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Coffee and Sadness

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1 S’mores and Cookies&Cream

Espresso.IV posted:

It’s August! That means we’ve changed the menu again! S’mores and Cookies & Cream stuff. Stop by #CoffeeandSadness. #coffee #advertising #EvanstonIL #smallbusiness #givememyURL #givememybusinessnametoo

 

Ulquiorra posted this message on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr on August 1st. By the end of August, on the 29th at ten am, the coffee shop was packed and there was a line starting out the door. “C’mon! Let’s do this, people. We’ve got thirsty people waiting for things,” the green-eyed, black haired man said as he moved behind the drink counter to get to the register.

 

There were six people working today, including himself. They shouldn’t be this behind. 

 

“Yeah, can I, uh, get, uh...” The blonde customer looked up at the menu board and squinted. Her train of thought seemed to derail, or maybe her brain just stopped working. 

 

Ulquiorra blinked, then sighed. “Hey, can you speed up your order a bit, or stand to the side to let someone who knows what they want order?”

 

There was a dirty glance. “Do you know who I am? I should speak to your manager!”

 

His face remained a passive expression. His manager? Ha. “What do you want?”

 

“Uh… An iced latte with a shot of vanilla and oatmilk. Extra ice and a sweetner.”

 

His pale fingers tapped the screen to input the order and then said as the sticker printed out. “That will be five dollars. Name?”

 

“God this place is expensive but if it wasn’t good I wouldn’t come here because the customer service sucks,” the woman said.

 

“That’s nice. Name?”

 

“Kim.”

 

Ulquiorra took the credit card and swiped it. Kim was written on the cup. He passed it to an underling who started making the order. “Next!”

 

On and on it went until around one o'clock when one of his favorite ladies walked in. “Opal! Black coffee with one sweetener. Two dollars.” It was the only time he showed inflection in his voice. Opal Walker was an old lady who reminded him of his mother’s mother before she passed. She had a cane and a sharp tongue. She had whacked Ulquiorra with the cane a couple of times. She handed over those two dollars and Ulquiorra gave her a smirk before he handed over the drink. The woman was like clockwork. Everyday at one she’d walk in.

 

Usually after his afternoon break in would trickle high schoolers with some cash to burn and college students. There would be the office zombies or the gofers who needed fresh refills for their bosses. When he sat down and sipped on his cup, the owner of Coffee & Sadness sighed. Rangiku and Izuru should be here soon to pitch in. His eyes scanned the shop floor before his eyes landed on a certain person who always came in.

 

She was quiet. She never ordered the same thing. Ulquiorra didn’t particularly like this woman, but she was okay. She never gave him complicated orders like that redhead who would barge into the place and give him a laundry list of cups to make.

 

He couldn’t remember the first one’s name exactly, but he knew he had slept with her when he was in college. It had been before the incident. Oh well. She probably didn’t remember him, and that was a good thing.

 

Ulquiorra Cifer didn’t want people to notice him. He didn’t want to be remembered or anything. Being remembered for something meant his demons came to light or that people would find out his big secret. 

 

As soon as the clock hit 2:15, he was back behind the counter making drinks and taking orders. Today was just a normal day. 

 

***

 

“Hey, Noob, go around and grab everybody’s order and then run it across the street, will ya? We’ve got a conference room full of people and some important clients, so make sure you smile pretty for them and don’t fuck up their coffee.  Here’s the office credit card,” a no-nonsense woman with a somewhat sloppy up-do and glasses said. Orihime Inoue had been working for Rotten Brand Management for almost three months as an intern; she started between her junior and senior years as an art student at Northwestern.  She was supposed to be learning about the world of commercial illustration and graphic arts, but so far she was mostly learning how to order coffee, dodge unwanted sexual advances, and figure out how to make it look like she hadn’t just gotten fucked in the supply room.

 

She closed her eyes and breathed.  He was in that conference room. Usually he was fine, but sometimes he would give her lewd comments under his breath or just be a dick to her.  Still other times he was rather friendly and would talk to her like an actual human being instead of a peon like everyone else here.

 

Right.  She had a job to do.  Into the conference room she went.  “Can I get you some coffee? There is an excellent place across the street and they do everything.  I’ll start on this side,” she said, purposely choosing the person as far away from Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez as she could.

 

Of course these people took their time and made a show about the ridiculous orders they wanted.  There is no such thing as a latte without coffee. That is just scalded milk, Susan. Own it. You’re an adult who wants warm milk at a business meeting.  

 

Orihime was good at keeping her opinions to herself.  The tiny eyerolls and other expressions of judgment were not easy to pick up, and flew under most people’s radars.  It made her good in this position. Not that she wanted to stay here.

 

“And for you, Mr. Jaegerjaquez?” she said when she finally got to his end of the conference table.

 

“You going to the place across the street?” Grimmjow asked, smirking at her and then returning his gaze to the folder in front of him. “Coffee, black, with a shot of bourbon flavor, and put a shot of espresso in it. Tell the dick behind the counter to put it in a large cup.”

 

“Large cup.  You got it,” she said, straightening up and writing it down.  She flipped her long red hair that had fallen forward back behind her shoulders and turned big brown eyes back to the group.  “I didn’t miss anyone, did I?”

 

Heads shook.  She was dismissed. 

 

“Alright I’ll be right ba--”  before she finished speaking they had started talking amongst themselves.

 

Whatever. She grabbed her purse and the company card and took the list across the street to Coffee & Sadness.  She had long since stopped chuckling to herself about the name; it just so happened to be the same name as the blog she ran.  One she had run since she was a junior in high school and won an award for her illustration by the same name. At one point in time she got a series of emails from someone who wanted to buy the URL from her, but she was attached to it.  She wasn’t giving it up.

 

As she walked across the windy street, her skirt fluttered around her thighs and her blouse blew tight around her body.  She saw her reflection as she walked up to the black glass facade of the coffee shop and pursed her lips. It didn’t matter how she dressed herself.  She didn’t have the money for expensive clothes and her body was what it was. She always felt like she looked just a little trashy.

 

Probably because she was trash, but that wasn’t the point.  

 

The door was hard to pull open because of the breeze, and she had to really yank at it before she was able to go in.  Her hair blew out behind her as she did, showing how the naturally dark red strands under the blond highlights she had done awhile back were growing out on her.  Another thing she thought made her look cheap.

 

Ah.  There it was.  The glance. The glance and the silent sigh.  They all knew what was coming when she walked in alone and dressed in a skirt.  She got into line and waited behind a pair of young woman taking their time to order.  When they left, she gave the man behind the counter a very practiced apologetic face.  

 

“Hi, sorry again.  Another conference order,” she murmured.

 

Ulquiorra pressed his lips together and shook his head. “List this time, or are you going to tell me each order?” he asked as his underlings got some drink carriers ready. They all recognized this woman. She had been here almost everyday to get coffee, and massive amounts of it.

