Hello! I've been neglecting this story in favor of Shower, but over the weekend I just couldn't find the inspiration to write Shower, so here I am with a short update. :) Sorry for keeping you all waiting!
The man stared intently at the identification card grasped in his hand, his glacial blue eyes filled with frustration and the slightest glint of hope. The text was just barely discernible in the darkness; the only light source being the weak moonlight that filtered in through the blinds on the window.
He repeated the word, his lips moving soundlessly, mouthing the name—his own name—over and over again. His hope of wringing some sort of familiarity from it was diminishing by the minute, but he refused to give up. He stared, unblinkingly, at the photo on the card. It was him, yet it was not. He recognized himself, but what was the use of that if that was all he knew?
For the umpteenth time that night, he slid the card back under the pillow and covered his eyes with the back of his hand. A raspy sigh escaped his lips despite his effort to be silent. He froze immediately and listened to the only sound in the room—the soft, even breathing of the slumbering teenager on the floor. It remained steady, and after a while the man relaxed. He didn't want to wake the poor kid.
The boy, Ichigo, had insisted that he should take the bed because of his condition, and he had been too tired and sore to argue. In fact, he was secretly relieved; though he would never show it.
The pain that radiated from the countless injuries on his body was staggering. Every time he moved, he had to grit his teeth just so he wouldn't make any noise. The gash across his torso, especially, throbbed with every breath he took. Common sense told him that he should be in a hospital instead of a strange residence in a place he didn't recognize, but something—an instinct, perhaps—told him that it was best for him to remain low, at least until he figured out who the hell he was and how he ended up here.
This was the third night since his arrival. Daytime was spent resting in bed and having his bandages changed and his wounds cleaned and inspected for infection. This morning, he had felt feverish, and the doctor had given him something to help with that. He hated it—the feeling of helplessness and the fact that he had to rely completely on others—even though his hosts were gracious and friendly. The teenager, especially, seemed to have taken it upon himself to be his caretaker of sorts. Much to Grimmjow's chagrin, he needed Ichigo's help even for as simple a task as taking care of his bladder. Ichigo would support his weight and help him limp over to the small adjoining bathroom, and then the boy would close the door and give him his privacy until it was time to help him back to the bed.
In the short time that he was here, he had met everyone under this roof. The one that intrigued him the most was Ichigo's uncle, who was introduced as the head of the household. The blonde was cordial enough, yet there was a gleam in the grey-green eyes that stirred a sense of wariness in him. Oh, the man wasn't hostile, not in the least, but something in him just made Grimmjow feel like he was being studied. He felt uncomfortable, but he supposed he couldn't blame anyone for feeling curious about him. That must be it—curiosity. He had no reason to think that the blonde had ulterior motives.
It was with these thoughts that he eventually fell into slumber from sheer exhaustion.
The dreams—seemingly random snippets of images, colors, conversations that gave him no context, no meaning—were what woke Grimmjow up in the mornings.
It was now one week since he arrived. His wounds still stung and ached when he moved, but the minor ones and the bruises had started healing. The swelling around his eye had gone down, and his cheek finally felt semi-normal again. He still looked like shit in the mirror every morning, but he no longer needed help to get to and from the bathroom, which was a big relief to him.
His head, though, continued to bother him off and on; throbbing headaches, dull, pulsating pain that made him nauseous but not quite enough to know him out. He kept them to himself, though. It was probably stupid of him to do such a thing, but he didn't want his senses to be further dulled by drugs, or even worse, be sent to a hospital. He still didn't understand why he felt a need to stay away from the city, but he trusted his guts. He was all alone in this—no matter how nice his hosts were, they were still strangers—so he would do whatever his instincts told him to keep himself safe.
The hope that he had held out—that his memories would return after a few days' rest—had reduced into nothing but a tiny, flickering flame. Still, he did not give up. Every waking moment he had, he spent on wracking his brain, closing his eyes and almost meditating, trying to read his own head like a book, but it always came up empty. The pages were blank. Sometimes it felt as though the answers were just inches away from his fingertips, yet he just couldn't quite grasp it. It infuriated him, and he had ended up throwing pillows across the room, only to have to hurry over to retrieve it before Ichigo saw them.
Speak of the devil…
Someone knocked on the door just then—three quick raps—and then a few seconds later, a vibrantly-colored head of orange entered Grimmjow's view.
"Lunch," the kid announced.
Grimmjow wasn't hungry, but he invited the boy in anyway. He supposed he should eat something, if only to keep up his strength so that he could recover faster.
Recover faster. Get his memories back. Those were the only objectives in his life now; the only things he knew.
He held out his hand for the bowl and immediately made a face when he saw what was in it. "Healthy food" again: plain white congee with sweet potatoes, green onions, and carrots.
"Don't be picky," Ichigo said at once.
Grimmjow felt his eyebrows twitch. This little kid, lecturing him?
"Tch," he grumbled under his breath. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the teenager sit down on his sleeping bag, which was still laid out on the floor.
"You gonna sit here and watch me eat?" Grimmjow asked sullenly.
The boy only grinned, as if he found this whole thing amusing.
"Tch," Grimmjow grunted again. "It's not like there's anywhere for me to throw this out." He felt kind of stupid having this conversation with Ichigo, but he couldn't help but feel irritated. He knew the doctor meant well, but one could only eat oatmeal and congee for so long.
