Grimmjow could barely see past the blood lust racing through his body. All that mattered now was Ulquiorra's death. He would kill the man that had broken his pride. He was so close. He could feel it in his bones.
Then finally, there it was. The opening he needed. His manic grin morphed into one of pure ecstasy as he slid beneath Ulquiorra's defences, driving his clawed hand through the small body and tearing. The black haired man's eyes widened minutely, the mild shock the most emotion Grimmjow had ever seen the man show.
He let his grin drop into a dangerous snarl as warm blood bubbled at his lips, spilling over the pink flesh.
Well fuck. He thought, but allowed a grin to slide back onto his face. It was worth it.
Ichigo had had to hold himself back the entire fight, only jumping in when strictly necessary. This wasn't about him. This was vengeance. And if Ichigo were honest with himself, this was vengeance he sorely wanted to see done.
He relaxed his fighting stance at the sight of the now unmoving Espada. The fight was over. Blood sloshed onto the ground with a sickening sound as Grimmjow pulled his hand from the now mangled body. Ulquiorra still stood, his face blank as always, but they all knew this was his defeat. Nothing could save him now, even if anyone here had been inclined to try.
"N-No... No!" came a high pitched scream from the other side of the room. Ichigo swung his head in surprise. How the hell had Inoue escaped her room on her own?
"Inoue, it's safe now, he can't hurt you anymore." Ichigo soothed quietly, feelings waves of nausea wash over his body at Ulquiorra's mangled body.
Inoue's face snapped into a mask of rage as she flicked her eyes over the three men in the room, fists balling at her sides as her face crumpled, fat wet tears falling from her eyes freely.
"Ulquiorra...?" she spoke softly, as she walked hastily to him, breaking into a run, "Ulquiorra!"
Ichigo bounced over to meet her, an arm wrapping around her waist awkwardly as he tried to keep her from the monster that had imprisoned her. His arms released with shock when he flung her fist into his face hard enough to break the cartilage of his nose.
He cried out in pain and surprise and he pressed a hand to his now gushing nose. What the hell?
"Ulquiorra, please don't die," she begged, just as soft as before, "Please, Ulquiorra please, I love you." She sobbed, tears coming more heavily. She ignored the blue haired man completely as she ran to her lover. She hesitated when she realised he was in his released form. He looked like a monster.
Still she ran to him, reaching for his hand. Long, slim fingers wrapped around his hand, shock morphing her tear streaked features when the clawed appendages she held began to turn to ash. "No! Ulquiorra! God, no! I love you! I love you so much!" she sobbed as she clutched his chest. Ulquiorra said nothing as she pushed her face against him, whispering his name like a mantra, despair soaking her voice. She fell to the ground when his chest began to dissolve, reaching up for him as he stared at her in his last moments.
"I love you" she whispered as his face finally disappeared, the last shred of his existence blown along the wind.
Ichigo was shocked into action as her torso joined her legs on the ground as she passed out from the emotional stress.
This was fucked up. Christ. This was really fucked up. He cringed at the thoughts of that monster leading the poor girl on. The thought made him sick. He trudged slowly to the limp body, suddenly on guard as he realised Grimmjow had no more use for him now.
He walked slowly to stand before the man, shock attacking him as his brain registered the blood dripping from his lips. The blue haired man's eyes had glazed over, but he managed one last glance at the orange haired Shinigami, a victorious smile curving his lips as his body lurched, and he lost the strength to stand.
Ichigo caught him as he fell, hand sliding over the blood slickened armour of his released form, checking his vitals. He sighed with relief when he felt them, faint as they were. If he left him here now, he would die for sure. He had minutes left at best.
The teen grabbed at his hair in frustration. What the hell should he do!?
A scowl formed over his face. That was a stupid question. Quickly he picked himself up off the ground, and did the only decent thing there was.
Grimmjow pried his eyes open groggily, snapping them shut once more as the light burned his retina.
Then his brain caught up to him.
Why was he alive? How was that possible? He'd died along with Ulquiorra, right? He'd died to the sound of that Orange haired bitch crying for that fucker.
The memory made him shiver, and he groaned as pain shot through his chest as the tiny movement.
The made another attempt at forcing his eyes open, squinting against the light as his face scrunched with the effort. He jumped when a warm hand landed gently on his, groaning his pain louder this time. He could hear a deep buzzing past the ringing in his ears, catching muffled, indistinct, yet obvious words here and there.
