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Chapter 27- The Beginning

She stayed there a while, talking to Urahara, crying her eyes out, and sipping on a cup of green tea he had given her in a failed attempt to calm her down. He kept telling her not to worry, that it was for the best, for peace, for the future. She knew it as well, yet could not help but feel the void in her chest.

After a while, she accompanied Urahara to the lab, and decided she wanted to see whatever thing was in the bag Ulquiorra had brought. As soon as the scientist opened it, she instantly regretted her decision. It smelled horribly and looked even worse. She could not bear to look at the sight of the contents in the bag. Truly unrecognizable, the shredded remains of a man, clothes and all, and the stench of chemicals, all bunched up together and thrown in a sack as if it was trash… Trash… Ulquiorra would often referred to others that way… a shiver ran down her spine.

Orihime had to step out for some fresh air as she waited for Urahara to properly dispose of the… body… she gagged.

She cried some more. Was all of this just a bad dream? It had to be. The haunting image of the contents inside the bag were still fresh on her mind. And to think that it was… Ulquiorra who… She bent forward and threw up at the thought. Ulquiorra… he really did not want the captain to be revived, he made sure of it.

Against Urahara's advice, she decided that she also wanted to see whatever files Ulquiorra had retrieved. To her horror, (and Urahara's,) that brought about another half hour of intense crying and sobbing from her part. For a moment, she was glad that Neliel did not get to witness any of it. It was better that way. She would remember her beloved Sexta as the fierce, proud and strong warrior that he was. What Orihime had just witnessed, on the other hand, was the bare soul of a human in agony. For days on end, all three prisoners had been exposed to various methods of torture… and then been nursed back to health.

Kurotsuchi had been testing poisons and their effects on them. He had also enhanced their abilities of regeneration for his own wicked purposes. Eventually all three had lost all will, they no longer felt pain, and could not even think. When their nervous system had been damaged beyond repair, Kurotsuchi just simply "installed" a new one. Brainless puppets, that's all they were by the end. Whatever force had made Grimmjow snap back into consciousness and given him the will to fight at the last hour was beyond her. But it had been enough to encourage his other two companions to fight to the death as well. She was sure they would even have been glad to die.

The images were etched into her brain, and she could not make them go away. It was all she thought about, always tugging at the back of her mind no matter what she did. They did not let her smile, did not let her be, deprived her of sleep at night and hovered over her during the day. A couple of days passed and she would still shed tears when she remembered. She felt guilty, so very guilty. For feeling relieved that such was not Ulquiorra's fate, or her own, for this she felt guilty. Yet she had exposed them both to the same risk… Ulquiorra… what would he say to her if he was here? What would he do? Without him to support her… it was just… too overwhelming.

She tried to overcome it, and wished she could just sonido away from all her problems too. She felt sad, angry even. But as was always the case, she had to stay and suck it up. She was a normal human being after all; she needed to move on with her life the best she could.

At school nobody knew what had happened. She was sure Ichigo must be aware of the incident that day at the twelve division, yet he didn't speak a word to her about it. He was distant, and would often disappear and skip school, not telling anyone what he was up to. They just figured it had something to do with Soul Society, it always was. She decided to just focus on school, keep her mind occupied that way. It was hard. Being at home felt empty, and being at school was exhausting because it was there that she had to pretend that everything was fine. Her strength was giving way.

She slowly withdrew herself from her group of friends. The people who used to keep her company… they were just not someone she could talk to about her real problems, not anymore. The things that really troubled her mind. Uryu was the only other person who knew about Ulquiorra, but she didn't want to tell him that he had left her behind… it just didn't sound right. She would also not go into detail as to why he had chosen to leave. There was just no way that she could talk about it.

She visited Urahara as often as she could, and noticed how every time she did, someone would follow after her. She was being watched, and so was Urahara. Ulquiorra had been right about that. A week had gone by and there were still no signs of him anywhere, however fortunate or unfortunate. Two weeks and she was still being watched by those annoying faceless shadows who tried to conceal their presence as best they could. She tried to ignore whoever it was, but it was still annoying. At home it felt so lonely without Ulquiorra, she could almost not bear it anymore. Maybe that's why she chose to spend most of her time at the shop.

It was not until four weeks after that Ulquiorra got in contact with her. She received a phone call from an unknown number, and was thrilled when she heard his voice at the other end of the line. He would call her every other day or so. Their long conversations where not so one sided any more, as he found she wanted to hear him more, wanted to know more, everything. What he was doing, how he was feeling, it was all so very important to her. She knew the truth about his real job and had come to accept it. Urahara had spilled the beans, seeing there was no point keeping it from Orihime anymore. No point to anymore secrecy really. She wanted to hear more about the missions, and would anxiously wait for Ulquiorra's calls. His voice kept her sane, kept her alive.

