Author's Introduction: Yep, another story with an OC, this time centered around some surviving Espada. As opposed to my last story, characters will probably end up OOC frequently. This will be set in the same AU I established in my previous story, The Winter War: Anrak's Tale, starting just a few months prior to the epilogue of Winter War and will in some ways serve as an indirect sequel.
Characters: Halibel, Starrk, Ulquiorra, Lilynette, Grimmjow and an OC to start with. Kisuke, Isshin, Ichigo, and some others will likely appear as time goes on. Neliel and Anrak will show up later.
Warnings: Very strong language (expect F-bombs from Grimmjow on a regular basis), occassionally suggestive dialogue/situations, violence... The usual, pretty much.
A common misconception that humans held about Hell was that it was a deep pit of fire and brimstone, a place of demons and pain that one was sentenced to after their death as punishment for their sins in the world of the living.
The truth was so much closer to home than most people realized, but Halibel was one of the precious few who knew the truth.
Hell was the third rock from the sun.
Hell was the world of the living.
More precisely, her personal corner of Hell was a beautiful tenth-floor apartment with a positively stunning view of the rest of the city and, beyond that, the ocean and it's scenic blue waves.
Hell was living in a gigai and pretending to be human, bowing and scraping to every stupid law and custom the fleshy mortals clung to in order to appear normal and hide from the Soul Society. Hell was working an annoying job with even more-annoying customers, and then coming home from that to an idiotic roommate whose very face reminded her of Hueco Mundo and Aizen's betrayal.
She scowled at her thoughts from behind her white scarf as she stalked down the sidewalk heading towards "home."
Six months ago, if someone had told her that this would be her life, she would have laughed.
And then very possibly killed them.
The Winter War was finally over, having ended a couple of weeks ago according to her sources, though for herself and the others, it had come to an end almost a month prior to that when they had nearly died fighting for "Lord" Aizen, the treacherous bastard who used them all and then discarded them like trash.
Even Ulquiorra, who had been Aizen's most loyal and obedient servant, had been surprised by the betrayal.
Not that the pasty-faced, emotionless bastard would ever actually admit to it, though.
Salvation for the former Espada had come, painfully enough, in the form of one of their former comrades; someone who had developed a distrust of Aizen early on and had been labeled a traitor forced to flee the palace of Los Noches under threat of pain and death after trying to warn the others, constantly moving from the near-endless deserts to the Menos Forest and back again to avoid the extermination squads.
And then he had come back to try and find his "pack" when the Soul Society invaded Hueco Mundo…
The story as she understood it was that the former-sexta Espada had found his successor first, a broken and battered Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez, and had quickly bandaged his wounds to prevent further blood loss, thus saving his miserable life. Halibel wished her roommate had simply left Grimmjow alone; the blue-haired sociopath was nothing but trouble that would only hurt the group's chances for successfully integrating into human society and would eventually bring the Soul Society's wrath down on them all.
Ulquiorra had been found next, albeit just barely; the arrancar had followed the cuarto Espada's fading reiatsu to the top of the great dome of Los Noches and found nothing left but a pile of black ash. He had just about been ready to leave when the ash begin to stir and reform, slowly regenerating into the pale number four. While the Demon Bat of Los Noches' formidable regenerative abilities were well known, his resurrection had apparently been spurred by the attempts of one Orihime Inoue, the very human he had kidnapped at Aizen's behest.
Cifer was at least a useful one to save, Halibel thought; his lack of emotion could be frustrating, but his always-clear head and unfailing logic would be a great asset to them all. How fortunate they were that when that foolish human girl had tried to save him against all odds, she had succeeded…even if his body hadn't begun to re-grow until after her departure.
A sharp whistle directed at her as she opened the door to the apartment complex caught her attention and she had to restrain herself to keep from tearing the ignorant male's head off as he eyed her body up and down from her short blonde hair down to her long legs, visibly pausing to stare at her chest lecherously. He even smacked his lips perversely as he undressed her with his eyes.
It didn't matter that it was still technically winter and that she was fully dressed head to toe for the cold weather; human men were still disgusting, perverted pigs.
