And here we are, the second part… Proceed with caution…

Seriously. You've been warned.

朝霧 -Asagiri-

The Frozen Whisper

Chapter 24

Rukia sat in the window, staring pensively off into the distance. The sun would set soon. Aizen must have liked sunsets, for they seemed to last longer here than in Soul Society. Or was it just that being in Hueco Mundo for quite some time, she'd already forgot how the real sun set?

She believed Nel, she was sure she hadn't lied to her and that she meant well. But she also believed in Ulquiorra and the Heart that bound them. She felt giving them a chance was the right thing to do, even if it wouldn't last for whatever reason.

Just for a moment, for one sweet moment, she would allow herself to forget about her duties and responsibilities as a Shinigami.

This was how it was supposed to be, a sort of fate that she decided to embrace instead of pointlessly running away from it. She would stay by Ulquiorra's side until the day all hope died and maybe longer.

Her sombre thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the door opening and Rukia instinctively knew it was him. She had to stop herself from immediately turning around to look at him, just in case she was wrong and it was someone else, even though she knew she was right. She felt it right under her skin. A smile tugged on her lips just by knowing he was close.

Taking a deep breath she finally turned around and greeted him happily, "Ulquiorra!"

He was looking up at her with his cat-like green eyes, unreadable as always, but she'd like to think there was something warm in them when he gazed at her.

"I was beginning…" the Shinigami started, when she noticed he held something. Swiftly jumping off the window she slowly approached him.

"Is that…?"

With a nod he handed her Sode no Shirayuki.

Rukia accepted the zanpakutō with a surprised smile, but suddenly there was that sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. What did it mean? He hadn't come to see her all day and he was yet to speak a word since he entered the room. Was he avoiding her? Was he distancing himself from her?

Before he could see the distress in her face, she followed her instinct and did exactly what she'd been wanting to do for some time now. It was a very honest and logical action. Quite improper, too.

Ulquiorra immediately tensed at the sudden contact. He'd just returned from a mass slaughter and she was… hugging him, tightly. He looked at his hands and then at the small body pressed against him. Could he touch her? Wouldn't her purity be tainted by his bloodstained hands?

But hadn't he killed for the sole purpose of touching her with lesser chance of hurting her?

Tentatively he brought his arms around her. He would be strong, he wouldn't hurt her. Slowly he began to relax in her embrace, focusing on feeling her with every inch of his body and soul. Inhaling her scent, he brushed his cheek against her hair and rested his chin on the top of her head. His hands were even more bold as they dared to caress her back and her shoulders, and tenderly play with her hair.

He hadn't realised it before – not until she relaxed under his touch – but Rukia too was nervous. Why? Most definitely it wasn't because she feared him. Her arms around him and face buried in his chest discarded the possibility. What could it be then? Was it…?

Ulquiorra gently moved her back a little, so he could take a good look at her face. She again tensed a bit. But what he saw made him want to hold her even closer, kiss and touch her until they melted together.

"Rukia…" he began gently. "I'm not giving you up, if that's what you're afraid of."

Her shifting gaze and red hue on her cheeks confirmed it. She opened her mouth to deny such assumption, but closed it, realising that he was right. He read her like a book. So she boldly looked back at him daring him to comment it however he wanted.

He liked that look.

Then her gaze softened a bit, but still there was resoluteness in her eyes. "I'm not afraid of you, I refuse to be afraid. And I'm not as weak as you might think I am."

"That might not be very wise of you." Ulquiorra brushed that annoying strand of her hair behind her ear. "And I don't think you're particularly weak, but the fact is you don't stand a chance against me. If giving you back your sword will increase your chances against me even by slightest, should anything similar happen again, I'd rather you have it. Simple as that."

Rukia smiled and nodded her head.

It was making her nervous – he so close to her, touching her, his eyes gazing into hers, making her unable to look away, or at least nowhere farther than his lips. But it was a good kind of nervous – exciting and satisfying.

He then brought her closer to himself and she hoped they could stay like this forever.

"My foolish Rukia… I'm unable to let you go, and frankly I don't want to. But you should be running away from me, resenting me, fearing me… Yet you do nothing like it. On the contrary, you accept and welcome me. I don't understand it, it's illogical."

