Author's Notes: A divergence from my usually firmly heterosexual shipping preferences. GrimmUlqui just makes sense to me, somehow. Please note the rating as this story includes foul language and, obviously, a good dollup of male/male relationships. This was written some time ago so please forgive any divergence from recent canon. Also, "Jericho" is actually the first part of a trilogy, but the sequels are rated NC-17 so they will not be posted to this site. Please visit my livejournal for subesequent stories. Thank you.
Note: This is divided into specific scenes, a sort of drabble format almost. Also, I use "Grimmjaw" instead of "Grimmjow". Written before I knew better.
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach and, sadly, am not making any money from this whatsoever.
#1 "Trumpet at the Gate"
It's a fair question and deserves a fair answer. Ulquiorra has always believed in an odd sort of balance.
"Because none of the others fear you. You are a joke to the Espada." His voice drops as Grimmjaw snarls and moves towards him.
"And they'll never see you coming."
Grimmjaw halts, half suspicious, half surprisingly pleased.
"Maybe you ain't just a pretty face after all," he mumbles.
#2 "Come Tumblin' Down"
They stand back to back; Grimmjaw in light, Ulquiorra in shadow.
If Grimmjaw had any sense of setting, he would have called it fucking poetic. But since he doesn't, he really can't give a shit. Ulquiorra could not be seen, that was the important thing. Grimmjaw stands a little straighter and takes his hands out of his pockets while his shadow hides the fourth Espada.
"You ready?" he asks roughly.
Grimmjaw rubs a hand over his nose. "And if ya can't do it?" His expression hardens. "You fucking pansy out on me and--"
The reply is soft and flat. "Aizen is no longer my god."
There is no honorific on the end of their maker's name. Grimmjaw's mouth curves in a terrible smile.
"Then let's bring it all down."
#3 "King & Slave"
It takes a great deal of cursing under his breath and fidgeting in place for Grimmjaw to merely stand silent outside Aizen's door and not break it down after hearing the first loud grunts, Ulquiorra's pained gasp. He doesn't, though, because it's not part of the plan and Ulquiorra wouldn't appreciate him fucking everything up just because Aizen felt the need to play with his favorite toy.
So he waits, his own body tensing with every minute that the Quatro Espada stays behind that door until he feels he's going to go crazy and rip apart at the seams. And he almost does, but the tension vanishes the moment all sound stops within and Ulquiorra's quiet voice calls him.
He kicks open the door, gaze going immediately to where Ulquiorra stands by Aizen's bed, naked from the waist up and blood running down the side of his head from a long cut near his eyes. There are wounds all over him, from teeth and fingernails, bright red against pale, pale skin. Grimmjaw's expression hardens.
"It's nothing," Ulquiorra replies, picking up his long jacket from the floor. His movements are stiff and Grimmjaw curses again. He glances at the bed and feels only marginally better when he sees Aizen prone on the sheets, eyes staring at the wall. He's still breathing, though, and suddenly that is not acceptable.
"Let me kill him," Grimmjaw says, and it's less like asking permission and more like stating a purpose. He cracks his knuckles and feels his blood rise with the thought of finally overthrowing the would-be king of heaven. Ulquiorra's green eyes flash at him briefly.
"He's no good to us dead." And of course the skinny bastard is right. He always is.
So Grimmjaw gruffly hands Ulquiorra his discarded sword and pretends not to notice when their fingers touch.
#4 "Gin's Mistake"
Grimmjaw knows he's not going to be able to do it, but he grins anyway, with too many teeth. Gin only smiles, his liquid-silver smile that means nothing, and grips the end of Grimmjaw's blade as if it isn't razor sharp.
"Ah, so you've decided to stop playing, have you?" Gin's voice is light, teasing, but his arms strain to hold Grimmjaw's zanpakutou from piercing his stomach. Grimmjaw's strength is nothing to sneer at, but Gin does anyway and doesn't pay attention to the cost.
"I was never fucking playing," the Sexta Espada answers. There is no drawl in his voice and he sounds as if he means it, his eyes as steely as his skin. He shifts suddenly without releasing his sword, and Gin has no time to react as Ulquiorra appears from his shadow, his own slim blade raised with both hands.
