When the morning came, sunlight peeking into the den, Ichigo restlessly rose. Grimmjow wanted to ask, but unless it started to seriously disturb his leader it wasn't his place, so he simply got up and followed him without a word. They went and bathed in the nearest river, then rested on some sun-warm rocks while they dried. Still very full, it was a leisurely morning, and Grimmjow's thoughts strayed to how perfect a morning this would be if they were mated and they could top off the morning with some good, vigorous rutting.

"Grimmjow. What are you thinking about? You smell strange again."

Grimmjow flicked his tail, glad the rock they were on kept his dick from rising to slap his belly uncomfortably. "Thinkin' that rutting woul' be a perfect end to this morning. It's that kinda lazy day." Suddenly a hand was fingering the base of his tail, and he yelped loudly as he jolted against the rock, sensitive skin scraping the stone roughly.

"I think I have to agree. A good dose of pleasure would end this morning in the most perfect of ways before we have to get back to work." Ichigo's voice had dropped in tone, and his other hand latched on to Grimmjow's hip, tugging him upwards so his cock would stop hitting the rock, and instead jutted straight out in front of him like an arrow.

The panther whimpered, his head hanging forward as his dominant manipulated his body. It felt so good, to be touched by those warm and familiar hands, and to know he could simply let go and trust in Ichigo's control. He let his noises come, whimpers and whines as his ears slicked back submissively, the scrape of his claws against stone and the swish of his tail as it jerked and twitched at each touch. His protective foreskin was pulled forcefully down and back, though it had already begun to retreat as the skin contracted from arousal, and sharp claws gingerly collected the slight smears of wetness that had appeared in the edges of it. Ichigo's fingers were magic, twisting and flicking, the sharp edges and points of his claws a delightful feathery touch that didn't even scratch him, his thumb dipping behind his balls to rub another magic spot that nearly had him seeing purple spots, and Grimmjow writhed and moaned and cried out with each touch and new sensation. He roared when he came, his lungs nearly collapsing from the sheer volume and force of his voice as his world was overtaken by formless white dancing with purple spots.

When he returned from his blackout, Ichigo had just finished licking his hand clean and was lying casually on his side, dominance practically screaming from his pores. Still, the unsheathed dick bobbing just above his belly belied his relaxed and lazy pose, and Grimmjow did something he never, ever thought he would willingly do- he crawled forward on his belly and mewed low in his throat, quite literally begging to please his superior. An orange eyebrow went up, but Grimmjow whined pleadingly and let his eyes dart from Ichigo's to the reddened tip of his cock and back again to indicate what he wanted to do and why. His king visibly considered, then rolled onto his back and spread his legs wide enough that the bigger man could comfortably fit between them, dick now bobbing out in the open. Grimmjow thought, personally, that he'd never seen anything more enticing in his life. It looked disturbingly delicious. Tanned shaft the same darkened peach as the rest of his flesh, his foreskin long drawn back and the red, almost irritated-looking unsheathed head gleaming wetly, somehow it drew from his gut a similar hunger to when he was presented with easy prey or a fresh kill. He licked his lips. A beaded drop of precome emerged from the tiny hole in the head immediately after. Startled at the timing of that reaction, he looked up to find Ichigo's smoldering brown gaze on his face, his stare steady and calm, but so intensely lustful that Grimmjow suddenly wondered if Ichigo wanted that kind of 'pleasing'. It was a distinct possibility. If he did, why didn't he ask for it? Or simply demand it of his submissive, as was his right?

As he had now spent several minutes staring, Ichigo's knees drew up, his feet coming to brace against the floor, and Grimmjow suddenly realized how different the two postures were. Previously, Ichigo's body had been spread open like a buffet, and he'd been easily able to access every part of his person from his current position directly to Ichigo's right. Now, he was propped up on his elbows, and his raised legs cut off his groin area completely from Grimmjow's sight and made it a harder, more awkward reach if he even attempted to access his dick. This second position was far more defensive, and with his feet braced like that he could dart up and away at a moment's notice, which signified discomfort. Thoroughly disturbed by this abrupt change, he quickly scanned the area for any possible threats and found nothing. If there weren't any threats even close to the vicinity, which there weren't, that meant his change in posture had been caused by Grimmjow somehow.