Months went by and things went gradually back to normal in town. Urahara and Orihime were no longer being watched, which was a relief. Nel did never come back, and they never heard any news from her. She only hoped that her friend was in a good place and without many struggles. Orihime had asked Ulquiorra a few times if he knew anything, but his reply was always no. She had always wondered how come Nel had been able to touch Ulquiorra's heart in such a way, and so quickly. He was moved to the extent of wanting to offer her a gesture of consolation when she was hurt. A hug. For someone like him, that was really perplexing.

Graduation was finally around the corner, so she had that to look forward to. She started to look for possible universities she could go to. It kept her occupied, her thoughts in order, gave her a chance to socialize with other people her age, even though it felt odd to spend time with normal people now-a-days.

She had always wanted to be an elementary school teacher, but was recently kind of second guessing that choice. Maybe spending so much time with Urahara had had some type of effect on her. After graduation she was seriously thinking about going for a career related to science. Of course after discussing the matter with Urahara, she had his full support. She would focus her efforts on something that would be helpful for people though, nothing too fancy and crazy. Also, she wanted to somehow be able to help Ulquiorra in his field of work, maybe not exactly doing the same thing, but working closely together. Ulquiorra… her thoughts would so often go back to him.

A couple more months went by and she was happy to say that now she was a college student. The first two weeks kept her schedule full, she was really busy with school work and barely managed to get enough sleep. Ulquiorra's calls became less and less frequent, she just didn't have enough time to talk on the phone anymore, and sometimes she would fall asleep while talking to him. Still, she insisted he called her more often. She missed him, and would often daydream about the day they would reunite.

So much time had already gone by and Ulquiorra was still not with her. Why? She wanted to see him, yet he would always ask her to be a little more patient. Wait a little longer. He had a few projects of his own, so it seemed. She had shut down every single young man that had come her way in the hopes of getting to know her. Orihime was quite popular in college, just as she was in high school, maybe even more so now that she was also known for her intellect as well as her beauty.

She owed most of her success in college to Urahara, who was constantly helping her on projects and giving her a hand whenever she did not understand something. Really she learned more from him than she did in class. When Orihime had told Ulquiorra that she was going to go for science after graduating high school, he also decided to find out more about it and became quite interested. He missed her terribly, and during the course of the months he thought about going back to her many times, but decided against it.

Ulquiorra knew she was working hard, as was he. He did not want to keep her from achieving her dreams, did not want to be an obstacle. He also did not want to keep her form experiencing what a normal life would be like. That was the one thing he could never give her, and he was aware of it. It was one of the reasons why he had not come back to her yet. He also needed to come to terms with himself. Remembering bits of his remote life, his childhood, his mother… it all had a huge impact on him.

There were things he was not ready to share yet, things he didn't understand, time he needed to spend alone, feelings he needed to accept. In the back of his mind, he was constantly thinking about Orihime, and hoped she would just wait a little longer for his return. He would not be the one to burden her, she already had her own share of problems to deal with, he knew it. He just hoped that none of it would change her heart, her feelings, his own little treasure.

To his relief, as time went by, Orihime's resolution only grew stronger. She loved him, and would reassure him that nothing would ever change her mind, time and time again. Something definitely had changed in her, he could tell, but could not really point out what it was, and it was nothing to worry about. It only made him want to work harder, for her.

He led a simple life during his time away. He had a daily routine that he would strictly stick to, dedicating most of his time to work, but also setting some time aside for training and studying. For the time being he was staying in a studio apartment. It was quite plain and did not have much furniture. The only thing that really stood out was a painting decorating one of the walls. Actually, it was the only thing decorating anything. He had done it after all. He had painted a portrait of his mother, as she was in his memory, his happy memories.

That one image of her he now possessed helped him keep the more painful memories away. He had painted her in warm colors, had given her eyes full of life, full of love. The eyes that would so often look at him as he tugged on her robes to get her attention, the eyes that he now saw every time he looked at his reflection in the mirror. He remembered the scent of eucalyptus in every one of his memories, and somehow it eased he thumping of his heart.

One day he would speak about her to someone, he thought, most likely Orihime. Although he didn't know what he would say. He did not even remember her name, just her face. In all honesty he did not wish to remember any more than that. It had already brought enough pain and conflict upon his heart. Enough to make him realize he had known love, a different type of love than what he felt now, and it made him feel all the more human. But it had all happened in another life, another era. He was no longer that frightened little boy who couldn't defend himself; he did no longer go by the name being called out to him. Ulquiorra… he was Ulquiorra now and for as long as he could remember, and that was fine.

Six months had gone by and Orihime still did not see any signs of her beloved espada. She was already on her second month in college. She had the hopes that maybe he would have come sooner than that, but he didn't. He was constantly on missions, some of which she didn't really understand. On the last one he told her about, he spent five days underground at some facility that supposedly conducted secret research on alien life. His task had been to just copy information and send it over to the agency. Orihime couldn't imagine how bored he must have been, just waiting there to hack computers and such. He didn't enjoy it that was for sure, he did it because it was his "duty," he had told her, his duty to take care of her.

