Title: The Rain that Binds
Pairings: UlquiHime with some one-sided IchiHime and IshiHime. Other pairings may be hinted at later.
Spoilers: Up to chapter 282 of the manga
Word count: 3,123
Warnings: Noitora's potty mouth
She blinked. He blinked. She sighed. He shifted his focus to the odd-looking big screen transmitter that was taking up one wall of her apartment. She…was very confused why an Espada from Aizen's army was sitting across the table from her. No wait. Orihime knew why Ulquiorra was sitting there, taking in his surroundings with a meticulous eye.
Ichigo had been fighting Grimmjow for about an hour and a half now. It had been a repetitive back and forth of Ichigo gaining the upper hand and then Grimmjow and then Ichigo again. Orihime and Nell stood behind her Santen Kesshun and watched the battle with intense interest.
Her eyes traveled downward and rested on her hands. She had been terrified when she saw him with his mask on and that made her feel immense guilt.
' How can I fear someone that I love?'
She did not have time to ponder this as she felt a strong reiatsu appear behind her, and her shield shattered. Slowly, she turned around. Her eyes widened when she recognized who it was. Noitora. He was wearing his trademark lecherous grin on his face that made her feel like throwing up. Orihime could feel his eyes moving up and down her body in a suggestive motion and tried her hardest to suppress a shudder.
" Why? What is Pet-sama doing out of her cage?"
This time, she couldn't help but shudder at his nickname for her. He continued to leer at her while she decided what would be the best course of action. She had no idea what rank he was, but she was sure that even if he was the tenth Espada that she would be no match for him. She couldn't and wouldn't ask Ichigo for his help. No. She had promised herself that she would become strong enough so that she didn't have to depend on Ichigo anymore.
" What's wrong? Can you not talk anymore? Come. I'll bring you back to your cage and take good 'care' of you."
She looked up at him, determined. She had narrowed her options down to two: either run away from Noitora and hope that she did not run into another Espada, who could possible be a higher rank, or fight. Orihime thought over both choices quickly and decided that she only had one real choice: she had to fight.
" Eh? What are you doing? You don't thand a chanth agaitht Noitora-sama!" Nell cried out.
" Oh? Pet-sama is going to try and fight me, huh? Well, this should be interesting." His grin grew even larger than it already was, a feat that Orihime would have thought to be impossible.
' I know, Nell. I know I don't have a chance. But if I run away from this battle, I can never look at Kurosaki-kun and Kuchiki-san and Sado-kun and Ishida-kun the same way again! I have to fight!'
"Koten Zanshun! I reject!"
Tsubaki lauched at the significantly larger Espada, aimed for his right arm…and missed it by more than a few feet. Noitora easily moved out of the way of the projectile.
" Oh? So this is the power that Aizen-sama had told us about?" he questioned.
Orihime tried to attack him a few more times but each time that she did, he would move out of the way.
' This is just a game to him, isn't it?' she thought bitterly. ' Why can't I hit him?'
'Your attack lacks a killing intent.'
Yes. That is what one of the first shinigami that she and Ishida had encountered in Soul Society had told her. How does one go about gaining such a thing, though?
' I just have to try harder. I WILL hit him. For my friends sake! I won't let this rescue mission be in vain! I won't let him take me back! Kuchiki-san! Abarai-kun! Sado-kun! Ishida-kun! Kurosaki-kun!'
"Koten Zanshun! I REJECT!" she screamed, pouring every emotion she had into the attack.
"You know, if that attack of yours didn't work the first time, what makes you think it will work this time?"
To Orihime and Noitora's surprise, her attack did work. Tsubaki had managed to make a shallow incision on his chest. The wound began to bleed, staining his uniform red. He looked at her in surprise, disbelief, and most of all, in fury. She had never seen him with anything other than that grin of his before. Until now. His mouth was turned down into a deep frown that could rival Ulquiorra's.
" You stupid bitch! How could a girl like you hurt me? Me? The quinta Espada? I'll make you pay for that!"
Suddenly, Noitora's long, bony hands were tightly wrapped around her neck. Because of their obvious height difference, Orihime was dangling a couple of feet from the ground. She gasped desperately for air and grasped at his fingers to try to loosen them, but they got tighter instead.
" I don't care about Aizen-sama's orders to not harm you. Nothing can save you now. Most of your nakama are either fighting, injured or dead. This is the end for you, Pet-sama. I do regret that we did not have the time to get better 'acquainted' with each other."
Orihime continued to grasp at his fingers but it was futile. She was beginning to see stars, and could feel her body getting weaker with each passing second.
' I'm going to die! Please! Someone! Help me! Kurosaki-kun!' she pleaded inwardly.
Suddenly, she could breathe again. At the same time, she started to fall and before she could let out a scream, she was in someone's arms. She breathed heavily, trying to get rid of the stars and the numb feeling that a lack of oxygen had left her body with. Orihime looked at Noitora and was surprised to see another gash in his chest, a bit higher then the one that she had made and much deeper.
" Ulquiorra! What the fuck do you think you are doing?" Noitora cried out in confusion.
