Urahara waited patiently for the shuttle to touch down.

A new xenosociologist was finally arriving. And to his absolute relief, it was Unohana Retsu. She was considered the premier master of the field and if she said these aliens were sentient, everyone would have to believe it. And Urahara had no doubt she would affirm Ichigo's conclusions.

Really, how could anyone doubt it? Kisuke wondered to himself. They'd sent back so many things now. Recordings of Yoruichi making fire and showing them how their people made pots, samples of Grimmjow's stonework, Shiro's beading. Recordings of Grimmjow and Shiro doing all kinds of everyday tasks ranging from hunting to gathering and everything in between. They were still adapting to their new environment and that showed in some of the things they did, but they were highly intelligent and willing to learn.

The shuttle finally came in for a landing and Kisuke smiled as Unohana exited the shuttle. She was exactly how he'd seen her in the recordings, a beautiful, composed woman with a motherly air. She smiled at him and he offered her a hand.

"Greetings, welcome to Typhoon. I'm Urahara Kisuke." He said and Unohana nodded.

"I am Unohana Retsu. I'm looking forward to working with you." She said warmly and he nodded. "I'm especially looking forward to seeing this new species. They seem absolutely fascinating."

"Well, you can see one of them right now. Yoruichi has returned to camp." He said with good humor. The young alien had snuck back in and stolen his hat. Pretty much her usual routine. Unohana looked a little pensive for a moment. "Is something wrong?"

"Not really, no. We can discuss it later." She said and Urahara wondered if she approved of the young alien living with them. It was the exact opposite of an immersion so perhaps she didn't like it. Still, Yoruichi would be easily available for Unohana to speak to. That was definitely worth something.

So it proved. On her long trip to Typhoon, Unohana had worked on learning the alien language. She tried some of it with the young alien and Yoruichi was more than willing to talk in her own tongue, although she had to slow down and repeat things several times. Urahara was glad to see they were getting along well although he wasn't surprised. Yoruichi could get along with anyone.

Later that night, though, Kisuke and Unohana had a chat. It gave him plenty of food for thought.

"This has never been a problem before with alien races." Unohana sounded quite troubled and Kisuke looked at her questioningly. "This… sexual fraternization." She said plainly and he winced. "Yoruichi has been sexually active with members of the expedition, has she not?" She asked and Urahara hesitated a moment. But there was really no point in lying, Yoruichi would answer honestly if Unohana asked. She saw nothing wrong with what she was doing.

"Yes, she has." Kisuke admitted and Unohana sighed. "It was purely consensual. There's no real harm to it." They hadn't completed any DNA analysis… that took time, they hadn't even started really, basic biochemistry was more important… but it was a given that humans and aliens would be unable to breed. Yoruichi's escapades were entertainment, nothing more. Unohana gave us a severe look.

"Aside from the fact that Yoruichi is wasting her time among you. Urahara, this is not a minor issue." She said bluntly and he frowned. "I agree with your conclusion that these aliens are experiencing a watershed moment, but I don't think you understand the full implications of that. They may be teetering on the edge of extinction."

"What!" He exclaimed, more than a little appalled. Extinction? "You believe it is that serious?" He asked apprehensively and Unohana nodded.

"It's hard to say for certain. But there has definitely been a drastic winnowing of the population. From Grimmjow's and Yoruichi's stories, they may be the only survivors of a band that numbered over fifty. And Shiro is the only survivor of a smaller group, numbering around ten. He's sterile so his genetic legacy will not pass on." She said and Urahara bit his lip, suddenly wondering if they could do anything about that. They weren't really supposed to interfere too much but… extinct? That would be a great tragedy. "But he's a male so it isn't that critical. Females are what is important. Grimmjow likely cannot breed and certainly not with Shiro, so that leaves Yoruichi to continue her people. She really shouldn't be wasting her time here."

"I wouldn't entirely consider it a waste…" Urahara said, processing this. Yoruichi was learning many things from them. He understood what Unohana was saying, though. "Perhaps we could help her find a mate." Sniffing the stones had told her a great deal and Yoruichi had found several she liked. Unohana nodded.

"Perhaps. We could at least spare her the difficulty of travelling alone. In general, though, I think it's critical for humans not to interact with this species too much. They are entirely too attractive, nothing like any of the other aliens I've seen." She said and Kisuke nodded, resolving that he would have to explain this to Yoruichi. They had started sleeping together and he would miss her quite a bit, but this was more important.

These aliens really were quite wonderful. He didn't want them to simply vanish.

Grimmjow sniffed his scent marking thoughtfully for a moment. He was leaving them at the same spot Shiro had visited, a common practice among his people. It let strangers know they were together, a bonded pair. Before the disaster in the rainforest his people would sometimes leave scent markings in large groups, as a warning to intruders of how strong the family was. Grimmjow grinned at the thought. If poor Shiro had found a scent marking like that he'd probably have hidden in fear. His old family had been large.

