Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach; genius Kubo Tite does.
A/N: I've been flooding Bleach category, sorry for that..
It had been a week since he made that heralded decision. Now, as the consequences drew near, a trickle of regret mixed with discomfort gathered force to muddle him up. And, boy, he didn't know that much of his undoing would result from this accursed decision.
—Flashback: one week ago—
"Are you sure?" Kisuke Urahara asked Kurosaki Ichigo.
"Yes." The teen answered, and something stirred in the unfathomable depths of his heart as he spoke.
Three days had passed since Hueco Mundo's ruin. Those three days had only been individualized by trivial incidents, without anything to ostracize him from where his mind voyaged; his nemesis. He couldn't just leave Sexta Espada to die or to rot, if he indeed had yet to die. Now unable to decide with logic, or anything resembling it, he leaped across the barrier. Once his feet found ground on which to stand, he was greeted by the vast ruin of the deserted world. Finally, he found Grimmjow Jaggerjack sprawled on the ground, apparently unconscious and bleeding in deadly profusion. 'Three days at that state and still alive. This man is a wonder.' Ichigo thought, pity simmering beneath what reluctance he might have been feeling. He brought the Espada to the real world and left him at Urahara's care.
"One week, and he'll be all healed, rest assured." The humble shop owner informed him.
"And the mask?"
"I'll have to destroy it, though I can't assure you that it will alter his natural tendencies; he's a dangerous man, Kurosaki-kun."
"I know, and I'll take care of it if he goes out of hand."
"Please be back in a week."
"Sorry for the trouble, Urahara-san."
—End of flashback—
He made his way to Urahara's shop with the tread of an older man. Something was telling him things were to slide down a slippery path, and on to a chaotic ground. And, boy, was he so right.
He was shaken off his worries when an array of panicked and familiar voices went shooting from the shop. Traipsing past the entry in an uncommon haste, he emerged into the secret cabin. To his surprise, he found his comrades, Inoue Orihime, Chad Yasutora, Uryuu Ishida, Kisuke Urahara, and Yoruichi circled around the panting Grimmjow.
"What the fuck did you do to my face?" The Espada growled at Urahara, and hostility had never been so apparent to them all until this very moment.
"Nothing. I took the mask off, if that's what you're asking; it looked stupid at all angles."
"You're in for it! You just about killed me, you quack."
"I would have done so without hesitation, but someone begged me to do otherwise. So then I found myself attending to your injuries."
"Point me to that meddlesome fuck; I'll teach him how to deal with—"
"I'm right here, the meddlesome fuck." A voice that neither came from Urahara nor from the Espada shot across the tiny chamber. Everyone's eyes turned on Ichigo, who continued, "You do realize you are surrounded by six very formidable people and one wrong move will send you off in a casket on a direct path to hell."
The teal-haired man looked as though he was seeing all the past terror in his life surge back to him— after which he realized he had to brush that expression aside by the first sudden means available. Hence he allowed his weight to fall back on the bed and mastered his breathing. He spoke, in a manner that evinced a hundred malicious intents,
"When did you learn how to talk big? Anyway, I should've known."
"Known what?" Ichigo asked, strikingly puzzled by the rapidity of the Espada's behavioral transformation.
"It was you who saved me."
"I thought I owed you for tipping us off where to find the Hogyokou."
"Oh come on, Shinigami, pretense is so overused, thus spit it out already."
The orange-haired looked around his friends as if to grope for a response to this most peculiar remark. "Spit out what? I'm not thanking you; we're even now."
"Ha! The mind of a youth! So intricate, yet so insensible." Grimmjow said and was shaking his head in feigned dismay. He seemed to have forgotten that he was being assaulted by these people some five minutes earlier. As it was, everyone else was staring blankly at one another.
"Listen, Grimmjow, I don't know about subtlety and I've not the enthusiasm to read between your fine lines so, if you don't mind, allow me to discuss your current situa —"
"Stop. You're annoying me. Why don' cha just admit it now so we can all hit it off already?" The Espada said irritably.
"That which is as rock-firm as facts...oh wait, what am I saying—it's a fact. In short, I know."
Various suspicions gradually took shape in their heads which were eventually propelled to the substitute Shinigami. Indeed, Grimmjow had managed to breed anticipation among them.
"What. The. Fuck. Are. You. Saying. Grimmjow?"
Grimmjow scowled and gave out a heavy grunt, suggesting arrogance to the point of ferocity. He, then, shot the Shinigami a predatory glance, the kind that unsparingly bullied people with a self-satisfied sophistication.
