Acknowledgments: thanks to Q for reading and support.

Disclaimer: The following is a fanwork and the characters used here belong to their respective owners and copyright holders.

Grimmjow knelt at the feet of Aizen's throne, the cold stone of the floors of Las Noches seeping through his hakama. He didn't like bowing to this man but he had little choice: after their resounded defeat in the mortal world, Aizen and his surviving arrancar had retreated to Hueco Mundo, sealing their dimension off from Soul Society or any other pursuers. There was no chance of an invasion by the pursuing shinigami forces, and no escape for Grimmjow if he wanted to, not that he was particularly inclined to leave. Grimmjow was merely thankful to be alive.

Aizen shifted in his seat, crossing one leg over the other and resting his hand against a lazy fist. Grimmjow watched the other man surreptitiously, still at Aizen's feet, his gaze darting away when Aizen met it. "Why are you kneeling? Grimmjow."

"You called for me, Aizen-sama."

"I did," Aizen acknowledged, his voice lilting with amusement. "But that doesn't explain things. Stand up."

Grimmjow stood, though he kept his eyes lowered. The barest hint of a smile was lifting Aizen's lips and Grimmjow could feel sweat itching down his back under his loose jacket. He had gone against this man many times, without considering anything other than cornering his prey; Grimmjow had never anticipated living to face the consequences and a dread unlike any he'd experienced before crept through is bones.

"That's better," Aizen said. There was a long pause as if Aizen was waiting for a response, though Grimmjow knew enough to keep his mouth shut. "You're so subdued. This isn't like you at all."

Aizen let the silence drag out until Grimmjow felt his skin burn under the shinigami's eyes.

"You're worried that I'm angry at you. Why is that?"

"I don't understand why wouldn't you be angry with me, Aizen-sama—"

Aizen made a short tut-ing sound that turned into a gentle chuckle; Grimmjow raised his eyes for a moment to see Aizen smiling and it made rage and embarrassed shame burst in him. He looked away, his jaw clenching before he said anything to make his situation worse and his hands ached for how tightly they were held in white-knuckled fists.

"And now you're addressing me so respectfully, that won't do either. Are you truly so afraid, Grimmjow Jeagerjaques?"

Grimmjow said nothing, though he longed to, and Aizen's expression turned into a pouting frown.

"You're worried that I'll punish you for seeking out the ryoka, even when I told you not to. You even took the girl, Inoue, with you—stole her, to be exact, for your own ends—so you could fight with one of our enemies personally, even after he'd been defeated. You were then defeated yourself, and healed at the hands of the enemy—are you embarrassed because of that?"

Grimmjow said nothing, realizing that Aizen wanted to provoke him. He met the shinigami's eyes, his own burning with the shame his accusations brought out; Grimmjow's stomach hurt for how hard it was to breath through the tightness in his chest.

Aizen smiled. "Hmm. Perhaps this will be an experience you should learn from."

"Even if I lost against him, I didn't let him escape!" Grimmjow seethed.

"Indeed, but at what cost?" Aizen raised one eyebrow questioningly. "All of the others escaped. According to Ulquiorra, you let them escape in exchange for just this one. Where is he, by the way?"

"The infirmary," Grimmjow spat.

"You ought to be more careful with your toys," Aizen said, enigmatic smile still raising his lips.

Grimmjow could feel all of his excuses rising in his chest and they poured out in a hurried rush. "You said it yourself, you had no more use for that woman! This one is stronger, and I thought maybe—maybe he would be more important, you could use him, since we'd already lost—"

Aizen's reiatsu pressure hit him like a sudden thunderclap, bringing Grimmjow to his knees and stealing his breath as though there was a hand pressed against his chest, forcing it out. Aizen hadn't moved at all but his eyes burned with reiraku, watching Grimmjow gasp and writhe on the ground with the same expression he'd worn throughout their entire conversation.

Aizen's voice was cold. "If you truly believe this boy is stronger, you have no understanding of what strength is at all."

Grimmjow's back bowed forward painfully, his neck bared to Aizen and a whine slipping past his lips as he attempted to deny it.

