A/N: First of all: hi! I'm glad you took an interest in my story. I hope you enjoy it.

This story follows canon up until Aizen's defeat, and begins to diverge from that point onward. I'll be disregarding filler arcs and such, though I will follow the Anime's example in having Ichigo temporarily retain his powers. Also, please be aware that there will be spoilers for the entire series: if you're not keeping up with the Manga, then read on at your own risk.

Warnings: Violence, canon divergence, swearing, and OC's (as antagonists mainly). I'm not sure about pairings yet. There might be some in the background, but it's mostly Grimmjow and Ichigo's relationship I'll be focusing on and I'd like to see how that develops over time, rather than 'force' them into anything.

If you're new to Bleach, or unsure about some of the series-specific terms used, skip to the end of the page: there should be a short explanation there. I'll put them at the end of every chapter that uses new terms.

Disclaimer: Bleach and related characters are copyrighted materials and belong to Tite Kubo.

Part 1: Darkening Skies

Chapter 1: Survival Instinct

He'd lost sight of the enemy.

A particularly flashy explosion- the result of two powerful Cero colliding head-on, had forced Grimmjow to shield his eyes for just an instant. Apparently, that had been enough time for his opponent to pull a vanishing act on him.

Grimmjow wasn't foolish enough to believe that the powerful Hollow he was fighting had fled the battlefield. The incredibly potent Reiatsu still pressing down on him told him that much at least. That being said, the air was so saturated with it that it was impossible to pinpoint its source. Standing around in the open with no cover nearby and no idea of his enemy's whereabouts was akin to suicide, so Grimmjow decided that his first order of business should be to relocate his target.

To that end, Grimmjow leapt up into the air and kept climbing until he had put considerable distance between himself and the ground. From his current vantage point high above the white desert he could easily see hundreds of meters into the distance, as well as scan the terrain directly below him. Even so, Grimmjow had no more luck seeking the bastard out from up here than he had on the ground.

It had already been over an hour since the fight had started. 'One-sided' would be one way to describe the flow of the battle. To say that he was getting curb-stomped would be more accurate. The Sexta Espada was bruised and battered all over, yet he hadn't even been able to put a scratch on his adversary's Hierro, despite having been in his released form the whole time.

Grimmjow was just starting to descend again when it happened. The familiar low humming that accompanied a Sonido was the only warning he received. There wasn't any time to dodge.

The blow that followed was powerful enough to knock him clean out of the sky and sent him helplessly crashing back down into the white sands of Hueco Mundo. Upon impact, several of his ribs cracked audibly, making Grimmjow snarl with pain. In spite of the physical agony, Grimmjow managed to force himself back up into a sitting position, trying his hardest to get some air back into his lungs. Breathing was challenging enough when just being crushed by such overwhelming Reiatsu. Five broken ribs didn't exactly make it any easier.

A large, blurry figure came into view, looming over him from the edge of the crater created by Grimmjow's rough landing. Accompanied by a flash of light, a familiar weight manifested in Grimmjow's hand. Almost disbelievingly, he looked at the Zanpakuto he was now holding.

There couldn't have been a worse time for his Resurreccion to give out on him. Without it, he was as good as dead.

Knowing Grimmjow was vulnerable, the Hollow jumped down into the pit and mercilessly stomped on his chest with a clawed foot. The pristine white sand was stained by splotches of red as Grimmjow violently puked up blood. Some of the ribs he'd broken earlier had turned his lungs into Swiss cheese, helped along by his assailant's foot.

"Son of a...", Grimmjow breathlessly muttered between coughs as more blood began to trickle into his lungs. Out of the many painful experiences he'd accumulated over the years, the sensation of having his lungs slowly fill up with his own, warm blood was easily the worst of them all.

As he stared up into the soulless eyes of the monster before him, a strange, unfamiliar sensation came over him. He could hear his own heartbeat pounding in his ears, even as an unnatural cold spread throughout his body. His already shallow breathing became erratic. His hands began shaking so uncontrollably he involuntarily let go of Pantera. The knowledge that his very existence would be wiped away any second now permeated every cell in his body.

For the first time in his life, Grimmjow was absolutely terrified.

A healthy dose of fear was an integral part of any life-or-death battle. The way Grimmjow had always seen it, fear was simply what prevented you from doing stupid things that got you killed. Never before had it caused him to feel so utterly helpless, to even lose control over his own body like this. He took solace in the fact he hadn't pissed himself yet.

