Author's note: I was originally going to write this for Tesla's birthday, which was when I initially got the idea, but it's late because I had trouble forming the concept clearly until now. It draws inspiration from a dream I had involving an entire volume of Bleach dedicated to Tesla, as well as several songs I often attribute with Tesla, including "Perfect Circle" and "The Happy Prince," both of which are by Natarie in the Dream. Please enjoy.~
I wish it wasn't just another day in Las Noches. If even I should differentiate between night and day here. Really, the only considerable change in time of day happens if you step outside into the rest of Hueco Mundo, where the perpetual light suddenly plunges into endless darkness. I've never been outside myself, though. Master Nnoitora doesn't want me to stray that far.
I don't want it to be a regular day because it's supposed to be my birthday today. It might not seem all that special because Las Noches doesn't have days, but I suppose we Arrancars are just aware when a year has passed and suddenly it's a day that belongs to us. Today I get that sort of sensation that something special is going on. That is how I know, really. Maybe I'm mistaken, but then again instinct can be quite reliable sometimes.
This is practically the only thing on my mind as I gaze out over Las Noches. Ironically, it seems strangely empty now. It's as if everyone else knows something else is on my mind, and they want to avoid me. Perhaps they've always felt that way, just because they feel something about me is different. I'm not saying that I considerably contrast the other Arrancars; if I did I would be telling a lie. But sometimes I don't feel as though quite fit in with them.
I honestly am not paying attention to much anything right now. My mind frequently wanders, and I can't pinpoint why, but it doesn't really matter. Still, I can feel Master Nnoitora's presence not far away. Somehow that's comforting, even though it sometimes makes me lonely. See, many of the other Espada have multiple Fracción, but Master Nnoitora doesn't. In other words, I'm the only one with the duty to remain loyal to him. I've never really considered it before. It doesn't bother me much, though. I'm content with where I am.
Before things go too far, I'm definitely not saying I love Master Nnoitora. At least, not in the way that most people would think of when they visualize love. For me, it's the feeling that you're entitled to protect somebody and always be there for them – more of a sense of duty than anything else. That's how I feel, anyway… I guess you could call that some sort of love, but that's not how I would think of it at first.
Maybe that's just me acting different again. Perhaps none of the other Fracción are quite as dedicated to their masters because… they're not like me. Even just this thought entering my mind makes my chest hurt a little.
Yes, my chest hurt. For a real Arrancar, this is abnormal – as Hollows, Arrancars would not have real hearts or souls in that sense, nothing that would react painfully to distressing emotions. That's where I'm different, though; for whatever reason my body is still whole, and even now I can feel my heart in my chest, beating strongly. This makes me nervous frequently – to tell the truth, I've done my best to keep it a secret from even Master Nnoitora. Instinct tells me it would be a bad idea to reveal such a vague difference in this sort of cold world.
Master Nnoitora's voice. Unexpected, it makes my heart jump. I've spent too long thinking about nothing again. Glancing up from my reverie, I notice him approaching me from another hallway. I had known he was there, but I never acknowledged it. That's because I was too deep in my own mind again.
"Yes, Master Nnoitora." I respond quickly, as always. He's easy to anger, and if I don't act fast it can get on his nerves. For that reason, I'm also somewhat afraid of Master Nnoitora. I respect him, but… it's hard to say much to him because I'm worried he'll snap at me. I don't want to make any careless mistakes, since it causes the both of us too much trouble than it's worth; one recent instance where I had let my heart think for me had cost me my right eye. Especially now I was terrified to repeat that sort of incident.
"We're going. Don't lag behind." Master Nnoitora, I've noticed, tends to speak in the shortest sentences possible unless something is bothering him. Once he starts to elaborate on his thoughts – that's when I know to pipe down and try to avoid getting attacked. At least he gives some warning.
I don't ask where we're headed – somehow, today I feel as though it's not important. It's probably because Master Nnoitora would ideally be worrying more about me today… briefly I wonder whether I should tell him that it's my birthday today, but I shove the thought aside. If he already knows, then he would mention it later if he considers it important. If he doesn't know, he probably doesn't want to be bothered with it. I try to suppress a sigh – the last thing I'd want to do in front of Master Nnoitora is act in a way that could suggest I don't want to be there. After all, that would contrast what I really think, and then he would be furious.
