A/N: Sorry for the delay! It's been pretty crazy, but it's finally here. A heads up, though-I know Orihime is different! But I was sick of her character and decided to re-write it. So deal with it. :)
"God damn it... What the fuck did I just do...? God damn it!" Grimmjow stormed through the bone-white halls of Las Noches, hands shaking slightly, sending those unfortunates in his way scuttling to avoid his newfound wrath.
His fists clenched and unclenched, still plastered in the purple blood of the orange-haired Shinigami. A half an hour ago he had been ordered by Aizen to break the arm of the captured boy—in five places. Snap. Snap. Snap. Snap. Snap. The boy had managed to stifle his screams the first two times, eyes wide and muscles bulging against his bonds. The third break had been... particularly nasty—more like a splinter. The agonized cries had consumed the lonely dungeons...
When he had finished, Grimmjow had left quickly.
This wasn't what he had been promised. Aizen had offered him a way to rise to the top, and he had taken it knowing he would have to fight for every step, for every scrap of respect, but certainly not knowing what in time he would be ordered to do. Torture. It was an ugly word, reserved for those who could only find power by hurting those already too defeated to fight back.
He couldn't refuse though, of course. Doing so would be to throw away all he had worked for. All he could do was grit his teeth and do as he was told. After all, the Shinigami wasn't really his problem. It was dishonourable what they were doing to him, but really what did it matter? War required sacrifice.
Grimmjow knew about sacrifice.
But that was in the past now. He would do as he was ordered, for the time being. He would watch the Shinigami break piece by piece, bone after bone until there was nothing left. He would endure. And then...
And then he would rise.
"We have to assume it's a trap." Renji's voice cut into the disorganized clamour, demanding audience. There was silence for a few moments as those present considered his words.
Toushirou pinched the bridge of his nose, then looked up. "Do we though?" There were circles under his eyes.
Kenpachi, uncharacteristically sombre, said, "There are three reasons they would want him. First: for information. Second—as Renji said—to lure us back. Third: rev—"
"—I'm sorry," cut in Ohimine. "What the fuck does this matter anyway?" Heads turned in her direction.
"Excuse me," came a harrowing voice. "But I was made this was to believe this was a captain/VC meeting. Who invited this girl?"
Renji spoke up once more. "She was present at key points in the battle. She was captured at its inception. She has a right to be present." There were a few nods.
"Fine. Let her continue."
Orihime paused, gathering her thoughts. She took a deep breath. "Why does it matter? If it's a trap, or not?" A fire burned behind her eyes, matching the pallor of her hair. "We have to go. If we are strong, we will prevail. If not, we will fall. They will see us coming miles away—no clever strategies or well-thought-out plans can help us now." She swallowed. "We can only hope that we arrive in time. The longer we wait, the more we lose."
"It is decided, then." It was Shunsui. "We care for the dead, we treat the wounded. And in the morning, we will leave."
"Who will go?"
Shunsui's eyes hardened. "All who are able. We will capture the boy. We will kill Aizen. We will lay Las Noches to ruins and crush it to dust."
She stood in front of me, a dark figure in a dark room, and I could not reach her, and my voice could not reach her, and she did not move, she just stood there, but she did not move.
"Orihime!" My voice cut through the silence and the dark, strangled and hopeless. "Look at me! Orihime! Why won't you look at me?" I pleaded, straining against the invisible forces binding me in place.
There was a pause. And then, she did turn around, and she heard him, and saw him, but her eyes were cold and dark, like the room, and there was no light in them. "You have failed us," she said.
"No! I tried! I could not-I couldn't-I tried, I tried!" But he was too strong, I thought. I tried!
"You have failed us," she repeated.
"We will die. You have failed us."
"You have failed us."
I woke with a start, soaked in sweat which mingled with dried blood and stung on the corners of my wounds. The cell was no different as when unconsciousness had seized me last: the same walls, the same floor, the same table, and the same god-damned chair I had been tied to since the torture had begun days ago. I remembered my hands, then Grimmjow then... pain. An inescapable, unmanning pain which had swept through my being and left me blind and numb, and rendered me useless to this world...
I looked down, resisting the urge to vomit as I saw my right arm, dangling by my side, broken, useless... agonizing, I realized, as a wave of fresh pain washed over and concentrated itself in sharp pangs in several places down my arm. My breathing shortened, and vision fogged, and with every breath my shoulders tilted ever-so-slightly, and jarred my arm so that it hurt all the more.
