So, this happens to be my first fanfic; after seeing so many others have the guts to publish their stories, I finally decided to get my own butt in gear. This is a "romance" between Ichigo and his hollow, Shiro, however it's a bit on the dark (psychologically speaking) side. I wrote it with the idea that Ichigo doesn't actually realize who his hollow is, so forgive the bit of AU-ness. Please enjoy. ;)

Text- Shiro speaking in Ichigo's mind

"Text"-Shiro speaking out loud

'Text'- Ichigo's thoughts

"Text"- Normal speech

He was there again, the soft whispers echoing through his mind.

Let me out.

They caressed him almost like a lover, flittering across his heart, sending shivers up his spine.

Let me out.

A touch, light as a feather, ghosted across the nape of his neck.

You know you want to…remember how good it felt last time? The touch dipped lower, traveling down his spine. You need it. We both do.

The familiar veil of heat, deep and heavy, settled on his senses, along with the cloying smell of sandalwood with its underlying layer of metallic tang.

Let me out.

No…he had to ignore it, break free of the smothering heat seeping into his skin, his bones, his blood… Blood.

That's it.

He panicked, struggling against the suffocating black now edging toward him, preparing to swallow him whole.

That's right, let me in. Give into me…King.

Ichigo jolted awake, squinting against the harsh beams of light shining through the windowpanes. Tentatively, he moved to stretch; nothing felt out of place. He lay back against his pillows with a soft sigh.

'Thank goodness'.

It was Sunday, meaning he had no reason to rush and drag himself out of bed. He could hear his family moving about in the kitchen downstairs; Karin was yelling at goat-face, Yuzu placating in her usual quiet manner.

Ichigo stared up at the ceiling, absent-mindedly following the patterns of paint with his eyes. He had had another dream last night. The dreams, or more accurately, nightmares from the fear they instilled in him, had been troubling Ichigo for weeks.

'Ever since I returned from Soul Society'.

He had told no one of the increasingly haunting voice in his dreams, not even his friends; Rukia likely would have decked him for not telling her sooner. He didn't want them to worry though. With the eventual confrontation with Aizen hovering over each of them like an oppressive cloud, they had enough burdens on their shoulders already.

He knew somehow it was linked to the times he had blacked out when fighting Byakuya Kuchiki. The same black heat had overwhelmed him then as well, taking him over until all he felt was pleasure-ridden bloodlust.

It was why the nightmares frightened him so, the soft whispers unnerving him in a way an opponent's intent to kill never could. The feeling of such power was indescribable; it was a heady and potent feeling, almost sexual in the way it pooled deep in his gut, a steady burning he couldn't halt. The whispers in his dreams fanned it, enticing him back into that black heat. He shuddered. If he wasn't careful, he was going to get burned.

It was around noon when Ichigo managed to pull himself away from his thoughts enough to dress and face the day. Dodging a flying kick from goat-face as he descended the stairs, he accepted the glass of orange juice Yuzu held out and gently ruffled Karin's hair.

He plopped a piece of bread in the toaster, waiting for it to turn slightly black. Just the way he liked it.

As he ate, he contemplated what to do for the day. His hollow badge rested at his hip, but at the moment it was silent. Perhaps he could head to Urahara's.

'Hat and Clogs owes me a spar anyway. Maybe Renji will be there as well'.

The redhead shinigami had been at the shop several times already, perfecting his bankai, and honing it against Ichigo's own Tensa Zangetsu. Maybe he would help Ichigo work off the need to fight that was currently making his skin itch. Dodging one last failed attempt by his father to catch him unawares, Ichigo stepped off his porch and onto the sidewalk, walking the streets of Karakura that led to Urahara Shoten.

Urahara greeted him in his normal manner, plastering a schoolgirl smile on his face, with his fan flapping madly, "Good afternoon Kurosaki-kun!"

Ichigo sighed, 'Good grief, I can practically see the cutesy hearts when he speaks'.

Trademark scowl on his face, Ichigo waved a dismissive hand, "Calm down, old man. I'm just here to use the underground."

