Green eyes glared daggers at the woman holding back laughter behind her hand. Sitting at the kitchen table, no longer bothering to pretend that she was reading the magazine in her hands, Orihime watched as Ulquiorra stared vacantly at the ingredients set upon the counter.
"It's okay if you want help, Ulquiorra," she teased, uncovering her smile.
In response he picked up a leafy vegetable and studied it, trying to remember how Orihime had prepared it. He would not lose this ridiculous challenge she'd so brazenly proposed. It seemed that after one meal too many in which he required copious glasses of water to wash down the putrid taste, Orihime had finally had enough of him criticizing her food. And now it was his turn to prove himself to her that he could do better. That even a novice such as himself could cook something edible, maybe even appetizing.
But his confidence was all a façade. Especially as he scanned the ingredients laid before him. Separately he could identify some of them. A carrot, an apple, garlic, pale meat he assumed was chicken. But then there were other items, mostly in small cylindrical containers, glass bottles, and boxes that he had no clue what to do with. And then he had to somehow discover a way of selecting specific items that complimented each other and combine them in either a pot, a pan, or whatever else kitchen tool he had at his disposal. Too many options only furthered his confusion, and deciding where to begin was making him much too anxious for his liking. And the pair of eyes watching his every move wasn't helping matters.
"Is there no better way for you to spend your time?" He asked flatly in hopes that she'd leave so he could somewhat concentrate.
Orihime actually took a moment to think about her answer. There were many things she could be doing. Watching television, sewing the button that had popped off her blouse the other day, reading a book. Her attention returned to the silent man standing over the kitchen counter. His dark hair had fallen into his eyes and he pulled it away with a graceful hand, frowning frustrated at the leaf of lettuce in his palm. Right now, she couldn't imagine what could possibly entertain her more than watching Ulquiorra struggle to do something so incredibly human. She smiled. "Nope!" And then suddenly she understood. "Am I distracting you?"
Setting down the lettuce Ulquiorra picked up one of the boxes and scanned the directions, pretending to tune her out. He was brought back to attention, however, when a black pot was set atop the stove. His frown only hardened as Orihime continued to assist him by filling it with water. "What are you doing?"
"Nothing," she replied innocently, coming to stand beside him. Elbows knocking, their eyes locked, his quietly irritated, hers gleeful. "I just want to watch. I won't do anything else. I promise."
This was precisely what he didn't want. Having her watching added unnecessary pressure. Around her, he always felt the need to impress. Especially now that this was a challenge. He could not lose. Setting down the box, his eyes darted to the pot of water on the stove, and then back to the ingredients. An onion rolled into his view, and he set suspicious eyes on Orihime's hand before taking it. But what was he to do with this?
"Here, use this." Opening a drawer, she handed him a knife, which he took reluctantly.
"Explain how this is you being unhelpful," he said coolly, placing the blade in the center of the onion. Pressing down he split it in two halves with a loud schick! Almost immediately the fumes reached his eyes and they began to sting. At first he could ignore the irritation, but the longer he stood there slicing the onion, the harder it was to keep his eyes from watering. It was out of his control.
The first tear to escape his eye was caught on Orihime's thumb as she wiped his cheek gingerly. For a moment he seemed surprised. "You're crying," she said in awe. Calling such a sight rare would be an understatement. Ulquiorra never cried. His face was always a permanent mask of indifference. So this expression now was absolutely fascinating. Beautiful, even. Another tear spilled onto his cheek, and this one he wiped on the back of a slender finger.
"There is something wrong with this…" He stared at the white vegetable, struggling to remember the name.
"Onion," she finished for him. "And there's nothing wrong with it. They make everyone cry." Even she had tears in her eyes.
Ulquiorra attempted to continue. Although the stinging in his eyes had grown to the point of being torturous, he finally managed to dice the onion into hundreds of tiny parts, which he had no idea what to do with. Again, it seemed he was stumped. And Orihime's presence beside him was overbearing. Placing the knife on the counter, Ulquiorra slid a hand to her lower back, and turning to her, brought his face closer to speak.
"Is there something you want, onna?" Usually he never bothered trying, and apparently didn't have to, but to suit his purpose he lowered his voice to an inviting whisper, making sure his words sounded as suggestive as he meant them to.
A light blush flowered upon her cheeks. "I-I just want to watch…"
Lightly, Ulquiorra pressed his mouth to hers. "You are distracting me." Smoothly, his hand slid from her back to her bottom, and he pulled her closer. His lips ghosted her cheek as he murmured, "Unless that is your plan, in which case I will abandon what I am doing now in order to assist you."
