no one was born with a heart;
you live and look for it.
Inoue Orihime. He neither calls her by the first nor last name. Instead, he uses the most universal, abstract, meaningless word that defines every female creature existing in the world: woman.
A simple and straightforward word, hurtling from his mouth, sharp like razorblade.
Whenever he utters the word, he feels slight satisfaction as it crawls from the back of his throat and up to his tongue, jagged and merciless. As he extricates it from his mouth, it goes out in a slow, deliberate drawl — disdain that never seems to reach his emerald eyes, but strewn all over his condescending monotone.
He wants to see her pretty face puckered by fright. He expects her to cower before him, be even more tattered in her pristine white clothes — his glaring green gaze is returned with anything but helplessness.
No matter how many times he shoots the word at her, emphasizing how useless and insignificant and worthless she is, she never budges. She just fights back with a set of determined eyes. And an expression which meaning is lost and haunts his coherent thoughts.
Her brown eyes don't elude his scrutiny, and she stands firm where she is, almost defiant.
He hates that, because he wants to make her to feel worthless and useless and abandoned. He wants to shrivel her hope to dust. Oblivion.
His shadow is first to intrude upon her haven when the door swings open.
He announces it's time for her to eat, but she stands unmoving on her spot. Her back to him, head held high, gaze directed upwards, as if seeking solace and escape in between the rails that restrain the moon from shining fully on her.
Her white cloak flaps slightly in the breeze — the only sound that fills the silence between them. She doesn't give any sign of responding, and he turns around soundlessly.
He leaves, closing the door behind him. The usual pallid walls greet him — the color that now identifies them, like corrupt tattoos tainting their skin.
Then, he realizes how the new uniform fits her but contradicts him.
She's a pure and beautiful doll; he's a pierrot dressed in illusory white.
Sometimes, during his daily visits, she'll tell him stories.
They are random, in no particular order at all, a recitation of her life in the human world. The way she tells them, the way her lips twitch upwards knowingly, the way her eyes soften nostalgically — she narrates them ever so sweetly and delicately. An adjacent life that's slowly slipping away from her grasp, reality dispersing, becoming a fairytale she tries to remember.
She sighs softly every now and then, gentle whispers blowing sunset locks imperceptibly. He doesn't know why she's telling him any of this, but all he does is stare at her, wordless and ghostlike.
After a while, he comprehends it isn't her tale that piques his interest — rather, her own self. No matter how many times he tries to break his gaze away, his attention will always be riveted by her lovely shaped face, her beautiful auburn hair. And most of the time, he's always captivated by the small smile that seems to bring her pale face more colors, flickering sporadic, demure flames.
Fairytale never fascinates him, yet she — this reality — reels his attention in. Plunging him into intoxicated abyss, making him subconsciously long for more.
Days don't matter here in Las Noches. Every passing day is like a fleeting second, and his visits to her room bleed into the ticking clock. It doesn't feel like 'duty' anymore. It feels only ordinary. Natural.
She looks up when the door opens, and he saunters into the room unceremoniously, hands in his pockets. Her smile vanishes as he commands her to eat, and rage seizes her features when he calls her 'woman' over and over.
Spitting his name angrily, she throws the food a look of disapproval, before fixing her gaze on the perpetual moon again.
He never speaks her name. Never right before her.
He has tried her name on his tongue for a couple of times now, and it always brought a somewhat sweet and contagious sensation, goosebumps prickling his senses.
He doesn't want to mouth her name. Because her name means princess. And he wants to make her feel worthless and low, anything but princess; self-value impaled by the abstract word, sharp like sword.
Betraying his belief, his mind screams otherwise.
He doesn't want to call her by her real name. For fear of attachment.
She always confuses him.
Sometimes she smiles so wide, he wonders if it will break and crumple her face into splinters. Sometimes she cries so hard, her sobs and tears mingling in a bitter torrent of ashes and dust. Sometimes she seems torn between being hopeful and hopeless, her faith in her friends drifting aimlessly and thrown askew by her wavering trust. Sometimes she lashes out her wrath at him. Sometimes she sniffles into his back, just as he's about to leave.
Sometimes she rises unbroken, despite her tattered state.
