Author's note: This is a GrimmIchi BL. A progression of love during the 17 months between arcs. There will be romance, fighting, a little OCness and tragedy. If you do not enjoy love between men, then this is not the story for you. I do not own Bleach

She's fading away. Slowly. Surely. Bit by bit. This is it. I'm looking straight into her eyes. What can I say? And then, she says it for me.

"This is goodbye, Ichigo."

All I can say to her is, "Thank you."

Then, she's gone.

Week 1

They keep staring at me. I can feel it on the back of my neck and the side of my face. I can't look. I won't acknowledge their concerns. There's nothing for me to say or do. 'What's done is done and there's no going back, right?' I know they're asking the same question in their heads, too. But, if there are no answers then there's no point in bringing it up or hashing it out.

So, I stare forward. I don't look back. I go about getting back into the old routine. The same path I was on before being thrust into that other world, then ousted from it in a blink of an eye.

I wake up from a dreamless, restless, not quite sleep. Not that I really slept before, but I was too busy to sleep. Now I have all kinds of time. Time. That's what I need. Time. I shower, dress, eat, walk to school, listen to my friends and teachers converse and lecture, eat, stare, take notes, listen some more, nod my head and grunt out monosyllabic answers when spoken to, walk home, go to my room, stare at the wall in front of my desk, do my homework, wait to get called downstairs for dinner, eat, listen to my sisters and father converse, nod my head and grunt out monosyllabic answers when spoken to, drudge myself back upstairs, shrug out of my clothes, lay in bed on top of the sheets in only my boxer briefs and stare at the ceiling till it's suddenly morning and I don't realize whether I've slept or not.


I see it in their eyes, the thoughts and feelings that don't get named. Thank fuck they don't speak of those thoughts to me. I want to run away but I can't do that, not now. After all, I chose this. I knew the consequences, I understood fully and completely what path I was heading towards and no matter how much I didn't want that option to end up with me loosing my strength, I wouldn't have chosen any other way. If I had lost any of my friends or family, I would be broken forever. This way, I'm just numb. I'm still in shock. Still unable to move at a pace other than the one I'm at now. Numb. I'm not sure if they know that or just think that I'm coping. I can't even think that far ahead. I can't think at all, I just do. I just blindly act and don't think, cuz if I give myself even a second to think, I'll lose control. So... I'll wait until I can find a way to restore any resemblance of life as it is presented to me now.

Week 2


Week 3


Week 4

"Iiiiiiiiichiiiiiiiiigooooooo oooo!" Keigo cries as he runs, arms opened wide towards me. At the last second, before he can wrap his sweaty, grubby paws on me, I swing my messenger back counter-clockwise off my right shoulder where it was lazily hanging, hitting his left cheek and propelling him into the wall on my left.

So, that's back, I guess. Yay.

"Ow, ow, ow! Ichigo, you wound my head and my pride!" He whines as he rubs his head and heart at the same time and rolls on the floor in front of my feet. A flutter of the faintest smile appears on his lips. It's gone before he thinks I noticed.

Mizuiro literally walks on top of Keigo before he can pick himself off the ground. Standing on his friend's backside, he smiles unabashedly, holding up a slip of paper between us, "Good to see you today, Ichigo. I can't wait for tonight, can you? It's gonna be epic!"

I'm confused as I look down at the paper. Noticing the printing and image on the paper, I realize it's the mate to the ticket that has been pinned on the corkboard above my desk at home that I absently peer through. I give Mizuiro my winning-est smile, "Sure thing. Epic. Can't wait." I state as I run my fingers through my long spiky orange hair and scratch the back of my neck. Was that too enthusiastic? I can't tell.

Then, his smile falters. He looks down at the ticket between us for a moment. I feel like a real asshole. 'Please, don't give up.' I silently urge him in my head. 'I'm trying.' Thankfully, he raises his eyes back to mine and I think he can sense my remorse.

"Cool. I'll meet you at your house at six. We can grab a bite to eat before the show," he suggests as a different, warmer, forgiving smile creeps back onto his face. Whew.

