Last chapter! the very last one, yep. -gasp-
Well, it's been uber fun writing this fic, and i'd like to thank my readers and reviewers billions of times! Thank you so much for moral support and for... reading. :D
This chapter has very little dramatic happenings. I tried to make it as conclusion-y as possible, hope that worked out. It's actually quite short, I guess i didn't have much to write about in the end...
Any grammar/spelling mistakes are purely your imagination.
No, I'm kidding. I proofread it before I put it up, but still unsure as to whether I did a good job or not.
Disclaimer: I don't own any characters or anything.
Enjoy le final chapter.
A pale hand ghosted over the desktop, slender fingers pausing to trace the patterns the wooden grain created. Slowly, it smudged a finger into the dark droplets of blood that stained the surface, smearing it like ink. The hand continued across the table until it met a shard, a very sharp shard, gleaming silver even in the dark.
Ulquiorra picked up the piece, turning it so it caught the solitary ray of moonlight. It was once part of something bigger, something that meant more to him than this small angular bit of metal. But it was also the only thing he managed to salvage. It had been six months.
Slowly, the ache in his chest built up to a paramount again, and he shut his eyes against the darkness in which he could not see anyways. Blue. Blue and six. These things meant something to him.
That meant something, too.
The green eyes snapped open again, then focused on the shard in his hand. Decisively, he raised the blade to his arm and stabbed, feeling the cold metal just under his skin, the sting and then the burn. It would ache later, he knew. But now, it just throbbed dully, the edge of the pain departing as soon as the piece of steel did. The piece of Pantera.
And the ache in his heart lessened.
With a swipe of his hand, he blurred the red across the desktop again, shaking off the remnants that still clung to his hand. Setting the last remaining triangle of Grimmjow's sword down, he turned his gaze on the door just before it opened. Blood glimmered dully in the shaft of light that streamed in. Ulquiorra rose.
A smiling face peered through the gap, blocking the light. Long fingered hands pushed the door all the way open and Gin stepped inside, robes swishing dramatically in his wake.
"Hello…" he said, smiling playfully. "How is our Cuatro Espada doing today?" the narrowed eyes swiveled and focused on the blood on the table. Taking the final step to close the gap between them, Gin reached over and grabbed Ulquiorra's arm, raising it to eye level.
"What do we have here?" he said quietly, peering at the scars and cuts that marred the white skin on Ulquiorra's arm. The new gash continued to leak blood, dripping sluggishly over Gin's fingers.
Gin gave a quiet laugh, then closed the space between them. Their lips met, kisses soft as a butterfly landing. Slowly, they moved closer, their bodies pressed against each other's, mouths never parting. One would expect Gin to try to eat your mouth off your face in a situation like this, but his movements were as fragile as a soap bubble, giving and taking nothing more than silent emotion.
They broke apart for air, and Gin said, gesturing to the scarred arm, "You know what they call this in the human world?"
He didn't wait for an answer as he wrapped his lips around Ulquiorra's again, a hand moving up to tangle in the dark hair. Ulquiorra's eyes fluttered closed, his brow knitting very subtly. He leaned into the shinigami's touch, aching for some warmth that might chase this fear away. Gin's hand fisted, then relaxed. Shifting slightly, he brushed his cheek against the Espada's before he pulled away. Ulquiorra stared at him with large eyes, the slitted pupils dilated.
"What?" he asked breathlessly.
Gin smiled broadly. "Emo."
Again, they connected, soft breaths whispering over heated skin. Their lithe bodies curled around one another's, becoming increasingly entangled until they couldn't have escaped from each other even if they tried. Then they pulled away again, their breaths mingling through open mouths. Gin caressed the pale face, fingers tracing the trails of color that split the white.
"Emo?" Ulquiorra repeated.
"Yes, emo. They hate the world and themselves, and promote the ritual of self-mutilation." Gin's face took on a mock pensive expression, "What a strange religion it is."
Another quiet exchange of emotions, then, "And I am supposed to be emo, as you say."
Gin's smile grew wider. "Yes, my little Emocar."
Sliding a hand under the bone mask, he dragged the Espada back into their bond of passion once more. It was slow, quiet. There were no sudden movements, no impulsive actions at all. Their lips were barely touching, the exchange wrought more of love than lust. Hesitantly, Gin stepped backwards and they moved, little by little, farther and farther along the room until the back of his knees hit the edge of the bed. Sinking down to the pristine white sheets, he pulled Ulquiorra with him, hand still placed securely against the Espada's cheek. Sighing softly into the kiss, Gin let his tongue flicker out and trace the edge of Ulquiorra's dark mouth before withdrawing.
