Chapter 20

"It worked," Ulquiorra said, a bit surprised. Urahara stood before him on a plain in Germany, close to the Espada mansion, though not so close as to be found out. Well, yet. Ulquiorra hated the sense of familiarity that blew through him, though it was anything but comforting. Still, Grimmjow was close. He could at the very least sense it and take comfort in that.

Ah, no. He supposed he couldn't.

The air around Urahara reeked of demonic essence. It whipped around him carelessly, or seemingly so. It was a reiatsu to be sure, a dark and heavy one like most demons possessed. It was carefully tailored to appear on a sub-par level to the general average power of demons. Only just, though. Urahara had taken every precaution to make it seem as though he was a nothing, forgotten as quickly as he was registered in the mind.

"You should know better than to doubt me!" Urahara said in hysterical insult.

Ulquiorra rolled his eyes but said no more. He was on edge now. So close to his Grimmjow. So soon he would see him. But then, for how long? There was no guarantee of anyone coming out of this alive.

He quickly assessed the possible casualties he would be faced with in the near future.

Any number of the Espada. Well he could very well not care less about them. Szayel and Nnoitra posed no threat to him at all. If he were to end up fighting either of them, he would come out victorious. Stark, however, was a problem in and of himself. Ideally they could escape without him noticing or illicit an apathy in him towards their flight from the mansion. More than likely he was only keeping Grimmjow there based on a pre-existing plan of Hallibel's, and she was of no consequence any longer. Perhaps Stark had moved on in his grieving to the point he would let them go sans trouble.

But he doubted it. More than likely, whoever was to face Stark would die. Best to keep Grimmjow away from him then.

Neliel fell into the Espada category as well; ex-Espada though. Her demise would be unfortunate, perhaps, but not earth-shattering. Not for him anyways. Grimmjow would likely not be so pleased if she died though. He would try, then, to assist her. However he would not place his or Grimmjow's life below hers. Should push come to shove, Neliel would die before either.

Urahara then. Urahara was a top priority to be sure. As Grimmjow's only acceptable parental figure available, two dead and one incompetent, he could not very well leave him to suffer the wrath of a long and torturous death at the hands of his former colleagues. The problem with protecting him, though, stemmed from a lack of knowledge on Ulquiorra's part. He did not know Urahara's fighting style, skills, mechanics or capacity. He could be walking in fully prepared or putting the first foot in his grave and Ulquiorra did not know which. Even upon multiple attempts to pull information out of Urahara, he was rewarded with little productive explanation. Urahara was hesitant at best to reveal his abilities, though he had mentioned he could 'handle himself just fine,' though in a far more flamboyant and less eloquent way. If he was telling the truth, then Ulquiorra would not worry for his safety. If he was lying, then Ulquiorra would never know. Urahara likely did not know how his particular set of skills, whatever they were, would match up to the Espada's. He only wished to see Grimmjow freed. A noble venture, if not somewhat frustrating for Ulquiorra who wished to see him come out alive.

Best not think about that then. What would be, in regards to the unhinged seer-sensor, what have you- would be. He could only hope that, left to his own devices, he was as powerful as he seemed to be.

And Grimmjow. His beloved Grimmjow. He would be out of this place under any circumstances. Ulquiora's own life would be forfeit before Grimmjow died in that god-forsaken (most literally) hell hole (most definitely).

Perhaps he should attempt some effort into saving his own gangly hide as well.

"Yes I suppose I should," he commented distractedly. Ulquiorra was surprisingly bereft of hair across the majority of his body; save for his head, a bit up his tail extending into his spinal region and a small treasure trail of sorts that Grimmjow could amuse himself with for hours. Therefore, due to his lack of bodily hair, he was unfamiliar with the feeling of the popular human phrase of one's hair standing up on the back of one's neck. However, should he ever entertain the notion of that experience, he imagined it would feel something like this.

Ulquiorra had never thought he would return to this place, excluding the unlikely scenario in which he gained an infinite amount of power and returned to do in the remainder of the Espada to be free of them completely. And yet here he stood, possibly weakened by his elongated stay on primarily holy ground and severely out of practice in all things fighting or even demon related. He was not returning on favorable terms and he could only hope it would not hinder Grimmjow's escape.

But such was life.

"Ha! You're nervous. That's sorta funny, you know?" Urahara grinned cheekily. Ulquiorra gave him a flat, aggravated look.

"Such attitude will incur the Espada's wrath. Best remember your place when we get there," he growled.

Urahara hummed softly to himself for a moment, eyes growing distant as he peered over the tops of the trees towards the imposing visible spires of the Esapada mansion.

"I think…" he began, voice calm yet somehow imposing and foreboding, which of course had Ulquiorra on edge immediately. "This will probably be the last time we meet."

Ulquiorra started, teeth clenched behind a tight jaw. Urahara seemed contemplative.

"Just a feeling," he answered his unspoken question, the one hanging in the air around him, or so Ulquiorra assumed. How far did Urahara's sensing powers extend? He had thought it only demon reiatsu but maybe… "I hope I'm wrong, but I don't think so. This life is hard, though, so maybe it's not so bad." Urahara glanced at him, his eyes holding a strange foggy mysticism, a great power untouched and preferably staying as such. "Wouldn't you agree?"

"I do not intend to give up my life so easily," he replied, much more confidently than he felt. "Why do you?"

"I never said that," he murmured darkly, shadows falling over his eyes. "Perhaps we'll meet again in hell one day, but until then, live on Ulquiorra. Live to die another day, another way, another life."

Such strange sentiments. "It sounds like something humans mark their graves with, such unsettling words. A sign of a turbulent and tumultuous end."

