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Serpent’s Kiss


A Canon Divergent Bleach

Yaoi Fanfiction Novel


Gin/Ichigo/Grimmjow


Beverly L. Anderson


Smashwords Edition License Notes


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Table of Contents


Author’s Notes

Chapter One: A Snake in the Fold

Chapter Two: Venomous Bites

Chapter Three: Shedding Skins

Chapter Four: Slither

Chapter Five: Serpentine Visions

Chapter Six: Anti-Venom

Chapter Seven: A Sleeping Leviathan

Chapter Eight: Awakening the Dragon

Chapter Nine: Scales and Claws and Dragon Wings

Chapter Ten: Coiling

Epilogue: The Dragon, The Snake, and the Panther

Author’s Notes

From Beverly…With Love


This is a Canon Divergent yaoi fanfiction novel. This story takes place approximately around three years after the defeat of Aizen. Ichigo has learned to live without his powers. This story diverges from cannon as soon as Ichigo returns to the World of the Living. Ichigo never encounters Xcution and does not learn of his Fullbring. Ichigo instead begins to lead a normal life, or so he tries. Characters in this type of fanfiction may have alterations from their original depiction. There may be events that have occurred in character backgrounds that account for these changes. This is a work of fanfiction; not all elements about the characters will be the same as the original author intended. Names are presented in Western Style (given name, surname). Honorifics are used when appropriate.

This story employs an Arrancar OC as the villain.

Arrancar OCs Kriya Windthunder, Kula, Moab Dali, Medea, Zadie, Dima Entwhistle, Velocity Kahlo, Yvette Iommi, Imelda, Maxi, and Belinda are used courtesy of SapphireTou (Ao3/FFN).

Synopsis

Gin Ichimaru survives Aizen’s attack and escapes into the World of the Living. In doing so, he finds himself hiding in plain sight in Karakura Town. He finds himself, however, drawn to a powerless Ichigo. He senses someone else is watching him as well, and finds himself doing something he didn’t think was possible: caring for what happens to Ichigo. When something comes for Ichigo and escapes to Hueco Mundo with the vulnerable human, Gin finds an unlikely ally, and along the way, learns a lot about what he really is and is not.

Warnings

This is a hardcore yaoi fanfiction. This is rated MA. This contains explicit sexual content. This story includes torture, non-bloody amputation, sexual situations, sexual connotation, non-graphic vore, and other adult themes. The main group Ichigo Kurosaki, Gin Ichimaru, and Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez with a side pairing of Yumichika Ayasegawa and a male OC Arrancar.

This story is not intended to be read by individuals under the age of 18.

Disclaimer

I do not claim ownership of any part of the Bleach universe or of the Bleach characters. Tite Kubo owns this amazing world; I am simply playing within it. Original elements do belong to me. There is no copyright infringement intended and I in no way make money from writing or posting this work of fanfiction.




Chapter One

Snake in the Fold


He wasn’t sure exactly what he thought he was doing. He was supposed to be keeping a low profile. He was supposed to be avoiding detection. He was supposed to be dead, after all. However, here he was, crouched in a tree, overlooking a sidewalk as the boy that had defeated Aizen walked past him without noticing him at all. He was amazed that he had no powers. However, some of his friends did have power. It was lucky he was good at masking his reiatsu.

He’d been watching for quite some time now. He had a hiding place in the world of the living, and considering most people couldn’t see him, he was relatively safe. Of course, people like Kisuke Urahara and Isshin Shiba would be able to sense him, and perhaps Shihōin. Other than that, Ichigo’s companions, while relatively powerful, wouldn’t be able to sense his presence. He fingered the short blade at his waist. Really, why was he so…?

He paused. There it was again. He twirled around and tried to pin down the reiatsu. Whoever it was could mask their reiatsu really well, but now and then, they slipped, and he could get a read on them. He wasn’t the only one trailing the powerless substitute Shinigami.

He noticed it a month after he escaped from the rubble he’d “died” in. He wondered at first why no one came looking for him. Then he understood. Of course, the one person in the world he’d do anything for wouldn’t tell anyone he had survived. She was the closest to his heart, and the one person that cried over his body despite everything he’d done. She knew he’d done it all to protect her. In the end, it was her tears that he regretted seeing the most.

Yes, Gin Ichimaru wasn’t quite as dead as most would like to believe.

Gin had many things about him that were sly and slippery; of course, it was simply in his nature. There were many things about him that no one realized. No one realized he was never on Aizen’s side. Everyone always assumed he was only what was on the surface. He was so much more. He had stayed in the World of the Living at first just because he wanted to hide. It seemed like a good plan. Then, he’d been lounging in a park one day and saw the Shinigami substitute walk by. He had sensed the absence of power. Of course, that made him curious, so he tailed the people that were often with him. Over the next few months he picked up that he’d lost his powers defeating Aizen. He couldn’t even sense spirits anymore.

The boy was broken. He saw it. The look on his face was one he’d seen before. He was powerless. He was unable to do the things he’d done before. He was unable to protect those he loved. At first Gin just followed him out of curiosity, of course. He wanted to see what would become of one that had had so much power at the tip of their fingers only to have it snatched from their grip. He wanted to know what that would be like. So, at first, for over a year, he simply hung on the edges of his world without interfering. He watched as he turned seventeen and his family celebrated, but no one from Soul Society was around. Gin sensed someone now and then, but he never strayed too close to the other higher reiatsu in the area. He definitely didn’t sense the other captains. He kept watching.

Then he started sensing the blips. Strong bursts of reiatsu, captain level or better, but hollow. Arrancar, perhaps? He would never locate them, and could never find an opening garganta. Now and then, he sensed a senkaimon opening, but nothing else. Urahara and occasionally the area Shinigami would dispatch threats. For another long stretch, he waited and watched from the shadows. The strange appearances of abnormally strong reiatsu bothered him. With no opening and closing garganta, whatever it was didn’t leave. Whatever it was had a capability to mask itself quite effectively.

