Author's Note: I'm skipping around a little here. I don't want to redo the whole thing with Shrieker, so I'm skipping to the point that my version will diverge.
Shiro and Ichigo could sometimes work seamlessly together. This was one of those times.
Reaching into the underpinnings of the spiritual plane was not easy. They did it more or less by instinct. There was some knowledge involved, mostly from Shiro. His father had taught him how to meditate and sense things at a great distance, a discipline similar to Jinzen. He helped Ichigo find that state of mind and from there, instinct did the rest. Soon they had the spiritual thread of the cockatiel ghost in hand.
Then Ichigo got distracted by Karin and Rukia wanted to keep going. But her power was still pathetic, compared to what it should be. There was only one solution to that. Shiro separated from Ichigo instantly.
"I'm comin' with you." He said firmly, looking at Rukia from behind his mask of bone. She looked less than thrilled with the idea. "You get her home Ichi, then find me." This would actually be very helpful. The cockatiel might or might not be close, once they started fighting the hollow and moving around. But Ichigo could find the other half of his soul effortlessly.
"Right." Ichigo scooped up Karin before taking off at a run. Rukia and Shiro did the same, heading for the cockatiel. It didn't take them very long to find it.
"Oi, here it is! Where's Chad?" Shiro asked, genuinely worried. The cockatiel was just sitting on the edge of a stone ledge. The bird jumped, reacting with fright to the hollow. "Hey! I'm his friend, tell me where the big guy is." He demanded and the bird hesitated for a moment before pointing with a wing.
"He went that way, Mister. But be careful!" The bird implored him and Shiro nodded before taking off again. Noticing that Rukia was getting tired, he scooped her up, ignoring her squall of outrage. Then he turned a corner and saw a desperate scene. Chad had just been knocked down by the hollow and was clearly unable to see it. So Shiro did the first thing that came to mind.
"TAKE THIS!" And he flung Rukia at the hollow. She screamed and the hollow also uttered a rather girlish scream as the flying soul reaper hit him in the chest. That knocked him away and Rukia rolled off frantically. "Oh yeah, score one for me." Shiro said happily. It was the best use for a shinigami he'd ever seen.
"Shiro?" Chad said as the white hollow darted past. Rukia stared at the teen for a moment before shooting Shiro a sharp look. He was attempting to pounce on the strange hollow but not having a lot of luck. The thing could move reasonably fast and also fly.
"You can see him?" She asked and Chad shook his head.
"No. But I know he's there. Exchange student Kuchiki, what is happening?" She turned to look and saw that Shrieker had taken to the air in his efforts to evade Ichigo's hollow half. Of course, that just prompted Shiro to start tossing ceros into the air. And that was quickly pissing the other hollow off.
"You think you're so smart? Eat this!" Shrieker finally snapped before firing his explosive frogs. Shiro was taken completely by surprise and Rukia cursed as he was pinned down, squirming and attempting to get free. That was when she came up with a rather insane idea.
"Chad! It's flying and it has Shiro pinned. Lift me up and throw me!" She demanded. Shrieker was still taunting an irate Shiro-chan when Rukia flew for a second time.
"What the – HEY!" Shrieker got slightly scorched as Rukia tried to use a Red Flame Cannon. "I surrender! – Just kidding!" More frogs and while Rukia managed to avoid the first few, she got hit by the second batch. She fell to the ground with a small scream and Sado managed to catch her.
"Rukia, what happened?" Chad asked as she coughed, trying to remove a leech from her hair. The frogs seemed to turn into dozens of leeches when they were shattered, but they didn't actually suck blood or reiatsu. It was hard to figure out. Then she looked up as Shrieker landed in front of them.
"You know, it's strange. I never raped any of my victims." The hollow said and Rukia stiffened as Shiro's cursing trailed off. "And I was never interested in men. But you smell… delicious." She stared as the hollow sniffed as a wide-eyed Shiro-chan. Then a very odd, forked tongue licked his cheek.
The scream of rage that followed made all of them flinch. Shiro gathered himself and frogs abruptly shattered as he surged up, grasping that tongue and ignoring the leeches fixed to his bone armor.
"You motherfucking son of a bitch! I am a natural born VASTO LORDE! You are a fucking basic hollow! Come back to me when you're a goddamn adjuchas and not a fucking day before! YOU GOT IT?!" Shiro snarled as he hauled the hollow around by his tongue. He was flat out insulted by this. Sure, he wasn't as strong as he should be and his power was halved at the moment but still! He was so far above this newbie that it wasn't even funny.
"I got it! I got it!" The hollow said, his voice rather muffled. Shiro finally let go of his tongue with a small huff. "Hmph! And now I'm going to make you pay!" Shiro had just enough time to be puzzled before Shrieker vibrated his tongue.
