DISCLAIMER: I do not own 'Bleach'. All rights belong to Tite Kubo. I only own this fanfiction. Thank you.

WARNING: This story contains strong violence, language, references to abuse/sex/suicide, as well as a lemon [sex scene]. If any of these are not to your liking, I highly recommend reading something else, as I am not interested in causing unintentional discomfort.

Man in the Box

Echoes. This damn place was designed with them in mind.

Constantly, the sounds from the outside would reverberate off the walls, bouncing about the cold hallways and around the cell before fading away into the depths of his mind. And for a little while, he would have peace. Until another set of footsteps made their way down the long corridors, heels clacking against hard tile. Day and night, on and on.

The footfalls were the worst. They reminded him of all he'd never have: the freedom to come and go as he pleased. At least with the muttering, the chanting, the ramblings and screaming, he knew that the voices belonged to those who shared the same fate as he. They were just as trapped and helpless in their situations, simply waiting for death to come down and collect them, if they didn't find a way to do the job themselves first. He had no real desire to drown them out. It wasn't like they had it any better than him.

But the pacing. The fluid movements, from the top of the railing to the short staircase, and past the various tightly sealed cells. Those figures he could barely make out through the slit of plexiglass at the top of his barred door. He couldn't tell if they were male or female, unless they came right up to his cage, voices clear enough to distinguish. He hated the way they mocked him, pressing various buttons at their command to open or close whichever door was on the list for the day, or to simply make their way back to comfort. They strode up and down this lifeless setting, acting for all the world like royalty.

He wanted to rip away those auras of superiority. Just give him five minutes alone with one of them, maybe less. Gender didn't matter, though he'd prefer a man. Equal footing, and all that, even if he had no qualms about striking out at the fairer sex. He'd show them how wrong they were, to wave their assumed superiority in front of him like bait, just out of reach.

The routine of prison life wasn't that bad. Not for him, anyway. The repetition was easy enough to memorize, and it was a guarantee that no one else would dare to mess with you-not if you'd managed to land yourself here. The row of the nameless. They weren't strangers. It ran more along the lines of nobody wanted to remember their names. They didn't ever want to consider the fact that what lurked beyond the tempered steel door could ever even remotely be considered human.

No, prison life wasn't a bad thing at all. He just hated those damn guards. Those sounds and motions brought out the worst in him. They reminded him of what he had lost, why he had wound up here. They stirred that dark hunger deep inside, the hunger that had been a part of him for as long as he could remember. The predator may have been contained, but he was certainly still alive.

The jail was failing in its ultimate purpose. It didn't serve to dissuade his murderous urges. Instead, it provoked them. Daily.

His hand reached upwards, barely visible in the shadows of his cell. Sprawled back on his cot, piercing eyes focused on the stone ceiling above, his fingers began to trace at the half mask along his jaw, to the right. His brand. Resembling a bone fragment, it had marked him for life, from his late youth on. He was, and always would be, a monster.

The killer. The hunter. The psycho. The Panther.

He smirked to himself. Pantera...how he longed to hear someone shriek that name with their dying breath, cursing his existence as they sank down, drowning in their own blood. How he relished the sight in his mind's eye; old memories that danced about night after night, with no end in sight. The sensations were so fresh, he swore that sometimes, he was actually there. Was actually in the middle of a massacre, skin soaked with sweat and lifeforce, hand clutching tightly at the thick hilt of a long blade. His weapon of choice-it had almost become like a third arm.

Here though, his street reputation meant nothing. To the guards, he was and always would be, a number. Or, if they were feeling particularly bold, his last name. A single moniker. A family name, thrown at him like a wet rag or a bitter slur. His gaze narrowed, and he clenched his fist.

There was one, though...a long time ago. Someone who hadn't referred to him by either choice. Someone who had looked him straight in the eye, and without hesitation, had allowed his given name to fall from her lips like drops of honey. He still remembered those finer details, whether he wanted to or not. Her eyes. Her hair. Her voice. Her skin. Her scent. The way it had felt, just to share those moments of contact, however fleeting...

On the one hand, it was strangely refreshing. He could feel the memory wash over him like a rushing stream. But on the other, it disgusted him. To think: a being that had encountered him personally, more than once, yet lived without fear of his presence? It was practically insulting! His teeth ground just thinking about it!

Sometimes, just sometimes, he wondered what she was doing at that moment. What kind of a life was she leading, did she have many friends, had her address changed? That sort of drivel. It wasn't like he gave a rat's ass about any of his former colleagues, much less the families of his victims or the people he'd used to work under, at one point. But this one...she wormed her way in, whether he wanted her to or not.

He tried to keep up a list of the various ways he could show his 'appreciation' to this character, in whatever violent way happened to make itself known to his conscious mind. Perhaps with fists? Or knives? He'd never have any use for a gun, no matter if it were quicker and easier. He liked the extra lengths he could go to with his prey. Some of those carved up carcasses had truly been a wonder to behold, in his eyes.

No matter how frustrated he got though, his thoughts of vengeance never seemed to get very far. They always trailed off, either giving way to sleep, other subjects, or outside interruptions. And this time was no different.

With a blaring buzz and a heavy creak, the cell door began to open. He sat up, squinting at the fluorescent light that filtered in from outside. Two large figures stood in front of the entrance, stepping aside to make way for another figure. In their hands was a pair of glinting handcuffs. He scoffed. Was it that time already? Slowly, he stood up, ignoring their admonishments and irritation at his languid movements. Like he really cared. They could wait until doomsday. It wasn't like he had anything to look forward to.

"Hurry up, number 2136657! Or your time will be shortened! Got no interest in playing waiting games with a scumbag like you..."

Just another day among the dead.

A/N: So...how'd you like it?

Thus begins my first full-length GrimmHime fanfiction. I've been holding onto it for months, but haven't gotten around to posting it until now. If all goes well though, you can expect an update every Friday [since it's completed already and all...XD]

Yes, it's an AU. But I did my very best to keep the characters personalities in check, even as I told this story. I also did my best to mix facts from the original 'Bleach' canon in here, though this time around there's nothing supernatural about it. This is a modern day, RL fanfic [or at least, it tries to be.]

Let me know what you liked, and what could use a bit of work-story may be saved on my computer, but that doesn't mean I can't improve upon it. Everything could use a freshening-up now and again.

Next chapter: character number two. There IS a reason why their names aren't used yet, but ATM I can't recall why. Mystery? Buildup? [Perhaps the revelation of their names is supposed to be an event in itself...]

Later.

=^.^=