A/N: Sorry for the long wait! Your support is invaluable. Thank you so much, and enjoy the next chapter!
V: Hollows Don't Date
Everyone around them ran, screaming, panicking, children crying—a shopping cart flew through the broken windows and crashed into an aisle, humans scurried to find a safe place. The thing had probably been thrown by the Hollow, for as far as Ichigo could tell as he couldn't exactly see the creature; it was unlikely anything else had thrown that cart. Grimmjow, however, could. The curve of the excited smirk on his lips quickly faded into a chagrin line; he was displeased.
Meanwhile, Ichigo dropped down to hide behind the large counter of the cash register—its previous owner long having abandoned her post. He really didn't like the prospect of having to rely on Grimmjow's homicidal urges to stay safe—besides which, as he glanced over the counter to check on his companion, the Arrancar didn't seem interested in the Hollow anymore. All things considered, it was a small fry.
"What the hell are you doing?! Kill it already!" Ichigo yelled at him with a frustrated scowl, ducking when another shopping cart came flying, passing right over the counter he was hiding behind and crashing into a stack of cans.
"Yeah, yeah, shut yer mouth already." Grimmjow drawled languorously, watching the crab-like Hollow roar and smash through the supermarket, breaking the wall and completely destroying whatever had been left of the windows. Its screeches resonated eerily within the building—a high pitched, raspy noise entirely unpleasant to the ears. Ichigo barely heard it, like a soft echo from a far-off memory. He'd heard these screams numerous times before but only now, did he hear the subtle undertone of a human voice crying beneath it. He'd never thought about it, never paid attention to it; and now he wondered, had Grimmjow once been like that?
The crab Hollow turned to glare down at Grimmjow and roared once again, while the former Sexta merely stood there and gazed up at the creature, entirely unimpressed.
"You're in luck, ya little shit. You get to choose how to die. Should I just bash your mask in or rip your legs off one by one?"
Ichigo got up from the counter, glaring at Grimmjow. "Just get rid of it before it causes more damage!" The man glanced at him with an irritated scowl.
The Hollow now seemed to notice Ichigo and—Grimmjow not a tad bit interested in protecting the boy—lunged at him with a surprisingly long claw. Ichigo only managed to dodge it because of the air the claw blasted his way as it shot forward to crush him, his naturally fast reflexes saving him from imminent doom, Ichigo ducked and quickly took his distance, feeling the razor-sharp claw missing his head by a hair's width.
"Grimmjow, what the fuck are you doing?! TAKE CARE OF THAT THING ALREADY!"
"Why can't you?"
Ichigo blinked, puzzled by the sudden question as Grimmjow turned to him with a dark look. "If you were strong enough to beat me in this form, then you must be strong enough to fight one of these foot soldiers. Why don't you take care of it?" Ichigo gritted his teeth, but in this situation he had no choice but to tell him the truth. Damn, the guy was certainly more perceptive than he looked.
"Because I lost my powers, alright?!" Grimmjow gazed at him for a few seconds, blue eyes widened for a moment as Ichigo looked away—in shame or anger, he couldn't quite tell.
"If I kill this maggot," Grimmjow said slowly as he shifted to the left casually, avoiding a claw with a certain fluidity you wouldn't expect from someone with such a rough exterior, "I'm gonna get the full story from you." It wasn't a request; it was an order. Ichigo wasn't in a position to argue.
The Arrancar turned back to the lesser Hollow in front of him, easily stepping out of the way from several more attacks, before growing bored. The next claw that came aimed to his head was blocked by his hand.
"I wonder if I can crush this—" He squeezed suddenly, exerting most of his strength and seeing the claw shatter in his hands instantly. The smirk returned to his lips. "Not bad."
The Hollow roared again, this time using two of his other claws to lash out. Grimmjow, with the feral grin still on his face, grabbed both of them with his hands. Instead of squeezing, he started pulling, and with a firm jerk, both claws popped off the Hollow's torso with a sickening crunch. It started screaming again, this time in agony. Ichigo couldn't really see it happening, but the movements the Arrancar made were more than telling – and he was grimly reminded of the fact that, no matter how human Grimmjow would seem to act at times, no matter the core of the human soul that had endured through the twisting and fracturing of turning into a Hollow, he was still a predator by nature. A predator that enjoyed to toy with his prey.
