Author's Note: It took me forever to write this… I have no idea how Ichigo would get them out so it's from Grimmjow's perspective. And no lemon, sorry, it's plenty long already.
It was a beautiful day.
The sun was shining and the land was ripening with the spring. Birds twittered in the trees and blossoms were shyly showing their faces to the sun. There was hardly a wisp of clouds in the sky.
"A good day t' die." Grimmjow whispered to himself as he gazed up at that blue sky. "Pappy, you'd be proud of me." It was so hard. So very hard. He' d known it was coming for years, even suspected that the Dark King wanted him in bed, but it was still hard. He was so desperately unwilling to die. "Never thought I'd have so much t'live for." His mind went back to his night with Ichigo. That had been a time to remember. It was sad that he wouldn't be remembering it for long.
There was a soft cough behind him and Grimmjow blinked, recalled to the present. He flashed the human guard a grim smile before beginning to walk. The guards had been treating him respectfully, and he knew why. At least one of them came from his lands, and the humans knew who was a good lord and who wasn't. The Dark King wouldn't approve if he knew, but Grimmjow wouldn't be in their hands for long.
There was a silent crowd waiting at the execution grounds and Grimmjow's heart ached as he glanced over them. Not a single face was happy, not even Szayel. He spotted the pink haired elf right off, and he looked as upset as anyone. But then, they were all elves. There was some solidarity in that. He didn't look for his mother. He knew she was there, and Feralina too, but he couldn't look for them. This hurt badly enough already.
"Good luck Fera." He whispered as the guards escorted him to the execution stand. It was actually a wooden frame with a leather harness, stained with old blood. Grimmjow swallowed at the sight of it. He'd wondered how the Dark King would have him die, and this was not a painless way to go.
This was the basket of knives. Grimmjow walked up to the frame and let the guards strap him in as he stared blankly at the executioner. The man was stirring the basket, making sure that the heart knife wasn't on top. Each knife was engraved with a body part, and when it was pulled that was where it would be tossed. It required an accurate hand, and back in the old days, when his father had lived here, the executioner could be bribed to make sure the heart knife was picked early on. Not anymore. The Dark King fed on suffering and torment and a headsman who let the victim die too quickly might find himself strapped to the rack.
Pushing that thought away, Grimmjow straightened his shoulders and stared forward. He couldn't move much, which was the point of the harness, but he'd put up a good front. It wouldn't last long, but he'd hold it until he couldn't anymore. Then he frowned. There was something...
What the fuck? Grimmjow's eyes went wide as he heard the beat of horses' hooves and someone suddenly launched themselves out of the crowd. "Feralina, no!" He could recognize that flowing blue hair. And the power that was filling the air, that was familiar too. "Ichigo!" Something suddenly went off in the stands - a bomb? - and clouds of stink and dust filled the air. Grimmjow could smell it even from where he was, and the elves caught in it were retching and screaming. The power of the Dark King filled the air, but Ichigo's power clashed with it fearlessly. Then Feralina was there, her sword clashing with the guards. They couldn't let her do it, not if they wanted to live, and she knew it. The fight was fast and brutal and ended with two dead guards. Then she began slashing his bonds and Ichigo slid down from a horse, holding off the other guards and the Dark King's power.
"We're gettin' you outta here y' pig fucker!" Feralina shouted and grabbed her stunned and horrified brother. "C'mon!" She shoved him at the horses and Grimmjow grabbed a saddle, dragging himself up. Ichigo's cover was blown. Even if he wanted to surrender himself so his lunatic sister could live, it wouldn't do the human boy a damned bit of good. Run was the only option.
All three of them spurred their horses to a gallop and Grimmjow hissed as he felt power building behind them. The Dark King unleashed a bolt of sickly, black and purple power. He unleashed his own power to shield them, but it only slowed the blow. That bit of delay gave Ichigo the time he needed to erect a shield of gold, and the bolt was stopped on that. Then they were gone. No one else was in a position to follow them quickly, although Grimmjow knew with sick certainty that that would change shortly.
"We've got a good lead!" Ichigo called and Grimmjow turned to look at him, wondering if he was insane. "I stole all the left shoes off the horses!"
"You did WHAT?!" Grimmjow yelled, wondering if he'd misheard. Feralina laughed her hyena laugh, then had to control her horse. The beast didn't like the sound any more than the rest of them.
"We got this brother! Yer gonna be fine!" Feralina caroled and Grimmjow shook his head before bending over the horses' neck. He didn't have time to give these two the hiding they deserved. Right now, they had to get away.
