Ahhh...my deepest apologies for keeping all of you on the cliff for so long! My muse eluded me for the longest time, and didn't quite return until dear MMagnet provided me precious inspiration!

And here we are, the final chapter of Shower, the longest "one-shot" ever. ;)

Have you ever experienced one of those moments where...you feel like your heart just skipped a beat and all the blood in your body seems to rush to your brain yet drain from your face at the same time? That's exactly how I feel when the white van finally skids to a stop at the intersection.

It can't be.

I must be mistaken.

But my body is already moving even as my mind is still blank. I let go of Abarai so abruptly that the man falls back onto the sidewalk like a sack of bricks, and I start running. I push past the murmuring crowd, who are definitely getting more than their share of action today. I sprint across the street, desperately willing that what I saw was a mistake.

My heart soars slightly when I don't find a body sprawled in front of the van, but then I run around the front and see a pair of legs stretched out on the road. The door on the driver's side is open, and there's a man standing next to it, blocking the owner of those legs. I can't see past the door and the man—whom I presume is the driver—but I recognize the pair of sneakers, and I recognize Ilforte's voice calling that dreaded name.

Everything fades into nothingness around me then. The van's gone, the man in front of me no longer exists, Ilforte's not there; it's just me and those damn sneakers.

Why is he here? What the fuck is he doing here?

I stumble forward, arms extended to shove everything aside, and then I'm finally staring down at Ichigo.

My head fucking hurts. One minute I'm about to cross the street, and the next second I'm on my butt, ears ringing and heart pounding like I just went down on the world's steepest roller coaster ride. I don't even remembering ducking. I guess I should thank my dad for instilling lightning-fast reflexes in me over the years, otherwise I'd be lying face-down in a pool of gore under those tires. But I still got clipped on the side of the head by the side view mirror, which explains the ringing in my ears. Or they might be ringing because of Ilforte's hysterical wails. The man can't seem to accept that I'm still very much alive. I haven't decided whether I should laugh or cry.

I'm prodding the side of my head gingerly, scowling, when a shadow looms over me ominously. Gulping, I lift my head and immediately find myself pinned by the familiar, bluest, most stunning pair of eyes I've ever seen in my life, except I've never seen them quite like this. I've never seen them with such a frantic, almost crazed gleam in them.

Grimmjow takes another step towards me stiffly. His normally-flawless face is a mess, bruised and swollen and bleeding, like he's the one who just got hit by a car.

"My god!" I exclaim in shock, forgetting my own throbbing head at once. Then another equally bloodied face pops up behind Grimmjow's shoulder and I'm so horrified that I can't help but repeat the sentiment in a louder voice.

The driver of the van that nearly mowed me over—okay, I admit, I'm the one who stepped into its path—looks at the three of us with wide, frightened eyes. I think the poor fellow is more shaken than I am.

"I'm okay," I tell everyone, especially the van driver, who's beginning to look like he's going to bawl his eyes out. "See, just a scratch. Seriously, I'm fine—"

The rest of my assurance is lost when a crushing weight knocks the air from my lungs suddenly. I gasp in surprise, then realize belatedly that Grimmjow has fallen to his knees and he's hugging me to his chest like I'd float away and disappear if he lets go. In all the intimate moments we've shared, he has never once held me this way. I can feel his arms shaking as he cups the back of my head with one of them while the other is wrapped around me. He's hugging me so tightly that my face is practically plastered against his neck, my nose buried in his sweaty blue locks.

"G-grimm..." I sputter uncertainly. "I'm okay."

I think it is at that moment that I truly believe that Jaegerjaques cares more about Ichi than he lets on. He hasn't said a word since he left me lying on the sidewalk feeling all confused and pissed off. Of course, it had taken me only five extra seconds to realize what had grabbed his attention. I remember thinking "wow, I hope nobody got hit", then it occurred to me that Jaegerjaques' shop is just right across the street and maybe it's one his friends. So I got up and ran after him.

When I saw that it was Ichigo who's sitting on the ground, I thought my heart was going to give out. Even right now, after seeing that he's alright, my heart's still taking its own sweet time crawling up from my stomach. I want to rush up and scoop Ichi up myself, but something about the way Jaegerjaques is acting stops me. I don't think he means for anyone to witness this, but I doubt he cares at this point.

Honestly, I don't know what to think or how to feel. To say that I'm no longer mad at the man would be a blatant lie, but something inside of me crumbles at the sight of the two of them holding each other like this. It breaks my heart knowing that I would never be able to do this with Ichigo, but seeing him in the arms of someone he loves makes it worthwhile. I have always known, anyway, that my part in Ichigo's life is as his best friend, as the rock that he can always rely on; and I will always be no matter what.

While the three of us are lost in our own worlds, Ilforte seems to have recovered from his shock. I watch him out of the corner of my eye, vaguely registering that he's talking to the flustered-looking van driver. I watch the driver climb into the van and drive off, and then Ilforte goes about picking up the pieces of paper that are strewn all around us. I'm actually surprised that the cops aren't here yet, but I'm not about to complain. It's not like I'm eager to be arrested for disturbing the peace.

