To The Limit

aka: Aizen Sousuke's Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Week

Author's note: This was partially inspired by O. Henry's short story "The Ransom of Red Chief," and partially by the Bleach anime. The rest, as they say, is history.

This probably isn't entirely plausible. But, hello, this is fanfic. Plausibility don't live here anymore.

Also: A note about naming conventions: Japanese names such as Inoue Orihime and Aizen Sousuke go last name, first name. Romanized names such as Grimmjow Jaegerjaques and Szayel Aporro Granz go first name, last name. If you send me a review complaining that you are confused about this, I reserve the right to laugh at you. That is all.

WARNING: Contains crack and OOC-ness. May also contain nuts.

Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach... though I wouldn't mind getting my hands on some of the characters.

1. When all else fails, blame Aizen's minions.

"Whaddaya mean, it's gonna take you a week to fix the damn portal?" Kurosaki Ichigo yelled.

The orange-haired teen stood in the burned-out wreckage of what was once the Urahara Shouten. The wooden frame had collapsed, the inside had been ravaged by some sort of bladed weapon, and there were small orange flames flickering through the ruins.

"Just what I said," Urahara Kisuke frowned disapprovingly. "The Arrancar damaged it somehow when they came. It will take me at least one week to get it back into working order."

"But... But..." Ichigo sputtered, aghast. "But they've got Orihime! We can't just wait a week to go get her- anything could happen!"

2. Murphy is laughing at your so-called "perfect plan."

Aizen Sousuke had it all planned out.

His Arrancar had kidnapped the girl and destroyed Urahara's little shop. It would take the shopkeeper a week or two to get the portal up and running again. In that time, Aizen would study Orihime's powers, find a way to copy or neutralize them, and try to turn her to his side.

Then, when the human and shinigami rescue team showed up, their forces would be effectively split between the Human world, Seireitei, and Hueco Mundo. Aizen could divide and conquer at his leisure, slaughter a bunch of humans to get the Key, and from there his ascension to Heaven's throne wall all but guaranteed.

Not for the first time, Aizen considered getting himself a fan that said "Flawless Victory" on it. For some reason, he felt like dancing...

3. One small step for human-kind

"Here's your room," Ulquiorra Cipher said flatly.

Inoue Orihime looked around the little room resignedly. It was larger than her apartment back in the Living World, but it had none of the welcoming atmosphere of home. Instead, the start whiteness of the walls made her feel alone and caged-in. "It's... very nice. Thank you," she said politely.

Ulquirra said nothing.

Orihime sniffled in sadness.

Ulquiorra merely watched her with deadened green eyes.

"You..." Orihime's voice wobbled as she looked over at her watcher. She paused, closed her eyes, and visibly steeled herself.

"You're so stoic all of the time," the orange-haired girl said. Curiosity propelled her past politeness. "Is it because of some horrible trauma in your past?"

"No," Ulquiorra said shortly.

"Did your parents abandon you?" Orihime asked knowingly.

"...No," Ulquiorra said after a short pause.

"Were you betrayed by someone close to you?" Orihime asked.


"Oh," Orihime pouted. "Why don't you tell me, then?"

Ulquiorra said nothing, only turned away. He stared at the wall with an expression of intense concentration. Or perhaps constipation- his facial expressions were somewhat lacking in variety.

He wasn't facing Orihime, though, so he didn't see her eyes narrow. "If that's the way it has to be, then," the teenager said lowly. "Then I refuse."

"Refuse?" Ulquiorra turned so that he could see her from the corner of his eye. "Refuse what?"

"I refuse to live like this," Orihime said furiously. "Trapped in this room with no-one to talk to... treated like I'm nothing. I refuse."

"Get used to it," Ulquiorra turned back to his wall-gazing, dismissing her concerns easily. "You're Aizen-sama's prisoner now. You don't have a choice."

That was when Inoue Orihime had an idea. It was a terrible idea, and a brilliant idea. A terribly brilliant idea. Orihime smiled.

Ulquiorra had a sudden sense of impending doom. Had he turned around at that moment, he would not have liked the look of that smile.

"I reject it," Orihime said clearly, and the room flashed with brilliant white light.