His king suddenly drew his legs into a full curl abruptly, and stood fully before diving into the cold water. Bewildered, Grimmjow scrambled to follow, but was ordered not to with a short feline chuff, and wound up sitting forlornly alone on the rock, ears drooping and tail still. He must've done something wrong, but what? Curling his legs under him, he tried to figure things out. The biggest thing was that one moment, Ichigo had been completely open, and then the next, he wasn't. Moments later, he was gone, into the river- it was cold in there…oh. He was using the cold water to kill his arousal. That answered why he had been commanded to say behind, but what had given Ichigo reason to kill his desire so abruptly? Grimmjow whined in confusion and suddenly it came to him when he realized how pathetic he sounded to his own ears. Had he sounded like that to Ichigo?

Ichigo would on occasion, when questioned why he did not order certain things that would most certainly bring him pleasure in some form, lecture at length about how highly humans, and thus he, valued choice. He wanted the things he wanted to be given to him freely. It was how he'd always lived and he would have it no other way. Which meant…which meant there was always the opportunity to say 'no'. It was highly likely that Ichigo had just interpreted his long hesitation as a shy or fearful refusal that he just wasn't willing to voice. And, if Grimmjow was honest with himself (and he usually was), he was unfairly relieved that Ichigo had decided to solve the problem himself. He was, sadly, a little afraid of doing what he had been thinking of doing. Even considering using his mouth to please his king sent a shiver of fear and distaste up his spine as the gorge rose in the back of his throat at the memories that swarmed him. He could still taste them…his superiors. He hadn't been strong enough to fight them off, but he'd quickly fixed that and fought his way up so nobody would take advantage of him again.

But Aizen had. He'd used whoever he pleased as his personal sex toys, and he'd always considered Grimmjow one of his most handsome 'creations'. The bastard had been the unofficial King, just like Ichigo was now…and he had been unable to refuse. More accurately, he hadn't been allowed to refuse. The one time he'd tried, Aizen had bound him with reiatsu-draining ropes and used brute force to…Grimmjow swallowed hard to resist the strong urge to vomit. He loved Ichigo, wanted to please him and give him whatever he wanted, but what Aizen had done, holding his head in place and being unable to control any of it…oh, it scared him. It terrified him, in fact. Sure, Ichigo had done it for him, but Ichigo was stronger between them. If he'd wanted or needed to hold Grimmjow down, he could have. Grimmjow couldn't. If Ichigo started to…use him, if he couldn't breathe, he was in trouble.

He was yanked from these thoughts when Ichigo climbed back onto the rock and shook himself, sending water droplets scattering, body oddly relaxed and cock once again limp. He sat to squeeze the water out of his tail, ears flicking repeatedly, and Grimmjow sidled up beside him, murmuring softly under his breath. He wanted reassurance that his King wasn't angry at him for balking. Ichigo murmured back and stroked his shoulder, affirming they were still close and everything was alright. Grimmjow had a strange feeling that not everything was the same though, and he latched onto it quickly when he realized the cheetah's subconscious body language had changed. He had always been a sensual man simply by nature, even as a human teenager, it was just the way he was designed. That had stopped. He had become conscious of those movements and ceased to make them, overthinking every gesture so none could be misconstrued. Grimmjow could tell by the way he started to reach for Grimmjow's shoulder and visibly changed his mind, his hand instead coming down to brace his body, not touching him at all. Grimmjow didn't like it. Pride members touched, a lot, and Ichigo wouldn't lay hand on him now. Did he think it would spook him? He didn't refuse any of Grimmjow's touches, so it couldn't be repulsion or hurt caused by him, which meant reluctance to spook him, him, a lowly General and submissive, was what had changed his behavior. He had to fix this.

