A/N: OTL I can't believe I missed updating this for GrimmIchi Day. I had it all planned out too. Double update, this chapter on the 14th, and the next on the 15th as a treat. And then work got in the way. UGH! Anyway, there will be chapter art as soon as I have the spare time to finish it, probably tonight after work depending on how busy we are. Enjoy~!
Description: Reboot of my fic Alphas and Betas. "Ichigo has matured as a Human, he's obtained the pinnacle of Shinigami powers, but growing up as a Hollow brings new surprises. And a new threat on the horizon does not bode well for the Visored and his mate."
Warnings: Alpha/Beta Dynamics, Mpreg, Pregnancy, Polyamory, Bigotry, Prejudice, more to be added later
Pairings: GrimmIchi, RenBya, UlquiHime, KarinToshi, and others in the background
Disclaimer: Bleach is, of course, (c) Kubo-sensei because if we owned it there would be more Yaoi, less dying, and other characters would be the focus of the story.
4 – Heat
Ichigo proceeded to work through the rest of the month with very little memory of what happened that night. Every day he grew hotter, more distracted, and by the end of July, he was using any excuse he could think of to hole up in his apartment at night, when the fever was worse. Avoiding both friends and family, just as he had last year before he died.
This year though, he was aware of the searching. No one he talked to fit the bill. And he was conscious of the waiting. Instead of dreaming, he sought his sword's wisdom, disappearing for hours on end sometimes, regardless of whatever else was going on around him. Anything to waste the time when he couldn't concentrate on anything except the feeling of something—no someone—missing.
It was during one of these that Shinji finally confronted him. "Oi!"
The redhead glared. Not that it deterred the Visored captain.
Plopping himself down next to the other, the blond grinned, "So, ya know yet, or are ya gonna keep pretending ya ain't one of us?"
"Thought we covered this years ago, Shin, I'm not joining your pack."
"Yet, ya still show up here whenever yer feelin' it." Shinji teased with a waggle of his eyebrows over eyes that were slightly too serious. "Besides, that ain't what I mean." He spread out over the deck so that his head hung off the edge, "Kensei's nice, and Mashiro shares better than Love and Lisa."
"I'm not fucking Kensei."
"You'll feel better." The blond pressed.
Ichigo scowled, finally opening his eyes to glare in earnest at the older Visored, "I'm not somebody's bitch, no matter what biology says."
"Ya've got it all wrong, Ichi!" The honest concern almost had him giving in. "Unless ya've already got yer eyes on someone." Shinji looked deeper at him and there went the feeling of solidarity with the blond's exasperated huff. "Really?! After all this time?! Ya know it'd never be allowed, even if he was still alive. He's a—"
"A what?!" Ichigo growled; his voice duplicated faintly, "Just like us and you know it, Shin!"
The other growled back, "They are not! We're nothing like them!"
Their reiatsu rose as both moved to face each other, teeth bare and growling louder. Unknown to them both, a trickle of black bled into their eyes, and the oppressive aura filling the courtyard of the Fifth took on a distinct flavor, like sand on a hot wind.
Unseated Shinigami fled the division in a hurry, none of them willing to come between the two powerhouses in case the glaring match came to blows.
"Back down, Shin. You know I've got the advantage." Ichigo stood, flash-stepping away from the building.
The other followed him, "I am Pack Leader, Ichi. Strength is only part of it."
"I'm not part of your pack."
"If you were you'd know this shit!"
"Not gonna happen!"
They were barely a breath apart, hands on their swords and pouring enough reiatsu into the air that across the Seireitei three heads snapped up. At exactly the same moment, Kensei, Rose, and Renji appeared on opposite sides of the Fifth.
"Oh Hell." The captain of the Ninth groaned. "Rose."
The taller blond darted around the courtyard rescuing Shinigami that had been trapped by the immense weight of the power pouring out of the two in the center.
Renji gave Kensei a lost look, and the Visored shouted over the wind, "Separate them! Take the Berry back to his den! He needs safety right now!"
"What? You mean you know what's goin' on with him?"
"Look, pup, we don't have time for the whole thing. We gotta get 'em apart before—"
A roar, watery and savage, cut him off.
