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Grimmjow didn’t believe it at first.

Stumbled on it by accident too; silently tailing a pair of shinigami across Karakura, thinking Kurosaki might be one of them. It wasn’t, but their reiatsu felt distantly familiar: a white-haired kid in a captain’s haori and a tall woman with pink cloth trailing off her shoulders. A lieutenant, from the feel of her. Two high ranking shinigami who couldn’t sense him deserved to be tailed, in his opinion.

Chasing something always improved Grimmjow’s mood, so he followed at a distance, wondering what was so fuckin’ important that they had personally come down from the ivory tower of Seireitei. Grimmjow expected to find some sort of battle, but all they did was squat in the air out front of an upstairs window in some shitty house, peering in like a couple of creeps.

From the shadows of a building across the road, Grimmjow had to squint to see what they saw. Couldn’t make sense of it at first.

Kurosaki was inside.

Wearing clothes like some kind of human, ignoring the pair by his window like they weren’t even there. But that wasn’t even the weirdest thing.

Kurosaki had absolutely no spiritual signature at all. Just the same dumb flicker of life any other human might have. Not the fucking maelstrom of hollow-shinigami reiatsu that had punished him with its force less than a year ago. The fuck had happened?

Who was this asshole impostor?

Pulling further back into the shadowed eaves he sheltered under, Grimmjow grit his teeth almost hard enough to crack.

Thing was, it looked like Kurosaki. Not just the face and the hair, but the movement. The set of his shoulders as he sat inside the room. The fixed disinterest though, that was new. Grimmjow had never seen it on that face before.

“It’s such a shame,” the woman sighed, and pulled a loaded dango stick out of her sleeve. “It’s just—” she shoved the first two coloured lumps into her mouth and started chewing, “—a Pyrrhic victory for him. And Captain-Commander Yamamoto telling us if he’s not a shinigami then he’s not our business smells a little off to me. Who died and made him leader?”

“Central Forty-Six,” the kid said heavily. He sounded shitloads older than he looked. Grimmjow saw him blink. ”Though they did the dying part later.”

The woman huffed. “I’ll say one thing for Aizen, he sure cleared out the deadwood.”

“Can you please speak treason when I’m not here and obliged to discipline you?”

“I’m just saying what everyone is thinking!”

“Say it some other time.”

“Oh, fine,” the woman sighed, “but even you must admit, this ruling on Ichigo is ridiculous. Powers or not, he’s still one of us.”

“In the eyes of Seireitei, he’s a substitute shinigami who lost his powers. If he’s not a shinigami, we have no business here.” The white-haired kid crossed his arms tightly. “It’s not a happy ruling, but it is the right one. He’s fought hard enough for our causes. He was a human student first; let him be that again in peace.”

“He doesn’t look peaceful,” the woman argued. “He looks…” Her voice trailed off, but Grimmjow caught the moment her petulance faded into concern. The kid just looked away, his white haori fanning out in a sudden cold wind.

“I know. And our orders still stand.”

Grimmjow’s entire body felt as tense as a bowstring, like something had grabbed the back of his neck and pulled his spine tight. He wanted to kill them both, he wanted to draw his sword and rip through the bullshit they’d just told each other. That they’d told him.

A substitute shinigami. A human student. Kurosaki hadn’t even been a shinigami officer—he was human. Living . And now his powers were gone, and he couldn’t even see the fuckers talking about him right outside his window.

Of all the fallout Grimmjow had expected to find in the aftermath of Aizen’s war, this hadn’t been it.

It hadn’t been easy, coming back from those injuries with a war happening around him. Nnoitra’s gutless blindsiding had done a real number, too. By the time he’d hunted and eaten enough lesser hollows to regenerate himself—clawing on his belly over the white sand under a returned blackened sky—he’d made it back to the living world to feel…nothing. Aizen was dead, or gone. Ichimaru, Tousen, it was like they’d evaporated. The smallest, weakest hollows that had avoided the reiatsu storm by hiding at a distance had been the only ones around to tell the story.

