Disclaimer:I do not own Bleach, any of its characters, or anything else I have mentioned in this story.


By: Princess Kitty1

Curtain Call


He had never given so much thought to breathing in his entire life. Then again, who needed to? It was involuntary, a natural response, something that happened whether one wanted it to or not. The body needed oxygen, and so it was taken. Inhalation, lung expansion, exhalation, lungs deflate. Repeat. How could one simple function have such vital importance, enough to be a matter of life and death? He wasn't sure, but if she wouldn't do it, then he would just have to do it for her.

"Youdo know that I'm a prostitute, right?"

He did know, but he didn't care. It was insignificant, it didn't matter. All of those men that she had kissed before him, that she had given everything of herself to, with the exception of the heart that he had so carelessly crushed beneath his foot, the heart that he could no longer feel beating within her chest…

"You're no different than them."

Oh, but he was. Those men would have left her in the alley on that humid, raining night in August. They would have gone their merry ways and allowed her to get soaked, get sick, and perhaps choke on her own vomit before anyone could find her. But despite his selfish motives, he had brought her out of that dark and disgusting place. He'd given her a bed in his living room, free reign over his rigidly controlled domain, the freedom to do whatever she pleased with the fewest and simplest exceptions. He'd let her get away with hitting him, defying him, and even hiding his dining table chairs.

"Why don't you just kick me out if you want me gone?"

Because he didn't want her gone. The reasons had changed over time, but the simple fact was that he needed her there, to keep him in line, to complain about his neurotic tendencies, to beg him to make her pancakes for breakfast. He had to have her, had to be able to see her every morning before he left to teach his piano lessons, to be able to sit down after a long day and listen to her rant about some customer at the diner who hadn't tipped her because they'd been impossible to please. And he would give anything, anything, even his own hands so that he could never play piano again, for her to just open her eyes.

"Let me go."

He wouldn't. He refused. He would never, ever let her go. Not if an earthquake hit the city and Las Noches began to collapse around them. Not if she'd told him that she hated him and wished he was dead and never wanted to see him again. Actually, no. That would be fine, perfectly alright with him if he could just have the reassurance that she was alive, existing, breathing somewhere. She didn't need to stay by his side, as much as he wanted her to, so long as she would just breathe. Oh God, please, let her breathe.

"You're a life saver, Ulquiorra."

If that was true, then it was time to prove it. He wasn't going to give up on her like everybody else in her life had. She was stronger than that; she'd demonstrated it so many times. She just needed a little help, and he was going to give it to her. It was the very least that he could do. He would breathe for her until she decided that she was ready to wake up, ready to try again. He would stay by her side, holding her up until she could walk on her own, even if her feet carried her somewhere far away from him. He'd replace bottles and cigarettes and a sea of faceless men. He would stand apart from everyone else as the one who carried her out of rock bottom, who pried her out of death's cold, immortal grip.

It was hard to concentrate on what was going on around him. He couldn't recall yelling for Grimmjow; hell, he couldn't remember saying anything at all. The vast Earth had shrunk down to the size of that room, to a bubble that contained just the two of them, one living and the other dead, his heart attempting to leap from his body and enter her own. Yes, he would give it if he could. Anything, anything for her. She deserved it, and so much more.

He couldn't remember the door in the living room opening, the apartment filling with the footsteps and voices of strangers. He couldn't feel Grimmjow's hands, even as they seized his shoulders and pulled him away from her unmoving body with all the strength that he could muster, holding onto him even though he fought and kicked and yelled things that he couldn't hear into the silence that was once again taking hold of his life, invading his body, gripping his mind. But he did remember the futility of it all, sinking in and destroying his will so completely that he would have collapsed had he not been held back by his best friend, who shook him and pleaded with him to come to his senses. And finally, Ulquiorra obeyed. He stopped struggling, stopped moving and slumped forward, his head bowed in resignation as the paramedics took her away from him.

Then he was violently ill for a long time, in which he heard Grimmjow on the phone with Nel, and he could have sworn that the Frenchman was in tears, but it was all so fuzzy.

