It is Ulquiorra Cifer’s birthday tomorrow, and Orihime Inoue is frustrated. They are in a tiny little hotel in the centre of Venice, and she is lying on the marble floor, staring up at the faded plaster on the ceiling. After a day of wandering around the Piazza San Marco, Ulquiorra bid her goodnight, and went to his own room, locking the door.
That is correct, his own room. Orihime puffs out her cheeks, glaring at the door across their suite. After their reunion in August, the past three months have been the best of her life, a mad dash across two continents, which leads to her current state of vexation. Ulquiorra has not touched her since the night he sought her out again. Well, sure, he has held her hand, and kissed her; oh boy, has he kissed her. But really, separate bedrooms at every stop of their world tour?
Orihime is ecstatic to be with him again. She is too polite to demand more, of course, since he is the one paying for the hotels. There was a settlement from the dissolution of Aizen’s Las Noches, sent to her by Tier, so money is no longer the issue it was when she was scrambling to make ends meet.
In fact, she offered to pay for half the trip, the night before they flew from Tokyo to Prague. He had taken a long look at her, and hobbled out the room, not saying a word. This was how Ulquiorra got upset, Orihime learned. He withdrew into himself and did not speak a word to her until the next day at the airport, communicating by text message. It had taken many hours of coaxing on her part to get him to admit that he was angry with her, instead of ignoring her.
But through the past three months, Orihime had learned even more things about her former customer-turned-lover.
One. He is a consummate hand-holder, never letting go of her from the moment they meet up for breakfast, until he kisses her goodnight at her door. His long, lean fingers envelop hers easily, always slightly cold but gripping her tightly. She is reminded of an old song, where he takes her by the heart when he takes her by the hand. It is oddly endearing, the way his hand searches for hers almost blindly when they are walking, and it is a habit that he has developed only recently.
Two. Even though he has not brought a stitch of formal clothing on this trip, he wears his casual clothes as if they were custom-made Italian suits. Heads turn when he walks past, dragging her behind him, men watching with curious eyes, and women with hunger in theirs. Ulquiorra Cifer is a perfect gentleman. He opens doors and pulls out chairs for her, wraps his coat around her when she shows the slightest sign of being cold, escorts her when they drink a little too much alcohol, depositing her in bed with a gentle kiss on her nose. He has not made any inappropriate advances towards her, being on his most correct behaviour all the time.
Three. Ulquiorra’s self-control is formidable. Oh, Orihime has seen him lose his composure, once in the linen closet at that gala, and the other, on that rooftop, the night he kissed her. Even when he lay dying from Mr. Aizen’s bullet, he had been in control. It is maddening. She wonders why alcohol seems to have no effect on him, and why it is always she who is making a fool of herself over this green-eyed, dark-haired ex-Espada.
Orihime realizes he has never actually said that he loves her, sitting up abruptly on the cold marble floor. No, he never did say it, not when he was dying, not when he was in the hospital, not even when he reunited with her. How did she not notice this?
Is it because of his handholding? And his kissing? Well, okay, his kissing, to be fair, is a fool-proof way of distracting her. He kisses her when she is upset, or tired, or cranky, much like a soother for a baby. She scowls, hugging her knees. Is he treating her like a child? Is that why he hasn’t touched her?
Her cheeks heat up as she remembers his touch on her skin, sliding her skirt up slowly, one hand on her mouth to muffle her whimpers.
Damn it. He touches her all the time, holding her hands, sometimes wiping her mouth with a napkin after meals, or pulling her hair back when she drinks from water fountains. He gives her light kisses, forehead kisses, sweet playful kisses. Even if he never quite smiles, she can tell when he is pleased by the heat of his skin, or the way he holds her close. Sometimes, he even cuddles her, but they have not shared a bed since they started travelling, so it is always on a couch or a chair.
At first, Orihime wanted to give him time. Perhaps he was still recovering from his coma, and parts were not working as they should. Maybe he needed time to heal. Then why does he keep kissing her, and why does he not try to do more?
She is finding that sex is weighing more and more heavily on her brain; making love again to Ulquiorra Cifer is her new obsession, her waking daydream. It has gotten so pervasive that she jumps every time his fingers brush her skin, trying not to moan. She feels like an animal in heat, now. The mere scent of his soap sends the pit of her stomach fluttering.