 

“Um, I tried writing neatly this time, so you can have the list.  I’ll wait here in case you can’t read it, sorry,” she said, handing him the list that was done on Rotten Brand Management stationary and looking off to the side after he took it, trying to avoid eye contact with anyone else.

 

These were ridiculous. He scoffed as he punched in each order. “Does this say a shot of lemon in the tea or did they want a lemon slice?”

 

“A shot of lemon,” she answered him with a small smile, then under her breath muttered, “Not like Karen needs to be any more sour than she already is.”

 

Ulquiorra nodded and then continued until he got to the latte with no coffee and raw sugar. He had to rub his eyes to dispel the headache that was trying to creep in. “Can you inform… Susan… of course it’s Susan and Karen who want--she wants milk. That’s all she has to order is scalded milk.”

 

“You would think she would understand this after hearing it fourteen thousand times, but apparently we’re all wrong.  Susan knows. Susan and Karen have some kind of Facebook knitting circle and false knowledge consortium that told them so,” she muttered, still looking off to the side, but slowly looking back at the man.

 

He was looking her dead in the eye.  Had she said that out loud? She had.  Shit. She cringed and her face turned red.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to…” She should just stop now.

 

Ulquiorra would have busted out laughing, if laughing was something he did. He had noticed this same woman in his shop before. She was the infamous redhead who gave him a headache, but she was also the mousy wallflower who let people take over and walk all over her. He heard her make these kinds of comments before. It was humorous. “Well of course they know everything,” he said in his monotone voice. “They’re on Facebook. Grimmjow… Large cup. Anything for you?”

 

“Oh, me?  I’m not on the coffee perks payroll.  I’ll take a black coffee with some skim milk but put it separate. I have cash.”

 

“We only have two percent,” Ulquiorra said as he rang up the sixteen orders. “Ninety-six dollars for the coffee. Ethan! Can you help carry the coffee over to RBM?”

 

“Sure!” came a voice from behind him.

 

“Two dollars for you,” Ulquiorra stated, looking at her.

 

Orihime smiled nervously and pulled her wallet out of her purse, opening it and simultaneously dumping a handful of change on the counter. “Oh!  Oh, I’m sorry,” she panicked, trying to stop the coins from rolling all over the place, and ending up throwing herself halfway over the counter to catch a quarter.  “Sorry,” she said again as she corralled it all and finally just dumped it into the tip jar. She got two bills out of her wallet and couldn’t even look at the man as she handed them over.

 

He sighed as he watched several pennies fall on his side of the counter. He blinked slowly, then sighed again. Every week it was something. Last week an unused tampon flew out of her purse and hit him in the chest. This week it was errant change. Ulquiorra scanned the card and then handed it back before ringing up this woman’s order and taking the money.

 

Ulquiorra made her order personally. He filled up a medium cup with coffee before measuring out an eighth of a cup of milk and then filling the cup with some water. He didn’t cater to a lot of people. It was enough he carried three milk alternatives. He wasn’t carrying three different kinds of milk when he felt that skim milk was just watered down milk. He fit the lid on the top of the black paper cup, put the paper sleeve on and then handed it to her before helping to make the rest of the orders. 

 

Ten minutes later, they were done.

 

“Ethan, Finn, Jake; help this woman.” 

 

“Thanks,” she said, almost bowing her head as she got her cup and made her way to the door, holding it open for the three guys bringing the coffee to pass through first.  She felt particularly guilty this time, and looked back at the counter, nodding to the green-eyed man behind it with a small smile. Then she was gone.

 

***

 

Ulquiorra sighed with relief as he saw the two blond people walk into the shop. Rangiku Matsumoto and Izuru Kira were knowledgeable about coffee and music, that’s the only reason he kept them around. He sighed in relief again as his three workers came back into the building. “Come on, we have tables to clear and a lobby to wipe down,” he said as he straightened his tie and vest. He was the only one who wore the vest, everyone else was required to wear the white shirt, teal tie and black dress pants with black shoes. 

 

“So has it been one of those days?” Izuru asked as he tied on a black apron. Rangiku was busy putting her hair up in a bun before she walked behind the counter and washed her hands. “You seem overly tired today, Ulq.”

 

“The coffee girl came in today. That makes twice today that RBM needed coffee. Today it was change,” Ulquiorra muttered. It was true though. He was tired today. Probably from the lack of sleep. He never slept much.

 

“Better than lady products,” Rangiku chirped with a laugh. She had been there when the tampon incident happened.

 

Ulquiorra scowled at her and then frowned. “Honestly, her coffee orders are horrible. The people over in that business must be intellectually challenged. Susan wants hot milk. Karen wanted lemon syrup instead of a lemon slice. I know we have a lot of syrups, and the only reason I have bourbon syrup is because Grimmjow orders it--”

 

“You’re ranting,” Izuru said as he looked over a list of things that needed to be done before close.

 

“I am not ranting.”

 

“You’re ranting, Ulquiorra. Just go back into the kitchen and start getting food stuff ready for tomorrow. We’ve got the front house covered.”

 

Another dirty glance was given to Rangiku, but Ulquiorra did as she said and went back to the workroom so that he could start on the dough and batter for the food items they sold. Being back here alone was a good thing. He could think of what needed to be done. He could center himself and refocus.

 

***  

 

Orihime was relieved as she packed up for the night that tomorrow was her last day working full-time for Rotten.  It was a decent income for an intern, though she could probably make more at Costco or something.  

 

She would continue her internship on a part time basis in September, but school was starting up again soon and she needed to focus on that.  She would miss the money. She had squirreled it away over the summer to supplement her student loan and scholarship lifestyle. It afforded her little in the way of luxuries.  She lived in a tiny studio apartment. When she went out with her girlfriends she borrowed their clothes and only drank if someone else was buying. She wore fast fashion. She only got her hair done once every four months.  Nails she did herself.

 

She did splurge on eating out, though.  She didn’t have space to cook. She didn’t go anywhere fancy; to-go places or little diners mostly. She paid for her own drinks at Starrk’s when she wanted to drink alone.  She paid for her own coffee. It didn’t leave a lot left over. Usually there was nothing left over.

 

Tonight, being the end of the month and a day before payday, and having donated her spare change in shame to the good people at Coffee & Sadness, she decided that something very cheap was the way to go.  She got up from her desk at five-thirty and stretched before she turned around.

 

“Inoue,” Grimmjow said. He had been standing behind her for a minute. “Going somewhere?”

 

“Uh, I’m thinking about going to grab a sandwich.  Why do you ask?” she said. She opened her face to him with a sweet smile.  He had been acting more friendly to her lately and less lecherous. Maybe he wanted to chat?  She would like that.

 

The man with dyed blue hair smirked. “Got a special project I need help with. Figured since it’s your last day, you might want to help.”

 

“I’m working tomorrow too,” she muttered, looking at the ground.  Of course that’s what he wanted.

 

“Nah, Byakuya has you on the schedule for something else tomorrow. I’ll buy you dinner if you help me. I’ll even give you some computer time to help you learn the program,” Grimmjow said in a business like tone as some people walked by. 

