Okay so I decided to do a sequel. the ending of the first fic was always supposed to be a bittersweet kind of hopeful story, ending not in a definitive way. But it was supposed to be short. So here's the continuation!
"You will never save him."
Urahara frowned, his hands hesitating from where they were buried in the damaged arm of Ulquiorra's gigai. He raised his eyebrows to see the former Espada sitting nearby, one hand cupping his chin. A year ago, Urahara would never have believed the scene was even possible. A year ago, he would have thought that the sight of an Arancar in his lab would have sent him rushing for Benihime. Now the sight of Ulquiorra sitting there merely meant that he had survived another fight and that, for all purposes, he had come home. Usually when he did though, whatever dying words the Hollow had said would have meant nothing. Now though he was clearly troubled by the final words of the dying creature, troubled enough to let the concern show on his face.
"I wouldn't dwell on it," Urahara advised, grabbing one of the tools and rotating a mechanism inside the gigai, "the Hollow was most likely simply trying to get to you past his death," he raised his eyes with a grin, "it seems to have worked."
The glare he was rewarded with only served to widen his smile. The slightly more emotional side of Ulquiorra was something Urahara was certain would never cease to amuse him. Of course the one most prone to his displays of emotion was Orihime, something Urahara found unfair considering the young woman had the uncanny ability to read Ulquiorra with the ease of an open book. Unfortunately Ulquiorra was more than capable of reading people as well and clearly he had sensed some sort of truth in the Hollow's words. Enough truth that it would trouble him to the point it would show on his features. That meant nothing good, especially not when he thought of the only person in the world the Hollow could be referring to:
The orange haired man vanished without a trace six months earlier. gone to find peace, Rukia or some combination of the two. They had let him disappear, though Urahara did have serious reservations about it. But it had felt necessary. The young man had never truly recovered from the war, to the point where he was forever torturing himself with the past. He needed to move on. But, most importantly, he needed to let go. Unfortunately the fact of the matter was that even without his full powers, Ichigo Kurosaki was a source of great interest for both the good and the bad forces that existed in the world. Urahara had thought the boy could take care of himself, he had seen Ichigo pull off the impossible time and time again. But if he had not, if something had captured him, then they could be in very big trouble. Especially if that something had anything to do with Aizen.
"Perhaps I am overreacting," Ulquiorra said, the barest edge of disgust in his tone. As if the idea of him overreacting was somehow grotesque, "but if there is a bit of truth to its words, Soul Society must know."
"And you think I have a way of contacting them," Urahara said. Ulquiorra nodded, "well, I am sorry to disappoint you but I don't. I'm afraid I'm as cut off as the rest of you."
Ulquiorra looked at him sharply, not believing that for a second.
Urahara was too smart and, in later days, too paranoid not to have some way of contacting Soul Society. The idea that he had simply closed all ties was possibly the most ridiculous thing Ulquiorra had heard in some time. He had a way of contacting Soul Society, he simply did not want to share it. Knowing that prying would do nothing for him, Ulquiorra instead straitened up and slid to his feet. Walking forward to where Urahara stood, he looked over at the prone form in between the two of them.
The sight of his human form was one he was certain he would never truly become accustom to. As he had told Orihime, he had been very young when he had died. Young enough that the body of a heathy teenaged human was something he had once dreamed about--something he and his family had prayed for. It was strange that it had happened, even if it had been a very long time after the fact. Still, looking down at the prone body, he found himself slightly offput by the sight of it. The last Hollow had damaged his arm severely when he had hesitated after it had uttered those words. Urahara removed whatever tools he was using and grabbed the tools to fix the skin. There would a fine line in the body, passible for a scar. Ulquiorra's own high speed regeneration had taken care of the mark on his true form, thankfully the internal damage was non-existant.
"Done," Urahara said stepping back, "now shall I send a message over to Orihime and Uryuu--"
"No," Ulquiorra cut him off, knowing full well what kind of messages Urahara liked to send.
"Well then, I suppose you'd better be on your way," he said.
Ulquiorra nodded and quickly got into the gigai. It took a very short amount of time to do so, but still he waited a moment to make sure he was adjusted. A year of constantly getting in and out of the gigai had broken the doll-like apparatus in, to the point where it was actually quite comfortable. But still a few times of passing out and a few falls had taught Ulquiorra to be careful when it came to his cover. He had limitations, as a Hollow living in the transient world. Limitations that he had to deal with to maintain his ability to live where he wished. Still within ten minutes he was walking out of the door, shrugging a light jacket on against the chill in the night air. It was still warm out but his body felt cool.
