Characters: Orihime, Ulquiorra (and a little of Tatsuki, Ichigo, and Chad and the obligatory onesided IchiHime thing that shows up so much in this series).
Genre: Introspective; it was originally meant to be shipfic, but could apply equally to friendshipping.
Wordcount: 1773 Lol, why did I never include wordcount before? [/fails]
Warnings: Obviously the implied spoilers of anything set in the Hueco Mundo arc, but nothing else.
Summary: Even the strongest walls come down eventually, and sometimes the only way to accomplish such a feat is simply to talk. A sketch of the first time Ulquiorra started to think about Orihime differently.
Disclaimer: Don't own; don't sue (and so forth)
A/N: This ended up as a theory on how Ulquiorra could have a meaningful relationship with... anybody actually, given his personality. I love the guy, but his complete "flatness" in the way he behaves makes him difficult to ship for me-- so I wanted to see how that could be worked around. And I'm glad I decided to write this now since my poor ship may very well be sinking.
[...] And the color green
welled up inside you like tears, and you woke.
“In a Sheep’s Eye, Darling,” Margaret Hasse
It all happened after they had been there, pretending not to see each other, for a long time. Orihime was sitting in the high-backed chair and doing nothing but looking down at her hands, which folded tightly together in her lap. Ulquiorra was standing up against the wall next to the doorway, staring straight ahead (but what he was looking for was anyone’s guess). It would have been hard for anyone to say for certain, but he seemed not to blink. One hand was in his pocket; had anyone else done it it would have been a casual gesture, but his arm looked frozen in place, his wrist bent at an awkward angle that he appeared not to notice.
He didn’t shift his weight from one foot to the other, or cough, or move around at all the whole time. He was as still as the ocean floor; he always was; he never wavered in anything so much as a hair’s breadth.
He showed up in her room an hour ago and had done nothing since but stand and look into empty space in silence. Orihime didn’t ask why he was here or what he was doing; as far as she could tell he came and went whenever he felt like it and did nothing in between. In that and a multitude of other ways he was a mystery.
She would have been curious to know many things about him, but the likelihood of him actually telling her any of them was an infinitesimally small margin away from zero. If he had such a thing as a personal life, he hid it extremely well. But she had to have something, so she searched until she could find some less important thing to ask him, something that wouldn’t make him snap at her. And that was when she looked up and that was when she asked the question and everything changed.
He didn’t startle; he just nodded his head a little and looked down at her. “What do you want?”
“Why green?” she queried.
He didn’t even grace that with an answer.
“Your eyes and,” she traced the progression of an imaginary teardrop down her cheek. “...Why green? I mean, where I come from it’s just genetics, so it doesn’t really matter. But you... here... it’s like your soul, isn’t it? So why green? There has to be a reason.”
“Green is a color. It’s meaningless,” he said, shrugging (and that motion was strange too, almost like it was something that had been choreographed).
It would probably have ended there but for the fact that Orihime still had some courage left in her, and so she made up her mind that she was going to get this one question answered. (Because maybe he was strong, unfeasibly strong almost, but even he couldn’t win all the time.)
“It’s not meaningless. It makes me think of the trees in my world. Walking in the woods and looking at everything.”
“Trees are meaningless, then.”
“And they aren’t meaningless either, not to me. Well,” she conceded, “Maybe you had to be there.”
“I’ve been to your world,” he sniffed, “And it’s every bit as much garbage as everyone in it. If you think it can even be compared to what Aizen-sama has made, you’re deluding yourself again.” “I think there are a lot of things there that you can’t see here.”
“All right then, woman. What’s different about your trees and your green?”
So she told him. She told him about the green of the willows and how she admired their beauty (like long, slender women, hair whipping free in the wind– a woman who was a tall, tall tree could reach up and touch the clouds) until somebody told her that everyone knew they were weeping. And she felt like she had lost something and couldn’t see why someone would look at those trees and think they were in tears or why a tree like that would want to cry– day in and day out. Their heads were bent down, she realized, and she should have noticed that before. They looked down into the depths of the water and cried green tears for it. So she sat beneath their shade for a while until she felt she was beginning to understand.