Deciding to ignore him before the urge to simply murder him became too great to resist, Tia walked through the open door and into the lobby and seeing that the elevator already had several people in it, opted to take the stairs as she returned her thoughts to her companions.
Coyote Starrk had been the next find and with him, young Lilynette Gingerback, both lying in the rubble of the false Karakura town as they bled out from their extensive wounds.
Halibel wasn't entirely sure how they had survived, but she was grateful for the presence of the primera Espada; Starrk may have been one of the laziest creatures to ever exist, but he was surprisingly intelligent and observant and his laid-back demeanor was a welcome change of pace from Ulquiorra's no-nonsense approach and Grimmjow's psychotic desires for mayhem.
If only she could say the same for her roommate…
Come to think of it, Halibel wasn't entirely sure how he'd managed to save her, either; her impact with the ground combined with the wounds Aizen had inflicted had left her unconscious, a darkness that she'd never expected to wake from, and the details of her recovery had been omitted just like Starrk's. All the tercera Espada knew was that when she did finally came to, she was alive and mostly healthy and in the giant training area underneath the Urahara Shop, staring up at an artificial blue sky not too dissimilar from the one in Los Noches.
Ah, Kisuke Urahara, the ex-shinigami and former Captain of Squad 12 turned lowly shopkeeper…
It had apparently been Ulquiorra's idea to seek out Orihime Inoue in the human world, and then it had been her idea to go beg the ex-shinigami for assistance.
The human girl had pleaded their case passionately, emphasizing that they had all been used as pawns by Aizen and wanted nothing more than to "disappear" and live a quiet life. Her words had apparently struck a chord within the strange man and he had supplied them all with reiatsu-masking gigais and had even went as far as loaning them just enough money to get a "fresh start on life."
He claimed the money came from owning several patents in the world of the living, but the Soul Society was known to have several bank accounts that were maintained for extended missions to the human world and Ulquiorra had suspected that at least some of it had been skimmed from those bank accounts.
Not that any of them had objected to that in the slightest.
The gifts had come with a warning, though; play nicely with the humans or he would inform the Soul Society of their continued existence and they would be hunted down and executed.
Grimmjow had refused at first, declaring that he'd rather go to war against the entire Seireitei by himself than to hide amongst the "filthy humans." Despite their best efforts, it quickly became clear that no amount of logic and reason would convince the sexta to swallow his pride and behave. Halibel wasn't anxious to die, however, and when her patience had finally reached its end, she had dealt with the situation quickly and efficiently by beating him into the ground mercilessly with the promise of death if he should somehow manage to screw them all over.
That singular impromptu act had apparently convinced Urahara that the group of refugees was genuine in their desire to escape the war and their past and had driven him to be their guide in finding jobs and homes.
The males had found jobs working the dayshift at a new fast-food restaurant at the other end of town, with Ulquiorra serving as their shift supervisor. Truthfully, the cuarto Espada was the most educated and intelligent among the entire group and could have easily found another, better job with a few forged documents and degrees from Urahara, but he had voluntarily taken on the task of babysitting the other three to make sure they kept out of trouble.
A noble sacrifice, she mused.
Halibel had found a decent job as a bartender in a fairly trendy little bar, working the dayshift in order to avoid the larger crowds that would be found in the bar after nightfall. It was a nice place to be sure, but a bar was still a bar, and she didn't want too many drunken men trying to grope her, lest she finally lose her temper and kill someone.
At least the tips were nice, even if they did usually come with a note containing an unwanted phone number…
Lilynette had been enrolled at a human school as she wasn't old enough to have a job and there was no way anyone would ever believe Starrk was responsible enough to home-school her.
At least Urahara had taken care to see to it that Lilynette didn't end up at Kurosaki's school, as that would quickly blow their cover.
Finding homes hadn't been too much trouble either with Urahara's help, although Orihime had somehow talked Ulquiorra into staying at her house in the spare room that had once been her brother's. It seemed as though the silly girl was still determined to help the cuarto understand what it meant to be human and have a heart…
In the long, sad history of 'most hopeless tasks ever conceived,' Halibel certainly ranked that as being at the top of the list.
