2016-01-28

mistkitt: (Default)
2016-01-28 08:18 pm

Tell Yourself Timeline

*To Be Updated at a Later Date!*

Year 0: (Orihime is 16)

- Winter War ends
- Immediately after, Orihime undergoes psychological evaluation. Unohana delivers the report to the shinigami captains.

Year 1: (Orihime turns 17)

- January thru June: Life returns to normal. Assuming that Ichigo loses his power in this universe as well, no one’s stupid enough to think he’s fine, and his powers are returned to him shortly after (Feb or March). He and Rukia get swept up in the emotion of it all and become a thing (April).
- Early July: Ulquiorra revives in Las Noches in his newly humanish form. He goes to the living world and finds Orihime.
- Mid July: Ulquiorra and Orihime are tried by Central 46
- August thru November: Ulquiorra gets his human emotions under control and resumes his stoic nature.
- December: Orihime misses out on the holidays to stay home with Ulquiorra, who refuses to go anywhere with her friends.

Year 2: (Orihime turns 18)

- January and February: Ulquiorra’s human education continues
- March: The main storyline of the fic begins
- April: Ulquiorra starts working with Urahara
- May: Ulquiorra realizes that he’s developed feelings for Orihime
- June thru July: Summer vacation, Orihime finally admits that she isn’t in love with Ichigo anymore
- August thru Early September: School and responsibilities resume
- September: Orihime becomes aware of her feelings for Ulquiorra
- October thru December: Things become increasingly awkward
- Mid December: First kiss
- Christmas Eve: Ulquiorra and Orihime become a thing

Year 3:

- January thru March: Ulquiorra’s ongoing human identity crisis, Orihime graduates high school.
- April: College prep
- May thru December: …

Year 4:

- January thru December: …

Year 5:

- January thru June: …
- July: Story ends.

mistkitt: (Default)
2016-01-28 08:27 pm

Need

Originally posted 4.30.2015. Wood nymph AU.

~

His fingerprints reminded her of tree rings. She liked that about him, thought it significant somehow. When they were together she would grab his hand and examine the lines - the faint and the many, not the dark creases - as if she was trying to decode him. As if she was constructing some hypothesis on their fundamental differences, or deciding that they had none.

She could decide whatever she wanted, he supposed, but it wouldn’t change the facts. There was magic inside of her. Magic in the very way she moved. Standing beside her, the air smelled cleaner, and he wasn’t sure if that was because she was magic, or because he loved her.

And he did love her. He loved her like he’d never known love in his life, and who knows, maybe he hadn’t. Nothing like this. He’d breathe her in if he could. He’d inject her magic straight into his veins. She was everything he wasn’t, everything he’d been missing. The kind of carefree he’d aspire to be but never grasp. She took his worn out life and repurposed it into something useful, something beautiful. He woke up earlier every morning because he couldn’t stand the excitement of existing - a way he hadn’t felt since he’d arrived there a decade before - and he had her to blame for that. No, he had her tothank for that. He’d stopped blaming her for his happiness a long time ago.

He let her have her way with him. If she wanted him to chase her through the forest, he’d chase her, no matter how much faster she was. If she wanted him to be her prince, her knight in shining armor, he’d shelter her from storms and talk her down from nightmares. If she wanted to touch him, he allowed her to touch him, and tried not to think of her small hands on his chest, turning every breath of clean air into an effort.

There was nothing he wouldn’t give her. He was weak, he was in misery, he was in raptures, he wanted to cry when he held her in his arms. The sunny smile that broke across her face when she spied him would drive him to madness sooner or later. He’d never wanted anything as badly as he wanted her.

“How do I feel about you?” she echoed his question one quiet afternoon, and her flushed cheeks, her downcast eyes, told him everything he wanted to hear. “It’s… a big feeling.” Her small hands, gesturing. “It inhabits my entire being. Warm, and… it frightens me.” Her silver eyes, seeking. “It’s like I have to remind myself how to breathe.” His hands, in her hair, drawing her close enough to know how mutual the feeling was. “Oh God, Ulquiorra…” his name, whispered in agony against his temple, “I can’t breathe.”

