Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach

After Image

The covers of the mattress creased under the added weight of the woman wearing a plain, yet alluring gown that resembled her usual uniform as part of the home of hollows, but the clothing only reached at the top of her breasts, barely covering them. Bars creating the shadows of imprisonment were gone, allowing the moon's light to shower over the room that was magnificently decorated with all sorts of items; an addition of some furniture, a few colors that were her covers and the few accessories she had kept upon a desk that was just across the room where there was placed a box of pens and pencils alongside some blank sheets of paper; a request she had made to pass the time in creativity. The carpet red with the engravement of yellow patterns remained, but the room was no longer a vast white. It was drenched in the deepest black. A void that swallowed all traces of white. She sat and stared at the room in all its glory, the dark colors, the black; it all made her feel uneasy. The black of the stone marble felt like it was staring back at her, a gaze that she could not shake off. The table that used to be fit for a single occupant was now expanded for two. Time stood still in this world of night, but the woman knew well that it was time for bed.

Hopeless.

Her eyelids were not heavy in the least, grey eyes looked over the familiar images before returning, always returning, to the crescent moon that would always greet her. Without even realizing it, a smile laced over her lips. A simple, content smile that served no real purpose than to greet the pale light. A wind blew through the open window, a whisper from the outside world; haunting. She closed her eyes and slowly inhaled the faint scent of rain. How odd, in a place like this where not a drop of liquid could be found. Familiar, but not quite the same. It reminded her of the numerous times where she would stand by her window back at home and stare at the rain that fell from the sky, connecting the two worlds for a brief moment, but this scent of rain seemed far too cold to allow any thought of meeting.

Orihime gasped at the sound of a deep soft voice that announced his entrance from beyond the door unblemished by the smearing colors, retaining its pure symbol of becoming uninfluenced by all that surrounded it. The door opened soundlessly as Ulquiorra once again came to pay her a nightly visit. The usual silent presence of a lower ranked arrancar did not accompany him during this time. It was the fourth coming in with the usual snack that was apparently, also requested of her and closing the door behind him. Without another word, he placed the tray on the table and stood to look at her.

"I have brought your snack as you have wished, onna." He stated, standing by the table waiting for her to get up and be seated. He was rewarded with a smile, a grateful one.

Green, cool eyes watched her as she made her way over to take a seat at the opposite side of him as he removed the cover of the dish to expose a beautifully decorated cake that was made of a mixture of strawberry and chocolate; it was fairly small considering that it was late, but despite its size Ulquiorra knew she would ask if he would like a piece when he had stated several other times that he had no taste for sweets. To avoid her offers, he poured the tea into the cups situated at either side of the table before taking his own seat, his eyes continued to analyze her as she ate the cake in complete comfort.

She became so used to his rather awkward company that his staring no longer fazed her, but for some reason as she stole glances of him, his form seemed so distant and it brought about an uncomfortable sensation throughout her being. Her hand slowly fell to rest against the table making the fork gently tap the edge of the plate, her thoughts getting the better of her. He was so close, but at the same time so terribly far away. The mere thought brought a spark of terror coursing through her, paralyzing her. She stared back at him, burning every detail of him into her mind. His clothes, his expression, his eyes, his lips.

"What is it, does it not suit you?" He suddenly asked, jolting her back into reality. He glared at the cake for a brief moment before raising his gaze back at her.

"Ah! No, it's lovely... It's just that..." She trailed off as she tried to think of the words that would accurately describe what she felt. Distant was too vague, there was something off about this and it was giving her a headache. Something was wrong; this was wrong. She could not place a word, it was subtle, something in this room.

Ulquiorra remained silent, patiently waiting for her to speak, but it soon dawned on him that she could think of no reply. "Your heart is beating fast." He noted calmly, taking a small sip of the tea in his hand, his eyes gently falling to a close to savor the bittersweet drink for a brief moment and then settled it down on the table, turning his attention to her once more. "What is it that upsets you so?"

Orihime sighed, she couldn't say anything, nothing would process. She looked around to take in her surroundings, it was dark, it was cold, but in front of her where he sat, it was warm; her skin chilled, but her heart filled with a heavy burden of warmth at the sight of him. "I don't know... it just seems like... Like you're not really here." She whispered, dropping her gaze at the cake that was half-eaten. The darkness seemed to move with the shadows.

"Nonesense." His eyes pierced through her own. "I am right in front of you."

