Ulquiorra was standing at the counter when it happened, a heavy feeling entering his chest as he watched those around him, humans going on with their business not seeing the ghosts that he saw, the shinigami or the cries of hollow (being a former one himself, it seemed Ulquiorra was more sensitive to those that were about or turning into a hollow, a sound that he rather not relive) but those things were not what bothered him.
It was the first time he could tell and feel that emotion running through him suddenly, it was a shock as he took a deep breath and moved away not caring who came into the bakery as he sat in the back room. Orihime was not at work that day, it was just him alone with those he didn't even care to remember their names. Ignoring if they asked if something was wrong, his green eyes narrowed as he concentrated on the feeling rushing through his body.
Ulquiorra closed his eyes while his hand come up and touched the place of his former hollow hole, warm and burning almost but there was no danger, it was just an emotion but one that he was too familiar with, and one that seemed to be the source of his problems since coming permanently to this world, living as a human for her and forgetting everything he was in the past and becoming something new.
Ulquiorra knew what would happen when he came to be with her, to live on her rules and soul society's rules, to be stripped down of his powers, not allowed to leave his gigia for a full year and only allowed to train with either Kurosaki Ichigo or in the shop shinigami's training grounds, no going to Hueco Mundo and never allowed to go on his own to train until he had fully proved himself.
Rules he could abide by, since it meant he could live with her. But Ulquiorra knew Soul Society could do much worse to him if they wanted to and could anyway, they did not have to go by what the Woman wanted but they did and he was now alive with her, grateful to be able to see her now with no hiding and not an act like it was a few short years before.
So this feeling should not be there, but he could not ignore it since doing that was a source of many of his problems. But Ulquiorra felt he should not tell the Woman, knowing how she was and how she would react if she thought he was unhappy, which he was not, but Inoue Orihime had the habit of overthinking very simple things when it came to those she cared about. Ulquiorra felt his body soften at that thought: she cared about.
He had only been living with her for short as six months, but he would be a fool to think or deny that she did care for him, considering his own feelings for her, but they were no near the level of the same intensity. But it didn't matter as he finally stood up, going and getting his coat and leaving the bakery with no word.
Orihime told Ulquiorra that he should not do that, but he didn't care for their opinions or what he should or should not do.
At least for now he had a good reason.
Orihime sighed as she balanced her pen on her top lip, her hands cupping her face as she stared out at the window of the cram school. She did not want to be there, but she needed to get into the cooking school of her choice more so since her Boss at the bakery had promised that she could be his apprentice once she graduated in the spring.
But that was not occupied her mind at the moment, it was Ulquiorra. The last few weeks he had been acting strange, distant almost from her, not listening at work and leaving when he was still on the clock. It was strange, not what she expected Ulquiorra to act, and he never acted that way when he first came to stay with her. And Orihime worried about it; maybe he did not like it anymore.
Orihime closed her eyes tightly as she removed the pen from her lip, her mind feeling clouded suddenly like it always did when it came to him, her feelings jumbled up and not able to process them like she wanted too, it bothered her. It was nothing like when it came to her feelings for her friends, or even for Kurosaki-kun.
It was different, and it bothered her that she wasn't that bothered by it.
But now was not the time to concentrate on her feelings, she had to stay focus on Ulquiorra and what was going on with him. He wouldn't talk to her at times, feeling closed off as he stared at the distance, not answering immediately to others or being slightly rude or stand offish when it came to those he didn't know very well, like Keigo-kun and some of the boys at school who said they were her 'fan-club'.
But it shouldn't bother her; Orihime knew Ulquiorra was not the nicest person and that he did not hold back what he thought just for social convention. And Orihime liked that about him, but now it felt too much….her eyes slowly opened as she watched the teacher in front talk and the small sound soft coughs and whispers and scratch-scratch of the pens and pencils.
Then suddenly she stood up, not listening to the calls from the teachers as she walked out, slamming the door and wrapping her scarf around her neck and almost running out into the still frigid air and home, maybe just maybe she could do something for him to feel like he belonged, Orihime felt something heavy as her heart pounded against her chest because it felt like she almost finally knew what was going on with him, and maybe she could get him to finally speak on his feelings about living in this world, suddenly Orihime felt selfish as tears sprung in her eyes.
Maybe in reality she did not understand Ulquiorra in the way she thought she did as she entered the store, but she wanted to fix that and make him feel like he belonged. She knew all too well how it felt not to fit in or not adjust well to a new situation.
She would fix this.
Ulquiorra was not sure how exactly the Woman arrived home before him, enough time to arrive home but she did and not that far before him since she sat in the kitchen emptying bags from the market apparently. He watched her, that feeling in his chest lessening; around her Ulquiorra always felt some kind of peace.
Before he could say anything Orihime turned and saw him, her expression lightening up and smiling. "Ulquiorra-kun!" she still insisted to call him that, and he did not mind at all at least for the moment. "You're home…did you leave work again early?" her voice scolded some as she walked towards him but a smile still on her face.
