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Après Moi, Le Déluge

Chapter Text

Mid September, 2018.
Karkura Town, Japan

On a normal Tuesday, Ichigo Kurosaki, 19, would find himself free of his daily exhausting lectures by around 3pm. With a sudden burst of vigor a stark opposite to his day long lethargy, he would push past crowds of his fellow classmates and leave his MedSchool campus, making his way to the parking lot where his best friend, classmate and roommate Shinji would be waiting besides his horrendous mustard ("it's a dull golden!") car as his Lab always finished earlier than the redhead.

On a normal Tuesday they would make a stop at Cafe Kafka where Rukia Kuchiki and Tatsuki Arisawa, fellow classmates and Ichigo's long time friends, would already be found sitting at their designated table, the one besides the window with the overhead air conditioner (that was turned off these days due to the increasingly chilly Fall weather) and the perfect view of the counter and the baked goods set on display whose aroma wafted over deliciously setting up to what Shinji referred to as the perfect hangout atmosphere, (and to what Tatsuki referred to as Shinji's crazy perfectionist heaven.)

On a normal Tuesday they'd have a light snack before Tatsuki would get up for her 4pm shift as a waitress and the rest would leave. Ichigo and Shinji would then huddle back into their shared apartment, binge watch whatever movies were on in the late afternoon before Renji arrived in the evening to take them out for the mandatory weekly Guy's Night.

This wasn't a normal Tuesday.

For starters, Shinji had been stuck in his Lab overtime due to his Pathology Professor's TA having messed up the microscope slides, or well that's what the redhead assumed. Ichigo glared at the screen of his mobile, eyebrows drown in a scowl of frustration. His blond friend had literally the worst chatspeak he had ever witnessed.

Ichigo sighed as he stuffed his books back into his backpack haphazardly, plopping his iPod in the front pocket of his hoodie as he shrugged on his bag, following the rest of his classmates out of the Lecture Hall. The afternoon was slightly windy, the redhead noted as he pulled the hood over his bright orange spikes, rubbing his hands together for some warmth before stuffing them into the large pocket as he made the ten minute walk from the Lecture Hall complex to the Student's Parking Lot. He had decided to stop by the college cafe near there to kill some time before Shinji got free otherwise if the blond didn't get free soon, or find a way to sneak out, he'd take the bus home.

The redhead wrinkled his nose as he stepped into the crowded room bustling with people, and narrowly avoided a spastic brunette who dashed past him hurriedly, her coffee cup overflowing and threatening to spill. He stood in line and finally, at his turn, he nodded at the guy behind the counter in acknowledgment who only gave a brief curious look at his bright coloured hair before a small curious grin tugged at his lips.

Ichigo only scowled in response.

"Good afternoon Sir, what may I get you?" Ichigo scanned the menu above before frowning. He hated the coffee they served here and wasn't really up for dessert at all today; his stomach had been acting up ever since Renji had made them try that new Thai restaurant two days back. Ichigo had made sure to send them an extremely annoyed and unpleasant review on their website. A just punishment for them making his stomach act like it was trying to eat itself.

He shook his head and furrowed his eyebrows.

"I'll have a strawberry cheesecake." Which, irony, yes but Ichigo would be dead before he let anyone take a shot at his favourite dessert choice. He scowled at the barista whose grin had widened and the guy coughed in a failed response to cover it up before nodding.

Ichigo plopped down on a vacant table, setting his plate down next to his bag before taking out his phone again to check for any new messages from Shinji. Finding none, he sighed before digging into his cheesecake.

It was approximately half an hour later when his phone buzzed, vibrating on the table, catching his attention from the music coming out of his iPod. Hitting pause, he reached forward and swiped the screen of his mobile open.

Fcking hell Ichi. Hes stll nt lttng us out! -.- i wnt to set ths bitch on fire. she keeps askng qs! Ill w8 5 more mns othrwse im breakn outtt! - Shinji Hirako, 3:37 pm

HAHA, we just finished the last of those blueberry muffins. :p sucks to be you really, berryboy. – Tatsuki Arisawa, 3:39pm

I know you live for whatever small victories you can find, Arisawa. I'll let you have this one. – Ichigo Kurosaki, 3:40pm to Tatsuki Arisawa

If I have to sit here and deal with this idiotic barista making eyes at my hair one more time, I'm going to punch him. It may get ugly. I regret nothing. – Ichigo Kurosaki, 3:40pm to Shinji Hirako

Ichigo sighed as he finished out his response, before clicking his phone shut. He rubbed the back of his neck, easing out some of the tension as he traced the bare skin there. On top of the food poisoning, staying at campus overtime and being made fun of by the barista nonverbally, Ichigo had managed to lose his pendant. Its chain had gotten a bit weak from the redheads bad habit of fidgeting with it whenever he was concentrating on his assignments and it had most likely fallen off in his room when he was getting ready. Even knowing that it was most likely lying on the floor next to his cupboard or in the tiled washroom floor did nothing to ease up Ichigo's anxiety. The pendant had been given to him by his mother and he had it ever since he could remember; the cold press of the thin silver chain and the tiny inverted Y crossed with V symbol attached to it was something he was so accustomed to that without it the redhead felt exposed and naked.

He blinked as his phone buzzed again.

jst gt dne! Im ltrlly flyng my wy out of hre! Shinji Hirako, 3:51pm

"Finally," Ichigo muttered, sighing to himself in relief as he stood up, moving towards the exit.

The sky had darkened a bit, the wind blowing a bit faster as Ichigo made his way to the Parking Lot, leaves crunching underneath his sneakers as he increased his pace to a light jog. The Lot was mostly empty, he observed, most of the cars gone save for a few. He smiled politely at some of his classmates leaving the area, making his way to the bright coloured atrocity that called itself Shinji's transport. Ichigo adjusted the strap of his bag, shuffling his feet, as he glanced around for a sign of an approaching blond head. It was when he glanced back towards the car's passenger side window facing him that the redhead startled, dropping his iPod from his hand. He took a sharp intake of breath at the site of a dark haired haggard looking boy staring back at him.

Ichigo turned around to face the stranger but was midway in motion when he felt a sharp stinging pain across the base of his spine, like tiny pin prick needles radiating from the base all the way to his neck. He gasped, leaning forward in pain, before he felt something hard hit him across the back of his head and everything went black.


When Ichigo regained his consciousness, he winced, reaching forward to grasp at the side of his head. It felt like his skull was being split into two, a deep throbbing ache was present just behind his eyes and was steadily intensifying and when he pulled his hand back, it was smeared dark red and wet. Ichigo had to blink several times to see clearly, his vision blurred, and his head dizzy.

The redhead looked up, squinting to clear up his vision, and all he could see was darkness. He could make out all trees, going up into the sky, silent except for the whistling of the leaves against the light wind. It was dark, possibly after 8 or 9pm, and the moon was half out, most of it hidden behind dark clouds. Ichigo moved to sit up a bit, his legs cramping up and gritted his teeth as he felt his right wrist throb in pain. His iPod lay next to him covered in dirt and it was then that he looked down and realized he was lying down on the bare ground; mud and dirt clinging to his clothes and fingers as he slowly moved his limbs to a sitting position. Ichigo winced as he brushed away his bangs, now wet and sticking together from the blood that was dripping from his head wound.

It was when his vision cleared a bit after a while, that Ichigo realized he was sitting in the middle of a huge pentagram, drawn intricately onto the dirt with a chalk. Tiny candles lay lit at the apex of each of the five pointed ends of the pentagram, their flames, small and wisp like, fluttering away along with the wind.

He made to crawl a bit forward, reaching for his bag which lay just outside the star, and inside which his phone lay, when he felt something stop him. He tried again, reaching forward with his hand, eyes narrowed in confusion, only to be stopped again. Ichigo tried once again, pushing at the air in frustration and confusion, flexing his hand before trying again, only for it to reach halfway and stop as if opposed by some invisible barrier.

"Oh how the prey struggles against its cage!" A giggle came from behind him and Ichigo jumped a bit, eyes wide, fists clenched as an automatic response as he turned towards the sound; ignoring the throb at the base of his head as he did so. How much blood he had lost, he had no idea at this point.

The boy from the parking lot stood there, illuminated against the moonlight. His eyes were sunken and bloodshot, wide lavender iris's staring at him in amusement and glee. His face was smudged with dirt, covering his pale skin and even some of his dark hair, as it lay straggly and limp. A single white piece of what, to Ichigo's horror, looked like a piece of bone dangled from the dark tresses. He was covered in a white clothe, like a robe of some sort, that was dirty and torn in places giving way to a lean slim body that would have confused Ichigo on the person's gender if his flat chest wasn't on display. But what made the redhead's blood run cold was the tiny silver intricate looking dagger in the boy's hand. Ichigo swallowed inaudibly, eyes narrowed as he turned his eyes back onto the boy's as he made to sit on his knees facing the redhead, letting out another sharp giggle.

