Thanks to Storm and the lovely art she had commissioned for me, as well as the resulting attention this story has gotten because of it, I think my inspiration has finally returned~ :') Thanks so much, Stormy! I'm still so in love with that beautiful fanart...

If you haven't seen it yet, you can do so here! (black)(storm).(deviant)(art).com(/)art(/)BLEACH-Otherworld-422143185
wow this site's link block thing is annoying...just remove the parentheses

Anyway! Enjoy!


Time seemed to pass by far too quickly, despite that the years on this particular outlaying planet were longer than a normal revolution of Earth around it's own sun. The human child that had been taken in by a native to the wild, untamed land was growing fast, much to his guardian's mixed relief and ire. On one hand, Grimmjow's quickly escalating size and age meant he wasn't quite so vulnerable in such a dangerous world. It also meant he could walk on his own and travel with his surrogate father longer, making hunting and territory exploration much easier. But it also meant that Grimmjow was starting to develop curiosity toward things Shiro didn't know how to explain -not sex, the boy was still much too young for that and the pale native would have had an easier time of that anyway- but of things that even Shiro himself was conflicted about and so unsure of. It meant Grimmjow was becoming more aware and conscious of the things around him, and as good as that was for the child's safety, it also brought young Grimmjow questions.

"Shiwo?" Grimmjow looked over at his companion, that slight, childish mispronunciation of Shiro's name present despite that he'd learned near perfect command of the creature's native tongue by now.

The day was warm, not stifling so, but perfect for lazing around and enjoying the sun. The breeze smelled of new growth and the slight decay of old forest. They were in a far off section of Shiro's territory, tucked away and surrounded by massive, ancient trees. A stream ran through the area not far away, bubbling as it flowed over boulders that had long been weathered smooth and round. Insects buzzed and birds chirped, finding they were safe enough with the larger predator of the area lazing about and inactive.

"Hmm?" Shiro hummed a questioning sound as he lazily stretched his long tail out behind his relaxed body. Inverted, gold on black eyes slowly revealed themselves, swirling in the bright splash of afternoon sun he'd chosen to curl up cat-like in for his nap. He shifted slightly, pulling his top half up so that his weight rested on his elbows to look at the boy.

Grimmjow, just passed his seventh year had he been on Earth where birthdays were measured, looked away from his guardian. He trained his blue eyes upward, watching as a few small, lemur-like creatures jumped around in the branches above, hooting and squealing playfully as they chased each other around. Their flightless wings flapped about as they scurried through the lush green leaves, little lizard-like beaks snapping at one another in mock battle. "Why aren't there more like us?"

Ashen brows furrowed slightly. Shiro shifted again, moving to sit up as he looked at his charge. He curled his lean hind limbs below him and tossed his long tail out to the side where it wasn't in his way. Tilting his head ever so slightly, his long hair swayed to the side, a few of the bone fetishes rattling against each other. "What d'ya mean?"

The blue haired human didn't look over at him, but instead continued to watch the tree dwelling animals hop and play happily amongst themselves. "There's only you and me... Why aren't there more like us? Why aren't there others that I can play with?"

Shiro noticed the way Grimmjow classified them as the same species, how could he not? But he didn't correct the boy, not having the heart to tell Grimmjow that he really was alone in this world. He would tell the child later, when he knew the time was right, when he knew Grimmjow would better understand.

"There used ta be more..." He told the boy in a voice that was surprisingly quiet for his usually distorted and lilting tone.

A hint of eager excitement flashed across boyish features and through crystalline eyes before blue brows furrowed slightly and a frown took over Grimmjow's features. He finally turned his gaze, already piercing and growing fierce despite his young age, back to his caretaker. "There used to be?"

Shiro nodded where he sat, his pale fingers tangling through his long hair to let his sharp claws tap at and fidget with some the ornaments that had been braided through his mane. Most of them had been there for a very long time.

"Why not anymore?"

The pale creature's colorless brows furrowed even further as an almost helpless expression crossed his features. How was he supposed to tell young Grimmjow that his people had been killed by the boy's? But Grimmjow didn't yet realize he was human and not the same as Shiro. "Many years ago, before ya were even born probably, when I was younger, people from a different galaxy visited this planet."

Grimmjow moved closer to his guardian, mimicking the way Shiro sat and sitting cross-legged as he faced the larger and older creature. He put his hands in his lap as he looked up at Shiro, waiting for the story he knew was to come.

Shiro paused, his vivid eyes taking on an almost regretful look. He knew what he was about to tell the boy would negatively skew Grimmjow's perspective of his own species, but there was little getting around it. This question was bound to come up eventually, Grimmjow would have learned sooner or later and every creature on the planet knew what a human was. It was instinctive fear, passed on through generations. Everything fled when the two legged humans came near, lest they face the death humans brought with them like plague. He huffed the smallest of sounds, the tip of his long tail twitching a few times, before he started again. "The humans don' like what's different from them... My people weren't weak, but we weren't prepared either. The humans tried ta settle here, real close ta where our cave is."

"The one we stay in when it gets too cold here?" Grimmjow asked, interrupting the story. A smirk pushed through the sullen expression on white features and Shiro nodded, reaching forward to run his fingers carefully through nearly shoulder length blue hair.

"Yep, tha's the one." He told the young boy, leaning further forward to nuzzle against the hair under his hand. Grimmjow smiled and laughed, less of the cute giggle he used to let out and more of a real laugh. But it cut short as he looked back up at Shiro, silently asking what happened next. "They cut down the forest, and built their structures so that they could land their ships and bring more humans. Me an' a few of the other war chiefs confronted 'em."

"You used to be a war chief?!" Grimmjow leaned forward in stunned excitement, nearly toppling over and into Shiro's lap.

The pale creature laughed, helping the young human right himself as he nodded. "I was, when there were more a us." He tugged a few dreadlocked cords of his white hair before his face, almost holding the long locks out to Grimmjow so that the boy would look. The wicked claw of his pointer finger tapped at one of the intricately carved bones braided along the strands. He had dozens of fetishes tied into his mane of long, white hair; all of different shapes and sizes, some carved, some not, some painted, others left bare. "Ya think I got all these fer nuthin'?"

"Are they human bones?" Grimmjow asked, wonder and awe in his voice.

"Just one." Shiro answered. He couldn't help but chuckle at his adopted offspring's fervor. His mirth held a bit of a sardonic edge, perhaps. The boy didn't realize he wished to see the bones of his own kind. Nor did he know why Shiro had kept one such bone. Grimmjow was still young, and even though he was being raised by a native, he wasn't really learning the customs of Shiro's people, since there was no one but Shiro to learn them from. And Shiro had quit practicing most of them years before he'd found and taken Grimmjow in. There was just no point anymore.

He pulled at the leather cord that had been tied tightly about his throat, and showed Grimmjow the carved, rounded vertebrae that hung from it. Holes had been drilled through the main body, the rounded part of the bone, and the leather cord had been strung through so that the spinous process -the longer protrusion where muscle would normally anchor- always pointed downward. Knots held it from rotating very far around the handmade necklace, so that it always settled just below the hollow of his throat.

Grimmjow reached forward, running the pad of his finger over the smooth bone. It had been worn down around the edges, the gouges and hollows where muscle and meat would have once attached nearly impossible to see anymore. It'd been bleached, but it was still strong and oiled, not flaky and crumbling, meaning the lack of color was from age and wear, rather than from any sort of purposeful cleaning. Grimmjow didn't know it, but the single vertebrae was far older than he was. "This is a human bone?"

"Mhmm." Shiro nodded, watching as Grimmjow studied it carefully.

"Why just this one? Did you kill it?"

"I did." Shiro told him, his fingers closing over the bone still held in Grimmjow's smaller hand. He was careful that his claws -claws that little Grimmjow would one day realize he didn't have- didn't harm the child. "I killed others too, but this one was different, so I kept part a it... This one killed my mate."

Grimmjow's blue eyes widened as he looked away from the vertebrae and back up at Shiro. "I could of had a mommy too?"

Shirosaki's smirk was strained. He didn't bother to try to explain that there was a reason he had no offspring of his own to protect, that Grimmjow wouldn't have really had a mother figure, but more of a second surrogate father had his mate survived. "Somethin' like that, I suppose."

The child scowled, his lip curling in a mock of the expression Shiro often used when baring his fangs for one reason or another. "I hate humans." His voice was petulant, dripping with the hatred he spoke of.

Shiro rumbled a small sound at the declaration. He didn't like hearing Grimmjow say that, not when the boy was a human whether he realized it or not. But he just couldn't explain that to his charge, not yet. He loved Grimmjow like his own child, he couldn't bear to see the hurt and confusion such a revelation would surely bring to the youngster. So instead he tried to placate, tried to make it out like the human race wasn't quite so bad, never mind that they killed everything they didn't understand or saw as below themselves. "They ain't all tha' bad... Some a 'em are just meaner than others. B'sides, they brought me quite the lil gift, how can they be tha' terrible?"