4. See no evil.

"Oi, greenie," Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez, Sexta Espada, yelled as he barged into the prisoner's room. "Aizen-sama wants to see you an' the woman in..."

He trailed off in shock.

The girl was sitting on her bed. Ulquiorra was kneeling by her feet with his head in her lap. The green-haired Arrancar was sobbing.

"... and then... my father..." Ulquiorra blubbered into Orihime's bosom.

Grimmjow wasn't usually one to back away from a confrontation. He was more likely to run head-first into any confrontation that looked like it could be the slightest bit interesting. The danger sensors in his head had long since been overloaded and destroyed.

Those same sensors were now blaring "DANGER! DANGER!" at decibels usually only reached by loud rock concerts and jet engines at close range.

"...I'll just come back later," Grimmjow decided, backing out of the room and shutting the door quietly behind himself. Discretion was, after all, the greater part of valor.

He wasn't quite sure what it was... but there was something very, very wrong with that woman.

5. Sharing is caring

"I am going to strap you down and dissect you," the pink-haired menace declared.

Ulquiorra, Orihime's ever-present shadow, stiffened in outrage. The girl herself only frowned in confusion. "What do you mean?" she asked innocently.

The day had started innocently enough. Grimmjow had arrived early in the morning to escort Orihime to Szayel's laboratory, because Aizen wanted to know how her powers worked. The scientist had not lost a moment in declaring his intentions in the most confrontational way possible.

"I am going to enjoy cutting you open," Szayel Aporro Granz said with obvious relish. "In the name of science, of course. It is a pity that you might die in the process, but you should be eager to give your life for such a worthy cause."

Orihime's face twisted into a frown. "I don't like you," she declared.

Grimmjow tensed. That same feeling was back: the feeling that something was about to go wrong.

"You have such a pretty face," Orihime said sadly, "but such a hateful mind. I reject it."

There was a flash of white light. It sent Szayel Aporro flying. He landed in a heap on the ground, unmoving.

"What did you do, woman?" Grimmjow pinned the orange-haired girl to the wall. He leaned in, so she could see the furious expression on his face. "What did you do t' him?"

"Oh, it's quite all right," a cheerful voice said. "I feel much better now."

Grimmjow half-turned, without releasing Orihime, and stared.

Szayel was patting his pink hair into place. That was normal. His glasses were somewhat skewed, his clothes in disarray. That was not normal, but it wasn't worrying either.

The pink-haired Arrancar was smiling. Cheerfully and genuinely. Not normal. Not good.

"I daresay I feel much better than I have in a long time!" the scientist chirped. "Thank you so much, Miss Inoue!"

"Oh, please call me Orihime," Orihime offered, smiling.

Grimmjow dropped the woman out of surprise and backed away from her. "What the hell d'you just do?"

Orihime turned to look at him, still smiling widely. "You shouldn't curse like that. It's uncouth."

Even knowing what was about to happen, Grimmjow was powerless to stop it.

"I reject."

6. Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.

Yammy Riyalgo entered the prisoner's room, stopped, and stared. Szayel Aporro and Ulquiorra were crawling on the floor wearing bonnets as the orange-haired girl waved a feather in front of a disgruntled-looking Grimmjow. The blue-haired Arrancar batted at the feather half-heartedly, scowling.

"What on earth is going on here?" Yammy demanded.

"We're playing house!" Orihime smiled invitingly. "Would you like to join us?"

"No," Yammy said shortly, turning away.

"Are you sure?" Orihime tempted him. "You can be the daddy! I'm the mommy, and Ulquiorra and Szayel are my little babies! Grimmjow is my kitty!"

"Meow," Grimmjow snarled, humiliated.

"No," Yammy said again.

"Please?" Orihime asked, her lip trembling.

"I have no time for your foolish human pastimes," Yammy said unfeelingly.

"Is that so?" Yammy felt a chill run down his spine, but he was too late to stop it. "I reject!"

7. A God should be more receptive to his disciples' prayers.

"Send 'er back," Grimmjow begged. "'S not worth it. Please... just get 'er out of here!"

"Now, now," Aizen smiled benevolently down at his subordinate, "Don't you think you're overreacting? I assure you, Inoue is crucial to our plans."

"Then kill me," Grimmjow sobbed, in a manly sort of way. "Just kill me and get it over with."