Even when it had looked like he was about to be killed by Nnoitra, he hadn't felt the slightest hint of fear. Yes, he'd been humiliated: first being shown mercy by his enemy and then being toyed with by Nnoitra like that. He'd been furious when he saw how much pleasure the freak took in ending his life while he could do nothing to resist. Anger had soon made way for surprise when a certain Shinigami stood between him and Nnoitra to block the deadly blow. But afraid? No. He even remembered wishing Nnoitra would just hurry up and get it over with.

This time though, there was no one around to save him. But that wasn't what frightened him. Grimmjow was sure of it; what he was feeling right now, this emotion... the creature pinning him to the ground was causing it. There was something off about its Spiritual Pressure. Aside from the raw, undiluted power it was emitting, the uncontrolled fury and hatred mixed in with it were almost tangible. This monstrosity was out for blood, and lots of it. And since Grimmjow's body just so happened to be the nearest container of said liquid...

He was brought back to the situation at hand by a bright, violet light that told him he was about to have his head blown off by a powerful Cero if he didn't do something fast. Managing to pull himself back together, he quickly charged a Bala in response and fired it a mere instant before his opponent was able to unleash their own attack. The blast wasn't meant for doing damage though.

Grimmjow might have been reckless, stubborn and overconfident in his own abilities, but even then he wasn't stupid enough to think he stood a chance against an opponent like this, let alone that he would be able to kill it in one hit.

The bullet of red energy hit the creature in the wrist, barely doing any damage due to its thick Hierro, but it had resulted in the desired effect: the force behind the Bala had caused his attacker's hand to move about two inches to the left just before the Cero was released, making it narrowly miss the Espada's head. The resulting explosion was something he had been prepared for, but the impact it had on his broken body still forced a scream out of him. Both he and his adversary were sent flying, and Grimmjow just couldn't help the smirk tugging at his lips when he heard a startled cry of surprise.

That smirk quickly disappeared when he once again made a rough landing. This time he fell on a large, relatively flat slab of rock, making him cry out as the broken ribs were pushed even further into his internal organs and made him cough up more blood. He twisted his broken body so that he could lie on his side. It was a little easier to breathe now that he had put some distance between himself and The Beast, as he had dubbed it in his mind.

Through sheer force of will, Grimmjow pushed himself off of the ground once again, shakily trying to stand up using his sword as leverage. He let out a pained cry and another curse as his legs gave out from under him. Panicked, he took a quick look at what the Beast was doing, and was surprised to see it had barely moved. In fact, it seemed to be completely ignoring him in favor of checking out its slightly singed wrist.

With almost childlike curiosity, it observed the mild burn caused by Grimmjow's Bala, as if trying to figure out how it had gotten there. White liquid bubbled up from within the wound, covered the burnt area, and receded just as quickly as it had come, leaving behind smooth, unblemished skin. The feeling of satisfaction that had welled up inside of Grimmjow when he had finally done some damage, no matter how little it may have been, quickly reverted to annoyance.

Now that it's wrist was back to normal, the creature turned to Grimmjow once again, apparently just now remembering he was still there.

Grimmjow cursed again. He'd let himself get distracted, wasting precious seconds. As the beast easily got back up and started marching toward him, Grimmjow again felt fear pooling in the pit of his stomach. The image of an orange-haired young man clad in black involuntarily flashed before his mind's eye once again.

"You tell me first! How can you attack a guy that can't even move!?"

That sentence had been seared into his brain. Every single day since his defeat at the hands of that young Soul Reaper, he had replayed that moment over and over again in his head.

In that moment, he made his decision. He tore at the air before him and opened a Garganta, making his executioner stop its movements once again. It tilted its head, as if wondering what its blue-haired punching bag was up to now.

Grimmjow was too busy to see this new development, as he was desperately dragging his body toward the darkness in front of him. It wasn't until he was already halfway in that the beast realized what he was doing and roared angrily as it tried to catch up to him. It was already too late though. The Garganta closed just as the tips of Grimmjow's toes crossed the border between Hueco Mundo and nothingness, completely blocking out the heavy Spiritual pressure. At least now he didn't feel like the sky itself was weighing down on him anymore.

He sheathed Pantera and allowed himself a couple minutes of rest, before willing himself to start moving again. He knew that with these wounds, he'd either bleed out or drown in his own blood in under ten minutes. And that was being generous. Since neither of those options seemed very appealing to Grimmjow, he kept going, focusing on keeping that patch of energy below him solidified. And even that was a nearly impossible task in his current condition. The battle had drained him of nearly all of his Reiryoku. Trying to use any more would probably kill him.