That bastard. I had given him mercy, spared him from our life-or-death duel and this was how he repaid me? He was probably only under orders but... still. How accountable was a soldier for his master's commands? It was not a question I cared to ponder in my present state.
The door openned. "I would say good morning," purred a silky voice, "But I suppose that's not entirely accurate-given, of course, your present condition."
I could not see for the sudden light that poured from the doorway, but I knew who it was all the same. "Aizen," I snarled, voice impressively steady and sure.
I swear I heard him smile. "Ichigo."
"Oh, so we're on a first-name basis now?" I did my best to keep the strain from my voice as my arm seared and pulsed.
He sighed. "Ichigo, Ichigo, Ichigo... Can't we skip the bravado? Aren't we passed all these incessant name calling and witty comebacks and petty remarks?" he practically drawled, drawing nearer. "Surely you must be getting tired of this by now."
He was trying to bait me, and I did not answer, drawing my lips tightly and waiting, knowing he would soon reveal the reason for his visit.
"I see." My eyes had nearly adjusted by now, and I could almost make out the faint glimmer of his eyes as he said, "It's going to be like that, then." He paused. "Well. Untie him."
My eyebrows shot up in confusion, but I did not fool myself. He was not going to free me, but what would it be? Another cell? Some bond-villain torture chamber lair thing? Too many things were possible. Aizen's cronies (as I liked to think of them) approached cautiously from their position in the hallway and knelt beside my chair. I braced myself, clenching my teeth. First they undid my legs, and that was fine-only minor bruises there. Then my midsection-that was more painful, because of the broken ribs, but manageable so. Then my left arm-jostling the broken fingers, and I sucked in a breath, but really, I knew, the worst was to come.
But Aizen surprised me. "Get up." I looked up at him, but did not move. He must be insane. Even if it weren't for the numerous injuries scattered around my body, I was exhausted, and malnourished, and hadn't drunken water for around two days. "Shinigami," he whispered, voice dangerously low. "I said, get up." I think he actually thought I could do it.
But even if I could have-and that was irrelevant anyway-there's no way I'd be following any orders from him. Not what after he'd done. Not after kidnapping Orihime. Not after the blood on his hands. "Go fuck yourself," I growled, glaring up at him with yellow eyes.
"If that is how you feel." He motioned to the two subordinates, who stood and began to reach for my arms. I saw where this was going. My eyes widened.
"You bastard," I whispered. He had known I would refuse. He had been toying with me.
And then white engulfed the world, and distantly I knew I was screaming. My arm, my arm-god it hurt-it was a thousand pokers being pushed in all at once, a thousand bones breaking, and thousand knives stabbing at the flesh, bone, sinew, and in that moment I wished they would cut it off. Anything, anything, was better than this. Anything.
Unconsciousness, however, was not forthcoming, and I was agonizingly aware of every jolt, every step as the two men hoisted my weight between them and dragged me down a dim hallway, each with one of my arms in their grip. My scream faded, but I could not help calling out every so often, pain dribbling from my still-clenched teeth.
And then a door opened, and the world was white, and would have thought this was death except my arm was still there and death was not white, but black, and dark.
I realized I was outside, being dragged across a sea of pearl-white sand under an endless sky of blue. Red tickled the ground where I was dragged, and a trail of dots marked my journey across the desert of Las Noches. My vision was slow in adjusting, but eventually I made out a series of figures standing in front of a pillar the colour of bone. I was still too far away to see clearly, and I despaired as I realized I would yet have to endure another few hundred meters with the unbearable pain. My head began to loll as my energy dwindled. Time slipped away...
"We're here," came Aizen's voice, as I realized that I had slipped momentarily into unconsciousness, and thanked god for my luck. The subordinates supporting my weight stopped, and I saw in front of me ten figures, all in white, faces hard, staring at me.
"I suppose we should begin. Yammy," he said. "Since you are the tenth, you will be the first to begin." The hulking espada stepped forward, and a growing dread manifested itself deep in the pit of my stomach. The espada began to walk toward me. I schooled my features into a semblance of defiance.
"Oh," Aizen added, "Also. Do not kill him." Yammy paused.
And then he smiled.