~As always, I only own the plot. I don't own the series or characters so don't sue me.

Chapter Five - Protecting the Enemy

Drumming his fingers absent mindedly against the cold stone of his throne, brown eyes bored into the dull hougyoku. He had tried all he could think of to bring back the eerie glow to the stone, and every attempt ended in failure. He needed the hougyoku in order to complete his plans, but at this rate, the war would forever remain a stalemate. Sighing, he stopped his fingers as he felt a mingle of reiatsu approaching the throne room. Aizen resisted the urge to plow his hand through his slick brunet locks.

"What could it possibly be now?" he muttered just as the large doors opened.

The small entourage quietly entered the throne room and moved quickly toward the raised throne. Aizen's eyes fell to the orange head hiding behind unruly blue spikes. Before he could question this however, his most trusted companion spoke.

"A rather compelling explanation as to our favorite blue haired Espada s current behavior has been brought to my attention," Gin sated as he took a few steps toward the throne so that he stood in front of Grimmjow.

The blunet scowled, but remained silent. He still thought Hallibel's reasoning was ridiculous, even if it did explain a few things he was uncertain about.

A lone brown brow rose at this, curiosity peeked. "Oh?" the brunet cooed.

The ex-captain nodded his head before continuing. "It seems his instincts are tellin' him to take care of Ichigo."

"Be that as it may, I hardly find an Espada's instinct to be persuasive enough in order for me to change my mind on this matter." Aizen closed his eyes as he allowed the information to sink into his audience. "It seems the shinigami is proving to be a nuisance more so than a benefit to our cause." The vast room was silent for a moment before their leader opened his eyes once again, uttering a single command. "Kill him."

"What?!" Was all Grimmjow could get out before a creepily smiling Gin turned on him, lunging for the child resting on his shoulders.

The Sexta jerked back, dodging the silver haired shinigami's grasp. However, this move caused Ichigo to slide back off of his shoulders as the child was unprepared for such a move. The orangette landed roughly on the cold tiled floor, a sharp yelp bouncing off the walls. Before the toddler could climb to his feet, his large amber eyes spotted a glowing green light aimed at him. Just as Ulquiorra's cero fired off, Grimmjow collected the child, using sonido to escape the hall.

Aizen gave a quick nod at the group before they flitted off after Grimmjow and the shinigami.

Grimmjow knew he was outmatched with this latest development. If he couldn't beat Ulquiorra then he would stand a chance in hell against Hallibel let alone Ichimaru. Rushing down the halls, he ducked behind a corridor just as a cero was fired off in his general direction. Cyan eyes shifted down momentarily to gaze at the confused child clinging tightly to his jacket.

"Look kid," he started as he slipped into adjoining hall, his feet never faltering once. "I know you don't want to, but this is where we part ways."

If he could get outside, he would have enough room to open a Gargantua. From there he'd have a better shot of getting the brat back to his shinigami friends in one piece. Of course, he'd be caught and killed either way. If not by the shinigami, by Aizen himself. He was going against his orders by snatching the kid and running, but Grimmjow wasn't exactly known for following directions.

Hurrying down another hall, the blunet growled as he was quickly greeted by a dead end. Just as he turned around to try another route, he was greeted by Ichimaru smiling widely at him.

"Maa, why don't ya give up this silly chase and hand him over?" he questioned, smile not faltering in the slightest.

"Blow me," the Sexta responded, a smirk tugging at his lips as he turned and fired a quick cero, blasting a hole in the wall.

The new path unfortunately led him directly to Ulquiorra and Hallibel. "This is pointless," the blonde sighed, arms crossed.

Just as Ulquiorra stepped forward, his hand moving to his katana, a blade shot forth and collided with Grimmjow's side. The blunet was knocked back, dropping Ichigo in the process. Nnoitra pulled his weapon back, cackling loudly as he did so.

"Woo, I've been waitin' fer the day that I'd get ta kill ya!" he exclaimed happily.

Grimmjow rolled onto his hands and knees, blood pouring from the long wound, as he tried to get to his feet to get to Ichigo before someone else did. Thankfully he didn't have to move at all as the orangette had hurried over to him, eyes wide and starting to gloss over.

"Kitty," he whimpered.

"Don't worry about me kid," the blunet smirked. "I've suffered much worse than this."

