dedication: to equitablyinjust who is pretty much the coolest bitch ever.
notes: interesting bit of headcanon: human!Nel died in childbirth.
title: the city of corpses
summary: No one will answer your prayers 'til you take off that dress. — Nnoitra/Neliel.
There was no surviving Hueco Mundo.
Neliel tossed her hair over her shoulder. Las Noches was silent that that, save for the howling that echoed across the dunes. She could have closed the window and shut the sound away. But she didn't.
There was something about the eerie quiet that chilled her to her bones.
The end was coming. She could feel it. The end of this—of all of it. Maybe even the end of Aizen-sama. Maybe even the end of her.
There was no fear, Neliel found.
Arrancar were made of fear and regret. No one was spared. No one was clean.
Neliel knew that better than anyone.
So there was no fear that went unused.
Neliel moved away from the window in her room, graceful and slow. She walked to the door.
"You should stop watching me," she said.
He stood with his back pressed against the opposite wall, arms crossed over his chest.
"I don'," he said, but they both knew that that was a lie.
Sometimes she thought he was just waiting for another opening to try to kill her. It wouldn't be anything new—he'd tried to kill her so many times. It was a little bit pathetic. Neliel wondered if he was even really trying, anymore.
Cold. Precise. Succinct.
"What do you want, Nnoitra?"
Cold. Precise. Succinct.
D'nno. Wadd'ya want me t'want?" he asked. He was leering.
Neliel wrinkled her nose. "You disgust me."
From the way his leer widened, Nelienl knew that he took it as a compliment regardless of how she'd meant it.
She closed her eyes and closed the door.
It was already over.
/ / /
Sparks everywhere. It was metal against metal; sword against scythe, defense against offense, female against male. Neliel would not allow him to best her—not yet, not until he learned what compassion meant.
But knowing Nnoitra as well as she did (and she did know him, no matter how much she didn't want to), that was never going to happen.
Nnoitra did not understand things like compassion. He understood brute strength and raw weakness, but he did not understand fear and regret. He did not understand what it was to be Espada—what it mean to be Arrancar.
Neliel would not allow him to best her until he understood that there was a difference between them. Not until he understood that the base desire for violence was not the most important thing in life.
She swung left then right, and then Nnoitra was sprawled on the ground, bleeding. She sheathed Gamuza as she turned and headed back towards the Las Noches compound.
It was over when he wanted to believe that or not.
"Why won' you jus' kill me, already?" Nnoitra snarled at her turned back. He could hear the wet sucking sound of blood choking his voice.
Neliel spared him a single glance over her shoulder and contemplated telling him. She could tell him the truth, but he would never quite get it.
It made her a little bit sad.
"I am not like you. I do not kill animals."
For now, she thought, that would be more than enough. Neliel dropped gloved hands to her sides. She returned to Las Noches without another world, leaving Nnoitra to bleed out in the silence of Hueco Mundo's pale dunes.
/ / /
He was watching her, again.
Neliel would have told him to quit if she thought it would make any difference. But she knew it wouldn't and so she didn't. Exhaustion gnawed at somewhere behind her eyes but she did not want to give in to it while Nnoitra was watching.
She would sit perfect and still and eventually get bored of watching her back.
He always did.
It was just an exercise in futility. Neliel thought that exercises in futility were all that any of them had. Hueco Mundo grew nothing but despair and contempt, and the Espada already had those things in droves.
"Ain't'cha gonna sleep?"
"No. We do not need sleep," Neliel replied.
She kept her eyes trained carefully on the bit of sky shining through her window. She could feel him standing over her—he was so tall. He was so tall. Neliel would not give him the satisfaction of knowing that she could sense his presence.
She wondered if he would sit.
When he did, she was surprised.
When he grabbed her by the hair and jerked her head back to bare her throat, she was not.
Neliel said nothing. She stared.
She could feel the hatred rolling off him in waves; it was a tangible thing but she paid it no heed.
He could hate her all he wanted.
His fingers closed around her windpipe. He was so cold, Neliel mused as his thumb brushed along her pulse. Like he'd pulled his hands out of ice water. No heat. No heart.
"Get off," she said.
"Shoulda killed ya wh'n I had th' chance," he muttered.
"You could not kill me if you tried," Neliel replied.
His thumb pressed her jugular. "Wanna bet?"
Neliel rolled her eyes skyward.
She shifted in flashes; bursts of speed too fast for the eye to follow, and then Nnoitra was on his back (again). Only now her sword was at his neck, and she looked at him with cold eyes.
"Don't make me slit your throat," she said.
He didn't move. His gaze was trained on Gamuza. There was fear.
Neliel slid off.
He still didn't understand.
"Get out," Neliel murmured, suddenly so tired. "Get out."
Nnoitra sneered, and was gone.
/ / /
A melody haunted Las Noches the next night.
It was gentle and crooning, playing softly along Neliel's skin—teardrops sliding down cheekbones.
Neliel remembered teardrops.
(—teardrops and pain, the breathless first wail of a baby—)
She shook the memories off. They belonged to someone else entirely. And Neliel was no longer the girl who couldn't protect herself. She would never bleed like that again. No one would ever make her bleed like that again.
Not even Nnoitra.
Neliel sat with her knees tucked close to her chest and hummed along.
It wasn't a song she knew.
It didn't matter.
/ / /
It was a sick cycle. Neliel looked down at Nnoitra, and quietly sighed. How many times had they done this? How many more times would they do this—how many more times did she have to slice him to pieces for him to understand?
Neliel wondered if they'd have to fight forever.
That was ironic, because the end was coming. Fighting forever was a waste of time. Neliel had always thought that. Maybe she would think it forever.
If forever even existed.
Neliel didn't know, anymore.
The click of sword in sheath was comforting. She would clean it of (Nnoitra's) blood later. When she was alone.
She'd never liked blood. It was… unsightly.
The urge to answer him rose and fell like Hueco Mundo's dunes in a sandstorm and her silence was a drop in an ocean of misgivings.
Neliel flipped her hair over her shoulder and went inside.
/ / /
The gloves came off first.
Neliel pulled them off with her teeth.
Then layer after layer of thick white stained red turning brown. It dropped to the ground to lie in a rumpled pile of fabric against the seamless white of the floor. Everything was white. Everything was white.
Except the sky.
The sky was red.
Not much better, Neliel thought. She stood in the window in nothing but a shift and stared outwards.
It was all ending—
The breath rushed out of her lungs.
Would he never leave her in peace?
Nnoitra held her against the wall. Neliel stared at him with tired eyes. "What do you want from me?" she asked.
Something that Neliel did not understand flared in his eyes for a very brief moment. It looked like hatred; though it wasn't.
But it was just as powerful.
His fingers dug into her hip.
Neliel reached for the back of his head and pulled him towards her. "We're all going to die here," she said. "Everything is going to die."
They would be a city of corpses, left to rot.
Nnoitra tore at the fabric of her shift, and Nel didn't think anymore.
notes2: no happy endings, here.
notes3: please do not favourite without leaving a review. :)