The leeches on Shiro and Rukia both exploded. The young hollow was knocked down, yelping in pain as part of his armor broke under the stress. Rukia was left bleeding and coughing, a hand pressed against her chest and her eyes wide. Then Sado decided that he'd had enough. He couldn't see the hollows, of course, but he'd lived around Ichigo and Shiro for so long that he had a rough idea where Shiro was. It wasn't a huge stretch to assume their enemy would be in front of him and Rukia would be facing towards it.
Everyone was shocked when he nailed Shrieker in the face. The hollow went flying and Shiro just stared at Sado, black and gold eyes wide. Rukia was just as shocked.
"He can see it? …Oh. I guess not." She muttered as Sado tried a follow up swing and only hit empty air. Shrieker gathered himself, shaking himself off.
"Hmph! I guess even a blind monkey can get lucky – ERK!" A second flying fist hit him and Shiro cackled madly. There was a reason why he liked Chad and this was definitely part of it.
"Yeah! Let's get him! …Oh shit." Shiro froze as he saw the cockatiel cage being held by the frogs. Rukia's eyes went wide as she saw it too. The bird body was unimportant but the soul inside would be utterly shredded if Shrieker detonated those leeches.
"Now. I think you're a little too dangerous, little hollow." Shrieker said mockingly and Shiro ground his teeth in anger. Little? "And I love hurting women. I'm going to play with you, little death god. Run, so I can hunt you and you only!" He commanded and Rukia stood.
"You can't! He'll kill you." Shiro said urgently and she shook her head.
"It is my duty to protect innocent souls." She said resolutely. Shiro looked at her then glanced away, clearly trying to get a bearing on Ichigo's position. That made her smile. I know you'll both come for me. If she could only keep this monster occupied long enough, Ichigo would arrive. He would destroy this thing.
And so she left Shiro-chan behind and ran. As Ichigo approached, Shiro retreated to his inner world, increasing his strength. And when Rukia stopped to face Shrieker they were ready.
"Oi! I thought you said there wouldn't be any slip ups." Ichigo demanded with his head firmly on the hollow's head. As he did he charged a cero in one hand. He and Shiro were getting better at that as their power grew. "Stay there or I'll blow your fucking head off." He ordered the hollow who made a strange gargling sound as he looked at the cero wide eyed.
"Oh, you were worried?" Rukia said with a smirk and Ichigo frowned. That moment of distraction was enough for the hollow to surge up and pull away, though. He released the cero and Shrieker yelped as it tore through one of his wings.
"What the hell are you?!" He inspected the damage as Ichigo landed on his feet.
"I am Ichi-chan, brother to Shiro-chan and currently a substitute soul reaper." He said firmly before turning around. "I believe you've already met my brother. Rukia?" He said and she nodded, using her glove to knock him out of his body. Just in time as Shrieker's frogs tossed explosives at them.
But Ichigo was more than ready for the challenge. He slashed them apart and began fighting the hollow, forcing him down the path. Careful Ichi, he's a sick fuck. Shiro warned and he nodded before planting his sword against Shrieker's shoulder and demanding the full story out of him.
It absolutely nauseated him. A serial killer… and the sick little game he'd been playing with the poor boy and the cockatiel. Shrieker mistook his trembling for fear but it was actually rage. Shiro was just as outraged although for slightly different reasons. Hollows ate other hollows, it was what they did. Some of them played with their kills too, just like cats. They were alien to human morals, mostly, so it was nothing to be ashamed of. But for a mortal man to play such games… he would never devour such a tainted soul.
And he was right not to. When Ichigo destroyed Shrieker the gates of Hell opened. It was the first time Ichigo and Shiro had ever seen anything like it and Ichigo felt Shiro trying to huddle into a ball in his mind, a knot of terror unlike anything he'd ever felt from his brother. He took a step back, swallowing hard as the chains wrapped around the hollow. He knew this didn't happen to all of them. He'd sent plenty of hollows on and this was the first. Still, it was disturbing to see.
"It is only here for him, not for us." Rukia reassured him and Ichigo nodded as the gates closed with a ponderous thump, then slowly cracked. They finally shattered into a million pieces, vanishing. That only left the cockatiel.
It was sad to find out that he couldn't go back to his body, but Ichigo and Shiro silently agreed that it was for the best. His mother was dead and who knew if he had any other relatives? The little boy hadn't mentioned a father so that was doubtful. When Rukia started telling him how good Soul Society was, Ichigo smiled sadly. He knew that wasn't entirely true but it was better not to burden a little boy with the truth.
"And you'll be able to see your mother again." He said and the cockatiel looked at him with hope. "She can't come here, but you can go there." That was true… although it was hard to say if the little boy would ever find his mother again. Soul Society was massive. But he would have a chance.
