"You come back with him or I'm going to beat your ass," Shuuhei told Grimmjow.
"Oh, promise?" Grimmjow grinned at him.
Shuuhei smacked him upside the head. "Don't make me strip you down and throw you to Shiro," he teased.
Renji and Kenpachi were looking at the pair with incredulous looks.
"They uh...are almost acting like friends," Renji finally said.
"Fucking weird," Kenpachi grunted.
"Ichi will be so happy!" Yachiru chirped.
"Yeah, assuming we get him back," Renji said.
"Like Ichigo would let such a stupid thing kill him," Yachiru dismissed the idea.
Kenpachi really hoped that she was right, but who knew with all of that weird shit that Kurotsuchi did?
"I don't see how you think it's going to be so easy to find him when we were never able to find Ichigo," Shuuhei said.
"And do you think the two are connected?" Kisuke asked.
"I...what? No, I just meant that the shielding...why, do you think that the two are connected?" Shuuhei asked back.
"Not sure. But you are right about the shielding. It blocks out spiritual pressure, which is why I gave them a device that detects chemicals. It'll be a lot more effective," Kisuke said. "I knew that Mayuri would sense if I put anything into his blood or his body, so instead I just added a rare chemical to his body makeup. They'll be able to trace him that way. I've done it before."
"You knew that something like this would happen then?"
"Of course not, but I like keeping track of him. It's kind of like how I keep track of you," Kisuke replied.
"Uh...so...you track me?" Shuuhei said nervously.
"Well, when Ichigo was gone I was a little worried about you going off to look for him in Hueco Mundo and not come back, so yeah, I placed trackers in you." Kisuke paused and then smiled widely. "Do you want to know how I did it?"
"Er, no, Captain," Shuuhei felt that it was way better not knowing. His skin was already feeling itchy with the idea of little microbes or nanos or virii or whatever the hell Kisuke had filled him with.
Kisuke frowned. "But it's really clever."
"How are we going to find the vizards?" Shuuhei changed the subject.
"You and I are going to go from town to town spilling out spiritual energy. We'll see if that gets anyone's attention."
"Yeah...hollows," Shuuhei pointed out.
"Nothing we can't handle."
"Kurotsuchi didn't respond," Renji told his gathered team, refusing to call Mayuri captain after what he had done to Ichigo. "We are to bring him back for questioning. If he doesn't come, or uses force at all, we are authorized to use whatever means necessary to protect ourselves and subdue him."
"What about his lieutenant? Isn't she with him?" Ikkaku asked.
"Yes...her relationship with her captain is different than usual, even if she disagreed with him she wouldn't be able to stop him in any way, so if you do see her, try to not engage her in combat," Renji said.
"Does she even fight?" Yumichika wondered out loud.
"Don't know, haven't seen her ever do it," Kenpachi considered.
"Kisuke has given us a detection device that Akon here will be using. Akon, once you detect your captain, you just have to point us in the right direction, there's no need for you to face him," Renji pointed out.
"Thank you," Akon said. It wasn't like he was overly fond of his captain, but he wasn't sure of whether he could attack him or not.
"Grimmjow, open up a gargantua for us," Renji ordered.
"That was a lot quicker than expected," Kisuke said, putting his fingers to the crown of his head in a mock salute to Shinji.
"Yeah well, what the hell do you want? To steal another vizard away?" Shinji said with irriration.
"Are you talking about Ichigo? He wanted to come...well...I mean not at first, but he learned to like it. In fact, he learned to love it," Kisuke said with a smile, looking over at Shuuhei.
"Who is that?" Shinji asked.
"Ichigo's long time boyfriend," Kisuke mentioned. "Oh, and my lieutenant."
"Poor bastard," Hiyori said. "How haven't you killed him yet. Oh, I'm talking about Kisuke. Then again, how haven't you killed Ichigo either? Annoying brat."
"We're here about Ichigo actually," Kisuke told the two vizards. "Captain Kurotsuchi did something to him and now we can't get him back. He's been in his hollow state permanently."
"You mean with his mask, or his actual hollow?" Shinji asked with concern.
"His hollow," Kisuke clarified.
Both the vizards' eyes widened.