Nnoitra, the other guy who works with Jaegerjaques, shows up after a while. I look at him, feeling mildly curious yet strangely numb. The man looks sickly pale, his usual fierce snarl absent today. His eyes widen in confusion as he takes stock of our haggard appearance, and Ilforte drags him aside immediately.

Then, the next thing I know, I'm being ushered into their shop. It's a cramped, messy old thing, but it has a cozy feel to it. I plop down into the plastic stool that Ilforte offers to me and watch the blonde flit around the room handing out towelettes and ice packs. Jaegerjaques slips Nnoitra a mysterious pink bottle, and the tall, lanky man hurries away clutching it like a precious treasure. I wonder fleetingly what kind of trouble he's in, but Ichigo keeps distracting me with his questions and prodding. Despite looking pale and shaken himself, he examines our injuries and does what he can with the antiseptic wash provided by Ilforte. He tries to convince us to see a doctor, but of course, being the manly men that we are, Jaegerjaques and I decline without hesitation.

Ichigo gives up eventually and takes a seat next to Jaegerjaques, then we're suddenly staring at each other at the same time, silently demanding an explanation for...well, everything. Ichigo and Ilforte look pointedly at Jaegerjaques and I first, and my heart sinks. It doesn't take a genius to figure out why we got into an altercation, but will Jaegerjaques give my secret away? Is he going to tell Ichigo what I've been hiding for nearly two decades? My breath hitches in my throat, where a lump is quickly forming as Jaegerjaques stares at the floor with an unreadable expression on his face. I can hardly see his eyes, which are partially hidden behind the ice pack that he's pressing against his cheekbone.

Don't. Please don't.

After a long, suspenseful—for me, anyway—pause, he finally lifts his head. I hold my breath and brace for the worst.

"Let's just say...he knocked some sense into me," he says.

For a moment, I thought I've misheard, but Jaegerjaques turns to me and smirks.

"Right, Abarai?" he asks.

I swear Renji looks as surprised as I feel. Right, like I'd believe that. Across from me, Ilforte purses his lips but says nothing. Clearly, Grimmjow isn't fooling anyone.

"Yeah," Renji gushes, his cheeks tinted pink; a telltale sign that he's lying. What's even stranger, though, is the look of gratitude he's sending Grimmjow. For two people who were just exchanging blows not half an hour ago, they sure look very friendly with each other.

I want to call him out, but one look in Grimmjow's direction stops me. At first I thought he's still staring at Renji, but the smile that was on his face just a second ago is now gone, and he's gaping right ahead with wide, shocked eyes. I follow his gaze and freeze when I realize that he's looking at what's left of Szayel's paper, which Ilforte had thrown on the desk when we first came in.

I think I stopped breathing for a split second as I watch Grimmjow's feature darken. Even Renji senses the change, and we all sit up a little straighter, just waiting for him to explode.

"So you read it?" he asks me, his eyes boring into mine, the glacial blue orbs gleaming with something I can't quite identify.

I nod, heart pumping violently in my ribcage. My instincts are screaming at me to bolt, to shrink back from the intimidating aura that's wafting from his body despite his seemingly-calm exterior, but I stand my ground. I've had enough of running and hiding and guessing. There are too many questions that need to be answered.

He frowns, then rubs his face vigorously with his palm. "Ah what the hell," he says, breathing out a resigned sigh. "I was going to tell you anyway."


"A little more to the left...ohh, yesss..." I moan as a small shudder of pleasure courses through my body under long, sensual fingers.

Ichigo chuckles softly. "Mmm...like this?" His hands, slick with our favorite peach-scented body wash, slides slowly over to my left shoulder blade. He presses down on the muscles and kneads, loosening the knots on my back.

I breathe out a contented sigh and lean into him. "Lower..."

He follows my whispered instruction, and I feel his smooth palms slip towards my waist. My skin breaks out in goosebumps under his slippery touch. "Lower," I say again. It feels amazing to have his hands all over me, especially knowing that he's standing right behind me covered in nothing but soap suds.

"Lower, huh?" he asks dryly as he heads downwards.

I imagine the peeved expression on his face and snicker under my breath. "Yeah, lower..." I repeat, letting my voice dip low and husky. "Something is aching down there and it needs you."

Ichigo stills for a second, then something hot and wet brushes against my neck. "I thought you said you wanted a massage," he says into my ear between kitten-like licks on my earlobe.

"Yeah," I chuckle and turn around to face him.

A faint dusting of pink appears on his cheeks as his eyes dart to my aching body part. "I want one with a...happy ending," I murmur. Closing our distance, I cup the back of his head and trace my tongue along the shell of his ear. I hear his breath catch in his throat, and he shivers as I begin to back him up against the marble shower wall. He steps back slowly, almost trance-like, until there's nowhere else to go, then I tilt his chin up to place a brief peck on his lips.

It's nostalgic; seeing him flushed and bothered against the wall, his hair wet and limp with rivulets of water streaming down his neck. He can barely keep his eyelids open; the amber orbs within dark and watery. I run my thumb over his parted lips and soak up the sight in front of me. I cannot imagine anything more beautiful than this: Ichigo, still here with me after one grueling year.