Urahara's cheery façade melted away, replaced by a more sober expression, his serious eyes glinting from beneath the brim of his hat. "Your reiatsu has been fluctuating sporadically as of late," he murmured, tapping the end of his now closed fan against his chin. Fixing Ichigo with a more amicable gaze, he offered, "If you need to, ah what's the phrase…blow off steam… Abarai-san is below already."

Ichigo nodded and gave his thanks before heading off in the direction of the training facility the shop housed beneath its foundation. Urahara watched the youth walk away with calculating and wary eyes. It would happen soon.

Renji was deep in concentration when Ichigo finally made his way over to where the shinigami stood practicing. He was talking to Zabimaru, the sword spirit's form walking gracefully through the air, snake tail twitching back and forth as he laid eyes on Ichigo. The Baboon king must have relayed this information to his shinigami, because Renji's eyes opened and he greeted his friend,

"Oi Strawberry! Instead of skulking in the corner, come out and play!"

Scowling, Ichigo stomped over, "I thought I told you not to call me that, Pineapple-head."

He received a laugh in reply, and couldn't help the half smile that graced his features. Renji was one of the few people he could say truly understood him. They both had a strong sense of honor and duty, as well as a near unbreakable will. They were both warriors and respected one another as such.

"So," the redhead asked with a grin, "you here to get your butt whipped, or what?"

Ichigo grinned back, unwrapping Zangetsu from where it lay strapped to his back,

"Actually, I was planning on doing the butt whipping." He gripped Zangetsu, the familiar feel of the handle and the memories of opponents past fueling his battle lust.

Renji's reiatsu flared in challenge, and Ichigo could feel his own flaring in answer.

"Howl, Zabimaru!"

"Let's go, Zangetsu!"

A drop of sweat fell into Ichigo's eye, the salt momentarily stinging. Renji stood panting a few paces away.

Both were in bankai, Ichigo's kosode flowing behind him as he held Zangetsu before him, Renji standing amongst the reiatsu infused bones of Zabimaru.

Blood was present on the both of them, neither willing to back down. Both gave their all, at least, as much as they could without their blows proving fatal. Ichigo wiped away the blood from a cut on his cheek, watching warily for Renji's next move. Cuts on his legs and sides burned slightly, and a particularly deep gash across his chest throbbed with every heartbeat.

Renji wasn't faring too much better; Ichigo had scored a hit on his left side that still seeped blood, and he too had various cuts adorning his body. His hair was down from its trademark ponytail and bandana; Ichigo had taken care of that a couple minutes before, when a quick burst of speed had put him inside Zabimaru's defense and up close and personal with his sparring partner.

But damn if Renji wasn't getting faster. The cut on Ichigo's cheek was proof enough of that. All of a sudden Renji moved, and Zabimaru came flying toward Ichigo once more.

Shunpoing out of the way, he leapt into the air, swinging his sword above his head,

"Getsuga Tensho!"

A black crescent hurtled towards Renji, forcing the man to barely block the attack and flash-step away. Ichigo flash-stepped as well, swinging Zangetsu in a clean arc, trying to get inside Renji's guard.

You're slowing.

Ichigo froze, unsure if he had actually heard the voice, or if adrenaline was messing with his fragile state of mind. In his daze, he missed Zabimaru arcing towards his exposed back. It connected, tearing a large gash into his flesh. It stole his breath, pain racing up his spine. He could feel his knees give out and hit the ground.

That was foolish, dropping your guard like that.

Ichigo's breath caught as the scent of sandalwood hit his nostrils. How could this be? He wasn't asleep…


Did you really think that I was a figment of your imagination? A simple mental projection as you slept? The voice laughed, soft and low.

During this exchange, Ichigo was aware of Renji sheathing Zabimaru and heading over with a worried look on his face.

You're soft, King; too busy protecting others when you should be protecting yourself. And look where that got you. You're barely staying up.

Ichigo bristled at this, wanting to snap at the voice invading his mind, but he could feel consciousness slipping from him, much like the blood seeping through his shihakusho.

The pain was ever present, ripping through him anew with each throb of his laboring heart.

Was he going insane?