"Tch, didn't even last a whole minute." Grimmjow raised his hand in front of him, staring at it in mild curiosity as he did so, as if contemplating something. He balled it and relaxed it several times, before setting it in a firm fist and staring at the Hollow who was still screeching over its injuries. Ichigo watched tensely, as he saw the other readying himself to deliver a fatal blow to the creature invisible to the teen's eyes.
Grimmjow's fist burst straight through, what Ichigo would assume, was the Hollow's mask.
Its last screech was the wail of a dying animal as it collapsed on the ground, and slowly started fading away. Ichigo let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding, feeling relieved but rather disturbed at the same time, getting out from behind the counter and approaching his blue haired companion with a deep scowl. Grimmjow stared back at him with apathy as Ichigo dragged him along by his arm to get out of the supermarket before the cops showed up and found them being the only ones left in a partially destroyed store.
They pushed through the crowd of people gathered outside, slipping through an alleyway and safely disappearing out of sight. Ichigo took a second to catch his breath before looking up at Grimmjow who was still glaring at him. Or rather, staring. The glare seemed to be standard; cold as glass or smoldering like the embers from a blaze, it was always a firm glower painted in his blue eyes.
"I'm waiting, brat." he sneered impatiently, referring to what Ichigo had agreed to a few minutes ago.
"It's… it's complicated—"
Grimmjow grabbed him by the front of his shirt and jerked him closer with dangerous glint in his eyes, patience having worn thin. "Start talking, Shinigami!"
Ichigo pulled himself free with a glare of his own. "I'm not a Shinigami. Not anymore."
"Heh, that much was obvious."
"Look, do you want the story or not?!" Grimmjow remained silent, his mocking sneer dying on his lips, which Ichigo took as a yes. "To defeat a really powerful enemy, I had to use a certain technique to beat him that cost me all my powers. You were… well, you used to be on his side. I beat you back when I was at full strength."
The former Sexta narrowed his eyes. Ichigo prayed he didn't just dig his own grave, and tensely awaited Grimmjow's reaction. Nothing could be read from his indifferent expression, other than the grimly thoughtful look that made him furrow his short brows slightly.
"Alright, listen here," the blue haired man suddenly spoke up after several seconds of silence, "First I'm gonna get all my memories back, then I'm gonna surpass my old strength, and then I'm going to beat the shit out of you. If you haven't gotten your powers back by then, that'll just be tough luck for ya. Got it?"
"W-wait, what? You'll fight me even if I'm powerless?!"
Grimmjow smirked cruelly. "No, I'll crush you if you're powerless. I'll fight you if you're strong."
"You—that's—what the hell kind of—"
"Deal with it, brat." Grimmjow said with an indifferent shrug, smirk fading as he treaded out the alleyway in slow, lazy steps—still somehow remaining fluid in his movements, like a sleep-dazed cat in no hurry whatsoever.
Ichigo remained behind completely dumbstruck for a moment, before he quickly followed him with a puzzled frown. "How are you going to get your memories back anyway?" he asked as he easily caught up to him, both of them crossing the street of a relatively empty road, neither knowing where they were even headed.
"Dunno." Grimmjow replied lackadaisically, seeming none too concerned with his own mental state. "They should just return on their own over time."
"What if they don't?"
The former Sexta shot him an annoyed glance. "Then I'll skip over the 'retrieve my memories' part and go straight to the 'beating the shit out of you' part."
"How are you so casual about this? I mean, those are your memories. Don't you want to know about everything that happened?"
Grimmjow snorted. "You really have no clue what a Hollow's life is like, do you?" Ichigo opened his mouth to protest, but realized that the Arrancar was right. He'd never given it any thought. "'Sides, from what I'm hearing, I don't think I'd want to remember getting beaten by some stupid brat either."
"Then tell me what it's like." Ichigo replied, ignoring his other statement. Grimmjow glanced at him and gritted his teeth, lips almost curling into a snarl which tensed Ichigo though he didn't take any distance, continuing to walk beside the man.
"What's with that look?" the Arrancar growled, his deep voice rumbling in his throat with palpable irritation—Ichigo considered the rough noise, surprised by how pleasant it sounded. "Tch, those eyes of yours really…" He froze mid-sentence, Ichigo stopping a few steps in front of him, alarmed at the sudden change. Grimmjow's eyes widened slightly as he gazed at something in the distance, muscles tense.
