It had taken a long time for him to admit it. Truth be told, he was still wrestling with the truth in some ways... But even if he couldn't force it to make sense, he would concede – though it made his pride as an Espada, as an Arrancar, as a man, chafe – that there was a problem.
Ulquiorra silently studied the woman as she stared solemnly at her hands, trying (and failing for the most part) to understand. How was she doing it? How? She wasn't moving; she was working no power, no magic, that he could see. But in his stomach, the feeling was still there. The fluttering, almost painful sensation that gripped him whenever he saw or even thought about this pathetic creature before him.
It was becoming quite annoying.
He remembered broaching the subject with her not so long ago, mainly because the humiliation of having to stoop so far as to need the help of a mere human wasn't very easily forgotten.
"Woman," he'd begun, voice as flat and toneless as the ground upon which he'd stood. "I have been feeling... abnormal lately."
The woman had jolted in surprise, no doubt because he had so rarely deigned to speak to her. She'd looked up at him with her ridiculously large, brown eyes, and Ulquiorra had noted – somewhat pragmatically – that the feeling in his stomach intensified under her gaze.
"Yes," he'd confirmed – if he'd been so inclined, he might have displayed some impatience at her slowness. "In here," he pointed at his stomach, "there has been an uncomfortable flutter. What is it?"
Orihime had seriously thought about it for a moment, pressing a pensive finger to her lips as she adopted her familiar 'thinking' pose.
"Indigestion?" she'd suggested.
Ulquiorra hadn't even blinked.
"I do not eat."
"Really? I thought since you have a chef," she'd indicated her half-eaten meal with some excitement, "that Arrancar must eat too. Is it only Espada who don't eat or do all Arrancar not need food? Can you eat? I know you don't have to, but-,"
"Woman. Stay focused."
"Oh. Sorry," she'd apologised, deflating a little. "Well if it's not indigestion it must be-,"
Back in the present, Ulquiorra frowned. Or would have, if he were physically capable of the movement.
On the sofa in her cell, the woman continued to stare at her hands, for once not speaking. He should never have allowed her to start speaking in his presence, he thought. That was clearly the root of all this trouble. All those months ago, when she'd hesitantly started to chatter as he watched her eat, he should have put an end to it before it even began. And he certainly shouldn't have offered any input – sparse though it had been, it had clearly been a detrimental move.
"Insects," he stated, startling Orihime out of her reverie.
"What?" she asked hesitantly, confusion written all over her face.
"I said 'insects'," Ulquiorra repeated, meeting her curious gaze blandly. "You give me insects, woman."
She blinked, completely bewildered by what – to his mind – was a perfectly logical statement.
Finally, after several seconds of awkward silence, understanding dawned on her features. She let out a small giggle, followed by several not so small ones.
Ulquiorra remained impassive.
"I think," she chuckled, wiping tears of mirth from her eyes. "you mean 'butterflies', Ulquiorra."
And this time he did frown, just slightly, enough that he was sure no observer would have caught it.
"What is the difference?"