"Jesus Christ, Ichigo! What the hell were you thinking, stopping like that?" Renji slid down to his knees before his friend, keeping Ichigo's swaying form from hitting the ground. "Kami, I could've killed you! Here, let me get you to the spring and call Urahara."

Ichigo eyes focused on Renji's stricken expression, the redhead's visage growing hazier as he slid further into the black enveloping him, the voice softly crooning to him once more,

He's soft as well. He should be standing over your bloody form in victory right now, and yet he's cradling you to him like a child. Another laugh echoed through Ichigo's mind.

He's petting your hair now… can you feel it? What a fascinating expression he has too, so frightened and worried. Do you think he loves you, King?

He listened helplessly, trying to fight the need to slip away, as the voice's tone turned hard and biting.

Perhaps, while you're in such a delicate state, I should teach him a lesson for touching something that doesn't belong to him. What do you say, King?

'No. Leave him alone'.

A touch ghosted across his cheek in a soothing stroke. I don't think you're in a position to be telling me what to do, King. Lay back and let me take care of you. Leave Pineapple to me.

All of a sudden, the darkness surrounding him crashed down, Ichigo's mental scream of denial echoing through his head. The voice was a caress against his skin.

We'll meet again soon. For now, sleep, my beautiful King.

And the current swept him away.

Renji gently set Ichigo down in front of the healing hot spring. Sometime on the way over, Ichigo had lost consciousness. Renji had panicked at first, but he felt the reassuring beat of Ichigo's heart beneath his chest. Still, his breathing was shallow and the sooner Renji got him into the spring and called for Urahara, the better.

Stealing a look down at Ichigo's relaxed face, he felt a flutter go through his heart. He respected the man before him, more than he respected anyone else, even more than Captain Kuchiki. He admired him as a fellow warrior, admired his perseverance, his strength, the way he took shit from no one.

When had that admiration developed into something more?

Underneath the toned muscles and scars, the man in his arms felt fragile. Although Renji could say he gave it his all when sparring Ichigo, he was fiercely protective of his comrade, hardly wanting to fatally wound him.

He had known when he had sent Zabimaru towards Ichigo's back, that the substitute shinigami could easily parry the attack. Renji's heart had nearly stopped when Zabimaru hit its target.

His hand moved of its own volition and brushed a strand away from Ichigo's bloodied brow, the touch gently stroking over the substitute shinigami's skin. Renji felt the familiar throb in his chest before his brow furrowed in thought.

What had made Ichigo freeze in the middle of battle? What would distract him enough to take his mind away from the fight?

He banished his thoughts and set to work peeling off Ichigo's bloodied hakama and kosode. As he reached out to untie the obi, a dark, heavy reiatsu appeared out of nowhere, almost crushing him beneath its pressure.

"W-What the hell?" The words stammered out from his lips. Who the hell was putting out this much reiatsu?

A hand fisted in his clothes, bringing his attention back to the body before him.


"Guess again shinigami."

Black and gold eyes stared up at him, and Ichigo's face contorted in a feral grin. The expression was almost demonic. Renji recoiled away from the touch. What was wrong with Ichigo? It was like…he was… possessed.

The husky, foreign voice came from Ichigo's mouth once more,

"Do I frighten you, shinigami?"

Renji backed away, hand moving to his zankupatou, "What the hell are you and what have you done to Ichigo's body?" He snarled.

The creature stood, piercing Renji with a predatorial look that chilled his bones. Those blacked out eyes, combined with their shining gold irises were unnerving, as if they could stare into your soul.

"Ichigo is fine. He's…sleeping, if you will. However, that's of no matter to you right now. You should be more focused on me, shinigami."

Renji tensed, hand sliding to unsheathe his zankupatou as the creature vanished from his sight. A sword tip pressed threateningly into his throat, and he felt his blood run cold, a thin trail of the crimson liquid running down his neck as he compulsively swallowed.

"I could kill you right now shinigami; watch your blood pool at my feet…but King wouldn't like that very much…. So… I'll let you off with just a friendly warning this time, ne?"

