Title: Mechanical Butterfly
Requester's Name: Esotaria
Pairing or Character: Wonderwyce/Orihime (and some implied Ulquiorra -- Orihime)
Rating: T (for some violence)
Squicks/Spoilers: Spoilers for recent manga chapters. No squicks unless you have a deepseated phobia of paint.
Author's Note: Written for the October round at Bleach flashfic on LiveJournal. Let it be known that I FREAKING LOVE this pairing now. It's platonic-y, but not, and ungh yes please more. I hope you all enjoy it!

xoxoxoxx

Mechanical Butterfly

xoxoxoxox

Butterflies.

That was Inoue Orihime's first impression of her new quarters high in the ramparts of Las Noches, courtesy of Aizen and his Arrancar. The image made so little sense at first that she only stood blinking and staring, trying to rearrange her eyes so that the blinding array of colour would become somehow comprehensible. Butterflies did not -- could not-- live in Hueco Mundo. Nevertheless, her new room was full of them.

"Wonderwyce," Ulquiorra murmured beside her, whether for her benefit or out of irritation she could not tell.

That was when she spotted the odd little person sitting on the other end of the long rectangular room. He (she? it?) had a strange object in his hands which resembled an egg-poaching pan, flat and square and full of deep round depressions. Each depression was full of what she could have sworn was finger-paint, brilliant and dazzling in this world of white and grey-black shadows. His fingers were smeared with hundreds of messy shimmering shades.

"Oh," she said, and smiled helplessly at the thousands upon thousands of flawlessly depicted butterflies coating her walls from floor to ceiling and beyond.

Wonderwyce-- she presumed that was the funny little person's name-- bounded to his feet and grinned widely. He threw his arms wide and bent his back forwards a little bit, almost like a bow but not quite as humble. She caught a glimpse of glittering amethyst eyes, faceted but somehow soft, before they were obscured by a shock of dull pale hair the colour of northern ocean sands. He had buck-teeth, she noticed, and freckles.

What a strange little man.

"I think he's welcoming you," Ulquiorra said as though the words made a bad taste in his mouth. "I do not as of yet understand why Aizen-sama has made him a member of the Espada, but he must have his reasons. Aizen-sama does not tolerate uselessness."

She ignored his comment and faced the small figure directly, clasping her fingers together behind her back. "Thank you for welcoming me," Orihime said, smiling and bowing so that her sunset hair fell around her face and reached for the floor. "The butterflies are beautiful. How did you know I was going to miss the colours of my home?"

"Ridiculous," Ulquiorra muttered, then pushed her with surprising gentleness into the room. "You will stay here until Aizen-sama has need of you. do not attempt to escape. Do not attempt to contact your friends. Wait in patience and obedience, and you will do well here."

Orihime was truly a remarkable woman. Thus, instead of saying something sarcastic or starting to cry, she turned to him and smiled serenely. "Thank you, Ulquiorra-san. I think with all this to look at I won't have any trouble being patient. Thank you for being so nice to me, as well-- you could have been really nasty to me if you'd wanted to, but you didn't. So thanks for that."

Ulquiorra stared at her, then shook his head slightly as if to clear it. "I will never understand human women," he said shortly, then turned on his heel, stalked out the door, and quietly shut it behind him.

Orihime shrugged and turned her attention back to the incredible room. It was perhaps thirty-five feet long and twenty wide, and nearly forty high. The door was located in one of the shorter walls. On the far wall near the top was a small window cut diagonally upward through ten feet of stone to reach the eternal night outside. It was starless, but she could see the glow of the white sand that seemed to make up Hueco Mundo's ground.

Between she and the far wall was a stunning riot of colour. Butterflies of every shape and size cavorted in thick profusion across the walls she logically knew were stark white, overlapping in most places so that all she could see was colour. They crossed the floor as well, and the ceiling when at last she looked up. There were perhaps three square feet that were not yet drenched in pigment, and Wonderwyce seemed to be in the process of remedying that.

Despite everything that had just happened to her-- the kidnapping, th ultimatums, being forced to heal someone who might eventually end up hurting her friends-- she still had to smile at the bizarre beauty of the artwork before her. Every butterfly was lifelike and done in excruciating detail, and when she took a step into the room she found that they seemed to move with her.

"This really is incredible," she breathed. "If it weren't for everything else-- and the evil-- I could really be happy here!"

Wonderwyce paused and turned to face her, dripping hunter green from his fngers. An enormous smile suddenly split his face and he tilted his head to the side, winking coyly.

Orihime helplessly laughed out loud, caught up in the incongruity of his existence in this place. "What are you doing here?" she said more than half-seriously, pressing through the bewildered giggles resounding in her throat. "You're so bright and colourful, and you smile so wonderfully... how do you survive in this black-and-white place? I've never met a hollow like you, never!"

