Grimmjow was nearly at the end of his rope.
He had always found Ichimaru Gin particularly annoying, but right now, he found that Ichimaru was also downright meddling. Not only had Ichimaru stopped Grimmjow from going to see Ulquiorra, but the Shinigami also followed Grimmjow wherever he went, even to the damned toilet. There was just no getting rid of him! Wherever Grimmjow turned, Ichimaru would be there, smiling that creepy smile of his.
Every second that was wasted because of Ichimaru brought them closer to the planned attack on the Captain of the Fifth division and his subordinates. Every second wasted brought Grimmjow closer to what could possibly be his last meeting with Ulquiorra. Every second wasted... Grimmjow stole a glance at Ichimaru. If it was any other Arrancar and not Ichimaru that was watching him, Grimmjow would have long snapped their neck. But this was Ichimaru, and Grimmjow was not stupid enough to get himself killed right on the spot. He gritted his teeth, battling with his urge to unsheathe Pantera.
If only Ichimaru would go away. A couple of hours would do...
Right now, said Shinigami was rolling around on Grimmjow's bed, causing it to make annoying squeaky noises. And while doing so, Ichimaru kept humming random lullabies.
Grimmjow could not believe that this man was stronger than him.
"Grimmy-chan," Ichimaru said in a whiny voice as he rolled onto his back. "Your room is so boring. Ain't there anything to do here?"
"No," Grimmjow said shortly, not even bothering to look at Gin. He kept his back firmly turned on the Shinigami.
Ichimaru pouted. "You're so cold! Can't you even pretend to be happy to see me? Come on." He sat up and grinned. "Gimme a smile!"
Ichimaru spread his arms. "If not a smile, how about a hug? Hugs are nice."
A hand flew to Ichimaru's mouth. He pretended to look shocked. "Oh, Grimmy-chan, you're so forward. You're making me feel all shy," Ichimaru giggled behind his hand, positively grating on Grimmjow's nerves. "I only asked you for a hug, silly. I don't sleep till the third date. Or second, if I really like ya, but I hardly even know you..."
God, if you exist, give me the patience to tolerate this freak.
Grimmjow ignored Ichimaru as the man rambled on, knowing full well that Ichimaru was just doing this to get some sort of a reaction out of him. Seconds passed... Minutes... An hour... Two hours. During that time, Grimmjow sat at his desk, tapping his pen on paper, waiting for the opportunity to make a break for it. Ichimaru, on the other hand, showed no sign of ever leaving. He kept on chatting to an ever silent Grimmjow mindlessly, not caring that Grimmjow was not listening to a single word he was saying. Sometimes, Gin would look at the clock on the bedside table, but other than that and talking, he did nothing else.
Grimmjow was beginning to think that he was going to be stuck with Gin till the mission was scheduled to start.
Ichimaru glanced at the clock once more. "Oh, it's bedtime already," he observed.
Grimmjow grunted, uninterested.
"Aizen-sama usually sleeps around this time."
Another grunt. Grimmjow really did not see the point in this conversation – he already knew all of this.
A squeak came from when Ichimaru shifted his weight on the bed. Still, Grimmjow ignored him, figuring that Ichimaru was probably going to start rolling around on the bed again. But that changed when he heard a pair of footsteps approach him, and when a pair of arms wrapped themselves around him from behind, pulling him into a hug. Ichimaru Gin placed his chin on Grimmjow's shoulder, acting as though hugging the Sexta was a perfectly normal thing to do.
"See? Hugs aren't so bad," Ichimaru said, cuddling him.
"Get off me," Grimmjow growled.
"Now, now." Grimmjow could practically hear the glee in Ichimaru's voice. "Don't be so grumpy. 'Sides, it's just a hug."
"Don't want no fucking hug from you."
Instead of doing what Grimmjow told him to – of course, this was Ichimaru Gin – Ichimaru whispered into the Sexta's ear, his breath playing across Grimmjow's skin, "Oh, ya want something more than this? I can easily give you that. You just gotta ask."
Grimmjow's eyes narrowed at the suggestive tone Ichimaru's voice had taken. "Ichimaru..." he said warningly, his body frozen in Ichimaru's embrace.
Not listening, Ichimaru continued, laughing, "Nah, I'm gonna save you for a second date." He played with teal hair, his chin still on Grimmjow's shoulder. "I'm gonna go out for a bit. Wanna check up on some things. I'll probably take a couple of hours. Five, maybe. It's my turn to run things in the Surveillance Room. But first, I gotta check up on Aizen-sama before I go there. That'll take me ten minutes. Anyway..." he let his voice trail off before he picked up on that sentence again, "I'm gonna play around with the cameras for a bit. The cameras from here till the entrance will be shut off for five minutes."