But his scent marking had a faint trace of something different. Grimmjow huffed a sigh, twitching his tail as he tried to decide what he should do. Part of him was tempted to jump for joy but it wasn't the first time this had happened. It had happened during his matings with Green, twice. Both times nothing had come of it.

Pregnant. Grimmjow smiled a little at the thought. He was carrying young. His bleeding time was almost a moonturn late and now it was in his scent, too. But it was still so soon. The little one growing inside him might fail, turning into nothing but a very bloody bleeding time. Should he mention it to Ichigo and Shiro?

He finally decided he should, if only to let Orange know that he was wrong. They could have kits together. The thought was warming because even if this one failed, they could keep trying. His insides tingled a little at the thought. Trying was always the best part.

That settled he loped away, his blue hair flying freely in the breeze. The plains were starting to get a bit chillier and soon the colder times would be setting in, but for now he would enjoy the summer. Life was too short not to enjoy what you had.

"Oi, Grimm!" Shiro was at the den, beaming. Grimmjow could easily see why.

"Nice kill." He admired the great creature lying on the ground. "How'd you make it?" The thing was a large herbivore but they were dangerous. The raptors could prey on them but typically only on the weak and sickly. This beast had been in its prime, from the look of the furry coat and the size of it. Shiro shrugged.

"Got lucky. Dumb thing had moved away from the herd a bit. I brought it down with an arrow through the eye." He said and Grimmjow whistled. That really was dumb luck, no one could shoot that well on purpose. "We better get started, he's gonna be a lotta work."

"Right." Skinning the creature and preparing the meat for winter would take up a lot of time. And they would eat some of it now. Shiro had already cleaned it and his white mate passed him a chunk of liver as well as some other choice bits. Grimmjow downed them with gusto. They would help his baby and they tasted great on top of it. "So where's Orange?" He didn't shirk, so he had to be off somewhere. Shiro shrugged.

"Gone off t' talk t' his people. Somethin' 'bout a new person arrivin'." Shiro said and Grimmjow nodded, his mouth full. As soon as he was done eating he got out his knife and began helping Shiro skin the beast. "Good hide. Too bad we don't have many to trade with. We're drowning in hides." Shiro muttered and Grimmjow nodded.

"We should still prepare it. It'll make a great blanket." It was huge, they'd both be able to get under it comfortably. And in the winter, that was an excellent thing. Smaller hides could be layered but they tended to let a bit of air in. Of course, their cave was fairly warm but every bit helped. A blanket for us and the baby. Grimmjow smiled at the thought but was careful not to get his hopes up.

"Ya, it will." Grimmjow looked up as he noticed Shiro seemed a touch preoccupied. Then he smiled as he saw his lover was getting to a rather tricky spot. He had a thing about removing every bit of skin he could. "Wonder if Ichigo's people would be interested in trading for hides?" Shiro wondered and Grimmjow blinked. Then he shook his head.

"They'd be more interested in our scent markings." He said, which made Shiro grimace. They didn't mention it because they were trying to be polite, but wanting to collect, sell and trade scent markings was just… weird. If one of their own people had done that… well, it might have been tolerated if they had other redeeming qualities. It would still be weird as hell. "The jewelry they're making with them is rather nice. And if they're nothing but a pleasant aroma…" Grimmjow shrugged and Shiro nodded.

"Ya, well, we should look into that. I'd love one of those 'gun' things!" He said and Grimmjow laughed. Orange had gotten his 'gun' back although Shiro and Grimmjow had both whined a lot. But they had stolen it and while taking things from other groups was fine, if you could get away with it, stealing from someone in your own family was impolite and might get you hit on the head with a rock. So they'd had to give it back.

"Keep shooting brown beasts in the eye with your arrows and you won't need one." Grimmjow said absently as they finally got the hide off. Then they began to flesh it, removing all the fat and meat clinging to it. It would be worth it, when they were done.

Ichigo arrived as they were working and asked what he could do to help. They got him to fetch the largest frame they had, which was just barely big enough for a hide of this side. Then he helped Grimmjow hold the hide up as Shiro pierced the edges, then lashed it into place.

"Done. Need t' let it dry." Shiro said, rubbing his forehead. "Then we'll work the brains into it." They would wait until the hide was dry to get the brains of the carcass, pound them out then heat them a bit in the fire. It was an old technique, although in the rainforest the drying process could often be a problem. They mostly had done it only during the dry season.

"So we start on the meat now?" Ichigo said, looking at the skinned body. Both the aliens nodded.

"You got it! Let's get started." Grimmjow said cheerfully and they all began to strip the carcass. Orange put in as much work as any of them although he was slower. He had less practice, though, so that was expected. "By the way, I think I might be pregnant." He said casually and had the pleasure of seeing Ichigo almost cut himself.