And he was driven to the hospital, because in his current state he could hardly lift his own head, let alone transport himself across the city.

The festive, multi-colored Christmas lights decorating the passing storefronts were like spiteful laughter thrown into his face. He closed his eyes, wondering why the world was still turning, why life had to go on like normal for everybody else. Next to him, Grimmjow stared out at the road ahead, his jaw set, as much in the mood to carry a conversation as Ulquiorra was at the moment. But they weren't the only ones; as they sat and waited for the traffic signal to change, Rangiku ran out of the Haineko Diner and scrambled into Gin's waiting car, promising to keep her employees posted; Szayel, Nnoitra and Nel were halfway to the hospital; Ichigo, Tatsuki, Rukia, Renji, Chad and Uryuu were running out of their dorm rooms into the cold sunset; Hitsugaya was putting the hospital address into Momo's GPS; and Lilynette was apologizing to her troop as she, Starrk and Tia left the gingerbread charity event behind.

The white complex of buildings loomed in front of Grimmjow's truck, large red letters labeling the emergency entrance where the occasional ambulance pulled in, lights and sirens screaming for attention. They found a temporary parking spot, and it took everything Ulquiorra had left in him to get out and walk up the half-frozen sidewalk to the doors that swung open before they were even upon them. It had been an hour, maybe two since Orihime had been taken in. Plenty of time for them to decide that she was beyond help and drape a white sheet over her body, hiding her face from the world that had never been kind to her.

Instead, they were presented to a man in a white coat who impersonally explained to them that Orihime had both alcohol and heroin in her system, as well as an infected wound on her left hand. She had been treated for all three, but was, presently, in a coma. A short argument about family later, they were allowed into the room to see her.

She was pale, an IV in her arm and an oxygen mask over her mouth and nose, her hair tangled beneath her head. Her clothing had been swapped out for a hospital gown, and she looked even sicker and thinner than the day she had turned up at Ulquiorra's door asking for a place to stay. But there were two reassuring elements in this scene: the shallow rise and fall of her chest, and the EKG dutifully keeping track of every beat of her heart.

Neither Ulquiorra nor Grimmjow said anything as Ulquiorra walked forward into the room, which was quiet save for the sound of the machines, and took a seat on the chair at the far side, where he would remain for the rest of the night. There was nothing left to say. All they could do now was wait.

Everyone reacted differently to the same emotion: tears, anger, and the brave few who managed to remain optimistic in the face of despair. But no one, at any time, blamed Ulquiorra for what had happened. He may as well have been comatose himself, considering the fact that he didn't move or speak, his green eyes fixed on a random floor tile between his feet. People were coming in and out all night: Zommari stopped by to offer prayers and charms; Renji, Ichigo and Chad made food runs when hunger struck those too stubborn to leave; Luppi showed up crying and dressed in black as if it were already time for the funeral. Chizuru and her girlfriend came in as well, lamenting the fact that they hadn't been able to stop Orihime from going out in her emotionally unstable state. Yammy appeared around sunrise, after he had found someone to pet-sit for him.

One of the only times Ulquiorra ever left the room was to talk to the doctors about who would be handling the medical expenses, as Orihime had no insurance and was close to broke. Otherwise, he remained a shadow in the corner, and everyone else stayed out of his way. If they wanted to know what had happened, they would take their questions to Grimmjow, but only when he went to get water – and tissues – for Nel, who hadn't stopped crying in the last several hours.

When the record company executives called to ask Ulquiorra why he hadn't shown up at the Christmas concert, the phone was handed to Chizuru and her girlfriend, who "politely" told them to fuck off. When his mother called a little while later, he took the phone and walked out, though a quick glance down the hall found him sitting on the floor at the end of the corridor, his back against the wall as he muttered an absent "mmhmm" every few seconds. Upon returning, he resumed his post, staying out of the sparse conversations that drifted around the room.

