Like a Moth to the Flame
Written by Illuminate the Shadows
It was a cold autumn night. Rain drizzled from the gloomy gray clouds steadily, coating everything beneath them like a damp blanket. I wore my hood to keep the rain off of my vibrant hair as I made my way home from Urahara's shop.
The streets were dark, and nearly deserted. I was in the poor side of town, where crime was abundant and streetlights flickered ominously on the black concrete. All was quiet, and I almost found myself yearning for some hollow activity. Everything was too still.
Soon I was almost out of the creepy part of downtown. I walked fast, having no desire to remain on these streets any longer than needed. An old bar was in my path; it was so old that the sign outside was crumbling, yet people still visited it. I shuddered at the thought of the horrible things that probably went on in the little establishment. Keeping my eyes ahead, I strolled past it, hands stuffed in the pockets of my dark blue jeans.
I thought if I didn't look at the people outside, they wouldn't mess with me.
I was naive.
A low whistle echoed in my ears as I moved past the saloon. Choosing to ignore it, I kept walking, upping my pace a bit. I wasn't particularly afraid of the drunk men; they would have been easy enough to avoid. I just wanted to get home to Karin and Yuzu.
I heard a cough, and stole a glance over my shoulder. Two men were stumbling after me, but they didn't seem to be trying to catch up to me. Convinced they were just following me, I turned back around, walking faster. I could lose them easily if I needed to.
A sudden reiatsu drifted into my senses. Furrowing my brows as it doused my body like a wave of cold water, I tried to pinpoint it. Certainly it was familiar. It wasn't a shinigami as far as I could tell. If not an ally, then a foe?
I let myself be distracted by it.
I was an idiot.
An arm snaked around my waist and another over my mouth, smothering the yell that erupted from my lips. All concern of the spiritual pressure flew from my mind as I struggled against the man, my nails raking through skin. He growled in pain and I felt a fist connect with my ear. Stunned for a moment, I blinked dazed eyes at the familiar men who had been following me. One blonde, one bald. Blondie smirked.
"Didn't yer mama teach ya not ta walk around so late at night?"
A blow was landed to my abdomen and I doubled over in pain, falling to my knees as the man behind me let go. While the wind was knocked out of me, I was kicked to the ground. My face was pushed down into the collection of murky water as hands gripped at my body. I tried to yell. A foot pressed down on my head, and my priority altered to attempting to breathe. I heard the ripping of my clothes. The cold night air snaked around my thighs as I sputtered in the water.
My world erupted in white, hot pain and a cry escaped my lips. I distinctly felt the tear within my body as he moved roughly, my blood becoming his lubrication. Disgraced, my fingers closed uselessly against the concrete ground. Sobs wracked my body as the man behind me grasped my hips hard, nails cutting into my skin.
I was so weak. Helpless. Since the war, I'd been paranoid. I was left wide open. I retained the ability to see spirits. But without my shinigami powers, I was just a normal teenager. Without my shinigami strength, I couldn't fend off these three men.
Fuck, this city was fucking boring. Almost as bad as Hueco Mundo.
The war had ended months ago. Without Aizen ruling Las Noches, the place had become a fucking hellhole. Hollows ran wild, fighting amongst themselves. As far as I knew, I was the only Espada that had survived. Espada. What the fuck was the point of that word anymore. Sexta Espada. There was no point if there were no others.
Karakura town had become my new unofficial residence. Though lately, I'd considered moving somewhere different. This place didn't have enough action. Especially tonight. I had a few drinks in my system; enough to rile me up and sharpen my fighting skills. If someone so much as glanced at me wrong, I'd rip their fucking intestines out and choke 'em with 'em.
My sensitive ears picked up noises down the street a few blocks. Continuing along, I spotted a scuffle going on in an alley. Grinning hugely, I strolled over. A perfect excuse to hand someone's ass to them.
Soon enough, I saw that this was no ordinary burglary. There were three of them, and a helpless one on the ground. It was dark and there were clothes in the way, but I could tell by instinct and acute scent what was going on. My hands balled into fists.
The two that weren't involved turned to look over their shoulders. Realizing they'd been caught in the act, they turned around fully.
"Hey stranger. Wanna join?" The bald man wore a disgusting smirk. I yearned to rip my claws right through that mouth of his.
"Nah. I ain't a fuckin' rapist."
They glanced at each other, and then the dirty blonde one shrugged. "Suit yourself."
