Noba grabbed her hand as she reached for his zippered mask. "I'm sorry," he explained. "I cannot let you do that."

Rukia bowed her head, a tear threatening to fall from her eye. Noba gently took her other hand and held them both to his chest. Rukia could feel the thrum of his calm heartbeat.

"Don't you trust me?" she whispered to the floor.

"With my life," he replied. "But you are expecting to find a face beneath this mask. I have humanlike eyes and that is all. I am not a man."

"I'm not human either," Rukia protested. "We're both trapped in gigai."

Noba sighed and stroked her hair with the back of his hand. "I wish I could make you understand. I have never removed this mask, and I am not sure what would happen were I to try. Please, Rukia."

She nodded her head in concession. She didn't want to press Noba further and cause him to pull away. He was such a private person, Rukia was surprised he had allowed the relationship to become as close as it was.

She stood on her toes and wrapped her arms around his neck. "I won't ask again," she promised.

Noba grunted and pulled her off her feet, wrapping her legs around his waist. He laughed deeply and Rukia giggled. She had been surprised to find Noba was a fairly affectionate lover. She was disappointed they couldn't be together in conventional ways, but she still felt very close to him. Every chance she got, Rukia kissed where she assumed his mouth would be. She was relieved to find he enjoyed spending the night with her, holding her close to his body.

Although Noba had been reluctant to become truly intimate with her, his hands did incredible things to Rukia's body. The first night they were together, she had gasped and moaned under his touch.

Rukia became aroused just thinking about it, and she rubbed her body against Noba's suggestively. He eyed her through his mask.

"Oh?" he said in his deep voice. "Does someone require attention?"

He carried Rukia to his bedroom and plopped her down on the bed, kneeling on top of her.

"Your gigai will need much rest after I'm finished with you," he said coolly, unbuttoning her jeans. "Good thing you will have me to protect your vulnerable body."