Before you begin, I'd like to say Happy Birthday to Blackstorm~ I know she's already received some amazing gift art and I'm sure she'll be getting several great fics as well, but I think this one may be a bit different ^_^

Months ago, she shared with me a few really creative and wonderful ideas that she had, eventually telling me she wouldn't be writing them out and they would stay as idle daydreams... A few of those ideas really stuck with me and so as a gift, I decided to flesh out one of them for her. I hope I did it justice, Stormy! Happy Birthday~

The day was beautiful, perfect by any and all standards. The sun shone high in the gorgeous blue sky, large, puffy white clouds dotting the vast vista every now and then, looking friendly and happy. Birds sang and the air bustled with the sounds of pleasant laughter and other good natured sounds. The streets were alive with people, both tourists and travelers, merchants and the citizens of the fair city.

Families wondered the extensive lanes of the city's largest attraction, the Seireitei. The building it's self was large enough to be a small town complete with paved walk ways, several levels for visitors to explore, shops and stands. It even housed small rooms for rent that guests could stay in to enjoy their visit for multiple days. From the outside, the domed, reflective tiled roof could be seen from anywhere in the city, reaching higher into the endless sky than even the tallest skyscrapers, but it wasn't the building's impressive structure that drew people from around the universe. The Seireitei was Earth's largest and most extensive zoo and museum, boasting the largest collection of exotic animals and creatures from more than fifteen different planets, including ones from galaxies that were considered hostile and unlivable to man kind.

The world's leading experts lived among their work, given homes within the dome for them and their families. Scientists, zoologists, biologists, explorers and more; all sought the grand achievement that was being excepted into the Seireitei. One man among them smiled as he packed away the things he would need for his next expedition.

Growing up on the edge of the great city that housed Seireitei at it's center, Ichigo Kurosaki and his younger sisters had been instilled with a great love for the outdoors, for the wilderness and for exploration and imagination. Their father, a well respected doctor by trade, had been an amateur explorer in his spare time, traveling to faraway lands to help the sick and injured of less fortunate peoples. He had dragged his children along with him to the most remote corners of the globe, even taking them on one trip to another planet before either of his three children had been out of high school. They always stayed self sufficient and immersed in the wilderness around them on their journeys and Ichigo's father had insured all of his beloved family knew how to survive in the harshest of environments. People had called him crazy, called him eccentric but he had been the best father Ichigo could have ever asked for, no matter how goofy he was.

The old man had been beyond proud to learn that Ichigo had chosen the path of a field biologist and had even been accepted into one of the leading schools for his chosen trade. While in school, he took extra classes in medicine for fun, as well as every science class he could put on his transcript. After graduating early and at the top of his class, Ichigo had been overjoyed to share even more good news with his family, news that many could only ever dream of; the famed Seireitei had sent him a request, asking him to move and join their team of professionals. Of course Ichigo had accepted the invitation, had been unable to turn it down, but it meant leaving his family behind. The institution had offered to set him up with one of the larger employee homes so that his sisters and father could come along, but his family had opted to stay in their home town while Karin and Yuzu finished up high school and Isshin could continue working at the family practice he had founded.

It had been three years since Ichigo had moved to Seireitei and he had no regrets. He loved what he did with an unmatched passion, he made good money and his name had spread across the globe in the scientific world. He sent his sister's and father plane tickets every so often, forcing them to visit him and a couple times a year he would visit his home town and his old friends. All in all, everything was perfect, as beautiful as the weather and shining sun outside.

Today, Ichigo's greatest dream was coming true. Later that night, an exploration ship would launch into space, carrying him and a team of his most renowned colleagues to the far reaches of space, leaving Earth's galaxy, the Milky Way, behind to study and collect specimens from a planet never before explored by a scientific team. A military unit and a single field researcher sent as an advanced contact had touched down weeks ago, staying to insure no hostiles would endanger the mission and confirm that there was indeed life on the planet. Pictures and video of a dense jungle with strange and never before seen plants had sparked great interest in Seireitei's head departments. Tales of odd, humanoid and seemingly intelligent creatures had pushed the idea to send a more capable and ready team into reality and now a group had been assembled and was readying to depart.

As part of that team, Ichigo couldn't be any happier. He grabbed his favorite family photo, the only one he had where he and his twin sisters had been young enough to have their late mother sitting with them, from where he had taped it to his mirror. Smiling gently at it, he quickly tucked it into one of his research notebooks before he put the notebook and a sketchbook into his bag.

He and the team would be on the new planet, dubbed Hueco Mundo for the strange way the moon never seemed to set and the sun had not once risen within the weeks the advanced group had been there, for up to three months, depending on how things went. Their mission was to record data; sketches of the flora and fauna, photos, recordings of the planet's temperature, humidity, etc as well as collect specimens. Some would ultimately be killed and dissected for study, but the zoo and museum section of Seireitei had room for a few new species and that was part of Ichigo's priority. He was in charge of the collection team, specifically in capturing and bringing back one of the larger creatures the advanced team had sighted.

A single bag slung over his shoulder, Ichigo hurried from his home within the Seireitei living districts. It took him no time to get to the launching docks and he flashed his ID to the guards at the gates. He was immediately escorted onto the shuttle that would launch he and his team into space and carry them to Hueco Mundo. He selected his seat and buckled up before eagerly taking the documents being handed to him.

A few more of the last minute people clambered on board before the count down to launch began. There were a few people Ichigo had never seen before, but Seireitei was large and that wasn't overly surprising. Not entirely new to space exploration, Ichigo calmly tucked the documents away and leaned his head back against the headrest of his seat while the thrusters were engaged and the pilots began ticking off stats and check lists. The initial take off was always a bit rocky as the nose of the shuttle was lifted to face skyward and the massive engines rocketed them out of the atmosphere but within minutes, the ride was smooth and easy going, even as they traveled far faster than any other vehicle could ever hope to go.

A slight smile still tilting the corners of his lips, Ichigo glanced out one of the porthole windows at the dark and beautiful nothingness that was space as he pulled the documents back out and opened up the folder containing his mission debrief. Within minutes they entered hyperspace. Ichigo read through his mission statements and goals, studied the photos included and the hand written notes that had been taken by the original researcher, a man Ichigo was far more than excited to meet. A few hours passed and most of the team had fallen asleep. Nearly ten hours later, the new planet came into view and the pilots announced the wake up call and began preparing for landing.

Everyone sat up straight and buckled back up, preparing to land in a pre-designated area that had been cleared by the military unit weeks ago. The air of the shuttle was alive with excitement and just a hint of trepidation as touchdown was called out and the engines were shut down.

The few trained soldiers that accompanied the team as escorts and guardians were the first to set foot on the ground, Ichigo following quickly behind, far too eager to sit back. The instant his boots hit the ground however, the entire mood seemed to change. He was still incredibly excited, but this world held a hush that seemed far from quiet. It whispered of something wild and unforgiving, something much more and yet much less human all at once.

Much to his surprise, the ground was more sand than soil, fine grained, white and loosely packed. While dense, the strange trees of the forest surrounding them were tall and multi-branched but almost needle like; harsh and sharp like they carried their very own defense. The thin leaves were more grey than green, the trunks of a matching color. Between the branches and leaves, the crescent moon overhead was cold looking, hollow and unforgiving. No insects buzzed through the motionless air or chirped from the trees. None of the low lying and few bushes rustled with living things as the team slowly and cautiously began moving into the forest to set up camp and meet up with the small team already deployed. All was quiet, dead, but it was a stillness that suggested something far more dangerous than themselves was lurking about.

Guns and weapons at the ready, the soldiers assigned to them led them a ways through the trees, wary and watchful. Ichigo kept track of everything he set his eyes upon, noting the more prominent features in the landscape around them. The closer they got to the camp the smaller, less manned team had set up, the more quiet and still everything seemed. The atmosphere was stifling and stiff, heavy with something as though it was holding it's breath.

Finally, after nearly a half hour of slowly traversing the dense jungle, they came upon a clearing that housed a single tent, a small fire and a few boxes of supplies. Further toward the back of camp, a covered cage standing a little taller than a man and about that same length had been chained to the trees around it. The grey tarp covering it kept Ichigo from seeing what was inside and though no noise came from within, he knew it was something still very alive.

While the rest of his team began setting their equipment up, pitching two more tents and readying gear, Ichigo wondered to the already set up tent to find the field researcher he would be working along side.

The moment he ducked under the tent flap, he was greeted by a man several years his senior. The man settled the notebook he had been scribbling in aside and stood, a friendly enough smile on his scruffy face.

"Ah! You must be the young Mr. Kurosaki." The man said happily, holding out his hand. "I've heard a lot about you."

"Please, call me Ichigo." Said young man replied, smile dancing on his boyish and handsome features as he accepted and shook the hand offered to him. Urahara Kisuke was renowned for his field work and discovering several new species to add to Seireitei's vast collection and Ichigo admired he and his work greatly. It was truly an honor to work along side this man.

"Very well, Ichigo." Urahara said, pulling out his famed fan. As he did so, Ichigo's attention was pulled to a torn, white cloth that had been wrapped around a good portion of the man's arm, red seeping through in areas.

Ichigo pointed to it, his concern and curiosity showing easily in his expressive eyes. "Uh... You ok? I know quite a bit about medicine if you'd like me to take a look."

Urahara chuckled as his light grey eyes shone from beneath the rim of his hat. "No, no. I'm fine~ It was just a scratch, rather lucky, really."

"Must have been a bad scratch." Ichigo muttered, a frown now tugging at his features.

"Well, it was caused by something capable of doing far worse." Urahara told him happily, far too cheery and excited for such dark sounding words.

Ichigo's mind wondered to the mysterious, covered cage outside, excitement bubbling up in his own mind. "You caught one already?" He asked eagerly, a bit of his youth showing through in his tone.

He had no name for the creature they had been sent to collect but the descriptions had been intriguing to say the least and Ichigo couldn't wait to see one with his own eyes. When they brought the creature back, he and Urahara would be in charge of designing it's enclosure within the Seireitei zoo. Capturing one this early would give them plenty of time to observe it and learn what they ate, how they fed, slept, groomed. It would make transporting easier and integrating the beast into it's new home smoother and it would also mean they would be able to get their work done and go home sooner.

Urahara smirked and tucked his fan back into the sleeve of his grayish green military jacket. He stepped around his young colleague and led the way back out of the tent to stand facing the cage and his prize. "I did. It appears that we got rather lucky too. They seem to be a rare race and we must have stumbled right into this one's territory."

