written by A. E. Stover
this version is not edited

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Carefully, with a black ball-point pen, I print in large letters across the top of a new legal pad: NEW YEARS’ RESOLUTIONS.

I feel ridiculous already. I’ve never done this before. Coming up with resolutions, I mean. And it’s April. I really don’t wanna do this. I just don’t see the point. But Kazuo isn’t letting anybody eat dinner until we’ve made our own resolutions, so… (Actually, he’s just make me come up with some because I kept complaining that I was bored and had nothing to do.)

Normally, when Kazuo makes dinner, everyone tries to stay away. Well, everyone except Grimmjow. He’ll eat anything as long as its edible and not too spicy. If he can’t eat it, he’ll bitch and complain about it while eating leftovers from the fridge or ordering take-out. Sometimes, if he’s not in too much of a bad mood, he’ll split some with me. But since he just got his ass chewed up by his boss again, I really doubt he’d have any inclination to share anything.

My stomach gurgles noisily and, drawing my knees in the best I can and bringing the legal pad closer to my face, I pretend like nothing happened. I peer over the legal pad to the only other person with me, wondering if he heard my stomach growl.

Ulquiorra, who’s sitting on the other end of the room on the couch, is focused on a book and doesn’t seem to have noticed.

I sigh, louder than necessary, and let my legs slide to the carpeted floor.

Ulquiorra’s eyes snap away from the book to give me an uninterested look before returning to whatever he’s reading.

I sigh again, but this time he does nothing.

I can hear Kazuo humming in the kitchen as he runs the water from the sink. Then there’s the sound of packaged food being opened, and soon enough the smell of ramen seasoning wafts into the small room. Ramen usually means no experimental cooking, so dinner should be safe to eat tonight. Ulquiorra seems to share my thoughts, because he isn’t walking in and out of the kitchen, pretending like he’s only passing by instead of checking to make sure his kitchen isn’t destroyed, like he usually does when Kazuo’s cooking.

I sigh and look down at the legal pad again. An instant ramen dinner isn’t much of an incentive, but the promise of a safe and edible dinner, and my grumbling stomach, gives me enough reason to consider making this list.

After a moment or two of thought, I put down ‘pay attention in class’ as my first resolution. I haven’t exactly paid much attention, and Ishida-sensei likes to pick on me because he knows that all I do in class is doodle pictures of him getting eaten by monsters or getting hit by stuff falling from the sky. Then I write down ‘get two notebooks’ so I can switch notebooks if he happens to walk past and I won’t get my art stolen. On that note, I add ‘buy black earphones’ because I can’t hide my current white earphones with my dark hair and Ishida-sensei can see them from far away. Then I add ‘get new sharpie markers’ because the ones I use to draw are running out of ink, so I have to press harder on the paper to draw but they make this weird squeaking noise when I do and Ishida-sensei always throws chalk at me whenever that happens because I’m not paying attention in class again and—

—This resolution thing isn’t working out.

I quickly scribble out the last three with a scowl. I write ‘behave in class’ and am somewhat satisfied at my attempt to do good.

Something blasts from the kitchen and I freeze. Ulquiorra is already up and out of the room, and I hear Grimmjow shouting curses from upstairs.  My first thought is that we’re being attacked but that quickly dissipates when I hear Kazuo announcing meekly that dinner was ready. The fire alarm goes off, and so do the sprinklers.

“Ah! No! My special ramen!” I hear Kazuo panic in the kitchen.

At the word “special” I get a chill down my spine. I look down at my legal pad and see that it’s getting wet from the water that’s being sprayed everywhere. The ink begins to run.

This, I realize as I clutch the thick pad of paper, is pointless.

I chuck the legal pad across the room and throw my pen along with it just as Grimmjow walks into the room with a dark scowl on his face. He walks over me still sitting on the floor and grabs the collection of take-out menus from the shelf hanging on the wall over the couch.

“I’m ordering Chinese,” he grunts at me. “You want anything?”

I purse my lips and think over what I want for dinner. I’m soon conflicted between shrimp lo mein and duck chow fun and can’t decide which to choose, and in my thought juggling I suddenly get an ingenious idea.

I crawl over to where I had thrown my legal pad and pen, ignoring the odd look Grimmjow was no doubt shooting me. I sit cross-legged on the floor there, and quickly scrawl my new resolution on the legal pad with much conviction and pride.

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NEW YEARS’ RESOLUTIONS
1. Pay attention in class
2. Get two notebooks
3. Buy black earphones.
4. Get new sharpie markers
2. Behave in class
1. Learn how to cook

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Seika peered into the contents in the plastic containers. She wrinkled her nose. “Why’d you order beef? You know I hate beef!”

“One,” Grimmjow began as he helped himself to a large helping of the fried rice and chow mein. “I paid for the food with my money. And two, you didn’t say shit when I asked if you wanted anything. So eat your beef and shut up.”

“You didn’t even give me a chance!”

“I gave you plenty. Quit whining.”

“Silence yourselves,” Ulquiorra interjected sternly, “or I will enforce it.”

Seika clamped her mouth shut and quietly unpacked the rest of the food. She heard Grimmjow give a reluctant grunt and Kazuo clear his throat nervously. A heavy silence descended on them as they began eating, almost mechanically. The atmosphere was stifling, and Seika found herself absently separating the contents of her food on her plate.

As Grimmjow swooped down with his chopsticks to rid her plate of her unwanted beef, Seika slowly lifted beef-less lo mein noodles to her mouth. Chewing her food, she spared a quick look at the people seated with her at the coffee table they were forced to gather around.

