Orihime sighed as she turned her face up into the warm, light spray, allowing the water to wash her skin clean. Although she'd taken a shower last night, she'd ended up sleeping in until the afternoon, and she needed another one just to help her wake up. She felt incredibly groggy, and she couldn't resist yawning once more, swallowing some water in the process.

She found it unbelievable that Ulquiorra was still asleep, though. She didn't have the heart to wake him up either. He'd looked so peaceful an—



Her eyes widened, and she turned her gaze to the shut bathroom door. Apparently he'd woken up. "Y-yes, Ulquiorra?" And even though she knew he couldn't possibly see her, she still wrapped a self-conscious arm around herself.

"Come here."

She raised a damp eyebrow. Ulquiorra would never call her out of the shower unless the situation called for it, so it must be some sort of emergency. Turning off the water and grabbing a fluffy white towel, Orihime wrapped it around her body and rushed to the bathroom door, wasting no time, figuring it was urgent. Opening the door, she almost hit Ulquiorra in the face with it. "Sor…ry…" Her words came out slowly, her brain suddenly lethargic with confusion as to why Ulquiorra was so…wet.

His inky hair was matted, sleek, and smooth against his head, and his white nightshirt had become translucent, so that the outline of his chest and sculpted abdominals were wonderfully visible. But his expression ruined the alluring effect. He seemed…annoyed.

Forgetting that she was practically naked but for the very small towel she had wrapped around her body, Orihime stepped from the bathroom and looked up into his face. "Ulquiorra, why are you so we—"

"There is water coming from the ceiling," he interrupted, curtly. He wasn't blaming her, but he couldn't keep his frustration with the situation out of his tone. He'd been peacefully sleeping when he was roused for a moment by a loud bang, which he'd ignored. A couple of minutes later, he'd found the ceiling leaking freezing water from above their bed.

He stepped aside to allow her to see. What she saw made her gasp in shock.

He definitely wasn't kidding. Coming in torrents from the ceiling, water rained onto their bed and the carpeted floor, soaking the sheets and splattering droplets onto their suitcases. The first thought that came to mind was that the ship was sinking. This caused her to rush over to the one window in their room to peek outside, ignoring the freezing water splashing against her naked skin and soaking her towel.

"D-did we hit something?" Fear crept down her spine, constricting around her heart, and making her breathing short.

Even in such a dire situation, Ulquiorra still found himself briefly distracted by the way her towel rose on the backs of her thighs, exposing her almost inappropriately. "Think, onna. If we had, the water would not be coming from the ceiling."

"Right…" Nodding in agreement, Orihime stepped off of the bed, wringing the cold water from her long hair and going to their suitcases to pull them away from the bed to prevent them from getting any more wet. Ulquiorra diverted his eyes as she bent down, his cheeks tingling strangely. "I think we should call for help," she suggested, standing back up and dashing to the phone on the wall. Picking it up, she dialed the number printed on the card beside the phone, and waited. After a few short rings, it picked up.

"Front desk, how may I help you?" It was a woman's voice, and she sounded calm and patient, which soothed some of Orihime's anxiety.

"Um, hi. We're in room E508 and I think there's an emergency…" Orihime began, awkwardly. She felt as if she were confessing something she'd done wrong and was preparing to be punished.

Standing beside her, freezing cold in his soaked clothes, Ulquiorra casually peeled off his shirt, noticing Orihime's face flush a little and her eyes stare at the floor with a little too much concentration. As she continued speaking to the woman on the other end of the phone, explaining their situation and requesting immediate help, he went to his suitcase and opened it in search of some dry clothes. As he looked through his case, purposefully taking more time than needed to find some clothes, Ulquiorra's emerald eyes darkened in satisfaction. He could feel her eyes on his naked back. She was staring at him, and knowing this pleased him.

Taking his change of clothes from his case, he stood up and turned back to her, noticing her flustered face when he caught her watching him. She quickly averted her eyes back to the floor, her casual expression looking a bit too forced as she tried to pretend that she hadn't been doing anything.

Not yet putting on his shirt, Ulquiorra stepped up beside her, his eyes falling involuntarily to the red mark on her neck. As she spoke, he could still hear the rushing water falling behind him, and he knew that with every second that they remained in this room, that all of their belongings were just getting more wet. But for a reason that he could not comprehend entirely, it seemed that even in a situation like this, neither of them cared to notice anything but each other. And he was completely aware that such a fact was ridiculous, but knowing so didn't make it any less true. When he was with her, common sense and everything he had always considered normal were quickly set aside, because all his mind seemed to have space for was thoughts of her.

Orihime glanced up from the floor, embarrassed by Ulquiorra's nearness. Her eyes caught his. She didn't understand the comprehensive look in his emerald depths. What could he be thinking about so intensely right now?

"…we will send someone to your room immediately. We are sorry for the inconvenience."

The woman on the phone once again stole Orihime's attention. "O-okay! Thank you!" Sighing, she returned the phone to the receiver before turning to face Ulquiorra. "She said she was sending someone down to help us."

Ulquiorra could not fathom how this situation could be salvaged. It would take forever to dry the room. "I see no point in staying here."

Glancing around the room, Orihime nodded in agreement. "Well…maybe we'll have to stay somewhere else?"

Ulquiorra's ever-present frown turned stony with displeasure. If that meant that they would have to stay in another room with another couple, he'd rather just stay in the room they were in now, soaked or not. He was about to voice his annoyance when he noticed her take a quick, and very shy glance at him, that had him pausing with curious anticipation.

"B-but more importantly, I think we should put some clothes on before they get here…" Her damp fingers curled into her towel, holding it closer around her body. She suddenly felt incredibly self-conscious, and Ulquiorra was directly in her path to the bathroom where her change of dry clothes awaited her. All she had to do was squeeze past him, but just the idea of getting so near him right now seemed impossible. It was as if her embarrassment was stifling enough that it was melting her feet to the soaked floor, impairing any movement.

More importantly. Amusement was too simple a word to describe how he was feeling after hearing her accidentally honest slip of the tongue. As he'd surmised earlier, he wasn't the only one distracted from the current situation. "Onna…" Gently, he wrapped a slender hand around her wrist, pulling her towards him. Her wide eyes met his for a brief moment just before he placed his mouth beside her ear. "If you are in such a hurry, then perhaps you should spend less time staring."

Orihime flushed crimson, her expression making it very obvious that she'd been caught. "W-what—I, um…" She mumbled incoherently, twisting her wrist until he released his hold. Unable to meet his eyes, she looked away from him. When he stepped aside, she passed by him, whispering under her breath a hushed: "S-sorry."

Ulquiorra watched her go into the bathroom. When she shut the door with a hard slam, he pulled on his shirt, his lips twitching up into a near smirk.

When the help finally arrived, they were shocked to find the state the room was in. Ulquiorra couldn't help but to feel annoyed as he and Orihime were ushered out of their room to stand in the tight hallway with all of their things stacked beside them, while the cruise crew scrambled around inside the room to try and fix what was apparently a busted water pipe in the ceiling.

After many long minutes of being ignored, a woman who worked on the ship finally approached them with a very apologetic smile. "We are very sorry that this happened," she began, her voice calm as if she'd had to do this many times before, although Ulquiorra could clearly see the anxiety in her forced smile. Most likely when dealing with this situation before, she'd had to put up with some very unreasonable and demanding people. Luckily for her, as long as the situation was immediately remediated, she would not hear a word of complaint from him, and especially not Orihime. "Unfortunately, your room is no longer suitable for you to remain in, and so on behalf of Me Ke Aloha cruise lines, we'd like to offer you a new room, and free passes to tonight's show in the Sea Lounge, as well as refund the full price of your tickets." Without waiting for them to respond, knowing that they really had no choice but to accept her offer, she turned and began to walk down that hall. "If you'll please follow me."

It was when they were in the elevator together, their cases taking up so much room that they barely fit comfortably, that Orihime and Ulquiorra began to realize that their new room was no longer on E-Deck. Instead, the elevator stopped on A-Deck, to Orihime's absolute delight. The metallic doors opened slowly, revealing a long hall that was so much different from the one on E-Deck. The floor was a deep mahogany, and was polished so immaculately that the reflections of the small lamps lining the ceiling were nearly blinding. The walls were painted a deep, calming blue, and each of the doors to the separate cabins had on them shiny, golden numbers that gleamed welcomingly as they walked past. When they reached the door to their new room, the woman guiding them handed Orihime the key and a small envelope, and with a simple bow of her head and a cordial smile, she left them alone.