The only thing stopping her at this point, is the sobering thought that if he truly wanted her, then he would have done something by now. As it is, she may be doomed to be forever crushing on him, but never truly having him.
Another thought crosses her mind. What if she is merely a responsibility to him, or just a companion to keep the loneliness away? He has never said he loves her. Not once. Tears well up in Orihime’s eyes, the chill of the marble seeping into her flesh and bone. They have never discussed the terms of their relationship, either.
Another memory: "I am sorry for hurting you. I'm not good at emotions," he murmurs into her ear, "And I am not good with words, but if you will have me, Orihime Inoue, I am yours."
My what? My boyfriend? My lover? Orihime rises to her feet, pacing in frustration. She throws her balcony doors open, sending the lace curtains fluttering behind her. The crescent moon hangs low over the sea, sending glittering reflections across the waves. This is winter in Venice, with the chilly winds swirling around her, sending her hair flying up.
Cautiously, she says it aloud. “He doesn’t love me.” Hearing it said makes it more real. Orihime grips the railing, feeling the strength leave her. She says it again. “He doesn’t love me.”
“Who doesn’t?” A voice behind her asks, sounding mildly disinterested.
She whirls around, eyes wide. Ulquiorra stands in the doorway of her room, holding her coat in his hands. He might sound bored, but his eyes are anything but cold. In fact, she probably won’t need the coat anymore, his eyes are blazing.
“By any chance, woman, are you referring to me?” He closes the door behind him. By his use of the word ‘woman,’ Orihime knows he’s annoyed. The sound of the lock clicking into place echoes through the room, sending a thrill of apprehension through her.
The wood of the railing digs into her fingertips. For a fanciful moment, she considers jumping over, diving into the canal, and swimming in the winter-chilled waters to cool her raging lust for this man.
“What are you doing here?” Orihime demands, her hips crashing into the railing behind her as he stalks forward.
“I heard you open your balcony doors, Orihime,” he says lightly, his eyes drifting over her nightgown-clad form. “And your coat was outside, on the couch. Most women would not be silly enough to try to freeze to death in winter, even in Italy, but you…” he meets her eyes, and now she knows he is more than annoyed. “You, Orihime Inoue, are special.”
He stops, inches from her, and she wants to howl in frustration. Just a little closer… She can smell his soap again. Her knees buckle. He catches her. Although Ulquiorra has gotten full range of motion back since the surgery, she suspects he cannot lift her as easily as he used to without doing damage to himself. So she braces herself against his shoulder, regaining her balance. He wraps her thick coat around her, buttoning it wordlessly.
When she meets his eyes again, she is surprised by the hunger in them. “So,” he tells her, grabbing a lock of her hair in his hand. The curls twine themselves around his fingers without any effort on his part. “You think I don’t love you?”
To her horror, Orihime feels her lower lip tremble. “Well… I know you don’t want me that way,” she whispers, her voice breaking as she averts her eyes, dropping her hands from his shoulders.
“In what way are you referring to?” he asks casually, pinning her into place with two hands on either side of her and his sharp green gaze. She fights to breathe now; his proximity is overwhelming her. She cannot answer him, choosing to focus on a spot right above his adam’s apple, anything to avoid his searching eyes. “Are you afraid of me, woman?”
Her head jerks up, reacting to the sadness in his voice. “Of course not!”
“Then why aren’t you answering me?” His lips are a breath away from hers. His eyes are searching for permission. Perhaps they find it; he kisses her half a second later, lightly. It is the kind of kiss that a child would give his mother, puckered lips and all. “Come on inside, you’re getting cold.” He steps away from her, his eyes dark and unreadable.
Obediently, she heads in, watching him close the double doors as she perches on the edge of the bed. He walks past her, to the door of her bedroom. “Goodnight, Orihime,” he intones, closing the door behind him.
She rises to her feet, racing to the door, hands clenching into fists. “Why?” Orihime sobs, wiping her eyes with her knuckles. She cannot open it, and she hates herself for her cowardice. But… she glances at the clock. 12:01. It is Ulquiorra’s birthday.
