Warnings: AU timeline based shortly after the current manga storyline- spoilers for everything that has happened and some things that haven't!
Half-credit to yashy
When he had woken up the next morning, Izuru had honestly expected Soul Society to be in a flurry of activity and fear. There was an Espada on the loose, after all. That was worth at least as much security as had been enacted after Aizen’s faked death. But when he had looked out the window, people had been walking through the streets just like any other day. Everything was normal.
For a moment, he had wondered if it had all been a dream. But then he’d shifted away from the window in just the wrong way, and the twinge of pain indicated otherwise. Izuru let out a tiny breath, wincing, and took his time picking himself up out of bed.
Once the haze of sleep cleared from his mind, he couldn’t bring himself to be surprised. It would be foolish for a security alert to be put out for a situation that Soul Society at large was unaware of. There would be an outcry if the first mention of the captured Espada was that one had gotten loose. With the Seireitei so unstable as it was, he couldn’t even bring himself to be that upset about the deception.
At least it would make it easier for him to pretend nothing was going on.
The first thing Izuru did that morning (after dressing and making sure the red marks all over his body were suitably hidden from view) was go to the Academy cafeteria and beg some extra food. He’d found a long time ago that as long as he had a decent excuse- working late, a slim paycheck, a stray animal- the workers there were glad to give away the extra.
He’d taken the food down to the waterway, but Grimmjow had been asleep. It had been hard to resist waking him, even if it was just to say hello, but he’d managed it.
He’d had to get back to work, anyway. Even if it seemed like it was taking ages just to read through one report. He kept stopping to look out the window, to get up and walk around, to sit down on the bed and stretch. He couldn’t concentrate.
It was torture to force himself through the things that absolutely needed to be done, and in the end, he didn’t end up finishing at all. Izuru couldn’t remember the last time he had left his office with anything in the ‘to-do’ pile, but he just couldn’t make himself do anymore. Not until he had cleared his head.
So he had gone for a walk, under the pretext of dropping off some old papers. It was nice to get some fresh air, to say hello to distant acquaintances and a few actual friends. He’d stopped by the Fourth Division to see Abarai- he probably didn’t still need to be there, but they were insisting. He had been happy for the company, and it had been good to see him well.
It was hard to keep his mind off of Grimmjow. He knew that it was a good chance he was still asleep, curled up in the borrowed sheets with his face buried in the pillow the same as he’d left him, but even enjoying the fresh air left him with a pang of guilt.
He had only moved him to a different prison.
“Izuru, I’ve been talking to you for five minutes! Where is your head?”
Izuru yelped and dropped the folder. The moment he slowed down, two arms wrapped firmly around his midsection, dragging him back against what felt like two pillows wrapped in a haori.
“I’m sorry, Matsumoto-san,” he said, struggling a little. “I was lost in thought.”
“I could tell!” She squeezed, then let him go in favor of stepping up beside him. “I haven’t seen you for a while- you’ve been busy, huh?”
“You could say that.” Izuru started walking again, knowing she would keep pace with him. “How’s your side?”
Matsumoto waved a hand dismissively. “Oh, it’s fine, it’s fine. You did a good job patching me up.” Izuru started to shake his head, and she just pushed a little at his shoulder, laughing. “Oh, come on, don’t be modest.”
Izuru smiled a little. “I can’t help it.”
“I know.” She patted his hair and ruffled a little. Izuru cleared his throat, looking away. Matsumoto had a way of embarrassing him when he was reasonably sure she wasn’t even trying.
A moment of silence passed, and he glanced over at her, angling his face to hide behind his hair. It was more habit than anything else- when someone was on his left side, it meant they couldn’t see his eyes, and that often gave him a few valuable seconds of investigation. Matsumoto was walking with a slight hitch- holding herself a little more to one side than the other to compensate for the lingering pain in her side. It seemed strangely fitting that it was the sway of her breasts that gave it away.
“You should be resting,” he said, looking back up to her face, turning his head so she could see his eyes.
Matsumoto laughed lightly, shaking her head. “Come on. You know me. How much work do I actually do?”
He sighed, giving up. There was no use in pushing it anymore. Matsumoto had a reputation for being relaxed about most things, but he knew just as well as anyone that she had a stubborn streak in her a mile wide. She was stronger than she looked, and he would never dream of trying to change that.
“I’m just on my way to get something to eat anyway.” Matsumoto lifted a hand, tucking a stray lock of hair behind her ear. “Captain Hitsugaya kicked me out, said I was getting on his nerves. And here I’ve been doing extra work for him so he can go to his stupid ‘secret meetings’.”
Izuru raised an eyebrow. “Are the captains meeting more often?”
“Oh, yeah.” She adjusted her scarf. “You know… Huecco Mundo stuff.” Matsumoto turned her face, giving him an over-exaggerated wink. “All that super-official secret stuff. Like we weren’t part of that clean-up crew in the first place.”