And neither could he.

mistkitt: (Default)
2016-01-28 08:30 pm
Entry tags:

AU Hour

 Originally posted 5.21.2015

Guess what? *whispers* It’s NnoiNel. From a one-shot I never got around to. Apologizing ahead of time for potentially butchering this delicate flower of a pairing.

~

The day Nnoitra Gilga was executed, Nelliel Odelschwanck returned to the apartment she shared with her boyfriend; her subject dead, her work completed.

She carried herself down the uneven sidewalk, shedding layer after layer of duty with every step. The closer she drew to her building, the more expressive she became, emotion slowly trickling back into her large hazel eyes. When the baker greeted her, she was startled by her own smile. Sudden. Natural.

She walked on, the warmth of the baker’s friendliness thawing the winter inside of her. But her surprise lingered. It turned her mind’s eye to her upturned lips and stared.

Nnoitra Gilga had never seen her smile. Not once. Nelliel did not joke or laugh with serial killers; she merely interviewed them.

Nnoitra Gilga had kissed her, though. Hard. Spitefully. With no other motive than to try and frighten her.

The thing about Nnoitra was, he’d had this way of looking at her. Not when he was cackling and mocking and claiming he’d guiltlessly killed ten people for the hell of it. Not when he was making lewd gestures at her with his eerily long tongue. But in the silences, in those fleeting seconds between insults where real motives crossed his mind. Then, Nelliel had observed, the depth of his gaze became fathomless.

His eyes had been like that after he’d kissed her. Again, as he’d waited for the lethal dose to take effect. For one wild moment she’d felt the ghosts of his fingers clutching her hair, pulling, tightening, driven by his hatred… or perhaps, something else entirely.

And then he was dead, without ever having told her his motives. Without ever having seen her smile.

Nelliel unlocked her apartment door and was greeted by the smell of garlic and herbs. Her boyfriend appeared a moment later, apron-clad and wiping his hands. “Hey,” he said gently, and Nelliel allowed herself to be pulled into his arms. “How are you feeling?”

He always asked that question after executions. She always answered the same way: she was fine. Really. Work was work. Home was home. She’d spent years fighting to keep the two as far from each other as possible.

But on the day Nnoitra Gilga was executed, Nelliel found that she was too tired to keep trying.

“Sad,” she whispered, tears pouring into the creases of her wavering smile. “I’m so sad.”

mistkitt: (Default)
2016-01-28 08:33 pm
Entry tags:

Break of Dawn

 Originally posted 5.17.2015

Ah geez. Okay. Muse. FLUFF WARNING.

~

Ulquiorra was halfway through a dream about being late to a test he hadn’t studied for when a hand smacked his side and catapulted him out of slumber. “Wake up!” Ms. Inoue was bouncing up and down beside him, apparently forgetting that he’d paid for a mattress where she could do so all she wanted and he would remain undisturbed. “Wake up, wake up, wake up!”

Of a few things he became certain as he opened his eyes: it was still dark outside, his alarm hadn’t gone off, and therefore it must have been too early for his anti-morning girlfriend to be waking him. But there she was on the other side of the room, ripping open the curtains and bustling about like it wasn’t – dear God, 5AM? Was she drunk? “Is the building on fire?” he asked instead, lucid enough to remember questioning her sobriety would make her angry.

“What? No. Do you hear any fire alarms?” Orihime clicked on the beside lamp with her elbow, revealing a coffee mug in each hand. Ulquiorra stared at them blearily.

“You’ve been in the kitchen. There must be a fire,” he said, to which she rolled her eyes. She pressed a mug into his chest.

“Just take that and drink it.”