Grimmjow had settled on a small, dingy apartment in a run-down rat-infested building in one of the worst sections of town, citing that the neighborhood looked "fun."
The others had promptly made a pact that if and when Grimmjow broke the "no killing humans" rule, they would disavow all knowledge and leave him to fend for himself if possible, or they would deal with him personally; there was only so much they could do, and they had to look out for their own survival, regardless of how reckless their resident thug might be.
Starrk and Lilynette found a decent little apartment several blocks away from Grimmjow, a clean place just big enough for a man who was stuck raising his "baby sister" all on his own, and not a soul had questioned his story.
And then Halibel had found a nice complex with a beautiful apartment on the tenth floor…but it was a two bedroom place and a bit outside of her price range…
The most obvious solution had been to find a roommate and the most obvious choice had been the last remaining member of their little group, the one who had taken the time to find and rescue everyone, the one who had once been outcast from Los Noches for being a traitor, the one who had once been her friend in Los Noches…
Halibel had thought everything would be fine, had thought that they could co-exist peacefully since he wasn't as bad as Grimmjow, but almost a month and a half of living together had taught her one very important thing…
She had thought wrong.
The red-headed fool was constantly having a hard time adjusting to human society and all of its interesting gadgets and devices, had managed to foul up a task as simple as the laundry, screwed up the weekly shopping, had already broken one television, and had somehow managed to set fire to an entire loaf of bread while trying to make toast one morning…
His portion of the rent enabled Halibel to afford her lovely little apartment, but his very presence irritated her to no end, and barely a day went by that she didn't find herself insulting him or yelling at him for something or another.
And the worst part of it all was that he simply smiled and took the abuse in good humor.
How utterly pathetic.
Oh sure, he occasionally took light-hearted jabs at her and she realized that he was trying to be friendly and civil, but for some reason his antics only pissed her off further, and Tia didn't even understand why.
Maybe, she thought, it was his lack of good judgment and impulsive behavior.
Or maybe she just couldn't stand dinosaurs.
Each of the Espada could be linked with an animal of some sort: Tia Halibel the Shark Queen, Ulquiorra Cifer the Demon Bat of Los Noches, Grimmjow the Panther Lord, Coyote Starrk the Lone Wolf, and at the very end of the list was Tyn Tethis, the Raptor Prince.
Ulquiorra had proposed the theory that it was Tyn's bestial side that led to him endure Halibel's "abuse" and had driven him to try and save the others, that he instinctually craved a pack to belong to and was willing to do whatever was necessary to make that happen. Tia was willing to concede that the latter may be true, but as to the former… She wouldn't call it "abuse," not exactly; it was more like shock therapy, except with much more yelling and the occasional fist to his stupid face. Really, it was just an aggressive way of trying to educate the moron…
Ulquiorra would probably rephrase it as an "unnecessarily" aggressive method, but then again, fuck Ulquiorra; he didn't have to live with Tyn and had absolutely no right to criticize the situation.
She exited the stairwell at the tenth floor and headed down the hall towards her shared apartment, only to be ambushed by the little girl who lived across the hall, her eyes red and puffy from excessive crying, most likely over something foolish like a misplaced toy.
"My cat…" she sniffled, "I can't find Bungie! Miss Halle Belle, have you seen Bungie?"
Halibel bit back a scowl at how the girl butchered her name as she removed her scarf from around her neck and face.
"No, I'm afraid not…" she said slowly, trying to be nice. "And please, it's okay to just call me 'Tia.'"
"Miss Tia, what if he ran away? What if he's dead?"
Oh, the urge to roll her eyes was strong there…
"I'm sure he's fine…" Halibel said, giving her best attempt at a comforting smile as she tried unsuccessfully to remember the child's name, "He's probably just off doing…whatever it is cats actually do. He'll be home soon."
"You think so?" asked the brat hopefully, rubbing her eyes again.