Curiosity flashed through expressive, cyan eyes once more, pushing away the anger that had only a moment ago bubbled in Grimmjow's little body. The bliss of youth, it would seem, was how quickly hurts and wrongs were forgotten in favor of the lighter set of moods.

"They brought me a lil runt with bright blue hair." The creature laughed, not waiting for the question the boy was clearly going to ask. He leaned forward to wrap lean but muscled arms around the boy and pulled Grimmjow into his lap.

The child didn't really remember the day he'd stumbled into Shiro after wandering away from his real parents, at least not consciously. It'd been years since then, and he'd been young, the age when the human brain was just beginning to develop the ability to hold long term memories. Every so often, usually when he was tired and on the verge of sleep, young Grimmjow would mumble sleepily in the language his human parents spoke and Shiro wouldn't understand what he was saying. But aside from that, Shirosaki never found any evidence to show that the young boy remembered where he was from. He knew he wasn't Shiro's child by birth, the inhuman creature had never once tried to pass them off as biologically related, nor had he ever allowed little Grimmjow to call him as his father, only referring to Shiro by name. It was clear enough that Grimmjow saw him as a father figure, a mentor and parent, but he also seemed to understand, at least distantly, that Shiro wasn't his real sire. He just hadn't figured out that they weren't from the same race yet.

Grimmjow tried to force a frown through his happy laughter. He braced his hands against Shirosaki's chest, trying to push and squirm away as the other's oddly blue tongue slicked over the side of his face in what was both an affectionate and a cleansing manner, the way a mother cat would her kitten. "I'm not a runt! And I don't need a bath, Shiwo!"

"When yer as big as me, ya can tell me yer not a runt." Shiro grinned, only tightening his hold. "Until then, you'll be my lil runt and you'll get baths whenever I see ya need 'em."

"As big as you? But you're old! I'll never be as big as you!" Grimmjow continued his squirming, but it was only a half-hearted struggle as he giggled and half wrestled with his guardian.

"Old?!" Shiro asked with mock, playful outrage. He repeated it again, voice even louder and more insistent as he released the child in his hold. "Old?"

"Yeah! Old!" Grimmjow sprang to his feet and away from his guardian, laughing as he backpedaled a few steps and taunted his larger companion.

Shiro surged to his feet after the boy and Grimmjow squealed an excited sound and turned to flee through the trees around them, the pale creature on his heels. Shirosaki could have ended the game quickly and captured the boy easily. There were very few on this planet that were better at racing through the trees and thick underbrush than he was. He wasn't considered a top predator for nothing, but young Grimmjow loved it when he went along with the boy's games and played too, so he dragged the chase out, half sprinting along behind the boy and pretending that Grimmjow was just too fast for him to catch.

They raced through the foliage, cutting around the thick, gnarled trunks of trees and leaping fallen branches. The air was warm around them, the sun beating down brightly where the gaps in the canopy would allow it to. Their bare feet made hardly a sound on the rich soil below them and Shiro marveled proudly at how graceful and swift Grimmjow was growing to be. He would live up to the name Shiro had given him: he would grow into a fine warrior.

After covering what was probably a couple miles worth of twisting, turning ground, Grimmjow began to slow, getting worn out despite how much fun he was having as Shiro made mock attempts to capture him. Shiro took notice and smirked a fond expression as he effortlessly surged forward the few steps he'd allowed to hang between them and scooped the boy up and off the ground. "Got ya, ya lil runt."

Grimmjow laughed in that joyful, childlike manner as Shiro tossed him over a pale shoulder and headed back toward where they'd been napping before. Even though he panted with exertion, the boy still had far too much energy, like all young kids do. He wiggled and squirmed in Shiro's careful hold, kicking to free himself as he laughed and struggled against his captor.

Shiro found it all very amusing and played along, tickling and tormenting the boy, until one of Grimmjow's kicking feet caught him below the belt. His breath caught in his throat, gold on black eyes widening as he froze. Slowly, he lowered Grimmjow back to his own two feet and bent forward as his held breath slowly hissed out between fanged teeth.

The little boy backed away a small step and looked up at his guardian with wide blue eyes and a small pout, not really understanding what had happened. "You ok, Shiwo?"

The pale creature nodded a bit, but reached to ruffle blue locks as he straightened again. "Jus' watch where yer kickin', ok lil one?"

Sheepish expression melting away, a wide grin spread across Grimmjow's boyish features as he beamed almost proudly up at his larger caretaker. "That's what you get for trying to catch me." He proclaimed, placing his little hands on his hips as he turned and walked away in the direction they were headed.

Shirosaki stared after him for a moment, one hand still protectively hovering over his abused goods. He huffed a sound through his nostrils and chuckled as he followed behind his adoptive son, tail swaying gently and leisurely out behind him.

"Still a fierce lil runt." He mumbled to himself. Catching up to his young companion, Shiro settled a taloned hand upon the boy's head in a guiding motion and turned their course slightly. "Ya still need tha' bath."

Grimmjow pouted and crossed his arms over his bare chest but followed willingly enough. They neared the stream, the sandy bank warm and soft beneath their feet, and Shiro paused, hand keeping Grimmjow from wandering away from his side as he scented the air and double checked for any would-be threats. The child stood by patiently, reaching up to wrap his fingers around Shiro's own atop his head as he looked up at his guardian and waited for the ok.

When Shiro was satisfied, he released the boy and Grimmjow's happy smile was back as he scurried the few paces between the stream and themselves to delve into refreshing, clear water. Shiro followed behind him, wading out into waist deep waters before slowly, silently sinking below the surface. Once under, breath held, he opened his strangely colored eyes. A clear, protective lens automatically stayed closed over the orbs, granting him near perfect vision even under the surface of the water. He watched with a devilish smirk as Grimmjow spun a circle in search before puffing his cheeks out with his gulp of air, and sticking his head under water to find his guardian.

As the boy spotted him, Shiro swished his tail in a languid motion and propelled himself through the currents to wrap a lean arm around Grimmjow's waist and push the boy up and onto his back. Grimmjow wiggled excitedly and held onto the pale creature's shoulders as he squeezed with his knees to stay on for the ride.

Shiro swam upstream, his body streamline and his long tail propelling them alligator-like through the water. Grimmjow was growing heavy enough that he had a bit of trouble staying afloat and staying near the surface of the water, but most of the stream wasn't so deep. He was able to use his front limbs to help push off the bottom when he began to sink too deeply under the boy's weight, his claws helping him find purchase on the slippery rocks.

The pale creature navigated through the stream, diving under the surface every so often to do a roll before coming back up, much to Grimmjow's enjoyment. They played in the crisp water until he found them a spot where the current wasn't so swift and the water swirled in lazy, clean eddies. Slowing his momentum, Shiro started to stand more upright and the child slid from his back to splash in the still water.

Now that both were throughly soaked, Shiro moved closer to the bank and sat down in the shallow water, pulling his adoptive son into his lap again so that he could begin bathing the boy properly. Grimmjow attempted to help out, mimicking what Shiro was doing on the pale creature he sat with. The humanoid smirked and let the boy pretend he was bathing him in return.

Shiro gently but throughly scrubbed all the accumulated dirt and grime from his charge. He nor Grimmjow were particularly messy creatures, but they did live out in the wild and they did go around hunting and eating and traveling nude. It was only natural that they would get dirty.

When the pale creature got to Grimmjow's hair, the thick blue locks growing long, he turned the boy around so that he faced away and gently dipped Grimmjow backwards so that he half lay in the shallows of the stream, his hair fanned out across the water's surface. He carefully combed his taloned fingers through the boy's hair, detangling and grooming. Grimmjow looked up at him, vivid blue eyes trained up and back a bit to study Shiro's long hair and all the fetishes tied in it. His own hair was bare still, lacking the ornaments Shiro had braided through his own colorless locks.

Perceptive as always, Shiro noticed the boy looking, but remained focused on what he was doing. He smiled as the child reached up to toy with a few of the carved bones before returning to the one tied around his neck.

"Will I ever get to wear these?" Grimmjow asked, holding still for Shiro to wash his hair.

The creature chuckled in his lilting voice and nodded. It was the one tradition Shiro actually looked forward to teaching the boy. He would earn his first symbolic fetish when he became a man and went on his first hunt. Others were earned in battle or other various and great feats, though the protective side of Shiro hoped Grimmjow would never have to earn those ones. "You'll get yer first with yer first kill. I'll teach ya how ta pick which bones ta use, how ta carve 'em and how ta tie 'em in."

"When will that be?" Grimmjow asked, eagerness showing through in his voice.