Sliding the key into the lock and twisting it, Orihime cautiously opened the door. What awaited them on the other side made her gasp in awe.

The floor inside the room was also a rich mahogany, as were the walls, making her feel as if she were inside a beach bungalow rather than a room on a cruise ship. Just glancing around she spotted a small closet, a flat-screen television on the wall before the bed, a small vanity, a perfectly sized hot tub in the corner, and a beautiful queen-sized bed with crisp white sheets. With a happy skip in her step, she dashed over to the windowed doors on the other side of the room, and opening them, she looked out onto their very own balcony overlooking the ocean. Sighing pleasantly, she turned to glance back at Ulquiorra who was placing their cases inside the room. The ocean breeze blew her hair up around her face and rustled the palm leaves of the palmetto plants placed randomly around the cabin. "Can you believe our luck?"

In truth, he couldn't. Ulquiorra had honestly expected the worst, and this was definitely better than his expectations. Glancing around the room himself, however, he couldn't help but to feel a little curious as to why the shower seemed to be located behind a wall of frosted glass. Going over to the closet, he opened the door, only to reveal that it wasn't a closet at all, but rather the bathroom. What struck him as strange, though, was that there was only a sink and toilet inside. Apparently, if he or Orihime wished to shower, privacy would be very minimal. As he directed his attention back to the woman now stretched out across the bed, testing the softness of the pillows, he couldn't decide if such lack of privacy was unfortunate or not.

Sitting up, Orihime gazed upwards at the ceiling, her brows piqued with curiosity. "Ulquiorra, why do you think that's there? It seems like a strange place for a mirror, doesn't it?"

Closing the door to the bathroom, Ulquiorra also looked up at the mirror. It didn't take long for him to realize why it was there. "I think it is better that you do not know, onna," he replied, honestly. Spotting a strange remote atop the bedside table, Ulquiorra went over and picked it up, noticing a long cord leading from the remote to the back of the bed.

"What is that?" Setting aside the pillow in her arms, Orihime watched him toy with the strange remote. "Is it for th—AH!" Her eyes widening in surprise and her hands burying themselves into the snow-white comforter for stability, Orihime gasped as the bed began to violently vibrate beneath her.

Unsure of which button he'd pressed, Ulquiorra began to blindly push each of the buttons, hoping that he'd find the one to turn it off. Unfortunately, he only seemed to be making the vibrating worse. He looked over at Orihime when he heard her laugh lightly, obviously having fun. His gut twisted when he noticed how the violent vibrations were causing a certain part of her anatomy to shake alluringly. Grinding his teeth in frustration, Ulquiorra dropped the remote onto the bed in defeat.

"U-Ulquiorra, w-w-what's w-w-wrong?" Orihime asked, her voice shaking, causing her to smile widely. "C-c-come and t-t-try i-it!"

Leering over her, his hands deep in his pockets, Ulquiorra watched her quietly as the bed continued to lightly bounce her in place, his cold gaze unamused by her antics. Finally, he believed he was beginning to fully understand just why this room was so peculiar. "Do you realize what this is?" He already knew her answer, however, before she even said it.

"W-what do you m-m-mean?" Realizing that Ulquiorra seemed really annoyed by something, Orihime grabbed the remote beside her and after many failed attempts, finally managed to stop the vibrations. Looking back up at him, clearly concerned, she asked him, "You don't like the room?"

He was wondering at this point if he should even bother pointing out the obvious to her. The room was clearly meant to be romantic, something that he was not experienced with in the least. Everything was slightly uncomfortable. The hot tub in the corner, the shower that offered barely any privacy, the mirror in the ceiling, the warm lighting, the giant window that had a perfect view of the ocean, the vibrating bed…

In an attempt to change the subject, something he found himself rarely needing to do, Ulquiorra's eyes fell to the forgotten envelope lying on the bed. "What did that woman give you?"

Following his line of sight, Orihime picked it up. "You mean this?" Opening it, she pulled out two tickets and read the small print aloud. "'An Evening at the Coral Paradise Show'. It says here that it's in the Sea Lounge…?" She remembered the woman from earlier mentioning it, although Orihime still wasn't quite sure where or what the Sea Lounge was, nor did she have any idea what kind of show this was. "It's tonight. Do you want to go?"

He could tell by looking at her that she wanted to attend, and although he had absolutely no interest in seeing a performance, he found himself still giving a slight nod. "Fine."

Climbing off the bed, Orihime went to her case and unzipped it. "I should check if I have anything dry to wear first…" To her utter dismay, however, she found that quite literally everything in her case was soaked, and what she was wearing now just would not be acceptable for tonight. "I think I should go to the laundry room today and dry all of our clothes..." She turned curious silver eyes to Ulquiorra, who was watching her quietly. "Will you come with me?"

His heartbeat fluttered for a moment. He'd been expecting her to ask if he wanted to come with her, but the way she said it this time made it sound like she wanted him to come. And although the idea of laundry wasn't necessarily exciting, because she wanted him there with her, it was. His eyes still on her, he gave a slight nod of agreement.

The laundry room was located at the very end of their hall, so it didn't take very long to carry their cases there. When they arrived, Orihime was pleased to find that no one else was there. Heaving her case onto the top of a nearby table, she opened it and began to pull out some of her wet clothes to throw into one of the many dryers lining the wall. As she shut the door and began to put change into the machine, she heard a metallic scrape that had her cringing. Looking over, she noticed Ulquiorra sitting in the only chair in the laundry room. "You're sitting down?"

"I was under the impression that we're to be waiting a while."

She nodded. "I suppose so…" For some unexplainable reason, she suddenly felt awkward. Looking down at her feet, she rolled a dropped pen beneath her shoe as she tried to think of something to say. Unconsciously, she touched the side of her neck, her fingers brushing over the red mark marring her skin.

Ulquiorra watched her, his eyes on her hand as she continued to touch the mark. He wondered if it bothered her more than she let on. "Onna…" His deep voice cutting through the silence instantly caught her attention, and Orihime found herself once again looking over at him. "Come here."

An involuntary shiver ran down her spine, and in the pit of her stomach was a feeling much like the feeling she'd had so many months ago when he'd first called her to him. Come with me, onna. Her steps were slow and her chest was heavy with unease, but at the same moment she was entirely captivated by the intensity of his eyes, and the subtle seduction of his demanding tone. When she neared him, his fingers were quick to wrap around her wrist. As he stood from the chair, he pulled her forward until she found herself falling onto it. She gasped, her eyes wide with surprise. "U-Ulquiorra, what are you doing?"

Languidly, Ulquiorra released her wrist before burying his hands inside of his pockets. Leaning back against the wall next to her chair, he looked down into her upturned face. "That should be obvious."

She smiled a little, trying to hide her delight. Ulquiorra was such a gentleman, and it took her by surprise every time he showed that side of himself, because she never expected it. Knowing that he probably felt a little awkward, however, she chose to talk about something else rather than thank him. "We really did get lucky though, don't you think? I can't believe we got such a nice room! I mean, with the way things have been going, I'd expected the worst, but turns out I was wrong."

With the way things have been going. Ulquiorra couldn't help but to wonder what exactly she meant by that. It didn't sit well with him, and the subtle melancholy in her voice made his chest feel heavy. "Pessimism does not suit you," he responded, detachedly.

Her smile turned into a slight grimace. She'd been too honest. Scratching the back of her head, she smiled again, trying her best to seem casual. "S-sorry, I've just been feeling a little stressed."

"Do not think you can say that and not explain, onna."

"Uh, it's n-nothing, really…" She was vastly exaggerating, however, because what was bothering her was definitely something. She felt as if every day since she'd realized her feelings for him, torturous anxiety was constantly eating away at her. The cruise was nearing its end, and she couldn't make up her mind whether to just tell him how she felt or not. Before, she'd decided that she definitely wasn't going to tell him, in fear that she would ruin their relationship, but…even if he denied her feelings, would Ulquiorra really leave her forever? If she could just figure that out, then maybe, just maybe, she'd be able to find the confidence to tell him her feelings.

Ulquiorra knew she was lying to him, and it only added on to his amounting frustrations. This time, he knew for certain that he did nothing wrong, and so if she was feeling upset, it was only because she was making herself feel that way. What was infuriating him was that he could say nothing to alleviate her worry, because obviously she did not trust him enough to confide in him. "I see."

