Ichigo was exhausted, both physically and mentally. The past week had been so hectic with the release of Zangetsu's first album that Ichigo could barely find time to breathe. First, he was busy meeting with Luppi at the studio trying to finalize the song they were supposed to finish by tomorrow, but he found working with the singer completely insufferable. Luppi had gotten under Ichigo's skin, criticizing every little thing from the lyrics, to the pitch, to the drumming, the choice between acoustic and electric guitar. The complaints were endless and Ichigo was just about over the entire thing. He was more than happy that this was a one-time deal, because he couldn't imagine working with Luppi past the CD release. This was Ichigo's first time collaborating with anyone outside of the band, and he was wary of any future song collaborations in fear that they all might be like Luppi.
Second, the actual set up for the album release was a bigger deal that Ichigo had already realized. Renji, Toshiro, and himself were constantly bombarded with questions. What kind of food should they serve? Open or closed bar? How many people were they inviting? What about color scheme? What were the boys wearing? So on and so on. If Ichigo had to look at another fabric swatch, he was pretty sure he'd take a bullet to the head. He was over it and at this point he didn't even want to go to his own album release.
Third, Aizen had been making more appearances at the studio whenever Ichigo was there. He always seemed to have business meetings that building, which annoyed Ichigo beyond belief. Despite telling Aizen that he was dating Grimmjow, the brunette had not stopped his advancements towards the orangette. The paparazzi were having a field day pairing the two together and fans of the band were pro "AiIchi"-ship. Ichigo rolled his eyes anytime he skimmed tabloids or fan pages of the band. Everyone seemed very interested in Aizen and Ichigo's relationship, even though in reality there wasn't one.
Last, Grimmjow. Ichigo felt his eyes roll at the thought. Grimmjow was waiting outside of Ichigo's apartment when Ichigo had gotten off late. The two didn't say anything as the both went inside and made themselves at home. Grimmjow had then showed up at Ichigo's place every day for the following week. The weird part was that Grimmjow wasn't as aggressive as he usually was. Lewd comments were still shot Ichigo's way and Grimmjow still fucked Ichigo into the mattress, but something was different. When they weren't fighting or fucking, Grimmjow simply hung out with Ichigo. Even though Ichigo was working a mile-a-minute, practicing songs for the release party, writing new songs whenever he was inspired, or going over plans for the event, Grimmjow was just there. He'd lean back into Ichigo's recliner, grabbing a book from Ichigo's modest collection. Sometimes he'd listen to music on his phone, claiming that Ichigo's "crap music" was distracting. Other times he'd listen to Ichigo bitch and complain about work, laughing that Ichigo was stressed out about being famous. Grimmjow even made dinner when Ichigo forgot to eat, too busy to even notice. It was weird, but Ichigo couldn't put a finger on it.
Ichigo pulled out of his thoughts and looked over his shoulder. He was out with Shinji shopping for costumes for the party tomorrow. Ichigo didn't want to go; he figured that his stylist would probably pick out something for him. That was until he realized that would mean Aizen would have to design his costume and Ichigo definitely didn't want that. When Renji stated that he and Hisagi were planning a couple costume, and Toshiro stated that he had already found an outfit as well, Ichigo had no choice but to go shopping with the blonde male-model. Shinji had brought Ichigo to one of his favorite costume stores and was currently holding up an all leather cat costume for Ichigo to see.
"That's good," Ichigo cocked his head at the outfit. "I can definitely see you wearing that."
Shinji laughed, "It's not for me, baka. This is your outfit."
Ichigo's eyes grew to the size of saucers, "No way."
"Meeeh! Ichi-kun!" Shinji frowned as he walked over to Ichigo to hold the outfit against his body. "This leather would make your body look divine! Aizen won't be able to keep his hands off you," Shinji teased.
Ichio scowled and turned away from his friend as he began to go through a rack of outfits, "Shinji, you know damn well that there is nothing going on there."
"You say that," Shinji put the outfit back on a rack and began to look at other options, "and yet the tabloids say otherwise. Plus, I've never even met this boyfriend of yours anyway."
Ichigo flushed at the thought of Grimmjow. "Tch, and you're never going to."
"I'm starting to think he doesn't exist," Shinji mused as he pulled out an outfit, then shaking his head and putting it back. "I don't understand why you want to keep it a secret in the first place. It would clear up those rumors about you and Aizen. Renji is open about his relationship; I don't understand why you aren't."
Because it's not real, Ichigo thought quietly to himself. "It's complicated, Shin."
"Tch, whatever. Are you inviting him tomorrow?" Shinji looked over his shoulder when he asked, trying to read the singer's face.