Gin shook his head. It was the ending of July again. He’d watched from a distance as the ex-Shinigami gave his friends what he thought they wanted. He watched and felt the presence again. He took off, not catching the fact that the dark-haired companion of the Shinigami below caught him moving away.

-oooooo-OOOOOO-oooooo-

“I don’t know, Ishida-kun,” Orihime said softly. She was sitting on the grass beside Uryū. “I don’t know what to make of him anymore. It…it’s been over two years. Shouldn’t he have gotten better by now?”

Uryū shook his head. “What can we do? I know what he’s feeling, Orihime, the helplessness of losing all that power. But Kurosaki, even more so. He sacrificed everything to save Soul Society and the World of the Living. He gave up so much, and he really didn’t get anything in return.”

Gin stood far enough away that his presence wouldn’t go detected by the Quincy or the woman, but close enough that he could hear them.

“He never leaves home, and when he does, he just…he’s sad,” she said, sighing.

Uryū nodded. “I know. Urahara has been helping Karin, you know, and Kurosaki pretends not to notice that she can see what he can’t. It hurts him a lot more than he’ll ever say, I think. Knowing that his father even is powerful. I think he feels useless.”

Orihime sighed again and leaned into Uryū’s arms. He looked surprised but he put his arms around her. “Ishida-kun, is it okay to give up on something that will never happen?” she said quietly.

He nodded. “Of course, Inoue. Hopeless causes are just that, hopeless.”

“Kurosaki-kun will never be more than my friend, will he?” she said softly. “Even after everything he did for me, it was for a friend, not for any other reason.”

Uryū swallowed. “Yeah, I’m afraid so, Inoue. I don’t think he’s ever seen you as more than a friend. I doubt he ever will. Giving your heart to someone that can’t accept it will only hurt you. I think…I think sometimes giving up is necessary.”

She nodded then turned and kissed Uryū on the cheek, blushing as she did it and turned away, hiding her face. Uryū blinked, surprised.

“I’m sorry,” she said softly, still not looking at him.

Uryū put his hand on her shoulder. “Don’t be sorry,” he said, softly, pulling her arm to make her turn toward him. “I’m not a hopeless cause.”

Gin sighed, leaping up and heading toward Kurosaki’s house. He didn’t sense Isshin nearby so he landed outside the window in the tree to watch inside. Ichigo slammed the door and tossed his books to the floor and opened the window with a violent shove. He growled and flopped on the bed and ran his hands through his hair. Grin frowned and leapt upon the sill to watch closer. It wasn’t like he could see or hear him, after all.

He watched as Ichigo reached over and grabbed a spiral bound book and began to do something within the pages with a pen. Gin waited. After what seemed like hours, he shut the book and buried his face in the bed. Gin heard a call for dinner come from downstairs from one of his sisters.

“Not hungry,” he yelled, lifting his head and then putting it back down with a sigh. “Never hungry anymore.”

Gin waited a while longer and he fell asleep, then he crept inside as the sun began to set. He sat down beside the sleeping form and picked up the book. He opened the first page to see it was a sketchbook. He frowned and saw that it began as images of the people from Soul Society, then Arrancar, but never anyone living. He realized quickly he was trying to capture the things he could never see again, the spiritual beings. Then there were hollows, all sorts of hollows devouring souls, and being killed by Shinigami. The images became steadily darker and more disturbing as the book continued. Finally, he got to the page he’d drawn when he came home and almost flinched. It looked like he’d been drawing his own Shinigami form, but it was twisted and warped horribly, and beside it was a rough sketch of a hollow of a sort that Gin had no idea that Ichigo would know of, White.

He flipped back over the last few weeks and realized that a lot of the hollows resembled the horned vasto lorde hollow without a hollow hole. The same mask, the same markings, the same things. That was odd, he thought. None of the images were touched again after they were sketched and occasionally they were marked with a single kanji. At first, they were marked with kanji for some attribute of the person he drew. Strength, courage, loyalty, but as the pictures warped, they became more and more rancid. Liar, Fake, False, Ruined, Promises Broken, other things like that continued throughout the latter pages. Gin even found a picture of himself among the sketches; he smiled softly because he’d written the kanji for sacrifice and protection on that page. So, the boy knew what he’d done. Even the Espada and Arrancar were labeled with positive things at the beginning before things began to decay.

He then realized the backs of the pages had notes on them in places. He frowned as he turned the book over and looked the other way. He had thought the boy was in a dark place…but this… He shook his head and put down the book. Taking a huge chance, he put a sleeping kido on him so that he didn’t wake. He had to hope no one was close enough to sense that.

He put the book down by his head and rolled his body to his back. He’d fallen asleep in his school uniform, not even bothering to change or turn down the covers on his bed. He’d been following his routines enough to know he kept himself busy by taking summer classes. Gin glanced around and saw his dresser and found pajamas inside the top drawer and took them out. He quickly pulled the covers out from under him and then set to removing the school clothes. He pulled the shirt off and saw the remains of scars he’d gotten in fights on his chest. He frowned as his thin fingers ghosted over the ribs that were too pronounced on the boy’s body. Was he starving himself?

He unbuckled the belt and the slacks and pulled them off him quickly and then found what he was seeking. He ran fingers down the varying degrees of straight cuts healing on his thighs. They began above the leg band of his underpants, how far up, Gin didn’t see, and ended above his knees. The freshest ones were less than a day old, possibly even from that day. The lines were perfectly straight and evenly measured. He frowned and slipped the pajamas on the boy’s too thin body. He felt the sudden presence of a heavy reiatsu coming toward him so he was out and gone. Isshin, no doubt.

Isshin opened the door on Ichigo’s room and looked in. “Son?” he called, but got no answer. He felt the vague presence of another reiatsu. He frowned and entered the room, looking around. The window was open, of course, it was July, and getting warm. Ichigo was in his bed, asleep. He frowned again, though, because he was in pajamas. Lately, Ichigo had become despondent and reclusive. He knew it, and he knew why, but it was this case that he couldn’t do anything about it. He saw his sketchbook lying open on the bed and picked it up. He blinked. Why was it open to this page?

