Sinful Part VII

Fear and Flowers

Curled up in the safe nest of satin sheets, Ichigo was dreaming quite peacefully about the soft and sensuous caresses of his lover when he was ever so harshly awakened in the minutes following nightfall. Hands on his shoulders shook him urgently until he blinked open his eyes blearily, confused and still under the hypnotic effects of a deep sleep.

"Wha-... what is it?" he murmured, his blurry vision focusing in on the shirtless figure above him. His questions were only heightened however, when he saw the face of his angel and knew instantly something was wrong. "Grimmjow, what are you - "

"No time to explain," the man cut him off abruptly, his hands finding the orangette's and shoving a bundle of fabric into them. "Come on, Ichigo, hurry up and get dressed."

His voice gave him away no matter how calm he was trying to be, the mortal detecting that hint of alarm in it that sent his own warning bells ringing, loud and clear over the onslaught of panicked thoughts that came as a result. "What's wrong? What's going on?" Ichigo demanded, allowing the other to usher him up out of the bed. "Tell me, for God's sake! I can hear it in your voice that something's wrong."

"We're leaving," Grimmjow said, appearing distracted even as he looked Ichigo in the eye. "Now. So get dressed and get anything you want to take with you. Nelliel's waiting for us in the car."

"Leaving?" Ichigo repeated even as he shook out the bundles of fabric he'd been given, revealing two different pieces of clothing, a black long-sleeved The Cure shirt and a pair of jeans, and started to strip himself of the pajama pants he was wearing. "Where are we going?"

"Tokyo," was his answer. He drew in a deep breath in order to ask that the Fallen elaborate on where they were going specifically and why the hell they needed to get there in such a rush. It definitely fell under the category of "need to know" in his opinion. However as he began to pull on the jeans and opened his mouth, Grimmjow suddenly whipped his head back to stare over his shoulder at their closed bedroom door. The unspoken tension in that moment was enough to make Ichigo fall silent, pressing his lips together in order not to make a sound while he buttoned his jeans up.

What could the Fallen angel sense that he couldn't? Whatever it was, it couldn't be good, he realized as dread accumulated around him like ominous storm clouds.

Once he'd gotten the shirt on over his head, Grimmjow grabbed his hand and led them over to the double doors that he barged right through, the force enough that they banged against the wall with a heavy thud. Ichigo struggled to keep up with the man's brisk pace, almost stumbling over his own two feet as they swept down the hallway.

The living room was deceptively quiet as they entered the space, as still and silent as a painting. It was also dark, illuminated only by the city lights visible through the grand wall of windows that cast everything in a dusky bluish tint. Aside from his own footsteps and soft breath, there was no sound. It was a tense atmosphere, the air heavy and thick with a prelude of warning and it was almost suffocating. Ichigo didn't even realize that Grimmjow had stopped until he bumped into the other's torso, bringing him to an abrupt halt in the dead center of the room.

His eyes flickered up to study Grimmjow's profile and he noted the blunette's clenched jaw and narrowed gaze. Something was definitely wrong, Ichigo could feel it in his bones. There was almost a tangible presence of something sinister and it seemed as if the shadows became even darker, more menacing. His hand instinctively tightened around the larger one in his grip and he could feel his own expression mirror the angel's, his usual scowl deepening as the spine chilling feeling of impending danger steadily increased with every passing millisecond.

Then, right before his eyes, Ichigo witnessed as what could only be described as black smoke that crackled with bolts of electricity appeared on either side of the wall of windows, swiftly rolling through the air to completely cover the transparent portal. He heard Grimmjow inhale sharply and could feel it when the man tensed, figurative hackles raised.

"Grimm, what exactly is that?" Ichigo asked once he found his voice, nearly whispering.

"Trouble," Grimmjow said gruffly, his deep voice rumbling with his hatred for whatever omen this black smoke represented. The orangette didn't have time to ask for an explanation of just what kind of trouble before the ebony haze spread along the last bit of the wall and just as suddenly as it appeared so did jagged lines in the glass, cracks spider webbing the whole way through. Ichigo watched in stunned dismay as the windows then shattered in an explosion of crystalline shards.

He'd only managed to throw his arm up to shield himself against the tidal wave of broken glass when he was abruptly surrounded by darkness, not the malicious pitch black of the strange smoke but rather a familiar, comforting sort. Blinking a couple times, Ichigo was able to make out the distinct outlines of glossy ebony feathers and the phosphorescent glow of brilliant blue orbs. With a small sigh of relief he realized that he was encased within the fold of Grimmjow's wings, their massive spanse enough to protect them both from the shower of glass fragments that could've easily shredded through their flesh.

Then, without warning, Grimmjow swept his wings out to their full extension, the gust of wind they created enough to clear the area immediately around them of the inky smoke that had glided into the living room through the now gaping hole where the glass wall had once been. Ichigo's gaze roamed across the space, taking in the spectacle of the clouds of smoke separate and solidify into human silhouettes. They looked like shadows that had abandoned their owners and run off on their own.

From where they leapt and bound along the perimeter of the room there was a chorus of wicked, discordant cackling, their laughter stemming from a purely sadistic glee.

"A Fallen and his human, how cute."

"What pretty hair. I want to touch it."