Ichigo had been thinking about the question for a while. Grimmjow knew about the event, especially with all of Ichigo's ranting, but neither of them had said anything about going together. Ichigo was sure he could easily access a pass for Grimmjow, but the blue-haired man didn't seem interested whenever he talked about it. Ichigo tried to pretend he was occupied with looking for an outfit, but he could feel Shinji's brown eyes watching him as he waited for an answer. Ichigo ignored it for a second more before letting out a deep sigh and looking over at the model who was currently staring at him with a deadpanned expression.
"I don't know."
Shinji's face twisted in confusion. "What?"
Ichigo sighed and shrugged. "Like I said, our relationship is…it's complicated. I feel like it'd be weird to invite him to an event where no one knows about him. Plus," Ichigo's voice got really quiet, "Aizen is going to be there and I don't know how I feel about them being in the same room together."
Shinji snorted and rolled his eyes at the glare that Ichigo shot him. "So, you're not going to invite your boyfriend to your first album release to play into the fact that the media thinks your dating your sponsor. You're a whore." Shinji stuck his tongue out at Ichigo, the ball in the middle of his tongue shining teasingly at Ichigo.
"Whatever Shinji, if either of us is a whore, it's you." Ichigo caught the piano-like smile that made its way onto Shinji's lips. "Who are you bringing tomorrow?"
Shinji stuck out his chest and flipped his blunt hair over his shoulder, "That's for me to know and you to find out."
Ichigo didn't like the implication and went back to the task of finding an outfit to wear the following day. Just when he thought that he had looked at every costume in the store, Ichigo finally had found the perfect outfit hidden in the corner of the store. Shinji exclaimed in excitement when he saw the outfit, and told Ichigo that if he didn't buy it then Shinji would have. Ichigo smiled, happy to find what he was looking for, though he grimaced when he realized that Shinji had yet to find his perfect costume yet. Ichigo felt extra tried when he realized that he still had more shopping ahead of him.
A few hours later, Ichigo arrived back at his apartment, tired and annoyed that Shinji kept him out longer than intended. They had started early in the morning and didn't finished until past three. Not to mention that it started to rain unexpectedly halfway home and Ichigo had forgotten an umbrella. Today was his only actual day off, since Urahara wanted to give them time to rest before the show, but Ichigo knew that he'd still be working from home. He had every intention of practicing the songs he knew over and over again, his perfectionist-nature coming out.
Ichigo turned on the light into his kitchen, basking in the quiet apartment for a second, before making his way towards his bedroom. Ichigo tossed his costume into the closet before stripping out of the clothes he was wearing and changing into a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt. He realized belatedly that it was one of the ones Grimmjow had left, but didn't make any notion to change out of it.
Ichigo hummed familiar lyrics to himself has he walked into his living room and turned on his stereo system. He stood in front of the amplifier as he scrolled through his iPod that was always attached to the sound system. After a few seconds of scrolling, Ichigo finally landed in the 'D' sectioned and chose the artist album for his favorite rainy-day band, Daphne Loves Derby. The soothing melodies of Simply Starving to Be Safebegan to fill the room. Ichigo nodded his head to the beat as he made his way to his kitchen, softly singing along to the lyrics. He was in the middle of brewing himself some tea when his text tone went off. Mug in hand, he padded over to where his phone was lying on the counter.
Keep the door unlocked, I'll be up in a minute.
Ichigo snorted at the text, but unlocked the door anyways. The sound of the rain and his favorite song playing made Ichigo feel the fatigue he had been fighting for the past week. Ichigo sat down onto one of his plush couches and stared out the window. He hated the rain; it always brought sore memories to the forefront of his mind. The sound of kids laughing followed by the horrified screams. Ichigo tried to push the thoughts to the back of his mind; he couldn't afford distractions from old wounds. Just as he was contemplating soaking in the bath, the door to his apartment revealing a very wet Grimmjow, holding what appeared to be grocery bags.
Ichigo watched from his spot as Grimmjow walked to the apartment, "Fucking rain. Why the fuck does it always rain out of nowhere in Japan? Shit whether for a shitty place. Fucking shit."
Grimmjow placed the grocery bags onto the counter and shrugged off his soaked jacket. He started pulling out different items. He placed a few items on the counter that he was planning to use for dinner that night before putting away the rest of the groceries. He thought back to the grocery store and how he only intended to buy things that he'd cook that night, until he remembered how Ichigo's cabinets were empty and the kid would probably starve within the next two days. Grimmjow put the rest of the groceries away before finally looking up at the man sitting in the living room. Grimmjow smirked at the look on Ichigo's face before making his way over.
