"Yo Grimm! Grimmjow, wait up!"
Ichigo ran around the street corner and caught up to the young man ahead of him who was walking along at a brisk pace. "Grimmjow." Ichigo grabbed his shoulder and the other finally stopped.
"Oh, hey Ichigo." He said, barely concealing the fact he was avoiding him and not making eye contact.
"Hey, man, you weren't a school. Everything okay?"
Grimmjow sighed, still looking anywhere but at Ichigo. "How many years have you been asking me that question?"
"Fine, everything is fine, Ichigo. Old man just wasn't feeling too good today so I stuck around home."
"Everything is fine, Ichigo." Grimmjow repeated one final time before hiking his book bag up on his shoulder. "Going home?"
"Yeah." The two walked on in silence towards their neighbouring houses. Ichigo had known Grimmjow almost his whole life: the blue haired teen had been practically raised in the Kurosaki household he spent so much time there. But in the last few years, rather than sending him out of the house when he decided to get drunk or have a poker party, Grimmjow's father had been keeping him close to deal with the aftermath. Ichigo was used to Grimmjow avoiding the topic, but there was something wrong today- worse than usual.
Grimmjow stopped at the foot of his driveway and sighed when he saw an extra car parked in front of the house.
"You're dad having the guys over again tonight?" Ichigo asked, knowing Grimmjow hated when the poker gang came over and usually showed up late at school with no homework done because of it.
"Looks like it. Did I miss anything important today?"
"Math review, test tomorrow."
"Awesome." He sighed sarcastically. "See ya"
"Wait, Grimmjow, you want to come over for dinner?"
"No, I should stick around the old man." Grimmjow moved toward the door, Ichigo remained close behind him.
"Then come over later, we can study."
"I would but-"
"You could even stay over. The girls are complaining that they haven't seen you in a whole week."
Grimmjow just sighed. Ichigo stared at the back of his head, feeling an unexplained tension building. Several long seconds went by before Grimmjow let his shoulders slouch in some sort of defeat and slowly turned to face his friend. All the pieces came together for Ichigo in one, stomach-churning instant.
"Grimmjow..." Poorly concealed by his sunglasses, a mix of purples and yellows with veins of red running through covered one side of his cheek. Grimmjow gripped the strap of his book bag tightly but said nothing when Ichigo reached up to pull his glasses away. Ichigo winced, seeing his bloodshot eye and the dark red lid. Grimmjow avoided Ichigo's eyes, staring somewhere across the street instead.
"It ain't what you think." He muttered.
"Dad was pretty drunk, I tried to get him up to bed. He fell on the stairs and his elbow caught me, that's all."
"ICHIGO!" Now it was Grimmjow's turn to shout. He grabbed the other's shoulders and glared at him even past the swelling. "I know what you and your Dad think. I know Isshin has been watching me like a hawk all these years just waiting for this day. Well, if my dad was gonna beat me, do you really think he would wait until I was old enough to defend myself? He may be a drunk and a gambler, but that doesn't mean he's abusive too! We ain't all perfect like you guys but we're still family and he loves me."
Grimmjow even seemed surprised at his outburst and let go of Ichigo. He took a step back, closer to the door.
"Grimmjow, wait. I'm sorry, I really am. I believe you. But you have to understand-"
"I do, Ichigo. Night." Grimmjow said quickly, increasing the distance between them, shutting himself off.
"Grimmjow don't walk away like this."
Grimmjow said nothing as he stepped inside the house. Ichigo ran up the step but the door was already shut. "GRIMMJOW!"
Grimmjow set his book bag on the floor, and stood staring at it as he listened to Ichigo's shouts. He was worked up, breathing hard, he didn't want to have to defend his father, not to Ichigo.
"You know I'm family too!"
The desperate words reached him through the rattle of the storm door and Grimmjow's head snapped up, staring through the solid wood surface as if he could see those sincere brown eyes. He opened his mouth to speak, to say yes, he did know that, but a strangled noise from the kitchen made him stop. He stepped out of the entry and looked around the corner.