He grunted as he tried to find the strength to sit up... Who was he kidding? He just wanted the strength to open his eyes properly and understand what was being said.
He felt a sharp tapping at his cheek, the light pain helping him think clearer. He felt a shadow descend over his face and he opened his eyes easier this time, cloudy blue orbs settling on the highly concerned chocolate eyes above.
He grimaced inwardly, lacking the strength to do so with his physical body. Of course that pussy had saved him. He was too stupid to realise that death after a victory was the best way to die. And why the fuck would he want to be alive now? He'd had more than his pride broken by that man, and with Ulquiorra's death, Grimmjow would have no place with the Espada. Ulquiorra was Aizen's favourite, after all.
Of course now that he'd been saved there was no way he was going to die a pathetic death on the Doctor's table. He had enough pride left to draw the line at such a pitiful end.
"...Jow" the masculine voice finally seeped through to his muddled brain, "Hey, Grimmjow..." he could hear his name past the ringing in his ears now, noting that the owner of the chocolate eyes was the one repeating his name. He stared at those lips for a moment before blinking into control of his mouth.
"...fuck" was his first word back from the dead, earning a snort from the orange haired teen. His saliva felt thick and tasted foul as he forced the slightly cracked word past his lips. He felt a cool surface being nudged against his cheek.
"Grimmjow, drink this," the teen ordered, and the injured man scowled. He didn't like orders. He accepted the drink anyway, Ichigo holding the glass to his lips as he tipped it slowly, pouring a trickle of water down Grimmjow's throat.
Grimmjow choked on the water slightly, and didn't miss the rolling of eyes Ichigo offered in response. If his body didn't hurt too much to move, he'd have punched that smug look off the brats face then and there.
"Grimmjow," Ichigo snapped him back to attention, "You need to un-release," he said.
Grimmjow's brows furrowed. What the fuck was that supposed to mean?
Ichigo bit his lip as he tied to think of a better way to phrase it. "Sheath your sword...?" He sighed when Grimmjow's expression didn't change.
"I can't get to your wounds properly when you're like this," he motioned to the white plated armour that clung like skin to the man, "I only know how to heal humans... I mean human anatomy. You have to change back to your normal form."
Grimmjow finally understood, but so far all he'd managed to say was "fuck", and he hadn't had the energy to punch Ichigo I the face... he couldn't change forms in his weakened state.
Ichigo seemed to understand. "Fuck... look, it'll probably hurt or something, but you seriously have to. I've only stopped the bleeding superficially, if you want to live, you have to return to your human form."
"It ain't a human form..." mumbled Grimmjow weakly, and received another roll of eyes for his efforts.
"Skip the specifics, just change back."
The blue haired man grimaced. He loathed being talked to like that, being looked down on, and he didn't take orders well... still, there was that pathetic voice inside of him that spoke the venomous reason he so desperately wanted to ignore.
Grunting in defeat he closed his eyes, willing for his energy to return to him.
He growled when his efforts bore no fruits. It would have been so much easier to change into his released form; it was his real form after all. It took far more effort to transform into the body that held his true powers at bay.
He tried again, scrunching his eyes closed as his body tensed. A light sheen of sweat covered his face, beading and running down his cheeks as he exerted himself. He could feel his reiatsu fluctuating wildly, unable to contain or control it.
"Grimmjow, stop!" Ichigo's voice broke through his efforts and he vaguely registered a wet warmth pooling at the chest wound that now seared with pain. Ichigo fussed over him hurriedly, doing his best to prevent further blood loss.
Suddenly he froze, finishing off his activities hastily, he grabbed a wooden triangle, his body falling to the floor as he pressed it to his leg, leaving a kimono clad Ichigo in its place.
Grimmjow pushed himself off the bed, amazed at the amount of strength he had found. He wobbled and stumbled forward on his protesting legs, ignoring Ichigo's warning glare as he followed him out the window.
Grimmjow knew what had the Shinigami so upset. Some pathetic Hollow had been attracted to Grimmjow's reiatsu fluctuation, hoping for a meal. He gave a feral grin as he stumbled past the red head, ignoring whatever he was saying. The Hollow he could feel came bolting round the corner, not bothering with the long winded explanation as it charged Grimmjow.
The Espada had the pitiful thing impaled on his hand in a flash. He may be at his weakest right now, but Grimmjow's weakest was still ten times stronger than some weak shit Hollow like this.