It was true, he made sure she had everything she needed, everything she wanted. During the months of his absence, she never found herself in financial trouble; he would take care of everything. That is what he wanted, that is what he had promised her. Orihime still took on a part-time job at a café. It wasn't much, it was only three days a week, but it was something. Making and managing her own money made her feel like she was also helping out with her school and living expenses, and also gave her some working experience. When she had graduated from high school, she stopped receiving government help, and was extremely thankful for having Ulquiorra to support her.

On a fine morning, Orihime was getting ready to go to class. Fixing her hair, she threw on a pair of jeans and a cute green top to go with it. She was not really trying to dress to impress, she just wore whatever she thought was cute and comfortable. Picking up her phone she thought it was strange that Ulquiorra had not called her yet. He would usually call her in the morning, even if just to say hi. It didn't matter, maybe he was busy, but not hearing his voice in the morning always left her worried all day. There were days when she thought she hated him for making her feel this way. Then he would call her and she would fawn over him all over again. He just had a way of making her heart melt.

Upon entering the school gates, something seemed off. A group of girls gathered around a certain young man. He seemed bothered by them, extremely annoyed. She could tell by his voice, the way everyone had gone silent as soon as he spoke. Girls were not used to being addressed in such a harsh manner. The whole situation seemed strangely familiar to her, as she started pushing her way through to see who it was, her heart skipped a beat. She wanted to know. No, she needed to know. Really, she just wanted to see him, she was expecting to see a large pair of emerald green eyes taking her breath away.

The young man was facing the other way, and from behind she could see he was somewhat tall and lean. His clothes were nothing fancy, on the contrary, they were casual, very simple, but they fitted his slim body perfectly. He wore jeans and a grey loose fitted t-shirt, nothing flashy at all. He shifted the books he was holding and she noticed a series of tattoos marking along the inner part of his arm. This little detail threw her off a little. Ulquiorra didn't have those tattoos… But still, it just had to be him… right?

He scratched the back of his head with his free hand. Black nails, she noticed. Black, they were black, just like his jet black hair, which fell down to his shoulders in an unruly mess. Her heart swelled up, she couldn't help but giggle at the sight. It was him, she just knew it. He immediately turned around at the sound of her voice.

A deer in the headlights, that's what he looked like. His eyes were even more intense than what she could remember. His presence had a bigger impact on her than what she would have expected. Orihime could have fainted. But no, she wanted to see more, wanted to know if he was real, that she was not dreaming. Her beautiful dove eyes opened wide and she held her breath as he approached her, taking a strand of her silky auburn hair in between his long and elegant fingers. Yes, it was him, and he was making her heart flutter. A beautiful smile illuminated her face as she beamed up at him. She was lost in his deep entrancing gaze. Reaching up she moved aside some of the hair that was falling over his eyes. "Ulquiorra…"

That rare blush of his cheeks followed, along with the most charming smile he had given her yet. Had he always smiled like that? How could anyone even smile like that? She could've stayed there just staring at him like an idiot. Finally, he was there. She was not dreaming, her face felt hot, her body tingly. His lips parted, he would say something, she would hear his voice so close to her that it would make her stomach do summer saults. Her name, she wanted to hear her name coming from his thin lips.

"Ori…hime…" He said as he got ever closer to her face. He was leaning in to kiss her, closing his eyes to get lost in the moment, taking in the enticing fragrance that was her scent. Orihime didn't want to close hers, she didn't want to stop looking at him, didn't want that moment to end. Then again, there was no helping it, she gave in, and the taste of his lips was all there was for her for a long while, everything else forgotten. That moment was hers, and nobody could ever take it away. If he were to ever leave her again… she would surely die, she thought.

A few seconds later and he was leading her away somewhere. She didn't know where, she was still high up in the clouds. But he was in front of her, looking back over his shoulder with a hint on mischief in his enchanting green orbs, giving her hand a little tug, walking forward. Were there people talking? She certainly heard voices, but couldn't make out what they were saying. She didn't really put the effort into it. All her senses were focused on him. He was doing it again… she was free falling.

She would ask all the questions later, right now there was no need for any type of reasoning what-so-ever. None. She was perfectly content as it was. There, lovingly holding her by the hand, finally, was him.

The End.

Or is it? Lol

Boy, does this couple struggle or what? XD I'm sorry Grimmjow didn't make it. Nel is strong, I'm sure she'll be fine on her own. I just couldn't give everyone a happy ending. This is just the outcome that made the most sense in my head. I will leave the rest of their futures to your imagination (and however many babies you wanna give them XD)

I really enjoyed writing this story. I might go back and read the whole thing sometime. I'm sure I'll find a lot of things I'll want to fix lol.

Thank you for reading! Until next time :3

-Amarelle Topaze