"… It's not," Rukia whispered soundlessly, more to herself than him. Whether he heard her or understood her words, she wasn't sure, but he did tighten his hold on her.

They stood like this for a while, enjoying the proximity, how perfectly they fit into each other arms. Nothing else mattered then. The world consisted only of the two of them. There was no war going on, no enemies, no uncertain future, no difficult choices. Just two souls, linked in comfortable silence, warmth and hope.

Idly stroking her hair, Ulquiorra was the first one to break the silence. "Your supper is getting cold."

She chuckled, "I completely forgot about that."

Yet she took her time in letting go of him, and he didn't make her task any easier, too, as he made absolutely no attempt at loosening his embrace. When she finally managed to disentangle herself enough to look at him, she was greeted with the softest and most relaxed expression she'd so far witnessed on him. A huge smile made its way to her face.

Taking a glance at the windows, Rukia noticed there was still some orange light coming in. It gave her an idea. After all she did want to spend time with him, and even the most mundane thing would be a nice start.

"Watch the sunset with me," she asked in hope he would neither refuse nor think her silly. To her delight he agreed almost immediately.

Somehow with that surge of joy it was easier to finally take a step back and let go of Ulquiorra. She did already miss his warmth, though.

Rukia put Sode no Shirayuki on the desk with a loving brush of fingers on the sheath as she let her go. Then swiftly and with finesse of a noble woman she poured tea and handed Ulquiorra the cup, motioning him to take a sit in either of the room's windows. She soon joined him in the other window, with her dinner in her hands.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" she said, looking at they sky. "As much as I hate to admit it, Aizen's pretty good at them."

With a soft grunt Ulquiorra agreed that indeed the view was pleasant. However wasn't it for her company, he wouldn't have really noticed it. In his eyes she was the one that made the sunset beautiful.

She turned to him with a brilliant smile, proving the point he hadn't voiced.

"Drink the tea if you like," she encouraged him. "I find it very relaxing. At home I like to spend evenings in my brother's garden simply staring at nature and letting my mind wander. Unfortunately I rarely have time for that."

Rukia ate her meal, while he casually drank her tea, observing her from the corner of his eye. He had always thought her to be quite pretty, with her astounding eyes, but there, right this moment, she was simply the most gorgeous woman he had ever seen. He didn't know what had changed. Was it that soft smile on her face? Lately she seemed to smile at him quite often. Was it that spark in her eyes? He hadn't seen it before.

But she was right – it was relaxing to drink tea and watch something beautiful.

When she finished her meal, Rukia put down the bowl with chopsticks behind herself. The sun almost set and the oranges and golds gave way to purples and reds, but they too would soon be replaced with dark blue of the night. First stars began to appear on what seemed to be east.

"This is a late summer sky, or at least it strikes me as such. In reality it's already December, isn't it?" She babbled and she was perfectly aware of that. But she really wanted to strike a conversation with him, and what was the easiest subject if not the weather? She most definitely did not want to bring up the war.

"Yes, the First."

She sighed softly. So little time.

"What is it?" he asked, looking at her.

Rukia quickly masked her melancholy with a smile and a question, "It's winter soon. Do you like snow?"

He shrugged, finding her question odd. "It's just a precipitation."

"Oh come on, you have to have some preferences?" she spoke unable to conceal her surprise. "Sun, wind, snow, rain – you either like them or not."

"Not really, weather is weather, it's not something I can change anyway." Ulquiorra handed her the cup of tea, having drunk half of it. She accepted it with a smile.

"So you don't have a favourite season?" she concluded.

"We don't have these in Hueco Mundo," he pointed out in return.

"But surely you've seen them…" Rukia was about to take a sip of her tea, when she suddenly froze, realising she was about to drink from the same cup as he. A blush spread across her cheeks and she was thankful for the dark of the dusk. With a silly grin she put her lips to the cup's rim and taking a sip of the warm liquid, she sighed contently. Looking back at him, she noticed him staring at her with his eyebrows raised. The red hue reached her ears. (Damn his keen eyes!)

"Okay, so what do you like?" she asked, proud of herself that she managed to sound composed, despite the butterflies tickling her stomach. (Though her voice was a note higher than usual.)

He pondered his answer a bit. "Reason, logic, success."

Rukia nodded her head, amazed at how Ulquiorra-like was that answer. "Better, but I didn't quite mean it like this."