"My dear child, is it not such a beautiful night?" The boy stroked at his own cheek with his left hand, his mouth opening into a wide smile that crinkled his eyes. There was something off about the look in his eyes, his posture too stiff, his body language distorted and off, that reigned in Ichigo's temper and he took a few calming breaths.

"What do you want?" He muttered, quietly. Ichigo quickly tallied if he could feel his wallet in his jean's pocket and realized he that he could. If his wallet, iPod and phone (presumably) were still in his possession, then what did this person want? And where was he? What was this pentagram? Why couldn't he move?

"How the mind analyzes! How it calculates and tries to understand! What do you see, poppet? Do you feel it too?" The boy suddenly made an abortive forward motion into the chalk line, moving on his knees towards Ichigo, towards the centre, and the redhead made a few steps backwards. The boy stopped, dangling the dagger between his fingertips with grace that betrayed his appearance. He twirled it around his long spindly fingers as his eyes remained fixed on Ichigo, wide and unblinking.

"If you're looking for money or valuables, you can take them, I don't have much money and-", Ichigo was cut off by another sharp giggle.

"Oh joy! Oh joy oh joy oh joy! How it acts so innocently! How it deceives!" The boy clapped his hands together, the dagger falling down onto the earth with a plop. Ichigo made a few moves back until his back was once again stopped from moving any furthur; from that same invisible barrier that stopped him earlier.

Was this a dream? Would he wake up with his head on the table in the cafe? Did he doze off waiting for Shinji as he had leaned against his car?

"Young boys shouldn't wander off alone without protection." The boy tsked, waggling a finger at Ichigo's direction as he reached forward to grab a tiny rock from the ground. He was silent as he gazed at it for a while, rolling it around in his palm, as if assessing it.

"Merrily merrily merrily merrily, life is but a dream." The boy giggled, hiccuping to himself as he flicked the rock between his hands.

And then he suddenly stood up.

Ichigo made to get up too, but he grunted, eyes widening, as he realized he couldn't move his limbs. His legs and arms lay heavy and he budged, struggling against the invisible barrier trying to wriggle away as the boy stepped into the circle.

"Whoever you are, leave me alone, I swear, if you even touch me I'll-", Ichigo gasped as the pain in his head doubled, as if his brain itself had caught on fire, a sharp sting so intense as it radiated from the base to tip it made his eyes water, ears ringing as he cried, clutching his head before falling to the ground in a fetal position.

Ichigo could feel the blood dripping from his head onto the ground, his wrist throbbing in agony as he gasped, his head threatening to crack open right here on the ground.

"Hush hush, child. It'll all be over soon." The boy soothed, voice light and airy as he approached Ichigo, hands calloused and rough and yet dainty as they fluttered across his face; his tough light and delicate. They grasped his face, pulling him up, rubbing invisible patterns on his cheeks with his bony thumbs.

"Your phone buzzed and buzzed in symphony with the nights progression! Oh the joy of being wanted! Are you precious, my child? Are you someone's precious? Do they ache for you, I wonder? Will they cry for you?" The boy grinned as he dropped Ichigo's face and reached for his hands. They ran cool fingertips over his swollen wrist and Ichigo gritted his teeth in pain, trying to pull back but the grip intensified.

"I apologize for this. I am not...proficient in physical labour. But all wounds are but mortal, yes? It is the wounds of the soul that can never be repaired." The boy tutted as he patted the swollen joint once again.

And before Ichigo could even blink or think of anything but the intense burning in his head, he felt the boy bring the rough edge of the rock sharply against the smooth skin of his palm. He cried out as he felt his skin give away, the pain blossoming and spreading across his hand. He felt the boy do it on the second hand and he blinked away tears from the corner of his eyes as he felt blood pool slowly from his palms onto the ground.

He wouldn't give this psycho the satisfaction of his tears.

"W-what do you want?" Ichigo gritted his teeth in anger, scrambling to get up, to do something, anything, but cried as he felt his head throb again. This kind of pain, it felt inhuman, unimaginable.

The boy only whistled, giggling to himself a tune Ichigo couldn't hear and even if he did, he was pretty sure he couldn't make sense of. Ichigo felt his kidnapper kneel down infront of the increasing small puddle of the redhead's blood and felt him trace a pattern in it.

"I always desire for an audience! To see my art come to life! Oh the joys! It's a shame your people don't mourn as much as they should. What a display I would have given! The joy I could have spread!"

Mourn? People? What?

And then Ichigo realized it.

The bare ground, the tall trees giving way to a clearing for near perfect moonlight sighting.

He was in the Karkura Town Cemetery.

And just like that, the pain in his head stopped. Ichigo gasped, blinking away the wetness in his eyes, as he scrambled to his feet, pushing his scratched and bleeding palms against the rough ground. He gritted his teeth as he made his limbs, which felt like lead, move into a sitting position.

The boy had moved back out of the center, dipping what looked like the silver dagger ,he had previously been holding, into the tiny flames of the candles that surrounded him, one by one. And the dagger was more red than silver now. Red as in..

Blood.

His blood.

He looked around for anything and glanced at the rock the boy had left behind. It was small and insignificant, and Ichigo knew it wouldn't amount to anything. But he had to do something.

He had to stall. Shinji would've noticed his absence. Of course he would have. And Renji too. They would've called his dad, or the police, or something.

So he had to stall.

Gritting his teeth, Ichigo furrowed his eyebrows, grunting as he threw the rock at the far edge of the circle of candles, watching it as it flew and knocked down the last of the set, the tiny flame dying as it met the earth before disappearing out of existence.

And at the same time, the invisible barrier Ichigo had felt against his back all this time suddenly gave away and the redhead startled as he tumbled onto his back.

Ichigo hastened and tried to get up as soon as possible and scrambled out of the centre, standing on wobbly legs, twisting around in search of his bag.

"Ooh! How tenacious! Look Mother, look how the prey struggles!" The boy giggled.

And before Ichigo knew it, once again the burning sensation reappeared in his head and he gasped, falling onto his knees, clutching his head in both hands as he felt his vision sway once more.

He could hear the boy clapping in joy behind him, giggling, as feet approached him from behind.

Ichigo felt him kneel down next to him, the silver dagger tipped red glistening in the moonlight as he twirled it in his hands.

"Et sacrificium, et os sanguinis." The boy whispered as Ichigo felt him trace the dagger lightly against his cheek, his nose, his lips. "Pons a vobis ad imitandum nos." He giggled as if all of this, his blood, his pain, his life was just a harmless joke. Something petty and insignificant. Ichigo gritted his teeth as he tried to push the boy away through the pain. Hands batted away at his weakened protests, shoving him down harshly against the ground. "Te exorietur umbra" He whispered, stroking Ichigo's cheek as he did so.

"SOMEONE HELP ME-" Ichigo started but was cut off as the burning intensified and slowly he felt blood coming out of his nose.

"It'll be over soon, poppet. Don't you worry." The boy smiled, wide and broken in the darkness of the night, as Ichigo crumpled onto the ground.

And then it all stopped.

The redhead gasped, reaching forward with his hands, his body sluggish and weak and dizzy, as he tried to glance around to see what had happened. He rubbed at his eyes with the back of his hoodie sleeve, wiping away the blood and tears as he tried to take in as much of the darkness he could. His fingers grasped at the dirt, as Ichigo pushed himself onto his feet. He swayed, reaching forward with arms that felt like lead to try to balance himself. His palms were slick with blood as he leaned against a nearby tree. And then he saw a flash of blue, followed by a snarl.

Ichigo blinked as he moved towards where his bag was, towards where the crazy freak who was trying to stab him with a knife was standing just now, and then he saw it. A tall guy, with shocking electric blue hair, dressed in dark colours, maybe a hoodie and jeans Ichigio couldn't tell, had pressed the boy against a nearby tree; his hand wrapped around the boy's slender throat, lifting him a few inches off the ground. And then Ichigo's eyes widened as he felt the blue-haired man reach forward and bite down on the boy's neck.

He could hear the boy scream and gasp, giggling into the silent night as the blue-haired man attacked his neck, blood spilling out onto the earth, everything illuminated by the white shine of the moon. Ichigo scrambled for his bag, knees shaking as he fell on his knees next to it, hurriedly opening the zip for his phone. If this was all a dream then he needed to wake the fuck up like right now.

