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So Ulquiorra noticed the mark that she doodled on the calendar. She had brought that calendar on a whim at the end of last month. She was so excited that she started marking every holiday in the calendar with her set of colorful pens. And of course, she drew and colored a big red mark on the square box of that day in the calendar.
Blushing when she reminded her action back then, she whispered with her voice audible enough for Ulquiorra to hear, "Well, it's a special holiday."
Ulquiorra mused, "Holiday? A day where you're off from school right?"
"Ah, yes, tomorrow is Sunday so I don't have school." Orihime made an awkward laugh, and then went on rambling about "Sunday is a holiday, but tomorrow is not a holiday like Sunday" and so on because Ulquiorra had completely missed her point, "But that's not what I mean. I want to spend time with you on that day."
"Don't you always spend time with me every day?" Ulquiorra said with his eyes glinting with amusement as if he found it interesting to see Orihime's possessiveness over him.
Annoyed for Ulquiorra being such a tease, Orihime straightened her back.
"I will tell you the meaning of that tomorrow."
She stood up and dashed toward the bedroom, not before telling him "Goodnight, Ulquiorra."
Next day, in the morning, Ulquiorra surprisingly woke up early on Sunday.
By the time Orihime found herself getting out of the bed, brushing her teeth, washing her face and walking toward the living room with her robot pattern blue pajama, Ulquiorra had already finished changing his clothes. They were the clothes that she brought for him when they went shopping the other day. It was a wonderful sight for Orihime to see of how good-looking Ulquiorra was.
Orihime had never thought there would be a day that she could see Ulquiorra wearing any other clothes besides his all white Arrancar uniform. Still, seeing him in black jeans, black shirt striking contrast with the green color of the vest coat and the scarf wrapping around his neck - just like how vivid his green eyes contrasted with the midnight color of his hair - was a feast of sight.
Bemusing in her own fantasy thought, Orihime didn't notice that Ulquiorra was glaring at her.
"Is it odd? In those clothes?" His low voice brought her back. There was a confusing or maybe annoying tone in his voice.
"Eh?" Orihime snapped back.
"You're staring at me, woman." Though he seemed like frowning at her, that look of his just turned cooler.
"It's because you're good looking, Ulquiorra." Orihime replied him back with her beaming smile.
"Is that so?" Ulquiorra hummed, doubtful at her half joke, but gave no pursuit for it. He just took it as one of her quirk compliments at him.
"Will you come back soon on this day?" Orihime asked.
Fixing the long sleeves on his shirt, Ulquiorra looked in distant.
"I will. As soon as I find it." He replied.
Ulquiorra raised his fingers to snap at the air. The next second, the dimension of her living room had been distorted and rifted, revealing a black swirling hole inside the rift.
Ulquiorra lifted his hand brushing Orihime's flushed cheek lightly with the back of his palm the last time before he shoved it back inside his pocket and went into the portal.
Although Orihime's living room turned back to normal the next second after that, the cook-a-doodle-doo clock in Orihime had still not chirped in alarming almost like the time around her was frozen. She stood like thunderstruck wondering at Ulquiorra's gesture for a long time.
Ulquiorra was acting strange last night and this morning. But Orihime had no clue to solve the riddle. She didn't have her right timing to ask him about the thing that he wanted to look either. Because when he came back, she would know. Or if she asked, he would tell her.
However, the fact that Ulquiorra had his own sudden plan pretty much screwed up her former plan with him today. And she couldn't help but felt disappointed over it.
"Ulquiorra, you baka, you didn't get any of my hints at all." Orihime muttered by herself.
Opening the drawer of her desk, looking at the green squared box wrapped in white ribbon, Orihime sighed.
She was going to give him the present that she secretly made for him, yet the main character himself was not here on the day she supposed to give.
Her intention was to give him a surprise. That was why she didn't tell him much about the holiday of chocolate and heart, also the meaning of this day in order to have a nice surprise party between them. Then again, she didn't expect that Ulquiorra also had his own agenda. Maybe next time she would ask him his plan first so that she could adjust the schedule.
Content with her new revived plan, Orihime turned her head, walking toward the kitchen.
"Well, I'd better prepare meal. It's holiday after all."Â
Â [Today Afternoon]Â
When Ulquiorra finally returned to Orihime's apartment, it was afternoon.
Nonetheless, he couldn't figure out what had happened for the room after he left for Hueco Mundo.
Why are there too many dishes of food and desert on the table?
Scanning around the living room and the dining room, looking for a woman's figure, Ulquiorra heard a soft humming noise in the kitchen. He gave no thought to march into there. His woman was acting weird today and he had to found out the reason. But his thought of finding out what secret lied beneath the woman's strange actions was cut short when his body collided a thump sound with something soft. As quick as his speed was, Ulquiorra stretched his arm in reflex to catch the falling figure.
"Ulquiorra, you're back!" Speaking in a squeaky voice, Orihime changed from her twisted face of pain to her bright smiling face.