The tip of the sword pressed in deeper in threat, and Renji held his breath. The intense spiritual pressure was starting to make him dizzy. The creature's hand fisted in his shihakusho, lifting him a few inches off the ground.

"King is mine."

Dropping him to the ground, the creature stared down at him, its eyes starting to flicker between the sinister black and gold, and a warm honey brown.

"Just remember, shinigami," it crooned, "I'm watching you."

And with that Ichigo's body crumpled to the ground, like a puppet that had been severed from its strings.

Renji let out the breath he had been holding. What the fuck had just happened?

Ichigo woke up feeling like he had been hit by a semi. His back stung when he shifted and his head felt like it was stuffed with cotton. He found himself on one of the spare rooms of Urahara's shop, lying on a tatami mat.

'Damn, the last thing I remember is fighting Renji, and then…'

For some reason the memory escaped him, slipping elusively away before he could grasp it. He had blacked out in the middle of a battle once more… 'Wait!'

He sat up suddenly, forgetting the way his back ached. Stifling a curse in pain, he took notice of the other presence in the room. Renji sat against a wall to his right, watching him warily, his expression a mix between anger and confusion.

"You want to tell me what the hell happened a few hours ago?"

Ichigo stiffened at the words, not liking the look in Renji's eyes. So it had been the same kind of blackout as with Byakuya. Now that he thought about it, the 6th company captain had given him a similar look after their battle as well; wary, distrustful. They were eyes that followed his every move, like he would turn and devour them in a moment's weakness. Did they think him some kind of monster?

He spoke; glad his voice was steady, "What exactly happened? The last thing I can remember is sending Getsuga Tensho at you. The rest is a blank."

Renji's expression softened fractionally. "You honestly can't remember?" Watching Ichigo nod, he sighed heavily.

"You had just sent Getsuga at me," he began, "you took the opening to get into my guard, but when I sent Zabimaru at you, you froze for some reason; just all of a sudden. Zabimaru struck you, and you were bleeding pretty badly. Hell, you were still really out of it, like you were there, but you weren't. I rushed you to the spring; I was trying to get you in there—when it showed up."

Ichigo's head shot up, 'Wait…what's it?'

"What happened, Renji?" he prompted gently, watching discomfort flit across his friend's face.

The shinigami fixed him with a level stare, his voice low, "It was like you were possessed, Ichigo, like there was something inside of you."

"What the hell, are you trying to tell me I have some kind of demon crawling around inside my body?"

"I don't know what the hell it was," Renji snapped, eyes sparking, "all I know is that whatever it was, it tried to kill me, warn me off." The man paused for breath, trying to control the torrent of emotion threatening to spill from his lips. "I mean, Jesus Christ, Ichigo. The way it talked to me, it was like…like you knew each other or something…"

Ichigo felt a chill crawl up his spine. 'No…it couldn't be…' He watched as Renji stood, the older man's expression dark.

"You need help, Ichigo. A shrink, an exorcist, Kami, something." Sliding the door to the room open, he looked back, "I'll leave you to your rest."

The door shut, leaving Ichigo alone with his thoughts. He buried his face in his hands. 'What the hell is happening to me?'

He managed to make it home without any trouble. Although it was dark out, the moon lit Karakura with its soft light.

Ichigo walked with careful grace, tension only showing itself in the thin line of his mouth. He wasn't very worried about being attacked at this particular time of night; his reiatsu sensing skills were honed enough to detect any enemies that might be about. Lifting the latch to his gate, he let himself into his front yard, careful to shut it behind him.

Goat-face stood on the porch, waiting for him in one of his rare serious moments. Isshin's gaze slid over his son's form, taking in the slight dejected slump to his shoulders and the troubled look Ichigo was failing to hide.

"You know you can tell me if something's bothering you, right son?" He asked gently. Ichigo's eyes widened and Isshin couldn't help but smile. His oldest was much like his dear Masaki had been, Kami rest her soul, always striving to care for and protect others, and yet caring nothing for herself.

Nonetheless, Isshin had always strove to be what his children needed, even if it meant acting the buffoon. If it kept his family happy, he would gladly do it.