He pulled his hand out quickly, sinking his teeth into the writhing mass of spirit particles before him. He chewed and swallowed quickly, absorbing all he could before the beast died and disintegrated.
Ichigo looked away, disgust prickling his skin as Grimmjow devoured the Hollow, which was now keening in pain, it's blood dripping over the sides of Grimmjow's face, pooling on the brick path.
Grimmjow grinned as he finished with his snack. Ichigo assumed a fighting stance. Grimmjow's eyes were practically glowing with the newfound energy, a feral glint in them as he turned to face Ichigo properly... and then he dropped.
Grimmjow's body armour receded into his skin, tail and ear disappearing before he fell to the ground with a sickening thud.
Ichigo hesitated. Grimmjow had honesty been about to attack him then, but... he hadn't. Somehow he'd had the sense enough to return to his human form.
Ichigo was jerked from his thoughts at the sight of the blood pooling beneath the Espada, running along the grooved in the brickwork.
It was time to get to work.
This time when Grimmjow woke he had far less trouble opening his eyes. His mind was reasonably clear, which only allowed for his senses to register the pain that coursed through his veins. He could tell without even looking that Ulquiorra's dying blow had been bad. It was a surprise he was alive after that.
He searched the room for the red head, finding himself once again lying on a bed in a small room that held a built in closet and a desk.
He tried to sit up, jolting in surprise when his hands pulled against rough, firm binds above his head. He snapped his eyes to find his hands tied to the bed head with brightly coloured, plastic rope.
His heart dropped to his stomach as the chill of fear came over him. He struggled against the ties, heart beating frantically when he couldn't escape.
Oh God. This was too damn familiar.
He grimaced at the memory, flinching as he remembered Ulquiorra's blank gaze. His breathing became erratic and a cold sweat broke out over his body.
Such pathetic reactions. It was pitiful, real men didn't freak out over something stupid like that. His body didn't seem to agree.
He snapped his head to the door when he heard it creak open, watching as Ichigo froze in the entrance.
The red head looked like his dad had just told him he was his mum, and that Ichigo was in fact of antelope descent, he was that fucking surprised.
"Grimmjow? Are you okay?" he asked worriedly, but made no move to come closer. Grimmjow's face was pale and.. terrified?
Grimmjow forced his breathing to slow, but only slightly, the muscles in his arms bulging as he tried to escape his bonds.
Ichigo closed the space between them hesitantly. "Grimmjow, stop struggling, you're re-opening your wounds."
Grimmjow didn't give a damn about that as he had his little break down.
Ichigo reached a hand down to touch him, but pulled short when Grimmjow flinched harshly away from him.
Ichigo looked him in the eyes, he had to take control of this situation. "Grimmjow, look at me." He ordered firmly.
Grimmjow met his eyes with venom in their depths. He was scared, and it killed him to admit it.
It hit Ichigo like a tonne of bricks. The reason Grimmjow was freaking out so much was because it was all too similar to what Ichigo had interrupted two nights ago. Now he felt like an ass. He was an idiot, he should have realised earlier. He felt his eyes soften in understanding.
"Grimmjow, I'm not gonna touch you," Ichigo soothed quietly, "I'm not gonna attack you, so stop freaking out. You're safe."
The taller man stiffened at this. The kid was being too fucking patronising. That heinous voice from deep within him reminding him that his behaviour didn't really allow for anything else at the moment. He forced himself to calm down. If Ichigo were going to do anything, he'd have done it already.
He evened his breathing out to slow, deep breaths, but each breath was still a shuddering gasp.
"Get these things off me," he growled, holding Ichigo's eyes with his own. Ichigo hesitated.
"Get them the fuck offa me!" roared Grimmjow. He felt so fucking vulnerable.
"I'll take them off," he was reassured quickly, "just don't attack me. I only put them on because before you were... you looked like you were about to attack me before you passed out." Ichigo explained. "So just promise me you won't attack me, and I'll take them off."
"I won't touchya, now let me go!"
Ichigo nodded as he fumbled for a pair of scissors from his desk, moving them slowly, and in clear view of Grimmjow for as long as he could, before slicing the rope.
Grimmjow pulled his arms free, snatching the scissors from Ichigo to cut the rope that remained around one wrist off.