As Ichigo stood next to his esteemed coworker, waiting for the man to finally unveil the animal, he couldn't help but wonder at why everything around them seemed so very quiet. Even the creature within the cage was silent and unmoving, a rare thing for a caged wild animal. Usually, a freshly caught beast would be thrashing about, screaming and growling and attempting to regain it's freedom. The sight always pulled at Ichigo's heartstrings, but he knew it was to be expected and he had also learned to take it as a sign of the creature's spirit and strength. If an animal fought with vigor, at least he knew it was relatively healthy.

"Why is it so quiet?" Ichigo asked.

"He hasn't made a sound since I finally got him, but don't let it fool you. He's the reason the entire forest seems to hold it's breath." Urahara said, sounding mysterious and a bit in awe.

"He..." Ichigo mumbled, observing the way his colleague seemed to almost humanize the creature.

Urahara smirked and cautiously neared the cage. The creature had got him once, he wouldn't let it happen again, lest he wasn't so lucky the next time and he lost his entire arm rather than just a good chunk of flesh. With a swift jerk of his arm, he yanked the tarp off the cage to reveal the animal they were tasked with bringing back to Earth.

Ichigo's brown eyes widened, his brows shooting to his hairline as he was met with the sight of the creature, something so very different from what he had been expecting. Nothing could have prepared him for what was being held in the cage. He was stunned to say the least.

It appeared the beast normally stood and walked upright, though at the moment hadn't been bothered to stand up while the two human's stared at it. Long back limbs were curled underneath of it, ending in black, feline like paws. Most of the creature's body was covered in a hard, almost chiton like white shell, probably used as a natural defense. The body it's self was lean and muscular, built for speed and agility as well as carrying a fair amount of strength in it's slender frame. The tope of a well defined chest with golden skin peeked out from below the natural armor and a long white tail whipped about in agitation behind it. Strong shoulders led to long, muscled arms and black hands that were more human than animal, complete with shining black claws but it was the creature's face that held Ichigo's attention.

Far too human looking, the creature's strong and angular features were twisted into an indignant and angry sneer, sharp teeth and fangs showing between full, parted lips. Long, flowing blue hair framed his features and hung around his shoulders. Teal markings ran under the creature's eyes, extending over and coloring pointed, feline like ears. His eyes were of an incredible, multi hued blue that swirled and danced with a cold fire that spoke of outrage and intelligence beyond that of a simple beast.

"He seems to understand us, though has yet to show if he can actually speak or not. The only sound he's uttered has been snarling and he's very aggressive." Urahara explained as he and the young, orange haired man beside him studied the creature before them.

Blue eyes flickered to Urahara as he spoke, but landed upon Ichigo again almost immediately, capable of freezing the young researcher in place. Still, the creature made no move to get up.

"He' He's beautiful." Ichigo said, still watching the creature. He caught Urahara nod his agreement out of the corner of his eyes. In front of him, the creature seemed to huff an almost annoyed breath, rolling those incredible eyes before he settled his head back down on his crossed forearms, ears flickering about slightly and strong shoulder blades flexing and protruding under the strange, flexible armor.

A man dressed in military fatigues approached, his eyes never leaving the caged animal. He had been on the same shuttle that had carried Ichigo to the new planet, but neither Ichigo nor Urahara knew who he was and something didn't sit quite right about him or the way he studied the caged creature. He didn't say a word, just stood at their side and watched the beast, sized him up with an appraising eye.

He hadn't been standing with the two scientists for more than a few seconds when an aggressive snarling growl filtered through the air, coming from the creature still curled on the barren floor of the cage in the farthest corner from the camp. With no more warning given, the beast leaped to it's feet and closed the distance between it's self and the humans staring at it. He threw himself against the bars with an impressive speed and strength that managed to rock the heavy structure a bit, sharp claws reaching between the bars and tearing through the front of the stranger's armored vest, scrapping furrows into the metal and shredding the camouflage colored cloth.

All three men fell back in their surprise, the man that had been attacked nearly falling to the sandy ground. As they watched the creature pace on silent feet with impossible grace, stretching his long back limbs while his tail lashed about behind him, Urahara chuckled, bringing his fan out once more.

"Thank you for the demonstration~" The blond researcher called to the creature in a light, singsong voice. He received a flash of white teeth in reply that almost had Ichigo laughing as well, thoroughly amazed. The creature was truly spectacular. He would make a wonderful addition to the zoo and museum on Earth.

The tarp was carefully replaced back over the cage, the two researchers cautious of just how close to the bars they got. The rest of the day, or perhaps night since the moon still shone high overhead, was dedicated to setting up camp for the rest of the team. Research equipment was set up and locked down, bed rolls were laid out, and a perimeter was established by the military and guard unit. Soon enough, all was quiet as the team allowed the fatigue from the long trip to the strange planet to take over and sleep claimed the camp.

The wake up call sounded bright and early the next morning and the day began, though the sun had yet to show it's self. The team, headed by Ichigo, ventured out amongst the trees to begin their data and specimen collection. Only breaking once for a quick meal, the team went about their duty quickly and thoroughly, each and every one of them excited to be on the new and unexplored planet.

Urahara focused on his new find, learning as much about the strange creature's behaviors as possible, Ichigo at his side when the young man wasn't out in the field. They had yet to get the creature to eat anything, but that wasn't particularly uncommon for a freshly captured animal and he didn't look unhealthy or under weight. When Urahara and Ichigo weren't near by, the tarp was kept over the cage to help minimize the stress that the extra and new humans could cause as well as to protect the exposed cage and it's contents should the weather take a turn, either to ill and rainy or too sunny, should the sun actually ever rise.

The days went by with everyone keeping busy. Once the team had ventured further from camp and away from the large creature being held there, the forest seemed more alive. A few lizards had been spotted, one captured for study. Birds could occasionally be heard from the needle like branches overhead, though no one had actually spotted any. It seemed that every creature within this world had the same black and white or grayish colors too it, making everything blend nearly seamlessly. The only splash of color that had been found was the brilliant blue of the strange, humanoid creature's eyes and mane, but even his body held the same colorless palette.

The days quickly flew by, speeding into weeks and before the crew knew it, their departure date was upon them. They hadn't stayed the max three months, their superiors back on Earth deeming the amount of data collected sufficient for the time being. As it was, they were excited to bring home the newest addition to Seireitei and begin construction on the creature's new enclosure.

As the majority of the research team and the guards were busy packing things and loading up the cargo ship they had come in, Ichigo wondered back over to the covered cage where Urahara stood, looking deep in thought. As Ichigo came to stand beside the blond, the esteemed and eccentric man spoke.

"I wish I could convince him to eat something before we take him back to Earth, or even just take a drink of something. He's refused everything I've offered." Urahara shook his head slightly, intelligent grey eyes shining beneath the rim of his hat. Blue eyes stared back at him. "A week or so is understandable, but he's been in my care for more than a month now. I do not understand it."

Ichigo pondered the problem for a moment. It was indeed a bit perplexing that the creature had not had any form of nourishment within that time, yet he still looked fit and healthy. "Have you tried asking him what he would like?"

It was such a simple notion and Ichigo almost felt silly for suggesting it, but the creature looked so close to human that he couldn't help it. He was almost more man than beast and every time he looked at the creature, he expected it to start demanding to be set free.

"I...hmm." Urahara tilted his head slightly, covering the lower half of his face with his fan. "No, I haven't tried asking him."

With careful and watchful steps, Ichigo neared the thick bars of the cage, his eyes wide as he waited for some kind of reaction from the blue haired animal. The only acknowledgement he received was the attention of those endless blue eyes.

"If there's something you would prefer to eat or drink, we can get for you, you just have to let us know." Ichigo told it, nervousness bubbling in the pit of his stomach. He paused, holding his breath and waiting for a response. A few seconds ticked by in silence before the creature slowly stood from where it had been sitting. Easily clearing six feet, the humanoid beast stood several inches taller than Ichigo.

The young field biologist took a step back as the creature slowly neared him with silent and deliberate steps, his movements graceful and fluid. It's nostrils seemed to flair, taking in Ichigo's scent like any animal would and the young man almost held his hand out for it to sniff but thought better of it. After a moment, a wide and toothy grin spread across the creature's handsome face, the expression full of ill intent as the creature's long, slim tail swayed sensually behind it. A deep rumbling sound erupted from it's throat, almost a purr, and it ran it's tongue across pointed teeth.

"Uhh... I'd like to stay off the menu." Ichigo said, eyes wide and taking in the creature's every move.

Motion caught the creature's attention and the leering grin was whipped from his face to be replaced with a menacing snarl full of wicked teeth. A guard, the front of his armored vest sewn up with mismatched thread, stepped into view, a few heavy duty cables used for towing in hand.

"Hmmm..." Urahara hummed quietly, once more at Ichigo's side as their cargo's attention was drawn to the man it had already attacked once. "He really doesn't seem to like that man much."

"No, and I don't blame him." Ichigo muttered, watching as the guard attached the cables to the cage in preparation to load it onto the shuttle. The man rubbed him the wrong way, making warning bells ring in his skull and Ichigo didn't know why.

"You get a strange feeling about him as well?" Urahara asked curiously, also feeling that something wasn't quite right about the guard.

Ichigo shook his head in answer and backed further away from the cage. Before long, the creature, locked inside his bare little cage, was being dragged toward the ship, an unhappy growl rumbling in his chest as he sat in the middle of the cold, steel floor, watching the humans around him with loathing and unhappy understanding. The forest's silence followed them as the creature was moved closer to the ship, everything holding it's breath as the predatory beast neared.

After nearly an hour of careful jockeying and maneuvering, the cage was finally loaded into the cargo hold where it was anchored down to keep it from sliding around during transport. With the team safely buckled in their seats and the cargo, both living and non, locked down, the pilots took their seats and prepared for lift off.

While the thrusters were engaged and the engines began propelling the ship away from Hueco Mundo and unbeknownst to anyone else, a single man was silently ticking off the seconds until he would make his move. As the ship sailed through the planet's atmosphere and the ride became smooth again, the passengers were able to unbuckle to enjoy the trip in a bit more comfort, as well as move about.

A guard with a torn up vest stood from his seat, calculating eyes watchful as he slowly and casually began to make his way toward the front of the shuttle. Black market deals were risky business, but if the money was right, who was he to turn down the opportunity? He had a buyer with great and nearly endless resources that had caught wind of the humanoid animals roaming Hueco Mundo and the guy wanted one for his private collection. And the money was certainly right.

The man posing as a simple guard had indeed been a soldier once upon a time and he knew what he was doing; flying a ship was not out of the question and with a crew comprised of mostly researchers and scientists, he hoped he would be able to slip into the cockpit, take out the pilots and simply fly them to the designated meeting spot. Once there, he would simply let his buyer's men take care of the crew and any issues the few soldier's may pose.