Ichigo's eyes raked all over Grimmjow's form. Ichigo could feel himself salivating at how delectable the other man looked. Limp sky blue hair hung across Grimmjow's face where the rain diluted the hair product he usually used to style his hair. Grimmjow's faded band tee was wet and sticking to the broad chest hidden by the fabric. No matter how many times Ichigo had seen Grimmjow's body; he never got over the lust he associated with it. The man was just as devilishly handsome as the first time Ichigo had seen him.
Grimmjow gripped Ichigo's chin with his fingers as he leaned downward and brought the smaller male in for a kiss. It was slow and quick, neither of them making a move to intensify it. Ichigo always thought it was weird at how much he enjoyed Grimmjow. Whether it was in the heat of the moment or the random kisses Grimmjow gave them when they hung out; Ichigo could not get enough.
"The fuck you looking at, 'Berry?" Grimmjow whispered against Ichigo's lips.
"Just a stupid, bastard." Ichigo pulled back from the kiss, a playful smirk on his lips.
"Tch, whatever. Nice shirt," Grimmjow's eyes flickered down to Ichigo's toros as he stood to full height and turned back to the kitchen. "I'm making stir-fry tonight."
Ichigo didn't say anything else as he turned to look out the window. He brought the mug in his hands to his lips and took a sip from his cooling drink. He let out a sigh as he realized that there was no way he'd be able to get any last minute preparations in, especially now that Grimmjow was there. The track on the stereo system changed and Ichigo closed his eyes at the familiar song. Ichigo didn't realize he was falling asleep until he felt warm hands remove the cold mug from his grip. Just as he was about to protest, he felt a strong grip push him further into the cushions. Grimmjow took a seat in the recliner that he occupied for the past week or so, picking up the book he left on the table. He flipped through a few pages before finding the one he left off on. He looked over the top of the book he could see Ichigo was already passed out.
Grimmjow was in the kitchen cooking when he finally heard Ichigo making noise from the living room. Not too long later, a sleepy Ichigo slowly made his way into kitchen, trying to rub the remaining sleep from his eyes. Grimmjow watched with amusement as he tossed the vegetables in the pan. Ichigo looked at Grimmjow with hazy eyes before walking past him and into the kitchen to grab a water bottle from the fridge. Ichigo hopped onto the counter and took a swig of water, allowing the liquid to coat is dry throat before he attempted speaking.
"How long was out for?" Ichigo cleared his throat at the sound of his groggy voice.
Grimmjow looked at his watch before he added the meat to the mixture in the pan, "Only a couple of hours."
Ichigo nodded. All plans to dedicate his day to preparing for tomorrow's event were officially out the window. His stomach growled at the sight of Grimmjow making food making Grimmjow laugh at the sound.
"It'll be done in a few minutes, impatient."
"Tch, I didn't even say anything." Ichigo felt a small blush form on his cheeks in embarrassment.
Silence fell between them, the sounds of the pan and the soft click of the rice cooker switching from 'cook' to 'keep warm' filling the empty space. Brown eyes watched as the taller man cooked. Ichigo was still in shock that the paparazzi was standing in his kitchen; unable to understand how different they were from nearly three months ago. While Grimmjow was definitely still a thorn in Ichigo's side, it was different than before. Over the past week Ichigo learned more about Grimmjow than he did in the past two months and it scared him. Grimmjow was still a dick, there was no way getting pass that overbearing obstacle, but he was much more…complex than Ichigo had originally realized.
Lost in his own thoughts, Ichigo didn't even realize that Grimmjow had stopped cooking and was now standing dangerously close to him. Grimmjow placed the palms of his hands on both sides of the counter, effectively caging Ichigo in. Ichigo stared in the deep pools of blue, taking in the little details in them. Grimmjow's eyes danced across Ichigo's face as well, prodding and probing in a way that should have made Ichigo uncomfortable but didn't. When exactly did Ichigo allow this person he absolutely despised, get under his skin like he belonged there?
"You're worrying again." Grimmjow's eyes were hard, his words more of a statement than a question.
Ichigo tried to look away at the questioning eyes, but couldn't. "I am not."
Grimmjow's eyebrows came together as his eyes narrowed. "Yeah, you are. You do this thing where you bite at your lip and your eyes get all hazy. I don't know what 's bothering you, but ya need to relax."
A scowl formed on thin lips, "I can relax after tomorrow."
"You know what you need, a little grass." Grimmjow smirked, already knowing what Ichigo's reaction would be.
A low growl formed in Ichigo's chest as he remembered what had brought them together in the first place, "Shut the fuck up Grimm."
"Aw come on, I won't tell anybody. I got a connect; we can smoke a little, relax your body, you'll be ready for tomorrow in no time." Grimmjow was full on smiling at this point.
"Fuck off Grimm," Ichigo reached up and half-heartedly tried to push Grimmjow away, which only caused the other to lean closer in; the tips of their noses touching.