He took it, but he didn’t drink it. “Is it laced with something? Are you kidnapping me?”

“Oh my God, if you don’t shut up and drink your coffee.” She left the threat open to his imagination as she crawled over him, handling her own steaming mug carefully. Ulquiorra had several objections to consuming food stuff in his bedroom, but he figured he would need the caffeine to deal with… whatever this was. He took one sip and immediately noticed that it wasn’t his usual coffee. Orihime was watching him over the lip of her mug.

“What is this?” he asked, though her concentrated stare was enough to revive his suspicion of the drink being drugged somehow.

Orihime took a deep breath and spoke rapidly into her mug. “They were selling it at that frou frou coffee place next to Tiburon. I went there with Rukia yesterday, remember? And they had these like gumball machine lookin’ things filled with coffee beans and they weren’t all that expensive, so I got whatever this is because I couldn’t pass up a name like Billie Bean is Not My Lover, and, well, anyway, do you like it?”

Ulquiorra took another sip. Billie Bean was, in fact, much better than his usual coffee. “Yes,” he answered slowly, his eyebrows furrowing. “But did you have to wake me up at five in the morning for this?”

“No…” She looked away.

“Then why am I awake?” he asked, noticing her toes digging into the blankets. There was a stubborn little pout on her face; the kind she wore when she didn’t feel like telling him something.

“I wanted to watch the sunrise.” She mumbled it so quietly that he almost didn’t hear her. Ulquiorra blinked. She didn’t need him to watch the sunrise. There was no reason to be embarrassed about something like that, unless… unless there was an implied, silent “with you” tacked onto the end of her statement. Which certainly seemed to be the case. She chanced another look at him and immediately looked away again. “Sh-shut up!”

“I didn’t say anything.” A rosy, pleasant feeling was spreading through Ulquiorra’s chest. It was a happiness bordering on obnoxious, the kind that made people walk around half asleep with goofy grins on their faces. But Ulquiorra, being a man of little expression, could only manage the tiniest of smiles; the rest would be left to his eyes. He sat up and moved beside Orihime, reclining against the wall. “What time does the sun rise?” he asked.

She opened her mouth, then frowned. “I don’t really know.” Her cheeks were adorably pink. Ulquiorra leaned closer to her. She relaxed, shifted her legs, and leaned back.

“Then we’ll just have to find out,” he said, turning his gaze to the window.

mistkitt: (Default)
2016-01-28 08:34 pm
Entry tags:

Missing

 Originally posted 5.26.2015

As expected, it was a long day of vicious weather and constant emergency alerts from the television. Here’s some Muse for coping.

~

At the airport, she’s collected. Cheerful, even. She reminds him not to blame the flight attendants if there are an odd number of pretzels in his bag. In fact, she says, don’t even count the gosh darn pretzels. The last thing she needs is to get a phone call saying they had to reroute the plane and arrest him for causing an incident.

Scarlet doesn’t say half so much. She’s six; her principle concerns are pouting because she can’t go and asking him to bring her back a souvenir. “Bye Daddy,” she mutters, unable to help smiling when he picks her up and kisses her cheek.

Then he’s off to the security checkpoint, setting his carry-on into a plastic bin, enduring the body scanner, putting his shoes back on, and giving them one last melancholy look before he disappears into the terminal.

Orihime drives them home.

It’s seven o'clock that evening when Scarlet comes out of the bathroom and finds her mother crying quietly at the piano. She joins her on the bench, wide eyed, concerned. “What’s wrong, Mommy?”

Orihime wipes her cheeks. Her make-up smears on the backs of her hands. “I miss your dad,” she says.

Scarlet tilts her head. “He’s only been gone a coupla hours.”

“I know.” Orihime laughs. “This sucks.”