Ichigo was momentarily taken aback, kept speechless by the quietly supportive gaze his father was giving him. He knew his father was no idiot, even though he acted like it most of the time. On the contrary, his father was a very intense man when he wanted to be. Instead of responding with a dismissive remark, he nodded, letting out a quiet, "Yeah, dad."

The abrupt shift of mood in his father was ridiculous. "Good then," Isshin boomed, pulling his shirt open and sending buttons flying in the process, "Now come let Daddy crush you to his bosom! Cry if you must!"

A vein pulsed on Ichigo's forehead before his fist contacted with his father's nose. Sighing heavily, he started up the stairs leading to his room. "Stupid Goat-face."

Ichigo wiped the fog from his bathroom mirror, regarding his reflection objectively. The normal warm brown eyes and ochre hair greeted him. A childish notion overtook him and he made a face at the mirror, baring his teeth in a feral leer. Fingering his canines, he perused the rest of his face. No sharp teeth, no markings of any sort.


He let his facial muscles relax, sighing as his hand ran through his rebellious hair, the wet strands clinging to his fingers.

'Who am I kidding? Like I could possibly tell. Demonic possession, my ass.'

Hanging his towel back on the towel rack, he padded out of the room, missing the black-gold gaze mirrored in the glass.

It started off as always, with him lying on some form of building, staring up at a cloudy sky. He decided to just lie there for a while. Maybe if he could just close his eyes long enough, he could escape.

'Somehow though, I doubt that it would work.'

Right you are, King.

And there it was, right on cue. Him again, incessantly plaguing his ears with his soft crooning and whispers that would play across his skin.

That's not nice, King, you make it seem like I'm a pest.

Ichigo groaned, staggering to his feet and covering his ears with his hands; anything to block out that voice.

I'm hurt, King.

'Shut up! Get out of my head!'

Low laughter made him shudder. Isn't that impossible, seeing as how that's where we are right now? This is after all, your dream, ne?

'Just leave me alone!'

More laughter. I'll tell ya what, King. Play a little game with me and I'll leave you be for the night. How's that sound, hmm?

Ichigo couldn't help but hear some of the cunning lying beneath the voice's words, but at that point he didn't care; as long as he was given some reprieve. Maybe by going along he could escape faster, before…

'What kind of game?'

The voice seemed to pause for a moment, contemplating, before it sounded once more.

Do you see that pool of water?

Ichigo glanced in front of himself, beholding a medium-sized puddle spread across the building's roof.

Walk over to it.

He obeyed, striding a bit shakily to the water's edge. 'Now what?'


Scowling, Ichigo glanced down at the water—and froze. A replica of himself stared back at him, a perfect copy, except for pearly white skin, color-leeched hair, and the black and golden eyes that seemed to pierce through him. The look-a-like was…beautiful, in a wild and animalistic fashion. Those eyes were the eyes of a predator. Perhaps that was why they unnerved him so. They seemed to glow with an unnatural light, drawing him as a flame would a moth.

'As if I'd want to be burned...'

"Hiya King."

Ichigo felt a hand of ice close over his frantically beating heart, as strong arms wrapped around him from behind. Breath wafted across his left ear, and he couldn't help the shudder that ran its way up his spine.

'Oh God, oh god, this isn't happening. Wake up, Ichigo. Wake up!'

"It's happening, King. I'm here in your head. I'm real. Here, touch me."

He was turned around, brought face-to-face with the solid form of the reflection he'd viewed just moments before. He looked up into golden eyes as his hand was brought to a warm chest, a heart beating strongly beneath.


His stomach churned, and Ichigo bent his head, fighting the urge to vomit. This was it; he had finally cracked. Not only was he hearing voices, but they had also manifested into full-blown hallucinations, hallucinations that felt amazingly real beneath his fingertips. Cradled as he was against a pale, hard chest, the smell of sandalwood hit him like a freighter. It curled its way into his nostrils, nearly suffocating him. He felt dizzy all of a sudden.

He could feel his hand being pressed to a pair of lips, and slowly brought his gaze back up. His hallucination was in the process of gently kissing his palm, blacked out eyes resting on him adoringly.