"Or what is etched in the dirt with broken, bloody fingernails of a loved one when the body is never found."

Ulquiorra blinked and turned away from him. "Ah, so much for levity then."

"Have I rubbed off on you? Oh I feel so special now!"

Ulquiorra rolled his eyes but chose not to comment. They couldn't put it off any longer, he supposed. "How long?"

"Hmm? Ah, yes. Well, you said Szayel will have something to amplify reiatsu in his room, correct? To send out mass orders via reiatsu to the lower level demon personnel. You know it must be nice to have a slave army at your beck and call," he said, tapping his chin in thought.

"It is," Ulquiorra said flatly. "It was, though I prefer my life now."

"Barreling down the Espada mansion in a rescue mission?"

"There's that levity."

"In any case," he continued, waving his hand dismissively. "I'll just make some modifications and project my own reiatsu through it, pinpointing it a few miles from here. The slave army will go to fight, or most of them I guess, and boom! The mansion is cleared."

Ulquiorra was unimpressed with the plan. There were flaws, glaring holes in it the size of the ones in his own lacklustre personality. There was no guarantee Urahara would be able to figure out the contraption or even configure it before anyone caught on to what they were doing. Not all of the demons would leave the mansion and certainly none of the Espada. The Espada would be on high alert if a supposed seer army was coming after them, so it would be more difficult to escape their notice. It may also be suspicious, this faux army coming in right after Ulquiorra returns with an unidentified 'demon.' They would have to fight their way out and God help them in that. They had no sense of how long it would take for the plan to begin or carry out and once it was underway, they would be on their own as Ulquiorra and Grimmjow spending too much time with Nel or Urahara would send up a red flag. They'd probably all die.

Love was such an amazing pain in his ass.

"How long will it take, then?" he asked.

"Hmm, provided I find the room easily enough and break in, and provided that Szayel is not in there which would delay me further, an hour, two maybe."

Ulquiorra's gaze dropped and his thoughts drifted. So short a time. So quick it could all be over. Was this the span of his life, then? Grimmjow's? Just a few hours? No, less.

"I see."

Urahara gave him a sorrowful gaze, hinting that, beneath all of the humor and farce, there was genuine concern and fear within him. "Well, are you ready?"

"It does not matter," Ulquiorra said flatly. "Let's go."


Stark drummed his fingers across the chair he resided in currently. It was high backed, the seat plush and comfortable, and clearly old and antique, though only more grandiose for it. It was not really a throne, he didn't have one of those and never thought it necessary. After all, Stark didn't need a throne to assert his authority or incur fear in lesser beings; that is to say all other beings. It was just simply a chair that was set up in one of the many drawing rooms; his own to be exact. He entertained (see: intimidated) guests in this room or held impromptu meetings with one or two of his fellow Espada. It was less formal than the norm, the norm being a meeting room or some such other. He likely should have conducted his current business in a more formal setting, but he was always of the mindset that comfort was no hindrance to fear. It even escalated it.

A lesser demon offered him a cup holding a thick red substance within. Its practiced hand did not shake as to accommodate the mighty numero Espada and not spill the drink all over him, and yet the rest of it seemed to tremble. As if it had trained itself to only keep its' hand steady. Ah, but such was the expectation around its superiors, the most superior of all even more so.

Stark tilted his head slightly towards the two uncommon entities within the room. The demon bowed its head deeply before scuttling, like a bug really, over to them and holding up the sterling silver tray to them, two cups still in place. It was exquisite china, opaque and hand painted centuries ago. Only the best for them.

To his right, Neliel sat poised on the loveseat cushion nearest to him, back straight and eyes downcast towards her own cup. She had her legs daintily crossed and a frown marring her otherwise pretty face. However, her eyes were not dull and lifeless as he had become accustomed to seeing her before her departure. They were sharp, keen. It gave Stark a sense that something more was afoot here than he had previously thought.

Beside her was Nnoitra, draped over his half of the loveseat in a bored fashion. His legs were spread out before him, his two top-most arms thrown over the back if the couch while he picked his teeth with a third, the other three alternating between scratching at whatever he felt like, draping themselves on the material before them, or stroking Neliel in some way or other, a touch to which she had no reaction. On the surface, at least. He had thrown his own cup at a wall some time ago after downing the beverage and bitching about the "prissy fucking dainty little shit" not belonging in "man's" hand. How undignified. But, Stark supposed, it wasn't like any of them expected any form of decency from him anyways.

To his left sat Szayel on a less impressive chair than his own, leaning on his hand poised on the arm of it while swirling his own cup unassumingly. He had a slight smirk to his lips, but then that was normal. Every now and then he'd begin to tap his foot to convey his boredom but a sharp look from Stark always stopped it. He'd learned his lesson. And Stark had been even more temperamental as of late.

And somehow he doubted that would change with the advent of this new issue. Ulquiorra sat straight faced on the loveseat across from him, only taking up one half of it himself. Despite this, his confidante as it were stood by his side, cheery smile combatting the mood as he stood prim and proper with his hands behind his back, large bucket hat covering his eyes. Apparently Ulquiorra had met this odd demon specimen along his travels and it had recognized him as an Espada almost immediately, offering to come along on Ulquiorra's quest for God knows what to escape mundane boredom. He'd heard of weirder reasons.

It still sounded a bit suspicious.

Nevertheless, the lesser demon could hardly pose a threat to their wait staff, let alone the Espada. Ulquiorra likely brought him along to remain in a position of power in relation to another. Power was something demons were miserable to let go of. How interesting that he'd found a way to circumvent it even while leaving his esteemed position of power.