It drives through Gin's heart with barely a sound and Gin smiles again, only this time blood drips from the corner of his mouth. Ulquiorra watches with dull, green eyes, unmoved, as Grimmjaw pulls his sword from Gin's grasp and the shinigami falls to the dirt of Hueco Mundo.
Gin is no longer smiling. Ulquiorra's sealed zanpakutou stands out from his chest like a cross.
"Who would have thought," he coughs, "that you two children would ever get along."
"If you thought otherwise," Ulquiorra answers, tonelessly, "that was your mistake."
Grimmjaw rolls his shoulders, already bored and ready for a real fight. "Come on, Ulquiorra," he complains, "That bitch Tousen is still in the throne room."
The Quatro Espada nods once, crisply, and pulls his sword free from Gin, paying no heed to the shinigami's dying gasps. Aizen's right hand man is merely trash to him.
"Try not to deprive him of his arm immediately, Grimmjaw," Ulquiorra says as they walk away, unhurried. "There's no point if he doesn't have a chance to fight back." His companion grumbles but Ulquiorra knows he wants to take his time as well.
Neither of them bother to clean their swords.
#5 "A Great Vintage"
Ulquiorra does nothing when they trap Tousen in the throne room. Instead, he stands quietly in the doorway and records the whole thing, green eyes catching every second of the fight.
Grimmjaw has had a grudge against Tousen ever since the shinigami deprived him of his arm and it suits Ulquiorra to let him have his way with the blind man. Grimmjaw is, if nothing else, a creature of war and his thirst for it must be quenched periodically. Ulquiorra has no such need, but he understands it and lets it go.
The fight is over sooner than he expects, Tousen's bankai practically useless. Nothingness is a useless weapon against a Hollow, for they are made of it. The shinigami's blank world holds no fear for them.
They leave him there, a ragged mass of blood and bone, and Grimmjaw comes to him, chest heaving and with a grin much too wide. There's blood splatter on his clothes and he moves with the loose gait of a man on a euphoric high.
"See anything ya liked?" Grimmjaw rumbles at him, voice smooth and his body much too close. Ulquiorra has to tilt his head back slightly to look him in the face and is irritated at the necessity.
"I do not take pleasure in killing," he answers, and graciously lets Grimmjaw keep his fingers when he brushes them through the dark hair near Ulquiorra's ear. Fighting is like a good wine to the Sexta Espada and Ulquiorra is very aware that he is drunk. It's disgraceful, but unavoidable.
"No, you take it in other things," Grimmjaw says, showing teeth.
Ulquiorra doesn't reply.
Their purge of the Espada has Ulquiorra worried. The bastard won't admit it out loud, but he's not sure that even the both of them together can cut out the heart of their own hierarchy.
Grimmjaw has no such misgivings. Ulquiorra has not released his sword yet, therefore he knows they still have one hell of a chance.
"You're fourth, for fuck's sake," he snaps that night, glaring at his superior. "How much stronger can they really be?" He makes it a question but he already knows the answer. They have both seen the power of the trinity.
"Separately, we could win," Ulquiorra answers. His green eyes flicker up to Grimmjaw's. "All together, they will slaughter us."
Grimmjaw shrugs. "Divide and conquer. We can do that."
For a moment, he thinks he sees Ulquiorra's mouth curve.
"Yes, we can."
#7 "Fool's Respite"
Ulquiorra rips a path to the real world to give them a breather. It's been six hours since they started their two-man assault on Hueco Mundo, and with Gin and Tousen dead, Las Noches is crawling with Espada and other arrancar. Grimmjaw doesn't know about Ulquiorra, but he needs a fucking break before they go back to kill the Primera and his pals.
Apparently Ulquiorra does, for he immediately sits as soon as they're through the rift, his clothes stark white against the green of the grass.
They're in a large field, and though he can't see it, he feels a town nearby, a good source of souls should he feel hungry. And he's sure he will.
Grimmjaw falls onto his back, arms folded behind his head and breathes out as his body rests. It's a moment before he finds the energy to glance at his companion.
"Oi." Ulquiorra doesn't so much as look at him. "What do ya plan to do when this is over?"
He doesn't answer and suddenly Grimmjaw understands what his silence means. Ulquiorra believes he won't survive their rebellion.
In an instant, he has Ulquiorra on his back, one hand gripping the front of the slighter man's uniform as he growls at him. "You're going to live. You hear that, ya little bastard? We're both going to fucking live through this." We're both going to be free.