She throws off the coat he buttoned up around her, her mind made up. Steeling herself, she pulls the door open, padding to the room at the other side of the suite. He is sitting calmly on an armchair, reading a book on his handheld device. “Yes?”
Her heart is pounding as she stares at him. Deliberately, Ulquiorra places it on the table next to him. “Did you need something, Orihime?”
“Y-you,” she blurts out, mentally wincing. It sounds so incredibly pathetic. No guts, no glory, she tells herself. “I need you. Please.”
He stares at her for a long moment, then stands up. “Alright, then.” Ulquiorra waits expectantly. Orihime is dying of shame. But she has made it this far; she might as well go as far as she can. “I… mean, happy birthday,” she giggles nervously. “I should have a cake for you. Wait, I’ll just go see if I can find you a cake.” Orihime takes a step backwards, but Ulquiorra cocks his head, studying her.
“Come here,” he commands, folding his arms.
She faces him, grinning sheepishly. “I ah, just wanted to greet you.” He waits calmly, and for a minute Orihime resents him for being so distant when she herself is boiling up with the intensity of her emotions.
“So, are you going to answer me now, woman?” Ulquiorra asks, his eyes on her lips. This feels more intimate than the last kiss he gave her, but it is his birthday, so Orihime knows she has to tell him the truth.
“Yes,” she sighs.
“Were you referring to me earlier?” His voice is low. She nods, lowering her head.
“And do you honestly think I don’t want you?” Her toes curl into the carpet at the naked hunger in his voice. Her breath hitches.
“Orihime, do you want me to touch you?” Ulquiorra’s voice is quiet, brimming with emotion. She clutches the front of her nightgown, nodding bashfully. He pushes her against the bedpost, his lips on hers again. She can feel the carved wood digging into her back, but she doesn’t care. At last, he kisses her like he means it, like he was starving and she was a meal, like he needs her to live.
He crushes her lips under his, swallowing her moans as he lifts her, sliding her onto his bed. Lifting his head, he stares at her, breathing hard. “Take your clothes off, Orihime,” Ulquiorra orders, his green eyes glittering.
Her fingers shake as she reaches for the buttons at her throat. He watches, lifting her leg up so he can press a kiss on the inside of her ankle. “Faster,” he instructs, running the tip of his nose up the inside of her calf. Pure, hot pleasure shoots up her leg, centering on the dark aching spot between her legs. Orihime trembles.
“You’re already wet for me,” he observes, his eyes delving between her parted legs to the lacy pink and white panties. “And I’ve barely touched you. Are all your undergarments made of lace? Excellent.”
“Ulquiorra,” Orihime whimpers, excited by his words.
In a quick motion, Ulquiorra leans forward, ripping her nightgown down the centre, sending buttons flying everywhere. She squeaks at the unexpected action, blushing from head to toe. Only her ridiculously feminine panties are left to cover her, all lace and ribbons.
“Your skin…” he says gruffly, climbing between her knees, “is exquisite. I remember the first time I went to your coffee shop, and you glowed because you were just so… happy. I wondered then… if your skin was as soft as it looked.” He lies down beside her, propping his chin on one arm, tracing the exposed skin of her belly with one black-tipped finger. “Then I had you. In my bed. You haunted me for months afterward. I thought I was going to go mad.” He pinches a nipple lightly enough to send a rush of heat to her center, soothing the sting with light strokes. She is spellbound.
Ulquiorra holds her gaze as he exposes the other pink, puckered crest, leaning forward to tug at it lightly with his lips. Orihime pushes the back of her hand against her mouth, to hold back the cries that threaten to escape. “No,” Ulquiorra growls, releasing her breast to capture her wrists. “I want to hear it. That last time, in the closet… I couldn’t hear you.” She bites her lower lip, shaking her head frantically, wide-eyed and rosy-cheeked.
“Woman,” Ulquiorra warns, leaning forward to claim her lips again. “I felt you come apart with a few strokes of my tongue right here…” He curls a finger into the wet panties, making her arch her back helplessly. She chants his name against his lips, begging for release. His fingers pull the crotch of her panties to one side, exposing the slick folds of her centre. “I licked here, and your whole body rose up, as if you were offering yourself to me, like a pagan sacrifice,” he murmurs against her ear, finding the secret spot that makes her go on her tiptoes, arching completely off the bed.