"Maje- uh, Ichigo…" He tilted one ear the panther's way to indicate he was listening, a vague "Hmm?" his verbal acknowledgment. It wasn't really needed, but it was habit. That was a strange tone Grimmjow was using, as well, one he'd never heard before. Still, he didn't look at him. He'd already scared Grimmjow once today, he wasn't doing it again. "Ya din't scare me, y'know." Startled, as he seemed to know his exact thoughts, he whirled to look at Grimmjow. His First General was sitting with his tail tucked and ears submissively flat, almost embarrassed or ashamed. "It's jus' tha' it occurred ta me ya migh' like ta be, y'know, pleasured wit' m'mouth…like ya did ta me. An' I uh…kinda balked 'cuz Aizen…made me do tha', an' it hurt. A lot. I mean, don' get the wrong idea, I wanna do tha' fer ya…I'm jus' kinda scared o' the idea."

Ichigo looked away again. "Don't worry 'bout it. You know I don't demand things. I can get by fine, it's not like I'm too good to solve the problem myself."

A claw-tipped hand on his chest pushed him gently down against the rock. "Bu' ya shouldn' have to. I wanna do it fer you, dont'cha understand? Jus'…don't get impatient wit' me. Lemme take m'time." Ichigo forced himself to relax and scolded his dick for the tiny twitch it gave at the look that Grimmjow was giving it. Grimmjow nuzzled his stomach, and Ichigo tried not to giggle.

Grimmjow was slightly disappointed. That was supposed to arouse him, and all he got was a twitch and a giggle? Shit, Ichigo was different from…he was different. Had he ever made a willing gesture to his previous superiors, they would've been rock-hard in mere seconds.

"We have business to attend to," Ichigo said, sitting back up and leaping over to his pile of clothes in a single smooth movement, giving Grimmjow no time to protest or persuade. "We'll be attending Council today, and I want to be one of the first ones there. It'll give me time to scout my competition."

That being completely sensible, the General couldn't argue, but he noted a slight wariness to the younger male's frame when Grimmjow started to get too close. He cursed himself for making Ichigo reluctant to share pleasure with him again. In all likelihood, if Ichigo became aroused again in the near future, he would hide it from him. Ichigo appeared to still be perfectly comfortable with providing pleasure, but he now was reluctant to receive it, and with Grimmjow already so attached to his King that was simply unacceptable. This would be fixed today…after business was attended to.

Ichigo tried to figure out how to avoid getting in another sexual situation with Grimmjow in the coming hours as they dressed and meandered back to the city. The Council chamber was in the very center of the city, the various sections positioned like a wheel with the City Hall the hub, and the main feature of City Hall was the Council Chamber. Still, the hormones floating in the city were affecting him, and he kept forcibly redirecting his mind away from the dirty things he wanted to do to Grimmjow down a shadowed alley. Instead, he concentrated on reviewing Council protocol. Every species and group was represented, if they wanted to be, but this naturally presented a slight problem- that of predators intimidating prey to agree with their political leanings. This was remedied by virtue of politically neutral bodyguards, crocodiles and lions, eagles and snakes, strong creatures that were unintimidated by predators and kept order. Being part animal, "keeping order" got messy from time to time, but that simply meant the occasional body was removed during particularly heated council sessions. Outside City Hall, he looked up and gave a little sigh. "C'mon. I gotta get changed for the meeting, best to get it over with."

Grimmjow crept along behind him loyally, footfalls silent. "Uh, if ya don't min' me askin', why do ya gotta change?"

They walked inside and made an immediate left as Ichigo sighed again. "Predatory animals are intimidating just by virtue of being predators, and as a result, most of us agree to dress in minimal, neutral-colored clothing so we don't subconsciously intimidate others with bright colors or ostentatious clothes. Those who don't agree are carefully monitored to be sure they aren't attempting underhanded tricks by manipulating other's Instincts." His clothing was carefully folded and placed in a small storage hole in a honeycomb-like structure made of wood, and from that same space he pulled out a loincloth much like Grimmjow's, but minus the golden chain. It hooked closed on one side, the cloth on a black chain that spanned Ichigo's waist almost perfectly. When Grimmjow tugged on it in wordless question, his King informed him that it had, in fact, been made for him- he'd attended Council pretty much every day during the two months he had dwelled here.

