"You look better today." Ichigo sat next to Rukia's bed. She was dressed in a t-shirt, lighter bandages on her arms.
"I feel it. And you? How are you coping, Ichigo?"
He shrugged. "I know I brought this on myself."
"You did," she agreed. "But you're still just a kid. We should have intervened when we saw you getting too close."
"But that would have blown your cover."
She nodded. "Will I ever do anything right?"
He put a hand on her arm. He still didn't know her very well, but with her team gone, and him with nothing else to do, he'd spent much of his free time in her company as she recovered. He felt they'd built and understanding if not scratched the surface of a friendship. "You tried to help him, in the end."
"And Yumichika paid that price." She let out a long breath. "I'm sorry, all I do is wallow in self-pity. It's unprofessional."
"It's human," he countered, but his eyes dropped, thinking to what Grimmjow had described about being on the drug. "Rukia, can you tell me about when you first met Grimmjow?"
She considered. "I supposed, you've already been made aware of sensitive material." She shifted to get more comfortable on the bed. "Like I said before, we had targeted him because he'd been on Hogyoku the shortest amount of time, and therefore, the least strong. We needed someone on the inside, but since Aizen had forged his army of his own children, our only option was to turn one of them. When I first read his file, I didn't think we could ever change him enough to win him over. I was against it, actually. But our commander was unrelenting in his pursuit."
"No. Byakuya. Byakuya Kuchki."
"Oh." Ichigo had heard enough to know her brother was dead.
"He set it all up. Grimmjow was two months away from his eighteenth birthday. He should have been in school, like you, but he's never been. He was raised in Aizen's compound—well mostly. He left the mansion with two others, Tier Halibel and Cyote Starrk, his older sister and brother. They were making a deal of some sort, I think Grimmjow was just there to learn what to do. Japanese police made the bust, but it was all part of our plans. We used the confusion to separate the three, then we cornered Grimmjow." She rubbed her arm, as if remembering an old injury. "He broke Yumichika's leg, Renji's collar bone and Ikkaku suffered a severe concussion. I don't remember much, he threw me into a wall- I couldn't believe how powerful he was, how fast, how honed his movements were for someone so young. My brother incapacitated him eventually, but it took our most powerful tranquilizers and he still suffered a broken nose."
"Yes. It was terrifying, but it was also an insight as to just what a threat Aizen and his children pose to us, even the world. But worse, it was proof that Hogyoku had been refined, perfected, and obedient supersoldiers created."
"You didn't want to save Grimmjow, you wanted to get the formula."
"Of course we did. It could change the world. In the right hands, we could have superheros, in the wrong hands, we could have genocides."
"No. No one should mess with life this way."
"That's what some people thought, even one of the developers himself."
"The one who left the project twenty five years ago?"
"But not Urahara."
"He tried to fix it, for years. And then when he got wind that Aizen had, and the threat he posed, he felt responsible for letting his brain child get in the hands of such a person. He made it his personal goal to get it back. But really, it's beyond that now."
"So what happened, after you got Grimmjow?"
"We put him through detox. It was one of the worst things I'd ever witnessed. We did everything we could to help him, but it was nothing short of torture. And when it was out of his system, he was like a zombie. We thought he was in shock, but it was depression."
"You said you saved his life?"
"We had him under observation, he didn't speak, barely moved. And when he did improve, he was crippled by panic attacks, anxiety. But he did get better, little by little. And that's when we backed off, stopped watching him so closely. And then I found him bleeding out in bathroom after he slit his wrist with broken pieces of the mirror."
"He said if this was what is was to be alive, he didn't want to live. But he got better, obviously, and things levelled out enough that he could function, like he has the last year. But he refused to go back undercover like we asked."
"So what, you turned him lose?"
"No. We wanted information. He gave us some, though at that point I don't think he knew what he wanted. Aizen was still his father, and even if he wasn't high anymore, he wasn't exactly ready to turn on his family. So we were patient, we gave him time. But that gave them time. And they got him back."
"They took him from here?"
"No, we were moving him, to get him farther away from it all, to a better facility with more doctors who could help him. But Aizen had been waiting for exactly that."
"He attacked in transport?"
"Yes. I honestly don't know how any of us came out of it. There was so much gunfire, it all happened so fast. But they must have been more interested in getting him back than killing us. Only my brother came out of the crash strong enough to resist. Grimmjow didn't want to go, we knew that at least. He tried to run, they grabbed him, Byakuya tried to help. He was outnumbered, and they were on Hogyoku. He stood no chance."
There was silence for several long seconds then Ichigo asked a question that still burned him, even more so after hearing this story.
"Rukia, I don't get it. If they went to such trouble to get him back, how did he ever escape? And why did it take them a year to come for him again?"
Her eyes darkened and he knew she was thinking the same as him. "I don't know Ichigo, but the only thing that I can think, is that Aizen intended for him to escape. He wanted him to. And for whatever reason, now he wants him back."
"It's as I suspected. He has chemical depression, probably always will until we put him back on Hogyoku." Szayel was in his office, explaining everything to his father.
"Is that a guarantee?"
"Unfortunately no, I can't say for certain what the effects of going back on it will be." He lowered the sheet and looked Aizen straight on. "As you know, no one of the second generation ever stopped Hogyoku once they started, until Grimmjow."
"Can you predict why he survived withdrawal?"
"Yes. He was too young, he'd only been on it for three months. Any longer and his body would have been too dependant, but as it was, he just made the cut off. I can't say for sure how this will affect his dependency the second time around."
"Alright. You've done good work, son. Now, I would like to get your brother back with the rest of you. I would like to start Grimmjow on the doses as soon as possible."