Ulquiorra was busy focusing his attention on his food, and the slight wrinkle in his brow was the only indication of his displeasure. Even that was a large indication, however, as the man rarely showed even the slightest of emotions on his face. Despite the current state the kitchen was in — charred and beyond amateur repair — Seika was certain that Ulquiorra was concerning himself more with the state Kazuo was in. He wasn’t pleased with his ruined kitchen, yes, but he was willing to overlook the incident just this once as it created a chance for him to act on his plans to remodel the old kitchen, with its leaky pipes and gas stove-top that no longer lit up without a match.

But Seika knew that conversations between Ulquiorra and Kazuo tended to end unfavorably. Neither seemed to be able to understand each other; when they spoke, they seemed to completely misunderstand one another in a way that Seika had thought to be impossible. Their conflicting personalities seemed to be at fault: Ulquiorra was a quiet, discerning man who preferred when his companions were up-front and direct with their thoughts, like Grimmjow and herself.

Kazuo, on the other hand, was a rather odd individual; though in most aspects he behaved normally, his strange quirks often bent his behavior irrationally and it was difficult to understand why he did some of the things that he did — something even he had admitted was rather strange himself.

And it was even more difficult for Ulquiorra, who preferred directness and precision, to understand him. Expectantly, the difficultly went both ways,  and as it was such, there was always an awkward air between the two.

At the moment, Kazuo sat at the small coffee table beside Seika, his face pulled into a gloomy and morose expression. Seeing such upsetting features on a usually bright and cheerful face had the peculiar tendency to exaggerate negativity, and it was no different in this case. Kazuo was, no doubt, feeling absolutely terrible about having torched the kitchen, unaware of the opportunity his actions had unintentionally procured.

Movement entered her peripheral vision, and before she could swat the incoming hand away a pile of stir-fried celery and carrots was dropped onto her plate.

Seika tried to return the vegetables back to Grimmjow’s plate, but he was holding it high out of her reach. “Don’t dump your greens on my plate just because you don’t like ’em,” she hissed as civilly as she could when she plopped back down to her seat in defeat.

“You’ll get fat just eating noodles,” was Grimmjow’s smart answer.

“Well, you’ll die from just eating beef, you insensitive jerk. And I won’t be sorry if you do!”

Grimmjow only hefted more beef from the take-out containers laid out on the table. “Yeah, yeah…”

Seika eyed the pile of celery and carrots with much disdain before picking one sliced celery with her chopsticks. What he said to her wasn’t wrong; she always had trouble managing her weight because of her eating habits. Though she liked to eat, there was a lot she didn’t like to eat: she didn’t like vegetables, didn’t like meat, and she didn’t care for fruit if it wasn’t baked in a pie or drenched in syrup and put on a cake. As such, there was a lot of flour in her diet — too much flour — and not much room for anything else except for dairy and sweets.

Seika forced the celery into her mouth and chewed bitterly. So what if she was a little on the hefty side? She didn’t. And stupid Grimmjow could just go jump off a cliff. Who cared about what that jerk thought? Certainly not her.

Still, she made sure to add a carrot in her next mouthful of noodles, if only to be a little healthier. As she ate, she made sure to scowl at Grimmjow, just so it wouldn’t seem as if she agreed with what he’d said to her about eating only noodles.

Grimmjow was one of the most irritating people Seika had ever had the misfortune to meet. But he was also one of the kindest people she’d ever met, in that weird, annoying “tsundere” kind of way. Granted, he was only irritating to her because she never did what he asked — and she never did what he asked because it made things more interesting that way — so she didn’t exactly dislike him all that much.

And she found Grimmjow easier to understand than Ulquiorra and Kazuo, both of whom were still completely unreadable to her, even after having lived with them for five years. Ulquiorra’s silence and blank expressions were stifling and uncomfortable, while Kazuo, whose mental train of thought lacked focus and clarity, could drive her insane with his unpredictability and excessive spontaneity.

Grimmjow was grounded, straight-forward, and had a one-track mind. There weren’t a lot of surprises coming from the guy, but he was someone she could handle — someone she could understand.

So she knew what he was really trying to say earlier, when he had hefted a clump of stir-fried vegetables that tasted vaguely like beef onto her plate. He had spoken purposely, with all the intention to rile her up in the hopes that the unbearable silence at the table would dissipate.

She was glad that an idiot like him at least was capable of subtlety.

Unexpectedly, the silence was broken:

“So,” Kazuo began brightly, “Does everyone have resolutions for the new—”

Both Grimmjow and Ulquiorra responded in unison:

“No.”

“Shut the fuck up.”

The smile on Kazuo’s face stilled, his chopsticks hanging in mid-air. He slowly went back to his food.

Before the conversation could die out again, Seika responded carefully; “I have one.”

The look on Kazuo’s face was dazzling. “Really? That’s great! What is it?”

“I wanna learn how to cook,” she announced, enjoying the look of elation on Kazuo’s face. It was good to see him smiling again; Ulquiorra seemed to agree, as the crease in his brow had disappeared.

“That’s a great idea! I can always use some help around the kitchen—”

“Guy like you needs professional help,” Grimmjow muttered to his food.

Seika hissed fiercely; “Cut it out!”

Kazuo wasn’t fazed. He continued right on; “If you want, I can teach you a thing or two about—”

“No,” Seika blurted out fearfully, along with Ulquiorra, who had spoken with much conviction, and Grimmjow, who had practically shouted it across the table.

Kazuo stared with surprised, blinking eyes for a beat of two of awkward silence before he gave an anxious, staccato laugh. “Oh. …Okay, then,” he said, turning back to his food. “Never mind.”

It remained unbearably silent for the rest of the meal.

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