"Then what did you mean?"

"I was thinking about something more personal?" she explained. "Like those little things that may seem trivial, but they do in fact define us in a way as an individual? Just bits and pieces that assembled together make the whole picture."

Ulquiorra looked at her quizzically. No-one had ever asked him questions of this sort, just as it never occurred to him to ask such questions to anyone. He never thought of things – of those little and trivial things, as she put. They were meaningless. And thus he didn't really have any preferences, as long as things worked or served their purpose. It was really uncomfortable for him to admit it, but he had no answers to her questions; at least not yet, but with her he wanted to find them. What did he like?

"For example," Rukia put a hand on her chest. "My favourite food are eggs, in all forms, though I'm mostly partial to boiled eggs. And I also like rice dumplings. Cucumbers are great too, especially in the summer or with rice and kinshi tamago and just a drop of soy sauce." Then she gestured at him. "Now, what's your favourite food?"

"It's just a nutrition," Ulquiorra replied slowly, hesitantly. She was making him feel uncertain about things and he didn't like it. He felt like he was disappointing her.

"But what tastes the best in your mouth?" she tried again. "There's got to be something."

Well, that was easy. "You."

She replied after a pause, "I'm not a food." He knew she tried to conceal her discomposure – he could see her hands fiddling with the fabric of her jacket.

"No," he agreed. "But I can taste you."

"C-colour then!" Rukia sounded panicked now. "Do you like any colour?"

"Not in particular…" Even in the dark he could tell her face was red with embarrassment. Ulquiorra was already amused, when an idea came to him. "Violet, I like the colour of your eyes."

"You're making fun of me, aren't you?" she mumbled, trying to sound offended, but failed miserably. She sipped the tea to hide her discomposure.

He found her endearing when she stumbled with words, flustered. He liked that he was the cause. "No, I'm serious. And I like red on your cheeks."

Rukia stared at him in the dark. Was he teasing her? As incredulous as the thought was, everything pointed to the fact that indeed Ulquiorra was teasing her. She suddenly wanted to hide somewhere.

Why was it that whenever she asked him a question, she usually soon regretted opening her mouth in the first place? Well, sort of, because at least he usually gave her answers, it was just that his answers weren't the ones she was prepared for. And this time it wasn't like she was upset – quite the contrary. She was too happy and bashful she didn't know how to react.

"You cruel, cruel man," was all she could utter.

Ulquiorra watched as the fake sun finally sank behind the horizon, and the darkness rapidly covered the world under the dome. "I'm a Hollow, after all…"

"I-I didn't mean it that way…" she quickly clarified.

"But it's not my intention to be cruel to you."

Rukia frowned. "Being a Hollow doesn't meant you have to be cruel. Look at Nel – she's the epitome of kindness and gentleness."

"True, but she's an exception proving the rule, not the rule."

Ulquiorra pushed himself off the window, standing mid-air.

"Do you want me to be kind and gentle?" he asked, though he didn't look at her.

"Well, aren't you? Haven't you been? To me, I mean," Rukia stammered. He continued to make her uncomfortable, but she couldn't avoid this topic. He might be a Hollow, but there was much more to him than a mindless monster or Aizen's tool.

Ulquiorra stared at the night sky, bright with stars and almost fully lit moon. It made him feel out of place. He preferred the blackness and hopelessness of Hueco Mundo's sky. It was more befitting his nature. Grudgingly he said, "Only yesterday I—"

"Yesterday doesn't count," Rukia cut in firmly, knowing where he was going with it. With a huff she leaned against the window frame, arms crossed, her gaze fixed on his silhouette, as if daring him to continue.

"I almost broke your arm once," Ulquiorra said quietly. He felt distaste with himself now, especially since back then he hadn't cared whether she felt pain or not. He didn't mention he'd wanted to kill her few times, though.

"But that was like ages ago, long before…" she trailed off, not knowing how to finish her sentence. She felt it, but couldn't find appropriate words.

He finally turned his head to look at her curiously. "Before?"

"Before we… well, everything…" she told him lamely.


That one word Nel had said earlier surfaced in her mind, but she was still too confused, so instead she gesticulated frantically between him and herself. "T-this." Realising how vague it sounded, she changed her approach. "My point is – would you do that now?"