The hours went by and nothing changed. Sunday was quickly getting away from them, and soon everyone would reluctantly leave, for there was school and work to attend the next day. As much as they wanted it to, time wouldn't stop for them, and life would continue as it always did outside of whatever four walls contained them. But Ulquiorra would stay, piano lessons be damned, listening to every single one of Orihime's heartbeats until he passed out from sheer exhaustion. He wouldn't miss them; not when it had taken so much just to keep them going.

If this was death – heaven or hell – Orihime was not impressed. She'd heard all sorts of crap about the afterlife being either pain free or full of misery, but currently, she was somewhere in the middle. This had to have been the worst hangover she'd everhad: her temples were throbbing, her stomach was empty and cramping, she really had to pee, and she was pretty damn sure that she wasn't wearing any pants. Hadn't she learned this lesson that one and only time she'd tried hard drugs in the past? Yeah, never taking… whatever she'd been given, again.

Furthermore, there was this annoyingly loud noise that sounded like a whale was getting milked. Oddly enough, she recognized that noise from one too many girls' night outs. "Nel, I swear to God if Grimmjow broke up with you again, I'm going to saw his testicles off with a plastic spoon and super glue them to his forehead," she groaned. Attempting to lift a hand to her forehead, her eyes blinked open when she realized that there was something stuck to her arm. Was that an IV? What the hell? Oh great, she was in the hospital, wasn't she? As if the hangover wasn't bad enough; now there was going to be money to worry about!

Completely bewildered, she removed her arm and found half of Las Noches' tenants, a quarter of her coworkers at Haineko, and her high school friends staring down at her with wide eyes and gaping mouths. "Umm… hi?"

"Oh my God!"

"She's awake!"

"Orihime, you're okay!"

"We were so worried!"

"What the hell were you thinking, scaring us to death like that?"

So many voices. Orihime winced, wishing she could remember what she'd done to land herself in this situation. She'd pretty much been drunk out of her mind the entire week, then she'd taken an injection of something. Two beers later she had somehow ended up in Las Noches, getting yelled at by Ulquiorra, and now she was in the hospital, feeling like she'd been hit by a truck and being cried over like she had almost died. She took a moment to try and fill in the memory gap: either she had passed out from sheer intoxication, or she'd finally had sex with Ulquiorra and it had been so mind blowing that he'd knocked her unconscious. Gee, that would be embarrassing. How would they explain thatone to their friends? Because if she knew Rangiku, she was nevergoing to let her live it down.

Unfortunately for her pounding head, Nel was crying even louder now, and squeezing her to death between her arms and her massive boobs. And there were Rangiku and Momo, half-sobbing, half-yelling at her for disappearing without so much as a warning. Oh, right, she had kind of run away. Wait, had they been looking for her this entire time? It would explain why Grimmjow had shown up in one of the city's sketchier districts with his engagement ring still on.

Come to think of it, they all looked pretty rough and rumpled, like they'd been at the hospital for an entire week. Rangiku wasn't even wearing any makeup. Damn it, now she felt guilty. "What day is it?" she asked, glancing around the room, but there were so many people there that she could hardly see the wall. Not that hospital walls were particularly interesting to begin with, but… Patting her sides in the hopes that she would find her cell phone buried in her pocket, it was then that she remembered the fact that she was in a hospital gown, and she self-consciously drew the blankets further up around her chest.

"It's Sunday, the sixth of December," Gin answered for her, a relieved smile on his face. "You've been out for almost twenty-four hours."

"And dead for almost ten minutes," Grimmjow muttered darkly, reminding them all why they were there in the first place. Orihime felt her heart stutter uncomfortably, which, embarrassingly enough, was picked up by the EKG.

"I… I died?"

"You had alcohol and heroin in your system, sweetie," Szayel told her, crossing his arms with a scowl. He obviously wasn't very proud of her. "They slowed your breathing so much that all the stress you were under finally took its toll. Hell, poor Ulquiorra had to bring you back to…" He trailed off, and as if on cue, the assembled turned their heads toward the window. Of course, Orihime couldn't see anything, so she was rather confused when Rukia suddenly took off running with a lame excuse about being hungry, followed by her redheaded fiancé. Rangiku tapped Gin on the shoulder and they tore out of the room as well, and pretty soon everyone had done the same, Nel tugging on Grimmjow's arm and giggling excitedly as they escaped into the hallway, closing the door behind them.

