Before reading, I would like to warn everyone that this is another story of darker themes. The elements at play are not kind. That being said, there will be no main character deaths. Ok, things about the actual story that you should know! Keep in mind the dates. The exact numbers aren't really important, but knowing which events came when kind of is. (I'm making it seem more complicated than it is...)

Now then, enjoy!


••• A shady neighborhood known as The Shallows on the east side of the city : 1 year ago •••

The dull smack of a fist against flesh resounded through the dimly lit corridor, really more of a covered alleyway than anything. The air around them was dank, smelling more of earth than of outside. Water dripped from somewhere in the dark, a steady, low patter. Was it raining outside?

The bare bulb that swung gently from it's cord in the center of the room didn't flicker, but it seemed to as he stumbled backward, bare back hitting the gritty brick wall of the holding cell he found himself in with enough force to knock the air from his lungs. All around him, the other hapless figures, each bound in their own set of chains, were silent, huddled against the back wall of their prison where they hoped to avoid attention. A meager cot sat askew, on it's side and pushed out into the middle of the small space he was allowed to call his own. He vaguely registered walking into it, his bare shins finding the metal leg, as he stumbled away from the wall and his vision blurred around the edges.

His own panting breaths were all that he heard, not even the scuffle of hard-soled shoes coming toward him on the rough concrete of the floor. The snarling that had rode those breaths was silent now, knocked away, but he couldn't really focus on it enough to realize he'd already lost this fight, that his fate had already been sealed.

The next thing to register upon his clouded senses was the cold, hard ground as his bare knees jarred against it, the floor suddenly much closer than only moments ago. Blood was thick in his mouth, dripping down his chin as he panted. It stained his teeth and tasted of bitter iron. So, so heavy, he was exhausted, could hardly keep his eyes open. He started to collapse further, his body falling forward, and only one arm seemed willing to work fast enough to reach out and brace his body before he could hit the floor.

But the floor didn't come, his fingertips just barely brushed it. He gasped a sharp sound, brows furrowing as a big hand fisted in his hair and yanked back, jerking his head up so that he was given an all too close view of his tormentor's face. What he had once thought to be handsome features were twisted with rage, with anger. The eyes drilling into his own were bluer than anything he'd ever seen, but they weren't cold. Far from it. Fire seethed in oceanic orbs. White teeth bared in a vicious sneer as that big fist, the one not tangled in his hair, was raised again, fading in and out at the edge of his vision.

Then all went black.

••• Special Detective Force; 15th Precinct. Located in a small suburb to the west of a large city : 64 days ago •••

"We can't do that. We've tried." The commissioner shook his head, arms crossed over his burly chest as he leaned back against his desk. "Do you know who he is?"

"Think about it though!" His voice was just as fiery as his proposition was. Heat simmered just below the surface. It was the reason Ichigo had landed this job in the first place, why he'd been selected out of the rest of his class from the academy; that fire. "How better to tone down all the illegal happenings in the trade than to take out those at the very top?"

The police commissioner shook his head again, but didn't refute what his detective said. Ichigo was right. The black market had been a problem within the human slave trade for far too long, but there was just no way to kill it at it's source. They'd taken down dozens of small time dealers, but that hardly even put a dent in all that was going on. If they could get enough evidence on the man Ichigo was suggesting they investigate they could tear apart an entire division of the black market. It would be the largest bust in generations. But the problem was that the man Ichigo wanted them to turn their sights on was virtually untouchable. He had been under investigation before and had always come out clean. They knew he wasn't. They knew he was as crooked as they came. He hunted and selected other people ruthlessly, picking and choosing whoever struck his fancy. He was the biggest name in human trafficking in all the city and the surrounding areas. Hell, he was even starting to reach the top of the charts, reaching numbers previously reserved for the other races. But they couldn't get the tangible evidence they needed to catch him.

"Ichigo, what you're suggesting just isn't feasible... We've tried before." The commissioner sighed, rubbed at his forehead as if talking about all this was only giving him a headache, before crossing his arms again. "Last year, we finally got a warrant to search his place. All of his slaves -human and non- have papers, Ichigo, there's nothing we can do."

"They're counterfeit!" Ichigo threw his hands out, climbing to his feet to stand on level with his superior.

"Yeah, probably," The commissioner fired back, "but they're damn good and we don't have a way to prove it."

Ichigo paused, his mind in overdrive. He would take this bastard down. He wouldn't stop until he put an end to his operation. The slave trade business was nasty enough on it's own, but that was legal and there was nothing they could do about it. The black market just made a bad situation even worse. The things that happened to the poor people caught up in it's trade...they were subject to the worst of things while their slavers and owners grew rich.

The young man brought his hand up, running his fingers through his spiky, riotous orange hair as he paced a short path from one side of the room, to the edge of the desk and back. "Maybe we're looking in the wrong place..." When the commissioner started to interrupt him, he held his hand up and motioned for the older gentleman to give him a moment. "We need to approach it from a different angle, one he's not prepared to deal with. We need to get at him from inside." Then he paused, head snapping up and around, brown eyes hard and glinting under raised brows as he looked at the commissioner. "What if we could get one of his slaves to testify against him?"

"You think we haven't tried that?" The man again shook his head. "None of them'll talk, not when it'll bring them punishment, death even. He trains his slaves well..."

Ichigo curled his lip at that last part, but he wasn't willing to give this up. "But what if we could? What if we could find one that would talk?"