After a mere three meters, he collapsed again. He was never going to make it like this. With great effort, he pushed himself back up on his hands and knees just as he got an idea. Carefully, he attempted to make the thin board separating him from a bottomless, swirling black void move forward. And to his obvious surprise, it actually worked. He allowed a weak smile to tug at his lips. He'd been due to have a good idea sooner or later.

As he slowly drifted through the unending blackness, he couldn't help but feel like such a coward as the events replayed within his mind.

He always acted though, thought he was better and stronger than everyone else, but when faced by someone... no, rather something so much more powerful than he was, he'd ran away. He chuckled darkly at his current predicament. "Ulquiorra should see me now," he muttered softly to himself. "I bet even that bastard would laugh if he saw how fucking pathetic I look right now..."

He was alone with his thoughts for a while, until he noticed that the glowing board of Spirit Energy beneath him slowing down, and looked up to see a slightly familiar building come into view as the air split apart once again. The sign above the main entrance read 'Kurosaki clinic'. Well, that was good. A clinic was definitely something he could use right about now.

He pulled himself forward into the cold night air, the tear in space sealing shut behind him. Finally, he allowed himself to succumb to his injuries and dropped to the ground. His cheek pressed against the cold, hard material of the road, but he didn't even care. He'd made it.

He flared his Reiatsu using the last of his energy, hoping that the teen would come to investigate. Then, he just waited for something to happen, barely clinging to consciousness and completely unable to move.

Unfortunately, it appeared that Lady Luck wasn't on his side today. A big black SUV with headlights that almost mockingly glared at him was quickly coming closer. The man at the wheel couldn't see him of course, but he would probably notice when his car's tires crushed Grimmjow's skull.

He laughed once again at the sheer patheticness of the situation, louder this time. If he'd known that this was how it would end, he'd have just let the bastard blow his head off. Then he would've at least been able to die with some dignity. The laughing became louder. The strong, proud warrior; the Sexta Espada, Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez, lying in the middle of the road waiting to be run over by a fucking car.

He closed his eyes, a self-mocking smile still on his lips as he waited for his life to end. But it didn't. Unexpectedly, he felt himself getting picked up by strong arms, followed by a rush of wind as he was pulled along into a Flash Step. Shocked, he opened his eyes and saw someone with brown eyes and amazingly bright orange hair looking back at him.

"Why are you- holy crap! What the hell happened to you?" The young man asked, sounding panicked. He just kept staring into those eyes that had always looked at him with such defiance. Right now, they were filled with concern, or maybe it was pity? He wasn't really sure anymore, nor did he care all that much at the moment.

"Kuro...sa-..." He finally let go of consciousness and fell into blissful unawareness. He heard the young Soul Reaper's voice calling out to him as he allowed his body to go limp. He had made the right choice. He was safe now.

The last thought that went through Grimmjow's dazed mind before he passed out was that for him, this had to be the one truly safe place in the world.

A/N: About the Hollow Grimmjow was fighting: I didn't want to recycle an old villain, or make one of the good guys suddenly decide they want to be bad, so I decided to go with an OC. I didn't want to give too much away in the first chapter, but all will become clear soon. While he will place a crucial role in the story, I don't intend to have him become the villainous equivalent of a Mary Sue. If it starts to look that way to you: please let me know.

Reviews are highly appreciated. Constructive criticism is always welcome, so if you see something that could have been done better, spot spelling errors or plotholes, don't hesitate to say so in a Review or PM.

Terms used:

Arrancar: A Hollow that has had its mask broken, allowing it to use Shinigami abilities and giving them a more human appearance.

Hierro: The hardened skin of an Arrancar that serves as armor.

Cero: 'Doom Blast'. Basically a giant laser beam or Death Ray.

Resurreccion: A form in which an Arrancar gains more Hollow-like characteristics and gets a major power-boost.

Reiryoku: Spirit energy that anyone with supernatural powers carries within them.

Reiatsu: Reiryoku that leaks out subconsciously. Can be repressed when a person wants to remain undetected, or strengthened to intimidate or incapacitate weaker foes.

Garganta: Portal used to travel to and from Hueco Mundo.

Flash Step/Shunpo: High-speed technique used by Soul Reapers.

Sonido: Arrancar equivalent of Shunpo.