What...? Grimmjow could hardly believe what he was hearing. His fingers curled into the material of his hakama. What was this...?
"Remember, Aizen-sama will punish you if he catches you doing what you shouldn't do," he murmured into Grimmjow's ear. "Or going where you shouldn't be."
Ichimaru let his arms fall to his sides as he stood up, breaking the embrace. Grimmjow, still not facing the Shinigami, heard his footsteps move away from him.
"I'll see ya in five hours, alright, Grimmy-chan?" Ichimaru said. "Now, you better be a good kitty or there'll be big trouble for ya. Oh, and I'd appreciate it if you don't mention this to anyone. Was supposed to stay with ya till the mission starts."
Grimmjow turned around just in time to see Ichimaru wink at him, get out of the room and close the door. The Sexta stared at the closed door in disbelief, his eyes wide.
What the hell was that all about?
Ichimaru walked down the hallway, his hands tucked inside his sleeves.
"Don't get caught, kitty cat," he chuckled as he made his way to Aizen's room.
"There really is no need for you to accompany me back home, Hinamori," Ulquiorra said.
Hinamori nodded. "I know. But I don't want Captain Ulquiorra to be lonely. Captain is always alone."
Ulquiorra barely restrained the sigh that wanted to escape from his lips. "Really, now..."
They had just returned from reporting to Captain Yamamoto. The elderly man had made them recount every single detail to him, not wanting to miss out on anything, so it took awhile to relay everything to him. Leaves and twigs crunched under their feet with each step they took during their walk on the moonlit path to Ulquiorra's house. Ulquiorra did not say a word to his Lieutenant as they walked, his mind already in disarray with the events that had taken place. Thankfully, Hinamori had known Ulquiorra long enough to know not to speak to him when he was like this – she knew that if he wanted to talk, he would, on his own terms.
"Well, we're here," Hinamori announced when they were on Ulquiorra's doorstep.
She turned around to face him nervously. "Ah... Well, good night then, Captain Ulquiorra," she said, smiling demurely.
"Good night, Hinamori," Ulquiorra said, placing a hand on her head, causing a faint blush to spread across her cheeks. "I'll see you tomorrow. Get some rest."
Ulquiorra's hand hovered over the doorknob. "Oh, and, Hinamori?"
She stopped in her steps to look back at him curiously. "Yes, Captain?"
"Just calling me 'Ulquiorra' is sufficient."
She blinked, stunned, for a moment. Then, she beamed, the rosy tint on her cheeks more obvious than before. "Alright, Cap- I mean, Ulquiorra!"
After Hinamori had taken her leave – she had practically walked back to her place with a distinctive spring in her step and a cheery smile on her face – Ulquiorra entered his house, where he promptly undressed and took a shower. He watched, with a heavy expression, as the blood and dirt that caked his skin swirled into the drain. So, what was it that that Arrancar had said? That his loved ones were going to die? He felt a stab at his heart at that, knowing how much her words rang true. Kurosaki, Hinamori, and the rest of the Shinigami... He had no doubt that they would survive.
But himself and Grimmjow?
With the way things were, he doubted that they would survive.
It was just a matter of time before they were found out.
Just a matter of time.
Grimmjow did not know what the heck Ichimaru Gin was up to, nor did he know Gin's motives. When the silver-haired Shinigami had left his room, Grimmjow continued to stare at the door in stunned silence. He gripped the edge of the chair that he was sitting on, heart beating fast, torn between two decisions. Part of him wanted to leave and see Ulquiorra. The other part of him, however, though it was smaller, was enough to make him stop and think. That part of him told him that this could be a trap, that this could be part of that bastard Aizen's plan. It was possible. Especially since Gin was Aizen's closest subordinate.
During those minutes where Grimmjow sat contemplating on what he should do, his room was eerily silent. He did not like it. If anything, it only added to the tension of the situation.
If he were to stay... He would not be able to see Ulquiorra until they were to meet face-to-face in battle.
If he decided to leave... He would be able to see Ulquiorra for one last time as Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez before the battle, where he would meet Ulquiorra as the enemy. But if it was a trap, he would immediately be caught as a traitor.
"Tch..." Grimmjow rubbed his temple. "Damn... This shit just got a heck of a lot more complicated."
He raised his gaze to the door once more, then stood up.
He decided to take his chances.
He would be found out as a traitor in battle anyway – there was no way he could harm Ulquiorra.
