Hello there. This is not my first story, in the Bleach fandom or anywhere else. But I am only human, and everyone makes mistakes. If you spot something I did wrong, or have any comments or constructive criticism, they are gladly accepted and considered.
SUMMARY: Ichigo and Grimmjow were enemies when they were young. They are enemies at high school. But through revelations about themselves and each other they grow closer, until they fall in love. A tale of hatred turning to friendship turning to love, two people that seem to collide time and time again even though hatred and violence force them apart, and something that never quite dies, no matter how hard people try to kill it.
WARNINGS: Alternate Universe, possible OOC, yaoi/slash, violence, swearing, guns, graphic drug abuse and graphic sex between two men (but that's much later), very long and slow development of the relationship between the two main characters. Which means no romance or sex or even friendship between them for a while.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Bleach, the lyrics to any songs I use in this story, and I am making absolutely no money from this. All material sourced belongs to its respective owner; I am only borrowing it.
DEDICATION: This story is dedicated to every single Grimmjow/Ichigo writer and supporter out there in the world, wherever you are, whatever website you use. Thank you to all of you endless writers, who have in turn inspired, annoyed, educated, infuriated and entertained me for hours and hours on end. You sometimes make me despair but you also give me hope. Where would I be without you?
ALSO: I would like to give an extra-special thank you to angstymcgoth, who was my editor and helpful friend during the earlier stages of this work. Without her, my story would have been a pile of crap. She molded it into what it is now. BUT - an even bigger thank you to Mistress Penelopye, someone whose works you have probably already read here. If not, go read them. She is an absolute star, and without her support and encouragement I could not have done as much as I did. Thank you forever, Penny.
OK, now that's out the way. Here we go - I hope you enjoy the ride as much as I do.
1. an opening or initiating move toward negotiations, a new relationship, an agreement, etc.; a formal or informal proposal or offer: overtures of peace; a shy man who rarely made overtures of friendship.
a. an orchestral composition forming the prelude or introduction to an opera, oratorio, etc.
b. an independent piece of similar character.
3. an introductory part, as of a poem; prelude; prologue.
I suppose I should tell you the details of when and where exactly it started. And when I say started, I mean that this is where my relationship with Grimmjow Jaegerjaques changes from us being childhood enemies into something a lot more...complicated.
It's not like I saw it happening. It's not like I meant for it to happen. The strangest things change you in the strangest ways, and most of the time it's when you're not looking - and then you turn your head and you look at yourself in the past and it hits you like a smack to the face, when you see how much you've grown up, how much the people around you have changed. It's slow and unnoticeable, that maturity, but when you add it all up it's kind of frightening how much you grow in just a few years.
And it's pretty much the same with feelings, right? You don't take them out of a box and measure them and compare them every month or whatever, you only see what's happened to them when someone points out to you that they've turned into something else. Your feelings towards someone can change in an instant, or they can change as slowly as a tree turns into oil. It happens like...it happens like a plant growing. Or like a flower turning into, I dunno, a fruit or something.
But maybe I'm not making myself clear. I've never been very good at explaining things, not like Ishida. Maybe I'll just tell you the story and you can see for yourself how it happened.
Yeah, let's do that.
My education was dismal. I went to a series of schools for mentally disturbed teachers ~ Woody Allen
Chrysalis: First Act (High School)
Overture: Freshman Year
So let's just say my entrance into High School was suitably dramatic. Me and Chad, we burst through the sign posting the class registers and we take down at least half a dozen annoying wannabe gangsters. It didn't take ten minutes. It was a bracing start to the day, let alone the school year, but that scene alone secured our reputation, let me tell you. It set the tone for the beginning of my time Karakura High School. Instantly I was bad news: I was a gangster, a punk, a no-good layabout that lived to pick fights and menace society. People couldn't look me in the eye for weeks without seeming like they were gonna wet themselves.
But it was cool. I was used to it, even if it did piss me off. I'd been ostracized all my life. It was nothing new.