Ulquiorra pondered on it for a moment. "It depends. If everything else failed and I had absolutely no other choice and your life depended on my action, I would."

Rukia furrowed her brows at his practicality, but didn't comment. She supposed he was a man who didn't shy away from difficult choices. Admirable and reliable trait, though a little bit scary. Her brother was similar, she noted with some sort of a surprise. Shaking her head at this little discovery, she wondered if she would be able to do the same thing for him. Would she be able to hurt him in order to save him? Would she be able to run her blade across him if there was a chance of purifying his soul?

His hand catching a strand of her hair between his fingers broke her out of her musings. He was standing right in front of her.

"I keep you here against your will. I could let you leave, but I didn't," Ulquiorra admitted. "I still can, for that matter."

"Why don't you, then?" she asked quietly. Her hand instinctively rested on his waist.

He leaned closer. "I don't want to."

"Why?" she whispered as their noses touched.

"Because you're mine, Rukia," he murmured and kissed her in a slow and gentle fashion. Their lips brushed against each other, electrifying them. They savoured the contact, the touch and warmth, and emotions the kiss stirred in them.

Wanting to feel him closer, Rukia slid her hands up his sides and his chest to put her arms around his neck. However when she reached his shoulders, Ulquiorra caught her wrists and brought her hands down to her thighs and kept them there firmly. She softly moaned in protest but his tongue trailing against her bottom lip appeased her, at least for the time being. Her complaisance didn't last long, though, and soon she caught his bottom lip between her teeth and bit on it gently. A groan escaped his throat and she felt his hands tighten on her wrists.

Rukia smirked playfully as they pulled apart. She saw something in his eyes for the split second. Curiosity as to what it might be made her want to make him lose his guard and she was up for the challenge.

Ulquiorra noticed desire and mischief in her eyes, mixed with her natural innocence. An odd combination, but before he could ponder on it more, she closed the distance between their lips. She caught him by surprise, and using this opportunity, she freed her hands from his grip and entwining them around his neck, she brought him closer to herself.

Her kiss was fervid and full of passion and he immediately responded. Wanting to taste her more, he deepened the kiss, and she gratefully welcomed him, brushing her tongue against his.

Ulquiorra wasn't a man of passions or desires – but he kissed her with everything he had, just as his hands touched and felt her in fervour and lust for more. He caressed her thighs up and down, and eventually reaching her hips, he moved her even closer to himself, her legs parting. Rukia moaned at the contact and entwined her legs around him.

The only real distance between them were their clothes, and only gods knew how much he wanted to just tear them off and take her here and now. But he had to be patient. He couldn't rush or he might hurt her.

One of her hands found its way under his jacket. He growled warningly, but was only met with her smirk against his lips. She most definitely wasn't making it any easier for him.

Rukia was just blissfully happy, enjoying him as much as she could. His kisses, his tongue exploring her mouth, his touches and caresses, his body pressed against hers… She would have never thought that being so close to another person could be so satisfying and exciting. And with Ulquiorra there was even more to that, even more than just the physical contact; even more than the Heart, too. Her intuition was telling her they shared much more, and she felt they could share even more. It was something beautiful words couldn't describe.

Ulquiorra felt alive like never before. His heart beat quickly, vigorously pumping blood through his veins. His skin had never experienced so many sensations. His hands for the first time didn't know what to do, with so many spots on her body to touch, stroke, feel, tease… His soul had never felt more complete than now. She made him alive. And it was only the beginning.

They were in Hueco Mundo desert in front of the grand white tree that he'd come to like during his Hollow days. He held her in his arms, while he marvelled at his companion from the past. It hadn't changed in the slightest.

Looking back at her, he noticed how the ominous moon's light made her pale skin as white as his own. She was practically glowing. At the same time it made her blood appear black – blacker even than his wings.

He brought his hand to the hole in the middle of her chest. It was still rising and falling in faint, gurgling breaths. She was bare and beautiful. He smeared her blood down the sternum to her stomach, while scratching her skin with his claws. She was his. Only she could fill up his emptiness. His hand returned to the wound and soaking it in her blood once more, he brought it to his mouth and licked it, savouring the sweet taste.

Gazing at her face, he saw sadness in her eyes, but still she smiled at him. He knew her smile was for his sake. She was telling him that everything was all right. That this was the fate she had chosen herself and he was not to blame.