Once the ten minutes were up, Grimmjow made out of his room, went down the hall, checked the cameras – and just like Gin had said, they were shut off, Grimmjow did not see the blinking light that the cameras made to indicate that they were up and running - got out of Las Noches, and made it to a cave in the desert, where he ripped open a Garganta. The whole time, he kept looking over his shoulder and checking for any reiatsu to see whether he was followed. Thankfully, he was not. Even when he did one final check before he stepped into the portal, he did not sense any familiar reiatsu, nor did he see anyone.
Perhaps Gin was actually being genuine?
He could not bring himself to believe that, though – Ichimaru Gin was still a mystery to most of the Arrancars.
Having established the fact that he was not followed, it was not long before he found himself in Ulquiorra's bedroom. The sound of the shower running could be heard. It was pretty late, and he could see Ulquiorra's bloodstained Shinigami robes in the laundry basket - Ulquiorra must have just returned from yet another mission. He sank onto the bed, his nerves standing on edge. Every sound, no matter how small, seemed to echo in his ears. With the window open, he could every whisper of the wind. He could hear the sound of the branch from a nearby tree knocking on the glass window every time it was swayed by a passing breeze. He could hear the sound of the running water, the sound as every droplet splashed onto the floor. The ticking noise from the clock that hung on the wall...
Each second that ticked past brought him closer to their upcoming battle.
And perhaps even their deaths.
The mirror in the bathroom was misted over from the steam from the shower. Clouds of white floated out of the bathroom as Ulquiorra opened the door, clad only in a towel, which was wrapped around his hips. He stared, almost in disbelief, when he saw Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez sitting on his bed. With his mind filled with the words of the dying female Arrancar, he had not expected to see the Sexta at all. And it surprised him even more to see Grimmjow with such a serious expression on his face, and that Grimmjow's aura had a tinge of bitterness to it – Grimmjow was usually in a lighter mood whenever they met. Even the air seemed to have taken on Grimmjow's mood – it was stretched taut, almost at breaking point, with tension and anxiety.
"Grimmjow?" Ulquiorra found himself saying, breaking the silence.
Grimmjow smiled dryly. "Hey."
"What are you doing here?"
Ulquiorra watched as Grimmjow got up and walked towards him, taking slow, steady steps. His heart, which had leapt upon seeing Grimmjow, now felt heavy. Fearful, even. It twisted with worry. Something was not right. And he would have voiced it, too, right then and there, if Grimmjow had not taken his hands and held them. And still, Grimmjow did not say a word – he merely caressed Ulquiorra's hands with the pads of his thumbs in circular motions. Silence wrapped tightly around them, daring one of them to break it, and break it, Ulquiorra did.
"Grimmjow," he said once more.
Grimmjow chuckled, making Ulquiorra raise an eyebrow.
"You're up late. Don't you have to get ready for a mission tomorrow?"
Ulquiorra blinked. How did he...? "Wait, how do you know that?"
Grimmjow's heart sank upon hearing Ulquiorra's answer – so it's true - but he said nothing of it. Instead, he interrupted Ulquiorra again. "You've always wondered," Grimmjow said, his voice was accompanied with a chuckle, yet it demanded that the speaker was to be taken seriously. "But you've never asked. About what our relationship was in the past."
"Am I right, Ulqui?"
"Well, yes. But, Grimmjow, what's going on? You seem different..."
This scene seemed to almost echo the one that had happened before Ulquiorra met his demise.
Another chuckle. "Thought so." Grimmjow tightened his hold on Ulquiorra's hands slightly. "Here, maybe this will help jog your memory."
And he leaned forward.
His lips met Ulquiorra's in a kiss.
When Grimmjow finally released Ulquiorra from his crushing embrace, Ulquiorra reached up to cup the Sexta's cheek. "I have to go. This will never end if we don't put a stop to the shinigami."
Grimmjow bit his bottom lip, forcing down the tears that were threatening to spring up to his eyes. He knew that Ulquiorra was right. Ulquiorra always was. But Grimmjow did not want to admit it. "Ulquiorra…" He touched that doll-like face, tracing the contours of Ulquiorra's face, touching that flawless skin that he loved so much. Grimmjow wanted to imprint Ulquiorra's image in his mind forever.
Before, Ulquiorra had to go off for battle. And right before he did, Grimmjow had met him, to talk to him, for what might have been the last time. After Ulquiorra went off, Grimmjow had gone into battle as well.
Now, Ulquiorra was going to go off for battle in a matter of hours. And before it was time for him to go, Grimmjow had come here to meet him. Later, when it would be time for Ulquiorra to go, Grimmjow would go into battle as well.