But he'd be having words with them later.
"Now. What in hell were you two idiots thinkin'?" Grimmjow said harshly as Feralina picked at a roasted squirrel and Ichigo ate a bit of trail bread. One thing they were badly short on was rations, although Ichigo had stolen what he could before they left. The teen blinked at the elf before swallowing his bread.
"We couldn't just leave you there to die, Grimm." He said simply and winced as Grimmjow looked ready to explode.
"You damned well should have! You dumb kids! You know what he's gonna do if he catches up to us now? For fuck's sake Fera, Ichigo's too young to remember but you damned well know what happened to Maladecta!" Feralina went a little pale at that but mustered a very good scowl.
"Shut the hell up, you daft bastard!" She roared right back, getting in his face. "You know what? We love your sorry ass! So shut the fuck up! We'll live or die together, so just shut the fuck up!" Then she hugged him, so hard Grimmjow let out his breath in surprise. Ichigo smiled and joined her, hugging Grimmjow tightly.
"You tryin' t' suffocate me an' do th' Dark King's work for 'im?" Grimmjow gasped out and Feralina let go with a laugh. Ichigo smiled and kissed his lover on the cheek before letting go as well. "I just... you two..." Grimmjow took a deep breath and centered himself. "What's done is done. There's nothin' t' do but go forward. And that means we gotta go inta rebellion. And we gotta win." He said plainly and Ichigo swallowed. He really hadn't thought this far ahead, but he knew Grimmjow was right. The only way they would be safe was if the Dark King was dead. "We ain't the first t' try an' we'll probably fail. But it's th' only hope we've got."
"Nice pep talk Grimmy. That how you rallied the rangers, too?" Feralina asked and Grimmjow growled at her. "So where're we goin'? Didn't you say you knew some bandits out in the hills?"
"For fuck's sake Fera! That was three hundred years ago! Humans move around! Shit, elves move around!" The elf lord complained and Ichigo couldn't help but smile. A near brush with death didn't really change much.
"But the things that attract bandits, like a steady water supply and good hunting, might not change." Ichigo pointed out and felt Zangetsu's approval. "I have a map, but Zangetsu's information is even more outdated. Maybe we should try it." If Grimmjow's location didn't pan out, Zangetsu did have some ideas. But over a thousand years even the waterways could change. Grimmjow took a deep breath, running a hand through his hair.
"Alright. Give me that map." He said and Ichigo got up, fishing it out of his saddlebags. He handed the paper to Grimmjow who began looking it over. "Up here." He pointed out a location. "Where those rivers meet. Would be a good place for a town, but no one's ever started one. Well, the horses have had a rest. Ready t' go?"
"Yep! Let's get going Grimmy." Feralina said cheerfully as Grimmjow growled and put the map away. Soon they were all mounted and moving again, as Grimmjow took steps to muddy their trail. That was one thing they had going for them... Grimmjow was the last of the elven rangers. He would be better at this game than anyone the Dark King could send after them.
That might keep them alive long enough to get away.
"Hmm, we almost there Grimmy?" Feralina asked, taking off her boots and rubbing her feet. The ranger huffed a breath.
"We'll get there when we get there, bitch!" He said and she tossed a stick at him. He caught it and tossed it into the woods. "Damned scraggly woods." Grimmjow muttered, glancing at the trees. Ichigo felt almost at home in the scraggly brush. "Nothin' like th' enchanted forest."
"Should we go to the Enchanted Forest, Grimmjow? I mean, as an ultimate goal?" Ichigo asked and the two elves exchanged a glance before shaking their heads.
"No. It's been done t' death, th' Dark King'd be expecting it. That's how they caught Maladecta, in the end." Feralina said seriously and Ichigo wondered who Maladecta was and what the story was behind that. It sounded interesting but probably very ugly. "She was our cousin so we know all about it."
"Another wild one like Feralina. Her mammy was already dead and her pappy died in a flood, so th' Dark King tried t' marry her off. She wasn't having any and she bolted. I hear she joined some bandits for a while but he was searching too hard for her so she left 'em t' keep 'em safe. She tried t' bolt for the forest but didn't make it. No one's really sure what happened to her after that. It wasn't no public execution, not like mine." Grimmjow said and Ichigo winced. "Some say she's alive somewhere, popping out babies for the Dark King's minions, her mind nothin' but mush. I wouldn't be surprised."
