Summary: Shirosaki is the bloodthirsty Count Dracula, Grimmjow his fearless rival in the fierce battle for a certain orangette's love... and soul. Based on the original novel by Bram Stoker. AU, yaoi, twoshot, GrimmShiroIchi.
Warnings: AU, yaoi, OOC like woah, dual love interests, blood, gore, violence, occult themes (vampires), religious themes, historical, mature and sexual content, and finally, please note there will be character death. Also the plot is based on the movie Bram Stoker's Dracula but I did change a lot of things around to suit my needs.
Also, Shiro/Shirosaki = Count Dracula. He is called both names in the story.
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach, Dracula, or any of their characters.
I'd like to dedicate this story to my livestream support group for their constant encouragement and guidance. You know who you are.
A monster of a thank you and much love to my beta, Hidden-Shadow-Demon, who translated this story to flawless British English.
To Die For
The Year 1462 A.D.
Centuries ago, in an age of royalty and power overseen by God's one true church, we begin our tale far before any of its mortal characters were brought into this world. It was a time of war and strife and bloodshed, righteous armies clashing together in battle over and over again, the death toll rising with every passing hour as men sacrificed themselves in the name of their God. In the year during which begins our terribly beautiful story, the holy city of Constantinople had fallen to Muslim Turks who swept across Europe's borders with a vast, superior force to strike at the country of Romania, threatening all of Christendom.
From Transylvania arose a brave knight of the Order of the Dragon, known as Draculea, his name forgotten and his legacy therefore referred to by that moniker for the rest of history. He was renowned far and wide for his fearlessness and the merciless way he slaughtered all who opposed him, that and for his pale, phantom-like appearance that inspired awe and struck fear into his enemies' souls.
On the eve of the battle, the one thing he treasured above all else was his most heartfelt reason to return home victorious and this was his young lover he adored and idolized endlessly - a male of eighteen years with hair like the light of the sun itself. His love knew he must face an insurmountable force from which he might never return and desperately begged him not to go, clinging to him until the time came for him to ride into battle. Pressing their lips together for one last time, he promised on his very soul he would once again kiss his beloved's precious mouth and then was gone.
The knight fought tirelessly until that evening's sunset when, surrounded by a field of his defeated enemies impaled on stakes, the moment of his triumph was realized. He kissed the crucifix around his neck, praising the heavens that he was victorious, yet his mind reminded him of his love who still awaited his safe return at the castle and for a reason yet unknown a sense of urgency flared within him. He rode fast and hard back to his home, terror piercing his heart as it knew what his mind did not, and once he finally burst through the chapel doors his worst of fears awaited him for lying lifelessly before the altar was his lover, cold and still in death.
Not an hour preceding his arrival, the Turks, recognizing their inevitable loss, had attempted to wound their conqueror where it would hurt more than all else on this earth and shot an arrow into his castle carrying the false message of his demise. Inconsolable and unwilling to live without him, his beloved had flung himself off the tower down into the unforgiving waters of the river. Gasping in horrified disbelief, the knight collapsed onto his knees beside the body of his beloved. Reaching for ahand no longer warm with life, he kissed it reverently and held it against his cheek as sobs of despair and loss wracked his body.
Behind the altar stood the chapel's bishop, who decided then to speak of how anyone who committed the immortal sin of suicide could not be forgiven by God. His sunshine-haired lover's soul could not be saved for the rest of eternity. He was damned.
The knight roared upon hearing such cruel and blasphemous words, standing to his feet and demanding to know if this was his reward for defending God's church. Whilst the bishop and the priests proclaimed sacrilege, he knocked all of the altar's offerings to the ground and snarled viciously that he renounced God. Declaring he would rise from his death to avenge his love's with all the powers of darkness, he unsheathed his sword and plunged it into the heart of a massive stone cross in the ultimate display of faith forsaken.
Blood began to pour from where the sword was embedded into the cross and then from eyes of the saintly statues and every candle's flame within the chapel. He swept a golden chalice up and held it to the crimson waterfall raining from the cross, filling it to the brim with the unholy liquid before bringing it to his mouth and drinking every last drop.
The blood is the life, he said, and it shall be mine...
The Garden at theKurosaki Estate
The Year 1897 A.D.
It seemed Ichigo Kurosaki was always waiting for that man to show up.
Not that he truly minded, for he was sure he could spend an eternity patiently expecting said man's arrival if it meant that eventually he would be able to gaze upon the other's physical magnificence. Though he would sooner die than admit to it, of course.
This time he was waiting seated on one of the stone benches located underneath an intricate, iron arch and within the lush greenery of his family estate's sprawling grounds. It was around eight o'clock in the morning, the sun halfway through its ascent into the unusually clear, bright sky. A book he intended to read lay open upon his lap, its presence rendered unnecessary since Ichigo's ever growing anticipation for that familiar, broad-shouldered figure to round the rose bushes as promised any second now.
It was likely clear by now that the man coming to meet him was no ordinary acquaintance, or even friend. No, he was far more than that, Ichigo thought to himself dreamily whilst resting his chin in the palm of one hand and letting his gaze turn dazed and unseeing as he called forth sweet memories of whom he waited for. Memories that detailed words and acts forbidden by the current views and beliefs of proper English society and therefore made all the better.
To elaborate, he was Ichigo Kurosaki, at eighteen years of age the youngest son of the long deceased Lord and Lady Kurosaki who left he and his three elder brothers a fortune and their noble status. A scholar his whole life, he was indulged in all of his pursuits and somewhat spoiled by his three, much older siblings who allowed him freedom from societal regulations and obligations and expectations, otherwise he'd be betrothed to some humourless daughter of nobility and using all of his time to manage his family's finances and tend to other mind-numbingly boring matters. Ichigo knew he was incredibly fortunate and therefore perpetually grateful to his brothers for their leniency.
For it was because he wasn't forced to find a bride and marry that he was free to find true romance, even if he couldn't ever tell a soul aside from his brothers about his clandestine love affair with a middle-class solicitor, a man, he adored more than anything else. However, he wasn't quite so maudlin when expressing his feelings aloud... All right, maybe he was.
"Aren't you a sight for sore eyes this beautiful morning," a deep, perfectly masculine voice cut into his thoughts, causing him to immediately glance over where it had come from, what he then saw bringing an impossible to conceal bright smile to his face.
The new arrival was a man eleven years Ichigo's elder and almost surreally blessed with stunning good-looks, his flawless face and a muscled, tall figure of virile perfection like that of a legendary hero and without rival in all of London. What really drew the younger man to him though was his sublime and completely unique colouring. The sun kissed, bronzed like a Greek god hue of his skin contrasted beautifully with his porcelain blue tousled locks and eyes of endless azure seas that pulled any who looked within down into their stormy waters.
He was dressed in the fine travelling clothes of a successful businessman, which he was, including an always appropriate black overcoat, leather boots, and a silver chain leading inside his breast pocket and at its end held a customary pocket watch.
But this man, one Grimmjow Jaegerjaques, had to disagree on who the loveliest male on the face of this earth really was.
From the second he'd turned the corner and happened upon the divine vision seated on that stone bench, he nearly lost control of himself like every time he beheld the ethereal portrait awaiting his arrival. At the sight of the somewhat mussed halo the colour of imported nectarines and sunshine that framed an angelic face of tawny and rose complexion, the excuse for his tardiness that rested at the ready on the tip of his tongue vanished from existence and all Grimmjow could think of was the alluring picture the youth and his background of flowers and foliage painted.
The lithe, toned body he so desired was adorned in charcoal grey straight-legged trousers and a buttoned waistcoat over a crisp, collared white shirt, its sleeves rolled up to the elbow. But the most noticeable aspect of the boy's wardrobe, or lack thereof, were his bare feet, unseemly for a young nobleman yet still said nobleman's usual state of dress.
Expressive eyes a luminescent, glittering dark amber bordered by thick, black lashes displayed a delight that the blue-haired man shared in, not hesitating a moment later to stride across the distance between them and lower himself onto the bench beside Ichigo.
To any onlooker this intimate meeting between the two secret lovers so clearly enamoured with each other and their relationship's beginning far back in their history may appear unreal for its perfection and the fact they were both known as brash, strong-willed men in their prime. Not only was it considered an offence against the church and one's family name to be romantically involved with another male but these men were possibly the least likely on the face of the earth to share such a loving, tenderhearted moment. And at one point they'd thought so, too.
They were first introduced approximately a year ago, Grimmjow employed by the eldest Kurosaki brother to organize and document the estate and family affairs that had become an absolute mess since their parents' deaths. From the second they made eye contact they automatically despised each other, their stubborn natures and uncensored speech leading to countless arguments and shouting matches. For three months their rivalry continued, each unwilling to acknowledge the overwhelming attraction between them, and then they had their biggest fight of them all, so volatile it escalated from verbal to physical, and simultaneously they had frozen still in their positions while wrestling each other on the floor, unable to recall the reason they began arguing at all.
It's still debated who kissed whom, but after several minutes of pawing at each other in blind lust that was pretty much it for them,realizing their intense feelings as an undeniable desire and passion and something far beyond anything either had ever experienced which they eventually recognized as love. Since then they had continued their romantic tryst, hidden to the world save for Ichigo's brothers who figured them out but assured they supported anything that made their baby brother happy.
And there they were months later and as amorously, overwhelmingly devoted than ever.
"You're not too harsh on the eyes yourself," the orangette said softly, carefully moving one hand to lay atop Grimmjow's gloved one. "So, what was it that caused you to be late this time? And if you blame your damned cat getting loose for the hundredth time I swear I'll cuff you upside the head."
Ichigo was pleased when his lover chuckled in amusement, circling his fabric-covered hand around to squeeze the younger man's fondly. "No, I'm afraid it wasn't my cat that kept me this particular morning," Grimmjow said, caressing the other's hand gently using his thumb and sending a flutter of butterflies through his beloved's stomach. "I had a few problems regarding my journey to Romania I needed to sort out seeing that I depart within the hour."
"Must you leave England for an entire month? I will be bored to tears here without you," Ichigo sighed as if defeated, already knowing the answer and accepting his blue-haired lover would be gone for an agonizing four weeks.
