Title: Riddled With White -- Part Five
Pairing: UlquiHime (plus Tatsuki and Ishida.)
Warnings: Cracktacular contents. Language. Kurotsuchi creeps.
Summary: When the infamous scientist Mayuri Kurotsuchi disappears, it's up to private eye Ulquiorra Cifer and his Girl-Friday, Tatsuki Arisawa, to solve the case.
NOTE: I do not own Bleach. (And I apologize that this update took so loong, and that it's a bit short. June was not kind to me or my cracktacular plot bunny. Bronchitis, finals, two family weddings, etc. However, I did manage to perfect my Ukitake impression. *hackhack*)
Part One: In which Ulquiorra takes the case.
Part Two: In which Ishida interrupts.
Part Three: In which Nemu escapes.
Part Four: In which Orihime cries.
RIDDLED WITH WHITE--PART FIVE
The girl stood unmoving against me, tears stalled on skin, with no say in the matter. Contact without connection. Even so, I touched, I probed. I wanted
I expected her to recoil. Swift and sure rejection. Instead, fingers ghosted the planes of my back, a hesitant taste. Her mouth parted slightly, a gentle imitation of my own demands. A slow, responsive thaw--it repulsed me.
The corner of my mouth twitched. Perhaps I sneered. A laugh, a delicately infuriating laugh, was delivered straight to my face, even as a furious blush took hold. She even had the indecency to smile. "I told you, frowning at me won't work."
"Woman..." Proper categorization eluded me. Wide eyes held mine. Arisawa's words were sharp, even in memory--quit staring at Orihime.
Arisawa had been trained to follow my gaze, to see the underbelly as I do. My star pupil. How acutely aware she must feel every passing second, trapped just beyond, pummeling helpless fists against steel, cursing my existence--for my gaze never lingers idly. She knew. She knew full well what would happen the moment I found myself alone with the girl. Ishida must have sensed it, too. He didn't follow her to my office to save his own skin. To protect my prey was to defy me. They had both tried, they had both failed. I did not regret kissing her, only that she escaped my embrace unscathed.
A breath apart, I stood firm and stared. And I wanted. Still.
Fingers stalled in thin air, unable to reconnect. I seemed to be reaching for her. Her gaze fell away and dissolved. No longer mentally present, she waged a strange, silent battle within. I would never understand such a chimerical slip of skirt. Was she not a helpless, in constant need of protection? Was she not expendable?
"Thank you, Ulquiorra, for putting everything back into perspective." She shifted her weight, angling herself away from me, favoring her uninjured leg. "I cannot be afraid. Not now."
"You fool." It occurred to me then that my expectations were flawed. She was not made to be broken.
A metallic crack barely breached the storage room doors--followed rapidly by an onslaught. Bullets striking steel. Lilynette, the clever parasite, must have beaten Starrk back into the world of the living. The doors haltingly parted, revealing the usual accomplices, looking the worse for wear. Spent bullets littered the floor.
"Stupid, stupid Starrk, stupid! You trigger-happy idiot! That was almost my eye!" Lilynette paused mid-strike, the butt of a pistol mere inches from Starrk's head, legs snared around his torso, transfixed by the sheer amount of jarred specimens. "What the hell...?"
A disheveled Akon stepped into view, carrying a metal box studded with knobs. An unlikely savior. "Did you touch anything?"
"The view was more than enough."
"I hope that's true, for your sake. Your mere presence is considered a level five contamination. Every fingerprint discovered by the clean-up crew will incur a thousand dollar fine. The repair bill for the security doors alone might bankrupt you."
"Send the bill to The Communicator, attention Shuuhei Hisagi."
Arisawa shot past the tri-horned scientist, lunging for my coat. "You ass!"
"He can afford it."
"I don't give a shit about Hisagi, boss and you know it!"
"Oh, then you must be referring to the sacrificial lamb."
"Next time, boss, do the chivalrous thing and lose a limb or two. You don't need both arms."
