It started with a question from Rukia one afternoon while they were hanging out together.
“Ichigo, do you have a birthday?”
The Arrancar blinked at the shorter shinigami to his right, quietly confused. Renji sighed and began to clarify. “A day you use to celebrate your birth if you’re a human. If you’re a soul, it’s just a random date. Like, Rukia’s is January fourteenth and mine is August thirty-first. When you die though and are sent to Soul Society, there’s no real need for a birthday so we just kinda pick a random day and call that a birthday.”
Silent for several more moments, Ichigo finally looked at them and spoke. “We… Don’t celebrate those things in Hueco Mundo.”
Both shinigami looked aghast before Rukia got up from her spot on the porch. “I’ll be right back. I’m going to grab something.”
She ran into the Kuchiki compound behind them, rummaged in her room for a few moments before coming back with a physical calendar from the World of the Living.
“Did you get that made or did you steal it?” Renji asked, frowning at the kittens on the cover.
“I actually bought it during a mission. It was too cute not to, after all.” Rukia sat between both men, quickly flipping to the first month. She let go of one side to point to the last day of the month that was marked off. “Anyway, Brother’s is January thirty-first.”
She changed it to the next month and folded the picture under to hold it better. February had two notes. “Captain Suì-fēng of Division Two has hers on the eleventh and lieutenant Kusajishi has hers on the twelfth. We celebrate with a party in a good way. They’re another year older, another year wiser and better learned for it.”
Ichigo nodded, studying the page in front of him and scowling. Renji was quick to catch on. “You don’t like that month, do you?”
The arrancar only made a small noise, Rukia flipping to March. “How about this one?”
Two more birthdays were marked off for the Kurotsuchis at the end and Ichigo growled softly. April only had one for Hanatatō Yamada and the noise Ichigo made was more a hum than growl. May and June gave off similar reactions as Rukia turned to them, but when she flipped to July, Ichigo chirped in happiness. Ichigo caught her hand before she could flip to the next month, taking a long look at the paper.
Rukia watched golden brown eyes roam over the page until they settled on something.
“That feels right.” He murmured, quickly pointing out a date on the page. Renji leaned over Rukia to see what he was pointing at.
“That’s the middle of summer!” He protested, gesturing to the sheet in annoyance. “And two weeks out!”
Rukia frowned at the date, asking the question that had been sitting on her tongue since Ichigo pointed to the date. “Ichigo… What do you mean ‘that feels right?’”
The hollow only shrugged and Rukia set aside the calendar to begin play with his hair, carefully braiding it with gentle fingers. Between the three of them, the silence was comfortable until Rukia asked the question they were both wondering. “Does it feel familiar?”
Renji watched in quiet fascination as she worked, trying to coax more conversation out of their friend. He watched Ichigo shrug again, lips sealed. “Well, then that settles it. July fifteenth will be your birthday from now on!”
“Rukia, are you sure this isn’t going too far? I mean… Ichigo isn’t like us, after all.” Renji’s voice held a hint of concern, eyes darting around the garden. Who knew who was listening to their conversation?
Rukia only punched him in the arm and he winced, rubbing the sore spot while she tied off the end of the braid in Ichigo’s hair. “There. And we’ll celebrate it, Ichigo. I promise!”
The Arrancar nodded, a soft purr rumbling out of his chest as he picked up the discarded calendar to look at the pictures this time.
It was the week of the fifteenth and Rukia was dead set on celebrating it for Ichigo it seemed. Grimmjow overheard the argument on the way to the head captain’s office for cutting work the previous month.
“We should get Ichigo a cake!” Kuchiki snapped, hands on her hips and violet eyes narrowed in a glare at Abarai.
“Rukia, Ichigo doesn’t need cake for a birthday! He’ll be fine!” Abarai argued, Grimmjow finally turning the corner and standing behind the Lieutenant.
“What’s this about a birthday and cake for Ichigo?” His voice was a low rumble that started both shinigami and had hands on sword hilts, ready to defend if needed. Good. “Well, you two?”