"I shall miss you, too, sweetheart," Grimmjow said, smiling a little at the teenager's admission of missing him terribly during his absence that strengthened his already overflowing affection for the orange-haired beauty. "And I'll write you everyday and I expect you to send a letter in return for every single one of mine... or else I'll have to punish you."
"Mmm, I think I might be bad on purpose so you will have to do just that when you come back," Ichigo said huskily, taking advantage of the garden's privacy to clasp his free hand onto the back of the blunette's neck and pull him closer. Never one to be passive in physical acts of love, Grimmjow took the hint and swept down to press his lips against the full, satiny ones practically begging to be kissed and bitten 'till they were blood red.
Ichigo immediately deepened the kiss, parting his lips invitingly and humming in approval when the older man's warm tongue delved into his open mouth, tasting him and skillfully massaging his own wet muscle. But entirely too soon, Grimmjow pulled away and he was left breathless and aching for more.
"Damn it all to hell but I'm truthfully considering missing my train in order to stay and ravish you right here on this bench," the solicitor growled, eyes closed for if he beheld the desire in Ichigo's rich tea-coloured gaze and the blush tinting those faintly freckled cheeks he'd definitely decide to do so. Nevertheless, his traitorous logical part of his psyche reasoned that if he abandoned this lucrative employment opportunity he wouldn't earn its salary's equal anytime soon and there went their dream of moving together to the countryside where they could peacefully live without fear of their relationship being discovered.
"But you don't intend to, do you?" came Ichigo's quietly disappointed reply, unaware of the effect it had on Grimmjow, weighing him down with guilt.
"If I want to keep the job that will pay for our future, I'm afraid not," the elder of the two said apologetically. "Try to imagine the endless amount of time we will soon have to ourselves. I know I am most eagerly looking forward to it."
"I'm certain it will be the sole source of excitement I will have here while you're away," Ichigo said, smiling wryly and brushing his hand along the warm, tanned flesh of Grimmjow's corded neck, angular jaw, and finally the planes of his cheekbones upon which he rested his palm ever so lightly. "Promise me you'll come back to me safe and sound so I don't have to yell at you," the orangette demanded in a hushed whisper.
"I swear on my life, sweetheart," Grimmjow said, grinning at how Ichigo never seemed to realize how demanding he could be. "I hope you know that you need do the same for me and take care of yourself in my stead. Now, I don't have much time left, so come here and give me a proper goodbye." The man was barely able to say his last couple words before he was utterly silenced in the most pleasant of fashions, Ichigo obeying his orders to the fullest by wrapping both arms around his neck and seizing his lips in a fierce, electrifying kiss. Grimmjow instantly melted into the lip lock, running a white satin-covered hand through honey orange blossom tresses and gripping a handful whilst his other arm hooked around a slim waist to pull that tempting body flush against him.
Ichigo was the one who pulled back this time, eyes sad yet gleaming lovingly as he whispered almost silently, "Go."
Stealing one last peck on the lips he would miss so much, Grimmjow released his lover and so very reluctantly stood from the bench. One hand still holding the orangette's, he in a rare occurrence spoke his true feelings even though he was sure he sounded rather unlike himself. "Until I return, remember I... love you."
"And I, you," Ichigo said steadily, kissing Grimmjow's fingers tenderly and then letting them go. "All right, get out of here before we begin sounding as if we're characters in those cheap, romantic novellas." The teenaged male gave a brief laugh meant to disguise the fact he was on the verge of tears in vain for he could never hide whatever he was feeling from those soul-searching blue eyes.
"As you wish," Grimmjow said, spinning on the heels of his leather boots and walking away so quickly in the blink of an eye he was gone.
The man's glaring absence felt as if a part of his soul had been ripped out of his body, leaving a gaping wound throbbing painfully. Screwing his watery eyes shut, Ichigo willed himself to act like the grown man he considered himself to be and not cry openly the first time in years simply because he faced thirty long days in which to miss his blue-haired lover.
It wouldn't so bad, he tried to reassure himself, he would keep himself busy during Grimmjow's absence. There was sure to be something that would catch his interest.
Several Days Later
On a Train
After days of travelling by train across Europe until reaching the city of Budapest early that morning, Grimmjow was relieved to at last be nearing his destination. Spending so much time chugging along the endless railroads was incredibly dull when he had done everything he possibly could the very first day and therefore was left staring out the window for hours on end.
He had written a letter to Ichigo every day as promised, writing pages detailing his journey to his client's home in Romania in order to take up more time and sending them to London at the next station. He wouldn't be able to receive any letters in response until his short-term residence at his employer's family estate but knowing he could look forward to Ichigo's replies once there was good enough.
Grimmjow, however, spent the majority of his time en route to pour over the numerous documents enclosed in the file of his client, whose name and title were written on the pieces of parchment as: Count S. Dracula. Save for the eerie sound of the Count's family name, there wasn't much out of the ordinary about the estate and its affairs if you didn't consider that over the centuries practically nothing had changed in all respects concerning properties and finances to be... strange.
This count was certain to rank among Grimmjow's particularly eccentric clients, his old world, almost too polite manner of communicating evident in the brief letter he'd penned to the solicitor.
Welcome to the Carpathians. I am anxiously expecting you. At
the Borgo Pass, my carriage will await you and bring you to me.
I trust your journey from London has been a happy one and that
you will enjoy your stay in my beautiful land.
It was as if everything had some kind of double meaning to Grimmjow's disliking as he wasn't a fan of people who spoke in riddles and circled around their point wasting precious time instead of outright saying whatever was on the mind. If this was the case with the Count his visit to Transylvania would be a very long three weeks.
His view from the train's window was an impressive scope of densely wooded, snow capped Carpathians winding throughout the still wild and untamed lands of the old country. He couldn't spot any sign of civilization amongst the miles of untouched nature visible on the train following tracks laid upon treacherously narrow ledges along the mountainsides. Breaking away from the sight of the formidable landscape, Grimmjow reached inside his winter overcoat's inner pocket and withdrawing a square object made of silver filigree. Flicking it open with his thumb, he revealed the velvet lining and oval cutouts within.
On the left side there rested a black and white photograph, a recent invention, of the constant, adorable scowl on the pretty face of his beloved. Ichigo's usual expression was perfectly captured in the picture though he missed seeing the teenager's sunset-coloured hair and glittering brandy orbs. The opposite slot held the folded parchment of the orangette's first romantic letter he wrote to Grimmjow, bits from lines of the familiar hurried scrawl able to be seen. He stared at the photograph for a minute or two, afterwards storing it back in his pocket.
It was nightfall when the train slowed to a halt at the spot for those headed for Transylvania to disembark, the barely inhabited locale only meriting a clearing of trees as its main station.
Jumping from the train car's step to the ground blanketed in fresh snow, Grimmjow rose an eyebrow as he scanned the apparently deserted area. Far faster than its previous stops, the train took off once more and sent a burst of wind gusting over its former passenger as it disappeared into the twilight. For about a half a minute, Grimmjow assessed his surroundings for his best guess in direction and a little taken aback when suddenly out of nowhere four jet black horses galloped from within the trees, pulling an antiquated carriage behind them.
A bearded man dressed in layers of fur was its driver, looking directly at the Englishman and jerking his head toward the carriage door that promptly swung open. Figuring this must be his transportation to the Count's home, Grimmjow tossed his suitcase inside and quickly followed, shutting the door closed behind him. As soon as he was seated, the carriage began barrelling swiftly through the mountainous dense forest. Pushing the curtain aside, he stuck his head out of the window.
"Hey, you - driver! How far is it to the castle?" he called to the carriage driver, waiting for an answer that never came. Irritated, Grimmjow sat back on the seat and propped his feet on the other opposite his, resigned to accept he'd reach his destination whenever that may be. It wasn't much time before the sounds of wolves howling nearby carried on the bitter winds making for a menacing atmosphere.
Eventually the carriage lurched to a halt, the blunette thinking this better be the end to his arduous, week-long journey and grabbing his suitcase handle to exit quickly as he could. Again peeking out of the window, his gaze travelled backwards to witness something utterly unnatural. The wolves he heard howling were snarling beyond a vortex of pulsating rings of blue fire.
Unable to believe what he saw to be real, he closed his eyes and scrubbed a hand over his face before opening them to give the location of the supernatural mirage a second look. To his relief, all he saw were the wolves running away and no sign of mystical sapphire flames.
Stepping outside, Grimmjow was then abandoned by the horse-drawn carriage and driver but this didn't matter because from the ancient, stone turrets soaring stories high he'd finally made it to the Count's castle. He was presently standing in the historic structure's courtyard, steps straight across a few yards leading up to a closed set of heavy double doors.
Wasting no more time, Grimmjow approached the castle's entrance and once he set foot on the top step was pleasantly surprised to witness the doors creaking open for him to enter, which he did. Frowning disapprovingly at what greeted him - the crumbling ruins of the entrance hall sparsely decorated in what incredibly had to be the original 15th century furnishings - he looked above him to know whether or not to be wary of falling debris and nearly shouted a slew of curses at the sudden appearance of the Count when he returned his gaze forward.
"Welcome to my home. Enter freely of your own will and leave some of the happiness you bring."
The speaker was a man around Grimmjow's age, skin and long hair paler than the moon and whiter than snow. His features were actually classically handsome yet overwhelmed by their chalky pallor and his unnaturally coloured eyes, irises gold like fire and the ordinarily white sclera black as night that pierced right through you uncannily. Dressed in crimson, flowing silk robes spectacularly embroidered with intricate dragon designs in golden thread and bearing a train trailing yards upon yards along the floor, he carried at shoulder level a flickering lantern that cast shadows dancing across his politely smiling face.
"Count Dracula?" Grimmjow couldn't imagine this unorthodox character being anyone else but in this bizarre place he couldn't know for certain.
"I am Dracula," the ghostly man said in a lilting, silvery Eastern European accent. "And I bid you welcome, Mr. Jaegerjaques, to my house. Please, come in."
Preceding a relatively silent guided tour to the castle's dining room, Grimmjow sat at one end of long, narrow table and the Count at the other. Laid out for the castle guest were platters of different dishes for him to pick off as he wished, the overall high point of the blue-haired man's trip so far, but in front of Dracula there was only a single glass of red wine.