He made his way through the quiet of Karakura Town. It was a sleepy place, even at eleven at night. As he walked past the more populated districts, as the houses began to spread out, he found the small apartment that Orihime Inoue still called home. Two people lived in the building, she on the top floor. He walked up to the stoop, his eyes moving to the buzzer. His gaze slid from the buzzer to the two plants. Acting on a suspicion he moved aside a few of the smaller stones surrounding the plant to reveal a large stone buried underneath the thin camouflage. Picking up the unusually light stone, he slid the two parts apart to reveal the key hidden inside.
Stone in hand he turned and walked back to the buzzer, pressing the button beside her name.
High above him, hair still wet from the shower, Orihime turned at the buzzer. Instantly a smile came to her lips. There was only one person who would be buzzing her so late. Quickly she walked over to the intercom and pressed the button that would let him in. Turning the lock on the door she hurried back to the bathroom and quickly combed out the tangles in her hair. She heard the door open and the methodic footsteps come into her apartment. Setting down her comb she came out of the bathroom to be greeted with the sight she already knew she would find.
"Ulquiorra," Orihime stood in the doorway, smiling at him.
Ulquiorra looked at the sight of her. Her hair was still wet from the shower, staining the straps of the light pink tank top she had on. It was eleven so the fact her bottom half was clad in a pair of pajama pants was understandable. The bats on them, however, were not. She walked quickly from the bathroom over to where he was standing. Before he could remind her that she was to hide her spare key in another place, she wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her mouth to his. Ulquiorra found his reaction to be instantaneous as he kissed her back, the hand not holding the rock wrapping around her waist. He could smell the floral on her from where she had just applied perfume, the scent as light and playful as the woman in his arms.
"Hi," she said breathlessly looking up at him.
"Hello," he replied, looking down at her shining eyes.
Six months and Ulquiorra still would not have been able to properly define what the woman in his arms meant. He had not known, what seemed so long ago, what she would one day come to mean to him. He only knew now, that if someone tried to take her, he too would have gone to hell and back to see her safely home. He still could not say what made it so, still did not understand why when she smiled at him he felt as though the world was not as dark a place as it had been the moment before. Some days it was actually quite sickening how easily she could make the world seem like a hopeful place.
"Its late," she said, "is something wrong?"
For a second Ulquiorra actually considered not telling her. Considered letting it stay with him until the next day. But he knew that he could not. She needed to know what was going on, she needed to know that the man she had once been in love with might be in trouble and there was a good chance they were going to have to find a way to save him. The thought made his stomach roll. Both the fact that he was most likely going to have to contribute to saving Ichigo Kurosaki and the fact that Orihime Inoue had once been in love with him. While he had no doubt that she loved him now, he still was not anxious to have the orange haired idiot back in the picture.
"Yes," he said finally.
"Is it about that rock?" she asked looking at the object in his hand, "I told you Ulquiorra, no-one knows its there but you, me, Sado, Tatsuki and Uryuu!"
"It is easy to find," he said.
"Yes!" she cried picking it up from his hand, "because you keep digging it up!"
There were certain things about the human world in the modern era that Orihime was certain Ulquiorra was never going to understand. Things like hiding a spare key in a place where you had a chance of finding it was one of them. Not every person in the world was a trained warrior who was capable of finding things that would be used to their advantage in a fight. Most people looking to get into her apartment wouldn't dig up that plant and find the rock he held in his hand and know that it was the key to her apartment.
She understood Ulquiorra's paranoid moments. She knew his training was to jump to the worst conclusion, to do what no-one else wanted to. Unfortunately that meant that he still immediately jumped to the worst conclusion about people around him. Orihime had a feeling that he would always, on some fundamental level, be a pessimist. But at least he did not think everyone on the street had the capability to commit murder anymore. Or at least that they would not commit murder as easily as they did their everyday tasks. She also knew that Ulquiorra would deny it if she called him paranoid or, worse, overprotective of her.
"You need to find a better hiding place," he told her bluntly.
"Alright," she said with a sigh, reaching out and picking up the rock, setting it down on her counter, "I will find a better place for the rock--for the key in the rock," she crossed her arms, "why are you really here?"
It was an effect of dating someone who was so blunt that Orihime had picked up on it herself. While her tact was better than that of her significant other, she was still far more blunt than she had been in the past. Now, instead of letting Ulquiorra voice what was happening in his own time, she crossed her arms and fixed him with a stare that he could not avoid. He returned her gaze, his hands loosely tucking into the pockets of his jacket in a pose that Orihime had come to understand was his default one.