Ulquiorra looks up at him with those green eyes that Grimmjaw both despises and finds pathetically beautiful. His voice is very quiet.
"You're such a fool, Grimmjaw."
Grimmjaw's loud cursing cannot change the fact that the Primera has found them, with the second Espada standing at his side. They're not ready but they do have a plan and Ulquiorra flashes forward to initiate it.
It is he who must take the brunt of the Primera's assaults. As the higher Espada, he has the best chance of staying alive long enough for Grimmjaw to take out their enemies.
And even if he doesn't, he has never cared much about his own life anyway.
Behind him, Grimmjaw's rough voice calls out.
He disappears in a streak of white and Ulquiorra raises his own sword dispassionately as the Primera's blade reaches for him. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees the second Espada also move his way, obviously thinking Ulquiorra made a very nice, lone target.
Ulquiorra decides not to disappoint her.
For an hour he keeps the two arrancars' attention on himself while Grimmjaw pecks at them, flying in to cut at them before disappearing only to reappear on a different side. Even in his released form, however, Ulquiorra is no match for the two highest Espada together and his role as decoy leaves him bloody and near exhaustion.
He doesn't even feel it when the Primera's zanpakutou slices down his chest, drawing a deep line across his tattoo. Blood splatters to the ground and Ulquiorra staggers backwards despite himself.
"Four is an unlucky number, or didn't you know that, Ulquiorra?" his leader calmly asks.
"I don't believe in luck," he answers, and lifts his sword, hilt forward and blade backwards, to impale the second Espada as she comes up from behind him. The force of her lunge pushes him forward, however, and with his soul slayer buried in her gut, he has no defense against the Primera's sword. It comes down for him and Ulquiorra can only watch it fall, pushed too far past his limit and already dying.
A smear of white and electric blue carries him out from under that deadly arc and Ulquiorra has enough presence of mind to hold onto his sword. It drains him of the rest of his energy and he reverts back to his sealed state, a limp form of bloodied flesh that won't last.
He never hears Grimmjaw raging at him not to die because he is the one who is going kill him.
#9 "The Princess"
"Fix him," Grimmjaw snarls at her, and she rises from the floor, hands over her mouth at the unconscious form in his arms. Ulquiorra is covered in blood, his jacket cut away to reveal a thin chest full of wounds. His head hangs back over Grimmjaw's arm and his pale throat is moon-white against all that red. Orihime would think him dead if not for the fact that Grimmjaw is asking her to heal him.
"Wh- what happened to him?" she asks, as Grimmjaw lays the Quatro Espada on the floor with careful movements that surprise Orihime even more.
Grimmjaw reaches out and grabs her collar, his eyes as wildly hard as she has ever seen them. He, too, has blood on him.
"Quit talking and fucking fix him, or don't you want to get out of here?" Without waiting for an answer, he pushes her down beside Ulquiorra and stands there, a seething volcano, as she puts shaky hands over his fellow Espada and calls her fairies.
It takes much too long and Grimmjaw is clearly impatient, looking at the door to her prison every so often as if expecting someone. She doesn't ask who because she knows he'll only yell at her and Ulquiorra is taking most of her attention anyway.
She has never hated her caretaker – pitied him, yes, but never hated. It might have been only his tear-marked face, but she has always thought him a rather sad creature behind that level exterior. And he had never physically hurt her, which was more than she could say for some of the other arrancar she had met, including Grimmjaw.
Most of all he looks very human laying there, bathed in the golden glow of her healing, and Orihime has never been able to resist a person in need.
She is tired when she finishes but manages a comforting look for Grimmjaw who is almost hovering at her side, his eyes never straying from Ulquiorra's face.
"Is he alright?" he asks, arms folded across his chest. He acts as if he doesn't care one way or another what her answer is, but she knows he does. It makes her wonder what happened to make the two of them work together instead of killing each other.
"His injuries are gone but he will still be exhausted when he wakes." She pauses, glancing up at the other arrancar. "If he fights again—"
Grimmjaw cuts her off with a glare. "Did I ask for your fucking opinion? Just keep yer mouth shut, woman. Your precious Ulquiorra may wanna let you go, but I don't give a shit whether you live or die."
She blinks, realizing this is the second reference he has made to her freedom. She opens her mouth again because, really, she can't help herself.