"You will, I trust, excuse me that I do not join but I have already dined and I never drink... wine," the Count said cordially, circling a black-nailed fingertip along his chalice's rim. Chewing a mouthful of steak, Grimmjow merely nodded in reply, his eyes drifting over to the massive painting hanging on the wall beside them.
"An ancestor?" he asked regarding the man depicted in the portrait who was practically identical to his living descendant. "I see a resemblance."
Dracula rose from the table, gliding across the floor closer to the painting and where the other man was seated. Gesturing airily toward the long dead relative in the piece of art, he began wistfully speaking of something that must be connected somehow. "The Order of the Dracul... the Dragon. ..an ancient society pledging my forefathers to defend the church against all enemies of Christ," he said, clenching his raised hand into a fist. "That relationship was not entirely successful."
"Ah, I see," Grimmjow said, mirth unsuccessfully repressed and subsequently audible.
In the blink of an eye, the Count drew a medieval sword from the mantle below the painting and swung around to thrust it forward until the sharply pointed tip was inches from the other man's face. "It is no laughing matter! We Draculs have a right to be proud. What devil or witch was ever so great as Attila whose blood flows in these veins?" Dracula hissed venomously. Then he visibly relaxed, withdrawing his weapon and turning to gingerly place it back on the mantle. "Blood is too precious a thing in these times. The warlike days are over. The victories of my great race are but a tale to be told. I am the last of my kind..." he trailed off, seemingly lost in his memories.
Reminding himself of the money on the line, the money he would use to run away to the countryside so he and Ichigo could be together, Grimmjow swallowed down the anger coursing through him at being threatened and subsequently his pride. "I have offended you with my ignorance, Count," he said stiffly. "Forgive me."
Dracula just smiled.
The Library at Castle Dracula
Grimmjow watched as the Count affixed his bright red wax seal on the deed of purchase they'd drawn up together after hours of negotiation from where he was seated at a desk littered with piles of parchment and books, the other standing to his right.
Satisfied that could now be checked off his list, the blunette lifted the seal over a candle's open flame and melting the wax in order to completely adhere it to the parchment. He absentmindedly noticed Dracula walking past his chair to where an extensive map of London was pinned on the wall.
"I do so long to go through the crowded streets of your mighty London, to be in the midst of the whirl and the rush of humanity, to share its life, its changes, its deaths..." the white-haired Count began another one of his wistful ramblings, Grimmjow barely paying attention as he scrawled his signature on the deed.
"There," he said, the following pleasantries monotonous and dry. "You, Count, are now the owner of Carfax Abbey in Purfleet. Congratulations."
"Your firm writes most highly of your talents. They say you are... a man of good taste," Dracula mused, still facing the map.
"I just know how to do my job," Grimmjow muttered, his mind preoccupied wondering about something he couldn't hold his tongue about any longer. "Forgive my curiosity, but why ten houses in such precise locations around London? Is it to raise market value?"
Eyes focused upon the smaller map these ten houses were clearly marked, the man never noticed the lily-white hands snatching the precious keepsake from where he'd placed it upon the desk as a visual reminder of why he'd taken this job and must see it through to the end. Pale fingers tipped with ebony nails clutched it desperately out of its owner's line of vision and flipped it open, a silent, breathless gasp forming from the all-consuming heavenly agony at the terrifyingly beautiful sight revealed. The stolen keepsake was crushed to a silk robed chest, right above a heart that felt alive after centuries of undeath.
"Do you believe in destiny, that even the powers of time can be ordered to a single purpose?" the Count uttered reverently, turning back around holding the photograph in plain sight. "The luckiest man who walks on this earth is the one who finds true love."
"You found Ichigo, I see," Grimmjow said, not particularly fond of his lover's image in another's hands and vulnerable to judgement.
"You need not fear condemnation from me, I believe love transcends... everything," Dracula said softly, the blue-haired man catching the implied 'gender' included in the other's definition of 'everything.'
"Do you speak from experience?" he asked keenly.
"That I do, Mr. Jaegerjaques, that I do... But he died long ago..." the ivory-skinned noble trailed off, returning his guest's possession upon the desk surface, now closed shut.
"I'm sorry," Grimmjow replied as one should after hearing of another's beloved's demise.
"He was fortunate. My life at best is a mystery," the Count said, switching to a more professional persona immediately after. "Come, write now, my friend, to your firm and to any loved ones and say that it should please you to stay a fortnight longer than originally intended."
"You expect me to stay so long?" Grimmjow snapped, bristling at being ordered to stay like a dog. Gold on black eyes swivelled to gaze at him, glittering knowingly in a way he automatically didn't trust.
"I will take no refusal," was his answer.
Five Days Later
The Parlour at the Kurosaki Estate
Ichigo was worried.
Currently he was in his home's lavish parlour, the prized jewel of the manor it was admittedly magnificent. At the eastern end of the house, all of its walls and the roof were made from glass and Italian marble flooring the two platforms of the room. Furniture displaying the trends the height of Victorian style, exotic birds in large cages, and potted plants imported from around the globe decorated the entire space.
Ichigo was in an armchair on the second platform and right beside the wall in the far left corner, one leg dangling over a plush armrest and the other tucked underneath him. In his hands and on his lap were envelopes and pages filled with elegant script that made up his entire collection of letters from Grimmjow since the man left. A single one for every day he was gone, that was what he promised that morning in the garden and anyone who knew him could say with absolute certainty that he was a man of his word.
Three weeks had passed since his departure for Romania, twenty one days and therefore a vowed delivery of twenty one letters sent for Ichigo to read. But as of today's post, the orangette had received a grand total of seven letters -five for the days on the train and a measly two after that. Ichigo wasn't offended as much as he was anxious at the low number of sent letters. It wasn't like Grimmjow to break a promise, not at all, and further troubling him were the tones of the last two messages, especially the most recent one.
All is well here in Castle Dracula. I have been working tirelessly with the Count sorting through his affairs and it seems my presence here will be needed longer than expected. I shall be extending my stay by a fortnight. I can say no more except I love you.
If the handwriting wasn't obviously Grimmjow's own, Ichigo would swear this letter hadn't been written by him at all. There was not a trace of the man he loved anywhere in the message, the terse, bland manner in which it was written couldn't be farther from his usual voice. There wasn't a highly suggestive double entendre nor a single attempt to make him laugh and Grimmjow never wrote in any of his letters those three little words in the last sentence. It was only once in a blue moon he said them out loud, always preferring to express the sentiment in actions Ichigo learned to recognize as the man's way to show he cared.
Something was amiss at this Castle Dracula. That he knew.
A half hour earlier, Grimmjow's instincts were impossible to ignore any longer. He knew there was something beyond his understanding of the world happening at Castle Dracula, something with wicked intentions.
He had torn through everything inside his suitcase, stopping once he found the miniature drawstring purse he'd inherited from his mother when she passed away years ago that out of habit he brought with him on all of his travels. Contained within was her wedding ring, a pair of his also deceased father's cufflinks, and what he was looking for - his mother's papally blessed gold crucifix pendant dangling on a thin chain. Grimmjow was far from a devout follower of any religion but desperate times called for desperate measure and so he'd fastened the crucifix around his neck.
Now he was taking advantage of his spare time in which he wasn't obeying the Count's instructions that were never-ending, utilizing all of the blunette's talents and official authorities to create document after document, and was shaving days' worth of stubble on his jawline. His sleeves folded above his forearms, Grimmjow stood at the room's sink above which hung a dingy mirror. He was only halfway done when he received an unwanted visitor heralded by the door closing with a dull thud.
The sound taking him by surprise, his hand slipped an inch and the razor sliced a thin cut right over his Adam's apple. Scowling so that his lip curled up one side, the Englishman looked over his shoulder and saw Dracula standing across the room, smiling cordially per usual. "I didn't hear you come in," Grimmjow said, an accusatory, suspicious undertone to his words.
"Be careful how you cut yourself," the snowy-skinned man said almost playfully whilst he seemingly floated closer, ignoring the other's statement completely. "It is... more dangerous than you think."
In a bizarre turn of events, Grimmjow decided not to respond and again faced the mirror only for seconds later it to suddenly shatter, jagged cracks splintering the glass. Lowering the arm he impulsively shielded his face with, he heard the airy chuckle of the Count close to his ear.
"A foul bauble of man's vanity. Perhaps you should grow a beard," Dracula dismissed the oddity lightly. "The letters I requested - have you finished them?" Suppressing a swell of ever increasing hatred for his gracious host, Grimmjow snatched the three unsealed envelopes off the sink counter and wordlessly held them out to the alabaster-skinned man behind him. "Good."
His posture rigid, the blunette waited for the Count to make his exit and leave him be but the latter merely walked a few feet at the most and then decided to continue speaking accented yet perfect English. "Should you leave these rooms, you will not by any chance go to sleep in any other part of the castle," he said carefully, pacing around Grimmjow as if the man were his prey. " It is old and has many bad memories. Be warned."
Hearing the thinly veiled threat, the castle guest roughly ground his teeth together. "I'm sure I understand," he spat, no longer attempting to hide his contempt for the white-haired of the two. Dracula stepped closer, intent not exactly clear but definitely not anything good. However, his exotic pair of eyes landed on the newly acquired crucifix around Grimmjow's throat and narrowed into slits, a snarl escaping his throat as he recoiled vehemently.
"Do not put your faith in such trinkets of deceit!" he screeched distortedly, his attractive features twisting in an expression of disgust. "We are in Transylvania, and Transylvania is not England. Our ways are not your ways. And, to you, there shall be many strange things."
"I've seen many strange things already," Grimmjow growled, realizing his instincts that something evil lurked here but far from afraid, his anger overriding everything else totally. "Bloody wolves chasing me through some blue inferno!" As if they heard him mention them, a chorus of howls pierced the night air and the man snapped his head in the direction of the room's window, spying a pack of wolves tilting their heads to the moon.
"Listen to them, the children of the night," Dracula cried joyously, sounding positively demonic. "What sweet music they make!"