"Don't you think you're being a bit hasty?" Aizen asked kindly. "She's only been here a few days, after all."

"And in that time, she's neutered Szayel, turned Ulquiorra into an emotional wreck, and she's not gonna stop there," Grimmjow pleaded. "If we don't do something now, it'll just get worse!"

Aizen dismissed his concerns with a casual wave of his hand. "You're just over-reacting."

He would later come to regret it.

8. If it ain't broke...

Grimmjow pulled Szayel through the corridors of Las Noches by the arm. The pink-haired Espada followed good-naturedly, skipping along and humming an off-key show tune.

"What's wrong with you?" Grimmjow demanded desperately.

"Nothing is wrong with me," Szayel said, smiling.

Grimmjow dragged the other Arrancar into his laboratory and forced him to look at his equipment. "There! Doesn't that give ya the sudden urge to do unspeakable things in the name of science?"

"...No?" Szayel shrugged, still smiling. "Why? Should it?"

"Yes!" Grimmjow howled.

"Oh," Szayel thought about it. Then, "Ooh! I have an idea!"

"Really?" Grimmjow asked desperately. "D' you want to experiment on me? On Starrk? How about Aizen? I bet I could bring him in for you, if you really wanted me to."

"Don't be silly!" Szayel twittered, flipping his hair over his shoulder. "I just had an idea! I'm going to sew something for Miss Orihime! I'm sure she'll love it."

Grimmjow resisted the urge to weep in utter failure.

"Do you think Miss Orihime likes stuffed animals?"

9. Trick or treat!

"Why hello there, Grimmjow-kun!" a cheery voice said happily.

Grimmjow let out a girly shriek of terror and dove under a nearby table. When nothing happened, he stopped trembling and cautiously looked over the edge to see who it was.

"Oh," he scowled, "'S just you."

Starrk Coyote was doubled over laughing, his Fraccion Lilinette in hysterics by his side. "You... should have seen... your face!" the short pink-haired girl gasped out between giggles.

"Just wait 'til it happens to you," Grimmjow snarled. "Just you wait."

10. Women are troublesome...

"Yo, kid," Starrk waved as he sauntered into Orihime's room. "It's my turn to guard you today."

"Why, hello there! We're having a tea party!" Orihime chirped cheerfully. "Would you like to join us?"

"Eh," Starrk sighed, laying down on the floor near the door and closing his eyes. "I'm tired. I think I'll take a nap instead."

"You're so lazy, Starrk-san," Orihime pouted. "I re–"

"I'm up, I'm up!" Starrk said, wide-eyed with sudden panic. "I'm wide awake and at your service, Miss Orihime."

"Oh, you're too kind," Orihime giggled. She motioned for Starrk to take a seat at her side. Once she had served him a cup of tea, she began to introduce him to the stuffed animals also seated around the table.

"This is Floppy-san, and this is Mopsy-san, and this is..."

11. Revenge is a dish best served kicking and screaming in utter terror.

"Why hello there, Starrk-kun!" A cheerful voice said happily.

Starrk jumped like a frightened rabbit, looking around him frantically for any trace of the orange-haired girl. The sound of laughter eventually brought him out of his terror.

"Told you so!" Grimmjow gloated.

12. The sweet, sweet taste of cotton candy.

"I made you a new stuffed animal, Miss Orihime!" Szayel presented Orihime with a cute plush elephant. "I've been calling him Mister Sparkles!"

"Why thank you, Szayel-kun!" Orihime smiled thankfully. "That's so kind of you."

Then she frowned.

"Is something the matter, Miss Orihime?" Szayel asked anxiously. "What can I do for you?"

"No, no, nothing is wrong," Orihime said. "It's just... everything here is so... white. And plain. Even your cute little stuffed animals are totally white."

"That's the way Aizen-sama likes things," Szayel shrugged.

"Well, I don't like it at all!" Orihime declared. "I reject!"

13. Save yourself, before it's too late...

Aizen was sitting in his throne room, conferring with Gin, when a flash of white light blinded them both. When the light had faded, the two ex-shinigami stared around at their changed surroundings in shock.

"It's pink," Aizen said, deadpan.

