Summary: Ichigo, Tribal Prince of the Northern Water Tribe, meets his match in Grimmjow, a Fire Nation Admiral. Like yin and yang, together they are whole. Yaoi.
Warnings: Crossover, yaoi, mature and sexual content, violence, minor character death. Also, this story will follow the original Avatar series from the end of season one to the very end. I'm only altering little things here and there to make the story work. The only representation of Bleach are Grimmjow and Ichigo, this is set completely in the Avatar world.
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach, Avatar: the Last Airbender, or any of their characters.
chapter one: starry night
"You rise with the moon, I rise with the sun." ~ Prince Zuko
Seventeen years ago, the eighty third anniversary of the Hundred Year War, which the Fire Lord Sozin began to fulfill his desire for power by laying siege to the rest of the world, a baby boy with ironically brazen orange hair was born to two Southern Water Tribe waterbenders and given the name Ichigo.
He was well loved and cared for, despite the troubled times they all lived in, until a Fire Nation raid turned into a horrific massacre. His mother and father, the last of the waterbenders, fought the masked soldiers brilliantly but in the end they lay dead in the snow as their newborn baby cried out for them. Now an orphan, Ichigo's future looked bleak at best as what was left of the tribe had no means to take in the poor boy. However, one of the remaining warriors took pity upon the orange-haired infant and brought him along on a journey to their sister tribe in the north pole.
The original purpose of the trip had been to convince the Tribal Chief to send desperately needed help to the south but what the Water Tribe warrior hadn't known was that the chief and his wife had been unable to conceive an heir to secede the position of leader to the Northern Water Tribe - the Tribal Prince. More specifically, their archaic laws declared that heir be male. Instead of the warrior returning home with relief for the ruins of the southern tribe he did so with less than before.
Chief Arnook and his wife were beyond delighted to proclaim their newly adopted son as the one who would lead and protect the Northern Water Tribe and uphold its honored traditions. At first, the people didn't know what to think of the foreign child with hair the color of flames but when Ichigo, at the tender age of two, showed incredibly obvious signs of being a waterbender they accepted him wholeheartedly. However, a year before this, Arnook's wife finally gave birth to a child - a girl, frail and sickly and silent. As a last resort, the couple brought the infant princess to the tribe's spirit oasis and lay her in the sacred pool, praying for the moon to heal their daughter. The spirit granted their wish and the girl's dark hair lightened to snow white, a symbol of her connection to the moon spirit that was so strong her parents named her Yue.
In spite of their different parentage, Ichigo considered the princess and his adoptive mother and father as his family. Though the war raged on in the rest of the world, his childhood was peaceful within the ice fortress of the tribe. Unfortunately, when he was seven and his sister merely six, their mother succumbed to illness yet their shared grief only brought them closer together.
Ichigo was taught everything there was to know about being Chief and showed such a great deal of innate talent and potential for the art of waterbending at age ten he was sent to Master Pakku, teacher to all waterbenders for decades and the bane of Ichigo's existence in the very brief duration of his training. The prince didn't take well to being ordered around and restricted to only what the elderly waterbender instructed. Ichigo loathed the horrifically controlled and stiff style that the severely composed northern waterbending was known for. He preferred a much more aggressive and forceful technique, one he could back up for his bending abilities were almost unnaturally powerful, sending tidal waves where other waterbenders created ripples.
It wasn't out of frustration that Ichigo stopped attending lessons on his twelfth birthday, but rather because a sour Pakku out of obligation grudgingly bestowed upon him the title of Master. Arnook had been so proud he'd held a feast in his son's honor. Ichigo hadn't been as excited for it meant there was nothing left to learn and without the excuse of lessons his life from there on would consist entirely of his princely duties, some of them excruciatingly boring or tedious. He didn't want to be the one planning and strategizing, watching warriors and benders revelling in the intoxicating thrill of battle. Waterbending was what he loved more than anything, his intense, feral interpretation the very essence of his soul. It was a physical art that expressed who he was. He was waterbending.