With the ease of confidence in his stride, the guard that was more than he appeared slipped through the sliding doors that led to the cockpit of the shuttle and the pilots flying the space ship.

Ichigo unbuckled his seatbelt as the lights in the shuttle dimmed slightly, giving off a relaxed feel. Next to him, the field researcher he had grown up admiring did the same. Ichigo watched as the strange guard whom he didn't know casually walked toward the front of the shuttle, slipping through the doors that separated the passenger cabin from the flight controls but his mind kept wondering to the never before seen creature they now carried back to Earth with them and he didn't spare the man a second thought.

As if sensing where his young colleague's thoughts were, Urahara pulled out the blueprints to the enclosure that had been designated for their find, a kind and slightly eccentric smile showing on his features.

Ichigo's own face instantly lit up as the two began looking over the space they had to work with and discussing plans for how to make it suitable for the newest addition to Seireitei.

No more than a few minutes passed by before the ship began preparing for the shift into hyperspace, none of the passengers thinking anything of it. However, when the shuttle immediately shut down, the extra boosters used to enter the faster mode of transportation going dark, everyone halted where they were, confusion quickly settling in. Whispered worries began filtering through the cabin as the shuttle slowed, Hueco Mundo still in view.

Ichigo climbed to his feet, Urahara following his lead. The two researchers slowly made their way toward the cockpit, wondering what the problem was while the few soldiers that had accompanied their team kept the rest of the crew calm.

Just before Ichigo could reach for the door, gunfire shattered the quiet causing chaos to erupt around the shuttle. Passengers screamed and ran for cover, guards pulled out weapons of their own. Ichigo and Urahara ducked in surprise before both were surging forward, throwing themselves into the cockpit to see what was going on.

The man Ichigo had seen enter only minutes before swung a gun in their direction, his free hand clutching at a bleeding wound in his shoulder. One pilot already lay dead in his seat, the gun he had pulled on his would be attacker laying on the floor near by. The other pilot panted in gasping breaths, also injured and barely hanging on by the looks of things. Still, he fought to keep control of the shuttle. It was a loosing battle and as the last of man's strength and life drained from him, he slumped against the controls, plunging the shuttle back toward the far away planet.

Cursing, the injured man that had been posing as a guard stumbled against the wall, blood smearing the white surface through his torn and shredded vest before dragging one of the dead pilots away from the controls to take the man's seat. Ichigo and Urahara stumbled and nearly fell to the ground as the enormous ship lurched unevenly and began loosing altitude. An automated voice announced a warning and asked for all passengers to remain in their seats and buckle up, red lights flashing as power was diverted away from the main hold, darkening the shuttle and only leaving the emergency lighting. Gauges keeping track of the ship's air pressure, O2 levels and gravity density, as well as the vacuum of space around them began beeping as sensors were tripped.

The injured black market dealer wrestled with the controls but he knew he wouldn't be able to keep them in the air. He hadn't waited quite long enough and the planet's gravity was pulling the massive craft down. That fact was all too clear to Ichigo and Urahara as well and they ran back toward the passenger seating. Urahara quickly found a soldier that at least knew the basics of flying and sent the man back to the cockpit while Ichigo worked on getting everyone back in their seats and prepared for a crash landing.

The space shuttle plunged unevenly, the nose diving toward the sandy surface of Hueco Mundo faster than was safe. Ichigo grasped hold of the back of a chair as the ship lurched, barely keeping himself standing. He quickly pulled himself into the seat and buckled up, praying that they would make it to the ground.

As the ground below seemed to rush up to meet them, the screeching of metal on metal from the cargo hold sounded above the noise the passengers were making and brown eyes widened in realization. The chains holding the captured creature's cage in place strained to hold the heavy metal cage in place as the ship tilted precariously. They snapped with an audible popping screech and the freed cage slid across the flooring before it slammed into the wall that separated the cargo hold from the passengers. The structure shuttered and the wall groaned with it's weight but it was the least of the team's worries as the nose of the shuttle crashed through the tops of the strange, needle like trees.

Terrified screaming erupted about the cabin, accompanying the deafeningly loud sound of the shuttle barreling through the tree tops. The siren on the warning system flared and ebbed in a panic inducing cacophony, the red warning lights flashing brightly to alternate the shuttle between impenetrable darkness to a sick red glow. All those sounds were drowned out as the shuttle struck the ground in an explosion of sand and earth and metal.

Then all fell silent just as suddenly as what was left of the ship rocked and finally settled still in the crater it had made. Ichigo sat still a moment, stunned and trying to breath as the straps of the seat belts held him down. The shrill ringing in his ears made his eyes water, blurring the sights around him and his body protested his attempts at movement. It took a minute for him to realize the shuttle wasn't sitting level, that it had rolled and the only thing holding him in his seat and keeping him from falling to the rounded and pitted shell of the side wall was his seatbelt.

Shaking his head, Ichigo finally cleared his vision enough to look around him. Some of the other crew members were moving about, but some of them hung still and limp in their seats. A massive section of the wall and ceiling had been torn away, sand and debris littering the area. Trees had ripped dragging slashes through what used to be the bottom of the shuttle, looking like massive claw wounds. With shaking hands, Ichigo began working at the buckles keeping him in his seat. He fell with an ungraceful thud as he released them, but at least he was able to get up under his own power and nothing seemed overly damaged, just bruised and beaten.

Stumbling upright, he glanced around and rushed to one of his crew mate's side as the man also fell from his seat. The man was also relatively unharmed and had his senses about him enough to stay calm. As they went about attempting to help whom they could, a familiar snarling caught Ichigo's attention, freezing him in his tracks. Warm brown eyes wide, he slowly turned his head to see that the wall that had been separating them from the cargo hold had mostly crumbled during the crash and the cage that had fallen loose and settled against it was now thrown up against what used to be the floor of the shuttle. It had tilted, landing on it's side and forcing the tall occupant to crouch, the pads of his feet balanced on the bars. The bars themselves were bent and twisted and the creature within snarled and hissed as he grasped hold of one of the more badly damaged ones. The lean muscle of the creature's body tightened and bulged and the already weakened bar groaned. A cruel grin curled the creature's lips, flashing white teeth as the bar bent and snapped away in his clawed hands.

A soldier that had survived and regained his senses raised his gun in shaking, blood smeared hands, pointing it at the dangerous seeming creature. If the beast was able to break another bar, it would be able to slip out of the cage and roam loose. As the man began to pull the trigger, Ichigo reached out and pushed the barrel toward the ground, making the shell lodge harmlessly into the metal of the wreckage.

The guard spun on him, anger in his eyes. "If that thing gets out-" He started, but Ichigo cut him off.

"He'll probably take off back into the forest where he came from, I'm sure he's just as shaken and scared as us. There's no need to kill him, just stay out of his path when he does." He wasn't in the mood to deal with this man's crap, still shaken and in shock over what had just happened. They had bigger things to worry about than an escaped animal.

A pounding from the opposite side of the cabin drew their attention before the door that led to what was left of the cockpit was kicked open and the black market merchant that had been the cause of all this ducked through the now sideways doorway.

Ichigo curled his lip at the man before turning and disregarding him. The orange haired young man had yet to work out exactly what happened or who the man was, but he knew he didn't like him and he knew the man wasn't simply a guard. He set about helping the other survivors, keeping a wary eye on the cage that still held the wild and unhappy creature.

Something tugged at his attention and had worry gnawing at his gut. Spinning circles, Ichigo sought out the man he had grown up admiring and had been overjoyed to work beside during this trip.

He found Urahara slumped against a pile of wreckage, a steel beam jutting from the older gentleman's chest. Still alive, Urahara looked up at him with clouded but intelligent eyes and Ichigo nearly choked as he dropped to his knees at the man's side and tears threatened to blur his vision.

"I-I'm quite see that you survived." Urahara forced out passed his blood stained lips, knowing he wouldn't be quite so lucky.

Ichigo shook his head, unable to find words. He too knew the famous scientist wouldn't make it.

"And thank you...for protecting...him." Urahara turned his head to look toward the creature he had captured, a smile curling his pale but too red lips at seeing the creature struggle to escape. A bit of blood had smeared across the humanoid's abdomen from a gash caused during the cage's tumble, but he looked to have survived the crash with relatively little damage aside from a few cuts and no doubt some bruising. "Be sure to take my n-notes when help'll be taking my place at S-Seireitei, Ichigo."

With that, Urahara pulled out his fan one last time, placing it in Ichigo's hand as the life ebbed from the man's kind, grey eyes. His hand fell limply into his lap as one last breath shuttered from his lungs. Ichigo sat in shock for a moment, on the verge of tears before the sounds around him began to filter back through his mind, fearful screaming and scrambling foot steps accompanied by aggressive hissing. Ichigo slowly reached forward to pull the researcher's strange hat down over his eyes.

Standing up, Ichigo tucked the man's fan away in a pocket where it would be safe and by his side. By the time he finally turned away from Urahara's body, the screaming had died down and he looked over to see the cage that had held the captured specimen empty. The soldier that had originally tried to shoot the creature laid in a pool of his own blood, his gun drawn but he hadn't had time to fire. The creature himself was no where to be seen.

The survivors of the crash began rallying together, salvaging what they could and seeing if calling for help was an option. In the end, more than half the crew hadn't made it through the crash. A few of the injured survivors died within the following hours, cutting the number even lower. The remaining people set up camp and did their best to stay strong and alive in the face of overwhelming odds. They were scientists and soldiers, each trained and knowledgeable in the wilderness, but this wasn't Earth and the creatures that lurked Hueco Mundo were more than just animals.

Ichigo slowly made his way through the trees, back toward the crash site, mostly ignored by the survivors that lay around the small fire that had been made. They had left the shuttle behind fearing the commotion it had caused and the smell of death that clung to it would draw predators and in his panic and the haze that had clouded his mind in the moments that had followed the terrible crash, he had left his bag behind. Now that he was beginning to calm down, he intended to grab it so that he could continue recording all they experienced in his notebooks.

As the adrenaline from the accident wore off, his body ached, pain flaring to life and letting him know he hadn't come out untouched. Blood trickled in slow drops from a gash near his hair line. The cut was mostly clotted over by now but it still stung and made his temples throb. His shirt clung to his body, dirty and soaked in too many fluids for him to think about; blood from other people, his own, sweat.