 

“What kind of project?” she asked, slightly more enthusiastic.

 

The man looked down at her and flashed his eyebrows. “A friend of mine is thinking about having a logo designed. He’s not going to purchase the media package though, so it’s going to get passed down to one of you interns. And maybe,” Grimmjow leaned down so that he could whisper in her ear. “You can clean yourself off of me from earlier.”

 

Lord.  What a creep. A decent looking one.  And he sometimes got her off, the handful of times she found herself alone with him.  Those times were stressful times at work, usually. She had wanted relief as much as he did. This, though… He was dangling an opportunity she had waited her entire internship to get.  What was one more time? It’s not like she had anybody to be loyal to. “Sounds like a plan, then,” she said, looking at his face briefly.

 

“Give it thirty minutes and then meet me in my office,” Grimmjow said. “You like curry?”

 

“Love it,” she admitted with a warm smile.  She wasn’t lying.

 

Twenty-five minutes later, Grimmjow paid the delivery driver and took the bags to his office. He came out and whistled at Orihime. “Ready Inoue?”

 

“Coming!” she called back to him, putting her computer on hibernation mode and trotting toward the smell of spices.

 

As soon as the door was closed, Grimmjow grinned at her. “You should apply to Rotten so you can have a position here when you graduate,” he said as he motioned for her to sit at the small table in his office.

 

“Maybe.  I don’t really know how to do what needs to be done here, yet.  Nobody lets me do anything but errands,” she said.

 

He shook his head. “Just because I’m going to fuck you doesn’t mean I’m not going to teach you how to do this. I do need the logo done and I don’t want to do it, but I don’t want to give it to one of the other interns. You’ve gone above and beyond to please people.”

 

“Just you,” she muttered quietly.  “Although I do entertain the absurdity of Karen and Susan from time to time,” she added with a chuckle.

 

Raising an eyebrow, Grimmjow walked over to the woman. It was nothing to pick her up and make her legs wrap around him. “Food first, then fun then a quick lesson on how to make a logo? Or would you like to have fun first?”

 

She thought about it for a minute.  The food sounded so good, but she knew she wouldn’t be up to whatever he had in mind right after eating.  A deep breath in and out. “Fun first. Need to work up an appetite,” she said, blushing hard. He was only the second man she’d ever had sex with, so this wasn’t something she did all the time.

 

“Heh,” Grimmjow smirked. He carried her over to the armchair and sat down with her in his lap now. “You need to stick around. I can make you my personal secretary.”

 

Her eyes narrowed at him and the blush on her cheeks faded a bit.  “I am not a secretary,” she growled in a kittenish little voice.  She hated it when he made cracks about that. She was an artist .  She wasn’t going to spend any significant amount of time doing filing and typing up correspondence.

 

Grimmjow grabbed her chin and kissed her, then pulled away. “You’re cute when you get mad,” he stated before he began his seduction of her.

Chapter Text

 

Orihime got the project.  She was so happy. It had made the lukewarm curry and sloppy blowjob almost worth it.  Okay, yeah, the actual sex was good, but the hummer for dessert was unnecessary.

 

Now she sat at her desk with a work order, a pencil, and a sketchpad.  She could not believe it. She was designing a logo for Coffee & Sadness.  It was darkly humorous. She had done a million logos for her blog of the same name already.  She had been to this establishment probably close to a hundred times. She looked out the window and tapped her pencil to her chin. She would sketch this out on paper and then scan and trace it in the program Rotten preferred. 

 

She thought about the place. What stood out to her?

 

Well, it was a typical industrial/reclaimed space. It was large.  It was a bit dark, and had a Pottery Barn aesthetic, but leaned modern.  All that stuff was pleasant, but generic.

 

What about the place made it stand out?  The coffee was quite good. The bakery was good.  Those things didn’t lend themselves to a visual representation of the brand, though.  Certainly not one that the owner, Ulquiorra Cifer, would want. What kind of name was that, anyway?  He was probably some foreign investor that had only seen pictures of the place. Anyway, whatever Mr. Cifer wanted was not anything to do with cute or homey kitchen/coffee aesthetic.

 

He wanted a brand.  An image. One that could travel to similar businesses of different names.  Something simple and iconic. Something that would invoke a feeling of quality and cool factor. Hmm. What was the coolest thing about the place?

 

She sat there thinking, and the answer came to her slowly.  Obviously, it wasn’t the clientele; Coffee & Sadness wasn’t exclusive.  No, it was the staff. Everyone who worked there looked like they had a story to tell.  Orihime imagined the lives of the two blondes that ran the place in the late afternoon. She imagined the woman was a former model who tired of the fashion world and ran away with the man to live a beatnik lifestyle.  She chuckled. Not exactly logo fodder, but a funny idea.

 

She thought about the three young guys who helped her bring the big order yesterday.  They were all cute; they looked like they were college kids working there for the summer and adding to their late-hipster cred.  She imagined the two cuter ones were in love with each other and the other one, although not gay, was jealous. It was all very tragic because obviously they all lived together and the straight one, Ethan, wanted to go back to a simpler time when they were all just friends. 

 

There were other people who worked there and they were all interesting-looking, but none so much as the guy who ran the dayshift. He looked like he had a story.  He was so well put-together. He dressed so formally. He acted so formally. And yet, he had tattoos on his knuckles and earrings that stretched his earlobes a bit.  Perhaps he was a baristo-by-day, gangster-by-night kind of guy. More likely he had some band on the side, or was a tattoo artist or something. He never smiled.  He never laughed. He probably had some kind of traumatic thing in his past that made him reluctant to show happiness. 

 

He was a tough nut to crack.  He carried himself almost aristocratically; much like Mr. Kuchiki, the CEO of Rotten, did.  But unlike Mr. Kuchiki, the day manager at Coffee & Sadness didn’t look like royalty. He looked like a guy who was pretty rough around the edges.  The dichotomy appealed to her. He reminded her a little bit of Batman, without the mask and cape. Although, she thought, giggling to herself, he could probably take off his apron and just tie it around his neck to have the same effect.  

 

She leaned back in her office chair and sighed.  She needed to take all these ideas and distill them.  Maybe she needed to go to the source for inspiration. She walked over to Grimmjow’s office and knocked on the doorframe. “Hey Grimm? I’m going out for coffee and inspiration for the project.  Want me to bring you back anything?”

 

***

 

Hmm. It was ten o’clock and he wasn’t there.  It was a woman who took her order; a s’mores macchiato.  She would get Grimmjow’s weird bourbon coffee thing on her way out later.  She sat down at a table in the middle of everything and spread out her sketchbook and pencils, staring to doodle things that she saw and faces she thought were interesting, trying to funnel inspiration.  No one seemed to notice her there.

 

Ulquiorra walked into the building after smoking a cigarette. He was going to sit at his table, but there happened to be a woman already sitting in the spot with papers everywhere. A sigh went through him as he went around the counter and started preparing something some espresso.

 

“Ulq? What are you doing? You’re on break,” Rangiku asked.

 

“Well, I’d be sitting down but...” he said and gave the redhead who was in the middle of the shop a side-eyed glance. “What did she order today?”

 

“S’mores macchiato,” the blonde said. “Why?”

 

“Wondering,” he replied as he brewed his own coffee and got a cup of ice. He made his customary drink of iced espresso with a splash of half and half, then he made another s’mores macchiato. He picked up the paper cup and took it over to her table, setting it down before he walked away.



“Oh!” she peeped, looking up at the man’s form as he walked away. “I didn’t order anything,” her voice was soft and worried.

 

Ulquiorra turned and looked at her. “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” he stated and went back behind the counter and into the work room. 

 

Her brows rose and her posture straightened up as she watched him walk away.  He was definitely playing into the international man of mystery persona she was working up for him.  What was with the long, double breasted vest? He definitely had the body type to pull it off, she thought as she conjured up the image he had left her with.  She imagined his anatomy. She imagined it in multiple positions. Hmm. Yes. On the modest side of average height. Slim. Proportionately broad shoulders and narrow hips.  She mentally compared him to Grimmjow. Those narrow hips of his would fit between her thighs a lot better than Grimm’s.  

 

She blushed and shook her head at herself.  Yeah, the baristo looked pretty sexy in her estimation.  She quickly pushed the thought away that his body type was reminiscent of her ex’s.  No. Nope. No. Begone, cursed mental image. Better to just focus on the baristo’s face. To her, he was the face of Coffee & Sadness.

 

It came to her in a flash of inspiration.  She saw that cup he had left there. She remembered his face.  Now she just needed to wait for him to come back out and do some stealthy sketches of his facial features, and she could go back to the office.

 

Her first cup of coffee was empty.  She removed the paper sleeve and set it in front of her, sketching it in sharp, short lines.  She paused as she did and picked up the second cup, taking a sip.

 

It was the same drink.  It was better than the first one though, she thought as a wide, warm smile came over her face.  The smile remained as she continued to sketch on the cup.

 

When his break was up, Ulquiorra wrote his name on his cup and put it below the cash register. He’d finish it later. Rangiku smiled at him before she went to do something in the office. Everything was pretty much done until the lunch rush came in.

 

For some reason, people liked coming in for the simple grilled cheese sandwiches and the haughty fig and bleu cheese plate. It didn’t make any sense to him, but whatever. It made him money.

 

Ulquiorra leaned against the back counter and folded his arms over his chest, looking up at the ceiling of the coffee bar area. He just let his mind wander.

 

Oh, this was perfect.  She could stare at him all she wanted and he wouldn’t even notice.  She furiously sketched and then took long moments to just gaze at him, studying how the light hit the angles of his face and the thickness of his brows and luster of his hair.  His best feature was his eyes, though. They looked sad and piercing. He embodied coffee and sadness. She bit her lip and sketched for a good ten minutes without him noticing that she was even still there.

 

It was the door opening and a customer coming in that broke him out of his thoughts. He stepped up to the counter and took the man’s order and made it in less than five minutes. Ulquiorra was bored. He had nothing to really do. He decided to straighten the small amount of merchandise they sold and do a lap around the shop to see if anything needed picked to be up or if the break room needed cleaning.

 

He had to think about next month’s flavor and the fact that they were switching from summer flavors to fall flavors. That meant that he had a lot of work in front of him, figuring out how to make caramel apple cupcakes and muffins. All he had to do was advertise pumpkin spice and the basic bitches would roll in. He knew he could get it done. He was Ulquiorra Cifer. He turned around and noticed the redhead looking at him. He never asked her name. He just made her order and handed her the cup. He strolled by her table. “Do you need anything? Maybe a picture since you like staring?”

 

Her sketchbook snapped shut and she blinked rapidly.  “I was? Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, cringing and turning pink. “I should go,” she said, gathering her stuff into a pile.

 

“You don’t have to. I stare at people all the time,” Ulquiorra replied. “College student?”

 

She nodded.  “I intern across the street,” she added, afraid to look at him now.

 

“Figured that when you came in with the stationary. Their new coffee bitch isn’t as interesting. He’s clumsy.”

 

“They replaced me already?” she said under her breath with a dark chuckle.  “Sucks to be you, Charlie.”

 

“Name?”

 

“Oh, me?” she asked, surprised that he would ask. She let her eyes drift back to his and she couldn’t help that curious, unfocused glaze on her eyes again.  “It’s Orihime. Orihime Inoue. What’s yours?”

 

He looked at her. He blinked. He never had anyone ask his name. Ulquiorra tilted his head to the side and stared at her for a moment. “It’s, uh,” he started to say, but was interrupted by Rangiku.

 

“Ulq! We need more coffee beans!”

 

As she had a tendency to do, Orihime seemed to shrink into herself at the interruption and faded into the background.

 

Without answering her, Ulquiorra turned around and walked back to the supply room. He knew the blonde would harp on him until he did as she demanded. Yeah, he was the boss, but he was on Rangiku’s time at the moment. She was the manager. When he came back to the coffee shop floor, Orihime was gone.

 

***

 

That was a close one, Orihime thought as she brought her sketchbooks back to the office.  She knew exactly the logo she wanted to design. His eyes. The brows and the eyes in black against a white paper coffee cup, with lines of tears coming from each eye in the same teal color as the ties the staff all wore.  Maybe put a glint of green in the irises of the eyes, but she planned to have the eyelid heavy and low. It would look perfect. Below the eyes would be the initials, C&S, with the rest of the letters of each word in a smaller font.  She would try the lettering in black only or teal with black shadow. Mr. Cifer could choose which he preferred. She got straight to work on it and didn’t finish her first draft until nearly ten o’clock at night. She printed it and put it on Grimmjow’s desk.  Everyone else was gone.

 

It was Friday. She had worked her ass off today, but she was wide awake because of the two macchiatos and various other caffeinated drinks throughout the day.  She’d stop by a corner store for something to nosh on and go to Starrk’s after she went home to change.

 

***

 

Ulquiorra walked into the bar. It was dimly lit as usual. He didn’t know why he had to be the errand boy when Starrk could just write a check to Aizen and send it off. He made his way over to the bar and sat down when a tall man with an eyepatch over his eye came over.

 

His lip curled as Nnoitra put his elbows on the bar. “Ulquiorra, nice to see your fucking sad ass face again. What’s your poison tonight? Wanna grow some balls and actually try the absinthe?”

 

“Tch. No. Give me a Maker’s Mark with some water,” he replied. 

 

“Anything else?”

 

“Do you have any of those clove cigarettes?”

 

“Not on me,” Nnoitra said. “Want to try a cigar?”

 

Ulquiorra’s nose wrinkled. The expression looked strange on his normally expressionless face. “No, thank you.”

 

There was a flash of blue from the corner of his eye and a low groan went through him.

 

“Why the fuck don’t you get out more?” Grimmjow asked as he put the glass he was drinking out of on the bartop. “You’ve got the time.”

 

“It’s called running a business. I do not have free time.”

 

“You wouldn’t be so uptight if you got laid,” Nnoitra muttered before pushing off the counter and getting Ulquiorra’s drink.

 

“Dude, I should introduce you to this chick I’ve been banging. She’s so damn hot and tight. A bit dumb and quiet, but damn. She can make some noise and it’s obscene,” Grimmjow said, grinning. “She’s an intern, and I offered to make her my secretary and she got mad. It’s cute because she’s tiny.”

 

Ulquiorra rolled his eyes. He did not want to know about Grimmjow’s conquests. “Does anything meaningful ever happen in your life?”

 

“Besides this chick? Nah, not so far. Kinda want to make her a permanent thing but she’s...”

 

“A whore?” Nnoitra offered as he set two glasses down in front of Ulquiorra; one had a splash of whiskey, the other water.

 

“Nah, she’s a bit not there. Like she’s playing pretend or some shit,” Grimmjow answered. “She has an ass on her that is just... Hngh. And some nice tits. I swear I’ve fucked her all over my office, the copy room, and the supply room.”

 

“Kuchiki should invest in some sterilization practices,” Ulquiorra commented, swirling the whiskey around before taking a sip. “Where’s Starrk?”

 

“Talking to Tier,” Nnoitra answered.

 

“She’s back in town?” Grimmjow asked. He’d been after Tier for ages but she never batted an eye at him. 

 

“Do you two ever think about something other than sex?” Ulquiorra asked as he took a drink of water.

 

Grimmjow looked at Nnoitra. Nnoitra looked at Grimmjow and they both started laughing. “Eyy, ya boy is also back,” Nnoi said. “Gin’s been talking to Aizen by the way.”

 

Great, Ulquiorra thought. It would figure that the guy who prosecuted him was in Evanston. “Why is he here?”

 

“Dunno. Nel says--”

 

“Are you seriously fucking with her again?” Grimmjow interrupted..

 

“Nah,” Nnoitra said and walked away as another customer approached the bar.

 

A few minutes later, Starrk came behind the bar and handed Ulquiorra a check. The green-eyed man finished his whiskey and water and laid down a bill before leaving. He’d deposit the check tomorrow.

 

***

 

Orihime had changed into a tight pair of jeans and a long-sleeved blouse that showed off her shoulders.  She didn’t live far from Starrk’s. Just a couple of blocks. So she wore a cute pair of heeled boots, too.  It was nearly autumn, anyway.  

 

On her way there, she didn’t see very many people. But just as she turned the corner she nearly ran into a figure dressed in dark colors. 

 

“Oh!  Excuse me,” she said in a breathy, flustered voice and stepped to the side.

 

Ulquiorra didn’t even give the woman glance as he stepped around her. He really didn’t like the other members of society. Especially ones that hung out at bars. He didn’t say anything as he walked past her to his Uber.

 

Orihime steadied herself and continued on, opening the door to Starrk’s and smiling at the familiar interior. This place was her sanctuary away from home.  Well, it was her sanctuary when she needed a stiff drink or two to slow down the swirling thoughts inside her mind. And tonight, those thoughts were a mess.

 

That baristo’s eyes were haunting her.  The job was totally exciting. The creative process had her feeling high and a bit manic; that’s why she really needed to stop by here tonight.  She was glad it was payday.

 

She nodded to the familiar man behind the bar and glanced at the new woman.  She was interesting looking. Orihime added her to the list of images in her mind that demanded to be put down on paper.  “Hey Starrk, can I get a Death in the Afternoon?” she asked is a soft, pleasant voice. She liked the quiet man. He was not a threat to her.

 

“Hey, Miss Hime. One death coming right up,” the man said. He gave her a small smile and then went about making her drink. He set it on the countertop with a napkin underneath.

 

“Thanks,” she said, sliding her card across the bar to open a tab.  It was going to be a night where she lingered around until close. She had brought her sketchbook.  She turned around and looked around the bar. It wasn’t very crowded and she chose a spot with a plush velvet sofa and a matching armchair. It looked antique.  She brought her purse and her drink over and took a seat. She didn’t take out her sketchbook right away, though. She got onto her phone. She had an idea for a blog post.

 

Grimmjow had fucked off. Ulquiorra left. Nnoitra was leaning against the bar and watching the redhead. She’d been coming to the bar for a while. He wiped the counter down and made himself look busy as he studied her. He heard someone whispering his name and did a double take to see Grimmjow, and it looked like he was hiding. “What?”

 

“That’s her.”

 

“Seriously? That thing?”

 

“Dude, she’s not a thing. She’s young and dumb,” Grimmjow said. “What’s she drinking?”

 

“A death.”

 

“Make her a 75 and send it over,” Grimmjow said and gave Nnoitra the money.

 

“Oh, I didn’t order another one,” Orihime said, smiling at Nnoitra.  He always kind of gave her the creeps, but she was polite.

 

“Nah, gentleman, and I barely consider him one, bought it for you,” Nnoitra said setting the drink down on the table in front of her.

 

Orihime sat up straight and looked around the bar.  She couldn’t see anyone that she would suspect would send her a drink; it looked like most of the people here were regulars or worked here.  Then, just as she started to slouch, she saw him. She smiled and held the champagne glass up, tilting her head to the side a bit and arching her back.  It was a habit. She didn’t do it on purpose.

 

Nnoitra watched the woman and shook his head as he walked behind the bar. She had to be younger than him. Nnoitra was twenty-seven. Grimmjow was a year younger. The man had ambition to get to the top, though, and his friend had worked for his position. Nnoitra was happy being a bartender. He got to pick up random chicks and he got to drink. “Eyy?”

 

“Shut the hell up,” Grimmjow muttered. “I guess I’ve got to go talk to her.”

 

“Want another?”

 

Grimmjow shook his head and threw back the rest of the liquid in his glass before standing up and walking over to where Orihime sat. “Didn’t know you came here,” he said, sitting next to her without an invitation.

 

She looked at him fondly and replied, “I come here a lot; usually there is nobody I know here.  I find a quiet corner and quiet my mind. Do you come here often?” 

 

“Nah, I know Starrk and Nnoi,” Grimmjow said. “We go back running around the streets being kids. I’m not bothering you, am I?”

 

“Nope, it’s nice to see you outside the office,” she said, turning her smile down into her glass and blushing.  He was being nice.

 

“Tch,” he said, leaning back and laying an arm on the back of the couch behind her. “I could see you outside of the office a bit more, if you’d like.”

 

Her smile stretched into a rare, genuine grin. “I would like that,” she said.

 

Grimmjow scoffed again but softer this time. “Yeah? So what kind of stuff do you like to do when you’re not at the office?”

 

“I go to school and come here and go get coffee and draw.  What do you do?” she had a tendency to play down her own life as unimportant.

 

“I go to work. I go to the gym. I come here. I watch TV. Might go out to a club occasionally,” he answered. Grimmjow lifted a hand and signaled that he wanted another drink. He felt like he needed another one. Nnoi knew what he liked.

