Warning: sexual content.

Not Enough

He looked different. Gazing up at his reflection in the ceiling Ulquiorra could detect a perceptible change in his expression, but he was unable to pinpoint exactly what that change was. Something in the firm set of his mouth seemed softer, and the usual rigidity of his stare was calmer. He considered that perhaps it was a fluke in the construction of his Gigai that had gone unnoticed until now. But that couldn't be true.

He'd been affected, subtly changed, and he knew precisely who was at fault. His gaze fell to the sleeping woman curled against his side. Watching her dreaming beside him in the mirror's reflection was like looking upon a picture of his most secret desires fulfilled. Fiery hair fell across her silken cheek and tickled the side of his neck where her head was tucked. Soft breaths blew across his skin, and slender fingers curled against his chest. Beneath the cover of sheets she was latched onto him, and had been all night. Long legs curled over his, her soft curves pressed to his side.

For the first time Ulquiorra could truly distinguish the stark physical contrast between them. Everything about her was warm and colorful: her hair, her bronze skin, the flecks of gold in her eyes, the cherry flush on her cheeks. His skin was difficult to discern from the white of the sheets, and his hair was as black and dark as his one expression. Seeing her clinging to him, her face near his, it was strange. Because it was true that they looked to be from different worlds, but together they somehow complimented each other. When she was with him she was different. More relaxed and calm, and although he continued to have difficulty processing it, she was happier.

Slowly it dawned on him, and he met his green gaze in the mirror once more. The delicate softening of his stony expression, the change he couldn't identify. This was what he looked like when he was with her. And it didn't surprise him. He had always been different with her. From the very start. Towards her he had experienced more intrigue, surprise, hesitation, confusion, and warmth, and now it seemed, firm attachment. Idly he wondered if this fascination he held for her, and the flowering warmth in his chest, had been seeded much earlier than he realized.

Against his neck Orihime gently moaned as she briefly regained consciousness before sinking again into the comfort of sleep. The sound was reminiscent of the ones she'd gasped last night, and the memory of his actions, words, and intentions, all of which he'd forced himself to bury, came flooding back. Fascinated, he stared at the sudden darkening of his face, a reaction to thoughts of Orihime pinned to the wall and clutching for him. He wondered if this feeling to turn away from his thoughts was embarrassment.

Such a feeling was short lived, however, when a gentle sigh fell from her lips. Slowly, so as not to startle her awake, Ulquiorra brought a hand to the curtain of ginger hair draped over her shoulder. The silken tresses slipped through his fingers and tickled his skin, and he remembered the feeling of having her hands tangled in his own hair.

A new wave of discomfort came upon him as he recalled how eager he'd been with her last night. His self-control had been practically non-existent. But he had no clue when it came to the norms of human affection. If it was natural and easy to progress at the unbearably torturous rate they had, then there was undoubtedly something wrong with him. It seemed that all too soon holding her hand and just being next to her was not enough for him. Now his desires were shamefully immoral, driven not only by his lust for her, but his will to eradicate every small distance between them. He wanted to experience what it was like to give himself entirely to these new feelings, so that every action and breath was driven by pure desire and instinct.

But perhaps he was right to think that he was too impatient. Orihime was human, after all. And Ulquiorra was fully aware of, although not educated on, the existence of an accepted code of behavior. From what he'd gathered so far, it seemed holding hands and exchanging brief glances was the first step in the natural progression of the physical relationship between two people. But what he was doing, and what he wanted to do to her, seemed to be jumping one or two or multiple steps. Too much, too soon. Not even two weeks had passed and already his fingers were burning to touch her and please her.

Quietly, he sighed. It was time that he accepted he was selfish, and that was something Orihime could never change, but only worsen. Natural or not, too soon or not, it was irrelevant. He couldn't change these feelings and these desires. Reigning in his lust at this point was an impossibility. He wanted her, and all of her. Not just her smile or her affection, but her body as well. He wanted Orihime in her entirety, just as she already had him. There was not a thing she could ask of him that she didn't already have. His attention, his mind, his body, everything he was belonged to her.

When the hand on his chest slid so that her arm stretched around him he knew she was finally awake. In the mirror he watched her eyes open groggily and then stare blankly at the side of his neck as if not realizing what she was seeing.

Lifting her head, Orihime dazedly met Ulquiorra's stare. Slowly her eyes widened, and her cheeks darkened. Seeing his face everything came back to her within one flustered second. Her hips pinned by his, her begging for more, pulling at his clothes, his hair, panting suggestively and exposing her skin.

Realizing he was about to lose her and all their progress to her mortification, Ulquiorra decided he'd remind her that there was no going back to misunderstandings and hesitant, unsure touches. Bringing his lips to her neck, he brushed them against her skin, just below her ear. Her breath left her in a quiet rush.

"Good morning, onna," he murmured silkily.

"M-morning," she managed, disorientated.

His nose brushed beneath her chin, along the graceful line of her jaw, until his mouth was near hers. He waited, and then softly, she kissed him. Her lips were slow, shy, and yesterday's hurried passion was replaced by an adoring tenderness. Having just awoken from what she thought had been a blissful dream, Orihime found herself thrown into a perfect reality. Lightheaded with euphoria, she very slowly began to realize the tangle of her legs and the arch of her body against him. Their lips broke apart as she shyly pulled away, not expecting that Ulquiorra would follow her. On her back, Orihime gazed up into his face, shadowed by the fall of his raven hair against his cheek.

His mouth lowered to hers with surprising gentleness, and her lips parted with a welcoming sigh. For Ulquiorra, right now, this was enough. Pressing her head into the pillows, his hands fisted in the snow-white sheets. To touch her skin now would be his undoing.

Beneath him, Orihime grew impatient as she waited for the feel of his fingers on her skin or the satisfying press of his body against hers. After what happened between them last night, something within her changed. She'd grown greedy. Unable to resist, her hands glided up his toned arms to his shoulders, effectively pulling him closer until her chest brushed his. Breaking for air, she smiled against his porcelain cheek.

"You seem to be in a good mood," she commented lightly.

"So it appears." Closing his eyes, Ulquiorra enjoyed the feeling of her breath against his cheek.

Gray light from the window veiled the room in a hue of melancholy that didn't seem to reach the disheveled couple. Outside a gentle rain began to fall. An easy quiet fell between them as the drops against the cabin window began to tap relentlessly, driven against the whistling wind.

Twirling a raven lock of hair around her finger, Orihime softly murmured, "It's raining."

Turning his face to hers, their noses brushing, Ulquiorra avoided her searching lips to speak. "So tell me then how today's plans have changed."

"Plans?" She asked.

Her puzzlement amused him. "Not a day has passed that you've not scheduled something for us. I expect today to be no different."

Orihime stared back, clueless. She honestly hadn't given anything past Ulquiorra a second thought. Swimming, eating, going shopping, laying out in the sun. All activities other than just being as close to Ulquiorra as possible now seemed like a chore. Biting down on her lip, she tried to come up with something on the spot. What she decided upon was the one thing she was actually willing to do. "We could just stay here…?"


"In…bed…" How she wished she knew how to be subtle. Her thoughts were too transparent. But the sheets were just so soft, and his skin so warm, and his eyes and mouth on her made her feel incredibly fantastic that even the thought of getting out of bed to get dressed seemed terribly unfortunate.

The furious flush on her cheeks told Ulquiorra that she knew exactly what she was saying. "That is a very dangerous thing to suggest, Orihime" Ulquiorra warned, hands finally releasing the sheets. To say he was surprised by the proposal would be putting it lightly, although he wondered if she realized the implications of such a request. How enticing she was being, flustered and barely clothed beneath him. Innocently inviting him to lay with her in bed all day. He was beginning to realize that he wasn't the only one burning with impatience.

Orihime knew exactly what he meant by dangerous. Dangerous, in Ulquiorra terms, meant daring caresses, breath stealing kisses, scorching gazes, and knee-weakening, mind-numbing pleasure. The sort of things Orihime's heart reacted to upon just the thought.

A startled gasp caught at the base of her throat when slender fingers slipped beneath her thin tank top to slide along her waist. The hem of her shirt bunching against his wrists, Ulquiorra leaned down to press warm lips to her collarbone. Exposing only her stomach, he ran a teasing hand over her skin. "What do you think will happen, onna?" He was curious as to just how far she planned on going with him. It seemed last night wasn't over for either of them.

Orihime wanted to bury her face in the pillows, to hide her expression, but his hands had her pinned. In the mirror above their bed she could see Ulquiorra stretched over her, his mouth leaving warm kisses along her neck. But it was her own position that had her blushing. Her bare legs had somehow parted on their own so that his hips could fit tightly between. Her hands were twisted in his raven hair and his shirt, tugging the white fabric until some of his porcelain skin was exposed to her hungry view.

And then all room for embarrassment was shot from her mind when his mouth covered hers once more in a kiss so deep and heated that it left her trembling. It was a kiss so incredibly different than the previous ones they'd shared. It was easy, patient, and relishing. The silken caress of tongues, the velvet brush of lips, and the exchange of heavy breaths were the words that neither needed to speak. This kiss was both of them recognizing the mutual possession now shared between them. He was hers, and she finally belonged to him.

But when his hips suddenly pressed down between her legs, Orihime's surprise at the unexpected pressure ruined their moment of quiet bliss. Breaking away, she exhaled a shuddering breath.

Her mind was still dizzy, not just from waking, but from the realization that none of this was a dream. Ulquiorra, the once fourth Espada in Aizen's army, her previous captor and cold caretaker, was now her Ulquiorra. And these gentle hands, warm mouth, and glowing gaze were all for her. She was there for this development, but had seemingly overlooked it. But now that she knew that all of their kisses and his words and actions up to this point had been real there was no containing her joy.

So what was he? Her once captor, enemy, friend, and fake husband was now something else. "Ulquiorra, what should I call you?"

Looking down into her face, at the shy blush and her diverted gaze, he knew what it was she was asking. It seemed humans got too wrapped up in titles. Friend, enemy, husband, wife. "What do you believe would be suiting?"

Biting down on her lip, she really thought hard before answering with a surrendering sigh, "I don't know." Somehow referring to Ulquiorra as her boyfriend sounded silly. As if their relationship was being trivialized. My boyfriend, Ulquiorra. No, it just sounded ridiculous. Her feelings towards him transcended that of a simple crush. This attachment between them, while incredibly new, was deep. There really wasn't a word for him. Unless…"L-lover?" She all but choked on the word.

The breath seemed to leave him as surprise filled his lungs. It was one of those rare moments where he could feel that his expression had noticeably changed. His eyes were wider, perhaps his frown less pronounced. To be her lover was to be considered one whom she was in love with. Who she shared an intimate relationship with. But, love. The word rebounded around Ulquiorra's skull. He very much doubted that if, and for whatever outlandish reason, she loved him that this would be her way of confessing. And such a thing would call for an answer from him, and what was he to say? The thought brought him a massive headache.

Seeing the turmoil shadowing his eyes, Orihime grew flustered and apologetic. Sitting up, she pushed Ulquiorra back so she could breathe a little to clear her head. Both of them now sitting atop the tangled sheets, he watched her grow more self-conscious by the second. "Never mind. I didn't mean to be awkward, I just—"

A warm hand curled around the one she had pressed against his chest. Ulquiorra's face neared hers, locking their eyes. "How do you think of me?"

"How?" She repeated. A few long moments went by as she stared into his clear emerald eyes, and then the most beautiful expression came over her face. Her eyes sparkled with adoration, her full mouth pulled up into a shy contented smile, and she looked every bit the happiest girl in the world. "My feelings are…towards you, I…"

And in that moment, Ulquiorra knew what she meant despite her stuttering. She looked on the outside as he felt on the inside. This beautiful woman cared for him deeply. Not even over Kurosaki Ichigo had he seen this kind of reaction from her; this expression, this unconcealed affection. A tenderness like he'd never known himself capable of softened his fingers, his entire self, and he pulled her forward by her arm until her reddened face was buried and hidden against his chest. She didn't question his actions, but only curled her fingers tightly into the back of his shirt. Her embrace was stiff with vulnerability, and Ulquiorra knew that she was no doubt embarrassed to have exposed her feelings. And he knew that his silence could hurt her.

Orihime's eyes opened when she felt slender fingers wind through her hair to cradle her head. Her heart was impossible to calm, but her nerves stilled at the reassuring touch. Although he was silent, Ulquiorra's body language spoke volumes. The gentle feel of his fingers weaving through her hair, the rough pounding of his heart in his chest, the security and warmth of his rare embrace. He cared for her. Somehow indifferent toleration of her had grown into fondness.