Between them, Shinji and Ichigo grappled, both biting and clawing at each other. Completely foregoing their swords, Ichigo had his jaws locked onto Shinji's neck where it met his shoulder, the vicious teeth of his mask rending the flesh through kosode, shitagi, and haori. On the other hand, Shinji tore at both of Ichigo's arms, fingers like claws. Blood splattered them both and the hard edges of their masks caught as both were trying to break the other's while protecting their own.
Kensei jumped on Shinji at the same moment Renji did the same with Ichigo. The second the scent of their blood hit the silver-haired Visored's nose though, fragments of white began to collect at his cheek. He spun the infuriated blond away, putting his body between the two of them with his back to Renji.
Daring to risk his grip, he jabbed his finger at the division entrance, "Get him out of here, Abarai!"
That time Renji didn't need to be told twice. He wrapped himself bodily around the struggling Ichigo and made for the gap in the wall. Just before they reached freedom, Shinji's voice, distorted by his mask, demanded with authority.
"FIND AN ALPHA, BERRY BOY! BEFORE YOU KILL SOMEONE ELSE!"
Ichigo stilled less than a block away from the Fifth, and he allowed himself to hang limply over Renji's shoulder all the way to the outskirts of the Kuchiki estate.
Technically the lands were originally Shiba property, but the Elders of the other three Houses were in conference regarding Ichigo's claim to the clan and whether his war hero status outweighed his father's desertion. So, for the time being the redhead's apartment and the wilderness beyond it were under Byakuya's care.
Between the two Shinigami though, whose name was on the deed didn't matter. The whole wedge of Seireitei was Ichigo's territory.
The often too-serious captain of the Sixth respected that in a way that made most of the others raise an eyebrow at him, but all he would say on the matter was that 'others' should consider themselves lucky Ichigo was so patient.
Which usually incited further laughter.
At the moment though, Renji could feel how serious that claim really was in how the younger redhead acted upon crossing into that wedge.
"Put me down, Renji." His voice was tired, but clear.
The older leveled him with a scowl, as soon as he was on his feet, "Yer not gonna go dashin' off ta kill Hirako-taicho if I let go, are ya?"
Ichigo gave a snort, raising an eyebrow at Renji's hands still on his hips. "If I wanted to kill Shinji, Ren, he'd be dead and you know it."
"Then what in the Four Worlds was that?!" But he did let go to walk beside him up the path to the semi-secluded bungalow apartment.
A blush stained the Visored's cheeks, and he mumbled under his breath.
"Never mind. It's just… nothing." He hauled his front door open like it had personally offended him, but if he'd hoped the rebound would deter his friend, he was sorely disappointed as Renji caught it and let himself inside.
"That weren't nothin'. All that talk of Alphas and packs and the fight?! Ya looked fit ta tear his throat out. Ya damn near did before Muguruma-taicho stepped in!" Renji let the door slam and waggled a finger at him. "Ya got some explainin' ta do!"
Ichigo snickered, "Lay off the old sitcoms next time you're staying at Kisuke's."
"It's a good sayin'." The older huffed. "Now explain!"
The door banging open stopped him before the words even formed on his tongue.
"Ichigo!" Rukia's slight frame seemed to fill the entry-way. "What the hell!?"
The orange-haired man drew his hand down his face in exasperation. Renji opened his mouth to speak, also frustrated because he'd been just about to learn the answer to that very question, but the Visored cut him off, a sarcastic tone to his voice.
"Why, yes, Rukia, come right in, make yourself at home. I'll make tea and we'll all have a nice chat, shall we?"
The Midget huffed, her pretty mouth scrunching up to her nose with a, no doubt indignant, reply on her tongue, but Ichigo gave her no chance.
"There's nothing to worry about. I have it under control."
Renji snorted. "Yeah, right."
Ichigo scowled at him.
"Yeah, totally under control. You nearly tore Hirako-taicho's head off!" Rukia exclaimed, slamming the door behind her just like Renji had. "Do you not want to have your family cleared!? No appreciation for the lengths Nii-sama have gone to get you this chance?!"