 

“Do you know any good clubs? I haven’t been to one since I started at Rotten,” she said.  “I like dancing.”

 

Grimmjow shrugged. “Most of the really good ones are in Chicago,” he said, scratching the side of his neck. “There’s a place called Nebula on the other side of town. It’s decent.”

 

“I’ve never been there,” Orihime said, trailing her finger around the rim of her glass and then took a sip. “I don’t know if I’m cool enough for a place like that.”

 

His fingers lightly stroked Orihime’s neck. It was just a thing he did around women. “It’s full of college kids. Ya got friends, don’t you? Could check it out with them if I can’t take you.”

 

“You want to take me?” she asked, feeling the courage of the prosecco and the gin and the absinthe.  “I mean, my girls and I make a fierce posse but…” she turned her eyes up toward his face and smiled again.  “I just said I liked seeing you out of the office.” She liked this Orihime. She liked feeling like she could say anything that came to mind. This was definitely not her default setting.

 

“Damn. I just asked you on a date and it feels like I got shot down,” Grimmjow said with a smile on his face. A waitress brought his whiskey over to him and he took a sip. “Are ya shooting me down?”

 

“No,” she said, still smiling as she looked back down and took another sip of the French 75.  She still had half of her other drink sitting there. “I’m asking you to take me out.”

 

His grin got wider and Grimmjow sat in silence with her for a long moment before he pulled out his phone. “Gimme your number,” he said.

 

She told it to him slowly, enunciating each number.  She was feeling warm. She was feeling happy. She wanted him to stay with her and keep her company.  He had a nice smile. She wanted to touch him again. She crossed her legs toward him and let the side of her boot brush along the leg of his pants, leaning her shoulder into his side on the pretense of watching him enter the numbers.

 

Grimmjow’s eyes glanced at her and he gave a chuckle. After he entered the information, he put his phone back in his pocket and put a hand on her thigh. “What else do you like, Inoue?”

 

“I think I rather like you, Grimmjow,” she said, looking up at him and giggling.  Yep, she was buzzed. But it was true, she did like him. He made her feel like a real person.  “I like your, um, company,” she said.

 

He took another drink and relaxed. “Yeah? Good. Finish your drinks and I’ll get you another one if you want,” he replied.

 

“I don’t need another one,” she said with a humorous lilt.  It wasn’t clear if she just didn’t want more or if another drink was unnecessary for what she thought he had on his mind.  “Did you know I live like a block and a half away from here? It’s very convenient. I can’t believe I’ve never seen you around here before.”

 

“I’m usually not as stressed out as I am,” he replied. “Usually stop by here after work a couple of times a week before going home.” It was the truth. Kuchiki had been riding his ass about some account. Grimmjow had handed the job to someone lower on the totem pole. They had fucked it all up and it was up to him to sort the shit out. “You trying to tell me something, then?”

 

In all honesty, the three months that he had known Orihime, he thought she lived with people or in a dorm. “You live right around the corner, eh? Got neighbors?”

 

“Not any that I know,” she said.

 

“Roommates?”

 

“Nope.”  A wide smile was thrown in his direction as her eyes drooped to his lips.

 

Grimmjow nodded and raked his teeth over his bottom lip. “Finish one of your drinks and you can give me the grand tour of your place,” he said.

 

“Okay,” she said, tipping her glass to her lips and draining the contents, then picked up the other and took a gulp of it.  It would be a shame to waste it on her income. “Are you ready?”

 

His blue eyes widened as he watched her suck down the alcohol. Nice. He was probably going to get laid tonight. He was willing to spring for a hotel room, but if her place was close by, Grimmjow wasn’t going to say no. He drained his own glass and then stood. “I’m gonna go settle my tab. Be right back,” he told her.

 

“I’m coming, I have an open tab, too,” she said, following behind him.  She stopped in front of the blonde woman, embarrassed to talk to Nnoitra or Starrk when it was so obvious what she was doing.

 

“Already ran it, Grimm,” Starrk said handing the man a slip of paper which Grimmjow signed.

 

“Thanks Starrk.” Grimmjow avoided Nnoitra’s gaze as he slipped his card back into his wallet. He knew his friend was probably laughing his ass off right now.

 

“Thanks, uh, Tier.  It’s nice to meet you,” Orihime said, putting her card back into her wallet and looking up at the blue-haired man.  “Shall we?” she said quietly as she walked past.

 

As soon as Grimmjow turned, Nnoitra started chuckling, and the sound only got louder as Grimmjow followed Orihime out of the bar. That guy was a nutcase.

 

The night air was chilly when she stepped outside, and the breeze coming off the lake whipped her hair around her face until she turned the corner, her arms wrapped around her front so her hands could cover her bare shoulders.  “It’s a bit cool tonight, isn’t it?” she asked as soon as she got her hair out of her face.

 

He looked at her. “It’s about to warm up soon enough,” Grimmjow teased.

 

She giggled and hopped a step.  “I hope so,” she said, looking at him from over her shoulder and narrowing her eyes in a flirtatious gesture before laughing again.

 

They walked for about a block and a half. Grimmjow kept eyeing the way her ass moved and would occasionally grab it or gently tug on her hair. When they stopped, he looked at her. “This it?”

 

“Yep,” she smiled up at him and then looked at the lock.  Her place was on the second floor, which was accessible through a locked glass door on the street.  “Follow me,” she said, leading the way up.

 

Her boots clacked loudly on the linoleum-covered stairs with metal edging.  Twelve steps later and she was at the top. Another key came out and then she opened to door to her place.  Her nose wrinkled a bit. At least the bed was clean. “Home sweet home,” she announced, gesturing for him to enter.

 

Grimmjow entered cautiously. This woman’s studio apartment was as big as his bedroom. There was art everywhere. “Oh, so you really are an artist,” he said as he went over to one piece that was laying on a table. The composition was good, he thought, and then turned it to look at it from a different angle. Upon doing that, he uncovered several drawings. “Huh.”

 

“Don’t like them?  Oh!” she said, a bit embarrassed.  “Recognize that guy? He works at that coffee shop. I went over there and sketched ideas for that logo,” she said, still standing by the door and unzipping her boots.

 

“Really? That’s Ulquiorra Cifer,” Grimmjow said, picking up the sketch and looking at it. She was good at traditional art. 

 

She repeated the foreign-sounding name under her breath and then the realization hit her.  “OH! Oh, he owns that place?” she asked, clearly surprised.   Well, at least she knew his name now.

 

Grimmjow put the drawing back down and turned around to face Orihime. “Yep. He’s been running the place for a couple years? It was called something else, but as soon as he took over he changed everything about it,” he replied and walked over to the tiny woman.

 

“Well, he’s doing something right; he’s got a loyal customer base,” she said, smiling up at Grimmjow as he approached.  Without any shoes on she looked even smaller than usual. “So, this is it. How did you like the tour?” she asked in a soft, intimate tone.

 

“I like it. Cozy, yet eccentrically decorated but… I’m about to wreck things,” he murmured grabbing her by the waist.