“Sucks,” Scarlet agrees, uncertainly. Orihime pulls Scarlet into her lap, burying her nose in her daughter’s freshly washed hair. They sit in silence broken only by the occasional sniffle, surrounded by the ghosts of compositions past, feeling Ulquiorra’s absence as if it were a physical presence. He isn’t a loud person by nature, but the music in his mind is so plentiful that Orihime imagines she can sense it just by standing beside him. The thought intensifies her longing, and she sighs.

“Someday,” she says wistfully, “you’re going to meet someone who makes you cry when they leave, even if it’s only for a few days.” She can tell by the scrunching of Scarlet’s nose that she doubts that, and Orihime doesn’t blame her. Had it been ten years ago, she wouldn’t have believed it herself. “And when that happens–” here she smiles, “–you’ll know that person has your heart in the palm of their hand.”

mistkitt: (Default)
2016-01-28 08:36 pm
Entry tags:

The Shirt

 Originally posted 7.1.2015

I have to drabble it out. Would love something sweet and romantic, but the usual universes feel worn, and that means it’s time to reopen Pandora’s Box with… Eros.

~

If she was wearing his shirt in the morning, she wasn’t done with him. First time, he’d thought it meant something. Read more into it than he should have. But Ulquiorra was quick to learn that a missing shirt from his bedroom floor signified nothing but the fact that whatever fight the woman had gotten into the night before had left her with a particularly voracious appetite. And it wasn’t pancakes with whipped cream she was hungry for.

When the woman was really hurting, she got sloppy like that. Stayed longer than she intended to. Laid on her stomach beside him, the glow of her cell phone screen illuminating her exhaustion, her anger; things she tried to keep behind her straining bedroom door along with all her sadness and dying expectations. And he would sit there, tousled and tired, until she either left or pushed herself back into his lap.

Shame, really. She wore his shirts way better than he did. Ill-fitting, too tight in the chest, never able to cover much of her backside because he wasn’t exactly tall. His old self would have been disgusted by his shameless admiration of the view. But his old self had never been in love before, and love had a way of blinding smart guys like him.

If they ever got into a real relationship, would she wear his shirts more often? Would she sleep in them, go to class in them, steal them for warmth in the winter? Take his sweaters and wear the sleeves up to her fingertips? Would she smile at him when she did?

He stepped out of the hallway, into the kitchen where she stood buttering a flaky croissant, clad in one of his night shirts and nothing else. It wasn’t his job to think about such things. In the stage drama of the woman’s life, he was no one, a lowly stagehand who ensured that the woman was comfortable, while staying in the darkness, out of sight. He approached her from behind and lowered his lips to her neck, knowing it was pointless to bother with a greeting she wouldn’t return.

And she, with her shadowy eye circles and vacant stare, rolled her head back onto his shoulder as he opened his stolen shirt one button at a time.

mistkitt: (Default)
2016-01-28 08:38 pm

(no subject)

 Originally posted 7.18.2015

Ulquihime feels + period hormones + an idea from sOMEBODY that I kind of… flipped. This is a brand new AU(!!!), that I will scribble because this western is giving me hell.

~

The things reflected in my eyes have no meaning. The things that cannot be reflected in my eyes, don’t exist.

How could he possibly say that to her?

“Thanks for letting me hang out with you. My friends were all going to try that new rock climbing wall at the rec center and, well, I could try it with them, but I don’t think the university safety policy would allow that.” In one hand, his arm. In the other, her walking stick. Even when she had him to guide her, she took small, hesitant steps. It forced him to slow down.

“It isn’t very kind of them to go without you.” A squirrel hopped through the grass a few feet away from them. He pointed it out to her, as she’d instructed him to whenever they walked through campus together. The things reflected in my eyes have no meaning…

“Hello squirrel!” she said. Her sightless eyes did not try to seek it out, but rather stayed on the path ahead. “You’re wrong, by the way. I think it would be unkind of me to hold my friends back. It’s not their fault I can’t do stuff like that.” Her smile widened. “Things were difficult after the accident but they never abandoned me. If it wasn’t for that, I’d have lost hope a long time ago.”

