Summary: Ichigo never knew that saving Grimmjow's life would've led to such serious repercussions—for both himself and the Espada.
Date of Publication (Part I): 8/29/08
Note(s): This is a Grimmjow/Ichigo story, which means that there will be shounen-ai in the following. This takes place after Ichigo defeats Grimmjow in Hueco Mundo, and I'm sort of twisting the plot line after that. (But for good reason! How else will the two end up together?)
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach; it rightfully belongs to Tite Kubo. I am borrowing his characters for the following piece of fiction for solely non-profit purposes.
By Rome OMD
It had all begun with that moment.
Everyone needed to retreat; it was a command from the highest authority in Soul Society. The captains, who had arrived to help the flailing team rescuing Orihime, had already left and now, Chad, Ishida, and Inoue were stepping through the last-minute portal produced by the former Twelfth Division Captain, Urahara Kisuke.
"Oi, Ichigo! We need to leave now!" Renji shouted. The portal flickered ahead like a malfunctioning light bulb, and he looked at it with increasing edginess. Rukia was moving her hands in a "hurry up, don't make me drag you!" motion.
Ichigo turned to leave, but something like an invisible string tugged at him and caused him to stop. He looked around and saw the fallen Espada lying prostrate on the sandy ground, his tattooed six masked by a fresh wound that Ichigo himself had inflicted earlier in their fight. He couldn't help but notice that even in defeat, Grimmjow looked confident, if not arrogant, as he slept on, oblivious to the situation at hand.
"Ichigo!" Rukia cried.
He didn't know what compelled him to do as he did, and he'd never find out. Some actions are just inexplicable and done purely out of gut intuition, and this was just one of those times. As he stepped through the portal with Grimmjow's limp body hanging over his shoulder, he could feel the nearly palpable confusion and query of his companions' searching gazes. But thankfully, his companions weren't just companions but also friends. They didn't question him.
At least, not until they stepped past the large, imposing walls of Seireitei.
As soon as they entered Seireitei, Renji waited behind to pull Ichigo aside. Rukia looked at them once and shared a knowing nod with Renji before heading off with everyone else to the Fourth Division's infirmary. "We're going to my office," he whispered to Ichigo.
It took them a few minutes to get there—it seemed to be farther away than Renji remembered—but as soon as he ushered Ichigo in, he shut the door to his office and demanded, "I'm gonna try to say this as rationally as I can: what the hell were ya thinkin'?"
Ichigo waited until he had placed Grimmjow on the bed before replying, "What do you want me to do?"
"What do ya mean, 'What d'ya want me to do'?"
"What's done is done. There's nothing I can do about it now."
"Do ya know what kind of consequences this could have for ya? Or Soul Society? You brought an Arrancar, a member of the Espada no less, back here of all places! The minute he gets back in shape, who knows what kind of destruction he'll wreak!"
"If that happens, I'll take responsibility. I'll fight Grimmjow again, and I won't spare his life."
"Look," Renji said, moving closer. "That ain't the point. I don't care if ya kill him or if he becomes another guinea pig for the Twelfth Division. It's what's gonna happen to ya that I care about. This ain't doin' anything for your sparkling reputation here in Seireitei, y' know. Ya got under your belt a serious offense here."
His aggravation showed no signs of abating, even as he tiredly rubbed his eyes with the heel of his hand. Just as Renji was about to leap off into another litany of reprimands, he immediately refrained himself when he turned to look at the substitute Shinigami. Everything he was about to say suddenly evaporated on his tongue when he saw Ichigo's blank stare boring into his. All frustration melted into compassion as he walked over to put a reassuring hand on Ichigo's slouching shoulder.
Renji hesitated for a moment before sitting beside him on the couch. It was unnerving seeing Ichigo like this. Ichigo sat with his elbows on his knees, his head tilted downwards, like he usually would whenever he was in deep contemplation, but what lacked now was his usual energy, his will to fight on, gravity's invisible hands pulling down on every part of his body and soul; even his hair appeared lilted and lacked its characteristic reckless dishevelment. Ichigo had so much pressure to endure, the weight of saving the world—worlds—now becoming too heavy a burden for his shoulders alone to bear. And it showed, like a black cloud above his head, the first crack of his seemingly impenetrable psyche now leading to an endless emotional descent.