So, since he wasn't given time to practice he made it, in a sacred place any of his fellow tribe members would take personal offense should they discover Ichigo spent his late night and early morning hours in the Spirit Oasis. Over the course of five years, his already masterly bending grew stronger and expanded infinitely as he developed new moves and techniques. Once he'd even scandalously spied on the girls' healing lesson, learning how to use waterbending to heal wounds, illnesses, and even some mental ailments. He never actually got the chance to play healer; it wasn't proper in the tribal society for men to learn healing just as it wasn't allowed for women to study bending to fight. In those five years, he made sure to only waterbend completely alone. Not even his sister or father saw him in action during those five years.
But then the world's savior, the Avatar awakened, came to the Northern Water Tribe and brought with him a heavy dose of reality and not just the chance but the need for Ichigo, Tribal Prince, to step out of the shadows and protect the only home he'd ever known.
Little did he know that sailing toward him was his absolute and perfect equal.
Across the ocean to the volcanic islands of the Fire Nation, twelve years before the orange-haired waterbender was born, a blue-haired firebender entered the world - an exact opposite.
The baby boy was the only child of a wealthy, influential couple of an arranged marriage. But more than anything, the husband and wife craved status, the support of the Fire Lord, and power and so they named their son Grimmjow, a moniker specially chosen for its fierce, guttural sound. Their child had to have a name that could invoke an intense reaction to all who heard it. Fear and control were very important in the cutthroat society of Fire Nation nobility, after all. Especially if you wanted to enlist your son in the prestiged military, the nation's pride and joy.
From day one, Grimmjow was groomed to become a commanding officer. Learning planning and strategizing, swordsmanship, military terms and jargon, hand to hand combat, and, most importantly, firebending. Though every now and then the gossipy nobles whispered in distaste of his blue like water hair and eyes, Grimmjow excelled at everything, except firebending - for to say he excelled at it would be a gross understatement. Fire comes from the blood, its bending an expulsion of pure energy, of which he possessed a level so much greater than the average bender that he trained in controlling his bending so that in battle he wouldn't set fire to entire cities and burn them to a crisp accidentally. Amazingly, his skill caught the attention of the Fire Lord himself who was so impressed by a fourteen year-old Grimmjow's abilities he gave both the title of Master and a position of Captain when he came of age.
Grimmjow claimed his promised Captain status and threw himself head first into the war efforts. He was made for the military, quite literally. He was ruthless, commanding, ambitious, and cunning - the perfect cocktail for a commanding officer - and he was ardently determined, he never gave up or surrendered, he refused to stop until he got what he came for. Grimmjow would never back down, not even if it meant certain death. He inspired awe in allies and enemies alike. People questioned if he was even human, if maybe he was a god of war sent from the Spirit World.
He rose in the ranks swiftly until at the age of twenty-nine he became Admiral of the Southern Fleet, the highest title in the Fire Nation the four who held it were revered and treated like royalty. Yet he soon grew bored with the position, nothing much to be done in the south after the forty-six raids years and years ago on the Southern Water Tribe resulted in a desolate tundra of a few warriors and their wives and children, not a single bender among them.
Not too long after the news of the Avatar's return, Grimmjow received an invitation from another officer - a commander - to meet at his camp to discuss something very important. Excited at the prospect of finally putting his power and talents to use, the admiral turned his fleet of great metal ships around to head north.
What he didn't know was that what awaited for him on the opposite end of the world would be much more exciting than he could have ever imagined.
It was just after dawn, the moon beginning its crossing across the star-studded sky, and Ichigo was currently hurrying through his city, sticking to walking on the ice walkways bordering the street canals. Not a soul was to be seen anywhere when usually there was an abundance of people and the gondolas carrying them through the canals but this was to be expected. They were all where Ichigo was supposed to be a half hour ago but then he'd had to stop and change out of his casual attire to more formal wear, a nuisance he couldn't avoid as the Tribal Prince.