The things that cannot be reflected in my eyes, don’t exist. “Hmm.”

They stopped at a bench across from a fountain. She’d told him it was her favorite spot because she could hear the water droplets, as well as the birds that congregated there. Without sight, she could imagine she’d wandered into a forest teeming with life. Until someone power-walked past them with coffee, anyway. Then it was like trying to listen to ambient noise at a Starbucks. “How does the fountain look today?” she asked.

“The same as it did yesterday.” No meaning. “Only…” It has no meaning. “There is a large cloud partially eclipsing the sun at the moment, so the shadows have almost blended with the light.” He glanced at her, and saw in her smile a warmth that wrapped itself around his heart.

How strange that he should allow this blind girl to influence his own perception

mistkitt: (Default)
2016-01-28 08:40 pm

Before the Fall

 Originally posted 9.3.2015

It’s Orihime’s birthday, and what do you know, my brain spawned a drabble. Tell Yourself style, somewhere between chapters 41 and 43.

~

The weather was beginning to change. Mornings were overcast. The dragonflies, for the most part, had moved on from Karakura Town. Through her open window Orihime felt the subtle coolness of a passing breeze before it died away, leaving the afternoon’s summer heat to fill the void. She stretched her arms above her head and laid her head on her desk, wondering why there was homework to do. Why couldn’t she be outside, enjoying what was left of the hot sun? Why wasn’t she at a festival, watching fireworks and eating everything within reach?

Orihime stared at her desktop calendar, her eye catching the third of September, circled and decorated in pink ink flowers. Things had quieted down since her birthday the other week. Although she couldn’t help the feeling Ulquiorra had done something to make Soul Society angry, she’d received no official complaints–which suited her just fine. They’d had a nice weekend, the two of them. She’d even had the pleasure of seeing him smile. 

Her lips curled up at the memory of it, her eyes falling shut as she allowed the sun to warm her outstretched arms, her mechanical pencil slipping from her fingers. A new breeze stirred the leaves of her notebook and she inhaled deeply, cherishing the sweet summer smell. Taro-san’s wind chime tinkled one balcony over, almost masking the faint music permeating Orihime’s bedroom wall.

Music? 

She sat up reluctantly, horrified at how close she’d come to falling asleep. Leaving the window’s temptation behind, she stood from her desk and wandered out into the hall, the music growing louder with every step. “Ulquiorra-kun?”

Footsteps. His bedroom door opened a moment later, and Orihime almost smiled at the look on his face. It was that dazed, half-awake stare he got when she pulled him out of a book. He had his thumb stuck in a thin novel, which he held at his side to show her she had his undivided attention.

The music was coming from inside his room.

“Are you listening to the radio?” she asked.

Ulquiorra’s perpetual frown deepened. “Is it disturbing you?”

“No. No! Not at all. I was just wondering.” Orihime leaned against the door frame, trying to appear casual. He was listening to music. He never listened to music, with the exception of his music phase, and that had been strictly scientific. It didn’t interest him, it was too personal, he couldn’t relate to it, it was too…

Human.

Orihime blinked. Of course. Ulquiorra was human. Wasn’t she the first person saying it to anyone who doubted? Hadn’t she heard and felt his heart beating under his skin multiple times? Why, then, had the word caught her so off guard? 

Was it possible she’d still been thinking of him as the man with the hole in his chest this entire time?

“Woman.”

“Umm.” She faltered, feeling for some reason like the Earth had shifted on its axis. “Would it be all right if I joined you? I’m a little sleepy, and I can’t afford to take a nap right now, so… ah, but I won’t disturb you, I promise! If you could just give me a little nudge or something when my head starts drooping…”

Ulquiorra sighed. “You do not need to ask my permission to enter the rooms of your own apartment.”