He glanced back up at a sudden shout of pain and a thud, and saw the blue-haired man fall onto the ground on his knees, hands clutching his head as he screamed in pain, shouting curses at the boy, while the latter giggled, despite the gaping neck wound; wrist flicked open, palm facing the blue-haired man as he circled around him.

Ichigo had a pretty good idea what his rescuer was going through and as he struggled to open the second zip of his bag, his eyes caught onto something glimmering on the ground, hidden by a pile of leaves, next to the bright stark white lines of the chalked pentagram.

It was the dagger.

With a gasp, he reached forward, grasping it against the handle, the blade cold and slick against his bleeding palms. Ichigo needed to act quickly because he was pretty sure he was going to bleed out soon. Biting his bottom lip to stop himself from gasping in pain as his body resisted any movement as he made his way to the two men, every part of his body burning and aching. Ichigo blinked away the tears as he approached the laughing boy, clothes stained red, neck open raw and bleeding as he towered over the gasping blue-haired man.

Ichigo pressed the blade right against the boy's exposed right shoulder blade as he stepped up behind him with shaky legs.

"L-let him go. Now." He muttered, eyes wide, lips drawn in a line as he fought to control his body's shaking. The boy stopped, and Ichigo could see his entire body twitch, a shudder running up his spine, before he giggled again.

"Oh poppet! How has this come to be?" His voice became shrill, breaking at the higher pitch as Ichigo saw his shoulders start to shake.

"Stop it, whatever you're doing. I don't know-what-I don't know who you are and how, but I know you-you're doing it. Stop it!" Ichigo pressed the blade more firmly against the other boy's skin.

Would he really be able to do what he was threatening to do?

Could he do it?

Ichigo felt his entire body shake as he saw the boy's neck bleed more profusely, crimson red staining the dirt marked pale skin and dripping onto the ground.

The boy tilted his head slightly towards Ichigo and that horrible burning, he felt it start again. The sharp stinging throb that had threatened to split his head apart before had just started intensify a bit more when Ichigo drove the blade into the other boy's back.

He gasped as the knife immediately turned red hot, clutching at his damaged hand as the boy started screaming, howling into the night. The boy went onto his knees scrabbling at his back, as the knife fell out back onto the ground, screaming loud and high, voice turning inhuman as he fell to the ground, rocking in a fetal position.

Ichigo felt a strong hand immediately pull him back against a strong chest, and then behind a warm body and he flinched, immediately pushing away from the stranger, gasping and pushing with his hands. It was only when the screaming had stopped, and silence once more filled the night, that Ichigo realized he was shoving at the blue-haired man; the man who had rescued him.

The redhead blinked as he looked around him to where the boy had been, only to see nothingness except for a blood stained patch on the ground next to the tree where he had the boy cornered and the silver dagger right in the middle of it. He turned back to the pentagram to see all the candles had been burned out and lay on the ground in a haphazard pile.

"Your heartbeat's all over the place, hey. Hey!" Ichigo quickly turned around, blinking and taking a sharp intake of breath at the sight of his rescuer.

He was tall, around 6'1, pale, and extremely muscular, with a shockingly electric blue mop of hair in a ruffled mess, and a pair of teal eyes staring at him intensely. A pair of teal iris', surrounded by blood-red sclera and thick prominent veins underneath his eyes reaching to the top of his cheekbones, and the fangs.

Ichigo screamed.

"Ohmygod. Oh my god. What the fuck. Whatthefuck. Ohmygod." He gasped as he scrambled backwards, pushing himself against a nearby tree.

The man blinked, blinked his red demon eyes, in confusion before making an 'Aah' noise. Right before his fangs retracted into his mouth.

His fangs retracted into his mouth.

His fangs.

Ichigo immediately turned around, scraping his palms against the tree bark as he pushed his legs towards his bag; where he could at least arm himself or something. Ichigo felt his chest tighten up and he gasped struggling to take in decent breathes of air, body sluggish and heavy as he wobbled away from the man. With fangs

"Woah woah, hey calm down. Kid, kid!" Ichigo felt a thick arm come around and grasp at his left wrist and turn him around and he immediately pushed it back only for it to feel like he was pushing against a block of marble. The man realized his mistake and quickly let him go raising his hands in surrender.

"Sorry, sorry. No touching, Get it. Really fucking understandable."

Ichigo took deep breathes as he took a few steps back, eyes wide and horrified.

"You need to calm down before you give yourself a heart attack. Your heartbeat's like a jackhammer."

"You have fangs. And your eyes."

"Yeah, shit. Sorry about that. It's just, whole lotta blood here, yeah and..." The man motioned around him and yeah Ichigo could get it. I mean. Blood was a vampire's everything wasn't it?

Vampire...

"You're a vampire." Ichigo breathed out, palms bleeding and pressed against his chest, as he pressed himself further against the tree.

The man rolled his eyes. "Yeah, look can we just skip this part and get to the-", and then he stopped and gave Ichigo a whole once over. "Fuck. You're all banged up and shit. Your head's bleeding and goddammit. That's bad, I mean you're human. That's a lot of blood. Fuck what did that sonofabitch do to you-"

At the mention, Ichigo reached up to his head and noted that his hair was all clumped and matted together; the blood all thickened and dried up. It didn't even hurt as much. Which, wasn't really a good sign.

"Don't lose your shit at what I'm about to do, kid." The redhead had only just registered what the other was saying, what the vampire was saying, and suddenly felt a warm heavy weight push him against the tree, his arms pushed against the other's chest.

"What are you doing, let me go, stop! What-", Ichigo gasped before the man bit into his own wrist and shoved the bleeding wound against his open gaping mouth. Ichigo gagged, choking as the sharp metallic taste of blood entered his mouth and he pushed against the other's thick forearm, which may as well have been made of marble, until he had no other choice but to swallow. The man let him go and Ichigo gasped, falling to his knees, as he took huge gulps of air. He coughed, spitting out some blood, feeling nausea crawl up inside his body.

"What did you do?" Ichigo bit out, coughing, eyes wide, hands shaking as he pushed himself onto his feet. The vampire, vampire, just shrugged his thick hoodie clad shoulders, staring at him intently.

"It doesn't hurt anymore does it, kid?" The man smirked slightly at what Ichigo assumed would have been his dumbfounded slash confused slash blank expression. In his defense, he just had a guy with fangs bite into his wrist and force feed him his blood.

And then he felt it.

"My head-I-my wrist, what? I-It doesn't hurt anymore." Ichigo muttered, clutching at his right wrist; the swelling by some miracle had gone away. His head was beginning to clear up too and his limbs didn't feel so heavy. Bringing his palms up, and wiping away the blood, Ichigo realized that they were cut free.

"You're welcome, berry." The man nodded. Ichigo gaped, opening his mouth for words that wouldn't come. He closed it, before opening it again and closing it again.

"What just, I don't, I don't understand. I-Is this a dream? It has to be a dream, you have fangs and magically healing blood."

The man rolled his eyes. "Hey calm down, it'll all be over soon." Ichigo turned to him, eyebrows raised in exasperation.

"It'll all be over soon? Calm down?! I was kidnapped at college. And some freak of nature put me in a magical pentagram before attempting to stab me with a mystical knife. And then you bit his neck, because you're a vampire. Then I stabbed him with said magical knife and he magically disappeared. And then you healed me with your magical vampire blood and now all my wounds are gone without any medical reason or explanation." Ichigo took a deep breath, chest heaving as he clenched and unclenched his fists.

What the fuck.

What the ever loving fuck?

Had he gone down the rabbit hole?

The man made a few steps forward, "Look. I know you're probably freaking out. And literally two steps away from spontaneously combusting."

"A man tried to sacrifice me whilst chanting to himself in a strange language all the while giggling out nursery rhymes."

"..Yeah, look. Kid, relax. I can help you."

"I can't-I don't-I don't understand. He-just, and how. How. You. What is going on." Ichigo made to turn away, to his bag, to his phone, to Shinji, to sense and reason and logic, when he felt the other man grab his shoulders. He immediately kicked out, knee hitting the others solar plexus as his fist clipped the man's chin, but all it did was in turn make both body parts throb in pain as the man quickly took control of his protesting limbs, pushing him against the tree, hands grabbing his face by the cheeks.

"Hey, hey. Listen to me. You listening?" The man muttered, eyes intense and focused on Ichigo's own.

"Back off, What are you doing-what else is-you need to back off-"

The man rolled his eyes before turning to level him with an intense stare.