"Ya know; there are plenty of other ways to make you relax. Maybe pop a Xanax or get really drunk. I still think weed would be your best bet, and I mean, it's not like anyone can get a picture of you in your own home."
Ichigo was annoyed at this point and gave Grimmjow a harder push. "Fuck you."
"Tch, we both know I'm the only one who does the fucking." To emphasize his words, Grimmjow leaned forward and licked Ichigo from point of his chin to the tip of his nose.
Ichigo rolled his eyes at the action, feigning disinterest, but inside his heart was stammering. The only thing Ichigo could do was reply lamely, "The food's gonna get cold."
Grimmjow pulled back from his position, smug expression written all over his face. He turned away from Ichigo, missing the slump of the younger man's body, as he went to grab a couple of plates from Ichigo's cabinet. Ichigo slipped off the counter to stand next to the taller male, as Grimmjow handed him a plate. Grimmjow scooped some rice and stir-fry on his own before handing the scoop over to Ichigo. The carrot-top served himself and followed Grimmjow out of the kitchen. Grimmjow opted to eat on the couch that evening, making use of Ichigo's rarely used TV.
Ichigo ate slowly as Grimmjow flipped through the channels, stopping on what appeared to be a gory action movie. The two ate in silence as the movie played in front of them. Ichigo felt squimish at the sight of guts and blood while he ate, but Grimmjow was completely engrossed into the movie. He commented whenever someone did something stupid and leaned forward eyes narrowing whenever something intense was going to happen. Ichigo found himself more entertained by Grimmjow's reactions rather than the movie itself. By the time the flickering of the credits began to roll by, Ichigo was dead tired, the events of the next day making him even more wary.
He looked at his watch and noted that it was only nine. It was a bit early, but Ichigo needed to be up early anyways. Ichigo didn't say anything as he stood up from the couch and headed to the kitchen to put his plate in the sink. He took the time to pack up the left overs and put in them in the fridge before cleaning up the dishes that Grimmjow used. When Ichigo was done with the minor chores in the kitchen, he turned off the life and headed back to the living room. He looked around curiously when he noticed that Grimmjow wasn't there. As he walked to his bedroom, he heard noises coming from the bathroom and had figured that's where Grimmjow was.
Once in his bedroom, pulled back his bed sheets and slipped under the covers. He knew that he should probably wash his face and properly get ready for bed, but the weight of the week was suddenly apparent on his body. Ichigo rolled onto his side so that is back was to the door. He could hear noises coming from the kitchen, figuring that Grimmjow was cleaning up after himself. There was the sound of soft steps head towards his room, a slight creak as the door opened a bit wider, and then the rustling of sheets as Grimmjow made his way to the bed. Ichigo took this as his cue to scoot inward into the bed, providing a space behind him for Grimmjow to slide into.
After a few seconds of adjusting to get comfortable, Ichigo felt his body relaxing to the large presences behind him. Grimmjow draped an arm around Ichigo's waist, pulling the smaller frame closer to him. Ichigo let out a sigh, staring in to the blank wall in front of him as the hand freely roamed his torso. Grimmjow lazily moved his hand to the hem of Ichigo's top and slowly dragged his fingers across the lithe abs. Ichigo let out a groan, but could feel his body melt at the subtle ministrations.
"Grimm, I'm tired," The words were soft and held no heat to make Grimmjow stop.
"I'm not doing anything." Grimmjow leaned forward and ran his plump lips against the column of Ichigo's neck. "You're too tense; relax for once in your life."
Ichigo ignored the insult as he focused on the fingers drawly lazy patterns onto his stomach. When he realized that Grimmjow wasn't going to move the situation any further than what Ichigo didn't want to call cuddling, Ichigo closed his eyes and allowed sleep to overtake him.
"Well damn," Renji let out a low whistle as he admired the venue.
Vizards had looked completely different that its usual set up. There were red, black, and white fabrics draped across the ceiling, softening the hard features of the club. The usual DJ booth had the same fabric placed on it, surrounding an emblem of the band's logo, a white skull with decorative red stripes under one eye. The booths that usually hosted bottle service had black table cloths placed on top with red and white napkins in holders. The small stage by the DJ booth had the band's equipment already set up as roadies ran cables to amps, putting in last minute preparations.
Zangetsu had arrived to the club several hours early to help with decorations and do a sound check. They were incredibly impressed at how much had already been done for them. Toshiro and Ichigo made sure to bow and thank every single person that they ran across for their hard work, still in surprise that everything was coming together. The band was making their way to the stage with Urahara when Luppi had finally graced them with his presence. Ichigo and Renji both laughed at the eye roll Toshiro gave the other man, a small twitch forming in the corner of the white-haired man's eye.