Grimmjow slunk behind his King as they entered the Council Chamber, drooling over all the lush, tanned flesh that was on display in front of him. Times like this, he didn't mind being in the submissive position of following after Ichigo- the view was spectacular. Not that it wasn't any other time, mind you, but even a beta liked to watch his Alpha's ass every now and then, especially a beta that had once been an Alpha and that Alpha had only kicked your ass and taken his title very recently. The panther watched Ichigo nod and greet others politely as he wound through the chamber to his seat, which still faintly smelled like him (indicating to Grimmjow that he spent a lot of time in it) and sat down, Grimmjow sinking into the seat on his left, right where he belonged. There were a lot of predators in the room, mostly reptiles from the scent; they were the first thing the General noticed once he pried his eyes off his King. Most were big, tough-looking creatures that made his hackles prickle, and even the slender ones smelled acidic and dangerous. They smelled like venom. Interspersed among the reptiles were large cats, a smattering of tigers and lions, big, intimidating men, all. The panther surmised these were the 'peacekeepers', the ones who watched council members to prevent underhanded tactics. A rustle overhead made him jump a little, head whipping around- oh god, the rafters! How could he have missed such an obvious place that could house threats?

The birds up there were mostly golden-feathered and all were golden-eyed, raptors with strong talons and sharp beaks. They were positioned around the upper level of the council building in a mirror of the enforcers on the ground, which made it clear quickly why they were lurking like that and put Grimmjow slightly more at ease- though not completely. He could never be completely at ease anywhere but his King's chambers in Hueco Mundo where nobody could touch or even contemplate touching his monarch. Not that he would fail to defend him with his life, regardless of where they were, but there was always the chance he would fail and something would go wrong and Ichigo would die (totally ignoring the fact that the kid had proven time and again to be more or less as immortal as any soul could get). This was his instinct talking, and he knew it, but instincts like this formed from long habit, and he especially didn't want his King in danger. He resisted the urge to pace and watched the room in general until a hand on his hair, stroking his ears, dragged all his attention firmly back to Ichigo.

"So paranoid," he murmured, eyes a soft chocolate color, his lips curling into a faint amused smile. "It's cute. But unnecessary. I am immune to poison and impervious to the weapons of the living- so simmer down, General." Grimmjow ducked his head, shivering at his monarch's use of his title- it always gave him chills to hear it. Good chills. It made him sort of- only sort of- want to go to battle, to impress his King and prove he was worthy of his title.

Other hybrids slowly started to trickle in, their presence making the panther's hackles rise. Some, upon entering, were given very stern looks by the peace-keepers, and these Grimmjow surmised to be the most troublesome and likely to try a dirty, underhanded trick. He memorized each of their faces and scents, tense in his seat. No matter how much his King reassured him, he was Ichigo's bodyguard. Even if the orangette was in no danger of death from an attack, it was his duty and his privilege to make sure no such attack reached him in the first place. Gradually the seats filled up, Grimmjow watching those who sat around Ichigo especially closely. Nearly all the seats were full and everyone was starting to turn their attention to the front when a commotion started near the entrances, a rumble of alarm and confusion sweeping the entire room from back to front. Ichigo rose and Grimmjow copied him, both trying and failing to see over the larger hybrids to the source of the unrest. The Panther-Cheetah finally snarled in frustration and leapt up to the rafters, ignoring Grimmjow's surprised yelp, and scurried along the pathway of sturdy beams until he could see what all the fuss was about. When he did, he gasped and thudded to the floor, Grimm close behind. "Nate? What is the meaning of this?"

Nate himself looked quite confused. "I just came as a guest of Moreav. These guys insisted on tagging along," he jerked his thumb at the scientists behind him, "and the big boss told me I couldn't go unless they came with. Why is everyone so up in arms, Ichigo-san?"

Ichigo's eyes narrowed at the scientists and Grimmjow noted that his posture suddenly became much more aggressive and angry. "They stink of chemicals," Ichigo explained with a low growl. "People here, me included, don't trust that scent. The chemicals could be anything- a sedative, a poison, an attempt to manipulate our already manipulated genetics."