The wind blew. A cool breath skimmed past her ear. Her cheeks flared and her ears warmed up at an uncomfortable heat of the intrusive wind. She slapped her hand against the side of her head in an attempt to block out the sudden sensation. Swiftly, she whipped her head behind her only to find the moon at its usual place, unbothered by the creeping darkness. Something was here, it was right behind her, the sudden feeling of the chill of winter. A ghost of a hand was touching her shoulder, soft, easing. Cold.

"What are you looking at?" His voice sounded so far away. Turning back to face him, she looked at him with confused, alarmed eyes. His eyes narrowed when they met. Green.

Orihime's eyes came together in a slightly angered expression, glaring down at her unfinished portion of cake in a stubborn attempt to ignore his question when she could see that he was avoiding what she felt. It was like he knew... No. He did know.

"Onna, answer me." His voice was smooth, compelling, but she refused to look up from her plate. It was childish, she knew, but for some reason she also knew he would not reprimand her for it. "Onna." His voice was never raised, however, it did take on a certain tone that forced her to look up.

Green wilted; the color of yellow. Protruding horns, black fur, massive wings. Darkness. The chill, the moon; a breath. Her eyes blinked several times before she looked at him again. Normal. The uniform, the helmet; all was accounted for.

Ulquiorra cocked his head slightly to one side, becoming aggitated at her confusing responses. He stood, the sound of the grinding chair being moved echoing throughout the room. "What is it?" He asked, becoming annoyed and demanding an answer.

Orihime stared at him. Her frown becoming tight, the cool breeze seeping through and into her skin creating goosebumps.

Fear?

She stood with a pout, ignoring his questioning look and sat on her bed. The look was overall very cute as he stared at her, but he could sense that she was ill at ease. With a quiet sigh he followed her. Orihime quickly averted her gaze from him, looking off at the side where the shadows of her possesions lay nearest to the window. A fallen teddy bear. She could feel him quite close, looking down at her and still she kept her eyes away from him.

"Onna."

His voice, she noted changed. It was the same, but it was deeper as if he was talking of a serious matter. How silly. For him. She was becoming near insane at this creeping feeling lurking inside her heart. The terrible cold sensation of loss, lost in the snowstorm; she wanted to cry. How irrational. She would not respond, her eyes fixed on the toy. Despite her efforts, her fear must have shown on her face because she felt the soft caress of his hand on her cheek. He asked her another question, but she could not answer. The stifling lump in her throat would not allow it. Her watery eyes glanced at him; a silent statement that clearly spoke her request.

"Hold me."

Ulquiorra saw her eyes, tears forming, held back by a flimsy will. He complied. His weight fell behind her on the mattress, his arms coming around her waist, his head resting at the top of her own. His warmth, the cooling warmth of his body was felt through the gown especially where there was no cloth covering her shoulders and collarbone. But even then, there was a gap; a terrible gap that refused to fill. It wasn't enough. His lips brushed against her right ear to whisper.

"You're uneasy, you're upset. What is it? You must tell me." She looked back at him. Silently, expressionless, she reached down to grasp his hand and place right above her chest. His fingers painted black could feel her thundering heart beat through her flesh. He rested his head at her shoulder and looked at his hand touching the place where his hollow hole would be. He stared and he knew what was causing her fear. "You are strange." He stated quietly, saying it more to himself than to her. Her eyes were also fixed at his hand covered by her own; questioning, wondering.

"Are you afraid?"

His voice no longer heard in back of her made her jump, her wide eyes looking straight ahead. Her mouth opened, but no sound was heard. The breath of winter. It fanned her face; the scent of the cooling rain. His eyes the brightest color of yellow, the deep bold streams of falling black tears running down his pale skin. Black hair growing longer in length, soft fur sprouting from his back where the massive wings stretched out behind him, shielding away the light of the moon and covering the lower half of his body. Clawed hands were just at either side of her thighs covered in fur as well, a long whip-like tail curling at his side only to straighten out behind him, swaying.

The name of the being before her was whispered, but the sound of her voice was not heard in her own ears. Ulquiorra did nothing behind her, never taking notice of the beast before them. Him. His image. Released, unchained; free.

"Murcielago."

