./waveth a tentacle
About time I updated this again, since most folks seems confused by the outwards summary and character listings. To make a long story short (pun unintended, this is a bloody long story), this is an AU piece, dealing with the resolution of the Hueco Mundo Arc, which starts from the point in which Szayel Aporro gets pinned by Mayuri Kurosutchi. It is unapologetically Espada-centric, and it will revolve around Szayel Aporro, Stark and Lilinette, and Grimmjow, to a lesser, yet undeniably louder extent.
As a worthy note, Chapters 5 and 6 contain little plot. They do however contain extremely harsh sexual activity, and should be skipped by those who are so inclined. They contain little to no plot, and stand in striking contrast to the rest of the story. However, without them, there would have been no Understanding. They have not been removed because this entire madness has started from them, on a loooooong flight from Melbourne.
I started this on the 4th of April 2008. In the meanwhile, canon has taken a lot of twists and turns, some for the better, some for the worse. Some canon twists have made me regret choices that I made with my own story, most of them have not. Thus - be aware that I stray quite far when it suits me. Lots of hits and lots of kind encouragement later, it is now the 13th of August 2009.
Thank you all for sticking with me :)
Chapter 1 - Where Szayel Aporro regrets his top notch laboratory.
Nemu adjusted the intravenous needle to a more painful position, then backed up a few inches, quietly waiting for her reward; it did not tarry.
The Arrancar's honey colored eyes became blurred, pain spreading though them as a droplet of blood in a glass of clear water. Long seconds passed before he attempted to shift his arm, achieving half an inch before the surge of strength failed, and the half dead weight slipped even further out than originally. Carried by the tiny momentum of the wrist and fingers, the arm slid off the edge of the table, balancing on the elbow.
The white skin, blackened by countless needle tracks, stretched; the steel tip of the too thick needle remained under the surface for a few seconds longer, before rippling free of the vein along all of its length. The first time this had happened, blood had flown liberally – this time, there had barely been a few droplets. And that, Nemu had impassively realized, was not the only change.
This time, the Arrancar had kept his eyes open.
'Fascinating,' Kurotsuchi Mayuri observed, over her shoulder. 'He's learning.'
The Shinigami captain approached the iron stretcher – which, to Kurotsuchi's trained eye, looked very much like an exceedingly ergonomic dissection table – and pulled his prisoner's arm up for closer scrutiny. 'Find another vein,' he ordered, before turning away.
With a barely audible buzz, the laboratory door had slipped out of his way, retreating inside the wall; a block of pale light had been cut into the darkness, and Mayuri's long shadow had stretched over the table behind him. 'If not this arm, then the other,' he distractedly advised, before the door had closed behind him. 'We should have a few more days before we need to pass to leg veins.'
Nodding with practiced obedience in spite of the fact that her captain was no longer there to see her, Nemu grasped the thin plastic tube which hung limply from the intravenous stand at her side feeling along the length to find the needle at its end. She considered it for a moment, torn between the training that prompted her to sterilize an instrument she had just picked off the floor, and the knowledge that in this case the precaution was unnecessary and perhaps even unwanted. After all, it was just his blood, the laboratory was thoroughly disinfected – and, in the end, if anything did occur, Kurotsuchi-sama would find it interesting to see how the specimen battled infection. After he found out how it battled everything else.
She felt along the man's arm, more out of habit than out of genuine need. He was dehydrated enough for the veins to stick up prominently, not blue, but deep black under the white skin. Nemu quickly identified one that was still reasonably intact, and placed the tip of the needle against it.
'…die.' The Arrancar whispered.
Let me die.
He had been struggling with the phrase for the past two hours; the fact that he had been able to hold even such a simple thought, and complete the sentence, was proof that he had, indeed, been learning, and processing the drug at an accelerated pace. He'd have to receive another dose soon.
Nemu pulled the Arrancar's arm over the cold and cutting edge of the stretcher, casually making sure that the already torn and bruised elbow would be subjected to the maximum amount of pressure. With the arm in position, however, the tube did not reach all the way down to the intact spot she had found, and the needle scraped harshly against the already torn and unusable place of the previous puncture.
'No,' the Arrancar pleaded; not against the needle, for even in his current, less than half conscious state, he had understood that pleading against the needles was pointless. What he had hoped to prevent was the little instinctual tug that Nemu would give the tube in order to bring the catheter into position. That single, minute tug would cause the intravenous stand to shift closer to the left side of the stretcher, farther from the right – and simultaneously pull at all the other tubes and needles that were attached to his organs – liver, kidneys, lungs, urethra – tubes that carried fluids in rather than out of his body.
All of them appropriately labeled and color coded, hanging off the right side of his body, passing though a support ring in the IV stand, and carrying samples to the sterilized recipients hidden in the wall behind. He knew the system all too well.
He knew it because he had designed it for maximizing usable space and minimizing need of movement between the dissection table and the instrument and sample rack. It was his specimen collection system; his laboratory; his dissection table.
Though she had clearly heard the whispered word, Nemu had tugged at the tube. Not because she did not understand the collection system, but precisely because she did.
Not his mind. He had not lost control of his mind. What he had lost control of, however, were his perceptions.
That particular – and under other circumstances, self obvious realization – had slowly come to Szayel Aporro Grantz between the rhythmically surging and receding tides of pain. And, after had felt like millennia of reflection, he had narrowed the hypothesis down even further: the only perception that the Shinigami's drug had completely altered was the perception of time. None of his other senses seemed to be heightened in themselves; they had simply gained additional bandwidth, more bandwidth than they were supposed to have. In other words, he had not suddenly become more sensitive to pain. He simply had more time to actually feel it.
Too busy with simply registering all the inflow of information that the receptors conveyed, Szayel Aporro's mind had no leeway to process anything else, or even make sense of everything that he felt, saw and heard. Much like the indefinite mixture of nutrients he had been receiving through the intravenous needles, the inputs of his senses were amalgamated and amorphous, and had completely crushed him under their incessant assault.
Even the thought process that had led him to realize that he had crumbled to his own senses had been akin to constructing a sand castle within the reach of an ocean's waves. Whatever he thought of during the brief interludes of deep and dull rather than acute and agonizing pain was almost completely erased by the surging tide, the retreating waves often carrying away most of the logical edifices he managed to construct. Yet, certain logical deductions had left deep enough traces in the wet sands to be reconstructed anew. And they were, perhaps, the most important, such as the fact that his senses were waging war on each other for the use of his mind, and that the only way that he could offer himself some room for thought was dispensing with whichever of them he could. He could not stop feeling and he could not stop hearing, but he could, and did, close his eyes.
The discovery had been a massive breakthrough, as important to Szayel Aporro as the creation of his Fracctiones, even more so because the opposite implication of the concept was true. As long as he kept his eyes closed, his mind had enough room to process some amount of information; as long as he held them open, he heard, and especially felt much less.
He was, however, at a loss for the next step in the deduction. The eternities spent trying to convince himself of the fact that he had not yet been defeated did not carry him though the other, much longer, ages of the Universe – centuries during which long iron needles tore veins open, millennia spent listening to the clear sound of his bodily fluids flowing though plastic tubes or feeling how his shoulder blades pushed irremediably closer to the surface of the skin, at the edges of the contact sores that had begun developing on his back.
In short, when neither Kurotsuchi Nemu nor her creator were by the side of the stretcher, adjusting drips and changing needles, Szayel Aporro vaguely remembered that he was still Octava Espada and that he was not dead. When either of them was by his side however, he simply wished he would die. For a while.
Up next - Stark saying something? And oddly, it's not snorring. Oh, my...