"Ugh." Ichigo muttered. "Grimmjow, what was it like for female elves before the Dark King came?" They desperately needed a break - they'd had to release the horses when they went into the deep woods - so they might as well talk. And he knew the elven women were suffering under the Dark King in different ways from their menfolk. Grimmjow and Feralina exchanged a glance.
"Well, elven men and women never did all the same things." Grimmjow said slowly as Feralina grimaced. "No woman ever became a ranger. Not because it was dangerous, but because it was too likely they'd miss their fertile times. And usually if a woman had th' wanderlust, she'd take a man with her, t' make sure those times weren't completely lost."
"It's too hard for a woman t' become pregnant." Feralina took over as Ichigo looked at her. "Women could be clan guards, and they often did, learnin' the sword an' the fightin'. But they'd usually stay close t' home. Even in our clan, not as many women wandered as th' men."
"Now under the Dark King it's 'bout the same, except women can't do anythin' dangerous." Grimmjow took back the conversational ball. "And since we're spread all over this damned Kingdom, rather than in clan houses, he makes th' women marry in th' human way. Sometimes, they manage t' get t' court for a fertile time an' take men in the old way, but mostly they can't. So the Dark King gives 'em potions t' help 'em get pregnant. But too many years o' that can wear 'em down."
"Almost makes me glad mamma's pregnant." Feralina said with a sigh. Ichigo nodded, but frowned. A few questions were still unanswered.
"Could women ever be clan heads, or whatever you used, before the Dark King came?" He asked and Grimmjow and Feralina both shook their heads.
"No. A clan head had t' be able t' meet a challenge at a moment's notice, so women were barred from th' position. But they could be on th' council of elders, for th' clans that were big enough t' have one. An' they could always have a lot of influence on th' clan head." Grimmjow said, then grinned. "You're wondering if our women were under the men, like most human women are, right?" Ichigo blushed but nodded. In the Kingdom, women couldn't own property unless they were widows and there were plenty of restrictions on them. "Not really. Most rules, the women could break if they didn't mind gettin' the fish eye from the elders. Only thing they couldn't do was become rangers."
"When I was a little girl, I dreamed of bein' a house guard an' jeweler an' havin' ten children." Feralina said with a sigh and Ichigo choked a little. Ten?
"Good luck on that last bit." Grimmjow said derisively and Feralina scowled before punching him in the shoulder.
"Stop mockin' my dreams! Are we ready to go?" She asked, pulling her boots back on. Grimmjow glanced up, although it was hard to see the sun with the trees in the way.
"Yeah, let's get goin'. We should make it a bit further before we have to call it for th' night." He said and Ichigo winced a little to himself. The elves could have kept going, they saw like cats in the dark, but he couldn't.
They need to sleep anyway. Zangetsu pointed out and Ichigo nodded. The sword spirit had a point.
It took them two more days to reach the fork at the river. But before they did, they ran into something interesting.
"Hmm." Grimmjow hummed softly to himself as he parted the trees. Feralina and Ichigo both stayed back. Feralina had a bit of the training, courtesy of Grimmjow, and Ichigo knew a bit from his poaching days, but neither of them were close to the ranger's skill. "They ain't the Dark King's men." He said under his breath and Ichigo nodded.
They were spying on a pair of poachers. Possibly bandits as well, one of them was completely bald while the other was very well groomed and wore odd little feathers by one of his eyes. They were both wearing old, tatty clothing that looked comfortably warm in the early spring chill. It was pretty similar to what they were wearing, in fact. Ichigo had packed the warmest things he could find.
The two men were checking some snares, and there was a small sound of triumph as they realized they'd caught a hare. Grimmjow gestured for them both to stay before silently slipping out of the woods. Ichigo tensed, wishing he'd thought to suggest that he go first. He was human, and the hunters might react with alarm to an elf.
"Well, well. What d' I have here? Some poachers?" Grimmjow's voice floated back to them and Ichigo winced. Then he stiffened as both men's hands flashed to their swords. "Ah ah, I wouldn't if I was you."
"Who the fuck are you?" The bald one snarled out, clearly trying to locate the elf. Grimmjow stepped out of the woods, his hands up in a pacific manner. Of course, he could have his sword out faster than most humans could dream of. "An elf?!" His sword rasped out but Grimmjow just looked at him calmly.
"And in such horribly disreputable clothing." The second man said, smoothly drawing his sword. "I wouldn't have thought an elf would be caught dead in such unfashionable garb." He said and Grimmjow barked a laugh.