He glanced at the clock, sighing when he noticed ten minutes had gone by and nothing had been said. That new demon was starting to creep him out with that overly cheerful smile. Was he oblivious to the mood or uncaring of it? Likely the latter.

"Ulquiorra," Stark started, crossing one leg perpendicular over the other, resting it on his knee, and leaned on his fist over the arm of his chair, head tilting sideways a bit. "Welcome back. What brings you around these parts?"

Ulquiorra's blank stare turned piercing and infuriated then. Ah, he remembered how much fun it used to be to tease weaker demons. He wished he could enjoy it as much as he used to.

"Where is he?"

Hmm, much angrier than he'd thought. "Ulquiorra you wound me. No greeting? How unlike you to forget your manners." Despite the airy, playful note to his voice, his expression was stony and cold, overly threatening. Ulquiorra had best learn his place around his new, easily-snapping leader.

Ulquiorra's eyes narrowed. "Where is he?"

A bang erupted throughout the room. Stark's gun smoked slightly in his hand. The other Espada members looked at it warily, having not even seen it being drawn. Ulquiorra was stony faced as ever though, unfazed by the bullet that had passed by his head close enough to blow through his hair.

"Pardon?" Stark asked, position not having changed since the beginning of the meeting. How casual he always was laying out punishments and rules. He did miss Hallibel's enforcing voice coming after it though.

Ulquiorra did not falter though. His eyes remained locked with Stark's and his visage was unmovable.

"I said," he stated in that flat, icy tone. "Where is he?"

Another bang resounded in the room. A scratch ran the width of Ulquiorra's left cheek, dark blood beginning to drip from it. Ulquiorra made no move to either having felt it or to wipe the dripping blood from his ashen face. He did not even blink, regardless of how much it had hurt. Stark's gun shots were known for excessive pain.

Stark wordlessly got up from his chair and, hand still holding the gun in his right hand. The loud one. Lilynette. His other hand was hanging limply by his side, though it occasionally brushed the silent gun still on his hip. His left-handed gun. The silent one.


He wondered if he'd have to rename his guns, now that both names brought up too much pain to deal with.

In any case, Stark walked at a leisure pace over to Ulquiorra before stopping in front of him. Ulquiorra's eyes had not followed him. They remained glaring, or rather blankly staring, at the chair before him even without Stark in it. Stark regarded him, looking the pallid, wiry demon up and down a few times. He looked worse for wear, certainly. Too long spent on holy ground, most likely. No matter his healing ability, it had likely affected him anyways. Such was the curse of holy ground, or rather, the blessing. None could escape it, no matter the strength of the demon. His skin was even more ash-like than before he had left. He had always seemed white and devoid of color, not unlike their own living environment. But now, his skin truly resembled ash, as though it had at once been aflame and had since burned out, leaving behind flecks of white, weak covering over a crumbling whole. If he touched him, Stark wondered, would he dissolve into ashes and fly away.

Ashes to ashes, he thought before he jammed the head of the gun against the side of Ulquiorra's forehead, cocking it with a resounding click that seemed even more substantive in the quiet room.

Finally, Ulquiorra's eyes met his, dead and, dare he say it, bored.

"Where is Hallibel?" he asked instead.

Stark ground his teeth together and jammed the gun hard against Ulquiorra's head, jarring him to the side a bit. He doesn't know, he repeated to himself a few times. Though, by the look on his face, he probably assumes.

"Dead," he said flatly, darkly, underlying miserably.

Ulquiorra's lips nearly quirked into a smirk; Stark could see the near unmovable facial muscles twitch just a bit. But he reigned it in. "If you did not know that, and our positions were reversed, you would ask the same."

Stark gritted his teeth and turned his head away, snarling lowly. How presumptuous. Unfortunately true, though. The gun fell limp in his hand and he holstered it with a quick twirl; a habit he'd picked up when Pantera had been around to indulge his cowboy fantasy. Stark liked thinking he was a cowboy and he blamed Pantera for it. As well as all the little quirks he'd garnered thereafter not limited to his apparel choices and outlaw-esque mannerisms.

"He's fine. Been given his own wing. Well fed, well looked after. Not even in need of company, really. The personnel have been warned not to do anything to him."

Ulquiorra blinked, eyes going owlish in size. Clearly he had not expected a comparatively kingly treatment for a seer. Stark rolled his eyes.

"You thought I'd chain him up in a dungeon or something? Aren't we all passed that now?"

Ulquiorra's look turned incredulous, as well as disbelieving.

"Just trust me on this, he's fine."

Ulquiorra scowled slightly but accepted it nonetheless. Even the demon, What was its' name, beside Ulquiorra seemed a bit perturbed that Stark would treat a seer so lavishly.

Yes, well, fuck 'em. Stark had no intention of explaining such a confusing relationship and history to those he cared nothing about. If Grimmjow wanted to tell him, more power to him. He would need all the power in the world to explain any of this situation as Stark himself could barely comprehend it.

Stark walked back over to his throne of sorts and sat down, cradling his head in his hand in what he hoped was a bored gesture. Likely, though, it came off as more tired than anything else.

"Alright, well, I guess to business then," Stark said, scratching his head lightly. "You will have free reign of the mansion as always, though you will be restricted to inside unless I am with you, being the only one strong enough to subdue you. Same goes for Grimmjow, so feel free to spend time with him. On the off chance you do go for something off the estate, Grimmjow will be kept here as liability and your actions will be monitored. As punishment for your disappearance, however, your time with Grimmjow will be restricted initially to three hours daily. Do with it what you will. Good conduct or periods of time where you continue to follow orders and rules will result in longer time spent with him. As demons live longer than humans, the punishment will continue for an estimated time of five years, pending any breaking of orders or rules at which time it will be extended. As you will only have the initial three hours, you are also to be under an amount of 'room arrest,' shall we say. Twelve hours daily will be spent in your room without company or servants. Get what you need before that." Stark's speech had been clipped and precise. You would think Hallibel was hassling him or something. "These terms are not up for negotiation and, given the severity of your crime, desertion, are every light. I am within my rights to kill your mate and torture you for centuries." Stark's eyes narrowed darkly. "Or worse."

