Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach


When she let the fairies out the first time, Tsubaki screamed at her, torrents of swearwords and foul curses directed at his mistress, at her naievete, at the predicament they were in, at anyone and everyone in general, until his voice was hoarse and Shun'ou and Baigon could safely let go of his arms.

Orihime smiled wanly at the tiny masked fairy sulking on the back of the couch, and smoothed out a wrinkle in the stiff, starched white material of the odd robes she was wearing now. She was fond of Tsubaki-kun, perhaps more so than the rest of her Shun-Shun Rikka...not that she'd ever tell them that. But Tsubaki was mean and crude and spoke his mind; he didn't care what he said or who heard it, and he expressed anger so freely that it filled Orihime with a sort of vicarious relief. She was none of those things, and yet Tsubaki was a part of her.

She could let him rant. It saved her the trouble, the throat-ache, the guilt afterwards.

The rest of her fairies arrayed themselves around their cranky counterpart, disconsolate. Orihime drew her legs up, resting her chin on her knees, and tried to think. It had been several hours since the man with the bone helmet and the sad eyes had left her here: she had shouted and cried and explored every inch of the walls for the requisite secret tunnel, then cried again when she hadn't found it. She had found a small bathroom, however, but other than the couch and the high, barred window, the white-walled room was devoid of anything else with which to preoccupy her.

So she'd let her Shun-Shun Rikka out.

"So now what, Little Miss Self-Sacrifice?" Tsubaki demanded, after several minutes of very pointed silence. "What do we do now?"

"Give her a break, Tsubaki," Shun'ou said, "It's not like she had much of a choice. It's not her fault that they made her choose between her friends' deaths and her freedom."

"Our freedom, too." Tsubaki said, but it was half-hearted.

"I'm sorry," Orihime said softly, because she was.

"That's not very helpful," Tsubaki snorted, but his eyes were softer.

"You're not being helpful, either," Baigon shifted a little where he sat. "Maybe you could start trying to think of a plan to get out of here, Tsubaki-kun."

"Baigon, no!" Orihime said vehemently; her fairies looked at her, puzzled. "What I mean is," she said, quieter but still passionate, "I can't get out of here. If they find me missing, Aizen-sa... Aizen will command his troops to kill Kurosaki-kun and Kuchiki-san and everybody. I can't let that happen."

"So you mean we're stuck here?" Tsubaki's eyes were wide with disbelief above his mask. "Why did they even bother locking you up, if you're just gonna sit around and do nothing anyways?"

Hinagiku cleared his throat as Orihime's eyes brimmed with tears. "She can't do anything, Tsubaki; she'll kill her friends, otherwise. She's stuck. And so are we."

"What should we do, Orihime-sama?" Lily alighted on Orihime's knee and touched the girl's face softly, her voice quiet and timid as always.

Orihime looked at her fairies: they watched her expectantly. She drew a deep, steadying breath. "We can't escape; I need to stay here for the deal to work. We can only wait, and hope that Soul Society and Kurosaki-kun get strong enough to defeat the arrancar soon."

"Not good enough," Tsubaki stood up and walked forwards, planting his hands on his hips. "We have to get stronger. None of this would have happened if we'd've been strong enough to kill that arrancar in the passage between earth and Soul Society."

"Perhaps Tsubaki has a point," Ayame mused. "It's not your fault, Orihime-sama," she assured the girl hastily, "but it's true that we still haven't become as strong as the others; Tsubaki in particular."

"I don't want to hurt anybody," Orihime began, but Tsubaki buzzed his wings angrily, cutting her off.

"That doesn't stop people from wanting to hurt you, woman! Sometimes, the only way to help your friends is to take the offensive, and that's where I come in! You're too soft-hearted, and now look where it's gotten us all; you'd better promise to train with me, or -"

"That's enough, Tsubaki," Shun'ou said firmly. "But I do think it is a good idea to continue training, Orihime-sama."

"Yes," Ayame chimed in. "We'll at least keep you company!"

Orihime smiled and opened her mouth, but there was a noise at the door: in a flash, her hairpins were in place and the fairies were nowhere to be found. Orihime stood up, smoothing out her clothes, and looked up just in time to see Ulquiorra coming in to the room.