"Antenor-san, I believe we asked you to be here an hour ago." Toshiro crossed his hands across his chest, his voice low but stern.
Luppi scoffed as his mimicked the smaller man's stance. "I'm here now aren't I? This isn't even my event. Don't forget, I'm doing you guys the favor of being here."
Renji's growled lowly, "Listen here, punk, we don't give two shits about you."
Luppi glared at the red-head, "Well then, why don't I just le-"
Before he could finish his sentence, Urahara stepped in between the two scowling men. "Eh, why is there such hostility between friends?!" Urahara ignored the stare he knew he was receiving from his clients. "Luppi, the boys are very tired and anxious for tonight, please ignore their tension. Why don't you head to your waiting room while I speak with the boys here, ne?"
Urahara smiled as Luppi shot the boys one last glare before turning on the ball of his foot and walking away. Urahara in turn, faced the band, all of whom were scowling after the dark-haired singer. When Urahara finally grabbed Zangetsu's attention, all three boys shuddered at his stare. Despite Urahara's smiling appearance, his eyes were dark and lowered.
"Boys, you will not antagonize another singer, especially on a night like tonight. You guys need to be on your best behavior." Renji rolled his eyes. "Especially you, Renji-kun."
Renji cocked a tattooed eyebrow and smiled, "Keep him away from me and maybe, just maybe, I won't stab a drumstick into his eye."
Ichigo couldn't help but laugh at his friend's comment, which earned a subtle glare from both Toshiro and Urahara.
"We understand, Urahara-san. I'll make sure that both Kurosaki and Abarai don't fuck up tonight."
"Ne, I can always count on Shiro-chan!" Urahara wrapped an arm around the shorter male and pulled him into his side for a hard hug. Toshiro's teal eyes went wide before he tried to push the older gentleman away. "Now! You guys just have to get through tonight and then you'll have a two week vacation before touring! If anything goes wrong tonight," Urahara's smiling widened, "I will deal with you three personally."
Renji and Ichigo both shivered at the threat as Urahara walked away.
"He swears like we're trouble or something." Renji scratched at the back of his head nonchalantly. "If anything, I feel like Luppi would fuck it up more than we would."
Ichigo was nodding in agreement when Toshiro turned around to face his bandmates. "Ignore the little shit for now. This is everything we've been working for; it's our time not only to impress our friends and family, but any potential sponsors. We have a lot riding on this, so play like it's your last performance tonight."
Renji snapped to his attention and gave Toshiro a two finger salute, "Yes, sir!"
The next few hours passed in a blur and soon Ichigo found himself in the mock dressing room pulling on the outfit he picked out before. The costume was simple, a pair of baggy tattered pants hung low on his hips held together with a rope fashioned into a belt. Grey bandage wrapped around his right shoulder and pectoral, leaving the other half of his chest and most of his abdomen bare. Renji and Toshiro helped him draw on stiches and use fashion glue to paste bolts on the side of his neck and down his exposed shoulder. He wrapped a few bandages around his wrists and strapped thick leather bands of over the fabric. It was a make-shift Frankenstein costume, but Ichigo knew he looked damn good in it.
Toshiro and Renji had gotten dressed as well. Shuuhei had joined the group not too long already wearing the couple outfit him and Renji planned. It was a cliché cop and robber outfit, but it was cute for the long-time couple to do. Shuuhei was wearing tight blue shorts that left little to imagination. His top was a tight police officer shirt with a fake silver badge. Renji had changed into an orange jumpsuit, but didn't zip it up all the way. Instead he left the top part hanging from his hips and his torso bare, dark tattoos loud against the tan skin. He had a pair of handcuffs only attached to one wrist and wore his hair down from his usual pony-tail to finish the look. Renji and Shuuhei were talking in the corner of the room, completely lost in their own world.
Toshiro was putting the final touches of his outfit in place. Being the modest man that he was, Toshiro was wearing a simple suit with a red cape. He had placed fake fangs in his mouth to complete his simple vampire look. He was sitting in a makeup chair with one dress-shoe clad foot perched on the counter in front of him. A faint glow lit up his pale skin as he scrolled through his iPod, earbuds in and blocking out the rest of the world. It was a pre-show ritual that Toshiro always lost himself in: listening to classical music that could only be considered the opposite of what he was about to dish out on stage.
Urahara stepped into the room to let the band know that they needed to be in place on stage in the next three minutes. Renji gave Shuuhei a quick kiss on the lips before the other man left the room to get a spot out front. The trio made their way into position behind the last minute curtain that Urahara demanded to be made. Ichigo strapped on his guitar, tuning it slightly. Toshiro stepped into position to Ichigo's right, bass already hanging from his front. Renji took a seat behind his drum set, playing the sticks just about the set as he practiced some last minute beats. On the other side of the curtain, Urahara entered the stage, a loud cheer emitted as the band's manager smiled out onto the mixed crowd.