It was then that Orihime noticed the lone figure seated in a chair by the window to her left. Head bowed, stooped over, elbows and forearms resting on his thighs, black hair hiding most of his face from view, looking like he'd been dragged through every circle of hell and back. But as haggard and sick and different as he appeared, she knew who he was. She would have known him anywhere. "Hey," she said quietly, wondering where to begin in what was sure to be a very long, drawn-out apology. There were so many things to say, excuses that she knew she could have made… and yet, the way that his shoulders sagged at the sound of her voice, as if he'd spent the last twenty-four hours holding his breath, left her with no more words to speak.


From the first day they'd met, he'd opened up an entire frontier for them to explore together, and in a matter of minutes he had struck up a wildfire that had ravaged and consumed all of the ground that they had crossed. But as she stood there, staring ahead at the charred remains of the unknown, she could already see the tiny blades of green grass tentatively poking out of the ashes.

… … …

"Sacramento, San Francisco, Seattle… wait, what?" It was Christmas Eve, and Orihime stared down at the three small boxes that she had just laid into a bigger, plastic container, her eyebrows furrowing. Did San Francisco come before or after Sacramento? She wouldn't have even questioned it had there not been the gap in the name. Then again, she didn't have to alphabetize them, but she'd figured it would be easier this way in the long run.

In the background, gentle piano music mixed in with a multitude of clamoring voices as the chaos in the living room reached her through the window above the sink. Orihime set the mug boxes down and grabbed her cell phone off of the counter, turning to the refrigerator and scanning the various papers stuck to it until she found a yellow sticky note with a seven-digit number written in Ulquiorra's neat print. Sighing, she punched in the number, leaned back and tapped her foot impatiently as a long tone droned in her ear. Meanwhile, the music stopped, and an announcer came onto the radio station.

"Merry Christmas, you're listening to KCLU. If you're just tuning in, we are fortunate enough to have twenty-six year old Ulquiorra Schiffer in the studio with us today. Those of you familiar with the classical music world might remember his..."

"Yeah, yeah," Orihime muttered with a smile. After such a lengthy and dramatic disappearance, the media had already been buzzing with rumors when he'd announced his return. Then he'd sat down in front of an audience of thousands, performed his completed suite, and just like that, they were gathered in tears at his feet again. Luckily, he'd had plenty to feed them ever since.

Geez, how long ago had that even been? She'd already been appointed assistant manager at Haineko, and Ulquiorra had abruptly flown her out to San Antonio, Texas because he'd heard that they turned an entire river green on St. Patrick's Day – which, she had learned over time, translated to "I want to spend time with you." So it had been March of the previous year, then…

"Merry Christmas, caller, you're on with KCLU."

"Yes, hi, I've got a question for Mr. Schiffer," she spoke into the phone, studying her nails disinterestedly. "Does San Francisco come before or after Sacramento?"

"P-Pardon?" the announcer asked, followed by a silence, and then Ulquiorra replied.

"After. But I already told you that you don't need to alphabetize – "

"Thank you!" Orihime chirped and ended the call, turning back to the task at hand. Sure he claimedthat she didn't have to, but she knew that he was secretly agonizing over it, and she'd be damned if she would let him worry about something so stupid because he wanted to spare her the effort. She picked up the mug boxes and set them into their rightful places as Ulquiorra sheepishly explained the situation to the announcer, who burst out laughing and made some snide comment about his own ex-wife.

"You know, I saw the pictures of her – Orihime, right? – from that concert you did back in July. Beautiful woman, by the way. Err, how would you say she handles being married to a celebrity?"

"Very carefully," Orihime mouthed as Ulquiorra said it, slipping the rest of the mugs into the container and putting the lid on it, clapping her hands together with satisfaction. Another task done! What was left of the kitchen stuff, then? She was pretty sure that they weren't going to need the blender anytime soon, unless she got a sudden craving for milkshakes, and that was doubtful. Her taste buds had been preoccupied with peanut butter and oranges lately.