Aizen had fallen to Kurosaki Ichigo, and an unknown man with faded yellow hair.

The arrancar had been decimated. Harribel made it back only when her fracciónes opened a garganta and pulled each other through. Everyone else was slaughtered. Good fuckin’ riddance. Weak assholes, all of them. Starrk was a surprise, but some part of him always smelled like death was coming and he didn’t give a shit. Whatever. Grimmjow had slipped back through the garganta leading home, figuring they all killed each other or went back to Seireitei. He could be patient. His next move would come soon enough, he just had to wait for his chance.

Except Aizen had called Kurosaki ryoka. An invader. At first he’d tried to dismiss it, the tingling little idea that maybe Kurosaki hadn’t gone back to Soul Society. That he didn’t belong there. And so, months later, fully regenerated and sporting a few new scars, Grimmjow had returned to Karakura and picked up the scent of two high-ranking shinigami.

Now this.

Sometimes Grimmjow wished his fucking instincts weren’t always right on the damn bullseye. Nah, Kurosaki didn’t bear Seireitei’s brand—and he was staring right in the window of the truth.

Ten meters and ten million miles away.

Fuck.

Grimmjow watched the two murmur to each other for another few minutes before they got sick of whatever peeping tom routine they’d come down to do. Patrol? Checking in on the cast-off? Grimmjow knew exactly what ‘not our business’ meant: not us. It was the same bullshit that happened to an espada kicked out to privaron. He wasn’t sure what the hell coming down to fog up the window had to do with anything though. Keeping up appearances? Didn’t change facts: the shinigami lords or whatever ruled up there had kicked him onto the trash pile. Kurosaki fucking Ichigo.

When they eventually left, Grimmjow thought about leaving too. No fight, no point. Killing him would just be a waste of time; given enough of it, Kurosaki would get old and die all on his own. There was no rematch in his future. Wasn’t much of anything in his future. Returning to Hueco Mundo made more sense.

Instead, he darted over the road and up the side of the building to crouch in mid-air, eyes scanning for whatever they’d come down to look at. Might as well see what was so damn interesting about Kurosaki sitting there like a neutered fuckin’ disaster.

With the distance between them closed, Grimmjow could see and sense it: Kurosaki was irrefutably, horribly human. His lifeforce was as weak as a lit match in a high wind. No reiatsu slamming up against his own, burning like tongues of spiritual fire. Just nothing. Emptiness surrounded him like a fuckin’ vacuum. But it was him, even if he felt wrong on every instinctive level. Kurosaki had something important ripped out of him by the roots. Grimmjow had never heard of a shinigami becoming anything else, not unless they were grabbing hollow powers for themselves.

Was that what had happened? Soul Society found out about Kurosaki’s mask?

Utterly oblivious to Grimmjow’s questions, Kurosaki sat on his bed, scrolling a small, lit screen he held one-handed. Occasionally he tapped some kind of pattern into it, but Grimmjow couldn’t see what it did. He didn’t care; his eyes were on the dull blankness of his face. His eyes, once snapping and alive with challenge and resolve, held nothing but shadows.

The eyes Grimmjow hated were gone, and he hated their absence so much more.

Kurosaki would be better off dead than living like that. Maybe he should just finish him off.

Tired of his little device, Kurosaki put it on his writing desk and shifted back, getting up on his knees and turning toward the window. Dull brown eyes stared straight at him—through him—as Kurosaki pulled open the window and stuck his head out, looking around. He had no idea he was two inches from Grimmjow’s face when he rested his forearms on the windowsill, turning his gaze to the moon.

Lifting his hands, Grimmjow hovered them on either side of Kurosaki’s upturned face. One twist. He could almost hear the wet, muted wrench of bones pulled out of place, severing the spinal column as they went. It’d take hardly anything. Maybe it’d even be a mercy. An agreement between warriors to put him down when he couldn’t fight anymore. Like this, he was food. Just food. And it wasn’t fuckin’ right. Grimmjow knew he had to kill him. He didn’t think he could look at him and keep seeing that. But putting him down—it wasn’t the right end.

