Genre: Romance, angst/tragedy
Wordcount: 1212 In which each section is 100 words, btw. Or 101, depending on how you look at it.
Summary: This is the first year after she never got the chance to say goodbye.
Disclaimer: I own nothing, and that's most likely a good thing.
A/N: For bleach_contest. Dude. I haven't written for this comm in... forever.
ETA: Yay! Second place! Stfu, that's good enough for me.
Had you only lived, Orihime writes, I would have shown you the buildings and the streets of the city where I live.
Now that disaster has been averted and the world has not ended, Karakura, unaware of how close it came to destruction, becomes beautiful with the autumn– an odd autumn, heavy with the feeling of life.
For Orihime, it hurts. She can write as much as she wants, but she won’t be able to show any of this to him. To Ulquiorra.
But still she keeps hold of her scrap of paper, almost as if it were something sacred.
She titles the sketch “Ulquiorra’s First Day” –a month would be enough time to find him a gigai and get him acquainted with the thought of school.
He gets up early and gets dressed hours before sunrise. Our uniform does look good on him, though, all white and gray; all straight lines and sharp creases. We walk to school together, although he doesn’t say anything to me; and he doesn’t talk much once he gets to school either, so everybody thinks he’s very strange.
But we sit together at lunch– so close.
(Lunch that day comes and goes without him.)
Orihime spends Christmas alone; it is a couples’ holiday, after all. Ulquiorra regards her from his perch atop her desk, if only in her writing.
This is her Ulquiorra, what she thinks he was like when he was alive: no tear marks and certainly no horn, but he retains those startlingly green eyes. He wears a long coat and shoes with buckles.
“I don’t know what you’re thinking,” he sniffs, “But Christmas is a holy day, not a day for you to meet up with your boyfriend.”
But in this country, Christmas is a day for lovers, and she’s alone.
The warm, gentle fall has fathered a bitterly cold winter, far too cold for Orihime’s tastes, so she clasps her hands together in her sleeves one frozen morning. And then she can’t stop thinking about it.
There was something so perfect about the hand that never reached mine, she writes once she gets to class. And what would it have meant if they had reached? Ours: a human’s and an Espada’s.
At night, she clasps her hands together once more in the darkness. She closes her eyes and now she can almost believe that only one of them is hers.
How is it that they’re so perceptive, these classmates of hers?
“Give anyone any chocolates, Inoue? Either way, you won’t be getting anything on White Day. Not from Kurosaki, even though he’s a freak too.”
“I’m not in love with Kurosaki-kun,” she replies, and for the first time since she’s known him, it’s true– a strange, unpleasant feeling.
“There was... someone else,” she confides, unsure why she does so.
“I bet he dumped you.”
She smiles– sadly– and shakes her head. “He died.”
It must be something in the way she says it: the other girls flit away quickly.
On the first nice day, she goes to visit her brother’s grave. Ever since Kurosaki-kun fought Sora’s shade this has been a peaceful place.
The peace that comes when a soul passes on? It certainly would make a lovely story: the tale of a Hollow who still has a heart after all, who wakes from his madness before his demise to discover this.
Orihime knows of two variations of this story, and the first at least has the proper ending: the Hollow’s mercy is rewarded, and he passes into the realm of the everlasting.
(...Instead of becoming dust and smoke.)
Around the end of the month, a film of pink and white descends on the cherry trees. There ought to be something comforting about it, this yearly ritual of nature, but Orihime is unsure.
I saw the flowers today, Ulquiorra-san. You won’t have seen them, which is too bad because they’re beautiful. –Until they wilt and fall away, and we’ll trample them underfoot.
Next year, it will start all over again, and then the year after that....
And then she can’t write anymore. The cherries will continue to bloom year after year, blind to one soul having been snuffed out.
Ishida-kun doesn’t know what to say. For the first time ever, he has scored second place in the exams. It’s Quincy versus Arrancar again, but there’s no contest: nobody possesses talent for mind-numbing study by rote to match Ulquiorra’s.
Yes, that’s what he’s like, her Ulquiorra– she knows she can’t change him too much. He goes on to a top college and studies something pragmatic and boring– corporate law, perhaps, or economics. He works for one of the zaibatsu and becomes rich.
–But it never happens, and the boy whose score beat Ishida’s is a familiar, mundane classmate of theirs.
Orihime likes to watch the light on the longest days, the way it comes early and stays well into the evening. Sky, light, air: these fascinate her now.
“Why?” asks Ulquiorra from the narrow ledge outside her window as a summer breeze rustles in his hair. –He doesn’t really, of course, but still... Writing makes it so.
She can’t tell him why, but her reasons are her own, and the wind runs its fingers through her hair too. She looks up to the sky, lifts her face to sun, wind, and rain.
These things are what remind her of souls.
“I miss you,” she murmurs one sticky morning as she rolls over and tosses her sheets to the side. “Don’t go.”
“Does it matter?” he queries.
She turns his question back on him: “Does it? Is it true, what you said– that you had begun to find us humans interesting? Does that mean–?”
He considers this. “That may be accurate. In which case, you’re most likely right: it is possible that, had things happened differently, it could be like this. For the two of us.”
–These lines in her notebook are the closest she will get to I love you.
(Unless there’s something even finer and subtler than a soul, something that could survive even that. –But what would that be?
A soul’s soul? Soul of a soul?
Soul of my soul. –There it is.)
Once she sees it, she’s taken aback by the beauty. Soul of my soul.
She spreads the bits of paper out– almost a year’s worth, now– and lights a candle– as if this were some kind of altar. –But then she gets distracted, and she has left the window open and it’s a very windy day.... She doesn’t realize that anything is wrong until she smells the smoke, and by then it’s far too late, and the work of a year has already been undone.
Had you only lived– that’s the only note she manages to save, crumpled and slightly torn, scorched around the edges. The rest, through her carelessness, is ash and smoke.
Seriously, I have no idea how I got most of this [the months part and the structure] from that prompt. But oh well. I've been wanting to write more with this ship for a long time now anyway.
I would hardly say that I've mastered the art of the drabble, so I'm unsure about the wording on some of these-- but at least they were fun to write.