Blood and fumes tended to dominate the air after what they called a 'good' fight. She'd never witnessed one, herself, but she was well aware of the aftermath. Maybe she didn't quite approve of what went on up there, in the Pit, but here, underground, she'd made it a goal of hers to see to the fighters who'd been wounded. Sure, they were just going to go back up and fight again, but at least they could do so fresh!
The soft glow of the orange half-oval aura patching up the cut arm of the dark-haired fighter in front of her clashed with the rougher, more masculine sights and smells of the Pit basement where they went to relax between fights. Sweat, blood, and the occasional nausea could be overpowering, but Orihime powered through as if she didn't quite notice any of it.
"Oy! Woman." Orihime jumped to realize that meant her. Not that she hadn't been called things before in the Pit, but this had a particular imperative to it. Glancing from her work, she saw that the latest fighter was muscular and tall -- what you'd expect -- with a shock of blue hair. He was holding one arm lower than the other and she could see specks of blood but not the extent from here.
"Grimmjow," the fighter she was tending mentioned as this Grimmjow slung himself down importantly on the other side of the room, "Don't you bother with him."
Orihime worked her teeth over her tongue with a hum. "If I heal one of you, I should heal all of you!" She chirped. "That's only fair." The orange half-circle she'd been providing pulsed once then softly faded, leaving a restored bicep. "There you go, now take it easy!" It was advice she didn't much imagine a pit fighter could take, but she liked to give it anyway. You never know! The fighter grunted a thank you, perhaps preoccupied that Orihime was determined to pick up her things and trek across the stone and past benches to approach Grimmjow, the blue-haired fighter.
Up close, she saw that he had scarring along his jaw, exposing white bone, and her mind flew into a burst of possibilities of how he had come upon such a unique thing. A fight! Fleeing the house of his mistress! An invasion of robots!!!
She snapped to, realizing he'd been barking at her for at least a few seconds while she'd been dragged into her imagination. "Oh!" Grinning bashfully, Orihime dropped her case of supplies and moved to face the dangling arm. Grimmjow's narrow eyes followed her skeptically as she peered at the fresh blood coated along his arm from further up, beneath his white and black sleeve, at the shoulder. "Could you-- I'll just-- " she reached forward to roll his sleeve and was stopped by his hand bullying into her way and thrusting the fabric up himself.
"Could we just get on with this?" He sneered.
"Well," Orihime declared cheerfully, "You're going to have to take the entire shoulder off so I can see everything! I mean-- see everything that was -hurt-."
He sneered particularly brutally, aided by that lash of bone across his jaw. Orihime swallowed but didn't flinch. She was used to rough and tumble fighters; something just felt different here. Putting that aside, she tried again to angle her hands by his sleeve and this time he let her. WIth the bleeding wound at the edge of his collarbone exposed, she let the soft glow of healing burst into its half-oval around the fractured skin. A soft hum of concentration escaped her lips as she worked and Grimmjow's sneer turned into half an eye-roll and a discontented partial-smirk. "So… I don't think I've seen you around before?"
A sniff from him, immediately. "Just heal the damn wound, woman."
"Oo-- okay!" Orihime tried to concentrate harder, but the more she did the more she knew she wanted to know. About-- anything! Her curiosity raged against her better senses. As the skin stitched gradually together, winding backwards in time, she attempted to do some mental stitching of her own -- to find a sentence or a question that he'd possibly answer. She was just about satisfied when, abruptly, Grimmjow yanked his sleeve down, cutting off her half-circle and it flickered out of existence in her surprise. She was left standing there, palms out, and stupidly blinking.
"Good enough," he declared, standing hard enough to shove her aside as he strode off through the fighter receiving room, disappearing in a swish of blue hair and bad mood.
"Y---- you're welcome…" chirped Orihime to the empty spot in front of her.
The second time she saw Grimmjow, it was in the midst of a tournament and things were too chaotic to hold idle chit-chat. She just sewed his finger back on and turned around to help the next man.
The third time, she'd managed to forget her very interesting and must-answer question and spent the entire time trying to come with it through visions of vivid imagination. Grimmjow spent the entire time spewing obscenities about the opponent that had managed to get the better of him. She listened to him swear revenge and distractedly wished him well.
By the fourth time, she'd come to discover that the eye-roll, partial-smirk combination was merely his natural standing face. She realized it because he'd been awfully quiet while she was opening with her usual chatter and seemed to be glaring some place over her shoulder. He didn't even remember to call her 'woman'.
Tucking her hands back and wiping them in success across the edges of her skirt as the half-circle vanished from around his ankle, Orihime noticed a particular trail of blood seeming to blossom through his tunic from somewhere on his abdomen. Since he was so profoundly distracted, she took it upon herself to lean in and grab the tunic by the hem to lift up like a giant sheet over her head.