"Well that's...unfortunate," Shinji said.
"How do we fix it?" Shuuhei finally spoke up.
"Let get into the warehouse and we can go over the details," Shinji offered.
"You guys sure love warehouses," Kisuke said with a shake of his head.
"What we love is not paying rent," Hiyori replied.
"Grimmjow, gimme some feedback," Renji said.
"This...is Szayel's old lab," Grimmjow replied. "And...I can feel Szayel in there."
"The 8th espada is still alive?" Renji wondered aloud.
Grimmjow shrugged. "He always said he was immortal. Or maybe he just had some DNA floating in a tube and Mayuri made himself a new one. I went to his lab before and he had a hella lot of clones and random shit around," he said.
"This door seems to be lined with seki seki," Akon told them.
"Annoying," Kenpachi said.
They all paused.
"GET OUT HERE YOU FUCKING COWARD!" Kenpachi yelled at the massive door.
"He's not going to hear you," Renji rolled his eyes.
"He probably has cameras up, it is the front door," Akon pointed out.
"Huh. GET OUT HERE YOU FUCKING COWARD!" Renji yelled.
Grimmjow just sat down, staring at the door in consternation. "Well, what the hell are we going to do if he doesn't come out? And I don't see why he would come out unless he wanted to fight us, which I doubt."
"Shit," Ikkaku grumbled.
Shuuhei was speechless. He didn't really feel like a lieutenant right now, just a little boy. "Um..." he said, trying to get Kensei's attention.
"What?" the vizard asked.
"I didn't get a chance to thank you before..." Shuuhei said, trailing off.
"Hey, I know you," Kensei stated.
"You killed the bastard Kaname," Kensei finished.
"Oh...yeah. He was my former captain," Shuuhei explained.
"Even better. You know, the 9th used to be my squad."
"I know," Shuuhei said. "I...saw you when you were a captain."
"You seem pretty young to have been in the 13th court guard back then," Kensei said, looking over Shuuhei, his eyes lingering over Shuuhei's tattoos. "What are those for?"
"You," Shuuhei got out, feeling a little embarrassed by it.
"You saved me when I was just a boy. I found out that it was right before you were...changed," Shuuhei said.
Kensei closed his eyes for a second, looking back in his memory. His thoughts and actions during those last few days had been seared into his mind, and he recalled the boy vividly. "That was you?"
"Did ya...become a shinigami because of me?" Kensei asked.
"Ha ha," Shuuhei laughed awkwardly. "Um, yeah."
"And the tattoo too," Kensei said.
Kensei smiled. "Well, you have a crazy ass captain now, but at least the squad has a decent lieutenant..."
"...thanks," Shuuhei couldn't get over his slight hero worship of the man, and was desperately trying not to do something embarrassing like blush over the compliment.
"...not like when I was a captain, and had a crazy ass lieutenant," Kensei finished.
"HEY!" Mashiro yelled at him.
"Trying to fix your boyfriend, huh?" Kensei said, looking over to where Shinji and Kisuke were still talking.
"Tell me, if you lost yourself to your hollow, would you want to live?" Shuuhei asked seriously.
"I...I think I'd be ok with it eventually. But I'm closer to my hollow than a lot of people. Shinji would want to die, for instance. I guess it depends."
"Don't give up hope. Even if we can't get Ichigo back, his hollow is still his essence, his soul. In time..."
"He doesn't love me," Shuuhei blurted out. "His hollow doesn't love me."
"Oh..." Kensei didn't know what to say to that. "Well, love doesn't really come easy for hollows. Well, not at all, but a vizard's hollow isn't a full hollow anyways."
"His hollow does love someone, just not me. He loves a former espada, an arrancar that saved him and has loved Ichigo for years," Shuuhei said quietly.
"Er...I ain't really good with this type of advice," Kensei admitted.
"I wasn't really planning on bringing it up, sorry," Shuuhei apologized.
Kensei looked at the kid and wondered what he could do to cheer him up. He recalled that he hadn't done such a great time last time...although maybe he had in the end since Shuuhei had become a shinigami in the end. Kensei wound up not having to do anything because Mashiro launched herself at Shuuhei, wrapping her arms around him and placing her head on his back, holding him in a hug.