He just nodded, looking straight ahead. That was right- while Matsumoto hadn’t come with them to Huecco Mundo, having been grievously injured at the time, she had been there when they’d left. There was no way she knew what the captains were really meeting about, if it was actually all the captains in the first place. He couldn’t be sure who knew anything. Or who knew he knew.
Two arms wrapped around one of his, effectively silencing his worry. “Come eat with me, huh? I’m lonely.”
At that he couldn’t help but laugh, looking over at her. “Say that a little louder, you’ll have all the company you want.”
Matsumoto laughed too, shaking her head. “Well, I-” And then she paused, eyes narrowing, her pace slowing to a stop.
Izuru blinked, stopping too. Someone sidestepped around him, and he was in the process of turning to apologize when she grabbed his chin, dragging him into her field of vision.
“Matsumoto-san?” he said weakly. The look on her face was one of fierce concentration, and it was making him more than a little nervous. Had it been naïve of him to think Captain Hitsugaya wouldn’t tell her? He was a stickler for the rules, but they trusted each other implicitly.
After Aizen had left Soul Society, Izuru had expected Matsumoto and Captain Hitsugaya to turn him in for his complicity. They hadn’t, and he was more than grateful. But he knew he couldn’t expect them to look away the second time.
She leaned forward a little, looking from side to side. She tugged his chin down a little, forcing his mouth open just a little. Then she pushed it up, arching his neck. Then her hand moved from his chin entirely, and swept downwards, yanking the front of his haori open.
“Matsumoto-san!” he protested, feeling his ears heat.
She looked over his chest for a moment, eyes narrowed, then pulled back, breasts bouncing with the movement as she moved her hands to her hips. “Kira Izuru!” she pronounced, gray eyes sparkling. “Did you get laid?”
Izuru just stared at her. He was vaguely aware of his jaw dropping.
“You did!” she squealed, clapping her hands. “Oooh, Izuruuu! Tell me all about it!”
He coughed, shaking his head, trying to get his calm back. “Matsumoto-san- I- n-no, it’s just-”
Matsumoto grabbed his hands, pulling him out of the main thoroughfare. Izuru stumbled after her. “Come on!” she crowed, squeezing his hands. “It’s about time! We’re friends, tell me all about it!” When he hesitated, she just laughed and squeezed his hands again. “You don’t have to pretend, don’t be silly. It’s obvious.”
“…It is?” Izuru sighed, giving up. She would have dragged it out of him eventually. So he just started walking again, knowing she would keep pace with him.
Matsumoto walked close to his side, hands behind her back, leaned forward just a little to keep an eye on his face. “Well, a girl knows, Izuru. Besides, I can see the teeth marks on your lip.”
He raised an eyebrow. “How do you know I didn’t bite my own lip?”
She shrugged, smiling. “That’s why I looked at your chest. Got some little marks there too, y’know…” When he flushed, Matsumoto laughed. “You got yourself a fiesty one, huh?”
“You could say that,” he mumbled, looking aside.
Matsumoto giggled, taking a step to the side and bumping into him deliberately. “So…? Come on, who is it? Tell me! I’m not gonna stop bothering you until you do!”
Izuru looked over at her, biting his lip. She just smiled at him brightly, expectant.
“I can’t,” he said softly, glancing away. He couldn’t risk it. There would be no excuse for getting Matsumoto mixed up in this mess- she had her own life to deal with, and she had already covered for him once before. He couldn’t imagine imposing on her again.
And she would have every right to call him a traitor, leading a prison break for a captive Espada. He couldn’t bear that.
Matsumoto frowned prettily, full lips pursing. “Come on, I’d tell you!”
“I- I know, but-” He looked away again, wincing inwardly. “I can’t. I’m sorry.”
“…Was it Gin?”
Izuru stopped in his tracks, a lump starting in his throat and settling uncomfortably in his stomach. Her voice had gone deadly serious. It was ridiculous that he immediately felt so guilty- especially when it wasn’t true. He shook his head immediately, hard enough that it almost dizzied him. “No,” he said emphatically. “No.”
Matsumoto relaxed visibly, smiling again. Then she raised an eyebrow, looking mildly pensive. “Was it Captain Hitsugaya?”
At that he couldn’t help but stifle an embarrassed laugh, the lump in his stomach dissolving. “What? I- no!”
She put her hands back on her hips for a moment, then laughed and nudged him, starting to walk again. “Then what are you worried about? Come on, don’t be so shy. Who do you think you’re talking to?”
Izuru shook his head, walking alongside her again. “Matsumoto-san… there are plenty of other options that are cause for worry.”
She waved a hand at him, then turned into the cafeteria. Izuru followed after her, following her cue and falling silent as they picked up their food. Taking a closer look at it, he had to admit he wasn’t entirely sure what the dish itself was supposed to be. It still smelled vaguely appetizing, so he kept his thoughts to himself.
Matsumoto led him to a small table, and when they sat down, she was watching him expectantly. Izuru swallowed hard, looking down at the plate. Maybe he could eat fast.
“Is he hot?”