The strike hit her somewhere on the collarbone and reverberated, shaking her from head to toe as the force ran its course. Her hands limply dropped the tunic and she shuddered out from beneath it as he slammed his hands down to smooth the garment in place. He hadn't directly hit her, but only lowered his arms so forcefully that she felt an ache in her bone where they'd run into each other.
But she'd seen it.
A large, and gruesome, slice angling down his chest and freshly clotted. She'd seen enough violence in this line of volunteering not to become nauseated, and to be pretty sure that, if unattended, it was going to leave a very distinctive scar.
She'd barely breathed, "But-- " when he interrupted, growling.
"That one stays."
And even Orihime knew that that was the end of that.
A new batch had recently come in, traveling through the fighting circuits as they did. A few were troublemakers, you could tell, but Orihime tried her best not to discriminate. It wouldn't be fair and, after all, she wouldn't want people thinking things about her, either. When she was called over for a dislocated shoulder by the leader of one of the new troops, she diligently went, smiling all the way. Four of them were crowded around a fifth, exchanging jabs as fast as consolations. As Orihime approached, clearing her throat softly, they barely parted, requiring her to finally squeeze past them, her arms brushing against their muscled, sweaty ones. A flush hit her cheeks, especially at the cackling noise one of them tried barely to hide when her ample chest came flush against his own chest as she popped out into the middle of the circle with a slight stumble.
"So! What can I do?" Orihime piped up quickly, eager to prove her helpfulness.
"That's a mighty good question," somebody sniggered, earning him a slight elbowing from his companion -- she could tell it wasn't to be taken all that seriously; they sort of enjoyed the rib.
"I hear you can fix this up right tight," suggested the leader, gesturing to his crookedly settled arm, suffering from the out of place shoulder joint.
"Sure can!" Scurrying forward, Orihime jut her palms out towards the injury, "I know it won't be easy but… could you roll your sleeve up, please?"
Around the leader's grimacing effort, cackles heckled him, along with the jesting, "She wants you to take your clothes off!" Something Orihime was quite used to hearing by now. In a strange little moment, she remembered Grimmjow's own reaction. Before she could be surprised that this particular fighter had jumped to the forefront of her mind so quickly, she rearranged her attention back to the job at hand -- really, quite literally; the dislocation in front of her palms she hummed with the concentration to summon her healing half-oval. Up it popped, surrounding the bared skin and beginning to piece things back together: the way they used to be.
It didn't take too long, just being a torn shoulder, but when she stepped by she realized that, without her noticing, the men had closed in. With a little noise of surprise, she backed up into one when she tried to turn around.
"Don't go," he laughed, mock-pleading putting a drip to his voice.
"Yeah, I still got something needs tending to," another chimed in.
Orihime pressed her lips together and hummed. "Oh, like-- another injury?" Spinning, she took in each of them, cackling faces.
In her turning, she missed one's lewd gesture. "Yeah, you know, I've just been feeling so… stiff lately."
"Calm down, calm down," it was an issue from the leader, stretching out his newly made shoulder, to both Orihime and the men and the cajoling died down as Orihime turned gratefully to face him. "Look, we just," his grin seemed personable enough, but she didn't notice his hand, creeping up behind her skirt, "Wanted to know if you were-- " his fingers pinched her butt forcefully, "full-service."
Orihime got as far as "H- " in her yelp when a calmer voice overtook them. A familiar sneer warning, "Time to back off or lose it."
Trying to squirm out of the man's grip, Orihime turned, "Grimmjow!"
"Grimmjow?" The leader had a sneer, too, but Orihime thought it was lacking in something. "Mind your own business."
"Feh," Grimmjow spat out of the side of his mouth, barely missing the first of the crowding men, "Mind your ******** hand." Even though he was standing up for her, there was nothing pleasant or polite about the suggestion. Grimmjow stood there, head cocked, with a certain expectation of violence; Orihime wasn't sure if it really mattered if she was there at all.
When the leader jerked his head and instructed, "Get him out of here," to the men, Grimmjow got what he wanted.
He made swift work of the first one, grabbing the unsuspecting man by the jaw and delivering a wicked headbutt clean to the center of his nose. It cracked. Loudly.
As this one was recovering, Grimmjow spun around him, lashing out with a foot to crush the next man's kneecap. As he was falling, he jammed a fist into his stomach to send him flying several feet back before he fell, grabbing his leg and howling. By now, the man with the bleeding nose had turned on Grimmjow, throwing a wild punch fueled only by anger and adrenaline. It allowed Grimmjow to duck easily to the side, cutting the man in the abdomen with the side of his hand as he passed by.