Nate looked worried. "But- they can't help that, can they? They have to get sprayed down with disinfectant every time they come or go from the labs…"

Disinfectant didn't smack of danger like this smell did, but Ichigo simply drew Nate away. "There is no accounting for Instinct, Nate. Come, I will take you up to Moreav's perch." What he really wanted was to strip the scientists and confiscate whatever vials and syringes they had, but for now he would settle for getting Nate away from them. He was too kind- too easily manipulated.

"Oh-KAY!" Nate yelped when Ichigo scooped him into his arms and leapt up into the rafters. He gripped hard and tight, burying his face in Ichigo's strong chest, and instinctively Ichigo purred softly to soothe him. Nate relaxed. When he reached Moreav's perch, the Oriole was fluttering concernedly, and was visibly reassured by his human reaching him safely. Ichigo handed him off, the human blinking but not appearing to be distressed by being transferred from one set of arms to another. He was quick to burrow into the purple feathers and relax with a content sigh, bird and cat exchanging amused looks. Nate might be Moreav's human after all, for all that he had no idea what that meant.

When Grimmjow finally caught up with his monarch, Ichigo was already back in his seat, glaring malevolently at the trio of scientists as they took a seat close to the front. "My King?"

"I don't trust them," Ichigo said, ears flat to his head. "I don't like them. They're planning something and they brought chemicals. Be ready to move if they pull something. You and I are the only ones immune to whatever they use, because we're the only spiritual beings here."

Grimmjow ducked his head with a murmur of agreement. These beings stunk like Szayel on a bad day, and if his King didn't like them, he didn't either. He didn't even need to know why- the fact that Ichigo thought they needed to be watched was telling. He didn't even order watches on the Rebel gatherings; of course, when it came to the Rebels all he needed to do was show up and slaughter them, and that he had done and would continue to do.

Most of the council session passed in a blur to the First General. He wasn't listening- he didn't have to. Ichigo rose to his feet several times to offer his advice and opinion, voice calm and reasonable unlike the angry and sometimes frantic tones Grimmjow heard speak, their words slurring together unintelligibly in his ears. He was keeping all his attention on the men gathered in a tight knot at the front of the room. Their body language was sneaky and sly, and they kept fiddling with something in their pockets. He didn't like it. It set his every instinct on edge and made him restless, full of nervous energy, keeping him on his toes and ready to destroy the threat he was sure they posed.

Then it happened. What his King had feared and what Grimmjow had anticipated.

The muscles of the hands buried in deep pockets tensed simultaneously with a soft crack and the hissing sound of escaping gas. The First General knew immediately what had occurred- he had heard it when stupid people fought near Szayel's lab often enough. Something kept carefully in a glass container had just been deliberately released, an unknown substance that would have unknown-to-Grimmjow effects. He instantly leapt to his feet, intending to take them down, but once on his feet he swayed, the room beginning to spin and blur. What was happening? Was this the effect of the gas? It shouldn't have reached him so fast- he was near the middle of the room and they were near the front, with a good fifty yards between them. As he stumbled and slumped back into his seat, he heard the muffled sounds of people all around him collapsing, but it was distant and strange as though his ears were stuffed full of cotton. His muscles wouldn't obey him- he couldn't get so much as an ear to twitch!

This had happened before; this was what happened when a superior Arrancar had used his reiatsu to bend the weaker Grimmjow to his will, when his entire body's functions had been beyond his control and at the command of another. This was what had seized him when Aizen exerted both his Dominance and his vicious strength. Grimmjow found his mind spiraling into panic as a terrified whine rose from his throat unbidden, getting steadily louder and higher in pitch as his Instinct took over where his conscious thoughts could not. His body reacted the only way it knew how in this situation based on past experience- it pleaded for mercy from the stronger force. This didn't usually get a result, but there was nothing else he could do.

This time, Grimmjow's plea did get a result. A strong one. Ichigo burst from his body with a snarl, hackles raised and teeth bared- his First General, his submissive, his potential mate was calling on his protection, begging with genuine fear. In a man like Ichigo, who was already hardwired to protect (something his dominant position only made much stronger), this did and would always produce an immediate, and in some cases violent, response to the source of the fear. Crouched on top of the table in Soul form, ears and tail already out in agitation, he hooked his claws into Grimmjow's gigai and pulled out his spirit, who was curled in a ball and still giving that awful sound of terror, clutching him to his chest and cradling the bigger body as his slit-pupiled eyes alighted on the only moving things in the room- those goddamn scientists. His reiatsu roared.