It wasn’t their end.

“This is fucked up,” Grimmjow grated, his jaw clenched. His hands fell away. “You’re a fucking tragedy. You make me sick.”

Kurosaki just stared up at him with eyes that couldn’t see, looking for a moon that had been obscured by clouds.

Grimmjow didn’t know what made him do it. The dullness, maybe, or the lonely shine of his stupid eyes or the line of his mouth—one of those fucking things made him plant his palm on Kurosaki’s face and shove him back through his own window with a shout, following him through and leaping silently down from the sill to the mattress and floor. Kurosaki was flung back and landed with a hard thump by his desk, arms flailing out like a windmill for an attacker he couldn’t see.

Interestingly, despite his powerlessness Kurosaki rolled up into a perfect somersault and defensive crouch, breathing hard with adrenaline. He stayed down in his crouch while Grimmjow stared hard at him from the foot of the bed.

“Who’s there?” Kurosaki asked, eyes wide and darting all over the room. The tip of his nose was pink. “I—Rukia? Is it you?”

Rukia. The name of one of his little friends. Gotta be a shinigami too, then. Grimmjow had vague memories of a small, thin woman with big eyes and an icy sword. He’d bet Pantera none of the shinigami had made contact, not with the way Kurosaki’s face had lit up behind his piss-poor attempt at control. Sneering silently, he watched him unfold warily to stand at his full height when no other attack came. The guarded hope in his face made Grimmjow want to backhand it clean off.

“Not Rukia,” Kurosaki said after a moment, tilting his head like he was trying to listen. Brown eyes narrowed slightly in calculation, puzzling it out. “And Renji would follow her lead. It can’t be trouble, because I’m not someone who can help. A hollow would have done more than just push me, I just—who the hell is in my room?”

“C’mon, you’re smart enough to figure it out,” Grimmjow told him, knowing the taunt in his voice couldn’t be heard. “S’only been a year. Bit more. Wonder if you do think I’m dead. You’re not much better, ex-shinigami. Know which one I’d choose.” He let Kurosaki take cautious steps closer, hands out like a blind man until fingertips brushed the scar on his chest.

“Shit,” Kurosaki said, startled by his own discovery. But not enough to stop. Fingertips became a palm. Two palms, smoothing over his bare chest, up his neck, across his shoulders. Burning brown eyes stared at the space like he could map out the lines he was making, feeling the fabric of his collar, painting a picture in his mind. “A collar, folded down. Not shihakushou. A man—a male. Fuck, I’m sorry I’m feeling you up like this, but it’s the only way I can—” Interrupting himself, Kurosaki slid a warm hand over Grimmjow’s neck and onto his cheek.

Grimmjow could have laughed as cautious fingers explored the unmasked side of his face, completely missing the one enormous clue that might have given his identity away. Stupid asshole. Instead he was trailing insultingly soft fingertips everywhere that didn’t count, over his cheek and ear and into his hair, while the other stayed pressed to his heart like a lifeline. Maybe he could feel it beating. Probably not.

“Who are you?” Kurosaki asked again, and something was wavering in his voice that sounded a lot like desperation. “Can’t you just write it down?”

Write it down? Like some kind of messenger boy? Fuck that. Grimmjow grabbed Kurosaki’s hand on his heart and slid it down to the void in his stomach. If he had any fucking brains left in his weakling head—

Kurosaki blanched, his breath hitching as his fingers found air where none should be. His eyes were blazing by then, horrified and still somehow electric with the realisation. His other hand switched cheek, fingers grazing his mouth until they found the final piece of his little puzzle.

“Oh my god,” Kurosaki breathed, a hand on a broken-mask jaw and another covering a circle punched through skin and bone. “Grimmjow. You’re alive.” Yanking his hands back like he’d been scalded, Grimmjow watched Kurosaki’s face flush some interesting shades of red and pink. There was a tremble going through his shoulders that wasn’t fear. Excitement, maybe. Or just shock. Who the fuck could tell? “What are you doing here?”