He closed the book and put it on the table and looked out into the darkness. He swore to all that if that snake bastard was alive, and messing with his son, he would kill him for good this time.

-oooooo-OOOOOO-oooooo-

Gin became increasingly more worried. He was sensing the strong reiatsu incursions more and more often and it was getting harder to tail the Kurosaki boy without being noticed. He had a feeling his visit several weeks before had been noticed by Shiba. He was watching one morning as he sat and watched Ichigo’s sister play soccer. His father and other sister sat with him and he didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. The boy looked pale, though, and more drawn. He noticed Isshin get up and go to the snack stand. He didn’t notice when he suddenly flash stepped behind him.

“Gin Ichimaru,” came Isshin’s voice. Gin winced. Damn.

“Ah, Shiba-taichou,” he said, turning and smiling at him.

Isshin crossed his arms over his shihakuso clad chest. “Kurosaki now. What are you doing following my son?”

“Mah, mah, you don’t wanna know how I’m alive?” Gin said, with his trademark smirk.

“I could care less why or how you’re alive, I want to know what you want with Ichigo. He’s been through enough. He doesn’t need anyone from Soul Society messing with his life while he’s trying to get back to living it,” Isshin said, eyes hard.

Gin snorted. “Living? Is that what your boy is doing? From what I see, he’s not doing much good, you know. You’ve seen what he’s doing to himself?”

“That’s none of your business. It is my business to help him get through it. When he works through it, he’ll be fine,” Isshin said, frowning. Isshin couldn’t hide the internal struggle at how to handle the fact that his son was cutting himself daily and refused to even discuss what was happening to him.

Gin arched a brow under his silver fringe. “Over two years, Kurosaki, I think he’s taking longer to get through it than is good for him. But that’s not why I’m here. Someone else is here, someone with hollow reiatsu. I keep sensing it, and it is following Ichigo. I’m just…”

“No, you don’t get to say things like that. The only one following him is you,” Isshin said. “If I catch you near him again, I will kill you.”

With that, he was gone and Gin stared after him. Well, this didn’t bode well for whatever was going on. He couldn’t tail him with Isshin keeping an eye out for him. He had to hope, though, that if Isshin was keeping such watch out for him, he would sense something else coming for him. He didn’t know what else to do. He couldn’t chance Soul Society getting wind of him being alive.

-oooooo-OOOOOO-oooooo-

Gin’s worries seemed to be well founded when a burst of that same reiatsu flooded near him. He was off in a moment. He sensed Ichigo was far in the other direction. This was good, very good. He rushed toward it and dropped down into the top of an empty warehouse. The presence was covering itself again, but he was on the trail now and it wouldn’t get away from him this time. He leaped down from the rafters in front of a figure that was moving through the lower level.

“Ah!” came the muttered response and Gin found he was crossing Shinso with Pantera and facing the also assumed dead sixth Espada.

“Well, what have we here?” Gin said, locking his gaze on the surprised blue eyes of Grimmjow.

“The fuck are you doing here?” Grimmjow muttered. “Aren’t you fucking dead?”

“Aren’t you dead?” Gin said, smiling at him, unperturbed by the situation at the least it would seem.

“Fuck you, Shinigami bastard,” Grimmjow said, trying to disengage his sword from Gin’s without success.

“Mah, mah, such a foul mouth,” Gin said, dancing around as Grimmjow began to press him.

Grimmjow snorted. “I ain’t gonna fight you, fucker. Not here for that.”

“What are ya here for?” Gin asked smiling still, stepping back but keeping Shinso up at the ready.

“None yer business, fuckface,” Grimmjow snarled, stepping back and holding Pantera up.

Gin looked at him. “No Shinigami forces here now, only one lone powerless substitute that you had quite the fetish for, are you here for him? You are the one following him?”

Grimmjow shook his head in turn. “I’m here for none of yer business,” he said. “’Sides, looks ta me, you are the one following him.”

Gin shook his head and began to respond when they both turned back toward the east where they felt a garganta opening. Gin and Grimmjow both took off toward it at top speed. By the time they arrived, it was still open, and Isshin stood on the ground staring in his shihakuso and Shihōin and Urahara stood near him.

A shadowy figure in the darkness of the garganta looked back with vivid red eyes. Over his shoulder was slung an obviously unconscious Ichigo. He gave them a feral grin and was gone, the garganta snapping closed.

Isshin turned and stared at both Gin and Grimmjow. “It wasn’t either of you.”

Gin and Grimmjow looked at each other and shook their heads. “Who was that?” Gin asked, turning suspiciously toward Grimmjow.

“Fuck, just because whatever that was took him to Hueco Mundo doesn’t mean I know what the shit it was!” he exclaimed.

Isshin shook his head. “I thought…I thought it was one of you.”

At the same time, Grimmjow and Gin looked at Isshin and said, “You knew he was here?” They then glared at each other.

“I did. I thought you were each talking about the other when you said there was another reiatsu following Ichigo. I told you both to leave him alone. I thought…I thought that was it. I don’t know what that was,” he said, turning to Urahara.

Urahara shook his head. “It was hollow, but like nothing I’ve ever seen. The closest I’ve seen to that was…White.”

Isshin’s head snapped up. “White? Ichigo has no power, White isn’t there anymore, what does he matter?”

Urahara shook his head. “No, you don’t understand, since he’s come back, I’ve sensed it. His power, it is still there, under the surface, dormant, waiting to be activated, revived by something. I’m not sure how to do it myself, or I would have spoken of it sooner. It may be that something that forces power onto him will do it, or it may be something else entirely. I’ve been talking to Mayuri about a plan to possibly transfer power to him like Rukia did in the beginning, but we haven’t gotten approval from the Sou-Taichou.”