Watching, the leader slipped off of his seat, stepping backwards, still with his hand clutched around Orihime, but now nearly using her as a human shield. Pssh, manly! thought Orihime disparagingly, even as she winced over the injuries inflicted. She geared up and stomped, hard, on the front of his toes, causing him to release her with a surprised yelp and glare. His arm raised back as if to smack her but his eyes flickered over her shoulder, noticing that no man stood -- the last of his companions was being held up merely by Grimmjow's fist clutching a handful of his hair.
Dropping the last man, Grimmjow swung up a hand and briskly caught the fleeing leader by the arm. In one swift gesture, he'd snapped the man's shoulder, causing a shout of pain to reverberate through the training room. No one bothered to look, as the leader crumpled up against the cot he'd been using. Orihime now stood alone amongst a group of disabled men. Tugging self-consciously on her skirt, she was easy prey for Grimmjow's snatch and pull. Suddenly, she was being whisked away, her would-be romancers fading into the distance. Glancing behind her, she saw the leader clutching his wound.
"But I just-- " her fingers wiggled in the air towards the newly re-injured shoulder.
"Come on," Grimmjow growled, hauling her along by the back of her shirt collar.
A day or so later, she saw him again. He hadn't stayed with her long after dragging her past the howling men he'd injured, just deposited her elsewhere and called her 'useless'. Neither did he look hurt now, yet Orihime found herself drifting from her patient holding area. She was standing in front of that bone jaw before she knew it, so that when he stared down at her and sneered all she could offer in explanation was: "Uhhh…"
"What?" He hissed, "Woman, don't waste my time."
"I'm not, I'm not," assured Orihime with a hurried flap of her hand, "Because I'm-- checking up! I'm checking up on you. That's right. Sit down-- " with both palms, she thrust against his chest, steering him backwards.
Or intending to.
He didn't budge.
She stood there, at a fifteen-degree angle, propped up by her planted palms against his wall of a figure.
"Or… stay here…" murmured Orihime towards the floor. One hand atop the other, she climbed her way up his abdomen until she was clutching a handhold of fabric by his shoulder, peering up into those grim eyes. Maybe he was half-stunned, because they seemed less narrow than us-- oh, there they went. He picked up her hand roughly, peeling it off of him and holding it disdainfully off to the side.
"What the hell are you blathering about?"
Orihime gnawed on her lower lip, slipping her teeth from side to side as she considered. All the while, she was eyeballing the white and black fabric strapped across his chest. "Your… scar," she breathed, and it was barely more than a thought occurring to her while she stared. She tried to squint and see straight through to what she knew must be there. Instead of baring, Grimmjow's chest rumbled with the vibration of his growl.
"And what about my scar?" She could feel his hand beginning to tighten around hers until it risked the edge of hurting. Her lower lip curled in, sucked up between her teeth, as she carefully contemplated.
"I don't know…" she admitted, still in that wistful, half-there tone, "I guess I just…"
"Spit it out or suck it up," Grimmjow demanded, giving a painful pinch of her hand and then dropping it. She pulled her fingers quickly up to her chest and they hovered there, uncertain but wanting. They flexed as if to touch but she held still. These fingers were what fueled her healing. She couldn't let anything happen to them! She wasn't sure, in that exact moment, if he was willing to let such a thing happen or not.
"I wanted to see how it was!" And that was the truth. She found herself infinitely curious about the one thing she hadn't been able to heal in the pits for a long time -- and at the fighter's demand, too. Some of them had scars from the past, from before she'd worked here, and some even left them on their faces for intimidation… but Grimmjow. Only he would know that the scar was waiting there on his chest.
He and the man who gave it to him.
She realized, with a slight jolt, that, with all the fighters she'd healed and seen pass by in the pits before, she had no idea who it was who had gotten so close to Grimmjow. It was strange to think that there had been no bragging, no word at all.
"It's a scar," he was muttering, meanwhile, "How do you //think// it is?"
"But they can get infected, or-- "
"If this is your attempt to 'pretty' me up, I'm afraid you're much too late," and he grinned maniacally at her, flashing the high visible bone of his jaw with morbid delight. In that moment, she wasn't quite sure what she thought he looked like, but 'pretty', she supposed, was not it. Though she'd never much minded the color of his hair… Focus!
Orihime shook her head, "No…" and drifted into wondering what it was, indeed, that had her thinking about it. Besides the uniqueness -- it's not like she felt responsible or anything! It was his choice, after all. But here she was, staring and staring, and wanting, more than anything she remembered at the time, to push the cloth of his tunic aside and see it for herself.
He indulged her for a while, and she later wondered if maybe he, himself, was caught up in his own thinking about what the scar meant to him. Imagining some painful end to a rival, with that violent half-grin widening his bone.
After another second, she backed up a step, nodding with a quiet, "Alright, alright," of concession. The scar was his.
"What?" He laughed, "That's it? Even more pathetic than I imagined." But there was something snappier missing to his tone, and something contemplative there instead. Well, perhaps not contemplative, but… deeper. Something beyond the sneer. She thought, maybe, she'd made him think and that meant that he was only insulting on reflex, and that maybe, just maybe, that was a part of him she hadn't quite heard before.