"Aw, it looks like big, bad Blue doesn't like us very much."

"But we haven't even done anything... yet."

One of the shadow creatures darted out from the ring they had formed, a long-fingered, clawed onyx hand reaching out for Ichigo. Whatever ill intent it might've had was deterred, however, when a pulse of cerulean light met it in midair, a distinct sizzling noise accompanying the creature's howl of pain and outrage. Two more black forms shot out, crossing in front of the two targets and to the opposite place in their circle. They moved as swiftly as Fallen angels did, blurring with speed, and Ichigo could hardly keep up with them as they weaved in and out of the moving circle.

"Mmm, the boy smells so good. So pure."

"I'm so hungry. It's been decades since I found someone so... appetizing."

"I don't see why we can't have just a taste."

"Yes, just one little bite."

The jaws of one shadow creature snapped shut by his ear and it was then that he saw they had white teeth in their ebony maws, every last one of them in two different rows pointed and lethally sharp like those of a Great White. In the next second it was repelled by the same burst of light blue radiance, its high-pitched shriek piercing the air. Ichigo wanted to glance back at Grimmjow or question what they should do but he was rooted to the spot, unable and unwilling to turn his back on the horde of evil beings that surrounded them. Fortunately, a moment later the blue-haired Fallen spoke to him in a low, even tone as two more creatures were shocked by the mystical light that had to be summoned by the angel himself.

"Ichigo, close your eyes."

"W-what? I don't think so," Ichigo sputtered under his breath, his eyebrows shooting up to his hairline.

"Poor little Ichigo."

"Come play with us, Ichi."

"Yeah, we promise to be good."

"Trust me," Grimmjow said through gritted teeth from over his shoulder.

"Okay," Ichigo breathed, knowing that he would implicitly trust the man with anything and everything up to his own life. He subconsciously took a step backwards closer to the other, bringing him near enough that he could feel the body heat emanating comfortingly from his lover. Then he drew in a deep breath, holding it as he quickly screwed his eyes shut. He could still hear the obscene laughter and taunting jeers that came from the shadow creatures and it unnerved him, as if he wasn't high-strung beforehand.

However, crystal clear through the malevolent cacophony sounded Grimmjow's voice, even though it was so quiet that Ichigo couldn't discern what he was saying. But this was also due to the fact that the words were in a language he didn't understand, a dialect that must've been more ancient and rare in present times than even Latin or Greek. Still able to sense the smoke beings as they played their game of cat and mouse, Ichigo made an effort to concentrate on the angel's voice and keep his eyes closed no matter how his instincts screamed at him to open them.

Not even a second after Grimmjow fell silent, there was a beam of light blue brilliance so bright he saw its glow behind his eyelids. The howling shrieks full of agony and rage that followed made him cringe they were so horrific and there was a warmth on his face like he was sitting before a roaring fire. The entire phenomenon lasted only a few moments but to Ichigo it seemed much, much longer as he waited for the light and the screams to fade away. Once they did he hesitantly peeked through one eye and saw that the room was empty of the shadow creatures, though it was distinctly chillier than usual since the night air now wafted breezily through the empty window frames.

"How did you do that?" Ichigo said, turning around to face the other man. Grimmjow's hardened glare softened into his trademark arrogant smirk, his diamond blue eyes meeting the younger's own dark amber.

"Practice," he said. "Years and years of practice."

"And why did I have to keep my eyes closed exactly?" Ichigo said, unable to stop himself from attempting to satiate his curiosity.

"Because that much concentrated power would blind any human who looked directly at it," Grimmjow answered, tucking his large wings in so they arched above his head. The orangette was about to inquire what language he'd been speaking when a dark shape fell over them, carrying with it a thick aura of evil that he sensed almost immediately. He spun back around to see that the sole survivor of the pack of smoke monsters had hid among the shadows in the corner and now stalked closer, growing bigger every second until it was as tall as the ceiling.

"You're strong, Sexta, to have exorcised my brothers and sisters. It's almost a shame I have to kill you," it said in its raspy, mockingly conversational manner. That was when it pounced, one taloned hand raised to strike whilst it flew at them, aiming straight for Grimmjow.

Ichigo didn't know how he moved so fast or even why he moved at all. All he knew was that one second he was watching the creature as it came at them and the next he was holding his hand out in front of him, palm facing forwards. The instant the shadowy figure came into contact with his fingertips a small flare of glittering golden flames burst from his own flesh and seared through the blackness of the creature's form. It was like watching a piece of paper burn, the hole encircled by smoldering embers swiftly growing larger and larger, consuming everything,

The creature screeched, the sound like fingernails on a chalkboard or the metal of a tire scraping against the street. It desperately clawed at the gaping wound burning it out of existence but it was already too late. As its upper body turned to ashes, it stilled and it was just the shoulders and head that were left when it spoke again.

"I'll be waiting for you in Hell, Ichigo."

And then it was gone. Ichigo could hardly believe what he'd just witnessed with both sound mind and body that couldn't have deceived him into what had to be some kind of a delusion or hallucination. He slowly lowered his arm, dropping his hand back by his side, and he stared with wide eyes at the place the creature had been, nothing of it left, not even ashes. What had just happened?

