"They're retreating!" Hanatora announced to all those being tended to in the Fourth. "Ichigo was too much for them."
"Even Bach?" Isane asked him.
"I guess so. They were fighting but then the King called a retreat."
"Then let us get all the wounded still out there." she ordered.
"Right." The commotion in the Fourth was lost to Ichigo when he arrived, walking through the halls without a nod, a word, expression dead, even when he found Rukia just waking. He stood before her, a look of utter sorrow in his face.
"What is it? What did Bach do?" she asked immediately.
"Grimmjow...we were standing together and the next he was just gone. Rukia I couldn't do anything he was just—"
"What? Ichigo I just saw him. He was just released from the Fourth."
"What? What are you talking about there was no way he could have survived that impact."
"No, he did. He saved me, Ichigo. He's back at the manor waiting for you."
He was gone before the last word left her mouth. She smiled but then his words settled on her. Grimmjow had seemed strangely untouched, how could that be if he'd really been hit by something Ichigo thought could destroy him?
"Where is he?" She turned, startled at the sharp voice next to her.
"Captain Hitsugaya." He was covered in dirt but looked unharmed, his icy gaze set on her. "What's wrong?"
"Everything," he answered. "That attack. The retreat. And certainly what I felt coming from your vicinity during the battle. Tell me, where is Grimmjow Jaggerjaques?"
"Sir. Hashwald and Driscoll did not survive the attack."
Bach looked up from the object he held to see Buzzbee, the next in his chain of command since the loss of his right hand. "Yes, Hashwald is unfortunate," he responded. "But now we know just how powerful Ichigo has become. Now I know he will be capable of destroying the zero squad for us, and they will no doubt come after this attack."
"But how will you finish his reeducation?"
"When he is brought back to me."
"The first soldier I reeducated. She has already awakened, did you not feel her power on the battlefield?" He lifted the hollowed blade in his grasp to show his subordinate. "Halibel will not let me down when I call her back to Tiburon."
The espada had been waiting for him on the porch. His hands were bandaged from fingers to elbows—he'd broken most the bones in his relentless attack on Driscoll but he forgot that pain when he held Ichigo. He hadn't known how the teen fared, he'd been worried about the physical and emotional fallout of an encounter with their former captors.
And Ichigo—Ichigo was seeing the man he'd thought turned to ashes next to him. They collided so hard and fast Grimmjow hit the post behind him, but neither stopped. They needed to feel the other close, know they were okay. Mouths locked so tight they could hardly breath, hands explored more to check for wounds on each other than out of lust.
"I thought you were dead." There were tears in Ichigo's eyes when he finally pulled back to stare at Grimmjow, to reassure himself he was there.
"I'm not," he just said, hand around the teen's back and in his hair.
"Grimmjow if you'd died I don't know what I would have done."
"But I didn't."
The words hung there, unsure, unfinished, but Grimmjow nodded.
"I know." He didn't have to say anything more, neither did, they understood.
They moved to be closer again, no exhaustion from battle hindering the blood thundering through their veins. They managed to stumbled back inside the manor, never separating. Need and emotion lost to baser desire, Ichigo was nearly winded when Grimmjow half fell with him into a wall. He grabbed his hips and hauled him up, legs wrapped around his waist at once. Their mouth broke apart only to get rid of their shirts. Torsos melded together, hands flew up and down, touching everywhere, seeking every inch of skin.
"Grimmjow are we—"
"Yes." The espada pulled him off the wall and into the bedroom. They fell hard onto the mattress, Grimmjow above Ichigo, holding his body up when the teen started undoing his pants while their tongues still warred in their mouths. Grimmjow kicked the rest of the way out of his pants before sitting back to drag Ichigo's off. They beheld each other for a moment, a brief calm before the storm as their chests heaved and bodies tingled with the flame of desire.
Then Grimmjow dove on him.
Ichigo expected pain, discomfort, for his first time at least, but either Grimmjow knew just what to do or his powers mixed with his desires prevented him from ever feeling any. Everything about it was right. Neither knew what chaos might still be unfolding around them, because they had one another, they had everything they could want in this world and nothing could touch them.
Ichigo stepped out of the shower feeling energized and fresh. Rather than sore, his felt vigour in his muscles, a lightness in his heart, and when he came out to the porch he couldn't stop himself from admiring the man sitting o the edge of the porch. Water still clung in his blue locks from his own shower. His expression was the most content it had been since Ichigo met Grimmjow in that cell.
"How are you feeling?" The esapda asked when Ichigo sat next to him.
"Good. But now I think we should check on some people." An edge of guilt overtook him. He shouldn't have waited so long before checking on everyone.
"Okay." Grimmjow stood and they left the manor but didn't make it far. They both froze when they felt the incoming spiritual pressures. They were ringed by black figures before Ichigo perceived the blade at Grimmjow's throat.
"WHAT THE HELL?" The teen demanded.
Soifon and Hitsugaya stood shoulder to shoulder, his blade on Grimmjow and hers hovering dangerously toward Ichigo.
"We're taking the espada with us."
"The Hell you are, what's going on?"
"It's her. Halibel." Toshiro answered.
"What? Halibel's not real."
"She is." The captain answered.
Grimmjow took a step back from him, eyes wide. "What did you say?"
"I said Halibel is real. I felt her on that battlefield."
"You're as insane as me."
"He isn't," Soifon countered. "I just got confirmation from the Twelfth."
Grimmjow took another step back, stumbling against Ichigo. He gripped backwards for support, watching the Soul Reapers, trying to figure out their motive, their lie. But he saw none.
"She's just in me head..."
"Stop." Ichigo drew Grimmjow back from their blades and stepped between them. "You don't know what you're talking about."
"I assure you, we do. Grimmjow must come with us."
"Halibel, what's happening?" Grimmjow looked to her behind Ichigo. Her eyes were on fire, body tensed. "Halibel?!"
"Run Grimmjow," she said.
Kido cut through the air before him. Ichigo had pushed him out of the way but more Soul Reapers landed at their back, hemming them in. Halibel was screaming at him; Ichigo was begging the Soul Reapers to stop; Soifon was shouting orders—and in the middle of it all, Grimmjow was drowning.
"STOP!" He grabbed his head with broken hands, falling to his knees. Halibel was deafening him, his chest clenched tight in panic—her panic.
"Get up!" She screeched. "Grimmjow they'll cut me out of you! Don't let them kill me."
He brought his eyes up to her, vaguely aware of Ichigo watching him, calling his name.
"Please..." her hand fell over his face, "save me Grimmjow."
"Are you really here?" he whispered to her. But she turned, and he with her, seeing the oncoming attack. Ichigo had his eyes on Soifon, but the Soul Reapers to their left had built up a kido.
"I won't let you take me." She said to the men, raising her hand—Grimmjow's hand came up with it. He felt a cold rush through his body. The yellow light built in the palms of the Soul Reapers, then they released.
And so did Grimmjow.
Ichigo fell when the wall of water sprung out of no where, when the hot light of kido sizzled against it. He heard Toshiro cry Bankai, Soifon grabbed his shoulders and hauled him back, but his eyes never left Grimmjow, never left the spray of water that cascaded from his hand, met the power and turned to a shimmering rain.
And he saw her. In the water's reflection, the ghostly form reflected on a thousand shimmering beads—the woman who had haunted Grimmjow since the day she died.
Ichigo gripped the tiny captain back. "Soifon...please don't tell me..."
"Tier Halibel is still alive."
Until next time!
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