It was the first time her feelings had ever been returned. She wasn't prepared for this kind of happiness. It was overwhelming. Every part of her body felt as if it were singing with joy. Closing her eyes, she inhaled his clean scent. Her arms tightened around him in an embrace that was crushing. And with a tiny whisper she voiced the words she'd been keeping secret in the back of her throat. "I like you."

It wasn't enough. The words were nowhere expressive enough for the feeling in her chest, but for now it was the best she could manage. She didn't want to intimidate him, or confuse him with her complicated feelings. So for now saying 'like' would have to do. Raising her head from his chest she smiled brightly. "I never thought I'd be able to say that. It's such a relief!"

Staring down into her delighted face, Ulquiorra was quietly stunned for the moment. Perfect. She was perfect. Gently, his hand slid to her cheek and he looked at her. Truly looked at her. And he knew that this was what he had been waiting for. This happy smile, the brilliance lighting her eyes, and the adoration and warmth of her touch and words. He had never seen her so happy as she was right now with him. It seemed that she gave his existence purpose. "Say it again."

Hesitating only to steady her breathing her smile grew wider and she curled a gentle hand around Ulquiorra's against her cheek. Meeting his gaze there was no disguising her sincere affection. "I really like you, Ulquiorra. More than anyone."

The most wonderful feeling came over him. A feeling of such perfect ease and warmth that he fully understood her desire to not move from where they were all day. Maybe even forever. Pulling her face to his, he kissed her. It seemed that now that he was free to do so he couldn't bring himself to stop.

Orihime's eyes fell closed to concentrate on the velveteen softness of his mouth, understanding that this was his response to her confession. That her feelings were not unrequited. Getting caught up in the moment, and whisked away into a world where rational thought evaded her, it took her a moment to realize just where all of this kissing was going. So when she felt him begin to press her back down onto the sheets, she broke away with a flustered gasp. "W-wait!"

Pulling back, he studied her expression. As he'd thought, he was being too forward with her. Reluctantly he released her, and not saying anything, removed himself from the bed. If he was to stop, then distance between them was crucial.

Orihime watched him get up, wrongly mistaking his silence for anger. "I'm sorry. I'm just…" shy. The word stuck in her throat, tangled in her embarrassment. She felt so ridiculously immature all of a sudden, and couldn't bear to meet his eyes.

Turning to look at her playing bashfully with the sheets, his expression discreetly softened. "I know, onna. Do not think me incapable of waiting."

Biting down on her lip, she nodded. She never thought she'd be having this discussion with anyone, especially Ulquiorra. "Thank you."

"But," he added, his deep voice turning silken, "know that with this matter, I am unforgivably impatient." It was a truth he was ashamed of admitting, having never struggled with his patience before. But he would not lie to her. He wanted her, and he would wait, but he'd make it clear that it was with difficulty.

The deepest blush yet adorned Orihime's cheeks as she understood the meaning behind his words. As he entered the bathroom to get dressed, she took a few minutes to bask in what she would call aftershock before scurrying to her suitcase to find something to wear, but really just trying to busy her mind before her brain melted.

As she was picking through her underwear, tossing aside one pair of childish panties after the other, a realization suddenly hit her square in the face. For the first time in her life it actually mattered what her underwear looked like, because there was a very good chance that at the rate things were going between her and Ulquiorra, he'd be seeing them. All of a sudden she saw her cute butterfly print panties in a whole new light, and she was horrified.

What would he think? Surely he'd find her childish underwear immature and unappealing. Ulquiorra was so mature, and she was so…

Grudgingly, her eyes moved to the small gift bag beside her case. With reluctant hands she picked it up and gazed down into the pink tissue paper at the bundle of black lace at the bottom of the bag. Ami's gift was provocative, and Orihime had to wonder how in the world she thought something like this suited her. It was so small and seductive.

Sighing, she considered just hiding the gift away to never be looked at again. After all, if she were to even wear the gift today then every second for the rest of the day she'd be anticipating that at some point she'd be showing Ulquiorra what she was wearing. There really was no point in wearing such a thing if he wasn't to even see it. The real question was, did she want it to be today?

Images of his bare ivory skin, hardened abdomen, beautifully toned arms, and his intense gaze flashed through her mind, followed immediately by the memory of his hands on her body, his hips between her legs, his whispered words, and silky tongue. Her body grew hot, and her fingers clenched the bag tightly.

This was not a matter of whether she wanted it to be today or not. She'd never felt so strongly for anyone as she did for Ulquiorra, and she didn't mean just emotionally, but physically as well. This yearning inside was enormous in its strength, and there was no hiding from it. She wanted him. Her hesitation only came from her own insecurities. Not that he didn't feel the same way, but that she was just so inexperienced. She didn't know a thing about intimacy, and the thought of herself awkwardly fumbling around filled her with mortification. Ulquiorra meant so much to her and she didn't want to disappoint him with her juvenile incompetence.

What she needed was confidence. Reopening the bag she took out the small lacey thong, feeling naughty just holding it. If she wore this, then maybe she'd feel positive enough to finally be with him. Because goodness knows, he wasn't the only one feeling unforgivably impatient.


Something was wrong with her. Ever since they'd left the room to get breakfast she'd been behaving strangely. Avoiding his eyes, constantly blushing, clenching the hem of her skirt. It seemed the cycle of them breaking new boundaries only to have her recede into a realm of embarrassment was never-ending.

Taking a quiet sip of tea his gaze moved to the dining room window next to their table. Outside the sky was a dark gray, the clouds swirling threateningly and blackening in the distance. The ocean waves were large and choppy, and even now he could feel the ship rocking. It made his stomach feel unsettling, which was partly why he wasn't eating anything. The other reason being that the sight of Orihime's bizarre breakfast concoction was sickening. Not that she was eating much, a telltale sign that something was most definitely wrong.

Beneath the table Orihime kept crossing and uncrossing her legs. She was so uncomfortable. The underwear left her bottom entirely bare and feeling her skin against her skirt had her feeling as if she weren't even wearing underwear at all. Discreetly, she peeked at Ulquiorra beside her.

His green gaze calm, he looked exactly the opposite of how she felt. He was so composed and levelheaded. When he caught her watching him, she moved her attention to her lap. "I…I wish I could be as calm about this as you," she admitted softly. It was such an amazing feeling to finally voice her true feelings to him, although she still felt so shy. "I feel so nervous."

"Calm?" He repeated. "I am not calm, onna."

She sent him a doubtful look. "Well, you look calm."

Setting down his tea, his hand slipped to her bare knee as he spoke. He didn't realize he was worsening her anxiety. "Just what would you have me do? Fidget with my clothing? Avoid looking at you? Struggle with speech?"

Orihime knew he was only listing every little thing she was currently doing herself. She was having difficulty imagining Ulquiorra flustered. It just didn't seem possible. "You just seem…so sure about everything."

His frown tightened. "What is there to be unsure of?"

She sighed. "Well, I've never been with anyone before, so I don't know what I'm doing."

"You seem to have forgotten that I am also very new to this myself," he replied. If she didn't know what she was doing, then he definitely didn't.

Tapping a silver spoon to her mouth, she mumbled shyly, "You don't seem new to it." When he didn't answer, she explained. "I-I mean, you're just so good at everything."

Realization slowly dawned on him. So this was what was concerning her. He knew exactly what she was getting at by saying everything. "Tell me what I am good at, onna."

Her cheeks turned rosy. "Well…you know, things like…" She couldn't bring herself to be precise, "being with me…"

"That hardly requires much effort."

She shook her head. "No, there are other things. You're good with words, and you're always honest, and confident. It's easy for you to speak your mind, a-and…" Her words faltered when the hand on her knee moved up the inside of her thigh. Not very high, but enough to where her heart leapt in her chest.

"And what else?" He asked her, as if his fingers weren't currently inching up her skirt. "Or is that all that I'm good at?"

Orihime was completely aware that now was an opportunity for her to be alluring. To respond to him in a way that showed she had confidence in her sensuality. But she couldn't do it. Instead her hand found his beneath the table and she pushed it away, something she never did. Instantly, he grew suspicious. "T-that's all," she lied.

Leaning over, Ulquiorra placed his mouth beside her ear. "Are you sure? I feel that I am quite talented at making you embarrassed, Orihime."

He had no idea. Just sitting beside him was now enough to make her a flustered wreck. But that had more to do with her thoughts about what might happen between them today than anything else. But there was no way she could tell him that. Not that the approaching woman gave her a chance to, anyway.

"Lovelies! Oh, it's been days, but it feels like weeks since I've seen you last!"

Stiffening in his chair, Ulquiorra didn't even give Ami the courtesy of turning around to acknowledge her presence. Orihime, however, was basically up and all but standing to greet the woman. "Ami! Come join us for breakfast!"

"Happily, dear." And within minutes half of their table was cluttered with plates upon plates of steaming food. Scrambled eggs, buttered toast, bacon, ham, pancakes. Ulquiorra looked on in well-disguised disgust as she stuffed her mouth with a cream-cheese bagel. "So, did you receive my gift?"

Orihime very nearly keeled over at the sudden question. "Y-yes, thank you so much. You didn't have to buy anything." She glanced at Ulquiorra.

Ami shook her head. "Don't be silly, of course I did. So tell me, do you like them? Have you worn them yet?"

"Oh, um…"

"No?" Ami asked, surprised. And then she turned her attention to Ulquiorra. "They're absolutely adorable. When I saw them in the shop I couldn't help but think she'd love them. I know it may seem like such a strange gift, but I haven't been able to fit into tiny little things like that for years, so it's so much fun being able to shop for someone who can." She winked playfully at Orihime who was all but slouched down in her seat and slowly inching beneath the cover of the tablecloth.

His interest was now piqued. Not because of Ami, but because Orihime seemed so discomfited by the topic. "What is it?" He directed his question at Orihime, but he knew that she wasn't the one that would be answering him.

"Lingerie, of course," Ami said, much too loudly to be appropriate in public.

And then he saw it. Orihime's fingers tugging shyly at her skirt, pulling the hem down against her legs. And that's when he realized why she was behaving so strangely. She was wearing it. What he couldn't figure out was why. There was no point in wearing something that obviously made her so uncomfortable unless there was a reason for it. Watching her face closely, at the crimson blush and diverted gaze, Ulquiorra gradually began to understand, and when he did there was no cooling the fire in his veins. It seemed that she had expectations for today.

Orihime could feel his eyes on her, and there was no hiding her humiliation. Ulquiorra was smart. It was only a matter of time before he figured out she was wearing Ami's gift. Perhaps it made it easier on her now that she didn't have to surprise him.

"Oh, my. Ulquiorra, save that look for behind closed doors, dear. We're in the dining room, not the bedroom," Ami chortled, reaching over to playfully tap his arm with a pudgy hand.

Utterly repulsed by Ami's brazen vulgarity, his heated stare that'd been on Orihime turned icy. The woman's total lack of modesty was hauntingly reminiscent of the quinto Espada, something that Ulquiorra considered a most regrettable quality. However, Nnoitra's interest in Orihime was never sincere, having only made such crude comments about her in order to draw a reaction from him—a game the most deplorable of the Espada seemed to partake in. But Ami's attention to Orihime was undoubtedly genuine, which made the woman substantially more of a nuisance than Nnoitra had ever been.

Picking a plump grape, Ami asked, "So, what do you two have planned for today? There's a terrible storm brewing," she nodded towards the frothy ocean and blackened sky, "which puts an unfortunate damper on things."

Plans. What Orihime had planned was much too shameful to voice aloud. She could only blush in answer, something Ulquiorra found amusing now that he knew what was on her mind. He was extremely curious as to how she planned on revealing to him what she was so desperate to keep hidden under her skirt.

"If you're not doing anything, then—"

"We are," Ulquiorra interrupted stonily. Imagining that he had to spend yet another day with this woman was more than his patience could tolerate. Especially now when all he wanted was to be alone with Orihime.

"We are?" Curious eyes met his, and Orihime stared up at him innocently.

His lips thinned. Was she playing naïve on purpose? Against her leg, his fingertips brushed her skin teasingly, hoping she'd understand what he was suggesting.

Panic overwhelmed her face and her legs slammed closed, encasing his fingers in heat. Her head whirled and she pulled her gaze away from him because he was affecting her too much. She was beginning to question if Ulquiorra had always been so alluring. "U-um, we're not doing anything."

"Hmm," Ami hummed suspiciously, eyeing the two with guarded eyes, and not understanding the tense exchange between them. "Then you should come join us for karaoke tonight in the bar. I'll be able to show off my fabulous talent!"