"If that is what you'd like to refer me as, I do not care." The one who was known as the released state of Ulquiorra whispered, his wings flexing and folding as he spoke. Orihime's hand had fallen on her lap as she tried to make sense of the situation. There were two. The guard and the beast; separated. How could this be? Were they not different despite being the spilt image of his soul? The cold came back, creeping all around her. "You did not answer my question." He murmured, looking down at the hand of Ulquiorra that was still at the center of her chest. "Are you afraid?"

Orihime stared, taking in his form, his voice, his eyes, everything. There was no difference, only his form. It belonged to Ulquiorra, his actions; all of it was exactly how he was. What is it, this monster? Is it him? Is it Murcielago? Is it Ulquiorra?

Who?

"Answer." Ulquiorra, the one behind her, the original said so calmly she was close to asking him if he could see what was in front of them. The echo, the duplicate; a clone.

"Afraid of what?" She said in a small voice as her eyes softened. Their mouths moved simultaneously, their voice becoming one; resonating throughout her mind.

"Me."

She could feel Ulquiorra's left hand grab hold of her own, his right still at the center of her chest. She looked at his hand bringing up her's as Murcielago came ever closer, moving a clawed hand under her chin to make her focus on him. She was confused. Her, afraid of them? Of him? Ulquiorra.

Her hand was placed upon the gaping hole of the fully released espada, held there by Ulquiorra. He brushed his lips on her neck while the other stared at her, holding her gaze with his own, waiting for the answer. His eyes lowered, a soft expression, his lips just a mere inch from her own.

"No." Her voice brought their senses back. The chilling cold receding, fading away. His flesh was still cool, however, it wasn't so unpleasant. The pads of her fingers brushed hesitantly around the rim of the hole, her eyes half closed, anticipating a kiss, but she was only greeted with the soft voice of the two in answer to her resolve.

"I see."

A heavy pressure fell upon her, forcing her eyes to fall to a close. It was not cold, it was not warm. There was nothing. Her nerves seemed to have become numb, nonetheless she could still tell that the two were still very close to her, her hand still upon his chest, the other rising to caress Ulquiorra's cheek. Yellow eyes closed accordingly with the green as he brought his face closer with her own. Her heart continued to beat wildly underneath his comforting touch, but as her eyes fell under the weight of nothing the smooth texture of his hand ceased to be. The breath at her neck was no longer there, the warmth behind her now cold. She didn't know if their lips met, but it no longer mattered with the darkness drowning out all color, the cold presence gone. The soft of the bed gone as well, there was nothing, no sound, no feeling, the cold and the warmth... Completely gone. It seemed that way for quite some time until a crack shattered the nothingness. Hot liquid slipped under her eyes; fear. The terrible fear was back. Cold, so cold and yet, her motionless face betrayed nothing all that could be seen was the silent flow of tears trailing down her face falling into oblivion. Sadness. She yearned for the warmth, the gaze of the green, the confusion of the yellow...

She yearned for the quiet presence of who was once someone very precious. Yearned for his comfort he unknowingly caused. The tears continued, the sorrow overflowing her soul even as her still form moved not an inch from its place and the even breathing of her lungs was not disturbed. She was crying for the loss.

Crying for what was forever gone in this world of cold darkness, her fear, the suspicion coming into play; taunting her. The sobs she wanted to unleash to relieve this pressure that continued to weigh heavily on her would not come out. Stuck in a comatose. Hours, days, decades may have passed until at last she was granted the relief of nothing. The sorrow, the fear, the realization, the cold; all faded as the darkness, void of everything, swallowed her very soul.

Sweet peace.


A hand gently shook her shoulder, from behind her closed eyes there was the unmistakable sight of the bright light. A breath left her. Her eyes lifted slightly, only to fall under the pressure of sleep and move towards the pillow to block out the sun.

"Wake up." A deep soft voice urged almost angrily. The sound was enough to quicken her heart-beat, but she dared not to move a single limb. The voice repeated itself and her eyes were forced open when she felt an arm wrap under her shoulders, raising her onto the lap of the owner of the quiet voice. She was met with the cold gaze of familiar green with the same streaks of tears falling under them. She gasped.

"Ulquiorra-kun..." She whispered, the man before her did not acknowlege the call of his name instead he continued to glare at her. Orihime swallowed, her mouth dry, a horrible flow of relief taking over her. Silence was around them as the two continued to stare at the other; one whose eyes were swirling with rage while the other was trying to make sense of what was now reality.

Without warning, Orihime felt the soft pad of his thumb run across her cheek, wiping something she could not name off her.