Allowing the child to cling to his neck once more, Grimmjow moved to unsheathe Pantera. As much as he didn't want to admit it, all he needed was an opening and then he'd be able to get the kid out of there before having to face his punishment. Before he could fully unsheathe his kanata, Ulquiorra rushed in. Their swords collided with a resounding clang before they broke apart, only to clash against each other once more. Unfortunately, Grimmjow not only had to fend off the Cuarto's advances, but Nnoitra's weapon as well. Hallibel and Ichimaru seemed content with just watching.

Reaching into his pocket, he withdrew the tiny black object he had swiped from Szayel's room earlier and quickly used sonido to get behind and above Ulquiorra. Green eyes widened as the black object slowly fell into his hollow hole. Suddenly a large black box of reishi surrounded the Espada, completely concealing him before disappearing. Nnoitra's eye widened for a moment before he shot in right after, hoping to catch Grimmjow off guard. He was unlucky as the blunet rushed in, surprising him. He jerked his weapon back, unable to see it's trajectory as Grimmjow was directly in front of his face smirking widely. Before the sword could hit him, the blunet flitted out of the way, leaving the weapon to collide with the Quinto's face, knocking him unconscious.

"Now I know how Ichigo knocked you out," he chuckled.

Blue eyes shifted to Hallibel who had yet to move from her vantage point. He knew she wouldn't attack. The woman had moral and honor to uphold. She wouldn't attack Grimmjow as long as Ichigo remained on his back. That only left... His eyes shifted around the room quickly searching for the sneaky silver haired bastard.

"Ikorose, Shinsou."

Grimmjow quickly turned on his heel and watched in slow motion as the short sword elongated and headed straight for him. There was no way he could dodge the attack aimed at his head in time. It would pierce his skull and then the child's clinging to his back. He should have taken the bastard out first. It was too late now. If only he had left the brat back in the sands during their fight he could be relaxing right killing some hollows or shinigami.

"Enough," a deep voice sternly commanded.

Cyan orbs widened slightly as the sword stopped mere centimeters from his face. A bead of sweat trickled down his brow and the Sexta turned to the hall as the clacking of footfalls echoed.

Aizen entered the room, a smile on his face as he took in the scene before him. "You were right Gin," he said, halting his movements. The ex-captain withdrew his zanpakutou and sheathed it. "It seems it would be in our best interest to allow Grimmjow the privilege of watching over Ichigo. After all, I'd rather not lose what little Espada we have left."

Furious, Grimmjow turns completely to face their leader, wincing slightly as the wound on his side suddenly stings. "You mean this was all just some stupid test?!"

The brunet smiled. "Of course. I couldn't very well have you going in knowing it was a test. You wouldn't have been able to properly prove your devotion to the child for me."

Grimmjow growled lowly in his throat as Aizen and Ichimaru exited the room, followed quickly by Hallibel. His rage boiling at being made a fool of pooling into his hand. Finally bursting, the blunet let out a wild yell before blasting the cero through the opposite wall.

It had taken a bit of work to get his wound to stop bleeding, but the Espada was successful in doing so. It would only take a few more hours for the wound to close up entirely leaving no trace behind. Cyan eyes shifted to stare at the fluffy head of orange playing quietly with some gauze he had found lying around in Szayel's lab. As if sensing his gaze, Ichigo turned his head upward, his amber eyes staring questioningly at the blunet. A small smile tugged at the corners of Grimmjow's mouth before he reached down to rub the toddler's head, messing up his already messy hair.

As much as he hated to admit it, he was glad Aizen was merely testing him. He knew it would have ended much differently if he truly wanted the kid dead. They probably wouldn't have even been given the head start, let alone a warning. Aizen would have most likely done the deed himself.

He watched quietly as he saw a chubby hand reach up and rub an eye tiredly as a soft yawn consumed his small round face. Grimmjow smirked. At least Ichigo had managed to wear himself out so the already tired and aching Espada wouldn't have to. Standing, he led Ichigo out of the lab and toward their room.

It wasn't until they arrived at the doorway that he remembered what had started the entire incident in the first place. Eyes scanning the room, he determined it would definitely be uninhabitable for the time being. At least the water had stopped spraying everywhere. Of course, not until after the room was good and flooded though.

Sighing, Grimmjow turned to look for another place to crash for the night; a tired Ichigo lagging a bit behind. Their best bet would be to swipe the room of a deceased Espada. Grimmjow instantly ruled out Szayel's room as it was in his labyrinth of a laboratory. He did not want to have to deal with the possible explosion resulting in the child playing there. He knew that both the 9th and 7th were taken out by shinigami.