Gin nodded, smiling.

Aizen stared at the pink wallpaper with its cute little rabbit faces. He stared at the floor, which was now a lush rose-colored carpet. He stared at the windows, now framed with pretty pink and white draperies tied back with cute little ribbons.

He looked outside.

The moon was pink.

"Pink," Aizen said again.

He looked down at his outfit, dreading what he might see. To his relief, it was still its normal white color.

"...What the hell just happened?"

Then he noticed a little detail that had skipped his attention earlier.

"...And since when does Las Noches have windows?"

14. I spy, with my little eye...


The blue-haired Espada flinched reflexively, his arms going up to protect his face. When the bright white light of Orihime's powers failed to materialize, he relaxed slightly. "What?" he demanded of the teenager.

"We're going to play Pretty Pretty Princess!" Orihime's eyes were glittering with excitement. "Would you like–"

"What's that? Aizen's calling me?" Grimmjow cupped his hand to his ear. "Would you look at that? I've gotta go! Sorry, woman! Maybe later!"

Orihime watched him run away, pouting. "Oh well," she sighed. "But now who am I supposed to play with?"

Then she had an idea.

Orihime smiled.

15. Know your strengths.

"What do you think you're doing?" Barragan demanded of the orange-haired chit who was plastering papers to the walls.

"I'm putting up flyers for the dance party!" Orihime said cheerfully. "See? It says so right here! It's tomorrow night in the throne room! It's going to be ever so much fun!"

Barragan sneered at the girl's impudence. "And you think that you, a mere human, are permitted to decide such things?" He drew his sword. Behind him, his Fraccion started to cheer him on.

Orihime's eyes widened. "What are you doing?" she asked, frightened.

With a disdainful cackle, Barragan sliced down the posters she'd spent the last few hours putting up. "Your puny efforts are futile, little girl."

Orihime frowned. Anyone who knew her, knew that this was a bad sign. "That was not very nice," she said reproachfully.

"Oh?" Barragan smirked. "And what are you going to do about it?"

16. See no evil, revisited.

Grimmjow was walking down the corridors of Las Noches, twitching every so often and constantly glancing over his shoulder. Ever since That Person had arrived in Las Noches, his life had been getting worse by the day... As he turned a corner, he happened upon a surprising sight. Barragan, the Segunda Espada, and his Fraccion were putting up flyers.

"Welcome, friend Grimmjow!" the large Arrancar said lightheartedly. "What brings you to this area of Las Noches?"

Grimmjow blinked, opened his mouth to insult the bigger Espada, then rethought it and closed his mouth. He only shook his head, turned around, and walked away. "I told him," he grumbled to himself. "I told him this would happen!"

"Come to the dance party tomorrow night!" Barragan called after him. "It's going to be lots of fun!"

Grimmjow shuddered and picked up his pace.

17. Do not meddle in the affairs of Inoue Orihime, for you are cuddly and would look cute in pink.

"Oi! Pet-sama!"

The grinning black-haired Arrancar sauntering towards Orihime was wearing a creepy smile. While Starrk was arguably the strongest of the Espada, it was widely agreed that Nnoitra Jiruga was the Arrancar that no-one wanted to be stuck in a deserted hallway with.

Sure, Starrk could mess you up, the other Arrancar agreed, but Nnoitra was just creepy.

Orihime, however, did not know this.

"Hi there!" she waved and smiled. Ulquiorra, her minder for the day, also smiled. Several uninitiated numberless Arrancar fainted in shock.

Grimmjow, who had been walking nearby saw the coming confrontation. He may not have liked Nnoitra at all, but there was something to be said for Arrancar Solidarity in the face of possible brainwashing and madness.

"Hey, you-" the teal-haired Arrancar called out, jogging over.

It was too late.

"Stupid little girl," Nnoitra spat.

Orihime's eyes filled with hurt tears. Ulquiorra patted her shoulder comfortingly.

"I don't know what you did to those idiots," Nnoitra snarled, "but don't think it'll work on me." He threw a disparaging glare at Ulquirra and Grimmjow. Then he turned back to Orihime with a predatory grin. "After all, these hair clips... they are terribly fragile, aren't they? They'd break so easily..."