My gaze has fallen to the floor again. I hastily make an attempt to watch where I'm walking; getting lost in thought won't do anything for me now. I'm relieved Master Nnoitora is walking ahead of me; it would be difficult for him to notice that I'm distracted.
Soon the walls disappear from around us, which somehow comforts me a little. Perhaps it's the sensation of no longer being constricted by such solid limits. Maybe now my mind will stop wandering; today I can't seem to keep a hold on it. My thoughts are constantly drifting to subjects I've already considered, but that didn't sound important until now. It's just like any other day in Las Noches, but at the same time it feels different. I can't be sure if it's in a good way or a bad way, though it's definitely not average. If anything, I'm more conscious of myself than normal… I don't think that I'm all that distressed, but even without thinking about it the rhythm of my heart seems unbearably loud. I'm almost worried that Master Nnoitora can hear it too. If he knew about my heart, I have no doubt that he'd throw a fit just because I was different. Just because I was that much farther away from being an Arrancar…
I raise my eyes back to Master Nnoitora again. In my imagination I hadn't even noticed how detached I had become from the physical things around me. Master Nnoitora looks at me fixedly – evidently he had spotted my distraction.
"You're acting strange, Tesla," he tells me, a hint of impatience in his voice. "What's different today?"
I blink, unsure of how to answer. Being unsure was one of the most dangerous things about Master Nnoitora – a diffident reply could easily set off his temper. I make an attempt at a relatively intelligent response, trying not to think too deeply – I've been doing too much thinking today.
"It's nothing, Master Nnoitora," I finally stammer, unable to keep my gaze off the ground. "I apologize."
I glance back upwards at him. He doesn't look convinced, but at least he doesn't appear to want to lash out at me. Perhaps he doesn't know how to respond, either. I guess neither of us really understands the other – which is what can make my responsibility difficult sometimes.
Occasionally I wish I wasn't so different. Maybe if I was normal I wouldn't be acting so… inferior. So sensitive.
"It's something, though," he insists, now shifting his balance, making me uneasy. "Speak up. You're distracted."
I must have answered the wrong way. Now is when I start feeling afraid. I can't figure out what would be best to do, so I'll have to try my best at thinking rationally for once today.
Things like "don't hesitate" – who can really say them easily?
"It's nothing of consequence, Master Nnoitora," I repeat weakly, attempting not to show my anxiety too much, while at the same time searching for the right thing to tell him. "I'll do my best to stay focused…"
My voice trails off. Speaking to Master Nnoitora is difficult as well, and today it's especially challenging. I can feel my pulse quicken – not a good sign for what Master Nnoitora must think.
"Just say it," he demands impatiently, acid starting to enter his tone now. "You're not up for it today, is that it?"
"It's not," I reply hastily. I'm starting to lose my grip on the situation now, and I can't think. Will this be a repeat of that one incident before? Will I walk away from Master Nnoitora completely blind just because I couldn't keep a hold on my own thoughts? Why couldn't I just pay attention and protect Master Nnoitora like I was supposed to?
I open my mouth to add on when a thought I had never considered suddenly hits me. I can't protect him because I am afraid of him. Because he frightens me. This could be my fault, or maybe it's not – I can't tell… except now it's going to be bothering me long after any sort of physical wound I could receive at the moment. If I'm unable to perform what I live to do, then I can't think of a reason I would want to live as an Arrancar.
"Forgive me, Master Nnoitora." The only other saying that comes to mind right now. All of this just because it's supposed to be my birthday today, and I let that take precedence over everything else. It must be my fault, then – this whole argument. There's nothing else I can do.
Master Nnoitora doesn't reply. This is most frightening of anything so far. I can't tell what he could be thinking about, the main reason being that my only eye is closed right now; I couldn't bear to see him scowling at me like he does sometimes when he's disappointed in me. That sort of thought brought the ache back to my chest.
It is my fault.
I stand without moving for the longest time, waiting for him to respond, but he never does. Finally, I open my eyes – he hasn't moved. He has a calculating look on his face, which isn't promising. But as long as I don't say anything else, I won't set off his anger. I've already gone too far today by not paying attention to what mattered most. The least I can do is keep my mouth shut.