She heals those who hurt her. She believes in those who believe in her even while she's betraying herself. She accepts others and rejects herself.
He can never understand this human.
Her acts and thoughts and words. They entwine and envelop him, a spider web puzzle he can never escape from.
He always tells others not to mess with her, that Aizen wants the girl unharmed.
He always protects her. He rushes to her when her vacant room screams the absence of her presence. He comes to fetch her, claiming it is his duty; that the girl is to be kept under his supervision.
He can't remember when that single fact submerges and is lost within his mind, as realization dawns upon him in a shower of acid rain; bitterly sharp and true and ruthless. Duty and this girl have too little in common.
Protecting her slowly becomes something he wants to do, as an individual with free will. Although the notion itself seems to bob incredulously amidst his sea of subconsciousness, questioning.
He's seen her break down into tears, he's seen her frightened.
As he stands before her, his emerald eyes probe her features. He doesn't understand how a fleeting image of her friends can bring her hopes so high. Her smile seemed more genuine then, lighting up her whole face — this, is something he's never seen before, something she's never shown him.
Something she never gives him.
He glares at her, feeling agitated for no reason at all. He doesn't understand human emotions. Jumping from one to another, smiles and tears cheaply tossed around in a hazardous, emotional circus.
He wants to know what this heart she's been blabbering about.
He wonders if he cracks open his own skull, he'll find something as inexplicable as a heart in there, tangled in bloody nets of pitiful sins.
The wind is in his jet hair, screaming secrets as he soars higher and higher. He can feel Kurosaki trailing behind him, determined. Once he reaches his destination, everything below seems diminutive in his eyes, and he raises his sword.
Here on top of the city of the dead, there is no one else but them.
He will end this quickly. She won't have to see anything.
He can never understand. The prospect of human's mind eludes him. Why is this Shinigami, despite his absolute defeat and demise awaiting him, still clutching to his sword? Doesn't he know that he's going to die? That he, the Cuatro Espada, has won the battle before it even started?
Mere instincts won't give him that much strength or will.
What is it, then?
Seething furiously, he tightens his grip around Kurosaki's neck, his emerald reiatsu flaring. But the Shinigami is unfazed, and with what little strength residing in him, manages to sputter that he will beat the Espada.
Instincts won't do that. They would have held him back.
He wonders if this is also what a human heart does.
He hurls Kurosaki away, deciding this will be the Shinigami's curtain call.
All he needs to do is shroud this heart, painting it black with emptiness. And they will plummet into nothingness.
When terror seizes her features, snapping her eyes wide open with ominous horror, she still tries to act strong. Though, the pretense seems to fall apart with each passing second that's marked with scattering debris and collapsing towers.
Blood and dust are mingled together, tainting his raven hands, slipping through his serrated fingers, cackling in their joyous bloodlust.
He's used to seeing her act tough, but he's never seen her so frightened and… broken.
As he makes a hole in Kurosaki's chest, her hands tremble and her body shakes violently, and instead of trying to heal him, she cries.
She knows the extent of her power — one that defies time and space, one resembling that of a God's. Yet here she is, calling out to Kurosaki.
Here she is, disbelieving the power she possesses, rejecting herself.
What makes her like this? Is it the heart? Does it bleed tears when seeing someone close to her dying? He wonders if it ruptures and leaves her in a dusty whirlwind of lost persona. He wonders if it breaks at the death of someone else, and she with it.
He can never understand them, this concept of a human's heart even more so.
If it's so prone to breaking and makes them fragile, won't they be better off without a heart, then?
Dying is such a strong and oddly vivid feeling.
He's never actually thought of his death — the notion seems only natural. Humans, hollows, Shinigami will die one day; death is the archangel that will close their eyes and freeze their smiles, capturing them between past and present and future. The space in between, forever suspended and unbeknownst to the flow of time; eternity.
He shouldn't feel anything. Death is not sinister, it is common. In wars, death is a beckon for repose. The time to finally close your eyes, knowing you can finally blow your last breath, dirt and blood and sins bursting out in an irrevocable puff.
Emptiness is his demise and power, and he should die feeling nothing. But this emptiness, instead of lying still and stay black, rages and clamors.
He feels so empty… that he desires for more. Answers.