"Tonight?" Orihime perked up. "What time?"

"Around six. Just meet us there if you want to come." She pulled her purse onto her lap and began to rummage through it. Pulling out a small cream envelope she passed it across the table to Orihime. "Here, dear. This is for you."

"Another gift?" Orihime questioned, almost sounding aghast.

Ami chuckled and shook her head. "No, no. Just open it."

Tearing open the envelope, Orihime pulled out a small cream card with black cursive and gold accents. Tiny bells were painted in each corner, and a band of white lace bordered the edges. It was an invitation, and upon reading what for, Orihime's eyes widened in surprise. "You're getting married?"

With a contented crimson smile, Ami rested her chin in her hand. "Well, we're renewing our vows. The ceremony won't be too extravagant, but we'd still like for you to come."

Orihime glanced back at the card. "It's tomorrow?"

"At four," Ami finished with a nod. "Make sure to wear something nice." And then, not bothering to be subtle about it, she held up her left hand and wriggled her thick fingers. The dim lighting in the dining room sparkled off the face of the large diamond sitting on her ring finger. Noticing Orihime's awe, Ami's smile turned smug. "Beautiful, isn't it? He gave it to me last night."

Ulquiorra didn't see what was so amazing about a simple rock, but he deduced that it must be worth some value for Orihime to be so mesmerized by it. He watched her face as Ami held her hand out so Orihime could take a closer look.

"Which reminds me," Ami suddenly added, raising her brows. "I don't think I've seen you wearing a ring even once this entire trip."

Orihime stiffened in her seat, and she slid her unadorned left hand beneath the table. Her voice was noticeably on edge. "Um, well, I just didn't want to lose it."

Ami looked displeased. "But what's the point in having one if you never wear it? Surely you don't want people to think that you're available," she teased.

Annoyance graced Ulquiorra's tone as he spoke, his voice hard and cold. "Only a fool would assume such a thing." There was no question that she was with him, ring or no ring. If anyone noticed how she looked at him, spoke to him, and smiled at him, but still assumed that she was not taken, they'd be an idiot.

Taken aback by the severity of his tone, Ami took a sip of coffee before commenting. "I just find it strange that you not insist she wear one, Ulquiorra. You strike me as quite possessive."

Orihime's mouth popped open in disagreement, and she sent a nervous glance to Ulquiorra who was watching the woman across the table with guarded eyes. Over the time she'd spent with Ulquiorra, she'd come to realize that Ami wasn't exactly wrong about him. But the way Ami had said it made it sound like a bad thing, when Orihime had not once thought of it that way.

Ulquiorra was well aware that Ami's comment was criticizing, as if he'd ever valued her opinion before. But he felt the urge to defend himself. "Do not presume to think you understand how I regard her."

Two pudgy hands raised in a show of surrender. "I'm not assuming anything, dear. I just want to make sure you understand that a woman needs her space every now and then."

She had it all wrong, and Orihime couldn't just sit here and allow her to continue saying these things. "That's not how it is," she cut in, meeting Ami's beady stare. "I-I'm possessive too. Even more, actually." Her eyes moved to Ulquiorra, whose expression was unreadable. "I don't want space."

That sentiment was utterly mutual, for Ulquiorra felt the same. There was no better feeling than knowing she wanted him, longed so much to possess him and all of him. Not a moment passed where he wished to be freed from this hold she had on him. And it eased him to know that she was wholly approving that he was holding on to her just as tightly. The only thing that would ease his grip would be if she asked him to, which he doubted would ever happen.

"Oh, my," Ami sighed, shaking her head. "Honestly, you two are a bit much to handle sometimes. I've never known two people to be so attached. But you are newlyweds after all. I guess you're still in that phase."

Once again, Ulquiorra was annoyed by how presumptuous she was being. To think that his attachment to Orihime was to be considered a phase, as if in time his attachment for her would lessen rather than grow.

"You know, since you two are so in love, why don't you renew your vows also?"

Orihime had to remind herself to act natural, because at that moment it was very difficult to even smile. "B-but we really don't need to—"

"Honey, it's not about needing to. It's just for fun!"

"Isn't it expensive, though?" Orihime was desperately hoping Ami would just drop the matter. Her and Ulquiorra couldn't renew their vows. They'd never even made vows. They'd end up actually being married. The thought made her feel awfully lightheaded.

"It's not too much," Ami said, glancing at her watch. The time distracted her, something Orihime was incredibly grateful for. "Oh, I need to get going!" Standing, she pulled her purse onto her shoulder. "Anyway, I do hope I'll see you two tonight."

"At karaoke?" Orihime asked.

The older woman nodded. "And if you decide to change your mind I will not hold it against you. It'd only be the second time you pulled the disappearing act," she laughed. As she walked by she lightly tapped Orihime's shoulder. "But do remember you have all night for other plans. I will be so disappointed if you don't show." And with that, she was gone.

Almost immediately Ulquiorra's black mood was apparent.

In an effort to quell the storm brewing inside of him, Orihime joked lightly, "That was close. For a moment I thought she was going to actually try and schedule our wedding."

Turning his attention to her, he didn't look at all amused. "Yes, that would be most unfortunate."

Orihime flushed, sullenly. Not knowing how to respond, she awkwardly continued. "So now we have to find a gift for them…"

Ulquiorra stared at her for a long moment. "I refuse to attend. I have no interest in their ceremony."

She turned to him, assertively meeting his stare. "Ulquiorra, I understand if you don't want to go to karaoke tonight, but there's no way we can miss the ceremony tomorrow."

Gentle fingers slid against her lower back as he spoke. "I am not stopping you from attending, Orihime, but do not attempt to persuade me into accompanying you."

She sighed, defeated. She knew that once having made up his mind, Ulquiorra was near impossible to budge. "Will you at least come with me to find a present?"

His gaze darkened with displeasure at the idea of being dragged from shop to shop all in order to find a gift for the one woman who he believed least deserved one. But right now, being in their room alone while he waited for Orihime to return seemed an ever worse scenario. "Fine."

As it turned out, however, it seemed that Ami wouldn't be receiving a gift at all. The entire ship had been practically shut down due to the severity of the storm. The upper deck was inaccessible, the shopping boutiques closed.

Passing by another store with the gate pulled over the dark entrance, Orihime huffed. To be honest, she'd been relieved when Ami had offered her a reason to be busy so as not to have to return to their room so early. She wasn't ready just yet to be behind closed doors with Ulquiorra. Slowing her walk, her fingers tightened around his hand as she wracked her brain for something else to do.

Ulquiorra's attention moved to their attached hands, and a question came to mind. "What is the purpose of a ring, onna?"

His question made her pause. "Huh? You mean an engagement ring?" She shrugged. "Well, not everyone wears them. Some people just don't like wearing rings, but that doesn't mean they're not married." In fact, just as she was explaining, they passed a small window outside a jewelry store, and Orihime stopped to point out the rings on display. A simple gold band sat at the forefront and she pointed at it. "That's a wedding band. Normally a married couple would wear those, but," her finger moved to point at a large diamond ring, "an engagement ring is different. When a man asks a woman to marry him, he gives her one."

Ulquiorra studied the precious stones quietly. "Is this something we need?" If most married couples wore these, then it would make sense that they did also.

Orihime laughed lightly. "There's no way I could afford anything that expensive."

He wouldn't say it, but it bothered him that it was her responsibility to pay for their combined expenses. It was an issue he would have to deal with when they returned to her home.

Suddenly Orihime perked up, something grabbing her complete attention. With a gentle pull on Ulquiorra's hand, she guided him across the shopping corridor to a small alcove with many small vending machines, each advertising different toys and knickknacks. Digging into her purse she pulled out some change and inserted it into one of the machines. Cranking the lever, two small plastic containers rolled out. Popping them open, she held in her palm two plastic gold rings. "Ta-da! No one will look close enough to notice they're not real."

Taking one of the rings from her palm, Ulquiorra inspected it. It was thin and brassy looking, and the ends weren't attached so it could be adjusted to fit any size finger. A slender hand hovered before him, and Ulquiorra met Orihime's shy gaze.

And although it was pretend, and the rings were only cheap plastic, Orihime's heart still thudded in her chest as Ulquiorra grasped her outstretched hand and slipped the ring onto her finger.

"Is this correct?" He asked, unsure which finger it was meant for.

Orihime nodded. When it was on, she then reached for his hand. Her fingers were trembling so much that as she held the ring to his finger, it fell out of her grasp and onto the floor. Embarrassed by her clumsiness, she dropped to her knees to pick it up. The second attempt was a success, and the ring slipped onto his finger with ease.

"I don't understand your reaction," he suddenly said, observing the furiously crimson flush on her face.

Orihime was feeling incredibly hot, more so than usual. "It's just the action. It's embarrassing."

"Although it's not real." Ulquiorra examined the ring on his finger. "And is this all there is to a wedding ceremony?"

His question made her smile. "Well, if you come with me tomorrow you can see for yourself." The look he gave her was of the upmost disapproval, and she laughed. "Weddings are a very big event, so there's much more to it than just the exchange of rings."

Ulquiorra waited for her to continue. "Explain."

"Everything? Well…" She told him everything she knew on the subject. From the engagement to planning to shopping for wedding dresses and tuxedos, making invitations, and finding the place for the wedding, to writing vows. As she spoke, her hands made a flurry of invisible illustrations as she struggled to explain the more difficult details, and the entire time Ulquiorra was engrossed in every word, every expression. When she was finally finished, one thing in particular bothered him. There'd been one detail she'd quickly chosen to mention in a very short breath, as if in the hopes he wouldn't notice.

"What is the significance of the wedding night?"

Immediately blood rushed into her face and she moved her attention to her feet. "U-um, well, that's when husband and wife, um…" she flinched just saying the words, "consummate their marriage."

She was so uncomfortable it was nearly tangible. "By what means?"

"P-physically. Traditionally it's, um…their first time…" Orihime was fully ready to just find a dark corner and squat in it. Explaining this to Ulquiorra was so difficult.

Understanding dawned on him, and his eyes fell to the hand she had clutching her skirt. "And are you traditional?"

"I never thought about it until r-recently," she quietly admitted. Her virginity had never been a topic for discussion before. Having never even dated anyone, she'd only ever experienced what it was to look from afar. To daydream. And before Ulquiorra, all of her thoughts had been of Ichigo, and the furthest her imagination had ever taken her had been sitting alone in his room with him in a finely tailored suit. But with Ulquiorra, it was much different. Lately her thoughts had taken a more mature turn, focusing on desires that had only just been awakened. Unlike with Ichigo, Orihime didn't dress Ulquiorra up in her daydreams. They didn't go on wild adventures or to carnival rides in outer space. The Ulquiorra of her imagination didn't wear very many clothes, and usually the setting of these fantasies was a bedroom, whether it's the one on the ship or hers back at home.

She was drawn from her thoughts when warm fingers brushed the back of her hand, and she looked up into his face as he spoke. "If you intend to wait until marriage, then tell me, onna." Beneath the shade of dark green, his eyes were teasing, something so rare to see.

She shook her head, her eyes falling to his chest to avoid his gaze. "I don't." There was no way she was even close to willing to wait that long. "Ulquiorra, can we talk about something else?" She suddenly asked. Her face had grown so warm during their conversation that she felt lightheaded from the heat.

"What is a honeymoon?"

Orihime all but hung her head in exasperation. "It's a vacation newlyweds take just after they're married. It's supposed to be romantic."

"And considering you and I are apparently newlyweds ourselves, then this trip would be our honeymoon," he concluded.

"I guess so," she agreed. "And that's all there is, really. After the honeymoon the newlyweds return home and live the rest of their lives together."

The both of them fell silent as they soaked in the impact of her words. Although they weren't truly married, and this wasn't really a honeymoon, when this trip was over and they returned to her small one-bedroom apartment, they would have to deal with the reality of their relationship.

Retaking Orihime's hand, he was surprised by how warm her skin was, although he didn't think much of it. "Do you plan on meeting them tonight?" Ulquiorra asked her, referring to Ami's invitation to join her for karaoke.

The two of them began to continue on their way through the shopping corridor. "I haven't decided yet," she answered honestly. A huge part of her just wanted to stay with Ulquiorra, but the other part of her that was still anxious about what might happen with him was telling her to meet Ami and Shuichi.

When they made it to the carpeted hall with the elevator, the ship rocked and Orihime, who was now feeling incredibly faint, stumbled a little. The lighting flickered every now and then, and outside could be heard the raucous boom of thunder and tossing waves.