"None of this happened. Alright? You are going to take my hoodie and cover yourself up because you look like shit. You are going to forget you were ever kidnapped at college, tell your friends or family you were at a movie or whatever the fuck else. You didn't meet me today. You don't know what vampires are, or that I healed you, or compelled you to forget this. You don't remember a crazy lunatic trying to kill you or some shit or you stabbing him with a mystical dagger. You're going to go home, take a nice long shower, and put your pretty little head to sleep. That cool?"

And before Ichigo could even blink or ask what the fuck the other man was going on about, he was gone with a gust of wind.

Just, gone.

Leaving Ichigo Kurosaki, 19 year old medstudent, standing alone, in bloodied clothes, in the middle of the cemetery at ass o'clock, next to his mess of a bag and iPod, and a mystical white dagger which not ten minutes ago someone had tried to kill him with.


The crazy lunatic, as Ichigo had now permanently dubbed him inside his head, had been crazy smart to boot as well. Not only had he texted Shinji that he'd caught a ride with a friend to his parent's house but he'd also told him to carry on with the plans without him.

All of this made sense as to why when Ichigo, finally trudged all the way back to his Apartment Complex, looking a like a mess with his dirtied bag and clothes and an oversized hoodie, with the hood pulled up to hide his matted bloody hair, tolerating the stares on the bus and from his fellow building tenants, he was greeted with an empty apartment.

Ichigo glanced around the living room quietly, confirming for any signs of Shinji or Renji.

"Shin, you home?" He called out, his voice sounding tired and hoarse and dead, even to his own ears. Silence greeted him, and surprisingly enough, Ichigo was glad.

Quietly he moved towards his room, trudging his way through Shinji's mess littering the hallways, dumping his bag near the entrance. He made his way to the bathroom and slowly took off his shoes, grimacing at the squelching noise they made. Evidently, some of his blood had managed to seep in there as well.

Ichigo slowly stripped off all of his clothes, his hoodie, shirt, undershirt, jeans and boxers, balling them up, sans the vampire's hoodie, and throwing it into the laundry hamper. He slowly stepped in front of the mirror and quietly gazed at the reflection.

His pale skin was even whiter and gaunt, splattered with some blood around the ears and chin, despite Ichigo's best attempts to clean himself up as much as possible. His orange hair had turned a dark burgundy shade, clotted with dried blood, and his palms were pink and raw. But other than that there wasn't a single scratch or sign of injury on his body. Ichigo furrowed his eyebrows, turning around and examining himself in all angles, and yet he couldn't find a single wound. Not the head wound, or the cut on his palms, or even his swollen right wrist.

Against all knowledge and medical expertise and know how and logic and common sense, his wounds were gone.

Because of the vampire blood

The mystical healing vampire blood

The blood of a vampire

Ichigo took some heavy breathes to control the shaking of his body, gripping the skin tightly with his hands till his knuckles turned white against his skin. With shaky hands, he pulled the shower curtain apart and stepped inside. Turning the water to hot, Ichigo closed his eyes, shakily laying his head against the tiled wall, and let the stream of water wash away the grime and the blood.

His blood

His proof

That today had happened. That he wasn't hallucinating or dreaming.

With shaky hands Ichigo washed away his entire self, messily rubbing soap all over his tired and aching body, haphazardly applying shampoo and conditioner to his hair. Washing away the dried mess from his head, his face, his hands, under his nails, in his skin.

And then when he was done, he slowly turned off the shower, wiped his entire self with a warm fluffy towel, got into a pair of comfortable warm PJ's and an old T-Shirt. Ichigo undid the comforter and sheets and shakily slid underneath the layers. He lay in the dark, in his warm bed, underneath layer upon layer of comfortable snug bed coverings, head on a fluffed up pillow.

He lay there, at 10:27pm, in his room, safe and sound. After being kidnapped at his college's parking lot; and waking up to a man who tried to stick a silver dagger inside of him as he made his head and hands bleed, as he chanted in a foreign language and danced and sang and giggled into the night. While Shinji and Renji went out and partied as per Guy's Night.

Whilst he lay there bleeding on the ground, half passed out from the pain and the blood loss.

Until a vampire came to save him

Until he saved a vampire, by stabbing a boy

Until the vampire promised to help him, by compelling away his memories

Promising to make it all better

Promising to make it forget

But he didn't. He remembered.

Ichigo lay in his bed, warm and safe and sound, freshly showered in his clean clothes, at 10:27pm, trying to sleep.

He finally did, at 2:17am.

To dreams of fire, and candles, and laughter and blood


When Ichigo next woke up, it was to Shinji's blond head propped up next to him, one hand in a packet of Lays and the other texting away at a speed only a Hirako could accomplish.

The redhead startled a bit, scowling at his roommate sleepily. He only got a wide cheeky grin in response as his friend reached forward to poke him in the face.

"Ichi! You missed it!" The blond sighed dramatically, falling back onto Ichigo's bed with a bounce, limbs spread wide, empty Lay's packet falling to the floor.

Ichigo only grumbled a bit, sitting up, and stretching, rubbing away what little sleep he had managed to get with one fist. As Shinji continued to go on and on about whatever the redhead had missed yesterday, it was only until Ichigo spotted his dirty bag sitting near the entrance of the bedroom door that he remembered just what had happened to him yesterday and he froze.

He remembered just what lay hidden in his bag, next to his books and his iPod, within the tiny pocket in the back.

He blinked as a tan arm flailed in front of him and he rolled his eyes and grunted half-heartedly, making his way to the bathroom. The blond pouted as he sat up.

"You're doing it again. The thing which will eventually make me stab you one day." Stab me with one day. Well Shin, someone already tried to beat you to it.

"The ignoring you thing? Because it's...six thirty in the morning on a day when I don't have classes till two? Shinji you're lucky I'm too sleepy to beat the shit out of you." Shinji only cackled.

"Ha! Yeah, Kurosaki, I'm terrified of your midget limbs, I am. Really." He got a warning glare from the redhead through the bathroom doorway and just grinned in response.

"So Renj' and I went to this amazing bar last night. I can't believe we never went there before!" Ichigo only made a non-committal voice in acknowledgement as he finished brushing his teeth and made his way back into the room.

"You really did miss out, idiot. Some of the bartenders were really fucking hot." Ichigo raised an eyebrow in response.

"Please tell me you came home last night. And I am not just witnessing you post walk of shame."

Shinji rolled his eyes. "Ichi, please, I'm not a tart. Well, not a complete tart. That sort of fun is for this Friday obviously." With that he got to his feet, flicking Ichigo on the shoulder as he walked past him.

"And you're going too! No questions asked! And we're going to talk about why you ditched me yesterday, don't think you're in the clear mister."

Ichigo startled before clearing his throat.
"Oh, uh yeah, well you were taking too long and Li from Anatomy offered me a ride." He got a grunt in response followed by the sound of a door slamming which meant the blond had gone to his room to get dressed for his morning classes, not as blessed as the redhead with Wednesday's schedule.

Ichigo drew his lips in a thin line as he scrolled through the messages on his phone that had clearly not been composed by him and quickly deleted them. He quickly placed a Passcode for his phone. He thumbed the screen for a bit before sighing and placing his phone back on the table.

There was no way Shinji was getting involved in whatever mess Ichigo had pulled himself into; not when he could do anything about it. The idea alone that someone had attacked him so viciously last night had left him shaken and disturbed. The very thought and idea of them possibly targeting the people he cared about made Ichigo's heart feel heavy and blood run cold.

Whoever it was had clearly ran away and knew who he was and where he studied and who his roommate was and who his family were.

The police was out of the question, what with no amount of proof whatsoever and an unrealistic story to boot.

If Ichigo was going to doo anything about it, it was to get answers.

And answers he would fucking get.

Starting with the silver dagger he had brought home with him.

The dagger he had spent 10 minutes trying to get his own blood out of.

The dagger he had stabbed someone with.

He'd be damned if he let someone get the better of him again. Next time, Ichigo Kurosaki would be prepared.


Grimmjow rolled his eyes as Nnoitra ran around the living room of the apartment the latter shared with Coyote Starrk, TV remote in hand, as a flailing Nelliel chased after him.

172 years of existence and you'd think he'd have found better companions. With a grunt, the bluenette turned to his pancakes, stabbing one with a fork and ingesting it whole in one mouthful. Nelliel's cooking really did wonders for his blood cravings, dulled taste of human food or not. Ulquiorra sat opposite him, book clad open in front of him, green eyes immersed in the text.

Feeling his eyes on him, the human looked back up, cold green eyes staring at him intensely before resuming his reading. Grimmjow only snorted.

"And you'd think I was the one with a beating heart." Predictably, there was no response.

After a while, Nnoitra reappeared in the room with Starrk following him, the brunet sleepy eyed, but then again that was his expression 96% of the time so Grimmjow couldn't really be sure anymore, and yawning as he took a chair next to him, reaching forward for the newspaper.