"Why were you crying?" He asked, his voice low. His eyes lowering to look at the stains of freshly fallen tears. Confused, Orihime raised her hand to touch her face only to find that there were indeed signs of crying. Her eyebrows came together in confusion, looking at her hand then back at him. Her mouth opened to answer, but there was nothing that would come that would make sense to either of them.

She looked down at her clothing, but there was no familiar gown resembling her old uniform, just the same pink one she always wore to bed. She turned her head to look at Ulquiorra's clothing, but his were not similar either, a white t-shirt and simple blue pants fit for sleeping. No helment, no uniform. Just him and her as they were. Her hand came up to touch the space where there used to be a hollow hole. There was none, but just to be sure...

She lowered the collar of the shirt down, enough to see the familiar four engraved on his chest, but there was no hole, just flesh and the gentle beat of his heart.

"Onna..." He called, his voice getting annoyed. His hand came up to pull hers away. Moving to cup her cheek tenderly, a contrast to his tone and expression. She could feel his thumb move to touch the edge of her mouth, urging her to speak. If something was wrong she had to tell him, he wanted to know what made her sad; it angered him that she was sad and crying, making him feel useless, unable to take away her pain.

Orihime said nothing, made not the slightest sound, her expression empty and it was bothering him. Just as he was about to talk, she moved forward. The sight of his form as Murcielago moving to kiss her still fresh in her mind; never fulfilling that silent promise. She softly pressed her lips against his, leaving him to be slightly confused at her actions but allowed her to do so without complaint. He moved with her, lowering her on the bed with him falling on top of her form, their lips still connected. Her lips parted and he responded instantly; moving his tongue past her lips to roam her mouth. Coaxing her tongue to join with his own. His hand never left the side her face as he tilted his head to allow better access.

They released the other, the two slightly out of breath. He stared at her with a hard gaze while her eyes were beginning to well up with tears.

"A nightmare..." She whispered softly, her chest rising and falling with each breath. "It was just a nightmare." Her voice trembled as she spoke, but she would not allow the tears to fall. Ulquiorra could hear the slight rise of fear in her, his hand caressing her cheek as she spoke. He moved down to hold her, her face buried into his neck; he could feel the unshed tears as her eyes closed. His arm tightening over her shoulders and his hand holding her head to him.

"What was it?" He asked, his own eyes closing. Her body trembled with the effort to contain the fear and the sorrow, her hands turned into fists holding the cloth of his shirt tightly in their grasp. He felt her mouth open to speak.

"I don't know..." She whispered. "It was...you...you were gone..." That was all she could make out from the blurry images of the dream, that was all that was given. The image of an elegant room, drenched in darkness save for the few blotches of color and the only door that was white. Empty with just herself sitting at the lone table. Loneliness. Talking with a presence that was not there.

He held her and kissed the side of her head in a rare show of affection of comfort that was only shown to her. "You have me. I am right here." His hold tightened. For awhile the two stayed in that position, motionless. The coiling of her clenched heart loosened, her pain going away. The cold fear leaving. He allowed her to move to sit, him sitting against the headboard of the bed and her facing him with her arms wound around his torso and his around her waist. She dozed off again in a short dreamless nap only to wake up in the same position. Ulquiorra had not lifted his calm gaze from her throughout the short sleep, which eased her.

"Shall I go make breakfast?" He finally asked and she simply nodded. He stopped for a moment at the doorway to look her over, once he was sure she was up and well, he left. Orihime watched as he went down the hall, she looked over her room and sighed. Everything was just a dream, a horrible confusing dream. The illusion losing her loved one. She yawned and stretched her aching limbs and followed Ulquiorra to the kitchen. Just as she was about to pass the table she stopped and stared at the object sitting on it. The sight of a small cake half eaten, a mixture of strawberry and chocolate with two matching cups of tea; one completely empty and the other half full. She shook her head to rid the reminder of the dream from her mind and went on to join Ulquiorra who was in the middle of cooking, dismissing the cake entirely.

-X-X-X-

A/N: Was inspired by the pic Ulqui x Hime x Murcielago by Rusky-Boz. The pic is amazing, so credit goes to her for allowing me to do a fic based on it... However, the whole purpose was to see if I could improve on the romance thing even a little, but that didn't seem to work... :(

I've corrected mistakes and such, but if there was something I missed, please feel free to tell me. At some point I hope to make another one-shot of these two, perhaps a bit more fluffy. X3