Three years later
Ichigo arranged the files on his desk and sat down with a sigh. Another normal day had passed. He had been promoted to a lieutenant rank for a couple of months now, but Ichigo was busier with more paper work than before. Being under Urahara always helped, though; he could skip a little bit of work here and there because the captain had always been so lenient. Ichigo ran his hand through his hair and sighed, looking around the office to see that it was rather empty. Some of his colleagues had gone home after their shift was over, while others were taking a quick break. The nights at Karakura were usually quite uneventful. His own shift was already over, but he had taken some over time on his own just to sort out his things, tidy up his office, even though there was no need. Rukia and Renji would say that his workaholic habits had gone worse and that he should get help, but seeing how he'd tried getting help last time… He didn't want to think about it.
After that last meeting with the Sexta, life had gone back to normal – or that was what Ichigo told himself. Things definitely changed, though. He had tried to get a normal life, tried dating but that didn't work out. He was grateful that Orihime, Rukia and Renji continued to support him and kept their friendship, even after he'd rejected them and acted so detached. Sometimes he felt undeserving of their company, but without them he'd have gone off worse. Rukia and Renji had gone back to their own precincts after the Sexta case was closed, even though they all knew it wasn't. The higher ups just didn't want any more trouble and the amount of blood there just gave them enough reason to think the Sexta would've died anyway.
Speaking of which, Ichigo never knew how the hell the said man survived that. Was he serious about the nine lives thing? That last meeting they had; the look on the man's face showed that he wasn't joking. Ichigo shook his head and sipped on his coffee, downing the drink and disposed the Styrofoam cup into the bin. Even now, after three years, Ichigo could still remember every word the blue haired man said to him. He still saw him in his dreams, and even hear his voice, sometimes, but Ichigo was sure it was just the other him tricking his mind. He hated himself, being so pathetic. Disgusted with himself on the nights where he'd moan out the other's name as he tried to get it out of his system, pleasuring himself to the thoughts of that man. He still had the branding of the number on his back; a permanent mark on his body. He wished he could cut that part of his body away, but at the same time the thought and feel aroused him, reminding him of the monster that held him and gave him that mark. But he shouldn't be thinking of this. All of it, the thoughts, the lust, the pleasure – they were just tricks of his mind.
Zangetsu and his bleached other self never really spoke to him in the three years after the last meeting with the Sexta. It would sound weird, but it almost felt like they were sulking. Ichigo felt freer now though, being able to control his thoughts (other than those certain lewd ones) and listen only to his own voice. But even with the lack of another voice, there was still the nagging, heavy feeling of the other two's presence in the back of his head, watching his every move, and making him feel almost guilty.
With a heavy sigh, Ichigo took a last look at his tidied office and grabbed his coat and bag, ready to go home. All he wanted was sleep for now, and a slight hoping of dreams of a certain someone. Even after all these years of denial, he'd still think of him. He was starting to accept it. After all, who could forget someone whom he had some sort of twisted, special bond with? No matter how sick and fucked up he was. There was desire and need between them.
Ichigo got back home without incident. He dumped his clothes in the laundry basket and took a short shower. Once he was dry and clothed, he decided to watch some TV, hoping it'd bore him to sleep. Sleep seemed to elude him nowadays, and though he would like to blame most of his problems to his other selves, there was no reason to do so since they didn't even speak to him at all. He coped with the insomnia the best he could, boring himself out of his mind with mundane activities like watching TV or reading romance novels for the hell of it.
As his mind blanked out from the mindless advertisements and infomercials that flashed in front of him, Ichigo was internally arguing with himself. He'd thought about it before; was this life what he really wanted? He had always answered yes, but lately he was getting more and more restless. He could feel Zangetsu and the other white being feeling the same too, but it also felt like they were anticipating something. All the thinking and arguments with himself was making him tired and sleepy fortunately, but the sudden ring of the phone immediately jolted Ichigo awake, almost making him jump out of his seat.
It wasn't uncommon for people to call him at this time of night, but it was usually on his cell phone, not his house phone. Ichigo warily picked up the phone, holding his breath as he muttered out a greeting, as If hoping it was that someone…
"HELLO! MY SON!" the caller practically yelled into the phone, causing Ichigo to pull his ear away from the receiver. Ichigo sighed, from a mix of relief and disappointment. What was he thinking, expecting it to be from him?