' Ulquiorra?' She looked up to see her rescuer and to her surprise, she found that it really was Ulquiorra. She saw his emerald green eyes, hard, and his green tear marks that stood out against his pale face. She looked at his uniform and saw that it was worn and torn in several places. Yes. This was definitely Ulquiorra. But when had he escaped from the negación that Grimmjow had sealed him in?
" If I were you, Noitora, I would leave right now. If you do not, I promise you that you will not come out of our fight alive," Ulquiorra said coldly, but with an edge to his voice that Orihime had never heard from the shorter Espada.
The two stared each other down for what seemed like hours. Noitora moved his hand to zanpakutou and held it there. Ulquiorra's eyes narrowed minimally. Then, after a few seconds, Noitora moved his hand away and started to laugh.
" I don't know what you think you are going to accomplish, Ulquiorra. Aizen-sama will not be pleased." And with that, he turned on his heal and left the two. They were still in the same position they had been when Ulquiorra had first caught her and she was starting to feel uncomfortable in his grasp. He apparently noticed this and soon released her, making sure she was secure on the ground before fully releasing her.
" Why did you…"
" Quiet, woman." He looked around them and then turned his gaze back to her. Before she could open her mouth to question him, he started to talk again.
" It would appear that your nakama, Kurosaki Ichigo, has defeated Grimmjow. He is now heading this way. No. Let me finish," he said, noticing that she was about to ask something. " Your other nakama are close by. If you want to leave Hueco Mundo in one piece, you will follow exactly what I say."
Orihime looked at him blankly, trying to figure out if what she was hearing was correct.
" Wait! What do you mean, leave Hueco Mundo? I thought…"
" Does it matter? You want to leave this place, correct?"
" Then you will follow what I say."
Ulquorra broke eye contact with her and stared to the west, the direction that Ichigo would come from. What would he say when he saw her with Ulquiorra, the same Espada who had kidnapped her? Would he try to fight him again?
"…where's Nell?" she asked, realizing that it had been too quiet without the young Arrancar.
" She has been returned to her brothers and they are now outside of Las Noches."
" Ano…" He turned his attention back to her. " How long had you been there before you…attacked Noitora?" She was reluctant to say that he saved her, even though he technically did. He would deny that he had saved her anyway.
" Inoue!" Ichigo yelled to her. "Damn you, Ulquiorra! Get the hell away from her!"
Ichigo looked terrible. He had abrasions and a couple of deep wounds that were in dire need of treatment. His shinigami clothes had been torn in many places and blood was soaking through them at an alarming rate. Ulquiorra looked at him impassively and opened his mouth to speak.
" Woman. Reverse the worst of the damage as quickly as you can. We do not have much time."
She nodded her head and activated her shield, healing the worst of Ichigo's wounds. When she was finished, she turned back to face the Espada and waited for his instructions.
"Good. Now, follow me."
" Why the hell do you think we would do something like that?" Ichigo replied. " If you aren't going to let us go, I guess I'm going to have to fight you again, huh?" His hand gripped his zanpakutou, preparing to attack.
Ulquiorra sighed heavily, another sight that Orihime had never seen before. It made him seem…more human. " What makes you think that you would win? I defeated you the first time. Even if you have defeated Grimmjow, the outcome will be the same."
Ichigo pointed his blade at him, preparing to attack him.
" Kurosaki-kun. I think we should trust him," Orihime replied quietly.
" Trust him? But he is the one…" he started.
" I know that. But what reason would he have to help us? He doesn't gain anything from it."
" I believe I said that we do not have much time. Unless you feel like battling more Espada that are most likely heading this way, I would suggest you listen to her," Ulquiorra interjected, mildly annoyed that they were standing around wasting time.
The two looked at each other and nodded in agreement. Satisfied, Ulquiorra led them outside the walls of Las Noches. Orihime was mildly surprised that they had not met up with any other Arrancar but was thankful nonetheless. They found their nakama up resting against the wall. They all looked horrible, but they were alive at least. Ishida and Renji looked at the trio and stood up quickly. Their eyes widened when they saw the Espada.
" Kurosaki! What is he…?"
Ichigo shook his head. "No time to explain. Renji, get Rukia. Ishida and I will carry Sado."
It took them a few minutes to get situated. Ishida and Ichigo were having a bit of trouble carrying Sado, but they managed. They turned to Ulquiorra, who had had his back to the group. He spared them a glance before he opened up the portal between Hueco Mundo and Earth. The group walked in silence, all wondering why Ulquiorra was helping them. The Espada offered no explanation as he led the way. Soon, they were at the end of the portal, and they found themselves back in Karakura, in front of Ichigo's home. It appeared to be either very late or very early, judging from darkness that covered the town. As soon as their feet touched the ground, Renji, Ichigo and Ishida placed Rukia and Sado to the ground, allowing Orihime to heal them. Ulquiorra turned to the group.
" You have returned safely. Now, I will take my leave," he said, starting to turn. Ichigo grabbed him on his shoulder and turned him around.