"THAT'S what you care about!?" Renji rounded on her incredulous.
"You should too! If war hero status gets equated to nobility, you can date Nii-sama openly!" The tiny Shinigami couldn't believe either lunkhead had any brains between them. "Nobility doesn't get into violent brawls and hauled halfway across Seireitei like a sack of potatoes!"
"Hirako-taicho nearly dies and you care about how we looked?!" Renji scoffed again.
"He wouldn't have died." Ichigo and Rukia chorused, though one was considerably more squirmy than the other, causing the focus of the conversation to shift back to the youngest.
Renji narrowed his eyes at him, "That's the second time ya've lit up like one of those fire truck things. Now, c'mon, out wit' it. S'not nothin'. Ya've been weird since yer birthday."
Rukia nodded quickly, "You've been secretive, moody, and you barely spent any time with your dad when he came to visit last week." Ichigo gave her a look. "Okay, true. Very few people can be around your dad long, but you skipped out in the middle of theatre night. And I know it didn't have anything to do with the play! Will was right next to you!"
"Ru's right." Renji chimed in, "Every other time it's like trying to tell Kenpachi 'no' to get you and Will apart after theatre night."
"You haven't been sparring with him either!" Rukia came back. "I know because he's been going after Nii-sama for it instead."
"He never said anythin' ta me." The older redhead sounded hurt.
The brunette turned to him, shaking her head, "I'm sure he didn't mean to, it probably slipped his mind. It's not like it's a big deal. It's just Kenpachi…"
Ichigo took advantage of their distraction to slink off, flash stepping through the house and out the back door faster than even the Goddess of Flash herself.
Once he as miles into the woods beyond his garden, the redhead relaxed further. His reiatsu flickered and spread out over the trees like a blanket. He sank into seiza position before bending to touch his forehead to ground, his arms wrapped around his stomach.
He breathed through his teeth, eyes scrunched closed, and a wild keen escaped his throat to echo against the forest in the setting sun. Familiar hands pulled on his waist. On the outskirts of his senses he felt the world melt away. Sinking into his mindscape, those hands soothed the empty place in his soul that cramped and drove him mad with fever.
"Shh, Aibou. I gotcha." The watery voice was strained, tired.
Their eyes met. The accordance between them echoed hollowly. Ichigo had not revealed the presence of the White to Soul Society and yet he had been unable to forestall the symptoms.
"We had a deal, Shii." The King hissed.
"Ah. We did."
Gold flashed between them, lighting up the glass at their feet in time with the redhead's eyes. He stood, slowly, from his crouch, his brows drawn into a furious scowl, and he stepped towards the Hollow.
"We had a deal, Shii!" He hissed again, like a rattlesnake.
The pseudo-albino stepped back, also slowly, his hands up. He knew who his King was, who had saved them all from being dissolved out of the cycle of rebirth. His might have been the power they'd used to heal, but the King had protected their soul name, wrapped his very self around the core and bore the scars of their death across his back. No, Shirosaki was done challenging his King. He was a good horse. He never bucked or kicked anymore. And he'd done his best. He really had. But…
"Ya can't stop biology, Aibou." He took another step back, chancing a glance at the edge of the building. A fall couldn't kill him but it'd hurt a lot. His King would make sure of it.
"We had a—"
"Ichigo." The third spirit rumbled darkly.
The redhead's glare snapped to the other half of his sword. The Old Man wore only his dark robe, his hair frizzy from the heat, and darker than normal sunglasses to protect his eyes.
"You know what you have to do." He intoned, and the King snarled at him to no effect. "Further ignoring the problem will only lead us down the same path as before. You must take us forward if we are to overcome the fever. Walking in our own footsteps is as good as going backwards. And there is no Soul Society beyond this one. Would you send us to Rebirth so soon?"
For a long moment there was only tense silence where Ichigo appeared as though he was going to go after Shiro anyway. Then he huffed like an iguana and flopped onto his rear with his knees drawn up, glaring at the storm clouds rumbling across the sky to his left. Heat lightning flickered inside them and made the silence that much bigger.