Grimmjow looked away from the window to see his room was completely empty besides him, snarling like one of the wolves below him. Then the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end, his primitive senses picking up danger nearby and spurring him to return his gaze outside the window. Eyes widening, he was stricken at what ungodly vision awaited him - the upside down figure of the Count inhumanly scaling down the opposite wall, crawling like an animal, blood red and golden robes billowing in the wind.
Later That Night
Somewhere in Castle Dracula
The letters Grimmjow had written as instructed by his inhuman host have undoubtedly sealed his doom. Anyone who read them would assume that he was safe and sound in Transylvania, working for the Count and not planning on returning to England any time soon.
He knew Ichigo would see something wasn't quite right from his letters yet he prayed the boy wouldn't take drastic action to find out what that something was, his worst fear his beloved boarding a train to the Carpathians to find him and falling prey to the evil creature Dracula truly was. No, if there was a God let Him be merciful and keep Ichigo far, far away from the pale being that masqueraded as a man.
But this didn't mean Grimmjow was going to sit idle in the room now revealed to be his prison cell and wait for the Count to do whatever atrocities planned for him. It would be a cold day in Hell he stopped trying to get back to his dearest orangette and as they said, there was no time like the present. So, the blunette had slipped out of his room unnoticed and since then had been attempting to navigate a route of escape out of the dilapidated castle.
Currently, he was somewhere on the first floor, the arched windows lining one side of the corridor looking directly out to the endless, dark forest bordering the whole stone structure. He surmised that his only clear path was the same through which he'd arrived and yet that wasn't much help considering his odds of making it to civilization alive were slim to none, the bitterly cold climate and lack of food and water just two potential killers.
Just then the noise of hammers pounding against wood reached his ears, causing him to flatten himself against the wall and ever so cautiously approach where the sounds were coming from. Reaching the wall's end, he peered around the corner into what once was a garden in the center of the castle grounds but was now littered with dozens of crates, some stacked aside in piles while the rest were being filled by gypsy men pouring dirt into them. Frowning in confusion, Grimmjow squinted to read what was stamped onto the closed crates, appalled to find they were addressed for delivery to the Count's newly acquired Carfax Abbey in London. Fury roiling in his gut at being involved in the purchase of that very locale, he concluded that if he didn't get to the city and warn of the approaching demon and above all else make sure Ichigo was safe then no one could.
His resolve strengthened, Grimmjow happened to spot where off in the distance the gypsies had tethered their mounts and flashed a pleased, wolfish grin.
Minutes later Dracula's brainless servants didn't even notice the man riding off with one of their horses. For miles he rode hard and fast through the black forest, beginning to think he was headed in the wrong direction when the hour of dawn brought a beacon of light in the form of the outlines of a modest building appearing through the trees.
The sisters of the secluded St. Agatha's convent were startled when their door burst open and the hulking figure of a man suffering from hypothermia and weakened from days of malnourishment staggered across the threshold during their early morning prayers and promptly fell unconscious.
Six Days Later
Aboard the Demeter
Count Shirosaki Dracula stood at the ship's bow fearlessly in the destructive, tempestuous storm, powerful gusts of wind whipping his long, ghostly white tresses about. Underneath the vessel the sea roiled violently, waves crashing against the wall and hurling frothy sprays up around him. Rain plummeted from the heavens without mercy, his inhuman, all-seeing eyes gazing past the icy curtain to the stretch of land in the distance. He mentally crooned joyously to recognize the British shores after his journey across Europe.
His crimson stained mouth curved into a thrilled smile, clutching the wooden railing tighter in ashen, black-nailed hands. This was what he ached for stronger even than he thirsted for life-giving liquid for wretched, cursed lifetimes, to once again behold the face that eternally haunted him warm and flushed with an earthbound soul and caress that tempting flesh that was smoother than satin to the touch.
Upon landing he would direct the gypsies who accompanied him on the journey from Transylvania to move his sacred crates of earth that he needed to rest within into his new property at Carfax Abbey. Then he would wait for when his dearest was completely alone and he would seize his chance and remind the beauty of their unbreakable bond.
Finally after all these countless years apart he would be reunited with the love of his immortal existence.
Two Days Later
The Parlour at the Kurosaki Estate
Ichigo irritatedly flung the day's newspaper onto the floor, the headline detailing the mystery of the ship Demeter washing ashore English beaches completely empty of any living soul not distracting him from his persistent anxiety.
After receiving a letter fairly the same as the one before it from Grimmjow, he knew without a doubt something wasn't right with his lover in the eastern mountain ranges of Romania and it was torture not knowing exactly what. Worry and fear physically made him ill, his appetite nonexistent and sleep elusive and riddled with nightmares. It was excruciating not being able to do anything beside write letter after letter to the man.
"I wanted to read that as well, you know."
Removing the arm flung across his face as he reclined in the parlour's chaise longue, he looked over to where his eldest brother, Mugetsu, bent over to pick the discarded newspaper off of the floor. Twelve year older than Ichigo, he had similar facial features but boasted jet black hair to the middle of his back and burgundy-coloured eyes and was by far the most serious and even-keeled of the four Kurosaki men.
They weren't alone in the parlour at that moment, their two brothers also seated in the room. The second eldest, Kaien, was flipping through a book the others knew he was only skimming. He had hair the same sleek black as Mugetsu except his only reached the nape of his neck and he was the sole of the four to have aquamarine eyes, his personality much less reserved than the older man as well. And then the third in line presently at the piano playing melodies he made up on the spot was Kon, who had almost identical colouring to Ichigo except his hair was a shade or two a darker orange and they couldn't ever be mistaken for one another when they were practically polar opposites, the younger preferring to scowl in silence whereas his sibling was known to talk incessantly.
In response to his eldest brother, Ichigo threw his forearm back over his face and mumbled unintelligibly earning a chuckle from Kaien and a sigh from Mugetsu.
"Ichigo, I realize you are worried for Grimmjow but that is no reason to continue moping around pitifully," the oldest Kurosaki said sternly, practised in playing a parental role for the other three. "You need to distract yourself for at least a little while. Go into the city and walk around a bit, it'll do you good."
"I do not want to go into the city," Ichigo grumbled childishly.
"Would you prefer it if Kon went with you?" Kaien piped in, smirking triumphantly as the orangette sat straight up and aforementioned brother looked up eagerly from the piano keys.
"No, that's all right. I should probably go alone," Ichigo said hurriedly, rising to his feet as he accepted he would be taking the inevitable trip into the bustling streets of London whether he wanted to or not and began walking out of the parlour.
"Return home before four o'clock," Mugetsu called after him and the teenager made a face at being treated like he wasn't a grown man who was quite capable of taking care of himself.
Though nowhere near in a mood to wander aimlessly through the urban crowds, Ichigo hoped his brother was right about his venture outside being the distraction he so desperately needed after weeks of torment fearing the worst for his blue-haired lover. London was full of surprises, after all.
Later That Afternoon
The Streets of London
A few hours later that day and Ichigo had not forgotten his worries for a single moment since he first set out from his family's manor. Instead all he managed to discover within the streets of London were memories of times spent here and there with the man he longed to see again, making his emotional agony all the more unbearable.
In the middle of the street a newsboy cried out more breaking news of a string of strange events, the most recent a white wolf's escape from the city zoo and was still at large. Walking down the sidewalk, Ichigo spotted a sign for a pharmacy shop and deciding he may try his luck somewhere he'd never been to with Grimmjow, turned to the right and wandered inside the store.
He was entirely oblivious to the hungry stare aimed directly at him from across the street where it originated in the swirling depths of gold on black eyes. They belonged to an unnaturally pale man with white tresses curling over his shoulders and caught the afternoon sun, glittering like moonlight. Dressed in an expensive ensemble the height of Victorian fashion in varied shades of grey, a stylish top hat atop his ivory head of hair, a pair of round, tinted sunglasses on the bridge of his nose, and an exquisitely carved cane in hand, he made for a debonair image.
"See me," he whispered. "See me now."
Crossing the street, the man stepped up to the sidewalk in front of the pharmacy with perfect timing to bump as if accidentally into Ichigo as he exited the store. Dark amber orbs rose to meet his, immediately widening and brightening, unexpectedly dazzled by the stranger's unique allure.
"My humblest apologies. Forgive my ignorance; I have recently arrived from abroad and I do not know your city. Is a beautiful native..." the snowy skinned male said in a charming Eastern European accent. Ichigo didn't know what this handsome foreigner was thinking calling him, another man, beautiful in the middle of the street in broad daylight but he wanted no part of it.
"You can purchase a street atlas for six pence. Good day," the orangette said brusquely, moving to brush past but barely stepping once when the stranger spoke again.
"I have offended you. I am only looking for the cinematograph. I understand it is a wonder of the civilized world."
"If you seek culture, then visit a museum. London is filled with them. Excuse me."
The exotic man again stopped Ichigo from walking away, standing his ground in front of the youth and speaking once more in an effort to engage the other. "Someone so lovely and intelligent should not be walking the streets of London alone," he said, this time flustering the boy enough for a rosy flush to tint that perfectly sun-kissed skin.
"I do not know how polite society works where you are from but saying such bold things is not considered flattery," Ichigo snapped, hoping no one around them was listening to their conversation. "Now leave me be or else I shall call for the police."
The stranger pulled his top hat off his head and against his chest, bowing his head humbly in apology. "I shall bother you no more," he said, thoroughly chastised and for some reason a wave of guilt washed over the orangette, something about this man tugging at his heartstrings as the other began to turn away.
"Sir, it is I who have been rude," Ichigo called remorsefully, reaching out a hand toward the pale stranger but not touching him. "If you're looking for-"
"Please, permit me to introduce myself. I am Prince Shirosaki of Szekely."
"A prince, no less?" the teenager said, visibly stunned at the revelation from his raised brows and parted lips that the foreign dignitary found incredibly endearing.
"I am your servant," the prince said softly, gazing over his sunglasses as he inclined his head and returned his top hat to his head. Ichigo was clueless what to say to that and so skipped a response to return the favour.