I draw a sharp breath when he nibbles on my thumb and starts to suck on it, his gaze turning from lustful to mischievous as he makes the most lewd slurping sounds I've ever heard. A jolt of arousal rushes southward, and with a barely-suppressed groan, I yank my finger away and replace it with my tongue. A soft mewl escapes his lips as I push past them rudely to delve deeper into his enticing mouth. He seems to melt against me under the assault, his hands finding their way around my neck and tugging me down to compensate for our height difference.

I give up on trying to breathe properly as my hands travel down his lean, lithe torso until they come to rest at the swell of his butt. There, I knead the supple flesh, mimicking the way he had done it to my shoulders and back earlier. He bucks into me, moaning, and I feel the rigid length of his arousal against my own. That, my friends, is where I park my self restraint.

He yelps in surprise as I lift one of his legs, but realization dawns on his face almost immediately. His cheeks turn a deeper shade of red as he hooks his leg around mine. We exchange a heated look—him, panting harshly through kiss-swollen lips, and I, eyes wild with need—and then I press into him slowly, my hands holding his hips flush against my body.

Before he can make another sound, I silence him with a fierce kiss. He moans into my mouth and tightens his leg around me. I can feel his hands scrambling for purchase on my back, his nails scratching and digging into my skin. Abandoning all pretense of maintaining any sort of steady pace, I snap my hips and bury myself into his snug, velvety passage. His teeth grazes my tongue as he cries out again, the sound muffled as I press our lips together to keep our volume down.

Maybe it's our mood, or maybe it's the thrill from the fact that we're currently borrowing Ilforte's bathroom; my stamina betrays me today, and as Ichigo clenches around me, I know that I'm at my limit. Leaving one hand still holding him steady against the wall, I reach between us to find his neglected erection. One stroke; two, three, and by four, he arches his back and spills himself in my fist. The rhythmic spasms of his muscles finally pushes me over the edge, and I nearly bite my own tongue as he milks me dry, the pleasure so intense that I see white for a split second. His body continues to shudder as he rides through his peak, and I hold him close and wait until we've both calmed down enough to stand on our own before untangling our limbs.

And then of course, we have no choice but to shower all over again.

As we dry ourselves, I attempt steal another kiss when Ichigo's not paying attention, only to fail as he smacks me away.

"Stop it! We need to get out before Ilforte thinks that we've drowned in here!" he hisses with a look of horror.

I laugh heartily as I picture Ichigo's reaction if that really were to happen, and decide that while I'd enjoy seeing his face turn fire-engine red, I still value my life enough not to risk his wrath.

When we finally step into the living room, though, I realize that Ichigo's fear is unnecessary. Nnoitra is in the kitchen rummaging for food; the only thing I can see of that man being his skinny rear sticking out from the fridge. And then there, sitting side-by-side on the sofa, Ilforte and Abarai are completely immersed in the movie they're watching. Abarai's hands are draped carelessly across the back of the couch, his large frame taking up most of the space, while Ilforte sits next to him, his head resting partially on the redhead's shoulder.

I still remember, almost exactly one year ago, how Abarai had come up to me privately after hearing my story. He had thanked me for keeping his secret. My reply was straightforward; it just isn't my place to tell Ichigo such a thing. I told him then, that he doesn't have to hold back because of me, should he ever feel the need to finally confess his feelings after so many years. He had simply shaken his head with a smirk and warned me that if I ever hurt Ichigo again, he would not go so easy on me next time.


I wouldn't dream of giving him such a chance. I may not be the brightest bulb around, nor am I the most romantic, thoughtful partner a man could have, but I would never allow myself to make the same mistake twice.

I navigate to the kitchen to join Nnoitra with Ichigo trailing behind; both of us trying our best to be as quiet as possible so that we don't alert the two movie-watchers to our presence.

"Ya sure took yer sweet time," Nnoitra grumbles as he hands me a small carton of milk and Ichigo a can of Coke. He eyes us suspiciously and settles his gaze on Ichigo's abnormally flushed face. "Aww shucks, don't tell me ya..."

The look of utter horror on Ichigo's face is priceless, and Nnoitra breaks into a wide, toothy grin. The animosity between the two of them have long since evaporated, but that doesn't mean Nnoitra doesn't take every opportunity to prey on Ichigo's easily-riled embarrassment.

I decide to interfere before Ichigo spontaneously combusts. "So what're you doing here all alone?"

The question brings a scowl to Nnoitra's face. "I feel like a fucking third wheel, had ta seek refuge here before I collapse under the weight of their stupidity," he mumbles darkly.

I snort and lean back against the kitchen counter to look at the two men. It feels a little strange yet oddly comforting, seeing the two of them here, knowing that they probably haven't even realized it yet themselves. I glance at Ichigo and see a similar smile on his lips. I think...I think this might be the beginning of something good.

The End.

A heartfelt thank you to everyone who followed this story from the beginning to the end! It's been a bumpy ride with lots of writer's block along the way...you guys have been so patient and supportive!