"Good evening everyone! For those of you who don't know me, my name is Kisuke Urahara. I am CEO on Benihime Records and the current manager for Zangetsu. Welcome to the album release party for their first official LP, Bankai!" Urahara paused as a loud cheer made its way over the crowd. "I have literally seen these boys grow up. I have known Ichigo as a baby, I know his first word, I took him to his first day of school in the third grade, I was there with his dad to pick him up from his first fight at school. I remember sitting in the kitchen of his father's house the first time Renji, Toshiro and Ichigo picked up instruments and tried to play together. Let me tell you, they came a long way."
Renji was unable to control his laugh back stage at the memory. They were shit. Renji had never drummed in his life and Toshiro was ninety-nine percent sure that the red-head didn't even know what a beat was. Toshiro had never played bass before and kept trying to play chords meant for the guitar. Ichigo couldn't even play guitar and sing at the same time, prior he had only done one or the other. Ichigo smiled at the memory, realizing then that he had grown so much in the last seven years with his best friends on his side.
Onstage, Urahara continued, "Please give the boys a warm welcome! Playing four songs that have never been played outside of the recording booth, this is ZANGETSU!"
The curtain dropped, pulled away by a stage hand that was waiting in the wing. Ichigo played the opening rift to Can Anyone Love Young? Singing into the microphone with all he had. He moved across the stage, leaning into the crowd in front of him. They moved through the short set list without a problem. He was honestly surprised that they were able to keep the four songs from leaking out on the internet, an issue that was common among a lot of artist. Urahara forbid them from even practicing the four songs they were to play tonight in any venues in case someone recorded them secretly. But the extreme plan worked because the crowd loved the sound of the new songs.
After Can Anyone Love Young? the band ran through Beating Hearts Baby, A Decade Under the Influence and In Too Deep. Ichigo was sure that they had never sounded better in their life. Running on excitement and adrenaline had left them baring it all on stage. The pride with Ichigo swelled; nothing could bring him down tonight.
"Alright," Ichigo leaned into the mic before taking off his guitar. A stage hand came by to swap the instrument for a barstool. "We have one last surprise for you guys tonight."
Toshiro had taken off his bass as well, picking up the acoustic guitar that was set up next to him. Ichigo positioned the mic a little lower so that he could sing into it from his shortened position.
"As new artists, we think that it's important to support other new artists as well." Despite smiling on the outside, Ichigo was scowling on the inside at the short speech that Urahara had him memories. It was supposed to be an effort to show comradery. "Tonight we'll be preforming a secret song for one night only. Please help us greet up and comer Luppi Antenor to the stage!"
The crowd cheered, some people recognizing the name of the singer who had coincidentally released his first music video a few days prior to the event. As Luppi came to the stage, Ichigo couldn't help but laugh internally. Luppi was wearing the all leather cat suit that Shinji had showed him the previous day; except it had been altered so that the leather ran down the sides of his torso were missing. The tight black leather contrasted greatly against his pale skin. There were tiny leather cat ears that blended seamlessly with the shorter singer's inky-black hair. Ichigo could just imagine Shinji from the VIP booth he was at calling the other singer a slut.
A second microphone and barstool had been set up by Ichigo so that Luppi could share down center-stage with him. Luppi took a seat and smiled at the crowd, his lavender eyes sparkling in a way that Ichigo hadn't seen all week. Ichigo had to fight the urge to roll his eyes.
"Thank you so much for having me here today!" Luppi said sweetly into the microphone. "Ichigo and I have worked so hard this week on this song and we would love for you guys to enjoy it."
Ichigo's smile faltered slightly at Luppi's fakeness, but he tried hard to keep it from being noticeable. Toshiro had started strumming the opening chords of the song and Ichigo closed his eyes to get lost in the music and ignore the idiot sitting next to him.
He woke up form dreaming and put on his shoes
Started making his way past 2 in the morning
He hasn't been sober for days.
Leaning now, into the breeze
Remembering Sunday, he falls to his knees
They had breakfast together
But two eggs don't last
Like the feeling of what he needs.
Ichigo opened his eyes and looked out at the crowd as he sang. He saw bright eyes of fans who were able to experience this huge accomplishment in his life. He saw familiar faces of people from the studio, all smiling, pride in their eyes because they knew how much work the kids had put into this. He caught a glimpse of Urahara and Yourichi standing by the bar, talking amongst themselves but stealing glances at the stage. Ichigo scanned the crowd against, unknowingly looking for a pair of eyes he was sure he wouldn't be seeing there tonight.