This argument again. Orihime planted her hands on her hips. “It’s your room! You’re paying bills.” But Ulquiorra had already disappeared within, leaving the door open in a silent invitation. Orihime ignored the fluttering in her chest and went to grab her textbooks, pausing only to close her bedroom window before she dashed away again, towards the music. 

Towards him.

mistkitt: (Default)
2016-01-28 08:43 pm
Entry tags:

Engine Failure

 Originally posted 12.17.2015

I might have promised someone for how Muse!Ulqui met Grimmjow. ;D

~

“Listen, I know that I haven’t treated you well lately. I would even go so far as to say that I–” Ulquiorra lowered his voice, “–deserved this.” He shuddered like he’d swallowed a mouthful of cough syrup. “But don’t you think you’re being a little immature?”

His car remained indifferent. Ulquiorra tried the key again. No luck.

At nineteen years old, Ulquiorra Schiffer could tune a piano, speak fluent Italian, and cook a restaurant-worthy salmon. He didn’t know the first thing about cars.

Outside, sparse snowflakes drifted from the sky as if the clouds were hesitant to inconvenience anyone. Ulquiorra got out of his car and went back inside Las Noches.

The front desk attendant, Cirucci Sanderwicci, took her headphones off. “Thought you were going out.”

“My car won’t start,” Ulquiorra said. He could see, as he approached the front desk, that Cirucci had the computer’s web browser open to her MySpace page. He refrained from commenting. “Is there a good mechanic nearby?”

“Huh. Don’t know about good, but the guy in 606 works at a garage.” Cirucci grabbed her cell phone. “I’ll call him for you.”

“That won’t be necessary. I do not wish to be in my neighbor’s debt–”

“Hey, asshole, do you always sleep ‘til noon after getting laid?” Cirucci said into the phone. She winked at Ulquiorra. “Right, that bimbo who stumbled through the lobby this morning was just my imagination. Uh-huh. No, she wasn’t Nnoitra’s. He had a blonde last night. Anyway, got someone who needs your help down here, so put some pants on.” She hung up.

Ulquiorra backed away from the front desk. “Really, if you could just hand me the Yellow Pages…”

“Don’t worry, Grimmjow will fix it up on the cheap.”

He sighed and slipped his hands into his pockets, doubting Cirucci would be half as helpful if he hadn’t caught her on MySpace. And would it kill her to turn on the heater? How was he supposed to not play the piano later with stiff fingers?

Twenty minutes later, Ulquiorra shivered beside his car as a blue-haired Greaser peered into the hood, muttering to himself in–French? Why French? “Holy God,” the thug exclaimed in perfect English, “when was the last time you changed your oil?”

Ulquiorra blinked at him. “Huh?”

The thug - Grimmjow, was it? - looked Ulquiorra up and down. “You some kind of idiot? There’s no oil in here. Your engine looks like a fucking pot roast.”

Ulquiorra’s eyes narrowed. At least I graduated high school, he almost said. “So all I need to do is get more oil.”

“No,” Grimmjow deadpanned. “Your engine has to be fixed.” He cringed at the mess in the car. “Or put out of its misery. Either way, it’s gonna cost ya. But since you’re clearly a moron and I feel kind of sorry for you, I’ll give you a discount if you take it to my place.”

“How charitable of you.” Ulquiorra’s voice oozed sarcasm.

“Damn straight.” Grimmjow pulled out his wallet and produced a business card, which surprised Ulquiorra. Greasers carried business cards? “Just get it in before the end of the month. I’m going to France in February, and my coworkers ain’t half as nice as I am.” He left Ulquiorra standing in the snow and trudged his way back into the building. Ulquiorra looked at the business card. Grimmjow Jaegerjaques

Well then. At least living in a dump like Las Noches proved to have its uses.

mistkitt: (Default)
2016-01-28 08:44 pm
Entry tags:

Faust (3)

 Originally posted 1.27.2016

I need to keep this fresh in my mind before I write it, yeah? ULQUIHIME!