This way she would be his forever. She would always be with him.

He lifted her. She didn't protest when he pushed her against the tree, impaling her on many sharp branches. More blood gushed from her small body. It flooded and flooded, never seeming to end, staining everything black. Even the white tree started to turn black from its roots to the highest branches.

With her last strength, she brought her hand to his cheek. Blood seeped from her mouth, yet she still smiled…

Something warm on his face jolted Ulquiorra awake and he sat abruptly. His heart was beating rapidly, his breaths quick and shaken. It took him a moment to realise that it had been all a nightmare. He looked at his hands, just in case – they were clean. There was no sweet taste of her blood in his mouth, too. A shifting and rustling next to him ultimately reassured him that indeed Rukia was unharmed.

"Bad dream?" she asked quietly, kneeling next to him.

Ulquiorra, unable to find a voice in his throat, only nodded. He couldn't face her yet, still having her sad gaze and bleeding smile before his eyes.

Rukia didn't know what exactly he'd dreamt of, but it must have been something really unpleasant to affect him to this extent. Without thinking much, she put her arms around him, bringing him close to herself, resting his head against her chest. He didn't resist, but she held him firmly, afraid that if her hold weakened he would try to escape.

"I'm here," she told him, soothingly brushing his hair. "Everything's good. We're good."

"I should go," he finally said, but it only made her tighten her embrace even more.

If she could help it, she didn't want him to brood over his dream alone. She wanted him to know that she was there for him. Dream was just a dream. Reality was here and now, right between them. They should make the best of it, especially since she feared they didn't have much time together. Who knew – maybe he would start hating her tomorrow? That was her biggest fear at the moment, but she brushed it off, choosing to focus on the present.

"Rukia…" Ulquiorra tried again, but without any real conviction, for the fact was – he didn't want her to let him go. He felt content in her arms, listening to her steady heartbeat. With her he peeked into what happiness could look like and realised that it wasn't completely unattainable for him.

"Ulquiorra…" she replied stubbornly. Her hand slid down his cheek then his jawline and when it reached his chin, she gently tilted his head to make him look at her. Their eyes met. For a moment he got lost in those violet pools of hers, then they became even bigger as she leaned down.

But before Rukia could kiss him, he overturned her, pinning her to the bed. He studied her intently, searchingly. Her eyes even in the darkness gazed at him softly and affectionately. Thankfully there was no sadness in them. His fingers brushed her cheek and she leaned into his touch, trustingly. Why did she trust him so much, when he couldn't trust himself?

Placing a kiss on the corner of her lips, he got off her with a quiet "Good night, Rukia," and proceeded to leave.

Rukia suddenly felt cold without his body next to hers. Blinking few times, she realised he really was going, so she cried after him, "Wait! Ulquiorra!"

He halted unsurely, his hand stretched out ready to open the door.

"Stay with me," she told him earnestly, slowly moving to the edge of the bed.

"I might hurt you."

Rukia frowned at his words. "You won't, Ulquiorra… It seems to me you suddenly started to view yourself as some kind of a monster. But you aren't." She spoke quickly, ardently, while she got off the bed and with soft steps, one by one, proceeded to approach him, careful not to scare him off. "You're too strong for that, too intelligent. In my eyes you're an unique and amazing person. I know you're capable of killing, of cruelty. You can be ruthless, calculating… emotionless. But I've seen you care. You protected me more than once…"

"For my own gain," he said in a low growl, with his back still turned to her.

She was three steps behind him. If he escaped, she was ready to run after him. "Even so, you did so, and still do. Even now you try your best to protect me. It always was and is your choice. But not only that – you've shown me kindness and… and affection when you didn't have to. You're perfectly capable of such acts, though I can tell you're not used to them, but I suppose this is how you are and how your circumstances are."

His outstretched hand fell to his side and she took this opportunity to stand between him and the door. His face was shrouded in the night's darkness.

She continued calmly, "I think that as much as you're capable of the most atrocious things, you're capable of the most beautiful ones, too."

Ulquiorra slammed his hand on the door next to her head and leaned down so their eyes were on the same level. She didn't even flinch. He spoke in a low, dangerous voice, "That's naïve of you, Rukia. You don't know me. You have no idea what I'm capable of. You don't know of things I've done."