Gin shook his head. “That doesn’t matter, what are you doing here?” he said, turning to Grimmjow.

Grimmjow shook his head. “Look, I’m fucking here because Starrk wanted to keep an eye on the kid, and I don’t know what the fuck White is.”

Urahara looked at him. “Starrk didn’t perish?”

Grimmjow shook his head. “Starrk’s taken over Las Noches, runs the place now with those of us that survived. Tier and her girls are there, what’s left of the others have gathered there. Lilynette hasn’t recovered yet, so Starrk isn’t up to his full power yet, but she’s mending.”

“Can you open a garganta?” Gin said to Grimmjow.

Grimmjow nodded. “Yeah, I can take us to Las Noches.”

“Let’s go,” he said nodding to him.

Before Urahara and Isshin could even say anything, Grimmjow flicked his fingers and opened it. Gin turned to Isshin.

“I wasn’t here to hurt him, Kurosaki-san. I’ll bring him home.”

With that, the pair disappeared into the darkness.

-oooooo-OOOOOO-oooooo-

Ichigo awoke with a start and realized he couldn’t move. He turned from left to right and saw no one and realized he had no idea where he was. It looked like he was in a cave or something. He was tied down on something but he couldn’t tell what it was. His wrists were secured above his head, and his legs were both strapped down to something at the ankle, but he couldn’t see it because his knees were bent as though his legs were dangling off whatever he was laying on. There was a cloth gag in his mouth.

He looked around but fear began to climb his throat. He knew this place and he had no idea how he was here as a human. He was in Hueco Mundo again.




Chapter Two

Venomous Bites


Grimmjow and Gin stepped out right in the middle of Las Noches, surprising several Arrancar who were sitting around talking in the large central garden. Gin glanced about, more than a little surprised at the changes. The place was different to say the least. The Arrancar he could see weren’t dressed in the white outfits that Aizen had made them wear, instead they were in some sort of Hodge podge of various human styled clothes.

“Well, things changed around here,” Gin said.

Grimmjow shrugged. “Starrk and Harribel wanted it to be different from when Aizen was here. I haven’t seen a lot of the changes, been in the World of the Living watching that damn brat…” he muttered, rolling his eyes at Gin as he headed toward the rooms where Starrk would be.

Gin just now realized that though Grimmjow looked the same for the most part, his clothes were slightly different. Instead of a white jacket, it was more of a dark tan, and his hakama were also a similar color and style. Before long they stopped in front of a door and Grimmjow knocked. There was a guttural response from inside. He opened the door and was a bit surprised. It was colorful.

“Grimmjow-san, you’ve returned with news?” he heard from inside. “And you bring Gin-san with you?”

Starrk was laid out, unsurprisingly, on a mountain of pillows. Lilynette lay with her head on his lap, sleeping deeply it would seem, and as they got nearer, it could see that one of her arms was gone, as was one of Starrk’s. Both were dressed simply in blue colored yukata. Grimmjow nodded to him as he got closer.

“She woken up yet?” he asked.

Starrk looked down at her. “Not yet. It will take time; we were gravely injured in that fight. We should have perished, but for the Shinigami not landing a killing blow. Now tell me, surely the boy hasn’t regained his ability already?”

Grimmjow shook his head. “No, that’s why we’re here. He’s here, in Hueco Mundo.”

Starrk frowned. “I felt no such presence enter. If he is capable of walking between the worlds, I should have sensed his power, it was great before…”

Gin now shook his head. “Nah, he is here as a human.”

Starrk stared at Gin and the Grimmjow. “How?”

Grimmjow shook his head. “I don’t know what took him, Gin says it felt like something Aizen had created a long time ago, a hollow he created, but I’ve got no idea. Whatever it was didn’t feel like any Arrancar, natural or created, that I’ve ever sensed.”

Starrk frowned, shifting in the mound of pillows. “This is concerning.”

Gin spoke up again. “Why did you send Grimmjow to watch the boy?”

“The power, it is not gone, as I am sure you realized. He has great power, it is simply…drained, if you will. I wished to monitor him. This world, what I’ve made of Las Noches, I want it to stay this way, and your Shinigami boy was the only real threat to Hueco Mundo I could sense. One that could bring down Aizen…that is a danger to what I am attempting here,” he said. “All I want is a home for us. Nothing more.”

Gin nodded. “That boy has a pure heart, dear Starrk. If you were to leave him and his alone, he would never bother you.”

Starrk nodded. “I sensed as much, but one pure heart can easily be warped and twisted to another’s will. And it seems someone has realized this. Perhaps I should have sent more than one Arrancar to watch him…” he said, thoughtfully, stroking the green hair on his lap.

“What do you think they want with him?” Grimmjow asked, sighing. “And how can they even do anything? The kid can’t even see spirits anymore; he probably can’t see shit here.”

The door opened and closed and Gin and Grimmjow looked up to see Tier Harribel coming into the room. “That would be so, Grimmjow-san, if it were not Hueco Mundo. Even a human unable to see spirits would see us here because of the ambient reiatsu around us. So even in human form, he will see. However, he will die quickly here in that form. Humans are not as resilient to the conditions here.”

“How do we find him? He has no reiatsu to speak of,” Gin said, frowning. “I had trouble tracking him in the world of the living because of it.”

“I may be able to get something from Velocity,” Harribel said thoughtfully. “I’ll return. Will you be leaving soon?” she asked Gin, with a frown.

“Ah, yes, sooner the better, he is not able to defend himself like this, and we know not what this whatever it is will do to him,” Gin said. “Are there still food stores?” he asked, turning toward Starrk.

Starrk nodded. “Yes, the kitchens are still stocked, several of the Arrancar gained a taste for human food, and as you can tell, clothes, since they’ve come here,” he said with a smile, shifting again. It was then that Gin realized something. He wasn’t just missing his arm; he was missing his leg on that same side as well. Lilynette, though, seemed to have both her legs from what he could tell.

