"Fate as it Flows"

Sometimes Ulquiorra let her out to wander.

It was less a form of consideration than it was mild neglect on his part, but she was not one to waste opportunity. She was not extremely docile by nature, and her cell drove her stir-crazy quickly and often.

She'd never been to this part of the compound before, she noted as her boot heels clicked slowly across the off-white floor.

Orihime found herself in a long, wide corridor. It was evidently some sort of passageway, judging by the breadth of the hall, but any doors she'd passed so far were shut firmly. How boring.

She continued on for a while, intent on at least reaching the end of the mystery hallway before turning back toward what she already knew was more dull whiteness. There was little to stimulate her mind in this place. A small, stupid part of her even wished she would run into one of the locals, fleetingly thinking an encounter would be more interesting than all this emptiness. She squashed that thought as soon as it crossed her mind, though. No run-in in this hell could possibly end well for her.

Minutes later, she started noticing faint noises.

They were familiar, Orihime realized as she tried to place them. She heard them often whenever she would visit Tatsuki at practice or cheer her on at a tournament. Grunts of exertion and indecipherable conversation filtered to her ears as she neared the source of the sounds.

Someone was sparring.

She realized the endless hallway was opening up to her right, and she slowed as she neared it. The noises were louder now and completely unmistakable. The occasional laugh or casual taunt reinforced the feeling she had that this was just practice. She could hear the sound of flesh striking flesh and the dance of evading feet clearly now.

Discreetly poking half her face around the corner, she took a careful first scope of the scene with her left eye, holding her bright hair back else it give away her presence.

She was right. The doorway opened up to a mezzanine, the staircase to the left leading down to a large open space one floor down that reminded her of a dojo. She looked past the railing and at the two fighters below.

One was a shorter man, stocky, quick to react, and compactly built. Orihime thought he looked vaguely Hispanic. He was strong, she could tell, but evidently very overmatched by his partner judging by his extremely frustrated expression.

It was his opponent that made Orihime's eyes widen in shock.

Taller than the first Arrancar by a head, his challenger had barely broken a sweat behind his confident, taunting grin. She recognized that smile and the blue hair above it well, by now.

"Stop leaving your left quarter so uncovered," she heard him correct his sparring partner. His deep voice rang clearly in the medium-sized space. The shorter man grit his teeth and tried to comply.

Grimmjow's chest and arms were covered with a light sheen of perspiration that glistened through the dusting of hair there. It was hard to tell in this light, but Orihime thought it might match the blue atop his head. Strange, she thought. Then, before she could stop her mind, I guess the curtains match the carpet. She blushed at herself and mentally cursed her schoolmate Chizuru for ever saying something so lewd around her.

He had removed his shirt for the match, and she spotted it rolled up in a ball at the side of the little arena. His broad back showed the impressive lines of his musculature as he blocked his opponent's strikes, clearly not extremely affected but not trying to be patronizing. He was instructing, Orihime realized. She never would have pegged him to have that in his character, she mused. He was suddenly much more interesting than the animal she'd written him off as before.

Especially with his shirt off.

She felt a slow blush crawl up her cheeks as she was vaguely mesmerized by the purposeful movements of his physique. This was not the body of a teenager, she thought to herself as she compared him to many of her friends. There was a massive scar that started at his left collarbone and made its way across his chest, down and over like a pageant sash, she mused. He almost seemed to wear it as proudly as if it was one. She wondered where he might have gotten it from, and why he hadn't asked her to heal it along with his other injuries. She could not truly understand the mentality behind using scars as badges or reminders. She was not a fighter at heart, after all.

The Sexta Espada's current opponent let out a furious volley of strikes, clearly frustrated at his inability to match his superior. With a yell, he aimed a final, powerful punch at Grimmjow's head. Orihime gasped slightly before she managed to further stifle the noise.

The taller man caught the brash attack effortlessly, his expression closed and serious in stark contrast to the grin he wore earlier. He lowered his opponent's fist wrapped securely in his own grip as he frowned down at the shorter man. He remained silent, waiting.

"Let me be your Fracción, Grimmjow-sama," Orihime heard him plead. Her hand remained sealed over her mouth as she listened with bated breath. This was much more personal an encounter than she ever expected to see the violent Espada in. She awaited his reaction.

"You are powerful, and continue to grow more so with time. Everyone can see it. It's why that disgusting Shinigami cut off your arm; we all know it. And I know I can grow more powerful under your guidance and leadership." His logical argument was laced with earnest; he'd clearly wanted to be a part of the Sexta's team for a long time. Grimmjow's eyes narrowed.

"There are other Espada whose ranks you could join. Stronger ones." Grimmjow was deadpan. The smaller man shifted uneasily, aware of the fact that he was about to speak out of turn.

"Barragan-sama is an overlord. His Fracción follow him for fear and greed, not loyalty. You... You're a commander. A general. Your troops followed you because they believed in your cause, in your strength, and in your ambition. I would be immensely proud to be the first in the restoration of your army."

Grimmjow had long since let go of his opponent's fist, looking down at the shorter man with an unreadable expression. Orihime noticed, however, that it wasn't particularly pleased. She wondered at that. Shouldn't he be happy that someone thought so highly of him and wanted to join his forces? This interaction was painting so many new layers to the mystery that was Grimmjow. She was enthralled; it was better than a movie.

The smaller Arrancar piped in yet again. "I won't be so weak as your former legion, I assure you of that, Grimmjow-sama," he said, trying to bolster his argument.

It was the wrong thing to say.

Orihime barely held in a shriek of surprise as Grimmjow's fist flew out and connected with the other Hollow's face, the crack of bones resonating through the small chamber as he flew backward and crashed into the wall behind him. The force of the blow blew him straight into the stone, where he was left embedded and crumpled. His face was gruesome and unrecognizable, covered in gore. Orihime held back bile.

Grimmjow's expression was stoic as he wiped his fist on his pants. He calmly walked back to the edge of the room, retrieving his jacket. By the time Orihime realized he intended on walking out, it was far too late for her to run anywhere. There was nowhere for her to hide. Indescribable fear clenched her gut as she ducked back behind the wall, holding her breath and bracing herself for what was to come.

Her eyes were squeezed shut tightly as she listened to his unhurried footsteps near the entryway. Her heart raced in her throat, and she wondered if she was going to die here.

The footsteps came to a stop next to her. When nothing happened for a few moments, she dared to open her eyes, only to see the blue-haired Espada standing tall next to her, paying no attention to the girl as he casually shrugged his jacket back on. Her eyes were enormous in her face, filled with fear, trepidation, and disgust at what she had just seen.

As he adjusted his jacket on his frame, she heard his deep baritone wash over her.

"Fix him."

Then, he walked away, never looking at her once.

She scrambled to comply, rushing to the crumpled form lodged in the wall of the practice hall. As the warm glow of her Shun Shun Rikka enveloped the nearly dead Arrancar, Orihime resolved to never wander this hallway again.
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