The Espada found himself arching with a little shriek as his King's reiatsu burned through him, burned out whatever poison had transferred over from the gigai, and left him aching and tingling, but fully in control of his body and his wits. He scrambled to get on his own two feet and to hold back his King from attack- not because he gave a rat's ass what happened to the scientists even if their deaths would cause another war for Ichigo to fight, no, for a much more instinct-driven reason. His Dominant had just protected him, and he didn't want his protection to leave him for any reason this soon.

Ichigo settled, a soft, croon-like moan rumbling his throat as he watched what the scientists were doing while his human mind began to return. It had been rather abruptly shoved aside when Grimmjow's instincts had cried for mercy and safety, both things he had always been quick to provide. They seemed to be moving with purpose, one human stopping beside one hybrid, each animal of certain factions, huge needles in hand. Ichigo recognized those needles- they were the kind used to take bone marrow and just seeing them made him cringe and press Grimmjow close to his body. He noted each species- Golden Eagle, African Elephant, Great Panda…endangered species were their targets. His medical knowledge sprang to the fore: bone marrow contained DNA, red blood cells, white blood cells, bone coding, bone-based stem cells that adapted to allow grafts and regrowth when marrow was lost, such as in a break. That made bone marrow valuable, especially to a scientist.

Four movements so swift they couldn't be followed unless you had extraordinary reiatsu-sensing capabilities and each scientist crumpled where he stood before he could break skin with those horrifying needles and then Ichigo was once more braced over Grimmjow protectively. Grimmjow sucked in a harsh breath; those humans had gone down simultaneously and his King had been back before his instinct even had a chance to register his going. Much more himself, and reminded of his monarch's abilities, he rose to all fours and steeled himself. He was First General, goddamnit! He was supposed to be Ichigo's right hand at times like these- it might not be a battle situation, but there was a very real threat! What was he doing, cowering like an Adjucas before the power of a Vasto Lorde? Hadn't a chance to prove his prowess, like this one, been what he wanted? Yes, he admitted to himself, but not involving whatever that gas had been. It was like a flashback, a nightmare, and his worst fears all wrapped up in a neat little package and exploded inside his head.

"I'll handle 'em, sir," Grimmjow said, stepping forward and taking each man's collar in hand, powerful arms suspending them above the ground.

Ichigo only gave him a glance and smiled, glad to see him back in full form. "Alright then, General. I'll handle these," he gestured to the needles.

Grimmjow nodded and promptly went to literally throw the scientists out of the city. Being in soul form, he easily tracked where they had come in- an enormous hole spanning nearly fifty feet across, and at least a hundred feet down with natural-looking depressions and folds everywhere. So this must be the 'sinkhole' Ichigo had spoken of… no wonder he'd been so irritated. He didn't bother with the installed stairs, probably there for the human's convenience, and instead leapt from one dirt outcropping to another and deposited his cargo on the rough stone road up above. He also added a note using one of their notepads and a pencil in his slightly wobbly kanji that they, and all other humans except Nate, were very much not allowed to attend Hybrid Council ever again until further notice. Further, any human that snuck in, or rather tried, would be harshly ejected. After thinking a moment, he added onto the end of that punishment that they would also be banned from the city, like these men were.

Ichigo, meanwhile, had gathered up the needles, capped them, and put them safely away to be properly disposed of later. When his General returned, all the windows were open to air out what was left of the gas, and he was sitting on the dais at the front of the room, where speakers would stand to present their case or argument to be discussed. He was looking around at all the unconscious hybrids, enforcer and otherwise, when Grimmjow took a seat beside him, and it was with a gusty sigh he turned to face his right hand man and tactical planner. "So what now?"

Grimmjow looked at the assembly. "Wait fer 'em ta wake up, I s'pose."

"And after that?"

"Explain wha' happened."

"…Then what?"

"Then, my King, I propose we go bathe somewhere an' have a lil' discussion of our own tha' ends with somebody suckin' cock."