" Where the hell do you think you're going? You have some questions you need to answer. First and foremost, why did you help us?" Ichigo demanded. The Espada glared at him and replied, " I have no obligation to tell trash like you my reason."
" I think you do, actually," a familiar voice interjected. They all turned to the direction of the voice.
" Hitsugaya-kun! Rangiku-san, too!" Orihime exclaimed.
The white haired taichou and his blonde fukutaichou were behind the group, glaring at Ulquiorra. " It's taichou," he replied, slightly irritated. " We came here because 12th division sensed a large increase in reiatsu at this particular location. They thought that the Arrancar had decided to invade Karakura again. It appears they were half right."
All eyes were focused on Ulquiorra now. His face didn't show any more emotion than it usually did, even under the pressure of so many gazes. It remained this way for a few more minutes until Matsumoto broke the silence.
" Well, I suppose that you will go back to Hueco Mundo and report back to Aizen," she said.
Ulquiorra looked at her incredulously. Or what looked like it, to Orihime anyway. " Only if I wish to have my head removed from my body. I will have already been marked as a traitor for helping them escape," he said, his eyes glancing over at Orihime and her nakama.
Hitsugaya and Matsumoto glanced at each other. " Is that so? Well, in that case, we have some questions that we need to have answered," Matsumoto replied. Ulquiorra just stared at her. " The problem is, what are we supposed to do with him? We can't take him back to Soul Society. That may be what Aizen wants."
" If he can't go to Soul Society and he can't go back to Hueco Mundo then that leaves us no choice. He will have to stay here," Hitsugaya decided. " We will just have to stay here to watch over him to make sure that he doesn't cause any problems." He glanced over at Matsumoto and she nodded.
" And where the heck is he going to stay? Because there is no way in hell he is staying with me!" Ichigo exclaimed.
" I don't think Urahara-san would mind to much, but I'm not sure there is enough for him and the two of you, as well as the others who are already living there," Renji replied, pointing to the two 10th squad members.
" Ano…." They all turned their attention to Orihime, surprised that she had joined in the conversation. " If there is no other choice, he can stay with me…"
" Inoue-san, are you sure? He's dangero…" Ishida began but was cut off by Hitsugaya.
" That will work. Matsumoto and I have already stayed there before, so her neighbors will already be familiar with us. One more person living there shouldn't arouse too much suspicion. Anyway, with us around, she will be safe," the white haired taichou explained.
Ichigo and Ishida spared each other a glance. Apparently, they did not agree with him but said nothing. Ishida then turned away from the group and announced that he was going home. Ichigo spared Ulquiorra one last piercing look before he picked Rukia up and brought her inside his home. Renji said that he would bring Sado back to Urahara's shop and offered to join Matsumoto and Hitsugaya in their watch for the night. They told him that there was no need. Instead, they suggested that he get some rest and they would meet in the morning. Ulquiorra and the 10th squad taichou and fukutaichou turned to look at Orihime. Understanding their unspoken request, she nodded and led them to her apartment.
After she had gone through the events of the last few hours in her mind, she decided that, no, she wasn't really confused as to why he was here. Was she in disbelief? Yes. But she wasn't confused. What really confused her was why she wasn't more nervous that he was there, sitting quietly across the table. Actually, Orihime realized, she had never been afraid of the Espada. Even when he had come to intercept her on her way back to Earth after her month training with Rukia, she had felt no fear. She had been surprised, as well as concerned for the well being of the shinigami that had been with her, but she was not afraid of him.
' This isn't the time to be thinking about this,' she decided. ' There are more important issues to deal with.'
"Ulquiorra." His gaze returned back to her, giving her his full attention. " Is there anything I can get for you? Some food or…" He cut her off.
" Oh," she replied, a bit crestfallen. They stared at each other and she let out another sigh. It was already late and she had a feeling that she would have to be up early for school. She wasn't sure how she knew this, considering that her sense of time had been messed up ever since she had arrived in Hueco Mundo, with it's never moving moon, but somehow, she knew that it was a day of the week that she had to go to school.
" It's getting late," she said. " Do you want me to set up a futon for you or…"
" No. Arrancar do not require sleep." Ulquiorra glared at her before he continued, " Also, stop trying to treat me as if I were your guest. You and I both know that this is not the case."
She nodded, trying to ignore the sting of his words.
" Well, then…goodnight, Ulquiorra." With that, she stood up from the table and started to make her way to her bedroom at the back of the apartment. Locking the door behind her, she took off the Arrancar uniform that she had been wearing and tossed it into the hamper. Orihime desperately wanted to take a bath; she could feel the dirt on her, but the need for sleep won out. Putting on a set of pajamas, she crawled into bed and shut her eyes heavily. The last thought that passed through her head before sleep overtook her was that Ulquiorra had no spare clothes that he could change into.
Noitora's number has not yet been revealed in the manga. However, considering his interactions with Ulquiorra, it would appear that he is close in rank but not above him.
I wasn't sure if I should go with the color they are in the anime (the same color green as his eyes) or the manga (the same color blue as Grimmjow's hair). I decided to go the route of the anime and have the tear marks green.