Implications there, Ulquiorra's jaw became tight. He need not ask. Stark would be lonely without Hallibel after all.

Not that Ulquiorra had to know that Stark would never think of doing anything remotely cruel to his former charge. Well except for slamming him against walls via his skull, but Grimmjow totally had that one coming.

"I shall take my leave, then," Ulquiorra stated, rising from his seated position and giving Stark a slight bow of his head in acknowledgement. Stark flicked his wrist in a dismissive gesture.

Ulquiorra walked past him, demon companion in tow, and Stark watched out of the corner of his eye as, beneath the white outfit he'd been forced to don, the material hugged around a strange object. So subtle, and perhaps no one else had noticed. He sighed heavily.

"I'd say I would come get you when your three hours is up, but," he trailed off, voice accepting. "I doubt I'll have to."

Ulquiorra turned his head sharply back to him.

Stark glanced at him again, the corner of his mouth turning up slightly into a condescending smirk. "I'll see you in Hell, Ulquiorra."


Grimmjow popped another grape in his mouth, flicking it up with his thumb so it landed nicely in his upturned mouth. He chewed it thoughtfully, waited a few moments, and then repeated the process.

He was so bored! Stark wasn't even around to entertain him. When he'd asked (maybe snapped at, but who cared really) a small, weak demon scuttling by where he was, he'd been informed that Stark was in a 'very important meeting and is not to be disturbed,' with a petulant 'sir' tacked on at the end of the statement. Oh, how every demon in the mansion loathed his presence, craved his blood. It was sort of amusing. It would have been more amusing if he could actually kill them. He'd then ordered it to get him some grapes- good ones, not those shitty almost-raisins- and let a bit of a subtle warning drop about disobeying or bringing him something poisoned.

Okay so he outright threatened by means of Stark's wrath to get his bidding done and no he wasn't proud of it but for fuck sake he wanted grapes and if he was going to be stuck here he might as well make the most of it, pride be damned!

"When did I become such a spoiled brat?" he sighed, getting up. He was bitter, to be sure. Stuck in the Espada mansion and being able to do nothing but rely on Stark's warnings to protect himself aggravated him to no end. He had never felt so powerless; he had never been at such a disadvantage. He almost wanted to go barrelling through the mansion and trying to kill whatever he could with whatever he could. But alas he was too smart to do something so suicidal. So he would endure and survive for as long as he could.

Besides, it wouldn't be long and there would be a standoff of epic proportions. He hoped he'd have his zanpakuto by then.

He pulled back the curtain and looked into a courtyard of sorts, surrounded by walls and large, spired fences. God forbid they actually give him a nice view, just in case he used it to escape. And what was even the point? The window was surrounded by reinforced steel and the window itself was nearly unbreakable, for humans at least.

At least it was a nice day. Maybe he should go enjoy it. He did have free range of the mansion after all, and the courtyard counted. Most of his time was spent outside back at Las Noches, even the colder months found him bundled up and working on something or other outside. He had wondered why people didn't just tear it down; after all it held no significance to the town and was really just a drain what with his paycheck and all. But apparently a seer had been mayor at some point and it was written in some sort of law-book or what not that it was to stay open. Seer burials happened there sometimes, Las Noches being the only known burial sight of seers in the northern half of his dear U.S.A, and so it got some use. Not really happy use, but some. He often wondered why more seers didn't stay around, being that it was (usually, not recently) a reprieve from demon-hunting and so forth. Maybe it was too obvious a hiding spot? Maybe they wanted to stay near family? Maybe he was just a coward.

And I'm still cowering. Just under a demon's protection this time. Somehow it was worse. At least Las Noches was made to protect him, as opposed to Stark who was made to kill him; past ties to Pantera notwithstanding.

Deep as he was caught in his cycle of self-loathing and introspective philosophising, he was more than aware of a presence approaching his door. A heavy presence that affected him in a strong, almost ambivalent way.. Grimmjow sometimes longed for Urahara's ability. Wouldn't it be nice to know exactly what you were up against? How much power to exert? Made fight or flight a lot easier, to be sure.

As it stood, though, neither was a viable option anyways. So cower under Stark's reputation was the only option left. Pitiful. Pathetic. And yet he sensed, with the weight of the encroaching presence, that fight or flight would not be needed. He knew because he knew. And that was all he needed to figure out who was behind that door.

The door opened roughly, hitting the wall behind it with a resounding bang, and Grimmjow was jarred away from his post at the window.

His breath caught as he watched his lover frozen at the door, eyes wide and hand slightly outstretched towards him.

It's not like Grimmjow thought he'd never see him again; hell he knew he would. He even knew it was him coming. But damn, was it good to see him.

Breaking out in a face-breaking grin, Grimmjow bolted over to his stunned mate, wrapping his arms around his far too tiny waist, wings outspread a bit in shock behind him, and spun him around eagerly. Ulquiorra stabilized himself on Grimmjow's shoulders gripping them tightly and, if Grimmjow wasn't mistaken, shaking just a bit. Grimmjow's smile softened and he arched his neck up to finally, finally, kiss Ulquiorra after so long.

