It was a quiet night.
Of course, it was always a quiet night here. It was always night. It was always too quiet. Maddening to one used to the bustle of living. Of being alive at all, to be precise. But then again, requests of such people usually aren't taken into consideration; they are usually ignored, if only to push those people back out of the spotlight and away from where they could cause trouble.
One such person lay dormant on the floor of her bleached cell, knees to her gratuitous chest. Her arms were circled loosely around them, hands crossing at the wrists as they lay on her ankles. Her cheek was pressed to her kneecap, clear gray eyes staring off into space with a dark hint of worry in them. Long silky bright orange hair traveled down her back, ending and coiling on the sanitary white flooring underneath her. Two sparkling clips held bangs from her eyes, unassuming little things that one wouldn't give a second thought to if they just saw them in passing. This young woman wished that nobody at all 'd given a second thought about them.
"…Kurosaki-kun…I wonder if he's okay…" A soft voice murmured into the empty room. She hated how white it all was. No…Orihime Inoue didn't hate anything. She just wished that her captors wouldn't have used so much of it. She yearned that her room were a bunch of colors. Maybe a mix of them, something pretty. Make-believe had helped her for a little while, and she pretended that it was a splash of reds and blues and the very brightest of orange, a shade that was so bright it burned the corneas. Like the sun. Like his hair.
"Of…of course he's okay…he's fine, and he's coming…" Orihime repeated for the millionth time to herself. How long had she been trapped in Hueco Mundo? In Las Noches, a domain of monsters and traitorous beasts? She couldn't tell. The days didn't pass with sunlight, and as much as she would have wished for it, Aizen found it fit to leave her in this small room and not allow her to go see the fake sun she'd heard so much about from the muttering Arrancar passing by her door. They didn't seem to like it; why couldn't she enjoy it?
A clattering noise awoke her from her reveries, and she stood as the door opened and a thin figure with a soldier's stiff posture strode in with purpose. A cart rolled after him, and Orihime stared down her main day-to-day adversary. Ulquiorra Schiffer, the most monochrome and joyless person she'd ever met. They were polar opposites; she was…is the epitome of everything alive. Orihime laughed, she smiled, she danced, she had friends and she…she loved. Ulquiorra was the epitome of everything dead. He never laughed, never smiled or made any particular facial expression at all, found actions like dancing to be superfluous, had very few people that enjoyed his company, if any at all, and from Orihime's point of view, most likely never felt the slightest affection for anything at all. These two vastly different beings waged a war every single day, multiple times. A war of the wills, one that Orihime always lost.
"Woman, it is time for your dinner." Ulquiorra's cold monotone cut the air. Orihime stared at him with resolution in her eyes.
"I'm not hungry." She stated firmly, even as her stomach ached for something, anything at all. She didn't want their food, didn't want to eat what was made in this dead place. She might catch what Ulquiorra had, or the madness that all of Las Noches seemed to possess in one way or another. Ulquiorra didn't respond with shock or annoyance, merely spoke again.
"You will eat, or I will shove it down your throat." No movement was made on his part, and he stared directly into her eyes with his own emerald pair. How Orihime wished he had dull eyes, an ugly dark greenish gray or brownish black or something. Those eyes he had were too alive for such a soulless, dispassionate…thing!
Orihime shook her head, rejecting it. The emotionless Arrancar proceeded to take some of the bread on the plate and soak it in the soup, before coming towards her. Orihime shook her head faster, backstepping as fast as he was coming. She was staring at him, wide-eyed across the room for one second and he was in her face the next, pinning her to the wall. He hooked his fingers behind her jaw, forcing her mouth open and shoving the soggy and cold bread on the back of her tongue before holding her mouth and nose shut. Orihime tried to hold her breath; the food's texture and disgusting taste made her stomach turn. But Ulquiorra wouldn't relent, and she needed to breath. So she swallowed it down, tears already spilling over and running down her cheeks. He let her breathe and she thought it was over.
"I-I'll eat-" She started, before he was dragging her off towards the cart. Orihime yelled, trying to pull away from him but his grip was steel as he dragged her over and repeated the process, shoving more bread down her throat until it was all gone and her soup was finished. She cried through the entire process, wishing she had just eaten when he gave her the choice to do it willingly.
"…I expect from your useless crying that you will be intelligent enough to eat willingly on the next occasion." Ulquiorra spoke in a dull drone, letting her drop to the floor in tears. She didn't look at him; he didn't expect her to and merely had the attendants roll the cart out of the room, he following shortly after to leave her to her sobbing.
"K-Kuro-s-saki-kun…" Orihime spoke between sobs, burying her face in her arms. Her white uniform was getting wet from crying, but the girl ignored it and continued in her lamentations.