“I will go and load a couple packs, Grimmjow will you come with me?” Gin said, turning to leave.

“I’ll go find the brat,” he said, groaning. “My fault he got out of my sight…” he muttered, following Gin from Starrk’s quarters.

A few minutes later found them both packing packs of various food stuffs. Gin looked up when he heard a familiar voice speak his name. He hadn’t thought about him in a while, he thought to himself, and just as he turned around he was nearly tackled by a thin flying Arrancar grabbing him in a bone-crushing hug.

“Mah, mah, Dima, excitable as ever,” he said, straining to stay upright.

Grimmjow just rolled his eyes and continued packing away food and some water containers into the packs. Dima obviously had not changed since he’d gone to the world of the living. Dima Entwhistle had been one of the Arrancar that had evolved from a vasto lorde hollow, however, he was found to lack the “killing intent” necessary to become an Espada. Dima and Gin had also spent a lot of time very closely while Gin was in Las Noches.

“Gin! I thought you were dead!” he said, excitedly, letting Gin go finally to hop back and forth on the balls of his feet.

“Oi, always overstated,” Gin said with his signature smile.

“I’ve missed you!” Dima said, smiling at him.

Dima was a thin, lean looking Arrancar, all sinewy muscle and tone. He was one of the more agile ones, and tended to move with great dexterity and grace. He had very long reddish tinged gold hair, though it was a bit darker than strawberry blonde would have been. His mask fragment sat across the crown of his head like some sort of thin headband. If someone didn’t know better, though, they’d believe him to be female based on his face. Gin smiled and looked him over.

“Where in the three worlds did you get those clothes?” he asked, blinking.

“Do you like it?” he asked, spinning around. He was wearing a pair of tight black shorts that stopped above his knees and a large, loose red top that slid off one shoulder and fell to his hips. He was wearing something underneath it; Gin could see a strap on the one shoulder. It was bright pink.

Gin smirked. “It is very you, Dima.”

“So, what are you doing here, Gin? Did you come back for good? What are you doing?”

“Shush, now, calm down,” Gin said, smirking. “I’m here trying to find someone that was kidnapped to Hueco Mundo, a human.”

Dima tilted his head to the side. “A human in Hueco Mundo? That’s why you’re getting food and water. Why would anyone bring a human here? A human, not a human soul?”

Grimmjow grunted as he hefted the pack up. “That’s right, human. So, we gotta find him quick. We ain’t even sure who took him, but the potential damage is high if whoever it is manages to activate his Shinigami or hollow powers.”

Dima frowned and shook his head. “What? Shinigami and Hallow powers? A human?”

Gin nodded. “You want to come with us?” he asked. “He could be used against Las Noches, that is what Starrk is afraid of. He is only human here.”

“If we aren’t too late, Ichigo won’t last long without his powers,” Grimmjow muttered disheartened.

“Ichigo?” Dima said, pausing as he helped Gin pack the bag. “That boy…the one that defeated Aizen?” he said, looking at Gin suspiciously. Dima remembered Gin talking about him. He remembered him talking about him quite a bit, actually.

Gin nodded, putting the last of some dried meat into the bag and zipping it up. “Yah, and he may not have power right now, but he’s still dangerous in the wrong hands.”

Dima followed a few steps behind the other two before pausing. “Hey, wait by the exit, we could use a couple other hands, okay?” he said, turning and dashing off.

Gin watched him go. “If you two start fucking while we’re out there, I will kill you both,” Grimmjow muttered under his breath. Gin snorted.

“That was long ago, Grimmjow-san,” Gin retorted with a sigh.

“Um hum, I think you’ve got yer eye on a different red headed spit-fire this time, don’t ya?” he said, turning and smirking at Gin. There was a look in his eye, though, something more than interest.

Gin frowned and started to say something but saw Gin coming back with Harribel’s three fraccion. Well, they weren’t really fraccion anymore, it seemed Starrk had gotten rid of the structure of Las Noches along with the uniforms. Dima smiled as he approached.

“Harribel agreed that we could use the backup, just in case we ran into something out there,” he said with a nod. “And she gave Apacci something Velocity made, it should track a non-spirit in Heuco Mundo.”

Grimmjow sighed. “Enough fucking chit-chat, let’s go,” he said, heading out in the lead with the others following him. Luckily for them, things were calm at the moment. Mila Rose gave the device over to Grimmjow and he nodded. Easy enough, it seemed. It located a source of non-spiritual energy and locked onto it.

“Got something,” he muttered, and they started walking toward the signal. At the end of a long walk, they agreed it was time to rest for a short while. Then they were up again and heading toward the source. They were nearing what looked like a cavern system. Grimmjow stopped them with an arm and listened.

“I heard something,” he said, glancing at the thing. It said the signal was close. They moved quietly for a while longer and then they definitely heard something. It was screaming.

-oooooo-OOOOOO-oooooo-

“I see you’ve awakened,” came a rough voice from behind Ichigo’s vision. A second later, he felt the gag loosen and fall away.

“Wha…how can I hear you? You’re a spiritual being, I can’t see them anymore…” he said. “I can’t hear them either,” he said, pulling again at the bindings but they were tight.

A cloaked and hooded figure moved around the end of the table or rock or whatever the hell he was tied down to now. “You’re in Hueco Mundo. You can see and hear spirits here because of the ambient energy. Even someone like you with no reiatsu at all can see us here,” the figure said, and Ichigo could see white inside the depths of the hood and shining red eyes.

“Who are you? What do you want? My powers are gone. I’m worthless to you here,” Ichigo said, growling under his breath and laying his head back in defeat. There was no way he was getting these bindings off.

“Ah, I am nothing, but I was named Garandō. And you see, you’re wrong there. You are worth quite a bit to me, especially here. I don’t care about your silly Shinigami power. I want the hollow; I want my kin,” it said, and reached a clawed hand out and sliced down the front of Ichigo’s shirt, sliding easily through the skin as well.