Like the fools they were, they thought they were a match for me. The blonde one simply came at me with fists. Ducking under his punch, I turned and hit the back of his knees, hard. They buckled and he nearly fell. With a huge grin plastered on my face, I reached down. My grown claws sliced through his flesh. The tearing sound of his tendon as I ripped it out was simply satisfying. His scream was an added bonus. He fell to the ground in pain, and I turned on the other.
This guy had a gun. Instantly more wary, I circled around him slowly. The other man was still near the incapacitated one, – was it a woman? – unconcerned with his comrades' demise.
My hand hit his wrist as his finger jerked the trigger, and I heard the bullet whiz past my head as my other fist connected with his face. Although it was accidental, I couldn't smother my triumphant smirk when his eye socket popped. Almost immediately, he fell to the ground, writhing in pain as he held his hand to his face.
I went for the gun, picking it up and cocking it, then pointed it to the remaining man's head. "Don't fuckin' move."
He hesitated, becoming still. I could hear soft whimpers from the one below, and although they were by no means masculine, they were far from that of a woman's. "Fucked up motherfucker," I murmured, pressing the gun harder against his scalp. "Get out, an' be nice about it."
He obeyed, and I heard the cry of pain as the man's length left the smaller one's body. I accidentally glanced, and saw blood. Lots of blood. I could nearly taste it. But it only upped my fighting spirit. Instincts kicked in and I tossed the gun away. The man turned around to face me, smirking slightly now that his dick was back in his jeans. The younger male lay crumpled on the wet concrete.
"Dumbass. D'you really think you can–"
His sentence was cut short as I leapt at him, knocking him to the ground. I heard his skull connect with the hard ground, but that didn't stop me from digging my nails into his flesh. A heightened scream spilled from his lips as I tore at his body, the shredding of skin tingling deliciously into my fingers.
Gradually, his cries became weaker and weaker as he became lifeless. Standing from the mutilated body, I glanced at the other men. Blondie was still panting on the ground, eyes wide at his recent witness of his friend being torn apart like a deer beneath a cougar. Moving to pick up the gun, I stepped over the trail of blood. Fuckin' river of the shit, flowing into the drain at the opening of the narrow alley.
I quickly buried two bullets in blondie's head, and then checked up on baldy. He was unconscious, but probably still alive. Crouching down, I placed the gun in his limp hand and raked my claws across his neck. Blood spurted, pulsing from his jugular.
The ache in my body was intense. Still, I was grateful that it was over. What was left of my clothes was dripping wet; in fact, I felt soaked to the core. Shivering, I pushed myself up, managing to get to my feet underneath me, and I sat on them, my torn, un-tucked school shirt covering my exposed body.
The screams I had heard still echoed in my ears. Whomever had come to my rescue had murdered them, I was pretty sure. The metallic scent of blood weighed down the cool night air. All was unusually still, and I leaned against the cool brick wall.
Suddenly, I felt a looming presence beside me. Wincing slightly, I couldn't tell if it was one of my attackers, or my savior. I heard the ruffle of clothing. He had stooped down beside me.
Furrowing my brows, I thought hard. I knew that voice…
Something caught my eye. It was his hand. Gently, I felt his fingers touch my chin and guide it up and to my left. Dark blue orbs gazed down at me.
All was silent.
Shock sparked in the air like electricity before a storm.
It was Grimmjow.
My mind struggled to process this concept. Grimmjow, the Sexta Espada. Grimmjow, the man whom I'd fought to the brink of death with more than once. Grimmjow, the asshole Arrancar who didn't give a fuck about anyone but himself.
Grimmjow, the man whom I'd thought to be dead for months now.
I didn't realize there were tears on my cheeks until his thumb brushed one away. Flinching away from him, I turned my head. I was weak; vulnerable. Surely Grimmjow would take advantage of this and kill me. He murdered the others because he wanted me for himself. He had always wanted my blood on his hands.
His fingers on my chin gently forced me to look at him again. His gaze was serious. Blood was splashed on his clothes, even splattering up to his neck. He looked like he came straight out of a horror movie.
"Listen ta me," he murmured, his fingers remaining on my chin. "I'm not gonna hurt you. Not here. Not now. You can trust me now."
His words were strangely comforting. Broken and hurt, I had no choice but to have faith in him. His hands were cold as he touched my ribs hesitantly; I could feel the cool touch through my thin white shirt.
"Can I touch ya?"