She didn't falter and kept looking into his eyes stubbornly. "You're right. But I want to know you, to understand you, just as much as I want to trust you and believe in—"

He crushed her lips in a rough kiss. There was desperation in it, a cry for solace, but also threat and provocation for her to push him away. Rukia did her best to respond to it, trying to mollify him. She gently ran her hands up and down his torso, his jawline and cheeks, and slowly he began to calm down. Soon enough he was tightly embracing her, his face hidden in the crook of her neck.

Ulquiorra had really tried to put her on the edge, to show her that she shouldn't trust him as much as she did, but instead he'd just made a foolish arsehole out of himself. This little Shinigami had just set him straight. And she also made him realise it wasn't her who was supposed not to trust him, but him who was supposed to be the man worth of her trust. He would endeavour to become that.

After a while Rukia broke the silence, "You said you're not giving me up. But you have to understand things like this can work only if they are mutual… and I'm not giving you up either."

"Good," he whispered against her neck.

Then she added, "And you have one other thing wrong."

Frowning, he pulled slightly away to look at her, curious. He rarely was wrong, after all.

"You said you keep me here against my will, but that's not entirely true. I mean, I'm not fond of staying a prisoner in Hueco Mundo, frankly I hate it, but… I want to stay by your side. Even if I had a choice to go back home, I wouldn't leave you."

Her gaze was intense with emotions. And, of course, stubbornness. He'd used to curse this trait of hers quite a lot, but now he found himself rather partial to it.

Resting his forehead against hers, Ulquiorra asked, his voice raspy, "Why?"

"Because this is what my Heart is telling me to do."

"I don't understand," he admitted, but he knew he wanted her to always regard him with such passion she had in her eyes now. It did make him want to do improper things to her, though.

Rukia cupped his face with her hands, stroking his cheeks with her thumbs up an down along the marks. "You don't have to, but I'm sure you will one day. Just trust me. And trust yourself."

She then kissed the tip of his nose and smiled at him sweetly, reassuringly.

Ulquiorra sighed in defeat mixed with amazement. He guessed he had no choice, but to give in to her. And truth be told, he absolutely didn't mind doing just that.

Without a word he picked Rukia up and carried her to bed, while she chuckled in delight. Laying her down, he was immediately pulled into her as she entwined her arms and legs around him. Her lips were sweet and welcoming. Then, trailing her jawline and neck with kisses, he slowly unzipped her jacket farther down to between her breasts. Her breath hitched and her hand tightened in his hair, as his lips continued to caress her skin from her collarbone to there, too.

Ulquiorra had to force himself to stop at this, otherwise he couldn't vouch for himself. And he could feel and see signs of nervousness in her, too, though he instinctively knew she wouldn't push him away. Because she trusted him.

Trust – such a simple concept, yet very complicated and nuanced. And too easily violable.

With a final kiss on her lips, he rested his head on her chest, listening to her slightly elevated heartbeat. It was like a soothing lullaby. On this beating heart of Rukia he promised he would never hurt her, never would let anyone hurt her, and he would never lose her.

Comfortably basking in her warmth, his eyelids started to become heavy.

"Good night, Ulquiorra," he heard her soft whisper, as she continued to stroke his hair.

He hummed in reply and then was fast asleep. Somehow he didn't fear any nightmares for tonight – he had her as his guardian, after all.

Rukia woke up in the middle of the night. With joy she felt an arm around her and soft breaths in her hair. Ulquiorra… Giddiness and heat spread all over her body. Every time she woke up from now on, she wanted it to be like this – with him. When falling asleep she'd worried that he would leave in the night, insecure about his demons. But he hadn't, and she was glad. They would fight it together.

Careful not to wake him, she gently untangled herself from his embrace and went to use the bathroom.

Washing her hands, her mind wandered to the hairpin she had hidden in the cabinet. She opened it and took the pretty hair ornament, admiring cute Chappy and the skills that had created it. With it she could return home with Inoue, leaving this dreadful place behind her.

Turning around, Rukia stared off into the space as if she could perceive through walls and see sleeping Ulquiorra. Then she thought of Inoue, of her brother and friends, of Soul Society; of her home. To and fro her thoughts wandered.