"It's alright, Tatsuki," the girl said, hand raised in passive protest. "Really."
Arisawa's eyes narrowed, closely scrutinizing the girl's shallow laugh lines. "What did he do to you? Aside from getting your leg nearly chopped off?"
"If he so much as breathed on you--"
"That tone, Arisawa," I said, "just drips with desperation."
Her knuckles cracked. "I ought to--"
Akon stepped into the line of fire. "Out you go," he said with a wave of the control box. The flesh under his eyes seemed to sag, perhaps under the lingering influence of the sleeping gas. Arisawa herded us into the hallway.
Lilynette dropped to the ground, still brandishing the pistol. "Do your job already, Ulquiorra, so we can get the hell out of here. This place gives me the creeps."
Akon muttered darkly to himself. A gloved hand recaptured the pistol, its path uncertain as it traveled through the air--aiming for a split second at Akon's uppermost horn before returning to its holster. Starrk sighed. "Took us over an hour to track you down, Ulquiorra. Had to break down the door, too--and you know how I feel about physical exertion."
"I'd ask how you found Arisawa, but I have a feeling it has something to do with her temper and a rain-dance of profanity."
"It was helpful, to say the least," Starrk deadpanned.
"Don't play cute," Arisawa said. "Not when--"
As if on cue, the otherworldly scream sounded again. The girl latched onto it like a dying breath. "Ishida!"
"Hardly," Akon said to no one in particular, adjusting a knob on the control box. Another scream punctuated the girls' sense of urgency--closer now, and more panicked. Arisawa turned on me. Always so demanding.
"Do you not see?"
With a twist of Akon's wrist, the volume of the screams drastically increased, and with a final twist of the knob, it disappeared entirely. "Paranoia protocol. A little uncouth, perhaps, but it does provide the optimal environment for…the creeps. Don't you think?"
Lilynette launched at him, teeth gnashing, a feral creature. Starrk heaved another sigh and seized her by the scruff of the neck. "There will be none of that, Lilynette."
Wide eyes sought mine, relaying several dozen unanswered questions. I shared her mindset. The case was what mattered. My attention shifted to the tri-horned scientist, blinking at him evenly.
"Don't give me that look, Cifer. You already know it was that pink haired, beady-eyed sideshow. Busted in here this morning and started throwing gas bombs. If only the doctor--" Akon staggered slightly, clutching at his forehead. "I need a smoke."
A jolt shot through Arisawa, leaving suspicion in its wake. Better late than never. I answered her raised eyebrow with a nod. "If only the doctor--what?"
"If only he were here. Of course."
Arisawa's upper lip recoiled, the triumphant sneer that follows the scenting of fresh blood. "You haven't shown one scrap of concern for Kurotsuchi or his daughter. Why start now?"
"Do not seek to understand me."
"Then what?" she asked. "If only the doctor had finished Szayel Aporro Granz off earlier? If only the doctor had killed Ishida alongside his grandfather? If only the doctor had never met Urahara?"
The control box emitted a whirring sound, which Akon promptly silenced with a flick of a switch. The girl edged closer, unknowingly influencing Starrk and Lilynette, bringing them into silent alignment with Arisawa's line of questioning, and my side.
"If only…" Arisawa crossed her arms. "If only the doctor's daughter hadn't caught Aizen's attention?"
The whirring sound issued once more. A drop of sweat betrayed his pale brow. "Miss Kurotsuchi's actions are above reproach. The likes of you...the likes of you could never--"
"If you want to spout off some philosophical drabble, go call the police. I'm sure Detective Aizen would be all ears."
"Don't threaten me," said Akon in a low, clinical tone.
Arisawa snapped her fingers. "I just thought of another possibility--would you care to hear it, boss?"
"If I must."
"If only the doctor had done away with Aizen."
The scientist resolve wavered. "You dare mock Mayuri Kurotsuchi?"