Well, not exactly a terribly long time, a week or so at most, but so much had happened that it just felt so much longer.

And the kiss was everything he wanted, needed, it to be and more. Just soft lips meeting each other, chaste at first but building quickly. Like they needed to assure themselves of the other's presence before really diving in.

It turned rough and needy seconds in. Tongues met each other, teeth scraped lips and breath was let out in harsh pants against the other, if they could even escape at all.

Grimmjow crushed Ulquiorra's body into his, still holding his up, and Ulquiorra wound his arms firmly around Grimmjow's shoulders, nearly choking the already breathless man.

A minute or so passed before Grimmjow finally had to wrench his head back and take a deep, lung-expanding breath before letting it out and dropping his head onto Ulquiorra's shoulder. He felt a gentle tug on his leg and looked down to see Ulquiorra's tail wrapped around it once again. He smiled again.

"You're okay," Ulquiorra said breathlessly. Grimmjow put him down to get a better look at him, though maybe more his sore arms' sake. Ulquiorra held his head between his two claws and let them travel down, over his neck and shoulders, down his chest and around his side, tracing over his bared abs and his cut waist, dipping around his hips and up and down his back once before, maybe a bit perversely, squeezing two clawfulls of his ass. Grimmjow was a bit shocked, but this even paled in comparison to Ulquiorra's black claws quickly running around his front and dipping below the waistline of his pants to firmly grab his junk and fondle it teasingly. He pulled back, looking Grimmjow over once more; Grimmjow himself still a little miffed at being left like that. "Stark told me you were okay, not even tortured or in the dungeons, but he was telling the truth," Ulquiorra said, eyes wide. Clearly, then, this was extremely abnormal.

Story of my fucking li-

Nope! He was not gonna pity party when he'd just gotten Ulquiorra back.

"And you're okay," Grimmjow said. Ulquiorra lifted an eyebrow at him skeptically. Grimmjow rolled his eyes. "You know, you left for the Middle East with Urahara, met Yoruichi, took out a bunch of demons." Ulquiorra rolled his eyes then.

"As if they were any match for me," he said flatly.

Grimmjow shrugged but smile and pulled Ulquiorra back into his embrace, stroking his back lightly and taking care not to get skewered by his horns, and also avoiding the left side which, he was sure at that point, would never heal.

"I know," he murmured gently. "Didn't stop me from worrying though."

He felt Ulquiorra's lips on his neck with just a bit of teeth. He shivered a bit but let him continue.

"You worry too much. It'll drive you to an early grave."

Grimmjow's mood darkened immediately. His fingers brushed against what was probably Pantera- the sword not his past life- strapped to Ulquiorra's back beneath his white uniform. He had noticed before but hadn't cared. But now…

"Speaking of early graves," he said, his voice gravelly and tired.

Ulquiorra's arms around him tightened and his claws dug gently into his back, beneath his ridiculous jacket to clutch at his shoulder blades for purchase. "We will not speak of that, we have no need. You will not be in need of one," Ulquiorra growled definitively. He frowned slightly. "None of us will."

"How many does us count for?" Grimmjow asked, though, really, he sort of guessed already.

"You, me, Nel and Urahara." Of course.

"He would find a way to barge in here with you."

"He is quite persistent."

Grimmjow tapped the sword beneath Ulquiorra's clothes. "Can't believe you got that in here," Grimmjow mused. "Got an undershirt on to keep it from touching you?"

Ulquiorra backed away from Grimmjow and quickly shucked off the jacket, the material dropping to the ground with some weight. Clearly it was made out of a more sturdy material then Grimmjow's own light and baggy uniform. His chest was bare and Pantera's sheath was wrapped around his so-skinny torso, the actual sheathed blade running the length of his snowy white back. Ulquiorra went to remove it and Grimmjow rushed forward, catching Ulquiorra's wrist and glaring heatedly into his eyes.

"No, don't touch it." Grimmjow spun him around and unstrapped the sheath, where it quickly fell to the ground with a dull clatter. Grimmjow's hands, eyes widened and teeth gritted into a menacing grimace. The length of Ulquiorra's back was blistered and burned, cracks even forming from where the blade had lain. The skin was charred and black, but the cracks themselves glowed a fiery orange-red, almost-no, actually glowing with heat. The skin was bubbled in several places and blood was caked everywhere along the back, likely from when he had initially put it on as the heat had likely gotten to the point where it had started evaporating the liquid too quickly to run, albeit for an useable bloodstain beneath the blackened skin.

Grimmjow's voice had escaped him, but he managed a few harsh, forced words. "How long?" he asked, though his voice was actually strained. Why couldn't he feel it? Shouldn't he know if Ulquiorra was in pain? Wasn't that how this mate thing worked? Then again, the wound was from a holy weapon, so did that invalidate it for him as he never would be burned by it? He had no former knowledge to go on for demon-seer mated bonds. But he'd assume that was the case, for now.

"Ever since we left Las Noches," Ulquiorra said neutrally. How could he be so calm? It had to hurt so, so so much.

"God damnit Ulquiorra," he hissed, bringing his fingers closer to the skin, though not actually touching it. "Why isn't it healing?"

"Give it time," he murmured, glancing back at him. "It will take longer."

"Why didn't you let Urahara carry it?" he snapped, grabbing Ulquiorra's shoulder and spinning him back to face him, relinquishing the rough hold almost immediately as though fearful he would hurt his mate further.

Ulquiorra shuffled a bit, eyes darting around before landing back at Grimmjow's. "Because it is yours, and you were not there. I wanted something that reminded me of you, something tangible to hold onto."

Grimmjow scrubbed his face roughly. "Fuck's sake, Ulquiorra. That's a piss poor reason."