As he limped quietly through the sand, the overwhelming silence began to register but his tired and still dazed mind told him it was nothing, simply a by product of the large shuttle that had torn a path across Hueco Mundo's surface. He convinced himself he was being paranoid as his shoes finally stepped onto the metal surface of the wreckage's shell and away from the soft sand.

Scratching in the shadowed darkness made him freeze and had his heart trying to pound through his ribs as he scanned the interior of the shuttle. Ichigo edged passed the shuttle's wall, soundlessly creeping into what used to be the passenger's cabin as his eyes searched out the sounds. One hand braced against a seat that hadn't been knocked loose during the crash and still clung sideways to the flooring that now acted as a wall, Ichigo rounded the row of seating blocking his vision and froze again at the sight he was met with.

Very near where he had been forced to leave Urahara's body, crouched the very creature the dead researcher had captured. A muscled back faced Ichigo, the long, flowing blue hair tangled from going through the crash hung down passed his strong shoulders. The claws of his hands scratched at the metal of the shuttle below him as the humanoid shuffled a bit closer to where Urahara's body was slumped against a pile of wreckage. The creature's head was ducked close to the ground, his long ears flicking about as he sniffed at something Ichigo couldn't see passed his lithe body.

Anger snapped inside Ichigo, thinking the creature to be messing with the deceased scientist's body, possibly looking for a quick and easy meal. He took a few strong and defiant steps toward the creature, intent on finding a way to make him leave the body alone or perhaps scare the humanoid away.

Lithe, solid muscle rippled as the creature jerked at the sudden footsteps, instantly standing to his full, intimidating hight and spinning to pin the intruder with his otherworldly eyes. White teeth shone in the darkness, an aggressive and warning growl rumbling in his muscled chest.

Ichigo's steps faltered as he looked up into those intelligent orbs, only a few feet now separating them. He vaguely noted that whatever the creature had been sniffing at was now clutched in one taloned hand but he didn't give it a second glance, captivated by the creature's very human face and handsome features.

The moment the creature registered who stood before him, the growl fell away and white teeth were once again hidden behind full lips. He tilted his head in uncanny feline curiosity, his long, slim tail swaying gently behind him. A sinful grin pulled at his features and his nostrils flared as he took in the human's scent, a match to what he'd been sniffing at before being interrupted.

The creature took a step forward, leaving only a foot between them but Ichigo couldn't seem to get his body to move as he continued to stare. The humanoid's movements were fluid and graceful, silent in an almost terrifying way that told Ichigo that if the creature wanted to kill him, he would never be able to outrun it.

A taloned hand raised between them, the black carry on bag Ichigo had been looking for dangling from the creature's clawed fingers like an offering. Ichigo took the bag mechanically with slow and careful movements, his eyes wide as they were still held by the captivating blue ones before him.

"T-thanks." He mumbled out of habit, not really thinking about the fact that he was thanking a being from another planet, one that he had no way of knowing if could even understand him.

"My pleasure." The humanoid purred out, grin still firmly in place.

Ichigo's eyes widened further at the deep, gravely tone. "You can..."

"Tch. Of course-" The creature's last word was drown out by the loud echo of a gun shot as a man dressed in a guard's clothing ran into the wrecked shuttle.

The creature ducked into a crouch, a deep and furious hiss escaping between his bared teeth as the bullet carved a path through the white shell like armor covering most of his body, drawing a small trickle of blood to the surface.

Ichigo scrambled and nearly fell in his haste to get out of the way as the humanoid sprinted into action, impossibly fast. The guard, his already torn up vest caught between the clawed finger's of the enraged creature, fired his gun off again as a fear filled yell crawled up his throat. The man was thrown to the ground as the humanoid yelped and released him, turning about and scurrying from the wreckage to disappear into the trees of the forest around them, rage and pain thick in his wake to tinge the dry air.

Bag clutched to his chest, Ichigo stared after the blue haired creature, his mind still whirring with what had just happened. He had practically been able to feel the creature's fury as hot lead had sliced a gash through his armor while the creature had darted passed him. The imposture in guard's clothing rushed to his side and Ichigo spun on the man, his face contorted in anger and the tangy smell of gun smoke and the creature's blood thick in his senses.

"Are you alright?" The black market dealer asked, but he was hardly concerned about the young man standing in front of him. "I can get us out of here! Help me catch that thing and the buyer I have in line will send a transport to pick us up."

When Ichigo didn't say anything, his features still showing surprised anger that only seemed to grow as the man continued speaking, the man tried again.

"I'll split the profit with you when we get back to Earth and I get payed."

"Are you insane?" Ichigo asked the man, deceptive calm in his voice. "You crashed the shuttle just so you could keep that creature? You killed all those people and left us stranded on this planet for money?"

By this point, Ichigo was nearly yelling in his rage, his short temper at it's ends with his frayed nerves. He let his arm drop so that it hung at his side, his bag still in hand. Seeing that he would get no satisfactory answer, he spun on his heal and left the wreckage without a backwards glance. Nothing the dealer said could possibly justify what he had done and nothing he said would change their situation.

Ichigo headed back toward the camp where what was left of his team rested in silence, though no one actually slept. He didn't see the blue eyes trained on him from within the trees, nor did he hear the footsteps that made not a sound on the soft sand as the creature crept through the trees after him. As the young researcher settled onto the ground, pulling his bag into his lap to begin digging through it, the blue haired creature smirked as it disappeared into it's forest territory, a small, rectangular bit of paper held carefully between clawed fingers.

Scowling, Ichigo opened up his notebook but the picture he had been looking for wasn't there. His scowl turned into a frantic look of panic and he dropped the notebook to the ground, grabbing a different one. One by one he searched every notebook and scrap of paper he had brought with him. He even went so far as to search the things that had been left to him with Urahara's dying breath. No luck. Tears threatening to blur his vision, Ichigo dumped the contents of his bag into the sand. His dreams had finally come true, only to be ripped away and turned into the nightmares that haunt any explorer and now that he had finally allowed himself to turn to the one source comfort he had with him, the photo of his beloved family, his sisters and father whom he may never see again, his mother who had already been taken from him, the photo was gone.

Back at the crash sight, the black market trafficker cursed as he began digging through the scrap metal that used to be the cockpit of the shuttle in search of a device every ship sent into space was equipped with. Much like airplanes, the ships held a black box that transmitted signal and location back to base. Finding the object, the trafficker scribbled down the frequency as well as the sector and location of the planet they were now stranded on. He flipped the switch after breaking the lock on the box, shutting it off and ending the transmission it was sending before he got to work. The creature, now his ticket off this forsaken planet, had already returned to the crash site once, it only logically made sense it would return again and this time, the trafficker would be ready.

There was plenty of materials to work with strewn about the cabin. The man cut lengths of rope and cord, hoisted sheets of bent and twisted metal and struggled to drag the cage that the creature had broken out of into a more convenient location. When the man was done, his trap set and ready to go, he left the ship in silence, headed back toward the camp.

Later that night, or whatever time it was, when the camp slept, no one noticed as the sounds of the forest died with an unnatural abruptness. Insects stopped their quiet cadences, birds ceased to chirp and the small creatures that roamed the ground scurried for cover. Morning would come but the sun wouldn't rise and the camp would awaken to screaming.

Ichigo bolted upright, on his feet before he was even fully awake as a terrified cry rang through the forest. He scrambled from the tent he had set up to stay in, his shoes slipping and sinking in the loose sand.

A woman lay at the edge of camp, barely illuminated by the fire's light, her blond hair dark and matted to her head as she clawed at the sand and screamed. Confusion swept the camp, followed by horror as the woman was dragged across the ground and into the trees.

Cursing, Ichigo scrambled after her, the only person brave enough to leave the firelight. Unarmed, he followed the woman's terrified cries through the darkness, calling out to her and internally panicking as his mind told him he would never be able to save her. Her scream was cut short and cold, cyan eyes flashed in the dark just ahead of him.

Ichigo skidded in the sand, coming face to face with the very creature he had feared would be responsible. A wicked grin flashed across the humanoid's features, revealing blood stained teeth as the creature's tongue ran across a plump and bloodied bottom lip.

Ichigo knew it wasn't the creature's own blood that it cleaned from it's lips and his orange brows furrowed in anger. His voice was strained and quiet as he spoke. "Why? Why did you have to kill her?"

He didn't know why he was trying to talk to the creature before him, didn't know why he expected an answer. Vivid blue eyes narrowed on him slightly as the creature took a stalking step toward him, as if to circle around him. Ichigo prepared himself as best he could, pivoting and stepping back to keep the humanoid in front of him.

"You are in my territory now, and it's survival of the fittest out here." As the creature stepped closer, his deep, growling voice carrying on the subtle breeze, Ichigo was gifted with the sight of a dark smear that marred the humanoid's muscled abdomen. Most of the blood appeared to be dried but the wound it's self still bled with the creature's movements, a wound that could have only been caused by a bullet that had punched a whole in it's natural armor. "You bring things to cage me, things to hurt me and you expect me to let you live?"

Ichigo backed another step away from the creature as it bared over sharp teeth, it's feline like ears pinned back in threat and seething rage.

"W-we didn't know...You weren't supposed to get hurt, that wasn't my fault and it wasn't that woman's fault either." Ichigo's voice gained strength as he spoke and tried to reason but he didn't know how to handle the creature before him. It was his job to observe, to learn and to understand new species and figure out how they live and act but this wasn't just some animal. This creature was intelligent, this creature was very nearly a man, much more man than he was animal and he was angered. The worst part was, Ichigo could understand his outrage.

"She pointed one of those things at me." The creature snarled, his rage palpable in the nighttime air. "I will not allow this to happen again." He pointed to his wounded and no doubt painful abdomen as he spoke, his claws glistening with blood.

As the blue haired humanoid began to continue his tirade, he paused, his teeth snapping in the darkness and his head whipped to the side to stare down something that Ichigo couldn't see. Not a moment later, something else charged from the darkness, something much larger then the creature he had been talking to. It's white armor shell shone under the moonlight much like the humanoid's as it roared and crashed through the trees. It's frightening visage resembled a skull and it bared blunt but deadly teeth at the smaller creature standing in front of the young man.

The humanoid hissed an aggressive sound and dodged out of the way as the beast invading his territory attacked. Drawn by the scent of his fresh blood, a scent that didn't carry on the wind often, this larger beast believed him weakened enough to be easy prey. Before the beast could lunge a second time, the humanoid leaped into the air and landed upon the beast's massive and exposed back, sinking his claws into the armor plating that shielded it's soft flesh.

Ichigo, eyes wide as he watched the two struggle, slowly began backing away. This was not a planet where the weak survived. The creatures here struggled and fought for their right to live. Even the needle like trees were armed against would be attackers and the smaller creatures that would stand little to no chance against something stronger were camouflaged to match the trees and the sand.