"Well, if it's a legal slave, the court will laugh and toss you out." The commissioner sighed, raising a skeptical brow at his detective. "If you can prove that it's not, that his or her papers are fake, then you might have a chance..."

"But." The older man held up a single finger as Ichigo started to speak, silencing his detective. "You still have the problem of finding one that will talk, and that's only going to happen if you can get one of them alone, without him in the room and that's not going to happen. He'll never leave an officer alone with any of his slaves, or probably even any of his crew members and business partners."

Ichigo grit his teeth, hearing the truth in that. No one in their right mind would speak out while not relatively protected from their owner. It would be suicide. And the man there were after was far to clever to let them get away with alone time in his slave hold.

The young detective was quiet a moment, thinking. "So send someone under cover."

The commissioner pinched the bridge of his nose. He really did want to end this operation as badly as Ichigo, but he'd been over all this many times before. "I've tried that before...he recognized the cop. He knows all of us like it's his job. He recognized the agent and he put a quick end to the investigation. He's got a lot of power Ichigo, a lot of money... He doesn't have to play by the rules. That agent's lucky he's alive."

"Send me."

"What?" The commissioner paused, brow arching as he stared at his detective.

"I'll do it." Ichigo repeated, "I sit behind a desk in this office all day, he wont recognize someone who never conducts investigations outside the station's walls."

"You're not trained for this kind of investigation, Ichigo... You're not a field agent..."

"So train me!" Ichigo insisted, his temper fiery and demanding.

His boss remained still, quiet, as he looked upon the younger, seeing determination and fire in brown eyes, a driven need to end this. Then, his frown deepening, he straightened away from the desk and rounded it. He pulled open a drawer on the file cabinet that sat against the back wall of his office and quickly flipped through the files. Seeming to find what he wanted, he proceeded to pull the entire drawer from the cabinet and dropped the whole thing onto his desk with a solid and resounding thud. All the files within were bound together with paperclips and wrapped in a blank, off-white file folders, coded by the dates of individual incidents.

"The case is yours." The older man said, voice steely, low. "Don't screw up."

A lopsided but determined grin tugged across Ichigo's features as he picked up the thick file. He looked up at his superior expectantly and the man sighed. "Dismissed." Ichigo tucked the folder under his arm and started to turn away, but paused when the older man continued. "And Ichigo? Catch this son of a bitch."

"Yes sir." Brown eyes lit with fire. The kid had guts, the commissioner would give him that much. If anyone was going to find a way to make this work, it would be Ichigo. Maybe a fresh, young mind was just what they needed to finally close this case.

A few minutes later, Ichigo sat at his own desk, papers spread across the normally clean surface and the drawer settled on the floor beside his chair. Situated directly in front of him on the top of his extensive stack he was working through, in a full color print, chiseled features and blue eyes glared with a malicious amusement. In his hands, he read about the most recent incident involving one Mr. Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez; suspected black marketeer and head of the illegal slave trade.

••• A large estate located near The Shallows : 362 days ago •••

The walls were white all around, the floors a glazed brick that matched. The bars at the front of each cell, lining the isle between the two rows were pretty and polished to nearly silver, carved and shaped to look delicate and far less ugly than they really were. The lights were surprisingly bright, but not harsh; clean, clinical.

He grunted a weak sound as he was thrown into an empty cell. He landed on his feet, but it didn't last. Stumbling, he reached out to brace himself against the wall to the right of the cell, before sliding to it's base, unable to keep his legs under him. His head lolled to the side, thudding lightly against the wall he leaned on as he tried to keep a wary eye on his captor.

The gate slammed shut with the slide of smooth wheels and the clank of solid metal. The lock clicked shut with a hollow, condemning sound and the young man weakly bared his red stained teeth up at the man staring down at him.

"You're lucky you're so pretty." Was the only response to his attempted aggression, the voice low and growling. The bigger man sported the evidence of the smaller's struggle, though the split lip no longer bled and the bruising had nearly faded from sight. "If I didn't know people would pay big bucks for a night with you, I'd say you weren't worth the effort."

The grin that twisted deceivingly handsome features made bile rise in the younger's throat, his stomach roiling with the promise held in those words. When the larger turned and left, his quiet footsteps fading into the distance before a door was shut and blocked all traces of the noise, he attempted to climb to his feet again. Back to the wall, hands flatted against the cool, smooth surface, he tried to push himself up.

He barely made it, panting and biting back the groaning that wanted to bubble forth from his throat. The cage he was in seemed to spin. The colors were wrong and everything smelled like a freshly extinguished candle. His stomach heaved against what it'd been filled with: not food, for sure, something that would keep him quiet long enough to transport him. whatever it had been was starting to wear off now, starting to work the rest of the way through his system.

He gagged, doubling over and collapsing back to his knees. Blood tinted saliva trailed in a thin, sticky string from his chin. Reaching up with one hand, he wiped the backs of pale fingers across his lips, hardly taking note of the red that stood out so sickly against his colorless complexion.

"Shhh..."

He jolted, clouded eyes going wide as he looked for the source of the shushing voice. He'd realized there were others around him, in the very back of his mind at least, but he hadn't been expecting any of them to speak. Maybe it was because their jailor wasn't around.