After the Soul Burial was completed and they went home, Ichigo fell into a quick and dreamless sleep. Shiro-chan manifested and curled up in his nest, but for him sleep did not come quickly. His thoughts kept going back to the hollow and that thing he had said… But you smell delicious.
"I hope that ain't it. I hope it ain't." Shiro muttered to himself before sighing and trying to get to sleep. He knew what might happen as Ichigo's power reached full maturity. He hoped he was wrong though.
If he wasn't, things might get bad in a hurry.
Shiro ran a hand through his hair, tugging absently on the orange locks as he looked at his food in revulsion.
Once again he was subbing in for Ichigo. Normally he wouldn't have minded. But today he was feeling completely out of sorts. It was like his skin was too tight, Ichigo's body was too confining. He was also far too hot even though it was a fairly mild day. To add to his troubles, lunch was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches again. Why couldn't it have been a proper bento box? Shiro wouldn't have minded eating that.
Deciding to suck it up and take in some sustenance, he bit into the sandwich. The bread just tasted off and the peanut butter coated his tongue and mouth unpleasantly. The jam added a hit of sweetness that didn't really improve the experience. Shiro honestly couldn't understand how Ichigo liked these things.
"Oh Ichigo, are you okay?" Orihime asked innocently and Shiro looked up, meeting her eyes. Heat seemed to roll through him and he swallowed, forcing down the food.
"I'm fine. Just not in the mood for lunch." He said easily, putting down the sandwich. He was better off not eating it. Ichigo could make up for it when he got his body back. Really, if he kept eating he was afraid he might throw up. Orihime looked concerned, glancing at his food.
"Would you like to trade half of it for half of mine?" She offered and Shiro hesitated. He knew that Orihime had odd ideas about what constituted edible food… but then, he didn't believe that his sandwich was edible anyway. Maybe it was worth a shot. They did the exchange and Shiro looked at the nest of noodles in his lunchbox before taking a bite.
"…S'not bad." He murmured, savoring the flavor. It was… chocolate rice noodles? With… diced pickles? Or maybe anchovy paste? Something salty. "What's the salty bits in it?" Definitely not anchovy paste, there were little green bits and they were the source of the saltiness. But they didn't look like pickles. Orihime smiled widely.
"Capers! Oh Ichigo, I'm glad you like it!" She said so happily it made him blush. Shiro looked up, meeting her eyes and feeling what felt like electricity between them. A tug and pull and from the way her eyes widened, she felt it too.
"Thank you for giving it to me." He said huskily and saw her face go pink at his tone. Then they were rudely interrupted.
"Oi! Stop flirting Ichigo." Tatsuki said and he almost snarled at her before catching himself. That was not something Ichigo would do. Instead he took a drink from his juice box and grimaced at the sweetness. He wasn't a huge fan of sweet.
"What do you mean? We were just talking." He said dismissively, reflecting on the fact that flirting was actually a very good description for what he was doing. That was not good but he was powerless to stop the feelings behind it. He liked Orihime and… something inside him was changing. Shiro had a good idea of what but he had no idea what to do about it.
Unfortunately, things came to a head later that day. It was between classes when he wasn't paying attention to where he was going. And Orihime was always a klutz. She came around the corner just as he did and the impact jolted him. He caught her before she could fall and, purely by accident, ended up very close to her against the wall. Shiro froze as he stared into those wide grey eyes again.
"Orihime." He whispered her name, feeling that electricity again. But this time it was too powerful, an inescapable compulsion, a need. Her lips were like warm velvet against his and he felt her breath catch, felt the arousal course through her body. He could smell it, smell the sudden musk, hear the way her heartbeat speeded up as she – "OW!" He jolted away and back as searing pain suddenly made itself known. Shiro gripped his side, gasping, and knew a bruise was forming.
"What the hell Ichigo? Get away from her!" Tatsuki. Shiro couldn't stop himself. He rounded on the girl with a guttural snarl, more fit for an animal than the teenager he was supposed to be. Tatsuki stared at him for a moment before her eyes narrowed. "…You're not Ichigo." She said with absolute certainty and Shiro stopped, suddenly panicking. Tatsuki had always been the one he was worried about. If anyone was going to catch onto his act, it was her. "Shiro?"
"Uh… no, of course not! What are you – unf!" Shiro doubled over as she punched him in the gut. "Oh fuck! Stop it! This is Ichigo's body!" He yelped and Tatsuki stopped just before she would have punched him in the face, surprised.
"Ichigo's body? What the hell is going on?" She demanded and Shiro reached into his pocket. They had considered that something like this might happen and Rukia had provided him with something useful.
"It's Men in Black time, bitches." Tatsuki's eyes narrowed as he grinned but then it was too late.
Memory modifiers were a wonderful thing.