Ichigo frowned, watching the blood bead on his chest. “Well, he’s gone, so you are out of luck.”

The figure shook its head. “No, he’s in here,” he said, touching Ichigo’s chest where the hollow hole had at one point opened. He traced a large circle with the razor-sharp claw. “So, the question is, how do I make him come out and play…I watched as Ulquiorra put a cero through your chest. And you survived. So, do I do that again?” he said, holding up a hand and a black colored cero started to form that almost seemed to suck the light in around it.

Ichigo’s eyes went wide. “I can’t take a cero in this form! There won’t even be a fucking body left!”

The cero faded. “True. So perhaps persistent application of pain would be the way to achieve my goal. Instant regenerators are so enjoyable, so we shall begin with dissection of the body. Perhaps the hollow will emerge to replace limbs once I’ve removed them.”

Ichigo blinked madly. “What? No, no, you can’t do that this is my human body, it won’t regenerate even if my soul form would, you stupid bastard! Stop this!”

The face, if it could be called a face, within the darkness of the hood tilted in a smile. “But it will be enjoyable to me. You will not bleed to death; my sword is fire based. It will cauterize the wound immediately.”

“That’s not the problem! You can’t go cutting pieces of me off!” he screamed at him.

“I can, and will,” he said, lifting a short tanto style sword that suddenly started burning bright red.

“No, no, no,” Ichigo said as he kneeled beside where his leg was tied to the side of the table he was one.

“Sorry, too late,” the figure muttered and Ichigo’s stomach twisted.

He felt the heat of the blade coming toward his leg, just above the ankle. Then it was like a sudden flash of heat and pain seared through him and despite himself he let out a choked scream. The bastard had cut off his foot, holy fuck, he thought to himself. He really did it. The pain was nearly unbearable as between the cut and the burning of the wound by the weapon, he couldn’t see straight anymore and passed out cold.

He woke sometime later and had been moved from the table. He started to get up and coughed when something choked him. A collar, he thought, reaching up and feeling a metal collar of some sort around his neck. He turned and followed the chain attached to the collar to the wall behind him. The table he’d been tied to earlier was in the center of the room, and he didn’t see the guy anywhere. He winced as in his moving he jarred his leg. He glanced down, hoping it had been a dream, only to find out it was definitely not. Ichigo whimpered as pain shot up his calf again. The bastard hadn’t even bandaged it. He leaned back against the wall with a thump. He closed his eyes, begging the hollow bastard to be there, but like always, ever since Aizen, he felt absolutely nothing.

After a few minutes, the bastard came back. “Awake again?”

Ichigo looked away from him. “Don’t blame me, if that hollow would cooperate, this would be over,” he said, kneeling beside him again. “Now, are you any closer to feeling his presence?”

Ichigo turned back to him and growled. “No! Nothing! You’ve done this for nothing!” he growled at him.

There was an audible sigh from him. “Unfortunate. Please, do try not to die of shock before I’m done with you, I really, really need the hollow,” he said and before Ichigo could even move from where he was sitting with his legs out, he lashed down again with his sword, this time severing Ichigo’s leg right above the knee while he was watching.

Ichigo stared for a moment and looked up at him, and he was grinning inside the depths of the hood. “Eventually, I’ll run out of bits to chop off and cut your head off, or the hollow will emerge to save himself from dying,” he said and Ichigo didn’t even scream, he just passed out.

Ichigo awoke the next time when water splashed over him. He sputtered and pushed himself up on his side and yelped at the intense pain that shot up from the remains of his left leg. If he cut any higher, he was going to lose more than his limb.

“Time to wake up again,” came the voice. “Anything yet?”

Ichigo shook his head. “Please, stop this, he’s not here, he’s not here…”

“Perhaps going for the leg first was a mistake,” he said. “Too much trauma and not enough pain. I believed that such a major injury would draw him out. Perhaps I was wrong. We’ll slow the application,” he said, and pulled a small table over with a chair beside Ichigo. “Now, this is much more fun,” he said and grabbed Ichigo’s hand and slammed it to the table. A cuff slithered up and over his left wrist to hold it in place. Ichigo couldn’t pull away or he was going cut off his air with the collar.

“What is it you human’s play, this little piggy?” he said, looking over at Ichigo’s pale face. “Let us begin with this little piggy. One joint at a time, yes?” he said, pulling Ichigo’s little finger away and putting the tanto over the first joint. “Now, the hollow should really put a stop to this, right?”

Ichigo sobbed now. “He’s gone, I have no power, stop, please…it won’t…” Ichigo ground his teeth as the blade slid through the bone. “He can’t…there’s no…” The second joint slid away. “Oh kami, stop, anything just stop!” he screamed at him. The last part of the smallest finger fell away. Ichigo could feel blood bubbling up around his wrist where he was trying desperately to pull it out of the living shackle, whatever it was it didn’t matter, and it had teeth or something digging into him when he pulled away.

“Keep that up, and my pet will just sever your hand off at the wrist and all this finger cutting won’t count,” he said, red eyes boring into him. “You can stop it. Bring out the hollow.”

“I can’t!” Ichigo screamed at him. “I’ve tried!”

“Then we go to the next little piggy,” he said happily, pulling Ichigo’s next finger over. “Then when I’m done, we’ll go to the next and the next and the thumb, then the wrist, then the elbow, and oh, you get me, right? Then, we’ll go to the other side. Starting with toes this time on the leg, and work my way up. And finally, I’ll take your other arm, a piece at a time. And if, by some miracle, you’re still alive and in this pitiful human form, I’ll cut off your head. And if you are lucky, you’ll just die.”

Ichigo screamed again as he sliced into the first joint, and was babbling completely incoherently when he asked him about the hollow again. He wasn’t sure he stopped screaming actually after the second cut into it…and the third he wanted to just pass out. Then his tormenter heard something. He frowned, picking up the blade and leaving Ichigo there with his wrist still attached to the whatever it was. He was light headed, sick, all sorts of things, and he couldn’t move without pain.