Assist. Orihime wasn't so naïve that she didn't understand what exactly he was promising. Flustered, she stayed held to him for a moment to enjoy his embrace, before shyly pulling away. She smiled coyly when meeting his intense gaze. "Ulquiorra, really, I-I'm not trying to distract you." Somehow he always had a way of affecting her thoughts, making her second-guess her own intentions. Because now her blood was rushing hot and fast, her heart beating with excitement, and she was wondering if grabbing his attention hadn't been her plan all along.
He wouldn't let her get away that fast, though. Winding his arm around her waist, his mouth found her ear, and his warm breath blowing against her hair made her shiver. "If you do not mean to distract me, Orihime, then explain why you are so close."
To get a better look at his technique, his expression. She had only meant to watch him, but saying the words now would sound like merely an excuse to be closer to him. Halfheartedly, she pulled out of his embrace and stepped back, putting a good distance between them. "I'll go sit at the table."
Turning back to the task at hand, Ulquiorra couldn't help but feel that although his intention had been to push Orihime from his side so he could better concentrate, now he wanted to do nothing more than abandon this ridiculous chore and pull her back to him. But he knew that she was looking forward to this, and if there was any way in which he could please her, he'd do it.
Relying on instinct, Ulquiorra grabbed an orange and continued to create what would hopefully be a fine cuisine.
As he silently worked Orihime watched his back and slender frame move around the kitchen. She was fixated. It seemed that everything Ulquiorra did was with fine precision and resilient concentration, and as always, watching him was an experience. There were many moments when Orihime had to quite literally bite down on her tongue when she saw him throwing together the most stomach-churning concoctions, until finally it seemed that he was finished.
When they both sat at the table with Ulquiorra's strangely green chicken and unidentifiable purple mash of vegetables on their plates, Orihime took the first tentative bite. Eyes widening, she held up a hand to her mouth.
Having just had a taste himself, Ulquiorra was disgusted. It seemed that he'd lost. His cooking was even worse than Orihime's, something he'd adamantly thought impossible. Her current expression irked him, however. She needn't be so obvious about her repulsion.
"It's…" Orihime gasped, swallowing the first bite, "delicious." The explosion of flavor was mouth watering, and the texture was so interesting. In all honesty it was one of the best dishes she'd ever tasted in her life. He was a master chef. Quickly, she shoveled more into her mouth and chewed keenly.
Across from her, Ulquiorra was livid. He did not enjoy being made fun of or pitied. "Do not lie to me. I am fully aware that this—"
Her mouth full, Orihime waved a disagreeing hand. Swallowing, she said imploringly, "No, Ulquiorra, it's really good! I'm surprised!"
He was too amazed to be offended by her surprise that she found his food appetizing. Staring at her, he tried to make out any sign that she was lying to him. But her eyes were honest, and the rate in which she was eating her meal could only mean that she didn't find it revolting. His expression easing, he pushed his own plate over to her and watched as she immediately dug in, having licked clean her own plate. Of course she would enjoy his failure of a cooking attempt. She had the strangest taste in food, after all.
When she was finished, she released a satisfied sigh. "Maybe you should be in charge of dinner from now on," she suggested, smiling brightly.
He didn't say anything as he stood from the table to take both empty plates to the sink. But a small hand on his wrist stopped him.
"I'll do the dishes, Ulquiorra." Standing, she tried to pull them from his hands. "It's the least I can do after—"
Warm, gentle lips smothered her words in a tender kiss. Her hands slackened on the plates, and her startled eyes closed. When he pulled away, she was blushing. Placing the plates in the sink, Ulquiorra pulled up his white shirtsleeves and turned on the tap. As he watched the sink fill with puffy white suds, he couldn't help but think that tonight's endeavors hadn't been a complete failure if he'd managed to please her. At the end of the day, that was his only concern.
From behind, slender arms slipped beneath his arms and around his waist in a tight hug. Her cheek pressed between his shoulders, she pressed herself against his back. "Thank you."
A wet hand grasped one of hers and their fingers laced at his hip. Against his back, he could feel her heart pounding furiously, and he wondered if she was feeling embarrassed. And then soft lips brushed his neck, and gentle breaths blew his raven hair. Her arms tightened. "What are you doing, Orihime?"
Her answer came as an awkward mumble, but he heard her. "Distracting you."
Entirely forgetting the overflowing sink, Ulquiorra pulled Orihime around and pressed her to the kitchen counter. Catching her mouth in a heated kiss, he allowed her to pull at his shirt and tangle excited fingers in his hair. Tonight it seemed they were both destined to be very, very distracted.
A/N: Aww Ulquiorra is secretly a sweetheart~ Please review!