He rubbed his wrists, ignoring the pain in his chest as he sat up, steadying his nerves. He was free now. He could defend himself. His eyes locked onto the blue scabbard beside the bed, snatching it up and holding it close. When Ichigo made no move to take it away he realised the boy must have left it next to him intentionally.
Grimmjow swallowed harshly as he calmed himself down. He had used his energy to return to his "human form", and the most he could do was sit up. "...don'... don' do that again." He mumbled.
He didn't look at Ichigo's face as he said it. It was humiliating enough as it was.
Ichigo pushed a plate of food to him tentatively, glad when Grimmjow snatched it up and began to devour it.
Ichigo looked mildly ill at the sight, and Grimmjow recalled his last "snack". It must have been that memory. He was called to attention when Ichigo coughed awkwardly.
"The fuck did ya save me for?" he interrupted. He didn't need his help.
"I'm not in the habit of leaving people to bleed out." He responded curtly.
Grimmjow's nerves were on edge. Ichigo was the enemy after all. He didn't know what to say. He'd never been one for manners.
"I didn't ask fer yer help," he bit out, knowing he was being an ungrateful bastard and not caring in the least.
He felt better when Ichigo scowled as him. He could handle a scowl, it was far easier to understand than this nursemaid shit he had going on.
"You didn't ask for anything because you'd already fainted from the blood loss. You could be a little grateful you know." Actually, Ichigo didn't blame him for his response, had been expecting it even. No doubt he'd be the same.
"I ain't weak you fucker, I don't need yer help. I'd rather ya'd let me die back then."
Ichigo gave in. It seemed that for once, honesty might actually help the situation. "I didn't do it because I thought you wanted me to," he said softly, "I knew you'd have preferred to die-"
"Then why the fuck'dya save me!?"
Ichigo felt a wry smile pull at his lips, "because I couldn't bring myself to just leave. I guess it's a weakness of mine, but I'm not a heartless bastard like you." The insult wasn't meant to offend, and Grimmjow got that. It was just one of those things you said to lighten the mood.
He looked away, "I don't owe ya shit-"
"I don't want anything from you," Ichigo interrupted, "just give me a 'thankyou' and we'll call it even."
Grimmjow stiffened. Did this brat seriously expect him to thank him? A muscle in his jaw jumped. He refused to owe any debts to the fucker. It was only one word, after all.
"...Thanks," he mumbled under his breath, knowing the red head had heard him.
They sat in silence for a moment, not sure what to do next when a memory can flitting back to Grimmjow's slightly muddled brain. "Where's that orange haired bitch?"
Ichigo stiffened. "Her name's Orihime Inoue," he corrected with no real anger, "and she's at her home," he informed Grimmjow, conveniently leaving out the fact that her home was right beside his. "Why do you care?"
Grimmjow's upper lip curled in annoyance, just his luck. "She coulda healed my fuckin' chest."
Ichigo looked slightly surprised, mouth open before he bit his lip, clearly deciding on what he wanted to say.
"She, uh... doesn't like either one of us right now... especially you..." explained Ichigo. He motioned to his nose, which was bruised and sported white tape. Grimmjow hadn't even noticed it until then. "She left me with this."
"Why?" he asked. Shouldn't the ungrateful bitch be happy he saved her?
"Because you killed her boyfriend..."
Grimmjow stopped, turning his eyes to look at Ichigo properly, not sure he'd heard correctly. "...who the fuck was her boyfriend?" he asked, already knowing the answer.
"Ulquiorra." Ichigo answered, continuing when Grimmjow said nothing, "So yeah, not only is she pissed off with me, she wants you dead, and not only do I doubt she would heal you, she would probably run off to tell someone you're here."
"...So no-one knows that I'm here?" he asked confused.
Ichigo raised an eyebrow at him, "You really think that if any Shinigami knew you were here you'd still be alive?" he asked.
"...So yer hiding me then?"
Grimmjow didn't know how to feel about it. It was unexpected, and it pissed him off, being protected, but he was strangely grateful to him.
"Yeah." He sighed, "Grimmjow, we should probably talk..."
When he received no reply he continued.
"We're enemies... but you're not going to attack me, right?" he asked. Grimmjow nodded. He still wanted to fight the boy, but he had no reason to do so anymore... besides, he had saved his life. "So... what's happening with you...? Are you going to go back to Aizen?"
"If I go back there he'll kill me fer sure. I killed his favourite little cock sucker after all, and disobeyed his orders," his lip circled. God he hated orders. "Oh yeah, does that bitch know her 'boyfriend' was fuckin' his boss?" he asked conversationally.