"Oh…" The young man looked confused for a moment before blinking. "Shiro isn't sterile?" He said and Shiro huffed a laugh as Grimmjow grinned.

"Yah, right! I'm sterile as hell." The white man said with absolute certainty and Grimmjow nodded. His scent could not possibly be wrong about that. "It's yours Ichi." He said bluntly and Ichigo's brown eyes went wide.

"But… that's not possible." He said and met two sets of smiles. "It isn't! We're… we're not the same kind." He said and Grimmjow shrugged.

"We look the same and we act the same, mostly. Why can't we?" He countered and Ichigo just shook his head. "Well, I'm late by a month and my scent says I'm pregnant. You can see after the child is born, if I can carry it." He didn't mean to, but sadness seeped into his voice. He knew the kit might never be born. He'd been down that road before, he wouldn't count the child as real until he held him or her in his arms. Shiro gently put an arm around him, sensing his pain, and Grimmjow leaned into the embrace for a moment.

"An' if you can get it out." Shiro said in a low tone and Grimmjow winced. That was the other main concern. Females died in birth and he wasn't really a female. Would he be able to pass the child through his hips? They would just have to wait and see. But maybe Orange's people could help with that.

"Don't worry about the future. Think about today." He advised his mate and Shiro smiled. They shared a passionate, heated kiss and Grimmjow noticed Ichigo watching them with a troubled yet slightly wistful gaze. When they parted he offered their third a hand and Ichigo smiled before taking it, letting himself be pulled close. The three of them cuddled for a moment before Shiro sighed and pulled away.

"Gotta get that meat done. Don' wanna let it get stiff and nasty." He said with cold practicality and Grimmjow nodded. Aging meat was often done but not when they intended to dry it and mix it with fat for winter rations. It would last quite a while when they were done with it. "Let's get th' smoker up."

"Right." He agreed and they set to work on that. Taking care of a kill like this was always a lot of work, but it was absolutely worth it. As they worked Ichigo spoke.

"I… was wondering if you could help me?" He asked and the two aliens glanced at him, puzzled. "A new person has joined our group. She wants to do what I am doing… living with a group of you. We were wondering if you could introduce her to Green?" Shiro scowled at the thought, reaching down to rub the scar on his belly. Grimmjow blinked, cleaning his ear with one clawed finger.

"I could. She? That might work. Hard to say though." He cautioned as Ichigo looked happy. "Green's pretty antisocial. Kinda like Shiro." He grinned at his mate who scowled and punched him in the shoulder.

"Oi! No sex fer ya tonight." He growled and Grimmjow decided to take that as a challenge. He slid up behind his mate and began groping the pale man, even as he tried to work on setting the fire. "Argh! Grimm! Stop that you – uh…" Shiro shuddered as Grimmjow nibbled him right below his ear and stroked his cock with slow, practiced strokes. "Gotta… get the fire goin'…" Shiro muttered even as his body staged a rebellion. Grimmjow paused in his ministrations before pulling away with a small sigh.

"Yeah, got to get the fire going." The work wouldn't wait. "But I think I'm getting laid tonight." Grimmjow said teasingly and Shiro scowled as he began getting his body under control.

"Yah, fine, ya are. Shameless hussy." Shiro muttered and Grimmjow barked a laugh. He'd never heard that word used on him before! It was pretty hilarious, really.

"Nah, that's Yoruichi. And in my family that was a compliment anyway." He said merrily. Well, the elders had meant it as an insult but the youngsters had cheerfully accepted the label. And really, his family had always been… affectionate, elders aside. "But Green might go for another female. A male, he would never allow it." Green was highly protective of his mate and wary of any strange males. In the normal course of things, males did not go wandering. They stayed with their family while females travelled, seeking mates and new homes. That was part of why Yoruichi had done so much better for herself than Shiro.

"Thank you." Ichigo said gratefully and Grimmjow gave him a warm, lustful gaze.

"You can thank me properly later." He said in a smoky tone and enjoyed watching Ichigo blush. But then the young man gave him back a smile that was every bit as warm.

"I'm looking forward to it." He said in a matching tone of voice that made Grimmjow's body perk up and take notice. He glanced at Shiro but the albino was smiling and Grimmjow felt a warmth that had nothing to do with lust. The three of them really were a family and now, there was a kit on the way.

Nothing could be better than this.

Grimmjow bent down, blowing gently on the little sparks. The fire caught, growing on the dry tinder. He carefully fed it larger twigs, easing it up to the size it needed to be. Finally he added the logs, creating a true bonfire.