"Ichigo Kurosaki," he said, deciding that in spite of his forwardness he thought this Prince Shirosaki was rather charming and utterly unique. Seeing how his intention for his trip to the city couldn't entirely be brought to fruition, Grimmjow's presence lingering around him like a ghost, he may as well offer a bit of kindness and guidance to someone who was in need of his help.
"I am honoured, Ichigo..." the prince murmured almost reverently but maintaining his dignified air. Ichigo gestured behind the other and down the sidewalk to where the entrance for the cinematograph theatre was located, making his decision rather easily.
"This way," he said, leading his new acquaintance in that direction and feeling lighter than he had in weeks.
After the passing of an hour, Ichigo and Prince Shirosaki were still standing inside the dimly-lit theatre watching the grainy black and white film of a man on a unicycle. Despite only knowing the pale prince for such a brief period of time, the orange-haired youth felt at ease in his company, as if they were old friends. It was at the same extremely unsettling, especially when his mind thought of Grimmjow.
How could he possibly be indulging in such trivial pastimes whilst halfway across the continent the man he loved could very well be in great peril? He shouldn't be having a pleasant time with another man, he shouldn't be there at all.
"Astounding!" Shirosaki exclaimed under his breath. "There are no limits to science."
"How can you call this science? I'm sure Madam Curie would not invite such comparisons. Really!" Ichigo's voice quavered as he spoke, betraying his conflicting emotions. "I shouldn't have come here. I must go." He whirled away from the magnetic aura the prince emanated and started to rush toward the exit but a strong hand grabbed his arm to stop him from leaving.
The unexpected touch sent a jolt of painful pleasure through him, leaving him breathless. He felt so strange and increasingly faint as Shirosaki forced him back around to meet those eyes that burned like rings of fire in the night sky. "Do not fear me," the prince ordered, making Ichigo do the exact opposite and grow increasingly more afraid of the man, even more so when he was pushed by an inhuman strength into one of the theatre's curtained private rooms.
Struggling uselessly, the youth was shoved onto his back on a couch to lie underneath the bent form of Shirosaki. "Stop this! Stop!" he attempted to shout authoritatively but was ashamed when his voice came out shaky andweak.
And then suddenly everything seemed to stop as Shirosaki began murmuring soothing words in a language Ichigo didn't recognize yet somehow understood perfectly. It was the most powerful sensation of deja vu he ever had and he didn't know what was happening to him.
Reality faded away, a murky, dull light flickering within his mind and vaguely illuminating a blurred, grayscale landscape he had seen before. Then color seared blindingly, visions of stone towers and tree-covered mountains and falling snow dancing through his mind until they dropped off the face of the earth, dead and he was standing on a cliff above a rushing river and the sun warmed his face and made everything glimmer and it was if the sweet air carried music to his ears and he wished it would never end. Then someone called his name like an enchanted melody and turning him 'round and he was admiring a face unlike any other. Skin the purest white like the wings of an angel and hair woven from starlight and calla lilies and beatifically virile features carved from the finest ivory and eyes painted endlessly black as night and brazenly gold as fire.
Those eyes, he knew those eyes. They had haunted his dreams forever. He knew those eyes... loved him.
"God, who are you?" he gasped. "I... I know you."
"I have crossed oceans of time to find you," Shirosaki husked sensually, gazing heatedly at the terrified and yet awed visage gloriously his to look upon once again. Ichigo let his eyelids flutter closed and the prince lowered his mouth to the teen's throat, right above the pulse point beating erratically - music to his ears. The ivory-haired male allowed his canines to lengthen, the temptation to sink them into that lovely neck so terribly potent yet it did not overwhelm him and he resisted the impulse by tearing himself away.
Across the translucent curtains leapt the shadow of a four-legged creature and the trance cast over Ichigo was broken once frightened screams erupted within the theatre, spurring him to rise from the couch and run from the curtained room into the crowd of patrons fleeing the theatre to escape the unknown danger. Unsure which way to go, he ran through the opening of the canvas screens and then another. However, he halted dead in his tracks when the route brought him face to face with a snarling white wolf, the one who escaped from the zoo.
Careful to neither move nor make a sound, Ichigo was frozen to the spot and surely about to be attacked by the wolf until a silvery voice spoke a few words in that same language he couldn't place yet instinctively knew. Ten feet from the savage wolf, Shirosaki commanded the animal to heel and come to him. Ichigo was astonished at how readily the wild canine obeyed the prince, becoming no more than a docile pup that sat at attention before the man's kneeling form.
Why was this foreign prince so mysteriously more than any other man? Why did Ichigo feel like he remembered him from not fully realized memories of a past he never knew of 'till now?
Shirosaki stroked a gloved hand through the fur the same alabaster as his skin, looking up to Ichigo and beckoning him forward. "Come here, Ichigo," he said and the younger male found himself doing so, reaching out to pet the wolf as well. "He likes you. There is much to be learned from beasts."
Ichigo wanted to argue it was recently discovered man evolved from beast. They couldn't possibly learn from anything from something so savage and primal. Unless they wished to turn into a beast themselves.
But what was it that could turn a man into a beast?
My absent, silent, vanished, dearest Grimmjow,
I fear I am losing my mind without you. This is no exaggeration, either. I worry whether you are safe or not every waking moment and then in my dreams. I don't even know if you are even alive. I have to trust I would feel it in my soul if yours left mine alone.
My life - the world -is different when you are not in it. The past few days have been bizarre beyond belief. I still question whether I have lived such strange events, it's driving me mad. I often believe I don't even know who I am anymore. Please, I beseech you, if you are able return to London as soon as possible and help me make sense of the world again.
I know what I have written in this letter isn't like me at all. Ever since birth I have lived fearlessly and obstinately and arrogantly and recklessly, so brave and even more foolish - a cruel irony to bear as a scholar. I believe this is proof of how desperate I am to hold you in my arms and know you are well and still the man I love more than anything else, more than my own life. I know not what shall be my end. All I know is that it nears ever closer without you.
Perhaps I really am slipping into insanity. That would actually be a relief to know that was the reason for all of this, a scientific, factual explanation. I have never believed in the supernatural forces of this earth yet of them I first feel true terror. May God forgive my years of skepticism as I call upon Him for mercy praying this reaches you.
Come back to me.
Several Days Later
A Private Table at a Restaurant
He swore he would never see that man again. Truly, he did. He never even expected to have the opportunity. Yet, Ichigo's oath was broken almost humorously fast, if it weren't for how shameful why and whom he broke it for.
That morning whilst he sat in the manor's study working on one of his countless attempts to return to his studies and failing miserably due to his wandering mind, he was distracted by a servant delivering a letter addressed to the youngest Kurosaki. Heart stopping in anticipation, he practically ripped it open, begging for it to be from Grimmjow. Within seconds he experienced agonizing disappointment seeing that it was not as he wished.
But it was a surprise he dared not admit as pleasant, no one could know that already he loved the piece of inked parchment. Dismissing the servant, Ichigo curled upon his chair and carefully read every word.
To my dearest, newly found friend Ichigo,
For every moment after our time together three days past, I have desired no other earthly nor heavenly concept then delighting in your enchanting presence once again. By far you are the most intriguing creature I have ever met and your charming company I know of no equal. My greatest hope is you feel as I do and share in my wish to partake in more urban pleasures together.
I should be overwhelmingly honoured if you will agree to dine with me this evening. Honesty compels me to say should you graciously accept my invitation you would bring a lonely prince much happiness. I eagerly await your reply, dearest friend.
Perhaps if one read that letter they may understand why Ichigo was now sitting at a private table in a secluded room, the knowledge that he shouldn't be there shamefully exciting. Not a soul aside from he and the prince knew of his whereabouts, for he had escaped the manor unnoticed by any of his brothers, not wanting to explain where and why he was going into the city that night. A coach sent by his prince brought him to the restaurant, their meeting place, and then he was led to a room private from the main dining hall, to the prince.
And this was what they had done every night since.
Encompassed by luxury, gold and silver and silk adorning the warmly, dimly lit venue, Ichigo was more unlike himself than ever. He even wore a satin, damask-striped crimson waistcoat over his loosely-fitted, ivory shirt and black formal trousers, the three all contrasting boldly against each other. The prince dressed rather differently in the fashions of his homeland, his shirt better described as an ebony tunic, metallic gold embroidery sewn like four leaved vines curving in at the waist and then out to cover broad shoulders and a collar ensconcing his entire neck.
This time, Ichigo blatantly stared at Shirosaki, who illustrated a wild fantasy glowing like the full moon while he donned his opposite black in the dusky atmosphere. His long, snowy hair was magnificent spread over his shoulders and chest, the translucent screen to the right casting shadows of dancing lovers fluttering over the prince's exquisite face. Was it possible the flawless, perfect whiteness of his skin could ever so faintly shimmer? Ichigo absentmindedly thought it was as if he, a mortal, dined with a pagan lunar god.
Shirosaki felt much the same, adoring the luscious red on the teen. Oh, how many lusty, longing, lovely dreams had he suffered of his beloved wearing red - the color of life. He was undeserving to be blessed as he was. He leaned forward to elegantly grasp a glass bottle laid on the table, pouring emerald liquid into a pitcher of ice.
"A drink before dinner, if it pleases you," he said, lips tilting in a polite smile.
Ichigo lowered his eyes to look curiously at the bottle, he never knew a time when such drink was offered but there was definitely something he should remember about the green liquor... "Prince-," he started.
"Please, forgive me, dearest Ichigo, but it would please me greatly to be called Shiro and... from your lips hear the sound," the prince said, setting down the bottle and bringing attention to dragon head shaped ring on his right hand. The youth's mouth betrayed a hint of a bashful, flattered smile before he bit his bottom lip. "I mean you no offence, but are you unfamiliar with, ah - as they call it here in England - 'the green fairy'?"
"I, um... I beg your pardon?" Ichigo stammered, cheekbones and the bridge of his nose blooming with a blush, the rosy hue an affect of blood rushing to the skin. The other male nearly shivered at the sight.
"Such a gem you are, to know naught of worldly vices, so innocent, so... untouched..." Shirosaki murmured contentedly, satisfied to know no matter how many millennia passed some things never changed and stayed pure and good. A flash of blue crossing his thoughts, he suppressed fury at the reminder not all remained the same. "Absinthe, my child. Would you care for a first taste?"