The young field biologist made it back to camp safely enough as he listened to the sounds of the creatures clashing echo through the forest; their roars of rage and pain, the sounds of a massive body crashing into the trees. Frightened eyes were turned his way as he emerged from the trees but he said nothing as he walked by, dragging his feet through the sand. He was too busy thinking, his mind too busy searching for a way to survive in this harsh land for him to acknowledge what was left of the team, now just a handful pitiful survivors.

As the days went by, it would become abundantly clear which creature had survived the battle and which had fallen. Ichigo warned the men and women of what used to be his crew against raising weapons toward the strange, blue haired humanoid that stalked the forest around him. He told them of what the creature had said and told them of the larger thing that had ambushed them. He told them help was on the way, but he could hardly bring himself to believe it. He did all he could to help his fellow humans survive in a world not meant for humans.

More of his crew mates succumbed to wounds from the crash as infection set in, still more brought about their own death as they dared to aim their guns in the direction of the blue haired creature when his curiosity got the better of him and he showed himself to the people. A small group, a mere three men, got fed up with having the humanoid creature taunt them in the dark and stalked off into the night in attempts to find the beast and kill it. They didn't return and all knew they had been killed by the creature they had set out to hunt.

All too soon, Ichigo found himself with only two companions left, one of which he knew wouldn't survive much longer and the other being one he nearly wished hadn't survived so long. The black market trafficker to get them into this mess to begin with sat across from him at the moment, on the other side of the small fire they had lit to push back the darkness that never seemed to relent. Ichigo had heard stories of men being deprived of light during times of war long long ago and how it's lack had driven them mad. He was beginning to understand. Even with the crescent moon ever overhead, this world seemed hollow and unforgiving, lightless in both a figurative and a literal way.

The man sitting before him, staring into the ever hungry fire the same as Ichigo himself was, lifted his head as something behind Ichigo caught his attention. He opened his mouth to speak, unease shaking his words as his hands clenched around the handgun at his side. His words went unheard as Ichigo continued to all but ignore his existence.

It may have been childish, but Ichigo refused to actually say a word to the fake guard and he also knew he would likely continue to sit by the fire if the man raised his weapon against the blue haired creature he realized must have been lurking about behind him. Ichigo's brown eyes darted to the weapon before shooting up to the man's face, silently daring the man to lift his gun and see what would happen. He would sit and stare into the fire while the man met a bloody fate at the humanoid's clawed hands and he wouldn't even feel bad for the man.

Over the course of his time being stranded on Hueco Mundo, Ichigo came to understand the planet just a bit better. He understood that he could show no weakness if he wanted to live. He understood that the creatures that had slowly been picking his team off were the true rulers of this wild land and that no handful of humans would change the way this world spun. He also came to understand that the blue haired humanoid creature that they had captured once upon a time was amongst the top of the food chain here and that he would do anything to stay at the top, to survive, but he also realized the creature wasn't quite so heartless as he had first seemed. He lived by a different more simple set of rules, a harsher set of rules, but he wasn't cruel, not really.

The humanoid with the beautiful blue eyes hunted and killed when he felt the need to eat, which seemed to be rare. He spilled blood and defended himself when something else threatened him and he learned from his mistakes. The creature may not have known what a gun was, but he had learned what they did and that he didn't want to be shot again and so if someone pointed one at him, he eliminated the threat.

Ichigo found that he couldn't blame the creature for that. This was his world they were intruding on, after all. They should have learned to play by his rules before they attempted to capture him or before they had foolishly thought him to be a simple animal.

Staring at the flickering flame of the fire, Ichigo listened to the very subtle sounds of claws scratching against something solid. The sounds, made by the same creature that had been hovering near by since they had crash landed back on this planet, were coming from near where the dying man was laid out in the sand.

"This one will not survive much longer." The deep voice was rich and quiet, powerful and confident. There was no malice in his tone, no anger this time or joy that the intrusive human wouldn't live. It was simply an observation and Ichigo nodded in answer before he finally turned his gaze away from the fire and looked over his shoulder to the humanoid. No matter what had happened, the creature was still beautiful in his eyes.

Azure eyes shone in the moonlight, dancing with the reflections from the fire where the creature crouched in a tree that stood only a few feet from the dying human he had been talking about. Sharp, recurved claws dug into the smooth bark of the grayish branch, keeping the creature in place for a moment longer. As Ichigo watched, those claws unlatched and the creature dropped from the branch he had been perched in to land cat like on his feet. His landing made hardly a sound as his black back paws hit the sand.

"No, he wont." Ichigo agreed, movements slow and careful as he turned to face the creature. While he had caught glimpses several times over the passed few days, this was the first time the creature had simply walked into their camp and let himself be seen so fully. Ichigo was almost pleased to see that the bullet wound that had marred his white body was all but gone, only leaving a slightly angry looking welt on the white chiton like covering that protected the creature's flesh. "Why are you here?"

The humanoid shrugged as he dismissed the dying person and took a step toward the one he conversed with. "To return something of yours."

Confused, Ichigo scowled as the creature took another, almost elegant stride in his direction before crouching to sit on his haunches and be on Ichigo's level. As the creature held out one, black clawed hand toward Ichigo, the young scientist did the same, mimicking the creature's movements in a much slower and more cautious way.

Long finger's closed into a fist, the humanoid brushed his closed hand against Ichigo's palm as he opened his fingers to deposit the object he held. Ichigo was caught off guard by the heat the being radiated for a moment, his palm nearly burning as it came into contact with the otherworldly creature. The sensation was forgotten as the object, paper light, was dropped into his opened and waiting hand and the creature retracted his own hand.

The faces of his family stared up at him from his no longer empty palm; the smiling faces of his sisters, the goofy grin his father always seemed to have, the sweet and loving look on his mother's face. Ichigo said nothing for a moment, just stared at the picture he had thought lost. The creature in front of him tilted his head to the side slightly, watching the orange haired man's reaction.

Ichigo slowly closed his fingers around the picture and pulled it close to his chest before he looked up into the piercing blue eyes now on level with his own. "Why did you take this?"

The humanoid shrugged. "Curiosity. You and the man with the strange fan were different from the other humans, different from him." The creature let his otherworldly gaze settle on the man that still sat behind Ichigo, on the other side of the fire.

Ichigo turned to look over his shoulder at the man for a moment, gauging the man's reaction. He had wisely left his gun lay in the sand at his side. Ichigo couldn't help but smirk at the realization that the creature hadn't forgotten who had shot him and the not so subtle reminder and warning he gave the crook responsible.

"Do you have a name?" The orange haired scientist asked, still sitting in the sand with the warm fire to his back.

The creature's sever, blue brows creased as his head tilted in a questioning motion. He gracefully dropped from his crouch to sit in the sand before Ichigo, folding long back limbs under him and making himself comfortable while his tail whipped out behind him in a swift, jerking motion before slowly curling around his side to lay still in the sand, the end laying between Ichigo and the creature.

Ichigo tried again when he realized he wasn't getting an answer. The creature before him looked so much like a man and even talked like one that it was easy to forget that he wasn't human, that they didn't come from the same planet and that they were probably speaking in a tongue he wasn't used to.

"Uh...A name? What do you call yourself?" Ichigo asked, trying to explain what he meant. He pointed to his own chest and tried again. "I'm called Ichigo, that's what others call me."

"Ichigo." The creature purred out in a deep and rumbling voice. Ichigo nodded, ignoring the excitement that wanted to race down his spine as the humanoid carefully pronounced his name. "Others call me by something you wouldn't be able to say."

"Oh..." Ichigo smirked a bit, feeling foolish for not thinking about the language difference and the difficulties associated with it before, but he wasn't one to simply give up. "Well, I guess I could give it a try."

It was the blue haired creature's turn to smirk. The expression morphed his handsome features into a grin as he proceeded to pronounce a name that sounded like a growl more than a name, guttural and snarling with a rough 'g' sound to it somehow.

"Uhhh..." Ichigo shook his head, not in the least bit able to mimic the sound he had just heard and fairly certain that his alphabet did not contain enough letters to try.

"You said you would try." The creature pointed out, a good natured grin still pulling at his features.

"Ok..." Ichigo hesitated, rolling the sounds around on his tongue and in his mind while he tried to decide how he was supposed to say a growl like it was a name. "Grr-imm..." He paused, scrunching up his nose and knowing it sounded nothing like what the creature had said, but he pushed forward anyway. "...Jow...?"

The humanoid threw his head back in deep laughter, his wild blue mane nearly sweeping the sand. His intense cyan eyes sparkled with his mirth and Ichigo felt his face grow warm with his embarrassment.

The creature regained control of himself and looked at the human, his smile never faltering as he copied the word the man had made up while trying to say his name. "Grimmjow... I like it. I can be called Grimmjow."

Ichigo's face reddened even more but he smiled nonetheless and nodded, now able to refer to the creature by something other than creature.

Across the fire from the two conversing beings, the black market dealer narrowed his eyes as he watched the young researcher interact with his ticket off of Hueco Mundo. He wasn't stupid enough to draw his weapon, nor did he hold the illusion that he could kill the beast should he have tried, at least not without loosing his life in the process. It didn't much matter either way, as his buyer was expecting the specimen alive and his pay would be cut in half or worse if he brought back a corpse.

The man watched as the animal seemed to relax in the company of the orange haired lad, an easy smirk tugging at it's features. The scientist himself seemed to be growing rather comfortable with the beast's company as the minutes ticked by and a plan began to reformulate in the trafficker's mind. He already had a trap ready, a way to cage the animal, all he had to do was get it back to what was left of the shuttle and that's where it's new friend, the researcher was going to come in.

Hiding a cruel grin, the trafficker stared blankly into the glowing flames of the fire as he discreetly listened to his young companion get to know the non-human and began working on the details of his plan.

Ichigo wasn't sure how long he sat by the fire, simply talking with the creature he had inadvertently named. Grimmjow seemed to never grow tired and was ever alert, his feline like ears keeping track off all the nearly inaudible sounds around them that Ichigo himself couldn't hear while his blue eyes constantly roamed his surroundings. He was intelligent and inquisitive, asking and speaking whatever came to mind. It made for interesting conversation.

