Originally written for fic_on_demand. My bad. *laughs* If posting it here isn't alright, then feel free to take it down~
Warning: Spoilers. If you're not anywhere near the HM arc, no lookie. If you know at least some of what's going on, go ahead.
Summary: Ulquoirra gets slapped, and ponders on fear and Orihime.
This wasn't how things were supposed to be.
A slap from a human - it wasn't supposed to hurt this much. True, this woman had some power - power that was the domain of gods - but that wasn't...
It was so easy in Hueco Mundo, before this. You fought, you won (or lost), your place was decided. Fairly straightforward - you kept on fighting.
Weakness was abhorred, like vacuums. Few things were tolerated - fear, anger. Possessiveness. It all played into how the system worked; fight, win, fight again. Fight, lose, try and recover if possible, fight again.
But with this woman, this princess, this orange-haired human girl things had changed.
And truthfully, it was a bit confusing.
"I'm sorry," he said simply.
Orihime stared at him. "You don't believe my friends will come, do you? Or that they will, and get slaughtered here anyway."
He stood there, looking at her. This fierceness... it was the same sort of thing that made leaders out of arrancar. But there was a softness, too - after all, they held their places out of fear, not out of this - this -
"You're loyal," he finally said, finding the word. "That is rare here."
Was that softness weakness? Or was it strength?
Orihime blinked, looking at him. "But aren't you loyal to Aizen? You said the arrancar follow him, that everyone follows him."
He gave a small smile. It definitely wasn't weakness.
Orihime stepped back - and he had figured this too. An arrancar - or even a shinigami - smiling at a captive was probably not a good thing. Logical assumption. He didn't blame her, that was just how things were.
He was confused and about to do something hated but he still was himself. He would still think it through.
"Why are you loyal to your friends?" he asked quietly.
"Because they're there for me. Because I like them. Because I would fight for them too."
"I'd still do something."
"Then no, I am not loyal to him."
"You've got to be lying-"
"-have I lied to you previously?"
His eyes met hers. It was a long moment, just the two of them with their thoughts and their eyes, trying to see.
He wanted more of those eyes. He had seen her world, and it was so colorful, so alive. Not like here.
He wanted to see color, not grey, not black and white.
"No," Orihime slumped. "You haven't."
He picked up the tray of food again, gathering the pieces as best he could from when the food had been thrown at him. "I'll get you some more food. You won't be able to do anything for your friends if you don't take care of yourself."
"...what do you care?"
"I didn't say that I wasn't loyal to anyone." Ulquiorra didn't change his expression, but he noticed there was something - new - to his voice. It had changed a little.
So much changed in her presence -
He wanted to see more of that presence. She would be his princess of distortion and it was okay, it would be okay, if she didn't quite see it.
For once, his own fears - keeping in line with Aizen, not offending Gin, not losing - disintegrated. It would be okay. He'd fight, but he'd fight on his own terms.
He'd fight with her.
And it'd be okay.
He would see, and he liked what he saw. This wasn't a distortion, this wasn't an anomaly.
This was how it was supposed to be.