Grimmjow saw black before an explosion of light behind his eyelid and then he felt the wall slam into him. A forearm pinned him face first against it, and he felt cool metal press into neck- the deliberate click of the safety let him know for certain it was a gun. It shoved tight against his skin in warning before lifting and pointing at the door, behind which Ichigo still stood calling out to him. Grimmjow felt himself shaking, felt cold and hot and like he might be sick all at once, but he knew what the gunmen was trying to say. He swallowed, his throat suddenly dry, but called out.
"I know Ichigo. Just go home, we'll talk later." His voice was shaking. Ichigo could hear it.
"Please let me in."
"I don't want to talk about this right now." Grimmjow nearly pleaded when the finger tightened over the trigger. "I'll come over after dinner, okay? You can help me study."
There was audible relief in Ichigo's voice. "Okay, that's great. I'll see you then."
They listened to his footsteps and then the barrel was back against his neck.
"Very good," a low voice hissed in his ear, "you just saved your friend's life. Now let's see if you can do the same for your father."
Grimmjow had little choice but to move where the barrel of the gun pushed him. The man held onto his shoulder and shoved him into the living room.
Grimmjow was met with a most horrific scene. It took him several moments to process what he was seeing, and when he did finally register that the bloodied mess tied to a kitchen chair was his father, he felt his knees give out and his stomach lurch. He gagged on all fours, unable to handle the reality of this situation. The gun was now gone from the back of his neck, he took note of a second man above what was left of his father. The air turned thin, his chest constricted painfully, but shock and revulsion were rapidly being replaced by unbelievable rage.
The second man saw it first, because for one brief moment their eyes met- cobalt struck black, conveying that pure loss of rational thought, of anything beyond the primal urge to defend your own and destroy all threats. Every muscle in his body bunched before he lurched off that floor onto the man above him.
He didn't care about the gun. He didn't care what they wanted, he just wanted them dead. But it was a reckless move. He landed a hit or two before the butt of the gun caught him in the temple. They didn't stop when he collapsed to the floor, blinking back the darkness. He could only curl in on himself to protect his face and stomach from their kicks, their punches, but it did little good. He could hear his father screaming behind a gag. He cried out when something snapped in his wrist and the pair finally stopped. But there was no illusions of mercy. He couldn't move much, when they stepped away, and was left to stare at his father while the men tied his arms and pushed a gag into his mouth.
He had left two hours ago, just to walk around and clear his head and grab a book from the library. In that time, the men had transformed his father into a barely recognizable heap of blood and bruises; teeth strewn on the floors, and in another flood of horror, he realized there were fingers scattered next to the chair as well. His face was misshapen: lips torn up by the pliers that must have been used to yank teeth. Grimmjow met his eyes. They stung him, conveying such pain and fear, such guilt. This wasn't his father. This couldn't be real. Grimmjow shut his eyes and everything was spinning.
"Don't go spacing out on us kid." The men had finished securing him and hauled him up onto a chair, facing his father. The second man yanked the gag down again and looked Grimmjow square on. Though his vision blurred, the teen stared into his black eyes, every line of his face, every hair, every freckle searing into his brain. The face of the man that had tortured his father would never be forgotten.
"Your dad here owes us alot of money. Our boss won it fair and square and his payment was up two days ago. He swears he doesn't have it, even after our persuasion. Now, if you know where he's hiding it, then please, speak up."
Grimmjow stared at his father, then turned back to the people. "How much?" His speech was slurred, he felt his face swelling from the beating, but somehow he could manage his own pain while seeing his father.
Grimmjow's eyes went wide. "Dad...we don't...we don't have that kind of cash..."
"Too bad for you, cause our boss said if that was the case, then we should make an example."
"Wait!" Grimmjow cried, but the man was already pulling a stained knife from his belt. "Please, I'll get it, I'll find it somewhere."
"Sorry son, that ain't how it works, not your debt to pay. Well, actually..." the knife came to rest against Grimmjow's face, "maybe you will be paying it for your father after all." The gag was put back in his mouth just before he started to scream.