"Funny you should say that. I wore this so's I wouldn't get my own blood on something good." He said and the two humans exchanged a glance, clearly confused. "I'm Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez. I don't know how fast word travels, but if the Dark King catches me I'm a dead man. Now, you wouldn't happen to be bandits, would ya? Because I have a deep fondness in m'heart for bandits at th' moment."
"Really? It wouldn't be the first time, but do you have any proof of this?" The man with the feathers drawled. Grimmjow shrugged, spreading his hands. "And how did you escape?" He clearly wasn't buying Grimmjow's story.
"I had help." Grimmjow said shortly before motioning behind him. Ichigo swallowed before quietly easing himself out of the brush, Feralina following close behind. "Meet m'friend, Ichigo and m'sister, Feralina. Be careful, she bites." He said and Feralina sneered at him before giving the two men a challenging look. They looked them both over and the bald one frowned.
"How'd you get on the Dark King's bad side?" He asked and Grimmjow briefly detailed the situation. One part of it caught their attention. "Wait, he wanted you in bed? You're handsome and all, but why didn't he pick her?" That made Feralina toss back her head and laugh. It was especially piercing and both men winced in pain. "...Nevermind."
"My hangover just came back!" The dapper man moaned, putting his face in his hands. "Never do that again, ever!"
"Good luck, I've been tryin' t' stop her since she was a baby." Grimmjow said sourly and Ichigo had to hide a grin. "Even the Dark King has better sense than t' touch her - ow! Fera!" The elf lord scowled and rubbed his head where he'd just been slapped. "Bitch."
"How did you know we were here?" The bald man thought to ask. "I'm Ikkaku, by the way, and this is Yumichika." The man with the feathers waved a hand before rubbing his forehead again. Ichigo could sympathize; Feralina's hyena in heat laugh could be painful even when he was feeling fine.
"I didn't. But there were bandits in these woods three hundred years ago, and these two didn't have a spec of a plan. So here we are." Grimmjow said and the two humans exchanged a glance.
"That's so dumb it's probably true." Ikkaku said and Yumichika sighed, putting his sword away. "We'll have to take you to the boss though. And just a warning, if you're trying to set us up. No one manages to lie to the boss." He said proudly and Ichigo wondered what the boss would turn out to be. An elf? Or another human? Probably a human, but from their earlier comments he couldn't be sure.
"Good we're not lying then, ain't it? Take us t'see your boss." Feralina said and Ikkaku took the lead while Yumichika followed behind them. There clearly wasn't a lot of trust, which didn't surprise Ichigo in the least. He was actually slightly surprised they were being given a chance at all.
It took a while to reach the bandit camp. It was well concealed and to Ichigo's surprise, quite extensive. In fact, it was almost a little village, although one that was meant to blend into the forest rather than announce itself to passersby. Entire families lived in wattle huts, heavily concealed with branches and hidden in the trees. Children came out to point and stare before being swept up by concerned parents. Ichigo felt almost at home.
"Hey boss!" Ikkaku called, waving his hand at someone sitting on a tree stump. Ichigo swallowed as he saw the man's sword. It was long and jagged on the edge, but that wasn't the impressive part. The really interesting thing was the stone in the hilt. It was a piece of red agate, nothing precious, but Ichigo could sense the power coiling in it.
"Hey! Where'd you get that sword?" Feralina said, surprised, and Ichigo and Grimmjow both winced a bit as the man rose to his feet. He was a giant of a man with spiky black hair, capped in bells. A patch over his eye finished the nicely homicidal image. "I know that sword! Our uncle made it!"
"Wait, what? Really?" Grimmjow suddenly looked at the sword. "It does look like his work, I think he meant it for somebody on a horse though." He said, glancing up at the man in front of him. "You've got th' height for it." He added absently. "How'd it end up here?" He sounded honestly puzzled and the man across from him flashed him a grin.
"A girl brought it, a while back. She said her dad made it. Heh... that would make you Grimmjow and Feralina, wouldn't it?" The two elves both looked shocked and Grimmjow hesitated before nodding. "I'm Zaraki Kenpachi. Nice to meet you, Mala had plenty to say about you."
"If it's good it was true, if it's bad it was lies." Grimmjow said, sounding almost at ease now. "We're lookin' for a place t' hide for a bit, 'till we can move on th' Dark King." He said and Zaraki lifted his eyebrows.
"Move on him? You actually got a plan, or you just desperate?" He said and Grimmjow looked away. "Figures. How'd you get on his bad side?" Grimmjow took a deep breath and went over it again as Kenpachi listened patiently. "Wait, he wanted you in bed, not her?"