"Hey, Starrk, Grimm here tell you about his lil' shenanigan last night, yea'?" Nnoitra grinned, looming over the table as he poked at Ulquiorra's head who only swatted him away in annoyance. Grimmjow gave Nnoitra an irritated glare as Starrk hummed in response, motioning for Nnoitra to continue.

"Ya'! Ol' Blue here found 'imself a damsel in 'distress!" Nnoitra cackled as he avoided Grimmjow's fist, appearing besides the fridge, opening it and rummaging around for a snack. Starrk turned to the blunette and raised an eyebrow.

"Sounds quite a story,"

Grimmjow only rolled his eyes and grunted.

"Nah, just some witch trying to start up shit and attacking a human. I was just passing by and heard the commotion." This caused Ulquiorra to put down his book.

"Leave me to talk about sacrifices and shit to get your attention, Ulqui. You creepy little fuck." Grimmjow grinned at the green-eyed pale human's irritated scowl.

"Charming as always, Jaegerjaques. I can only hope you were careful? You should've let the council deal with it."

Starrk just stared at Grimmjow silently. From their location, they could hear Nelliel dancing to the music of America's Next Top Model's intro theme.

"Yeah, I compelled the little bugger. The witch ran away, but he was injured. Kid had balls of steel, I can give him that. Fucking stabbed him with his own weapon. It was kind of sexy." Ulquiorra only hmm'ed in response before turning back to his book.

"As long as you were careful, Grimmjow," Starrk cleared his throat, returning to the crossword puzzle he had begun to solve. Grimmjow nodded in response.

"Yeah you should be more concerned with Nnoi with how he was eyeing that blond fairy's neck last night. Real subtle, dickhead."

"I was a fucking ninja! As always!" Grimmjow snorted at this.

"Ya' sure you compelled him right? Or didja' get too mesmerized by his pretty eyes and fuck it up?" Nnoitra grinned, wide and lecherous, as he reappeared from the fridge with a plate of last night's Pizza.

"I'm pretty sure I did it fucking right. I would've known if he was supernatural. When Grimm's on the job, you lot ain't got nothing to worry about, yeah?"

His only response was Nelliel's "DO YOU WANNA BE ON TOP?!"

Chapter Text

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EDIT:
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Chapter Text

                                                                               2.

He wakes up to screaming. His body jerks; gasping for air as his eyes open to darkness, almost pitch black, except for a sliver of moonlight shining in from the windows. He blinks away the disorientation as he jerks to his feet, balance uneasy and feet slipping before he finds purchase, simultaneously reaching forward with his hand and releasing a breath, allowing the familiar shiver to crawl down his spine.

The light bulb above him crackles to life, flickering in and out, as he tries to make more sense of his surroundings. Once the confusion dissipates, the sensory overload hits him with a force of nothing short of an oncoming automobile. He inhales sharply; ears ringing from the loud shouts and cries and panicked pleas mingling into a meaningless cacophony of noise. The air is heavy with the stench of blood, thick and cloying, crawling into his nose and throat with every inhale and swallow.

He blinks away the oncoming tears of panic and frustration, breathing heavily, as he rushes out of his room, bare feet scratching against the wooden floor. Blood and wet grass is all he smells as he rushes through corridors towards the staircase, heart beating so loudly he worries if he’s having a heart attack. Sweaty palms clumsily grip the banister as his feet scramble down the stairs, eyes darting across the room, more bulbs flickering to life, as he tries to figure out the source of this distress, this panic, this death, that he feels so heavy and damping on his soul.

He hears the clash of metal against something dull, the gnashing of wood, and then growling. Once, twice, before everything turns silent.

His pulse is pounding, burning against the delicate lines of his wrist, as he thinks of the worst. He thinks of his mother, beautiful and strong, laughing with his father over dinner stew as their children whined and complained about their lessons. He thinks of his sister, of her delicate French braids and brilliant mind, mastering everything she put her mind to and then some. He thinks of his brother, young; full of energy and enthusiasm, trailing behind them all, hopeful and in awe.

He later realizes, when the panic settles and the shock fades away to the biting chill of realization, hours after lying huddled behind the main door, ripped straight off its hinges with wood splintered across and all the way through, that the floor had been wet.

But not with water

With blood

But everything else will fade away, as always, to the memory of Him standing tall and leading the pack, the pack of savages, dark hair wet and dirty, whipping around from the wind, clothes dark and wet, grin wide and red.

The memory of his father on the floor, throat cut off, jaw chewed off and the remains dangling from whatever was left of his mangled face, blood congealing with the grass. Of his siblings, eyes wide open and staring unblinkingly into the night sky, as their bellies emptied out in the dirt, bleeding and bleeding and bleeding.

Of his mother gasping and screaming as she lay on her hands and knees, naked from the neck down, body bruised black and blue whilst she tried to crawl away from the men.

The men, whistling and cheering, eyes wide and alive, as they turned to their leader who approached his mother, footsteps loud and echoing in his head for what would be many years to come.

The memory of his mother turning to look straight at him, through the darkness, mouth curled open in horror, pure abject terror etching the worn lines of her haggard face, as she uttered her last words. That would shape his life, his purpose; his destiny.

“Z-zaraki,”

The man shifts, hulking mass of a body turning with a stillness that betrayed his size, eyes piercing into him.

The man’s iris turn deep gold, jaw cracking, teeth sharpening and elongating, fingers tapering off into sharp magnificent claws.

Luppi screams

 


 

Mid September, 2018
Karkura Town, Japan

Ichigo jerks awake, inhaling sharply as he sits back up in his chair, blinking blearily at the table in front of him. His cereal has gone soggy, spoon knocked over from the force of his elbow jerking off to the side and trailing drops of milk across the table top. His textbook lays open on his right, phone propped on top of it.

He blinks; wiping away the sweat from his forehead, strange and off putting considering it is deep into fall weather in Karkura right now, before placing a hand on his chest in a vain effort to calm his heart beat.

Shinji enters the room; giving him a lazy curious side eye as the blond crosses the room and fills a glass with water from the sink. Arching his hip dramatically against the counter as his eyebrow quirks at the redhead, Shinji waits to finish his drink before giving him his full attention.

“Fell asleep randomly once again huh?”

Ichigo furrows his eyebrows as he cleans off his mess with the back of his hoodie sleeve, ignoring the blonde’s disgusted expression. “I didn’t fall asleep. I was just thinking about the assignment.”

“Ichi, it’s just an essay, not dick. What’s got you so caught up that you daydreamed yourself into actually falling asleep?”

Ichigo gives a tight smile and pulls off a shrug he hopes is convincing enough to deter his best friend yet again for what it seems the tenth time in the last two days.

He can’t talk about the lack of sleep he’s been experiencing since that night. Or the general ache he feels in his body, like he’s permanently drained of energy as if something’s sucked his life force away. His heart skips a beat at this, and he pauses as a thought comes to his mind that makes his stomach curl up with something he wishes was just the stress of overdue assignments.

He can’t talk about the paranoia he feels now, every time he has to leave his apartment. Or the jitteriness he feels whenever anyone dark haired passes by.

Or the panic that bubbles up in his throat every moment where silence lasts longer than a minute. Of who ever, whatever, is out there that had wanted something from him and is still there. Somewhere, anywhere, thinking of revenge or retribution for what he had done.

He still isn’t sure if he’s glad or not. That there was just emptiness; more questions than answers from that night.

Instead of a dead boy

Dead, because Ichigo had stabbed someone

A person

A child

Or so it had seemed

All Ichigo knows is that he can’t sleep at night, hands shaking and palms aching from injuries he knows are long since healed. And when he does manage some sleep, he can’t escape from images, broken and incoherent, and noises he can’t decipher. Like he’s standing just a little too far away from a conversation and the voices aren’t tangible enough. Instead he’s left with incessant fuzzy humming in his ears.

And then before everything fades away for good and he’s about to wake, he’s back to that night, where he’s screaming and bleeding, and no blue-haired man, vampire, had saved him. And he’s choking from the blood gurgling out of his throat, from his nose, from his head wound, from his eyes; the tiny metallic dagger jutting off from out of his navel. He’s bleeding and bleeding, like a stuck pig, voice hoarse and cracking, terror paralyzing his limbs as he slowly dies alone on the cemetery floor.

He blinks to pale fingers snapping in front of him.

Shinji is staring at him, unimpressed, lips drawn into a thin line.

“Reinforce my point much?”

The redhead sighs as he gets up from the chair, wrist and knees aching as he taps the other lightly on the forehead. “I’m fine Shin.” He reaches around him to gather his supplies. “What kind of student would I be if I wasn’t a little bit spaced out and sleep deprived?”