Ichigo pushed his food across his plate idly. Karin and Yuzu were in their bedrooms and Ichigo had just gotten around to telling his dad about earlier.
"Please don't freak out when he comes over. He got really upset."
"Do you believe him?" Isshin asked seriously.
"Do you believe him about his dad? Do you believe it was an accident?"
Ichigo didn't answer right away. He looked down at his plate. "I know you always thought it would happen. I know that when we were kids it killed you to let him go back to that house, that you would have kept him if you could. But in all these years Mr. Jaggerjaques never has..."
"Doesn't mean he can't start." But Isshin was quiet, his words plain, not accusing. "You're right, Ichigo, every time Grimmjow stayed over, I wanted to lock the doors and call social services. But after a while, I figured out his father was just misguided. He has an addiction, maybe a few, but he always knew enough to get Grimmjow here, where it was safe, and Grimmjow always had us. And maybe I know what it's like, to lose a wife in such violence, to be a father on your own and to be afraid to fail."
"Please dad, don't compare yourself to him."
"But it's pretty easy to do, don't you think?"
Their situations were similar. But Grimmjow had never really known his mother. Ichigo at least had a few memories of his, even if one of those memories included her death. He set his fork down. The sun was setting, Grimmjow should be here by now.
"So, are you going to be cool when he gets here?"
"Course, I am, who could be cooler than your dear old dad?" Isshin smiled. "But I would like to take a look at his eye, I am a doctor after all."
"Okay, but just don't make a big deal. I'm going to go over and see what's keeping him."
"I'll come too."
"No Dad, that will make it look like it's a big deal. I thought you said you believed it was an accident."
"Maybe Warren needs some looking after too."
"I'll find out what I can, but just wait here, okay?"
Isshin relented. "Alright."
Ichigo crossed their yards in a couple of bounds and stood on the front step. He raised his hand to knock, but remembered the car in the yard. Grimmjow's dad hated to be interrupted when in the middle of a game, so instead Ichigo just turned the knob. Nothing happened. Weird, Ichigo thought, they never lock the door. His dad could never remember to take keys and Grimmjow came and went so much it just never became a habit for them. But then again, things were off in the household of late, maybe they just needed their privacy. Ichigo went around the side of the house toward Grimmjow's bedroom to throw something at the window.
When he got around the side he knew something was off. All the curtains in the house were drawn. He and Grimmjow used to signal to each other when they were kids from their bedrooms, hold up messages each other, just for fun. Ichigo had watched the late-night poker games, the drinking, Grimmjow putting his dad to bed—he had seen their lives through these windows. And he could hear music blasting inside. This too, was not normal.
A knot was twisting in Ichigo's stomach. He glanced back at his own house but didn't turn back. He didn't want to wait one extra second in case something was wrong and went back to the front door. He knocked at what he considered a respectful level and waited. His anxiety was growing every second, he knocked again, much louder. Still no answer.
He looked back at the car. He didn't remember seeing it before. It was a beige stationwagon, nothing out of the ordinary in these parts. He almost turned away before he noticed the passenger window was down. He knocked again but took a closer look inside the car. When he saw what was inside, a shot of cold went through him. Broken glass lined the floor, the window wasn't down, it had been smashed. This car was stolen.
"DAD!" Ichigo screamed running back to the door and shaking the handle in vain. "DAAAD!" He abandoned the door for a window. Isshin was stumbling out of the house by the time Ichigo put his elbow through the glass.
"What was that? Can't hear a damn thing over that music."
"Yeah, well, we shut it off and someone might hear them screaming over the gags. Go check it out."
"Okay then, masks on, just in case."
The two men paused to roll black ski masks over their faces and one left to check out the front door. Grimmjow was on the floor, the other man straddling his legs, hand wrapped around a knife that was digging deep into his lower back. Grimmjow screamed again when he resumed his work. He had no idea how long they'd been torturing him, but he knew he just wanted it to end. Let them kill him, let the pain stop. He'd been sick repeatedly as they ripped him apart. His blurry eyes rested on his father. And somehow, those eyes were worse than the physical pain. His dad had been forced to watch it all, everything they did to his son because he was an addict who couldn't pay his debts. Because of his failure and his choices.