"It's her laugh sir. Her horrible, horrible laugh." Yumichika moaned as Feralina giggled madly. "You must have heard it, just a while ago?" Zaraki looked puzzled for a moment then blinked.
"Wait, that was her? I thought it was a badger." That made Feralina laugh again and everyone winced. "Holy shit! Don't do that again." He said threateningly and Feralina put a hand over her mouth, trying to look contrite. It didn't work very well. "Fucking hell. I can tell you're related to Maladecta. Fine, you can both stay. But unless you can come up with a plan me and my boys will be staying right here."
"Fair enough." Grimmjow agreed immediately and Ichigo nodded. They couldn't lead these men into a massacre. Although what kind of plan could they come up with? Ichigo bit his lip as he thought.
I will help you. Zangetsu said and Ichigo relaxed slightly at the quiet assurance in the sword spirit's tone. He believed in Zangetsu. With his help, they would think of something.
For the next two days, the elves and human rested and recharged. They were cautiously welcomed into the camp, a welcome that got warmer as Grimmjow caught a very large buck deer for them. Feralina also made herself useful. There was a very basic forge in the camp, and she used it to fix some cookware and other minor things. The man who'd been using it had been a tinker, not a real smith, and he was happy enough to give up the forge to her.
And the nights were full of warmth. Ichigo and Grimmjow shared a tent, while Feralina had one of her own. Grimmjow put up full privacy shields, so it was hard to say if the bandits even realized they were lovers. Ichigo was willing to bet they did, but no one had mentioned it so he couldn't be sure.
"Ichi." Grimmjow whispered in his ear, making the teenager shiver in desire. A warm, strong hand was stroking the inside of his thigh, teasingly avoiding his more sensitive parts. "I got somethin' I want t' ask you."
"Mmm, what?" Ichigo murmured, distracted by that touch. Grimmjow made it worse by gently kissing his throat, nuzzling the soft skin.
"I been thinkin'. I'll be lucky if I live a year, at this rate, so I want t' bind my power t' yours." He said seriously and Ichigo blinked, brown eyes meeting blue. "It's a permanent thing an' it'll mean that m'life will be shorter an' yours'll be longer. We'll live th' same length o' time an' we'll die t'gether. I'll share the blessin' of the forest with you, so we'll prob'ly both live another thousand years." Ichigo drew a breath at the thought. A thousand years? But then he bit his lip. Grimmjow should have more time than that.
"Are you sure?" He asked and the elf huffed a laugh before kissing him soundly. Ichigo melted into the kiss, exploring Grimmjow's mouth as the elf lord explored him right back.
"Yeah, I'm sure. We're all livin' on borrowed time, now. It's time t' live for th' present." He said and Ichigo felt Zangetsu's approval. "The question is, are you okay with it? I might die before you an' if I do, I'll take you down with me." Grimmjow sounded deeply concerned but Ichigo didn't have to think twice.
"I wouldn't want to live without you anyway." He said quietly, brown eyes meeting blue. "If you don't mind losing your time in this world." That bothered him a bit, but only a bit because Grimmjow was right. The odds that they would fail were high. The elf gave him a small, understanding smile.
"Then let's do this." He murmured before pulling Ichigo against his chest. The younger man rested there, comfortable in Grimmjow's embrace. "Open yer mind t'me." Ichigo closed his eyes and obeyed. A moment later he felt Grimmjow's presence and accepted it as easily as breathing.
He would never have words for what happened next. It was a little like being cuddled in a blanket, a little like taking a long drink of cool, refreshing water, and a little like experiencing love for the first time. But it was none of those things, it was a sensation all of its own. Ichigo would never remember it clearly, but he would always know it was among the best things he'd ever felt. And there would always be a faint echo of it, whenever he drew on Grimmjow's power and felt the bond between them.
Then it was over and Ichigo took a deep breath, still snug against Grimmjow's chest. Then he blinked as he realized his body had reacted strongly to that feeling. And not just his. Grimmjow's erection was poking him quite firmly in the hip and Ichigo smiled before reaching down to touch it. The body against his stiffened with a soft groan, and he looked up to meet wanting blue eyes.
"That felt so good, Grimm. But I think we should do something about this, don't you?" He said, sliding his hand up and down that hard length teasingly. Then his mouth was claimed hungrily as Grimmjow wordlessly voiced his agreement.
This was going to be an excellent night.