"I suppose I would like that," Ichigo said softly, watching the other's ashen hands with their black nails plucked an ice cube tinted from the drink as if it were a blackberry and proffered it to him. He bent forward over the table so that his mouth and the ice cube were an inch apart. In a thoughtless moment he allowed for Shirosaki to place the ice upon his lips and an instant after realized his actions, jerked away, arching back into his chair.
"Absinthe is the aphrodisiac of the soul," the prince told him, looking at the orangette sucking on the strangely-flavored ice while he spilled the diluted liquor now a greenish-yellow out of the pitcher, filling two glasses a fourth of the way. "The Green Fury who lives in the absinthe wants your soul.
But you are safe with me."
Continuing to suck the ice and its curious taste as it melted on his tongue, Ichigo felt safe, and warm and so... light. He readily accepted the glass Shirosaki presented to him. Manners below from where he floated so high above, he rested his elbows on the table and sipped the chilled absinthe dreamily. He wasn't even in London anymore but some place far away. Smoldering, hooded eyes bored into the white-haired prince who had long missed those sultry, sparkling pools to which no other pair could hold a candle.
"Tell me, Shiro," Ichigo said softly, his lips forming the name's sound easily, as if he uttered it often. "Tell me of your home."
"The most beautiful place in all creation," Shirosaki said reverently and it was all the youth needed to hear, thinking of what that place must look like, where nature would touch the soul with its wild purity. Ichigo gently fell back from the table, resting his head against the back of his chair and let himself see illusions of such a place.
"Yes, it must be," he sighed. "A land beyond a great, vast forest surrounded by majestic mountains, lush vineyards, and flowers of such frailty and beauty as to be found nowhere else..."Shirosaki clutched the arms of his chair tightly, not hazarding the crushing blow to his heart full of hope that the visions Ichigo spoke were effects of the absinthe, a cruel trick, not... not what he couldn't even bear to think. Standing, he cast himself to kneel beside the tranced beauty, wholly enraptured.
"You describe my home as if you had seen it firsthand," he said, longing to brush his hand through those golden tangerine strands when Ichigo turned his head, dark amber orbs sparkling down at him. Shirosaki hummed in pleasure as a warm hand touched his cool face lightly.
"It's your voice, perhaps. It's so familiar," the orange-haired male breathed airily. The present was lost to him, his mind lulling within an otherworldly place he did not know to be real or imaginary. "It's like a...it's like a voice in a dream I cannot place, and it comforts me when I am alone." That was truth, for being with Shiro he could escape from the torturous reality of Grimmjow's absence, the loneliness no longer tore him apart. "And what of the other prince?"
"Other prince?" Shirosaki whispered, feeling so cold when Ichigo suddenly rose and ambled over to face the curtains across which still flitted silhouettes of dancers. The latter looked straight through them to glimpses of two figures, one night and one day.
"Yes, there is another prince," he said, choking up with tears. He was so sad, sadder than ever before, and it confused him. Sensing the sorrow surrounding the boy's aura, Shirosaki made his way over to stand behind him. "He is the one dressed in white, white silk that sinks in the river. He... is the river, he sleeps within its waters and he... he looks just like the sun... just like me."
So close to Ichigo hairs of honey blossom feathered across his chin and jawline, he shut his eyes and breathed in the sweet scent of sunshine still there after all this time. "There was once another prince, long ago. So handsome and brave, he was the most stunning sight in all the empires of the world, more radiant than the sun itself. Man's deceit took him away from his beloved. He leapt to his death into the river that you spoke of. Looks and spirit and heart, yes, you are just like him."
Ichigo didn't know his tears had fallen and he angled his head back to share an intense, intimate stare with Shirosaki, the other's snow-skinned, black-nailed hand coming an inch away from his face, swiftly clasping his hand closed. It opened carefully to show Ichigo's teardrops turned into crystals, again altering his sadness to beauty.
The Parlour at the Kurosaki Estate
The three eldest Kurosaki men were arguing over a matter regarding the previous night, the two middle brothers, and a couple of nobleman's daughters when the youngest of their brood wandered in. Three pairs of wide eyes snapped to Ichigo, who in any mood stalks about scowling broodingly, traipsing through the parlour, pausing here and there, a contemplative expression. After weeks of his worsened moodiness and temper, undeniably understandably so, this sudden, unexplained change was flabbergasting. When he finally noticed them all staring at him, he stopped.
"Would we happen to have any Eastern European history volumes? I already checked in the library."
Neither of the three said anything for a long moment, Kon starting with "What the he-mmph!", his words no longer intelligible with Kaien's hand covering his mouth. Aside from quirking an eyebrow, Ichigo made no comment on it.
"If you wish to read such texts, I shall send away for a few to be delivered to you, Ichigo," Mugetsu said, not wanting to question his brother's odd behavior for fear of ruining it. "Why does the subject suddenly intrigue you, if I may ask?"
"Oh, well... I met someone from the area the other day and I... uh, I thought it may be interesting," the orangette mumbled, shifting his feet a bit uncomfortably. "Has the post arrived this morning?" Ichigo, of course, had asked this questions every morning for a while now.
"Not yet, I'm afraid," Mugetsu said, burgundy eyes tinging with sympathy. He stood from the low-backed couch he sat opposite Kon and Kaien, whose hand was still firmly clasped over the other's mouth. "Well, I have some business in need of my attention so I shall see the three of you at supper. While I am gone," he paused to stare down the two still seated. "I know you and you shall be writing letters of apology and cleaning the mess you two buffoons made in the kitchens. And you shall not dare persuade a single person in any fashion under any circumstances clean it for you. Are we at an understanding?"
Kaien and Kon slumped in their seats on another low-backed couch, the former removing his hand, folded their arms and glared resentfully at the floor instead of their brother. They grumbled agreements bitterly to satisfy Mugetsu who sighed and shook his head before addressing Ichigo. "Keep an eye on them, will you?" he said, approaching closer and laying a hand on the other's shoulder, giving it a reassuring squeeze. "I am happy you seem better today. I know how you've endured these difficult past few weeks. I'm proud of you, baby brother."
Ichigo would normally roll his eyes and say something sarcastic or smart to hide how touched he was by something like that, but that morning he just nodded. Mugetsu frowned, though saying nothing else preceding his hasty departure out of the parlour. Immediately following his exit, the other two scoffed loudly.
"Who does he think he is? The King? He cannot tell us what we can or cannot or have to do," Kaien shouted, rising to his feet and throwing his arms in the air.
"Yes, or who to do," Kon agreed, following suit to stand, grinning lecherously and then facing their younger sibling. "Ichigo, you should have been there last night, the bosom this one-"
"You idiot, Kon," Kaien snapped, slapping the other's arm and causing his expression turn to one of shock 'till the dark-haired man jerked his head in Ichigo's direction so that understanding dawned on the other.
"Ohhh, that's right. Forget what I said about... female anatomy," Kon apologized, somewhat. "And you should definitely never visit with Lord Oldham if his daughters are there. Wouldn't you agree, brother?" He and Kaien shared a knowing look, chuckling heartily at whatever was so funny to them. Ichigo huffed, figuring some men never grew up, and walked down to the next platform, flopping onto his favorite armchair. It was not thirty seconds later that the two men left, a new round of guffaws sounding as they exited the parlour and he was alone, as always.
Resting his head on the back of the chair and staring out the window, Ichigo cringed as his headache throbbed exceptionally hard and screwed his eyes shut against the sunlight.
He never remembered going to sleep when approximately an hour later, the noise of a cough woke him. Blinking blearily and swivelling his head toward his center Ichigo saw one of the manor's butlers holding a silver tray on one hand, too high for him to view what lay upon it.
"Forgive me, sir. A letter just arrived for you from Europe - my apologies for waking you but I thought it might be prudent considering your instructions to deliver all mail promptly," the man said nervously, as if he would be fired and thrown out of the manor for this. Which wasn't very likely as Ichigo had given those same instructions to the staff. However, certain this letter would not be the one, the teen clumsily snatched the envelope off the platter and the butler took off before he could be thanked.
Curled up in the armchair, Ichigo flipped the envelope to the right side seeing multiple postal stamps covering the original sender's address. Not daring to hope, he monotonously broke the wax seal and unfurled the parchment inside. It wouldn't be that which he desired so why bother becoming excited it may be that when he knew it wasn't.
But it was.
It was your close friend Mister Jaegerjaques' request I send a letter informing you all of what he wishes you be told. First, know that he was safe and in the care of the good sisters of the
blessed sacrament from yesterday at sunrise, frozen and hungry, until his full recovery this morning. He believes you could be in terrible danger and therefore plans to return to England soon as he is able. If all goes well, he should arrive in London seven days from today's date. Knowing him not a full day, still I have faith he shall persevere and return to you as he promised. He makes quite an impression.
Yours with all blessings,
Five minutes he reread the letter over and over. His heart had stopped, his lungs turned lead, his throat constricted, and his eyes burned. Eventually, watery droplets began to appear on the parchment and Ichigo realized they were his tears.
Crying twice in as many days... what was happening to him?
It didn't matter. He didn't care.
His euphoria was dampened when he remembered that something was different in his life since his lover had left. Something that couldn't remain once they were together again. Something he had to end. Knowing there was no other way, his tears slowed and then stopped, the task at hand requiring a steady hand and steel will. It would be hard, yes, but soon the unstable chaos of the past several weeks would be set right again. Everything was going to be okay.
Grimmjow was coming home.
My dear prince - Shiro,
Time is no measure for the depth of a friendship and yours has been fathomless. I want you to know you saved me for without you I would have succumbed to despair . No words could express how grateful I am to be fortunate enough to have found you when I needed a friend more than ever.
It pains me to confess that I can no longer see you. My beloved returns to England tomorrow and I plan to spend the rest of my life with them. Though what little, chaste time we spent together I care for you too much already. No one can ever know of us.
Anunnatural yet very human howl of despair echoed throughout all of London that night.