"Grimmjow?" Ichigo asked hesitantly when seeing him zone-out so suddenly.
"Those eyes… really piss me off." The soft mutter echoed through Ichigo's head. Where had he heard that line before?
They had eye-contact, and the realization of what had just happened, together with the foreign sense of panic he hadn't felt ever since he'd seen Aizen cut down the Shinigami Captains right in front of him, struck Ichigo like a jolt of electricity. Had he remembered everything? Was this it, then? Was Grimmjow going to kill him?
Instead of lunging at him and going for his jugular like Ichigo had expected him to, the Arrancar's tense shoulders relaxed slightly after their eyes had met, a confused and frustrated expression playing on his face as he gazed intently at the boy who was nailed to the ground like a statue affixed to its pedestal.
"Did you… remember anything?" Ichigo asked quietly, fight-or-flight instinct having cooled down before it could've urged him to make a choice.
"A flash." Grimmjow responded, his eyes so firmly set on Ichigo that it was starting to make him grow uncomfortable. It seemed like the Arrancar's interest in him had grown yet again, and he doubted that was a good thing; he felt like a mouse stuck in his hole with the wide blue eyes of a cat outside peering in curiously.
Then again, he could try to use this to his advantage, somehow. He had no clue how to go about befriending someone who'd tried killing him and hated his guts—
Ishida, Renji, Ikkaku, Kenpachi, Byakuya, everyone else in Soul Society—on second thought, it could actually turn out to be quite possible. He just had to try, which would be difficult. He'd never actually tried making friends; people just had a way of getting attached to him for some reason.
"Do you… uh, wanna go to the movies or something?" he then asked, which for Grimmjow would no doubt seem completely out of the blue seeing as how he wasn't a mind reader and had no idea what Ichigo was actually attempting.
The Arrancar cocked his head slightly to the side with a deep scowl. A brief silence passed as Ichigo started growing really uncomfortable at the silence. Grimmjow narrowed his eyes.
"You have issues, kid."
"I don't want to hear that from YOU!"
"Ichigo?" The orange haired teen froze, slowly turning to look over his shoulder and spotting Keigo and Mizuiro gaping at the two of them.
"Were you just asking Jaegerjaquez out on a date?" Mizuiro asked, seeming slightly shocked but not thinking anything else of it. "Sorry, did we interrupt you?"
"Date?" Grimmjow repeated, eyebrows raising in puzzlement as he shot the frozen teen a questioning stare.
"I-I-Ichigo! I didn't know you swung that way!" Keigo exclaimed far too dramatically, seemingly completely bewildered by this sudden development. If you could even call it that—it had more been Ichigo's clumsy way of asking his former enemy to go hang out with him on a platonic level, but the awkward phrasing and delivery had given off a different vibe altogether.
"I don't!" Ichigo protested immediately, feeling his cheeks heat up. "I-I wasn't asking him out in that way! Ju-just as friends!"
"Mhm. Well, let's go Keigo. We're probably in their way." Mizuiro amended with a smile that said he didn't believe a word of Ichigo's explanation. Meanwhile Keigo was looking as if he'd just seen a ghost as the smaller boy started dragging him away. Ichigo buried his face in his hands in complete embarrassment, listening to the sounds of cars driving past as he let out a deep sigh.
"Kurosaki," He had to look up at Grimmjow's use of his name, though. A little flustered—and nervous at what the Arrancar was going to say for some reason—he looked at him. Grimmjow seemed… well, indifferent towards the whole thing.
"Yeah?" Ichigo asked reluctantly. The uncaring look in those blue eyes turned into a wholly intense one, capturing Ichigo's gaze effortlessly and holding him prisoner there, boring holes through his brown eyes which were entirely mesmerized. Grimmjow's mouth opened slowly, as if what he was about to say would change everything between them. Ichigo gulped anxiously, waiting for what seemed like an eternity before the Arrancar finally broke it to him.
"…" Grimmjow closed his eyes, letting out a deep breath. "I don't date."
Ichigo's jaw dropped as the former Sexta walked passed him in that cool, nonchalant air of his, hands stuffed in his pockets as he left the teen behind with a flabbergasted expression.
"THAT'S what you wanted to tell me?!"