Ulquiorra could sense something inside his stomach stirred in a strange emotion at her sunny smile. He could feel the lightness of the body leaning on his arm.
"Woman, do we have any party today?" Ulquiorra asked puzzlingly, leading her sight toward the direction of the dining table.
A crimson flush spread up from under her cheekbone. She fumbled on her words, "Ah, I'm sorry, Ulquiorra. I was in the mood and made too much food."
Ulquiorra made a vague sound in his throat. Orihime could see in his eyes a little hint of doubt. And she felt the need to speak up the truth.
It was in the plan at the beginning.
"I want to celebrate this day with you, Ulquiorra."
Cupping her hand together on her chest, Orihime confessed, "It had been two months since the day you came back. When you tell me that you would stay with me, you know, that day is the most memorable day in my life."
There were also other things she wanted to tell him too, like about the strength that he had brought up to her, about the heart that she had found in him, but she just lost at the next word to say. Orihime remained silent while Ulquiorra listened to her honest words with his entire body and watched her thoughtfully.
Then Ulquiorra reached his hand to toward the pocket in his vest to pull out a small white box and placed it gentle in Orihime's palms.
He said softly, "Here."
Orihime looked at the white box in all surprise and nervousness. Slowly, she opened the top of the box, revealing inside the shining silver color of a piece of the metal that she was familiar with. She would never forget the hollow circular shape and the sensation of the little chain clinking on her skin. She also thought that she would never be able to see it again.
"This is..." Orihime astoundingly switched her eyes back and forth between the thing in the box and Ulquiorra's eyes in all wonder.
"A gift. For you." He said in his enough nonchalantly tone.
Out of the blue, Ulquiorra gave jewelry as a gift to her today. Why?
As if Orihime was enlightened by some unknown force from other universe, she hastily turned to Ulquiorra and asked, "Ulquiorra, you know the meaning of Valentine Day!?"
Flicked an eyebrow, "What is Valentine Day?" he questioned her when Orihime suddenly uttered some strange terms that he was completely unaware of their meanings.
Her deduction had been off from the roller coaster.
"Eh? You don't know!?" Now, Orihime was perplexed with his present, "â€¦ then why did you give me this bracelet?"
Ulquiorra paused for a moment. His eyes fixed on the bracelet in the box before turned back to her face.
"Yesterday, when we went out shopping together, you were happily looking at some jewelry displaying behind the glass window of the gift store." He stated. "You told me that every girl likes to receive something like gifts from someone she cares as a proof of being together."
"Yes, that's right." Orihime let out a nod in agreement.
Yesterday, Orihime invited Ulquiorra to go shopping with her, and she took it as a chance to ask him about his interest in various things like food, drink, game, candy and color. She was pretty surprise that he had a decent interest in everything she asked. That Ulquiorra preferred homemade cooking to fast food. That Ulquiorra was good in making cocktail. That Ulquiorra liked candy apple in chocolate banana flavor. That Ulquiorra liked the color of white and green. While Orihime liked to watch the moon, Ulquiorra liked to watch sunset most.
"Then I remember the bracelet that you returned to me back then in Hueco Mundo. I had left it in my quarter." He continued, interrupting her flashback.
"That's why you went back to look for it?!" Orihime asked, smiling slyly.
"At first, I think it was meaningless because most of Las Noches had been destroyed. Though, I want to try if I could find anything. Fortunately, while my room had been in the mess, the place where I put the bracelet had not been marred."
So Ulquiorra had thought about the bracelet issue since yesterday. Even though he found meaningless in his searching for the thing which had been lost, he was still willing to search for it. Somehow, it sounded like Ulquiorra. Always searching for something seemed vague and meaningless at the first sight, but his consistency had been paid off well. He found what he had looked for and gave no hesitance to use it now.
Ulquiorra's following actions had always been measured. He picked up the silver bracelet with one hand while his other carefullyÂ place the box on the table. Then precisely, with his hand gently held on Orihime's hand, he slipped the bracelet into the territory of her wrist.
Orihime held her breath, watching Ulquiorra doing the act look like the act of engagement in all of his seriousness.
After he had done, Ulquiorra looked at Orihime with his softest expression. Orihime had seen that expression of his before. When her eyes were stung with tears, dust and ash, all she could see was him between her stretched fingers. A very soft expression full of sadness andÂ regret together with yearning and understanding.
It was like the current of the heated blood from where his hand still held on hers had flown back to the center of the heart in her chest.
"Would you accept this as a proof for us being together, Inoue Orihime?"
There he was again, asking her the innocence question that seemed simple, yet so complex, so difficult to reply.
But this time, Orihime knew the answer. She had already had the correct answer in her heart for a long time. At the beginning, she just didn't have enough courage to admit it, to speak it out loud. But right now, she wasn't afraid anymore.