"Now that you two have finished planning your lovely date for this evening, do you mind getting the hell off me, Mizuiro?"

"Oops, sorry, Keigo. I was so happy I finally could talk to Ichigo eye to eye for once, I forgot you were still down there." He jumps off, but not before he pushes his full, lithe weight down on Keigo. Keigo lets out an exaggerated grunt at the force. I softly chuckle at the personal comedy sketch playing out before me.

Both of their heads shoot up at the same time. A look of surprised awe smothered across their raised eyebrows and opened mouths. I can't look. Fuck! I quickly turn the other way and head into class.

I replay the events in the hall in my head. I never really thought too far into the actual intentions of my friends. If I were an outsider, I guess I'd quickly assume the antics of my schoolmates were a desperate competition to win my favor. I snicker to myself, 'Yeah, right.' I've honestly never really entertained the idea that I'd be capable of garnering the affections of the same sex. I mean, Inoue has her hands full with that Honshō chick. Least she has Tatsuki to defend her honour. Lately though, I find Inoue staring out the window deep in thought, with the same look on her face as just before... I don't want to go there. Well, now that I have more time to contemplate these things, I may have to pay more attention. I don't want to give anybody the wrong idea. Then a pair of disparagingly blue eyes flashes in my head. What the hell was that? Why did he pop into my head? Weird.

She hasn't come around. None of them have. Guess they're all busy. Yeah, they all have their jobs to do.

Class is going pretty smoothly like usual. I'm staring forward, taking in the wealth of information regurgitated out of the textbook from the teacher's mouth, when it happens.

"Ishida! Where do you think your going?" Ms. Ochi cries out to him as he's running through the door.

"To the nurse's office." He stoically pans over his shoulder as he's running out into the hall.

But, just as this commotion started, I did not realize I had absently and instinctually shot up from my desk. My mind didn't understand. I just reacted like I always did. I wondered why I didn't get the summons first? I wondered where I was needed? I wondered where I should go? I stood there, clutching my pencil in my right hand and my substitute badge in my left.

My eyes glazed over the class looking for answers and then, I made the mistake of looking over to Inoue. I must have looked so helpless and pathetic. She looked up to me with sad, caring eyes, tears about to spill over and hands covering her mouth. And then, my mind caught up with reality, cuz I asked myself... 'How am I going to help?' And I answered my own question, "I'm not. I can't. I don't."

Ms. Ochi snapped me out of my delusion, "Are you ok, Ichigo? Do you need to go to the nurse too?" I realize my breathing is severe and I've broken out into a cold sweat. I must have looked crazed.

"N-no. Just... The bathroom." I crack out between pants. I bend down to gather my belongings. Not looking at anyone, I am out the door before I can hear her telling me to hurry back. I wasn't coming back today though.

I run out the front doors of the school. I bet Inoue and Chado and everyone else for that matter saw me leave, as there was no shroud of anonymity covering my form as there was before. I run for as long as my weak human body could endure. I wander through Karakura, supposedly aimless until I finally take off the blinders and realize where I led myself.

There it is, the rock. The rock. The great, gray flat boulder sat on the hill looking over the park with the small lake and trees in the distance. The place where I rested after my final battle, where I waited for my friends, where I waited for the inevitable, where I turned around and took in the sight of my companions, where my band of survivors cast their worried, relieved and proud looks upon me, where I then collapsed and lost my world.

I subconsciously led myself to this place because, I realized in the moment Ishida ran out of the class, it was truly over. That life. That life where I was capable of anything and everything, that life where I overcame every obstacle thrown at me, that life that I never really mourned the loss of, was actually lost to me... probably forever.

I touch my face, cold wet tears stream down it. I collapse over that rock and cry until my stupid body finally shudders with a deep breath and I slowly will myself to relax. I thought that if I cried for myself, it would negate the sacrifice I made for my family and friends and it would taint my previous actions making me seem selfish and regretful of the loss. But in my catharsis, I realized that I wasn't alone in my pain, everyone else felt the pain with me. It wasn't pity or sympathy I was seeing in their eyes. It was my own suffering reflected back into me. I wasn't sure at this moment how I was going to change this, but I guess my understanding was the first step.

