This fic... really did take inordinately long to finish. I'm still not entirely satisfied with the ending, I had to redo it several times since the first two ended up being overly soppy and not to my liking. The third was ridiculously depressing, and the fourth was the one that didn't entirely make sense. I'm not sure whether it worked out okay.

This fic also has the minor honour of being the longest-running fic I've done, if only by dint of my writer's block. I thought the ending would be a lot easier to write than it was, but in the end all my original plans got thrown out. For 8 months. So yeah. Don'thitmeplease?

(Also, 100 words went out the window.)

Szayel waits.

"What… the reiatsu… a clone?"

You're slow, Mayuri…

"What is this?" There is genuine curiosity in the voice now, and Szayel listens in absentmindedly as the feeling begins to return to his muscles. They're sore as hell right now, but he can feel something now, at least.

A butterfly perches on his nose.

"Get off," he mumbles. Hands are still dead – no swatting it, he thinks irritably before realising there is a butterfly, here, in Hueco Mundo, a bright shade of sapphire.

"Hello again, Kurotsuchi-san."

The voice is icy-cold, exactly as he remembers it, and makes him shudder.

She came…

"Don't fool yourself into thinking this is out of any misguided affection… I merely loathe him more than I do you."

"So… evidently he did modify your pathetic body, from the tone of your voice… I must say it's certainly more pleasing to the ear."

The sound of a blade being unsheathed. "Rip, Ashisogi Jizu."

"Let's see how pretty your screams are, shall we?"

A volley of arrows fly towards the shinigami at high speed. Mayuri's sword moves swiftly, deflecting most of the energy attacks away where they impact harmlessly with the ground.

The assault increases in intensity, until it stops abruptly with Uryuu grasping onto Mayuri's shoulder, hand poised for a killing blow and the blade buried deep in her gut.

Blue eyes widen as she crumples, letting out a breath –

Her body disintegrates around the sword quite quickly.

"Tch. And even with your modifications…. She was still too pathetic to last long enough to be of interest. Oh well… it's hardly a loss, after all."

Uryuu can't be dead.

The little specks of blue light, the spiritron which had once been part of her body rapidly fade away before his eyes.

No… she could regenerate. Such a simple wound wouldn't kill her. She survived a sword to the stomach even before.

He feels numb. Empty.

This isn't the way she should die.

"I wonder whether you're even of any worth to me. If that was really the best you could do – "

"I'm not gone yet."

"What… but… how… A clone?"

No. He really… did hit her… that blow would have killed most people.

"You of all people should know. After all, you performed enough experiments on the Quincy, didn't you?"

"Come out!"

"The primary ability of the Quincy is to manipulate spiritron. You saw the so-called 'final form'. I was capable of breaking down the buildings in the Seireitei to use as my power."

Mayuri retreats to the cart with a body slung casually over his shoulder, rummaging desperately through the compartments for equipment – nothing without his preparations, evidently.

"What makes you think that a living body would be so different? Granz taught me sufficiently about the human body. Being able to replicate it wasn't all that difficult."

He knows that's a blatant lie. Szayel has seen how fragile a spiritual body can be, almost as fragile as a living human's, and knows that the complexity is equal, if not even greater. Reconstructing such a thing isn't an easy task.

But why –

Szayel's eyes widen at the appearance of the apparent corpse Mayuri is holding.

It's almost identical to that of Uryuu. The only visible difference from this angle is the pale silvery-blue hair.

"A mind, though… isn't something so easy to create."

The arm of the not-quite-so-empty body is suddenly at Mayuri's throat, a flickering sphere of darkest navy at his throat.

"Luckily I had one spare…"

Szayel's eyes close just as the dark light (although such a thing seems a contradiction) flares.

There's a slightly sickening noise, visceral, something going through flesh.

"You always talk too much." The voice is familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, a slight double-echo to the refrain that signifies hollow.

"Sorry. Bad habit."

"Tch. As if I care now. Besides, I got the head, that's all that matters. He isn't coming back."

Fingers brush against his skin.

"You're still alive."

One eyelid cracks open. It's the original. Well, maybe the original. Not the hollow; the eyes are the precise shade of sapphire, rather than that black/electric blue.

There was a contemptuous scoff. "Leave it. It's hardly as if – "

"Don't go," he manages through numb lips.

There is something strange about the expression on Ishida's face, and for a second he almost thinks she will leave, letting him rot. Kami only knows he deserves it. He has led a far from blameless life, after all – she knows this best.

"…I think I'll just stay a little longer."

"…until the return of the spring."