"Relax..." The person, a woman, said, and the young man lifted his head slightly to look into the cell across the isle from his. She gave him a small smile, a sort of sad understanding in her gaze. He gagged again, stomach clenching painfully and throat burning. Leaning forward, he rested his forehead against the cool floor and grit his teeth as his eyes watered, agony racing up his spine.

"You mustn't fight it..." The woman continued, "You'll only make it worse, last longer..." She pointed when he looked back up at her, indicating behind where he knelt in the middle of the floor in his cage.

He turned to look over his shoulder, the room spinning all the faster for his movements. Behind him, tucked away in one corner, a small sink and toilet sat. Along the opposite wall, pressed into the back corner, a small but blanketed cot rested. The sheets looked clean, new even. He frowned.

Then his stomach heaved again and he scrambled toward the toilet, making it just in time for his body to finish rejecting what had been forced into him. He retched until his entire body shook, until nothing but a white, chalky substance crawled up his throat. He spit it out, gagging and fighting back tears as it burned.

"There should be a glass sitting beside the soap on the sink..." The woman said gently, quietly, after he'd finally fallen still, head resting on his crossed arm, still hanging over the toilet. She'd clearly seen this happen before and none of her attempted help was a comfort to him.

He sat still for a moment more, panting as he squeezed his eyes shut and tried to regain some sense of balance. After that moment, he slowly, shakily pulled himself away from the toilet and found the plastic cup she'd been talking about. It was only then that he realized how horribly thirsty he was. It didn't even matter that his mouth tasted like vomit and chemicals, he downed the first cupful of luke warm water in one go.

He was dehydrated, and his stomach was completely empty now, starving now that it realized it had nothing in it. How long had it been? More than a day, he knew that much just by what he'd seen of his captor's healing bruises. Several, probably. But he couldn't remember them, couldn't remember anything about them. He could remember the first few hours, he thought. Bits and pieces, anyway; the swinging light bulb, imposing figures, chains, the smell and sound of rain. Then darkness. Maybe he could remember the light patter of cold rain on his heated, bruised skin...maybe, he wasn't sure. But that was it.

After a second glass of clean water, he filled the cup again and this time only took a sip as he finally turned back toward the front of his cell. His body still trembled and the whole area still tried to spin as he moved, but it was all much more bearable now. Slowly, carefully straightening, he moved along the solid wall beside the sink, one hand trailing along it, and made his way unsteadily toward the front of the cage, where the only entrance and exit was. Aside from the front wall, which was made up entirely of thin but sturdy metal bars, the rest of the space was of painted, sanded concrete; the other three walls, the floor, even the ceiling. The floor sloped ever so slight toward the middle, where a small, grated drain was located. The entire cell was clearly meant to be practical; easy to clean, easy to maintain, impossible to break free from or destroy. He guessed it was even underground, since there were no windows and the only light source came from narrow florescent bulbs that ran the length of the isle-way between the two rows of cells. And everything was white, sterile, clean.

He shook his head in denial of all he was seeing as pale brows furrowed and his chest heaved in a ragged breath. He knew not where he was, but it hardly mattered: he knew exactly what was going on. He'd heard stories, almost everybody had. This kind of thing was becoming more common and there was no way to stop it. Around him, in the other cages, were slaves and now, he too was meant to be turned into a slave.

"Wh-where are we..?" His voice came out a thin, raspy sound, further testament to how long he'd been left drugged unconscious before being brought to wherever he was now.

The woman in the cell across from his started to answer, but the heavy door at the end of the corridor slammed open with an unnecessary amount of force and a loud bang. She jerked away from the bars and quietly slipped backward to sit upon the cot in her cell, eyes trained more on the ground than on who approached.

"You're in my humble abode." The loud, and now familiar, voice boomed. There was a smile there, even though the big man was still out of sight. "Welcome. I hope you'll get along with my other playthings."

The big man with the blue eyes drew closer, his footsteps confident, his strides long. The newest addition to his collection backed up, eyes slowly widening with an uncontrollable terror as the plastic cup fell from shaking fingers to spill water across the floor. But he didn't cower, not like the others always did as the powerful slave trader walked down the corridor. No, instead he only backed away from the cell door, and stood in the very center of the floor, his bare feet finding the cold grate as the spilled water trickled down it.

His captor came into view, a grin on his handsome, angular features and a tray in one hand. He chuckled when the strangest set of eyes he'd ever seen lit on the food he carried. No doubt his newest addition was hungry, it'd been nearly three days since they'd caught him, which meant longer still since he'd eaten. And he'd given them quite the chase, too.

The big man wavered the tray a bit, careful not to spill anything, but still in a teasing manner. Rather than follow it's motions, those odd eyes snapped back up to find his features again, fire in their depths still.

The man's glacial eyes narrowed slightly, the bridge of his straight nose crinkling with the small sneer that twisted his lips. Pulling a set of keys from his pocket, the man known as Grimmjow unlocked the cell door and slid it open, his intent to feed his new pet.

A small growl crawled from the smaller male's throat, an odd distortion to it. He bared his teeth and, much more balanced now than he had been when he'd been thrown into his cage, he charged his captor. He was smaller than the slave trader, lighter and more wiry, less muscled bulk, but he was quick and conniving and certainly not weak.

The tray of fresh food clattered to the glazed brick of the isle-way floor as Grimmjow slammed back into the bars of the female slave's cell. The big man grunted as he connected with the door, and again when a well thrown fist connected with his solar plexus. But as the smaller male made to turn and flee, headed for the entrance to the slave corridor, Grimmjow fisted a big hand into shoulder length, white locks.