Betraying his pokerfaced features, scenes and questions flash before his eyes, tumbling in and out his head in a frenzied mayhem.
Shifting his gaze towards his foes, he just stands impassively, the slight sound of his flapping wings reverberates in his ears, the countdown before his final moment.
Is this how it feels to die? No emptiness. Only a carousel of emotions and questions spinning so fast, rotating around his ominous perplexity.
These humans, albeit his enemies, hold his interest. Their motives and actions befuddle him. They're so full of something that he's drawn to them, even if subconsciously.
His electric green eyes avert toward her again. She doesn't move, just returns the stare with a somewhat sad expression. Breath coming in short rasps, his body beginning to disintegrate, he asks if she's scared of him.
Tears well in her throat, diluted diamonds on her eyes, she answers him, No, I'm not.
Pictures inundate his mind again, spectral phantasmagoria. Instead of black and white, they're all painted in orange and peach and white. Delicate sunset strands blowing, smiles waning and waxing, brown eyes dimming and lighting up like dawn, soft whispers between cerise lips.
All he sees is her, dancing like a marionette on the stage of his mind.
(Ulquiorra, he liked the way his name rolled off her tongue, slow and tentative, as if the word would break like porcelain in her mouth.
Have you always been alone? I… used to feel so lonely, too. My brother is gone, and if it hadn't been for Tatsuki and my friends, I wouldn't have stood here. What about your friends? Do you guys talk a lot too? Silence was his answer, but understanding crept to her face. Oh, sorry. I didn't mean to pry on you. Um. Do you think… we can be friends? She seemed to shrink under his glare, but he didn't respond.)
The thought, though, was pleasant, and he visited her more often since then.
(Why do you fight, Ulquiorra? She was used to his silent companion, and his roll of eyes was more than enough to indicate he was listening. If you could choose and find your own purpose, where would you go first? I'm not so sure about my decision anymore… I don't think it'll help others, but I really, really hope it does, in a way. But if my purpose ever dies someday, do you want to come with me and search for a new one? She laughed uncharacteristically. Sorry, I didn't mean to pursue this topic further. Just forget about it.)
But he thought it was an idea worth pursuing.
(Ulquiorra? She sounded hesitant, and he turned around to meet her eyes. I know it's my decision to come here, and I know I've been unhelpful and hard on you. But, for accompanying and listening to me… Thank you.)
(Ulquiorra— Please... don't go.)
More and more images roll before his eyes. So fast he can't fully grasp them, capturing and savoring the details almost too greedily and desperately.
Slowly, he raises his hand toward her. Countless unfathomable emotions burst out and encircle him in a vibrant revue.
What could this feeling be...?
She lifts her hand, extending it towards him, tears now streaking her cheeks.
Yet their hands never meet. His turns to dust, and she reaches out again, grasping nothing but debris.
Her image is the last thing he sees as he finally closes his eyes.
He has been questioning about a heart and its existence for a long time. What it does, how it feels. And now here he is, his body slowly but surely vanishing and his sanity shattering; and he can feel it.
Here in his hand…
Is the heart.
Her heart. His. Theirs.
There are still too many questions, too many places and ideas and smiles he's yet to see. But...
At least he dies holding her heart in his hand.
The breeze blows his figure away. Ash scatters in every direction.
And he hopes she can hear his last words; a secret he never uttered, one he wishes she could hear distinctly between the rustles of cloaks and billowing hair and roars of tragedy.
And that is his last breath, his life ends and flies with the wind, caressing her features, blowing her sunset hair, whispering in her ears.
This heart belongs to her.
Maybe she'll come looking for it someday.
And it echoes over and over, inaudible but distinct in the mind. A bittersweet fantasia he wants to hum forever but cannot.
disclaimer: Bleach is not mine.
a/n: UlquiHime is probably the first Bleach pairing I ever fell in love with. I'm still loving those last moments they shared together. So bittersweet and sad.
*09.13.2010; edited as advised by Mare. Thanks dear!*
*09.15.2010; slightly edited again. My intention of flashback was not for him to feel "nostalgic"; his death was something I always felt between incomplete and complete, empty but fulfilled. But either way, hope you like it better now. (A response to an anon's review as I can't PM back.)*
Anyway, reviews are greatly appreciated! Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed.