DISCLAIMER: Bleach and all of its characters are property of Tite Kubo, Shounen Jump, and others who rightfully apply.

- { Career Choices } -

Ulquiorra had been a year ahead of Orihime and her friends in school, and although he had decided to take a year off from education to "get used to this human notion of working for monetary gain and self-autonomy" and work around Urahara Kisuke's shop, she couldn't help but think about what kind of career path he would take in the future. Surely, it could be daunting for someone who hadn't been in the living world as long as she had, so perhaps she could offer him a bit of help

"Um..." Orihime drawled thoughtfully as she sat with him at the local cake shop. "Do you like to cook? Maybe you can be a chef. Or a baker!"

Ulquiorra expressionlessly reached forward to wipe some frosting off the corner of her mouth. She often made a small mess of herself with sweet foods, but he had long gotten used to helping her when she was unaware.

"I don't know how to cook, Orihime," he told her. "You are already aware of this." He brought his thumb to his own lip to lick the frosting off.

"Then you can take classes. Or... someone can teach you!"

"I do not have an interest," he said. "Whatever I learn from watching you or Tsukabishi Tessai will be sufficient enough for my taste."

She giggled at the small pun he made, although his confused frown indicated that he didn't get it. "Then," she went on, looking upward in deep contemplation. "You're really observant about people and stuff... so, how about psychology? Like a behavior analyst? A therapist? Oh... I don't know if you could that, though—"

"That does not intrigue me, either," he sighed. "Orihime, you don't have to do this for me. I will figure out this human life when the time is appropriate. Neither of us have even considered these schools you call colleges to go to." He motioned to the table, abruptly changing the subject. "We are both finished with our plates, so I suggest we leave now."

She blinked, not having realized that she had scarfed down her piece of cake already.

She followed Ulquiorra out of the bakery. His mood seemed to have soured, but she didn't know if it was because of his own indecisiveness about his career, or if it was because she annoyed him with her talk of it.

She hoped it was the former, because her mind was brewing with ideas and the need to figure out what he would like.

. .

A week passed, and Orihime was leaning against the frame of the open door of Urahara Shouten as she did every day that summer, watching boredly as her boyfriend darted around the store, doing more stocking, cleaning, and inventory-keeping than anything else while the other members of the household were out and about doing who-knew-what.

Heaving an exhausted sigh, she fanned herself against the summer heat.


When she turned, she found Ulquiorra standing next to her, holding a cold can of soda in front of her face. He had one for himself in his other hand.

She took it gratefully. "Thank you, Ulquiorra-kun."

He sat down beside her as he opened his drink, his feet dangling off the risen floor of the warm, open shop. He took her bare, lounging legs onto his lap, stroking them idly as he spoke up serenely. "What are you thinking about?"

Orihime squealed to herself as she took her first sip. The cold drink really hit the spot. "Hm? Oh, a shop owner!"

He stared at her with humorless green eyes. "What?"

"You could open your own shop! Not like this one, but... I don't know, something you'd want to sell!"

"If you are going to keep spewing idiocy about my career, I will kick you out," he threatened.

She frowned and nudged his bent elbow lightly with one of her sandal-wearing feet. "You're not serious," she whined with a pout.

"Of course not," he replied shortly. "But I am not ready to decide what I want my future job to be."

"But it's fun to think about!"

"There is no need to share it with me. I do not see it as fun as you do." He drifted his gaze back to her legs, his fingers lightly dragging over her shin, her knee, and over the top of her thigh.

She bit her lip, holding down the blush that threatened to creep up her cheeks. It tickled, but...

His hand dipped down one side, into her inner thigh, delicately pinching the hot, slightly sweaty skin there. Orihime squirmed in her seat, unknowingly loosening the clasp of her legs. "Um, Ulquiorra-kun..."

"You expose so much of your skin in the summer," he muttered with thought, his gaze concentrated on the lower half of her body.