The sharp yank to his long hair nearly threw him backwards to the floor. He bared his teeth in pain and fear and aggression; an animal-like expression and reaction. One hand wound around the trader's wrist as he twisted, tried to get out of the hold, but he didn't go anywhere.

A big fist found his jaw. The crunch of broken bone rang through the corridor, followed by a shrill sound of pain. The smaller keened a high pitched sound, hands going to his jaw as he tried to pull away. His eyes stung, vision blurred through welling tears. He didn't make it far before his captor snagged hold of him again. A big hand clapped over the back of his neck, fingers curled in a grip so tight he was sure the big man was trying to rip his spine out.

He stilled on instinct, breathing through his pain, his hands trembling where they clutched at his jaw. The slave trader's second hand grasped at his wrists and a pitiful whimper crawled up his throat.

"Dammit." Grimmjow grumbled. When the smaller resisted, he yanked, over powering the now injured man. "Let me see it."

His voice was demanding, rumbling, as he pulled the second pale hand away. Other hand still grasping the back of his new slaves' neck, he ran his thumb over the quickly discoloring jaw line and growled before his fingers closed around the lad's chin.

The smaller gasped a short, pained sound, features twisting from the harsh grip. The next sound to leave him was a choked scream as, with a swift jerk of motion, the slave trader relocated the smaller's jaw, then pushed him back into his cell, threw the door closed, and stormed away. The food was left smeared across the floor, the smells sickening when coupled with the pain lighting his jaw and making his head ache.

He sat, huddled in the corner of his cage for how long, he knew not, before the door at the end of the corridor was opened again. This time, there was no loud bang or confident footsteps, only the low squeak of hinges and a quietly whistled tune.

"Ahh, you must be the one Grimmjow has been so excited about these past few days." Another man paused before the locked cell, one that the new edition had yet to see. He was tall, thin and rather pretty for a man, but still distinctly male. His eyes were an odd yellow that caught the light behind thick framed glasses, a color most humans didn't sport. His hair hung to his shoulders in perfectly straight, well kept, pink locks.

A familiar ring of keys was pulled from the depths of the man's pocket, jingling as he found the correct one and inserted it into the door's lock. Understandably frightened, the young man let out a distorted, almost watery sound that resembled a growl as he backed up further into the cell.

A slight smirk tilted thin lips. "I can assure you that I am not nearly so rough as Grimmjow." The pink haired man spoke, his voice a well cultured, quiet tone. "You may call me Szayel, and clearly Grimmjow cares more for you than you believe, as he's sent me to fix up your injury."

He pointed, motioning toward the slave's bruising and swollen jaw with a single thin finger. The younger lad frowned, his hands still framing his injured mandible and his upper lip curling away from white teeth.

"It may come as a surprise, but I'm a rather skilled doctor, you've nothing to fear." As Szayel spoke, he closed the door behind himself and crept further into the cell. To his surprise, the freshly caught slave didn't continue to back away, nor cower, but instead looked at him with a steely, narrowed gaze, perhaps even the tiniest hint of curiosity.

When Szayel began to pull the young man's hands away from his face once more, there was little resistance. He directed the smaller to sit, and he knelt in front of the cot to get a closer look at his injuries. "Grimmjow has expressed that he likes your voice, but I can already tell he's done nothing that could hinder your speech."

The doctor spoke has he worked, seemingly un-put off that the man he tended to didn't respond. With firm, but almost gentle motions -or perhaps clinical and precise was a more accurate description- he grasped the smaller's chin and turned his head, tilting it this way and that as he inspected the wounds. The doctor shook his head slightly, tsking as he made a prognosis and got to work on fixing said ailments. "This may sting." He warned, just before sliding the nail of his forefinger down the length of the man's jaw.

Pale flesh parted under the light touch and a breath hissed between the young man's teeth as a single drop of brilliant red streaked from the gash to track down his jawline. The doctor smirked, a small chuckle slipped between parted lips as he pinched his thumb and forefinger together very near the new wound. As if drawing a string from the slice in pale flesh, he carefully, slowly eased his closed fingers away. There was nothing between his fingers, but the slave froze as he felt something tug against the very bone of his jaw, making his teeth ache like there was too much pressure being put on them. In the next instant, the doctor's thumb smoothed over the fresh wound, unnaturally cool to the touch, and the cut was once more sealed below healthy, undamaged skin.

Ashen brows rose above widened eyes as the captured man's fingertips tentatively brushed the area. His fingers came away clean, no trace of blood, and the touch to his injured jaw was hardly more than a dull ache now.

"You're..." There was surprise in his oddly distorted voice, for he'd never heard of a human that could use magic, which meant...

"Yes, I am of mixed blood, like yourself. It seems, however, that I gained more of my human parent's traits, while you retain the overall body size of a human, but not the coloring." Szayel answered, a sly smirk on his effeminate features as he looked the man over. Seeing as the pale lad wore only a skimpy strip of cloth wrapped around his waist like the other slaves, he was granted quite a complete view.