 

“I hope you mean me, because if you trash my work, you’re going down, Jaegerjaquez,” she said in a gleeful squeal.

Chapter Text

 

When Grimmjow wanted something, he went out and took it. The world would be at his feet. His teeth sank into his bottom lip as he looked down at the woman. “I do mean I’m going to wreck you. You down for that? I have a proper surface now. I can get leverage.” He flashed his eyebrows at her.

 

She hummed in anticipation.  “Bedside drawer has all your needs,” she said, as if she was a bellhop explaining a room’s amenities.  “I am so down right now,” she added, already feeling her body heat up, both from the fresh memory of what happened the previous evening and looking up at Grimmjow’s face right now.

 

His eyebrows raised only a bit at hearing that. Did she do this kind of thing often? Oh well if she did. He took her in his arms and bent his head so that he could kiss her slowly. This was not the office, so he didn’t have to rush to get off. He could take his time. He’d undress her first before he lost his own clothing. “You may be singing a different tune soon,” he said as his hands went under the shirt she wore. 

 

It was a cute top. Everything about her was cute.

 

She blushed as she watched him.  He was acting so much differently from all their other encounters.  Almost gentle, despite his promise to destroy her. “I don’t know about that, but I can believe that you’ll have me singing something,” she said softly, then bit her lip.  Where was this coming from? Just the drinks? Mostly, she thought. But there was something about Grimmjow that made her feel like they had a connection. Something that made her feel safe to say things like this.

 

He gave a soft chuckle before he brought his hands over her waist and dragged them over her ribcage. The shirt was going to have to go. “Know any good songs?” he asked as his thumbs brushed over the cups of her bra. He had only seen her tits once, and that was when they first fucked in that dim supply room. She had worn a dress with straps. He hadn’t had the time to savor her body then. It was about him getting his.

 

“I know a lot of good songs. I wonder what you’ll inspire,” she teased, arching her spine and pressing her body up into his hands.

 

“Shirt is coming off,” Grimmjow said and pulled the fabric up over her head and arms. Surprisingly, her bra wasn’t fancy. It was just a normal t-shirt bra. He hoped her panties were more interesting. The blue-haired man slid the straps down her shoulders while he kissed her again, slipping his tongue into her mouth. She tasted like alcohol and sugar. “Mmmm,” he hummed.

 

God, he was pressing all of her buttons.  She ran her tongue against his lazily and hummed back, raising a knee and running the inside of her leg from his hip to his knee and back up.  When the kiss broke she asked, “Like what you see?”

 

As soon as he figured out how her bra unhooked he would tell her. It was easy for Grimmjow to pick her up like it was nothing. She was tiny. He walked over to her bed and sat down on the side, setting her on his thighs. “Depends,” he said as he used both of his hands to unhook the bra. As soon as it was loose on her chest, Grimmjow cupped her tits, squeezing them slightly. “Definitely like what I feel.”

 

She nodded.  “Yeah, I’m feeling it,” she said.  She was a visual artist, though. She knew the value of visual stimulation.  She reached between them and hooked her finger around the center of the bra cups and pulled them down and away from her body, letting the bra fall haphazardly to floor, and leaving nothing between her nipples and Grimmjow’s hands.  “Now I’m feeling it a lot more,” she said before pecking his lips and then sitting back to give him access to the view.

 

“I see this. Damn, lady.” Grimmjow brought one of the sizeable breasts up and dipped his head down to capture the nipple with his mouth. Just as he thought, the flesh came to life under his tongue and the gentle pressure of his teeth.

 

Orihime whimpered, both at the sensation and the sight of him enjoying her body, and she squeezed her thighs around the outer sides of his.  She was getting wet. She had been receptive at the bar already. She was starting to grow anxious. Grimmjow was a good looking guy with a strong, hard body.  She wanted to feel more of it, and she tilted her hips a bit in order to do so.

 

He pulled back and gave her questioning look before he grinned. “You can wait,” he said, letting her tits go and threading his hands through her hair. He pulled her head back and kissed her hard. Grimmjow wanted to enjoy this. They had all fucking night and maybe some of the morning before he had to be at the gym.

 

She moaned into his mouth and melted underneath it.  If he wanted to be the boss, she was going to let him.  She yielded to his lips and tongue, gasping when he gave her mouth a moment of reprieve but otherwise breathing quickly through her nose.  The thought occurred to her that she might make a wet spot on his pants before long, but he was the one who wanted to draw this out. She could play along.

 

When he was done making her lips puffy, Grimmjow smirked and quickly made her stand up. “Take the jeans off,” he said, bending down to untie his boot laces and pried it off. He did the same thing to the other boot and set them together at the side of the bed. “You’ve got it going on Hime.”

 

She gave an embarrassed half smile, her shoulders collapsing in on themselves and her spine caving in a bit as she giggled a thanks.  The posture only helped with undoing and pulling down her jeans. When she stood back up she was only wearing a bright yellow thong.

 

“I knew it.” Grimmjow laughed for a second and pulled her closer to him. “Do you ever wear matching undie sets?”

 

A gentle scoff answered him. “I am a poor college student living on summer intern wages. I buy whatever is on clearance, matching be damned,” she said with a chuckle, shaking her head.

 

He gave her a playful eyeroll before hooking his thumbs under the sides of the underwear she had on. He had to bend over almost in half to place a kiss on her hip bone before he started edging the cloth down her thighs. “Wanna be my personal assistant then? Pays better than an internship,” he joked.

 

“You’re funny,” she chuckled, running her fingers through his hair in a gentle, affectionate way.  “I believe we’ve already had this conversation.”

 

“Yeah, yeah,” he said as he got her panties off her thighs. “You’re an artist and I see that now. You should show Kuchiki some of this. Enough about work though. I’m trying to get you on me and savor it.”

 

She wiggled her hips and legs, not caring about the jiggle, until her panties fell off of her legs on their own.  “Have at it, then, Grimmjow. I didn’t invite you over for tea and crumpets,” she murmured.

 

He did have at it. He touched her, sliding his hand up her smooth skin. Seeing Orihime naked… Damn. The girl was humble, but she had it going on. She was at least an eight. Grimmjow pushed her a step or two back as he stood. He looked her straight in the eye as he stripped off his t-shirt, throwing it at the end of the bed, and then his hands went to the button and zipper of his black jeans. He already had a hard on. “You want it?” 

 

“Yes,” she said in a steady voice, holding his eye contact for a moment before letting it fall to his hands.

 

Hook, line, and sinker. Grimmjow saw her face as he slowly dragged down the zipper and pushed his pants and boxers down his legs. He even took off his socks and left them in that clothes puddle on the floor. He was arrogant enough to know that he had the body of a god. He was sculpted and hard. “Really?” he asked taking a step towards her with his cock jutting out from his hips.

 

She didn’t answer, just reached her hand out to trail her fingers along the smooth, hot surface.  She shivered and took a deep breath, then took a half step more towards him. “Really,” she whispered finally.