Ulquiorra grasped his hands and moved them away from his face, gently squeezing his wrists and bringing them back to cup his own face. "I know," he said softly. "But I love you. And this was all I had of you. Of course I would hold onto it, no matter the pain. It would hurt worse to be away from it."

Grimmjow let out one vicious bark of miserable laughter before dropping his head onto Ulquiorra's shoulder. "How am I supposed to get mad at you when you say shit like that?" he asked tiredly.

He turned his head on the bony shoulder to look up at Ulquiorra, who had a tenuous smile on his lips. "Let's not be mad at each other right now, okay?" he murmured, stroking Grimmjow's hair thoughtfully.

Grimmjow sighed deeply and nodded, kissing Ulquiorra's bared shoulder tenderly before straightening up. "Right," he said, holding out his hand. Ulquiorra's smile turned completely genuine and heartfelt, perhaps amused and touched at such a silly gesture as to being asked to accept him when he already had in the most deep and intimate of ways, and grasped Grimmjow's hand like a lifeline.

"We don't have long," Ulquiorra warned. Grimmjow felt a dark, chilling shiver run down his back. Ulquiorra blinked up at him, feeling the dread, and frowned a bit. "A poor choice of words," he agreed.

Grimmjow let out a shuddering laugh. "Yeah, but I know." He looked back up and yanked on their connected hands, throwing Ulquiorra's body sprawling into his as they clutched at each other. "Let's make it count then, kay?"

Ulquiorra grasped the back of his neck and yanked him down for a full, open mouthed kiss. "Make it count," he sneered when he pulled away, though it was hampered slightly by his breathless voice and the soft look in his eyes. "As if to say that any moment spent with you is not 'making it count.'" His hold on Grimmjow's shoulders became near painful, and yet not strong enough; he could never be close enough, never pressed against him as fully as they both wanted. As if what they wanted was impossible. But we fight for it anyways. We'll fight for it to our ends. "My entire existence is made of moments that meant nothing. I cannot even remember most of them. And yet every moment with you is so vivid, so clear. They replay in my mind when you are not near, as if you are the only thing making my dreck of an existence 'count.' I do not 'count' without you. I do not want to."

Grimmjow almost couldn't take anymore and crushed his lips back against Ulquiorra's. "You're such a sap," he murmured against Ulquiorra's slowly bruising lips.

"I never was before. I suppose it would be your influence." They were so close together that their faces seemed to blur trying to focus on the other from such a close proximity, but they had always tried for the impossible so why stop now? "I am many things I never was before."

"Mmm," Grimmjow murmured, kissing him gently against before sitting on the bed, pulling Ulquiorra against him to straddle him, hands gripped tightly onto Grimmjow's shoulders and starting to slowly grind against him. "And what's your favorite thing you never were before?"


Grimmjow looked up at him with soft, sad eyes. To be alive for so long and to never have been loved; he could barely comprehend. "Yeah," he said, running is hands up and down Ulquiorra's back. "It's nice, huh." He kissed him once, quickly. "You don't have to worry about not being loved again, okay?" He suddenly grinned a bit cheekily. "I like ya, so I think I'll keep ya."

Ulquiorra, for all his stoic and dispassionate appearance, was ever easily and radically moved by any declaration of love by Grimmjow. So even this, this cute little joke of an 'I love you,' had him feeling light and smiling, even laughing a bit at just how absurd, poorly timed and out of place Grimmjow could say something and still, somehow, make it seem right, needed even. Perhaps it was perfectly times, even. Levity in the face of terrible darkness.

"Yes. But you should take me as well," Ulquiorra said, not too subtly grinding against Grimmjow a few times to get the message across. Grimmjow bit back a groan and allowed a smirk to cross his features.

"Yeah, I should," he agreed, kissing him softly. "Missed this," he murmured.

Ulquiorra hummed against his lips and pushed a bit harder against him.

"As have I. Any time spent away from you seems more than I can handle," he purred, pulling away a bit to stare longingly into his eyes. "Lay down," he whispered.

Grimmjow obeyed, laying himself across the bed, pulling Ulquiorra with him. He stopped Ulquiorra before he could kiss him again.

"Is this what you want to do with maybe the last of our time?" he asked solemnly.

Ulquiorra nestled against Grimmjow comfortably, stroking wherever his hands landed. "I feel more real when we are like this," he said quietly. "Having a part of you inside of me, knowing you desire me, knowing you are with me so concretely and garnering equal pleasure, being so connected, it is as though you are imprinting a part of yourself inside of me." He buried his face in Grimmjow's neck, giving the taught skin quick kisses before continuing. "And I have known since we have been together that the only part of my being that is worth anything is the part that is yours. I feel like yours when we are together. It… puts my world into perspective."

Grimmjow rolled them over so he hovered over Ulquiorra. "You're worth everything to me Ulquiorra. I hope you know that."

Ulquiorra just wrapped his spindly arms around his neck and yanked him down for a long, hot kiss. Grimmjow's immediately pushed his tongue into Ulquiorra's mouth, dancing with it in a prelude to their ultimate dance. Panted breaths swept over their faces and were inhaled in their erratic inhales, cementing each other's presence even in their lungs, with the very air they breathed. Their teeth knocked against each other and made a dull almost clink that neither really noticed.

Ulquiorra's claws scraped lightly up and down Grimmjow's back, though the grip was growing harder and he had to restrain himself from just digging in and gripping, holding Grimmjow to him by physical force. His broad shoulders made such good handles, were such a good grasping point that he found his wound arms pulling in the shoulder blades jutting out, even this corded in heavy muscle.