"You're in love with me. Duh."
Urahara dropped the umbrella he was holding. Yuroichi bit her lower lip and closed her eyes to contain a fit of laughter. Ishida adjusted his glasses. Inoue's lips parted asunder, perhaps never to be reunited. Chad was sweat-dropping. As for Ichigo, he wanted nothing more than to slap some sense across that sneering face and drive a fist full force into that grinning mouth. No doubt he ought to, and in a second should.
"Are you off you're fucking rockers?" The Shinigami managed to string a few words together.
"I should ask you the same. Did you think I got myself killed? Your grief must have set your wits tottering while I was gone. No worries—"
"You've lost your friggin' nuts. Go back to rest, and we'll have you fixed—"
"Cut it with the denials; they're getting on my nerves—"
"I'm not in love with you, dammit! Nor am I anywhere near liking you! Jeez, whatever penetrated that empty skull of yours? No wonder they call your lot Hollows; your fucking head is pure—"
"Of course you are. My, you have the guts to call me an airhead when you yourself couldn't have sense reason had it swallowed you whole—"
"Reason, you say? Give me one, and I swear I'm gonna listen to you." Ichigo demanded in an indignant disbelief.
"Oh, you want proofs? I'll shove that ignorant face where it needs to be shoved. Look here and listen carefully. Here goes: First, in the first time you saw me I knew there was something—"
"That doesn't make the slightest sense —"
"Silence. Do not interrupt. There was something and you knew it; you know it still. You even called out to me for the entire world to hear, begging me to stay—"
"I wanted to finish our match—"
"And should 'wanting to finish a match' include giving out or asking for names? You asked for mine, remember?"
"Wasn't that the natural course of action to choose?"
"I'm afraid it wasn't." The Espada answered. Having gained nothing except the belief that Grimmjow was a demented imbecile, Ichigo blushed furiously, was embarrassed down to his underwear, was looking nervously around his mates, and, yet, worse was to follow.
"I don't know what to make of you any more there's shit in your story/fiction that can even faintly be associated with attraction. Yet, amidst all this here you are, concocting cock and bull stuff that not even a moron would think of starting—"
"Ha! I haven't even come close to the end of the first half. Second time we met, I was missing a little something; my left arm. And oh did you greet me with nothing less than a look of earnest concern. You even inquired as to what happened—"
"Naturally I'd ask! Stop stuffing bullcrap in my mouth, for Pete's sake! A missing arm is a little too hard to ignore, much more to miss! If you must know—"
"Hush! I haven't even finished talking. Allow me to resume. Ah, here we are. Grave disappointment struck you second time around when that bloke of a fucking coward, Ulquiorra, came swooping down on us with his ever so hypocritical persecutions, saying, 'Our mission has come to an end yada yada yada'. You were utterly speechless, perhaps due to the fact that I was leaving you one more time—"
"It was because my Vizard transformation wasn't enough to kick your pompous ass—"
"Of course it wasn't. Now lower your voice; it's ticking me off. You know, some say it's not the one that explodes who is stronger; it's the one that controls himself. In a word, wait for your allotted time to speak and clamp that blabber of a mouth shut. Where did I take off…ah," Grimmjow stood up and paced up and down beside the bed. His steps made a gallant clatter, as six pairs of eyes watched him apprehensively. He resumed, "Next time we met: We found ourselves crossing swords at Hueco Mundo. To make the long story short, you saved me from falling, literally, not figuratively, mind you."
This colorful rendition of the story, which differed quite considerably from actual accounts, disturbed the Shinigami's mind incalculably. How strangely imaginative his nemesis was, he couldn't grasp. Seconds later, Ichigo heard himself say, "I defeated you. I grabbed your wrist, a trivial physical contact, and prevented your fall because killing and letting someone die were not my thing. Now stop confusing what's real from what you wish."
"I'm not accusing you. As a matter of obvious fact, I'm telling the in-your-face truth you so love to deny. Defeated or not, you could've let me hit the ground. I wouldn't die even granted I dropped from a thousand feet. It's as easy as saying you didn't want any more injuries to torment me—"
"True. But it didn't mean I wanted to bed you!" Ichigo snarled without attending to his words.
"Aha! Who said anything about going to bed?!" It was Urahara. Ichigo hurled a pillow at him, violently.