Later That Night
Ichigo's Bedroom at the Kurosaki Estate
The bedroom of the youngest Kurosaki was a remarkable display of his family's wealth, spacious and ornamented in the finest decor. In the center of the room, against the wall, was where a grand, lavish bed was situated - a half tester with a low foot and a canopy projecting from the posts at the head, its extravagance furthered by the ivory satin sheets and tasselled curtains, the small mountain of pillows at the head, and its size so large six people could lie with each other easily.
Directly across the room was the reason its owner demanded it be his, the floor to ceiling, glass-paned double doors acting as a portal to the estate's extensive gardens and the curtains were always parted to frame a perfect view of the greenery and blooming flowers. Being able to see outside whenever his wished gave Ichigo a sense of freedom rarely felt by a nobleman in these times, allowing him to sleep peacefully through the night.
Except for this one.
The boy was lying in the very middle of his bed, writhing in the satin sheets and moaning not as if in pain but rather as if intimately engaged with a lover and relishing every second. Then a silvery, lustful voice spoke, calling to him, though there was not another soul in the bedroom.
"Ichigo, come here. Come to me," it whispered lovingly and Ichigo's dark lashes fluttered, his eyes opening halfway and their warm, brandy irises sparkled though he did not see. A soft smile appeared on his lips and he slid from under the satin coverings and out of the bed. Dressed in an off-white, sheer, linen nightshirt, long-sleeved and ankle-length, the enchanted orangette began walking toward the glass doors. "Please, come outside, my love," the voice said gently and the doors flew open, curtains waving like flags in the breeze.
Ichigo stepped outside, his bare feet treading over the half-circle stone set of stairs to the lush grass below. A wind storm on this chilly night cast flurries of leaves through the air and ruffled his nightshirt, rippling and blowing the linen backwards so that it outlined his figure, one sleeve slipping down his shoulder. Ichigo was completely oblivious to it all as he wandered into the emerald maze of the garden, ten foot tall hedges creating paths in every direction.
"Come to me, Ichigo. Follow my voice."
He did, traipsing dreamily past statues and floral scenes to the center of the gardens, his favorite place: the circular clearing where a stone bench sat underneath a stunning, wrought iron archway surrounded by the hedge walls and a radiant, vast array of flowers. There, awaiting him and wearing a smirk, was the one who had beckoned for him to come.
This time the other need not say a word for Ichigo to dash forward and embrace him 'round the neck. They painted a beautiful picture together, one ghostly pale and dressed in black, the other brilliantly colored and dressed in white. "Shiro," the latter said breathlessly, ecstatic they were reunited. "Kiss me."
He was obeyed immediately, cool lips capturing his warm ones and instantly making the lip lock a passionate, fervent one. Ichigo was not disappointed, loving it that his prince tasted him as if his mouth were the most delicious thing on this earth and the carnal sensation thrilled him, as well. Shirosaki hooked a hand under his knee and then the other, wrapping his legs around the man's waist and Ichigo was vaguely aware of being carried to the bench.
Moving his lips away to let the orangette gasp for breath, Shiro continued kissing that sweet face and throat and bending over the bench, lay his beloved on his back, long legs still cinched around his waist. He let some of his weight press against the teen, pinning him in that position, and ran his sinful hands down the sides of that tantalizing body. Once he reached the hemline of the linen nightshirt, he slid his palms underneath the fabric and nearly lost allcontrol to feel the bare, satinskin of the boy's thighs. Ichigo was enthralled by it, too, clutching fistfuls of snowy hair and throwing his head back to moan appreciatively. "Oh, Shiro... please."
Shiro loved that musical sound, slithering up so his face was parallel to that he eternally adored. "What is it you want, love?" he said, knowing he would give anything he wished for.
"Take me," Ichigo murmured, eyes glazed over by more than lust. The white-haired male smirked lifting his hands from below the nightshirt and placing his left to cradle the other's cheek and his right to grasp the nape of the neck.
"I shall take you, my love. All of you," Shiro vowed, head tilting back a bit whilst his pointed fangs shot out of his gums. "Tonight, I begin making you mine once more."
There was no other warning before his dagger-like incisors pierced the flesh of Ichigo's throat, making him cry out in pain and ecstasy. Blood sweeter than any he ever tasted filled Shiro's mouth and he savored it as the precious life bound to his, drinking not nearly as much as he wanted and tearing himself away. Crimson dripping from his lips, he kissed a dazed Ichigo one last time.
The Next Morning
The Parlour at Kurosaki Estate
Same as the day before, the three eldest brothers of the manor noticed something decidedly off about the youngest as he entered the room, recently awoken.
His usually sun-kissed skin a chalky pallor and dark circles under his noticeably dull eyes, Ichigo definitely looked fatigued, or even more so, ill whilst he shuffled across the floor - he would never reach his favorite spot in the far left corner armchair if continued at this pace.
"Ichigo," Mugetsu called to the young man, who appeared to be so dazed he didn't answer for five whole seconds. Stopping to lay a hand upon a high-backed chair like he needed to prop himself up, the young man faced the eldest expectantly, now in clear sight he seemed even more sickly. "Are you all right? You look a bit peaky."
"I had a bad night's sleep," Ichigo said, brushing it off.
"A bad night's sleep doesn't make you look that horrible," Kon piped up from next to Mugetsu, who sighed heavily upon the end of the sentence. "What? He looks like he's going to drop dead any second now."
"I agree with Kon," Kaien said, standing by the fireplace with an elbow on the mantle. "We should call Doctor Ishida, just to have him check Ichigo and make sure it's not an illness. Sorry brother, but you do rather resemble the walking dead this morning."
"No, no doctors today, please," Ichigo protested faintly, though the desperation in his voice was audible. "If you insist on calling Doctor Ishida to look at me, please wait until tomorrow or any day after that."
"Why? What's so special about today?" Kon asked, edging forward in his seat and tone becoming increasingly eager "Come on, tell me, please," he whined despite being a grown man at twenty-eight years-old.
"Well, um... I think Grimmjow may be returning to London today. I mean, I hope so. I'm not entirely certain..."
Kon leapt up from the couch, clasping his hands together loudly in excitement and smiling so wide Ichigo thought his face may break. "Perfect! That means we shall have to throw a welcome back to civilization bash for him tonight. We can br-,"
"No, Kon," Mugetsu interrupted sternly, not bothering to elaborate since his word was pretty much law on the estate. As Ichigo thought this, he sensed that he was listing to the side and righted himself, shaking his head to clear his mind but failing miserably since it made him even dizzier. He really did feel unwell but thought it could be he was tired from his restless sleep last night or when he noticed the garden doors had opened overnight reasoned he may have caught a cold due to the chill breezing into his room. However, he was tempted to believe neither of those explanations were correct, his vision blurring and temples throbbing
"But, brother, it would mean the world to Ichigo if you threw his man lover a party - right, Ichigo?" he heard Kon address him and wanted to respond yet his body would not listen to him. "Ichigo?"
"Ichigo, are you all right?"
"I'm calling Doctor Ishida."
He was just about to yell at everyone that he was fine and no, do not call the doctor when he fell, unable to remember hitting the floor.
Later That Evening
The Front Door at the Kurosaki Estate
Oh, how he many times he had thought he would never see this place again, nor the one he called sweetheart inside. But there he was, hands twitching to touch every last trace of that precious body and know for sure that he was back home with his orange-haired beauty and they were both safe and sound. Know for sure he wasn't still amongst the crumbling ruins and death, breathing air thick with evil and blood.
After he had collapsed unconscious at the convent, he left to travel on horse to Budapest and panhandled his way home on several different trains, which isn't as easy at it looks. The instant he arrived in London not two hours ago he walked straight from the station to the Kurosaki Estate and nearly pounded on the door in his eagerness. If only someone would answer the damn door already. He was getting ready to knock again when one of the door swung open, revealing one of the manor's butlers.
"Ah, Mister Jaegerjaques, we have been expecting you."
Grimmjow didn't respond or gesture in any polite manner, he barrelled past the old man and wanting to check the parlour first as reading a book in the far left corner armchair was usually where he could find his beloved, sprinted across the foyer. He was halted almost immediately by a quiet voice that still demanded attention and knew the speaker was Mugetsu Kurosaki before he turned around to see him.
God help him but even seeing his lover's brother made him want to smile, though that desire faded quickly once he saw the expression on Mugetsu's face. He had never known the man could look more serious than he normally did. Grimmjow's stomach dropped, automatically getting that instinctual feeling when people know something is wrong.
"We were beginning to believe our baby brother was mistaken about your return," Mugetsu said coldly, well unaware of the trials and tribulations the blunette faced during his travels. Nevertheless, Grimmjow didn't feel the need to explain himself, his mind was rather preoccupied at the time.
"Where is he?" He sounded hoarse, gruff, as he hadn't spoken much on the journey from Romania.
"In his bedroom," Mugetsu answered shortly, angling his body and gesturing down the opposite hallway. "Come, I shall walk you there." His meaning was plain as day: he wanted to get a chance to explain or debrief something to Grimmjow by accompanying him, and this something wasn't good. "Were your travels to Romania enjoyable?" Mugetsu, after all this time, remained clueless on how to deal with his baby brother's lover.
"No," Grimmjow grunted as they strode down the hallway, he somehow repressing the urge to run. "Shall we skip pleasantries this once and cut to the point in this conversation where you tell me what's wrong right now." One of the rare few not frightened by the blue-haired man, the Kurosaki lowered his gaze to the ground, sighing, and then meeting Grimmjow's eyes. They reflexively both stopped dead in their tracks, facing each other a few doors down from the bedroom.
"Ichigo is sick."
Grimmjow suddenly forgot how to breathe yet attempted to suppress his panic at the news and control himself. "How sick?" he gritted out, dread icing his veins. "And for how long?"
"He lost consciousness and collapsed this morning, and we do not know," the dark-haired man said, glancing to the end of the hall. "The doctor is with him at the moment but I dare say your presence shall help far more than his. Go to him, now."
Grimmjow could not say nor do nor think of anything other than the room at the end of the hall. He flew down the corridor, colliding with the doors from the momentum and then bursting through them. They saw each other within the same instant.