So Chad and I were prepared to be avoided, stared at suspiciously, gossiped about; I thought it was gonna be like middle school all over again. I braced myself for it. I expected it. And then, somehow-
It really started with Arisawa Tatsuki. It was a shock to see her again, after all those years, to see how much she had grown up, grown stronger, taller, prettier. We'd met when we were four years old and had been friends for a long time, until my mother died. And then we drifted apart - I went to an upper-class private military academy my dad used to teach at, and she stayed in Karakura. I had considered her my best friend when we were young, and she was the one person I wanted to beat most at karate. That was my dream, for the longest time. To beat her at karate, and to stop the teasing at school. The two things I had prayed for night after night.
But even though I hadn't seen Tatsuki for at least six years I could tell that her personality was the same. Soon it seemed like the years had never passed and she was insulting me and punching me and causing grievous bodily harm like we were little kids again, sparring at the dojo.
Another girl tagged along with her, a girl with browny-red hair and huge, uh, bosoms. But I was able to look Inoue Orihime straight in the eye for the whole of our introduction without my eyes straying south once, since years of Matsumoto Rangiku, one of the upperclassmen at my old school, shamelessly being...herself, had really immunized me against the appeals of a generous...you know. And of course Tatsuki was impressed by that. Inoue seemed nice enough, if a little ditzy. She kind of reminded me of Yuzu, so I smiled for once, and she turned red. Tatsuki rolled her eyes. I didn't know if that was good or not.
Oh, and Ishida Uryuu was in my class too. No surprise there. The bastard had made it his mission in life to turn my existence into a veritable hell. I'd known him since I was nine – I had just lost my mother, he had just lost his grandfather. Our dads were old friends from 'way back'. They had thought we would bond. For a doctor, my dad sure can be stupid.
Anyway. Like I was saying, it was the first day of school. I knew no one but Chad, but two strange guys kept following us around. Something like Mizijiro and Koga. I was on the alert for anything strange – a challenging glance, a snide comment, the glint in someone's eye when they were looking for a fight. I had grown up looking for those things, and I knew how to deal with them. Usually it involved bruising someone's jaw or dealing out a black eye or two, but then I was left alone for the most part. Some fuckers don't know when to let it drop, but I could usually keep them at bay using my fists.
What can I say? I was prepared for violence. I always expect the worst.
But then, what I didn't expect was a limousine suddenly materializing outside the school gates. There was a crest emblazoned on the hood, a crest I'd seen many times during the last couple of years. I'd grown familiar with it and the family that it represented, and not entirely by choice.
So I knew who was in that car, and my stomach flip-flopped at the same time my heart soared.
One of the doors opened. Kuchiki Rukia jumped out, followed by Abarai Renji, Madarame Ikkaku and Ayasegawa Yumichika. They had been my best friends for six years, during one of the hardest times of my life. They knew me better than anyone else. They irritated me, encouraged me, made me laugh when I didn't even want to smile.
But I had no idea what the fuck they were doing there.
"Yo, Ichigo!" Renji yelled, raising his hand in greeting and drawing the stares of at least a hundred bemused people. "What up, man?"
I, for one, was stunned. He was still the same – unapologetically loud, tall, annoying; his crimson hair was still spiky, his clothes were still rumpled like he'd just gotten out of bed – wait, what the fuck had happened to his eyebrows? Were those tattoos?
Wait. Wait. They were wearing my school uniform. They had come to my school on the first day of the semester, wearing my school uniform.
"Ichigo, my man! What is with this cold 'tude you're givin' me?" It was Renji. He slapped my shoulder and grinned.
The only thing I could say was, "Ikkaku, you've let him watch too much MTV again."
Renji said, "Pfft. Don't know what you're talking about."
I literally could not believe my eyes. "Right. What the hell are all of you doing here?" I knew what they were doing. I just had to make sure, in case I was on a bad acid trip and was hallucinating.
Yumichika sighed, brushing a lock of glossy black hair behind his ear. He had always been weirdly beautiful for a guy, and it was only made weirder by the fact that he fought like a maddened berserker when he wanted to. "We're going to school, of course."
"I can see that."
"Then why'd you ask, dumbass?" Ikkaku said. His bald head reflected the sun like a mirror. He'd kept the strange red markings under his eyes and the distaste for socks, apparently. And Rukia…she said nothing, and only looked at me with those slate-gray eyes of hers. She was maybe half my size (OK, a blatant exaggeration, but you get what I'm trying to say) but sometimes it felt like she could read my fucking mind. Goddamn scary.