“Fucked if I know.” There was no point in talking, but Kurosaki was just standing there like a deaf priest in a confessional. Stepping around him and outside his reach, Grimmjow figured it couldn’t hurt to look around.

The bedroom was kinda bare, not that he could really judge. His chamber in Las Noches only had three and a half walls these days. Some cupboards, the bed, a desk, some kind of metal shelving. Lamp, wardrobe, curtains, window. There were other people in the building, one of whom burned with the flare of real spiritual kick. Maybe it was even a shinigami. Didn’t feel like one. Two humans, same age, one vastly stronger than the other. Stronger than Kurosaki was.

“Did you come here to kill me?” Kurosaki asked quietly, the words almost casual. He was speaking to empty space, the moron. But he turned, arms out until he knocked into Grimmjow’s bicep and hung on, fingers tangling in the fabric of his white jacket. His breathing was even, eyes scanning and missing their mark every time. “I know I promised you a fight. I bet you’re pissed to find me like this.”

“More’n you know,” Grimmjow said, grabbing his face for real this time. Kurosaki winced and went rigid, but he didn’t yell for help. His skin was firm, soft, smooth. His hair was soft too, sifting through Grimmjow’s fingers before he curled his fingers and yanked it. The ears he flicked and watched as they turned angry red. Kurosaki’s arms flopped like a doll’s when he yanked on those too, knocking away the halfhearted attempt to stop him. He was weak. He was so fucking weak. Grabbing his waist with both hands, Grimmjow hauled him up into the air and slammed him against the wall of his stupid fucking wardrobe so hard it rattled and his orange head hit the ceiling. He was just flesh and brittle bone and weakness and blind fucking eyes that’d never look at him again—

“I’m sorry,” Kurosaki said, and Grimmjow dropped him, sick to his stomach at the ruin he’d become. Kurosaki was just a shell. A memory.

They’d never finish what they started.

“Fuck this,” Grimmjow muttered, angry with Kurosaki and angrier at himself. “Shouldn’t have come here. You don’t have any fuckin’ answers either.” Stepping up on the mattress, feeling it dip under his feet, he ducked for the window. Kurosaki must have seen it.

“No, no wait. Grimmjow, wait." With the fucking audacity of a mouse taking on a lion and the aim of someone with a shitload of luck on their side, Kurosaki threw his arms around his waist and yanked him down onto the bed with an almighty thud and scream of springs. Snarling at the sheer balls of the move, Grimmjow shoved him off and rolled over, but Kurosaki was right back on the bed again, a hand fisted in his hair and a knee in his stomach. The expression above him was wild. “Just fucking wait! If you came here then you don’t know what happened, right? You didn’t know about—about me, about the hougyoku and Aizen and all that shit. Don’t you wanna know?” Pressing his advantage, Kurosaki slid his hands until his fingertips found Grimmjow’s hairline, his temples and across to the corner of his eyes. Thumbs to his estigma, clasping his face with hands that could do less than nothing to hurt him, Kurosaki mapped the distance between his fingers and stared Grimmjow right in the eyes.

And just like that, the tension in Grimmjow’s gut unravelled and dissolved. The release of pressure in his chest was so sudden it punched a breath of surprise out of him. But even though he couldn’t see him, Kurosaki was staring him dead in the eyes with a gaze like bruises and desperate need. It smoothed over a tear deeper and bloodier than any sword had laid to his skin.

Fuck.

“Don’t go,” Kurosaki said with low, quiet force, his fingers sliding in Grimmjow’s hair. There was something crumbling away behind his resolve. “You’re the only one who’ll talk to me. You’re the only one who bothered. I just—need to know what’s been happening. What things are like now. I missed the end of everything and now I’m locked out.”

Grimmjow stared up at him, too surprised to lash out. All the while, Kurosaki held his face and waited, like his palms weren’t sweating and his lips weren’t bitten down with other shit he wouldn’t say.

You’re the only one who’ll talk to me.