"Why are you so hateful?" Orihime asked him tearfully. "Why are you so mean to me?"

Grimmjow knew what was coming next, so he closed his eyes in preparation.

"I need a reason?" Nnoitra's voice was cruelly amused.

"You should be kinder to people!" Orihime declared with sudden strength. "I reject!"

Grimmjow only opened his eyes once he was sure the light had faded away. Then he wished he hadn't.

Nnoitra was staring up at Orihime with a look of rapture. It was the most disturbing expression Grimmjow had ever seen on the black-haired Espada's face.

"Miss Orihime," the newly-reformed Arrancar gasped out, "I'm so, so sorry. Could you ever forgive me?"

Orihime's face softened. "Oh, of course I will, Nnoitra-kun! I know you didn't mean any of that, right?"

The formerly-mysoginistic Arrancar nodded eagerly.

Grimmjow resisted the urge to beat his head against the wall.

18. Insanity isn't contagious, but self-preservation is.

"So are you coming to the dance party tonight?" Orihime asked happily as she bounced into the Tercera Espada's room.

To her credit, Halibel didn't bat an eyelash at the sudden intrusion. Her Fraccion, on the other hand, were nowhere near as self-controlled. Apache flinched, Mila-Rose whimpered, and Sun-Sun screeched and dove under Halibel's bed.

"Of course," Halibel said.

Contrary to public opinion, the only female Espada was exceptionally intelligent. She had to be, in order to survive in a world with people like Nnoitra and Szayel. That was why she had paid attention to the rumors, and now knew that opposing this little human girl in any way was tantamount to spiritual suicide.

"That's wonderful!" Orihime clasped her hands in front of her in joy. "Oh, I'm so, so happy! Would you like to have a sleepover afterwards?"

"A sleepover," Halibel repeated. Her face was studiously blank, her arms crossed under her breasts.

"That's right!" Orihime nodded enthusiastically. "A girls' night out! We can do each others' hair, and talk about boys, and paint our nails, and..."

Apache, Mila-Rose, and Sun-Sun whimpered pitifully in unison.

19. How to break an Arrancar's spirit in three easy steps.

"Oi, Grimmjow," Gin rapped on Grimmjow's door. "Aizen-sama says you can't just hide in your room all day. It's your turn to guard the human."

There was a long, low scream of terror from inside the room. "No," Grimmjow pleaded. "Say it isn't so!"

"It's so," Gin said, because he had never been very good at following directions.

"You can't make me go back there," Grimmjow cracked the door open the slightest bit, so he could peer out at the silver-haired ex-shinigami with one bloodshot eye. "She's contagious!"

"She is not contagious," Gin said with some exasperation, though his smile never wavered. "She's just a human girl. Nothing to be worried about."

"Did you see what she did to Nnoitra?" Grimmjow demanded.

"No," Gin admitted.

"Yesterday," Grimmjow said, and shuddered. His one visible eye went blank as if he was remembering some terrible horror. "Yesterday," he said again, collecting himself, "I saw Nnoitra. With Szayel. And the woman. They were skipping through a field of daisies."

"...Ah," Gin said, as if that explained everything.

"We live in a desert," Grimmjow said dully. "Daisies aren't supposed to grow in the desert. It's not right."

Gin shrugged. "Not my problem," he said lightly. "Aizen-sama's orders. Guard the girl."

He whistled as he walked away from Grimmjow's door. The sound of the teal-haired Arrancar's muffled sobbing was like music to his ears.

20. Rejection is a painful thing.

"You know what we need?" Orihime asked.

"What?" Szayel bounced happily by her side.

"What?" Grimmjow asked, more slowly, his eyes moving shiftily from side to side as if something was about to jump out from the woodwork at any moment and bite him.

"A swimming pool!" Orihime replied happily. "So we can go swimming!"

"Of course. A pool." Grimmjow laughed the hysterical laugh of a man teetering on the brink of insanity. "Why didn't I guess."

"I don't know, Grimmjow-kun," Orihime responded to his rhetorical question. "It's so obvious to me!"

Grimmjow just closed his eyes in resignation, waiting for the inevitable.

"I reject!"