He gathered me up in his arms, situating me so that my legs hung over his arm and my head rested against his shoulder. My body was limp in his hold.
I turned my face into his shoulder once he started to run, attempting to avoid the cold rain and wind. Hidden in that bit of warmth, I cried steadily until the wall in my mind finally gave away to the pressing darkness.
He was there.
I was discharged from the hospital two weeks after the incident. When I woke up for the first time, I was in a hospital bed with a nice-looking nurse looking down at me. As soon as she saw my eyes open, she paged the doctor.
At first, I didn't remember anything. How I got there, what had happened to me… The doctor said I had temporary amnesia and anxiety. It was normal, he said. The body's way to try to forget the horrors of a rape. I'd cringed when he'd said that word. Rape. Never in a million years did I think I would be the victim of a rape.
My dad and sisters came to visit me. Yuzu more than the others. She stopped by on her way home from school every day. She usually had flowers of some kind. I'd given her the explanation that I was beat up by some drunk guys. It was most of the truth. And she was too young to think about those kinds of things.
After the doctors were sure I had healed completely, they let me go. It was the middle of October now, and the leaves were beautiful colours of orange, yellow and red. The cool air was crisp and refreshing.
On my way out of the hospital, I'd seen something that disturbed me. A small television was playing in the lobby; the news was on. They were talking about criminals.
"This man's whereabouts are currently unknown, as is his identity. Once again, it is believed he committed three murders on the night of September 29th. Here is a sketch provided by the Karakura hospital, where he was last seen."
I groaned softly at the black and white sketch on the television.
Shielding my eyes in the sun, I stepped through the glass doors and out onto the sidewalk. The sun was shining through the clouds.
Turning around, my eyes widened at the figure standing a few feet away. A black beanie covered his vibrant blue hair, and he wore a long overcoat.
"Do you know there's a warrant out for your arrest?"
He stepped closer, glancing around. "Eh, keep it down will ya? I know." His dark blue eyes rested on me. "As if they could take me in if they recognized me."
Sighing, I ran a hand through my hair. "What… Are you doing here?"
His familiar grin returned to his face. "Thought I'd get ya somethin' ta eat."
My stare was incredulous. He chuckled. "… Why would you do that? Where did you get money? How did you know I was getting out today? Why are you still here! Are you stalking me?"
His hand extended before I could react and ruffled my hair like I was a little kid. Ducking away, I smoothed it back down, glaring daggers at him. "Well… In order. Yer hungry, aren't ya? I been doin' little random jobs 'ere and there. I checked with the hospital yesterday. 'M waitin' fer yer answer. An' only if ya want me to." He smirked.
Glancing around, I shrugged. "… Okay, I guess."
The little café was too fuckin' cute, but it was where he wanted to go. Goddamn, he was so different now. Not the – admittedly badass – shinigami I'd known. He was just a kid. Just a young man who was a bit awkward, yet it was endearing. I cringed at that thought as I sat down in the booth across from him.
'Hey, yer tryin' that 'be a regular person' thingy now. Emotions are a part'a that, I guess.'
"Are you seriously gonna hide out in the city until they stop looking for you?"
His voice shook me from my thoughts. Looking at him blankly, I furrowed my brows. He raised an eyebrow. "You know… The warrant for your… Arrest…?"
"Oh. Yeah, I guess. I don't wanna, uh, go anywhere else. 'Cause yer here."
He lowered his menu, surveying me with curious brown eyes. "'Cause I'm here? So you are stalking me."
I managed a smirk. "Not really. Uh," I glanced out the window, "… Listen. Now that all the war shit's over, we ain't really enemies anymore. Shinigami an' hollows're enemies. Not humans an' hollows." He blinked those chocolate eyes. "I guess what'm sayin' is… Since I'm gonna try'ta stay here an' live here, I might as well hang with ya, since I don't know anyone else."
He rolled his eyes, raising the menu again, though I could just barely see his eyes over the plastic. "Great, so you're gonna follow me around like a little puppy?"
Scowling, I attempted to look down at my menu. "Ya owe me. I saved yer fuckin'–"
The young waitress standing next to our table cleared her throat tentatively. I could do nothing but smirk when Ichigo's cheeks flushed in embarrassment.
"Uhm, sorry about that. I'll… Have a hot chocolate and a BLT, please."
The waitress scribbled it down, and then glanced at me warily. "… Anything for you, sir?"
Shrugging, I handed her the menu dismissively. "Just coffee."