"I think it's time I ask how you did that, sweetheart," Grimmjow said and upon looking over his shoulder Ichigo felt those beatific blues run him through like an enemy's sword.

"I-... I don't know..." Ichigo said, trailing off and gazing down at his right hand, flexing his fingers and rotating his wrist as if he could find something different there that would give him an answer, but there was nothing. "I was just standing there when that thing came at us, at you, and then I was already watching it burn. I don't know what I did, all I remember is thinking that I couldn't let it get to you, that I would do whatever I had to to keep it from hurting you."

Grimmjow was silent, his lips pressed together in a firm line and his brow furrowed as he appeared to be deep in thought. The mortal of the two felt his cheeks warm under that searching gaze, his gaze down and off to the side as he tried to stifle his natural reaction to squirm while being unashamedly scrutinized by the man he loved. "So, what were those things, anyway?" he said, wanting to leave the subject of his bizarre display of some kind of magical feat behind.

"Demons, the lesser kind that are created from the souls of humans in the Pit unlike the greater demons that were born as immortals. They materialize on earth in clouds of black smoke unless they possess someone."

"And what were they doing here?" Ichigo said, looking back up at the Fallen with slightly narrowed eyes.

"Looking for us," Grimmjow replied, his wings fluttering a bit before he let them disappear in a cloud of sparkling air and rolled his shoulders as the appendages settled beneath the skin of his upper back. "I had a feeling they would be coming today."

"Which is why we're leaving, I take it," Ichigo said as the blue-haired male's arm wrapped around his waist and guided him to face the opposite direction. He hadn't taken a single step forward before Grimmjow's other arm swept under his knees and he was lifted up bridal style.

"There's broken glass everywhere and you're not wearing any shoes," the angel said, cutting off the protests on the tip of the younger's tongue. They moved at a stately pace through the living room and the hallway to the foyer where Grimmjow set his load back on his feet in front of the elevator. "Knowing Nelly she no doubt packed several pairs for you to wear."

"Yeah, and hopefully she has a shirt for you, too," Ichigo said, his lips tilting ever so slightly upwards.

"What, don't like the view, Ichi?" Grimmjow said after pressing the elevator button, gesturing to his naked torso and grinning wolfishly. He knew very well that Ichigo was indeed enjoying the sight of his lover shirtless, the smug bastard. The real reason the human wanted him to cover up was that he didn't want anyone to be able to drink in the vision of a barechested Grimmjow except himself. He loathed the way women, and some men, so openly admired the blunette with all of his clothes on.

"Where are we going that's in Tokyo?" he inquired, stepping into the elevator while his lover followed suit. Grimmjow hit the button for the building's garage and the doors slid slowly closed.

"It's a surprise."

An hour and a half later Ichigo was still wondering what the surprise was as he, Grimmjow, and Nelliel made their way into the lobby of a luxe apartment building that was one of the many skyscrapers in the Shinjuku ward of Tokyo.

He didn't think he'd ever get used to the vast amount of wealth that the immortals he associated with possessed. He felt so out of place among the city's elite that populated an area like this where the finer things in life were a dime a dozen. In his skinny jeans, The Cure shirt, red flannel jacket, and black Timberlands he felt like a teenage delinquent, which he was sure the locals had already labeled him if the disapproving stares he earned were anything to go by.

It wasn't fair, in her white long-sleeved shirt, teal maxi skirt, moccasin boots, and oversized shades Nelliel looked the part of an urban trendsetter that was worshipped for her stylistic flair and don't even get him started on Grimmjow. Though the man would look like a god in a burlap sack, Ichigo had to admit the designer black button down and matching trousers suited him well. If he ever decided to leave the nightlife industry, he could make a killing as a male model.

They took the elevator up to the very top floor, which, like Grimmjow's apartment, was the penthouse suite and therefore the most luxurious (and expensive) space in the entire building. Ichigo wondered who it was that lived there, if it was someone he knew or a new face. He knew better than to ask his lover, who'd just smiled a little and shook his head when the youth had done so in the car. You'll see, was all he'd said on the matter. It was incredibly frustrating.

When the doors slid open Ichigo's ears were immediately assaulted by the thunderous volume of the stereo system inside the penthouse. It took him a couple moments to even make out that the track playing was from an opera, the sonorous male voice booming throughout the entire space singing in Italian.

However, that was nothing compared to the blast of a gunshot that rang loud and clear over the music. Ichigo's eyes went wider than saucers and he turned his head to look up at Grimmjow, stunned to see the man as relaxed as ever like they hadn't just heard someone shot a gun mere feet away from them. He would've questioned the angel if he was sure it was a good idea to stay there for however long considering the mental state of whoever lived there wasn't exactly up to par but there was no way anyone could hear him over the music.

He cautiously tred behind Grimmjow through the hallway carpeted by a hodgepodge of overlapping oriental rugs and lined with lit sconces that reminded him of a late eighteenth century palace. They entered what must have at one point been a living room but now instead resembled what he imagined the storage room of a museum must look like. The furniture pieces were all different styles and were scattered about the space with no sense of order. There were also more oriental rugs on the floor and makeshift draperies fashioned from brightly colored silks and tapestries. Several potted plants, lamps, bird cages, and a massive fireplace were also located throughout the room.