There was a good bit of smoke, which was what he was aiming for. He glanced at the new woman, Unohana. She was really quite a lovely woman, well formed and proportioned. Grimmjow wasn't that interested – he'd always inclined towards males – but he thought Green would be. That might incline the other to accept her. Interpreting his glance correctly she bent down and picked up an old, tattered hide, handing it to him. Grimmjow smiled and gave her a quick thanks before he used the hide to break up the smoke.

The smoke signals were crude, nothing more than an 'I would like to talk to you' signal. But it was a sign Green would see anywhere in his territory. It still took a while for him to reach them, of course. The sun had moved quite a bit by the time there was a soft call from the tall grass.

"Blue." Grimmjow turned to orient himself towards Green. He knew his name, of course. They'd mated several times and shared their names then. But Green was like Shiro, a stickler for convention. He wouldn't say Grimmjow's name in front of a stranger. Green slipped out of the grass, looking at Unohana. She looked back, examining the stranger.

There was a lot to see. Grimmjow had named him green for the color of his eyes and the color of his mating marks, but his hair and fur were black with only the faintest hint of green. His skin was a shockingly pale color, not quite Shiro's shade but close. His family had favored tattoos and there were lines of black going down his face, under his eyes. They made him look like he was crying, an odd effect. There were more tattoos on his shoulders and chest, patterns that were meant to represent the prey animals he had killed. Before the storms had come Green had been a mighty hunter, renowned and sought after for mating. So he said, at least, and Grimmjow really didn't doubt him.

"Green. This is a new friend I have made. Her use name is Retsu." Grimmjow replied and Green nodded. 'Use name' was the convention for letting someone know that a name was false. Although in this case, it was actually half her name. That would work well enough, only half of a true name had no value. He'd sometimes used Grimm as a use name. Not that he believed in any of it, but Green seemed to. "Her people come from very far away, and they have come to find out how we do things. She would like to join your family, for a time." He said and Green blinked, a bit taken aback.

"What has occurred?" He asked after a moment, his tone cautious. Grimmjow had expected that and he launched into an explanation of Orange and some of the things he had mentioned. Green glanced up as he mentioned that they came from beyond the stars. "But that's where the gods live." He sounded troubled as he glanced at Unohana. She smiled gently.

"We are not gods. We want to learn about your people and in so doing, learn about ourselves." She said gently and Green tilted his head to one side, considering that. "We also want to learn how you differ from us. All people are unique."

"This is true. I have seen it from my woman." Green allowed and Grimmjow felt a moment of intense curiosity. He'd never met Green's mate. "…Come." He said before turning away. Unohana followed and Grimmjow hesitated a moment before following as well. The male hadn't said he couldn't.

When they reached Green's den they both got a lovely surprise.

"Awww." Grimmjow's heart melted into a little puddle as he saw the female sitting on a rock, sunning herself. She was wearing nothing at all and her orange hair, a shade almost as vibrant as Ichigo's, was spread around her. And cuddled against her belly was a small child. Grimmjow estimated that he or she was only about a season old. "That's beautiful." He said softly and Green actually smiled.

"Yes, she is." He said and the pride in his voice could easily be heard. "We must see if my mate will accept a third." He cautioned them both and Unohana nodded as Green approached his mate, kneeling beside her. "Woman. Wake up."

"Mph… blue fish with tabanago… melon slices on top…" She muttered and Grimmjow scratched his ear thoughtfully. Bluefish and tabanago could go together… that was a condiment made from fermented words… but melon slices on top? That sounded rather disgusting. "Ulqui – umph!" Her eyes went wide as her mate's hand went down on her mouth. He pointed to them and her eyes followed his hand before he let go. "Oh, I'm sorry!" She said and Grimmjow grinned. She'd been about to say his name.

"It's fine. You did not know." He assured her and she nodded, picking up the little one and cradling her close. Her body language was slightly defensive but also curious. Grimmjow noticed that her ears and tail were orange but with irregular splotches of white. That was unusual and often considered to be a mark of great beauty.

"What is going on?" She sounded uncertain and Green gave her a quick rendition of events. "Oh, I would like some help with Pi – uh… her." She aborted the naming quickly as Green gave her a severe look. "It would be nice to have another female." She said hopefully and Grimmjow saw Green relax slightly.

"I have often thought so." He said softly and Grimmjow suddenly wondered why they'd never made the invitation to him, if they wanted a third. But Green solved that question when he glanced at him. "We thought of asking you but the white one…" He said and Grimmjow nodded. The bad blood between Green and Shiro was lingering, and for very good reason. An arrow to the belly was hard to forgive. "You may stay with us if you wish. But you must work." Green told Unohana and she nodded with a smile.

"I know. I will do my very best." She said and glanced at Grimmjow. He got the message and waved a quick goodbye before vanishing into the grass. He needed to get back to the shallow part of the river. There would still be a bit of swimming involved but the crossing would be much easier. He should be back home by nightfall.

This had all gone rather well.