Ichigo eyes were drawn to the arrancar as soon as he walked in the door. Rukia had blathered something about gathering at Mr. Hat-and-Clog's shop, so he'd expected to see some of the Shinigami and Chad and Ishida and Orihime, but not... him. Urahara said something that Ichigo didn't manage to catch, he was too focused on staring at the man who shouldn't be there.

Rukia stepped between them and put her hand over Ichigo's clenched fist. She shook her head, seemingly ready to fight him to keep him away from Grimmjow. Why were they stopping him? Why was he the only one ready to fight? They all knew who the arrancar was, so why weren't they...

"No fighting," Urahara repeated calmly.

Ichigo's mouth hung open as he stared back and forth between Rukia and Urahara. "What do you mean?! He's an arrancar!"

Rukia's eyebrow twitched. Her smile was a touch too fake. "Now, Ichigo, be nice. He's our ally now."

There were too many smiling faces, some forced, some grim, some simply amused. Ichigo pointed at the blue-haired man that grinned from the tatami on the floor of the other room. Bandages peeked out from under the blanket. They covered most of the exposed part of Grimmjow's chest and continued down. "But he... You... he... why... he..."

They just stared at him. Why did no one but him understand the massive wrongness of this situation? Even Ishida and Orihime seemed to be taking it in stride.

"Ichigo..." Rukia smiled wanly as she started to speak.

Ichigo cut her off. "He tried to kill me! He almost did kill me! Multiple times!"

Byakuya snorted from where he leaned against the doorframe, his attention split between Grimmjow and Ichigo as if he were some sort of guard. He wasn't entirely certain if Byakuya was there to keep Ichigo away from Grimmjow or the other way around. "So did I and yet you have no problem fighting alongside me, or any of the other Shinigami for that matter."

Rukia smiled sweetly and Ichigo suddenly wished he was anywhere but here. "Would everyone who's tried to kill Ichigo please raise their hand?"

Half the Shinigami loitering in the room raised their hands, along with Urahara and Ishida. Grimmjow's smile was far too cocky for Ichigo's liking as the arrancar raised his hand. He was tempted to stomp over there and beat the smile off Grimmjow's face, even with Byakuya and half a dozen Shinigami standing in the way. He might even give in to that temptation if the bastard didn't stop looking so damn pleased with himself.

"And everyone who's wanted to kill Ichigo at some point?"

More hands rose. The majority of the people in the room had a hand raised, in fact.

"Orihime!?" Ichigo spluttered in disbelief.

She blushed and lowered her hand slightly. "Well, I had this dream... and you took my cheesecake... and then that happened, and that and so..."

Suddenly he understood why Orihime had been so mad at him for no reason last year. "You mean when you wrote all over my desk in marker two semesters ago it was because..."

Orihime pouted. "I'm sorry! But, you were really mean in the dream and I-"

Byakuya cut Orihime off with a cough and a pointed glance. "Can we cut the chatter? Get to the point."

Urahara shrugged and twirled his cane. "This is the point. Grimmjow's allied with us, Ichigo - don't kill him, Grimmjow - don't kill Ichigo, and that's really all I had. Sake, anyone?"

Ichigo stormed out.


"No."

Rukia's smile widened. "Ichigo."

He was not pouting. "Absolutely not. No. Not happening."

"Ah." She was grinning. He had the feeling he was about to lose this argument. "Too bad your father already agreed."

"Whaaat!?" When had she... "No. No, no, no, no."

Rukia twirled around the room, as gleeful as she got whenever there was another of those stupid Chappy... things out. "He thinks its soooo nice that you're helping out an injured classmate, what with Jack's parents being away in America."

His idiot-father was going to be insufferable. His sisters, worse. "Jack?"

"Well we can't call him Grimm. Actually, we did, but that's as a last name - Jack Grimm. Jow wouldn't have worked, and Jager makes him sound like some foreign rock star."

"But... Jack?"

"It's an American name, right?"

This conversation was moving away from his real objection. "That's not the point! Why here? Why me?"

Rukia's face split in a brimming grin. "We have our reasons. Mostly, you're just convenient."

"I don't want to be convenient. I don't want him here! We hate each other. What possibly made you think this was a good idea?"

"Don't be so negative, Ichigo. It'll work out." Rukia stepped up onto the windowsill. "And remember, no killing each other."

She was gone before he could reply.