"I did." He stated, "and it seems you have no room to talk as well, Woman since you should be at…'cram school'?" the word foreign on his tongue, the concept of school and everything not sitting well on him, he had the opportunity to go to school with her, but at the moment he decided to work as papers got processed to be able too.
Orihime blushed as she rubbed the back of her head. "Yeah but I felt that I should come home…." She stopped there looking at him and then the floor, and then turning. "I wanted to make something special since this is the six month anniversary since you came to live with me!" she laughed, it was only half-true.
"Is that so?" he turned taking his coat off, and then started to undo his uniform. "That's unexpected." Something uncomfortable formed between them there, stale almost.
"Is there another reason you are not telling me?" he threw the bow tie onto the chair along with the blue vest, the white shirt half unbutton as his hands returned to his pockets. Orihime looked at him, their eyes connecting slightly and then Orihime nodded her heart pounding. It was the only opening she had, she knew he would not bring it up himself and by the time he did he would be gone.
She would lose Ulquiorra.
And Orihime was not going to let that happen, at least not when she could do something about it. So she stood up, smoothing he skirt over her legs and then pushing her bangs back as they stared at each other. The words didn't come at first as she looked at him. Nothing about him changed outside of no hollow hole or mask, it was strange but not strange.
"Do you want to leave?" her voice soft as she broke the eye contact, Ulquiorra's eyes widen when she said that everything seem like it was starting to fall, that feeling making his chest pound.
"What makes you think that, Woman?"
"Ah…" she made a mistake didn't she? "Just…leaving work, you seem…distant, Ulquiorra…I just want to know how you are." Their eyes connected again, feeling uneasy from his wide eye expression as he stared at her.
She hit a nerve that she prayed was not there.
Ulquiorra sighed as his green eyes closed and his hand moved and pinched the bridge of his nose, and then slowly he opened them and looked at her. Maybe she could read him better than he knew, of course it was a silly question this was the woman that changed him in a way that no one ever thought could happen, who slapped him, he should not expect less from her. "I have some reservations in being here, some things that I do not like and rather not have to deal with." He started to explain, "I have spent decades living as a hollow, and only six months in this world and less than two years with a heart, Woman…it will take a awhile to change and fully adjust into such a situation."
"So you're having trouble adjusting?" she asked moving closer to him, "If you don't like your job I can find another one for you! A-and if there is something you want to do…like train more I will ask Kurosaki-kun! Or ask Urahara for more time to be on your own!" Ulquiorra slightly surprised watched her jump in the air and laugh, making plans on what they could do. It was like his first few weeks again.
"Is that all it takes?" Orihime looked at him his expression soft for him.
Orihime knew what he meant as she looked down and then slowly towards him her soft hand reaching out and grabbing his calloused hand, even in a gigia his hands still felt like that as a man who lived by his sword. "No, it'll be hard but it's a start."
Orihime smiled, "yeah it is…Ulquiorra it'll be okay, but you can't skip work or anything or get into fights…." Before he could refute that part she spoke again. "I know you don't fight, but I don't want you to feel more discontent then you already do, in how you ignore others and speak rudely, and even in how he seem to look through me sometimes.." Ulquiorra watched her, her face was fascinating to watch. How her lips moved, how her eyes moved and her smile when she said something she really meant. "It won't be easy."
"That is an understatement." And Orihime laughed as he said that, his expression soft and one that he seemed to use when he joked, only she could see the difference it seemed. "Is this why you are here?" and Orihime smiled sheepishly and nodded.
"I was able to tell you were having some trouble and it got to me today, I wanted to make your favorite foods. Thinking it would help."
"Hmmm." He looked into the kitchen as she said this and nodded. "It seems so." Orihime looked at him when he said that, smiling slightly.
"It's a start, I've been too caught up in exams not realizing that you would…" she didn't want to say 'need help' since he had his pride. "That you would need help adjusting. I'm sorry for that, Ulquiorra-kun." Her voice low as she said that but she stopped when she felt his fist bop her on the head, her brown eyes widen. Did he seriously just do that? She looked up their eyes connecting and his expression serious, she could still feel the pressure of his hand on her head.
"Stop doubting yourself, if you have time to do that then you have time to do other things as well." Orihime laughed as he said that, his hand running down her hair for a second and then she moved away, her body feeling hot.
"I'll make you something now." As she turned, hopping he would not see her burning face. Ulquiorra watched her, the feeling in his chest lessening after the small talk, it didn't cover it all but it was easier now. "We can discuss" she suddenly yelled out, making him blink in surprised, "talk over what you want to change and such as we eat….just as a start." Ulquiorra made a noise of agreement and went and sat at the table, his eyes watching her and listening to her off tune humming.
A start with her, the whole reason Ulquiorra was here in the first place. With that he closed his eyes, relaxation coming over him.