A/N: Inspired by the song "Photograph" by 12 Stones. Set during Renji and Ishida's fight with Szayel.
Warnings: Nothing aside from the angst (which shouldn't even be worth a warning, imho). Self-beta. If you find any mistakes, kindly point them out to me. Please, and thank you.
Disclaimer: No money was made from this. Tite Kubo owns the characters and the Bleach universe.
There was fear in the air around them; it seemed to be seeping from the stone walls themselves and radiating off of their enemy as if he were a magnifying glass.
Fear and defeat, but they refused to give in. Their opponent was too strong for them, true, but there was nothing else left to do for the two invaders of this dark world. It was either to give up and die or keep fighting in hopes of getting an opening, a chance that they could use to their advantage.
Anyone could have told them how useless it was. In fact, Szayel Aporro Granz did just that, claiming that there would be no escape. They saw it too. And yet, using some weaker form of reality rejection than that of Orihime's, they kept trying to fight, kept trying to find a loose end that they could take a hold of and use to pull themselves out of this situation. It was not denying the reality; it was not even denying the obvious. It was only a madman's hope that kept them struggling.
They were not strong enough. They were not agile enough. They did not have enough power to overcome this opponent on their own. Where one had stood no chance, two would fail just as easily.
They were both afraid, Ishida Uryuu and Abarai Renji, because there was no way around it. Side by side, back to back they stood facing the – quite possibly – most miserable way to die. They could not use any of their attacks that in a different setting would have put a relatively quick, efortless end to their fights, and defending themselves was no longer an option. The only thing left was to keep dodging their opponent's attacks and hope to last long enough for someone to come along and take on the enemy in their stead.
But there was no hope for that any more. Already, they were losing. Already time was running out.
It was painfully obvious that the fight was practically. Worse yet: they had lost the will to even attempt because their every try got struck down and eliminated. The only reason to keep trying was just to prolong their lives a little more, to put off the inevitable downfall. And that both the Quincy and the Shinigami thought to be a miserable reason and a more miserable goal to look forward to.
To hope against all hope, to keep trying even if there was no point: they had done all of that and more.
Taking hits, falling down, getting up again. Looking up at their gleeful enemy with pride, defiance, and determination to go down only when their last vestiges of strength were wasted and their bodies were incapable of moving altogether.
It was a reason to keep going for as long as they could endure the strain. An insignificant and insufficient reason, but a reason nevertheless to make one last attempt, and one more, and one more in a try to buy some time. Time for what? They did not know. It no longer mattered whether anyone would come for them, would anyone even wonder what had happened to them. Whether there would be anyone to remember their existence in the end.
Just keep trying. Keep dodging. Keep delaying the last breath. Forget all reasons. Heed only the instinct to survive. To pull through to the end no matter what.
Because they had promised. In the very beginning, they had promised to return no matter what. In life or death, but they had sworn to go back together and such oaths were not to be broken. Neither in this life, nor the next, no matter how near their end had come. No matter how close their Death had gotten, no matter which person's features it had taken.
There were still some things they needed to do before dying.
And while that moment had not come, Renji and Uryuu stood side by side, putting everything they had into one final attack. This was no longer a fight to save Inoue Orihime. All too soon it had turned into a fight for survival; and to win it they had to forfeit everything else. They had to put all faith and belief in the other comrades that had come along with them, sending a silent thought for the others' success where the two of them had failed. And then they had to discard those thoughts and focus on one thing only.
Because there no longer was right or wrong, fight or run. There was only kill or be killed, take a chance or forfeit everything. Find salvation or lose yourself in the darkness. And Hueco Mundo was already too dark for anyone – visitor, inhabitant or prisoner – to bring out their own darkness.
And yet the group of five had come into this dimension each carrying their own black hole with them, and now the dark was catching up to them. Their limits were met, their resources wasted, and all hope lost somewhere along those long tunnels. Putting all of their strength into one final attack was not the right decision.
It was the only decision. One that allowed them to bring about a small glimmer of hope even if it meant forfeiting everything else they had come to do. And there was always the chance for them to be strong enough to survive it all.