Title: It's The Thought That Counts

Summary: The Arrancars didn't really grasp the concept of romance, but they tried.

Warnings: Some language, lots of OOC and all around crackiness. The author is not responsible for any emotional trauma that may occur from reading this one-shot.

Author's Note: I was actually trying to write something for Yu-Gi-Oh! when this bit me on the brain, and it pretty much wrote itself. Most of my stories from here on out will probably be humor, but hopefully not to this brain-melting degree. ^^; Anyway, reviews and constructive criticisms are welcome! Enjoy!

The Arrancars didn't really grasp the concept of romance, but they tried.

Like on Valentine's Day, when Szayel gave Ulquiorra his heart. Literally.

Ulquiorra woke up that morning, expecting nothing out of the ordinary (if "the ordinary" even existed in Hueco Mundo) and discovered a jar with a cheerful pink and white ribbon sitting on his bedside table.

Inside the jar floated the heart of some unlucky Soul Reaper that Szayel had run across a few weeks ago, and attached was a note with what appeared to be Szayel's attempt at romantic poetry.

It went something like this:

Ulqui-bear dear

There's no need to fear

That I'd forget you on this day

So I'd just like to say

That I would give you my heart

If I could

But then I would die

So you can have this one instead

Happy Valentine's Day! Love, Szay-szay

Despite Szayel's epic failure at poetry and the disturbing contents of his valentine, (not to mention their equally disturbing pet names for each other) Ulquiorra was touched. It was only necessary, he concluded, to respond in kind.

Thus, when Szayel entered his lab the next morning, he found a rosebush sitting on his desk.

Not a rose. Not a dozen roses. Not even a dozen bouquets of roses, but the whole bush, complete with dirty roots and the severed hand of the gardener still clinging to one of its branches.

Attatched was this note:

Dear Szay-szay,

Thank you very much for the valentine you gave me yesterday. It made me so happy that I almost smiled at myself in the mirror. I was so happy, in fact, that I was feeling merciful and I killed the owner of this rosebush before removing the plant and her hand. I hope this brightens your day as much as your gift brightened mine, even if it is a little late.

Much Love, Ulqui-bear

Szayel was taken aback. Honestly, he had thought Valentine's Day to be a silly human custom, barely worth his interest, but he had wanted to do something for his beloved Ulqui-bear. He hadn't expected Ulquiorra to send a gift in return, and this certainly outdid his mundane attempt!

Szayel became determined to give Ulquiorra an even better present, something that would make dear Ulqui-bear's effort in obtaining the rosebush worthwhile.

When Nnoitra found Szayel using one of his spare shirts to trace hearts on the walls of the hallway leading to Ulquiorra's room in red paint, he was not amused.

"But Noitrrrraaaaa," Szayel protested, clinging to the shirt that the furious Espada tried to wrench out of his grasp, "I neeeeed it!"

"Why do you need my goddamn shirt to trace goddamn hearts on Ulquiorra's goddamn hallway, you freak?" Nnoitra snarled. Damned if Szayel was the closest thing he really had to a friend, nobody touched his clothes without his permission! Well, except Tesla, but that was another thing entirely...

Szayel refused to relinquish the stolen shirt. "I have to make a wonderful valentine for my Ulqui-bear, and your collar is shaped like a heart!"

Inwardly cringing at having the name "Ulqui-bear" bestowed upon an Arrancar who could probably kill just about everyone in Las Noches while eating a steak with one hand tied behind his back, Nnoitra redoubled his efforts to yank the shirt out of Szayel's hands. "Can't you make hearts without using my shirt! Come on, that's creepy!"

Szayel snorted. "You're one to talk! And besides, you take my stuff all the time without asking and I don't say anything, so you should at least return the favor!"

"I do not! And didn't you give Ulquiorra a valentine yesterday?"

"Yes, but then my darling gave me a better valentine, so I have to give him an even better one to make up for my inadequacy." Szayel explained, still not releasing his death grip on Nnoitra's shirt. "And you do too take my things without asking!"

Nnoitra scowled. "Name one time!"

"What about that time when you took my flatiron because yours broke, and then you kept it and I had to buy a new one?" Szayel demanded.

"That was an emergency!" Actually, he'd promised Tesla that they'd go out to the world of the living and maul some innocent bystanders for a date. His flatiron had chosen the perfect moment to stop working, and he refused to look ratty in front of his Tessie, even while slicing open helpless people on the sidewalk.

"And the time you used my new chemistry set to set fire to Tousen's hair?"

"Oh come on! You never even use that set!" And everyone knew it was fuckin' hilarious to see Mr. Justice flailing around with his zanpaktou, demanding retribution for his ruined hair. Even Aizen had chuckled at that. Hell, even Ulquiorra had twitched his lips upward for half a second.

"And that time I caught you going through Ilforte's underwear drawer-"

"Okay, I get it!" There was a perfectly good explanation for that one, Nnoitra was sure of it, but he couldn't seem to think of one right then. "You can use the damn shirt." Almost painfully, he released his hold on the shirt. "But make sure you don't stain it, and send it to the dry-cleaners' after you're done, and if you ever go into my closet again with my permission, I'll gut you and make your entrails into a new belt."