She hurried away, and Ichigo regarded me with accusing eyes. When I didn't apologize, he dropped the guilt-trip and rolled his eyes. "… Yeah okay, I owe you. If I get caught, I'm screwed. I could go to jail for harboring a criminal, you know."
I smirked, resting my elbow on the table and my chin in my palm as the waitress set Ichigo's hot cocoa down. "… Yer actin' really okay fer what happened ta ya."
His bemused expression fell almost immediately. He took an ice cube from his water and stirred it into the dark liquid. "… I'm just good at disguising things. I was a shinigami for months before Orihime or anyone knew."
Watching him take a sip from the cup, I struggled to let the emotions flow through my veins like icy blood. 'It would be just my luck that 'm attracted ta him.' He met my eyes, blinking slowly, and I shifted my gaze so it wouldn't look like I was fucking gawking at him. 'Attraction. Lust. It's purely physical.'
"Thanks." I was pulled from my thoughts again as the waitress left Ichigo's sandwich on the table and rushed away. "She's so afraid of you now," he laughed, cutting it in half with a knife.
"… So, uh… I was right about you not bein' a shinigami, huh?"
He nodded, taking the bread off to pick the tomatoes off. "Yeah. You probably heard, right?" I nodded my head in agreement. "The Final Getsugatensho made me lose all my powers. I mean, I guess I can still see spirits. But I had that before."
"So no more Zangetsu?"
"No more Zangetsu. No more hollow either." He took a bite, chewing thoughtfully. "How'd you survive?"
"Tch, did ya think I'd get killed that easily?"
He smiled, wiping his face with a napkin. "I guess not."
"We don't have a guest room, so I dunno where you're gonna sleep." I pushed the door open, and Grimmjow followed me inside.
"I don't sleep that often anyway."
Closing the door behind him, I locked it as he surveyed the living room and connected kitchen. "… Well I guess you can sleep on the couch if you do get tired." I moved past him, flipping the light switch and dousing us in yellow light. "How the hell am I gonna tell my dad about this…"
I heard footsteps as he followed me into the kitchen. "Just tell him the guy who saved ya needs a place ta stay."
Wrinkling my nose, I made my way up the steps. "You're all over the news, dumbass. My dad watches the news. He'd recognize you."
"That's my dad's bedroom," I said, pointing to the door at the end of the hall. "My sisters' bedroom is the one next to it. The bathroom and my bedroom are on the right." Turning that way, I pushed my door open. "This's mine."
Grimmjow poked his head inside, looking around. Laughing, I muttered, "You can go in, ya know. It's not booby-trapped or anything."
Sparing me a glance of distaste, he moved inside. I followed him in, wandering to the window to crack it open. The air was stuffy. "I'm gonna have to go back to school on Monday. So I guess you can hang out here, if you don't destroy the place."
"Ya act like 'm some monster 'a destruction or somethin'." He picked up my math book, opening it and flipping through the pages. "What the hell's this shit?"
Giggling softly, I sat down on my bed. "School stuff."
"Oh." He set it down, then turned around and looked at me, hands in his pockets. I took the opportunity to notice that his hair was no longer concealed by the beanie. He looked himself again. Shaking the thought away, I bit my cheek.
"So… We're just kind of… Acquaintances now?"
He blinked, his face nearly expressionless. "I dunno. Yeah."
"To be honest, I think I only ever hated you because you always tried to kill me whenever you saw me," I smiled. "And 'cause you were an Espada."
"Still am." Raising my eyes to him, I watched as he looked out the window in what I deciphered as a bit sad of an expression. "Guess that word means nothin' now."
Closing my eyes, I rested my body back against the wall parallel to my bed. "… None of the others survived, did they?"
"Not that I know of."
"I mean, I guess they could still be hiding somewhere, like you."
"What happened to Aizen?"
My eyes opened. Grimmjow was sitting in my desk chair, regarding me with slightly curious black eyes. "You don't know?" He shook his head.
"All I know is he got defeated."
"Yeah… That guy had way too many tricks up his sleeve." Grimmjow smirked. "First he evolved into some 'transcendent being', then he went into hollowification, then he became almost a full hollow. In the end, I guess Urahara was the one who really defeated him. The Hogyoku rejected him. Last I heard, he's imprisoned in Seireitei for 20,000 years."
"But he's immortal. So what happens in 20,000 years?" the blue-haired Espada murmured.
My gaze drifted down to the carpet. "… Good question."