A/N: Yes. I'm insane. A month away from the worst examination of my life, I start writing an epic fic. With these two, no less. Watch Cella throw herself over the edge of a cliff, screaming yip-yip-whee as she goes.
Anyway. This will be written in arcs—oooohhh, arcs!—with the first arc: when in Rome. I'm sure you all know where that comes from. Another thing you should know: the story is set before the Shinigami Shonen Retards Squad comes to the rescue, which makes it a slight AU. Don't worry, it's not like I'll leave Orihime in Hueco Mundo for forever.
Err…right. Anyway! I'll probably post this on too, for format's sake. Or…because I'm a huge review-whore. Got the hint? Anyone? On with it!

when in Rome
i. food/etiquette

The night is young.

Las Noches glares a startling white, solitary and imposing in the vast desert that is Hueco Mundo. It's a palace for the gods, or a palace for those which plan to become gods, in any case. It's also a home to several lost souls who're under the false impression that they matter to their powerful 'father', even if it's just a bit. It's a home to the Espada, some powerful, some smug, some childish, some fierce, and some…extremely bored.

Ulqiuorra doesn't have much care for dreams, or sleep. He doesn't care for showing kindness, or being brotherly to someone. And he couldn't give a damn about what the human woman is telling him.

Something, something, blah, blah, more incessant chatter—why won't she sleep, already?—a smidge of a giggle—is that a tear he sees in her eyes?—and more talking. There's a plate, full of food, on her bed just in front of her. Ulquiorra rolls his eyes to the ceiling, and raises a hand to interrupt her blabber.

"Are you going to say something useful hearing, or is this your idea of distracting me from forcing you to eat, woman?" he asks.

Orihime blinks, glances at the food—she probably yearns for its taste already—and then at him: "Maybe?" she answers, to which of his questions he can't know, but neither does he care.

He'd like to sigh for once, let out one of those whooshing bouts of air leave his lungs—if he has lungs, that is—in one long sigh of irritation or relief. Of course, he can't afford it. Anything done or said in this chamber will be reported to Aizen-sama, which means he has to be careful.

Actually, no.

It just means he has to not show emotion. What was that thing Aizen-sama had warned him about when he'd assigned him the human? Don't get attached.


As if he would. Sparing the woman-girl a glance of disgust, Ulquiorra firmly decides that there is no way he'll ever get attached to something as frail, stupid and weak as the person in front of him.

If I'd been in Aizen-sama's place, she'd have died long ago.

It is the girl's luck that he isn't the one giving the ultimate orders around the place, else wise she'd have been thrown over the wall of Las Noches…five days ago. And she'd probably do a little yip-yip-whee noise before landing, too, he realises with irritation.

"Maybe if I could cook my own food," she tries, back to filling the silence.

"No." Ulquiorra rather likes the silence. Maybe if he could tie her at the mouth for a while…Aizen-sama would probably look at him with disapproval, amused nonetheless. Ulquiorra doesn't like amusing Aizen-sama. The weak Espada amuse their father, and then they find themselves with a missing arm, or a missing stomach, or something of the sort. No. Ulquiorra likes himself intact, and therefore he tries to make his father proud, rather than amused. "Eat what you've been given, woman," he orders.

The girl's expression change from hope to disappointment, and then to a scowl. "Orihime."


"My name. It's Orihime. Not woman. I'm still a girl, you know..."

Well. Of course he knows. It's not like he judges her by the size of her chest, like Noitora does. And, bah. Stupid name for a stupid girl. "So?" he drones out.

"I thought," she starts tentatively—ah, she thought, that…is bad, Ulquiorra thinks—glancing at him with shyness. "Since you're my, err…guard, we should at least…call each other…by…name?" she finishes, sheepish.

Ulquiorra's silent stare makes her look away. There's a pause.

I'll regret this.

He sighs slightly. "Would it make you eat?"

She looks back at him, surprised he talked, probably. "What?"

"If I call you by your name, would you be less of a bother and eat?" he asks. Courtesy is lost on those who don't deserve it. (Even if Aizen-sama said to treat her well.)

"Um…" There's a pause, and she doesn't talk. Ulquiorra thanks the higher beings for this breakthrough, and hopes for it to last. It doesn't. "Maybe."

"Maybe is not an optional answer," he says.

"Okay. Fine, if you call me by my name, I'll probably feel less treated like a prisoner, which I know I am, and trust you well enough to actually eat what's on that pl—"

"Yes or no, woman?" For gods' sake, did she have to make all her answers this long?


"Good. Then, eat your food, Orihime." He doesn't think, for one instant, that the lack of courtesy after her name makes it all sound very…intimate.

She does, it seems, judging by her blush. Nonetheless, she eats the food. Ulquiorra gives himself a mental clap.

Maybe he'll last a few more days without killing her.