Passing by a large window it all happened so fast. A large wave came crashing out of nowhere against the side of the ship, the water hitting the window with terrible force. The ship tilted sideways for a short moment, and the two of them went falling against the wall. Orihime landed against Ulquiorra's chest, and a solid arm wrapped securely around her waist to steady her. The ship groaned as it righted itself, and the dimmed lights in the hallway brightened.

Orihime didn't want to say it, but she didn't feel well at all. She didn't mind stormy weather, but being out in the open ocean in such harsh conditions was terrifying. But also the uneven rocking of the ship was making her awfully nauseous, and for the past hour or so she'd been feeling unbearably dizzy, although she'd just assumed it had all been because Ulquiorra was making her insufferably flustered.

"We should return," Ulquiorra finally said. He had no ulterior motives for going back to the room. He was just tired of walking the ship.

Tiny hands curled into his shirt and Orihime's forehead fell against his shoulder. Tiredly, she closed her eyes. "Can we stay here for a second?" She felt that if she were to try walking now she'd stumble all over the place. Her body felt so weak and warm.

Through the thin cotton of his white shirt he could feel the incredible heat radiating from her forehead. Her body was relaxed against his, and he felt he was supporting all of her weight. A spasm of sudden concern came over him and he raised a hand to move aside her bangs so he could clearly see her face. Fingertips brushing her forehead, he was shocked by how warm her skin was.

"I don't feel very good, Ulquiorra," Orihime admitted, pulling back her head to gaze up into his face. Although the lights in the hall were dim, she was squinting as if looking right into the sun. Her head pounded dully.

He pressed a gentle hand to her flushed cheek. "Are you ill?"

Sighing, her breath was hot against his wrist. "I think I might be."

"Is this not something you're capable of curing yourself?" He asked, his eyes moving to the turquoise pins fastened in her hair.

Orihime smiled feebly. "Maybe, but I don't think Shuno and Ayame would be too pleased to be summoned over something as trivial as a fever." For a moment her vision turned hazy, and she paused to refocus. "I just need to lie down for a little."

He respected that she didn't want to rely on her powers to heal something so minor, but Ulquiorra still didn't like being in the strange position of being her nurse. It wasn't that he was opposed to taking care of her, it was just he didn't entirely know how to. When he was assigned her caretaker in Las Noches his job had been relatively simple. Overseeing that she ate, monitoring her health and mental stability. But this was different.

"But maybe we could stop by the doctor first," Orihime suggested.

The medical facility was located on one of the upper decks. With Ulquiorra helping to support Orihime, they walked through the large room they'd first entered upon boarding the ship so many days ago. The grand staircases lining the walls were empty of people, and they paused walking in the center of the polished marble floor when Orihime stopped to gaze up at the large glass dome in the ceiling. Through the glass they could see lightening flashing threateningly across the sky in branching lines of hot electricity. A thunderous boom followed shortly after, which made Orihime flinch.

"Do you think we'll be okay?" She asked feeling uneasy.

Ulquiorra knew that all day the storm had been worrying her, although she didn't say it. He knew it was the part of her that wanted to always be brave which had her suffering in silence. It was one of the things about her he found so engaging. "If not, I do believe our room holds two life vests for you shall you be in need."

She laughed, the tenseness leaving her shoulders. Continuing on their way, she said, "I wouldn't need both of them. You'd have to wear one too."

Ulquiorra remembered the hideous bright orange life vest she'd worn their first day on the ship during the safety drill. The look on his face must've been amusing because Orihime giggled lightly behind her hand.

"If you weren't in a Gigai you could just fly us to safety," she joked, thinking of the bat-like wings of his release.

Studying her face, he was surprised by how casually she was discussing this topic. "Perhaps when we return I'll discuss an upgrade."

Orihime's laughter was song-like.

When they finally made it to the infirmary Orihime was still feeling ill, but her mood had done a miraculous turnaround. Entering through chrome double doors they stepped into a stark white waiting room. The entire place smelled of antiseptic. A kind nurse asked them to take a seat and fill out some paperwork before disappearing to retrieve the doctor in the next room.

As Orihime filled out the few sheets on the clipboard Ulquiorra glanced around at the simple black chairs lining the room, the table of old magazines, and the television attached to the wall, which was currently showing a children's cartoon. Everything was so white and for a moment he felt incredibly nostalgic. It wasn't that he necessarily missed Las Noches, but it was strange to realize that he'd most likely never return.

His sparse living quarters, the freezing temperatures, the imitation sky, the empty halls and the company of the Espada. He'd never see any of it again. His life from this point onward would be completely different than before, and in a whole new world. A world with changing seasons and weather, of crime and compassion, war and peace. Of Orihime.

Looking over at her beside him, at the way she'd tucked her tongue at the corner of her mouth in concentration, at her elegant handwriting and the precision in which she signed her name, at the slight furrow of her brows, he couldn't help but feel that his future held nothing but everlasting contentment. His past life as an Espada had ended the moment she'd reached out to him, and maybe even before. Even if he did return to Las Noches, he could never stay. For the first time he truly understood what it might be like to feel alone. Being without her was something he would never be able to endure.

The opening of a white door drew him from his thoughts, and both he and Orihime looked over to see a youthful-looking man in a white lab coat. Black box-frame glasses, a wide smile, smooth chestnut hair, and a slim gait, the doctor was clearly attractive. "You can come on in."

Ulquiorra followed Orihime past the man and into a small room with a hospital bed covered in a sheet of white paper, a chair, and many small machines, boxes, and drawers. Deciding to stand against the wall while Orihime took a seat at the edge of the bed, Ulquiorra watched the doctor study the paperwork Orihime had just finished completing.

"Orihime Inoue," he said under his breath before raising his gaze to her and holding out a hand. "I'm Dr. Ito." His voice was smooth and the honey gaze behind his glasses, calculating. "Tell me what I'm seeing you for today."

Crossing her ankles, Orihime clutched the hem of her skirt. "It's just a fever. I didn't think to bring any medicine with me on board," she explained.

Opening a jar on his desk, Dr. Ito pulled out a flat wooden stick. Approaching Orihime, he slipped a small flashlight out of his lab coat pocket. "I believe I can help you out. Now, if you'll open up."

Having been to the doctor a few times before, Orihime knew the normal procedure. Opening her mouth she clenched her eyes shut as the wooden stick was pressed down on her tongue.

"Hm, your throat does appear to be irritated," he murmured, shining the light into her mouth. Without warning he pressed his hand to her forehead, and nodding retrieved a thermometer. The spiral chord connected to the small machine swung as the tiny thermometer was placed beneath her tongue. The doctor watched the number readout on the monitor quietly until it began to beep. Pulling out the thermometer he tossed the plastic covering in the trash. "Yes, your temperature is incredibly high. How long have you been feeling this way?"

"Just recently," she answered.

He scribbled something on a clipboard before removing the stethoscope from around his neck. Placing the two ends in his ears, he held up the circular end and smiled kindly at Orihime as he came to stand beside her. "It's not uncommon to develop a fever when visiting a foreign place," he said soothingly. "The strange environment, food, stress, and all this sun could've very well affected you."

A shiver ran up her spine as the cool metal touched her lower back beneath her shirt before sliding upwards between her shoulder blades.

Against the wall Ulquiorra was irate. How any of this poking and prodding was necessary when her diagnosis was so obvious was annoying him. The man evidently was enjoying the fact he had reason to slide his hands under her shirt.

"Your heart's beating quite fast," he commented. Pulling his hand from her shirt, he removed the stethoscope from his ears. Just as he was about to turn away, his eyes caught something on Orihime's neck. Brushing aside her hair his fingertip poked the red patch on her skin.

Immediately Orihime slapped a hand over the mark, startling the doctor.

"Did that hurt?" He asked, concerned.

She furiously shook her head. "N-no, it's nothing."

"I should probably take a closer look at it. If it's a rash then I can—"

The mortified flush on her face was terribly amusing to Ulquiorra. "It's not a rash," she mumbled.

The doctor held up his hands and smiled bashfully, glancing for a moment at Ulquiorra. "Oh, I see. Excuse me." And if Orihime's humiliation wasn't bad enough, it only worsened as Dr. Ito began to lecture her while he finished filling in his chart. "I would suggest using ice for that if you'd like to get rid of it sooner. What causes that dark redness is the bursting of blood vessels beneath the skin, usually caused by sucking or biting." Once more, the doctor's eyes met Ulquiorra's. "So please be sure to not irritate the area any further. It can become quite painful and sensitive."

Orihime could only nod, while Ulquiorra grew more and more agitated. He would never intentionally harm Orihime, and that mark on her neck wasn't painful. The man was just spouting irrelevant nonsense.

"Also," the doctor added, turning from both of them so they could only see his back, "I would avoid any activity that might heighten your temperature or put your body under physical strain." Both Orihime and Ulquiorra knew exactly what sort of activity he was alluding to. "It will only worsen your fever and delay your recovery." Opening a cabinet he sifted through different bottles and boxes and took out a small cylindrical container. "Take two of these every four to six hours with water. Make sure to stay hydrated, and get plenty of rest. And if you feel hot, don't bury yourself beneath blankets and heavy clothing. Your fever isn't severe, so take care of yourself and you'll feel better in no time."

Orihime swallowed two of the pills, and dropped the rest into her purse. "Thank you." Slipping off of the hospital bed and onto her feet, all of her blood rushed out of her head and she lost her balance. Stumbling, she gasped in surprise when she was caught in a familiar and comforting embrace.

"I wouldn't wait to get her to bed," Dr. Ito advised. "She's incredibly weak right now."

Ulquiorra didn't even bother to respond to such an obvious statement. Instead he helped guide Orihime from the infirmary and back out into the hallway where the burn of antiseptic wasn't in every breath. With her latched onto him for balance they very slowly made it back to their room.

By the time they reached their door Orihime felt ready to pass out. Her head was whirling, her eyelids felt heavy, her breath was hot, and she was dying for something to drink. Ulquiorra opened the door for them and they stepped inside the dark room.

The storm outside blocked all light from the sun, and the room was dim with shadows. With a quiet huff Orihime fell onto their unmade bed fully clothed, and pulling the sheets up to her chin, snuggled down until comfortable. Wrapping her arms around one of the pillows she clutched it close. Inhaling softly, she sighed at Ulquiorra's clean scent in the pillowcase.

Ulquiorra, standing beside their bed, looked down at her for a moment before reaching out to press his hand to her forehead. She really was burning up. "What should I do, onna?" Somehow he felt helpless in this situation. It wasn't enough for him to just stand by and idly watch her. He felt anxious, and frustrated that he couldn't be more useful.

Delirious with fever, she smiled and took his hand. "Just stay here."

As if he'd prefer to be anywhere else. Quietly, he took a seat beside her on the bed.

She nestled the pillow and shut her eyes. Exhaustion relaxed her, and she spoke freely, too feverish to be bothered with things such as being shy. "Take a nap with me," she mumbled.

He couldn't. Not with her in this state. Going into the small bathroom and taking up one of the disposable plastic cups he filled it with water before returning to her. She already appeared to be asleep, or at least very close to it. Setting down the cup his fingers brushed her cheek. "Sit up, onna."

Eyebrows creasing, she lightly groaned in protest.

Gently he wrapped an arm around her small shoulders and helped her to sit up. Her eyes opened and she stared groggily at him, her face completely flushed.

"I'm so…tired…"

Taking the cup he held it for her to grasp. This seemed to be a mistake, however, because as soon as he let go the cup slipped through her weak fingers. Water completely soaked her clothing, and a breathy laugh came from between her lips.


Ulquiorra stared down at her now translucent shirt and skirt, frowning at such terrible luck. While she was so warm that her hair was beginning to stick to her face, he was freezing. The air conditioning in their room, which they had no control over, was set at an uncomfortable low. Considering that the temperature outside was sweltering, it was usually a welcome relief returning to their room. But at the moment it wasn't as appreciated. Although Ulquiorra was no medical professional he knew that soaked clothing and a cold room did not bode well for one's health. If he left her this way her fever would only worsen, something he could not let happen now that he was responsible for helping her get better.

His eyes moved to her face, and his next words felt uncomfortable on his tongue. "I need you to undress."

Like hearing a distant echo, it took Orihime a moment to fully register his words. Slowly coming to her senses, she clutched the top of her shirt. When her eyes met his they were vaguely apprehensive.

Ulquiorra wrapped a hand around hers and pulled it away from her shirt before returning his fingers to the first button at her throat. "You have no reason to worry, Orihime." Her shirt collar fell open, exposing her creamy collarbone. His fingers tensed. "I will not touch you."