She was the first person I had made friends with at the Academy. I just called it the Academy – all of us did – because its real name was ridiculously long and complicated, something like 'The Yamamoto Military Academy for Excellence in the Fields of Martial Education, Tactical Ability Blah Blah Blah…'
Or something. Everyone who went there nicknamed it the 'Shinigami Academy' because the uniform was a heavy black robe, like a kimono, only more of a pain in the ass; it weighed a ton and looked so depressing that someone had once joked, long ago, that it looked like something only the Grim Reaper would wear. And the joke had stuck. Sometimes I even heard the principal – a terrifying old guy called Yamamoto Shigekuni Genryusai – slip and call it the 'Shinigami Academy' instead of its real name.
It was an expensive, exclusive school. There were scholarships, but only for the best – kind of like a school for dance or drama or music in that way, but in the Academy you learned to fight. I didn't know why people thought that would be useful in the modern world, I still don't, but it was a famous school and there was a shitload of competition for a single space.
I didn't know why my friends were willing to abandon such a prestigious place for something like plain old Karakura High School, but at that moment I didn't care: I just willed my body to vaporize. Renji and Ikkaku mixed with normal people only equaled disaster. Visions of exploding toilets, outraged teachers, and tables on fire filled my mind.
This was school –my new school. It wasn't like I was going for a fresh start or some shit like that, god knew it was too late, but I'd hoped to have a few more peaceful years of education at least…
Well, that plan was well and truly shot to pieces.
"-so I asked my dad and he's like, why not? 'Cuz you know the Academy is really fucking expensive, it's a miracle we aren't all living out of trash cans by now-"
I belatedly realized that Renji was trying to explain why the hell he had decided to disrupt my life to the best of his ability and how.
"I don't care, Renji," I said. "Go the hell away."
"Can't," Renji said. "Our parents have paid and everything and they won't let us back out. The Academy wouldn't let us in, the places we left have already been filled, so we can't go back there either. Not like we'd want to, we've gone waaay beyond shit like that. We should be teaching there by now, we're that awesome."
Rukia beamed her evil smile – the one that fooled everyone except those who knew her well into thinking that she was sweet and harmless. "So in other words, you're stuck with us."
"Right." I was still a little numb. The shock hadn't quite worn off.
"I'm in your class, by the way," Renji said. "So's Rukia."
"That's just great. Let me whip out the balloons and the party hats and we can all celebrate properly."
He ignored me. "Yumichika and Ikkaku are juniors, though, not freshmen like us wonderful people. So." He cocked his head to the side and stared past me. "Hey, do you know those two guys? I think they're calling for you."
I turned around. "Huh. That's…uh…well, those two guys have weird names I can't remember –" Renji smirked at me, and I scowled. "Hey, shut up! I just met them today. You know what I'm like with names. But that big guy behind them is Chad, and the thin nerdy one with the glasses and the constipated expression is Ishida. But don't get too familiar, y'know, you aren't staying here long if I can help it."
He looked wounded and slung an arm around my shoulders. "Ehhh? So little love. Rukia, help me out here. Rukia?"
We found that the rest of our friends had vanished: Rukia had most probably deviated towards the nearest smutty yaoi manga, Yumichika obviously was heading towards the nearest mirror and I could see Ikkaku in the distance, his bald head glinting in the sun, looming over some terrified freshman that had either inquired about his lack of hair or the wooden sword he had tucked into his belt.
"Why does he have a sword?" I asked. "Wait, don't answer. I already know."
Renji shrugged. "Well, you know how he is. He doesn't feel comfortable without some form of phallic representation around him at all times. I think there might be something he has to tell us in the future, but we'll just have to be understanding about it."
"…OK, that really wasn't what I was thinking."
"Then what were you gonna say?"
"That he likes fighting."
"Maybe we should go inside…before…"
"Ikkaku hears what you said about him and reduces you to a wet smear on the ground?"
Renji looked queasy. He was a tough guy and could take all sorts of shit without even blinking, but Ikkaku was his senior and could still strike fear in his heart. I kinda wished I had the same power, because although I'd beaten Renji like the ground more than once the stupid guy still treated me as more of an annoying younger brother than an equal. But I supposed that Renji suddenly acting humble and polite to anybody (except Yamamoto, and that even I could understand) would have, you know, heralded the apocalypse to anyone who knew him. He was that much of a moron.