"I killed a Hollow," he said. Orihime nodded, knowing that was nothing new, "he said something to me."
"What did he say?" Orihime asked, nervousness fluttering in her stomach.
Hollow had called Ulquiorra all sort of things. Traitor was the most common but they had been worse than that. Even though the truth of the matter was that even if he was still loyal to Aizen or even if he was still acting as a Hollow should he would be killing and eating them. But they still hurled accusations at him, using their dying breath to swear at the thing that had killed them. The person that never would have shown them any sort of mercy anyway. Usually Ulquiorra said nothing of it, if she heard about it she heard it from Uryuu. But if Ulquiorra was at her house so late, it must have been really bad. Orihime pushed herself away from the counter she was leaning on, the nervousness morphing into worry.
"It told me that 'you will never save him'," Ulquiorra said.
Orihime's eyes widened, her mind immediately going to the only person it could be. Maybe it was another Espada, another Hollow, another Shinigami. But deep inside she knew who it was. She knew it had to be Ichigo Kurosaki.
But it seemed impossible that it could be him. He had been gone for six months, gone to find himself or Rukia or maybe some combination of the two. She had let him go, they all had, all understanding that Ichigo needed to find some kind of peace in the wake of all the destruction that had happened. But six months of nothing, of silence, and suddenly this? It was unfathomable. She had always felt when Ichigo was in trouble, just like he always knew when she was. She knew her powers were gone, his were too. But the idea she wouldn't even know that he was in trouble, it was a horrible thought. One that had her pressing her hand to her mouth, trying to keep the stinging from her eyes.
"He's in trouble," she said raising her head.
"I believe so," Ulquiorra said, "Urahara claims not to have a way to contact Soul Society but I do not believe him."
"No, no he'd have a way," she said lowering her hand, "did it say anything else?"
"No," Ulquiorra said, "it disintegrated shortly after that."
Orihime nodded, not saying anything. Over and over in her mind, the words ran though. She could even hear the voice of the Hollow, that distorted screech. She knew that it could have thrown the words at Ulquiorra to try and get to him, maybe to just throw him off. Bravely she looked up at him.
"Maybe it just said that to get to you," she said, her voice trying to be light.
"No," Ulquiorra rejected her claim shortly, "it was not. If he truly is in trouble, Soul Society must know."
"Why?" Orihime demanded, her eyes narrowing, "after what they did, why should we trust them at all? Why would they care at all?!"
Ulquiorra looked at her carefully, hearing the rise of her voice. He knew she did not want to have anything to do with Soul Society. He could not blame her. He did not really want to have anything to do with the. But he knew it was nothing but stupidity that would make a person think they could handle whatever was coming. Something was coming. Something that had taken Ichigo Kurosaki. Whatever they had done to him to remove his powers, Ulquiorra had no doubt that whoever had him now would find a way to undo. Ichigo Kurosaki had brought the world to its knees, even for the briefest of moments. If those that had him now found a way to unlock that, there was nothing to prevent them from accomplishing that again.
"They will care," he said, "whatever took him will come for them, eventually. They will care about that, even if they do not care about anything else."
"Anyone else," Orihime said crossing her arms around herself.
She hated the fact that he was right, that they were going to need to call on the very people that had turned their backs on them a year ago. She hated the fact they were going to have to run to them, almost as much as she hated the idea that Ichigo had been taken and she hadn't known. He had come to her aide so quickly, almost before she realized that he would. And yet she had no idea when he had been taken. There were a hundred logical reasons as to why, the circumstances were impossibly different. But somehow none of that comforted her. Ichigo Kurosaki, the first boy she had ever loved, was in trouble and she had not known. Miserably she raised her eyes to see Ulquiorra standing there, watching her carefully. He didn't like this anymore than she did, she knew that, but he was still willing to do whatever it took to make sure that what had happened before did not again. It was noble, noble and brave and Orihime wished that she could keep that in mind rather than her desire to get her hairpins back so she could use Tsubaki on everyone.
"I should change," she said finally, "we need to go tell the others. They'll want to know."
Ulquiorra nodded as she disappeared into the other room of the apartment to change. Suddenly Ulquiorra wished that he had listened to his instincts and let her hand one more night where she did not have to think about Soul Society and Ichigo Kurosaki who, though he may have been the first boy she ever loved, had also been the first boy who ever broke her heart.
Please review! You guys (and gals) were awesome with reviewing the last story! I say we try that again!
You review, I'll write! Well, you'll kinda write too, with reviews. But I'll write the story!