The room was also stacked with piles and piles of books, all of them thick, worn, antique volumes in all different languages. The rest of its accoutrement was varied but no less interesting, a set of historical medical equipment, jars containing dead animals floating in formaldehyde, half melted candles, oil paintings, and stone statues and busts were just a few of the eye catching items.

Facing the fireplace was a brown leather wingback chair that was almost as tall as Ichigo and on its left arm rested the elbow of the occupant of these odd trappings. He shared a look with Nelliel, who just shrugged as she too had been left out of the loop about who and where they were headed, though she'd been much more excited about being surprised than he.

Grimmjow strode away and through the maze of furniture and collectibles, Ichigo watching as he walked right up to a modern stereo system partially hidden by a burgundy and gold tasseled drapery and hit the off button. The deafening silence that fell over the apartment lasted all of maybe five seconds and then there was another explosive blast as the gun was fired again, the bullet soaring across the room to whizz past Grimmjow's head, missing by a hair of an inch. Not that the blunette even blinked.

"Tha' was my favorite part, I'll 'ave ya know."

Ichigo visibly deflated, the telltale watery voice all he needed to hear to figure out the identity of the one in the chair. Of course it was none other than his new 'bodyguard' that owned this strange collection he housed in his living room.

Shirosaki rose from his seat, rounding the chair and revealing his outfit of crimson and gold robes fit for a sultan. In his right hand dangled a pistol that had to be two centuries old and inlaid with silver and ivory. His calla lily white hair hung loose like always, though Ichigo spotted a few braids with colored beads on the end in the alabaster locks.

"Ah, I jus' love it when tha Commendatore drags Don Giovanni ta Hell. Even after almos' two an' a half centuries since we saw its debut it still plays on my heartstrings," Shiro said to the Fallen angel who'd cut the music, a coy smirk appearing on his pale lips. " I remember ya didn' like it tha' much though, Grimm. Ya never were one fer tha performin' arts."

Ichigo frowned as he tried to wrap his head around the fact that apparently Shirosaki and Grimmjow had attended the debut of Mozart's first opera in the late 1700's. He definitely couldn't picture the two men dressing in the fashions of the era, especially the powdered wigs the nobility and the wealthy wore at the time. At that image he was forced to stifle a chuckle, deciding that he was lucky enough to meet them in modern day as the current trends complemented them much better.

"Ichigo, my pet, how nice 'a ya ta come visit me," Shiro said liltingly, almost gliding over to where the orangette and the only female were standing at the edge of the room. He stopped right before the mortal, hiding his antique pistol behind his back and then bringing his hand back holding not a gun but a bouquet of blood orange roses. "I believe these suit ya nicely."

"Uh, thanks..." Ichigo said, reminding himself that Shirosaki had saved him from Ginjou and he should just suck it up and take the stupid things if only to show his gratitude.

"An' Miss Nelliel, wha' a pleasure ta 'ave ya in my humble abode," Shiro greeted the green-haired woman, kissing her hand. Nel chuckled and shook her head fondly at the Hell Hound.

"Shirosaki, you charmer you, you haven't changed a bit," she said and the albino's smirk grew a little wider as he let go of her hand. "I only wish some of your good manners would rub off on Grimmy. He could certainly learn to be a little more cordial. I'll never understand how Ichigo puts up with him. I'm only his ward and I can hardly stand hi-... Ah, well what I mean is he is a little blunt sometimes." Nelliel smiled sheepishly and Ichigo knew without looking that she was receiving an icy glare from across the room.

"Grimm's a lil rough 'round tha edges now, sure, but ya should've seen 'im back in tha day. All he had ta do was wink an' a nun would shed 'er clothes fer him. Ain't tha' right, Grimm?" Shirosaki said, gold on black eyes swiveling over to where the man in question was still standing by the stereo, his muscular arms crossed over his chest. "A regular Casanova this man, couldn' so much as walk down tha street without gettin' mobbed by tha lustful hordes. I can' even mention wha' I've walked in on over tha years fer modesty's sake."

"Oh really?" Ichigo said, words springing forth from his lips before he knew what was happening. He could feel the little thorns on the rose stems prick his hand from where his grip had tightened around the bouquet. "Why is it that you can't even mention it in the name of modesty, Shirosaki? I would love to hear all about what you 'walked in on'."

Shiro opened his mouth to reply but he wasn't able to get a word out otherwise before Grimmjow was at his side, having flown over faster than Ichigo's eyes could see. The Fallen put his hand on the Hell Hound's shoulder in what looked to be a very firm grasp. "Another time, perhaps. I need to speak with you. Privately," he said stiffly to the albino.

"Very well," Shirosaki sighed as if greatly burdened, his eyes rolling heavenward and then they disappeared leaving nothing behind but a gust of wind that ruffled Ichigo's tangerine spikes.

"That hound really does know how to get a rise out of Grimmy," Nelliel commented, shaking her head and frowning in disapproval. "It's been thousands of years since they forged a truce after Grimmjow Fell but you could swear they were still enemies by the way they fight like cats and dogs. Oh well, I guess it's one of those 'guy things.'"

"Shiro wasn't lying about Grimmjow and his... exploits, though," Ichigo said after a while, loosening his hold on the rose stems as he felt a few wet droplets trickle down his palms that was most likely blood.