But at least he made the time pass by faster. I had been prepared for the fact that the first couple of hours of school would be excruciatingly boring; now that the craziest people I knew were attending my school, though, I knew things wouldn't be anything as soothing as that.
"So why didn't ya want us here in the first place, Ichigo?" Renji asked finally, lounging on my desk and generally being annoying. It was after orientation, which I had just about slept through, and we were in our new classroom.
"Because you're like chaos and destruction personified," I said. "Get off my desk."
"Heh, thanks. And no."
"It's not a compliment, don't be so proud. You always ruin school for me, remember? You stopped me from getting a perfect mark in fifth grade with that little stunt you pulled with the tacks on Kurotsuchi's stupid chair-"
Renji snorted with laughter. "Shit, I'd almost forgotten about that!"
"He thought it was me!" I fumed. "And I was that close to a hundred percent-"
"Oh, cool it, you still managed to get a perfect score the next year."
"Don't fucking tell me," Ikkaku said, dropping into the seat next to me. "He's bitching about the tacks again."
"Shut u- Ikkaku, what are you doing here? This isn't even your class! Go away!"
"The boy needs to get laid," said Ikkaku.
I looked at Renji in horror. "And you! Don't ever associate with me again!"
"Please. You weren't complaining that time we tricked Omaeda into eating fish paste and cardboard."
"Well, that was-"
"Or the time we blew up the toilets."
"Or the time we-"
"All right!" I held my hands up in defeat. "God, this is why I don't want you here. The next three years are just gonna be so insane-"
" Well now, this is interesting," a new voice said, dark and smooth. "Just look who it is. Long time no see, Kurosaki."
It's hard to really explain the sensation that overcame me when I heard that, but I think it's enough when I say that I felt every bone in my body seize up with unexplainable horror.
After all, I knew that voice.
People who get nostalgic about childhood were obviously never children ~ Bill Watterson
The first time I laid eyes on him, all I could see was his hair. His impossibly vibrant, icy blue hair.
It was like a beacon to me, because orange was unusual enough, but in some places it wasn't such a weird color, you know? But blue…that's something else entirely.
And his eyes. They were blue too, but more intense, almost violently so. Darker. His hair was the color of the light sliding off an iceberg, and his eyes were like the sky at the peak of summer. His hair was longish, and hung in his eyes, and it only framed the disgruntled expression he was wearing when I first saw his face.
I hadn't been able to take my eyes off him.
My mom told me not to stare, that it was rude. It was my very first day of school. I was six years old. I was terrified.
She whispered soft words in my ear, stuff you say to kids to stop them from crying, but it didn't work for me. I was a real crybaby then. I clung to my mom like a barnacle. She practically had to peel me off so that I could go to class that day, and for the first two weeks all I did was stare out the window in case she came back for me early. I cried a lot, because I missed her and I was scared. I was six years old and without my mother for the first time, it's not really that surprising. It should embarrass me, but it doesn't.
But I got over it, I guess. After a while I stopped bawling my eyes out so much, but I still didn't talk to anyone. The other kids…they all just stared at my hair, then pointed and whispered. Whenever I got near them I just clammed up. I had no friends at school. Tatsuki went somewhere else, and she was the only person I knew who was of the same age. The only other name I knew was Grimmjow Jaegerjaques.
I'm terrible with names, and with faces. I can meet someone half a dozen times and not have any clue who they are.
But he stuck in my head.
Mostly, it was because he had a really weird name. Hardly anyone could pronounce it right, at first. And then there was the fact that he was foreign, and rich – I'd heard that his parents were from Europe, wherever that was, and both were successful businesspeople – but I think more than anything it was the hair.
Grimmjow had hair like mine – unusual, loud, colorful. He was cool, exotic, otherworldly; he was smart and loud and witty, and everyone liked him. Even when he was six years old he had charisma. He was the boy everyone wanted to be friends with.