The newly returned man roiled into a chaotic vortex of emotion, for he witnessed the breathtaking, exquisite vision of his sparkly-eyed sweetheart and noted the paleness to his skin, the bruise-like shadows under his eyes, and how his vibrant, radiant, unbreakable orangette lay prone in his massive bed. He could compare the feeling as finding your soul again after hellish damnation and then someone plunging a sword into its heart.
"Ichigo..." he uttered breathily, staggering toward the bed and falling to his knees beside it. He was positively stricken and... angry. He knew it was irrational but he wanted someone to blame for all of this. Weakening the man he loved was blasphemy, someone had to pay for their sin.
Lying in his bed, to Ichigo, was no longer an option. Not when Grimmjow was right there, looking like all the strength he himself had lacked these past weeks. He flung himself to the side of his bed, frustrated he was too weakened to really crush the man to him and euphoric to finally embrace the one he considered his rock, what he could hold onto whenever he couldn't make sense of the world - as he did now.
"Please don't ever leave me, again," he breathed against Grimmjow's neck.
"Mr. Kurosaki, it is really very ill-advised to sit up or stand in your current condition," a cool, male voice said behind them, evidently not bothered by the relationship revealed to him. Ichigo would have just ignored him until he went away. Grimmjow, on the other hand, had different ideas. Broad hands grasped the younger man's upper arms and lay him back in bed, the blue-haired man sitting on the edge of the bed to Ichigo's left.
"And what would that be? All you've done is prod and poke me from every angle and... a-and..." Ichigo's breath began rasping out his throat, his small coughs growing to wheezing that was painful to watch. Grimmjow was on the verge of demanding the doctor give the boy some water when it stopped as suddenly as it had begun, a last little cough the end. "And you have not a clue as to what I might have," Ichigo finished, ashen face now a bit flushed.
Grimmjow glanced over at the doctor, a tall, slender man with silver hair and a pompous, holier-than-thou air about him. Currently, he was scribbling away in a journal - probably writing down a new observation or symptom of some sort as Ichigo had watched him do for nearly two hours now. "I admit that I am unsure of your diagnosis for the time being, your symptoms are... confounding," the doctor said. "Though I should like to speak with your brother before we do anything further. I shall return after that."
"Please hurry, you have already taken too much of my time." In spite of the frailty in Ichigo's voice, he still spoke with the same bite Grimmjow remembered, and adored. The doctor left them promptly following that, closing the doors behind him. And then a powerful silence neither knew how long lasted fell upon the room.
Ichigo shattered it, reaching up and grabbing the other's collar. "Grimm... you're really here," he choked out, his throat tightening with emotion. Luckily, the man above him understood his feeble pulls on the piece of fabric and swooped down, hovering the slightest bit so as not to put any weight over the body beneath him. "God, I missed you so much."
Thus began a kiss, the kiss, of lovers reunited. Grimmjow was more aggressive than ever and Ichigo was thoroughly enjoying the intense hunger the man tasted of. Ah, he didn't think he actually realized how much he loved him all the time he was away. He was physically weakened, yes, but he was so grounded to the earth it was exhilarating. No one, no matter how determined or strong they were, could take him away. All too soon, Grimmjow pulled away and sat back on the side of the bed, clasping Ichigo's hand in his own.
"I won't leave you alone ever again, Ichi," he said in his bewitchingly deep, gravelly voice.
The orangette could have killed the doctor for choosing to return at that moment, the silver-haired man not sparing them a second glance as he circled around the bed to his doctor bag. From within the thing he drew out a vial and a syringe with a rather frightening needle. "This is just something to dull the pain and aid your sleep, Mr. Kurosaki," Doctor Ishida said emotionlessly.
Grimmjow was unimpressed with this doctor's 'medicine', especially when he read Morphine on the label as he watched as the man stood on the other side of the bed and stuck the needle into the vein inside Ichigo's arm, the teen wincing in discomfort as he was injected with the opioid. The doctor rambled on about someone watching the patient while he sleeps, but Grimmjow was more interested in the rapidly dulling gleam in Ichigo's eyes. He absently heard the doors shut and knew they were alone again.
"Mmm, stay with me, Grimm," the poor drugged thing mumbled sleepily, eyelids half mast. His body was relaxing but his mind struggled against the tranquilizing effect.
"I'm not going anywhere," the blunette soothed. "You can sleep, now. I'll be here when you wake up." Despite his reassurance, Ichigo still fought to stay awake, eyelashes fluttering.
"Nn-... no, wanna be with you..." By the last syllable, he was fast asleep. Grimmjow let go of his hand and rested it beside the slumbering youth. His heart ached at the angelic illusion Ichigo created, his bed the clouds of heaven. So serene he appeared that when Kaien offered to give him a break and watch over the ill beauty for a little while, he agreed to do so for a few minutes at most.
He thought Ichigo would be safe.
Minutes Later That Night
Ichigo's Bedroom at the Kurosaki Estate
Inside the youngest Kurosaki's bedroom it was nearly pitch black, the candles having been blown out and only the bolts of magnificent lightning sharply flashing through the glass doors lighting the space. The dark-haired man whose duty it was to watch over his darling brother was in a wooden chair beside the grand canopied bed, his head lolled down and to the side as he slept deeply. In his ivory satin coverings, the young man crowned with a halo of sunshine did not fare so well. He twisted within the sheets, arching his back and tossing his head side to side.
"Please, Ichigo, my love. Come to me, come kiss me..." the spellbinding, phenomenal voice cooed and so he woke, stilling on the bed and then feeling as if he glided over the floor through the room to the glass doors keeping him imprisoned and away from his love. As though Ichigo willingly banished them from his presence, the doors burst open and the crackling night air washed over him. Smiling, he tread the stone steps and grassy land.
This night there was a fearful, glorious thunderstorm unlike he'd seen before, a beautiful, terrible thing. Torrential downpours of rain soaked him to the bone, his linen nightshirt clinging indecently to his skin yet Ichigo delighted in the celestial crying rivers of tears, smiling as he trailed through watery curtains and through the garden maze. Lightning clapped and thunder boomed, electrifying and rumbling the earth. He thought he may cry tears of happiness once he stepped into that center clearing and saw his moon prince sitting on the bench and reaching out for him. He ran straight into those arms.
Shirosaki clutched him to his chest, a deep, shuddering sigh racking his body. His midnight sun eyes looked down into rapturous, adoring rich chocolate ones, a sight he could die happy having seen. "Oh, Ichigo," he whispered, somehow audible despite the spectacular storm roaring through London, and stroked one cheek lighter than its usual vibrancy. "My love, my heart, my life... forgive me."
"I shall never forgive you for loving me," Ichigo said, bold and strong as Shirosaki had always cherished.
"Then may you forgive me for what I do to you. Forgive me for this," Shiro husked, cold lips caressing the hollow of the orangette's throat, who shivered in pleasure then screamed hoarsely when fangs plunged into his jugular vein. Ichigo then became silent and limp though his eyes remained open, in a bizarre trance of euphoria and agony as he felt life slipping away as his prince drank it out of him.
Then suddenly, Shirosaki ripped away, snarling bestially, and Ichigo gasped in pain, droplets of blood splattering over the dampened, off-white fabric of his nightshirt.
"That fool dares to face me," Shiro said, now an animal growling and hissing. "He must know you are mine! You have always been mine." The faint orange-haired youth couldn't understand, too dazed from enchantments and blood loss. He felt the other gently shift him so that he lay on his side upon the stone bench, a tender, crimson-smeared kiss placed on his plump mouth. "Sleep now, Ichigo. Do not see me."
Meanwhile a furious Grimmjow tore through the garden maze in the pouring rain. His desperation was palpable, one could practically taste it on the sound of his voice as he shouted "Ichigo!", his calls drowned out by the deafening clamor of the thunderstorm's orchestra. But he knew the boy should be out here somewhere for when he had returned after a mere eleven minutes the bed was empty and the glass doors open, swaying in the winds.
He just hoped he wasn't too late.
"Ichigo!" he yelled again, near panic when again he went unanswered. His feet remembered the pathway to their marked private place in the middle of the hedge labyrinth, carrying him there as if he had wings. And then he finally rounded that corner and his heart stopped, fear clenching it in a cold, iron fist.
For on the bench below the wrought iron archway lay a figure in white so still it may have been one of the garden statues. Gathering the sheer will to approach the lifeless form, Grimmjow tried to step cautiously in case something else was in the maze as well and failed miraculously. He vaulted across the clearing and circled to be on the side the figure faced, roaring wordlessly in pure outrage.
"Ichigo," he said, crouching down to cradle the young man's head, turning and lifting the other's upper body against his chest. Grimmjow shook his lover, noticing the colorless pallor of once sunkissed skin and the fresh blood sprayed across the soaked linen. "Sweetheart, please wake up. Please, Ichigo..."
"Mmn... Grimm..." croaked the still living orangette, a sweet, beatific melody to Grimmjow's ears. Fully rousing from unconsciousness, Ichigo looked around him frantically and gasping, impulsively clutching the blue-haired man's shirt. "Grimmjow, I... I couldn't control myself! I felt my soul leave my body, and then there was this agonizing feeling, and when it came back to me I saw your face and you were shaking me," he raved breathlessly, horrified and lost. Tears clouded a frightened, wide gaze that was unbearable to witness on a loved one and Ichigo buried his face in the shoulder next to his head.
"It's all right, I've got you, now," was the only thing Grimmjow could think to say, standing up carrying his lover in his arms. He started walking back to the manor, the storm raging on.
"I had to, Grimm. He pulled me and lured me and I had no control. And those eyes..." Ichigo murmured against the man's shirt, compelled to say more for a reason he didn't understand. He was rather lightheaded and barely comprehended what he said. "Those eyes, like night and fire... I still have the taste of his blood on my mouth..."
Horror froze Grimmjow to the spot, striking him as a lightning bolt did upon a dreadful recognition and before the one in his arms lost to the encroaching darkness he saw all of the garden's beautiful, blooming flowers were dead.
A/N: Well, I hope you all have enjoyed the first part, I know I loved writing it. I consider the original story of Dracula to be one of the greatest love stories of all time and was just dying to be rewritten with Ichigo, Grimm, and Shiro. Until the conclusion of this story, then...