"But you'll see," she responded quietly. However, there was no protest in either her voice or her expression as his fingers continued to unbutton her blouse. Instead she curled her hands into the sheets at her sides and watched, her heart hammering away at her ribcage.

When the first peek of black lace was revealed Ulquiorra paused, distracted. It wasn't the first time he'd had a glimpse of her full breasts, but now in the dark of their room with her skin burning beneath his fingers, her breaths coming in gentle pants, and the revealing of something as intimate as her underwear, the effect was astonishing. A flurry of excitement constricted his chest, made his pulse race with fire, and his breathing strenuous.

"Ulquiorra?" His name was a soft whisper in the dark, and his attention returned to her face. But she dropped her gaze in a show of embarrassment. "You're staring."

He pulled his hand away. Why was he doing this anyway? She was conscious and fully capable of undressing herself. Had his desire for her gone so far as to even effect his common sense? "I can turn around."

Unable to meet his eyes, she shyly shook her head. "N-no, it's fine."

Ulquiorra almost wished that she'd requested him to look away, because as the last button was undone and her shirt fell open, it took everything within him to not stare. As he'd already known, she was beautiful. But seeing her this way—partially undressed, flustered, and heavily breathing—was too much for him.

Shyly, she slipped out of her open shirt and dropped it to the floor. Self-conscious, Orihime crossed her arms over her chest. The more skin that was exposed to the cool air, the hotter she felt. It wasn't her heightening fever, but rather the feeling of having Ulquiorra's eyes on her. Of having him undress her.

Both of them glanced at her soaked skirt, and then Orihime's nerves hit her full force. "I-I'll get it." Gripping the waistband she froze still when a pair of snow-white hands covered her own. His clean scent cleared her hazy mind as he leaned forward, and his warm breath blowing against her ear as he spoke sent thrilling chills down her spine.

"Lay down."

Already weak from sickness, she put up little resistance when he guided her onto her back. With wide doe-eyes, she looked up at him. His emerald gaze was darker than usual. Slowly she felt him begin to pull her skirt from her hips. Acting out of hesitation, she grasped hold of one of his wrists to make him pause. "Wait…"

Ulquiorra was amazed at his behavior, but he couldn't stop himself. His own body was burning, but for an entirely different reason than hers. This could very easily be the moment in which he lost all hold of his self-control. With another smooth pull her skirt fell from her hips, exposing a waistband of black lace. His hands pressed against her silken skin as he smoothed the skirt down her thighs to her ankles, before it joined the spot on the floor beside her discarded shirt.

Instantly her legs curled upwards, her knees locking together, and her hands covering as much of herself as she could. There was no reason for it, however, because Ulquiorra hadn't even been looking. Knowing that she was embarrassed, he'd firmly focused his attention on her face. But it wasn't only for her sake that he wasn't looking, but for his own.

With a muted sigh he grabbed the thin sheet bunched at the end of the bed and pulled it over her. Once covered, she seemed to calm considerably. Moving off of the bed he paused when small fingers grasped the back of his shirt.

Orihime gazed up at him with timidly expectant eyes. His gaze warming as it did only for her, he leaned down to brush soft lips against her warm forehead. She closed her eyes and sighed contentedly.

"Sleep, Orihime."

His words were unnecessary. Her eyes already closed, she was asleep within minutes.

Once more, nostalgia hit him. The circumstances were entirely different, but the situation felt familiar. He remembered the one rare moment during her short stay in Las Noches when he'd come in to check on her and found her asleep on the couch. She'd pulled her cape tightly around her much like she had the sheets now, and her face had been relaxed and peaceful. It was the first distinct memory he had of feeling curiosity that had nothing to do with her extraordinary power. It'd been with a newborn sense of wonder that he first noticed how strikingly different she looked when she was asleep. She looked younger, softer, and the way she'd been curled into the cushions made her seem startlingly vulnerable. At that point he'd only known of the defiant set of her mouth, the fiery strength in her eyes, and the firm, resolute set of her shoulders.

That time in Las Noches, as she sighed quietly in sleep, her voice soft and her expression vacant of distress, Ulquiorra had felt the first inklings of wonder and the strangest thought had come to him. That when she awoke, he didn't want that expression to be gone. That maybe for the smallest of an instant she'd forget that they were enemies, and that she'd look upon him with the same gentle expression she wore in her sleep.

Of course, the thought had only been fleeting, and quickly forgotten. He'd left and returned to find her awake, and once more her stare was hardened with anger at him, at Aizen, at herself.

But never did he imagine that his desire to be looked at by her with eyes filled with tenderness would come to fruition. Now when their eyes met her gaze held the most beautiful affection, and it was indescribable how it made him feel. And now he was to do everything within his power to make sure she looked at him no other way.

Taking a seat on the floor beside the bed, Ulquiorra rested his head against the mattress. Closing his eyes, he listened to her quiet breathing, which could just barely be heard over the tapping of rain against the window. It was all very relaxing, and although he'd told himself he'd stay awake to monitor her health, before he even realized it was happening he'd also fallen into a deep slumber.

It was when all that could be seen out the window was midnight that Orihime began to stir. The sheets had somehow been thrown off of her during sleep, and when she first became conscious of her surroundings, she was freezing cold. Patting her hand around the bed for the comforter, she pulled it over herself and sighed as she began to warm. But the blanket wasn't enough. Peeling open her eyes in the dark, she rolled over to Ulquiorra's side of the bed, ready to snuggle against him and seep in all of his body heat. So she was surprised when she found he wasn't there.

Fully opening her eyes in the dark, all sleepiness disappeared from her limbs as she sat up and worriedly glanced around the room. And then she spotted him. His head resting against the bed, he looked unexpectedly comfortable sleeping on the floor.

And then with a sudden jolt of recognition, she remembered. Feeling lightheaded in the hallway, coming back to their room and nearly passing out, her body burning with fever, Ulquiorra undressing her…

Dropping her gaze to her unclothed body, she realized that it hadn't just been a mortifying dream. Ulquiorra had seen everything. A well of disappointment pooled in her gut, and she sighed. She'd wanted to show him, to impress him, but it was all ruined now. He'd already seen everything and from what she remembered, he hadn't been too impressed. He hadn't even said anything. She now felt very silly for even thinking that she could somehow seduce him.

Wrapping the sheet around herself she slipped off of the bed to kneel on the floor beside his peacefully sleeping form. His head was tilted and his midnight hair hid most of his face. With soft hands, Orihime brushed away his bangs and smiled to herself at his relaxed expression. Compared to her, his skin was chilled, a result of sleeping completely exposed without a cover to warm him.

Tenderness warmed her heart, and she lightly smoothed her thumb over his porcelain cheek. "Ulquiorra," she whispered. She shook him lightly. "Wake up."

Very slowly sparkling green eyes were revealed to her, and she bit back a large smile at the momentary look of innocent confusion in his expression as he tried to recall why he was on the floor.

Ulquiorra exhaled slowly at the soreness of his muscles. Seeing Orihime sitting beside him in nothing but a thin sheet, he was briefly sidetracked. "Are you still unwell?"

Lightly she shook her head. "Nope. I feel good as new, thanks to you."

He didn't deserve any credit or thanks. He hadn't done anything but remove her clothes, something that he hardly thought to be commendable.

"Why are you on the floor?" She asked with an amused smile.

There was only one explanation, and it took him a moment to consider how to word his reasoning without entirely humiliating her. "How was I to sleep with you in this condition?" It would've been impossible to be so close to her warm naked skin, unable to touch her. Self-inflicted torture. Even now as she sat before him wrapped in nothing but a white sheet, her fiery hair messily disheveled and her skin glowing in the dark, the temptation he felt was unbelievable.

Confusion darkened her eyes. "But fevers aren't contagious, Ulquiorra."

It was this innocence, her utter lack of self-awareness, which appealed so much to him and yet frustrated him at the same time. Right now, however, it was challenging his patience. His hand slid over hers on the floor and he felt her fingers tense in surprise. "Your naivety makes embarrassing you an obligation, Orihime." She was so close that all he had to do was just barely lean down to brush his mouth against her bare shoulder. "It was not because of your fever that I refused to be near you, but what you're wearing." His mouth reached her neck, and he tasted salt on his tongue.

Blood rushed into her face, and her body heated immeasurably. His warm breath blew against her skin and his slender fingers tightened around her hand as he waited for her response.

He wasn't pressuring her into anything. She knew that. What would happen next was entirely her own decision. Shyly, she released her hold of the sheet, allowing it to hang loosely around her waist. Her eyes closed, too self-conscious to see how he was looking at her now. Cold air bit at her uncovered skin, but she barely noticed for the warmth pooling in her lower stomach. "So? W-what do you think?" Trying her best to sound confident, she failed.

Accepting her invitation to look, Ulquiorra's eyes dropped to her chest. It wasn't just the fact that she was beautiful, or that her curves were incredibly alluring and the ill-fitting black lace bra only added to her appeal. It was the faith she put in him to accept her that had him burning with desire to caress her skin. He knew how innocent and timid she was, which was why her exposing herself before him was so monumental. He meant something to her, and that knowledge was invaluable. "I think that you should never put yourself in this position again unless fully prepared to face the consequences."

Blushing, she glanced at him. Thudding in her chest, her heart raced as her next question struggled its way out of her mouth in a timid whisper. "Consequences?"

She knew precisely what consequences he meant, which was why he wasted no time in answering her. Instead his mouth brushed the side of her temple and he released her hand to trail his fingertips up the back of her arm. "Tell me what you were expecting to happen." When it came to this, she was impossible to read. One moment she seemed fully impassioned with the idea of giving into him, and the next she was flinching shyly away from every single one of his touches.

"I…" she hesitated as warm fingers brushed the nape of her neck, "hadn't thought that far."

His mouth moved to her ear. "You're lying, Orihime."

Ulquiorra was overwhelming. Everything about him was seductive. His voice, his words, his light caress and silken kiss, his eyes, while she was awkwardly sitting there feeling completely inadequate in poorly fitting lingerie and a twisted sheet. Her hair was an utter mess and she was badly in need of a shower after sweating so much. In fact, she couldn't remember the last time she'd showered. Insecurity upon insecurity kept piling up in her mind as Ulquiorra's velveteen mouth ghosted across her cheek. Even though he was just as new to all of this as she was, he was obviously a natural. It was just part of who he was to be sinfully enticing. And now was the moment she'd been secretly hoping for all day. His hands on her skin and his eyes on her face, unmoving and filled with that rare warmth, and all she could do was sit stock still like a blushing schoolgirl. She was completely unimpressive.

Ulquiorra pulled back in surprise when he noticed her damp lower lashes. She wasn't crying, but her eyes were shimmering fretfully. When she caught him looking, her expression turned panicked and she whipped her face away from him so he couldn't see. Thinking that somehow he'd scared her, he dropped his hand away from her skin. Within moments, she'd pulled the sheet completely over herself so that not even her head was visible anymore. With confused eyes, Ulquiorra could only stare.

Her face was so red and hot she felt as if it were searing the skin off of her arms as she buried it in the crook of her elbow. Knees pressed to her chest, she was curled into a tight ball of insecurity.

Ulquiorra had experienced many instances in which she'd behaved bizarrely, but this was something she'd never done before. He didn't know what to do or say, and touching her felt like the wrong decision at the moment. "What are you doing, onna?"

Eyes opening, she clutched tighter to the sheet. "I don't know." Underneath the sheet she felt as if she were suffocating. Slowly, she pulled it back so that only her head was uncovered. But she refused to meet Ulquiorra's eyes, although she could feel him staring at her. "I'm really bad at this," she confessed. "I don't want to be disappointing."

Disappointing. Not once had such a thought ever crossed his mind. But the look of dejection on her face told him that she truly believed herself incompetent, and he could only blame himself for never telling her otherwise. If she knew how he truly thought of her, then there would be no trace of sadness in her expression. "Is this why you've been so concerned?" Never did he imagine that the reason for her worry and hesitation to be with him was because she feared that she'd dissatisfy him. It only proved just how much she thought of him, and knowing this caused the heart in his chest to beat unsteadily. No one ever cared so much for his opinion. They'd never bothered to impress him. He'd never been so important to anyone before. The feeling he was experiencing right now as he came to realize that the depth of her liking for him was deeper than he'd ever imagined was extraordinary.

Staying quiet, she nodded in answer.

Relief swept through him. So she wasn't scared to be touched by him. She trusted him, and was willing to be with him. The only obstacle was herself. With his help, he'd help her get over it.