A chorus of barks started up, followed by a yellow Labrador bounding into the kitchen, chased by an energetic toddler. Orihime stuck her foot out, effectively stopping the dog from moving as she had seen Ulquiorra do back in Washington, and then reached down to pick up the squirming girl. "Misao," she said sternly, "did you break something in the living room?" A two second pause, and then Misao shook her head rapidly. Orihime's eyes narrowed. "You're a liar, just like your daddy. Fortunately you're extremely bad at it." She looked up just as Gin entered the kitchen, slightly winded. "You really ought to invest in one of those leash things now that she's mobile."

"Ah, she didn't mean no harm!" Gin took the strawberry blond toddler from Orihime's arms and grinned. "Isn't that right, Misao?" In response, the girl snapped on a fox-like smile identical to her father's that made a shiver run down Orihime's spine.

"That's… creepy, Gin, oh my God." She leaned down and grabbed the Labrador by the collar, dragging it out into the living room where a tired-looking Rangiku sat with an equally exhausted Nel and Grimmjow on the sofa, no doubt in the middle of offering them advice. A nearly bald baby boy was tucked into a carrier between them, sucking on a pacifier with an expression like he was about to raise hell at any moment. Yammy, Nnoitra, Starrk and Lilynette had commandeered the dining table for a poker game; Tia conferred with Szayel about her recently completed men's clothing; and Kira stood off to the side with Zommari and Luppi, contrasting yoga and some other extreme form of meditation. "Yammy!" Orihime yelled, unleashing the dog, "Keep an eye on him, would ya?"

"Sorry about that, Orihime," the behemoth of a man apologized sheepishly and began to scold the Labrador, which licked his wagging finger in response.

Sighing wearily, Orihime looked around for what had been broken during the chase, her eyes landing on a single ornament that had fallen away from the Christmas tree in the corner. Ah, thank goodness, it was still in one piece. She crossed the room and stooped over to retrieve it, then hung it back on its appointed branch. She'd hate for Ulquiorra to return from the station and find that her idea of inviting everyone over for a Secret Santa exchange had ended in chaos, as he had gloomily predicted. But it wasn't like he would be worrying about that for much longer.

"Yo, traitor number one, when's traitor number two getting here?" Rangiku called out to her as Gin settled onto the arm rest next to her with Misao.

Orihime rolled her eyes. "In another hour or so. The show's almost over." Having grown accustomed to the nickname in the last two months, she hadn't let it dampen her spirits in the slightest as the year grew closer to ending and the boxes continued to pile up around the apartment. Packing was a slow affair, considering the fact that neither she nor Ulquiorra were really up to it, as it brought them both a sense of indigestion – they refused to call it sadness – at the thought that, after talking about it for months, they were finally leaving. Sure she had her friends and their feelings of betrayal to consider, but every time she saw the picture of the recently completed house her excitement smothered all of the negativity. She still couldn't believe that it was hers: two stories, brick and wood, a perfectly groomed lawn, brand new, too many bedrooms to count, a master suite with a view.

The only problem was that it was in Washington. Hence, the riot that had been struck up by Nel, Szayel, Rangiku, and the college freshman Momo when she'd announced that she and Ulquiorra were leaving the city. Las Noches, they could understand. But why didn't they just move to the North side?

Orihime hadn't felt like going into the details. It was the whole "turning over a new leaf" thing; walking away from the city in which she and Ulquiorra had both suffered so much, distancing themselves from the painful memories and starting over fresh – together, of course.

Besides, it would be closer to work for Ulquiorra, who had to fly out to the Pacific Northwest whenever he was working on another piano collection. Orihime absolutely hated it when he was gone. She'd grown far too accustomed to sleeping in his arms every night, so when he was absent, she would stay up and channel surf between movies and infomercials until she crashed on the couch. Just like old times. She wasn't allowed to do so when he was there; from the day she'd come back from the hospital, he had banned her from the sofa. The memory still made her smile: he had literally dumped her onto his bed, then wordlessly got in with her, threw an arm around her waist and ordered her to go to sleep. She'd complied, perhaps out of shock, and had promptly become addicted to the proximity.