Cautiously Shiro sat beside him, as always in mimicry and duplicate all the way down to the bruises under their eyes. Though the Hollow's were grey against his ashen skin where his King's were purple.
"So," Ichigo began conversationally, "biology, huh?"
"You said you can't stop biology."
Shiro looked to Zangetsu before answering, "Yeah, it's a—"
"It means it's a part of me whether I like it or not, like my hair." Ichigo cut him off.
He huffed in return, "What's wrong wit' yer hair?!"
A smirk accompanied one of those powerful amber eyes in looking at the Hollow. "Nothing, I'm glad to know you care so much."
"Oi! O'course I care! It's my hair too! Don't go gettin' some crazy idea ta dye it er sommat! I'll force it outta ya like a poison, ya know I will!"
"Easy, Shii." The King laughed, a beam of sunshine illuminating the copper spikes like a halo, "I just meant it's something we can't change."
"We?" The Hollow perked up a bit.
Ichigo leaned over, strangely comforted by his horse just being there. The feeling was only enhanced when the Hollow responded. Off in the distance, the clouds got a little less threatening, and the lightning faded into pale pulses buried deep inside them, only flickering when that empty place contracted.
As the sun died over Seireitei, it was just beginning to rise in Karakura Town. The sky was clear, a few left over puffy clouds slept in late above the slowly wakening city. It had rained the day before. The streets still carried the scent of it over the stench of car exhaust and human. And of the Living World's most egotistical species, none even glanced up when a great black mouth ripped the gorgeous dawn in half.
Three figures dressed in white emerged, various levels of contempt written on their faces. Of the men, the taller shoved his hands into the pockets of his hakama and the shorter glanced at him with disdain in the slant of his brows and mouth. The third was both female, and furious, squirming in her bonds like a cat about to get a bath.
"Let Nel go! Nel's brudders'll beat chu up!" She kicked her feet, dangling from the shorter man's grasp by the scruff of her neck.
He scowled at her, "Quiet, cub."
"Nel's not a cub! Don't treat Nel like dis! Let Nel go!"
"Oi! Shaddup!" The taller growled, earning a wince and a squeak from the child-sized girl.
He barely glanced at her, his attention off to the side. His companions could almost see the tick of interested tail tip in the way his eyes scanned the city below. A hand on his shoulder made him jump and hiss, glaring at the source.
"Go find him, Grimmjow. You will be useless to us until you do." His stoic companion almost smiled, a fond tolerance in his reiatsu in spite of his deadpan tone of voice.
His whole frame tense, and his attention jumped to Nel. "But…"
"Go." The other ordered again.
Grimmjow gave a growl and darted off.
Then Nel, who'd been pouting, scowled up at the remaining Arrancar. "You know where you goin'? Or ish Nel gonna hafta find the glowy-lady by hershelf like she was gonna."
"I know where I am going, cub. I have been here many times."
"Shince da war?"
Ulquiorra hissed involuntarily, then cleared his throat, and started off towards their destination. "Yes."
The higher the sun climbed in the sky, the brighter it shone on the city, and the more irritated Grimmjow became. Being from a world of eternal night, the watery air and infernal daylight were conspiring to give him a migraine. And worse… his prey's scent was everywhere!
It covered the town. Every nook and cranny was saturated with it, like the berry boy had deliberately gone about the place staking out bright red flags for all the worlds to see. Granted it was his territory, but still! He didn't have to go that overboard with it; just a few rubs here and there with a scent gland and it did the trick. Anything that could smell it would keep away and anything that couldn't was meat to be wasted as far as the feline Arrancar thought. He did have to concede that it fit the berry's style though. Big, loud, large, and everywhere at once.
Which made the absence of his reiatsu all the more telling. And infuriating.
It wasn't uncommon for Betas in heat to go into hiding at this time of the year, and if this had been the desert, Grimm might have given up for this season. He had last year when the berry's scent had abruptly disappeared mid-fall. But between that missed opportunity, and the fact that berry boy had always been horrible at hiding his power, the absence was motivating rather than discouraging.
Maybe he just hadn't been in town in a while. Humans did that, didn't they? Just take off for someone else for a while without notifying anyone? Maybe he'd packed up his trash family and headed out of town.