"When yer older, after I teach ya how ta hunt." In all reality, Grimmjow was nearing the age where Shiro would begin bringing him along on some of his hunts. The boy had already picked up on how to move and travel silently, learning through witness of Shiro's actions. Grimmjow was young, but Shiro already knew he was going to catch on quickly. Teaching him how to hunt wouldn't be tough. Soon, he would begin showing Grimmjow how to use stone blades, since he didn't have a natural set of claws of his own.

"Will you teach me how to braid mine like yours?" Grimmjow asked, sitting up as Shiro ran his pale fingers through blue locks one last time.

"Right now?" The pale creature inquired, a small smile playing at his pallid features. Grimmjow turned back to face him, still seated between his parted legs in the shallow water near the bank of the stream. The boy nodded emphatically and Shiro shrugged. "Yeah, why not."

And so he took a few strands of Grimmjow's lengthening hair and began explaining how he plaited and worked the smaller strands into something thicker and more sturdy so that fetishes and other things could be tied in. They took their time, relaxing in the stream, while he showed Grimmjow, teaching him with measured and precise motions, and in turn let the boy give it a try.

As the days went by, Shirosaki taught his young charge all about surviving in the harsh wilderness of their world. The boy seemed eager to learn, so Shiro finally introduced the art of weapon making. He himself didn't use them often, but he had an assortment of stone knives he used when cleaning and preparing kills. He figured since Grimmjow didn't have the selection of natural weapons the native had, the boy could learn to use the knives he made for his hunting as well. But that was getting a bit ahead of himself.

Before hunting came learning how to make and use the tools needed for such a task.

Shiro showed Grimmjow what kind of stone made the best blades; ones that were not too soft and wouldn't crumble or chip easily, but weren't so hard that they couldn't be worked. He showed the child how to select from veins of different types, showed him how to identify bad veins from good ones, how to recognize weaknesses in the stone.

The native creature tried to point out the differences in scents. Depending on what minerals the rock contained, it would hold a different smell than other types and could be used to help identify what would make a good weapon and what wouldn't. But it seemed that the young human's senses weren't strong enough to detect such subtleties. After realizing this, Shiro quickly abandoned that method in favor of things that would actually be useful to the boy.

For the most part, young Grimmjow was eager to learn. He payed close attention to what his larger, more skilled companion taught him. He picked up what Shiro pointed out, feeling the weight and texture of the various types of stone. When it was no good, he broke it apart in his hands to feel what the inside surfaces of the rock was like. Then he'd drop it back where they'd found it and continue with the pale native to the next lesson.

After a week, it was Grimmjow who was identifying what was useful for making weapons and what wasn't as Shiro watched and confirmed, making sure the boy understood all he'd been teaching him. At the end of that week, Shirosaki and Grimmjow traveled out deep into their territory, the young human tasked with selecting a worthy and preferable material to make his very first knife out of. Shiro bid him to take his time, to be careful and picky when making his decision, because if he chose something that wasn't exactly right, and the blade broke while in use, he would be in trouble. Whether fighting against something or hunting, if his knife broke, he would be left weaponless against an angry, scared creature that would not hesitate to destroy him.

The young lad took nearly an entire day to decide what to use. He ended up selecting a dark, nearly black vein of stone he found running through the crumbling face of a cliff near the northern section of Shiro's vast territory. The two made camp and bedded down for the night, Grimmjow cuddling close to his larger companion as Shiro smirked proudly in the dark. The material Grimmjow had selected would make fine weapons, sturdy and smooth. They would be perfect for either hunting and killing or preparing and cutting hide.

In the morning, as the sun rose and chased away the low fog from the night before, they began working out large chunks of the rock, tossing away what they didn't want and collecting what they would keep to be turned into weapons. The task was a trying one, time consuming and hard work, but Shiro helped his young human with this part and together they pulled forth several decent prospects to bring back to their seasonal home.

Grimmjow eagerly carried what he deemed the best and most worthy fragment as the two left the area and headed home.

Later that evening, after making it back, Shiro brought Grimmjow and his favored chunk of stone out to the riverside, where he began teaching the boy the next lesson of weapon making. They cleaned and prepared the rock, then went about cutting, carving, shaping and melding until a long, thin but sturdy edge was made. Half the long splinter of rock was sharp and flattened, topped with a wicked point used for stabbing while the length could be used for slicing. The other half of the piece was more rounded and smooth, and eventually wrapped in sturdy leather to form a grip. And thus young Grimmjow became the proud owner of his very own, handmade dagger.

Shiro helped him make a sheath that could belt around his thin little waist, so that he could carry the dagger at his hip, within easy reach at all times. Next came learning to use it, and they started on already dead things. Seeing that a fresh kill couldn't run away, the inhuman native first showed the boy how to prepare and clean meals, as well as how to skin the creature. While at it, he used the carcass to show little Grimmjow where a beast's most vital areas were; major arteries, the heart, lungs, where to cut and where to aim to kill as quickly and effectively as possible.

At the end of the day, they both ended up coated in dried blood and gore, but the wide, happy smile that creased youth-rounded features as Grimmjow began catching on was more than enough reward for Shiro. The young human seemed so proud and confident in himself: the less than human parent knew his adoptive child would never forget what he'd been learning, even in dire times, and Grimmjow would be prepared to defend himself and hunt on his own if it ever came down to it.

Soon after, Grimmjow began accompanying his guardian during hunts. Having already followed Shiro around on scouting trips, the young human knew how to move in silence and stealth, he didn't need to be told to keep quiet. For the first few expeditions, Grimmjow simply accompanied his guardian, following and observing how Shiro stalked, selected and ambushed prey. He studied how Shiro put what he'd been teaching the young human to use in real time and under real pressure. He watched how his guardian didn't second guess what he was doing, how he made the decision to kill his target and didn't hesitate, nor leave the prey item with an opening that could be exploited.

Shiro, confident that Grimmjow was picking up on how to hunt and kill, didn't put off allowing the boy to hunt down his own prey for long. His first official hunt, with Shiro nearby and protectively observant but unobtrusive, was a success. Grimmjow stalked the trail of a herd of large, antlered quadrupeds. When the group came into sight, he selected which individual he would make his prey, focusing on a freshly born calf and it's still weakened mother. The calf was small and wouldn't provide much meat, but the mother, exhausted from labor, would.

It was a risky choice, since new mothers were panicky and protective and the herd's alpha was often aggressive and territorial, but Shiro kept quiet and hidden from view and watched as Grimmjow worked. At the mother's first pained screech, the alpha charged and only then did Shiro join in, but even so, the boy made him proud with a swift kill and a wise with drawl. They backed off and let the herd move on and away from the dead mother, abandoning the calf at her side, before they collected their kill. Shiro snapped the crying newborn's scrawny neck with ease and Grimmjow and the native brought their kill home.

It was gruesome business, but it was natural and necessary for survival. Grimmjow didn't mourn nor regret the first life he took. Shiro praised him and proudly helped his young charge select and carve the very first fetish to be tied into growing blue hair.

Over the next year, the two perfected the art of hunting as a team. If hunting an animal that lived in a herd, one would spook the group and get them running, while the other pounced from a hidden location, breaking up the herd and separating their chosen target from the rest. When hunting a single animal, one would come in at the creature from one side while the other charged from the opposite, keeping the animal from being able to run and escape.

They were a successful team and well fed even during the harsher months. As the seasons once more shifted, to mark the passing of that year, Shiro and his young companion began migrating once more. As Shiro awoke with the early rise of the sun, a cool breeze fluttering through the forest and whistling cooly between enormous trees. He smirked, a fond expression settling over pale features, as he looked down upon young Grimmjow. No longer a toddler, he was indeed growing into a young man. His body was beginning to loose the roundedness of youth as lean, well honed muscle began showing through baby fat.

Crouching at the boy's side, Shiro ran a hand through shoulder length, blue hair gently, before leaning further forward to nuzzle against sleep slack features. Grimmjow frowned, still lost in his dreamworld. Snorting a laugh, he huffed a long, hot breath and Grimmjow finally groaned a quiet, displeased sound as he started to wake up.

He mumbled something Shiro couldn't understand as he finally pried sleep-hazy blue eyes open. He was faced with swirling gold eyes that flashed in the darkness of predawn. Reaching up to rub the sleep from his eyes, Grimmjow frowned again. "It's early...everything ok?"

"S fine, Grimm." Shiro answered, sitting up right again and so pulling back out of the young human's face. "But we gotta get movin', b'fore it gets too cold out."

Grimmjow groaned again and half rolled over, like he would go back to sleep. "Why do we have to leave so early? You never used to wake me up so early for this..."

"That's b'cause I used ta carry durin' most of the trip." Shiro snorted a laugh, again leaning close to pester the boy. "Ya were so lil, I could just scoop ya up and carry ya wherever we went. Sometimes ya'd drool on me in yer sleep-"

"I did not!" Grimmjow jerked upright, awake now and a little embarrassed by the teasing.