"You say that every time you see me," she reminded him, her voice becoming breathy; his fingers were creeping underneath her shorts...

"... I see."

It didn't take long for the couple to eventually entangle themselves in a liplocked embrace, despite being in the open. The summer heat and the scandal of public display was forgotten as she straddled his lap, his arms folded over her back, hers wrapped across his shoulders. Ulquiorra's lips and tongue tasted cold and sweet—the soda flavoring his kisses. He felt better than any summer remedy, although his arms and torso were hot and damp with perpiration from his labor and the temperature outdoors.

As his cool, moist lips kneaded their way past her jaw, Orihime's eyes suddenly lit up. "How about international business?"

"Onna," he asserted with slight irritation, gently biting her neck with warning. "Do not ruin the mood."

"Mm," she replied, her eyes half-lidded as she began to sink deeper into passion; his tongue was circling the sensitive area he had laid his teeth on, mending the mark he left. "Sorry..."

. .

It almost became an obsession for Orihime. It annoyed her boyfriend to no end, but he never directly tried to put his foot down on the entire thing other than his verbal warnings. She liked to think it was because he was secretly considering all her suggestions.

"A doctor!" she exclaimed in the midst of the train, suddenly turning to Ulquiorra.

Her outburst was loud enough to catch the attention of nearby passengers.

The couple was taking a summer trip to Kyoto together, and while it was supposed to be a calming time, Orihime's mind was apparently still fired up.

Rather than scolding her, Ulquiorra muttered an irritated, "No," and left it at that, turning to the window.

For a long while, he didn't speak to her. Orihime had to admit that although it was normal for him to be quiet with her, she was still a bit offended by his cool treatment. But well, she guessed it was her own fault. Perhaps she was being a bit annoying about the whole career thing. Just a bit. But maybe she needed to reign herself in. The trip wouldn't be fun and romantic for Ulquiorra if she continued to make him angry.

She suddenly felt a tender hand in her hair, stroking it with care. She turned her gaze to Ulquiorra, who looked like he sensed her withering mood. "We're on vacation, Orihime," he said pointedly, under his breath.

Orihime smiled softly and raised the armrest between them so she could cuddle into him. He wrapped his arm over her shoulders and returned to gazing out the window, a discreet look of captivation crossing his features.

She curled her arms around him, sighing comfortably as she stared out at the beautiful cloudless blues and healthy greens of the countryside scenery with him.

It was peaceful; just her, Ulquiorra, and the tranquility of a quiet vacation.

She supposed the whole career thing could wait.

. .

That is, until after their trip.

A couple of days after they arrived back in Karakura, Orihime paid another visit to Urahara Shouten—not only to support her hardworking boyfriend, but to train with him once his shift was over.

However, when she came upon the property, she saw that Ulquiorra was busy with some sort of object in his hands. The bottom shell was shimmery gray and rectangular, with small wires and other odds-and-ends sitting next to him on the floor of the shop. It looked like a broken remote control.

"Ulquiorra-kun?" she questioned curiously.

"Onna," he said in an curt tone, not looking up. "This will... take a while."

"What happened?" she asked him, tilting her head to the side. "Do you even know what you're doing?"

"No," he answered tonelessly, "and you are blocking the sunlight."

She immediately sidestepped, allowing more of the sun to shine down on... whatever he was attempting to do.

"I am trying to put this back together," Ulquiorra explained. "Urahara Kisuke left these pieces on the counter with that note—" With his head, he gestured to a Post-It near the rest of the broken bits that said, Please fix this!, signed with a chibi sketch of Kisuke and a heart. "—as if I had any expertise on something so moronic. But I suppose that it is part of my work and that I will get paid by him for doing it."

For a few moments, Orihime stared silently as Ulquiorra concentrated on the task, slowly and successfully piecing the device back together like some sort of puzzle.

Her eyes suddenly brightened with an idea. "Ulquiorra-kun..." she murmured with awe.

"What is it, Orihime?" he answered, briefly turning to her. "Are you getting impa—why are you staring at me like that?"

"You should be an engineer!"


. .

There was finally intervention a day later, while the two of them were sitting at the low table at her apartment, drinking some cool barley tea—something Orihime finally got tasting right after Ulquiorra's close inspection.

"Orihime, this has got to stop."

The redhead looked up, confused. "What does, Ulquiorra-kun?"

"This obsession you have over my career choice," he said exasperatedly, setting down his glass. "It needs to stop. Have you even thought of your own?"

She puffed out her cheek, slightly offended. "Of course I have! I want to be a doctor!"

"A doctor?" he asked suspiciously. "Like Kurosaki Ichigo's father?"

"Yeah," she affirmed, and then frowned. "I'm not sure if I'd want a private practice like he has, though."

Ulquiorra pursed his lips together and looked away from her. "So you have thought about it," he muttered, cooling down the heat in his voice.

She put a hand on his leg. "You really haven't? After all I've—"

"No, because of you, I have thought about it a lot; too much," he corrected her, rather sharply. "But there is still so much in this world I do not know that I cannot decide. And it irritates me to no end that you keep bringing it up. It only confuses me further."

Orihime's heart sank with shame; she didn't realize how much of an annoyance she came off as. A guilty lump rose in her throat. "I-I'm sorry. I didn't know..."

"That is why I'm telling you now," he said with a sigh. "I thought that I have hinted enough throughout this past month, but you always return to—" He noticed the hurt, glassy-eyed look on her face, the slightly quivering frown on her face. His emerald gaze softened by a small degree. "Onna," he chided quietly. "Don't be sad over this. It's not that much of a big deal." He placed a hand over hers on his lap. "I am the one without a future plan, after all."

"I just..." she whispered, lowering her head to stare at the edge of the table. "I just thought I was helping..."

"You aren't," he said bluntly.

She hung her head, her pout deepening.

"But I am glad that you care about me to this degree... that means plenty."

She felt a soft, careful kiss against the side of her head, silently asking her to look at him. It was hard to resist Ulquiorra, so she turned, her immediate compliance resulting in another kiss; this time, on the lips.

Orihime's chest swelled with his reassurance.

"Don't bother me anymore about this," he murmured, his lips moving to her nose, her cheek, and lastly, to her forehead. Every touch tingled with his soothing warmth.

"Okay," she replied in a relenting tone. "But if you ever need any help—"

"I will decide on my own," he interjected quickly. He uncrossed his legs so that she had room to lean against him. She giggled at his hasty answer and nuzzled into him, into the area just below the side of his jaw.

The feel of Ulquiorra surrounding her sent not only comfort, but sparks of a certain itch running up her spine; it lingered heatedly in the pit of her stomach.

Her hand delicately reached for the bottom hem of his shirt, the slender fingers snaking underneath to generously feel his warm, taut skin. Even though it wasn't a new thing for her to do when they were alone, she could never stop the shy blush from coloring her cheeks.

She heard him heave a long, contented sigh. "I didn't know you were in such a mood right now," he murmured, his voice a touch seductive. He tilted his head downward, his lips quick in finding hers. They were so enticingly smooth, like velvet, that she grasped him needfully around his waist under his shirt, her body pressing forward until it was flush against him. He slid his hands down until he reached her thighs, coaxing them around his hips as he laid the both of them back onto the floor, her voluptuous form on top of him.

It wasn't until a little later, in the midst of their steamy makeout session, when Orihime unexpectedly paused. "Ulquiorra-kun..." she whispered, her lips still grazed against his.


"Can I suggest one more?"

He furrowed a brow. "One more wha—No," he groaned, angling away from her face with a frustrated eyeroll.

"I-I was joking that time! ... Aw, don't be angry..."

Perhaps there was no end to this cycle of hers.

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