SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!
Eh heh... So, when the latest manga chapters came out (Approximately chapter 420-ish), I just couldn't help but to come up with a from-hollow's-point-of-view version of the events... Hence, this.
Consequently, if you haven't read up to that point, this will make absolutely no sense. And it will also be hugely spoiler-tastic. Seriously; I wouldn't even let my best friend read this till she'd gotten caught up on reading the chapters.
I debated for a really long time after I wrote this as to what I was going to actually do with it. It doesn't really fit with the rest of Hollow Feelings, technically, because I don't have any of the in-between stuff written. (Ichigo's battle with his hollow, the stuff during various parts of the Ulquiorra battle, etc.) I do have some vague ideas of how I'd want to write a hollow-POV version of those events, I just haven't done it yet since I have tons of other projects...
But anyway. Because of that, I debated submitting this as part of my idea-dump collection... but it doesn't fit there either, as it's kind of a complete idea on its own, if you ignore the fact that it's written with my interpretation of Ichigo's hollow (Though even considering that, he's a little too passive here to really be in character. Oh well.) So I also debated putting it up on its own as a one-shot... But finally, obviously, I decided that as a hollow-POV of canon events scene, it fit best with the rest of my hollow-POV of canon scenes.
I also debated just letting it sit and gather dust on my hard drive until I finally got around to writing the in-between scenes, but ultimately decided that I needed to put something up, since I haven't updated anything in forever again. I am still working on everything, honest! I'm just slow...
So, here you go. Enjoy, and try not to cry. T_T
"Zangetsu-san... If he uses that technique, you will die."
The zanpakutou spirit didn't answer him, but the hollow knew that he had to have heard. The two of them were currently merged, after all. They knew each other, were each other, enough to both fight Ichigo together, as they'd been doing for what seemed like forever now.
They knew each other; which meant that everything Zangetsu knew, the hollow knew too. Including a certain 'final Getsuga Tenshou' that the zanpakutou was refusing to teach to Ichigo. Including all of its drawbacks.
"You don't care, do you." It wasn't a question. He already knew. "You're going to give in eventually. You're going to teach it to him anyway."
"I will protect that which I have sworn to protect," Tensa Zangetsu finally responded, his young voice quiet but firm.
The hollow frowned. "Even if it means never being able to protect him ever again after this?"
Once again, the zanpakutou had nothing to say.
For another eternity, the two of them fought Ichigo, one on one. It was actually kind of amusing, noting the way his other self's hair kept getting in his eyes now that they'd been fighting so long. They really had been going at it forever, hadn't they?
Still, eventually Ichigo would figure out the key to the battle. It really wasn't that hard to get, and once he did, it would all be over.
"Zangetsu-san..." Another thought had been bothering the hollow quite a bit during the battle, and now that it seemed to be drawing to a close, he finally brought it up. "I'll die too, won't I?"
Their merged face tightened, but the zanpakutou said nothing. Of course, the hollow knew his answer anyway.
"I'll die because we're joined together. If we weren't, I would be a part of him more than a part of you and I wouldn't die."
The zanpakutou's voice hardened with resolve. "I live to protect that which is most important to me."
"Ichigo." The hollow couldn't help the bitter tone. If they weren't merged when Ichigo used the technique, then only Zangetsu would die. At that point, the hollow would be much stronger than the purely human Ichigo. He could easily become King, and nothing Ichigo could do would change that.
In the end, the zanpakutou had chosen to side with his Shinigami rather than with him.
"That isn't it." Tensa Zangetsu scolded lightly. "Look deeper."
With a frown, the hollow thought further. If he lived, he'd be able to take over...
But then his body would be that of a hollow. He would have no allies, and would immediately be surrounded by enemies, with no good escape routes. And he would be far weaker than he'd ever been before without the zanpakutou he'd relied on so long.
Ichigo's enemies would attack him, Ichigo's allies would attack him, and even Zangetsu would, of course, be gone. He would be alone—then he'd be dead. Zangetsu's sacrifice would result in death for all of them; protection for none of them.
Whereas with this route, both hollow and zanpakutou would disappear. Ichigo would be left completely defenseless, but not alone; not unprotected. Not with his friends around to guard him.
The hollow sighed. "And you have to protect at least one of us."
Zangetsu nodded calmly, sounding solemn. "You are correct; I cannot protect either of you once this is over. So I must choose the path that promises the best outside protection, even if only for him."
But either way, he would die. They both would die.
He supposed that logically he should be angry about that, but somehow, all he felt was a numb, grim acceptance. When had life ever been fair to him?
For another long moment, they fought in silence. Ichigo had started to slow now, possibly because his sword had actually snapped in half several blows back. But despite that, there was a look of soft, almost sad determination in his eyes that the hollow had never seen there before. He had probably guessed why Zangetsu wasn't teaching him the technique, hated the idea, but had accepted that it was the only way. Just as Zangetsu himself had.
The hollow made one last, feeble attempt. "And if you simply refuse to give him the technique?"
"If I do not," Zangetsu told him gently, "We will all die fighting Aizen Sousuke."
The hollow knew that already. Knew it and hated it.
Zangetsu and the hollow moved together one last time. Ichigo stopped fighting, turning and facing them full on as they approached. Then, he simply cast away the broken remains of his blade and let their attack hit him.
Their eyes went wide as the sword pierced Ichigo straight through the chest.
A long moment passed. Then, Zangetsu swallowed hard. "That's correct, Ichigo. The final Getsuga Tenshou isn't acquired by accepting my blade..."
But by the opposite: Throwing it away.
"It... doesn't hurt," Ichigo commented softly.
"Of course it doesn't." Zangetsu kept their head lowered. "Tensa Zangetsu is you. Why would it hurt you?" He wasn't referring merely to the blade.
This was it. It was all over.
"... Zangetsu-san... I don't want you to die."
"... I don't want to die, either."
"... I know."
A single tear ran down their face, and neither of them could say whose fault it was.
"Why... are you crying?"
Zangetsu still didn't look up. "Do you remember what I told you at the start? That what I wanted to protect was not the same as what you wanted to protect?" Ichigo nodded uncertainly. "What I wanted to protect... was you, Ichigo."
Slowly, a horrible sense of understanding spread across the orange-haired teen's face. "You mean..."
With a nod, Zangetsu confirmed the thing they'd all been dreading. "Ichigo... If you use this technique... You will lose all of your Shinigami powers."
As he let that sink in, the zanpakutou looked up, trying to give his Shinigami one last, encouraging look. Ichigo had a stricken expression on his face, but they all knew he would do what he needed to.
Gently, Zangetsu sent him off.
"Farewell, Ichigo..." Zangetsu said softly as the teen left them behind forever.
The hollow smirked, one final time."Thanks to us, you'll get one good shot, Ichigo. Don't you dare miss."