Through the Portal
It's been a horrible couple of years, the ups and downs so drastic and frequent that Ichigo feels as though he's been trapped on a never-ending rollercoaster. He lost his power a few months after the war with Aizen, just as Kisuke Urahara predicted. Unlike what was predicted, however, a year ago he fell into a three week coma and awoke an evolved creature. Things were so different for him, yet strangely similar to what he normally went through. Drastic changes were made to his inner Hollow, mainly his looks, and he doesn't appear a reflection as much as he used to. He's still learning about himself even now, a year after gaining such strange power. He just turned nineteen a week ago, his friends constantly commenting on how his personality has suddenly begun to change… like he couldn't tell. He's been more skittish lately, always backing away from a fight or snapping at his friends when they pester him about it. He doesn't know why, but he's been feeling more vulnerable and he's been thinking a lot about stuff he's never bothered with before… like sex. Before he was always too busy, but now not even a battle between fifteen Hollows can keep his mind from straying to the subject. It's starting to worry him. He doesn't really have anyone he can talk to about it, as he's the only one of his kind now and Kisuke would want to experiment with different… and probably not helpful at all… drugs and potions. It would seem he's on his own for this one, which only scares him more.
"Ichigo!" Rukia screams. "Behind you!"
The orangette shakes his head clear of his thoughts and swings Zangetsu around to slice through the Hollow coming up behind him. They've been coming in larger groups now, laying on the hurt mainly to Ichigo before they're wiped out. They've grown far bolder as well, touching and grabbing without thought. It's gotten so bad, Ichigo's thought of turning in his badge just to stay away from them. He turns back to help his friends, Renji and Rukia, with their own burdens. A tear opens up behind him, a long tail slithering out and wrapping around his waist. He cries out, garnering the attention of his friends. The tail jerks as they scream his name, his Zanpakto slipping from his grip at the sudden movement, and then he's disappearing into Hueco Mundo… defenseless.
Ichigo may not have his sword to help him, but he still has Shiro and said ex-Hollow has had time enough to dabble in Kido when loose in Seireitei. He's taught Ichigo in his inner world while he slept, but he's still far better than the orangette. The minute he hits the white sands of Hueco Mundo, Shiro is forcing his way to the surface and letting loose a devastating fire Kido to destroy the Hollow looming over him. The shriek is deafening and bloodcurdling, wrought with anger. Ichigo takes back control just as the Hollow's body turns to dust, scrambling to his feet and running off to find shelter. He's scared, no… terrified. There's something about this place that just screams that he's in terrible trouble, something that whispers of brutal attacks he'll never recover from. He doesn't know how long he runs, nor does he first realize when his body is so exhausted and starved he can barely take another step, but around that time… the bellow of a particularly powerful Hollow fills his ears.
"No, please," he whispers. "I can't do this anymore."
The Hollow stalks into view… a Vasto Lorde. It's eyes land on Ichigo's feminine but muscular form, that mask seeming to split into a wider grin, and it begins moving toward him. Ichigo turns to run, tears gathering in his eyes as he knows he'll never get away this time. He's around caves and rocks now, probably some rubble from Los Noches as well, and the constant moon seems to mock him in it's brightness. No doubt, that's the only thing shedding enough light for them to find him. He turns to dart into some tunnels, crying out as he trips over a pile of rocks and twists his ankle. He just can't do this anymore, his body is just so tired, and he curls in on himself with a whimper to await the pain he knows is about to come… but there's nothing. He waits a moment longer, glancing back at the Vasto Lorde pursuing him. They're just standing there, hesitant to move closer as their eyes gaze at something past Ichigo. Finally, they growl and step forward. A bright light jets past inches above the orangette's head and devours the Hollow in seconds, leaving the teen to tremble in fear and curl tighter into himself. A hand touches his shoulder and he shakes violently, whimpering when he's lifted into strong arms. At the sound of an irritated sigh, those amber eyes open in shock. Holding him gently with a cocky smirk on his all too familiar features… is Grimmjow Jaegerjaques.
"Yo, Shinigami," he grins feral. "So… Where's that defiant look now?"
Ichigo says nothing, burying his face in Grimmjow's muscled chest to cry. He's so relieved, even if this is his enemy it's still someone he knows. Maybe if he gives the other what he wants, he'll take care of him or even take him back home! Unfortunately, Ichigo can't think of anything Grimmjow could want from him except a fight.
"You're a real pain, you know that?" the other sighs as he carries him toward a doorway. "It's been four years, Shinigami. How the hell did you get beat down so thoroughly in that amount of time?"
"Everything's just so different," Ichigo mumbles.
"Go to sleep, you're exhausted."
"I can't… they'll get me."
"I'm here now, I'll keep them away. You need sleep, okay?"
He nods drowsily, closing his eyes before he's out cold. Grimmjow looks down on the one he always saw as his greatest opponent… how easily that can change. Before he can think about how pathetic Ichigo seems to have turned, a scent strikes his nose and he jerks away from the orangette's form. He gasps and hurriedly holds him closer so he won't drop him, the vibrant haired teen not stirring a bit. The scent that took his senses by storm is that of a powerful Beta… and it was coming from his once enemy.
"So… Kurosaki is a Beta," he smirks. "Well, I always said I'd dominate him. Thankfully, this battlefield isn't only more fun… but it's much more rewarding."