Shinji just stares at him for a beat before rolling his eyes. “I’m establishing a fixed curfew as of today for my baby twink.”

Ichigo give off a surprised laugh, raising an eyebrow, before giving him a wry look. “Never use the word baby in reference to me.”

The blonde gives him an exaggerated wink, “Don’t think I don’t know your search history Ichi.”

Ichigo just blinks at him as he shuffles his bag onto his shoulder.

Shinji smiles innocently as he moves alongside him as they exit the kitchen space into the adjacent living room area.

“You left your laptop open next to you on the couch last night,” Ichigo turns to him, affronted and back drawn tight, “-but don’t worry, I made sure not to read further than bloodplay, which, kinky!”

“It uh- I was just-,”

The blond just gives him a patient look, an amused grin gracing his sharp features.

“I- well, you know Renji’s always going off about BDSM and all that shit his ex introduced him to so I-,”

“-were exercising your curiosity?” Shinji hums, “Honestly, I never got the weird flirting between you two, and now, I’m not sure I want to anymore.”

Ichigo presses his tongue into his cheek as he settles on the couch, pulling his laptop towards him and propping his legs onto the coffee table. “You think every guy above 18 not related to me is flirting with me.” He ignores the ‘because they are!’ as he boots his Firefox browser, immediately deleting all the previous tabs that had proven useless to finding out any legit information of the world that he had stumbled into head first.

Guess there really were limits to Google after all

He tunes back to Shinji as he’s typing in unexplained miraculous incidents of healing into the search bar and catches the end tail of a rant about a club that the blonde had been raving about since Tuesday.

Ichigo tries not to think too much about Tuesday so it’s an honest mistake when he asks Shinji to repeat why he finds this specific club so interesting.

“Uh, my future sugar daddy works there, Ichi keep up!” Ichigo huffs in amusement, a warm smile creeping up on his face at the shenanigans of his long time friend, reminding him just what it was that had been keeping him sane since someone attempted to casually sacrifice him.

“I think the purpose of a hook up is so it remains a hook up. No repeats and no future.” 

Shinji just continues on as if he hadn’t heard the redhead, or if he had, his opinion was so absurd it didn’t merit the blonde’s acknowledgment.

“You don’t just pass up an opportunity like that so easily, Ichi. Fuck, you didn’t see his abs okay? He wasn’t the buff sort I usually go for. So lean and toned, abs till his neck, and so fucking tall!” The blonde animated with his hands, gesturing as if to give a rough estimate, before wriggling his thumb and index finger  “and his cock, ohmygo-,”

Ichigo faked gagging as he tapped the blonde on the thigh with his foot. “I think I get the gist of things Shin,” the blonde only muttered something about a hands-on experience that Ichigo really didn’t need to think about due to the oncoming visuals. “Did you leave Ren all alone for your guy?”

“I took mercy on myself you mean,” Shinji giggled mischievously, “-all that idiot did the entire time was mope and whine about how you were missing out on everything.” Ichigo snorted softly, scrolling through articles and articles of medical journals, as Shinji wiggled his eyebrows suggestively. “Shu had to get him decently hammered to get him to not be such a killjoy.”

“I’m sure his hangover thanked you two plenty.”

“The pussy that got his dick wet all night long was enough of an apology If I say so myself,” The blonde cackled at the redheads disgusted expression. “You’re becoming too much of a stick in the mud, Ich! This is tame even for Tatsuki,”

“And that’s my cue for this,” He snorted, waving his earphones at the other who rolled his eyes dramatically, leaning across his lap to read the screen out loud.

“What are you researching about, cellular regeneration? Ich, we aced Biochem last year.” Ichigo shoved a hand in his face, pushing him away messily. “It’s for my dad. Long story short it’s for some research project.”

Shinji made a noncommittal noise as he became distracted by his phone, eyes lighting up as the device buzzed in his hand with the announcement of an incoming text.

Ignoring the blonde’s amused giggling and incessant clicking of thumbs against the keypad he refuses to keep on silent, Ichigo turned back to the screen, eyebrows furrowed in concentration.

He’d been going over pages and pages of search results in the hopes that he’d find something conclusive to what he had experienced last night. A tangible proof, something real, to ground Ichigo against the feeling that maybe he was going a little bit insane.

And if vampires did exist, had existed for all this time in secret, then they had to have left behind some traces. Ichigo studied medicine. Forensics was one of his favourite lectures. He knew, factually, that everything left behind an imprint; evidence of their existence. He just had to dig a little further. And what better than the medical community if there really was such a thing as magical blood that healed all.

Surely he wasn’t the only one who had experienced what he had; not the only one to take such a deep plunge down the rabbit hole.

Someone somewhere had to have slipped up. Ichigo just needed a more narrowed down source.

He quickly opened up the notepad; he kept on listing bits and pieces of information that slowly kept returning to his mind once the haze of panic and shock had cleared. The list read as:

  1. Latin?
  2. Pentagram
  3. Cemetery rituals
  4. Magic?
  5. The dagger
  6. Was the boy dead?
  7. Why did the dagger burn?
  8. Vampires?
  9. Compelled?

He was a man of science. If he went about it in a purely logical straightforward way, with a scientific approach, he could figure it out. Ichigo was sure of it. And with answers came clarity and a solution. He could finally have peace once he knew how to prepare for whatever was out there. He could finally sleep again, return to his normal routine and shut the door on this fucked up world that had tried to pull him in.

The Latin he knew would be a difficult one. He didn’t remember much of the actual words after the adrenaline rush had died down and especially not two days later. And what little he remembered he came up with nothing, truly living up to the dead language reputation. But, ironically, the internet had given him a vague sort of idea; a concept. Wicca, Voodoo, tribal practices, black magic, faith healing, summoning, Ouija boards. Ichigo didn’t know what was real and what wasn’t. What Japan felt wasn’t real may have been real to the rest of the world. The lines between folktales and reality were all blurring and crashing together. It had given him a headache when he had first tried to piece it all together.

He knew he had become an unwilling participant in some sort of ritual. And the perpetrator had claimed he, Ichigo, had been acting innocent. What had he mistaken him for? Or believed Ichigo had been hiding? Had Ichigo intended to be some sort of offering? Or was he being used?

He had read up enough to know the importance of soil, a raw connection to the earth, the very nature of life and death, to ancient practices in several cultures designed to attain power or some sort of desired influence onto this world.

Whatever the explanation was, it had disappeared along with the dark haired male, leaving behind only the dagger that Ichigo had not touched since he had taken it out from his bloodied bag and placed into his bedside drawer. Its handle still burning hot to this day which the redness of Ichigo’s palms could attest to; reason enough for him to keep that piece of the puzzle till last.

Vampirism, in theory, should have been the easiest to figure out. If people like the blue-haired man did exist, and had for a very long time, then there had to be proof. Pictures that caught their immortal existence across the decade. But in reality, Ichigo was in a stump. Millions of fake conspiracy videos aside, there still wasn’t any tangible proof or clear evidence of a man or woman caught out of time in a location. And unless a really famous international persona was part of the vampire community, another concept that the redhead had a hard time taking in, it would be harder for the general public to take notice. And the man had blue hair which clearly meant vampires weren’t above altering their appearance to blend in or assimilate into a society. To hunt more carefully, catching prey off guard, his tense subconscious supplied.

But the vampire had saved him, putting himself in a situation that had gotten increasingly worse and dangerous for the man himself. Yet he had still stuck around and had not run off. And even when the redhead’s attacker had been chased off and Ichigo had been injured and at the vampires mercy, he had made sure Ichigo was okay. Never once had he attempted to feed on him; instead he had tried to calm him down and had healed him.

For all sense and purposes Ichigo should be relieved. He should be overjoyed and thankful for his luck. He should find that man and get on his knees to thank him for saving his ass. Ichigo had seen what had happened to the dark haired boy when he had plunged the dagger into his back. That kind of agony, the guttural screams he had made, it added on to the list of growing things Ichigo found increasingly impossible to shake off. Just the idea of what could have happened to him, if the vampire had been a second too late, makes Ichigo fist his hands tightly against his thighs.

And yet, the memory of the vampire lifting his assailant in the air, like he was insignificant weightless speck of dust, makes Ichigo pause. He thinks of those eyes, those dark eyes, and those fangs, piercing into a neck like it was butter, liquid life pouring out and lying wasted on the ground. He thinks of those arms, thick and firm, as rigid as steel; not bowing and caving in to any pressure as they forced themselves onto Ichigo. How he’d forced his blood down his throat like Ichigo was nothing, just a flimsy ragdoll at that mans mercy. It makes Ichigo pause, an uneasy prickling under his skin, a gut feeling.