As they waited together, neither of them spoke, both too busy with thoughts of each other. Ulquiorra noticed, however, that whenever a door opened or closed in the hallway, or if voices could be heard, Orihime would tense up and check her watch. It didn't take him long to know what was bothering her.

"If you are trying to hide, then perhaps we should return to the room."

Her eyebrows disappeared beneath her ginger bangs in a false show of mystified surprise. "Hide? I-I'm not hid—" Her words were cut off by a sharp intake of breath when she found forceful, but gentle fingers beneath her chin, making her turn her head in his direction to meet his lowered gaze.

"Do not think that you can continue to lie to me, Orihime." He could feel her warm breath against his thumb, and the sensation had him feeling so strange that he was compelled to release hold of her chin.

Orihime frowned in reluctant consent. "After we ran off last night, I just feel it would be a little awkward to see Ami or Shuichi right now. I'm not sure what to say yet…" There was definitely something wrong. She could feel it. It was almost like an involuntary sense she'd somehow developed over the time she'd spent with him. She just knew something was bothering him. Looking down at her knees, she asked the question she hoped to get an answer to. "Ulquiorra…why are you so angry?"

Her sudden question caught him off guard, and he found himself unable to look at her as he contemplated how to answer. His eyes sliding closed to feign relaxed composure and indifference, he answered her. "I am not angry."

"I-it's not fair that you can lie and I can't, Ulquiorra." She knew her accusatory words were confrontational, but they needed to be said, because he was lying to her, and she wanted to know why.

Her words had him opening his eyes to study her profile. The only other person he'd ever known that could so easily read him had been Lord Aizen. And now Orihime could see through his words just as easily. He just hoped that she couldn't decipher their meaning. Not just yet. Because the true reason he was angry was simply because he was frustrated. Apparently her words from last night had affected him more than he'd realized. He wanted to tell her that she was wrong, that his actions towards her were not made out of curiosity, but because of something else. Something he wasn't even sure how to define yet. But his pride and cowardice was holding him back. He felt insecure, confused, and afraid, and he hated feeling like this, because he'd never known these strange feelings before. "It appears that my aptitude for patience is not what it used to be."

Orihime sighed. Pulling her hair around to one side of her neck and tying it in a ponytail, she glanced up at him. He was being cryptic again, avoiding the question. She'd just have to try harder. "Do you want to talk about it?"

His green eyes met hers. Emerald pools shimmering with deadpan finality, he responded with a definitive, "No."

Orihime wouldn't allow herself to be discouraged, however. "Well, s-sometimes when you talk about what's bothering you, you feel better. And you know I won't tell anyone. You can trust me, Ulquiorra."

This had nothing to do with trust. He trusted her. He knew that she would never do anything to purposefully upset him. What he wanted from her, he could not just simply ask for. And what he wanted her to know, he could not tell her. He needed her to realize herself that he wanted her. But she was just so…infuriatingly slow on the uptake. He didn't know what else he could possibly do to make her understand. "I know."

And that was that. He didn't say anything else, and after a few long minutes of silence, Orihime was practically dying with unquenched curiosity. "So are you going to tell me?"


This time, her sigh was forcibly loud and aggravated. "Ulquiorra, I promise I will never lie to you again if you promise not to lie to me. So, please just tell me what's wrong…" Her silver eyes glimmered imploringly.

"I am not lying, onna. I am simply refusing to answer," he explained, coolly.

She slouched, defeated, into the chair. "You're never going to tell me, are you?"

He looked at her as she played dejectedly with the ends of her hair. Would he ever tell her how he felt? Somehow, he knew that it was only a short matter of time before he could no longer handle her confused tears, and painfully misguided words. He knew that all it would take was for her to say one more thing to him, demeaning his feelings and actions towards her, and he would no longer be able to hold himself back.

And when that happened, he would tell her. He was tired of being misunderstood.


As he'd thought before, showering was indeed, incredibly awkward. "Onna."

"I-I swear I'm not looking!" She squeaked loudly, her face flushing crimson. She was sitting on the floor beside their bed, refolding their freshly dried clothes and putting them back in the cases; simply busying herself to prevent her eyes from straying to the very naked Ulquiorra behind her. She knew that if she turned around, she'd easily be able to make out his blurry, naked form through the frosted glass of the shower, although she'd never seen a shower like that before in her entire life and she was beginning to think tha—


She jumped a little, her flustered thoughts coming to a very abrupt halt. She knew he was still in the shower because the water was still running, so she knew it still wasn't safe to turn around yet. "Y-yes?"

Pushing his soaked hair out of his face, Ulquiorra placed a pallid hand on the shower knob, his eyes falling to the drain in the tiled floor. "There are no towels." Whoever it was that had designed this shower obviously was not aiming for convenience. There was no place to hang anything that wouldn't get wet.

"Do you need one?" Her brow creased with anxiety as she silently dreaded his answer. When she heard the water stop, she sighed exasperatedly under her breath before picking up one of the fluffy white towels sitting atop a chair. "Okay, o-one second…" Taking a moment to inhale deeply, Orihime closed her eyes tightly before turning around. Clutching the folded towel to her chest, she held out a free hand to help guide her around furniture as she very slowly made her way towards the shower. "Ulquio—ow!" She gritted her teeth in discomfort as she banged her shin against…something. It was hard to tell with her eyes closed.

"Do not open your eyes." Ulquiorra took the towel from her hands, his eyes watching her face to make sure she wasn't peeking, although he highly doubted she would be. Orihime was much too shy and easily embarrassed to ever directly look at him naked on purpose. Not that he would mind her staring. He was confident that the sight of him would not displease her. He was just not in the mood to deal with the tense conversations and awkward glances that would definitely come if she did so happen to see him.

Wrapping the towel around his waist, he brushed past her. "You're safe now."

"Safe?" She laughed a little at the strange word. Turning around, she found him bending down to look through his suitcase. "Was I in danger?"

Picking out one of his long-sleeved white shirts that he planned on wearing to tonight's event, he leveled her with a loaded stare, but decided not to answer her.

Shrugging off his silence, Orihime plopped down onto the bed, folding her legs beneath her. She glanced at the alarm clock sitting on the bedside table, not really too surprised that it was almost six o'clock already considering they both woke up so late. She was just a little sad that most of their day seemed…wasted. Chewing on her lower lip, her eyes wandered over to Ulquiorra as he buttoned up his shirt. Lost in her thoughts, it took her a moment before she reacted. "W-wait! Ulquiorra, don't put your shirt on!"

His eyes widened ever so slightly at her abrupt plea, and his fingers paused. Before he could even ask where this sudden need for him to remove his shirt came from, she was again speaking.

"You're going to get it wet," she explained. Her cheeks were a little flushed, having realized the way her demand had sounded. "We have to leave soon, so there won't be time to dry it i-if it gets wet…"

"Is that so?" He murmured quietly to himself. Removing his shirt, he dropped it beside her on the bed, and bending lower, he looked into her face. "Tell me, onna. Am I to go as I am now?"

Orihime blanched at the thought as she gazed upon his creamy white skin, hardened muscle, and soaked raven locks. Holding up a cautionary hand and shaking her head, she replied, her voice dead serious. "Ul-Ulquiorra, I don't think that's a good idea."

Straightening up, Ulquiorra went to retrieve a pair of black pants from his case. "I was not being serious." Going to the restroom, he went inside to change. When he emerged, he dropped his damp towel on the floor. His hair was still soaked, and if they were to leave soon, then he'd need to find a solution fast.

"Ulquiorra…" Climbing off of the bed, Orihime shuffled shyly towards him. "Um..can I blow-dry your hair?"

It was only upon his arrival to her world and while he was a guest in her home that he discovered what the headache-inducing device called the blow dryer was. He found many of his peaceful mornings disrupted by the ear-splitting racquet of Orihime drying her hair. It was horrible. "No."

Her face fell in disappointment, which told Ulquiorra that she had obviously been looking forward to this. "You can't go with wet hair, though…"

"I'm sure I will survive." Just as he was about to reach for his shirt still lying on the bed, Orihime snatched it up and hid it behind her back, her cheeks puffing indignantly. Was she playing some sort of game with him? He couldn't figure her out. "I am beginning to think that you are merely making up excuses to keep me from wearing a shirt, onna." Stepping closer to her, his darkened eyes pinning her to the spot, he smoothly snaked a pale arm behind her back, his fingers grabbing hold of his shirt still in her grasp. But she wouldn't let go, and so there they stood in the middle of their room in a strange half-hug that had their faces nearing a dangerous proximity.