With a sideways glance, Grimmjow saw the orange-haired kid look pointedly at the adjoining bathroom. When Grimmjow rolled his eyes and let out another disgruntled huff, Ichigo's grin widened.
"Don't worry," the boy piped up. "Tomorrow you'll get to eat proper food. Just a word of warning, though. You'll miss this once you've tasted my uncle's cooking."
Grimmjow arched an eyebrow skeptically. How bad could the blonde's cooking be?
"What did you say is in this dish again?"
Ichigo bit his lip to stifle his laughter as he watched Grimmjow wipe his mouth with the back of his hand. A piece of half-chewed chicken sat unceremoniously on the edge of his plate.
"Oh dear, I didn't expect it to be quite that bad," Uncle Kisuke muttered, his face falling in disappointment.
Juushirou patted his partner's back gently, but his face was flushed from his valiant effort to contain his mirth. As for Tessai, Ichigo was certain that the man was smiling behind his thick mustache while he calmly explained that the chicken had been simmered in a sauce made of celery, cheese, and wasabi.
It was quite hilarious, really, seeing Grimmjow's features contort into a look of utter disgust right before he spat the food out. Ichigo was surprised at how candid the man was, given that he hardly knew Uncle Kisuke. In fact, the man was still not done; he was now chugging down an entire glass of water, presumably to wash the taste out of his mouth.
"This is relatively edible, actually," Tessai said, looking completely serious as he chewed.
Grimmjow's eyes widened, and Ichigo swore the man shuddered in his seat. After that, Grimmjow refused to touch any of the entrees and stuck only to his bowl of white rice. The baleful look on the man's face was enough to send another bout of laughter crawling up Ichigo's throat, but he resisted, for once taking pity on his uncle as the blonde stared sadly at his failed masterpiece.
After dinner, Ichigo was washing the dishes when Grimmjow sauntered up to him and offered to help put them away. They worked in comfortable silence, during which Ichigo eyed the older man discretely. There was just something about this man that drew him in. The mystery around his identity, the unusual color of his hair, the exotic name—his entire being seemed to scream excitement. Ichigo couldn't help but feel an undercurrent of thrill just by standing next to him doing something as mundane as doing the dishes.
"Do I have something on my face?" Grimmjow's deep voice suddenly cut through Ichigo's wandering mind, and in his surprise, Ichigo let go of the cup that he was washing.
A corded hand shot out and caught it with ease, and Ichigo looked up to see Grimmjow looking at him with a look of puzzlement on his face.
"Wow, n-nice reflexes," Ichigo sputtered, hoping to distract the taller man's attention.
Grimmjow stared at his own hand, surprised by himself. "Impressive," he agreed with a grin.
The kid rolled his eyes, and for the first time since his arrival, Grimmjow felt light-hearted. He flexed his fist and pondered the boy's strange behavior. The boy had been staring at him, and he swore Ichigo blushed when he interrupted his daydream.
Children, Grimmjow shook his head, the movement imperceptible. Easily excitable, curious with over-active imaginations. Ichigo looked like he was in his late teens; definitely no child, but still fresh enough to retain his youthful innocence. That was probably why Ichigo was looking at him that way. The boy must be itching to ask him questions, most likely wondering if he had made any progress, if he had remembered anything. At the thought, his lips quirked into a mischievous grin.
"No," he said, knowing that he would startle Ichigo, perhaps even embarrass him.
Ichigo looked up with confusion written all over his face. "Huh?"
Grimmjow put away a clean plate and replied, "No, I haven't remembered anything."
As he had expected, the boy's face turned scarlet at once. "No! I wasn't…" he sputtered, eyes wide and almost frantic. "I wasn't prying…didn't mean to—"
Grimmjow chuckled. "It's okay," he said. Then, on an impulse, he reached out and ruffled the kid's hair. "I don't mind talking about it. Who knows, maybe it'll help, hmm?"
Ichigo's mouth opened into a comical "O". "Would it?" he asked.
Grimmjow glanced at the boy and saw nothing but genuine curiosity and warmth in those warm brown eyes. It was an endearing sight to behold in his current situation, and he couldn't help but smile.
"Fuck, I dunno." He shrugged as he dried his hands on a paper napkin. "Maybe. I'm sick of not knowing who I am. I'll do anything to get 'em back, ya know? My memories, I mean. Who I am, what I am, where I'm from…" He suddenly trailed off, realizing that he had said much more than he'd intended to. He eyed Ichigo, wondering how the kid would react.
Ichigo didn't respond immediately, but when he did, Grimmjow was taken aback by the sincerity of the boy's tone.
"You know…I just thought of something," Ichigo said thoughtfully. "We can look you up on the internet, see if we can find any information. Maybe you have a profile somewhere, a blog, a forum, social network…anything."
For a few seconds, Grimmjow didn't know how to reply, then the ingenuity of the idea dawned on him. "That is a great idea, thank you!" he said excitedly, ruffling the kid's hair some more, ignoring the scowl he received in return. The tiny flame of hope flared in his chest just a fraction before he forced himself to calm down. No point getting all worked up; it would only make disappointment all the more unbearable.
Next to him, Ichigo nodded with a wide smile. "C'mon! The computer's upstairs!"
To be continued...
Your homework for today: Speculate! :D