A small gasp escaped her when the sheet was pulled away from her body. In her surprise, she didn't have time to make a grab for it before it was completely drawn away. Her outstretched arm was caught at the wrist.

"You have no reason to hide yourself," he told her. And then, repeating himself just to make sure she understood that he'd never rush her into something she wasn't ready for, he said, "Tell me to stop, and I will."

In mortification she couldn't bring herself to look up from the floor. Fingers curling into a weak fist, she resisted covering herself with her free arm. It was only underwear. He'd seen her plenty of times in a bathing suit, which exposed just as much skin. This was not much different. Not really. When she opened her mouth to speak, she sounded breathless. "I…I don't want you to…"

Before she finished, Ulquiorra was already pulling back thinking he understood. But her next words made him pause.

"…stop. Don't stop." It was not just a request or shy consent, but a plea. Despite her insecurities and her nerves, there was no denying the thrill of bliss she felt being with him like this. A wave of shock made her breath catch when gentle fingertips brushed against her cheek, guiding her to meet his gaze. And then she saw it. His own hesitation. A dim apprehension darkening the green of his eyes. "You're scared?" Her voice was quietly amazed.

Just barely his eyes seemed to widen at her insightfulness. Although she asked him to continue, it was obvious to him that she was nervous and trying to convince herself she was ready. And this was not a step he wanted to take only to have her left with regrets because he hadn't taken the time to slow down. "I don't want you to touch me, Orihime."

Now it was her eyes that widened. "W-what? Why not?"

Leaning over, his nose brushed hers and he dropped his eyes to her mouth. His hand fell from her cheek to her shoulder as he spoke. "It will make this less difficult," was all he said.

Before she had even a moment to figure out what he could possibly mean, he captured her mouth, and her mind could concentrate on nothing else but the feel of his lips. His kiss was gentle, an attempt to ease her. Just the simple press of their mouths, a comforting pressure and a wonderful warmth, was all it took to dispel the tension in both of them. When he pulled away, she was blushing.

She was shy, and he was well aware of that, which was why he made it a point to not stare too hard at her exposed skin despite the difficulty. What he wanted was right before him and he was doing everything within his power to hold back and go slowly for her. Gently he guided her back onto the floor. Long strands of ginger hair fell in wavy rivulets on the hardwood behind her head. Winding a hand through her hair to cradle her head, Ulquiorra pressed his lips to hers once more, and this time she responded by parting her mouth in invitation.

They had no rhythm. It was soft, breathy, and relishing. There was something both so simple and complex about it. The playful nip of teeth, the silken caress of tongues, the exchange of breath, and of whispers against moistened lips. It wasn't just an act to draw pleasure, to make their blood race and their breathing strenuous. For both of them it was the physical exchange of the feelings that were too complicated to express through words.

His tongue slipped past her lips and into her mouth and he soon felt her fingers curl into the back of his shirt. And just as the night before she was clinging to him, except this time the effect was different. His hips between her legs and her arms around his shoulders, there was no pulling away. No reprieve from the feel of her warm skin pressed against him. Long legs rested on his hips, her warm inner thighs brushing his hipbones with every small movement. It was this exact position that Ulquiorra had to extract himself from before his body betrayed him and he ended up frightening her. Gingerly, so as not to offend her, his mouth slowed against hers before moving to her jaw.

But before he moved to put some distance between them, he paused only to immerse himself in this feeling. They were so close that he could feel her heart hammering against his chest. He could smell and taste the sweetness of her sweat, her breath, her mouth. Her flat stomach rose with every intake of her heavy breaths. Beneath his hands her skin was scorching, and his fingers smoothed over her waist and it was like running his hands over silk.

Just feeling her like this was more than he'd ever imagined himself fortunate enough to experience. Encased in her warmth, being so near to her like this was heaven and hell all at once. It was everything he wanted, and yet the longing to be even closer was nearly drowning him. The feel of her hair, her skin, her body pressed tightly to his, wrapped around him, was intoxicating.

But he wanted her so badly, and had for much too long now that his body couldn't handle being this close. Already he could feel the warm tingle of arousal just being pressed to her caused, and it was imperative he pulled away before she noticed.

This was new to both of them, which made all feelings so much more intense. Every touch was blistering, every kiss impassioned. Nothing was taken for granted, or lightly, which was why Ulquiorra wanted to be careful. Hurting her or rushing into something she wasn't prepared for was unforgiveable. And so when her legs locked around his hips, he sighed.

"Let go, Orihime," he demanded, his mouth brushing the side of her neck, skimming over the red mark.

Remembering his request, her legs loosened around his hips. With a shudder she bit down into her bottom lip as he began to suck on her neck. "Ulquiorra, the doctor said—"

"I know," he interrupted. "Calm down, onna."

But he made that an impossibility. His tongue was warm and wet on her skin, sliding across her neck to her ear, dampening her earlobe as he gently nipped it with his teeth. The sharp bite of his teeth on her flesh was teasing, the pain eclipsed by spasms of pleasure. The sound of his breath, deep and heady with the same excitement she was feeling, brought chills to her heated skin.

Reaching between them Ulquiorra placed a hand on her waist, and just as he knew would happen, her back arched from the ground and her breasts brushed against his chest. Such a sensitive reaction from her forced him to close his eyes against the throb her movements were causing within him. Slowly, so as not to startle her, his fingers slid to her back until they were touching the clasp of her bra. He felt her stiffen beneath him, and he brushed his mouth against her temple to ensure her that there was no reason to worry.

Orihime clenched her eyes and buried her head against his shoulder as she waited for the clasp to be undone, but it never happened. She relaxed as his hand moved to her lower back where his fingers splayed to pull her forwards so her stomach was brushing his.

Ulquiorra could almost feel her calm beneath him. "If I am making you uncomfortable," his voice, deep and dark, was like black velvet. His forehead pressed to her neck as he closed his eyes. His words were a whisper against her throat, "then say so."

It wasn't him making her uncomfortable, but herself. She'd never been seen naked in front of anyone before, and she wasn't sure if she was ready yet. "I don't want to take it off."

His answer came as a soft kiss beneath her chin. It was better this way, was what he told himself. If she'd given him permission to remove the only articles left covering her, he would've undoubtedly lost it. Tonight, he would not allow himself to take advantage of her. All he wanted was to touch her. After all she'd done for him, taught him, and made him realize, this was the best way he knew how to show his gratitude. Everything about this moment would be unselfish. He would ask for nothing in return. Every kiss and caress would be only for her. All he wanted was to satisfy her, make her happy, and communicate that she indeed meant something to him.

Orihime could feel Ulquiorra's smooth cheek against hers and his breath on her neck. Her heart was unforgiving. "B-but why just me?" Her sudden question had Ulquiorra opening his eyes to meet her bashful gaze. "I don't want to be the only one…" She couldn't bring herself to finish.

But he knew what she meant. Amusement sparked behind his eyes and he lifted himself off of her so he was sitting back on his knees looking down at her sprawled on the floor before him. It was just the sort of angle he wanted to avoid seeing because instantly a part of him throbbed at the sight. Her slender legs were spread with her knees on either side of his hips, opening just enough so that the black lace of her tiny underwear was clearly visible between her parted thighs. The enticing curve of her hips had him grinding his teeth, and watching her flat stomach rise and fall with her soft pants made him feel weak. And then there were her breasts. She'd wrapped her arms over her chest, but her tiny arms were doing a very poor job of hiding anything. And the flustered flush on her cheeks as she watched him sent another jolt of hot desire rushing through him. There was nothing youthfully immature about her body. She was young, but she had the body of a mature woman. It stole his breath.

With sure hands Ulquiorra pulled his shirt over his head, exposing his perfect physique and moonlight skin. Cold air chilled his skin, and immediately he was longing to press his body to hers to reclaim her warmth. But knowing what she wanted, because Orihime was never discreet when it came to guarding her desires, he paused to let her look. Unlike her, he wasn't embarrassed to be seen unclothed. He enjoyed how she liked to stare at him. How the sight of his naked flesh made her expression a little less innocent.

With the sensual finesse of an exotic predator, Ulquiorra stretched back over her, but made sure to not lower his hips to hers. Instead he rested above her on his forearms, and his black hair swayed against her cheek. Slowly, teasingly, he lowered his mouth to hers to suck on her full lower lip. His hands reclaimed her waist to hold her still as she reflexively arched beneath him. She sighed against his mouth and he knew she was enjoying the feeling as much as he was.

Neither of them really knew what they were doing, but both knew what they wanted, and that was to be as close to each other as possible. To meld flesh until they couldn't tell themselves from the other.

And Ulquiorra could no longer resist touching her. Not taking his mouth from hers, his hands slipped to her ribcage where his fingertips brushed the soft underneath of her breasts. A surprised gasp issued from her, and her eyes opened to meet his. The tip of his tongue ran along her lips before delving deep inside her mouth to caress hers, and in that brief moment of passion her arms weakened.

A muffled whimper came from her when she felt his fingers brush over her thin bra. The feeling of having his hands touch her in such a place had her feeling as she'd never felt before. Immediately all reservations flew from her mind, and she arched against his hand, pressing her breast into his palm.

Beneath his fingers he felt the first telltale sign of her arousal. Through the nylon itch of lace he could feel the swell of a hardened nipple, and with fascinated wonder he rubbed his thumb over it only to hear Orihime gasp once more. Ulquiorra felt his body awakening with arousal as soon as she cried against his mouth, and he knew he was a goner. It was idiotic of him to think that he even stood a chance of resisting such temptation. He hadn't even looked at her, but just the feel of her in his palm was enough to cripple his resolution. Once more his fingertips rolled over the soft knob, drawing breathless gasps from her. The sudden urge to pull away the lace covering to unveil her sensitive flesh was tremendous. What he wanted was to hear more of those wonderful sounds. Her pants and whimpers of pleasure. Sounds that no one before him had heard. Such provocative noises caused by his hand. Boldly he brought his free hand to her other breast and his fingers on both hands matched in rhythm as he continued to coax breathless moans from her. Even with his fingers stretched, her breasts didn't fit in his palms, and the feeling of them filling his hands was fantastic.

As his fingers rubbed against her, smoothing and pressing, he kissed a wet path down her throat. Her pulse raced fast beneath his lips in perfect sync with the beat of his excited heart. When he reached the valley of her breasts he felt her jolt beneath him. He raised his eyes to find that she'd pressed the back of her hand over her mouth, stifling all sounds.

The tip of his nose skimmed the soft flesh of her breast. Parting his lips, his tongue slid against the thin lining of lace. The fabric was rough on his tongue, but it was something he easily ignored as his mouth replaced his stroking fingers. Her skin tasted sweet, and his mouth moistened, craving for more. Pressing his tongue against her covered breast, he concentrated on the muffled cries stifled behind her hand.

Orihime clamped her teeth onto the back of her hand as wet heat seeped through her bra to dampen her skin. The pressure of his tongue swirling over her sensitive nipple was phenomenal, and despite herself, she was arching up against his mouth in a silent beg for more. And he did not deny her. Devastating pleasure ignited her bones as his blunt teeth scraped over her dampened flesh, digging into black lace and yielding flesh. Her eyes clenched against the sudden shock of yearning between her legs, and her knees weakened against his hips.

And that's when he moved his hands, sliding them from her breasts and along her waist, his thumbs skimming her stomach before pausing at her hips. They were so slender, but curved so beautifully, and he longed to press them against his own, to feel the rub of hipbones and warm skin. But he couldn't. Not tonight.

Orihime unlatched her mouth from her hand as Ulquiorra pulled away. Even in the dark his skin seemed to illuminate, and nothing was hidden from her vision. But not even his flawlessly hardened stomach, broad shoulders, or toned chest could distract her from his eyes. More than even his hands, his gaze drew from her a pleasure that came from not only her body, but her heart. She was fascinated by the gentle softening in his expression as his eyes looked over her. She could tell by the intensity of his stare that he was transfixed by her, and the confidence Orihime had been searching for all day finally came to her.

Bending low, his mouth caressed her stomach. When his silken tongue peeked from behind parted lips to caress her navel, Orihime found herself tangling her fingers in thick black hair. As he moved further down, his mouth leaving a feather-light trail of velvet kisses, her legs slid away from his hips until her knees were brushing his shoulders. It was when she could feel his hot breath blowing against the juncture of her thighs that she self-consciously slid her free hand over her underwear in a weak effort to hide from him.