Her cheeks turned a beautiful crimson. Were they…flirting? She couldn't believe it. "I-I um—that's uh…Ulquiorra—I—nevermind!" Tearing her gaze away from his, she shoved his white shirt into his arms, a little forcefully, before grabbing her own change of clothes and scurrying into the bathroom. When she was finished changing, she reentered their room wearing a deep blue dress with a hem that fell just above her knees, and a neckline that was tasteful and not exposing too much of her skin.

Pushing the last of the buttons through its buttonhole, Ulquiorra watched her as she went to the small vanity to brush out her long hair. She caught him looking at her in the mirror, and she turned around on the small cushioned stool to gaze up at him pleadingly. "Please?"

And as he knew would happen, because he could rarely deny her what would make her happy, Ulquiorra all too soon found himself sitting on the edge of their bed, eyelevel with her cleavage, her gentle hands combing through his damp hair as she brushed it out, the abominable hair dryer lying in wait beside him.

"Tell me why this is of such dire importance," he demanded softly.

Orihime smiled a little to herself. "I just think it's fun. Sometimes Tatsuki will let me do her hair, but hers is so short that I can't really make it look any different…"

Ulquiorra's mouth hardened into a solid line. "Do not attempt to make me look like a fool, onna."

Grabbing the hair dryer, Orihime held it up. Before switching it on, she gave him a wide, honest smile. "That would be impossible, Ulquiorra."

There was a small click, and then the next thing he knew, his ears were filled with the mind-numbing noise of rushing air. His hair flew into his face one moment, and then the next moment he felt it sweeping off of his forehead. The heat warmed his face, but stung his eyes, and he was forced to close them. But it was nice, feeling her fingers brushing through his hair, tickling the nape of his neck, and accidentally caressing the sides of his face. She was so gentle, and despite all the noise, he thought he could doze off right there. He'd just had the thought, however, right before the blow dryer cut off, and the room was bathed in silence. He opened his eyes to find Orihime examining her work, and Ulquiorra couldn't help but to feel slightly self-conscious. He wanted to stand up, to maybe glance in the mirror to see what she'd done to him, but he was currently too caught up in her glassy-eyed stare, and bubble-gum pink blush to be bothered. His discomfort finally getting to him, he broke the silence. "You're staring."

Catching herself, her heart jumping into her throat, Orihime turned away from him to put away the hair dryer. "S-sorry…it's just…you look nice."

He understood completely that in this situation, it was normal for him to thank her for the compliment, but he felt his words always sounded inadequate. Which was why he wished he could just touch her. His eyes followed her around the room as she put on a golden bracelet, and fixed the hairpins in her hair. She was so close to him, but…

"Are you ready?" She turned to him, and held out an expectant hand, which he took. Her fingers were quick to wind through his, and he could not help himself.

Meeting her excited gaze, he held their linked hands up to his mouth, and placed a gentle kiss to the back of her hand. He saw her smile falter, but the flame in her eyes sparked.

Tonight, he hoped on making that flame roar.


"They are not here." Ulquiorra looked down at the woman beside him, who was currently slouched as far down into the chair they were sharing as she could be. He felt her tug on his shirtsleeve as she pulled herself up.

Taking a peek around, and not spotting Shuichi or Ami, Orihime released a relieved sigh. "I thought they'd definitely be here…"

They were sitting together in a black, crescent shaped loveseat facing a well-lit stage, currently hidden by a heavy red curtain. The Seashell Lounge was in every way luxurious with polished mahogany tables, crew members in suits walking from booth to booth serving drinks in fine crystal glasses, a glass chandelier in the domed ceiling glowing a warm yellow, and plush carpeting. Orihime was in awe, and couldn't help but admit that she felt slightly spoiled and underdressed.

But above all, she felt incredibly cozy sitting so close to Ulquiorra. Their linked hands were settled comfortably on her lap, and she had no intention of moving them until she absolutely had to.

"We have such a good view. We really lucked out today, didn't we?" Their table was in the first row, and neither of them had any problem seeing the stage. Orihime was thrilled by this fact, while Ulquiorra felt it would've been better if they'd had a horrible view so that Orihime would become restless and suggest leaving. "I wonder what…" But her words died as a female waitress approached their table with a tray of bubbling drinks.

She was beautiful, with long dark hair, sultry chocolate eyes, and a feminine figure that rivaled Orihime's. She smiled as she came upon their table, her gaze lingering on Ulquiorra. "Good evening." Her voice was as seductive as her appearance, and Orihime felt a sudden twinge of inferiority, causing her to glance at Ulquiorra to see his reaction.

Ulquiorra watched the woman place the glasses on the table before them. She was openly staring at him with a subtly demure smile upon her red-painted mouth. His eyes met hers for only a second before he looked away in disinterest.

"Can I get anything for you?" The waitress stepped into his line of sight, capturing his attention once more. The empty tray was held against her legs as she bent a little to look into his face, giving Ulquiorra and Orihime a good eyeful of her cleavage.

"No," Ulquiorra responded briefly, and with distinguishing indifference.

"Are you positive?" The waitress asked. However, upon seeing Ulquiorra's impatient and cold gaze, her smile turned taut and she straightened up. "If you change your mind, I will be happy to help. Enjoy the show."

As the waitress walked away, her hips swayed alluringly, capturing the attention of the men she walked past, with the exception of Ulquiorra who was watching the stage seemingly bored.

Orihime, who had been watching the brief exchange between the stunning waitress and Ulquiorra, sat silent, her lips slightly pouty. It didn't take very long for Ulquiorra to notice her sudden decrease in enthusiasm.

Before he could inquire as to what was wrong, however, he was interrupted by her delicately resentful comment.

"She was pretty, wasn't she?"

The question was strange coming from her, and Ulquiorra felt as if he were taking some sort of test. "I did not notice." And even if the waitress was attractive, he would not care. Especially when beside him sat the most appealing woman on board.

"You really didn't notice?" Orihime asked, her voice saturated with doubt. She was eyeing him with frustrated skepticism.

Meeting her mistrusting gaze, he repeated himself. "I did not notice." Pausing for a moment to make sure she wasn't about to interrupt him again, he asked, "Why do you care?"

Orihime's brows furrowed in embarrassed indignation. "I-I don't care. It's just that you were staring." She knew she was exaggerating, but her sudden jealousy was making her act irrationally.

Orihime was looking away, so she did not see the look of incredulous confusion darken Ulquiorra's eyes. He had not been staring. He'd barely looked at the woman. Where this ridiculous accusation was coming from, he had no idea. But before he could refute her statement, the lights dimmed, cloaking the audience in shadows. Music blared from large speakers set around the stage as the red curtains opened to reveal a black-suited man holding a microphone.

The audience clapped as he flashed them a white, toothy smile. "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Coral Paradise Show!"

Ulquiorra's hand was released from Orihime's grasp so she could join in with the clapping audience. Feeling awkward about just leaving his hand on her lap, Ulquiorra returned it to his pocket. When the applause died down, he was unaware of the hurt gracing Orihime's face when she noticed his hand in his pocket.

Feeling down, she crossed her arms across her stomach, feeling suddenly distant from Ulquiorra. And the feeling only became worse as the show started and a line of gorgeous, smiling women emerged onto the stage wearing rhinestone-encrusted bras and tiny bottoms that showed off their long legs, flat stomachs, and full chests.

As the chorus-line of women danced around the stage, pulling off moves that even the most flexible of gymnasts would cringe at, Orihime found herself too often glancing over at Ulquiorra. His green eyes were glued to the stage, but she couldn't tell if he was actually paying attention or not. Was he admiring the girls? After all, they were attractive. And he was a man. It'd be only normal for him to stare, wouldn't it?

But that didn't mean she liked it. A new wave of jealousy washed over her, and her frown deepened.

And while the show continued on until the dancers left the stage and were replaced by a woman in a teal evening dress singing some sort of ballad, Ulquiorra continued to notice Orihime's deteriorating temperament.

Exhaustion with the situation had him closing his eyes to gather his thoughts. He knew she kept glancing at him every time a half-dressed woman came onto the stage, and he knew why she was doing it. To see if he was looking. She was jealous.