Lean muscle was covered in nearly flawless skin, so pale as to be very nearly white. A few bruises were beginning to fade, the left overs of his initial capture and the fight he put up against the much larger slave trader who'd been the one to claim ownership of him, but there was little Szayel could do about superficial marks and they would heal in time. The man was young, his early twenties, probably, but he was far from ignorant. A dread knowing shone in his odd eyes, their colors reversed; dark where they should have been white, the irises a fiery, cold liquid gold a few shades lighter than the color of his own eyes. White hair hung in silken strands about his shoulders, messy and tangled from his struggles and the less than comfortable handling during transportation. His nails were dark, but unchipped, leading Szayel to believe they were also a trait retained from his nonhuman parentage, which meant they were likely a bit sharper than a normal human's as well. "Have you a name?"

The mixblood hesitated in answering, before he nodded. "Shirosaki."

"I'm guessing you haven't many magical abilities, have you, Shirosaki? Or you would have used them to attempt escape by now. A shame for you, but to our gain." The pink haired man chuckled an almost maddening laugh and stood, reminding the newly captured lad that this man was not to be trusted any more so than the one he worked for.

His job done, Szayel backed away and let himself out of the cell once more, pausing for a few parting words, before he made his way back down the corridor to leave. "I can see why Grimmjow demanded upon keeping you. Your exotic looks shall indeed fetch a high price."

When the door at the end of the corridor swayed shut with a quiet sound, Shirosaki was left with nothing but silence where he sat on the edge of the cot that had been placed in what he realized was meant to be his new home; a bare, jail cell like cage.

••• Special Detective Force; 15th Precinct : 44 days ago •••

Ichigo pulled the protective ear plugs away, lowering his arm back to his side. The echos of gunshots rang through the large, underground room, despite that sound deadening barriers lined the walls. The target he'd been aiming at wavered slightly with the aftershocks of the bullets fired through it; nearly a perfect score. Again.

"I told you I already know how to shoot a gun." The detective deadpanned, sending the man that had been assigned to whip him into field agent shape as quickly as possible a look that could have killed. "Besides, I wont be able to carry a gun with me when I enter Jaegerjaquez's establishment."

The trainer grunted, still looking at the target with some degree of impressed astonishment in his light eyes. "Ok, not beginner's luck after all. They really do teach you guys a thing or two in the detective academy."

"They really do..." Ichigo refrained from continuing his mocking and sarcastic thoughts, and instead slid the empty clip from the handgun and laid both pieces on the waist height barrier he stood behind. "So what do you think? Can we get to some real training now?"

"Fine fine, you win." The trainer turned and made his way toward the exit to the shooting range, the young detective following behind. "The chief is keeping this new case of yours real quiet, but he's let me in on most of the basics of it so that I can better train you..."

Ichigo nodded a slight motion. Only a few people knew about the case he'd taken on, or that it had been reopened at all, and he'd helped select who would be let in on it and who wouldn't. Everyone else would be conducting business as usual, going about their police raids and scouring the city. Everything would run normal and uninterrupted in the effort to keep from tipping Jaegerjaquez off that anything was amiss. The matter was just too delicate to take chances on, too important and too risky. They didn't even know for sure that he'd make it through the door.

So, can you do it?"

"I think so, yes." Ichigo's voice was full of confidence and determination. He'd already spent almost three weeks studying and planning. He'd dug up everything he could possibly find about this guy. Jaegerjaquez seemed to have his hands in just about everything when it came to illegal. The slave trade was his largest and most obvious endeavor, but there were a number of other things; drug pedaling, street prostitution, clubs. He owned the largest brothel on the East side. It was located in a shady neighborhood called The Shallows and it seemed to be where he conducted most of his business at. What better way to keep your clients and partners happy and compliant than to stick their choice of meat in their lap while discussing objectives and business. Add in a little alcohol and it was no wonder Jaegerjaquez was getting so filthy rich and powerful. The man had just about everything and anyone he could ever need tucked away in his pocket, probably even a few dirty cops. He was very nearly invincible. Which was exactly why Ichigo was the one going undercover; he sat behind a desk all day, never showing himself in public. Plus he was new, someone the other branches, including the actual police force, wouldn't recognize.

Ichigo suspected there was someone behind the scenes helping him out. There had to be. He owned and controlled far too much for one man to oversee. And he controlled it all with an iron fist, it seemed that none of his grunts ever moved against him. It all moved far too smoothly for it to be just one man. Ichigo wondered if perhaps the handsome, powerful man was as much a figurehead as he was truly powerful.

"You think?" The trainer arched a brow and looked over.

"Yeah, well. It's not for lack of knowledge or intel... But the whole plan hinges on being able to find a slave that will talk. And it needs to be a paperless one, and not broken to the point where he's too afraid and wont talk. Oh, has to be mentally stable enough for his or her word to hold up in court, too... Do you have any idea what he does to them? Might be hard pressed to find someone that meets the criteria..."

The trainer grimaced, the point beyond understood. "If you find one, that poor thing's going to deserve a medal when this is all over."

"You remember you said that," Ichigo chuckled as they entered a different room, where an instructor was teaching some of the newer recruits a few hand to hand combat techniques. "when I take this bastard down, you're going to owe my little helper an award."

The trainer clapped him over the shoulder, a smile on his grizzled features. Just like the commissioner had told him; Ichigo's confidence and attitude were contagious. Perhaps the fiery young man really was the one who would finally uproot the illegal slave trade and deal the black market a decisive blow.