Why the hell had Soul Society thrown away their biggest ace? Damn it, of all the questions Grimmjow had, that one burned. So when Kurosaki warily pulled away, eyes losing focus again as he sat back on the end of the bed, Grimmjow didn’t jump for the window. He sat up, swung his legs over onto solid ground, leaned over on his knees and waited. Let Kurosaki figure out how to communicate with him, if he wanted it that badly.

“So you’ll stay, just—for a while? Half an hour?” Kurosaki asked, reaching out with his clumsy fucking human hands until he could grab Grimmjow’s wrist and squeeze. It moved down to his own hand, clasping it tightly. “Squeeze back for yes.”

Grimmjow squeezed so hard he popped three of Kurosaki’s knuckles. His resulting yell was kinda nice, actually.

“Ow, shit! All right, it’s a yes.” Seemingly realising his angle was all wrong and Grimmjow wasn’t interested in changing position, Kurosaki slid off the bed and around in front of him. Just kneeling on the floor in front of him like it was no big deal, holding an invisible hand. “Okay, so what’s no going to be? Don’t break my hand,” he added hastily, looking a bit annoyed he even had to ask. “I’m not…durable, like I was as a shinigami. My human body is like any other.”

“No shit.” Reaching out with his other hand, Grimmjow pinched Kurosaki’s soft human cheek with two fingers and pulled it out. When he let go, the skin there had already bloomed bright red with the assault. Rubbing it with his hand, Kurosaki levelled his invisible chest a cautious look.

“Okay, so that’s no.”

“It’s not no, dumbass, I just wanted to—fuck. Fine. It’s no. Fuck your bruises in the morning.” And now he was talking to the spiritually deaf like they could reply. Grimmjow felt irritation spread through his chest and into his cheeks in a hot wave. He squeezed Kurosaki’s hand, willing him to fuckin’ get on with his damn questions. But as always, Kurosaki rarely did anything Grimmjow expected.

“Do you want to know how I helped defeat Aizen?”

Grimmjow’s eyes widened. Two more knuckles popped loudly in the silence, making Kurosaki curse. But he sat quietly for a short, considering moment, then started to speak in low, even tones. Dispassionate, like it didn’t really matter anymore.

Listening to the story of how Kurosaki managed to close a gap that massive, of a technique he called mugetsu and what it had cost him to use it, Grimmjow felt his teeth ache with the jealous clench of his jaw. That should have been his. For him. At the last clash of their power, the last ditch attack; that should have been for him, not fuckin’ Aizen Sousuke and his revolting artificial evolution. Fusing with the stupid marble that made him—made all the arrancar. Using the healing woman and her powers as a diversion, making them all think she was his trump card when he just wanted to haul Kurosaki into Hueco Mundo so he could take the town. Least, that was what he got from the rambling. Kurosaki was doing a lot of it.

“I knew what I was doing, more or less. I had to do it, because I thought it was the only way.” Oddly, brown eyes darted away to the window after he said that, narrowed and intense. The set of his shoulders changed under Grimmjow’s watchful attention. “I didn’t know Urahara had already planted his kidou inside Aizen. Maybe he thought I’d think it was unfair, or dishonourable. I don’t know. Aizen did his fair share of shitty things. But losing my shinigami powers like I did without knowing the full story made me feel like—” His shoulders slumped again, loose and tired. “I don’t know why I’m even complaining. The details don’t really matter. It happened. I told everyone I was fine with it.”

Grimmjow’s hand was out before he could stop himself, grabbing the still-pink skin of Kurosaki’s cheek and yanking it.

“No,” Kurosaki agreed, not bothering to touch his cheek that time. He was looking at the floor. “I lied. I thought life would be better for everyone if I just said it was okay. Me included. Instead I just keep thinking about it, like my dad knowing this entire time about the final getsuga tenshou and what it’d cost. Urahara would have known it too, but they both just sent me off like a decoy to lower Aizen’s powers. Urahara made the damn hougyoku. Dad knew exactly how to access mugetsu and he never did it. They let me do it. I wasn’t—it didn’t have to be just me. But it was.” Kurosaki lifted his head, just enough that Grimmjow could see the suspicious shine of his eyes. “I’m sorry I broke my promise. I would have really liked to fight you again.”