Kuchiki spoke first. “I wanted to get Ichigo a cake. We had him pick a date on the calendar and he chose July fifteenth for a birthday. Would we be allowed to celebrate at all?”
The captain shrugged. “‘S your thing, not mine. Do whatever you want, shrimp.”
Rukia grinned at Renji in return, clearly happy they had what amounted to permission from the hollow’s guardian. Turning back to Grimmjow, she gave a deep bow. “Thank you, sir!”
“Just don’t do anything stupid with him!” Was the last thing they heard before disappearing. Grimmjow continued his way to Yamamoto’s office for his chastisement, thinking of the chosen date the entire time.
A birthday, huh… It seemed harmless enough but who else would they even invite to the event? Not many people liked Ichigo outside of a few.
There were Kuchiki and Abarai. Unohana from fourth, Kyōraku of eighth, Ukitake of the thirteenth. Kusajishi loved Ichigo, even giving him a nickname to further cement that fact. Zaraki only wanted to fight Ichigo, but he still liked him. Hitsugaya and his lieutenant tolerated him in addition to Ichimaru. Lieutenants Kira, Kotetsu, and Ise followed their captains lead, treating Ichigo respectfully but also had their suspicions about the young man.
There were some who clearly wouldn’t want anything to do with the event such as the Kurotsuchis and Captain Kuchiki, but if the two lower ranked officers knew what to do, then it wouldn’t be much of a mess.
The day of the fifteenth arrived quickly enough, weather actually comfortable enough given that it was summer. They were at the Kuchiki compound, Rukia and Renji in the garden setting up for the party as Ichigo watched in curiosity.
Several servants avoided the area entirely, but some were there and actually helping them given that Grimmjow was there.
“Who all did you idiots invite, anyway?” He barked, finally leaving his spot beside Ichigo to help Rukia hang a paper lantern off a tree branch.
“Rukia invited pretty much everybody she could.” Renji replied, spinning away from the table he was trying to set to discuss the gathering.
Grimmjow wasn’t happy at the news. “Kuchiki, are you insane?! Zaraki will end this in a blood bath!”
Rolling her eyes as she set up another lantern, Rukia sighed. “A lot of them aren’t even going to come, Captain. Several refused as soon as I made it to the doors of their divisions. Others weren’t even interested in seeing me.”
The mood turned melancholy rather quickly as she spoke, eyes downcast. “I managed to get lieutenants Matsumoto and Kusajishi, captains Unohana, Ukitake, and Kyoraku. I even asked Bother but…”
She turned away to hang the paper light in her hands, carefully lighting the candle within with a small burst of shakkahō.
“Captain Kuchiki offered the gardens for the event and said he had work to get done. And that I could help with the set up but had to return after. The only reason Matsumoto’s coming is because she knows there will be good booze.” Renji continued, finally approaching them.
It felt pathetically small for a party, but if it amused them then Grimmjow wasn’t going to be too much of an asshole about it.
He only scoffed at their tale. “The others are cowards. Fools. Kuchiki, you did the best you could for this. Pretty sure Ichigo appreciates it, even if he can’t say it.”
Grimmjow knew exactly why three captains were coming to the party and that was to make sure Ichigo didn’t go out of control. Not that he could considering the golden blockers he wore around his neck, wrists, and ankles. At least they all liked Ichigo for the most part.
Slowly, the other captains and lieutenants arrived, the much older and buxom Matsumoto quickly going for the provided sake. Grimmjow joined her, taking an offered ochoko and slamming it down like it was water. He'd limit his drink intake just in case things took a nose dive.
Yachiru cheered as soon as she saw Ichigo, quickly hugging him tight and clambering up his shoulders to sit. “Icchy! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”
The arrancar gave her a small smile, hands gingerly wrapping around her ankles to keep her steady as he walked. “Thank you.”
The party was slow to start, but when it finally got started it was… Comfortable. It wasn’t boisterous nor too busy. Casual conversation flowed and by the time the sun was setting both Matsumoto and Shunsui were beyond sober, laughing against each other as if they shared an inside joke.