With a large grin that nearly splits his face in two, Grimmjow heads through the doorway and into the only part of Los Noches to survive. This particular area is where the Espada resided, their little rooms like flats with everything they need although they were barely in them. Grimmjow gently lays Ichigo down in his bed, pulling off his clothes before tucking him in beneath the covers. Surrounded in nothing but his own scent, he's certain Ichigo will be less likely to deny him the status of Alpha. After the smaller is settled, the teal haired Sexta moves away to fix something for Ichigo to eat. He doesn't need to eat Hollows anymore thanks to a sudden evolution during his healing time after the war, so he makes frequent trips to the living world to stock up on food. He's glad he just got back from a more recent trip a day ago, or he wouldn't have had enough to feed his soon-to-be Beta.
"Mm… Grimmjow?" Ichigo mumbles as he stirs. "W-where am I?"
"My place," he offers as he sets a plate of food down. "Now get over here and eat."
"Where are my clothes!"
"They were dirty, I'm not getting my bedding dirty because of your modesty," he scoffs. "Get over here and eat."
With a slight 'eep' Ichigo slips from the bed and wraps the blankets around him as he scampers over, not willing to press the other after the hostile outburst. He sits down and looks at the plate of food, recognizing it almost instantly as food from the living world. With a relieved smile he picks up his utensils and digs in, clearing the plate in record time.
"Yeah, that was great! Thank you!" Ichigo grins.
"You want to tell me what happened?" Grimmjow asks as he sits across from Ichigo.
"Well… the Hollows have been acting really weird lately. They've been attacking in larger groups and targeting me even though there are three to six people in the fight," Ichigo muses. "I don't really remember how long ago it was, probably a couple days or so, but one of them pulled me through to Hueco Mundo with their tail. I… dropped my Zanpakto with the force of the jerk. I've been running away from them since."
"And do you know why they're after you? Why they would want to separate you from your Shinigami friends?"
"No. Not at all."
"Well… I have two choices here," Grimmjow sighs. "I could tell you what's going on, or I could not tell you and just have you stay here. What would you prefer?"
"Yep. I know, because when I smelled your scent I was affected as well. The only difference between me and them is… I can control myself on levels they never imagined."
"So… You won't hurt me?"
"Nope. Not even a little."
"What's going on?"
"You, my precious and abnormally beautiful Shinigami, are a Beta," Grimmjow smirks. "Meaning, you're a female. Those Hollows chasing you are Alphas, ones that want to mount you… get what I'm saying?"
"Th-they want to… to… have s-sex with me?" Ichigo asks in a panic.
"And you? What about you? Do you want to?"
"Can't say it didn't cross my mind," Grimmjow says laying his head on his arms. "But as I said before… I can control myself."
"I want to go home, Grimmjow," Ichigo almost cries. "Please, take me home."
"I'm afraid that's impossible at this point in time." he replies. "All the Gargantua sealed up for Betas… they're locked in until mating season is over."
"I'm really sorry, Ichigo, but… by the time you're able to leave… Well… you'll be owned by one Alpha or another. The only question is which one will finally mount you."
"No! No, that's not gonna happen!"
"Three weeks is a long time, Ichigo. You'll eventually succumb to the need to breed, all the Betas do. The reiatsu in the air here is far stronger than the living world, it'll effect you in time."
"What about you? Will you take me like they were gonna!" Ichigo snaps.
"If it comes down to you absolutely needing to mate, it's either gonna be me or one of them," he frowns. "Now tell me… since you have no choice either way, which would you rather it be when it comes down to that?"
"… You, I guess," the orangette mutters bitterly.
"Who knows, maybe you'll be stubborn enough to hold on the entire three weeks," Grimmjow shrugs. "It's rare, but it's been known to happen once in a blue moon."
"You can leave, can't you?" he asks hopefully.
"Yep. I'm an Alpha, those rules don't apply to me."
"Tell the Shinigami what's going on."
"Are you out of your fucking mind?" he frowns. "Ichigo, the minute I leave you this place is going to be swarming with Alphas sniffing you out. And I hate to say this, but… there's no way they're gonna miss that scent of yours, it's as wild and powerful as your reiatsu."
"Look, right now, my first priority is taking care of you," Grimmjow growls. "Everything else can wait. If you're so worried about what they're gonna think, figure out a way to get a message out without me leaving your side. Now, I have to scout my territory. I'll be back in a bit, don't leave this apartment! I can't stress that enough."
"I won't, I promise."
"Good. I'll be right back."
Ichigo sighs as he watches Grimmjow's retreating back, a pang of sadness hitting him hard at the momentary loss. He doesn't know why, but Grimmjow's reiatsu has been tingling along his skin in a most pleasing manner. He didn't feel that until that specific reiatsu mingled with his own, which makes him wonder if he isn't safer with the desert. If this continues he's almost positive he'll beg to be taken by the other, which would be the most mortifying thing that's ever happened to him… especially since the teal haired Arrancar is supposed to be his enemy!
"I wonder what Grimmjow has to gain out of helping me," he muses out loud. "There has to be something he's after… right?"
*Probably lookin' ta screw ya inta the overly plush mattress, * Shiro pipes up.
"That's not helping!" Ichigo yells.
*Ya asked. *
"It was rhetorical, stupid," Ichigo grumbles. "I just wish I could tell Seireitei what's going on, I don't want them assuming anything that might lead to my execution. If they think my Hollow… uh… you… are taking over, I'm in big trouble!"
*Trust me, if I take over, Hueco Mundo would be the last place I go to, * Shiro scoffs. *I'm far more interested in the coastal places like California… Florida… *
*Okay, okay, calm down, * the other sighs. *I'll just hop over an talk ta one a their Zanpakto, 'kay? *
"… You can do that?"