Ichigo now wore a warm, light blue tunic - an unusual choice for navy blue was customary - decorated with upper arfurmthat bands of white wolf that also bordered the hood covering most of his sunshine-colored hair save for a few strands, some of which held one or two beads in blue and white. He also wore lower arm wraps under the sleeve of his tunic that ended around his wrists, his hands partly concealed by black fingerless gloves, and loose-fitting pants the same light blue as the tunic. Around his neck were three traditional water tribe necklaces, one stranded with beads and the canines of large artic wolves, another a long leather cord whose pendant was a decorated water canister, and the third a choker of ivory puka shells a band of warriors brought back from their travels. And on his feet were heavy fur boots neccessary for tPhe tundra-like terrain.
He hadn't planned on being late, he'd known just how important his attendance was, and he'd been completely unaware of the time up until a few minutes ago. That was just how he was with his waterbending. Practicing it was a spiritual experience, like he had to tap into his soul for the power to be one with the water, to pull it into a primitive, mystical dance still graceful despite his fervent and vehement style. Ichigo lost himself to the push and pull of bending, merely a channel for the ocean and moon spirits, and so he lost track of time rather easily. Sometimes, he would dive so deeply into his power he would resurface thinking minutes had passed when it had really been hours. Perhaps it was a side effect of practicing in the Spirit Oasis, one of the most sacred places in all four nations.
Ichigo finally came to the steps of the city's grand palace, not his family's home for the Tribal Chiefs always insisted they were not kings and their family not royalty either even though their children held the titles of prince and princess. Rushing up to the entrance, taking two steps at a time, Ichigo wondered if his father would somehow punish him for his tardiness. Chief Arnook wasn't cruel or even strict, but this was pretty important...
The orangette skid to a halt in front of the huge ice pillars on either side of the entrance to the grand hall filled with every tribe member and tons of food on every last inch of table surface. Pulling down his hood and eyes automatically glancing over to the seats closest to the chief, Ichigo walked stately towards the head of the table. People were staring at him disapprovingly, but he barely noticed. His attention was entirely focused on their three visitors, especially on the young boy dressed in yellow and orange, blue arrow tattoos on every visible piece of skin.
It had to be the Avatar, an entity everyone believed lost forever for a hundred years. In spite of his very different imaginings of the Avatar, Ichigo wasn't disappointed. Though they hadn't spoken one word to each other, Ichigo thought there was a good sense about the boy, if that made any sense.
"Ah, Ichigo, you've finally arrived," Arnook said as his adoptive son took his assigned seat at his right side. "I was beginning to worry."
Considering no one was watching or listening to them, Ichigo was relieved to confirm the chief wasn't terribly upset with him for being late. "Yeah, sorry. I lost track of the time," he said, reaching for a platter of boiled white sea crabs, they were a delicacy and rarely served so he always made sure to fill up on them when they were.
"That's all right, Ichigo, but just remember when you take my place as chief tardiness could result in tragedy," Arnook advised, never missing an opportunity to pass on chiefly knowledge. "Now, let me introduce you to our guest, the Avatar."
As the chief turned to face said guest, Ichigo swallowed a rather large bite of crab meat. For some reason, he was actually a little unnerved to meet the Avatar though he was only a child of twelve, five years younger than the prince. Perhaps it was because of all the stories he'd heard growing up of the Avatar's magnificent powers and acts that changed the world.
"Avatar Aang, I would like you to meet my son, Prince Ichigo," Arnook said and the Avatar's wide, gray eyes flickered over to look at the orangette.
"Wow, I've never met a real live prince before," the boy chirped enthusiastically, his pet lemur hopping down from its perch on his shoulder as he leaned over, almost lying across the chief's lap. "You know, the chief, your dad, said you're a waterbending master and Katara and me are looking for one to teach us."
"I'm sorry, young Avatar, but my son will be very busy during your stay here," Arnook cut in, annoying Ichigo a bit because even though he probably would've said no it wouldn't kill the chief to allow him to speak for himself just once. "But I'm sure Master Pakku will be delighted to have you for a pupil."