Ichigo would never be at any ones mercy ever again

So as much as going down this road, relieving these memories, felt like his chest was going to give in, collapse onto itself from the pressure, Ichigo had to keep on going; to keep on pressing.

He had gotten lucky that night.

He needed to know more. He needed knowledge. That was his defence; his power. At the very least, it was a start.

Clicking away article after article, research paper after paper, dark eyes swiping across the screen, all the while hyperaware of his best friend sitting next to him, Ichigo suddenly pauses as a thought comes to his head.

The man had clearly attempted to force him into doing something, having used the world compelled. Ichigo had rechecked the definition again and again, trying to form another conclusion, but it had ended up being more like grasping at out of reach straws, as to what the vampire had been trying to accomplish.

He had been very thorough in his commands, which for some reason, Ichigo felt had failed on him.

The man had asked him to forget, and unfortunately for both parties, the redhead hadn’t.

More and more questions than Ichigo knew what to do with.

He was shaken out of his thoughts as Shinji jumped off the couch in a graceless arc, making a choked noise as he struggling to regain his balance, before turning to Ichigo.

“That’s about enough work for today eh? I’m sure your dad knows you already work enough for class so-,” the blonde ignored the redheads noise of protest as he shut the laptop off on his fingers, “-I’m sure he’d learn to forgive his very diligent and only son if he took the rest of the day off.”

Ichigo eyed him suspiciously.

“What did you do?”

“The squad is coming over.”

“Please don’t say squad.”

“I don’t think Taylor Swift ever had such unappreciative bitches in her squad.”

Ichigo ignored him as he stood up, balancing his laptop against his arm as he moved towards his room. Shinji was busy texting away and shouting at him about ordering Chinese and the redhead patted his shoulder on the way in response.

Closing the door behind him, Ichigo tossed everything on his bed before heading towards the closet. Midway into scrambling out of his clothes, his eyes caught onto the mirror on the opposite side of the room. There was something about his far away reflection that gave Ichigo pause.

Pulling off his shirt, he let the material fall onto his bed as he turned to face his reflection, stepping a little closer. Close enough to reach out and touch the glass with his hand, Ichigo stopped and just looked.

On first glance nothing seemed out of the ordinary. His hair was the same shade of dark orange, turning a light auburn in the afternoon light. It made the ashy paleness of his skin stand out; the circles under his eyes more prominent than ever. He still looked the same; skinny, pasty with the light smattering of freckles; necklace dangling in the dip between his collarbones. His palms were still tinged a little pinker than usual, credit to trying to handle a very specific rustic blade.

And yet, something felt off to Ichigo. He stared a little longer before he shook his head and turned, reaching down and shimmying out of his jeans.

He really was sleep deprived.

 


 

Grimmjow snorted in amusement, from his spot on the couch, at the sight of Nnoitra Gilga, violent, brash, reckless creature of the night, being bested by a one year old. Said toddler was busy mixing in jelly into said vampire’s long carefully groomed hair, giggling joyously as the older male squawked, scrambling away from the child with a betrayed glare.

Aiken only giggled some more in response, little spit bubbles raining down his chubby cheeks and chin, as he leaned forward, spoon held in the air as if indicating intent.

The bluenette nursed his beer with one hand before placing it on the table as he felt the man before he saw Staark enter the room. Raising an eyebrow at the perpetually sleepy-eyed older man in question, Grimmjow only rolled his eyes as Staark returned it with one his patent deadpan looks where he tries to come across as concerned but it actually ends up being another reprimand in disguise.

Going out of his way to stare at the television, put on mute, rather than acknowledge the added weight on the seat next to him, there is an ensuing pause. They both wait it out for a solid fifteen seconds of silence before Staark gives him his yet another patented and classic world-weary sigh, (which it probably was, considering how long this man had been on this earth and what he’d probably had to put up with.)

Grimmjow took another purposefully long sip of his slowly warming beer before sighing and turning.

“Nice t’see you think so highly of my survival instincts.”

Staark doesn’t rise to the bait, as Grimmjow expected.

“I just need to know all the details in a clear and precise manner.”

A burst of annoyance curled underneath his skin; minute, yet he knew from experience how quickly things could turn for him. He focused on Aiken, on his smile, and Nnoitra and his obnoxious over the top laughter as the kid attempted to tickle him.

“I told you all everything that happened the first ten times Ulqui interrogated me.”

Staark just stared at him for a moment before he continued.

“We don’t need trouble here Grimmjow, I hope you can remember this.”

He felt the familiar itch under his skin, though still tiny. He breathed through his nose, focusing on the cold hitting the back of the throat, biting slightly.

“Yylfordt knows. S’all you should care about, don’t have fuck to say about anything else.” He clenched and unclenched his fist, giving the other a sharp grin. He almost wished Ulquiorra could have been listening in, like he knows everyone else is, “We done?”

Staark shook his head minutely, a small smile on his face. He seemed to pause as if he had something else to say before he decideded otherwise. Giving Grimmjow an unenthusiastic pat on the knee, Coyote Staark walked out as Nelliel entered into the room with Szyael trailing behind. The familiar sharp smell, a heady metallic tinge, cloaks around them before spreading across the room, slowly.

Grimmjow does his best to ignore his senses honing in on the arrival of a bitter earthy scent that marked the presence of a very annoying cunt.

Ulquiorra turns to look at him dead in the eye as if he could read Grimmjow like he’s transparent.

He probably was

That just made his smirk grow wider

 


 

Orihime giggled as she watched Shuhei and Tatsuki get into yet another argument about the most recent blog the latter had posted on tumblr. Tatsuki was red faced, half from the alcohol, half from the frustration Orihime knew she felt every time Shuuhei got that smug look on his face when ever couldn’t counter his point; with the added fact that the fact that Shuhei rarely ever lost his cool and just always grinned calmly at the shorter girls indignant responses.  They had started off arguing about token representation in today’s media culture and had ended up trying to decide if cereal went before or after milk.

The two faced each other on the couch, Shuuhei having had abandoned his controller that Chad had picked up whole heartedly, alternating between shooting the arguing pair nervous glances and staring at the screen in apt concentration. Renji had taken custody of the other controller, cursing loudly and aggressively gesturing at the screen and console from his spot on the floor; leaning against Ichigo’s legs while the redhead a shared a one-person seater with Rukia. Both of them were rolling their eyes at the loud tattooed redhead in amusement and muttering to each other about something on Rukia’s phone.

Shinji lay on the floor, head propped up by a cushion, as he typed away on his phone; cheeks flushed red from the empty cans of beer that littered around him. Orihime sat cross-legged besides Shinji, nodding eagerly at the blonde’s lengthy explanation about this new anime he had discovered.

The ginger-haired girl couldn’t help but look around the entire room; a soft smile gracing her face as she took in all of her friends together in one place, enjoying each other’s company. Orihime had never really had much of a social group growing up so sometimes it still took her by surprise. To see all these people she had managed to find and care about over the last couple of years, people who had managed to find a place in her heart when there was a point where Orihime had felt she had lost that capability.

She hadn’t drunk much, maybe a few sips of a can she shared with Tatsuki, but Orihime knew she felt the alcohol much more acutely than her friends ever did. Always the more sentimental time when the booze lowered her inhibitions, she rummaged through a bag of Doritos to distract herself.

Slowly, subconsciously, as always when Orihime found herself lost in her headspace, her mind turned back to Kurosaki Ichigo. Hoping she wasn’t as obvious as she felt, Orihime gave a quick side eye to the boy who had been on her mind since they were preteens.

The fellow ginger in question was taking the piss out of Renji’s game, grinning brightly as the taller redhead turned red from annoyance as Rukia and Ichigo gave an exaggerated cheer of support to Chad who just looked confused; giving off a nervous laugh. Orihime could never understand the dynamic between those three, and she knew she was not the only one who has tried.

His eyes were so warm and bright, his entire face lighting up as he grinned wide at Rukia, giving each other a high five as Renji missed yet another goal; a rib at his ageing reflexes already flowing off their tongues in perfect sync.

Orihime felt overwhelmed just looking at the adorable mess of his hair, the curve of his smile, the sharp jut of his cheekbones; the line of his shoulders through his Henley. She felt a little warm, glad that she had the excuse of the empty beer can in her hand. She looked away because sometimes, most of the time, she felt like Ichigo was like the sun. As cheesy as it sounded, something about the analogy rang true to her.