*Duh, we're evolved, * the inner demon snorts in humor. *Stay put, it won' take long. *
"I thought Betas couldn't get out of Hueco Mundo," Ichigo mutters after a moment's thought.
*Hence the beauty a evolution! Ya get ta be the Beta an I get ta be the Alpha… sucks ta be you, eh? *
"Shut up, Shiro!" Ichigo snaps. "You could've told me this earlier!"
*So sue me, I was busy! *
"Just hurry up and go! The faster you go, the faster you can get back… I'm not comfortable being alone with him."
*Maybe it'll do ya some good, Queeny, * Shiro teases. *If ya gotta have a Alpha, I'm all fer that one takin' ya. *
"Nobody asked you. Now hurry up!"
*Yeah, Yeah. *
Just like that, Shiro's presence within Ichigo's mind is gone. The flat seems so much quieter without the other's reassuring presence, the smaller male fidgeting before getting up to do something. He needs to keep busy, or he'll start drowning in anxiety again. The place is relatively clean, but it's not spotless… so Ichigo gets to work making it so.
It's about an hour before Grimmjow gets back, irritation plain on his features and a few injuries littering his tan skin. He finds Ichigo sleeping on the bathroom floor, his head resting on the side of the tub in his arms and a sponge in the hand dangling into said tub. With a small smirk, he carefully lifts the other up and carries him to the bedroom to lay him down. Ichigo mumbles sleepily and opens his amber eyes, yawning before realizing exactly where he is. In a panic, he flails about to get away… but he's no match for Grimmjow's superior upper body strength.
"Calm down, will you?" the teal haired man huffs. "I'm just putting you to bed… you fell asleep on the bathroom floor."
"… Oh. Grimmjow! What happened?" Ichigo gasps at the sight of blood on the other's white clad shoulder.
"Challengers, nothing serious," he brushes off. "It was a few larger, but seriously stupid, low level Hollows. They didn't stand a chance. The Vasto Lorde are smart enough to stay away, lucky for you."
"Put me down, I'll help clean the wounds," Ichigo says.
"Don't bother, they'll heal in a few minutes."
He lays Ichigo on the bed, striding past it to go take a shower. The orangette stares at the ceiling, wondering what time it is and if it's about time for bed… he's exhausted enough to sleep. Time here and in Seireitei were always difficult for him to adjust to. He's just nodding off when Grimmjow exit's the bath, Ichigo's amber pools fogged with weariness overcome with shock when they glimpse the blue haired Arrancar waltzing about completely nude. A few thoughts rush through Ichigo's mind at that time… 'what the fuck', 'my god he's hot', 'has he no modesty', and of course his inner uke screaming 'lay down for him you dumb ass'… but he successfully looks away and buries his face in his pillow.
"You awake?" Grimmjow wonders.
"Yes," Ichigo's muffled voice remarks from in the pillow.
"You're gonna suffocate yourself, you know."
"Then put some clothes on!"
"Why? I don't have anything to be ashamed of," the ex-Espada teases with a purr. "Don't you think?"
"If I could see you, I'd punch you!"
"Then it's a good thing for me that you can't!" he laughs. "You know, I never thought of you as a shy virgin before. Haven't you ever had a boyfriend? I mean, it's been four years. Surely you've experimented."
"I haven't! I've been too busy to think about it!"
Grimmjow crawls on the bed, slinking up beside his new companion slyly. He catches Ichigo's frame stiffening in nervousness, can smell the scent of unease mixed with a hint of fear… and just a pinch of arousal.
"… What are you doing?" Ichigo asks without lifting his head.
Grimmjow doesn't answer, but straddles Ichigo's body before propping himself over the orangette on his hands and knees. The scent rolling off Ichigo only gets stronger and the taller male shivers as it fills the room, leaning over and blowing on the back of Ichigo's slender neck. The vibrant haired male squeals like a little girl who's just seen a spider, shooting upward fast and forcing Grimmjow to push away and sit on his knees. Ichigo shoots to the head of the bed, gripping the back of his neck and scowling at Grimmjow… before lighting up crimson at the fact the other has yet to get dressed. The teal haired male cracks up, holding his stomach in his mirth.
"You're such a little girl!" he laughs. "It's so obvious you're a Beta, I can't believe I didn't see it before!"
"Sh-shut up!" Ichigo stammers. "And stop doing shit like that! You make me nervous when you get so close!"
"Why should I make you nervous? For the time being I'm your Alpha and you should be happy when I pay you attention," Grimmjow grins feral.
"Who said you're my Alpha!"
"I'm protecting you, aren't I? I'm taking on challengers to keep you with me, right?"
"So, that's what an Alpha does, dipshit," the Sexta scoffs. "The only thing I don't get is sex… but I'm always willing to accommodate any cravings you may have."
"… Get away from me," Ichigo states flatly.
Grimmjow snickers at that, sliding back off the bed and striding over to his dresser. He makes certain to give Ichigo a nice view of his firm backside, glancing back to see the other practically drooling. He grins widely at that, knowing the younger male is effected by his heat more than he lets on. It won't be long and he'll have that luscious body writhing beneath him, begging to be impregnated. He stops at that, almost gawking at the thought. He hasn't wanted to impregnate a Beta in a very long time, as the cubs and the Beta never survive, but it's obvious why he would want to do so to this beautiful specimen of a female. Once he's laying back down, staying on his own side of the large bed as Ichigo scoots as far away as possible, he finds he's gotten curious… and his feline curiosity is a notorious thing.
"What happened to you during these four years?" he asks quietly.
"Nothing much," Ichigo mumbles. "I lost my power for a bit, lived a normal life in the human world, evolved and regained my power, and went back to my Shinigami duties… What about you?"
"Healed, fought, I evolved as well during my down time healing," Grimmjow informs. "I guess we're the same species now…"
"I thought I was the only one," Ichigo smiles sadly. "I felt so alone."
Grimmjow reaches over and laces his fingers with Ichigo's, sending him a rare smile before turning his gaze back to the ceiling. He never really thought about it, as he still goes off instinct and Hollows were happy enough to mate with any willing Alpha during mating season. A long screech from a large Hollow echoes around them, Ichigo's hand tightening on Grimmjow's, and the teal haired male gently pulls the smaller teen to him to sleep. It isn't long before the orangette, curled as close as possible against Grimmjow's body, is snoozing peacefully with the knowledge that he's protected.
"But… Grimm, I'm bored!" Ichigo whines. "What's the worst that could happen?"
"Uh, gee, let me think about that," the taller says sarcastically. "Oh, I know… You draw too much attention and get stolen away while I'm busy fighting off other challengers! Do you seriously want to be mounted that badly?"
"I don't like staying inside all the time," the Beta pouts. "I just want to take a walk, I don't think that's too much to ask."
"I haven't marked you yet, Ichigo," Grimmjow huffs. "You're still a free piece of ass and there are a lot of Hollows that would just love to claim it. So, until I've marked you… whether with scent or reiatsu… you stay put. End of story."
"… Tell me about the marking," Ichigo says after a moment. "How do you do it? Is it permanent? How long does it last?"
"There are two different types of marking," Grimmjow explains with a reluctant sigh. "The first is permanent, but the second is temporary. The permanent is with reiatsu that's injected through the hollows of my fangs… all Alphas have them, it's like a snake's fangs."
"Oh, okay. I get it. So… what's the temporary one?"
"That's through scent."
"You won't like it, so just forget it."
"Just tell me!" Ichigo snaps.
"… It's through sex," the other finally relents. "I have to mark you with my scent by having sex with you, which isn't on the top of your 'must do' list."
Ichigo mumbles something Grimmjow could swear was 'stupid perverted cat', turning away with a bright blush and dropping the subject completely. He's glad Ichigo is getting stir crazy in the flat, as that just makes it easier for him. The more restless the Beta gets, the more promising a scent marking will look to him and the better opportunity Grimmjow will be given to mark him permanently… he forgot to mention that the permanent mark is made during the Alpha's release, so Ichigo will never expect it. He almost feels bad about taking advantage of the other, but he can smell the attraction the teen has for him… not to mention they're the only ones of the species!
*Eh, he'll get over it, * Grimmjow thinks.
Ichigo is restless, pacing constantly and cursing mentally. Normally, he'd take a little trip into his mindscape, but Shiro has yet to return and Zangetsu… for some reason unbeknownst to himself… still hasn't shown up in there! He's beginning to think they're ganging up on him about this whole mating thing. Ichigo's aware that he's been getting a tad dependant, but he was positive it was just a phase.
*I'll go back to normal after this mating thing is over… right? * he muses inwardly. *Fuck, what if I don't? Why am I changing like this? I wish I could figure this stuff out. *
At that point in time, he realizes something he wish he hadn't… Grimmjow knows what's going on with him. If he just asks the ex-Espada maybe he'll explain this whole personality change to him. He would know if it's permanent or not! Then the problem reveals itself when Grimmjow strolls in after his morning scout… Ichigo's pride hasn't changed one bit. He sighs miserably and drops his head into his arms atop the table he's sitting at, wishing for once his pride had vacated his person along with his independence.
"What's up?" Grimmjow wonders. "You look like you just got your ass handed to you by that sissy Quincy."
"If you don't tell me, I'll toss your ass outside for the other Alphas."
"… You wouldn't," Ichigo growls.
"I'm a feline, we'll do just about anything to satisfy our curiosity," the teal haired male grins.
"… I was just thinking about… stuff."
"Okay, let's go."
The orangette yelps in shock as he's lifted off his seat, Grimmjow tossing him over a wide shoulder and heading in the direction of the door. In a panic, the teen starts beating the other's back and trying to squirm out of his grasp. He doesn't want to go outside, he doesn't want to be defenseless in the midst of a thousand or so Hollows looking to use him for their own pleasure. At the thoughts swimming through his head, tears start to trail down his cheeks and he fights harder.
"Okay, okay, p-please put me down! I'll tell you! Please, just put me down! I… I don't want to go outside! I'm s-sorry!" Ichigo cries.
Grimmjow stops upon hearing the smaller male bawling, sighing in irritation before changing his direction and setting Ichigo down on his couch. The vibrant haired teen is shivering in his fear, wiping away tears with that familiar scowl on his face, and Grimmjow actually feels bad for scaring him. He didn't think it would effect him this badly, he was just messing around… he's far too possessive to just set Ichigo outside and walk away. He sits down beside Ichigo and wraps his arms gently around the Beta, nuzzling behind his ear in a gesture that usually makes a Beta feel safe.
"Alright, calm down," he says soothingly. "I wasn't actually gonna throw you out, just calm down. Now, tell me what's wrong. What's gotten you so upset… besides me messing with you."
"I don't like being like this!" Ichigo growls bitterly. "I hate feeling so… helpless! Is it always going to be like this? Am I always going to be so dependant and pathetic?"
"You aren't pathetic," Grimmjow purrs. "You're just effected by Hueco Mundo, that's all. Mating season is the worst time a Beta has to suffer, as it drives them crazy with want and need. You're different from the Hollows here, you're effected but you're also not effected as badly."
"But I don't ever feel like this!"
"You're young, Ichigo," the older male chuckles. "I've gone through a thousand mating seasons, probably more. This is only your first, which means Hueco Mundo is going to try especially hard to get you to fall. All these things you're feeling? They'll be with you forever, but you won't feel them as distinctly as you do now. Okay?"
"… Do I need an Alpha?"
"Well… generally, Betas do need an Alpha. But sometimes they're very choosy about who that Alpha is. Hallibel didn't have an Alpha until she met Stark, but she was strong enough and stubborn enough to stand on her own."
"What about me?"
"You're young, Ichigo. I'm certain Hallibel had a few Alphas before she managed to stand alone, that's just how it goes. A more dominant mate will protect you and act as a safe zone for you, a place you can run to when things start getting a bit too much. For instance… Seireitei. They put a lot on your shoulders and sometimes that's not good for someone as young as you. At your age, you never should've gone to war with Aizen. I'm sure you're still having nightmares about that, right?"
"If you had an Alpha, they could make those nightmares go away. The mere trace of their presence would put you at ease, because you know they'll take care of you. Their reiatsu will calm you even in the midst of war, especially if they're very powerful. The stronger they are, the more you'll stay calm."
"Will you be my Alpha?" Ichigo mumbles.
"I already am."
"How do I know that?"
"… Do you feel a tingle on your skin when my reiatsu touches you?"
"That's how you know… it's instinctual. Your body knows I'm different from other Hollows, so it's trying to tell you that by acting differently when in my presence. That feeling will go away once I mark you, but it'll be replaced by a warmth that fills your chest and soothes you."
"This mating stuff is complicated."
Grimmjow leaves Ichigo to think about everything, the other flopping back on the bed in frustration at all the new stuff he has to mull through. He can't deny Grimmjow is attractive, can't ignore what the man's voice does to his overactive hormones, but the fact remains that they should still be enemies. Seireitei would frown upon Ichigo mating with a Hollow, which is enough for Ichigo to deny himself that warmth and safety.
The sands are strangely beautiful as the moon shines over them, the light dancing across the grains and making them shimmer like diamonds. Ichigo is finally allowed to walk with Grimmjow, as it's been two weeks and the majority of the more powerful Hollows have already mated. It took a while, but Ichigo is used to the fact he feels so good in Grimmjow's presence. All the other has to do is look at him and the orangette is purring like mad, which was seriously difficult to get used to.
"Grimmjow? Is it almost over?" Ichigo wonders. "Is it almost time for me to go home?"
"One more week, Ichi," the taller male says with a stretch.
"Will you open the Garganta for me?"
"Of course I will, as soon as the third week is over. I promise."
"Thank you," Ichigo smiles sweetly. "You know… I think I'm going to miss you when I leave."
"I am difficult to forget," the other teases.
He smiles when Ichigo laughs, the sound so perfect to his ears… but that smile is soon dropped in favor of a threatening hiss. Before Ichigo can ask what's going on, his arm is grasped and he jerked backwards to the sand behind Grimmjow. Curiously, he looks around the older male's leg to see a large Hollow reminiscent of a raptor stepping toward them.
"You have an unmarked Beta," the Hollow hisses. "I want her."
"She's mine, so back the fuck off!" Grimmjow snarls.
"She's unmarked, she belongs to any who can subdue her."
"Come and try, if you've nothing to live for."
The Hollow, a Vasto Lorde from what Ichigo can tell, leaps at Grimmjow with teeth and claws bared. Ichigo gasps, but the older male doesn't seem to notice. He ducks the blows sent his way, crouching low before darting close and slashing with his claws. Blood sprays the ex-Espada's white clothing, staining the sands as the challenger staggers back before attacking again. Grimmjow seems so calm, so confident, and his movements are calculated and subtle. The raptor Hollow continues to try and skirt the feline to get to Ichigo, his claws always only an inch or two away before he's thrown back. Finally, he manages to get by and Ichigo gasps in pain when claws dig into his upper arm. Grimmjow sees red, his claws elongating as they slice the other Hollow's head clean off his shoulders. Amber eyes are wide in shock, Ichigo's breathing rapid and panicked, and the teal haired Alpha gently lifts his Beta into his arms and heads home to heal his wounds.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Grimmjow wonders.
"I'm fine," Ichigo murmurs.
He's in the tub, resting his chin on his arms as they rest on the side. He's pouting, Grimmjow can easily tell this as he washes the smaller male's back. It took him a while week to get this close to the shy orangette, so he's careful not to do anything to scare the younger male into pushing him away. He's been sulking for about an hour now, refusing to get out of the tub and go to bed. For that hour, he's been attempting to coax the other to bed as patiently as possible… he never knew he had such a well of patience before pursuing the violent orangette!
"Something is obviously bothering you… You should tell me."
"How else am I supposed to help?"
"I'm just so tired of all this!" Ichigo snaps in frustration. "You don't know what it's like for me! You're an Alpha, you don't have to worry about getting forced down for your first time and raped with the possibility of death! Why couldn't I have been an Alpha… or at least stayed human."