–Maybe she was only taking advantage of the fact that for once he might actually be listening–
And then there was the time when she was out wandering (one of the times when she was gone for days and Tatsuki had to come find her and bring her home) and she came across a little creek– just a little runt of a thing, but even the sound of the water in it was green somehow. There was a cloud of tadpoles circling around it too, until she reached in and tried to touch them. Then they fled like stray drops of ink, like scattered thoughts (but they would come back, she thought, and rearrange themselves in a new pattern, a new line of thought).
–Whatever the reason, she had been waiting for what felt like forever for someone, anyone, to listen; the words came spilling out of her all at once–
And Tatsuki did bring her home eventually, or else she found her own way back. That was okay too. Walking to school she would see scraggly little weeds crawling up from the cracks in the sidewalk. She always stepped around them as carefully as she could, and it never caused a problem until the day she was carrying a whole stack of books in her arms but still had to step aside suddenly to avoid one of the plants. The resulting wobbling sent the books flying and Chad had to turn back and ask her what she was doing.
But she explained it, and about how bad she felt whenever she saw somebody step on them (and they must have gone through so much work to get even this far; it wasn’t their fault that they weren’t the most beautiful things!). From that day forth, at least when they were together, Chad was careful about where he stepped too.
–So her voice alone filled the entire room–
(So green was the sound of birdsong but also the sound of traffic, because there was always something growing wherever she went.) She liked the moment she realized this; she was walking through the world and slowly coming to her own conclusions and that meant that she was growing too.
–The words spiraled out of her, grew up the walls, burst into flower–
Wherever she went, she liked looking at the sky. She liked it when the clouds made shapes for her, and her favorites were when they reached up from just beyond the horizon– like there was some great, serpentine dragon wrapped around everything and these were just small segments of its body. Imagine how huge the whole thing must be! She liked that thought; dragons made her think of Tatsuki. And Tatsuki made her think of everyone else; she remembered the constant sharp bickering between her friend and Chizuru; if it went on long enough it got a sort of rhythm to it.
–And there she was in the land of the dead, singing the living, green world back into being–
How many times had she felt that flutter in her chest when Kurosaki-kun came near? He never seemed to notice (Tatsuki told her not to even bother worrying about it; Ichigo was a blockhead who wouldn’t notice if she drove a tank painted with the words I Love You through his bedroom wall). Yet he came anyway; he came here just to look for her, and it was all so maddening...
...Until the moment she looked up and remembered whom she was talking to. People were coming looking for her, even if it was a stupid thing to do, even if she wasn’t as powerful as Aizen seemed to think she was, even if she couldn’t believe that she was worth it. Ulquiorra was one of the Espada. But she didn’t believe for a moment that anybody would care enough about him to do something if anything happened to him.
“...So you’re right, I suppose, about how everything will turn out. You probably know better than I do. But at least... at least they will have tried. At least they will have tried to bring me back. So I guess I’m proud to know people like that. That’s all....”
–They were only words of course, painting a picture of ordinary things. But such words had never before been spoken in Hueco Mundo. Orihime trailed off; then there was a pause and then–
“Tell me more.” He was still standing next to the door with one hand still in his pocket. His mouth remained an impassive line. But there was the tiniest change, like his brows had knit together the smallest bit, like there had been some movement in all the little muscles around his eyes. (And whatever it was, he was still the sort of person who didn’t budge, not even a hair’s breadth– but maybe the line that had to be crossed was thinner than that. And he had just crossed it.)
She looked up, shook her head, and sighed.
“I wish I could. But, you know, here... I think that’s all I can do anymore.”
“It wasn’t that bad. I would like to see that.”
“You’ve already been to my world, Ulquiorra-san. I mean, you could go back if you wanted; you could see it anytime you like.”
He stood and thought for a moment, and then he closed his eyes and said, “I mean I’d like to see it the way you have seen it.”
And then for a time there was silence. Maybe the best thing to do with that was to fill it.
“Ulquiorra-san? Why don’t you tell me?”
“Tell you what?”
“You tell me more. You just said that Las Noches was better than my world, but obviously I can’t see whatever it is you’re seeing in it. So tell me.” She had never considered the possibility before, but now that she thought about it... How many thousands of things were there out there in the darkness, just waiting for someone who knew how to see them?
“...I’ll think about it,” he said at last. And she knew it meant, I never thought to before.
“Oh, and Ulquiorra-san? Don’t worry. It’s a good color for you, really. Remember that.”