"Grimmjow, I realize you expect me to be angry, and to punish you, but I have no intention of doing so—you are a product of your nature, and there is very little I can do to correct that." He relaxed in his chair, and Grimmjow could feel the suffocating reiatsu retreat. He gasped for air, shivering. "Short of destroying you, that is."

Aizen continued. "This independence…Kaname always found it such a nuisance, but I believe it to be the most endearing part of your character. Do not expect me to punish you for it, especially when it brings about such surprising and useful ends."

"I—then Kurosaki will be useful to you?" Grimmjow wasn't exactly sure what to say.

"What?" Aizen seemed genuinely surprised. "Don't be ridiculous." He waved a dismissive hand, "I was referring to your engaging the shinigami forces—even abducting our prisoner from her cell served its uses. We required an extended distraction in order to lure Soul Society into the living world, that was truly all the interest I held in these ryoka.

"And in this way, I am not angered at you, Grimmjow. Though you do not realize it, your rebellious nature has always demonstrated an over-eager desire to serve. On the contrary, I am quite grateful to you."

Aizen sighed, and to Grimmjow, it seemed rather dramatic. "I blame myself, honestly. Had I included you Espada in our plans, perhaps fewer of you would've died needlessly. We ought to meet more frequently while we wait for Seireitei to make its next move."

Grimmjow's mouth felt dry—he wasn't sure how to respond; Aizen, apologizing? And how could he not see the power in that shinigami brat? To be truthful, Grimmjow hadn't captured Kurosaki out of any favor to the exiled shinigami; things had only come to that once Aizen and the remaining Espada returned from the material world. Grimmjow remember waking after the battle in Hueco Mundo with their forces destroyed and a woman standing over him, healing his injuries—she was a shinigami, he could tell, with a dark braid around her neck.

He'd blacked out again after coming around for the first time and when he woke, he was alone and uninjured. When he tried, he could sense shinigami all around him but at a distance, they were in separate groups streaming towards open garganta and Grimmjow's mind zeroed in on one reiatsu alone amongst all of them—he had to find that brat, things weren't finished between them and Grimmjow would be damned before he let Kurosaki escape without a fight.

Aizen's voice drew him back to the present, "I realize you have a particular interest in this shinigami boy, but I'm afraid that I do not share it. He's yours to do with whatever you will, if that will keep you from seeking out trouble for the time being."

"Aizen-sa—" Grimmjow stopped himself before he completed the honorific, his entire body vibrating with excitement and hardly able to form words with his trembling lips. "Thank you."

Aizen simply smiled and Grimmjow rose, turning as if in a daze, his feet taking him out of the room. He should've been relived and excited for escaping from his creator so easily but his stomach shivered with a different desire, unable to breathe and all because of Kurosaki—he was his, his. And not simply because he'd bested the little fuck, not because Kurosaki had given himself over willingly; Kurosaki was his without question, Aizen had given him to Grimmjow. His muscles were aching with anticipation and he just couldn't wait to find the little fuck, tear him out of his infirmary bed and slam him up against a wall—show him just who he belonged to, and watch Ichigo writhe and whimper.

Grimmjow's mouth hurt from smiling but he stopped as Aizen called after him—"Try not to break him quickly, Grimmjow. You took so many measures to acquire this boy…it would pain me to see you destroy him so easily."

Grimmjow nodded once, not willing to trust what his voice would sound like. Euphoric and dizzy, most likely—the bitterness of having to serve under Aizen was disappearing like mist, he could feel a sense of almost reverence following in its footsteps; Grimmjow had never considered Aizen truly to be his master but he could follow the shinigami easily, now that he'd been given everything that he wanted. It was the same feeling Grimmjow had known when he'd been drawn to the exiled captain as a simple adjucas; Aizen's reiatsu was addictive and intoxicating, as though if Grimmjow followed him, the entire world would crumble before them.

Kurosaki would be the one crumbling now. Grimmjow extended his pesquisa until he could feel Kurosaki easily somewhere in the complex, the old infirmary that hadn't been used in ages and on the tip of Grimmjow's tongue was the taste of the little prick's blood along with the word his mind kept replaying over and over: his, his.

Thank you for reading, please review/critique! :D