Author's Note: Yep, the last drabble is in present tense. Why? Because I like to add ca-ray-zee twists into my life! I thank everyone who's been here, read, and reviewed. You guys are awesome! I really hope to write more UlquiHime in the future, but for my stance on romance and other such things, refer to the author's note in the thirteenth chapter of "This Twisted Tryst." A few kink selections can be found in my newest posting ("An Anthology of Broken Hearts, Bondage and Blood") but for the heavier stuff (like the 2,500 word NoitOrihime raep fic I just wrote, or maybe the Zeara-Pollo/Cirucci fic - naughty, naughty arrancar) you'll have to hit up my LiveJournal or the Bleach kink meme. Or but I still haven't posted any there. My LJ's my homepage on my profile.

Again, thanks to everyone for your support! You guys are great!

XIII. "The Past"

On their third attempt of breaching the citadel of Las Noches, Ichigo and the others finally succeed. Swarming into the war room with blades drawn, Ichigo, Ishida, Chad, Rukia, and Renji demand obstinately for the return of their friend.

"How rude," Aizen says. "You are quickly becoming a bother, Ichigo Kurosaki."

"Where is Inoue?" Ichigo asks, already in bankai form. "We won't leave without her."

"She's late," mutters Grimmjow, frustrated. "Again."

"Indeed," Gin Ichimaru's sly voice cuts through the tension. "She's never been on time, has she?"

"What do you mean?" demands Ishida, bow drawn and arrow at the ready. He hasn't aimed it at anyone specific, simply because he can't decide whom he hates most.

"I sent out a message to everyone," Zaera-Polo's cultured voice chimes, ignoring the intruder's outrage. "She really is terribly stupid."

"That's enough," Aizen scolds his creation. "You should not insult your sister."

Ignoring Zaera-Polo's irate expression, Ichigo's voice booms, "Shut the hell up! Tell us where she is or I'll kill you all one by one!"

The others are about to add their own personal threats but are silenced by the sound of fumbling footsteps approaching the door. The entrance quickly bursts open and a flustered Orihime, dressed all in white, stumbles past Ichigo and into the vacant chair beside Aizen.

"I'm so sorry!" she apologizes, bowing curtly in her seat. "I forgot!"

"Damn it, woman!" curses Grimmjow. "We'll never get anything done with you forgetting shit all the time!"

"What is this?" asks Renji, annoyed out of confusion.

Orihime looks up, bemused, and then turns to Aizen. "Is that Ichigo Kurosaki?" she asks.

Aizen nods, not tearing his gaze from the orange-haired shinigami. "There is nothing for you here," he tells him. "You should leave before something terrible befalls you."

Gin laughs, thin lips twisted into a grin. "Perhaps we should get her to kill them. Wouldn't that be fun?"

To everyone's surprise, Ulquiorra rises from his seat and approaches Ichigo. "Do as he says," he warns them, "or she really will kill you."

"Why?" Ichigo asks, eyes trained on Orihime.

"I am not saying this out of concern for you," Ulquiorra continues, ignoring Ichigo's question, "but out of concern for her. I have no doubt that the moment her blade pierces your heart, she'll remember her past. Now get out, and come back only when you are capable of killing Orihime."

"In other words," Grimmjow calls from the table, "never."