In the course of their conversation, Ichigo had asked a fair amount of his own questions, the scientist in him demanding he learn more about the inhuman being he had the opportunity to speak with. Grimmjow had been surprisingly willing to answer most of his questions and by the time Ichigo decided he was ready to call it a night, he had learned that the sun apparently never rose, since Grimmjow didn't know what it was. He also learned that the air of Hueco Mundo was laced with something more than the typical oxygen of Earth and that the smaller creatures that roamed the planet's surface had no need to actually eat, they could feed off whatever was in the air. Apparently, even the trees and plants survived this way, an evolutionary trait of not having sunlight for photosynthesis. Grimmjow himself had the ability to do this to some degree, but he was much too active and much to evolved to live off it and so he still had to hunt and eat, just not as frequently as one would expect.

He had also learned that there were other humanoids on Hueco Mundo, though they were rare and mostly avoided each other until the need to mate arose. Confused about how that would work, since the creature before him was seemingly encased in a flexible armor but seamless, Ichigo had been embarrassed but he had to ask about it.

Grimmjow had been all to happy to demonstrate after he realized what Ichigo was asking him about. He had hopped to his feet, his tail flicking about happily behind him while a look of slight concentration crossed his handsome features. Not a moment later, Ichigo was rendered speechless as the tough, white armor began to peel away, starting at the bit of exposed flesh near the top of the creature's chest. It unwound around the creature's body in a slow, almost sensual way before essentially disintegrating and fusing with the tanned flesh it had been hiding. Golden skin covered rippling muscle below the armor, the humanoid's body looking just as human as his features.

Grimmjow halted the process just below his waistline, making Ichigo's face heat up all over again as cut hips were revealed and a fine trail of blue spoke for it's self about what else was hidden below the armor. The young researcher let his gaze wonder the rest of the way down the creature's body, easily imagining just how much would be exposed once the rest of the armor was removed. Before he even regained his natural pallor back, Grimmjow reversed the process and the armor began rewinding around the smooth flesh and hard planes of his body.

This creature was fascinating to say the least and after Grimmjow had finally disappeared back into the forest, Ichigo had wondered off to his tent for sleep, his mind wondering to all the far corners of the planet and reviewing all that he had just learned in awe.

While Ichigo had been mesmerized by the strange and intriguing humanoid, the trafficker had seen nothing but dollar signs and a first class ride back to Earth. The price for the animal had been high before, but after his buyer learned that not only could it talk, but it had a few interesting tricks up it's sleeve the price would sky rocket. The man waited for the young scientist to fall asleep, curled in his tent with an ever so slight smile touching his lips as the picture the creature had brought back to him rested on the ground beside him. Still he waited, listening and looking for any signs that the strange animal might have been lurking about in the forest near by.

Hours ticked by in silence as the man waited to make sure a deeper sleep had claimed the young man in his company before he made his move. The creature he needed to recapture was much too attached to the young human and it would cost the beast it's freedom.

The man slipped into the tent Ichigo slept in, careful to keep quiet while he crawled through the flap. He pulled a folded up, black cloth bag from his vest and opened up. His gun at the ready, he swiftly kicked the young man awake with a cruel shot to his side.

Ichigo woke with a start, clutching at his ribcage while he rolled over and climbed to his feet, scrambling in the sand. He spun around toward his assailant, flashes of blue hair and viscous claws in his mind, though he was fairly certain he had done nothing to gain the creature's ire. Tired and still trying to force his brain into working and waking up, Ichigo's confusion only redoubled as he pulled up short to see the man dressed in guard's fatigues standing before him, his gun in hand and shining in the darkness.

Using Ichigo's confusion against the poor researcher, the trafficker managed to get the bag over the young man's head and clamp a hand over his mouth. He pressed the barrel of the gun into the young man's lower back and felt as toned muscle went rigid with the threat.

When Ichigo tried to speak, tried to question what was going on, the gun dug further into this spine and hand clamped over his mouth jerked his head back to a painful angle, making Ichigo grit his teeth and groan under the dark material covering his face.

"That's it." The man whispered as Ichigo fell still under his hands. "You just stay quiet until I tell you to start screaming."

Ichigo tried to speak again, to demand answers and figure out what the hell was going on. He received another cruel jerk of the hand wrapped firmly around his lower face for his efforts and nearly lost his footing in the loose sand as he was dragged forward. His hands were free but the gun digging into his spine kept him from lashing out and he settled for wrapping his fingers around the thick arm resting against his throat. Unable to see what was going on, Ichigo struggled against his capture to the best of his abilities while he tried to figure out what was happening and what the man had meant.

His capture navigated them quickly through the trees and away from camp. Ichigo could feel the man's nervousness and hurry as he rushed to their destination in the closest thing to silence he could get. Every noise Ichigo made was met with retaliation, every movement he made in struggle received a sharp jab from the barrel of the handgun.

As Ichigo's feet landed on something solid and metallic, realization began to dawn and his confusion began to melt away. The man was a black market dealer after all, and he was still intent on capturing his paycheck.

Ichigo grit his teeth behind the black fabric, anger boiling in his veins. He planted his feet and refused to move. He would not be part of this man's ploy to capture the humanoid creature, he would not take part in Grimmjow being locked in a cage again, especially to be sent to some rich bastard as a mantle trophy.

"I wont help you." Ichigo ground out, his voice muffled by the bag and the man's hand but his words were still clear enough to get the meaning.

"You're already helping me, now start screaming." The man snarled back, shoving Ichigo forward and throwing the younger man to the hard metal of the wrecked shuttle.

Ichigo tripped up on something protruding from what used to be the wall and fell with a hard thud and grunt. Still blind from the bag over his head, he struggled to his knees before he began to tear the material off. As soon as his fingers closed around the offending object, his wrists were caught and the dealer jerked his arms behind his back before sending a knee to Ichigo's stomach.

Ichigo fell back to the ground but he had the sense to role out of the way and he avoided the next kick sent his way. He jerked the bag from over his head and jumped to his feet, backing away from the crazed man coming after him. "I wont call him here."

"You will or I'll kill you and let your blood bring him." The man all but shouted back as he lashed out at Ichigo. If he couldn't get the kid to make some noise the beast would never come to his bait.

The young researcher ducked out of the way, sending a sweeping kick back that knocked the man from his feet and dropped him to the ground but as he began righting himself once more, he leveled his gun at Ichigo in grave threat.

With slow motions, Ichigo rose his hands to either side of his head, brown eyes narrowed on the man as he stepped back and further into the shell of the wreckage.

"Call for him." The man demanded, standing to his full height, his gun leveled at Ichigo's abdomen. It didn't matter though and both men had underestimated just how powerful the humanoid's senses were.

Before Ichigo could refuse, a menacing, deep growl filtered through the mangled cabin of the shuttle. The trafficker spun, his eyes wide as claws scraped against metal. He was thrown back and to the ground, the blue haired humanoid on top of him with white fangs bared and the black claws of his hands tearing through his clothing to puncture his flesh.

Ichigo jumped further back as Grimmjow pounced and the two slid across the ground toward him from the creature's momentum. He dove to the side as the metal under the two struggling beings caused them to continue sliding. They came to a halt as they slammed into what used to be the ceiling of the shuttle but Grimmjow refused to let go. The sound of a gun shot echoed through the metal wreckage, a snarling yelp following just behind but still Grimmjow tore into the man, even as blood seeped between his armor plating to drip down his abdomen from the wound caused by the foreign weapon.

A strong, clawed hand closed around the man's own where he held the gun and forced the weapon to point away from the creature's body. The weapon fired again, the bullet zinging off metal and showering sparks over the two struggling figures. Blood pooled below the trafficker as claws shredded his flesh and sought out muscle but the man was still fighting desperately and Ichigo knew Grimmjow wouldn't let up until the man stopped his struggling or was dead.

The creature's teeth sank deep into the man's blocking arm and a scream of pain burst from his throat as claws simultaneously ripped open his stomach. The gun, still held in the man's pinned hand, went off a third time, the bullet discharging into the air to strike the ceiling above them once more.

The echos of the gun shot and the man's scream died away as Ichigo stared at the sight before him. Bile pooled below the man to mix with his warm blood, his intestines sliding through the ragged gash that had been torn in his abdominal cavity as his movements began to slow. Barely louder than the sound of Grimmjow's viscous snarling, a groaning from above caught Ichigo's attention and his eyes snapped toward what sufficed as the roof of the shuttle.

Swinging precariously by a few cords and ropes hung what was left of the cage that had originally trapped the humanoid before the crash. The bottom had been cut out somehow, leaving only the solid sheet of metal at the top, the walls of bars and a metal band that ran around the perimeter of the bottom to hold the bars in place. It was perched above where Grimmjow struggled against the man who wished to see him caged and sold but the humanoid wasn't lined up with the makeshift trap quite right. When he had initially attacked, he and the man had slid too far and should the cage fall now, the metal band and the bars would plow into the creature's solid body, leaving the cages full weight to pin him to the metal below his feet.

Ichigo stared with wide eyes as one of the frayed ropes that held it in place stretched, the edges splitting and stretching where the bullet had grazed it before it snapped. The heavy cage jerked in place, swaying and straining the rest of the few ropes that tentatively held it in the air. The ropes groaned under the weight and Ichigo turned his attention back to Grimmjow and the man he fought in time to see the trafficker attempt to aim the gun in his hand.

"Grimmjow!" Ichigo's warning was drown out by the gun. He watched as the bullet sliced through another rope, on the same side as the first snapped rope. The remaining cords groaned and stretched as the cage dropped a few feet before jerking to a shuddering, precarious halt again.

Vivid cyan eyes widened as Grimmjow froze above his nearly dead opponent, one bloodied hand wrapped around the man's throat while the other still held the dangerous gun away from his body. His sensitive ears flicked and rotated to pick up the sound as his snarling growl died away.

As the man choked, his air supply cut off by the long fingers circling around his throat, he forced out a laugh and the remaining supports broke one by one. The cage fell as Grimmjow pushed away from the man, scrambling to get out of the way. His paws slipped on the metal, claws attempting to dig in to compensate and find purchase but he was too late.

Ichigo gasped a startled breath as the cage crashed to the ground with a loud and hollow sound, sending plumes of dust and sand into the air to obscure his vision. He froze in horror at the growing puddle of thick liquid that spread out toward his feet but before the dust could settle, he composed himself and burst into motion in the suddenly silent shuttle.

Panting was the first thing to catch his attention but he couldn't tell if it was Grimmjow or the dealer and he waved a hand in front of his face as he coughed to help clear away the dust as he slowly made his way toward where he knew Grimmjow had been. His shoes slipped on the metal, slicked by too much blood for him to keep his traction but he refused to wait any longer. As the dust and dirt finally began to settle, Ichigo looked down to see long blue strands spread out across the floor.

"Gr-Grimmjow...?" He hesitated to ask, afraid that he wouldn't receive a reply as he neared the downed humanoid.