"He's strong enough. We can start today."
Grimmjow knew, when the door opened, who it would be. He'd been expecting them long before now.
"So you are alive," Yammy sneered, stepping in the room first, his thick body towered over the others. Behind him came the rest of Grimmjow's siblings, save Szayel: Starrk, the eldest, Halibel, the second born, Yammy himself was next and the one closest to Grimmjow's age, Ulquiorra, older than him by less than a year. Though they shared a father, they all had extremely different appearances due to their mothers' genetics.
"Barely by the looks of it," Halibel commented, crossing her arms under her sizeable chest.
"He's lost weight," Ulquiorra said. "He looks weak."
"It's the depression I was telling you about," Starrk said, "he goes for days without eating."
"Depression, tch, poor baby got sad, did he?" Yammy jeered.
Grimmjow sat where he was chained, back against the wall, legs drawn up, and listening to his siblings discuss him as if he weren't even in the room. Their heartless words, their cold eyes on him- he felt the greatest sorrow, at knowing what his family had become- and knowing what he was soon to return to. He could hardly remember, now, those days in their youth, when they'd actually had emotions. Now, among them again, the only one left with independent thought and feeling, he felt like a human on an alien planet. He felt alone. He felt dread.
"So, come on then," someone was finally acknowledging him instead of just talking about him, "tell us what it was like on your own." He looked to Yammy.
"You want to know?" He doubted his genuine curiosity.
"Yeah, you know, slumming it with civilians, being weak and shit."
"It was freedom," he answered honestly. "It was real."
"What the Hell does that mean?" Yammy asked.
"It means I wasn't some brain-dead, indoctrinated asshole anymore."
"WHAD'YOU CALL ME?!"
"Yammy!" Starrk Intervened. He'd been on Hogyoku the longest, and was easily the strongest of them, but it was easy to forget at times from his calm demeanour. Now he interfered, stopping Yammy from striking their chained brother.
"It's true though," Grimmjow dared continue. "You guys can't know, until you stop taking Hogyoku."
"What the Hell did those Interpol bastards do to you?" Halibel challenged. "You're the brain-washed one."
"Like I said, you can't understand while you're still high."
"We're not high and you know it." Ulquiorra's calm voice drew his attention sideways. The smallest of them, he was no less deadly. "Hogyoku alters the very structure of your cells. We are strengthened. We are enhanced."
"You're hollow. You're all dead inside."
"Dead inside? Is that how you felt when you tried to kill yourself." Those dark eyes got to him and his chain pulled taught when he lunged off the bed at Ulquiorra. He stood at the edge of his bed, arm forced back behind him.
"You little bastard!"
"It's true though," Ulquiorra continued. "You slit your wrist but that little bitch saved you. Then you swallowed all those pills. So tell us again, what's so great about the world outside it made you want to die?"
Grimmjow stood seething, telling himself they could never understand.
"He unbalanced his brain," Halibel spoke. "That's what Szayel told me. Says he can't even control it."
"Fucking weak." Yammy spat. Grimmjow watched him for a moment, considering all aspects of his situation. Starrk was back by the door, no one stood between him and Yammy now. He made his decision and took a breath.
"Like I said, Yammy, I'm not the weak one. You're the drug-dependent fatass who can't say no to daddy."
He hit the bed with force enough he heard the frame shudder under him. It was only one strike, but the punch to his face threatened to take him under. He tasted blood, he couldn't see, he just felt the hand on his neck drag him up and out too far from the bed.
"GHA!" He screamed at the force on his wrist. There was a terrible pop, he felt that same sensation of shattered glass in the joint as he had when Ikkaku had dislocated his shoulder, but that pain was lost to him when he was thrown back into the wall.
"ENOUGH!" Thunder boomed in his ear drums. He swallowed convulsively, the strikes enough to kill him- and he had known this. He'd wanted this. Because he knew when their father came back what he intended to do. He just had to hope he couldn't administer the drug when he was injured.
"Yammy, leave now. That goes for all of you, out!"
"Yes sir." They all left Grimmjow was flat out on the bed, face against the wall where he'd fallen. He felt hand on him, stiff with anger, but the blows had been too much, he never saw the look on his father's face before he was out again.
"Tell me what happened." Aizen stood before his firstborn. Starrk explained the conversation, but that was not what Aizen was after. "In your opinion, Coyote, did Grimmjow provoke Yammy on purpose? Did he want to reinjure himself?"
"In my opinion...yes."
Molars ground tight together. "He hates me so much he would risk his life to defy me." His words were for himself, not Starrk. "Go."
Aizen stood a long time in his study. It was a few hours after the incident, Szayel had already been to patch Grimmjow up. As a regular human against someone as physically enhanced at Yammy he'd been severely injured. But it wasn't injuries that had kept Aizen from injecting him to this point—it was the tests he'd wanted performed and the antibiotics that would interfere.
But he had those samples now. So he pushed out the door, stormed down the hall and retrieved what he needed from the medical ward before throwing open Grimmjow's door.
It was clear what he intended.
"No." Grimmjow sat, despite his injuries, and pressed himself back against the wall, as if he could actually escape this. "Don't."
"Yes. I'm tired of this, Grimmjow. I am going to make you mine again." He grabbed his unchained wrist and forced his arm out.
"I don't want it!"
"I don't care." He lined the needle up with his vein.
"Please...father." Grimmjow wasn't one to beg, but he had no other option.
"You'll thank me when you remember yourself. And you had better apologize."
The needle went in.
A primal scream.
A hollow heart.
A feral grin.
Thanks for the reviews. Next time, meet the new Grimmjow...action upcoming!