The shackle holding him into the table was digging deeper into his wrist now, and he could see blood trickling down and pooling under it. Good, he thought. Maybe he’d just bleed to death.

It was no surprise that when someone touched his shoulder he screamed and threw his hand over his head, thinking he’d come to continue his attempts.

“Ichigo!” he heard through the pounding in his ears and he wasn’t sure but he thought he recognized the voice. “Break that,” he heard as the world faded in and out around him. The pressure was off his neck and now he could feel someone touching his arm where the teethed shackle was holding him.

“The fuck,” he heard another familiar voice. He was hearing dead people, so he was sure that he must really be dying then. Then there was a shrill pain as the thing clamped deeper into his wrist and he screeched, flailing to try and use his other arm to get it off him.

“Stop!” he heard and he felt someone holding his upper body.

“I don’t know how to get this off,” he heard a different voice, someone he didn’t know. “It’s a hollow of some sort, Gin, do you have your Zanpakutō? Maybe I can cut it and it will dissipate.”

There was a moment when it tightened again and he whined loudly then it disappeared and his hand fell to the ground which shot pain up his arm and he cried out again. “Find something, wrap it. I’ll use kido to stop the bleeding,” he heard and then felt the warmth that came from magical healing and he finally relaxed into whoever was holding him.

“They’re gone, whoever they were. I trailed him into the sands, and he just disappeared,” came a female voice into Ichigo’s fogged mind.

“Ichigo, can you hear me?” that voice again. “I need you to open your eyes?”

Ichigo blinked, struggling with his eyes that didn’t want to move. He found himself looking up into perhaps the most unexpected face. “Gin?” he muttered, brows knitting in a scowl.

“Ah, there you are,” Gin said with a smile, though Ichigo could see the vivid blue of his eyes under the fringe of silver hair. “I’ve got you; we came to find you as quickly as we could.”

“He…he wanted…the hollow,” Ichigo said, realizing he was freezing, and starting to shiver violently. “S-said that he would c-come out...to reg-generate…the limbs…but-but he was wrong…he didn’t come…he didn’t come…” he said, eyes rolling up into his head.

A long way away he heard his name being called again, but he was so tired and freezing cold, he just wanted to sleep.





Chapter Three

Shedding Skins


Gin’s first thought was they had to get him back to the World of the Living to the woman. She’d healed Grimmjow’s lost arm easily enough. Surely a leg and a couple fingers were nothing. He looked up to Grimmjow.

“Can you open the garganta to the living world?” he asked slowly, looking up from the boy in his arms.

The whole thing had not happened as he expected. They certainly didn’t expect to find the thing that abducted the boy to be in the middle of literally cutting off pieces of his body. The hollow or whatever it was fled immediately when presented with their superior numbers and Gin for some strange reason felt a pang of something he hadn’t felt for a long time. He had brushed it away. He was on a mission after all. He had to get the boy back to the world of the living or at the very least Las Noches. He ignored the fact that he was perhaps become more than a little obsessed with the previous Shinigami substitute.

Grimmjow nodded and then looked annoyed. “I can’t. For some reason, I can’t open one…”

“Grimmjow!” he heard Apacci yell from outside. “We’ve got incoming. A lot of incoming.”

Grimmjow went to the entrance. “Holy fucking shit…” he muttered and looked back at Gin.

“There’s a fucking army of hollows headed this way. And I mean, a fucking army. There must be thousands of them, and a lot of them are adjunca class. I can’t open a garganta, can you find another exit from the caves and try and make it around with him? I have a feeling this is whatever that was…” Grimmjow said, snarling a bit.

Gin nodded. “Are you sure you can handle…” he began.

“Fuck, get your freaky ass out of here, we got this, five of us, all of us Arrancar, they don’t stand a chance, just might take for fucking ever, so get him back to Las Noches, and see if they can’t get him back to that Inoue woman,” he said, turning and pulling his sword from his hip.

Dima turned to him and smiled. “Go, Gin. Really. You’ve got to keep him away from whatever this is.”

Dima headed for the opening of the cave but looked back and saw something he sort of wished he hadn’t. It was the look the crossed Gin’s face when he looked at Ichigo’s form. He could see that he wanted Ichigo to live. He smiled to himself. If that was Gin’s wish, and if it would make Gin happy, he would do his very best to make sure the human lived and not only that, thrived. More than anything, he wished to see Gin happy no matter what it took.

Gin sighed as he watched the others leave the exit. He took a breath and gathered him up as gently as he could into his arms and started walking slowly further back to find an exit. He could Shunpo once he got outside, but there wasn’t a way to do so inside the cavern. He moved quickly, though, finding it more difficult to hold onto a body in less than whole condition while he moved. He stopped and shifted his body over his back instead of in his arms, hoping that it would let him move less hindered since he was completely dead weight at the moment. He was careful and wrapped his hand around his arms, keeping the one with the missing digits on the outside, and tucked him so his injured leg was not going to be hurt further as he moved.

Finally, Gin was growing tired and found his way into a small inner cavern. He was no closer to the exit that he could tell. Long ago, he left the sounds of fighting behind him. He gently sat Ichigo down and pulled out a water canteen. He had to get something in him. He’d been missing for nearly two days already by count of the world of the living, so he was going to be needing it desperately by now. Gin was sure that whatever this hollow creature was, it didn’t understand how to keep a human alive.

Gin moved to kneel beside him. He stroked his head gently, and spoke quietly, “Ichigo, you need to wake up for a bit, I have some water for you.”

Ichigo at least twitched, which was more than he’d done while he carried him. More than once he’d wondered if he’d just died from shock, but he could feel his heart beating rapidly against his shoulders where he held him. Gin dipped a finger into the water and let the droplets fall onto Ichigo’s lips. Immediately his eyes fluttered and he licked at the water that was trying to escape him. Gin put a hand on him.

“Shh, calm, calm, there’s more,” Gin said and pulled him upward enough to put the lip of the canteen against his mouth.