Yet she didn't feel particularly torn. After all, there was only one choice she could make.

"I'm sorry," she whispered clutching the hairpin to her chest.

Then she broke it in half.

Nothing happened, but she felt a lot of lighter, like a burden had been lifted from off her heart. Staring at Chappy, it took her a moment to realise that tears were streaming down her cheeks. But she'd decided and she wouldn't have it any other way. She put the remains of the hairpin back in the cabinet and wiping her tears, she quickly washed her face and returned to the room.

Ulquiorra was awake, looking at her lazily. Soon his eyes widened, when with an impish grin she jumped on top of him and started kissing him with all she had. Giggle escaped her lips, when he rolled on top of her and kissed her ear and neck.

Tomorrow she would get Inoue out of Las Noches, but she would stay even if it meant her demise. His smile – a very soft one, almost unnoticeable, but reflected in his eyes – was worth it.

OMAKE (Outtakes! In case you didn't get enough cheesiness, here are the first drafts of some scenes!)

"Thank you. But I want you to know that I'm not afraid of you, you know. And as I said yesterday, I don't blame you for anything. It was just… an unfortunate incident in my eyes. I'm not as weak as you might think I am. If you need some time for yourself, then I understand. Just… know that if there's anything I can do… if perhaps by any chance you needed me… I'm here."

"I do not think you are particularly weak, but the fact is you do not stand a chance against me. If giving you back your sword will increase your chances against me even by slightest, should anything similar happen again, I would rather you have it. Simple as that."

"And I do need you." He brushed his lips against her forehead. "You're the only one that can fill up this emptiness that marks my existence. If I have any heart, it's you."

She slid her arms around his waist and embraced him tightly, her voice lost in her clenched throat.

If he'd known she would react like this, he would have given her sword back faster.

A small smile made its way to his lips. He enjoyed making her uneasy, she looked quite gorgeous with her cheeks aflame.

She didn't know how it was possible, but she blushed even harder.

"You should do that more often," she blurted out.

"Do what?" he asked quizzically, quite sure that she didn't mean teasing her.

"Smile," she said shyly.

"Ridiculous," he retorted, but there was no real conviction in his voice.

"I mean it. I… like your smile," she said lamely.

"Why?" he asked but involuntary his lips quirked up.

"Do you want me to be kind and gentle?" He was standing right in front of her, his face mere inches away from hers.

"I… it's complicated, you know? I want you to be yourself. I don't want you doing anything against your own will, but at the same time I want to believe that you are not as cruel and cold-blooded as you seem to be. I want to believe that this Ulquiorra that is kind to me is really you. Even though you do tease me awfully."

"Tease you?" He leaned even closer.

"Stay," she whispered and kissed him softly. "I won't let you hurt me. I won't let you hurt yourself. Trust me. And trust yourself," she continued, her lips brushing against his with her every word. "I… I want you to stay. I'm not letting you leave."

She didn't have to repeat herself for the third time as he – not without hesitation – kissed her back. Sneaking his arm around her waist, he brought her closer to himself, finding comfort and strength in her warmth and softness.


And with this chapter you just learnt why it took me twenty-bloody-four chapters to finally write a full blown romance… I suck at it… and OMG, it's so corny! :D I'm embarrassed. (It wasn't as bad as I think it was, right? Riiight? ^^") I had to stick in some drama, or it would be unreadable. But I suppose that's how love is, especially in the early stages. At least from my own experience. I know I did a lot of silly shit when I was in love. Good times ;)

But I really liked the dream sequence, I think it's my favourite part of this chapter. So hands up people, who thought he really impaled her on that tree! :D (At first I had it all in italics, but changed it to normal font for the effect :) But I didn't use names, only pronouns, so they could be a give-away.)

So, this is all for now! As always – take care, friends!

Love ❤

朝霧 -Asagiri-

P.S. Oh right, in the meantime Bleach manga has ended… That was unexpected, but I hear the SJ editors rushed the ending. As much as I wasn't a fan of Bleach since the half of Hueco Mundo arc, it's sad that Kubo didn't get to finish the manga at his own pace and the way he wanted. As for the ending, I can't say I liked it, but it didn't surprise me. It lacked Nel and Grimmjow, though! And Ulquiorra, obviously! I'm sure Rukia would have ended up with him then! ;)