His only response was a wave at the array of glory and another quiet smile. Then he turned around and set to on those last few inches of bare space.

She sighed and pressed her hands to her chest, feeling unexpectedly lighthearted. It was impossible to feel depressed when surrounded by thousands of tropical butterflies.

She noticed then that the walls were not perfectly straight-- in a far corner, the wall curved horizontally outwards to form a raised platform. Underneath she could see something remarkably like drawers, only made of stone. They turned out to hold bedding and clothing, enough of each to keep her perfectly warm and comfortable. With a sigh or relief, she set the bedding out over the now-dry paint and collapsed onto the firm whiteness.

Wonderwyce giggled.

Orihime began to wonder. "Can you even talk?" she asked curiously.

The artist merely ignored her, concentrating fiercely through glimmering violet eyes.

She sighed and lay back, turning on her side to watch him paint. The strange deep-welled palette seemed to be self-restoring, as he splashed on endless amounts without ever seeming to run dry. Next she noticed that he did not seem to do much actual painting with his fingers-- instead, he merely tossed a handful of paint at the wall, then wiggled his fingers at the splat with great focus until it magically rearranged itself into the form he wanted.

Telekinesis? He's painting with his mind? she thought wonderingly. Then: Coooool!

"I'm an artist too, you know," she informed him matter-of-factly. "If I had my sketchbook with me, I'd show you, but they wouldn't let me bring it through. I'm proud of my work, but it's nowhere near as good as this. This is amazing."

Wonderwyce crinkled his brows and sat back on his heels, tapping his chin thoughtfully with one Prussian-blue finger. Then, he reached out and hauled the shocked Orihime off the bed and onto the floor next to him. With a wave of his hand, he wiped a three-foot square area of wall clean of all pigment. Then, he gestured towards his palette and to her.

His meaning was clear. "You'll really let me borrow them?" she asked, joy leaping in her heart.

He nodded solemnly, buck-teeth pressing on his lower lips in a way that she couldn't help but find utterly charming.

"Thank you so much!" she gushed, then reached out and dipped her finger in the crimson bucket. "I'll draw... a flower!" she proclaimed.

xoxoxoxoxoxoxox

When Ulquiorra came to fetch her the next day, he found her and Wonderwyce sprawled in deep sleep on the floor beneath the window, and the wall covered in bizarre mechanical vines and blossoms, as well as flowers too fantastic to be real. The latter he recognized as Wodnerwyce's imagination at work, but the former was like nothing he'd seen before. He was at a loss... utnil he saw the smudged mess of paint all over Orihime's sleeves.

He gaped.

Arrancar did not have friends. They did not share their possessions, and they did not fall asleep in the presence of enemies. And they did not smile peacefully in their dreams, either.

He had no idea what to say, so he simply said what he'd been sent to say. "Inoue Orihime, wake up," he said as loudly as he could. "Aizen-sama wishes to speak with you."

"Hmmmrrfffghhhlluurrggghhhhh??" Orihime answered groggily, reaching up to wipe her eyes with rose-stained hands. It left a long smear of pink across her eyelid, which strangely did not look out of place-- rather, it looked intentional, like an adornment. It looked rather nice, actually, so he decided not to tell her about it.

"Your presence is required in the throne room," he said when he was sure she was awake enough to understand. "Follow me."

Wonderwyce suddenly made a sound and stretched like a ragged kitten, then sat bolt upright with unsettling speed. He was already completely clear-eyed and alert. He looked over at Orihime, made a face, and waved his hand in a complex tweisting motion. A moment later, the girl was pristine... except for the stripe of pink across her eyes. Wonderwyce grinned up at her and made a motion that clearly said shoo.

She nodded, still bewildered with sleep, and followed Ulquiorra out the door.

It was so strange to him that a woman who was evidently more powerful than God himself should be so awkward in her daily life, Ulquiorra pondered. It was somehow wrong that someone so devastatingly strong should be so undone by sleep and have creases in her face from pillowing her head on her arm.

He was pleasantly preoccupied with contemplating her odd dichotomy up until reaching the throne room.

"Here we are," he said peremptorily. "Speak--"

"--Only when spoken to, right?" Orihime finsiehd with an impish grin. "I get it, I know. I've seen lots of movies with things like thes in them. There was this one with a captured princess and a robot dragon, that was my favourite..."

"You could start with being silent right now," he said warningly. "We do not tolerate idle chatter here."

She visibly drooped, but closed her mouth.