"No, Shirosaki may be a lot of things but a liar isn't one of them. It's not in his nature, he's above doing something as common as lying to get what he wants," Nel said, her wheaten orbs studying his face next to him. "He wasn't trying to hurt you, you know, he's clearly far too fond of you to do that. He just wanted to get Grimmjow in a bit of trouble."

Ichigo nodded but didn't glance away from where he was boring a hole into the back of that wingback chair with a look that could kill. He didn't want to be so upset over the painfully obvious fact that his lover had had more than his fair share of sexual conquests during his two millennia on earth. However, his emotions wouldn't listen to reason as they often did and he found himself burning with jealousy, snapshots of Grimmjow and other men and women together flickering through his mind like an old silent movie.

"I'll go put these in water and then put my stuff in one of the spare bedrooms," Nelliel said, prying the bundle of blood orange roses from Ichigo's hands. He slackened his grip on the flowers, allowing her to take them and her luggage with her as she carefully weaved around the cluttered living room and down a separate hallway.

Once she was out of sight, Ichigo sighed and realized he was already exhausted from the night's events. Curious as to what books the Hell Hound would stack in his personal quarters, he dragged his feet as he walked around a mahogany hutch that was piled high with thick texts. Running his fingers along the spines and thick, yellowed pages, he discovered that nearly all of them were written in a language aside from the one he knew. However, at the bottom of one stack he was pleasantly surprised to find a book with Japanese characters etched into the work leather.

A Complete History of God and Demon Mythology in the Far East, he read from the title page after he wedged it free. Flipping through the first hundred or so pages, Ichigo arrived at the beginning of a chapter entitled Inu-Gami, or Dog God. He laughed softly at the coincidence and began eagerly scanning the text for more information.

An Inu-Gami was a familiar that was invisible to everyone except the one who summoned it, who would use it as a guardian or as a means to enact revenge on some unfortunate soul. Nevertheless, there was a great risk that the spirit would turn on their master and the process of creating one was horrific, which included burying a live dog up to their neck and then placing food just out of reach so that it starved to death. Wrinkling his nose in distaste, Ichigo closed the book and held it in one hand so he could shuffle the others aside to put it back in its proper place.

The heavy volume slipped from his grasp not a moment later and the orangette braced himself for the loud thud it would make as it hit the floor yet it never came. He blinked as he saw the book hovering inches above the ground, held aloft by a broad hand.

"Doing some light reading?" Grimmjow said, his lips quirked in a ghost of a smile. He straightened to his full height, cerulean gaze falling to the book's front cover. "Useful information if you're going to stick with me, I suppose. I don't think the mutt would mind if you kept it."

The angel placed the thing back on top of the stack of volumes and no sooner had his touch left it that Ichigo practically jumped him, throwing his arms around the other's neck and sealing his lips over those temptingly full ones. Grimmjow grunted in surprise but Ichigo didn't care, threading the fingers of one hand into tousled blue locks and nipping at the other's bottom lip. He placed a series of light, quick kisses on the man's mouth, melding his upper body to that firm, solid chest, and finally Grimmjow responded.

A mountain of books tumbled to the floor as Ichigo was backed up onto the hutch, his legs immediately coming up to wrap around the immortal's waist and cinching them tightly so that they were pressed against each other. Ichigo slid a palm up and down the other's chest and abdomen, feeling the lines and planes of those perfect muscles. He broke away from their heated liplock to trail kisses along the column of a corded neck, gently biting the juncture of the neck and shoulder. The bronzed flesh tasted natural and masculine as his tongue swept out to lave over the Adam's apple.

"Fuck, Ichigo," Grimmjow's deep, rough velvet voice rumbled, his chest vibrating like a predatory cat's purr of satisfaction. His strong hands caressed Ichigo's back, one grasping his neck from behind and pulling him away from his ministrations so their lips could meet again.

Ichigo slipped his palms up the hem of Grimmjow's shirt, savoring how the smooth, warm flesh felt under his touch. He parted his mouth for the blunette's tongue to enter, the wet muscle sliding up against the sensitive spot on the roof of his mouth. Humming dreamily in pleasure, he hooked his fingers underneath Grimmjow's belt buckle, fumbling with the irritating thing as he tried to undo it.

Suddenly those lovely lips and sinful tongue drew away and Ichigo scowled, mouth pillowing into a displeased pout. His eyes opened when the other's hands encircled his wrists and pulled them from their work on the front of that belt. "Why are you...?" he murmured, not coherent enough to put together a more eloquent inquiry.

"As much as I might want to right now, I'd rather not take our relationship to the next level in the mutt's place where anyone could walk in on us," Grimmjow said, his glittering sapphire pools dark yet brighter than usual.

"So what? Let them see, I don't care," Ichigo dismissed, moving forward to capture his uncooperative lover's lips again and very put out when said lover leaned away from him.

"Well, I do. I'm a very selfish man and I don't want anyone to see you like this except me," Grimmjow said, snarling a bit at the end.

"You certainly didn't seem to have a problem doing whatever you wanted with all of those people who oh so willingly jumped into your bed in the past," Ichigo bit out, jerking his hands free of the other male's hold. He knew he was being childish and petulant, he really did. But try telling that to your hormonal side when it took Grimmjow's actions as a rejection and said in a little voice in the back of your head that it was because he didn't want you badly enough to further indulge in amorous activities. It made his chest ache and his eyes sting, which was humiliating in and of itself.