Except that should have let the scent fade some, and the very air of the city was saturated with it.
Sweet, almost cloying the way it dawdled in his nose, and fuck the Seven Hells did that drive him wild! It always had. That damned scent called him out. Through the haze of the usurper's sword powers, it had called to him, ignited his instincts. And that had only gotten worse now that he knew his prey had come of age!
Though where he was now…
"Oi! What do you want prowling around my house?"
A quick glance identified a human woman, approximately eighteen years old, decently high spiritual potential—for a human anyway—grey-eyed, short black hair, and a familiar scowl on her face. She was dressed intelligently; tee-shirt and shorts. Strange armor on her lower legs though. It was made of plastic and covered nothing vital… Unless human anatomy had changed drastically since the Winter War. But Grimmjow didn't think it had so he summarily dismissed the grumpy tomboy in favor of returning to his search.
At least he tried.
The ball didn't exactly come out of nowhere, he'd seen it tucked under her arm, but the force behind it got his full attention as he caught it. He squeezed his hand, puncturing it in five places, eyes narrow and a growl in his throat.
"I said, what are you doing prowling around my house?" She put her hands on her hips and tossed her head to unsuccessfully get her bangs out of her face.
Grimmjow gave a snort and fired the deflated ball back at her with all of his strength. "Not that it's any of yer business, but I'm lookin' fer someone."
To his surprise, not only did she catch it, when it bounced off of her chest there was a flash of green reiatsu that repaired it entirely—air and all.
Her scowl took on a darker tone, "Ichi-nii's not here."
"Yer one of his brat sisters, ain't ya?" He connected the dots mentally, with a quick assessment of the area. "Which one?"
Before she could answer the front door popped open, and a blonde copy of the woman flashed them a bright smile. "Karin-chan! Dinner's ready, and Otousan says that your boyfriend can join us if he wants to!"
"WHAT?!" Karin stomped into the house past her twin, wearing and berating their father just loud enough to be heard outside.
Grimmjow almost laughed until he noticed the other Kurosaki daughter was still genuinely smiling at him. He scowled, barely resisting the urge to cross his arms over his chest. She didn't actually expect him to join them, did she? He was Arrancar, they were Shinigami, that was just asking for someone to die!
Yuzu giggled, "Nii-san doesn't live here anymore."
"Huh?" Was the girl confused?
"Well it started a couple years ago. After he lost his powers. He couldn't stand Otousan anymore he said. So he moved in with Xcution."
What the Hell was she going on about? He raised an eyebrow and cocked his head a little bit away from her defensively.
"They helped him for a while, but when he got his powers back I guess he couldn't stand them anymore either. So he moved out on his own."
"Of course, nowhere he lived he stayed for long. He just couldn't get settled. Never stayed anywhere for more than a couple months."
That brought his protests to a halt and his wandering attention snapped to her entirely. It certainly explained the way his prey's scent covered the entire town. "So where is he now?"
She seemed to completely ignore his demand. "That's when Urahara-san started training him harder. He went there every day. Like Urahara-san was trying to push him to master something."
"So he's at the Shinigami's place. Great."
"Well, Urahara-san can't teach him anything anymore."
Grimmjow growled at the innocent smile on her face. "Then he's with the Visored bastards?!"
She shook her head with a little laugh. If she'd been anyone else he'd have thought she was being deliberately evasive and manipulative. But he didn't think Shinigami and humans had Betas. Even still, she was getting on his last nerve.
"Then where the fuck is he! I can smell him all over the goddamned town!" His hands clenched into fists as he realized he'd just confirmed her suspicions about who he was looking for.
"That's because he was just here last week. But we don't expect him back for another month." Her voice took on a melancholy tone, and she sighed wistfully. "Truthfully though, it'll be much longer than that, and things will be much worse by the time he does come back."
Not liking the way those words ran down his spine, Grimmjow snarled, "So you don't know where he is, which means he's not in the city, which means he's out of his territory. Why!"
"It's simple, Arrancar-san." Yuzu smiled sadly up at him. "Nii-san is dead."