The last part is said in an almost whisper tinged with sadness and bitterness, telling Grimmjow Ichigo didn't like being human one bit. It kind of hurts to think Ichigo would rather be something he absolutely hates than be a new species like the teal haired Arrancar, but he can understand to some degree. Alphas around Hueco Mundo aren't all as nice as him, they don't like potential threats and they usually use mating seasons as opportunities to completely humiliate their submissive opponents before killing them… or leaving them too broken from taking their pleasure out on them that they don't have that fire to fight anymore. If that ever happened to Ichigo, Grimmjow would likely go on a killing spree. He loves the fire and determination that lights up his Beta's eyes, loves the passion he fights with… he hasn't stopped thinking about it since the war. Ichigo left an impression on Grimmjow, one that will be burned in his soul for every lifetime to come.
"Ichigo, I will never let that happen," he assures seriously. "You're with me, you're mine for the remainder of mating season, and I'm a possessive creature… I will never let another touch you while you're mine."
"I swear it on all the power I will ever possess. Now let's go to bed."
The night is as it always is, the air filled with the screeching of Hollows on the hunt and Ichigo curled tightly to Grimmjow's side as he shivers in fear. Two weeks and the orangette still hasn't gotten used to life in this barren white desert of night, telling Grimmjow he could never keep the younger male as he originally wanted to. He sighs after a long moment, running a hand over his stomach in thought. Ichigo never noticed… but his Hollow hole has been gone since he evolved.
"I don't want to!" Ichigo snaps.
"I'm not leaving you here all alone," Grimmjow sighs in exasperation. "Come on, nothing will happen."
"Nothing was supposed to happen last time!"
"I didn't say that, I said it should be relatively quiet," the ex-Espada growls. "You've been hiding in here for three days, Ichigo, you need to go outside!"
"You'll be with me, okay? I already told you, I won't let anyone take you from me."
"… I don't want to get hurt again!"
"You healed in a day!"
"That doesn't mean it didn't hurt, damn it!"
"Don't be such a baby!"
They've been arguing for three hours now, Grimmjow feeling the hairs on the back of his neck raising in warning with each second. Someone is in his territory, more than one someone, and he needs to get Ichigo out of here before the orangette realizes it too and panics. Finally, he can't wait any longer without them running into whoever it is in his territory.
"Ichigo, we have to leave, now!" he snaps. "I know you don't want to go outside, but things will be much worse for you here, trust me!"
"… Someone is here?"
"More than one person has trespassed in my territory," he sighs reluctantly. "I'm sorry didn't tell you, but I didn't want you panicking. Please, Ichigo, we have to leave now."
He grasps the younger male's hand and hurries out of his flat, pulling Ichigo behind him as gently as possible. Whatever Hollow that's gotten into his territory is fast, moving as quickly as Grimmjow… or at least, very close to his own speed. He scoops Ichigo into his arms and picks up his pace, using his sonido to cover more ground and attempt to draw these challengers away from his own home. He darts into the twisting tunnels in the caves nearby, randomly taking the turns while keeping in mind where he is.
"Grimmjow, I think I know that reiatsu signature," Ichigo murmurs.
"I'm not taking that chance, Ichigo. Whoever it is, they're strong. I'm not going to chance losing you to them," he says. "If I'm even knocked out, which is most likely what's going to happen if I don't drive them away, you'll be open to attack."
"… I don't know… I really think I recognize them."
"Shit, I can't lose them!" Grimmjow growls low in his throat. "Hold on, I'm gonna drop you off here and head back to face them."
"Ichigo, please. If you're with me and something happens, it'll just make it easier for them to mount you," he reasons. "Just stay hidden here, okay? This nook is small enough to keep you hidden and no Alphas can fit in there."
"… Fine, but be careful!"
Grimmjow nods, setting Ichigo down and watching as he slips into the small nook in the tunnel wall. After he's certain Ichigo's set and his reiatsu is clinging strong enough to the area to mask Ichigo's, he turns and heads toward the challengers. He leaps near the mouth of the tunnels, claws ready to tear flesh and fangs bared in a threatening snarl… and he's slammed into the sands.
"Whoa!" a small girl's voice chirps. "That was close, wasn't it, Kenny?"
"Damn right, almost took my head off."
"Hey, that's Grimmjow!"
"I thought he was dead."
He knows the last two voices, his blue eyes wide as they move to the two. A redhead with tattoos stares back at him curiously, the short raven haired girl with large violet eyes glaring. There are a few others… a man with long black hair, a short girl with raven hair pulled back in two long pigtails, a blonde that feels like a Hollow standing beside a pigtailed girl that feels the same, and a bulky male with light blue hair and piercings… That's the one that has him snarling and hissing, attacking the minute he manages to throw Kenpachi's heavy foot off him.
"Kensei, look out!" the blonde male shouts.
"What the fuck's wrong with him?" Renji snaps. "He didn't even act like this in the war, did all this time drive him crazy?"
Grimmjow swings, claws barely missing the powerful man's face as he leans away. Kenpachi manages to pin him one more time, but Grimmjow is still swinging. Yachiru cries out as she tumbles from Kenpachi's shoulders as he dodges, Grimmjow gasping and reaching to catch her in his hand. From her seat on his hand, she looks back and nervously gets down.
"Th-thank you," she murmurs. "But you have to stop being mean. Kenny and the others are looking for my friend."
"He's our friend, too, Yachiru-Fuko-Taicho," Rukia mutters.
"… You're looking for Ichigo?" Grimmjow says cautiously. "Why?"
"A Hollow pulled him through during a fight," Rukia explains. "We've been trying to get here, but Urahara had trouble opening a Garganta. He said something was sealing it off and he had to wait for that hold to weaken a bit."
"Did you see him?" Renji wonders. "It would be fairly difficult to miss a spot of bright orange in this place."
"I did… but it won't help you. He can't leave here right now," the teal haired male growls out as his eyes stay glued to Kensei.
"So you know where he is! Is he okay?" Shinji asks.
"Take us to him!"
Grimmjow hisses when Kensei steps closer, the hair on the back of his neck raising in warning. Shinji sets a hand on the taller man's shoulder, pulling him away and watching Grimmjow relax. Just to test this reaction, he pushes Hiyori forward to get no violent response… and then Kensei again, to receive the same reaction.
"Awe, what's the matter," Hiyori teases. "Is the kitty cat angry?"
"Hiyori… what time of year is it?" Shinji wonders absently.
"Isn't it the changing of seasons in the living world?" Byakuya wonders quietly.
"Shit! That's right!" Shinji gasps. "We have the worst timing ever! How many of our group are Betas? I know Hiyori is."
"Hmm… Yachiru, Rukia, Soi-Fon, your girl, and I think Renji might be."
"I am not!" Renji snaps.
"Do you bottom for a lover?" Kensei smirks.
"… That doesn't mean I'm a Beta," the redhead mumbles with a bright blush.
"Man you guys really stepped in it, didn't you?" Grimmjow snorts in humor as he stands. "Well, don't expect me to cater to all of you, I have my own problems."
"Where are you going?" Rukia wonders. "What's going on?"
"You have exactly four days until you can leave with your entire group," he states as he heads back into the tunnel. "Stay put, I'll be right back. Then I'll take you into the center of my territory… you should be relatively safe there."
"Why are you helping us?" Renji asks as the other disappears.
It's a few minutes before they hear his footsteps returning, the group quiet and tense as they search for any Hollows that might make them a meal. they're powerful enough, they're not too worried about their own safety… but Ichigo was pulled through without his Zanpakto and his Kido skills aren't the best. Grimmjow steps back out, Ichigo right behind him with wary eyes. At the sight of his friends, he brightens considerably and goes to hug them all. Grimmjow immediately pulls him away from Kensei, hissing in warning at the other.
"Trust me, he's not into me like that," Ichigo says flatly.
"He's an Alpha, they're all into you like that."
"Let's go before the other Alphas catch the scent of your submissive friends. The last thing I want is to attract a whole fucking army of horny dominants," Grimmjow mutters. "That's never a pretty sight."
Rukia tries to argue, but Ichigo is already following Grimmjow blindly back to the flat. Since he feels it's safe enough, the others shrug and follow their orange haired friend. It's not as long a walk back as it was when they left, as Grimmjow took a lot of scrambled paths and doubled over a couple times to throw their pursuers. When they all enter, most of them are speechless. There's only one bedroom, so Grimmjow makes it perfectly clear he's not generous enough to sleep on the couch. It's after dinner that everyone is sitting in the living area and watching Ichigo curiously.
"You've been here the whole time?" Rukia wonders.
"Well, the first couple days was non-stop running and no food," Ichigo blushes. "But right when I was about to get caught by a Vasto Lorde, Grimmjow showed up and brought me here. He's been taking care of me ever since."
"And you believe him when he tells you that the Garganta is sealed," Byakuya frowns.
"Yep. Shiro told me the same thing. Is that why you guys are here? Because he told you what happened?"
"Yes, but it seems he left out a few details."
"I knew we couldn't trust that pathetic excuse for a parasite," Soi-Fon growls.
"Hey, he takes good care of me!" Ichigo argues. "You're just not used to him, or you would've been able to tell he was holding something back."
"Okay, Ichigo, what's going on here?" Shinji wonders. "Why can't you get through the Garganta?"
"Hueco Mundo seals all Betas inside during mating season… Grimmjow says its an attempt to encourage reproduction, or something. I just know I want to go home as soon as possible."
"Guys, it's about time for bed," the Arrancar calls. "Ichi, if you're staying in here with me, you better move your ass."
"Okay, I'm coming!" Ichigo calls. "Goodnight, guys, I'll see you in the… well… morning."
"You're actually gonna sleep with him?" Soi-Fon asks in disbelief.
"Yeah… I feel safe next to him," the orangette says in confusion. "It's where I've been sleeping since I got here."
He hurries into the room, leaving the door open a crack. Grimmjow is already in bed, fluffing up his pillow in an attempt to get more comfortable. Ichigo jumps into bed next to him, pulling the blankets over his slender build and snuggling into his own pillow. Once the more dominate of the two is lying down, Ichigo curls up against him with a purr.
"You made sure to give them the extra pillows and blankets?"
"Yeah, Grimm, I set them out."
"I don't have to worry about them killing me in my sleep, do I?"
"Of course not, you're the only one that can make a Garganta," Ichigo teases.
"Ha, ha, very funny. Goodnight, Ichi."
The Shinigami don't get much sleep, the howls of Hollows just on the edge of Grimmjow's impressive territory keeping them awake. Rukia wonders how Ichigo isn't sleep deprived after so long listening to this at night, but keeps her thoughts to herself. Hiyori seems to be just fine as she snoozes as Shinji's side, which is amazing in itself. Soi-Fon gets up, tiptoeing over to the bedroom door and peeking in.
"What are you doing?" Rukia hisses. "Get away from there."
"I'm just curious," she argues. "There's no way Kurosaki could sleep through this without a little extra curricular activity. If he's having sex with a Hollow, So-Taicho will have him executed."
"There's no way, he wasn't marked," Shinji points out. "Not temporarily or permanently. Although, you really can't blame him for wanting a temporary mark in this environment."
"Why?" Byakuya inquires.
"That's the only thing that'll keep him from being mounted," Kensei shrugs. "If Grimmjow weren't here, he would've been fucked into the sands the first couple of days. He was seriously lucky to come by an Alpha that didn't mind protecting him without the benefits."
"So… we're all in danger of being raped by Hollows?" Rukia squeaks.
"Well… Hiyori has Shinji, so she's safe. I can take over watch on Rukia, if you guys don't mind. Yachiru is too young to attract them, Soi-Fon can be watched by either Byakuya or Kenpachi…"
"Kenpachi will watch Soi-Fon," Byakuya states. "I will look after my Fuko-Taicho… just in case he really does prove to be a Beta."
"Nii-sama is dating Renji," Rukia grins.
"Rukia! You shouldn't be blabbing other people's business!" Renji blushes.
"You told everyone when I was going to ask Shuuhei out," she frowns.
"No, it's really not."
"Hush!" Soi-Fon snaps. "Where's Yachiru?"
A sound from the bedroom still them all, everyone crowding at the door to see the pink haired Fuko-Taicho reaching to wake Ichigo. The vibrant haired teen isn't the one to wake, though, and they're left holding their breath as Grimmjow's cyan eyes glow in the dark from over Ichigo's side.
"Can I help you?" he inquires a tad cautiously.
"I can't sleep," she pouts. "The Hollows are screaming and I'm scared."
"… Come here," Grimmjow sighs as he lifts her off the floor by the scruff of her neck. "I'll let you sleep here, but you can't wake Ichi, okay?"
He lays back down and she curls up on his stomach, Ichigo grumbling in his sleep before resting his head on the Arrancar's shoulder again. Grimmjow's hand plays with Yachiru's hair until she falls asleep, and then he happily follows the two into slumber.
The longer they stay with Grimmjow, the more the Shinigami are worried about Ichigo. The Arrancar is a good person, but still irritable, and they're slowly beginning to notice things Ichigo hasn't… like the fact his Hollow hole is gone. Questions arise that they can't answer and that's never something they appreciate, but they continue their observations in hopes they catch him doing something they can hold against him. To their surprise, however, he's very patient and calm with Ichigo. He never presses him and always tries to make him happy, though they do have their arguments.
"I really like him," Yachiru pouts. "He's like a daddy! Almost like Kenny!"
"He's nothing like us," Soi-Fon growls. "He's a Hollow, a monster!"
"He didn't have to bring us with him," Byakuya states. "He could've left us to the desert. Not to mention, he's been taking care of Kurosaki for over two weeks now."
"He's just after status," Shinji waves off. "I'm not saying it's a bad thing and I'm actually shocked he didn't force the issue with Ichigo being defenseless like he is, but… he seems to genuinely care for Ichigo and he would be a great Alpha for him."
"He seems to find Kensei as a threat," Hiyori points out. "You think he knows we've been trying to get Ichigo to imprint him?"
"He can probably sense it, he's very powerful… much more so than myself," the muscular Visoreds sighs. "I wonder how Mashiro is doing."
"It doesn't matter, we'll be able to leave tomorrow morning," Shinji says. "What I'm more worried about is… if Ichigo will want to leave."
"What do you mean?" Rukia wonders.
"It's obvious he sees Grimmjow as his Alpha, so he'll want to stay beside him where he feels safest," the blonde shrugs. "He may be a human and he may be part Shinigami, but he's also part Hollow and a Beta at that. He'll feel too vulnerable and skittish without his Alpha nearby… and being two worlds apart isn't going to help matters any."
"We should've consulted with his parasite further before leaving," Soi-Fon sighs. "I had no idea things were so serious and complex."
"Hey, guys!" Ichigo calls as he walks in. "Grimmjow says mating season ended early this year! We can go home right now if we want."
"Awesome!" Renji grins. "But… do you want to come with us, Ichigo?"
"Of course I do, I miss my family and friends," he says in confusion. "Why would you ask?"
"What about Grimmjow? Won't you miss him, too?" Rukia tries cautiously.
"Sure… I guess so. Look, is something bothering you guys? You're acting weird."
"Ichi! Get a move on, I'm not gonna wait forever!"
He grabs Rukia's wrist and pulls her along, the other hot on his heels as they head over to where the Arrancar is standing. Once everyone is ready, he tears open a Garganta and waves the others through impatiently. They go through one at a time, Yachiru stopping to hug Grimmjow's legs as he pats her head. When Ichigo steps up to the portal, he looks back at the man that saved his virtue and quite possibly his life. Uncertainly, he looks toward the portal and then moves closer to the teal haired Sexta. His lips are against Grimmjow's in a quick kiss, the two just barely getting a taste of each other, and then he's pulling away with a blush.
"Thank you, Grimmjow," Ichigo murmurs. "I owe you, you know."
"Let's just say we're even," Grimmjow answers quietly. "Now get going before they think I killed you last minute."
He hugs the taller male, delighting in the feel of his muscles rippling beneath his skin, and momentarily wonders if staying would really be that bad. Grimmjow separates them, turning Ichigo around and giving him a firm push in the direction of the orangette's home and family. The action leaves no room for argument, as Grimmjow knows Ichigo wouldn't survive here and he wants nothing more than the passion and fire within the other to grow stronger daily. Ichigo steps through the Garganta, the lonely feeling that plagued him before all this rapidly sinking it's teeth deeper into his soul. With a labored sigh, he heads toward home… and wishes he could head the other way.