21. Alcohol is not the solution, but it makes problems so much more bearable.

Aizen Sousuke entered his throne room. Of all his Arrancar, only Grimmjow was present; the teal-haired Hollow was slumped over at his place at the oval table, his head cushioned on his arms. He looked utterly defeated.

"I called a meeting," Aizen said. His voice was remarkably resigned for a man who considered himself a God and who demanded complete obedience and submission from his followers.

"'S the woman," Grimmjow said dully. "She's havin' a pool party or somethin'."

"And you aren't joining in?" Aizen asked.

Grimmjow sent him a look that questioned his lord and master's sanity. "Heck no," he said. At Aizen's curious glance, he added, "Can't even curse 'ny more 'cause o' that woman. Rejected it."

"Ah," Aizen said knowingly.

"'S like being in a palace full o' Gins," the teal-haired Arrancar continued morosely. "Everyone's smilin' all the time." He shuddered.

"Sake?" Aizen offered.

Grimmjow looked up for the first time. His face was thin and drawn, and his eyes were underlined with dark smudges that spoke of long, sleepless nights. "Please."

He ignored the saucer Aizen was offering him and snatched the bottle out of the ex-shinigami's hand instead. He downed half the bottle in a minute flat.

Aizen watched, shrugged, and pulled out a fresh bottle for himself.

22. Hangover cures are a lie.

Aizen Sousuke awoke with a groan. The first thing he realized was that the pounding in his head was probably just a hangover from the night before. The second thing he realized was that he was lying on one of Szayel's laboratory tables, dressed only in a medical smock.

Grimmjow was hanging limply from a ceiling fixture, still snoring.

"This never happened," Aizen threatened half-heartedly, before shunpo-ing to his own quarters.

23. Of daddy issues.

"Aizen-sama?" Ulquiorra poked his head into Aizen's private study.

"What?" Aizen snapped, still feeling the remnants of his hangover.

"Aizen-sama... I just thought... Orihime said I should talk to you."

Inoue Orihime, Aizen thought bitterly. All of his problems could be linked to that girl. Unfortunately, the shinigami seemed to be taking their sweet time in coming to rescue her, and how was he supposed to divide and conquer if the enemy refused to divide?

"What about?" he asked wearily.

"My issues," Ulquiorra swallowed nervously. "Well, you see... my father..."

It was at that point that Aizen knew that this was going to be a Very Bad Day.

24. The state of the nation, Orihime-style.

"Report," Aizen ordered.

"Nnoitra and Szayel are completely under her power," Gin reported, smiling. "Halibel and her Fraccion have joined her as charter members of the Arrancar Women's Association. Grimmjow has barricaded himself in his room and is refusing to leave. Barragan and Yammy have been brainwashed and are skipping through the fields of daisies. Aaroniero and Zommari haven't been seen in a week."


"Sleeping," Gin replied.

"And Tousen?" Aizen asked.

Gin shrugged. "Last I saw, he was renouncing violence and had decided to take up a musical instrument. I believe it is called a 'ukelele.'"

"...I see," Aizen said, though he did nothing of the sort.

"Is that all?" Gin asked, bouncing on the soles of his feet. "'Cause me and Hime-chan were going to have a tea party before you interrupted us."

Aizen had the sudden, sinking feeling that his life was completely out of his control. It was not a comfortable feeling.

"Dismissed," he said resignedly, and watched Gin skip off.

The distant sounds of an off-key voice singing "Kumbaya" to the accompaniment of an equally off-key ukelele drifted through the open window.

25. Today is a good day...

"Sunbathing," Grimmjow repeated blankly. "You want to go sunbathing."

"That's right!" Orihime smiled sunnily.

"...You don't have appropriate clothing," Grimmjow pointed out.

Too soon. "Your bathing suit is ready, Miss Orihime!" Szayel cheered as he ran into the room clutching a few scraps of pink-and-yellow flowered cloth. "I hope you like it!"

"Oh, it's so cute!" The redheaded girl and her pink-haired flunkie giggled over the skimpy clothing. Grimmjow resisted the urge to palm his face in exasperation.

"Okay, how about now?" Orihime turned back to the Sexta Espada. "Can we go sunbathing now?"

"One problem with that, woman," Grimmjow sneered. "There's no sun."

"Oh," Orihime shrugged. "So we'll just go when it's daytime!"