They flowed apart without a sound and Ulquiorra's bottom lip immediately disappeared under his teeth. Gin smiled, a rather suggestive one. Ulquiorra didn't smile, but he wasn't frowning anymore. Glancing to the left, he realized Gin still had his ravaged arm by the wrist. Droplets of blood were dotting the sheets and Ulquiorra stared, counting them all.
Someone was screaming, screaming and screaming. It grated on his ears, the cries of grief and rage tearing him to pieces from the inside. And he knew, somewhere in his mind, he was the once screaming.
If this was love, then it hurt too much to be logical.
That made it illogical.
He curled over Grimmjow's motionless body, breathing in the scent of blood and fear, and the smell of ruffled blue hair and icy eyes. He laid his cheek cold against Grimmjow's and felt his own breath stir over smooth skin. He was no longer breathing.
And Ulquiorra sighed, letting the last of his energy leave his body with the air. The world tilted on its axis, and he fell down, down into whatever abyss that appeared in such an absence. His breaths ragged in his ears, he staggered upright, still cradling Grimmjow's broken body in his arms. Ulquiorra was blind, he couldn't see in this darkness that wrapped the world in its embrace.
Or maybe it was just the room.
His mind was blank, empty of emotion or any rational thought. The only thing that mattered to him now was to find something, anything. What was not important, but just to find it…
He stumbled. Looking down, around Grimmjow, he realized Ichigo was still unconscious, lying there in the bliss of ignorance. Ulquiorra did nothing. He simply stood there, thousands of thoughts swimming through his mind yet none at all. He stared. The only thing he knew now was the solid, dead weight that Grimmjow created and the cold that was spreading slowly through the cold that he already was. The green eyes never strayed from the prone form below him, but they didn't see anything. He couldn't see anything in this dark.
It had to be the room.
There was a faint flicker of motion and a faint wind tugged at his hair. Ulquiorra's eyes swiveled to lock onto the red ones of Gin. Normally narrowed eyes were now wide with surprise and pity, boring into his soul like some sort of… soul drill or whatever. He couldn't think right now.
Thinking was illogical right now.
Suddenly, the faintest of words filtered through the haze that was his mind. Gin's quicksilver voice darted through the fog, clear but quiet.
"… that Orihime girl. We need to find her. She can heal, right? So we'll just…"
The sounds died, fading with what little coherency he had left. Slowly, Ulquiorra turned towards Gin. His lips parted and when he spoke, he couldn't stop his voice from trembling.
"Bring the shinigami trash."
The door to Orihime's cell opened with a soft click, swinging open on oiled hinges. Ulquiorra stood, swaying, in the doorway, his eyes weary and dull. In his arms was Grimmjow. Orihime's eyes widened as she took in the sight; it was horribly familiar.
"Woman…" Ulquiorra rasped, his voice uncharacteristically rough.
She stared up at him for a moment, then nodded obediently. Ulquiorra set Grimmjow down on the floor, watching as the body flopped lifelessly, limp as a rag doll. Orihime fell to her knees beside the Espada's motionless form and raised her hands.
"I…" she said, but her voice cracked and her resolve faded. Taking a deep breath, she began again, "I reject." The warm glow filled the room once again, edging the dark shadows of Ulquiorra's face. He glared hard at the floor, jaw clenched.
Suddenly, she looked up again, startled. Gin had appeared at Ulquiorra's side, cradling another body in his arms. Her steel grey eyes widened as she recognized the shape, but she didn't breath a word. Instead, she turned back to the task at hand, concentrating on Grimmjow.
Something was wrong. Her powers were being blocked, and what little that got past the impeding force was instantly negated and ineffective. The wounds were not closing, and Grimmjow was not breathing. Something was going terribly wrong. She tried again, ramming her strength against the barrier, but to no effect. Tears burned in her eyes as she struggled, waiting, hoping that this would somehow work out.
Biting her lip, she smashed the obstruction with all her might, and it shattered, fragmenting under her constant attack. At once, the wounds began to sap her reiatsu at an alarming rate, eating away at her energy faster than anything else she had ever experienced. She gasped, shrinking back but the feeling, the hate that radiated from the body was so intense, so excruciating that she couldn't breath, couldn't think. With a cry of shock and fear, she was thrown from the body, landing painfully on the floor. Her wide eyes turned from Grimmjow to Ulquiorra, who was now on his feet.
"Can't…" she whimpered, "I… can't. It won't let me…" she let out a sob of despair.
Ulquiorra stared for a moment, eyes blank and uncomprehending. And then he lost it. Slowly, he advanced on Inoue Orihime, eyes cold and glassy. When he reached her, he dropped to his knees and offered her his hand. Trembling with shock and fear, she took it.
Without warning, he yanked her hard, jerking her off the ground and towards him so that their faces were mere centimeters apart.
"Woman." He snarled, his voice quiet and menacing, "Do you understand? Do you know the story of my life? For the entirety of my existence, I have gained nothing and lost everything, giving it all up for that bastard I saw as a God. I was nothing, emptiness bound by imaginary chains. I never broke those chains, and I never will. They will continue to destroy me, taking everything I have until the only thing I can call my own is my dignity. And then I will even lose that. So when I finally find something… I am to lose it through some glitch in logic? Are you not in the possession of powers beyond this world's comprehension? Then tell me, why. Why is it that you fail?"
She was still crying, tears streaming down her cheeks in a tide of grief and pity. Raising her eyes to green ones, she recognized the agony and the raw panic in their depths, writhing and battling with Ulquiorra's self control. Self control that he had spent lifetimes perfecting. And it was breaking down before her eyes. She didn't know whether to scream or cry for him. So she did both.
Gin shot forward and into action. Stopping for a split second, he grabbed the nearest weapon, Grimmjow's blade, and smashed the flat of it against the back of Ulquiorra's neck. The Espada collapsed, dropping like a stone in water into Orihime's arms. Gin swung the weapon again, and it shattered, glittering fragments filling the air before dying on the ground.
Ulquiorra's wide eyes gazed into Orihime's. Her eyebrows knitted together in remorse as she laid a hand on his temple. Suspicion flickered briefly through his features before Orihime sent a stab of reiatsu through her hand. His eyes widened for a moment, then fluttered shut, his body growing limp and motionless. Orihime let her tears fall, crying for the pain that filled the room. She lowered the unconscious Espada to the floor, all the while aware of Gin's blood red eyes watching her every move.
"Heal Ichigo." He said shortly. "You can do no more to Grimmjow."
Orihime wiped her eyes, trying her best to control herself. "Was it Aizen?" she asked. Her voice was once against steady.
She received no answer, but she needed none.
Everything was blurred, sluggish. His breath came in quick gasps as his eyes widened, watching the metal glimmer as he fell, down, down, forever downwards. He wanted-needed- to scream, but it was too slow, the reaction wouldn't come fast enough. He just watched, silent, unwilling, as the blade ripped him apart.
Agony. Sheer agony exploded, fiery pain burning every nerve in his body. He wanted to scream.
More pain, it came for him again, hard and fast, cold and malignant. He wanted to scream.
It burned like acid, his lifeblood, streaming down his body. He wanted to scream.
All he could see was red, pooling on the ground as he fell. He wanted to scream.
He watched as his hair, shocking blue, was dyed red by the blood. He wanted to scream.
It flowed in under his mask, pressed against his cheek. Hot and sticky, it burned into him.
Please. Just let me scream, one last time-
Ulquiorra's eyes snapped open. He was gasping for breath, drenched in cold sweat. That dream. It was not his life, not his memory, yet it brought forth this desperate ache in his chest, as if something was missing. He blinked, trying to clear his mind. Sitting up, he realized he was back in his own room. Strange. Glancing around, he realized Grimmjow was not there, and Gin was gone, too. But… Grimmjow was…
And then it struck him with the weight of a thousand ton boulder. Grimmjow was dead.
The irony was appalling. Grimmjow, the one who, although rough and uncouth, had never faulted at anything, was dead. And he, Ulquiorra, was still alive while he never deserved it in the first place. He wished, like many others suffering such losses, that it was he who had been killed by Aizen, not Grimmjow. Grimmjow never did anything to deserve such a fate. He was supposed to be alive, this story seemed to be going horribly wrong.
He should have figured, anything as illogical as this life would mess up eventually.
And he deserved worse.
Grimacing, he struggled out of bed just as the door opened, revealing Gin's unsmiling face. Ulquiorra stared blankly. Slowly, the shinigami picked his way into the room, which was essentially empty besides the desk and bed. Moving slowly but gracefully, he sat down fluidly on the bed, the sheets wrinkling beneath him.
Pausing for another moment, he said, "Ichigo took the girl home."
Ulquiorra didn't even blink. These things hardly mattered anymore.
"Grimmjow… as you know, is…" He trailed off, frowning as if the words left a bitter taste in his mouth.
"The woman couldn't heal him?" Ulquiorra demanded, rage smothering the grief in his voice.
