Characters: Momo, Aizen (slight one-sided Momo/Aizen)
Genre: Introspective, future!fic
Warnings: Spoilers for recent chapters, a tiny bit of violence
Summary: Aizen made an entire world into a grave; Momo knows that she can only put off paying her respects for so long.
A/N: So. Uh. Given the last chapter, I figured that if I ever wanted to write this, I had better do it soon. Poor Momo.
If Hueco Mundo is a spectacular grave, a testament to never-weres, then Las Noches must be its crown jewel, its great monument: the grave marker, as it were. It is haunted, of course, albeit not in the way it once was– not literally. There has not been even the meanest Hollow, the remains of some small, spiteful person, in Hueco Mundo for more than twenty years now– much less the likes of the Vasto Lordes. The shinigami were fools, that much is clear, and it almost cost them everything. They won’t make that mistake again.
In this world of the dead’s dead, even the wind has now been extinguished, and all that stirs the sand is the tread of Momo’s feet. Twenty years– She has put this off for too long, although the reasons are clear enough. Fear? –Naturally, and something else as well, something nameless.
Las Noches is the sort of thing you see coming from a long way off, especially since there’s nothing else around but the brown-gray dunes and a few spindly trees that were probably never alive in the first place. If she wants to be demeaning, Momo can compare it to a great broken tooth, although it deserves better; Las Noches is as high as any mighty lord’s palace, and, even as it lies partially in ruins, every bit as impressive. Even someone who had never once heard the name Aizen Sousuke would understand: the man who built this is as powerful as any man can be. Yes, you see it from a long way off.
–Except, of course, for when you don’t see it coming. Las Noches is raised high, like a tower, and Momo remembers that there once was– or seemed to be, at least, and there was a time when that was just as good and no one knew the difference anyway, not even Aizen himself– a man like a tower.
A man like God?
It is amazing what a word can do, a name, a brief flicker of memory... Before you know it, you’re there again: the admiring student, ingenue, dutiful lieutenant. And as for him– he is everything. It’s in the way he makes the kidou you struggled with all night look easy; the way his explanations are calm and clear, as if he holds the key to every door you didn’t even know existed; the way he smiles kindly and doesn’t mention it when you stay after class to ask for help with problems everyone knows you could have solved on your own; it’s even in the way he pushes up his glasses with the back of his hand, like doesn’t notice he’s doing it....
Momo knows it: in those days, she would have called him God. Easily. And it was true: she would never have become a lieutenant if she hadn’t believed in him. He was the one who gave her every night she spent studying instead of giving in to sleep, pushing herself onward while moths flitted around the light; he gave the bright thrill of meeting Tobiume for the first time, as the feeling of fire spread through her body; the acceptance as a proper shinigami; the prestige, and the courage to hold her head a little higher than the other girls; the day she became a lieutenant, his lieutenant, and they held a feast to celebrate–
–He gave her a scar and a wound that took months to heal, twice over, and in memory the blades slide in again and again– his zanpakutou and poor deceived Toushirou’s– as if her body offered no more resistance than a cloth doll, and even now her hands move instinctively to her chest.
And then she removes them and reaches in front of her instead, and her fingertips brush the cold stone of Las Noches’s outer wall.
Even half in ruins, the palace is a work of art, and she walks slowly (admiringly?) Through its pathways and great halls, empty courtyards and a room with a long white table where the place settings sit untouched. This place, unlike the rest of Hueco Mundo, is the work of a man of intellect and taste: there is a fierce elegance in the angular white corridors, a finesse in the slightly tinted archways– and how delicate they look, like the bones of a seahorse!
And the high dome that overlooks everything! Cracks run rampant across it, revealing the true Hueco Mundo sky; were it not for them, Momo knows it would be hard to believe that it wasn’t the real sky itself. There must be some kidou on it, something that lingers still; paint alone could never make something so true to life. Under the dome, the sun still shines on trails of cloud, and Momo really can feel its light and faint warmth on her face.
A shinigami, a god of death, should see through that.
The warmth of the sun, the light, the everything; and the sun is at the center of the sky, and Las Noches is the sun in Hueco Mundo, and in Las Noches the sun– The sun is God and Aizen is as Aizen is Aizen–
As is the sun in the sky.
It’s a beautiful image, but it is possible to admire something’s beauty while knowing it to be false. Perhaps Aizen would make a fine god, but what of it? In the years she was afraid to come to Hueco Mundo, Momo liked to travel sometimes, wander off to other places instead. Go to the world of the living, and nobody you meet will know anything of your troubles– comforting, in a way.
And along the way, she has seen: so many palaces, statues, pillars, temples. Stone-cold, stone-dead.
Immortal isn’t; worshipers scatter and even gods die. Stars burn themselves out too, and it’s the brightest ones that have the shortest lives.
And Aizen: there is no warmth– illusory or otherwise– with him now, that much is sure. He is a thing that happened– a history or a myth.
There is kindness left in Soul Society, and hope; there is time enough for her to have a life of her own, or one with someone else– but if she ever has children, when they go to the Academy they will learn about him, not from him. To lose a teacher of that caliber is a shame. They won’t take notes as he explains every little thing that was carelessly left out of their books; instead those books will have a picture of him on some page, and they will search it in vain as if a portrait could answer the question– Why?
To last forever?
Las Noches, Momo supposes, really will last. Parts are already ruined, of course, but in an arid world like this those dainty archways and the sky-painted dome will stay beautiful for a long time; no weather will touch them. –Still, a world without weather can only claim a lonely sort of beauty, and Las Noches is enveloped by nothing but the lifeless Hueco Mundo dunes....
A man as clever as Aizen was ought to have known better than to build his castle out of sand. –And no, it’s far too late to cry about it now. So what else is there to say? She won’t be back here again.