"Did too." Shiro smirked and finally stood, crossing the small encampment they'd been staying at for the past couple months. He didn't require any other protection from the elements, and Grimmjow was beginning to grow used to living on this planet as well, but he still folded up a thick, warm blanket of hide and fur, just in case the human child would need it later. While Shiro didn't have a natural coat of fur either, he'd still been born to this planet, where as Grimmjow and the rest of his species had evolved and adapted to wearing artificial coats and clothing. Shiro didn't have anything like that, but the fur from other animals was sufficient. "Luckily ya always woke up b'fore ya peed on me-"

An almost horrified sound cut him off and he looked over to see Grimmjow's features heating up slightly as he slapped his hands over his face in the embarrassment of youth.

Shiro merely laughed. "So ya ready ta go yet?"

"Yes, I'm awake now..." Grimmjow nodded behind his hands before pulling them away and finally climbing to his feet.

"Good." The native tossed the folded up blanket at his charge, not surprised but still pleased when the boy deftly caught the object flying his way, even still half asleep. He watched Grimmjow stretch, and shook his head slightly in an almost nostalgic way. "Certainly not very lil no more..." He mumbled to himself.

Grimmjow was growing into a fine young man. He was still smaller than Shiro, and of course much younger, but he could successfully hunt, he could fight when the need arose. He was intelligent and ever curious. He would have made a fine warrior, maybe even a war chief eventually, had they still a tribe to be a part of. But Shiro wouldn't dwell on it. It wasn't in his nature, and besides, his maddening loneliness had come to an end years ago, when a little human toddler had been dropped onto his world.

They traveled for days, only pausing to eat and to rest during the nights. The native lead the way, careful to avoid areas he knew from past experience to be dangerous, and Grimmjow was ever at his side. Unlike when the human was little, Shiro allowed him to wander more. He still kept an eye on his charge, and there was never a point when he didn't know exactly where the child was, but now that he was older, Shiro determined Grimmjow was safe and wise enough to explore and venture out on his own more. He was larger then most of the other predatory animals that ventured through Shiro's territory now, and smart enough to know which herbivores he should avoid.

So Shiro trekked through the chilly forest, silent like the shadows he slipped through, and tuned his senses outward to keep watch over the human he knew to be near by. When it started to get late, Grimmjow would wander back to his side and, in a gesture that was still rather childish despite that Grimmjow was nearing his early teens, he would grab Shiro's hand, holding it the way Shiro used to hold his to keep him close by when he was little.

It wasn't really a necessary gesture anymore, but it had become one of comfort. It had become Grimmjow's way of instinctively insuring his own safety, of making sure that his guardian was nearby whenever he wasn't feeling well, or was frightened, or in the case of their migration, sleepy and less alert, and therefore more vulnerable. So whenever it happened, Shiro would squeeze his littler hand back and tug the boy close against his side in his own silent way of reminding his charge that he was safe. It may have gone unsaid, since it was more of a human thing anyway, but the bond and love between the two was obvious even without words to express it.

But as with everything in life, there would always be darker times, and Grimmjow was growing old enough to become more aware of the things around him, things that his guardian didn't really hide, but didn't know how to tell him, either.

On the eve of the second night of their seasonal migration, as the two bedded down for the night, Grimmjow scooted close and made himself comfortable next to his companion. Shiro curled up as well, but instead of folding his arms around a small child, he curled cat-like with his tail coiled around his own body. He didn't really mind it, and knew it was natural for young Grimmjow to grow out of such habits, but he would have admitted to missing it, had the topic ever gotten brought up. But since it was only himself and Grimmjow, it didn't, and he was content enough to let a few feet separate them as his little human began nearing puberty and adulthood, outgrowing the need for cuddles and constant parental reassurance.

In the lengthening shadows, as the sun dipped below the horizon, Grimmjow rolled over to face the older native. He could tell that, despite cunning golden eyes being closed, the pale creature wasn't yet asleep, and he watched the way Shiro's body slowly relaxed as the seconds stretched by and nothing dangerous presented itself. Of course they'd already scouted the area out, before deciding it would be appropriate for their resting place that night, but Shiro was always careful when it came to rest, especially just before the sun set.

"Shiro..?" Grimmjow asked quietly. He watched the very tip of his guardian's long, white tail twitch at the introduction of the unexpected sound, his voice.

"Hmm?" One golden eye slit open, the pupil dilated to allow the creature to see in the dark.

"Uh..." The boy hesitated, before shaking his head slightly and wiggling about as he made a show of getting comfortable again. "Never mind. Good night, Shiwo."

A slight frown tugged at pale lips, and Shiro pulled himself from his curled position to rest his weight upon his elbows and bring his head up. "S'ok, ya can tell me, Grimm."

The young human seemed to hesitate again, before deciding he would need to say something, or Shiro wouldn't leave him alone about it. Secrets weren't really something they kept from each other. His inhuman companion hardly seemed to know what lying even was. He was always open and honest, straightforward to the point of being blunt and harsh, and was raising Grimmjow to be the same way.

"I-um..." But sometimes it was hard to be so straightforward, and Grimmjow was timid to speak his mind this time. So he didn't. "Are we going back to the cave this time?"

Shiro's frown only deepened, knowing that had not been what was on his young ward's mind, but he decided not to push it. Grimmjow would speak with him about whatever it was when the boy was ready. He'd never been shy before, and Shiro doubted he'd ever become so. Luckily, since Grimmjow was human, he couldn't see the slight confusion that clouded pale features in the dark.

"Nah, that'll be next season." Shiro answered, allowing Grimmjow to think he'd believed him.

"Oh... How do you keep track of all that?"

There was an underlying tone to the young human's curiosity that made Shiro think the question might have had a bit of a double meaning, both a fake and a genuine question. "I been doin' this for a long time. You'll get the hang of it."

"You'll teach me?"

"I'll teach ya."

"Shiwo?"

"Hmm?"

"Good night."

Shiro smirked and settled back down, crossing his arms and lowering his head as he closed his eyes. "G'night."

In the coming days, as they trekked through the vast, old growth forest, Shiro paid close attention to his companion. He didn't miss they way blue eyes seemed to take in everything; the trees, the leaves, the floor below them, even Shiro himself. And at one point, when they stopped at a small, freshwater pond, fed clean water by a series of small creeks, he didn't miss how young Grimmjow knelt down at it's side and paused before cupping his hands for a drink. He watched how the boy seemed to study his reflection with a small, barely there frown. He watched Grimmjow bare his blunt, human teeth and inspect them, before finally disrupting the water's surface.

Ever since being taken in by the native, Grimmjow had imitated the creature in many ways; the way Shiro moved, spoke, how he behaved. It was natural for a younger to mimic an elder and learn through example and in part, it was the reason Grimmjow had been able to adapt and survive in a world not really meant for humans. But now when he did it, it was less learning and admiration and more thinking and studying. Grimmjow was old enough to be far more self aware now, and he was beginning to notice not only the differences between himself and his surroundings and the creatures around him, but the differences between himself and Shiro as well.

For those several days, as their journey began nearing it's end until the next seasonal move, they walked in near silence. Grimmjow was lost in his thoughts and insecurities, while Shiro kept watch over their surroundings and the distracted boy, knowing that what was on the his mind would be brought up sooner rather than later.

Finally, after nearly three days of minimal communication or interactions between the two, Grimmjow decided he needed to speak his mind.

"Shiro..?" The young man's voice was quiet in the lengthening shadows of evening as the two walked. They were nearing their destination, the site Shiro usually opted to live at during this time of year, and so they would continue on through the night until they arrived.

Like the migratory creatures of Earth, he chose to follow the more mild weather. At first light, after some rest and a quick meal, he would venture out into his seasonal territory and insure all was safe and secure, unclaimed by anything that could give him trouble while he'd been away. Now that Grimmjow was older, the human would be accompanying him.

"Gettin' tired a walkin'?" Shiro asked, glancing over at his young companion. An amused, but prideful little smirk tugged at his lips. Migrating for the season was ever a tiring journey, yet his little runt hadn't complained or whined about it once.

"Nah. I'm fine." Grimmjow told him, his answer immediate and therefore most likely honest.

Shiro hummed a slightly questioning sound, lifting a brow. He wasn't all that surprised to hear the boy's denial, and had a sneaking suspicion that whatever had been bothering the young human was what he was attempting to work up the courage to ask about. He didn't push the boy though, letting Grimmjow decide if he was ready to finally talk about whatever it was.

Grimmjow was quiet for a few long minutes, very nearly as silent and graceful as his larger, native guardian as he walked through the forest. Then he finally spoke up, his voice a near whisper in the growing dark. "I don't want you to be mad at me..."