Gin stared up at him, his expression regretful, "Ulquiorra, this is Aizen we are talking about. He knows Orihime's power through and through, and I do not doubt that he considered her abilities before he attacked." He looked away, "Ichigo was not killed because you disabled him from battle. But Grimmjow. He died at Aizen's hands, and Orihime's powers were annulled when she tried to heal him."
Ulquiorra denied it furiously, "What does it matter? Grimmjow shouldn't be dead, he shouldn't have even been involved in this! This was completely wrong, everything, anything went wrong! It is not supposed to happen like this!" he whipped around and began to pace the room, eyes hard, "What does it matter? In the end, I just killed everyone. I was simply the inconvenience to the world. That much is understandable, but what I do not comprehend is why, WHY AM I ALIVE AND GRIMMJOW DEAD?"
He rounded on Gin as he finished his sentence, his expression desperate, confused. Gin stared back, sorrow apparent in his eyes. He was not sad for Grimmjow's death, nor was he sorry for Ichigo's sufferings. He was troubled by Ulquiorra's thought process, now so easy to read as his façade of calm finally crumbled. He was blaming himself, hating himself in such a way that Gin didn't know how to react. He wanted to help, but it would probably do more harm than anything else. He was no longer in control of the situation, and it was not at all to his liking.
Down, way down in the depths of his heart, Gin knew Ulquiorra would never forget what had happened. He knew that the Espada would replay these nightmares countless times for the rest of his existence. And he knew, somehow, that the only way he would finally let go would be in the final moments of death. Only then would he forget at last. Love was a terrible thing. It made or destroyed a man, shaping their life like nothing else. Ulquiorra's fate had been decided the moment he had loved Grimmjow, and it would be set on this course until something intervened.
It was then that he decided that time would wait no more. Rising, he moved forward and before Ulquiorra could react, Gin had wrapped his arms around him, pulling him into a gentle embrace. Ulquiorra stiffened for a moment, his heart beating frantically as his memories of Aizen and Grimmjow clashed. Then, it didn't matter any more. Closing his eyes, he leaned into the warmth that he wanted so badly right now, wishing, hoping to never have to remember again. Ulquiorra could feel Gin's hands resting solidly against his back, and he realized he needed nothing else right now. Sighing, he let the world slip away into nothingness.
And he felt that he would never need to scream again.
Ulquiorra pushed away from Gin and got to his feet. Stepping back, he watched as Gin followed, straightening his robes. The shinigami's smile was milder than his everyday one, easier and far more human than usual. But Ulquiorra, of course, never smiles.
Gin's hand was still wrapped securely around the bleeding arm. Slowly, he raised it to his mouth and began to lick the blood from the pale skin. His tongue scraped softly over the scars and half healed cuts, cleaning the blood away bit by bit. His warm breath whispered over the ravaged skin and Ulquiorra shuddered, closing his eyes contentedly. Gin smiled as he continued, licking away until the arm was once again pale and white. Lowering his hand, he raised his head to look at the Espada before him, his face half hidden in shadow.
Green eyes opened again, the cold emptiness now gone, though Gin knew it was only temporary. Everything Ulquiorra now became was brief, only a fleeting haven that he was forever seeking out in hopes of forgetting.
"Where did you get this?" he asked, indicating the shard that lay on the desk.
Ulquiorra only stared. How indeed.
He was alone again, back in the darkness. Alone again. Again. His entire body ached and burned and he closed his eyes against the inky blackness, partly out of humiliation. It still hurt, the memory of what Aizen did to him. And he had been such a pathetic fool to allow something like that to happen. If he had stopped it, if he had been… stronger, then maybe Grimmjow would still be here, laughing about something he did not really understand. But that was the comfort of laughing with Grimmjow. You never needed to understand, you just had to laugh.
He would never cry, though. He would never succumb to the pitiful state that so many useless beings expected in situations like this. No. He would grieve, but tears are for the foolish, who are never crying for anyone other than themselves. Those are tears. They were made completely of self-pity and wasted time, a superficial show, an act for the vapid individuals hoping for something they could never get. Tears. Simply the pastime many partake in instead of acting to remember, striving to live. They will waste away into nothing and those… tears… laced up in pity.
For he wanted nothing more than to just cry right now. He wanted to just waste away, thinking of all the things he could have done, everything he could have changed.
He wished Gin was still here.
And then he hated himself a little more. He had already been the pathetic one, the pitiable thing that had always been too weak to save himself. And now, when too many had already suffered because of his wretched actions, he still had the nerve to hide from the world, to build another barrier and cower behind it. He was still trying to escape his problems. How many others would die because of him? How many would be left if he continued to…
Suddenly, he was aware of a sharper pain in his back, and the fresh blood that still seeped from the wound near his shoulder blade. Twisting around, he pressed a hand against the injury, trying to stem the flow.