"Because they didn't mean anything to me!" Grimmjow growled sharply, his tone harsher than what Ichigo had expected and making him flinch. The angel grasped his chin, lifting his face so that he was forced to lose himself entirely in the sparkling electric blue of that soul-sucking gaze. "I'm not going back on my word. Now do me a favor and stop trying to persuade me otherwise, you're tempting enough as it is."

"I'm sorry," Ichigo said breathily, guilt welling up within him at ever thinking Grimmjow was anything but perfect. He didn't deserve the man's affections or love. "I just wanted to be close to you, even though I'm the one who said we should wait in the first place. I guess I never was very patient."

Grimmjow didn't say anything, instead inclining his head and kissing him again. It was a chaste liplock, just the simple gesture of pressing their lips together, and they broke away at the same time.

"Aren' ya two sweet as a slice 'a apple pie," came Shirosaki's silvery voice and Ichigo peered over Grimmjow's shoulder to see the Hell Hound had returned. Oddly enough, the albino was balancing a fine silver Western tea set and tray on the fingertips of one hand and twirled a strand of his ivory hair around his finger with the other. "Tea, anyone? 's my own special brew."

Grimmjow's lip curled and Ichigo heard the almost silent snarl that escaped him, placing his hands on the Fallen's biceps and squeezing slightly in an attempt to placate him. Grimmjow backed away far enough that the orangette could scoot off the hutch. Ichigo led the way over to where Shirosaki had placed the tea set on a customary Eastern low lying table, kneeling down on one of the plush cushions around it. Grimmjow lowered himself to the floor beside him, sitting with his legs bent in front of him and resting his elbows on his knees.

"So Ichigo, love, yer angel 'ere tells me yer in need 'a someone tha' has my own... unique set 'a skills," Shiro said once he'd poured everyone a steaming hot cup of tea that was a dark purple, almost black, and had a fruity aroma. Ichigo briefly wondered what could possibly be in anything Shirosaki made but decided to ignore the list of various oddities that came to mind and just taste it. He was almost surprised to find it was rather good, if not incredibly sweet.

"Apparently," was all Ichigo said, eyes cornering over to watch and see if Grimmjow said anything.

"Ya don' seem ta take this very seriously, pet," Shiro commented, tilting his head to the side a little and narrowing his exotic eyes as he searched the human's visage for something unknown. "Ya must be either very brave er very stupid, which is it?"

"Watch your mouth, Shirosaki," Grimmjow muttered, shooting a glare across the table to the demon, who paid him no mind as he continued to stare at the boy.

"To be honest I'm just trying to keep up with what's happening around me, which isn't too easy considering how little I know of your world. But I'm not going to sit around and cry about it like some spineless wimp, that's not me. So I'm sorry if I'm not shaking in my boots, terrified of what might be around the corner, but you're going to have get used to it if you're going to be around me all hours of the night," Ichigo said, setting his silver filigree teacup back down on the saucer.

"I can' say I'm surprised, Grimm wouldn' fall fer no pussy," Shirosaki commented lightly, circling the rim of his cup with one ebony nailed fingertip. "I ain' met many humans tha' can hang wit' us immortals, 'specially in tha past century er so since they all became comfortable an' soft wit' television an' shoppin' malls tha' hand feed everythin' to 'em. But I could tell from when we firs' met tha' ya were different, pickin' up a demon in disguise an' takin' 'im in when ya thought he was jus' a lost lil' puppy an' then standin' yer ground against a Fallen angel without blinkin' an eye. 's all very impressive, ya see."

Ichigo frowned as he pondered what the Hell Hound had said about him, unsure of why the other thought that he'd done anything extraordinary. All he'd done was pick what he believed to be a stray dog that needed his help out of the garbage and refused to let even Grimmjow take him away so that he could make certain that it didn't end up back on the street. However, apparently seeing that he was lost, Shiro elaborated.

"'s easy enough ta tell ya've had it rough yer whole life, experienced some real shit tha' would've blackened even tha kindest 'a hearts 'till they were less than human, either makin' 'em sadistic an' twisted as a demon er as apathetic an' cold as an angel. But not you, pet.. After everythin' ya still 'ad a soul pure enough ta feel compassion even fer a stray animal. Ya were strong enough ta hold on ta yer humanity an' tha's rarer an' more precious than any diamond."

"I... I wasn't thinking about any of that when I picked you up. I was just doing what I had to," Ichigo said, gazing down into the murky depths of his tea,

"I know, pet, I know," Shirosaki said, a soft smile gracing his colorless lips as he brought his cup to them to take a sip of tea. "But back ta tha point; Grimm can' be by yer side twenty four seven an' though yer tougher than ya look ya need an immortal of high standin' ta watch yer back, a.k.a yers truly. I asked Grimm ta bring ya here an' I've delegated my responsibilities as Hell Hound ta some friends 'a mine fer now so I can keep a close eye on ya at all times."

Ichigo slumped forward in a visible sign of resignation, there was no way out of this it seemed and so he was reluctantly going along with this whole bodyguard deal. How bad could it possibly be, right?