His legs rubbed against Grimmjow's, initially copying his arms movement pattern before he found the grapple he so fervently clung to at which point his left leg came to lock around Grimmjow's waist while his right continued to rub and stroke, growing a bit harder with each turn until it was rutting between Grimmjow's legs in an attempt to bring what little relief he could to his already straining erection encased in the ridiculously baggy pants.

His tail went around Grimmjow's back and yanked on the waistband of his pants, pulling futilely in an attempt to divest him of clothing.

Grimmjow kissed him roughly, needily, just the way they both liked it and, right then, needed it. His hands rubbed Ulquiorra's sides, pushing in to squeeze but not to bruise. He eventually let Ulquiorra's lips go with a ragged breath before attacking his neck with sucking kisses and gentle nips that grew steadily more biting as Ulquiorra kept rubbing against him so wantonly. He eventually just started taking pieces of skin into his mouth and rolled them between his teeth, near gnawing in the presented skin before releasing it and licking it in apology, soothing the darkening skin. Bruises that never lasted, couldn't last if Ulquiorra had wanted them to. And they both knew he did. They both did, truly wanting to leave a visible, blackened mark against Ulquiorra's skin. Even if he never could, Grimmjow would never stop trying. They both just enjoyed it far too much.

He smirked as he grabbed a firm hold on the tail yanking helplessly on his waistband, gently removing it. "If you wanted me naked so bad, all you had to do was ask," he breathed against his lovers' mouth. Ulquiorra just huffed a weak growl at him before yanking his head down for more.

Grimmjow broke the kiss once more after a few seconds and yanked his bell-bottom pants (really, why this outfit?) off before quickly unbuttoning Ulquiorra's as well. Ulquiorra easily lay back and raised his hips to accommodate the already impatient Grimmjow as he pulled them off.

Grimmjow did not, however, crawl back on top of him as he had expected. Instead, warm hands traced up Ulquiorra's bare legs, ghosting small touches before going back over the same small expanse of skin with a rougher, caressing gesture.

Bliss and torture.

Grimmjow nipped gently at his thigh, to begin with.

"I will not break if you bite-!" Ulquiorra cut himself off with a heady gasp as Grimmjow sunk his always sharper-than-average teeth into the junction where his leg connected. No flimsy bite either. The skin nearly gave way under the harsh ministrations but Ulquiorra would have it no other way. The nips receded into more gentle tones until he came to his erection, already standing strong and in need of attention. Ulquiorra could tell where he was going with all of this but also knew his methods. "No time for torture," he said.

"Not even a bit?" Grimmjow said with a teasing edge in his voice, slowly running a finger up his length.

"No!" Ulquiorra snapped, channelling his frustration and totally not biting back a moan in the process.

Grimmjow's answering smile was less teasing and more soft. He took the head in his mouth obediently, very light at first before sucking a bit rougher. Ulquiorra arched his back and tried to buck his hips, but Grimmjow held them down. Ulquiorra appreciated the rough, calloused texture of his hands (hands of a warrior, of strength and survival) holding him firmly and pushing into him. But he wanted more. More feeling from them. He wanted the callouses themselves to leave imprints in his boring white skin.

"Harder," he panted out in a voice much more breathy and less demanding than he had intended. "Everything harder."

Grimmjow got the message. He engulfed Ulquiorra fully in his mouth, pushing harshly down into Ulquiorra's hips with his hands. Ulquiorra could not help a howl of pleasure that escaped his already ragged throat. The first loud sound, but not the last.

It went on, so torturously wonderful, until, when he was right on edge, Grimmjow let go of him completely, hands and mouth, coming off his cock with a 'pop.'

Ulquiorra's head snapped up, teeth bared at being denied. But Grimmjow's answering smug grin was enough to have him rolling his eyes and falling back complacently.

"You are always such a handful," Ulquiorra sighed, feeling Grimmjow come face to face with him before opening his eyes to see the handsome face of his roguish lover.

Grimmjow just gave a noncommittal humming sound, more from the depths of his throat than anything, before nipping and sucking gently at his neck, moving up to kiss him roughly. Ulquiorra returned it and enjoyed, basking in the phenomenal warmth Grimmjow carried with him naturally. When he pulled away, Ulquiorra found his lips poked at by three fingers.

"Suck, babe," Grimmjow said in a velvet, sinful voice. Ulquiorra's eyebrow quirked and Grimmjow thought he saw just a small bit of a devious smile work its' way onto his features. Ah how they rubbed off on one each other.

Quite literally, at that moment. Ulquiorra sucked harshly, tongue working around and between the fingers in a blatantly seductive way as his eyes never veered from Grimmjow's. Grimmjow, now as painfully hard as Ulquiorra, was quick to remove them and replace his fingers with, once again, his lips. And teeth really. The kiss was a gnashing, biting, sucking, mess but oh so satisfying in all the right (or wrong, by your definition) ways.

Grimmjow gently inserted one finger ever slowly, worrying that Ulquiorra's healing ability had tightened him up again with his time spent away. Ulquiorra, apparently sensing his hesitation, bit into Grimmjow's ear hard enough that he supposed it was bleeding a bit, and became more than just 'supposed' when he felt Ulquiorra begin to lap it up. "I am not made of glass. I do not know how many times I have to tell you," he hissed.

Grimmjow just chuckled. "You're so impatient now. It's nice," he admitted, adding the second finger as Ulquiorra wiggled on them, getting more comfortable. "Makes me feel more wanted."

"I doubt," he panted, words wavering and broken slightly at odd intervals to compensate for his mounting pleasure- pleasure from what Grimmjow wasn't sure as he had yet to find that little bundle of nerves unless Ulquiorra really did enjoy having his fingers, or an part of him, inside him that much. It would make sense. Hadn't he said basically that not so long ago? "I have ever made you feel unwanted. My apologies if I have."