••• The large estate located near The Shallows : 350 days ago •••

Often, slaves were led out of the hold, as it had been referred to by those that owned and operated the building they were located in. It was almost always the big, blue haired man that came for them. Sometimes he would bring with him others, whether a single person or a small group, and they would walk the corridor and point and talk and ask questions. Grimmjow always seemed like a relatively good host, normal even, but it was a mask. There was no getting around what he was doing, what he did for a living, and maybe the men and women he showed off his slaves to went along with it because they'd seen his temper in action before and so knew to act just a respectable and well mannered despite the grotesqueness of what they were shopping for.

Ultimately, a slave -or sometimes multiple- would be selected and Grimmjow would escort his customers back through the door at the end of the corridor. Shirosaki didn't know where they went after that, he'd never seen beyond that door and when he'd been brought in, he'd been drugged too heavily to remember any of it. But after a few minutes, Grimmjow would return. He would let the selected slave out and he would need little to no words or threats or even actions to get the slave to follow him from their cell and then from the hold.

Hours would go by before the door was opened again, and the slave would be returned to his or her cell, disheveled and worn out and smelling of sex. And no one would say a word, every single slave silent as they sat in their cages and didn't look up. No praise or payment would be given, nothing to indicate that said slave had done their job well, but on occasion, Grimmjow would stand before their cell and say something in private before unwrapping a small item to show the slave. That was the only time Shirosaki ever saw any glimmer of reaction from any of the other people around him. After the first couple times it'd happened, he had waited for the slave trader to leave again before asking the woman in the cell across from his what it was all about.

She'd smiled at him, and, her voice quiet in the silent room as she moved toward the front of her cell, said, "When a client decides he or she greatly enjoys a particular worker, sometimes they become regular customers and when that happens, they often buy little things for us. Jewelry or little trinkets they like to see us wear. Master Jaegerjaquez usually holds onto them for us, and when the client arrives, he leaves them in the room we'll be using so that we can put them on for the client's enjoyment."

"So they buy ya things... that're for themselves ta enjoy..." There was an oddly disturbing undercurrent to that, Shirosaki thought. It was strange to him, obsessive, perhaps. The woman had simply smiled and nodded.

Almost always, the people the big slaver was escorting around would stop before Shirosaki's cage. The pale man would curl his lip in a threatening and vicious, if not slightly terrified, expression. Unlike the other slaves, he didn't play the coy or obedient card, he matched their stares with as fiery, burning of one that he could possibly muster. More often than not, his returned attention was enough to get them to move along. On the few occasions that it wasn't, and they inquired about him, Grimmjow would grin almost proudly and inform them that he'd yet to be properly trained and wasn't actually up for rent just yet, newly acquired, he told them. Shiro always wondered how long it would be until he experienced whatever training was. It made bile rise in his stomach and his chest feel tight.

Sometimes Grimmjow would come alone, and he would go strait to one slave or another's cell. There would be no forewarning or those few extra minutes to prepare like when a client selected someone. He would unlock the cage right then and they would follow him out, through the door. They never protested, never fought against him, nor argued or even said anything other than 'yes sir.', as they were led from the slave hold.

Later, they would be led back to their cell by someone lower in ranking than the slaver himself, while Grimmjow was absent. The fatigue and smell the slave would carry always made it obvious what Grimmjow was using them for. It seemed he didn't mind sampling his own merchandise on occasion. He had his favorites though: there were those that he never touched and then there were those that had been under him enough to know just what he liked.

But he was always humane enough to at least select slaves that had not been used by clients that night. As twisted and despicable as the man was, he had some sort of code within him. Shiro rarely saw the big man raise a hand against anyone other than Shiro himself. He suspected it was because the others were so calm and compliant with him. They'd learned. They didn't resist any more.

One night however, nearly two weeks after Shiro had been brought to the slave trader's estate -not that he knew how long it had been- things went a little bit differently. The woman that occupied the cell across from his own, the only slave in the hold to ever utter a word to him, had been selected by a client. She couldn't have been any older than Shiro himself, maybe even younger, but with the body she had it was easy to see why she'd ended up on the prostitution side of the slave business. And it was easy to see why she had quite the cliental base.

After hardly even a half hour that night, however, she was returned to her cell in rush. Grimmjow escorted her back, a big hand wrapped bruisingly tight around her upper arm as he half dragged her along. The slave trader seemed particularly unhappy, if the slamming of her barred door and the speed with which he turned and left the hold once more was any indication.

She went straight to the small sink in the back of her own cell, but despite that her one hand had been held over the side of her face, Shiro had seen the ugly, darkening mark along her cheekbone and the brilliant splash of red that stained her bottom lip. Tears streaked her features and made her large, normally bright eyes look pitiful and puffy.

Shiro edged to the front of his cell as the echos of the door at the end of the hall died down, announcing that the slaves were alone in the hold again. He wrapped pale fingers around the bars, watching as the young woman tried to tidy herself up. Only minutes later, tears were still rolling down her bruised cheeks when the door was slammed open again and Grimmjow stormed back through, just as unhappy as before.

"Nel." He barked, calling her away from the back of her cell and toward the front. She desperately tried to compose herself, eyes wide and watery as they paused on Shiro's own before panning back toward the floor as Grimmjow stopped before her. "You're coming with me. You have a client to please and lost money to make up for."

"Y-yes, sir..." She said obediently and moved toward the cage door as he pulled the ring of keys from his pocket. He stood almost directly in front of Shiro, and the pale young lad hardly thought before he reacted. He didn't even know what had happened, but clearly the woman needed at least a few minutes to recover. It was just cruel to throw her back to the man who'd done this to her.