Grimmjow rolled his eyes. With great difficulty, he managed to bite back the uncomplimentary words that threatened to spew forth. "No," he said, "There is no daytime. It's always like this. That's why we call it 'Las Noches.'"

"You mean... it's always night here?" Orihime's eyes widened in dismay. "There's never any sunshine? None at all?"

"Nope." Grimmjow was beginning to get a really, really bad feeling about this.

Orihime's mouth twisted into a pout. "That's not beautiful at all," she gasped, aghast. "I reject!"

26. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind.

Aizen Sousuke was woken by sudden sunlight falling into his eyes.

He groaned, wincing, and covered his eyes with one arm. He blearily looked around the room for some indication of the time. Then he remembered that this was Las Noches, not Soul Society. There wasn't any sunshine in Las Noches. That was why it was called Las Noches and not Los Dias.

Then again, there hadn't been any windows, either, before Inoue Orihime had come along.

He glanced out of the window. The sun was just cresting over the horizon. The sunrise was a glorious mixture of pinks and purples.

...It was too early to be dealing with this, he decided. He covered his head with his pillow and did his best to go back to sleep.

27. Psycho killer! Run far, far, far away...

"You want to go look for a beach." It wasn't often that Aizen was at a loss for words. "Why?"

"Well, since Miss Orihime–" the orange-haired girl smiled and waved, hearing her name– "would like to go to the beach, I thought I'd find one for her."

"We live in a desert," Aizen felt it necessary to point out the obvious since it seemed the Grimmjow had missed the memo.

"Beaches are made of sand, right?" Grimmjow said desperately. "And so are deserts. So how do you know we're not living on the edge of a really, really big beach and not in a desert?"

Aizen rubbed his forehead with his fingers, feeling the beginning of a headache beginning to build at his temples. "Even if that were the case," he said slowly, "then if there was a beach, it would be very, very far away."

"Exactly," Grimmjow said with great satisfaction.

"Oh." Aizen thought about it. "I see."

"Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez," Starrk's voice came from under the table. The Primera Espada pulled himself up from where he had been napping. "That is the most brilliant thing I have ever heard you say."

"It is?" Grimmjow asked, then shook his head. "I mean, of course it is!"

"In fact, that is such a brilliant idea," Starrk continued, "That I think that I should accompany you on your search. To make sure you don't miss anything."

How exactly did one miss a beach? Aizen wondered. Grimmjow wasn't the smartest of his Espada, but he didn't have any stupid subordinates. He opened his mouth to refuse–

"Oh, you two would do all that?" Orihime asked, her eyes sparkling. "Just for me?"

"Yep," Starrk agreed dryly. "Just for you. Give me a second to grab Lilinette and we're outta here."

Grimmjow rolled his eyes. "Forget that– you can run and catch up. I'm not spending a second longer here than I have to."

"Yes, of course I give you permission to go," Aizen said sarcastically to their after-images. The actual Arrancar were long gone and probably leagues away by this point.

Gin had the temerity to snicker at him.

"Oh, don't worry about them," Orihime consoled him, her eyes wide with sympathy. "You can always spend time with us if you're lonely."

"For some reason," Aizen said dryly, "I think that loneliness will be the least of my problems."

28. Alcohol, part 2.

His throne room was knee-deep in unicorns.


It was actually about knee-deep in unicorn excrement. The unicorns themselves were just as tall as he was, with long, imposing, sharp-looking spears sticking out from their foreheads and crafty blue eyes. There were about fifteen of them by Aizen's count, and more were appearing with little flashes of white light.

Aizen moaned. Clearly he was still drunk from his binge last night, because it seemed that he was still hallucinating.

"Ohayoo, Aisen-sama!" Gin greeted him cheerfully as he bounded into the room. He was carrying an armful of hay, which he laid down for the unicorns to feast upon. "Like the new decor?"

Not a hallucination, then. Just another one of That Person's crazy schemes.

"It is too early to deal with this," Aizen groaned, turning around in order to go back to his room. He was obviously not drunk enough to deal with this either.

"It's three in the afternoon!" Gin said, his smile faltering in his confusion.

"Exactly," Aizen sighed as he shunpo'd away.

