Defeat wasn't an easy notion for Kisuke Urahara to concede to.

He kept his word- most of the time. When it mattered.

Yet, even that seemed of little substance compared to the enormity of his promise. For the hundredth time, he rubbed at his temples, then took a brief swig of the cooled tea Ururu had brought almost two hours before. Kisuke grimaced at the bitterness of the pale green liquid, wishing he had a bottle of chilled Sake instead.

But, he needed sobriety.

He needed everything his wits and centuries of existing had given him.

But, how...?

He didn't want to disappoint the hopes of his old friend. Seeing Isshin's strong, chiseled features dissolve into waves of intense grief was almost too much to bear. Kisuke had had his part in what had happened. Being the creator of the Hogyoku had done little to ease his conscience in the ensuing years, no matter the capabilities the orb possessed.

He had chosen Isshin's newborn son as the orb's host.

As its guardian.

Standing in the faint light provided by the tiny flame flickering in the corner, Kisuke stared unseeingly around at the stacks of musty scrolls and paper artifacts. The storehouse was packed to the brim with ancient ideas, notions for improving Kido, for spiritual weapons he had dreamed of designing once when he was young...

"Lost in thought?" A soft, smoky feminine voice came from the partially open door. Slightly surprised yet not perturbed by the woman's unexpected entrance, Kisuke turned with a faint smile of welcome. "Yoruichi...stopping in for a while?"

The woman whom lounged in the doorframe, narrowed her golden-yellow eyes. "There isn't a way." she said crisply, disregarding his question.

"It hasn't been tried." he said just as easily without a hint of irritation in his tone.

Yoruichi shrugged elegantly, an expression of replete boredom coloring her beautiful face. "You're determined then to see this through-?"

Kisuke shared a long look with the woman, saying slowly, "you know the answer to that already."

She sniffed, a tiny sound in her throat like a chuckle or a catch of breath. Vague excitement glittered in her yellow-green eyes, "even if you do manage to bring him back with you, Kurosaki needs to understand his son will never be the same."

"I'm sure that's a risk any parent would be willing to take."

She looked a little surprised at the quiet vehemence in his voice. Then, softly shrugged again, "perhaps. It isn't my place to judge."

"No, it isn't."

Her lip curled ever so slightly, "I presume you mean to ask for my assistance?"

Kisuke reached up a hand in a mocking gesture, tipping his hat to her. "Why, ever would you think that, my dearest and oldest friend?"

She snorted this time, "dearest, I doubt. And isn't cohort in nefarious schemes more appropriate?"

"You misjudge me," he feigned hurt.

"And you lie and break your promises." Yoruichi answered calmly, not rising to his bait.

Kisuke sobered, folding the book he had looking at, closed. Within it, was a spell for creating an imitation Garganta. He had found it.

In passing her by in the doorway, he murmured so softly for only her hearing; "this is one promise I must keep."

The clink of a spoon scraping the side of the bowl echoed in the tiny apartment.

A young girl dressed in high school clothes was swathed in an overlarge apron, a cheerful smile on her lips as she reached for the container of red bean paste on the countertop. The sound of a key turning in the lock made her pivot about suddenly, her hand knocking against the flour bin.

Orihime Inoue had always a knack for clumsiness, this was exemplified as her older dark-haired brother Sora Inoue entered to find his sheepish sister covered in head-to-toe flour. The bin lay empty on the floor.

Orihime blinked her large grey eyes, surprise as though she hadn't a clue where the flour had come from vanishing momentarily to a wide, happy smile. "Hello, big brother!"

He set aside his suitcase, propping one hand on his hip, a bemused smile lighting up his eyes. "Cooking again, 'hime-chan?"

She didn't miss the teasing note, pumping up her fists comically, she launched into her explanation for dinner- or rather what she had concocted that morning in cooking class. Sora listened raptly, only interrupting once to ask if a quick run to the store was required, to replace the sack of flour.

Orihime with another sweet, faintly vague smile gently waved him off to change his work clothes and relax; she had everything she needed already.

It wasn't until Sora had disappeared into his small bedroom off the living room, that his sister breathed a sigh of relief. Touching a slim, delicate hand to a green hairclip pinning back her bangs, she whispered; "Soten Kisshun, I reject."

The hairclip glowed with a strange light.

-Las Noches-

The thick, slippery liquid slid down his throat. Grimmjow's large hand roughly massaged the wetted crown of his head, violently urging him to take in more. Ichigo swallowed around the thick pulsing vein, his teeth scraping the bulbous tip.

No matter how he sucked, flicking his tongue over the jutting rod, it wasn't enough. Grimm-kun wasn't satisfied. And that displeased Ichigo, frowning to himself as he worked his lips up then down, slavering his tongue over the swollen skin.

Throaty growls soon erupted into the air. "More, bitch! Ugh..ugh..ugh!"