I sit up, sink to the grass and lean my head against the cold slab. I look over the small lake and watch the ripples come to shore. I watch the bare tree branches and evergreens shudder in the wind. It was unseasonably warm for December. Still, chilly enough for me to finally realize I forgot my coat. Shit. I wrap my arms around my abdomen.

"So, you just realized you forgot something?" I practically jumped out of my body at the unexpected voice.

"Dad? What? How did you..." No one could have snuck up on me before. But, now...

"I always know where my children are." He smirked. He was holding my forgotten coat in his hand. "Your, uh, smallish friend, Mizuiro brought it to the house. Were you supposed to go somewhere with him tonight?"

FUCK! "Oh, no. Completely slipped my mind." I scratched the back of my head. I'm going to have to do some major damage control tomorrow.

"Well, I felt really sorry for the kid, I mean I was practically weeping for his predicament," my dad droned with sarcastic intent, "Yuzu checked your room and saw your ticket where you left it. Then, she asked if she could go in your place. I think she felt bad for your friend and seeing as how I was backed into a corner, I let her go with him."

My dad fell to his knees, "My poor innocent daughter! Forced to go on her first date because her brother couldn't remember his previous engagement! Masaki! What will happen to our wayward children?"

"What indeed." I huffed under my breath.

That is when my father gave me the third most serious look I've ever seen on his face in my life. The first is when he realized my mother had died, the second, when he turned to me after he interrupted Aizen's confession, and now, before me here, the third.

This man then got up and paced slowly towards me. He lifted his arms and wrapped my coat around my shivering shoulders. He looked straight into my tired, blood shot eyes, smiled softly and said, "Don't you worry, child. See, heaven's got a plan for you. Don't you worry, now," as he pats me tenderly on my back.

I leaned forward, my forehead on the front of his broad shoulder. I couldn't look at him in the eyes anymore, ashamed of my behavior and overwhelmed at this moment I never imagined having with my goofy, overly dramatic father. It was all too surreal but sobering at the same time. I took a deep breath, slid my face to the right and turned around avoiding his gaze again.

"Thanks, Pop-," he pushes me. His foot goes right in my ass and I fall over, spayed out on top of the rock.

"Now get your ass home before your sister gets back. I expect a full interrogation of your itty-bitty schoolmate. I want a comprehensive report of their interactions on my desk by tomorrow afternoon. No exceptions. Got that?"

"Yeah, yeah old man. I hear ya," rubbing my sore ass, "You go on ahead, I'll be there soon."

"Thirty minutes, or I'm dragging your butt back kicking and screaming." His smirk is back on his face, right where it should be.

I nod my compliance, and he strolls off, hands in his pocket, whistling a tune I can't recall the name of. Lights of the city are twinkling all around. I look back to the lake for a long while longer; its waters now turned a crystal black. I was expecting to see its azure blue fade in the sunset with the quiet ceremony it would have had if my father hadn't shown up.

What I also didn't see were the glittering ocean blue eyes of the figure staring at me now from across the darkened body of water. He silently stared, his face turned from treacherous leer to utter incredulous astonishment.

Then, in half a blink of comprehension, he was standing two feet away from me. His fists clenched to his sides and mouth poised to ask a question. The question no one else dared utter to me for a month. His voice was deep and filled with contempt and something else he couldn't put a finger on.

He snarled, "Oi... Wha tha FUCK is wrong with ya?!"

But the thing is, I didn't know any of this was happening. I couldn't sense him coming. I didn't see watery blue irises or gnashing teeth or flexing muscle. I couldn't hear his throaty query. He was a spirit. I couldn't see spirits. Not anymore.

I totally wasn't planning on this first chapter to be 1st person but it just came out that way. I may have gotten some tenses and grammar wrong, sorry. I don't have any beta or anything considering I wrote this on a whim. Grimmjow was so gung ho about finishing his fight with Ichigo I couldn't believe he wouldn't try to track him down. I wonder if that was the little "arrangement" Urahara had to make with Grimmjow in order to procure his cooperation in Hueco Mundo in chapter 518? Speculations!