The heady scent of her arousal assaulted his senses, and Ulquiorra slid closed his eyes as he brushed his nose against her inner thigh. Heat radiated from her in waves, the feeling heavy and humid. He felt her legs quivering beneath his palm, and he calmly rubbed soft fingers against her skin. Noticing the hand she had covering herself, Ulquiorra moved his lips to skim across her fingers. Immediately she pulled her hand away as if burned, revealing to his gaze thin black lace. For the barest of a moment he considered pressing his mouth to her, but catching sight of the sheer embarrassment glimmering in her gaze as she watched him, he instead drew himself back up until his mouth was once more at her neck.

With slow fingers Ulquiorra traced the waistband of her lace underwear, enjoying the way her stomach dipped with a sharp intake of breath. A lone fingertip trailed against the front of the lace undergarment, pressing against damp heat. Around his hips, her legs were trembling, and he placed a calming hand on her naked thigh. "You're nervous," he commented quietly, raising his eyes to meet hers. "I've given you no reason to feel this way."

Embarrassed, she shook her head weakly. "I-I'm not nervous."

"Then why are you shaking, Orihime?" Impossible heat surrounded his fingers as his hand slipped further between her thighs. But he soon discovered the true answer as his fingertip brushed her through her underwear. With a slight rise from her hips, he felt her press against his hand, and he felt a tremor of sensation in his groin at her reaction. "You seem to enjoy when I touch here," he said more so to himself, once more smoothing his finger over dampened black lace.

It was too much for Orihime to bear hearing him say such blatant things about her body and her reactions. Ulquiorra was always so honest, and usually she appreciated the fact, but right now she just felt mortified. But there was no denying the feel of him touching her through her underwear was amazing. "You don't have to d-do that," she huffed, reaching out and fisting her fingers in his pant-leg.

She was uncomfortable. Once more, it seemed that he was crossing a line too soon. But touching her like this, hearing the noises coming from her kiss-swollen lips, was addictive. He just wanted to be with her like this for a little longer. Leaning forward, his lips found hers, brushing softly, pressing gently, much like his fingers between her legs. "I am aware this is not an obligation. What I do is entirely by choice." And then, as if his words weren't enough to satisfy him, he added, "Although it seems you are a significant influence."

Her eyes widened at the unexpected confession. It was the first time Ulquiorra had voiced to the degree in which he thought of her. To be significant to someone like Ulquiorra meant something entirely different than it did to most. He didn't find anything important. Most things he ignored or was entirely indifferent towards. And yet she was significant.

Lifting her head from the floor, she kissed him softly, breaking away only to release a shaky breath as his fingers continued to glide over her underwear. The touch was so light and teasing that the desire to press herself harder against his hand, to feel the satisfaction of his hand pressed to her, was immense. Her legs widened, sliding against his thighs. Her mind was muddled with pleasure, and all thought was slowly being drowned out by his smell, the taste of his tongue, the feeling of his hands, and the look in his eyes. When he pressed against the knot of nerves hidden beneath the layer of lace, she moaned against his lips. The sound startled the both of them, and blood rushed into her face.

"I-I um…" She stuttered embarrassedly, feeling that she needed to explain the sound.

But Ulquiorra would hear none of it. Instead, he found the same spot and once more rubbed his fingertip over it, watching with absorbed fascination as Orihime's eyes clouded, detaching from reality. The bite of her fingernails digging into his shoulders told him that whatever he'd touched, she enjoyed it. "What is this, onna?" He asked against her forehead, his lips brushing aside her matted bangs.

Another wave of shocking pleasure rocked through her as he pressed harder. "S-stop," she begged weakly. She didn't mean for him to stop, her body only wanting more, but the demand was simply an instinctual reaction to his hands making her feel strange. So when his fingers paused and the sweet pressure of his touch disappeared, she met his gaze in unabashed disappointment. However, the feeling was short lived when his fingers brushed her abdomen.

Ulquiorra smoothed the back of a lone fingertip over her navel, feeling her stomach dip beneath his hand. She was so sensitive, and every small touch wrought from her a gasp of surprise. She was so incredibly enticing, and her body was so mature, so it was easy for him to forget that all of this was new to her. With care, he slipped his fingertip just beneath the waistband of her underwear, monitoring her expression closely for any sign of uncertainty. Immediately she tensed, and met his calm gaze above.

"Have you been touched here?" His voice was deeper than usual, thickened with desire.

Crimson bloomed in small patches on her cheeks, and just barely, she nodded. "B-by myself." Her nerves were apparent in the soft tremor of her voice.

When she said nothing more on the matter, Ulquiorra sighed quietly. It was obvious by the gentle quake of her body that she was eager, but she was still so shy. "I am asking your permission, Orihime."

Slowly, faintly, she gave a small nod of consent.

And with painstaking care, Ulquiorra slipped his hand further beneath the veil of lace. When his fingertips met with soft silken curls, he paused as Orihime flushed and released a muffled cry of embarrassment. With utmost tenderness, he pulled her bottom lip into his mouth as he continued. The further his hand delved, the more warmth soaked into his fingertips. And when his fingers finally slid through her velveteen folds, she gasped against his mouth and his tongue slipped inside to soothe some of her trembling.

But kissing her did nothing to alleviate the fire in his groin, which had been growing worse by the second. And now it was all he could do not to press his hips against hers to ease even some of his crushing desire. Instead, he distracted himself by caressing her. The feel of touching her in such an intimate place was astonishing. She was so incredibly soft and wet, like slick velvet. His long fingers slid against her with ease, only made easier by the slow rocking of her hips against his hand as she slowly began to lose herself once more to his touch.

Dropping his gaze from her face, he stared transfixed at the slow rolling of her hips against his hand. The sight brought on another rush of pleasure, and slowly he was becoming aware that his own arousal was becoming uncomfortable. When his fingertip smoothed over the small knot of nerves hidden between petal-soft lips, Orihime's hips jerked and she arched until her stomach was brushing his arm.

It was so different from when she touched herself. She had no real control. His fingers were longer than hers, and quicker, more precise. By now her breathing had turned strenuous, coming from her in deep gasps and fevered pants. She wanted more. Never before had she felt such a passionate ache. His fingers were amazing, sliding against her, pressing and stroking with teasing expertise, but somehow it wasn't enough. Clutching onto his shoulders, her hips rose once more against his hand, and she sighed as his palm brushed against her clitoris. "Ul…quiorra…"

The sound of her sighing his name as she gazed up at him with eyes clouded in ecstasy was devastating to his control. Touching his free hand to her chin, he tilted her face to his for a soft kiss. He wanted to speak, but his voice felt trapped, the only sound coming from his mouth being his heady breaths. The only answer he could offer her now as she called for him was to touch her.

"I feel—" Her words became a breathy gasp as he rubbed tiny circles against her sensitive flesh. Closing her eyes, she turned her face against his neck and breathed in.

In response he began to quicken his stroking fingers, shortening every caress. With every downward sweep of his fingertips he'd trace over her entrance, and each time his fingers would draw away moistened. She was now so wet with arousal that his fingers slid against her without difficulty.

And then her legs moved, reclaiming their position with her thighs settled against his hips. Raising her knees, she pressed them to his back, pulling him closer to her. And then, before he realized what she was doing, she rolled her hips upwards to brush herself against his groin.

Ulquiorra's eyes widened at the onrush of feeling as he felt her heat caress him through his pants. It was only a slight pressure, a small caress, but it was enough to have him throbbing with unfulfilled need. Her legs tightened, and she pulled him even closer, and he couldn't find the will within to resist as his hips pressed to hers and his covered arousal was buried against hers.

And then it was him that was struggling to control his voice, his breathing, as very gently Orihime began to rub against him. Her legs were unyielding around his hips, and the hot friction created from the fevered press of her against him was clouding his vision, his rationale. This was what he'd been hoping to avoid, but he never imagined it'd be her initiating this. When this was what she wanted, he had very little willpower to deny her. "Orihime…" His voice was a weighty whisper against her skin.

Hearing his voice brought her back to her senses if only for a moment, and her hips slowed. Pressed between her thighs she could feel him, hard and incredibly intimidating, and it was with shy wonder that she met his powerful gaze.

Very slowly, Ulquiorra inhaled a shallow breath as his eyes locked with hers. Their faces were so close that every breath was shared. Swimming within her silver eyes was a timid awareness that she knew precisely what was happening between them. What he didn't see was hesitation or fear.

Slowly he once more began to move a lone finger against her, his entire hand sticky and moist. Not breaking his gaze, he watched her face with careful eyes as his fingertip reached the one place he'd yet to touch. Tracing her entrance, he immediately felt her tense and tighten around his finger, making him pause.

Uncertainty darkened his brow as he began to wonder if he was doing this correctly. His own inexperience was surely justification for his lack of expertise. So when he felt her relax, it was with particular care that he slid his finger inside of her. Her face was flushed and her eyes glistened in marvel. She seemed dazed. She was entirely disoriented by his touch and he felt a strange sense of pride fill him.

The moment Orihime felt his slender finger press inside of her, she released a quivering breath. It was the first time she'd ever been touched by someone other than herself and the feeling of being caressed so deep left her breathless. Although his fingers were so slender, she could feel herself tightly wrapped around him, and the sensation had her heart thudding with excitement. Some of the ache she'd been feeling eased ever so slightly, although it still wasn't enough. When he didn't move within her, she felt impatient. Her fingers curled into tiny frustrated fists against his porcelain shoulders, and quietly she released a disgruntled sigh.

It was this small change in her flustered expression that told Ulquiorra she was slowly adjusting to being comfortable. And so gently he began to slip his finger out before again burying it in moist heat, his hand mimicking what he desired to do himself. And no matter how much he tried, his thoughts turned errant, and everything he began to notice was entirely sexual in nature. But feeling her silken walls clench around his finger, her hips rise and fall beneath him, her nails scraping his skin, and her heady breaths blowing against his mouth, it was impossible not to think such things.

Orihime gasped, her eyes widening, as he brushed a spot that brought her the sweetest pleasure. Arching off the floor, her hips grinded against his hand. Between her legs it was so hot, and she could feel the thin fabric of her underwear becoming damp as Ulquiorra's fingers continued to stroke her.

She wasn't going to last very long. Already she could feel herself nearing climax, a feeling she'd only ever experienced alone. But this time it was with Ulquiorra, and by his hand. His finger swirled inside of her, curling against her slick walls, pressing and gliding, drawing in and out of her unhurriedly, while he rolled her clitoris beneath his thumb. And all the while he wouldn't look away from her face, his emerald eyes fixated on her as if she were the very center of his universe.

She felt as if her brain wasn't functioning properly, because she was behaving in a way she'd never thought herself capable. With a whimper, her arms tightened around his shoulders as a second finger slid inside of her, stretching and filling her. The sensation was something she'd not known until now, and her hips again pressed down against his hand despite herself. The motion of her rolling hips, her arched back, and breathy pants was incredibly provocative, and she knew she should feel embarrassed, but as Ulquiorra's fingers continued to delve deeper inside of her, she couldn't bring herself to care about anything else.

And then he kissed her, and she lost it. His mouth covered hers, hot and wet. He sucked on her lip, pulling it into his mouth and caressing it with his tongue. She moved a shaking hand to his jaw, feeling his muscles move beneath her fingers as he kissed her, enfolding his tongue inside of her mouth to taste her. Lifting her head, she wound her fingers into his soft raven hair, running her tongue along his thin bottom lip. His fingers began to slow, drawing out every stroke and caress until she could no longer handle it and all her building tension released itself with a shudder. Her eyes closed and her soft moan was released against his mouth.

Opening his eyes, Ulquiorra watched with fascination as her head tilted back against the hardwood, her eyes closing and her cheeks turning the most beautiful shade of rose. Around his fingers her smooth walls clenched, constricting with her release. Her body trembled with every violent contraction, her stomach stretching as her back curved off of the floor, her neck elongating as she tilted back her head. In the pale light from the window her skin glistened beneath a thin veil of sweat. And then her hips stilled, raised off of the ground, and his breathing halted as he became so absorbed in the moment.

Gradually her body calmed and relaxed, her hips falling back to the floor and her walls pulsing with just a gentle throb around his fingers.

Her mouth parted, she breathed unevenly as she reopened her eyes, her eyes faraway. Inside of his chest, Ulquiorra's heart raced on the verge of detonation. Very gently he slid his fingers from between her legs, his fingers glistening and sticky. Turning her head, her cloudy eyes met his.

Ulquiorra was well aware that she had yet to return to her senses. Sighing, he closed his eyes and settled his forehead against her neck, just listening to her breathing calm as he tried to restrain the fire in his groin. He realized the best way to do so would be to detach himself from her, but she was so warm and was clinging to him so desperately that he'd rather suffer in her arms than out of them.