A person so bright, captivating, strong and beautiful, his influence always spreading everywhere, and yet it hurt if you stared at him for too long. Orihime felt that familiar pang of bitterness, that bittersweet realization that always came hand in hand whenever she was near the boy she had loved for so long, she doesn’t even remember a version of her that existed when she didn’t.

She knew unrequited love. The absolute tragedy of a pain you took on willingly, despite all the warnings. Tatsuki would have been so disappointed in her, if she knew. Or maybe she already knew, maybe they all did.

Orihime knew she was anything but subtle. How could anyone be, when you were faced with Kurosaki Ichigo?

She smiled knowingly, at Renji Abarai who thought no one notice whenever he took not-so secretive glances at Ichigo when he’d be facing away, laughing at Rukia’s animated story telling. Or how he’d subconsciously turn to the ginger boy every time he felt he got a good joke in, delivered a terrible pun or made a good dig at Shuhei, just to see if Ichigo was paying attention.

If Ichigo was looking at Renji, like Renji looked at Ichigo.

Like Orihime looked at Ichigo

She supposed that the tattooed male would have better luck with her in this matter.

Orihime giggled as Shinji pouted at her, pulling at her sleeve. “Hime, are you sleeping on me girlie?”

She laughed, ruffling her fingers through the blonde’s head before patting him lightly. “Of course not! Just making sure Tatsuki doesn’t turn violent.” She giggled at Shinji’s look of excitement as he jerkd to the opposite side in the hopes that the arguing duos confrontation had turned physical.

He turned to look back at the girl, a slight pout forming on his mouth. “Don’t give me false hope you ginger minx!” the blonde boy mock glared before he reached forward to steal the dorito from her hand.

Across the room she heard Renji whooping as Chad gave a sheepish smile, slumping down on his spot on the couch, ruffling a huge hand through his dark hair. Ichigo huffed as he stood up, mock cracking his knuckles, as he snatched the controller from Chad.

The taller redhead looked excited, eyes alive, grin wild and energetic as Ichigo took a seat next to him, cross legged, as he rolled the sleeves of his shirt up.

Orihime looked at Renji and smiled.

Maybe she wasn’t the lone fool after all.

She looked back to see Shinji staring at her, and she bobbed his nose lightly. “I still haven’t watched Koe No Katachi,” and giggled at the blonde’s outraged gasp.

 


 

Ichigo grinned as an amused Chad helped a mumbling, incoherent Renji into the back of a taxi. The tall basketball player gave Ichigo a wave as he followed the redhead into the back of the car.

Ichigo felt relaxed, limbs loose and warm, in a way he hadn’t been since Tuesday. With a grin he turned back inside to see Tatsuki on the phone, talking away intensely into the mouth piece as Shinji lied curled up on the couch, an empty bag of chips lying on top of his head. He turned to Orihime, pointing at the blonde and raising a quizzical eyebrow.

Inoue gave a tiny giggle, smiling in confusion, as she continued to help clean up the mess. Ichigo helps along and they work together silently, the only noise in the apartment being Tatsuki arguing about conflicting work shifts.

He gave Orihime a questioning look and the pretty orange-head just mouths ‘boss’ at him and Ichigo immediately understands.

Tastuki had always been pretty vocal about how much of a rigid hardass both the girls’ boss was.

 He checked his phone where Rukia had sent him a text informing him she had gotten him safe, after which he looked up to see Orihime looking at him questioningly. Or well, his chest.

He looked down and made an ‘ah’ sound.

Orihime blinked, realizing she’d been caught, and flushed pink. “Ah s-sorry, I wasn’t- I just-,”

Ichigo only gave an amused grin in response. “It’s a pretty in-your-face kind of jewellery huh,” Orihime just looked at him with wide embarrassed eyes still.

“Where did you find it?” She mused, curious.

“Laundry hamper?” He scratched the back of his neck in embarrassment and got a giggle in response. Ichigo took it all in good stride. “Yep, doing mom a good solid,” he snorted, “Definitely doing her memory proud for sure,”

Orihime just raked her fingers through her messy ponytail, shaking her head and giving him a small honest smile, “You look-,” she started before pausing and realizing that maybe she had said that out loud and hadn’t mean to, and immediately stopped herself.

Ichigo looked at her confused, tilting his head. The girl in front of him looked panicked and stressed, giving her patent Orihime-Inoue-wide-eyed-stare-and-blush combo.

 “I look like what?”

She just squeaked in response, embarrassment obvious to Ichigo. “N-nothing, sorry, I- just, my mind was somewhere else.”

He gave her an encouraging smile, or he well he hoped he did. He still felt little bit tipsy and fuzzy around the edges. It must have worked because Orihime continued with a “You seem different, I- just, you look a little different,” upon seeing his furrowed eyebrows, she cut in with a quick, “but a good different!”

“Oh, well, that’s a relief, since I’ve been feeling like shit.” He gave her a wry grin, “but...what sort of different?”

“Oh, just. Well you’re, glowing, in a way-,”

“Like a pregnant woman?” Ichigo grinned as Orihime squirmed, blushing, before laughing, “Sorry sorry, kind of a dick move teasing you so much,”

“Who’s pregnant?” Tatsuki mused as she appeared from behind the both of them, pinching Ichigo’s waist. He flinched a little before giving her a tiny scowl only to get a challenging look in response, “Is it you berry boy? Congrats to you and Shinji,” the dark haired girl grinned cheekily.

Ichigo just rolled his eyes in mock annoyance as he tapped both ladies on the shoulder before patting them both on the head. “Always a pleasure Tats,”

His childhood best friend gives him a mock salute before heading towards the door, Orihime turning behind and breathing out a quick good bye as the girls exit his apartment.

He waits about in the kitchen, fumbling with the plates, until he gets a text from both girls announcing their arrival back at Tastuki’s place. It is only then, after he he’s finished typing out a reply, that Ichigo realizes he had been holding his breath while he waited, the tension finally uncurling from his body.

 


 

He was screaming.

He didn’t know if he ever stopped or if he was finally dead; if this was what death was like. Eternal anguish and pain, final moments playing over and over like a time loop.

He couldn’t remember how he managed to get back here; he couldn’t remember how much time had passed by, or what day it was. All he remembered was pain.

His body was alive, a fire burning slowly through his veins, from the spot just right of his right shoulder blade, to now across his shoulders. His right arm felt like lead, a dead weight, having lost sensation many hours ago, or what felt like hours. He had lost all concept of time. His skin felt like it was on fire, the smell of burnt hair and flesh permeating his entire being, filling the room, his clothes, the air, every inch and crevice of his surroundings.  He felt the burn, the itch, spreading slowly from where he had been stabbed, and burrowing under; deeper and deeper.

He didn’t know if he was hallucinating or not, if his skin was actually peeling away into red blisters, skin loose and malleable, sliding off, or if it was just a side effect of the blood loss. He wondered if he was going into shock.

He was gasping, trying to take in as much breath as he was able, eyes watery and vision blurry. His head pounded as he felt blood drip down from the open wound on his back and from his neck.

He was haemorrhaging, but not just blood.

He couldn’t feel the earth around him as acutely as he always had before.

He felt cut out, like he was being cast out, rejected and disposed of.

He felt as if he was on the outskirts, once again, with nothing left to do but watch.

Always watching

Always reacting

Never acting

But he had

He had tried so hard

He had miscalculated

He felt so angry, so betrayed, so so hurt.

That fucking bitch that stupid fucking bitch fucking fucker fucking piece of shit  had snuck up on him that disgusting diseased monster  that abomination how dare they did they not know what he had suffered what he had done did they not know Mother? What he had risked what he had done what he had set out to do how dare they touch me Mother, how dare they take more of me more and more always taking always stealing always hurting hurting hurting hurthurthurt-

He gasped, scream cut off in his throat, voice dry and cracking, as his other arm started convulsing.

He felt lost, sensations haywire; unable to focus. Everything was blurring, the lights were fading in and out, burning an ache into his head, and noises of his surroundings were meshing in with his screams, the gurgle of his blood spilling out, of him gasping and trying to take in breaths; of him dying.

He reached out for Mother, to answer him once more, for Her guidance, her warm embrace, but Mother, why were you walking away, Mother come back, I can’t keep up, Mother I can’t, help me please, I’m dying, Mother, I need- I-

He was crying because he was afraid.

He was losing it all, he was so lost.

 Help me, help me please, I-

“Well this is tragic isn’t it?”

He gasped, neck aching, muscle stiff and almost useless, as he craned to see who had come to save him. Maybe it was Mother, Mother was it you?

He blinked away the tears to clear his vision, and he tried to see better, tried to see, because he had to, he had to see, and he had to survive, he had to live, his purpose, his destiny-

From the corner of his eye he caught a flash of silver hair.