"Dad? Do you know how late it is?" Ichigo replied with a chuckle, settling back into his couch again. Even though his father was loud, he was happy to hear from him again. The man rarely called, being a busy senior detective. He was overseas working on a case, and had been there for a couple of years now. Apparently Isshin had taken a liking to the place and so did his sisters, and they ended up living there. Ichigo wasn't sure whether to join them and take a break from the memories Karakura had given him, but at the same time he was still scared of change. His father was probably calling to invite him over again.
"Ohhh! Sorry, sorry! I keep forgetting the time difference!" Isshin said loudly from the other end, even though he'd already called over numerous times. "How are you doing my eldest son? Yuzu's still worried about you! She misses cooking for you! When are you coming to visit?"
"Ah, about that… I already told you, I'm still kind of busy…" Ichigo replied rather weakly; he was never good with lies. He always felt bad though, especially to his sisters. He missed them terribly.
"Tsk tsk, what a useless son I have. I figured you'd say that! So instead I'm going there to see you!" Isshin announced, and Ichigo was sure his father was grinning obnoxiously now.
"Eh? But why..? I mean, not that I object, but what about work? I heard you've got another special case there?" Ichigo asked. He had heard from Urahara who mentioned a new case his father was working on, but was pretty dodgy about the subject.
"Yes, yes, but I'll be there for work too. I'm bringing Yuzu and Karin along, so you're gonna take some days off and go out with them, got it! This is your father's orders!" Isshin chided. Ichigo was speechless for a moment, but ended up laughing. He didn't know why, but he felt grateful he had some excuse to take a break now. He'd be okay if he saw his family again, he assured himself.
"Yeah... That'll be great. When are you guys coming?" Ichigo asked with a smile. Father and son talked through the night, and when his father finally hung up, Ichigo managed to get the first decent sleep in a while, continuously telling himself it was going to be okay.
Blood dripped from his knife as he drew it out of the warm body that lay still on the floor. He didn't bother to wipe it off, letting it drip as he walked round and knelt beside it, plunging the blade into the body again. Again and again and again, until the amount of stab wounds destroyed so much of the flesh and some of the bone that the body looked like it had a hole punched through. He kept on going, stabbing the slab of meat until he was satisfied, before he tossed the knife away and proceeded to dig at the flesh with his fingers, tearing it apart until there was nothing left at the core. The body was left with a giant hole in its torso. He breathed in the scent of iron, his dull cold eyes closing as his chest heaved. Sometimes he wondered how such a thing could bring him such gratification, but it didn't matter. All that mattered was the act of it, devouring the flesh of the weak ones. The strongest will survive. He was the predator and they were the prey.
But now... there was just something missing. For three years the emptiness had nagged at him. No matter how many he killed, no matter how many times he stabbed, the feeling didn't go away. He wondered if he felt the same way. Had he changed? Has he finally grown out of that stupid naivety from being brought up as a sheep?
Grimmjow chuckled to himself. How ludicrous to find himself thinking about someone else for three years. But he was special, after all. A fellow predator whom he could consider an equal. He had rejected him the last time, but Grimmjow knew he was still in denial. "Stupid brat," he muttered to himself, grinning as he resumed his handiwork, beginning on the branding of the victim. He slowly carved his favourite number on the body, digging out skin and flesh from it to the form of the number six. Pantera meowed from the doorway, her bright blue cat eyes gleaming as she watched, her white fur almost glowing in the dark room.
Maybe he should invite him to another round of play again. He must be lonely now; he'd definitely jump at his invitation. He remembered very vividly, even after three years, that day when he branded him. The smell of his body and his fear, the sound of his pained scream, the golden eyes that gleamed with both horror and anger. All of them still clear and fresh in his mind, the perfect memory to pleasure himself with.
Ah, just thinking of it made him hard. He wondered if he remembered it too? No, he was positive he would. That scar he gave him would never leave his body. Licking his lips he flicked his tongue at the bloodied blade of his knife. Everyone else tasted so horrible compared to his blood now. He glanced at the digital watch on his wrist. 6:16pm. Six, his lucky number. Another good omen. He felt more decided now.