The Avatar visibly deflated, shoulders dropping and sighing, and within the second perked right back up again. "Hey Ichigo, you have orange hair," he exclaimed, grinning. "And you're a waterbender. But your hair looks like fire, get it?"
"It is pretty funny," Ichigo admitted, amused that the Avatar was the first one to actually ever say something to his face about his ironic coloring. "But at least I have hair."
There was a dead silence for a moment until Avatar Aang burst into laughter. "Okay, you got me there," he said and Ichigo wished his father didn't try to dictate his life and speak for him to decline the Avatar's request, because he found himself thinking he would like teaching waterbending to the boy. He didn't even think it was ethical for his father to send the Avatar to Master Pakku, that bitter old man wouldn't take kindly to a student still retaining childhood innocence and enthusiasm.
Turning back to his plate of white crab, something in the corner of his eye caught Ichigo's attention. Looking up and to the left he saw his white-haired sister, this day her sixteenth birthday (Ichigo's gift yet to be given.) Every passing year, she grew more beautiful and so did the number of hormonal boys her brother had to... convince Princess Yue wasn't the girl for them. It was pretty obvious the male of the two Southern Water Tribe guests was a visitor to the north, otherwise he would've never dared to so blatantly flirt with the princess when her older brother was a few feet away.
Ichigo was about to stand and rescue Yue from the guy with the ponytail when Arnook clasped his shoulder in a fatherly manner and leaned closer to the teenager in order to be heard as he spoke in a whisper. "After everyone leaves, I need to talk with you about something important," the chief said and the anxiety must have shown on Ichigo's face for he elaborated. "No need to worry, it's not anything bad. In fact, it's great news."
This didn't comfort Ichigo. He knew he and his father had differing opinions on what was considered 'great news.'
And after all the food had been eaten, all the conversations finished, and all the people gone, Ichigo dreadfully found out his gut feeling about the 'great news' was right on target.
"What did you just say?" he asked Arnook, unwilling to believe what he'd heard.
"I said I arranged the perfect marriage for your sister, Yue," the chief answered, completely calm. "To one of best warriors, Hahn. I believe they are well suited for each other."
"Hahn?" Ichigo exclaimed, standing from the table impulsively. "Hahn's an idiot! He shouldn't even be getting married because he's already madly in love with himself. If we placed a mirror at the bottom of the ocean, he'd drown staring at his reflection!"
Arnook sighed but made no move to stand as well. "From what I've seen, Hahn is a capable, brave young man. I think it is your objection to Yue getting married that has you so upset, not an objection to Hahn himself."
"I object to both of them," Ichigo said, volume turned down to a quiet, even level. "Yue's too young to get married and Hahn's too repulsive to marry her."
"You are well aware the marrying age in our tribe is sixteen, Ichigo. I've given you leniency since your own sixteenth birthday as you still had too much to learn and no time to spare. However, now you've mastered everything taught to you and have the time to do the same."
Ichigo was speechless for what seemed an eternity, finally recovering when the meaning of his adoptive father's word sank in. "Are you telling me I also have to get... married?"
"You make it sound like marriage is the end of the world," Arnook said, shaking his head and chuckling in amusement. "But it's understandable, you're young and wish to be free and independent, more so than anyone I've ever known, and you think of marriage as the death of your freedom."
"No, I th-"
"It's all right to feel that way, Ichigo," the chief interrupted, again. "But you'll see I'm doing this for your own good. You'll find a pretty girl, court her, carve her betrothal necklace, and marry her and then you will realize how marriage completes you, makes you a better man for your tribe, to be their leader."
"What if I don't like any of the girls here?" Ichigo said, now beginning to accept that his father wasn't going to change his mind. "What if none of them like me?"
"Oh, trust me, you'll find the one out there somewhere," Arnook said, finally rising to his feet. Now able to look down at his son, he fatherly gripped both of Ichigo's shoulders. "And I believe you'll find that being in love suits you."