It was like history was repeating itself.
The only difference?
This time, they were not going to fight a common enemy.
No, they were going to fight each other instead.
"Eh, Starrky-chan!" Ichimaru greeted when he chanced upon the Primera Espada in the hallway. "You're still up? Thought you'd have gone to sleep the moment the meeting was over."
Starrk yawned widely. "Was just about to go to sleep, actually."
"Oh, good, good, because you look horrible. Is that what happens when you don't get a few hours of sleep?" Ichimaru said. He was not really expecting an answer, so he continued talking. "Ah, well. Off to sleep now. You need to be nice and fresh for tomorrow. Big day it is, big."
"Yeah..." Starrk fell silent.
Ichimaru gave him a quizzical look.
Starrk, who was standing in front of the door to his room, had his back facing Gin. His hair framed his face, which now held an unreadable expression, his gaze was fixed on the floor, and he had a hand in the pocket of his hakama, while his other hand hung by his side. After awhile, he lifted his gaze from the floor to the ceiling.
"Do you think all of this is really necessary?" Starrk asked.
"This plot Aizen-sama has to test Grimmjow's loyalty," Starrk explained.
"Ah, that," Ichimaru laughed softly. "Nope. Not necessary."
Starrk looked back at him. "Then why?"
Ichimaru shrugged. "You know Aizen-sama. He likes to play. Might as well have some entertainment once the war begins. And Grimmy-chan and Ulqui-chan are just perfect for it. He even had Alvara talk to Ulqui-chan about how hopeless his situation is, just to mess with his head for a bit, and to put Soul Society on its toes once Ulqui-chan reports to Captain Yamamoto about what she'd said."
"That female Arrancar that Aizen-sama sent to Karakura Town a couple of hours ago. The crazy one."
"Ah," Starrk said as recognition dawned upon him. "That one. What happened to her?"
"Dead," Gin answered simply. Now it was the Shinigami's turn to yawn. He put a hand over his mouth as he yawned widely. "Damn, I'm sleepier than I thought. Can't be sleepy for tomorrow. Big day, big day. Biggest thing to happen in ages." He gripped the now subdued Starrk's shoulder. "Go to sleep, Starrky-chan. Don't want you sleeping all of a sudden when we need ya."
Starrk nodded. "Of course."
The kiss. It was tender.
"Grimmjow." Ulquiorra pushed a strand of teal hair away from Grimmjow's eyes. "No matter what happens, we will always be together. You are a part of me, and I am a part of you. If anything happens, we will never truly be apart."
And it felt so right.
Ulquiorra placed his hands on Grimmjow's chest and pushed gently.
"Grimmjow," he breathed. "Talk to me. What's wrong?"
Much to Ulquiorra's surprise, Grimmjow laughed softly. The Shinigami noted that it sounded a bit bitter. "What isn't wrong nowadays?" Grimmjow said. Then his expression softened. It looked almost sad... Melancholic. And loving. It worried Ulquiorra. "Ulquiorra..." He caressed Ulquiorra's cheek.
But Ulquiorra was not swayed. "Tell me."
The Sexta smiled softly. "You've always been like that..." He chuckled, then kissed the spot beneath Ulquiorra's earlobe. "So damned curious..."
"Tell me what's wrong. Did something hap-" But Ulquiorra stopped when Grimmjow whispered something into his ear.
Something that made his eyes widen ever so slightly.
So when Grimmjow kissed him again, Ulquiorra offered no resistance, nor did he resist when Grimmjow slowly drove them towards the bed.
Ulquiorra bit his bottom lip. Truth was, he did not know whether they were going to come out of this in one piece. Grimmjow could tell. Grimmjow knew that Ulquiorra was saying this for him more than anything else. And Grimmjow was grateful for that. "I love you, Grimmjow. I always will."
Any thought of stopping that would have come up as the air got more heated between them was immediately pushed away as their lips met again, connecting them both.
Ulquiorra placed a soft kiss on Grimmjow's lips, their eyes fluttering close at the sweetness of the moment.
"I love you."
DIOR: Thank you to everyone who reviewed! Ah, I made a booboo - I made a mistake in the plot, so I had to replace one of the scenes in this chapter without changing the entire story. So writing this took a bit longer than it should have OTL. Good thing I checked. Anyway, the flashback in this chapter is one scene broken up into sections, just so you know. :D Reviews are appreciated.
Lastly, I'm happy to announce that this fic is currently being translated into Spanish by the lovely Lady Akribos-san. Lots of love to her!