Ichigo couldn't sleep. He was tired, exhausted after school followed by dealing with Rukia and then his family and Grimmjow. It was late. He was going to be dead tomorrow if he didn't get some sleep.

The floor was hard and cold. The thin futon felt lumpy and he kept accidentally kicking his desk chair. Above him, Grimmjow lay in Ichigo's bed, wearing nothing but bandages and pajama pants, getting arrancar cooties all over his bed. It was too quiet.

He couldn't sleep.

"This is so unfair," he muttered quietly to the room at large.

"Well," Grimmjow's voice stretched in the silence. Ichigo hadn't actually meant to for the bastard to hear him. "You could always come up here."

Images flashed through Ichigo's mind unbidden. It was a small bed, not enough room for them both to lay flat which meant... "No way in hell, pervert." He added 'homo' to the growing list of insults he used to categorize the blue-haired arrancar. The mental images shifted, slowly growing more vivid, more... explicit. He scratched 'homo' from the list and decided he'd rather never think about it again.

His body reacted on its own, stirring slightly at the thought of Grimmjow pinning him down and the slide of flesh...

The mattress creaked, breaking that thought. "Actually," Grimmjow spoke quietly, "I was just thinking it'd be easier to kill you if you were up here, but..."

A dark shadow fell over him and then there was cotton in his face. His shout was muffled by the pillow. He grabbed Grimmjow's arms, but unfortunately gravity was helping the arrancar instead of him. Grimmjow shifted to the floor. It seemed like he was using all his weight to push the pillow into Ichigo's face, hard enough that the tension of the cloth actually hurt. He couldn't breathe.

Ichigo used his grip on Grimmjow's arms to steady himself. He guessed and aimed. His foot connected.

"OW!" The pillow fell away. Ichigo grabbed it and inhaled a deep lungful of oxygen.

As soon as he could see again, he smacked Grimmjow with the pillow, hard.

"Hey, injured here!"

"You tried to kill me!" Ichigo belatedly remembered that his sisters were sleeping in the next room. In a lower voice he added, "with my own pillow."

He smacked Grimmjow again for good measure, aiming for the bandages on his chest. Why didn't he keep a real sword in his room? Oh, right. He didn't want his father to think he was joining a street gang, again. One lecture on that topic was bad enough and his father kept giving him these strange looks every time he came home with bruises or bandaged up.

Grimmjow's teeth gleamed in the faint light from the street. He shifted away from Ichigo, leaning back against the mattress. The arrancar was staring at him.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Ichigo hissed softly. He half expected one of his sisters to peak in and tell them to keep the noise down. "I thought you wanted to be allies or something."

Grimmjow shrugged. "You were whining. I didn't want to hear it."

"And that makes it okay to try and kill me? You should have been sleeping."

"So should you."

Dead people politics were far too confusing sometimes. Hadn't Rukia told him that Grimmjow had wanted to come here, that he'd approached Urahara on his own? Ichigo glared. "This is all some ploy so you can kill me while I'm stuck as a human, isn't it?"

"You think so?" Grimmjow snorted. It almost seemed like the bastard was enjoying this. Probably part of his nefarious plan. He'd keep Ichigo awake at night so that Ichigo wasn't able to defend himself when the real attack came. "If I wanted to that, I would have just waited until you were asleep and snapped that fragile human neck of yours." The arrancar's chuckle seemed to bounce off the walls, multiplying in the shadows. "No, when I kill you, you're gonna be awake and armed, and when you die, it'll be because I overpowered your sorry ass and not because you happened to fall asleep nearby."

It took Ichigo a minute to process Grimmjow's entire speech. "So the short version is, 'I'm not gonna kill you in your sleep'?"

"Something like that."

Strangely, he believed Grimmjow. Ichigo filed that in with the growing collection of things he never wanted to think about.

"Fine," he groused instead. He shoved both pillows under his head, pulled up the covers, and turned his back on the arrancar.

The room was silent for several minutes. Finally, he heard Grimmjow stand and the mattress creaked again. Fabric shifted and he pictured Grimmjow lying with his back to Ichigo. For a brief, tiny second he felt bad about stealing Grimmjow's pillow. His lungs still hurt. The feeling of pity didn't last.

Ichigo finally fell asleep.