Ichigo showed little interest in the sake and juices offered, more interested in the sweets Rukia and Renji had managed to scrounge up for them to eat. Between him and Yachiru, both could devour the entire table if Grimmjow hadn’t held them back to save some for the other guests.
By the time the party was over, Shunsui and Matsumoto were passed out, Yachiru had been picked up by the third and fifth seats of eleventh, Renji had parted ways much earlier, Rukia was cleaning up with the aid of Unohana and Ukitake while Grimmjow woke Ichigo up from the food coma he landed himself in.
“C’mon. We gotta go, lazy hollow.” He shook his shoulder, Ichigo giving him a sleepy glare. “Party’s over.”
He growled lowly before rising in one swift motion and following after Grimmjow, who turned back to shout through cupped hands. “KUCHIKI! Thanks for the party!!”
The young shinigami waved at them in parting, her smile wide as her captain waved alongside her. Their walk back was silent, but comfortable.
It was late by the time they got back to ninth from the Kuchiki compound, the two of them yawning by the time they reached Grimmjow’s chambers.
Speaking through a yawn, Grimmjow waved Ichigo to the door. “Come inside for a minute.”
Both entered the room, Grimmjow disappearing for a bit before coming back out with a box. He gestured to the small desk off to the side and set the package down, gesturing for Ichigo to open it. The ribbon was carefully undone and the lid was gently lifted to reveal the chocolate cake within.
Grimmjow carefully lifted it out and elbowed the box to the floor, seven candles scattered over the top. Sticking a hand into the sleeve of his shihakusho he produced a book of matches. He opened the book, stuck one, and lit all of them with careful slowness.
Ichigo watched in fascination as Grimmjow went through the motions, frowning in confusion. “You just blow them out.”
He was still staring in confusion until Grimmjow leaned over and blew one of the candles out. Lead by example after all. “You make a wish after they’re all blown out. But you’re not supposed to share it with anybody else.”
Ichigo followed his example and blew them out, his brow furrowed with thought. Grimmjow turned away for a few moments to grab a knife but when he spun back around, it was to see a huge piece of cake missing and Ichigo already eating it with a blissed out expression on his face.
There was icing and crumbs smeared all over his face but Grimmjow couldn’t help but notice how adorable he looked.
He was like a newborn babe having cake for the first time ever.
Setting the knife aside, Grimmjow chuckled and pulled a smaller piece off to nibble on. It was a rich chocolate flavor that lingered on his tongue as he swallowed the pastry down. “Don’t eat all of it in one sitting, Ichigo. You’ll get sick off of this real quick if you aren’t careful.”
Ichigo finally opened his eyes when the hunk of cake was gone, his tongue slowly cleaning the leftover frosting off his long fingers. Grimmjow could feel his face heating up in a blush as he watched, quick to dart into the bathroom and grab a damp washcloth. “Come here, you’re a mess.”
Getting in close, he slowly raised the cloth and announced his actions. “I’m going to clean you up.”
Ichigo didn’t flinch as the fabric made contact with his hierro, only watched Grimmjow’s hand as it moved around his face. The captain watched Ichigo’s eyes, noticing that there were little shades of gold among the brown in his irises.
Snatching up his dirty hand, Grimmjow cleaned that as well, smears of chocolate disappearing quickly. He dropped the appenaged and tossed the scrap of fabric aside. “You have fun?”
It was a soft question and Ichigo gave him a soft smile. “If that was what fun was, then yes. I did have fun.”
Stripping, Grimmjow smirked. “Good. Now go to bed, Ichigo. We have a long day ahead of us.” He watched then listened as Ichigo clambered onto the rooftop, settling quickly against the sun-warmed tiles.
Finishing his nightly routine, the captain settled into bed and pulled the thin sheet over his person. “Happy birthday, Ichigo.”
On the rooftop, Ichigo was already asleep, a small smile on his face and happy purr rumbling from his person. The arrancar having a birthday was too cute for words.