"Nah," Grimmjow said, finally adding a third finger. "I just really like your reactions." And with that he angled his fingers differently and drove in roughly and, just as he expected, Ulquiorra damn near screamed in ecstasy, such was the pitch of his pleasured cry. Grimmjow nodded to himself in pride before pulling his fingers out.

Ulquiorra, having closed his eyes and arched his head back, met him with a flat stare. "You certainly have a flare for the dramatic," he said sardonically.

"Spices life up, don't ya think?" he said, aligning himself with the now prepared Ulquiorra, ready to push in.

"Even if I didn't, I wouldn't spoil your fun," he said, and smiled a legitimate teasing, nearly cheeky grin. Grimmjow froze in shock at the out of character expression before breaking out into a face breaking smile and kissing him roughly.

"Wasn't a denial," he noted.

"I would never deny you anything," he murmured, stroking the side of his face.

Grimmjow caught the hand and leaned into it, eyes turning heavy lidded. "I know," he whispered. "Neither would I."

Ulquiorra nodded. "So," he said, wrapping his arms back around his neck. "Do not deny me this any longer. I can barely stand to be apart from you and to be so close and yet not close enough… it is the most miserable kind of amazing."

"Really?" he said, burying his face in Ulquiorra's neck and sighing out deeply. A contented sigh, though. "Feels like home to me."

Ulquiorra tightened his grip. "Yes, home," he agreed. Grimmjow could stand it no longer and he slowly pushed in. Ulquiorra shuddered against him, but Grimmjow knew from the intense feelings he was receiving on Ulquiorra's end that it was all pleasure and amazement and a pervading sense of calm and right spreading throughout him; throughout them both.

Grimmjow started slow, wanting to draw it out. He needed this to be special. This was a reuniting and a coming together in so many ways. A need for one another. And the last time before life-altering circumstances invaded their lives, possibly forever changing them. But for now, it was them, there in this moment.

But nothing ever lasts forever.

Grimmjow's thrusts became manic and Ulquiorra's small noises had grown louder and more erratic in pitch. They were both ready.

They came together in a blaze of passion and love and the expression of both, each other's names howled through the other's lips like a prayer, blasphemous and desperate as it should have been.

Grimmjow's panting, sweaty body lay on top of Ulquiorra' cool but equally debauched one. With what little strength he had left in his arms, Grimmjow lifted himself onto his elbows above Ulquiorra and looked into his eyes with the desperation of a dying man.

"I love you, Ulquiorra," he said, and it meant as much and more as every other time it had come from his lips. "God damn it, I love you so much!" His head dropped to rest against Ulquiorra's shoulder. He felt a clawed hand come up and stroke his hair while the other moved to his back and pushed, letting Grimmjow's body to fall back onto his.

"I love you too, Grimmjow," he whispered in his ear, just as heartfelt. "Now and forever."

They stayed like that for an hour. A lifetime. An eternity. Each as equal to each other as to reality itself. They laid and they loved, physical and emotional. Everything to each other.


Urahara examined the mechanism before him. Though he had never seen it before, he knew what it was. He wasn't exactly sure how, but he knew. This was the machine that would carry his reiatsu to the edges of the estate. He was fully capable of providing the needed reiatsu. All he would need to do was send it out, send out the feeling of an army of released seers charging the mansion, and they would feel it. They would all feel it. They would believe they were under attack and the mansion would be cleared. And then they would fight. Ulquiorra had said that when under attack of great magnitudes, there was a protocol that all on-hand demons would go out to confront the invaders. A policy set up by Hallibel, just as a precaution.

It served his purposes though.

Urahara paused briefly, looking at the shut door. He had seen Stark's face. He had heard his words. The Espada would probably know. But Stark probably didn't care. He wanted this all to end as much as they did, apparently.

"So be it," he said, approaching the machine. "Grimmjow, I hope you're ready."


Ulquiorra's eyes flew open and he grabbed Grimmjow's shoulders. Looks passed lie words through their eyes between them and they rose, clothed themselves and stood feet from the door.

"This is it," Grimmjow said, grasping his blade tightly. He turned to Ulquiorra and grabbed his forearm, pulling him in for one last heated, bruising, desperate kiss before everything went to hell. "I'll see you on the other side."


AN: And I'm back! Hello all, I hope you aren't too mad at me for taking so long.

This chapter. I have been working on it for a long time and I hope it turned out okay. The machine thing is really just to get an even playing field going between our core characters there.

The final battle has arrived at long last! Who will live? Who will die? Only I know! And hopefully soon you will too. Err hopefully haha. Even if the chapters take a while to come out please know that I will finish this. It will be done!

So place your bets! You probably already know who will be fighting who, and you may even know who will come out. But none are safe in this fight and who knows, you might be surprised. I already know who lives through this and who does not and, reading through the story and especially this chapter, you can probably figure it out too. It's not exactly subtle. However I don't give it all away, and I may be misleading you. I actually am curious so go ahead and tell me who you think gets out and doesn't.

Oh and smut. Finally smut. Looong smut. Over 2,000 words of GrimmUlqui smut because I know you've all been wanting some.

I love you all so much for sticking with me. All this time, all the favorites and alerts and reviews, it just makes me happy. So thank you so very much. We're coming to the end, but it isn't over yet! If you feel like it, give a review or a favorite or an alert or just read it for the heck of it! I only aim to please.

I'll see you guys, hopefully, soon. Until then, happy new year all! May the updates of 2014 be quicker.