"Mhm… The best thing you can do for him right now is to go home and wait for him."
She froze in place and barely managed to suppress her natural urge to fight back as the girl suddenly hugged her tightly, thanking Halibel before disappearing back into her apartment.
The tercera Espada shuddered at having been touched by a human whelp as the door shut before continuing down the hall to her own apartment.
She wasn't terribly surprised to see that Tyn had beaten her home since she had worked a little overtime today, but she wasn't exactly pleased to see him, either. He called out a "hello" that she didn't bother to answer as she made her way to the kitchen, dropping her keys on the table and retrieving a bottle of water from the refrigerator. She tore the label from the bottle and tossed it in the garbage, noticing a strip of red fabric with a metal tag resting on top of the other garbage as she did so.
She reached inside the trash can and pulled it out, noting the spots of dried blood on the material as she read the engraved tag.
God damn it, what had that brain-dead moron done now?
"I ran into the little girl from across the hall when I came in…" Tia began conversationally, trying valiantly to keep from yelling at him. "Apparently, her cat is missing… You haven't seen it lately, have you?"
"Nope," said Tyn easily, never once removing his eyes from the television screen and whatever movie he was watching. Halibel balled up her fists as she looked at the back of his head and his short, spiky crimson hair, seriously contemplating bashing his skull for actually having the audacity to lie to her.
"Explain this, then," she said instead, walking over to stand behind him and dropping the bloodied collar into his lap.
He turned to look at her, but failed to answer the question and Halibel could literally see that he was searching for an excuse to hide behind.
She wasn't surprised that he'd killed the creature, exactly; he had always hated that overly-fluffy furball ever since they moved in and had even threatened to hurl it off of the balcony more than once. The only question now was what the idiot had actually done with it…
…and then a sickening thought occurred to her.
"You ate the cat," she accused him.
"I ate the cat," he agreed, sounding surprisingly proud of himself.
"Why did you eat the cat?"
"I've always hated that stupid cat," he said, echoing her earlier thoughts as he turned back to watch the television.
"You hated it…so you ate it?"
"Seemed less wasteful that way… Don't be mad; I saved you some. Look behind the milk."
God, no…surely he didn't…
Halibel stormed back into the kitchen and flung the refrigerator door open and moved the milk aside…and sure enough, there was a bloody chunk of meat, a hind leg by the looks of the bone sticking out of it, waiting to be eaten.
…well, at least he'd had the decency to put it in a little plastic bowl instead of leaving it on the shelf to bleed everywhere.
"That's disgusting," Tia growled, slamming the door shut again and exiting the kitchen as she massaged her skull to try and ease the sudden, massive migraine that had set in.
"More for me, then," shrugged Tyn, and Halibel suddenly grabbed his hair and yanked his head backwards roughly, forcing him to look up at her instead of his stupid movie.
"Next time you get the insane urge to kill something, for any reason… Don't. Just don't," she hissed down at him.
"But I was hungry…"
Tia released the idiot, too frustrated and exhausted to even bother pointing out that he worked at a goddamned burger joint and could have easily brought something home with him rather than eating the neighbor's pet.
"Oh, come on, we're both creatures from a moral vacuum; don't tell me you never get the urge to kill things anymore!" Tyn defended himself, and Tia narrowed her green eyes further in anger.
If only you knew… she thought bitterly, refusing to grace him with an actual answer.
Still massaging the sides of her head, Halibel plopped herself down at the opposite end of the couch, as far from Tyn as possible. Between them were the small couch pillows, all piled up on the center cushion to serve as a barrier between the two, a so-called No Man's Land that neither party ever dared to breach.
"What the hell is this garbage?" asked Tia finally after watching the screen for a few minutes, reaching for the empty blu-ray case on the glass coffee table in front of them.
"Picked that up on the way home today; thought you might like it."
"Jaws?" she asked, reading the title on the cover.
"It's right up your alley, Tia; it's all about a shark with PMS!" teased Tyn with a mean-spirited grin, which served only to irritate Halibel further as she curled up her lip in anger and growled at her moronic roommate.
"I hate you."