Ulquiorra felt obscurely guilty. As soon as he realized that he was feeling guilt, he felt horrified. Arrancar did not feel guilt. Ever.

"Are you ready?" he asked in a tone that should have been cold and sharp but instead turned almost kind. He then resisted the urge to clap a hand over his mouth to prevent himself from being any nicer to her. It was horrible, really. She was horrible for making him do it.

"In we go!" she said brightly, punching the air and then striding forward.

Ulquiorra only knew she was shaking because he could see the trembling in the tips of her fingers. The rest of her was held perfectly calm despite her terror.

The door opened into whiteness.

xoxoxoxoxoxoxox

It was hours later when Orihime staggered into her room, exhausted but oddly satisfied. Aizen was impressed. Grimmjow didn't seem to want to kill her anymore. Luppi was dead and thus no longer presented a threat, and Ulquiorra had been a weirdly comforting presence at her back. If it hadn't been for the whole evil shtick about it, she thought she might have felt very content and -- dare she even think it?-- happy.

The butterflies swallowed her as Ulquiorra closed the door behind her. She grinned, smoothing her hands down the slippery white fabric of her Arrancar-style outfit. It fit really well, she observed... except for the evil.

"Augh!" she said out loud, throwing her hands up and startling Wonderwyce out of a boneless sleep on her bed. "How do I keep this straight? You're evil, but I'm freaking happy and I can't reconcile it. Doesn't being happy while helping evil make me evil too? Can I be happy and good at the same time while being on your side? Augh! Help me out here, Wonderyce. I really haven't got a clue."

Wonderwyce looked up at her with wide velvet eyes. All the hard edges seemed to be gone from him. Except for the hole in his chest and the bone tiara, he simply looked like a tousled human boy with pretty eyes.

"No answer?" she said, then sighed and sank down onto the bed. "I didn't hink so." She flopped over onto her stomach and closed her eyes, feeling hopelessly conflicted.

Several minutes later, a gentle moving pressure on her back startled her out of her reverie. "Wha...?" she murmured, tensing to turn over.

"Un!" Wonderwyce said urgently, pressing on her upper back with one hand. "Un-un!"

"You want me to stay still?" she asked, brow furrowing.

Wonderwyce made a chirruping sound that she interpreted as a yes, then released the heavy pressure on her shoulders and resumed whatever he was doing to her lower back.

It tickled pleasantly. "What are you doing?" she asked sleepily, soothed by the gentle rhythm.

No answer but a quiet slopping noise during one of the brief cessations of pressure. She knew that sound-- he was dipping for paint.

"Ran out of wall space, did you?" she said with amusement. "Well, all right then. Paint to your heart's content."

Wonderwyce hummed happily.

Orihime fell asleep.

xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox

It was still dark when she woke up. There was a warm weight pressed to her side and she felt utterly wrung out and pleasantly langorous, like she'd just had a deep muscle massage or sat in a mineral hot spring for an hour.

She stirred to look around at the profusion of butterflies. Every time she looked she saw dozens of new ones she was certain hadn't been there the last time she'd looked. Orihime smiled at them and felt a deep peace settle into her soul.

The warm weight she easily identified as Wonderwyce. He was utterly abandoned in sleep, face slack, limbs akimbo, no trace of fear or pain in his face. She touched his cheek with feather-light fingers and wondered why, in the world of heatless dead, he was always so warm. The room was warm as well, as none of the others in Las Noches were.

She thought about it, and realized that she could not reconcile the concept of death in relation to Wonderwyce. He was one of the most alive beings she knew of, exploding with colour and heat and innocent joy, but innocence with a depth and understanding no earthly child could ever attain. The answer came to her in a gentle swell of light.

"You're an angel," she whispered, brushing wisps of hair from his face and curling her body around him as though to sink his heat into her bones. "A real dead angel. Cool." Impulsively, she pressed her lips to his cheekbone and ran her fingers over the crown of bone, his Hollow-mark.

He squirmed sleepily and pressed back into her arms.

She realized that it would be very hard to leave him behind if she were ever to gain her freedom.

xoxoxoxoxoxoxox

"Get up," Ulquiorra snapped, sounding in a very bad temper.

Orihime slid sideways into wakefulness and sat up. "What is it, Ulquiorra-san?" Her hair was a rumpled mess, and Wonderwyce was clinging possessively to her middle, face pressed into the curve of her waist.

"Trouble," the cold Arrancar said. "We've got wounded. Follow me."

She rolled off the bed and stumbled after him at a dead run. He was gliding down the corridors with frightening speed and she was hard-pressed to keep up even with her newfound strength.

"How did they get wounded, and how badly?" she asked, panting.

"Ryoka intrusion, and to the point of death," he replied shortly. "Run faster."