"Hey!" He snarled, reaching through the bars of his cage to snag hold of the big slave trader. His black nails caught golden skin, not quite as harmlessly as a full blooded human's would have. A few drops of red left the small, slashing parts in smooth skin. "Leave her alone."

The woman's eyes widened as she stared at Shiro passed their owner. Grimmjow didn't move, turned away from Shiro and still facing Nel. He didn't look down at the shallow gashes left across his forearm and his features twisted into an outraged baring of teeth that only the female slave saw.

"N-no, please, sir, I don't mind...please ignore him...he doesn't understand..." She pleaded on Shirosaki's behalf. The look that flashed through fiery blue eyes silenced her as she clapped a hand over her own mouth. Everyone knew that speaking out of turn or going against the slaver's word was punishable by whatever Grimmjow deemed fit.

Because of his newest worker's insubordinate actions, Grimmjow let slide his more experienced slave's. "It's time he's learned then." He rumbled in reply as he turned to stare down the smaller male.

Ashen brows furrowed over wide eyes as Shirosaki took a single step back and away. Trapped and locked away, he could only watch as the bigger man selected the key to his cell and pulled the barred door open. It slid back on smooth tracks with the low hiss of metal wheels, and was pushed shut again as Grimmjow stepped past it.

Shiro backed up further, a low growl emitting through the small space of his concrete prison, but there wasn't far to go and his back hit the cold, bare wall as Grimmjow stepped up in front of him. When the big man reached out toward him, Shiro ducked to one side, desperately trying to evade the man. Strong fingers closed around his wrist so tightly he honestly thought the delicate bones there would fracture. He was half thrown toward the front of the cell, stumbling into the bars and making them rattle. The unlocked door slid open a fraction under his weight and movement.

He made a grab for it, trying to yank it open and find his freedom, but just as he did, a big hand fisted into his hair and pulled back, jerking him away from the door. He grunted a harsh sound, air fleeing his lungs as he spun around and slammed back into the bars with a cruel strength. The metal ground against his spin and ribs as Grimmjow leaned his heftier weight against the smaller man, bringing his deceivingly handsome features close to the ghostly pale face before him. Shiro bared his teeth in the big man's face, hands closing around Grimmjow's wrist and black nails drawing thin, welted lines as the slave trader wrapped one hand around Shiro's pale throat.

The colorless man struggled and snarled and growled, his teeth bared and his features pinched with fear and rage and threat and pain. He refused to let this be an easy fight. He wasn't a slave, he wasn't someone else's property and he refused to act like he was. The people that had kidnapped him would have to beat what they wanted out of him.

And that's just what Grimmjow did.

The bigger man hardly uttered a sound while the two struggled, and none of the other slaves dared make a noise as they cowered in their cells. They didn't even look up, but instead adamantly turned their gazes away. Only Nel, the woman that occupied the cell across the isle, would be witness to what would happen as she stood near the doorway of her own cage.

Gasping a harsh, hindered breath of air, the pale man eventually quit trying to pry the fingers wrapped around his throat away as his normally white color started turning bluish with the lack of air. Instead, his hands braced against Grimmjow's muscled chest, pushing with all the strength he could conjure as he tried to get the big man off of him. His fingers curled in desperation, clutching at the shirt the bigger man wore, shredding fabric and scraping at the smooth skin below.

It was a pointless endeavor. Grimmjow hardly even seemed to put effort into overpowering the smaller and he stood as if unaffected, his features twisted into an outraged snarl and his livid blue eyes menacing and cold. He made not a sound as he glared into clouding, inverted eyes. Finally, he backed off and let the unwilling slave draw breath when those maddening, off-colored eyes began to roll back and the long fingered hands pushing at him loosened, then fell away all together.

Shiro drew in a ragged, desperate breath as the pressure around his throat fell away and the support holding him upright, albeit harshly, let up. He slid to the ground in an ungraceful heap, bent forward and gasping through his bruising trachea, his hands raising to feel the damage. He wasn't given long to recover before he was once more yanked to his feet, head wrenched back painfully and features twisting with agony. He yelped as he was turned to face the cage door and slammed into it yet again.

Snarling, he braced his hands against the horizontal supports and tried to push, tried to throw the man currently forcing him forward off of himself. A cruel fist found his kidney and a pained sound froze in his lungs. His snarl finally fell away completely when a hand gripped the back of his head and slammed it forward. The blow knocked him off balance, made the room spin and the bars only inches from his face seem to waver like a mirage. The echo of his skull bouncing off metal was sharp in his ears as he stumbled, teetering toward one side rather than making any attempts to get away any more. He was held still and straightened again by rough hands before the cloth that he'd been allowed to keep wrapped around his waist was yanked down and discarded.

Then, a low, gravely voice very near his ear helped to clear his mind again and made his eyes widen with terror and ice slide through his nerves.

"Your test results came back negative the other day." Grimmjow rumbled in the small space between his features and the slave's ear. He felt the pale man stiffen under his hands. "You're not untouchable anymore."

It was then that Shiro realized that this was going to be more than a simple beating. When one of his captor's hands settled on his bare hip, burning hot and sickly, and gripped with enough force to leave a hand print, Shirosaki began struggling again, his voice wavering as he pleaded through the dizzying effect of the hit to his cranium. "S-stop! No...get offa me!"