"I-I c-can't s-st-stay h-here! I-I w-wanna g-go h-ho-me!!" Orihime hadn't let herself feel…well, sorry for herself. She felt weak even now, didn't want to be like this. Lamenting her situation, while her friends were out there probably getting ready to save her right now. She made herself believe that. Made herself believe that her friends didn't think her traitor, that they'd know how she'd never ever betray them. They just had to know that, they HAD to!
….They knew that…didn't they?
She slept little that night, on the uncomfortably poofed out couch. What time there was asleep was spent with a dream version of Ichigo, where he rescued her and struck down the evil Aizen and all the other monsters that haunted Las Noches and Hueco Mundo. Every time, she would awaken to find herself in the cold white room once more. Remind herself that it was that which she was waiting for. What she had waited for. What she was still waiting for.
It had been so long.
Kurosaki-kun would come, she was sure of that. But…how long until he did? It had felt like so long since she'd been shoved in the tiny room, since she'd been put under Aizen's thumb. Her hair was longer. A lot longer. Couldn't have been more than six or so months, right? Couldn't be. Kurosaki-kun was just training, getting ready to save her. Of course he was. It was silly to think he was doing anything else.
The door opened, and the curled form of Orihime turned around slightly. She was actually expecting Ulquiorra with her food. No, that couldn't be right. It had only been a few hours since Ulquiorra was here last-
"Hey woman." A rough growling voice cut the air. She froze; why of all the people in Las Noches was HE here?
"Bitch, I'm talkin' to you!" Another barking command to look at the figure she so desperately wished would just go away. She didn't; just buried her face further into the couch, having snapped back into the cushions as soon as she caught sight of the shocking blue hair. Heavy steps and a rough hand grabbed her by the near floor-length hair, dragging her onto her feet with a yelp.
"You got a fucking hearing problem?" Grimmjow Jeagerjaques growled in her face, his hand wrapped up in her silky tresses tightly at the scalp. Orihime opened one eye to stare into his bright blues, the tears already collecting. This seemed to enrage him even more. Grimmjow threw her down into the couch again, orange hairs caught in his fist as he released her.
"Don't you fucking cry. I ain't done shit to you yet."
Grimmjow growled, and Orihime scooted further away from him into the cushions. The Sexta Espada growled, before dropping onto the couch next to her with his arms behind his head She shirked away from his body, and he just stared off for a little while.
"…What the fuck are you waiting for?" He half-growled, and Orihime jumped.
"W-What?" She spoke softly, staring at him. He half glared back at her.
"You waiting for the orange-headed shinigami bastard?' She got it, and turned away from him with a resolute look on her face.
"H-He's coming. He will!" She stated, hugging knees to her chest and staring off. Grimmjow laughed sharply, a barking noise. Orihime hated it.
"Fuck, you still waitin' after all this time??" Grimmjow grinned at her, as if he knew something she didn't. Orihime stared at him.
"W…what? Of course I am, he's coming! And what…do you mean…" She put her head on her knees, looking at her feet against the white fabric of the couch.
"…All this time?" She asked, quietly. Grimmjow looked at her a minute, before laughing sharply.
"Ya mean you don't know how long it's been? Shit, pretty damn uninformed. No fuckin' wonder you're still waiting." He grinned and stood, walking towards the door and apparently satisfied. Orihime found herself on her feet and looking after him, aching for answers.
"How…how long has it been??" She called desperately to his back, and he stopped in the doorway. Looking over his shoulder in a way that would only show her one bright blue feral eye, he raised a hand and splayed it open wide, before strolling out the door and leaving her dreams decimated. The slam of the white door was barely noticed, as Orihime slipped from her feet and to her knees. Orihime's eyes were open wide with disbelief, delicate hands numb on the cold floor.
"Five…" She said in a breathless manner, tears dripping onto the floor from her stinging eyes. She wouldn't close them, she couldn't.
Orihime got the silent message from Grimmjow, the one gesture that destroyed all hope she had possessed.
Five years. Her hair, the way Aizen had slowly started discussing things she heard wind of, things like redecorating her room or getting her some sort of hobby, Grimmjow starting to visit her more often over her time of incarceration. No wonder. It was written all over the walls, and one little girl so drenched in denial couldn't read the letters. She hadn't had any knowledge of the time she had spent here; the poor princess trapped in her white tower thought it was five months, when she was here for five years. How adorable Aizen must have found her ignorance. How adorable they all must have thought it, either adorable or sickly amusing. Watching the poor little thing trapped in their world continually deluding herself with fantasies; absurd fantasies of an orange-haired knight to knock the Black Knight Ulquiorra from his mount and charge in, kill the evil king Aizen and then take her in his arms, away from this castle of monsters and into the golden sunset. How much they would laugh when they found out she was wallowing in despair over the realization that nobody would ever-
"No, no no no no no!!!" She shouted, holding her head tightly. It couldn't be true!! They were coming; something must have held them up! That…of course that was true. It was. It had to be. Maybe Grimmjow was lying. Wouldn't be out of character for him; yeah, he was just lying. Telling her things so that she would cry, and he could laugh at her. It couldn't have been more than five or six months, it…it couldn't have been.