Luckily, he hadn’t quite taken the first bite. Izuru set his utensil back down and took a moment to gather himself.
“I’m not telling you anything,” he said primly, not looking at her. “You might as well stop asking.”
Matsumoto pouted, leaning her chin on the heels of her palms. “Come oooon,” she complained. “Why’s it got to be such a big secret? I don‘t gossip!” All it took was one stern look, and she dissolved, giggling. “Okay, okay. Look, we don’t have to name names, just- just tell me about him, okay?”
Izuru hesitated a moment more, looking down at his plate. Maybe he owed her that much. And without explaining who he was, well… how much harm could it do?
“Okay,” he relented, and he could see her face light up. That in itself was worth it.
Matsumoto set into her own lunch, eyes fixed on him. “Okay, then spill! Don’t spare the gory details!”
Izuru let out a heavy sigh, settling uncomfortably in his chair. She was watching him closely, seemingly unaware of the noodle hanging from her lips.
“He’s…” For a moment, he struggled for the words- any words. How could he describe Grimmjow? How could anyone describe him, in just a few sentences? Without the feeling of his hands, the scent of his skin, the dangerous quirk of his mouth when he grinned? He would need a pen and paper. He would need a painting, or one of the haiku he wrote for the periodical.
“He’s rough,” he said instead, knowing the words were woefully inaccurate. “He’s- not carefree, but casual, almost. Like he knows the rules don’t apply to him and he wouldn’t care if they did. He’s brash, and tough, but almost- sometimes I can see what he’s hiding, like he doesn’t mind if I look-” Izuru cut himself off, becoming aware of the building heat in his ears.
“Wow,” Matsumoto said, her chin still in one hand. There was a little smile on her face. “You’ve really got it bad for this guy, huh, Izuru.”
He looked down at his plate. His cheeks were hot now, too.
“I… I guess so,” he said, barely audible.
It was a hard thing to admit, even to himself. It wasn’t that it was a surprising thing- in fact, it had become almost obvious embarrassingly fast. Izuru wasn’t the type to just fall into bed with someone, even on a rebound. But it had all just come so easily. Even though every step he took had led him farther and farther away from where he was comfortable- heading a prison break, hiding a fugitive- on some strange level, he was enjoying it.
It made him wonder if the him from a few months ago would recognize him now.
“Well, good.” Matsumoto’s voice was lower, more serious. When he looked back up, she reached across the table and patted his hand. “It’ll be good for you. Get some perspective. Just don’t let him walk all over you, you hear?”
Izuru shook his head with a little smile. “He won’t,” he said, no unsteadiness behind his voice. “He’s been hurt, too.”
“Well, you just be careful.” She smiled and squeezed his hand.
For the rest of lunch, Matsumoto relented and steered the conversation to other things. Izuru caught her shooting sly glances at his neck and now-closed haori every few minutes, but thankfully, she didn’t push the matter. She was the master of wheedling things out of him, but it appeared she was satisfied, at least for now.
When they left, Matsumoto insisted on following him out, at least to the squad house. He made a point of detailing just how much work he had to do on the way, anticipating a belated invitation to go drinking, but she had just hugged him with a smile and urged him to ‘go see your man tonight, loosen up a little’.
He had really meant to get some work done.
But he’d found himself heading down the ladder into the darkness only minutes later, carrying a bag of the remaining spare food between his teeth. It wasn’t even dark yet, and there would probably be members of his squad looking for him, but- but somehow, he couldn‘t summon whatever part of him should worry about it.
He was going to see Grimmjow. The rest could wait.
As he walked the winding hallways, finding his way to the tiny room, he found his mind drifting. What would it be like, to introduce Grimmjow to Matsumoto? To Hinamori, to Hisagi, to Abarai? Would they accept him? Maybe it was wishful thinking, but he couldn’t help but think that maybe they would- Abarai and Hisagi, at least. It seemed that at their core, the three of them were very similar. Maybe they would connect, like warriors did. And Hinamori was a sweet girl, he was sure she would try her best to understand him.
It wasn’t as though it could ever happen. Grimmjow was a fugitive Espada. If he were someone Izuru had simply passed on the street one day, there would be nothing in the way, but as things were, it was impossible. It had to be. He had already taken enough risks- one that big would be more than foolish, it would be suicidal.
But as many times as he told himself that, in the back of his mind, there was a determination swelling- a feeling that had become more and more familiar over the past few weeks. The same determination that had led him to draw Wabisuke to an Espada, to claim responsibility for him and bring him to Soul Society- and then to break him out of his tiny prison, and to let him further past his defenses than he ever thought he could.
He was going to find a way. Grimmjow had renounced Aizen and come to Soul Society of his own free will- he didn’t deserve to be imprisoned, and Izuru was going to find a way to set him free, no matter what it took.
The thought was exhilarating. When he pulled the door open, the heady feeling just made it that much easier to let Grimmjow wrestle him down into the pile of borrowed sheets and kiss him breathless.
He was going to find a way.
But he would do it tomorrow.