When slender arms tightened around his neck, clutching him tightly so that the air rushed out of his lungs, Ulquiorra knew she was finally aware. His hands smoothed against her waist soothingly. "You are making it difficult to breathe, Orihime."

"S-sorry." Loosening her grip, she avoided meeting his gaze as he pulled back to look into her face.

As of late, she seemed to be doing this a lot. Not looking at him, blushing whenever he was near. "Is it your intention to avoid me?" He asked quietly, moving his mouth against her blushing cheek.

Reluctantly, after several long moments, she met his gaze. The utter amount of mortification in her eyes was endearing. What Ulquiorra didn't realize was why she was so embarrassed. It wasn't for the reason he'd thought. She could feel him, pressed against the inside of her thigh as he shifted his hips. Knowing it was her that had affected him in such a way brought on a surge of satisfaction, and shyly she began to brush her inner thigh against him. With wonder she watched him grit his teeth, and his eyes widened marginally in surprise.

Once more, Orihime moved her leg to brush against him, watching his reaction. "Does it hurt?"

When she pressed her thigh to him again, he sighed against her lips. "Stop, Orihime."

"B-but what about you?"

"I do not expect anything." This wasn't about him. It never had been. His only intention had been to please her.

It seemed she silently struggled with herself for a moment before shyly mumbling a quiet, "I want to." As if to further press her point, she touched a hand to his leg.

Ulquiorra was in disbelief that she would even propose such a thing, but refusing such a request was impossible. Resting his forehead to hers, he grabbed the hand she had pressed to his leg and curled his fingers around it. She was still trembling, and his chest warmed. Carefully, he guided her hand to his skin before releasing hold of her to allow her to touch him as she pleased.

And of course, the first place her fingers lingered was the center of his collarbone, the one place that kept her so enthralled. Beneath her fingers, his pulse was strong. He watched her face carefully as she caressed his skin. When her hand moved to his chest, she shyly brushed her fingertips over a pale nipple. The furiously shy blush that spread across her face was screaming that she had no idea what she was doing, and a rare smirk shadowed Ulquiorra's mouth when she pressed against it again. She peeked up at him from behind long lashes, gauging his reaction only to see that her touch wasn't effecting him very much at all.

Dropping her hand away from his skin, she looked away awkwardly. "Am I not doing it right?"

Retaking hold of her hand, Ulquiorra touched his lips to her wrist before returning her fingers to his chest. "I am not a woman, onna."

She blanched. "I-I'm just doing what you did." Moving her eyes back to his toned chest, she ran her palm over his soft skin.

"The places in which I am responsive are different," he explained gently.

"Then where?" Her eyes were desperate, and her hands eager to please.

Sliding a hand to lock in her hair, he kissed her shoulder. "Discover on your own, Orihime." It was his invitation for her to touch him however she wanted.

Unsurely, her hand moved to his hardened abdomen, and her fingertips traced the defined muscle admiringly. As her hand lowered, nearing the waist of his pants, he tensed. Touching the fastening of his pants, she listened to his breath hitch. Her fingers were clumsy, a result of her nerves, but somehow she managed to undo the button. The zipper was more difficult, and so his hand joined hers to help her until finally his pants were hanging loosely from his hips. Just as with her, this was as far as he'd undress. Not because he was modest, but because he knew that the sight of him would intimidate her.

Orihime exhaled unevenly as his fingers twined with hers, a calming gesture to ease her nerves. And then slowly he pressed her hand to his hardened stomach. Her fingertips directed downwards as he guided them beneath the tight waistband of his underwear. Her arm tensed, and their joined hands paused on his rigid abdomen.

"This is not something you should feel obligated to do." If she had any reservations about this, then it was now or never for her to back out. Because once her hand was on him, he wouldn't be able to accept her pulling away.

"I know. It's just that I'm going to be bad at this," she promised, her voice a shaky warning.

His eyes met hers, intense and heavy with desire. Cradling her hand in his, Ulquiorra continued to guide her fingers against his skin. "I will help you."

A deep silence hung in the air when her fingertips finally touched him. She could feel incredible heat and sticky residue on her fingertips, and blood flooded her face.

The tickle of her touch caressing the tip of him alone was astounding. Gripping her hand, he guided it further until he could feel the full stretch of her fingers pressed against him. And then he felt all strength leave him. His arms, his legs, everything, and he all but collapsed against her, his forehead pressed to the floor beside her head.

"Ul-Ulquiorra?" Speaking was difficult, and her breathing became strained. Beneath her palm she could feel him, and her entire chest was humming with the beating of her heart. Against her fingers she felt the press of hot, hardened flesh, pulsing against her hand with a strong throb. She blushed. "What should I do?"

His mouth found her ear, and his eyes opened to watch the side of her face. "Touch me."

Eventually he felt her fingers begin to move against him, slowly, shyly. Pressed between her palm and his abdomen, the pressure created against his length was extraordinary, and his hips pressed forward. He was being as gentle as possible, rubbing himself against her hand, not wanting to frighten her. But with every small thrust of his hips, he was losing his grasp on his control. And when her fingers wrapped around him, he stilled.

"C-can you show me?" she asked timidly.

Inhaling shallowly, Ulquiorra wrapped his hand around hers. The fabric of his underwear brushed the backs of his knuckles as he slowly began to guide her hand back and forth along his shaft. Heat pooled in his lower abdomen, tying a tight knot of tension. He knew that he wouldn't be able to last very long. Not with her touching him. Her hand was so gentle, her fingers so soft. When he released his hold on her hand to let her continue on her own, her movements became much more awkward, although the pleasure he felt did not lessen in the least.

Orihime felt the now familiar tingle of heat between her legs just hearing Ulquiorra's unsteady breathing. It was so rare for his calm composure to break, and so feeling his unsteady heart pounding against her chest and his shaky breath in her ear was captivating. She wanted to hear more. To see more of this side of him. Gingerly, she swiped her thumb against his tip, and was pleased when she felt him shudder.

"Do it again." His deep voice was not commanding, but pleading.

Once more, Orihime caressed his tip, and her thumb pulled away wet. Curiously, because she couldn't see, she touched him again, and this time she felt him twitch against her fingertips.

The hand he had in her hair dropped to her bare thigh, and his fingers gripped her roughly, making her gasp.

Having no idea what she was doing, Orihime continued to stroke him lightly. Her fingers were sticky, and as they slid against him, the moisture clung to his hot flesh. Eventually his hips began to move again, the motion awfully erotic. Unable to help herself, because everything about Ulquiorra drew her attention, Orihime watched his hardened stomach tighten as his hips rocked forward. Unexpectedly, the incredible ache she'd felt earlier returned.

He was startlingly beautiful this way. Although lately his usual guard had been down around her, she still hadn't been prepared for this. Right now, he was putting himself in such a vulnerable position before her by letting her touch him like this. Tenderly, she kissed his cheek, finding it warm and flushed beneath her lips.

"Orihime." His voice was surprisingly severe, and she turned her head to meet his gaze. For a short moment she was taken aback by the sight of his face. Never before had she seen Ulquiorra looking so disheveled, his paper-white cheeks warmed a soft crimson and his dark hair plastered to his face and neck.

Her hand not slowing around his hardened length, Orihime leaned to kiss him, this time slipping her tongue inside his mouth to taste him, and deepening the kiss on her own. Against her lips he released the softest sigh, his eyes closing before he bent his head against her shoulder. His body tensed above her, and he pulsed hot and heavy within her hand.

And then she felt it. Warm and thick, he spilled over her hand, coating her fingers in his sticky release. The hot liquid dripped against her wrist, and smeared against his skin. She felt him twitch beneath her moist fingertips, and she loosened her grip.

It was only after a few long moments that she realized the deathlike clutch his fingers had around her thigh. With his head still pressed against her shoulder, Orihime gingerly pulled her hand from beneath his waistband to examine in the little light given from the window the liquid coating her fingertips.

She couldn't believe it. It had all happened so quickly. One moment she was waking up from her nap, and the next she was lying on the floor in her underwear having just touched Ulquiorra so intimately, and been touched so intimately. And now, feeling him breathing softly against her bare shoulder, having him lying atop her entirely comfortable and relaxed, Orihime was overcome with contentment.

Ulquiorra, however, was feeling quite unsure. A fear shadowed him, and he was reluctant to look at her in dread he'd see on her face disgust, or even worse, regret. But when he felt sticky fingers comb through his hair, he knew he had no reason to worry. Orihime would've never done this if it hadn't been what she wanted.

"Ah, sorry," she suddenly apologized, pulling her hand away from his head. "I got it in your hair."

Raising his head, he noticed the furious flush on her cheeks. And then he realized what it was she was referring to, and sighed. "Forgive me, onna. I should have given you warning."

But Orihime was already shaking her head. "N-no, it's okay."

Eyes locking, they held each other's gaze for a short moment before their lips touched in a brief caress. Her arms found their way back around his shoulders and she buried her face against his neck until he could feel the burn of her cheeks against his skin. Somehow they felt closer now that the tension that'd been building between them had been somewhat relieved for the time being.

Pulling himself off of her to rest against the bed as he'd been earlier, Ulquiorra touched a slender hand to his lower stomach to find it also covered in his release. Disgust thinned his mouth, and he met Orihime's curious gaze as she too sat up before him. He wanted to draw him to her, but he couldn't bring himself to touch her while he was in this state.

Tiredly, she brought a hand to her mouth to cover a sudden yawn, and his eyes caught sight of the gold ring of plastic around her finger. Just as he was about to inform her that he was in need of a shower, she was inching towards him on hands and knees. He could only watch in curiosity as she climbed onto his lap. Either she'd yet to recover from earlier or it was exhaustion that was making her act this way, Ulquiorra wasn't sure. Reaching behind herself, her hand found the discarded white sheet, and she pulled it over the both of them and nestled her head against his shoulder, completely comfortable with the fact that she was still in her underwear and he was dirtied and only half dressed.

With a soft sigh, she closed her eyes.

"Tell me why you'd prefer to sleep on the floor," he asked, feeling as exhausted as she was.

"The bed will get dirty," she answered sleepily.

"There's a shower, Orihime."

She nodded against his neck, fully aware of the fact. "I want to—," her words were interrupted by a quiet yawn, "—just stay like this for a moment, though."

Closing his eyes, Ulquiorra rested his head against the mattress and concentrated on the steady thump of her heart against his naked chest. Beneath the sheet his skin was so warm, and feeling her holding onto him like this made putting off the shower easy.

It only just struck him, as he was holding her in his lap, just how significant a step they'd just taken. For her, he'd been the first to ever touch her so intimately. Her first kiss also belonged to him. And somehow, to his amazement, her heart. Finding her left hand, he lazily laced their fingers, touching the fake ring that signified their false marriage.

Although he already meant so much to her, it wasn't enough for him. The future held so many possibilities, and he wanted to know that he could be sure that long from now, he'd still be important. He wanted to be there for every new experience. Each breath, each sunrise and sunset. This attachment, whatever it was called, had grown faster and stronger than he'd thought possible. Breaking it was an absolute impossibility. At least, for him.

For now, all he could do was trust her. He would hold her, and do whatever he had to in order to satisfy her in the hopes that her attachment to him would be just as strong.

Winding his arm around her back, he held her close as she drifted off to sleep. Burning in his chest was a feeling that he was hesitant to put a name to, but at some point he was going to have to face it. But right now, as Orihime relaxed and slumbered against him, he was fine admitting to himself that he was indeed happy.

Brushing his mouth against her temple, he watched her as her expression eased and softened, and he wondered what she was dreaming of. And then, with just a soft mumble from her lips, she whispered against his neck. "…love…Kuro…sa…ki..."

And the fortress of content he'd built, along with his security and trust, was shattered within that single instant and his skin turned cold as he was overcome with a feeling worse than even jealousy. Doubt.

A/N: Please no complaining about the sexual content. It wasn't even that graphic, so if it offends you now I would suggest you not read any future chapters because it's only going to get worse. This chapter was quite mild, honestly. Like, super mild. Like salsa without spice mild.

Please be kind in your reviews, but tell me what you think! Feedback is important! Thanks to everyone who has reviewed/favorited/and subscribed so far!

And a million trillion apologies for being the slowest writer on the planet. I just cannot upload anything unless I am happy with every single sentence, and this chapter wasn't coming easy for me. I hope it didn't disappoint~!

EDIT 9/10/11: I changed Orihime saying "...love...Ichigo..." to "...love...Kuro...sa...ki...". A few people have pointed out that she wouldn't refer to Ichigo as Ichigo, and it's true. I wasn't thinking. *hangs head in shame*