"Arisawa knows better than to mock a paying client's only, presumably deceased, relative." I stepped past Arisawa, so Akon could not avoid my meaning. "Miss Kurotsuchi is my client. I am here for her."
"If you insist, Detective." Akon adjusted a few knobs and began walking.
A series of repetitive hallways provided no destination, no new scenery. Solid blanks, like the waking dream of an amnesiac. No past, no future, only sterility.
"Rats in a maze," Arisawa said under her breath. She tightened her grip on the girl's wrist.
"I know, Tatsuki. We'll find him. We have to."
The control box emitted a sharp click. A light flashed green. The nearest set of laboratory doors slid open. Nemu Kurotsuchi stood just inside the doorway, holding a syringe full of oily black chemicals. She did not acknowledge our arrival.
"Our guest is resisting," she said, nearly monotone. "This will only prolong the pain."
"Keep away from me, you witch!" A panicked Szayel Aporro Granz staggered away from her, clutching his injured arm.
"Your cooperation is essential. Please comply." The Kurotsuchi girl's manner was completely detached, almost soulless, as she proceeded to corner Szayel.
Lilynette's face froze halfway between a snarl and shock. "How about one you adults stop the crazy lady?"
"I think not," said Akon.
"Stop her!" Szayel wore his terror well. "She's going to liquefy--"
The syringe sank into his wounded arm. He screamed. Nemu Kurotsuchi calmly retracted the needle and offered a slight bow, even as Szayel doubled over in agony. "Thank you."
"You!" Arisawa charged forward. "What the hell did you do to him? Is that what you did to Ishida?"
Nemu Kurotsuchi slowly turned to face Arisawa. An uncomfortable emotion--a sort of wistful calculation--undermined her distant expression. "Please elaborate."
"Don't give me that, you--" A touch from the girl stalled Arisawa.
"Uryū Ishida was abducted this morning. We have reason to believe he is somewhere within the Institute, and may be in grave danger. Please help us."
"Ishida. Here." The Kurotsuchi girl spoke as if weighing the truth with her tongue. "Without my knowledge."
She looked to the scientist. Akon made no reply.
"He's here," said Arisawa. "Your patient said so himself. He also said that you're in the process of killing him."
The Kurotsuchi girl held no one's gaze, showed no emotion, carefully setting the syringe on a countertop. "Detective Cifer, I have healed his arm. He is an intruder and a threat to the Institute. Please escort him out. Now, if you'll excuse me."
Arisawa stood firm. "What have you done with Ishida?"
"I had no prior knowledge of his presence."
"Honestly, Arisawa. What do I pay you for?" She turned on me, thunderous to a fault. "Miss Kurotsuchi was incarcerated at the time of Ishida's abduction. Aizen is very fond of his caged animals, and keeps a closer eye than one might think."
"It is not wise to relate me to a kept creature, Detective," said Nemu Kurotsuchi.
"I merely insinuate that Aizen permitted your escape."
The promise of a smile curved her lip. "Of course he permitted my escape--but I do not serve Detective Aizen."
"She did it on purpose, I saw her." Lilynette sought cover behind Starrk. Their escape from jail would seemingly linger. "She waited until all the guards came back, and then…it was awesome."
"That has nothing to do with Ishida," said the girl.
"Damn straight," said Arisawa. Her knuckles cracked. "It doesn't matter where she was when he was taken, all that matters is where he is now. Use that creepy box and find him--right now!"
Nemu Kurotsuchi's green eyes flashed black. "Request granted."
"Now you've done it," Lilynette half-whined.
"I wouldn't advise speaking ill of Miss Kurotsuchi." A sharp voice, smugly barbed. "Especially not in her domain. These walls have ears, at the very least."
Ishida stood in the doorway, arms crossed. The girl blanched as he readjusted his spectacles. He acknowledged me with a glare. "At first, I thought you were arrogant, Ulquiorra--arrogant, but capable. How very disappointing to discover that you're just an idiot."
To be continued...