"We're in this Together Now" - part 1
Orihime practiced, just like Grimmjow told her to. Unfortunately, she never imagined she would have such little time to improve.
Something had gone very wrong.
"We need to get out of here," he said with finality, moments after he’d appeared in her room unannounced. She could detect the urgency in his tone and worried.
"Wh... What? But I thought..."
He cut her off before she could finish. "Plan changed. We're leaving. Now."
Orihime felt sick to her stomach. Their plan for escape was already going to be difficult to pull off as it was, but this new derailment sounded like a recipe for disaster. What could have possibly changed to cause Grimmjow to make such an impulsive decision?
"I'll get my stuff, I guess," she trailed off, ready to turn back into her room and hurriedly grab some essentials she'd packed in a knapsack he had found for her a few days ago. He looked back over his shoulder and down the hallway as he replied.
"Take whatever you've already got. We're out of time." She hurried doubly at his words, panic settling in. His look was intense, eyes sharp and nervous. He looked back at her and pinned the girl with a gaze like a wild predator. She gulped.
They were going to do this.
Orihime had never harbored hopes for escape from Las Noches outside of rescue. Regardless of the fact that he was doing so for his own reasons, she certainly never once imagined that it would be one of her very captors that would help her escape. This wasn't a rescue operation. It was a jailbreak.
He wrapped a large hand tightly around her upper arm, yanking her from her task and out the open door with a surprised yelp. Her hair flew in her face, obstructing her vision as objects spilled from her satchel and she was forcibly removed from her room. They were moving swiftly, she noticed, and Orihime realized she must have been pulled along in the Espada's Sonido. She made a noise of protest before Grimmjow's other hand sealed itself over her mouth, her back crashing against his front. His arms wrapped around her like a vice, silencing her and stilling both of them all in one motion. Her heart pounded in her ears as she shut her lips against his cold, dry palm. She stilled as she listened for whatever caused him to stop so abruptly, he leaning against a wall and peeking around a sharp corner.
His hand slowly left her mouth and she looked up at him in question, but instead of answering he raised his freed index finger to his own lips in a quieting gesture. Orihime bit her lower lip.
Then she heard voices.
"Ulquiorra-sama," said a deferent voice in acknowledgement. She held her breath when she recognized the tone – it was the Arrancar she healed after the violent training session she'd witnessed Grimmjow in a time ago. She recalled the pummeled face she had fixed that day, and the chocolate eyes that stared at her in wonder as soon as they were able to again. Like every Arrancar she had encountered thus far, though, he looked at her with a mix of distrust and fear before scrambling away and out of the room.
Even the monsters here feared her, she thought sadly.
"What are you doing here?" said the cool voice of her green-eyed captor. He was just around the corner.
"I was looking for you, Sir," said the lower-ranking Hollow. He was direct and business-like, a tone she knew agreed with the Cuatro. She listened on.
"What is it, then?" he said, slightly impatiently. Orihime was surprised. "I am very busy at the moment."
"Of course, Sir," came the response. "Tier Halibel-sama requests your presence immediately." The revelation was met with silence, and Orihime could almost see Ulquiorra's eyes narrowing in her imagination.
"Why would she send you to deliver this message? You are not among the ranks of her Fracción," he observed.
"I am a free agent, Sir," he said after a short pause. "I am at the service of any Espada that happens to catch me in the wrong place at the wrong time." She could almost hear the wry smile on his face as he said it. His unusual accent gave the statement a certain believable charm.
Ulquiorra was silent for a moment. Then, "Very well." The clip of his boots faded into the distance as he made his departure. Grimmjow looked down at her and met her wide eyes. He still looked nervous, but the relief she saw there was palpable.
"The coast is clear, Sir." Orihime's head spun to the right. Grimmjow loosened his grip on her and stepped around the corner, acknowledging the other Hollow.
"Which wing should we take?" asked her companion. Her arms wrapped around herself as she stepped out from behind him, belatedly realizing that the large Espada had been practically ensconcing her in his arms. She recalled only how hard the planes of his body had felt – and how cold. She did not have time to be embarrassed.
She'd missed the rest of their conversation, as the next thing she knew, she was again being dragged down the hallway. She saw the fleeting look the Arrancar from the other day gave her before he, too, disappeared.
Orihime's heart clenched at the mix of intensity, caution, and – dare she think it – a smidgen of respect in the gaze he wore before he vanished. Perhaps gratitude was not lost on these monsters, after all.
"He's afraid of you, you know," Grimmjow told her through the whistling of the wind in her ears. Her reaction was surprisingly resigned.
"I know," she said softly. He spared a glance down at her, gauging her expression.
"Most of the Hollows here don't know what to think of you." She murmured a non-committal "Mm-hmm" and kept her head down, watching her feet as they darted to keep up with the Espada. She nearly collided with his back as he came to a sudden stop. He did not look down at her this time.
"What are we supposed to think of you?" he asked, deadpan and low. She caught her breath and thought of an answer.
"What do you… want me to be?"
She felt more than witnessed Grimmjow's disappointment at her answer. His grumbled response was coarse and harsh, and that more than anything brought her closer to tears than she had been all week.
"You'd better figure the fuck out of yourself soon, here, little girl. I won't be allied to a person who has yet to find a cause or purpose." His icy stare caught hers from the corner of his eye. She could see his dark profile against the backlighting of the white hallway. His grip around her wrist was just short of crushing. "I refuse to let you get us killed because you can't differentiate black and white in this greyscale world."
And that was exactly when Orihime's world burst into color once again.
Funny how much of it seemed blue.