“Such a sensitive body,” he observes, painting circles around her pink-tipped breasts lightly. “Are you close, Orihime?”
She draws a shuddering breath. He leans closer, licking her ear lightly before whispering, accusingly, “How could you think, even for a moment, woman, that I do not want you? When all I can think of, everytime I touch you, is how I can make you come apart, over and over, until all you can think of is me?”
He strokes that one spot relentlessly, causing her to buck under him. Orihime has seen different sides of Ulquiorra; tender and sweet the first time they made love in his house, urgent and hungry in that closet, even intense and resigned at the storage shed in the cemetery. This man tonight, who is touching her with deliberate precision, who is gazing at her with hooded eyes, this is an Ulquiorra she has not seen before. He is almost punishing her with the way he pleasures her, relentless in his quest to keep her dancing on the edge, pulling back mercilessly when she tips over.
“I’ve been waiting...,” he murmurs into her ear as he slides a long finger into her slick softness. “for so long, to be able to do this. To be sure you wanted me.”
Her body stretches to accept him; her eyes lock onto his, frantically looking for calm amidst the beautiful chaos he is throwing her into. She whimpers his name, digging her toes into the soft comforter beneath her. Another finger joins the first; her hips come off the bed, her hands tearing into the pillows behind her head.
He soothes her with a slow nibbling kiss, licking at her lips until she parts them. Then he takes her mouth, conquering it with the confidence of a man who has explored her before. He pulls back again, breaking the kiss, to rub that one perfect spot that has her entire body bowing off the bed, fireworks exploding behind her closed eyes, and a release that has Orihime shivering helplessly under his touch.
She collapses to the bed after what feels like an eternity, out of breath, when she sees the triumph glowing in his emerald eyes. “I’m not done yet,” he warns her, moving over her before she can gather the energy to protest. He still has all of his clothes on; she has some bunched-up lace, exposing more of her femininity than it covers.
“Not fair,” Orihime protests weakly, leaning her head back to give him access to the smooth pale column of her neck. She feels his lips curve against her frantically pounding pulse.
“Life is not fair, woman,” he tells her, raking the skin of her neck with his teeth. His roughness excites her; although she has just had an orgasm, she can feel the pressure building again. He worships her breasts now with the same attention to detail that he gives everything, with slow, methodical deliberation. Orihime watches his dark head bent over her, and feels her chest constrict with emotion. This is the man she chose.
He glances up, meeting her eyes as he presses kisses to her navel. Without breaking eye contact, he sits up, dragging the ruined lace down her legs, leaving her completely exposed to him. “Are you afraid, Orihime?” he asks her again, echoing that night when he lay bleeding in her arms.
Giving him her complete trust, she shakes her head. “No.”
His fingers are a little cold when they touch her intimately, a delicious chill running up her centre. He makes a pleased rumble in the back of his throat, completely focused on his conquest of her. Orihime blushes self-consciously, moving to cover herself with one hand. “Please don’t look,” she whispers, turning her face to the side. It was one thing, in the darkened closet, when she couldn’t see him, but here, in this lamplit room, she is naked and defenceless.
Ulquiorra’s brows draw into a scowl. “Are you ashamed, Orihime?” She cries out as two fingers part her tenderly, exposing her innermost secrets. “There is no reason for you to be. Look at me,” he commands, dragging her hips closer. He pushes her knees up, until they rest beside her face and she is curled up helplessly, unable to move. “Look at me, woman.”
Orihime watches helplessly as his tongue darts out to lick at her folds, delving deep as his eyes lock onto hers. It is the sexiest thing she has ever seen in her entire life, and the pleasure shoots through her instantly. His lips close around the most sensitive part, sucking gently. She screams, thrashing underneath him, trying to escape the overwhelming sensations. His grip is strong around her thighs, though, and she can only take and take. “Too much,” she sobs, pounding her fists on the mattress beside her. The whole world contracts to just the two of them, and Orihime writhes under his invasion. He is relentless, moving his lips and tongue and teeth until she hits the peak again with a wet clench, trembling and screaming and sobbing his name, her toes curling.