"Ryoka?" she whispered, pole-axed. "As in..."

Ulquiorra's freezing grey eyes seized her as he looked back over his shoulder. "Do not dare to entertain hope," he said, dangerously quiet. "They will be dealt with. They have not yet reached the inner sanctum and they are already faltering. It really is a pity they cared enough to come after you-- they might have lived longer otherwise."

Orihime's mind became a worldess maelstrom of horror, desperation, and outright thundering panic. Adrenaline screamed through her blood in a sickening tide and she found herself flying past the stunned Ulquiorra. In bare moments he was far behind. Now that she was paying attention, she could sense the clashing reiatsu-- there was Ichigo's, and Chad's and Ishida's, and even Rukia's and Renji's!

All of them! she thought in a confusing mixture of terror and warmth. They all came for me! And now, they're all going to die unless I get there and stop it. If I even can.

She blasted into the room. She found a battle that was exploding messily all over the white walls in gory splatters. Orihime gasped, but had no time to stop and assimilate the taste of airborne blood on her tongue.

"Stop!" she shrieked at the top of her lungs. "That's enough! Stop it, all of you! Enough!"

The scream of steel on bone was deafening. She was no more than a whisper in a thunderstorm. They would never hear her.

Her chin dropped to her chest and she shook with racing energy that had no outlet. At last, instinct came racing up from the shadowed places in her bones and took over completely.

"Shun'ou! Ayame!" she called, beyond rage or fear. It was simply time to do what was necessary.

The sprites shot into existence from their stasis in her hairclips, ready for action. "What are we rejecting?" Shun'uo asked eagerly.

"Everything," Orihime said, deadly quiet. "This whole room. Make it so this battle never happened."

Their eyes clouded with worry. "Orihime-chan, you may not have that kind of power. You may die if you try to do something like this."

Inoue Orihime was made of iron. Her bones, her flesh, her eyes were heavy and powerful as the edges of swords. "I don't care. Do it."

"Inoue!" Ichigo suddenly shouted, somehow making himself heard from all the way across the maelstrom. "Hurry up and come this way! We have to run!"

She faltered. "Kurosaki-kun..."

All of a sudden, there were warm clinging arms around her waist from behind. They gripped tightly and desperately, and she could feel the passion in them. She looked over her shoulder to see a bone tiara and a rag of strawish hair pressed into her shoulders.

Out of the corner of her eye, she discovered the secret of Wonderwyce's art-making on her back-- an enormous vermilion butterfly, a masterpiece in silken shadows and bold edges. She stared at the small corner of it that she could see and felt her eyes burn.

"Wonderwyce," she whispered. "What do I do?"

The arms tightened, mutely pleading.

She closed her eyes and saw a blazing heart painted across four white walls, a floor, and a ceiling, and millions of silk-thin wings. She saw truth and divinity in the sweeping motions of bony fingers, and she saw colours more brilliant than any she had ever known in life. She saw the way her bent and twisted artwork fit right in, the way the butterflies embraced her innate strangeness without a qualm.

She opened them and saw Ichigo's face, and the horrified understanding in them.

The choice was clear at last.

"I reject," she said into a completely silent room.

There was a soundless flash, a wrench of unimaginable power, and then perfect whiteness at the end. Though she couldn't see, Orihime knew that she had not only stopped the battle, but sent her friends all the way back ot the mortal world as though they had never come. She could feel them, impossibly distant and raging against what they could not understand.

Don't try again," she thought calmly, and knew that they heard her though they could not reply.

The room returned, bloodless and deathly white. There was no dissolving of self or body, no boneless exhaustion. Even this madness was within easy reach of her power. She tried not to think about what that meant for God because doing that made her head hurt.

She turned around and took a deep breath. There could be no turning back now.

Wonderwyce thudded into her, knocking her back against the wall with the force of his joy. She wrapped her arms around him and buried her face in his hair, unable to say anything but unspeakably glad for his warmth and overflowing vitality.

"What did you just do?" Ulquiorra said, still standing near the door and seemingly frozen in shock. "What was that? Where are the ryoka?"

"I made it right," Orihime said simply. "They're where they belong, and I'm..." She looked down into Wonderwyce's glowing purple eyes and smiled serenely. "I'm where I belong, too."

Ulquiorra shook his head. "I will never understand human women," he muttered, a welcome echo.

Orihime laughed. "How does this butterfly on my back look?" she asked, turning around so he could look.

His icy eyes widened. "It's..." He paused, unable to formulate the right word for what she saw reflected in his pale eyes. His hands moved helplessly.

"Alive," she finished for him.

Truth.

XoxoxoxoxoxoX

A/N: Win.

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