Grimmjow stuffed the body in a large bag and made his way to a deserted alley as usual. Dumping the body against the wall, he took some of the blood there and scratched out a couple of words in the concrete beside the body.
"With this... you'll come and join the hunt again, won't you, Detective?"
A couple of weeks after his dad's announcement for visiting, Ichigo was out with his younger sisters, Yuzu and Karin. It turned out that they were only visiting for a couple of days, and that was enough for Ichigo. Being with his family was always great, but that feeling of guilt for having such a dirty secret nagged at him, especially around his father. Isshin didn't join them because he had work to do, and Ichigo knew it was business with Urahara. Being the detective he was, he was itching to investigate what was going on. He couldn't help being interested in this new special case too, since they seemed to be so secretive about it. At least this shopping trip with his sisters was helping him not to think about that man again. Ichigo paid the cashier for the items Yuzu and Karin had bought and let out a loud sigh before he could hold it back.
"I'm sorry for dragging you out, Ichi-niichan," Yuzu said apologetically, while Karin shot him a dirty look as it was obviously rude for him to be doing that.
"No, It's not your fault! I was just thinking about work…" Ichigo replied, half-lying. Karin gave him another dirty look, having seen through it easily.
"We're not stupid, Ichi-nii. We're already going to graduate high school, you know," the sardonic twin pointed out.
"Ah, but it sounded more like a lovesick sort of sigh," Yuzu said thoughtfully. "Are you having love troubles, Ichi-niichan?" This time, both twins grinned at him. "Is it that girl you talked about? Orihime-chan? Or was it Rukia-chan?"
"What? No! Neither of them, they're just friends. Besides, they're too good for your brother," Ichigo said, trying to laugh it off. His sisters wouldn't drop the subject though, as they walked back to his apartment. He wasn't in love, he told himself insistently. Not with a psycho.
Isshin wasn't home when they got back, even though it was evening. It was to be expected he guessed, and Ichigo went to help his sisters with making dinner. He hadn't felt this peaceful in a while, making dinner for his family, laughing with his sisters. He felt normal again. No other voices in his head, no serial killer stalking him, no inner self wanting to go out looking to spill blood.
'Did you really think it was the end, aibou?'
That voice again.
Ichigo froze up for a moment, but long enough for his sisters to notice.
"Something wrong, Ichi-nii?" Karin asked from the table she was setting. "You look pale…"
"I-I'm fine, I just remembered something," Ichigo reassured them, and just then Isshin entered the apartment, his arrival loud as usual.
"I'm back my children! Did you miss your papa who was working so hard for you~?" the eccentric old man pranced in with his briefcase and coat, totally a sight to see. Ichigo felt something was off despite his father's usual behaviour. He had a bad feeling about something, especially with what his other self had said. It was an omen for sure.
Dinner went on like how it was back then, before his dad and sisters moved. Ichigo tried to enjoy this as much as he could, hold on to the little time of peace and happiness before it'd go back to the restlessness he'd been having, but it was hard to with his other selves being agitated. Something was definitely up for the two to make their presence strongly known after disappearing for a while. He tried not to stare at his father so much, as if expecting something.
Once dinner was done and the dishes washed and cleared, his sisters had gone to bed in his guest room, but his father, who usually joined them to sleep, stayed up for that night. Ichigo being the usual insomniac was both surprised and uncomfortable with that, having someone else not asleep at the time. Isshin was looking through files, borrowing Ichigo's desk. He looked really busy, and Ichigo just stared at his father's back without realizing it, until the older man spoke up.
"Is there something wrong, Ichigo? You've been staring at me since dinner," Isshin said without turning to look at him. "I know your father's handsome and all…"
"Yeah, right," Ichigo snorted, grinning despite himself. He didn't answer to the question for a minute before he did. "What case are you working on for you to come back here and discuss with Urahara-san? You went to see him, didn't you?"
Isshin didn't look up from the files, and neither did he answer him. The long pause almost made Ichigo wonder if he even heard him. "It's another serial killer," Isshin finally replied.