The Tribal Prince simply nodded listlessly. "How long do I have?" he asked.
"Well, the eldest sibling should marry first, I think. So a ceremony at the end of next month would be ideal," Arnook said and Ichigo's knees trembled, his legs suddenly weak. "This is a good thing, son. For you and Yue."
The orange-haired waterbender barely heard his father excuse himself and exit the grand hall, leaving Ichigo alone in the immense emptiness of the large space. Deciding it best to go to the Spirit Oasis to think, he strode outside and pulled his hood back over his head. Arms wrapped around himself, he set a brisk pace to travel across the city to the remote, hallowed ground. Eyes on the ice underneath his boots he nearly bumped into someone.
"Sorry, I -" Ichigo stopped talking when he saw the person he'd almost collided into was his sister, her pure white hair glittering in the moonlight. "Yue, what are you doing out here?"
"Actually, I was waiting for you," she said a bit bashfully. "I wanted to talk to you about something."
"Sure, but let me give you this first," Ichigo said, remembering that he'd been waiting all day for the chance to give his sister her gift. He slipped his hand under the collar of his tunic, feeling the small box in the secret pocket sewn into the inner lining. He pulled it out to hold it in front of him in the palm of his hand. "Happy birthday."
"You didn't have to get me a gift, Ichigo," Yue said even as her eyes lit up and reached out for the box. Lifting the lid, a round, onyx and ivory hairpiece depicted the symbol of the traditional yin and yang, or, according to the Water Tribes, Tui and La - the moon and the ocean spirits. The princess gasped softly, then looked back up to her brother. "It's beautiful, thank you."
"Yeah, I thought you could use another hairpiece," Ichigo said, grinning as Yue giggled for the latter was known for her elaborate hairstyle and outrageous collection of hairpieces. "Anyway, what did you want to talk to me about?"
The princess' face fell and Ichigo knew immediately. He could recognize the storm of emotions on his sister's features because he felt the same. "Father told me," he said gently. "About the arranged betrothal."
"Yes, he told me, too," Yue said, her resentment faint but definitely there. "As if I'm unable to have any kind of opinion on the matter. As if I'm some kind of living doll, doing only exactly what I'm told. It's just that... I don't know, do you ever wish you weren't the chief's son? To be a regular member of the tribe and not have an entire city to think of when you do anything? But I've always gotten everything I wanted - only the best for a princess. Do you think I'm only being selfish? "
"You are anything but selfish, Yue," Ichigo said sternly, unwilling to allow anyone say something bad about his sister, even his sister. "In fact, you give too much. Just because you're the chief's daughter doesn't mean you have to marry someone you don't love and be miserable your whole life."
Yue didn't say anything for a second, biting her lip, and then she raised her head to meet her brother's eyes. "Father has done the same to you, hasn't he?" she stated, already knowing the answer. While Yue was somewhat naively idealistic and innocent to the evils of the world, she was pretty intuitive.
"I have until the end of next month to find some poor girl to marry," Ichigo said, sneering at the thought.
"At least you have the chance to find someone you love. It shouldn't be too hard, I've heard many girls have their hearts set on you," Yue said, truly optimistic for her brother when any other in her situation would resent him for having the better deal between the two of them. "And who knows - maybe that someone will come and find you."
"I hope so, that would be a lot easier," Ichigo said, speaking the truth. "But what about you? I can't let you get married to that dimwitted jerk. I won't let you."
Yue smiled sadly, her blue eyes watery, and wrapped her arms around the orangette in a sisterly embrace. "Don't worry, Ichigo. Everything will be okay in the end, you'll see. If it's not okay, then it's not the end."
Then she was gone and Ichigo was again left alone, feeling a killer migraine coming on. Changing his mind about the Spirit Oasis as thinking was now the last thing he wanted to do, he decided instead to go home and sleep it off.
The funny thing was Ichigo didn't really dislike the prospect of falling in love. What truthfully was bothering him was the fact he couldn't ever tell his father he wanted that someone coming to find him not a girl, but a man.