He hardly even realized as hot tears blurred his vision and began streaking his pale, horror stricken features. This couldn't be happening. He chanted it to himself over and over again. This couldn't be happening. It couldn't be real. The clanking of the bigger man's belt buckle was like the tole of bell, signaling something far worse than death, something he would have to live with. Pressed harshly against the bars at the front of his cell, naked and trembling and terrified, his wide eyes found Nel staring back at him.

The female slave's own eyes were equally round, but not nearly so disbelieving as Shirosaki's. She knew what was to come, she'd known the moment Grimmjow had thrown the pale lad to the front of the cage. It had been obvious, swirling in brilliant blue eyes. Her hands trembled where they covered the lower half of her pretty face and she shook her head slightly, unable to break his gaze. It was the only thing she had to offer him, the closest thing she could come to comforting him. It wouldn't be enough. Nothing could ever be enough.

He screamed as the bigger man pressed against his back and cruelly breached him in one, harsh thrust -unprepared and inexperienced and never before taken by another man- and Nel finally squeezed her eyes shut against the scene. But there was no blocking out the sounds.

The bigger man's grunts and snarls accompanied Shiro's pleads and screams. He did nothing to hold back his fear and his pain as the slave trader thrust into him, the harsh sound of skin against skin echoing through the space of his cell and through his mind. Each thrust forced his body up against the bars of his cage. The unlocked door rattled with the force of it, but the grip along his hips was far too strong for him to pull free, to get away and perhaps that was the most soul crushing thought of the whole affair.

His cage was finally unlocked, and he still couldn't escape.

Eventually, his screams turned into pitiful, raw cries. Then nothing but whimpers and sobs crawled from his bruised throat. Blood trickled down the inside of his legs, smearing his backside and his teeth clenched along his bottom lip so tightly it would later require the doctor's attention. The coppery tang in his mouth did nothing to distract him as fire raced up his spine and the slave trader's hot, hard cock tore into him but offered no pleasure.

When Grimmjow was finally done, he threw the slave aside, letting the smaller man drop to ground in the middle of the concrete floor and tugged his jeans back into place. As he left, locking the cage door behind him, Shiro buried his face in shaking hands, near silent sobs wracking his pain stiffened form. He didn't bother trying to get up, to pull himself from the floor or clean up or replace what sufficed as his clothing. He simply lay there, abused and defiled and turned into someone else's property, another man's plaything. He'd been marked in a way he couldn't scrub clean, in a way that would never heal, and there was no getting back what had just been taken from him.

Before he left, Grimmjow unlocked the cage across from Shiro's and Nel cowered, but didn't back away from the front. In a deep, thick growl of a voice, Grimmjow commanded, "Let's go. You have a job to do." And the female slave obediently followed him down the corridor, looking back over her shoulder at the pale, limp form on the cement floor.

An hour went by. The pale lad hardly moved, only curling in on himself, a small puddle of leaking fluids and blood trickling down his bare inner thighs. Shirosaki's tears had stopped, no longer streaking his features or wracking his frame. The cold concrete below him was painfully harsh against the bones of his hip, his shoulder and arm, his ribs, where he lay on his side, but he hardly noticed. His body ached with every breath, a throb that matched the pace of his still furiously beating heart.

Another hour went by before the doctor finally made his appearance. Under orders given to him, there was very little he could do to alleviate any of the poor slave's pain. When the door rattled slightly, signaling its being drawn open, Shiro stiffened, his eyes almost impossibly wide before they rolled to look in that direction. A shuddering breath left him as he realized it was only the pink haired, mixbreed and not the slave trader.

"Don't touch me..." He hissed when a slim hand settled along his shoulder, long fingers cold to the touch. He finally tried to push himself more upright, but sharp, lancing pain rocketed up his spine, stealing the air from his lungs and lighting a burning fire in his hips and pelvis. The voicing of his pain came out as a barely there, airy cry.

"He's always so rough with his things." Szayel shook his head slightly and sighed, adjusting his glasses. He once more settled elegant hands along the slave, but this time Shiro didn't protest, nor even try to shrug away.

He let the taller male help him up and lower him back down on his cot instead of the hard ground, where he sat hunched over, stiff and uncomfortable due to his injuries and the brutal handling. When those slim fingers trailed down the side of his face, he curled his upper lip and turned his head away, brows furrowing with less anger and more skittish aggression.

But Szayel merely tugged his head back around to face him again, features close to the slave's own. His thumb gently swiped across Shiro's shredded lower lip, clearing away a bit of the drying blood that smeared his chin to better see the self inflicted but accidental wound. The doctor tsked as he saw the damage; the soft skin nearly bitten clean through. The coldness of his fingers seemed nearly icy and almost relieving against the wound.

Since the skin was already sliced open, he skipped that process, seeing as he could already reach within to grab what he needed. As he had before, he went through the motions of carefully drawing out the pain and wounded flesh, like pulling a delicate thread through the eye of a needle. Shiro sat mostly still through it, even attempting to keep his exhausted, traumatized trembling at bay while the magic-user worked. Once done, Szayel again smoothed his thumb over the wound, revealing fresh, smooth skin where a jagged gash had been before.

"There you are," Still kneeling before the slave, he smiled, the expression some how sickly sweet and verging on derangement, and trailed the tip of his pointer finger down porcelain features. "Can't have that pretty face of yours all scarred up, now can we?"


Thank you for reading! Let me know what you think, please?