The back of Ichigo's hair was suddenly grabbed in a tight, unremitting hold. He yelped and simultaneously gulped; Grimmjow's hips twisting forward in a calculated thrust. Ichigo felt his throat muscles constrict, the thick organ suddenly filling his air passage.

He gagged reflexively.

"What? Can't handle it, bitch?" Grimmjow sneered. Ichigo pulled back to glower up at the smirking Arrancar. "No!" He wiped the back of his mouth with his fist, matching the Sexta's look. "I'm practicing for Sosuke! He said I was going to be his lover!"

"Like Hell ya are!"

He had thought it was common knowledge, accepted amongst the tiny group in Las Noches - accepted by those he saw as his family. A frown creased his brow, the continuous rain of the water did little to melt away the flashing anger in teal orbs - and - desperation?

Ichigo had barely a chance to catch the strange fleeting emotion before it happened.

The sound of flesh being struck.

He stumbled to the side, back hitting and sliding against the slick enclosing wall of the shower. Hand still upraised, Grimmjow's jaw worked like he wanted to spit out something particularly vile. It was the same sort of reaction Ichigo recalled glimpsing then after the Sexta had been reprimanded for killing a promising crop of Adjuchas.

Though he had been in Ulquiorra's company and been well-hidden, he had still felt a tingle of entirely predatory anticipation. Grimmjow had resented Aizen's harsh words, he had resembled most his released state then. Feral animalism at its height. The only he had lacked were the fuzzy ears and frizzy tail to betray his inhumanity.

Grimmjow took half an unsteady step closer, his large fingers clenching and unclenching. Ichigo tried not to feel trapped, powerless by the Espada. It was foolish to show weakness- Sosuke had taught him that.

"Grimm?" He decided to try, somehow hoping the moniker would snap the Arrancar back into a different state. one radiating less insanity.

"Yer' mine, Ichigo. Your fucking all mine!"

Ichigo scowled at the possessiveness in the Sexta's tone, bracing himself against the wall, he snapped out just as angrily. "Shut up! I belong to Sosuke and you're just a serv-"

Something in the Arrancar snapped, his hand flew up getting ready to connect with Ichigo's face again. Distantly above the sound of the forgotten water, the door opened and-

Blood sprayed the white tiled walls. Ichigo winced at the expletives bursting forth from the teal-haired Arrancar's mouth. Aizen calmly stood back, watching with an impassive face, his blade still unsheathed. Ulquiorra lingered in the doorway, hands in pockets, the same cold elegance present as he analyzed the situation.

From the dripping crimson droplets and the agonized expression of rage contorting Grimmjow's face to he- Ichigo, plastered against the shower wall, the water all but ignored. Ulquiorra's poison green eyes wandered to the patch of red on his cheek. Truth be told Ichigo was simply unsure of what to do. Torn between wanting to defend his friend and side with the parental authority caused severe indecisiveness. It vanished however in the blink of an eye when a guttural snarl ripped through the air.

Aizen took half a step back as Grimmjow charged, Ichigo moved then as well, forgetting in that instant his lack of covering, his previous hesitation- all that mattered was protecting Sosuke. As he'd been taught by Tia Halibel and her rough and tumble fracciones, he swiftly gathered reishii to his hand, which he brought back and delivered a hard chop to the nape of muscular Espada's neck. The fact that it was successful, proved an understatement. Ichigo watched as Grimmjow slumped down to the floor, sworls of steam still filling the confines of the large bathroom. Aizen's slightly surprised look was soon replaced by a faint smile and the sheathing of his sword. It did not escape Ichigo's notice that he had been near to decapitating the Sexta Espada.

"So you have been learning many things, my boy." Sosuke ssaid softly, easng out of his over-jacket. Stepping around the inert form, he draped the hevay white cloth over Ichigo's wet shoulders, nodding to Ulquiorra. "Take him to a cell. Let him cool off there before I choose a more fitting punishment." Hearing those words, Ichigo knew he had to speak up. Grimmjow was his friend after all! "Father! Perhaps you could show leniency to Grimm-kun? After all it was my fault for tempting him so! He said that himself!"

Sosuke watched him with unreadable eyes. Ichigo could feel the tension thickening between them. What was wrong? Had he misspoken? While he searched the coffee brown eyes he so loved above him, they softened abruptly. The distance vanished. A warm hand encircled his wrist, Sosuke's voice was of velvety smoothness, lacking the malice from before.

"Ah, Ichigo. Your naievete is sometimes enjoyable to see." Sosuke's smile was always something Ichigo liked best. It favored him now. Full, sweet, filling him with a warmth beyond physical gratification. Like being wrapped in a warm cocoon. Safety. He felt safe then and didn't hardly mind at all the arm that curled around his waist - possessively, nor the kiss Sosuke pressed to his sodden orange bangs.

"However, in the future I would prefer to not see a worthless worm strike you." he finished just as cheerfully, flash-stepping them from the room.


AN: ._. sorry for not updating in a long time. But I finally worked out more of the plot in my head now...

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