Deafeningly loud opera music and gunshots popped into his thoughts and he rubbed his temples as the first headache of what he assumed would be many made itself known, the pounding in his head not assuaged even a bit. Well, at least he would have Nelliel there to keep him company and he wouldn't be entirely alone with the white-haired demon.

"How long do you think I'll be staying here?" he asked.

"As long as it takes, sweetness," Shiro answered, grinning toothily. "Now, let's move on ta tha next order 'a business. Tell me wha' happened earlier when ya managed ta stop an' exorcise tha' demon. Grimm already filled me in on wha' went down but I'd love ta hear it from yer perspective so indulge this mangy ol' mutt, would ya?"

"Um, okay," Ichigo agreed hesitantly, shifting from his kneeling position to sit Indian style on his cushion. He stole a glance over at Grimmjow but he was focused on glaring at his untouched cup of tea like he could blow it up with his mind. "Truthfully I don't really know what happened. One of the... demons survived Grimmjow's exorcism spell and it snuck up on us. It said that Grimmjow was strong to have exorcised the others and that it was almost a shame it had to kill him. Then it flew towards us and... I don't know why or how I did it but I held out my hand to stop it from reaching him and when it touched me this burst of flame shot out from my fingers. The demon caught fire and it slowly burned him into nothing from the inside out and... well, that was the end of it."

Shirosaki simply hummed and leaned forward to rest his chin on his hand, appearing to be deep in thought. "Ya already know wha' this is, Grimm, don' ya?" he said airily, not moving his gaze away from the human on the other side of the table.

"I haven't been able to come up with another explanation thus far," Grimmjow muttered hoarsely, still glowering at his teacup so intensely that Ichigo could practically feel his frustration. "And even so, it's impossible, he's still human."

"He's strong," Shirosaki said, serious as Ichigo had ever seen him. "Ya 'ave ta feel it, too. He's been touched by tha creator Himself."

"I would not say such things if I were you, Shirosaki," Grimmjow growled, his head finally rising so that he could pin down the albino with his breathtaking arctic stare, his hands clenching in and out of tight fists. "He's had nothing to do with us since before I Fell. Have you truly forgotten He has forsaken us all? Whatever this is it could not have less to do with Him."

"Who are you guys talking about?" Ichigo cut in, not liking to be left out of the loop, especially since this directly concerned him.

"Someone we knew a long time ago, pet. It doesn' matter righ' now," Shiro said, sipping his tea and closing his eyes for a brief moment as if collecting his thoughts then reopening them to focus on the orangette. "I think I know wha' caused ya ta fry tha' demon, even if Grimm refuses ta acknowledge it."

There was a warning growl from the blunette but he said nothing further and allowed for the Hell Hound to reveal his theory to an eager yet wary Ichigo, who subconsciously leaned in closer in anticipation. He was grateful for whatever pieces of knowledge he could gather when there was so much he didn't know.

"When a consort of an Aspect becomes immortal they, er at least tha four in existence, gain control of a simple but powerful gift. Fer example, take tha girl tha' stitched me up tha other night, tha firs' consort ta ever find their Fallen. She 'as a gift fer healin', which is why I was back in workin' order tha next night when I got ta escort our guest ta 'is new home."

Ichigo felt a shiver run up his spine at the thought of Ginjou and his gruesome end, his screams still fresh in the boy's mind. "I gather that you're trying to slow walk me to a conclusion but if you wouldn't mind, I would prefer it if you got to the point," he said, rubbing his right temple in a second attempt to ease some of the throbbing that hadn't let up since it'd started.

"He thinks you have somehow tapped into your power while you're still human," Grimmjow answered in the demon's stead.

"Oh... oh, I see," Ichigo uttered a little faintly. He knew he'd signed up for weird when he started a relationship with a Fallen angel, but just when he thought there couldn't be any more surprises - BAM there's a madman with a gun or a horde of demons or whatever else fortune had in store for him. "It was just a fluke, anyway so it doesn't matter what it was, right?"

"If ya say so, Ichi," Shiro said nonchalantly, sighing a little. "I'll jus' clean this up, can' have a mess in my lil' slice 'a sanctuary, can we?"

The white-haired man's figure blurred, all the pieces of the tea set vanishing from the table and then disappearing through the doorway along with him. Ichigo instantly took the opportunity of being alone with Grimmjow, sidling over to sit right beside the man and laying a hand on his upper arm. The angel's head turned toward him and he looked so forlorn Ichigo could hardly stand it, wishing he could somehow make everything better and have the man dazzle him with that brilliant smile of his. "I can't believe you're actually gonna leave me here with him," Ichigo said, hoping to lighten the mood if only for a fleeting moment.

"As long as you let him fawn all over you like he does you'll be all right, kid. If I lived with him for decades with only the occasional bloodshed you can survive a few weeks," Grimmjow said, his lips curving up into a reassuring smile that held no real feeling or warmth. "Nelly will be here to keep you company and you can read about everything you want to know about our world in all of these books."

"And what will you be doing, exactly?" Ichigo asked, raising a tangerine eyebrow. Grimmjow's gaze trailed off to stare into space with a dangerous look on his face that made the other helplessly shudder.