Grimmjow would have liked to watch Kurosaki’s face change a little more, but the fingers clasping his hand twitched and fell away. Orange spikes hiding his eyes, he turned and sat next to Grimmjow’s legs, planting his shoulder against his knee. Maybe he thought Grimmjow was going to bail out after listening to his fuckin’ life story. Part of him was tempted, too pissed off and powerless to do a single thing to change the shit that had already gone down, but a bigger part—the dominant part—liked hearing Kurosaki say he wanted to fight him. Grimmjow knew he’d been right about him; Kurosaki lived for a fight where he could cut loose and do some good and messy damage to an opponent. Aizen just hadn’t been it, from the sound of it. Hard to enjoy a fight where you lost even if you won.

Feeling charitable, Grimmjow reached out and scruffed Kurosaki’s head until all his hair stood up in messy spikes. For some reason that made Kurosaki smile through his gloom, patting around his scalp for the hand doing the damage. When he squeezed the first two fingers he could grab, Grimmjow let him get away with it.

“Guess you’ll go find someone else to fight now, huh?” Leaning his head back against the mattress, Kurosaki frowned at the ceiling a little. “I hope Las Noches is okay after the mess everyone made of it.”

This time the pinch was careful, hardly anything at all. His cheek was blood red by then, and it didn’t feel like a triumph to put bruises on that skin. Didn’t feel remotely good, if Grimmjow thought about it. Kurosaki was blind and soft and deaf without his powers, but Grimmjow respected his former strength enough to just let the anger go for a while; to let a quiet truce enter in its place.

“It’s not okay?” Kurosaki’s brow puckered a little. Another pinch, this one more of a poke than anything. “Hueco Mundo is fine. Then—you won’t find someone else to fight?”

“If there’s one thing I’ve figured out about you, shinigami,” Grimmjow said to his upturned face, “it’s that you always fuckin’ manage to do the impossible. You get stronger and stronger, and you beat the shit out of everything in your way. You stare your enemies in the eye til they break or bow or beat you. What’s a couple of busted reiryoku pressure points got in the face of those eyes? Dumbass. I can wait.”

But of course Kurosaki couldn’t hear a thing. He just stared into the ceiling. Then he lifted his hand suddenly, stretching it backwards until he touched Grimmjow’s neck, his jaw, and across to his mouth. Then he just left his fingers there like a fucking freak. Slowly, his frown picked up into a crooked smile.

“You were talking just then, weren’t you? I can’t hear it, but since you weren’t hitting me I think you were probably telling me off. You were always yelling at me during our fights, or laughing. When you weren’t beating the hell out of me, anyway.”

“I’d say you got me back for it.” The fingertips slid against against his mouth, feeling the words as they left his lips. There was no way Kurosaki could know what he was saying. Grimmjow still didn’t remove them. “Asshole.”

Kurosaki’s eyes widened. “Did you just call me an asshole? I felt you say that! Asshole! You just—” Getting up, spinning around on his knees, he almost clambered up into Grimmjow’s fucking lap in his excitement, half stumbling as their thighs overlapped on the mattress. But his brown gaze was finally brilliant, snapping with energy as he pressed his fingertips back to Grimmjow’s mouth, like that was suddenly something that was okay to do while sprawled half in his lap like a…like Grimmjow didn’t even know what. “Hey, hey say my name.”

“No!” But even the refusal was exciting, because Kurosaki’s eyes were pinned firmly to Grimmjow’s invisible, inaudible mouth in something like wonder. He was guessing the words off the movement of his lips by resting his fingertips against them. Clever, if you were into that kind of thing. Simple words were probably possible. It didn’t change the fact he was practically shoving his fingers into Grimmjow’s fucking mouth .

“Come on, just before you go. Like a favour.” Some of the energy faded, dulling down, dancing the edge of loss. “Just…one more time.”