"Why did you change sides?" Ichigo asked quietly, hoping Grimmjow would take the hint and speak softly so the other pedestrians wouldn't overhear them. It was strange seeing Grimmjow in normal clothing, almost as strange as it had been when Renji and the others had suddenly appeared at his school. Stranger still considering he'd had to borrow said clothes from Ichigo.

The mocking grin that seemed permanently attached to Grimmjow's face faded slightly. "Politics."

"What the hell kind of answer is that?"

Grimmjow just grinned. "Ask the Shinigami sometime."

In a roundabout way, that made sense. After the whole ordeal with Rukia's trial, he could understand how politics in the other realms - Shinigami and Hollow - could be quite complicated. He was happier not dealing with any of that.

"So you and Aizen had a falling out? Don't blame you. From what I've heard, the guy's a dick."

Grimmjow's laughter startled him. Had he ever heard the arrancar laugh? Well, laugh in something other than a "your imminent demise amuses me" kind of way.

"Yeah, something like that." Grimmjow glanced over at him. "Look, you really don't want to know about all that crap. Just take it that I wasn't an arrancar when I came to this world, and there's no way for me to go back, so I'd rather kick the shit out of all the weak little Hollows in your world, maybe even piss off any arrancar that wander nearby."

Ichigo took a minute to digest all that, turning Grimmjow's words over in his head until they made sense. Curiosity kept him talking. "Why not just crusade against the Shinigami? I mean, they were your enemy, right?"

Grimmjow snorted. "I'm violent, not stupid. There's one of me and how many of them? Plus getting to their world is a real bitch. A crusade against the Shinigami's great if I want to go out in a blaze of glory, but I'm all about getting stronger, not giving up."

"Oh." That made a twisted sort of sense.

"Think of it this way - I live to fight. I'm stuck here, which leaves one of three options. Either I fight you humans, I fight the Shinigami, or I fight the Hollows. Humans are pathetic, the Shinigami outnumber me, and that leaves the Hollows. Does that work for you, or do you want to go right now, alliance be damned?"

The offer was tempting. He wouldn't mind a rematch, especially after the comment about being pathetic, but something in Grimmjow's words stopped him. The way Grimmjow talked... his tone was full of bluster, but his words... Ichigo pitied him, almost.

"We can save the rematch for later," Ichigo answered slowly. They were almost to the school gates. "For now, I'd rather just laugh as you get your ass handed to you by the Japanese school system. Not much use for Trigonometry or Ancient History in the Hollow world, I'm sure. And remember, no slaughtering the mortals, even if they give you detention."

The glower on Grimmjow's face more than made up for the former-arrancar's earlier comments.


They fought together like smooth symmetry. Together, not apart or against each other. They hadn't planned it. Ichigo had started out with the whole divide-and-conquer strategy. That was the way he was used to working with Ishida and the others. Grimmjow had been on the complete opposite side of the battle field with his own Hollows to kill. Either Ichigo had moved closers or Grimmjow had shifted towards him, and neither of them noticed until they were side-to-side, fighting the same enemy in a series of moves so precise, so perfectly intertwined, it was hard to image they weren't rehearsed. Ichigo had blocked and then Grimmjow was there, stepping in on one side and creating an opening for Ichigo on the left. They moved simultaneously, striking as one and when the Hollow disappeared, Ichigo was left staring across at an equally surprised arrancar.

The battle was decided in that instant. It didn't matter how many Hollows there were, or who was helping them. Ichigo and Grimmjow could have taken the rest on their own without a problem. They nearly did. They moved with blind confidence, running at full tilt through the remaining enemies. Hollows evaporated in their wake and Ichigo realized as soon as the battle truly was finished that he wanted more.

Grimmjow watched him, and in the back of his mind, Ichigo wondered, what if?

They could go at each other right now, keep the fight going, but he knew that wouldn't have the same effect. Then, they'd be back to 'against' and as thrilling as that had been, it hardly rivaled the sheer high of fighting 'with'. But there were battles that could be fought without swords and the only enemy he needed was standing right beside him, a similar contemplative look glittering in his eyes.

Ichigo didn't say a word as he reclaimed his body from Kon, smiling in a way that had Ishida and Orihime looking at him strangely. Rukia had taken to staying with Urahara for the time being, and Kon had gone with her. If he remembered correctly, his sisters would be busy helping his father run errands for the next few hours.

He started home. Grimmjow followed. Nothing needed to be said.