my right pointer finger around and around the rim of my white ceramic coffee mug. I wonder how many mugs have been broken in this diner since the beginning of time. Seven? Thirteen hundred?
"I just want you to know that I'm okay with it," he continues, his head cocked and resting on one of his fists, "To die young and wicked…well, there are far worse ways to die."
Ever since his brain surgery four years ago, Ichigo has been obsessed with death. If the tumor came back, he guaranteed me he would not survive the next operation.
Ichigo wants to name his new tumor Destiny.
Ichigo and I will be twenty-four years old next July.
I want to kill God.
"A Cancer and a Leo," he sighs, "What a fucked up pair we make, my little lion man."
I snort and stare at the napkin dispenser, "I don't believe in that psychic bullshit."
He smiles. I hate that fucking smile sometimes.
"You don't have to, Grimm."
"I can't believe you paid him."
Ichigo shrugs, "Why not? Might as well spend the money while I can."
My gut squirms. My inner lion is furious.
But I'm too tired to start a fight.
About a week later we're curled up on the couch ignoring a home improvement show on the television when Ichigo announces he loves me.
"Don't say it back unless you mean it," he warns, "Don't you dare fucking say it because you're more scared than I am about Destiny."
I just wrap my arms around him tighter, white noise scrubbing into my skin, burrowing through my veins as I try to be fair.
"I think you're scared of me leaving you when the time comes. And I won't."
Ichigo punches like a pro boxer.
He cries like a child.
Three months later we're seated in the same diner, same corner booth, same untouched coffee. Barrel Jugs is still waitressing. The only thing that has changed is that I am desperate for a cigarette.
Ichigo sits across from me, nibbling carefully on his second blueberry muffin. The steroids he has to take with his different medications have fleshed out his face, given him a few extra pounds. He goes to the gym and the beach when he can.
It's almost disgusting how healthy he looks on the outside while an unpredictable bomb sits nice and snug in his skull.
"I'm still alive," he says.
I can taste his disappointment.
I order him another muffin.
He cries every time we have sex.
I can't get mad. He can't control his medications. He can't control his hormones, but I can control my temper.
While he takes a shower, I slip out onto the balcony to smoke in my underwear. It's muggy, close to suffocating. I'm glad I let Ichigo cut my hair last week.
It's calming to sit and sweat here.
There's no crying. There's no tumor. It's just heated skin, smoke, and silence.
The door slides open behind me.
He wraps his arms around me, his head resting on my shoulder.
"You know I'm sorry," he whispers.
He slides his hand through my short blue hair, tells me it would look good gelled once in a while.
He smells like my shampoo.
So I say, "Let's go shopping tomorrow."
"Let's get that camera you wanted. The expensive one."
He kisses my cheek.
"I love you."
I probably could've waited until we were out of the frozen food section of the grocery store to tell him this.
He's wearing a pair of black skinny jeans and one of my old t-shirts. I ignore the purple marks under his eyes and how pale his skin has become.
He smiles and my insides twist up and around and I forget about the cancer eating his brain.
He starts spending more time with his family. He journals every day and leaves me notes around the apartment.
He bakes me chocolate chip cookies and pecan pies and caramel brownies.
He burns most of them. I eat them anyway.
I buy him a silver thumb ring for his birthday.
About two weeks later, he gives me a scrapbook for mine.
I hate being in pictures but I'm surprised at the amount he's accumulated of us together. The others are of him growing up: Adorable Toddler, Gap-Toothed Elementary, Braces Middle School, all the way up to Artsy Drama High School Outcast where we met, where he decided to spill coffee on an angry punk with too many piercings. Penned song lyrics, poems, movie and concert ticket stubs: anything and everything we've ever done together immortalized right here in a leather-bound album.
"I've been working on it for months," he tells me, kissing me on the cheek, "Happy birthday, lion man."
I hug him tight to my chest, touch him everywhere, leave him a necklace of bite marks for his family to see. I don't fucking care because he's mine and I'll never want anybody else the way I want him.
No one told me being in love would make me feel this insane.
Ichigo stayed true to his word.
His surgeon attends the funeral.
His dark-haired younger sister glares at me during the reception, Ichigo's camera hanging from her neck, rubbing my insides raw.
Ichigo's dad smiles at me with puffy eyes and pats me on the shoulder, tells me to come by the house anytime.
It fucking kills me that he actually means it.
I suffer through the memorial video then watch people eat finger foods and try not to fidget.
Some of Ichigo's friends from high school stare at me with pity from a table over, their eyes raking my slouched frame. So what if I'm not wearing a black suit and tie? So fucking what?
I'm wearing jeans and the last t-shirt Ichigo wore before his surgery. It's white with a smiling cloud on it. I haven't shaved or slept in days. I probably smell worse than I look.
I'm empty. I'm vicious. No one can touch me.
"He loved me," I say, staring straight into the eyes of Orihime, a ginger who followed him like a lost puppy through most of high school, "He chose this piece of shit over you."
Most of them glare or act surprised, but Orihime just nods her head.
"I know, Grimmjow-kun."
I want to rip her spine out through her mouth.
So I drive myself home, drink myself past stupid.
I call my mom.
"Honey…? Honey, are you alright?"
Oh Jesus, no.
"Don't let dad die."
"Sweetie? Baby, you're scaring me –"
I hang up. The phone rings over and over and over.
I'm too drunk to open another bottle.
I look at the scrapbook over and over and over.
I pass out on the couch.
I dream. I know it's a dream because Ichigo isn't dead.
I ask him if he's happy.
"Of course not," he answers, his teeth too white.
When I wake up, I'm lying in my own vomit.
My answering machine has nineteen new messages.