The two walked slowly to the lower Espada's quarters. The closest room was Aaronierro's room. Opening the door, the two peeked inside only to be greeted with vast darkness. Grimmjow's large hand felt around for a switch for some sort of light, but found none. He looked to the orangette who was now rubbing both eyes tiredly.

"Don't suppose you could deal with pitch black all the time?" he asked.

Ichigo furiously shook his head. Closing the door, the two headed toward their next option; Zommari. His was down a different hall, but they arrived there quickly enough. As the Sexta's large hand wrapped around the knob he turned to see the kid lagging quite a bit behind. Opening the door, he stuck his head in before quickly pulling it back out and shutting the door loudly.

"No. No way in hell," he breathed.

Zommari's room was filled with numerous burning candles as well as hundreds of those creepy eyes painted all over the walls and floors. A shudder ran down the Arrancar's spine. He knew the guy was creepy, but not to that extent. Sighing, he ran a hand through his hair before turning his gaze back to the shinigami brat. A soft chuckle escaped him as the kid had passed out on the floor in the middle of the hall. Stepping quietly, he moved to collect Ichigo. He wasn't sure if shinigami could get sick the same way humans did, but he really didn't want to find out.

The blunet began heading for Hallibel's room. At least he knew she would let the kid sleep in her room until he could get his fixed up. Just as he reached the hall containing the top three Espada's rooms, a familiar shaggy head of brown exited one of the rooms.

"What are you doing out here so late?" Starrk questioned as he suppressed a yawn.

"Gonna see if Hallibel will let the brat sleep in her room. He wrecked mine so there's no place for him to sleep." Grimmjow resisted the urge to shift his feet. Although he wasn't entirely sure why, the Primera always made him feel uneasy when it was just the two of them.

"Ah," the brunet yawned as he stuffed his hands into his pockets before walking toward the throne room. "You can have Barragan's room," he called back. "Killed by shinigami."

Grimmjow watched as the Espada disappear down the hall before he turned around and continued walking, passing Hallibel's room in the process. Stopping in front of the Segundo's door, he took a deep breath and shifted the toddler in his arms before opening the door. Cyan eyes widened at the beautiful sight before him.

Now Grimmjow had always considered himself a king. However Barragan had apparently lived like a king. The massive four poster bed was large enough so that all the remaining Espada could lie on comfortably. The door to the bath was open and from what he could see it was set into the floor and was more like a swimming pool than a tub. There were large cushions spread all across the floor as well as an entire white sofa set. Mindlessly entering the room, Grimmjow gentle plopped Ichigo onto one of the many cushions before flopping head first onto the large bed, passing out almost instantly.

Dilated blue eyes slowly peeled open. Grimmjow was unsure as to what had caused him to be pulled from a dead sleep in the darkened room and he didn't really care to find out what it was. Closing his eyes, he burrowed deeper into the plush bed, slowly drifting back to sleep. Just as he was on the brink of blissful sleep, a soft whimper snapped him back to consciousness.

"What the hell?" he grumbled as he sat up and rubbed at his eyes.

The whimper sounded again, followed by rustling and a pain filled moan. Growing worried, the blunet moved off the comfortable bed and scanned the room. His gaze fell onto the cushion he had set the child on previously. He slowly approached the orangette, his eyes never leaving the boy.

Ichigo was curled up tightly on the cushion, his small hands clinging tightly to the fabric of his hakama. He was trembling, whether it was from whatever ailed him or he was cold, the Espada wasn't certain. Grimmjow moves to retrieve a blanket from the bed, in hopes of settling the child without waking him, but stops as the shinigami parts his lips, a single word falling from his lips.


It's then Grimmjow notices the tears staining his cheeks. Reaching out, he gently wakes the toddler, his breath catching in his throat at the sad and pain filled look in those large amber orbs. Something happened to the kid, something awful. Pushing his curiosity aside, he collects the quietly sobbing orangette. Ichigo clings tightly to the Sexta, his face buried in his chest. Grimmjow settles onto the bed, Ichigo burrowing into his side as the two drift back into a peaceful slumber.

A/N: It's a day late, but my kids have been sick so I haven't had too much free time to work on this. Sadly this is the last update for this fic for a bit. I need to plot it out a bit more before I can update it again. I have about 8 chapters plotted out for Yakusoku, so I'll be updating that one for a while.

Thanks for all the reviews/faves/follows! They mean the world to me! : )