"Are you a fucking idiot?" he snaps. "Haven't ya felt what's going on out there? We're turning it upside down and there's gonna be nothing left."
She blinks, startled, but is kept from saying anything by a small noise from the floor. Ulquiorra opens his eyes.
"Grimmjaw," he says slowly, by way of greeting, and the Sexta Espada growls in annoyance.
"Yer such a bastard, you know that? That's the last time I'm gonna save your scrawny ass." But then he leans down and offers the slighter arrancar a hand up, and Ulquiorra takes it as if nothing is amiss. Orihime realizes she can't trust anything they say anymore, only what they do.
"Next time you can face them both at once," Ulquiorra replies flatly. Grimmjaw snorts.
"Considering the Primera is still breathin' and we still hafta deal with the third Espada, that's lookin' more and more possible." He grins suddenly, the expression flaring across his face. "I'm feelin' ready for a fight."
"Orihime," Ulquiorra says suddenly, apparently ignoring Grimmjaw for the moment. She jolts a little at the sound of her name on his tongue. "We are going to slay the last of the Espada. If we return, you will have your freedom. If we do not…" He doesn't finish, just looks at her with those impossibly green eyes and she nods quickly.
If they do not, they are dead, and so is she.
In her mind, she wishes them luck.
#10 "One Final Hurrah"
It's Ulquiorra's turn to ask. "Are you ready?"
Grimmjaw leans down, grips Ulquiorra's soft, inky hair, and kisses him hard, his tongue slipping into the other arrancar's mouth to produce something like a quiet sigh from the smaller Espada. The sound of it makes Grimmjaw's blood rise and he's surprised to find that kissing Ulquiorra excites him as much as battle does. His mind spins and he hates the fact that they have no more time.
Grimmjaw draws back and is arrogantly pleased to find Ulquiorra's palm resting on his chest.
"Now I am," he says.
#11 "Jericho Falls"
It's Kurosaki Ichigo who kills the Primera.
Surprisingly, he doesn't even try to fight Ulquiorra or Grimmjaw, lacking the motivation. Grimmjaw's tempted to give it to him but the fact is that he's been fighting for nearly twelve hours already. Not to mention he's pretty sure that bastard, Ulquiorra, would put a fist through him should he try it.
The fourth Espada is standing a few feet away and blood covers the left side of his face, running out from under the remnants of his hollow mask. Grimmjaw is wounded as well, but again Ulquiorra had taken the worst of the attack from the third - and final - Espada. Grimmjaw grits his teeth.
Their plan is definitely starting to piss him off.
"Inoue Orihime," Ulquiorra says, immediately drawing Kurosaki's attention. "She's about a mile south of here. You should not find any resistance."
Because they've made sure of that. They'd killed every arrancar that would have been a threat.
"Why are you doing this?" Ichigo asks, his face lined with confusion. Ulquiorra turns his back, finished, and it's Grimmjaw that answers.
"Because there ain't a king on the throne of heaven." He motions towards the dry, desolate landscape around them.
"This, Kurosaki, is hell."
Ichigo found Orihime exactly where they said she would be. He also found Aizen Sousuke.
He was slumped on his throne and his eyes were vacant, oblivious. He no longer looked like the god he had once styled himself as, but a man who had finally reaped what he had sown.
How he had come to be in such a state, only Kurotsuchi Mayuri would be able to tell and Ichigo was, for once, more than happy to cooperate and let him have the renegade shinigami captain.
Soul Society had come, of course, as soon as he had reported what had happened. That he still wasn't sure exactly what had happened seemed to make little difference. All he could say for certain was that the hollows had left Las Noches, and that all of the Espada were dead.
All except two.
"Kurosaki-kun," Orihime asked him a little later, "do you think Soul Society will let them live? I mean, it was because of them that I am alive and that Soul Society is safe. I… I just don't think—"
He knew what she would say and would have even agreed if he didn't know very well that Soul Society thrived on rules and laws. "I'm not sure, Inoue," he said, looking out over the desert of Hueco Mundo. "Shinigami are born to kill hollows, and hollows eat human souls." He smiled crookedly. "And I doubt they did all this out of the kindness of their hearts."
"No," she said clearly, "They did it for themselves."
"Well," she went on after a moment, following his gaze out to the horizon, "I hope they find a different place, one where they can live."
He glanced over at her, and though he didn't say anything, he didn't disagree.