Only then was he aware of the thing that was lodged firmly in the cut. It seemed large enough to dig deep enough to hurt, yet was small enough so that it had escaped his notice.
Ulquiorra pulled the object out with a sickening squelch, wincing as more blood came with it, trickling down his back. Bringing the offending item closer to his face, he wiped off the clinging drops of red and stared.
It was a triangular piece of metal, bright silver in the dark and slightly tinted by his blood. Looking hard at it, he wondered how it came to be there in the first place.
And then he remembered. Gin, Pantera, Orihime…
And for a moment, all he felt was hatred and yet more pain. He shadows continued to eat at his mind, taking him apart piece-by-piece as he sank further down into a cycle of demise.
Ulquiorra stabbed the shattered blade into the wall, feeling spider web cracks appear on the smooth surface. Slowly, he removed his hand and stared at it. The sharp metal hadn't even scratched him. Snarling with frustration, wrenched the piece out of the wall again and stabbed it, hard, through his wrist, feeling with satisfaction the way it dug into his flesh and scraped bone. Pulling it free, he speared his arm again, mentally smiling when pain lanced up the limb.
Suddenly, he felt like a little less.
He never wanted to do anything else, ever again. Sitting here, Gin's hand gripping his wrist, just staring into the shadows, for that was all his life was made of right now. He wished this moment would last forever, and he could just forget the world and just wait here to die.
But that was something only trash would do.
Ulquiorra shook himself back to life, frowning slightly in the dark. The vivid light that streamed in through the open door seemed like a mockery, something that imitated a pure color instead of being. Everytime he walked around Las Noches, that was all he thought about when he looked at the white walls and floors, even the ceiling. The entire place was a lie, a lie created by Aizen.
So in his few solitary moments, he would retreat to his quarters, relieved by the darkness of the room. He hated any missions involving the human world now, the stupid place with all its vibrant colors and sunlight. It burned terribly, and he always tried to make such missions brief and efficient. Not for Aizen, but just to escape all the color.
He did not know how he had survived until now. The loss of Grimmjow had created a void that stretched farther than he had ever imagined, emptying him of life. He went about his daily routine with passive indifference, his once fluid movements subtly stiffer and a little more apathetic. He no longer strove to fill his position of Numero Cuatro, and though he was never stripped of his rank, the other Espada noticed, and a few had already attempted to tear him down. Still others tried to find the root of this problems, but most were leaving him alone, either through fear or pity he could not say. He rarely spoke without a reason, though that was hardly a change. The only ones he ever bothered to acknowledge were Gin and Halibel, whom he had no problem with.
When it was quiet and he was alone, he would wonder whether Grimmjow could ever remember him, or the memories, the emotions that they had shared. Was he even worth remembering, or was that another portion of life that Soul Society had removed? And when Aizen finally tired of his Cuatro Espada, would he, Ulquiorra, be able to remember anything at all? Or was this imitation of existence even worth keeping? Was it even worth living?
Did he even deserve…?
And as he sat in silence beside Gin, in the darkness of Hueco Mundo, he asked himself that question a thousand times, and a thousand times over again, never filling in the blank. His heart continued to beat, his eyes continued to see, but what was the purpose? Why did he live, why did he remember?
He had imagined that this was all he would ever need, but he was wrong. And right. There was no hope of recovery for him, just like there was no hope to save Grimmjow. But still, fate dragged him over every bump in his path, regardless as to whether he was dead or alive after each encounter. He just kept moving along until he felt nothing was left, nothing was worth saving in the world except this moment.
Sliding his hand into Gin's, he held on as if his life depended on it, and in a ways, it did. Tightening his grip for the briefest of seconds, he let go and straightened, just as the door was pushed open.
Halibel stepped inside, arms crossed. Her collar hid her face, though it barely covered anything else, and only her eyes could be seen, watching the two. Ulquiorra felt a shiver of panic run through him and attempted to quell his fears.
Halibel spoke, "Cuatro." She said, "Aizen-sama wants you."
Ulquiorra wondered if he had imagined the hesitation in her voice.
Alright, I admit, I could have used someone better besides Halibel, but I like her so much! She seems uber badass for some reason, even though we haven't seen her do much yet! Uh... well, if it makes you feel better, imagine it was Stark or something instead of Halibel.
Did it work out? Was the story okay? Did you even like it? Tell me, which means review! Seriously, last chapter guys, please review!
And thank you very much for reading this far.