"I figured… I mean, may I know the details, his MO? Maybe I can help-"
"Ichigo, how have you been doing lately?" Isshin cut in, turning around to look at Ichigo eventually. He had a strange expression on his face, meaning that he was serious this time. "I mean, with your condition."
Ichigo stared and gaped at him, having nearly forgotten that his father actually does know about his secret. And he was sure Urahara had reported back to him his movements in the Sexta case. "I'm doing fine…"
"That Aizen… he'd disappeared. Did you know about that?" Isshin was talking conversationally now. "I'm sorry you had to go through that, but I heard it somewhat let you know more about yourself and your other selves right? Though, I'm not trying to pretend I know what you're going through," Isshin said, sounding his age, tired and almost burdened.
"No… it's alright. You're right. I learned some stuff. I don't care about that two-faced doctor anyway," Ichigo replied. He didn't like this conversation, but he was glad to know his father cared. "But what's this about? I was asking about the case."
"Ichigo, no matter what, you're still my son, you know that?" Ichigo really didn't like it now. It was like Isshin knew about him and the Sexta. About how he almost killed a man; his other self killed a man. Ichigo didn't answer him at all and the silence grew heavy between them. Ichigo's other self snickered quietly in the back of his head. "I trust you, Ichigo. So I'll tell you about this case," Isshin spoke up, breaking the few minutes of silence. He smiled a little as he handed a file to Ichigo, who took it slowly.
Ichigo looked through the contents of the file, his eyes scanning through the pictures and the words of the reports, his brain taking in the information that was listed in the papers. His eyes slowly widened as he realized what he was reading, while his bleached self was starting to cackle now. Ichigo looked up to Isshin. "This is…"
"We've found three bodies so far, all with the same MO. We suspect there's more, perhaps he's even selling some organs to the black market there. But the latest victim had that signature six on his back, and some weird message written beside him," Isshin told him, while Ichigo stared at one of the photos of said victims, looking in disbelief. It was a photo of a corpse with a hole in its torso, and that carving of the slanted six by it. His own scar on his back prickled as his eyes stared at the photo. Damn, he shouldn't get hard now. His eyes moved to read the message written in blood - 'The lion in the sheep's skin'.
He could hear his bleached self giggling excitedly. He's calling us. "He's… there now?"
"Yes, we think it's him, not a copycat... No, I take that back – it's definitely him. He's calling himself 'Rokuban' there now. Quite obnoxious of him to show himself off, especially since he called himself 'Sexta' here… He must be mocking the police," Isshin rambled on while Ichigo closed the folder and stared hard at the blank cover, his thoughts racing.
'Aibou, what are you doing? He's obviously waiting for you… for us. I can almost hear him… we've missed him, haven't we?'
"Who the hell would miss a psycho bastard like him…" Ichigo mumbled to himself.
'Detective. I'm waiting.'
He could already hear the Sexta's deep voice calling his name, that sharp laugh and that growl he'd make. He could already picture that sadistic grin, that vicious snarl and those bright blue eyes and hair. The memory of the pain of having the man's fists smash into his face, his knee against his gut. All those thoughts made his heart pump, his senses heightened, and making him feel more alive than he'd been the past few years. Desire rose steadily inside him.
I want to see him. I want to kill him. I - We'll hold him close and break his bones. We'll make him ours. He could almost smell the scent of blood…
Ichigo's hands curled into fists as he passed back the folder to Isshin, his expression neutral. "Dad… I want to join the taskforce."
'This time… he's our prey.'
Aaaand that's the end, folks. Yes, I apologize for the long, long wait. I apologize to anyone who is disappointed in this ending, but this was actually a better one than what I had initially thought of. Do note that I did consider a lot of possibilities, and I have planned this out from the very beginning, but I did not want to create a concrete ending where it's totally happy or totally bad. I feel people will be more disappointed this way, because it might clash with what they want, and I myself wouldn't be happy with it. And if I just kept this story going and going, the whole story would have been lost. I'm sorry there's no smut and all, but as I think I've said in earlier chapters, this story wasn't really supposed to have smut.
I hope I didn't make anyone hate this story in the end! At least we all know they're gonna go through their cat and mouse game once again, and probably again and again until they're tired of it and hook up and live happily ever after, haha! That's all for now. Thank you so much to everyone who has read and supported this fanfiction!