And here Renji was, grasping at straws to try and find something to say that would somehow comfort him.
Renji turned when he heard knocking on the door. "Who is it?"
"Abarai-fukutaicho. It's me, Yamada Hanataro of the Fourth Division."
"Come in," Renji said, making his way to the door. Hanataro slipped in, looking unsure as he took in the sight around him. "Can ya heal those two over there?"
"Kurosaki-kun!" he said, somewhat relieved despite the morose atmosphere. "And…" he stopped, staring at Grimmjow, who lay recumbent on the couch.
"Please hurry," Renji added.
Hanataro had barely moved before there sounded another knock at the door. "Who is it?"
"Let me in, it's me! Why'd you lock the door?" Rukia shoved her way in, panting like she had just finished running a marathon before she arrived. "We don't have time. Ichigo's been convicted."
"We need to get him out of here as soon as possible. They've sent all of the Gotei 13 to find and apprehend Ichigo and the Espada."
Time was slipping between their fingers like sand and patience running thin as Renji looked on in frustration at Ichigo, who still remained unmoving in his seat. "Kurosaki, get up! Get up! Damn it, Kurosaki, ya asked for it," Renji said, as he slammed his fist as hard as he could across Ichigo's face before grabbing him by the collar. "Ya listen to me, an' ya listen to me now. Ya couldn't save the world this time, but y'know what? We couldn't either. But there's gonna be another chance. We'll kick Aizen's ass then, but for now, ya gotta get your lazy ass up from that chair or else we ain't gonna get nowhere!"
Ichigo turned to look at Renji, and had Renji been anyone else, anyone who didn't know him as well as he did, Ichigo's infinitesimal nod would've gone unnoticed.
Renji grinned and then looked over his shoulder. "Finally, some life in ya. Rukia, ya take Ichigo back to the human world. I'll take care of those comin' here."
"Err…" muttered Hanataro from the corner, seemingly forgotten.
"Get out of here. You'll be just as guilty as we will be if you're caught anywhere near here."
"I don't care! Let me do something to help!"
"Can you heal while running?" Rukia asked. Hanataro nodded immediately. "Then you're coming with me."
Just as they were about to exit through the back door, Renji shouted over the loudening commotion outside, his zanpakuto gripped tightly in his hand, "Ichigo, saving a life, even it's your enemy's, is one of the noblest things a man can do. Ya did the right thing, don't ever doubt it."
Ichigo seemed to run faster after that.
Once they had reached an abandoned forest clearing miles away, Rukia turned to face Ichigo, who was struggling with Grimmjow's weight as he ran. Hanataro followed close behind, breathing heavily from having to simultaneously heal and keep pace with everyone else.
"This is it. I'll open the gate for you here. You won't be able to return to Soul Society for a while, Ichigo. You're considered a criminal for having brought an Espada back into Soul Society."
"When haven't I pissed the authorities off here?"
Rukia smirked. Ichigo was finally showing semblance of his old self again. "Renji and I will find a time to visit you. Until then, just," Rukia paused, "don't be stupid, Ichigo."
"What are you implying?"
"Nothing, I swear. Geez, where are they?" Rukia said, looking around.
Just as Ichigo was about to ask who "they" were, Ishida, Chad, and Inoue came running in their direction. "They're after us, Kuchiki-san!" Inoue shouted in between uneven intakes of breath.
"Ready yourselves," Rukia said. Mere moments later, a large gate materialized in front of them, its large doors slowly swinging open and white light pouring out from within like a beacon of hope. "You guys, get in!"
They obeyed without a moment's hesitation. Just as Ichigo was about to step through, Rukia said, holding onto the hem of his sleeve, "Ichigo, be careful."
With knowing eyes, he replied, "I will. Thanks."
"Keep your promises!"
That was the last thing Ichigo heard, as they made their one-way trek back to the human world, the weight of a heavy, unconscious Arrancar straining the muscles in his back.
End of Part I
Author's Note(s): I hope you enjoyed reading and drop a review if you can. Thanks!