And on that note, it had taken a while for certain other physical barriers to be crossed. He'd spent a good two months circling her as if she would disappear again, despite several reassurances that she would neither leave him nor die. Then, once he'd been satisfied that she was there to stay, he'd demonstrated just how different he was from every other man she had ever been with. Not rude, not rough, not impatient; he treated her as if she was the one who had never had sex before, and she might as well have been a virgin for all that she'd felt. She couldn't even put it to words; thus, when Rangiku and Nel had asked for the dirty details, all she'd managed to say was "He's the sighing type," which neither of them quite understood.

Presently, there was a knock on the door, which Szayel answered as he was the closest to it. Unfortunately the noise prompted Yammy's dog to bark, which startled baby Klaus Jaegerjaques and got him to start screaming, his distraught parents looking at each other anxiously. "Are you sure you want to have another?" Grimmjow asked Nel in French, to which she responded with a glare, and he sighed as he took the wailing infant from the carrier. "Alright. At most, three more, but after that I'm cutting you off."

Orihime assumed the hostess role as she went to greet Ichigo, Tatsuki, Rukia, Renji, Ishida and Chad. Goodness, it was getting way too cramped in there. Had the lobby not been occupied by a bunch of bingo-playing seniors, Orihime would have had the party move down there. But she supposed she would make it work; when would be the next time that she'd get to spend the holidays with them?

"I'm surprised you're still on your feet," Tatsuki said to her as they shared a quick hug. "Hasn't all of the packing wiped you out?"

"Psh, I'll be fine." Orihime waved her hand dismissively and pointed towards the Christmas tree. "Presents go underneath!" Not that there was room for anymore. The colorful array of neatly wrapped gifts had started to snake towards the hallway, the space below the tree full to bursting. Orihime headed back to the kitchen, contemplating the rekindled friendship between her and her high school group. They had been part of the "search and rescue" team that had spent five days looking for her when she'd left Las Noches two Decembers ago, and in the following months they had spent more and more time together, patching up old wounds. It had been much needed, Orihime thought, and enough to almost make her wish that she had stayed in school and graduated with them.

But if she'd done that, she never would have ended up on Ulquiorra's doorstep, and she could no longer imagine a life without him. It was so weird to think that a single decision could have led to them remaining perfect strangers. She'd have heard his old piano compositions playing in a bookstore or café, but that was as close as they would have gotten to meeting. Perhaps he would have even found himself another muse.

A jealous twinge caused her to frown. No freaking way was she going to let some bimbo move in and 'inspire' him. His newer pieces wouldn't have sounded anywhere near as good. At least, she liked to think so.

The radio show had wrapped up, another coming on to take its place, which meant that Ulquiorra would be on his way back soon. She unplugged the small stereo – it had been borrowed from Luppi – and set it back within its box, reminding herself to give it back before everybody left. Standing in the kitchen, she looked out into the living room, the scene framed by the rectangular opening above the sink: her friends, both new and old (with the exception of Momo and her boyfriend Toshiro, who were in Colorado with their families), gathered together for one last holiday celebration. Not unlike the Christmas tree, it was missing something crucial: the topper that completed its happy glow, but he would be there in a little while, after fighting the traffic of last minute shoppers.

Ah, damn it. She was getting too sentimental. If she started crying now, the whole party would fall to shambles, and she wanted to remember it as a good day. She could do all of her blubbering later.

A half-hour passed before Ulquiorra turned up. By then the poker game had ended, Misao and Klaus had been lulled to sleep, and the dog had calmed considerably. He was visibly relieved that the apartment hadn't been destroyed in his absence – Orihime complained that he didn't trust her to keep the peace – and apologized for his tardiness before signaling for the gift-giving to begin. Then he dutifully spent the next hour worrying about all the wrapping paper that would have to be picked out of the carpet.

"I'm so tired."