A quiet whimper was his answer and he surged forward the instant it cut through the air, landing on his knees at the creature's side. Grimmjow whimpered again, the sound more animal than human and laced with pain as his features contorted to show that pain. Ichigo let his vision wonder away from the creature's face, let it follow the curve of his neck and the set of his shoulders until he came to where the edge of the cage had settled.

He was pinned on his back like he had attempted to role over at the last minute before the cage had struck, his black hands braced against the metal bars, pushing and clawing in an effort to get the heavy object off himself. He struggled and panted, the solid metal band that ran around the bottom edge of the cage laying across his abdomen, directly below where his ribcage and sternum would be.

There was blood smeared across his body, seeping between the plates of his armor but it didn't seem that the metal had actually pierced the protective chiton like substance and Ichigo was fairly certain the blood was from the bullet wound he had received minutes before the cage had fallen. Still, there was no way for Ichigo to tell if the weight of the cage had been enough to do internal damage or break anything.

Grimmjow bared his teeth to the air as the muscle of his arms and shoulders bulged and he heaved at the cage from below it. He panted with the strain, unable to get the leverage he needed to lift the cage away as it pressed down on his body and made every breath burn. On the other side of the bars, the creature's tail jerked unevenly in frantic motions and the claws of his back paws scraped and scratched at the metal below them in his struggle.

Ichigo stood from where he was kneeling by the humanoid's side, studying the cage and trying to stay calm as he realized the creature couldn't breathe with the weight of the cage settled upon his chest. The dealer, if not dead than very nearly so as he bled out not far away, had been able to move it about on his own, at least enough to drag it over to where he had set the trap. Ichigo looked up to see the makeshift pulley system the man had set up to get it into the air. The strut the man had used to throw the ropes over looked solid enough still, but the only ropes Ichigo knew of were back at the camp and he didn't know if they had that much time. He doubted the weight was enough to kill the humanoid within the time it would take him to travel to camp and back, but the very scent of the creature's blood had been enough to attract much larger beasts before and he was betting it was a safe guess that it would do so again. If that happened, especially while Ichigo was gone, Grimmjow would be defenseless, pinned on his back below the cage.

Cursing quietly, Ichigo brushed his fingers through soft blue hair, not really registering what he was doing until brilliant and startled blue eyes snapped open to look at him. The creature still panted, still struggled to breathe and to lift the cage but some of the panic seemed to retreat and Ichigo spoke as an idea came to mind.

"I'm not leaving you. I'll be right back." He assured the humanoid as he climbed back to his feet, vivid, otherworldly eyes following his every move. The creature nodded slightly and Ichigo sprinted off toward the cargo hold of the shuttle and the collapsed wall that had separated it from the passenger cabin.

He scrambled through the rubble, digging and moving useless chunks of wall from his path until he found a few, thick wooden struts. Grabbing as many as he could find and carry, the researcher ran back to where he had left Grimmjow, dropping the wooden debris before going back for a few more he had seen. He snagged a long metal pole that had once been part of the shuttle's outer structure and scurried back.

Grimmjow watched him, his sensitive ears flickering about and searching out sounds that could be made by potential threats as he panted and continued struggling, refusing to give up even if he realized he couldn't do it on his own. Full lips peeled away from viscous teeth as the humanoid froze, a snarl beginning to rumble in his chest.

Ichigo paused, fear trying to bubble in his stomach as he spun to look toward the opening in the ship's haul. He could see nothing there, nor any shadows other than the darkened forest beyond but he trusted Grimmjow's instincts and knew something must be drawing near, attracted by the scent of blood and fresh meat.

"Quickly." Grimmjow grit out, the word spoken on his unending growling.

Ichigo shot into motion. He slid the wooden struts under the edge of the cage as close to Grimmjow's abdomen as he could get them without actually scraping against him to hold some of the cage's weight and keep it from putting any more pressure on the creature than it already was. Next, crossing over to Grimmjow's other side, he stacked more of the solid wooden debris he had collected nearly a foot in front of the cage's edge. He wedged the metal bar under the metal band that ringed the bottom of the structure so that the middle of the bar lay across his stack of debris while the far end rested on the ground inside the cage, near where Grimmjow's feet were.

A screeching, groaning call reached them from somewhere outside of the shuttle, near the tree line and Grimmjow's eyes widened before his snarling growl redoubled in it's intensity, frightening and threatening to listen to. The sound spelled doom and oozed of a deadly promise even as the creature was trapped and nearly helpless.

Cursing again, Ichigo realized they were nearly out of time and he grasped hold of the end of the bar that was propped up in the air. Groaning and straining, he struggled to push the end of the bar down, using the leverage it created to begin lifting the heavy cage with the other end of the bar. The bar groaned under the pressure, the end that neared Grimmjow's feet slipping against the metal surface of the shuttle but Ichigo wouldn't relent and he tensed as he fought to straighten.

As the pressure from the cage lessened, Grimmjow began pushing at it again, attempting to aid the human helping him. Menacing snarl never wavering, he dug the claws of his back feet into the metal, letting them screech across the smooth surface as he pushed.

Between the creature's strength and Ichigo's, the cage was lifted enough for Grimmjow to begin wiggling his way out from under it. He crawled forward, his teeth bared and snarling at the beast he knew was closing in from outside until all but his legs and tail were out from under the cage but he paused as the bar Ichigo held groaned and bent before snapping.

The humanoid ducked, his ears flattening against his skull as the cage crashed down again but the wooden struts Ichigo had placed under it's edge near his abdomen kept it from falling upon him again and he quickly scrambled the rest of the way out just as a massive, white body filled the torn opening of the shuttle's haul.

Ichigo nearly fell as the bar snapped, staggering backward with the sudden change. He righted himself, regaining his balance only to be thrown to the ground by Grimmjow as the humanoid grabbed hold of him and shoved him aside.

A beast easily thrice the humanoid's size lunged through the opening in the shuttle, hoping to take advantage of the creature's weakness. Ichigo fell to the floor and out of harm's way as massive jaws snapped shut in the air near where he had been standing.

Grimmjow's resounding snarl had the young researcher's hair standing on end but the beast simply roared back as it crowded into the shuttle. The humanoid crouched into a ready stance, balancing on his lithe paws with ease but Ichigo couldn't help but notice the way he shifted his weight to one side as he continued to pant.

As the beast lunged again, one taloned hand reaching for the humanoid, Grimmjow dodged into a role, coming up on his feet with an incredible speed before he pounced and sank his own claws into the armor like plating of the creature. The beast roared in defiance and thrashed about, attempting to throw off the smaller creature. It disregarded the things around it, slamming into the cage to push it across the flooring.

Grimmjow's back claws slipped where they were anchoring him to the creature's side, his front digging through the protective covering to sink into flesh. He tore sheets of the plating away, drawing blood as he sliced through the flesh below.

As the two struggled, the larger slammed against a side of the shuttle's carapace, dislodging more rubble and loosening more debris. Sheets of metal and chunks of wood crashed to the ground around them, the remaining structure of the space ship shuttering under the force of the battling creatures.

The blue haired inhuman seemed to notice this and his otherworldly gaze caught Ichigo's before he called out the human in a deep and commanding voice. "Run. Back to your camp, I will catch up."

Ichigo hesitated, watching as the humanoid continued tearing into the flesh he had exposed, forcing the larger creature to thrash about in an effort to throw him off. The beast slammed into the side of the shuttle again and the young scientist realized what Grimmjow's plan must have been. He edged around the two, his vision never leaving Grimmjow as he neared the opening.

Dark blood from the gunshot wound still trickled between the armor plating protecting the humanoid's body and his breaths still came in pants but he didn't seem particularly hindered as Ichigo finally slipped out into the night, feeling exposed and more than a bit worried for his new friend.

The young man did as the creature, someone accustomed to living and surviving in the harsh environment of the world he was now stranded in, told him to do. He made his way back toward the camp he and his team had set up when they had first arrived months ago as he once again listened to the echos of a vicious battle. But this time, there were no survivors to turn frightened eyes upon him, no one for him to reassure and his mind only worried for the creature he had left behind.

Ichigo ducked into his tent, snagging the photo of his family and his bag before reemerging to sit by the hot coals of the fire that had died out without someone to tend to it. He didn't bother relighting the flames and he opened up a notebook to begin recording what had happened as he waited, some part of him telling him Grimmjow had to come back.

Minutes ticked by, the sheet of paper in front of him still blank, the photo still clutched in his hand. He listened as a loud, desperate roar shattered the relative quite, scaring a flock of birds from the tree branches over head and sending the strange looking critters into a frenzied flight. Still Ichigo waited, hoping he and the beautiful humanoid creature hadn't parted ways permanently.

He sat alone in dark, staring at nothing and letting his senses tune into the deafening silence around him, refusing to keep track of time for fear the wait would drive him mad. Finally, a rustling caught his attention, much too small to be one of the monstrous beasts that seemed to be so attracted to Grimmjow's blood. Ichigo's head whipped around in time to see glowing blue eyes before the humanoid emerged, limping into the cleared area of the camp.

Ichigo shot to his feet, dropping the note book into the sand, not realizing as the photo fluttered after it to settle beside it. Grimmjow stumbled closer, his usually graceful stride uneven and tired. More dark blood coated his body, too much to have simply been the bullet wound and as Ichigo began taking in the sight he was presented with, he realized parts of Grimmjow's armor had been pulled up and punctured, the golden skin below torn open and bleeding.

Ichigo took a tentative step forward, unsure how he should be acting and how the creature before him would react but as that piercing cyan gaze landed upon him, his control seemed to snap and he all but raced to humanoid's side.

The barest hint of a purr seemed to interrupt Grimmjow's panting before he gave up on walking any further and dropped to sit in the white sand, staining it red in the moonlight. Ichigo bit at his bottom lip as he tentatively let his fingers brush over the white armor across the creature's abdomen, only to pull them way coated in sticky blood as a quiet whimper accompanied his touch.

He had studied medicine in school, taking after his father in his curiosity and compassion for helping others and the more he assessed the humanoid's wounds, the more he realized some of them needed tending too.

"Let me help..." He said quietly, kneeling in the sand in front of Grimmjow. "I can help..."

Grimmjow tilted his head slightly, blue brows furrowed slightly before he looked down at himself and winced at his own beat up state. He nodded and Ichigo crawled forward, settling between the creature's long, outstretched legs as he got closer. He ran his hands over the armor plating, gentle and soft as he attempted to figure out how he was supposed to help tend to the wounds of a creature who's anatomy seemed so different. But of course, as soon as the thought entered his mind he realized his mistake and he tapped the plating slightly, smirking a bit as he spoke. "Can you get rid of this again?"