After that, Orihime's life absorbed her. Days went by until it was weeks since she'd visited the pit. She felt guilty, imagining all those fighters recovering slowly and painfully on their own, but she had her responsibilities and the thoughts would flitter away almost as soon as they appeared.
So, she was refreshed and pleased on the day she returned, humming nearly all the while that she tended to the grateful men, charming her with excited words about her return.
She wasn't expecting to be grabbed. Certainly not violently or by the wrist.
By one powerful twist, she was forced to stagger backwards and spin around, whirling to face her attacker -- Grimmjow. She'd never seen him so livid and as he bore down on her she wondered for a brief moment if this is what his opponents felt like -- and did they fear, too.
His lip curled up harshly, distorting the half-bone of his jaw. "When I have a woman," he muttered lowly right to her face, "I expect her to do her job."
"//Have//?" She was bumped straight out of her concern with surprise and a bit of scolding that adjusted her usually chipper tone. When she jerked her hand, she was almost surprised at how easily he let go. She swerved awkwardly to the side before recovering her balance. "Have?!" She repeated, as much as to pretend that little faux-pas hadn't happened. This is about him, not her!
He sniffed, a subtle cover for being taken aback. "That's what I said," he defended sourly.
Orihime crossed her arms deliberately, attempting not to wince at the aching in her wrist. "Well, I'm objecting to what you said."
"Oh," the sourness overturned to heavy sarcasm, "What a shame." Another sniff, this one truly uncaring. "You are a serving woman, so what good are you here if you don't serve."
Several rapid blinks heralded Orihime attempting to process. "Wh-- excuse me-- what?" Baffled, her arms loosened as she swayed gently backwards. "What are you talking about? You rescued me from those other guys who were saying the same thing!"
"Rescued you?" Grimmjow paused and then, realizing, threw his head back and let out a scoffing laugh that made Orihime's knees quake and her lips tighten. "Woman, it was just in my best interest that you remain in peak condition. You're going to make sure I am ready to face him. I will fight, and you will heal me, and I will fight, and you will heal me, until I am," his hands were clenching now, with a passion she'd rarely seen in him when it wasn't directed at scoffing at someone -- well, mostly her, "unstoppable."
"Noble… umm… venture?" Orihime's arm trailed upward and she scratched a single finger along her cheek. "But that's not what I'm here for…"
"Oh?" That was a noise she was beginning to dread; that meant the wit. "Pray, what //do// you think you're doing here? Making friends? Turning things around? These men don't care about you except as flesh and service. At least I give you purpose. You could be grateful." It was almost lewd, but he avoided the suggestion with his tone.
"P-purpose? Grateful!" The words seemed, at first, like static, so inconceivable. Is that really what he thought about what she did? Is that really what she did… Orihime shook her head, as much to convince herself as him; his expression made it clear how difficult the latter was going to be. "That's not true, and that's //not// why I'm here, //sir//." She found herself surprised when her tone began to match his. What was he doing? And why did she care… "So maybe you better meet me outside of the pits sometime."
… wait, what?
She masked her surprise at the words almost as well as he did.
But the more she thought about it, the more it seemed like a reasonable solution. If he was going to only see her as a tool here, then they would have to do something //outside// of here! Tada. Now it was making sense.
If only it would also make sense to him.
He rocked his head back and he laughed first. Then he stared at her so violently she thought he was trying to set her on fire with his mind.
"Th-- that's right! You heard me." She decided to say, after the silence had drawn on long enough. A finger came up and she jabbed him in the chest bearing that all-important scar. What that //his// purpose? Her face abruptly softened as she thought about it. He hadn't had the scar to begin with, but maybe he'd been fighting to find someone who could give it to him. And then, once he found that person… all he could do was try to defeat them? It seemed right. And incredibly sad. "Your… purpose…" she murmured out of her thoughts.
"Oh, not //this// again!" Scowled Grimmjow, swiping her hand away with a bat of his. "You want to also rub my face and wash my feet-- " he sneered, sarcastic -- at least… she hoped he was being sarcastic, "I won't stop you. But let's just get a move on."
Orihime's eyes fluttered in renewed surprise. "Now?"
"Of course, now. What the ********, woman, you think I have all the time in the world to indulge to your stupid whims?"
She thought about this a second. Then she //really// thought about it. The truth was: she didn't know. She had no idea what he did with his time, or what took it up or didn't! But the idea of finding out, now that was fascinating -- and it brought a big, genuine smile to her face as she contemplated the prospect of learning more.
The smile didn't quite soften Grimmjow's heart. He muttered, "What the ******** are smiling about?" as they walked out of the grimy, blood-scented cavern together.
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