"My beautiful king. Finally I get to touch you for real." Fingers ghosted across Ichigo's cheeks in a soft caress, and Ichigo's eyelids drifted closed.

"What are you?" he managed to stammer out.

"I'm your guardian angel. I'm the one who fights for and protects you when you can't do so yourself. I am the dark avenger who destroys all those who would oppose my King."


"Yes, those times when you felt yourself slipping into the black, every time when the lust for blood overwhelmed you, it was I, protecting you, destroying those who so foolishly sought to harm you."

"But, Renji…he said you tried…you tried to kill him. He's my friend!"

The adoring smile remained on his look-a-like's face, but the golden eyes narrowed with a feral gleam, "He dared to covet something that wasn't his to covet. He wanted to have you for himself, and that just won't do."

The husky voice turned harsh, teeth snapping at the words, "You're mine, King, mine and mine alone. I will be the one to possess you…the one to break you."

Ichigo shivered at the possessive note in the vision's voice. He had to get away somehow, before that overbearing heat swept him away in its current. He pushed at the chest and arms caging him, struggling in the "demon's" grip.

"Where do you think to run to, King?" It was amused now, almost teasing, "This is your mind. Wherever you run, I will follow."

The hands holding Ichigo's wrists captive tightened their grip, drawing a gasp of pain from the usually resilient youth. The demon lowered his head until his and Ichigo's foreheads touched, its eyes gleaming predatorily.

"There's no escaping me, King."

Another one of those uncontrollable shivers ghosted over Ichigo's skin. He suddenly felt like a rabbit, trapped underneath the claws of a leopard. The demon nuzzled Ichigo's face, rubbing like a cat might.

"You smell so good, King," he crooned. "Good enough to eat… Tell me, King," he purred, staring into Ichigo's eyes, his voice dropping an octave, "do you taste as good as well?"

The dark heat started to crawl across his skin, settling in that familiar layer. Ichigo could feel his senses dulling, everything else fading away except for the slow burn flickering across his nerves to pool in his gut, and the seductive gleam of the golden eyes holding him captive.

Warm breath fanned across his face, his demon nuzzling his skin, a hot tongue darting out to flick the corner of his lips.

Ichigo moaned despite himself, the desire to throw himself into the fire and be consumed overwhelming any intention he'd had to escape the heat that was setting his blood to boil.

He heard a soft growl before lips captured his own, smoothing over them in a possessive kiss. His gasp of surprise was cut off as that same hot tongue made its way into his mouth, exploring the wet cavern like it belonged there. It twined with his own, aggressively plundering his mouth, and Ichigo felt another moan choking its way out of his throat.

The grip on his wrists shifted as a hand made its way down his abdomen, tracing its way over the toned muscles of his stomach before it went lower.

Ichigo's head flew back as his member was firmly stroked, a soft gasp escaping his lips. His tormentor took the opportunity to begin sucking at the youth's bared neck, nipping and licking as he saw fit.

The demon released the wrists he held captive, whispering against skin, "Mmm, you do taste good, King."

A whining moan and the tightening grip of fingers on his arms was the only answer he received.

Ichigo felt drugged; the desire heating his body was almost too much to bear, making his mind hazy and his nerve endings burn. He should have felt disgusted with his actions, with the sick deluded state of his mind, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. Not with the way the carnal act was making him feel.

He felt…free…it was the same heady sensation power and the sight of blood gave him. It was the idea that he could do and was entitled to anything. It felt sinful, plain and simple, and he reveled in it. He could feel the heat building, pooling in his gut with each pump and squeeze of that sadistically gifted hand; release was close, he could taste it.

Ichigo's hips bucked rhythmically, grinding his arousal into the fist that gripped it, the friction almost too much to bear.

His beautiful hallucination laughed against his chest, nipping the skin over his collarbone, making Ichigo hiss in pleasure.

"That's it, King," he murmured encouragingly "Let it all go. You want this, need this, ne?"

The hand slowed, almost questioningly, and Ichigo groaned in frustration. Lips silenced his protest, languidly sucking his tongue.