Normally this would please him, knowing that she yearned so much for all of his attention, but at the moment it was just aggravating. All of these days in which he thought that perhaps he was progressing with her, only to come across one setback after the other. She should know by now that he thought her to be beautiful, making her current jealousy unnecessary. She should understand that he wanted her.

But she didn't. And she was making it harder for him to show her how he felt because she couldn't get past her own insecurities. She doubted herself too much, and he was tired of it. His patience was very nearly depleted.

After a few more dance numbers, the lights brightened, signaling the short intermission. Some members of the audience stood to mingle with others, while a few chose to remain seated. Amongst those seated was a couple now sitting in a very tense silence.

Orihime, awkwardly fiddling with her dress, stole a quick glance at Ulquiorra who was watching the carpeted floor with despondent eyes. "Ulquiorra?" He looked over at her and she continued. "I think I want to go back to the room."

Somehow he'd expected this. Standing up in answer, he held out a pale hand for her to take. She seemed surprised by the offer, but took it with a small smile as she stood up.

When they left the lounge, hand-in-hand, Orihime came to an abrupt halt behind Ulquiorra, causing him to pause.

"I forgot my purse," she explained, sounding a little anxious. "Wait here for me, I'll just be a second." She released his hand and darted through the doors they'd just exited.

Pocketing his hand, Ulquiorra leaned back casually against the wall so as not to stand in the way of people walking through the hall. He glanced around without paying any real attention to what he was looking at until his eyes caught those of a woman leaving the women's restroom. An itching irritation assaulted him as Miwako began to approach him. He noticed with a dull curiosity that her eyes were bloodshot and her makeup had been nearly wiped off.

As she came to stand before him he noticed she was lacking her usual coy smile as she looked up into his face. "Where is she?" She suddenly asked. Her voice was slightly raspy, as if she'd been speaking for too long and her vocal chords had severed.

His annoyance worsened. "Orihime," he emphasized, "is with me."

A wounded expression flitted across her face, and she dropped her gaze to the floor. Brushing a slightly shaking hand through her dark red hair, she spoke softly. "The cruise is almost over. Only a few more days left, and then we'll all be going home…"

Ulquiorra was under the impression that she was trying her best to be conversational for once, which made him slightly wary.

"I suppose…" She paused to draw in a trembling breath. "I suppose I owe you an apology."

Ulquiorra had not been expecting this. He stared at her with dull, apathetic eyes as she continued.

"I know my behavior towards you and Orihime," she sent him an ensuring glance, "has been…rude, and I hope I didn't cause any trouble between you two—"

"Your efforts were pointless from the start," Ulquiorra coldly interrupted. He could not figure out what had caused this sudden change in character, or what was motivating her to apologize. It was grating, albeit preferred over her usual antics.

She nodded, smiling sadly. "I know. Getting between you two is difficult, to say the least. Impossible, even…"

For once, he found himself agreeing with her. "Then why waste your time?"

Her penciled brows knitted in upset. "You know my boyfriend, Jun?"

This was the first time he'd heard the man's name. Even now Ulquiorra was having difficulty procuring an image of his face. He realized that whenever Miwako had annoyed him and Orihime in the past, her boyfriend was either nowhere to be seen or distantly in the background. He was more like a shadow than anything else.

"That day when we were playing chicken in the pool—when we first met," she offered him a kind smile he did not appreciate. "I'd told Orihime that I was in an open relationship. That was a lie."

Ulquiorra knew from overhearing what it meant to be in an open relationship. Just the concept alone was repulsive to him. But a relationship solely based on sex was beyond his understanding to begin with. It was something he knew would be impossible for him, although when it came to Miwako, it had made complete sense. She'd put herself out there so much that imagining her being loyal to just one man seemed implausible.

Miwako continued, this time with unshed tears in her eyes. "I only hit on you because I was trying to make him jealous," she suddenly confessed. "I saw what you and Orihime shared, and I wanted that so badly for myself. I wanted Jun to love me as much as you love her."

Love. The word threw him through a loop, making him feel incredibly lightheaded. But before he could even begin to comprehend what she was saying, she was speaking again, with tears in her voice.

"I th-thought that if I made it seem like I wanted you, Jun would notice me more, a-and would stop looking at other girls." She wiped at her face and shook her head dejectedly. "But it didn't work. He doesn't care."

Standing before him now was a lonely, fragile woman who resembled nothing of the self-confident, overtly sexual woman he'd known over the past week. She was pitiful, and Ulquiorra's previous annoyance with her waned marginally.

Humans were staggeringly complex. They were never how they appeared. They all seemed to have ulterior motives, dark hidden secrets, or sides to their personalities that rarely saw the light of day. Such dishonesty and inherent deception made Ulquiorra feel mindful of people.

But looking upon this woman now as she tried to control her tears, Ulquiorra came to understand something. She was lying to herself this entire time in an attempt to make herself believe that her boyfriend could love her, and she had been lying to everyone else around her. But rather than lying, she should've just confronted him. Rather than waiting for something to happen, she should've made it happen herself. But she was weak, just like he was.

How much longer would he wait until something would happen between himself and Orihime? What was the point in just standing idly beside her without voicing his true thoughts? He'd never been a coward before, but she made him feel exceedingly vulnerable. All he had to do was to tell her that the reason he touched her and wanted her was not because he was curious. And then she would understand.

He would not allow himself to be as weak as the woman crying pathetically for herself in front of him now.

"Do not expect me to pity you," was his cold reply.

She laughed, although it wasn't particularly happy. "Of course not. I don't actually expect that you'll forgive me." She looked at him once more, taking a moment to study his face. "I said I wanted to apologize, but I also want to thank you."

His eyes narrowed slightly. "For what?"

"For showing me that there really are good guys out there." She smiled, and this time it reached her eyes. "I think I would've been upset if you had actually given into me."

"Such an impossibility should not have crossed your mind." While he found her to still be annoying, she was somehow much more agreeable. He didn't loathe her like this.

Miwako rolled her eyes, and waved a dismissive hand. "Yeah, yeah. I know. She is the only one for you. True love, and whatever." Her tone was teasing, but when she spoke again she sounded melancholic. "Orihime really is lucky to have you." She touched his arm gently, and his fingers twitched in his pockets. "Tell her I said sorry."

"You should speak to her your—" But his words halted when she leaned up to give his cheek a chaste kiss. Disgust rolled his stomach, but the feeling was overpowered by the jolt of unease in his gut. His green eyes met shocked silver as he looked over Miwako's tanned shoulder.

Miwako, glancing behind herself and noticing Orihime, gave her a small smile before whispering in Ulquiorra's ear a cheerless, "Goodbye."

She released him, and he felt her fingers brush down his arm as she walked away for what would most likely be the last time. He didn't watch her leave.

Orhime took Miwako's place before him, avoiding his eyes. There was a displeased pout on her lips, and her tiny shoulders were slumped. "Was that Miwako?"

"It was."

"Oh." She nodded a little, still refusing to look at him. "Well, um, I'm tired so I'm just gonna go back to the room." In the brief moment that she glanced at him before turning around to leave, he caught in her eyes an astonishing gloom that made his skin cold.

He silently followed behind her down many halls, into the elevator that took them down one floor, and through the hall of A Deck until they were at the door to their room. She hadn't said a word to him the entire time. He was under the impression that he was being ignored, and he knew why.

She was treating him like this because she was imagining things that hadn't happened. He hadn't been staring at their waitress, or at any of the showgirls, and he definitely hadn't welcomed Miwako's unexpected kiss. And yet Orihime was wallowing in misery as if he had done all of those things.

He'd finally had enough.

When the door closed behind them and before she had the chance to turn on the lights, Ulquiorra wrapped a white hand around her wrist, pulling her back towards him. Her back came crashing against his chest, but his body caught her fall, and she leaned against him with surprised eyes.

His mouth found her ear and he lowered his eyes to her face as he spoke. "Tell me now why you refuse to look at me," he gently demanded.

A flurry of nerves exploded in Orihime's lower stomach. Her tongue tied in a silencing knot. She just barely shook her head in weak refusal. Ulquiorra's long fingers tightened around her wrist, and her breathing hitched excitedly.

Hot anger simmered dangerously in his deep voice, and his warm breath blew into her ear, sending shivers racing down her spine. "Is it because you believe I was looking at women other than you?"