"I'm going to visit some old friends of mine," was all the man said.

"Will you be coming back soon?" he asked, hating how small and childlike his voice sounded. He felt like a child lost and alone in a crowded marketplace. Ever since they'd met he and Grimmjow had almost consistently spent their hours together and he'd liked that, enjoying an entirely new sensation of security and contentment he could find in his lover's presence. He didn't want to all of a sudden lose that when he'd so recently been blessed with it.

"I'll stop by as often as I can, every few days or so," Grimmjow answered and Ichigo's heart leapt up into his throat, making it hard to swallow past the lump there. "I'll be traveling in and out of Japan for the most part so when I'm out of the country I'll call you to check in."

"You'd better," Ichigo told him.

Grimmjow didn't say anything to that, returning to face the younger man once again and lifting a warm palm to cradle his cheek. Ichigo leaned into the touch so gentle one would have not believed the angel capable of initiating it, because it was only ever meant for him and that knowledge took his breath away. "I hate you for leaving me behind," he whispered.

"I know."

They were silent for the next minute or so, a comfortable, genuine moment in time where all they needed was to be together. It wasn't meant to last though and they looked up as Nelliel walked slowly into the room, looking terribly guilty for interrupting something so intimate. Ichigo looked up at her, noticing the cell phone in her hand. "The car's waiting at the curb to take you to the airport, Grimmjow," she said almost apologetically.

"I'll be down there in a minute," he said and she nodded, placing the phone back to her ear and confirming what her ward had said while she padded back down the hallway.

Ichigo pushed himself up off the floor and stood there as Grimmjow followed suit, the two of them standing as close as they could get without touching. He could feel the blunette's peppermint scented breath on his face and he let his eyes flutter closed, inhaling the man's distinct, intoxicating smell and committing it to memory. However, not wanting to drag this already excruciating farewell on any longer than it had to be, he placed his hands on either side of Grimmjow's face and pulled him down into a searing, soul blazing kiss.

The angel's arms wrapped around him like a steel trap and Ichigo revelled in how high he felt like he was flying, like nothing could touch him as long as Grimmjow held him. But like all good things it had to end and they parted, the orangette left breathless and a little lightheaded from the intensity of that kiss.

"Be good while I'm gone, sweetheart," Grimmjow said, smirking devilishly.

"No promises," Ichigo replied, not missing a beat. "Now get lost."

Then he was gone.

Ichigo smiled sadly, crossing his arms over his chest and huddling further into his red flannel jacket as he suddenly felt cold, already missing that addictive body heat the man he loved emanated like a walking, talking space heater. His eyes stung and his throat constricted but he refused to cry, saving his tears for a time when he might need them for something truly somber and this wasn't it because he would see Grimmjow again before he knew it, however brief and intermittent those visits lasted.

The abrupt blast of noise in the room made Ichigo jump, his eyes finding the culprit standing beside the stereo system that had just been switched back on, picking up right where the Commendatore's song had been cut off. "Much better," Shirosaki said, his silvery voice audible above the music even though he spoke at a normal volume.

"Don't you think we should turn that down?" Ichigo said, raising his voice so that he could hear himself let alone the demon hear him. Thankfully, Shiro heeded his suggestion and adjusted the volume on the stereo to a more appropriate level, though it was still rather loud.

"Yer gonna have ta learn ta let loose a lil' if yer gonna be bunkin' with me, Ichigo," Shirosaki said, shaking his head as if the other both amused and exasperated him. He gracefully moved to where there was an antique loveseat with leather upholstery, beckoning his house guest to him. "Come, sit with me, pet."

Ichigo bit his tongue in order not to rather boldly insist that the albino stop calling him that ridiculous nickname and reluctantly trudged over to where the other was reclining on the loveseat, sitting down next to him. "Thank you, for letting me stay here," he said, his manners getting the best of him.

"Tha pleasure's all mine. 's been rather lonely in 'ere lately," Shiro said.

"But... I mean, aren't you worried that if I'm here those demons or whatever else is out there will follow?" Ichigo asked, leaning forward to rest his chin in his hands. He didn't believe for a second that the demon would be scared of anything at all, the very notion almost laughable, yet he couldn't help but feel guilt that he was burdening his host by staying there now that there was apparently a price on his head.

"Oh, they will but they ain't gettin' in," Shiro said and when Ichigo shot him a confused look, he sighed and dug one ebony nail into the colorless flesh of his palm. The mortal watched him warily as a droplet of crimson blood appeared and he pressed his thumb against the spot.

Ichigo's jaw dropped as neon red markings flared to life on nearly every square inch of the room, forming glowing scarlet symbols and signs that he recognized from a few of the demon's books and those that he'd seen in the portal to the Underworld that had formed in the elevator when the Hell Hound had dragged his tormentor down into its depths. A watery chuckle escaped pale lips as Shirosaki apparently found his reaction entertaining.

"Ya 'ave much ta learn 'bout tha other side, young grasshopper."

Well, Ichigo definitely had the time.

A/N:I hope you guys enjoyed the chapter. I know everyone was jonesing for more Shiro, including me (he's so much fun to write), so you can expect him to pretty much be in every chapter update all the way through to the end. Also Grimmjow will not be absent for too long, I promise. Until next time, then. :)