He lets her down slowly, wiping his lips and chin on the sleeve of his nightshirt. “Do not hide yourself from me, ever again,” Ulquiorra tells her sternly, his green eyes flashing. She nods, her eyes drifting shut from her exertions. “Go to sleep.”
“No,” Orihime protests, forcing herself to sit up. She notes wryly that her knees are still quaking. All of Ulquiorra’s clothes are still on, while she perches on the bed like a wanton statue of Venus, frolicking sans culottes. He is seated at the edge of the bed, looking calm and collected, as if he had not just rocked her world. Does she not affect him in the same way?
With a growl of frustration, she straddles him, pushing him flat on his back. He lets her; they both know if he wanted to break free, he would. “What now, woman? Were you not satisfied?” he asks, his tone flat.
This is infuriating. Her hands go to the buttons of his nightshirt. He stops her with his own, green eyes glaring up. “No.” She notes the faint flush of his cheeks in the lamplight.
“Why not?” Orihime demands, leaning over his face until they are practically nose-to-nose. His flush deepens and he avoids her gaze, mirroring her earlier motions.
“I do not wish for you to remove my clothing,” he mutters, almost sulkily. Is he being shy? But… she has seen him naked before. Does he just not want her? Orihime frowns, slipping off him.
“Fine,” she whispers, tears prickling. After the two best orgasms of her life, rejection hurts a lot more. Ducking her head, she tries to get off the bed. “I should go back to my room then.”
He lets out a huff of frustration, capturing her wrists. “I… have scars. From the gunshot and the surgery. I do not wish for you to see them,” Ulquiorra grumbles, pulling her back into his arms. She twists in his arms to look at his face, not sure if she heard correctly. But she knows Ulquiorra never jokes, and never lies, so he is likely speaking the truth. The misery in his green gaze confirms it.
Fiercely, she kisses him, moved by his vulnerability. Her fingers slip his shirt open again. “Ulquiorra, your scars… They mean that you survived. And that you’re here with me,” Orihime tells him, kissing him again. “They are a part of you, and I love you. All of you.” Getting to her knees, she parts his shirt to see the angry pink wounds. He flinches imperceptibly as she leans forward, pressing light kisses to the scarred flesh. “Does it hurt?”
“No,” he tells her, his voice tight. She traces the marks with her lips, pausing just beneath his collarbone where the worst of the scarring is.
“This… reminds me of how close I came to losing you,” she breathes, kissing the darkest part of the scars gently, her tears dripping onto the marks. “And what you almost gave up to save me.” She reaches back up to kiss him fully. “Happy birthday, Ulquiorra. I’m so happy you’re alive.”
He rolls them over, until she is beneath him, slipping the rest of his clothing off with her help. Hungrily he kisses her, taking slow nibbles of her lips, tasting her languidly as if he hadn’t just explored her body thoroughly. There is a tang to his lips that is unfamiliar; Orihime blushes to realize it is her own nectar she is tasting. He doesn’t hurry at all, and that in itself is seductive to her, like he has all the time in the world to make love to her.
She tries to hurry him by touching his manhood, but he grabs her wrist, shaking his head. “I will not rush this,” Ulquiorra intones, trapping her hands above her head with one hand. The restraints excite Orihime. She supposes that she might have a hidden submissive streak, and she pushes her knees together to contain the sudden rush of liquid dripping out of her.
With her hands bound, she can only caress him with her eyes. He hangs down, erect and proud, the head of his cock nudging the light orange hairs at the apex of her thighs. She can actually feel her body swelling and preparing for him to take her. He leans over, flicking her nipples lightly with his tongue.
“Please,” Orihime whimpers, “I need you.”
The woman twists underneath him, begging him for release. He had been willing to give her pleasure, and that was enough for him, but when she had insisted on seeing his scars, a strange warmth had poured through him, battling his shame and fear. He is not good with emotions, not at all. And she is perfect. He does not want to mar her with his darkness; he wants to protect her from his scars.
But he has waited so long to touch her; each day bringing more torment as he slowly allowed himself to hold her hand, then to kiss her. Right now she has never looked more beautiful to him. His fingers tighten in the silk of her hair; the breath that escapes her in a hiss makes him go even harder. This urgency, this raw need for Orihime Inoue terrifies him, like nothing else can.