Orihime's heart lurched when she felt a slender hand smooth over her hip. Confusion and excitement were preventing her from thinking clearly. She didn't know how to answer. All she could think about was how wonderful it felt to be so close to him behind closed doors, away from where others could see and interrupt them.

His mouth brushed her cheek. "Why would I do such a thing?"

She swallowed the lump in her throat. "B-because they're pretty," Orihime answered shakily.

Releasing her wrist, Ulquiorra gently turned her around to face him. Her small hand settled against his chest as she looked up into his face with wide, cloudy eyes. In the dark of the room he could just barely make out the dark blush on her cheeks. "When did I say that, Orihime?"

"You didn't. I-I just—"

"Assumed," he finished for her. His green eyes met hers as he bent closer until their noses were touching. The hand he'd placed on her hip moved to her lower back and gently he began to move her back until she was pressed against the wall. Her chest brushed his with each of her deep breaths. "And you assume too much."

Curling her fingers into his shirt, she whispered against his mouth as the distance between them lessened even more. "W-what do you mean?"

Unwilling to wait any longer, Ulquiorra kissed her softly. His lips pressed against hers in the briefest of kisses, but it was enough to make the blood of both of them boil. It was a soft release that severed some of the tension between them, while simultaneously managing to create many unanswered questions. "Tell me why I came on this voyage with you," he ordered quietly as his mouth moved to the side of her neck so she could speak.

"Because I asked you to?"

His mouth moistened her neck as he kissed a wet trail on her warm skin. He could feel her pulse beneath his tongue. Tenderly, he sucked on the spot he'd left on her skin yesterday, making the mark redder and all the more visible. The hand that wasn't on her back slid over her hip to her thigh where his fingers began to tease the skin beneath her dress. Her back arched forward, silently telling him that she was enjoying it. "Would it be impossible to believe that I wanted to come?" His velveteen voice ghosted across her throat as his mouth moved across her collarbone.

And he spoke words that she'd thought were too good to be true. And he was touching her in a way that she'd only dreamed he would. And all of it was causing her body to tremble with anticipation, and her heart to flutter with passion, and her legs to weaken at the knees. His tongue was like silk across her skin, and she found herself tangling her fingers in his soft raven hair. "Y-you did?" Her own voice was now a mere whisper.

Bringing the hand he had on her back forward, his fingers played with the chiffon tie at her waist. With a slight pull it came undone, and the top of her dress slackened, slipping from her shoulders and opening wide so that the tops of her breasts were revealed. But instead of looking at her exposed flesh, Ulquiorra lifted his gaze back up to meet hers.

She looked breathtaking even in the dark. Her hair was full and cascading in silken waves over her bare shoulders. Her rose-petal mouth was pursed soft and inviting. But it were her eyes that had his fingers curling into her dress, and his hips pressing forwards into hers until movement from either of them caused wonderful friction.

Cloudy with desire and glimmering with secret affection, Orihime's gaze drew him in. He wanted to touch her; to run his hands over her warm skin, to feel her in places no one had ever been allowed before. But tonight he couldn't. Tonight it wasn't about her skin, or her warm and inviting body. It was about showing her how he felt about her.

And what that feeling was, he had no idea what to call it. Which was why he found himself once more capturing her lower lip between his teeth, and sliding his tongue inside her mouth to taste her. And why his hands bunched up her dress so that more of her luscious skin was revealed to his wandering fingers. Words were impossible for him. He only knew how to show her. And he hoped that when she looked into his eyes she would see what he didn't know how to say.

Reluctant to close her eyes, Orihime watched Ulquiorra's darkly beautiful face as he kissed her. His expression was soft, but deeply concentrated, as if being so near to her was causing him pain. But pain was the last thing she felt. Passion fogged her senses as his soft lips caressed her own, and his warm breath mingled with hers. Her body was reacting and despite her embarrassment, she pressed her hips forward against his only to hear him sigh against her mouth.

Her dress parted on her thigh and she raised her leg to brush it against his. She'd never before felt so daring, but there was no denying that the way it felt to have him touching her like this was addicting. Her thirst was insatiable.

And although she enjoyed the way his hips began to slowly press harder against her, and how his open-mouthed kisses deepened until she could barely breathe, her budding confusion prevented her from truly giving into him. And so when he finally broke away for air, she didn't hesitate to ask what had been on her mind the moment he'd grabbed hold of her wrist. "What are you doing, Ulquiorra?"

"You ask 'what'…" His voice was deeper than usual—huskier. It melted Orihime's bones. His mouth was once more on her neck, this time leaving a path of feather-light kisses down to her collarbone where his lips paused to hover above her hammering heart. "But is that really what you want to know, Orihime?"

He was right. It wasn't the question she wanted to ask. But the real question scared her, or more importantly his answer. Curling her fingers into his shirt, she met his waiting gaze. "Why?" Why was he touching her like this? Why were his touches so gentle and his kiss so lingering? Why was he doing this when he didn't have to? Why?

And like a lit match held to a wick, his emerald eyes caught fire. His gaze was scorching as he raised his face back to hers. "You already know, onna. Last night you were so sure this was nothing but curiosity."

Her breath caught in her throat, and confusion creased her brow as he used her own words against her. She drew her head back as she tried to clear her thoughts, but already the instinctive words were leaving her mouth before she could stop herself. "I don't understand…"

Frustration hardened his voice, but he pressed on. "How long do you plan to play naïve with me?" Gone was the heated passion and teasing caresses. Standing before her now was an indomitable man demanding answers that she wasn't ready to give.

Unreserved embarrassment flitted across her face, the emotion leaving red-hot traces across her cheeks and in the set of her tense lips. He knew. Ulquiorra knew. Her feelings for him had been too obvious. He was angry.

Despair began to flood her chest and constrict her heart. Unable to answer him in fear of his scorn, she dropped her gaze in shame.

Impatience like he'd never known before assaulted him. Once again, she was refusing to answer him, and once again she was misreading his words. It was blatantly obvious by the pain on her face.

After everything he'd shown her and done for her. These emotions, these feelings that he'd somehow developed were only there because she made them so. And yet, she still couldn't see it. How could she not sense that he'd changed? How could she not see it, when to him it was so glaringly obvious?

He knew his next words would anger her, perhaps even hurt her. But he needed to bait her. Tonight was it for him. This waiting game he was playing with her was over.

"Perhaps I am wasting my time. It seems that you can only think of Kurosaki Ichigo." As if to add emphasis to his words, he began to draw away from her, but was stopped when her small hand fisted into the bottom of his shirt to hold him still.

Not that he was going anywhere. He was rooted to the spot by her suddenly changed expression.

The silence between them was so dense, Orihime felt deafened. She was scared to breathe, to move. She wanted to freeze time in place so that she could have forever to think about what was happening, and what he'd just said. But she didn't have that sort of power, and it was apparent he'd grown impatient with her unresponsiveness.

Complete shock washed through her, sweeping away all of the sadness she'd been feeling a moment ago. She clenched her teeth in a pointless effort to assuage the shaking in her hands and shoulders. Her head was throbbing in the aftermath of his words, and what they revealed.

Her silver eyes were wide with hope and tremendous disbelief as they met his once more. She was searching for any sign in that sea of emerald that his words were a lie, and insincere. That he didn't mean it, and that he was just taunting her. But she saw no such thing.

What she saw were beautiful green eyes wearing the same expression they had been since the day on the dome when he'd reached out to her with new understanding. They were warm and gentle and so marvelously human. And he was looking at her with those eyes. And even though she couldn't entirely wrap her mind around what was happening between them, that didn't change the fact that something was happening, and that he'd just admitted he wanted her.

Ulquiorra wanted her.

Right now it didn't matter why, and it didn't matter for how long or to what extent. All that she cared about was that somehow, miraculously, he coveted her feelings. He wanted her to look at him, and only him. To forget about Ichigo.

This revelation had her trembling before him, and she didn't care if he could see. Because she was happy. This was the moment where she would do what she wanted to, because it was okay, and he would allow it. If he wanted her like he said he did, then he would not object. Her confidence was colossal.

Wordlessly, she leaned forward and brushed her lips against his. And although her heart was hammering wildly and she still felt unsure of how he'd respond, she continued. Her feelings for him would finally be exposed, and the joy and relief it brought her had her smiling against his mouth as she kissed him softly.

The hand she had twisted in his shirt pulled him closer so that she could feel him pressed against her once again. And when his hand returned to her hip, she opened her eyes to look into his.