Ichigo frowned. This was so unfair. Not only had Inoue been manipulated into loving Ulquiorra, he hadn't been merciful enough to say he loved her when he died, and now Ichigo knew he'd been fucking around elsewhere. It was all just too damn cruel. He was glad such a slimy man was dead, just sad that Inoue had had to see it.
He moved back to the topic at hand. "So what are you gonna do? If you can't return to Hueco Mundo, you're practically homeless with no way to support yourself in the human world..." he trailed off, it was a pretty hopeless situation.
Grimmjow didn't know. What was he going to do?
Ichigo sighed, "Regardless, you can stay here until you figure it out..." he cursed himself for his kind nature. Why couldn't he just leave things alone? If any Shinigami realised he was keeping him here they were both screwed.
Grimmjow didn't get it. He really didn't get it. Inviting the enemy to live with him? Offering a safehold for him to recuperate? Risking his title and maybe even life for not only a stranger, but a stranger that had tried to kill him and his friends numerous times?
"Just... Don't hurt anyone," was Ichigo's request, "You can hunt Hollows or whatever you do, but don't harm my family or friends. That includes the Shinigami. Okay?" he asked.
Grimmjow hesitated, did he really want to take Ichigo up on his offer? ...It wasn't like he had any choice in the matter, especially right now while he couldn't move.
"Fine." His blue eyes widened at Ichigo's smile. Since when was the kid friendly? ...Well, he had only ever seen him during battle after all...
"Umm..." Grimmjow looked up at the sound, "so... I don't think I'll be able to keep your staying here a secret for long though... I mean I live with my family and all... I can tell my friends to stay away, but the family bit's gonna be tricky."
"Do they know about Shinigami and all that crap?" he asked, "Do they know about me?"
Ichigo shook his head, curious as to what Grimmjow was getting at.
"Then why does it matter if they see me? Cantcha just say I'm stayin' with ya fer a while?"
Ichigo was shocked. How the hell had Grimmjow come up with that solution? "Uh, yeah... actually, that'd work... but I'd need to get you a Gigai..."
"A Gigai... normal people can't see you right now, but your reiatsu will still affect them, so a Gigai works sort of like a physical doll that your soul goes into, and seals your reiatsu," he realised what he'd just said, "Uh Not seals, it just contains it, like your sword. If you place this against you, "He motioned to the triangle Grimmjow had seen earlier, "Your soul will leave the doll, as well as your reiatsu."
"...If normal people can't see me, why do I have to hide at all?" he asked.
"Because my family isn't normal..." Ugh. This was difficult to explain, "It's kinda hard to explain, but anyway, my sisters and I can see ghosts... I wasn't born... dead, or enrolled in their Shinigami training schools or anything, I lived the first 15 years of my life human... but I could still see ghosts."
It was obvious Grimmjow didn't get it, "It doesn't matter, I just mean that my sisters will be able to see you, and they'll know you're not alive... or human... or something like that, so you've gotta pretend you are, with a Gigai."
Grimmjow scratched his head, he kind of understood. "So where th' fuck'dya get a Gigai?"
This was the painful part. Ichigo would have to confide in Urahara. No doubt the man would be fine with it, the creepy, easy going man that he is, but it still left him nervous.
"I've got ways, but you'll have to wait for it to be made." He answered, looking Grimmjow's battered body over, "Not that you'd be able to use it until you were strong enough to move around."
"So... I guess when it's done, I'll introduce you to my family as... uh... a friend traveling from abroad. Yeah, that makes sense, you're clearly not Japanese, anyway." The thought left him with butterflies in his stomach. Did he really want to introduce this killer to his family?
He didn't feel as though Grimmjow was going to hurt them, but it still left him feeling anxious.
Either way, he'd extended the offer now, and he wasn't about to take it back. He had a feeling that if Grimmjow was willing to agree to it that easily, he had to have no other options.
Besides, it was also a matter of honour. Ichigo Kurosaki always finished what he started.
A/N So what'd you think?
I'm not entirely sure about my characterisation of either of them; I mean it could be how they would react, but Grimmjow in particular... Well, just let me know.
I hope you're enjoying it so far :) I'll eventually write a prequel to this sometime, which I'll post as an individual story, but if you're interested in reading that just follow this story. I'll PM all of this story's followers and let you know when and where you can read it.