The neighbors said she moved away
Funny how it rained all day
I didn't think much of it then
But it's starting to all make sense
Oh, I can see now, that all of these clouds
Are following me in my desperate endeavor
To find my whoever, wherever she may be.
Renji had picked up the beat of the song and started to accompany the sound of the soft acoustic guitar without drowning it out. Ichigo was finishing up his last verse of the song as Luppi grabbed the mic in front of him to start his verse. Throughout the week Ichigo found himself surprised that Luppi had a really high pitched singing voice. It was the kind of voice that Ichigo had always associated with those emo bands he listened to when he was younger.
I'm not coming back
I've done something so terrible
I'm terrified to speak
But you'd expect that from me
I'm mixed up, I'll be blunt, now the rain is just
Washing you out of my hair and out of my mind
Keeping an eye on the world,
From so many thousands of feet off the ground, I'm over you now
I'm at home in the clouds, towering over your head
"Well I guess I'll go home now…I guess I'll go home now…" Ichigo repeated the last few words over again when Luppi finished his verse and as Toshiro strummed out the last chord.
There was a loud scream from the crowd as the lights on stage went black. The band and Luppi got up from their spots and walked off stage. Stylist and stage hands were all over them as they wiped down the singers and refreshed them up as quickly as they could before sending the four out onto the main floor of the event. Hands were everywhere as people congratulated the group. Luppi was separated from the trio quickly, allowing the band to meet with as many people as they could.
Ichigo was thrilled to see his high school friends at the party. Orihime, Ishida, and Chad had all seen the band from the very beginnings and Orihime couldn't keep her tears in as she threw her arms around Ichigo's neck and told him how proud of him she was. Ishida tried to pull the busty red head off of Ichigo, claiming that her princess make up was going to be ruined. Ishida took a handkerchief out of his pocket and dabbed it on her still falling tears. Ichigo smiled at the sight, so incredibly happy for his friends who had been dating for nearly ten years. Chad, a man of few words, simply put his hand on Ichigo's shoulder and nodded. Renji and Toshiro small talked with their friends for a bit as Ichigo moved on. It took several minutes before the excitement died down and the three were able to move separately and freely.
He came across Byakuya and Rukia standing together and Ichigo felt a flush of heat go up to his cheeks. Ichigo and Byakuya had crossed paths the past few months, but neither of them had said anything about what would have happened in the bathroom of the fashion event that felt like ages ago. Ichigo was a bit surprised to see Byakuya's hand held being held by a mountain of a man. The man next to him was the complete opposite of Byakuya's incredibly soft features. The man's long hair was spiked on end and he had a scar running down the side of his face. There was an eye patch on his right eye. Ichigo was surprised he missed the man before because he was tall and entirely muscle. Byakuya and Rukia congratulated Ichigo when he got closer. Ichigo was surprised when the man next to Byakuya introduced himself as Zarkai, the bartender at Grimmjow's favorite bar. There was a weird conversation between the two before Ichigo excused himself to meet with other patrons.
After a few seconds of searching, Ichigo was able to locate his family in the booth he had reserved for them. Ichigo laughed at his family's costumes. His dad was wearing leopard patterned tunic that looked like it was supposed to resemble Tarzan. His twin younger sisters were wearing matching monkey costumes. Yuzu was smiling brightly in hers, and Ichigo was sure that it didn't take much from their dad to convince her to put it on. Karin, on the other hand was scowling darkly in her outfit, arms crossed defiantly over her chest. Yuzu waved Ichigo over when she saw him approach. Ichigo watched his family scramble out of their booth.
"How'd you get Karin to dress up as a monkey?" Ichigo laughed, which earned a punch from his sister.
"Tch, Yuzu cried." Karin's scowl darkened as she crossed her arms over her chest again.
"Ichi-nii, you were great out there!" Yuzu wrapped her arms around her brother's middle and hugged him tightly. "All of my friends at school were jealous that we were coming here tonight!"
Ichigo hugged his sister back, realizing it had been a while since he had seen the younger girl and how much he had missed her. "Thanks Yuzu."
Isshin stepped forward and clapped a heavy hand on son's shoulder. "Great job out there, your mom would have been proud." There was a brief silence between the two, making Ichigo feel weird that his dad was being so serious. Luckily it didn't last long. Isshin flung his arms around Ichigo, "My son, I can't believe how many boyfriends you have. And to think Misaki and I were wanting grandchildren. But that can't happen with a son who loves another man." Isshin held Ichigo at arms-length, comically large tears running down his bearded face, "But that's okay. Son, you love who you love."
Ichigo rolled his eyes as he pushed his dad off of him, "Ugh, fuck off dad."