The party had ended just before ten o'clock, leaving the apartment vacant save for Ulquiorra and Orihime, who had collapsed onto the sofa after spending the next hour and a half cleaning. She stared at the blank television screen, blinking slowly as he grumbled beside her. "You'retired? At least you didn't have to drive across the city."

"I was on my feet all afternoon," she muttered, wriggling her swollen toes to work out the small cramps in her joints. They both sighed, the only light in the room coming from the tree, which stood in the corner by the dining table. Turning her head to look at him, Orihime caught his green eyes with her own, as he had been gazing at her as well. "It's too quiet in here. Fix it."

Ulquiorra glared, but stood up after another five seconds, holding his hand out to her. "Come on." He led her over to the piano, switching on the small lamp to illuminate the keys as Orihime slid onto the bench. Sitting to her left, he lifted the cover and rolled his shoulders as if he were preparing to swim laps around a pool. "What would you like to hear?"

"Doesn't matter," she smiled at him, watching as he placed his right hand down and started to play a simple melody. Leaning her head on his shoulder, she closed her eyes, thinking of everything that had happened since she had come to live with him. She'd quit drinking and smoking, had met the most amazing people on the planet, flew on a plane for the first time, and had nearly died twice. She'd gotten her first job, her GED, and was still dabbling in online courses while she decided what she wanted to do with her new life. She'd come to terms with her past, had faced her brother's grave with a smile, and had learned that love did indeed exist, in more forms than she could count.

Ulquiorra looked down at her, his fingers still moving over the keys, when he heard a sniffle. Her eyes were glossy, bottom lip trembling as if she were standing outside in the cold. "Are you upset, or is this you being emotional again?"

"Oh, both, I think," she said sadly, reaching up to wipe her eyes. "I'm really going to miss everyone."

"It's not like you'll never see them again," Ulquiorra replied as he added his left hand for the bass. "There's plenty of room in the house for visitors. Weren't you and Nelliel devising some sort of system for the holidays?"

Orihime nodded, letting out a half-sob, half-laugh. "I'm sorry," she whispered, "I've been holding this in all day."

"It's alright. I know." Right, of course he did. He hadn't become her husband by being oblivious to her feelings. They said nothing else as he continued to play, the bittersweet song filling the apartment. It was short, though, and soon ended on a happy note. Orihime lifted her head from his shoulder and checked the time on the DVD player below the television. Ulquiorra looked as well. "Ah, it's midnight," he said as she turned back to him. He leaned in, then, planting a soft kiss on her lips. "Merry Christmas."

Orihime giggled. "Likewise," she told him before he kissed her again, his hand pushing the long red hair away from her face. "Oh!" The contact was broken as she cried out, suddenly drawing away.

"What is it?"

Her hand moved down to the growing lump below her stomach. "Seems like she wants to hear more of daddy's piano playing."

Ulquiorra sighed and shook his head, placing his own hand over Orihime's to feel the movement beneath it. "Well then," he said with the faintest of smiles, "if she insists."

The End

A/N:Oh, I'm not going to cry. I'm not going to… crap. I'm a sucker for happy endings. Let's answer some questions.

There was no lemon in here.Sure there was. Orihime's pregnant, isn't she? Haha, okay, let me be serious. The point of this fic was that our hero was a prostitute, recovering from a prostitute lifestyle. It would seem to me that her going crazy and having sex with Ulquiorra would have been kind of… counterproductive, don't you think? Furthermore, just because a story is rated M doesn't mean that it has to have sex in it. If you're really reading this for the sake of the smut… then wow, my feelings are kind of hurt. But I'll get over it after eating a chocolate chip cookie.

You gave them a happy ending!Of course! It had been planned from the start. I'm saving my tragedies for future projects. Not going to tell you which ones, though…

There is a sequel of sorts to this story, a series of ten one-shots entitled Musings that shows what happened between the hospital and the happy ending. So if you're curious, you can find via my profile page!

Thank you all so much for making this story successful. Let us all keep our fingers crossed that Kubo will revive our beloved Numero Cuatro, and give him a happy ending as well. Until next time!

/Princess Kitty1/