Shuuhei stiffened from the random hug, but then relaxed, none of the three saying anything.
"I hate this place. I hate sand. I hate that it's never day time. I hate that we're not fighting. I hate the stupid hollow bugs and stupid hollow lizards and the stupid crystal trees," Yumichika complained.
"I like the lizards!" Yachiru claimed. "See!" she held up one in her hand.
"How long should we wait?" Kenpachi wondered.
"It's possible that explosions of some sort might help," Akon offered. "The seki seki rock can't go that far down into the sand, can it?"
"Did you bring explosives with you?" Renji asked.
"Well, yes, actually. I tend to carry them with me. However, it won't be enough."
"Oh, let's blow up the lizard!" Yachiru held out the tiny thing towards the Squad 12 member.
"Hey now, Yachiru, the lizard can't fight back," Kenpachi chided her.
Yachiru pouted briefly. "A tree then?"
"Yeah, go blow up a tree," Kenpachi said.
"My explosives aren't really meant for..." Akon began to speak.
Kenpachi glared at him.
"What tree?" Akon asked.
"They haven't returned yet?" Kisuke asked Unohana as they walked into Squad 12.
"No. They found Captain Kurotsuchi but he is in a bunker surround by seki seki rock and is refusing to come out," she relayed to them.
"Tell them that we've found out a way to bring Ichigo back...probably. We can work on getting Mayuri another day," Kisuke told her.
"Thank you for letting me do this," Shuuhei said to Kisuke.
"Shinji said that you learned to it pretty quickly, so I see no reason why it shouldn't be you."
"Do we need to set up anything to protect the area?" Shuuhei asked.
"No, when they usually do it, it's the other way around, it's the hollow getting freedom temporarily and that of course needs a lot of barriers. This will be Ichigo's spirit, so we will be fine. We will have the normal shields up, of course," Kisuke explained.
"What the hell do ya want?" Shiro asked Shuuhei as he entered the cell.
"Oh shut up," Shuuhei said, pushing Shiro into the chair in the middle of the room forcefully.
Shiro looked at him curiously.
"You are giving Ichigo back to me you bastard, even if I have to wring your neck to do it," Shuuhei threatened.
"Aw, tryin' to turn me on?" Shiro smiled up at him. His face went blank as Shuuhei placed his hands over his forehead.
"Is he ready?" Kisuke asked over the loud speaker from the observation room.
"Yes," Shuuhei said. Please, fight, Ichigo.
"Not my fault, don't blame me!" Shiro said, his hands up, standing sideways on a skyscraper in Ichigo's mind
"What the hell do you mean it's not your fault!" Ichigo yelled at him, clouds drifting by him in a disorientating way.
"I couldn't even talk to ya," Shiro claimed. "I didn't even know if ya were still around. I didn't try ta take over, I was forced out just like ya were forced in."
"Then...let me out," Ichigo said. "We don't need to fight then. I've only grown more powerful since we last fought."
"Ya, I know," Shiro sighed. He paused. "I did have a lot of fun with Grimmjow while ya were away though."
Ichigo's eyes narrowed. "Define 'fun'."
"Mmm, lots of kissing and groping..."
"YOU BASTARD!" Ichigo yelled at him.
"Che, don't get too worked up. It didn't get far. Grimmjow wanted ya, not me," Shiro said. "But, I did tell him that ya love him."
"I...I don't love him!"
"Oh yes ya do. Stop being so uptight about it," Shiro said with a shrug. "Who wants ta be with the same man all their life?"
"I DO!" Ichigo said.
"Ichigo..." he heard a voice, close to his ear, warm arms wrapped around him. "Ichigo, I love you. Come back to me."
"I'm here, Shuuhei," Ichigo said, opening his eyes.
Shuuhei looked back into those once again brown eyes, his own brimming with tears he was damned if he was going to let fall. "...Ichigo..."
"It's ok, I'm back," Ichigo said, leaning into Shuuhei's chest. "Uh...I don't suppose you could get these cuffs off of me, could you?"
Shuuhei laughed, clutching Ichigo to him tighter.