"Ichi-nii!" Yuzu's eyes went wide as she pointed a scolding finger at her brother, "Language!"
Ichigo rubbed the back of his head, "Oh, sorry Yuzu. I didn't mean it." Ichigo turned back to his dad, "Don't believe everything you read, Goat-face."
"Ne, so you're saying you don't have a boyfriend, my son!?" Ichigo watched his son with a knowing eye.
"I'm…I'm not saying anything," Ichigo blushed furiously at the thought of Grimmjow. "Where's Shiro? I thought he'd be here by now?"
"He's over there sucking face with the blonde." Karin used her thumb to point over her shoulder.
Ichigo's eyes followed the trail of her fingers, eyes widening before a look of disgust washed over his face. Shiro had his back towards him, right arm bent at the elbow with his forearm resting on the wall of club. His left hand was wrapped around the neck of the smaller man in front of him, slowly snaking its way into the chin length blonde hair. Ichigo didn't have to see the face to know that the body belonged to Shinji. Ichigo literally thought he was going to be sick to his stomach at the sight of his older brother making out with his friend.
"Oi, Shinji, what the fuck!?" Ichigo yelled out causing Shinji to jump. Ichigo ignored Yuzu's complaint about him cussing as he glared daggers at this friend.
"Ow, fuck." A pale hand went straight to Shiro's mouth as he touched his tongue to see if he was bleeding.
"Ichigo!" Shinji peeled himself off the wall and ran towards the singer. Shinji threw his arms around Ichigo's neck and pulled him into a hug. "You were so great! I am so proud of what you've done here tonight. And ugh, can I just say how well you are pulling off that costume."
Ichigo pushed Shinji off him half-heartedly. "As if you were actually watching; or were you too busy with my brother's tongue down your throat?"
Shinji laughed, completely unfazed by Ichigo's shock. "Please, Ichi. You should know me better than that. I listened to at least two songs before I started making out with your brother."
Ichigo rolled his eyes, unable to keep the look of disgust off of his face. Shiro had made his way over to his family plus Shinji. He slipped an arm around Shinji's waist and pulled the smaller man into his side. Shiro pecked the blonde on the side of his head and Ichigo fought his gag reflex. It wasn't that he had anything against the two men separately, but the two men together couldn't be described as anything but weird. Plus, Ichigo didn't like the idea of his brother making out with anybody.
"So how did this happen?" Ichigo waved a hand between the two.
"I ran into Shiro at the studio when he came to see ya a few weeks ago." Shinji turned to look at his pale companion. "Pretty much followed me around the building until I agreed to go out with him."
Shiro smirked, "Tch, ya were just playin hard ta get."
"Shit, I'm surprised you were able to keep it quiet this long." Ichigo rubbed his hand on the back of his neck, careful to avoid the fake bolts on his neck.
"Well, yer to busy fuckin' Grimm, kinda hard to notice." Shiro cackled at Ichigo and Yuzu's matching shocked expressions.
"Shiro-nii, who's Grimm?" Yuzu looked up at Ichigo's with innocent eyes.
Shiro looked down at his sister and ran a hand in her hair. "His boyfriend. Come on, they've been dating fa like three months now."
Just as Ichigo was trying to ignore their looks, the lights in the club flickered. A voice came over the speakers and announced that the album release portion of the event had ended and the after party was going to be starting shortly. Yuzu and Karin bid their farewells to their brother. Ichigo promised that he'd visit them on his two week long vacation. Isshin told both of his sons to be safe before ushering the teenage girls out of the club. Slowly but surely security was able to get those not permitted to the after party out of the event, the crowd thinning out substantially.
The lights in the club lowered as lasers began to flash color throughout the club. The DJ, a quiet man named Gin, started spinning tracks, a deep hip hop beat blaring. The mood in the room shifted quickly as the laid back excitement of the album released to a full on club experience. Ichigo found himself swept into his usual booth with Shiro and Shinji. Renji, Shuuhei, and Toshiro made their way over as well. Rangiku, who the band made sure was working that evening, came over and laid out shots and mixed drinks onto the table.
The group downed the drinks, buzz of the alcohol and the excitement from the day mixing to put everyone on a good one. Ichigo was dancing next to Shinji when he felt someone bump into him. He turned around and saw Luppi standing behind him glaring at the taller male. Ichigo was honestly surprised that he was still there, but his buzz made him feel too happy to really care.
"You're still here?"
Luppi crossed his arms over his flat chest, but his feet and hips kept moving to the beat, "Like I'm anyone to turn down free booze." Just when Ichigo was going to respond, he saw a look of lust flash across Luppi's face. "Oh me, oh my. Who the fuck is that fine piece of ass?"
Confused, Ichigo followed Luppi's look and his mouth nearly dropped at the sight.