Tears seeped past swollen eyes and stung into the deep cuts that now covered half of Grimmjow's face. There was a cry of surprise from the other room, suddenly the weight on Grimmjow's back lifted and he moved just enough to see both men heading toward the door.
Someone is here. Some one has come to save us. Grimmjow thought in relief, but then it turned to dread. Ichigo. It has to be Ichigo. Slowly, very slowly, Grimmjow brought his hands around in front of him. They'd been unbound a while ago, but he hadn't used them. He looked now at the missing digits and thought he might be sick again, but he couldn't stop moving, it was his only chance. He used his palms to pull the gag from his mouth and dragged himself forward, the pain in his back was incredible.
"Da..." he couldn't speak properly, the gashes in his face made it too hard to open his mouth all the way. "Da..d." Despite everything they'd done to him, he crawled his way up to his father, got to his knees and leaned his head against his dad's shoulder. They hadn't taken all his fingers; he struggled with the knots.
His father tried to speak behind the gag. Grimmjow took a second to pull it down and continued his work.
"Grimm...ow," his father's mouth was full of blood and empty of teeth, but Grimmjow knew everything he was trying to say.
"Les jus ge ou of here..."
There was shouting from the entry, Grimmjow tried to hurry and prayed it wasn't Ichigo. But the men rounded the corner and he instantly understood. Masks on, guns raised- Grimmjow and his dad were the only two who had seen their faces. Whoever was at the door didn't matter once they were dead.
The first shot went off. That instant hung in eternity. Ichigo came around the corner, but it was too late, it was all too late. Grimmjow felt the impact reverberate through his father's body. It seemed to take forever for his eyes to work their way from the shooter back to his dad. It took even longer for him to register Warren Jaggerjaques's wide-eyed frozen stare, the line of crimson snaking down the bridge of his nose and wending down his cheek like a final tear. Nearly in the dead centre of his forehead was the indentation, the point where the bullet broke flesh and skull and buried deep in the nerve centre of what made him who he was, the drunk, the gambler, the widower, the father. All of it erased by that one hot ball of lead.
Grimmjow was standing. Bones were broken, far too much blood had been lost, but he was standing. And he saw that face, even if it was covered by a mask. He knew those eyes, he knew every detail and he howled- a pure, primal noise rising up from the depths of his soul, anguished, vengeful. Grimmjow made it one step towards his father's killer.
Ichigo felt a jolt go through him when the second shot went off. Grimmjow's leg gave out, it had been panicked and poorly aimed by the other gunmen. Grimmjow jerked back but he was still standing. And he was still standing when the man who killed his father walked forward with cool determination and fired directly into the centre of his chest.
For a moment, no one in the room moved, they just watched as Grimmjow, still frozen in that moment of pure pain and rage, fell back, his body hitting the floor at his father's feet. And then Ichigo was screaming. Something hit him and he was falling backward. Shots rang out all over but the men were running now. They jumped out the back somewhere and a few seconds later Ichigo heard their engine. He struggled past the weight on him but his father held him down, checking they were really gone.
Then he was moving just as fast as Ichigo to get to Grimmjow's side. Blood flowed from everywhere, Isshin felt the tremor in his son's body as the terror really struck him. Ichigo's hands shook and he looked like he was going be sick when he pressed his hand over Grimmjow's thigh. Isshin forced himself to see a patient and not his would-be son. He shut down his emotions, ignored his distraught son, and set to saving Grimmjow's life.
Well let me start by saying I told myself when I first wrote this scene several months ago that I could never publish it because it is the single most violent and disturbing piece of fiction I ever wrote. I don't know where it came from but a story unfolded from this monstrous moment and became something I am actually rather proud of, so I decided, in the end, to take the risk and share it. It is also my very first AU but maybe because I had been working on Psychology of Grimmjow I found it very easy to write Grimmjow and Ichigo as friends/pseudo brothers living in the real world. If you can stomach this chapter, then you are past the worst of it and I hope you decide to find out where it goes.