~

She was late. 

Ulquiorra could not recall the last time it had taken him more than ten minutes to retrieve an herb from the garden. He fought the urge to tap a finger against his desk. Its surface, he noticed, was no longer dusty. The woman had seen to that. Somehow this only made his irritation grow.

“If she cannot identify rosemary by now, she’s hardly worth your time.” Kokuto picked scum from his fingernails with the tip of a dagger. “Even that witch Unohana’s pious assistants are capable of that much.” He smirked to himself. “The tall one–what is her name again? I’m having so much fun with her. Such monstrous height, and she can’t even have the decency to flower into a beautiful woman.“

“I am surprised Unohana hasn’t tried to stop you.”

I’m surprised you still think Unohana cares about anyone but herself.” Kokuto threw Ulquiorra a grin. “You’re both cut from the same cloth.”

The study door creaked open and the woman rushed in, footfalls echoing off the high ceilings, her boots still covered in snow. Kokuto, of course, had vanished. Ulquiorra had a quip prepared, but the distressed expression on her face turned it into a question. “What happened?”

She stopped to catch her breath, the ends of her long brown hair sweeping across the surface of his desk. Without a word, she thrust her arms out towards him. Ulquiorra observed a mess of blood and feathers cupped in her gloved hands, staining the white fabric red. “Please,” she gasped. “I am not yet knowledgeable enough to save it.”

Ulquiorra’s eyes lifted from the bird to the woman. “You have delayed our lesson for an insignificant kestrel?”

Her own eyes met his, and he was struck again by the life in them. How transparent, her soul: its light illuminated her entire being. “This bird was attacked. Look how it still breathes! Is it not the very purpose of a doctor to mend a creature, as long as it still breathes?”

“If the bird allowed itself to be attacked, it does not deserve to live. Go put it back in the mouth of whatever flea bitten mongrel you found it in.”

The woman recoiled from him slowly, brows drawn, tears unshed. Her disgust struck Ulquiorra with all the force of a fist in the stomach. “Never mind. I will tend to the bird myself.” She cradled her bloodied hands to her chest and marched towards the door, where she hesitated before turning back to him. “It is true that your knowledge is unparalleled in this land, Mr. Cifer, but I do not have it in my heart to call such a cynical man a doctor.”

As soon as her footsteps had faded, Kokuto reappeared. “There, you are rid of her at last. Shall I tell Giriko to prepare the carriage for her return home?”

Ulquiorra sat back in his desk chair, unable to erase the image of her blood-stained gloves from his mind.

Some hours later, Ulquiorra emerged from the shadows of another study, one the woman had claimed as her own. In daylight t had a view of the snow-covered garden in back of the house, and beyond that, the rising slope of the mountain, its gnarled and tangled trees. The room itself was sparsely furnished: a work bench, a sofa, a fireplace, a sink. 

Here Ulquiorra found the woman, dozing at the bench. In the glow of the firelight he could see the leftover tracks of tears on her cheeks. Before her, a rusted cage she had procured from God knew where contained the injured bird. Ulquiorra reached past the woman to open the cage door and inspect her work. Having no knowledge of avian anatomy, she had done her best to stitch the wounds, but it was clear the bird still suffered. It gazed at Ulquiorra with eyes glossy and beak open.

Ulquiorra removed his glove. He drew a penknife from his coat pocket and pricked his thumb, then held it over the mouth of the bird until a drop of blood landed on its tongue. The bird blinked rapidly. Its wings fluttered once, twice, then it hopped to its feet and regarded Ulquiorra with a tilt of the head. He closed the cage door and licked his thumb to heal the self-inflicted wound.

Beside him, the woman sighed in her sleep. Ulquiorra watched the firelight cast dancing shadows upon her face. “Cut from the same cloth, am I?” he whispered, then left the room the way he’d come.