Ichigo immediately tried to grab it but winced when he felt the pain shoot up from his mangled hand. He stopped and let Gin control it and got a few good drinks before he shook his head. He began to cough and sputter a bit as Gin put it away. He panted and cracked open his eyes and looked up at Gin.

“Guess it’s too much to ask that I’m dreaming all this,” he muttered.

Gin shook his head. “’Fraid not,” he said. “But whatever that thing was, it is busy now with Grimmjow and the others I left behind with it.”

Ichigo shivered violently, though Gin wasn’t sure if it was from fear or cold. “It’s terrible. It…it said it would keep c-cutting pieces of me off until the-the hollow came out…”

Gin nodded. “But he’s not there, is he?”

Ichigo shook his head. “I begged the bastard, pleaded with him, but he won’t come out or he can’t. I just…why does that thing think I can make him come back? He’s gone, all my power’s gone, it isn’t coming back. I’m just a fucking worthless and weak human and I’m going to die here now because of it.”

Gin settled down beside him. “Mah, I doubt that, boy. You’ve still got power. Just down deep. Urahara was already trying to figure out how to give it back to ya before you got snagged and drug back here.”

Ichigo sighed and nodded, leaning back against the stone wall and felt a shiver take him again. Gin looked at him and frowned. He wasn’t entirely sure that Ichigo had even heard what he said. His eyes were wide and dilated, and most definitely unfocused. He was completely uninformed when it came to human bodies. “What can I do?” he said finally.

Ichigo shook his head. “St-still in sh-shock. It’s freezing here, you know, never n-noticed it before…you’d think a desert…would be hot.” His teeth clacked together harshly in the quiet of the small cavern he’d pulled them into.

Gin leaned over and put a finger against his pulse and winced. He was sure his pulse shouldn’t be that high. It almost felt like a small animal, not a human. Gin frowned, and looked around. He had nothing to cover him with, and he supposed by human standards this cavern system would be quite cold. He instead sat down and put an arm around him slowly. Ichigo started, looking panicked for a moment as though he’d forgotten where he was.

“Hush, now, I’ve got to rest before we move again, yah? Now here, I have nothin’ to cover you with, so…” Gin said with a shrug and Ichigo sighed and sank into his hold. He seemed to pass out again, lying limply against his body.

This was perhaps the worst-case scenario. Gin was a Shinigami, not a human. He had no idea what to do with him like this. A Shinigami would have started healing, and his kido would have worked a lot better. Gin picked up the injured hand and unwrapped it carefully. Where the shackle hollow had bit into Ichigo’s wrist, it was turning a strange color of yellowish orange. Gin winced, knowing that wasn’t right. He turned his hand over and realized that the yellowish color was starting to crawl up his arm, now halfway to his elbow. Frowning, Gin cast a kido over his arm and winced.

“Oh, fuck,” Gin muttered, closing his eyes and leaning his head back into the wall with a thump. The wound was poisoned. The toxin was slowly making its way up his arm. He was going to have to cut the poisoned portion off or he was going to die when the poison reached his heart.

-oooooo-OOOOOO-oooooo-

Grimmjow hadn’t killed so many hollows in a long time. He certainly didn’t think the four other Arrancar had either. However, they stood over a mountain of hollow corpses, each one looking like they’d fought an army alone. Grimmjow stood in resurrección and screamed at the top of his lungs.

“We killed your army, you bastard! Show yourself!” As he spoke the three females came up beside him and Dima with them.

They heard a slow clap and turned back behind to see the cloaked figure that had escaped earlier standing in the entrance to the cave. “Wonderful show,” he said.

Grimmjow leaped down to stand in front of him. “You ready to fight or are you just going to hide some more?”

A white smile flashed in the depths of the hood. “Oh, I don’t want to fight. I want what is mine. White; my kin.”

“I dunno what the fuck this white is but if cutting up a human kid is your method, I think you’re fucked up,” Grimmjow said with a snarl. He was amazed at exactly how angry this had made him.

Again, the almost floating white smile showed itself in the darkness. “Ah, but he’s not really just a human kid, is he? Besides, I give him, perhaps another two hours before he dies. The shackle hollow I had tamed…it has very venomous bite. I could save him…well, what’s left of him. But you’ll have to give him to me.”

Grimmjow shook his head. “He’s already back at Las Noches. Sorry, don’t have ‘im.”

The smile faltered. “A shame. I’ll have to come and get him.”

He disappeared as quickly as he’d appeared.

“Fucker!” Grimmjow said, letting his resurrection go and putting Pantera away. “Let’s get back to Las Noches, surely Gin has gotten there by now. That bastard is faster than half the Espada.”

However, when they got to Las Noches, they found that Gin had not yet returned. Grimmjow took off toward Starrk’s room, bursting inside. Starrk looked up from his piled-up pillows. “What happened?”

Grimmjow explained what had happened and then shook his head. “I sent Gin with Ichigo back. He’s not here.”

Starrk nodded. “We may need help with this.”

Starrk reached over Lillynette’s still head and picked up a strange looking instrument. He pressed a few buttons and an image of one of the Shinigami, the captain of the twelfth, Mayuri Kurosuchi appeared inside it.

“What is it?” he said, glancing up at a monitor.

“Taichou, you said to use this in case of emergency, this may qualify, depending on the importance you place on the fact that Gin Ichimaru is alive and here in Hueco Mundo, lost currently, in his attempt to rescue a powerless human Ichigo Kurosaki,” Starrk said, pausing to yawn in the middle. There was a silent moment.

“I knew something was wrong, that bastard Urahara hasn’t contacted me in a week,” he muttered. “I’ll bring a group across.”

“My thanks, Kurosuchi-Taichou,” Starrk said with another yawn. “Grimmjow, please arrange another search party. See if Velocity can be of any further help. I fear I must rest once more. Regeneration is so very tiring,” he muttered, lying back in his pillows.


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