I try to keep my gaze low as I approach him, hoping he'll turn around and keep walking. But he never does.
This catches my attention. I'll have to say something to satisfy him, but what? I surely can't lie to an Espada, much less the one whom I'm assigned to follow. Now my own emotions have gotten me into an even tighter corner.
None of this would have happened if I wasn't so different. If I didn't have my heart and I was just like every other Arrancar, and I didn't think about what I said and did all the time. If only it was as easy for me as it was for all the others in Las Noches. If only my heart didn't yearn for something more than it could ever have – something to stifle its pain whenever something unfortunate befell me for being so inattentive.
"I'm really distracted today," I at last managed to sigh, still avoiding Master Nnoitora's gaze. "I apologize. I'll do my best to stay focused."
A moment passed in silence as I restlessly await a response – and the response definitely isn't positive. But I expected nothing less for somebody as imperfect as I was. Even so, I'm struck with the same shock when Nnoitora suddenly throws me to the ground, glaring down at me with the same menace.
Down at me. This is where I belong. It's all because of me and my stupid heart. Because I'm alone.
If I close my eyes, Master Nnoitora will kill me.
"Don't act so pitiful, Tesla," he hisses, the edge of his blade mere inches from my face. "It makes me sick. Don't make me put up with it right now. Just say what you want and be done."
I spend a moment searching for a reply – again. A moment too long for Master Nnoitora. He leans in closer. "Well?"
I guess this is why everyone calls it the 'moment of truth' – because it's the moment when only the truth will get anything done, and when the truth is the only option left. In as little time as possible, I come up with what's really bothering me, even from the deepest parts of the secrets I keep to myself.
"Please, Master Nnoitora… I want to be loved."
I freeze where I am, my neck aching from the impact. My heart is racing faster than ever – I'm paralyzed, helpless, subject to whatever penalty Master Nnoitora has for me.
My breath comes hurriedly as I await Master Nnoitora's response. I'm prepared for the blade to cut my skin, but it never does – instead, it draws away slowly, until it's back at Master Nnoitora's side where it should be. His expression betrays no emotion, which makes my skin cold.
"You think this is about love, then," he finally spits out, slowly, as though I wouldn't be able to understand it in a normal tone. He turns to face away from me, so I have no clue what he could be considering.
"Get out of my sight, Tesla," he hisses, still without looking. I can tell he means it – even though he can't see me, he wants me to leave, and now.
I struggle to my feet, forcing myself not to speak. I really don't want to leave Master Nnoitora, but at this point I have no choice. Accompanied by that persisting, familiar, ache, I make myself turn in the other direction and walk. Then I run. I have no idea why I'm running, or where – it's the only thing I can think of to do right now. I don't care if anybody's watching; it doesn't matter. Nobody would even think to watch me.
I'm not counting the minutes or the seconds, but finally I tire of this resistance and stop against the nearest wall. I'm more exhausted than I would have imagined – maybe not just from the running. I can't seem to catch my breath, no matter how hard I try. I am shoved to the ground, again, without my consent.
It's too much to think about. I can't move. But I don't really have a reason to do such a thing.
I must have stopped thinking at all at some point; even now I don't recall much. Even so, I ended up on my own for a while. There was no way I could face Master Nnoitora again so soon.
Without even a thought to accompany me, the solitude was almost painful. Was there any way I could get Master Nnoitora out of my mind? No. My whole reason for existing was to not forget him, even if he didn't bother to remember me.
Presences moved about in and out of the walls, even now. The whitened landscape of Las Noches almost looked paler than usual.
I didn't think about where I should go, or where I had been. Eventually, when I couldn't stand to be so isolated anymore, I found Master Nnoitora again. As always, alone.
His narrow face turned towards me; I remained silent.
"We have somewhere to go, Tesla," he declared slowly. "Don't fall behind." That was all he said before he spun around and continued walking, to some place far in the distance.
I couldn't help but smile, just a little. That was how the saying went - forgive and forget. Maybe it was for the better that Master Nnoitora would never change.
Change was a hard thing to accept. That was fine with me.