One last time, Grimmjow silently corrected, feeling tired. They’d really sunk down this far. An arrancar with no direction to go in and a shinigami-human that had to touch his enemies just to know their words. The sigh he let out blew over the soft fingertips pressed to his lips. He didn’t know if he could feel it.

“Kurosaki.” Grimmjow said it long and slow and carefully, and the smile he got in return as he sounded the syllables out made the cold night suddenly feel as warm as day. So he said it again. “Kurosaki.”

That time, the smile faded, but his eyes stayed warm. Kurosaki cleared his throat a little and looked away from his fingertips, letting his hand fall to his lap. Grimmjow didn’t know what magic spell that’d worked on him, but neither of them seemed to feel like moving from their half-tangle on the bed. Ah, well. Nobody could see his face, or the confused tint of his cheeks. It was the concession of the strong to not swat things so much weaker than him, so why not just sit there for a bit? Not like he had anything better to do.

Hell, Grimmjow had no idea what he was going to do. Go back to Las Noches, maybe. See what Harribel wanted to do with the place. Fuck cleaning up that mess. He wanted a crown, not a broom. Looking at Kurosaki trying to be a tough asshole and not let on how fucked up it had all left him, maybe Grimmjow would trade that crown for his powers. He was so fucking pissed that they’d been robbed. It was a wall of rage he couldn’t climb or break.

“Thanks for humouring me,” Kurosaki said a moment later, eyes looking everywhere but into his. “I had a lot of questions, but…I think this is enough. It wasn’t really about knowing.” He fidgeted slightly.“I suppose this is goodbye, right? Make sure you watch your back out there.” His mouth curled a little. “I’m not going to be around to save you from surprise attacks anymore.”

“Fucker,” Grimmjow snapped back, forgetting all his ideas about going easy on Kurosaki and grabbing him in a headlock. “I was fuckin’ preoccupied with wanting to kill you!” But he only let him gag and choke for a few seconds before he released him. The yank on Kurosaki’s ear was pure spite, though.

Red-faced with partial strangulation and grinning a little, Kurosaki rubbed his ear and watched the mattress dip and move as Grimmjow reached for the window and pushed it fully open this time. The tired disinterest was completely gone, Grimmjow noted with satisfaction. Nice to know he could still shake that shinigami’s shit up. And he was a shinigami, no matter what those other two said. Powers or not, Grimmjow knew one when he saw one. He was just…on hold, for a bit.

“Hey,” Kurosaki said suddenly, just as Grimmjow jumped out the window, finding a foothold in the air. Grimmjow blinked back into the window and ducked the reaching hand that would have poked him in the eye. Slapping it, he watched Kurosaki lean out on the windowsill until they were almost nose to nose. From a couple of inches away, the night made his eyes almost black; his pupils large and gaze intense. A good look, Grimmjow thought. Yeah. A real good look to point at him. “If I ever…you know…I mean, I know it won’t happen, but if it does, come find me. I’ll want that fight.”

Kurosaki’s hand was coming out again, seeking his to agree on it, but Grimmjow was busy grinning down into an honest, steadfast gaze. Eyes like a damn challenge—and a promise. They were good eyes. Since he was so close, anticipation buzzing in his chest all over again, Grimmjow tilted his head and bit sharply on Kurosaki’s lower lip, just hard enough to draw a little blood. Then he was off, pulling back as Kurosaki cursed and dabbed at his mouth in shock.

“Wait, what’s that one supposed to mean?! Grimmjow! Is it a yes?” When he felt nothing in reply, Kurosaki actually laughed; a single burst of incredulous joy. “I’m taking it as a yes! Don’t fucking die!”

“Back at you, asshole,” Grimmjow called back and leapt for the sky, ripping open the night and taking the image of Kurosaki’s stupid grin and all that energy back to Hueco Mundo with him. Before the garganta closed and sealed off the sight of Kurosaki completely, Grimmjow called back four words.

“You’ll be seein’ me.”

If there was one thing he knew about Kurosaki Ichigo, it was that neither gods nor monsters could keep that asshole down for long.

Yeah.

Kurosaki would definitely be seeing Grimmjow again.