Orihime moved onto hands and knees, staring at the floor. The veil of overly long orange hair hung to the floor and pierced her denial, her shield, the only thing protecting her sanity. She tightened her fists on the flooring, ignoring the stinging pain as her nails cut into her palms. Bloody half moons went ignored and she moved them to cover her face, deep, gutteral sobs wracking her lithe form. A dissonance of despair, the sounds of horrifically wild sobbing echoing around the room. The princess, so long solely dependent on the flittering hope of rescue collapsed just as heavily as her heart did. The vague realization of something she had ignored so long came back to haunt her now. That way, the way that her…her Kurosaki-kun looked at Rukia. The way that they fought, where they're not really angry but they fight because they're so good for each other. The way that whenever somebody asked about Ichigo and Orihime being together, he would just laugh and say no. But if somebody suggested it about him and Rukia, he would go into fits just to convince anyone that he wasn't with her.
She knew it. She just didn't want to believe it.
So she didn't.
Orihime Inoue led herself on that there was a glimmering star in the distance, a distant hope that she would win his heart. How much did she hang upon those brief hopes, oh how she depended on them. It had helped her through the days back in Karakura, where she could hang out with Tatsuki and forget about it all for a brief bit of time. It was so brief, but it was what she needed. Back then, she more or less wanted it to comfort her. Here, she depended on it. She lived on it. She needed it. And now that it was gone, what would she do?
What was left for her, except the place she was caught in?
What was left for her, except the place she was caught in.
The dark realization of the only thing left for Inoue Orihime hit her heavily, and she released a torrent of fresh sobs.
Inoue Orihime was unimportant. Those people she called friends, they weren't coming. Uryuu, Sado, Renji, Rangiku, Rukia…Ichigo…they weren't ever coming. She wasn't worth it to them, wasn't worth possibly losing their lives over. Orihime briefly wondered what Tatsuki was doing, where she was. She'd be in college by now. They would all be. Not the shinigami, of course, but who she thought were her first friends. The people she would have lived for. Died for.
Orihime crawled onto the couch, crying until her throat was raw and she couldn't wail and sob loudly any more. Then, it was reduced to whimpers and soft sobs of betrayal, black despair taking hold of her heart. Hours of laying there, letting it all wash over her. Her future; what it would be. She'd be here forever, of course. Not even dying would set her free; if she died, she'd just sit next to her body until Ulquiorra showed up and took her soul to Aizen, before dragging her back to the cell and sitting her there with absolutely no hope of ever…no, 'even if she did somehow get out' was a fond memory. She wasn't getting out. Couldn't do it herself, and none of the Arrancar were going to help her. Aizen would never let the princess go, of course. She would just sit there for a hundred years, two hundred, maybe even four or five. She didn't know how long a soul would live, but from how old she thought she heard someone say the Head Captain of Seireitei was, she could be here for a really long time.
"…It's…not going to be okay, is…is it?" she questioned nobody in particular, with a soft voice. Her knees were clutched to her chest, before she buried her red face into her legs and began to sob again.
Ulquiorra announced his presence, walking in quietly as the cart slid in after him and the door slammed. The woman was sitting on her couch, her hands in her lap. She looked up to him; her eyes were a glassy, abnormal and altogether dead and dull gray. He didn't react to it, seeing that her face was flushed and her eyes puffy; she was apparently crying, and very hard from how disheveled she looked. He didn't react, merely motioning to the cart. She blinked; the food wasn't bread, soup and water like before. It was an actual meal, with steak and salad and wine. A full-course meal.
"Woman, you will eat or I-" his dead threat was cut off as she stood and came with heavy steps towards him and the tray, taking the plates and glass before sitting down on her couch.
"Thank you." Orihime's voice rang out dully, as she began to eat. Ulquiorra didn't answer her thanks, merely observed how pacifistic and compliant she was being now. Something must have happened, and with her mannerisms and how she looked to have been crying, he could only speculate that some sort of tragic epiphany or news had come to her and broken her down. It didn't matter to him; she was eating and that was his entire mission for whenever he came here.
"…Schiffer-san…" She finally spoke again, very quietly. It attracted Ulquiorra's attention.
"What, woman?" It was a direct demand for an answer. As she stood again, putting the empty plate on the tray and walking past him on her way back to the couch, she spoke one sentence of pure finality.
"…Please tell Aizen-sama that I am ready to cooperate."
((AN: First chapter of the Orihime-centric new story idea that's been bothering me for a little while now. That's right; another multi-chapter thing. This one's gonna be dark, so be prepared for such. Toodles!))