Grimmjow swirled across the room and took his post on a face to face confrontation with the Shinagami. It might have spelled trouble, but everyone stayed rooted to his spot and drank in the scene in obvious fascination. The Espada continued,
"You stopped that perverted loser Noitora from cutting me in half and spat back a few retorts. That's kinda gallant on your behalf. Protective, if I may be allowed to venture—"
"I told you, I don't want—"
"Don't interrupt. Why do you only speak when you're not asked to? I'd have thought you had the least manners to conduct a good argument. But I digress... You saved my neck, an action that has no distinction from you not wanting me dead, which has no difference from you wanting me alive, which is the same as you wanting me around, which is quite synonymous to you wanting to be with me, which is as good as saying you love me. You amuse me. You're all poison outside and pure honey inside." He ruffled the strands of Ichigo's hair and thrust his face closer to the other's face.
"I-I don't know what you're talking about."
"Really? I could've looked past your heroic deed and gone away with the idea that you were simply being noble. But then, in the heat of the battle, you burst forth, saying 'I came to defeat you, Grimmjow'. I know it wasn't a singular aim; you immediately entailed it with the proclamation that you'd bring each and every one of your friends home with you. But you referred to me first, which just revealed the order of importance of your missions—"
"You're ridiculous! I don't know how you managed to get your head as fucked up as this—"
"Oh, for the love of god, calm down. Better yet, if you knew what's good for you, you'd zip it. If you must know, I've drawn enough blood from poor souls with nothing more than my despise for being interrupted. Now where was I…ah, here, here. All these I've mentioned only serve to testify on how much you pine for me. Despite your body being here, your spirit is gadding somewhere else; to where I am. I feel it. Admit it or die denying."
It seemed imperative to speak out a contradiction, protests, anything at all, but the Shinigami just stood there, limp as a pricked balloon, while his head was being invaded by a thousand entreaties. He stayed like that until he was conscious of his stance no longer.
"Uhm," said a tiny voice. Orihime's lips were trembling, and a nervous determination was about her. Yet she scarcely wanted to begin to speak. Nevertheless, she ventured, "Grimmjow-san, you forgot to mention that it was Ichigo who saved you from Hueco Mundo, the very reason why you're here now and very much alive."
Ichigo was looking murderous. He never thought he would ever want to strangle a woman, most especially not Inoue Orihime.
"Ah. How could I be so stupid as to forget that?" The Espada exclaimed and clasped his hand on his forehead. "There you have it, Ichigo, you have fought and you have lost. This is defeat."
The Shinigami was nearer to fever than he supposed, perhaps because had been suffering enough absurdity and humiliation for the last 30 minutes. It was all enough to earn him a trip to the infirmary.
"Grimmjow…it has always bothered and disconcerted me to disappoint anyone but, right now, I want nothing more than to disappoint the shit out of you if only to wake you up from this monstrous dream you're pulling. Your account of the events is nothing but a mere distortion of actual facts—"
"Oh please. You rescued me from the jaws of death. Now here I am, defenseless, unarmed, and cornered but, for some reason, you still haven't raised your Zanpakotou against me. It ushers me to two conclusions; either you're gonna kill me later or you're in love with me. But, since you're still standing there ogling at me, it has to be the latter."
"Those two conclusions can be traced back NOT from the evidences presented but from the puddle of shit you call your brain, and they're stupid! How do you even come up with shit of this caliber?! They're as remotely connected as a god to a bug is and as remotely possible as you knocking up some logic—"
"Is that so, Shinigami? In that case, let's settle accounts then?"
"You bet we should." Ichigo hissed and grabbed the hilt of his Zangetsu.
"Shall I name a place? You wouldn't want to tear this room apart."
"How about your house?"
"What? Are you even taking this seriously?"
"Hmm…I know; your room."
"What are you—that's not what I had in mind—"
"On your bed?"
"Jesus Christ, Grimmjow—"
"Just admit it, Ichigo." It was Chad. Everyone else was nodding in agreement. Ichigo, for what seemed like the faculty that prevented him from harming his friends, looked around them all, bewildered, terrified, disbelieving, and on the whole, defeated.
"I don't believe this! You're taking this dumbfuck's words instead of mine! Just what sort of friends do you call yourselves? Have shame—"
"Good and honest friends. Just admit it, Kurosaki." Ishida added.
There was a long pause. Ichigo stared at his nemesis, the latter's gaze producing an immense sensation no one could not quite define. It seemed to him as if he had never known the relief of silence. He heaved a sigh, and then he spoke,
"I can't answer that for now. I'll think about it; give me time… and, Grimmjow, get some rest, okay?" And he zoomed out of sight.