There was a bottle of sake in his room that was calling his name.

28. Gloating may not polite, but it's very entertaining.

"Look!" Orihime waved a piece of paper in the air excitedly. "Grimmjow-kun and Starrk-kun sent us a postcard!"

"What does it say?" Ulquiorra asked, hanging off of Orihime's every word like an over-eager puppy.

"A postcard," Aizen grumbled into his saucer of sake. "Where did those idiots get a postcard? We're in the middle of a desert..."

"'Dear Orihime-chan,'" said orange-haired girl read aloud. "'Still searching for the beach. We haven't found it yet. Don't worry about us, we're fine. We'll be back as soon as we find the beach. Don't come looking for us. You won't find , Starrk, Grimmjow, and Lilinette.'"

"Isn't that wonderful?" Nnoitra smiled.

"Oh, yes," Orihime nodded eagerly. "They're so wonderful, to do this just for me..."

Aizen mumbled something derogatory under his breath. Clearly he wasn't drunk enough to deal with this kind of situation.

29. The world's smallest violin is playing the world's saddest song, just for you.

"I have to wait for them to come and rescue her," Aizen repeated to himself dully. "I can't just send her back." His plans depended on it.

But then again, he thought to himself as he watched the sun begin its ascent over the daisy-filled fields of Hueco Mundo, his plans were already ruined. Half of his Arrancar had been contaminated by the human's weakness, and the other half were too afraid to leave their rooms. It had taken him hundreds of years to get to this point, and it would take a hundred years more to reverse the damage.

"I have to wait," he said again. He wondered if it was worth it.

The clouds that were being illuminated by the early morning sunshine were pink and sparkly. There were unicorns frolicking in the distance.

Staring out at the flower-filled former desert, Aizen Sousuke came to a decision.

30. Be careful what you wish for...

"Stupid geta-boushi," Kurosaki Ichigo muttered under his breath. "I can't believe it took him a whole week to finish that portal."

"Now, now, Ichigo-kun, you shouldn't be so dismissive of other people's hard work," Urahara Kisuke chided him good-naturedly. "Now, are all of you ready?"

"We've been ready for a week," Ichigo snorted. Yasutora Sado and Ishida Uryuu nodded in sullen agreement.

"Well if you're–"

Urahara was cut off by the portal that began to form in mid-air. He frowned. "That's not one of mine..."

Then the figure of their most-hated enemy stepped through.

"Aizen!" Urahara gasped hatefully, his eyes narrowing. His hand rested on Benihime, ready to draw at a moment's notice. "What is the meaning of this?" Then, slower, "And what the hell happened to you?"

The Lord of Las Noches looked terrible. He hadn't shaved in several days, if the short, scraggly beard was any indication. His hair was greasy and hung in limp strands around his pale face. There were dark purplish circles under his eyes. His usually pristine outfit was rumpled, wrinkled, and slightly stained, and he smelled strongly of alcohol.

"You can have her back," Aizen gasped, reaching into the Garganta and pulling Orihime into the Living World. "You can keep her. Just keep her away from me!"

He thrust Orihime into Ichigo's waiting arms and leapt back through his Garganta. The portal vanished a second later.

"...Well, that was anticlimactic," Ishida said with a scowl, adjusting his glasses in annoyance.

"Did you miss me?" Orihime chirped cheerfully. "I brought you souvenirs!"

There was a long moment of silence in which no-one was quite sure of what to say.

"I brought you a sombrero, Sado-kun," Orihime produced the aforementioned hat, plopping it on the taller boy's head. "And one for you too, Uryuu-kun!"

"Feh," Ichigo grunted, turning away, secretly relieved that she was alright.

"And for you, Kurosaki-kun..." Orihime trailed off when she saw her crush walking away from her. "Kurosaki-kun? Where are you going?"

"I've gotta train," Ichigo said shortly. There was a war going on, after all... And there was no telling what Aizen would try next.

"Don't you want to spend time with me?" Orihime's trembling lip and huge eyes were wasted because Ichigo wasn't looking.

"Later," Ichigo said with a dismissive hand wave.

Orihime's eyes narrowed as she watched him walk away. "Oh yeah?" she said quietly, and her smile was almost predatory. "I reject!"


...or is it?