Shiro froze in his easy steps, ashen brows furrowing in the middle. He turned to face his charge fully as Grimmjow hesitated and stopped beside him, automatically looking around in search of whatever Shiro may have sensed in the area around them.

"I wouldn't be mad at ya." Shiro told him, reaching out to settle clawed but gentle hands on the child's shoulders so that Grimmjow would look at him. "Ya don't ever have ta worry 'bout me bein' mad at ya."

Again, the usually unshakable young human seemed hesitant. "Promise?"

"Course I promise."

"Ok..." Grimmjow took a deep breath, his bright blue eyes drifting off to the side for a moment, before coasting back upward to meet his guardian's gaze. This was a tough and confusing thing for a boy who hadn't quite reached adolescence yet. Grabbing one of Shiro's wrists in both his still smaller hands, he pulled the creature's fingers away from his shoulder and looked down at them. "Mm... Why are we so different..?"

The native's mind came to a stuttering halt, his heart dropping. He'd known this would happen eventually, maybe not right at the moment he'd decided to take in a tiny, fragile little human boy, but certainly as Grimmjow grew up and it became obvious the little human would adapt and survive to the strange planet. But even so, he could have never been prepared for the eventuality of it all.

"Why are we different colors?" Grimmjow continued, "Why are your claws different than mine? Why don't I have a tail like you?" He reached up, placing his hands on either side of Shiro's features like he had the very first time they'd met, so many years ago in a cold, rainy forest, and looked at the odd, swirling gold of his adoptive parent's eyes. There was a slight, confused little pout on young Grimmjow's not quite so rounded features. "And our eyes are different too..."

"I-uh..." Still at a loss for how to respond, Shiro hesitated in answering. He wasn't sure now was the right time for all this. Looking back on it, he would later wonder if he should have told Grimmjow about his true heritage right then and there, but in the moment that it happened, Shiro didn't think Grimmjow was quite ready. He didn't think himself quite ready either. "It's a complicated thing, Grimm..." He knelt, putting himself closer to the boy's level. At the height Grimmjow had grown to, being down on his knees meant that Shiro actually had to look up at the boy. A very small smile tugged at one corner of his pale lips. "I promise I'll tell ya later...I'll answer all yer questions, anythin' ya wanna know...but not right now, ok?"

Grimmjow frowned, looking at the creature he trusted and cared about. Shiro was his only friend, his guardian, and the only parental figure he had. Being so young when he'd wandered from his biological parents, he had no real memories of them, only of Shiro.

"But Shiwo..." He mumbled, adopting that slight mispronunciation while he was upset. "Why wont you tell me now? I can understand it, I promise! I'm not stupid..."

A little more of Shiro's heart ached. "I know ya ain't, I'd never think that of ya! Yer my strong, smart lil runt. It's not b'coz ya wouldn't understand that I can't tell ya..." He pulled the child closer, wanting nothing more than to bury his features in silken, growing blue hair and comfort the human he saw as his own. "I just don't think I could explain it right... It's not yer fault, ya never did anythin' wrong, ok? I just... I ain't ready for this yet..."

At that, Grimmjow's pout shifted in expression. There was still confusion in his brilliant blue eyes, but it seemed less hurt, less scared now. Not quite so vulnerable. He grabbed Shiro's hand again, squeezing pale fingers comfortingly. "But you can do it, Shiwo, you're strong!"

Shiro smirked, snorting a small laugh as he straightened back up. He ran his hand through shoulder length, blue locks, ruffling the boy's hair and tugging him close. Little Grimmjow wrapped an arm around his back in something of a hug as Shiro slid his hand from the human's hair and settled it on Grimmjow's shoulder to keep him close.

"Not always." He admitted quietly, not glancing down to see the look Grimmjow was casting up at him.

They continued on their journey like that, a mostly comfortable silence descending upon them again as they strode through the forest, side by side. Out behind them, Shiro's long, white tail swayed with their steps, the tip twitching in angsty, troubled little jerks.

Busy surviving and thriving in a harsh and unforgiving world, it would be a long time before the subject was brought up again. In that time, young Grimmjow continued learning the trades and secrets needed to survive on his own, should it ever come to that. Unless something managed to kill Shiro off, it was unlikely, seeing as Shiro's race was a long living one, but any good parental figure would prepare their underlings for that eventuality no matter how likely.

Grimmjow, like all young children nearing adolescence, hit a growth spurt and by the time he approached his 11th birthday, had he been on Earth still, he was nearing Shiro's height. He could very nearly look his older guardian in the eye. Having little knowledge of human growth patterns and rates, it was around then that Shiro realized his little boy was going to end up being far from little.

As much as Grimmjow's size grew, so too did the child himself. He matured, not just physically, but mentally as well. He was getting too old for all the fond gestures Shiro had once lavished upon him. There was no one to worry about being embarrassed in front of, but like all stubborn young boys his age, Grimmjow went through the phase where he no longer wanted to cuddle, or hold his guardian's hand while they traveled, or be doted upon. Shiro finally quit ruffling blue hair fondly when his growing charge got angry with him for it.

Grimmjow had snapped at him to stop treating him like a baby and turned a petulant little sneer upon his elder, cross his arms over his bare chest before stomping away. His fierceness was certainly taking after Shiro's own, no matter how misplaced it had been. Shiro knew it was only natural, that he would have to begin treating the human like an adult sooner rather than later and that Grimmjow hadn't actually meant anything by the little outburst, but it still put an unhappy little frown across his pale features for the rest of that day.

After that, Shiro put an end to most of his softer, more motherly actions and gestures. He forced himself to treat Grimmjow more like a young warrior, taking on the mantle of war chief and elder again, despite that he didn't say as much, nor made Grimmjow treat him as such. It was simply him beginning to revert back into his old self again.

All things had to come to end eventually, right? At least he was no longer alone.

They had long ceased bath time play the way they used to, seeing as Grimmjow had grown too large for Shiro stay afloat and swim like he once did when the human was but a child. Now, they not only quit playing their games, but began bathing separately as well. They'd lived together, slept side by side, naked everyday since Grimmjow had been left behind by his real parents. Shiro had no use for clothing, and so Grimmjow had been raised that way as well, but despite it being nothing new, Grimmjow began wanting his privacy.

The human child's growing up was a bitter sweet affair for his inhuman guardian. As much as Shiro missed the brave but fragile little runt he'd found in the forest, he was proud of the powerful, confident and intelligent man the boy was growing into.

Besides, it wasn't all bad. They still hunted together, still spent the majority of their time together, if only because there weren't many options.

One day, after a failed hunting trip, the two were in desperate need of a way to lighten the mood. Failed hunts were nothing new. As successful as they were, no predator had a perfect track record, and they'd gone home empty handed before. They would live.

Still, the trip back to where they'd made their home for the season was quiet. Shiro walked a few strides ahead, nostrils flared slightly as he caught his breath from their less than apt attempted that had left both himself and Grimmjow winded and tired, ready to call it a day. Grimmjow frowned, watching his companion, the slide of lean but sturdy muscle under pale skin. The creature was scared up and bore the evidence of countless fights, scraps and failed hunts he'd gone through in his long life, but his lack of color made it so that the faded marks were hardly even there.

"Before I got old enough, you hunted and fought alone?" The human finally asked, his voice beginning to loose that childish softness and beginning to sound masculine and deeper. Nothing like the odd, distorted lilt of his parent figure.

Of course Grimmjow already knew the truth of what he asked. Shiro had told him years ago about the death of his tribe and while it had gone unsaid and never really brought up, Grimmjow had put the pieces together, knowing that meant the native had been alone for quite some time before Grimmjow had been given to him.

Shiro didn't look back at him, nor pause in his easy, but steady pace back toward their home. His tail hung low out behind him in his fatigue, not quite sweeping across the ground. "Sure did." He didn't bother pointing out how much of a task that could be at times. Even as a pair, he and Grimmjow occasionally went home empty handed, and Shiro had once been a part of powerful tribe. He was accustomed to hunting in a pack, of sorts. It's how he'd been raised, how he learned, it was all he'd known before his tribe had been mostly destroyed. And then he'd been alone entirely, after the rest succumbed to wounds or infection, or were picked off by other predators. Until Grimmjow had come into the picture and he'd had to hunt for himself as well as for the growing child, a human toddler that had to eat more often than he did because of the differences in their lifespan and metabolism.

Grimmjow didn't remember ever going to bed hungry, though. Old enough now to better understand how the world worked, he knew it was impossible that Shiro had succeeded on every single one of his hunts, that he'd had enough luck to keep them both well fed and comfortable.

"We managed pretty well, don't ya think?" Shiro continued, a bit of a smirk in his voice. Considering he'd never raised offspring of his own, nor any child before Grimmjow, and that he hadn't had a tribe backing him, nor even had he been trying to raise a child of his own species, he was pretty damn pleased with how well things had gone.

Grimmjow nodded. In the back of his mind, he realized there must have been more sacrifice on his guardian's part than he'd known about, but Shiro never showed it, never commented about it, never complained or seemed to really even mind at all. So he didn't say anything about it either.

The next several minutes of their hike back toward the den was silent, the young man lost in his own thoughts. Then, as if from no where, he took a step forward and stumbled as his bare feet landed upon something unexpected. Something that moved under his weight.

At that same moment, still in front of him, Shiro jolted, body going rigid as a rather startled, unexpected and high-pitched yelp fled his throat. His tail jerked from under Grimmjow's foot, pulling free and wrapping instinctively and protectively around to the front of Shiro's body, low so that it crossed in front of his shins. The moment the creature's mind caught up to what had just happened, his hands snapped up and clamped over his mouth as he slowly turned widened eyes towards his charge.

Grimmjow stood stunned. He'd never heard such a sound come from his companion and his first reaction had been worry and apology as he realized he'd hurt his older guardian. However, as a few heartbeats passed in shocked silence, and they simply stared at each other, a slow grin crept across Grimmjow's features. Knowing Shiro couldn't have been seriously injured, seeing as he was still on his feet and looked more embarrassed than hurt, it was suddenly a rather amusing situation.

Shiro started to speak, but paused and pulled his hands away from his mouth. He pointed at his young charge with one clawed finger and bared his fanged teeth, "Don't ya dare say a word."

Grimmjow shook his head, and didn't say anything, but he didn't even bother to attempt to stem his laughter. That yelp was the most animal he'd ever heard the inhuman native sound. His obvious enjoyment of the whole thing earned him a snarl that reminded him of the way Shiro always used to growl at him when he was little and would curiously grab hold of the long, odd appendage that was the creature's tail.

"Shiro..!" He laughed out, wide grin on features that were loosing the softness of youth, "I didn't even know you could sound like that!"

Shiro huffed an unhappy sound and turned to continue the trek home. His tail coiled close and he tenderly ran his hands over the sore and quickly bruising end, where Grimmjow's weight had settled. A slight pout creased his features. "S'not funny..." He muttered petulantly.

The younger hurried forward, still grinning, and matched Shiro's pace. Standing at his companion's side, Grimmjow looked over at him and the way he cradled his tail close. He hadn't realized it was so easily injured, but it made sense. The bones towards the tip were small and fragile compared to most of the native's skeleton.

Gold on black eyes cornered to peer at him through a forced glare that showed more sparkling amusement than Shiro would have admitted to. After a moment, he huffed another sigh and shook his head slightly, his faked glare falling away.

"Sorry..." Grimmjow finally admonished. It had been an honest accident, after all.

Inverted eyes flashed over toward him again, and Shiro started to reach out toward the boy, but paused and let his hand fall back to his side. "S'ok," He assured, "Just...let's not do that 'gain, k? Sure as hell don't feel good."

"I'll avoid it as much as possible." Grimmjow agreed with a bit of a smile, and Shiro couldn't help but notice how he didn't talk like a little kid anymore. He was looking more like an adult. He was sounding more like an adult. It wouldn't be long before they were both forced to face the reality of the situation. Grimmjow's curiosity and trepidation could only be held back for so long and since Shiro had failed to answer his questions, Grimmjow would find them on his own.

As the days passed, it became a regular occurrence for the young man to venture out on his own, sometimes for hours at a time. While wandering about the territory, Grimmjow's mind was as busy as his feet. He thought, pondered, began working out the truth his guardian had been unable to confess. He knew himself and Shiro were different, a part of him had always known it, but it was only in recent years that he began piecing together what those differences meant.

Everything about them was different; their skin, their eyes, teeth, claws. Shiro didn't need a dagger. Grimmjow didn't have a tail. Shiro didn't get cold, but he kept furs around for Grimmjow's sake. Even their blood was different. He hadn't seen it often, but Shiro's was dark and thick, Grimmjow's own was red and thin.

But there was one thing they both shared. Nothing attacked Shiro, no predator dared hunt him. It was the same with Grimmjow: nothing tried to make prey of the younger. It took Grimmjow a long time to recognize this little fact, and for an equally long time, he assumed other predators left him alone because of the same reason they left Shiro be. Shiro was at the top of the food chain on his planet, at least of the areas Grimmjow had ever seen, all the corners of Shiro's vast, roaming territory. Nothing preyed on Shiro because they had learned, when Shiro had still been part of a tribe, a pack. The other predators had learned that he wasn't worth the trouble, that he would put up a fight and he would not be killed so easily.

No such thing had ever been learned from Grimmjow. He'd never fought his way through a scrap, nor ambush. Nothing tried to creep up on him in the dark, when he rested, nor when he wandered through the dangerous forest alone.

Blue brows furrowing with a misguided rage and a painful sense of betrayal, Grimmjow reached for the closest thing to where he sat upon a fallen tree. He sent the branch flying as he stood and turned around, storming through the forest and back towards where he'd left his older companion. Behind him, the branch struck a bole and fell to the ground again with a dead, dull thump upon damp earth.

Shiro had told him stories, when he was younger. He'd been told of how every living thing on every planet they'd ever touched knew what they were. It was instinctive, passed down for generations untold. Even Shiro's people had known, when the invaders had tried to settle on their world, who and what they were. Shiro had known, even though that had been the first time he'd ever seen them for himself.

He and Shiro were so different. Nothing hunted Grimmjow, not because he was like Shiro, because he'd earned his high status, but because he was the thing that haunted nightmares. He was the thing that all other living things feared. He was the thing that made creatures huddle in the shadows with wide eyes as they hoped to be passed by.

Shirosaki looked up, slowly straightening to his full height, as he heard rushed steps approaching him. Just by the sound, he knew it be his young charge, but Grimmjow was usually so silent and stealthy anymore, having learned from the native. The pale creature's frown only deepened when, a moment later, Grimmjow pushed through the underbrush to enter his field of vision, looking angry and upset.

"You lied to me." Grimmjow's voice was a seething, low tone. "You said you would answer all my questions, but you never did."

Shiro's frown only deepened, more confusion sweeping through him, "Grimm-"

"Are you afraid of me too?" The younger questioned, cutting the native off. His anger burned him, clouded his judgement and blinded him. "Is that why you wouldn't tell me?"

"Afraid of ya?" Shiro physically recoiled at the very idea, features twisting, "What're ya talkin' 'bout, Grimmjow?"

When the elder tried to take a step closer to his charge, Grimmjow matched it with a step back, his blue eyes hard where they trained on bright gold. Shiro tilted his head slightly, but it wasn't a curious motion. Behind him, his tail flickered in a few jerky motions, dropping low to nearly brush the damp ground he stood upon.

Grimmjow continued, "I don't belong here, do I?"

That's when understanding finally began to dawn. Slowly, confusion furrowed brows rose and inverted, gold on black widened. Pain pressed the native's pale lips into a thin, downward curved line as Shiro struggled with what to say. Perhaps the boy had a reason to be upset... Grimmjow had asked about all this before, and now Shiro wished he'd explained, while the growing child had still been young and dependent, still so enamored with and reliant upon Shiro himself. But now...now it was too late and he could see hurt and anger and betrayal in those brilliant blue eyes. And it was all founded. It was all understandable.

Grimmjow shook his head slightly, feeling just as helpless as Shiro was, and not even for entirely different reasons. All his life, all he'd known was Shiro and the world Shiro lived in and created around him. To find out that all that was wrong, an illusion; it left a deep and bitter mark.

The young man started to turn away, back in the direction he'd come. When he'd first finally put it all together, he'd wanted to yell and scream and accuse and his anger hadn't really run it's course yet, but seeing his guardian look so fully taken aback and regretful was ebbing the fire, making it icy and creeping rather than burning and destructive. Now he only wanted space, a chance to breathe and get away from the source of his own confusion and hurt.

When the boy turned to leave, Shiro again took a quick step after him, but he forced himself to pause, knowing Grimmjow still wouldn't want him near. His jaw clenched as he searched for words, for what he could say to make this better, but the sound came out as a pitiful, frustrated whimper instead.

He didn't see the wince that crossed his young charge's features. Having been raised by the strong creature, Grimmjow knew how rare those sounds were, and he knew all this was hurting Shiro as much as it was himself.

"Grimm, please..." Shiro finally said, very nearly begging. His ashen brows furrowed in a look of helplessness, eyes never leaving Grimmjow's form. This was the farthest from what he'd ever wanted. "Grimmjow, just... lemme explain-"

"There's nothing to explain, Shiro." Grimmjow interrupted as he continued, heading away from the creature that had taken him in as a child, "I'm human... Like the ones you killed, the ones that nearly destroyed you and the rest of your tribe." You should hate me. "Just leave me alone. I don't belong here, I don't want to be here."

The request was like a physical blow and Shiro froze up, staring at the human's retreating back. But before Grimmjow could disappear from view, he called out to the boy once more and this time, his voice was stern and demanding. A command. "Grimmjow."

The blue haired young man did pause then, having never heard such a tone taken with him before. Grimmjow imagined it to be the way Shiro would have sounded had he still had warriors to lead and train, had he still had others of his own kind to watch after. He paused, but he didn't turn back and a few silent moments later, a low whistle cut through the air. His favored, handmade dagger struck the ground not a foot off to his left, blade embedded expertly into the soft soil, sturdy handle quivering slightly. He looked down and over at it for a few moments, nodding the smallest of motions, before he finally bent to retrieve it and continue on his way without a backward glance. Even now, as he left, Shiro gave him that one last bit of protection and guidance.

Shiro watched him go. He could have chased after him, probably should have, but he didn't. He watched as the boy he'd adopted and raised disappeared into the forest, standing motionless, eyes pained and wide under furrowed brows. He stood there long after Grimmjow's form had been obscured by the foliage. Then longer still, until darkness settled and the sound of nocturnal insects was loud and lively around him. He bared his teeth but the expression was far from rage-filled and fear-inspiring.

Only then did he finally turn away, and return to the very back corner of the area they'd made into their den. Shiro bedded down alone. He turned a single circle, before curling tightly in upon himself, surrounded by dried leaves and the last, waning notes of the forlorn whine that vibrated from his lungs. He crossed his arms under his head, his long legs tucked under him and for the first time since the night a little blue haired child had found him, Shiro curled his tail tightly around himself, closing himself away from the emptiness around him.

But he didn't sleep. Even as the hours grew long and the morning sun lightened the horizon. The native laid like that for days, in a waking trance just close enough to awareness that should anything have disturbed the area, he would have noticed. Nearly a full week went by before he finally roused himself enough to realize he needed water, then food.

In that time, Grimmjow hadn't returned.

He contemplated going after the boy -now a teen, closer to an adult than a child anymore- again. He probably could have tracked the human, but in a week's time, Grimmjow could have traveled far and there would likely be too much distance between them. Should something have already befallen the young man... Shiro wouldn't know. Likely, he would never know. Grimmjow knew everything about survival Shiro had been able to teach him, but this was a dangerous world not meant for humans and Grimmjow was young, capable of being reckless and brash and naive. Shiro worried.

That thought made the creature's stomach twist and the idea of conjuring enough energy to hunt seem impossible. But survival was an instinctive thing, or Shiro wouldn't have likely survived on his own and pack-less as long as he had. So he made his way to a nearby stream first, to slake his week old thirst, before he straightened and set out into the forest, in the opposite direction Grimmjow had gone when he'd left, to begin his hunt.

As it needed to be, the hunt was a success. He didn't bother bringing the small creature, a little larger than rabbit sized, back to the barren den with him, but rather tore it apart and ate his fill in the forest, where he'd ambushed and killed it. When he'd eaten his fill, he left what remained of the carcass, little more than bone and sinew, where it had fallen so that it could be picked clean by scavengers. He then went back to the den, and once more curled up to continue his wait, hoping he hadn't seen the last of his beloved human.

In a state as close to hibernation as a lively, mostly mammalian creature like the native could get, it was nearly another week before Shiro once more stirred to full wakefulness in order to provide himself with the basics needed for survival. It wasn't particularly healthy, but it was doable and it was all Shiro could conjure the will to keep up with.

And so it went. For months.

All the while, Grimmjow was busy putting the skills and talents he'd been taught to use. He hunted on his own, slept by himself, searched out clean water. He survived. It wasn't easy though. The world he'd been immersed in as a child was cruel, unshaped and raw. Even if the majority of the predators to be found instinctively avoided humans, Grimmjow quickly found out he was not immune to their claws and fangs. When cornered, or when they felt threatened, they would attack. Just because they avoided him, didn't mean they weren't dangerous and would simply flee like prey when he was near.

Even the land itself was dangerous; sink holes and sudden drop offs at the edges of cliffs, landslides and storms and plants with their very own defenses against would-be predators. If the animals weren't trying to kill him, the environment was.

To make it all the more difficult, Grimmjow was distracted with confusing thoughts of the creature that had raised him, with the stories he'd been told while growing up and realization that he was not what Shiro was. He'd always known, somewhere in the back of his mind, that he wasn't actually Shiro's offspring. The pale native had never had any of his own. He'd never actually thought of Shiro as his father, even if the creature had been a parental figure. Shiro had always been the elder, the one with more experience, the mentor, but not the parent, not blood relation. Shiro had just been Shiro.

Perhaps he'd over reacted, but he'd been so hurt, betrayed. Even if it had been unintentional, Shiro had kept things from him. But now that some of Grimmjow's anger had cooled and his illusions were shattered, he was beginning to see that Shiro hadn't really been the one to feed any of those illusions to him. The native had only been doing his best to raise a child not his own in a world meant to kill that child.

Grimmjow's thoughts were a whirlwind. On the one hand, he was beginning to see why Shiro had kept things from him. On the other, he still didn't think it was right, or ok. He still had questions, more so now than he had before he'd decided to venture out on his own, but all of those questions would go unanswered until he decided whether or not to return.

The young man pushed his hand back through his growing hair, pushing it away from his face, and shook off his thoughts. His grip on the dagger at his side was tight, white knuckled, as he crept forward through underbrush that had grown nearly as tall as he stood. It was so dense in places that he'd had to cut his way through at times, but that wasn't why he held the blade at the ready.

Ahead, in a clearing he'd been quietly working his way around, a small heard of herbivorous animals grazed, a few hatchlings scampering about and playing. He stalked them, hoping to bring down one of the does. It would keep him fed for quite some time, days at least. Longer still if he could find the minerals that Shiro had used on occasion to keep meat from going bad as quickly.

Carefully parting the foliage, Grimmjow lowered to a crouch, silent as he watched the heard, seeking out weaknesses and taking note of which beasts were strong and healthy, which ones were on guard and which were relaxed and at ease. If he could, he would avoid the females that still had young, newborn offspring. They tended to be overly protective until the fawn could run on it's own and even though Grimmjow had never witnessed it, Shiro had told him stories of what a large, aggressive female could do to a predator with her antlers and claws. In many ways, the females were more fear worthy than the males.

After selecting his target, a thin but healthy looking beast that grazed fairly near to the thick underbrush, Grimmjow circled around closer, as close to the doe as he could get without stepping from his cover just yet. He crept right up to the edge of the clearing, crouched low against the ground. The forest was dense enough that most of the breeze was blocked and so wouldn't carry his scent very far.

The lean but corded muscle of his body tense in waiting, Grimmjow watched the doe he planned to kill. He timed his movements, held his breath as he waited for the perfect chance, then sprang from his cover, dagger drawn. Panic rippled through the heard as the animals startled, calling out to one another. He vaguely registered a small, day old fawn hidden very near where he exited the brush from as he pounced, and watched as the doe reared slightly to spin toward her hatchling and in the direction Grimmjow was coming from.

It was a naive mistake, and even as Grimmjow attacked, he knew it would cost him.

Still at the camp he'd set up with his adopted charge, Shiro once more pulled himself from the small nest he'd curled in as he waited. Another week. His body was again beginning to demand sustenance. He curled his lip in a weak and halfhearted sneer at the protesting in his muscles. It was his own fault though, for keeping so still for such long periods of time.

He huffed a short breath and stretched, before he turned and made his way to the edge of the stream that ran nearby. Prey was getting scarce in the immediate area, but that was also his fault. Unwilling to leave the camp he'd last seen Grimmjow at, hopeful that the young human would find his way back, he hadn't dared venture far during his short hunts. What if the boy showed up while he was away and he missed his opportunity to convince Grimmjow to come back? So he'd mostly killed off the prey in the area, rather then venturing far and wide to keep from thinning the population like he usually did. It was destructive to himself, to the forest and the ecosystem in the area and he knew it. He just didn't care.

Reaching the clear, crisp water, Shiro turned downstream and wandered a few meters in that direction before wading out into the cool waters. A shiver wracked through his frame as he took a breath and submerged himself, letting the gentle current wrap around his bare body and lift the week old cumulation of filth from his skin.

When he finally lifted his head from the stream nearly a full minute later, water streamed through long, white hair and the coolness had stolen the ache from his body, waking him up. He climbed from the stream, water dripping from his body in thin, clean rivulets. His claws ripped little furrows through the mud of the bank, the shallow marks quickly pooling with water as he shook off. Then he returned back upstream, where he finally crouched at the stream's edge and cupped his hands under the surface to bring the clear water to his lips.

All around him was quiet, peaceful. The forest was still and silent, the leaves of the trees left undisturbed by anything other than the gentle breeze, promising a calm night to come. Brilliant, fiery colors played across the water's surface in lazy ripples and eddies from the dying sun above. Long shadows darkened the forest floor.

Out of habit, as Shiro dipped cupped hands back below the clear surface of thirst quenching water, his gaze panned along the tree-line of the opposite bank. He was just about to pull his hands back up to drink his fill when the smallest of sounds caught his attention. He paused, cocked his head as he listened, but the next sound to be heard was not what he'd expected.

"Sh-shiro..."

The pale creature's head lifted, snapping around to the side to look over one shoulder. His oddly inverted eyes went wide as they locked onto the missing human. He froze there for a moment, still crouched down by the edge of the stream as if unsure what to do now, stunned and shocked by Grimmjow's sudden reappearance. If his fingers trembled slightly, it went unnoticed, hidden beneath the water's surface.

Grimmjow stayed still as well, his brows furrowed in the middle as he stared at his companion. He fidgeted slightly where he stood, just as unsure as to what he was supposed to do. He swallowed thickly, blue eyes shying off to the side slightly. "I'm sorry..."

The young man's voice was barely even a whisper, but keen senses had no trouble catching it. With smooth, easy motions, Shiro straightened, shaking the water from his clawed hands as he turned and hurriedly but calmly approached the human he'd raised. He caught the cloying scent of blood and in the long shadows of late evening, nearly nightfall, he saw the dark red that marred normally golden skin, but he didn't care. Grimmjow was standing, he was alive and well, and he was back.

Shirosaki gently rested one palm against Grimmjow's cheek, looking the boy -now a young man- in the eyes. They stood nearly equal in hight, and Grimmjow probably out weighed him already. The realization rocked something in Shiro and a small smile lifted the corners of his colorless lips. "Yer not a lil runt anymore..." He whispered quietly as he pulled the human close against him in a tight embrace.

"I'm sorry, Shiro...I'm sorry, I was angry and scared and I didn't understand..." Grimmjow buried his face against his companion's shoulder, his muscled arms wrapping around Shiro's trim waist. "I-I do now though, I think... You never lied to me, you never tried to tell me we were the same, you just always refused to treat me like I didn't belong here...you even told me that the humans gave me to you..."

Shiro said nothing and even as he felt the telltale, sticky wetness of blood smear across his pale skin, transfered from Grimmjow, he continued to hold the human. After a few quiet moments, he pulled away and led Grimmjow over to the stream he'd been drinking from.

As their feet entered the edge of the chilled water, Grimmjow broke the quiet again. "Shiro, I really am so-"

"Don't be, Grimm, I'm just glad yer back and mostly in one piece." Shiro turned to face the blue haired lad, his pale fingers finding and intertwining with Grimmjow's as he took a backward step toward deeper water. "Now, let's get ya cleaned up so I can check that wound."

Grimmjow nodded and followed the creature out into deeper water. They paused when the cool, gently flowing water was just below waist level, and lowered themselves to kneel, facing one another so that Shiro could begin clearing away the blood.

"It's not really as bad as it looks." Grimmjow told him, using cupped hands to bring clean water up to his body to saturate and loosen the blood that had begun to dry and crust to his skin.

"What was it?" Shiro asked as his fingers probed carefully along the gash. It was shallow, mostly just a parting in flesh, and though it was rather large and ragged around the edges, it didn't appear that the muscle below had been damaged. Grimmjow had gotten lucky: it appeared that whatever had attacked him had only grazed him.

"One of the antlered things..." Grimmjow knew the pale native would know what he was talking about, even if he didn't have a name by which to call most of the creatures on this planet.

The animal Grimmjow spoke of had stubby, barbed antlers crowning it's skull and curved tusks protruding from it's bottom jaw. They ran about on all fours, like it's distant relative on Earth, the deer. But instead of having hoofed feet, it had paws more similar to a wolf's, with claws that gripped the ground it ran on and could be used for defense as well. Generally, they were docile enough creatures, content to avoid danger as they grazed and so Shiro frowned slightly, confused on why it had injured the young man.

A sheepish smirk tugged at Grimmjow's features as he ducked his head slightly, not quite meeting Shiro's gaze. "...it had hatchlings."

"Ahh, good goin'." Shiro snickered, going back to bathing the human, like he used to when Grimmjow was little. But his adopted charge wasn't a boy anymore, he was growing into a young man. It seemed like it had been a very long time since Shiro had aided Grimmjow in his bathing, years. He remembered when a much younger Grimmjow had called him old and he chuckled. Perhaps the boy had been right.

"Shiro?" Grimmjow again directed his attention more toward the water as they bathed. Around them, smaller, more brave fish swam about, attracted by the blood that had been washed away and clouded the water slightly, before flowing down stream with the current.

"Hmm?"

The human hesitated, unsure if it was right to ask what was on his mind. But Shiro had never denied him answers before, not to any of his questions, not really. "Did you ever have any of your own?"

"Any what? Any offspring? Nah." Shiro shook his head slightly, a smirk tilting one corner of his lips. "Only lil runt I ever had was you."

"But you had a mate, right? Why didn't you two have children?"

Shiro snorted a laugh as they fell still, bath done but still kneeling low in the refreshing water. "I think it's pretty standard that ya need a male an' female for that. My mate an' I couldn't have had 'em even if we ever wanted 'em."

It was Grimmjow's turn to frown slightly as he pondered over what that meant. Of course, in his teens now, he was old enough to know what sex was and how babies were created and of course it required a member of each gender to procreate but what did that have to do with Shiro not having...oh... His features flushed ever so slightly as he finally realized what Shiro meant.

Even though Grimmjow was growing up, he was still indeed young. "Your mate was another boy?"

"Yep. Happened sometimes. Some males would take other males as their mate, and sometimes females mated with other females." The creature shrugged a bit. His tribe had never put much thought into it. That was just how things worked. He leaned close to Grimmjow, again inspecting the wound that marred the golden skin of his chest, his paternal instincts making him want to be certain that the young man would heal up well enough. His pale hands gently pressed at the edges, caressing smooth skin, before he straightened away and began to stand again.

When Grimmjow didn't follow him and stand up as well, Shiro tilted his head slightly in curiosity as he looked down at the young human. "C'mon, it's been a long few months."

But Grimmjow still hesitated, his blue eyes trained upward to take in Shiro's features before traveling lower and then off to the side, again avoiding those intense, gold on black eyes.

Ashen brows furrowed a bit and Shiro sank lower in the water again, his hand reaching beneath the surface to find Grimmjow's. "Why ya bein' shy?" He asked. It wasn't like bathing together was a new thing, they'd done it since Grimmjow had fallen into Shiro's care and it had continued up until just a few years ago. And they didn't wear clothing, so nakedness shouldn't have been a cause for hesitation, it was something they were both used to.

The blue haired human didn't answer and wrapped his fingers back around Shiro's pale ones. He allowed Shiro to guide him up as the creature rose once more, standing in water that didn't quite reach his waist. As Grimmjow stood to his full height, the cause for his sudden embarrassment became evident. Standing out proudly, his growing erection bobbed with his movements just above the waterline.

"Oh..." Shiro mumbled, a little surprised, but he recovered quickly and snickered, leading Grimmjow from the stream so they could dry and rest. He was just happy to have the young man back and safe. "Ya don't need ta be embarrassed, Grimm, it's natural."

"...it happens to you too?" The young teen hesitantly asked. Had he still been on Earth and in school, around other kids his age and other people of his kind, he would have long ago been introduced to this sort of thing, but seeing as he hadn't been brought up that way, he was a bit naive about certain things.

Shiro found it rather amusing, but he refrained from letting his charge know that, lest he embarrass the young lad further. So he nodded as he slipped into his nest, spreading out the dried underbrush and furs that he'd used as bedding to make room for two again. "Course it does." He unshyly admitted as he lowered himself and bedded down, "I've just had plenty a time ta learn how ta hide it and how ta get rid a it."

"oh." Grimmjow's deep voice was rather small and Shiro smirked in the darkening shadows, motioning the younger forward. For the first time in far too long, the young human laid down at his companion's side and snuggled close.

A little taken aback by the unexpected affection, Shiro paused for a split second, before wrapping lean but strong arms around Grimmjow and nuzzled fondly against blue hair that swept down Grimmjow's back. Shiro let his tail curl around behind the backs of Grimmjow's long legs and he felt the boy's handsome features pull into a smile. They curled up in the dark of growing night, safe and comfortable and together, the bond between them strong and alive again. After a few hard months of being on his own, the human's sleep heavy breaths puffed against Shiro's collar as he fell into a much needed rest.

The inhuman creature purred a small, contented sound and vowed that he would finally tell Grimmjow all about the day he'd changed Shiro's life. "In the mornin'." He whispered to the sleeping boy, fingers running soothingly through blue hair, "Then ya can decide if ya really don't wanna be here anymore."


A nice, long chapter for ya~ Thoughts?