I thought that maybe we would be similar. Maybe we would both share the same experiences, of being picked on or stared at because of our hair. It sounds shallow, it sounds stupid, and it's a terrible reason to want to be friends with someone (because they have blue hair!) but I was six years old. From the moment I saw him I thought he was cool. I thought to myself, That is someone I think I will like.
And you know, I thought he might have liked to be friends with me too. But it didn't take him long for him to thoroughly disabuse me of that childish idea.
That voice had deepened considerably in the years since I'd heard it last, but I could still recognize the anger churning under the contempt, the snide tone, the hatred dripping off every word. I'd known that voice, very well. I hadn't thought I would hear it again.
I stood up and turned around, and looked at him – Grimmjow was older, of course, but the blue eyes and hair were the same, his expression was as menacing as ever, and I could taste the stink of his arrogance from the opposite end of the room. What I experienced at that moment was something like to a knife made of pure fear stabbing into my heart; it was mixed with resentment and a slow, rising fury.
It's not an exaggeration. I don't make shit like that up.
My jaw clenched so hard I didn't think I could speak, I thought I would break a bone or something, but I managed to choke out: "You…what are you…"
Grimmjow Jaegerjaques grinned, and it honest-to-God sent chills scuttling down my spine. "I go to school here now. I'm in your class. Ain't that just peachy?"
My whole body was stiff with amazement, and I could not believe what I was hearing. "You…here? School? With me?"
"Hah, that's right. Didn't think we'd meet again after so long, but maybe it's fate, huh?"
I couldn't breathe. That voice - those eyes - they triggered a deep primal urge to curl up and hide. To be honest, I wanted nothing more than to run away. Just looking at him, it filled with me with such a heady cocktail of emotions I thought I would black out. Fear was foremost.
It's instinct, right? When you're faced with a predator it's fight or flight. I used to run. In the past, it had been all I'd ever done when he faced me. But now-
I took a deep breath. I was stronger now. I wasn't a coward, not anymore. I'd gone through years of merciless, brutal training at the hands of some of the most talented fighters in the country, I'd been beaten and bruised black and blue, I'd bled and broken my bones, and that was just scratching the fucking surface. I wasn't a child anymore.
Anything he dished out, I could take. And I'd give it back times ten.
I hear his voice in my head, I hear him saying it again and again – only nine years old but so cruel already.
"You were the one who killed her."
Grimmjow, you're not going to win the game this time. I won't let you.
"What the fuck do you think you're playing at?" I hissed.
The face-splitting grin just widened, "Ooh, Kurosaki, you should watch your language. Wouldn't want your mommy to scold you now, would you? Oh, no, wait…sorry, I forgot she was dead. Must be six years now, yeah?" His eyes widened in mock concern. "How's your conscience holding up? Has it become easier to live as a murderer?"
Later, Renji told me that I turned as white as a sheet. All I remember is that it took Chad's calming hand on my shoulder and his whispered encouragements in my ear to bring me back from the black haze of rage I had been about to fall into. But really, it was amazing. Even after six years, Grimmjow still remembered what buttons to push, and he was whacking at them with a sledgehammer remorselessly.
No mercy. From the very beginning, he went all out. I knew that about him.
I calmed myself down, but it took an effort. I turned away and sat down again. I could physically feel Grimmjow's contempt, like some kind of invisible animal biting at the back of my neck.
"Ichigo?" Renji asked quietly. "You OK?"
I shook my head. "I'm fine."
"You want us to take care of him for you?" Ikkaku asked, fingering his sword threateningly. "Actually, I can deal with him on my own. I wouldn't even break a sweat."
"It's OK!" I insisted, under his breath. "Leave it."
Renji and Ikkaku still looked at Grimmjow with violent suspicion; Chad stared with one serious dark eye, and even Ishida was frowning, although he hadn't said a word so far. Rukia and Tatsuki had joined us – soon, they surrounded me, and it was like having a warm blanket thrown over you when you're freezing cold. I could relax a little, but I never let my gaze leave Grimmjow.
I couldn't keep my eyes off him – his face, it hadn't changed much, had matured and all but he still looked the same: sharp nose and chin, bright blue eyes, high cheekbones, messy blue hair…if I hadn't known who he was, what he was, I would have said that he was good-looking. But no amount of beauty can hide an ugly personality. And I knew that only too well.