The humanoid nodded but he seemed to hesitate before a quiet, strained grunt left his throat and the armor began unwinding to dissolve and disappear. The smooth, golden skin it revealed was mostly intact, the armor having done what it was supposed to, but Grimmjow's body still sported several gashes and the area where the cage had struck when it had fallen and trapped him was bruising to deep purple already.

Ichigo gently ran his fingers along the discoloration, searching for anything that felt out of place. The first thing he noticed was the intense heat radiating from the toned body below his fingers, but he had felt the same unnatural heat before, when Grimmjow's hand had brushed against his palm and so he knew it to be natural. He pushed lightly on Grimmjow's sternum, drawing a hissing breath from the humanoid but he sat still under Ichigo's trained hands. After carefully mapping the area, the scientist was relieved to find nothing broken and he moved onto the deep gash that had been torn into his side where the armor had been shorn away.

"Can you stand?" Ichigo asked, climbing to his feet and extending his hand for the creature to take. Grimmjow accepted the help and allowed the human to help him up and lead him closer to where the dead fire was. Ichigo let him lower himself back to the ground as the young man began relighting the fire.

While the flames licked the dry wood he threw on top and began glowing to life, he rummaged through his things, finding a needle and some thread in a first aid kit.

He quickly went to work, first explaining what he was doing to be sure that the non-human wouldn't freak out on him as he pierced his torn flesh with the needle. Grimmjow curled his lip slightly, flinching under the strange and rather unpleasant sensation but he held still while Ichigo cleaned and fixed up his wounds.

Ichigo couldn't help but notice the firm and well defined body below his steady hands. Even though he wasn't human, wasn't even from the same planet, Grimmjow was beautiful. It was a wild, feral beauty, one that screamed of danger but it also whispered of passion. Everything about Grimmjow was passion fueled; his anger was potent, his happiness was near manic, when he fought it was like a deadly and perfected dance, when he spoke his voice was rich and rumbling, easily conveying his strong emotions.

The scientist fought to control his wondering mind, concentrating on the task at hand as he moved lower on the creature's sculpted body to another deep and bloody slash mark that flayed his hip region open.

Gentle hands danced across his heated and bare abdomen, the human's breath ghosting across his skin as he leaned close to his work. As the human moved lower, Grimmjow noticed the man's breathing seemed to grow hotter and just a bit faster.

Never before had he been touched so gently. When wounded, as rarely as it happened, he normally tended to it himself, never allowing another living creature near him when weakened. Even mating was never so gentle as this human, it was quick and rough, over as soon as possible so that the two humanoids could part and go their separate ways once more.

This was different. This awakened different desires with different purposes and by the time the young researcher finished up stitching the last of the major wounds, Grimmjow was fidgeting where he sat in the sand. His odd movements gained the young man's attention and he looked up, the bridge of his nose and cheeks flushed with the slightest pink to catch Grimmjow's eyes with his own.

"Are you ok?" Ichigo asked quietly, noticing as Grimmjow shifted a bit not for the first time. The humanoid seemed to hesitate and Ichigo wasn't sure he'd answer before he shrugged, his blue gaze drifting away for a brief moment.

"I'm growing uncomfortable inside my Hierro." The creature said as if it made plenty of sense. Ichigo's brow furrowed with his confusion and Grimmjow smirked at the young man's confusion as he tapped the white shell like armor that covered the top of his thigh.

"Oh, that's what you call it?" Ichigo asked, intrigued as his inner scientist once again began to show. Grimmjow nodded again. "I thought you wore it all the time, though..."

"Most of the time." Grimmjow corrected, a devilish smirk beginning to tug at his lips.

Ichigo's lack of understanding showed on his features as he puzzled over what the humanoid meant before his face heated up as the memory of when Grimmjow had first demonstrated removing the armor and for what reason flashed in his mind. "...oh..."

White, over sharp teeth peeking from between full lips, Grimmjow carefully pulled himself to his knees, refusing to show as the new stitching pulled at his sore flesh and body. A purr rumbling in his throat, he slowly pushed Ichigo backward as he stripped the rest of his Hierro away from his body, freeing long, toned legs, a firm backside and his rather prominent erection.

Ichigo gulped, his chocolaty eyes widening as he allowed himself to be pushed into a laying position, vision wondering down the humanoid's very man-like body and settling on his very human and hard cock.

"I-Grimmjow... I don't know..." Ichigo stammered, still wrapping his mind around what was happening but doing very little to stop it. Still, the creature paused, head tilting in curiosity.

"Why?" He asked simply, genuine curiosity in his heavy tone and Ichigo began to question why as well. The creature on top of him was gorgeous and hardly less than a man and even though Ichigo had only really befriended him recently, he had known there was something that had drawn him to Grimmjow since he had first seen him caged in the camp.

He shook his head, confusion weighing his thoughts down. He was stranded on a dangerous planet filled with beasts and creatures that would see a human as no more than food, his only way home had been crashed and destroyed and his hope lay shattered in the wreckage.

The young scientist pushed his doubts aside and reached up to run his hands through thick blue locks, bringing a sinfully handsome grin to the humanoid's features. When blue orbs, lit as brightly as the moon overhead, caught his own gaze, Ichigo shrugged a bit and tugged at the strands in his fingers to bring Grimmjow's lips to his own.

Grimmjow's purr grew to a rumbling and heated pitch as he let his tongue invade the human's mouth and begin tasting the man below him. The sharp claws of his hands shredded through the scientist's shirt with frightening ease that sent a shiver down Ichigo's spine and before the man realized it, his clothing lay torn and shredded in the white sand and that hot tongue was laving over his neck and throat.

Ichigo arched into the oppressive heat of the corded body above him, rewarding the creature's actions with a low and wonton moan that seemed to spur the non-human on. Clawed fingers were surprisingly delicate as they traced down his body before curling around his length to finish bring him to life. A bit of trepidation bubbled up in Ichigo's mind with the thought of those clawed fingers preparing him and the man sat up slightly, gaining a curious look from Grimmjow.

The look of curiosity quickly turned to one of heat and passion as the human began preparing himself, slipping a single digit inside his entrance while vivid, intense eyes watched his every move hungrily. Ichigo's face lit up but the heavy look Grimmjow was giving him went straight to his dick and he continued, adding a second finger and moaning with the added stretch.

Both beings began to get impatient as need took over and Ichigo rose to his knees before turning to face the same direction as Grimmjow, presenting himself for the humanoid. Grimmjow hummed in approval, the sound very near a hungry growl as he grasped the slim hips in front of him. The human's breath hitched as those big hands settled in place, nearly burning with how hot they seemed as they pleasantly lit his body on fire.

In the next moment, Grimmjow was lined up and thrusting forward, sheathing his throbbing cock inside Ichigo's tight heat. He bared his fangs in pleasure as he seated himself, enjoying the delicious sounds flowing between parted, pink lips. He leaned forward over Ichigo's back, one hand planting in the sand beside the human while his other remained anchored to the man's hip and started up a quick and powerful pace.

Ichigo cried out as the heavy member inside him filled his passage and abused him in the best of ways. An unnaturally heated hand wrapped around his rigid, leaking length as Grimmjow began to stroke his cock in time with his powerful thrusts.

Their sounds of pleasure filled the still air as the two men, both so very different and yet so very alike neared their peek. Ichigo spilled his seed first, his cum covering the humanoid's hand and dripping to the soft sand below while Grimmjow's sharpened teeth gently nipped at the back of his neck. The creature followed shortly after, growling as he gave one last powerful thrust and lost himself within the human.

Panting and trembling from their exertion, the two managed to crawl into Ichigo's tent, where they collapsed in a tangle of limbs, not bothering to redress or cover themselves. Ichigo fell asleep to the steady, happy purr that rumbled quietly in the chest of the creature he laid his head upon, a slight smile on his boyish features.

It only took a few days for the deep gashes that had marred Grimmjow's smooth and flawless skin to heal. As the marks faded, Ichigo removed the stitching and finally brought up a topic he had been wondering about since he had patched the beaten and damaged humanoid up and they had become more than simple friends.

Together, he and the creature he could no longer see as a mere animal, but as a man, slowly made their way back to the site of the crash. They dug through the rubble and the wreckage, taking hours to find what Ichigo had been searching for, both silent and lost in their thoughts and in their doubts.

Finally, after hours of searching, Ichigo found what he was looking for and pulled the black box from the wreckage. The top was smeared in dried blood and dirt, the lock that had held it shut broken. Grimmjow stopped digging through the metal and debris, joining the human he now called his mate as Ichigo opened the box to find that the switch that activated it and sent out the signal and location of the shuttle had been turned off. A delighted smile lit up the young man's face at the thought of going home and he turned to his nearly human companion.

"Come with me." He bid the blue haired being, his tone light and filled with a joy he hadn't thought he would know again. "We can leave here, I can go home!"

But his joy was short lived as he noticed the sadness that swirled in blue pools, though the smile on Grimmjow's handsome face was genuine. The humanoid nuzzled gently at Ichigo's neck, settling his big hands on Ichigo's slim hips before he spoke in a quiet rumble.

"I cannot go, I would only end up in another cage...I belong here." Grimmjow all but whispered, hating the truth that he spoke. "You go. You belong on Earth."

Ichigo froze as he listened to what Grimmjow said, the box that had contained all his hopes held between them. He knew what Grimmjow was saying was the truth. No matter how much he wanted to deny it, to tell him that they could work something out and that Grimmjow would be able to live freely, he knew it would never happen. The citizens of Earth did not work that way and while he could easily have the enclosure in Seireitei designed to mimic Hueco Mundo, probably even enlarged to give the creature plenty of space to roam, it would still have walls and it would still have bars to hold him in. It would still be a cage.

Slowly, Ichigo replaced the lid back on the box, letting his mind go blank as he followed what his heart wanted. He backed away from Grimmjow, looking up into his endless eyes, deeper and more blue than the oceans of Earth.

Without turning the device back on, without sending the signal that would bring a rescue craft to Hueco Mundo, Ichigo set the box down near where the body of the researcher he had grown up admiring and quickly befriended lay and returned to the waiting arms of the creature he had befriended, of the man he loved.

The entirety of this oneshot (nearly 19,000 words) was written over the past few days... So now everyone knows the main reason I haven't updated much recently ^^; and Storm, you have no idea how hard it was keeping this little project a secret~ I hope you enjoyed and I hope it made a nice surprise!

Now, since I can't throw a party for you in person... Everyone go comment and wish Storm a Happy Birthday so we can have a FF party of sorts for her!