And somehow he could say with absolute certainty things were about to get pretty insane in the next few days.
It was currently being told in whispers between soldiers and the crew that Admiral Grimmjow was in a particularly foul mood today. Be careful, they said, stay as far away as possible. The blue-haired admiral had already tossed one man overboard, set fire to a tapestry, thrown his food back at the ship's cook, and fired one of his captains when the tides set their departure from the dock back four hours.
The reason for his ornery temperament and destructive behavior? Well, it was a little complicated, as well as unusual.
Grimmjow was presently in his private quarters, pacing back and forth across the room. He felt overwhelmingly agitated, his heart rate too fast and every beat hard enough it hurt his chest, and he was hot, so agonizingly hot. He'd taken off most of his heavy, stifling admiral's uniform, leaving only his pants and boots on and yet a sheer layer of sweat coated his entire body. His gut was clenching, his stomach in knots, and his lungs constricting so that breathing was difficult. There was a strong sense of anxiety and frustration coursing through him, making him on edge and restless. It was misery.
He knew what this was, he'd experienced it many times ever since he was declared a master firebender. For years he never understood what was happening to him and why, until an episode occurred during a visit to the Fire Lord's palace. The Fire Lord himself hadn't thought it strange, saying to the rest of the war council that Admiral Grimmjow was a prime example of the ferocity of a true firebender. However, the man's brother, as wise as they come, knew something was amiss with the blunette.
So that man, General Iroh, sought Grimmjow out after the meeting. Despite the latter's volatile attitude toward the older man, telling him to leave him alone, Iroh eventually wore him down enough so that he would listen to what he had to say and that was this:
Grimmjow had been born with great talent for firebending but also an astronomical amount of channeling energy. Too much of it, in fact, far too much. It took every last bit of Grimmjow's will power to control the fire when he was bending but the thing is, is that firebenders have their fire raging on within themselves. Usually this only manifests itself in normal bouts of aggression or impulsiveness, but the admiral's inner fire burned a hundred times hotter than the average firebender. No mortal man could ever hope to tame that kind of exquisite power. For Grimmjow to maintain it so that he hadn't gone hopelessly mad was astonishing. Without any inkling of how to cure it, these episodes would sporadically seize his body for a few hours, going into remission until next time.
There was a part of Grimmjow that believed one day he was simply going to self-destruct, that inner fire consuming him completely. The rest of him made sure not to think about it.
Lowering himself to sit on the floor in the lotus position, the firebender closed his eyes and began to do something he vowed no other soul would know he practiced. Meditation. A technique so opposite of his personality, Grimmjow had dismissed General Iroh's suggestion he try it for years. He'd only resorted to something he thought incredibly pointless after a week in which he had four of his episodes. To his surprise, he found it worked on abating the terrible symptoms. All he had to do was close his eyes, regulate his breathing, and imagine a roaring fire slowly dissipating into a pile of smoldering ashes.
Unfortunately, it usually was a forty-five minute to an hour long process and exactly when he'd managed to calm down a tentative knock came from his door. Scowling, Grimmjow rose to his feet, stalking over to the metal door and throwing it open. Standing there was a masked soldier, a formidable man to many he was trembling in the admiral's presence.
"What?" Grimmjow spat, his impatience not a symptom, just a personality trait.
"W-we're docking r-right now, A-admiral," the soldier stammered, his expression under his mask surely a picture of fear. His superior didn't bother replying, simply shutting the door in the soldier's face.
Grimmjow grinned wolfishly as he collected the various pieces of his armored uniform from around the room. He'd been bored for far too long and he knew that after this meeting with the Commander, things were bound to get pretty... exciting.
A/N: And there you have it, my new brainchild! Don't worry, I have not even the slightest intention of abandoning any of my other stories, this is something I've wanted to write for months and thanks to a select few (you know who you are) I finally gained the support I needed to start writing it. The story won't be very long, maybe six to ten chapters tops. We'll see.
Well, let me know what you think?