With his other hand, he braces himself above her, pushing roughly against her wet heat. It is incredible, he has to grit his teeth to prevent himself from pounding into her like a crazed animal. He has waited almost a year, but his body remembers the tight slippery grip of her around him as if it had happened yesterday, and he fights to retain control, leaning his forehead against hers.
“I love you,” she chants, the pitch of her voice going higher and higher, but the storm in her eyes keeps him spellbound.
He wants to tell her the exact same thing, but now is not the appropriate time. She deserves flowers and candles and starlight, when he gives her his heart on a silver platter. Not tangled sheets and torn clothing and tear-streaks and mindless pleasure. Not like this. She deserves the best he can give her, and he is fiercely glad she did not run away screaming at the sight of his ripped-and-repaired flesh.
Orihime arches beneath him, making all his efforts to restrain himself useless. Her body takes him in, and his hips push forward, and it is every bit as glorious as he remembers. Ulquiorra is afraid that he is trembling in her arms from the force of his need, but she is quivering too, tears streaming down her cheeks.
One month ago they stood in the Louvre, at the sculpture called Psyche Revived By Cupid’s Kiss, by Antonio Canova. She had gazed at it for a good half hour, with the exact same expression on her face as right now, with her eyes now on his chest. When he had asked her why she wept, she turned to him and pressed a gentle kiss on his lips. To be perfectly honest, he had not noticed any of the art at the Louvre, because he had been too focused on Orihime and her reactions. She was more beautiful to him, more warm and vibrant and alive than any of the canvases or marble statues before them. But right now, at this moment, with the way she is looking at him, as if he is everything she has ever wanted, he is overwhelmed.
Ulquiorra grips her hips, wanting her so much he kisses any part of her he can reach. “Harder,” she begs, closing her eyes and angling her hips just right. She shrieks as he sinks his teeth lightly into her ear, dragging his lips and tongue down her neck with every thrust of his hips. She is incredibly soft, this woman, and he cannot get enough of her taste.
He rocks deeper into her, eliciting hungry moans from her throat each time he pulls out, and he is sure that his back now bears scratches from her fingernails digging in. The stinging on his back pushes him to further heights, and he is gratified to realize that she wants him as much as he does. Ulquiorra bites her shoulder, hard enough to mark her. Her body tightens in reaction, in a wet grip around him.
“Ulquiorra,” she sobs incoherently. She can no longer form complete sentences, whimpering things like, “Yes,” or “So good,” or “Oh my God.” He can tell that she is approaching her third orgasm, because her whole body is almost off the bed, and her feet are arched to support her weight. More telling is the frequency that her flesh flutters around his, spasming around his rigid cock. His own is impending too, and Ulquiorra has to close his eyes to keep from coming before she does.
Finally Orihime’s entire body tightens under him. He can see the tendons of her neck tensing as she strains to reach that elusive peak, her teeth ravaging her bruised bottom lip as if she cannot stand it. She is so beautiful.
He pushes into her furiously now, her wet heat driving him mad. He cannot stop himself from gripping her generous hips hard; he knows there will be bruises on her tomorrow, but he will not worry about that now. She jerks against him violently, her scream deafening. Orihime freezes for a moment, like a drawn bow, tight with tension, then a hot silken release around him, slick with her essence. It is too much for Ulquiorra; he tumbles after her into oblivion, emptying himself inside her.
Afterwards, he holds her close, in the large antique bed. The lamps cast a golden glow to her skin, and after all their exertions, she is half-asleep, snuggling into him like a tired kitten. Her hair is wet with sweat, and her cheeks are flushed. “Happy birthday, Ulquiorra,” she breathes, lapsing into unconsciousness.
He watches her sleep for God knows how long, and awe is not an emotion that comes naturally to him. But he is humbled, and he is grateful, and he is so desperately in love with this flame-haired woman in his arms. Ulquiorra does not know why he fought himself for so long, when the answer was so easy.
Careful not to disturb her, he leans over to turn off the lamp switch at the nightstand. His mind wanders to the box in his coat pocket, that he has been carrying around for the past three months. Tomorrow, he’ll tell her, at the dinner he’d arranged for her on the rooftop of a palazzo nearby. The corner of his mouth goes up wryly. He had completely forgotten that it was his birthday, after all.