This is a purely fangirlish speculation for chapter 345 of Bleach (and when I say speculation, I mean shippy wishful thinking!). First posted on the Ulquihime FC on Bleachasylum forums.

The entire tower shook from the enormous wave of reiatsu that had taken over the atmosphere, tremors travelling up his legs and rattling his very soul with the warning of the strength being released. Ishida involuntarily looked towards the ceiling, seeing in his mind the arrancar facing off against Kurosaki, trying to imagine how the shinigami would fare against such awesome power. He knew Kurosaki was strong, stronger than himself, though it pained him to admit it, but the arrancar seemed a formidable opponent. Certainly one who would test Kurosaki to the very limit.

He saw Inoue rise to her feet, her gaze turned upwards-obviously trying to picture the same scene he was. He could see her eyes full of concern and shock, a small shiver in her hands showing her reaction to the reiatsu that was woven into the air they were breathing. He stepped towards her, to try to offer some words of comfort. Her dress, a replica of the clothing worn by the various arrancar he had met, was torn in places-an entire sleeve missing, in fact. She had obviously been through an ordeal before he had arrived.

'Don't worry,' he spoke with strength in his words, trying to put confidence he wasn't sure he had into his voice 'Kurosaki can defeat him.'

She didn't move her gaze from the ceiling, and the concern didn't seem to decrease. He wasn't even sure if she had heard him, neither her face nor her body reacting to his presence.


Ishida stopped his hand, moving to grasp her elbow in comfort, at her soft whisper. His thought processes screeching to a halt at the name he hadn't expected to hear from her lips. The name hadn't been in anger or surprise, but genuine worry.

Before he could say anything, she suddenly torn her gaze from the ceiling and flicked her eyes around the room. He knew what she was after when she spotted a flight of stairs at the very far end of the room. She ran towards them, not even sparing a glance at him as she headed towards the steps that could take her to the battle above.

She was barely a few metres away before he caught her, clasping her upper arm, and turning her back towards him.

'You're worried about the arrancar?' He questioned, shock and worry laced into his words. What could have happened during her time in Las Noches? He knew Inoue was the sort of person to feel compassion for her enemies, they had all seen her show sympathy and kindness to those who were fighting against them. But the arrancar was fighting Kurosaki, one of their nakama. Why would her concern be for Kurosaki's opponent?

Her eyes met his fully for the first time since he had spoken to her and the shock was gone, replaced with conviction to back up her concern. She met his gaze fully for a few seconds before turning her face away, hiding emotions that he could see turning the curve of her brow and her mouth.

'He's not...I...Ulquiorra doesn't deserve to be killed...'

Her words, though stuttered as if she wasn't sure, exactly, what she wanted to say, were full of surety and strength-the conviction in her eyes apparent in her words.

Ishida realised, then, that something had happened between the arrancar and Inoue during her time here. This was more than just compassion for a stranger. It was more personal. He couldn't imagine what the arrancar could have done to have captured Inoue's attention like this.


Before he could question her about the arrancar she turned from him and ran towards the stairs once more, urgency getting her several metres away from him, this time, before he had chance to react.

He started to make his way towards her again, the sudden feeling that he should stop her from reaching the fight-unsure of what she would do when two people she cared for were fighting each other as violently as the energy in the air seemed to suggest.

Just as her feet lightened upon the first steps, he heard a rumble from behind him. A noise was echoing up from the hole in the floor he had created with his use of explosives, a deep laugh and the subtle groan he had come to associate with sonido. Before he could take another step towards Inoue, a cloud of smoke billowed from the hole and the ground shook as a great weight landed next to it. He stopped in his tracks when the smoke started to clear and Yammy, the espada he had thought defeated, grinned maliciously in his direction.

He glanced back towards the stairs, where the hem of Inoue's torn dress was disappearing out of sight, and realised that she was on her own. He could only hope that the arrancar was worth the concern that Inoue seemed to have for him.