"Please," he heard himself whimper against the other's mouth, "Please, I need it."

He felt a smirk against his lips, "As you wish, King."

The hand resumed its ministrations, pumping his weeping erection with an urgency that had his toes curling. The pressure rebuilt itself, reaching an agonizing level, and Ichigo could feel himself teetering on the precipice of sweet oblivion.

Golden black eyes burned where touch could not, a tongue swiping across pale lips, and a throaty moan left him at the sight. It was all too much; he was going to be engulfed, burned alive in this inferno-until finally, the fire contained in his belly burst, and hot flame licked its way across his skin.

He cried out as his release surged through him, pleasure mixing with pain as he felt a mouth clamp down on his neck, biting into flesh.

Shuddering, he dug his nails into the other's back, pleased when he heard the hiss of pain. The demon lifted its head and Ichigo's eyes were drawn to the blood that painted white lips.

A growl, and then those lips were covering his, and Ichigo's blood boiled at the metallic taste in the kiss. The other pulled away, looking at Ichigo with heavy lidded eyes that burned with lust.

The evidence of Ichigo's release glistened on his hand, and he raised it to his mouth, licking the silky fluid off of his fingers, fixing Ichigo with a possessive stare.

"You're mine now, King. All mine."

Rather than dissipating, the heady, suffocating heat that had lingered in the air only intensified, and Ichigo fell to his knees in surprise.

Glancing up dazedly, he noticed a glimmer of triumph in the demon's golden-obsidian seductive gaze.

A pale hand caressed his cheek, a thumb rubbing over his bottom lip.

"You're so vulnerable like this, King," he murmured adoringly. The hand holding Ichigo's chin tightened fractionally.

"It makes me want to devour you, consume you whole. And you'd let me, wouldn't you, King?" The heat increased again, the feel of leashed power slicking over his skin, and he groaned.

Ichigo felt a sliver of fear slide through his drugged mind, but instead of making him recoil, it set his blood simmering once more. A coherent thought broke through the heat.

'Am I really such a sick, masochistic bastard on the inside?'

"You're so beautiful, King."

The hand slid from Ichigo's face and he felt unconsciousness begin to pull at his mind, pulling him back to sleep, and he watched as the demon began to fade, like dust in the wind. As Ichigo fell back, the voice whispered,

"Don't let your guard down, King, or I really will devour you…"

Ichigo's eyes flickered open, trying to adjust to the pitch-blackness of his room. He lay there, trying to piece together what he had just experienced.

'I think I'm officially going insane.'

And yet, it couldn't just be all in his head. Renji and Byakuya had both seen something, that darker creature that had appeared when the need to win or live had overwhelmed him, the same thing he had likely seen in his dream.

'Was it only a dream? It felt so real, so intense. '

He closed his eyes, remembering golden eyes, remembering the fire, the pleasure of burning in it.

'But Kami, it felt…'

His body was growing hot and uncomfortable; he kicked off the sheets that covered him, but it didn't help. Groaning, he left his bed, and headed for the bathroom. Turning the knob to the sink on, he splashed some cold water on his face, trying to alleviate the feverish heat underneath his skin.

Something was happening to him, whether it was possession or his cracked mind creating a separate personality for him. The heat wouldn't go away now; it clung to his skin, seeping into his pores.

Lifting his eyes to the mirror, he gasped at the mark he saw on his neck. He gingerly raised a hand to touch the abused flesh; it throbbed and he hissed at the pain.

'How…it was only a dream…'

Or had it been? It had all felt so real, the scents and sensations. What the hell had actually happened? What was happening to him? Was he turning into some kind of monster?

Ichigo tried to calm his breathing down. Hyperventilating was not something a battle-toughened man did. Then again, neither was sinfully moaning…

'Stop it! Don't think about it!'

He cupped more cold water in his hands, about to sluice it over his face, when he remembered his look-a-like's murmured words.

You're mine now.

He shuddered as he watched tendrils of black seep across the white of his left eye.


Reviews, anyone? Constructive criticism is appreciated ;3