His expression made her pause, and she reluctantly pulled her face away from his. His emerald eyes seemed…surprised.

And she was almost right, but not exactly. What Ulquiorra was feeling was extremely overwhelmed. More than he'd anticipated being.

She understood him.

Ulquiorra could see it in her gaze as it glimmered with incredulous understanding. Relief as he'd never known before overcame him. Relief that she finally knew. Relief that he no longer had to hold himself back from her.

But it was more than just that simple. His chest felt light, and his mind blank. Because when she kissed him, he could finally experience her openly returning his feelings. And a connection as he'd never felt with her before had formed. He could feel her happiness and her relief as if it were his own.

And he wanted more. He wanted to feel it once again.

He pressed forward and lowered his face to hers once more in a silent invitation. His mouth hovered dangerously close to hers, but he made no move to close the distance. He wanted her to do it.

And slowly, with another small smile, she did. Her other hand curled against his shoulder as she took his bottom lip into her mouth. She felt shy and unsure of what she was doing, having never taken the lead before, but the desire rushing through her veins had her forgetting the timid feelings immediately when he began to respond by gripping her tighter.

Unlike his, her kisses were slow and gentle. Her lips were cautious at first, just pressing against his teasingly, as if to make sure of their location, before returning with just a peek of the tip of her tongue moistening the outside of his mouth. Ulquiorra parted his lips and sighed the moment the tips of their tongues touched. Even this small sudden contact made him feel closer to her than ever and he pushed his tongue even further into her mouth until all he could feel was the slick wetness of his tongue sliding sensually against hers.

With extreme care he pressed himself flush against her, restraining just enough to where he wasn't pressing his full body weight atop of her. He wanted to eradicate all distance that separated them once and for all. His slender hips pinned her to the wall and he felt her gasp against his mouth, the sound sending blissful warmth coursing throughout his body.

Orihime arched forward, and the hands she had fisted in his shirt began to pull on the fabric, accidentally forcing a few of his shirt's buttons to come undone and exposing his moonlight skin. But Ulquiorra took no notice as he continued to caress her warm mouth with his own.

It was as if neither of them could get enough of the other. With all their boundaries gone and their true feelings exposed, there was no longer a need for restraint. They were both on a natural high, and all rational thoughts were burned away by the sheer heat of their combined passions.

A crimson blush appeared on Orihime's face when Ulquiorra's hand dropped from her hip to her thigh. Winding her arms around his neck, she pulled him even closer. She could feel him pressed between her legs, and the feeling had her trembling strangely. Her entire body felt on fire, and she was beginning to feel suffocated, but the last thing she wanted was air, because that would mean separating herself from him, and she just couldn't do that.

Ulquiorra knew they were crossing a dangerous line when he felt her hips begin to move against his own. The pleasure her small movements brought him had him impulsively responding. He leaned further into her, and her mouth broke away from his in a quietly surprised gasp. Moving his mouth to her neck, his teeth slid against her skin teasingly, stopping when the collar of her dress brushed his cheek.

With a calm hand, he pulled aside the fabric and dragged it down her arm to expose more of her creamy skin to his mouth. He softly kissed her shoulder, the action causing her to loosen her arms from around his neck.

Orihime bit down on her lip to detain a small whimper as he slipped off the other strap until her shoulders were completely bare and her dress was just barely hanging onto her. Her eyes met his when he brought his face back up to meet hers so he could gently kiss her, sucking on her bottom lip softly. One of her hands tangled in his midnight hair while the other splayed against the front of his chest to feel the thump of his heart beneath her palm. It was erratic and incredibly unsteady, just like hers.

Ulquiorra's hands moved to grasp her hips in an effort to still her. He doubted she even realized what she was doing to him by rubbing against him as she was. Or perhaps she did, because as soon as he stopped her, she broke away from his kiss to look at him with confused, desire-clouded eyes.

"Stop, Orihime." It wasn't so much a demand as it was a weak, partially sincere plea. He knew that if she continued to move against him, his body would react in a way that he doubted she was ready to deal with. Already he could feel the hot tingle of arousal, and the longer he stayed with her like this, the worse it was becoming. Any more, and he doubted he'd be able to restrain himself. Around her, his self-control was forever absent.

Embarrassment clouded Orihime's brain as his words were spoken tenderly against her lips. It was a subtle chastisement, but also a half-hearted request. She hadn't fully realized what she was doing. All she knew was that brushing herself against him and feeling him press himself between her legs was incredible. The thought now brought a shameful flush to her cheeks. "But…"

His eyes widened marginally at her reply; her utter reluctance. It was written all across her face. Her eyes were misty with longing, her cherry mouth moistened, swollen, and beckoning. The fingers she had combed in his hair caressed the nape of his neck affectionately, while her arched back and heavy breaths were calling out to him with impatience. It was clear she had no intention of stopping.

His desire for her intensified so much from just her honest response that he found himself pressing her harder against the wall with his body. His cheek brushed hers as his mouth found her ear, and his warm breath blew against her neck unevenly. His heart was flying inside his chest like a wild bird trapped inside a cage too small, and the blood boiling beneath his skin made him feel weak and light-headed.

Dropping one of his hands from her hip, he boldly slipped it beneath the hem of her dress. His fingertips caressed the back of her thigh teasingly, and the hand she had over his heart curled into a tight, trembling fist. "I will do things to you…" His hand traveled further beneath her dress as he spoke, smoothing over her panty-covered bottom and pausing on her curved lower back. "…that will make you embarrassed." His blunt teeth nipped her earlobe as his fingers fell to the elastic of her underwear. He pulled the band down with the intent of only slightly exposing her. To tease her, and to make his point clear.

Turning his head, he brushed her jaw with his mouth. That was his final warning. If she showed any sort of hesitation, he would stop. But if she didn't…

Orihime knew what his words meant. But instead of making her change her mind, Ulquiorra only managed to heighten her desire for him. The feel of his hands on her body and his mouth on her skin was intoxicating. Stopping seemed like an impossibility.

But in the back of her mind, where rational thought unaffected by her raging lust dwelled, she knew that it was too soon to be doing this. That they should stop before their physical desire for each other got the best of them. But it was so difficult for her, because for the first time she could truly feel just how much Ulquiorra wanted her. The feelings inside of her were blissful.

But above everything else at that moment, she wanted one thing the most. She wanted to hear him say it. She needed to hear the words from his mouth.

Opening her eyes, she turned her face towards his. His gaze was dark with need, and an involuntary shiver raced up her spine. Gripping his shirt to calm the butterflies in her stomach, she softly asked, "Are you really okay with being with me?"

His expression softened imperceptibly, and with a muted sigh, he allowed his forehead to fall against hers. "Is the answer not already obvious?" His hand smoothed over her lower back as he spoke.

She blushed and looked away. "I just wanted to make sure."

Winding a firm grasp around one of her hands, Ulquiorra brought it to his face. Her soft, slender fingers slid against his cheek and his lips brushed the inside of her palm tenderly. Closing his eyes, he took a moment to breathe in the smell of her skin, to enjoy the feel of her touching his face. He'd never imagined that he'd experience something like this; to have someone care for him, and long to be with him so desperately. It was an indescribable feeling that burned his chest. "I will rid you of all doubt, Orihime. And then you will never again question my intentions."

When he opened his eyes, Orihime was stunned by the intensity of his stare. His dark-green gaze held sensually wicked plans that had her body tingling in pleasurable anticipation. She gave a shy, barely noticeable nod of consent.

And that was all he needed. Releasing her wrist, he gently took hold of the underneath of her chin and brought her mouth to his. He kissed her slowly, savoring everything. Her tongue was like silk, and she tasted wonderfully sweet, so much so that every time he drew away for air it was awfully regrettable.

Releasing her chin, his hand went to the buttons of his shirt, and effortlessly, he began to undo each of them until his porcelain skin was exposed. He wanted her to touch him. Taking her hand from his face, he guided it to his chest. Her lips slowed against his in hesitation, and she breathed shakily against his mouth. Her silver eyes met his questioningly, but he offered her no answer.

Orihime was overcome with wonder at the feel of his velveteen skin beneath her hand. He was so warm, soft, and staggeringly beautiful. She dragged her fingers over his chest, down his stomach, and his hard abdominals. Her breath caught in her throat when she noticed the nearly invisible crimson shading his paper-white cheeks. Knowing that her touch caused such a rare reaction in him gave her confidence, and she continued her slow exploration. When her fingers came to the waist of his pants, however, she quickly drew her hand away as if she'd been burned.