Szayel mock-saluted him. "Yes sir, General Fifth, sir! Forgive my impudence in trying to give a meaningful gift to the love of my life, sir! Is it okay if I breathe in your general direction, sir?" He was grinning sardonically and not looking sorry in the least, and Nnoitra was just about to whip out his zanpaktou and tear the stupid smirk right off his face, when they both sensed Ulquiorra's familiar spiritual pressure approaching.

Szayel's mocking expression quickly changed to one of panic. "Oh noes! My lovey approaches and I haven't finished my valentine!" He spun around and scrambled for his paint.

Almost before he knew what was happening, Nnoitra found a spare paintbrush and a fresh can of bright red paint thrust into his hands. The only explanation Szayel gave was, "You're the one who distracted me, so you're going to help me finish before Ulqui-bear gets here! Hurry!"

Nnoitra was too eager to get his shirt and get out of there without encountering Ulquiorra to protest. Still shuddering at the name "Ulqui-bear", he sonido-ed around the hallway, filling every available wall with bright red hearts. When Ulquiorra came close enough for them to hear his footsteps, Nnoitra was gone by the time the Cuatro Espada rounded the corner.

Needless to say, Ulquiorra was quite stunned when he viewed his hallway, though you couldn't tell it by looking at him. The entire hall was covered in red hearts, some freshly painted so that the walls appeared to bleed. In the center of it all stood his Szay-szay, with a very self-satisfied grin and... was that Nnoitra's shirt he was hiding behind his back?

"Surprise, my dearest Ulqui-bear!" Szayel exclaimed, striding over to drape himself over the taller Arrancar. "How do you like your valentine?"

"I love it, Szay-szay." Ulquiorra admitted, looking around the hall and absently putting his arms around Szayel's waist. "But you gave me a valentine yesterday, remember? This seems a bit... excessive." It was Nnoitra's shirt, he discovered, and for some reason it was covered in red paint. Or blood, but Ulquiorra didn't much care either way.

Szayel smiled and let his head rest on Ulquiorra's shoulder. "I remember, but then you gave me that wonderful gift in return, so I had to give you something even better. You did mention the other day that you might like to redecorate."

Ulquiorra was surprised. His Szay-szay was so thoughtful, actually listening to him during their conversations and then saving him the trouble of redecorating himself. He needed to think of something just as perfect to show his appreciation.

And so things continued like that for a while, and the other Arrancars began making a point of avoiding Ulquiorra and Szayel – even more so than they had originally. Even Aizen began to take notice of the strange gifts and scarily mushy love notes being left around Las Noches.

When he entered the throne room one morning and promptly tripped over a larger-than-life rendering of Szayel's face, however, he decided that enough was enough.

The smitten, longing glances and poorly concealed games of footsie during meetings, he could ignore. The complaints and fears of the other Arrancars, he could deal with. Hell, he could even tolerate the incredible stench that resulted from Ulquiorra attempting to make Szayel breakfast in bed. But now things had moved to his throne room, his domain, and that was going a step too far.

After practicing his calming exercises (breathe in, breathe out, count backwards slowly from ten) and calling Gin to come fix the picture of Szayel and the terrifying love letter that Ulquiorra had seemingly carved into the floor with his zanpaktou, Aizen called the two love-struck Espadas to his spare throne room. (It was a good deal smaller than the normal one, and not nearly as white, but if Szayel noticed Ulquiorra's latest "valentine" to him, the pair were liable to start cooing at each other again and not listen to a word Aizen was saying.)

After the two had assembled in front of the smaller, dustier, much less impressive fold-out chair that served as his spare throne, Aizen calmly informed them that this excessive gift-giving must stop. Yes, presents were fine. No, he wasn't condemning their relationship. And yes, if they continued even after he had told them to stop, he would decapitate them both and use their skulls as decorative bird houses.

After that, Aizen enjoyed a peaceful few days that were refreshingly free of anything love-related.

And then Luppi gave Grimmjow a plush heart filled with catnip.

And Grimmjow responded by fashioning him a heart-shaped hair clip with their initials engraved in it.

Aizen expected it to die down after a few days, as almost no one took Luppi and Grimmjow seriously, but then Halibel gave Stark a lacy, heart-shaped pillow to rest his head on when he didn't feel like going all the way back to his room for a nap.

And Nnoitra strolled into a meeting proudly sporting a brand new heart-shaped eye patch that Tesla had given him.

The love bug was spreading over Las Noches like wildfire. Arrancars were exchanging gifts and notes and saliva left and right, and there was absolutely nothing Aizen could do about it.

As the days wore on though, Aizen noticed that there was much less conflict among the Arrancars. Grimmjow hadn't said one foul word to Ulquiorra since he and Szayel had double-dated with Grimmjow and Luppi. Nnoitra spent less time stirring up trouble with the other Espadas now that he was occupied with Tesla. Stark actually spent even more time sleeping than before (three guesses why), but more time sleeping was less time griping. Slowly but surely, Las Noches was becoming a smooth-running, well-managed place. (Or at least as smooth-running and well-managed as a place full of homicidal maniacs could be, anyway.)

And when Gin cheerfully presented him with a colorful box (heart-shaped, of course) of assorted chocolates and a bouquet of roses trimmed from Szayel's bush (who knew Gin was such an old-fashioned romantic?) Aizen decided that maybe romance wasn't such a bad thing after all.

Even if no one in Las Noches did know quite how it was supposed to work.