Almost coating her eyes with liquid, Orihime smiled, "Yes, I'd treasure it." Her voice choked with the tears and the emotions trying to overflow, but she held herself rigid and expressed her gratitude in a hug instead.Â
"Thank you, Ulquiorra."
Ulquiorra stood stock-still. He didn't react at her hug, but he didn't push her away either.
For a long time passed, Orihime finally felt his hand patting on her head and his fingers stroking her hair. He was still not used to her random intimate ways of expressing, but he seemed not mind when she did them so. Pressing her cheek on Ulquiorra's chest, she captured a steady beat of rhythm, strong and firm. Inwardly, she was smiling happily.
Then, Orihime realized another forgotten thing. She broke the hug from Ulquiorra.
"I have something to give you too."
Rapidly, she rushed into her bedroom, opened her drawer, and took the green present out. Timidly hiding it behind her back, she walked toward Ulquiorra who was examining an orgy of entrées, main course and deserts all together on the dining table.
While she didn't feel embarrassed when hugging Ulquiorra, she did felt self-conscious when giving him her handmade present. Besides her brother, she had never made any handmade present for a man before, let alone making a meal for him.
"What is this, woman?" Ulquiorra asked. He curiously observed the thin piece of brownness with the strange shape inside the box.Â
"It's a chocolate heart. I made it. For you. You can treat it as my feeling to you." Twining her fingers together, Orihime responded.
"This is a heart?" His voice trailed off, "â€¦ similar shape with the mark on the calendar?" His eyes glazed over the brown chocolate in his hand bewilderingly.
"Yeah, it's heart-shaped." Orihime nodded in confirmation.
Something had clicked inside Ulquiorra like the screw was fit into the gear that started its rolling motion. He somewhat gained a new understanding for all of his woman's weird acts yesterday and todayâ€¦ all were for him. If it was because of the heart she talked about, it might be the source causing the warmth inside his chest.
Riveting his eyes upon Orihime once more, he asked, "What would I do with this heart?"
"You can eat it. If you don't like, you can throw it away." Orihime gave out a smile.
Ulquiorra leisurely took one bite at the corner of the heart chocolate. He was intentional to chew but he realized the chocolate started melting as soon as it stayed inside his mouth. So he chose savoring the taste of the heart his woman made for him instead.
"Bittersweet." Ulquiorra mumbled, quiet enough for him to hear.
But Orihime couldn't quickly catch on his comment on her chocolate, "What did you say?"
Ulquiorra reached out his hand to touch hers, entwining his fingers with hers. Squeezing softly, Ulquiorra fixed his eyes with hers for a long moment before shifting back his gaze to their joint hands tenderly. Ulquiorra felt as if he was being fulfilled like the time he woke up and found himself being whole.
Closing his eyes in content, he gave out the most soft and gentle voice that Orihime had ever heard from Ulquiorra, "Thanks, woman!"
The wonder at his voice surprised her, but more than that, Orihime just witnessed another wonder that she was sure she will treasure this moment in all of her lifetimes.
It wasn't a smirk or a teasing grin or like the corner of his mouth had moved up little inch.
He smiled - a real one!
Fighting back the heat returning to her cheek, Orihime also smile back at him in all joyfulness while squeezing her hand back.
"Happy Valentine Day, Ulquiorra!"
Ulquiorra stepped one step closer to the point their nose could touch. His stare still fixed on her eyes and Orihime couldn't quite comprehend Ulquiorra's intention in his unreadable eyes clouding with some unknown emotions.
No, actually Orihime did have a strange intuition for what he was about to do, but she didn't dare to think it as real. It seemed unreal to her for Ulquiorra wanted to do that with her anyway.
Only when Ulquiorra shifted the angle of his head and started to move his mouth closer to her face, Orihime startlingly shut her eyes on instinct. The heavy metal band residing in her heart had already made its rocky music performance as if it could pop out of the curtain of her ribs, pop out of the stadium of her chest and almost move its frantic drumbeat out of her ears. She could felt his hot breath touching the sensitive skin of her earlobe, whispering some soundless sound in her ears.
Huh!? Ear!?Â Â Â
Orihime slowly opened her eyes, just to be surveyed by Ulquiorra's emerald globes. She totally missed what had just happened. By the time she realized, Ulquiorra had embrace her, enclosing his remained arm around her shoulders. They hadn't parted from the close proximity yet. Ulquiorra leaned his forehead on Orihime's while his eyes were still looking askance at hers.Â
"Tell me. What is Valentine Day about?"
Orihime couldn't help but cover her smile with her hand. He was bothered about the holiday that she knew the meaning while he was not. Although he didn't know the implication, all the acts he just did to her were enough to satisfy the worth for the spirit of the holiday.
"Hehe, let's see where should I start." Orihime traced her finger on Ulquiorra's chest lightly at the space where it used to be a hole before.
"Maybe we should have meal first."
In the end, she chose food over Ulquiorra's curiosity.