Ulquiorra, catching sight of her mortified expression, withheld a dark smirk. Retaking hold of her hand and lacing their fingers, he lowered his mouth to her reddened cheek. "And you were so bold earlier…" He teased in a deep whisper. The hand he had on her lower back returned to the back of her thigh, and with a little force, he pulled her hips forward against his. Placing a lingering kiss against her temple, he demanded, "Continue."

His tone echoed that of his past self—demanding and resolute. And Orihime was utterly helpless against the flood of liquid desire that pooled deep within her at the sound of his voice.

Her body hadn't forgotten just yet the feel of him against her, and the longing for more hadn't waned in the slightest. Gripping his shoulder, she tried to move against him, only to find that it was impossible in the position she was in. "Ulquiorra, I-I can't…" She was embarrassed by her awkward sounding words, and how her voice was in no way as sensual as his.

Confusion clouded his brain for a brief moment until he realized what she meant, and then surprise flickered behind his eyes. He'd been referring to her eager kisses and exploring hands when he'd called her bold. Not this, although he would not complain. To think that she was trying to instigate such a provocative act on her own…

His reaction was a natural answer to her alluring request. With the barest of restraint, he once against pressed himself against her. Their noses brushed as he breathed against her mouth, his eyes noticing the instantaneous change in her expression. He'd never seen her look less innocent than she did at that moment, and never more alluring.

She knew very well what it was pressed between her legs, and she knew where this would lead if they continued. And it was still impossible for her to stop. Her body was already reacting, and before she realized it, her hips were moving against his in a sinful manner.

Their lips connected in another heated kiss. Daringly, Orihime nipped on his bottom lip, causing his fingers to curl into her thigh. The sensation caused a tremor of pleasure to wrack her body, and she lifted her leg to wind it around his, causing him to sink even further against her.

Her full breasts were threatening to spill from her dress, but she took no notice. The sensations she was feeling had her acting irrationally, and without concern for the repercussions. Fortunately, Ulquiorra somehow was able to maintain some sense. It was when he felt his body awakening to a dangerous degree that he knew he needed to stop.

He wanted her. Even before tonight he'd wanted her. And right now he had her. Everything he wanted was his. Not just her touch, but everything. And that was why he found himself pulling away from her, despite her desperately trying to hold onto him. He knew that they were both letting their emotions get the better of them, and that they needed to stop before they went too far. They were both caught up in the heat of the moment, and that was not how he wanted it to be with her. He could wait as long as she needed him to until she truly felt comfortable.

Realizing that his sudden distance may hurt her, he kissed her softly, hoping she'd somehow understand. She seemed content with it when she kissed him back, and he breathed against her mouth as she wrapped her arms around his neck to hold him to her. This feeling was comple—

Knock! Knock! Knock!

Orihime's eyes widened upon hearing the sudden noise, and Ulquiorra glanced towards their room's door. He could see from the sliver of light at the bottom that there was someone standing outside. Irrepressible annoyance darkened his eyes when the stranger knocked again, impatiently.

Reluctantly, Ulquiorra released Orihime. Buttoning his shirt, he went to the door and opened it. Standing before him, her face red and apologetic upon noticing his ominous expression, was a cruise worker. In her hand she held a gift bag with an attached card.

"Excuse the interruption," she began, unaware of what exactly she'd interrupted, but knowing it must've been important considering the look on Ulquiorra's face. "But I have a delivery for a Mr. and Mrs. Inoue?"

He didn't answer. Instead, he just held out a waiting hand. Cautiously, the woman handed over the bag. He looked down at it for a moment. "Who is this from?"

The woman bowed unexpectedly. "I'm sorry, but I cannot remember her name."

"Was this woman large?" He asked, pointedly, noticing the red on her cheeks.

She gave a slight, hesitant nod in answer. "Yes, I believe so. She requested that I bring this to you immediately. So again, please excuse the late interruption. I am very sorry." And with that, she hurried away.

Closing the door, Ulquiorra placed Ami's unappreciated gift atop the vanity. Glancing around the room, he noticed Orihime wasn't in sight. Turning on the lamp beside the bed, he went over to the glass door leading to the small balcony and stared out at the dark water.

Orihime emerged from the restroom a short while later in her usual sleepwear. Throwing her dress atop her case, she shot Ulquiorra's back a timid look as she climbed into bed with the remote control for the television in hand. Switching it on, she pretended to watch whatever was on the screen. "Who was it?" The question sounded forced, even to her ears. She bit down on her lip anxiously.

"It seems that Ami has given us a gift," he answered dully, turning around to face her. He noticed that she wasn't looking at him.

"Oh, r-really? Where is it?" Her eyes met his briefly, before looking away a little too quickly to seem casual.

Retrieving the bag from the vanity, he placed it on the bed beside her, before going to his case for his own sleep clothes. With a solid frown, he entered the restroom to change.

He sighed to himself as he stripped himself of his clothing. He knew that this would happen, which was one of the main reasons he'd been compelled to stop before things progressed too far between them. Orihime was capable of feeling emotions that he doubted he'd ever fully comprehend himself. Things such as embarrassment, awkwardness, and self-consciousness.

It was apparent that she was feeling all of those things at the moment, now that the initial passion between them had been interrupted and had given them both time to clear their heads. He knew she wasn't feeling regretful or anything of the sort. Just shy and unsure of how to act around him now that the boundaries that were once keeping them apart were no more.

But he was patient. Now that he knew she understood his feelings for her, at least somewhat, he could wait.

Exiting the restroom and tossing aside the clothes he'd changed out of, Ulquiorra joined Orihime in their new bed. He noticed that the mattress was exponentially softer, as were the pillows and the sheets. Reaching out, he switched off the lamp so that the only light in the room came from the television.

He glanced at Orihime to see her staring at the screen, but with a distant look upon her face. There was a faint flush on her cheeks, and he knew she was most likely replaying in her head everything that had happened between them no more than fifteen minutes ago.

Delicately, so as not to alarm her, he took her hand in his beneath the sheets. He felt her jolt beside him, but then relax a little. Her fingers curled around his shyly, but she still wouldn't look at him.

Perhaps if he spoke to her, her nerves would ease. "What was the gift?"

A peculiar expression flashed across her face, and she shook her head. "N-nothing, really…"

Ulquiorra was instantly suspicious, but didn't press the issue. He knew that she was in a fragile state, and that making her feel any more embarrassed than necessary would just rebound negatively on him.

And so they sat there together, in awkward silence—for her, anyway—until finally, Ulquiorra grew bored and laid down.

Orihime looked down at his back, feeling a little more comfortable when she wasn't looking into his face. Her heart still wasn't entirely at ease. "Are you going to sleep?"


"Oh, okay. I'll turn off the TV, then…" Switching it off, Orihime laid down beside him, her back to him.

The room filled with a deep, dark silence, and Orihime cringed in fear that he could hear her heart thudding against her chest. She curled a small fist over her heart as her thoughts wandered.

Ulquiorra liked her, and to an unknown extent, returned her feelings. Joy welled in her chest and she smiled unabashedly to herself. She couldn't help but to repeat it over and over. He liked her, he liked her, he liked her…

I'm so happy, Ulquiorra.

Slowly, she turned over to face his back. With a timid hand, she poked him. In response, he turned to her, his green eyes patient and curious in the dark.

She scooted closer to him, until their hips were touching beneath the blanket. Resting on her elbows, she looked over at him beside her, and smiled shyly.

Raising a graceful hand, Ulquiorra brushed the backs of his fingertips against her warm cheek before lifting his head to capture her mouth in a short kiss. His green eyes held hers as he whispered, "Goodnight, onna."

Blushing furiously, Orihime curled her fist into his white shirt and buried her face against the side of his neck. Clenching her eyes closed, she answered softly, "'Night, Ulquiorra."

Relaxing against him, Orihime smiled and uncurled her fingers to rest her hand on his chest, only to feel the furiously pounding beat of his heart very much in sync with her own.

A/N: I'd like to thank Issues2009 for helping me through this chapter. Thanks to her brilliance, I was able to finish it. You should all go over to her profile and thank her! *3* And also, thank you to everyone for reviewing and waiting so patiently for updates. I'm sorry I'm not very fast. Writing isn't always so effortless. PLEASE REVIEW! 3