 

Oooh, damn. She had his number already. “You’ve got condoms?” Grimmjow asked as he picked her up again, crushing her naked chest to his. Even if she didn’t, he had a couple in the pocket of his jeans.

 

“Yeah, there are a few in the nightstand,” she said breathlessly.

 

As soon as they were on the bed, Orihime was on her back and Grimmjow was rifling through the drawer. There were two condoms inside of it. He put one on top of the nightstand and kept the other in his hand. “You had me thinking there were toys, lube and an entire assortment of condoms in there,” he joked as he sat back and opened the condom, rolling it down his cock. 

 

“Twenty-one, not fifty-one” she said, blushing. “ Almost twenty-two.”

 

“You’re young,” he stated, grabbing his dick with one hand and giving it several strokes. Then he thumped it against her slit a couple of times and smiled at Orihime. “You want to do this?”

 

She lifted her knees, her lower lips opening to show him the pink skin underneath. “I’ve been waiting,” she said, a bit confused by his constant need for reassurance, but not irritated.  “I want it.”

 

He glanced down at her before Grimmjow lined himself up. If fucking her in a chair, on his desk, against a wall and against the counter in the copier room was good, having her in a bed was fucking amazing. He watched as his dick sank into her body, inch by inch. “Good, I’ve been wanting you all day,” he said in a slightly deeper, lust-filled voice.

 

She groaned slowly as he filled and stretched her.  This was different. Her eyes fluttered closed as he pushed deeper, and she had to gasp in another breath of air.  If she ever wondered before if he was bigger than Uryu, her ex, she had no reason to wonder anymore. He certainly was.  “Grimm,” she hissed as he nearly reached maximum penetration, her fingers grasping at his shoulders in fear. He was getting close to hurting her.  He wasn’t there yet, but she knew.

 

Grimmjow was watching her face and that’s why he was taking it slow. He stopped just before he bottomed out. “How many guys have you been with?” he murmured as he slowly started moving his cock out of her core.

 

“Two including you,” she answered.  She didn’t think it was a big deal.

 

God dammit. Grimmjow knew now he couldn’t fuck her into the mattress like he was planning to do. He had to build her up to that. “Okay, cool. I’m going to show you a good time, Hime,” he said, leaning over her body and kissing her.

 

Once she felt safe enough to relax her grip on his shoulders, her hands moved up the sides of his neck and to the sides of his face.  She whimpered as she surrendered to his lips and her feet planted on the sides of his hips, helping her to rock them gently as he moved in and out of her.  This was nice. This was something that she hadn’t realized she had been missing. “Grimmjow,” she moaned between kisses, feeling wetness seep down her slit, dampening the mattress.

 

“Yeah?” he asked, huffing a bit, his hips moving at a steady pace. She was tight when they were at the office but she felt even tighter now. Grimmjow pulled back enough to look at her face. “You good? Comfortable?”

 

Her eyes opened slowly and he could see it.  They were glossy and black and heavy with lust, and, if he was looking for it, affection.  She was loving this. “I’m better than comfortable,” she said, adding an involuntary “Ooh,” at the end.

 

That’s what he liked to hear. He propped himself up on one arm before moving her one of her legs higher. The angle changed slightly and Grimmjow grunted as he felt the way her walls slid over him in a different way. Fuck that was good. “Orihime; you feel good. We’re going to make each other come,” he murmured to her.

 

His words, and the tone of his voice, caused her to shudder.  “Ahh,” she squeaked, feeling her walls start to resonate and flutter just at her entrance.  This was just a precursor. “Oh, god, Grimmjow, keep fucking me,” she said in a tiny, tight voice as she started to pant along with his thrusts.

 

If she came first, good. He wasn’t nearly there yet, but if she kept moving her hips like that against him, he’d get there quickly. He sat up, rolling his spine, making sure his strokes were rubbing against all the right places. “You feel good. Fuck you’re so hot and wet,” Grimmjow told her.

 

“Hmm,  Hnngh, Oh god, fuck,” she muttered as the tension she felt at her entrance started to deeping along her passage.  If this kept up he was going to have a hard time moving. She couldn’t really reach him, but she needed something to hold onto.  One hand curled into the pillow over her head, and she brought the other to her mouth, biting a knuckle as she gasped and cried, waiting for that still-elusive line of tension in her body to snap.

 

The bed started creaking, the headboard hitting the wall with a steady beat. Grimmjow’s hips snapped into Orihime’s with a controlled force. He could feel it. God, could he feel it. She was close. The pad of his thumb pressed against the top of her slit, putting pressure there and rubbing her clit with small circles, hoping that would help bring her to an orgasm.

 

Almost immediately, she shrieked and her knees rose as she started to come on him.  Her thighs trembled and she whined through it, riding out the sparks of pleasure as he continued to thrust through her ever-tightening core.  Her eyelids pressed closed, not that it mattered; her vision had gone dark and her ears rang at the force of her climax.

 

Grimmjow grinned as he tried watching her face. Just as she reached that peak, he started to fuck her harder, holding her legs up. “Yeah, come on my dick,” he groaned. He could feel his own end in sight. He just needed to ride out her coming. It was hard though, because of how damn tight Orihime was on his cock. “Hnnngh.”

 

A loud moan followed her climax, and she opened her eyes slightly to watch him fall apart inside of her.  She panted still as he thrust into her and her hands found their way to his belly, fondling what skin she could reach.  Maybe he’d like encouragement, she thought, and she grabbed one of her own tits and cooed at him, “Fuck me, Grimm, I want you to fuck me. You feel so good.”

 

“Fuck,” he hissed. Pleasure hit his nerves and he knew it was all over. He thrust into her one last time before he held himself there. Shivers went through his body and he could feel his cock twitching inside of her body. “Dammit.”

 

She could feel his balls pumping the condom full, at first with some force and then tapering off until his grip on her legs weakened and he fell to his elbow.  She gave it a minute to catch her breath and then, since he didn’t move, she asked, “Everything okay?”

 

His blue head nodded. He just needed a minute. That had been one hell of an orgasm. The office fucks were decent, but this had been on another level of heavenly. “You good?” he asked, still a bit breathless as he sat up. Gently, he withdrew himself from her core and flopped to the other side of the bed.

 

She carefully put her legs down, not wanting to yank on a muscle that had contracted during her climax, and then lay there, breathing heavily, as her damp skin grew goosebumps.  “I’m good,” she finally whispered, carefully rolling to her side to look at him. “I’m kind of on cloud nine right now,” she added with a goofy grin.

 

“Heh,” he laughed. “Don’t be expecting that at the office. I’m only that good in bed.” Grimmjow smiled at her and tucked some hair behind her ear before he sat up. “Bathroom?”

 

“Right through there,” she answered, pointing in its direction.  She sat up on an elbow and watched him go, reaching down for the sheets to cover up with.

 

Grimmjow threw away the condom and cleaned himself off and did his business before he came out of the bathroom and slipped back into Orihime’s bed. She had worn him out. 

 

She smiled and kissed his cheek before slipping out of the sheets to take her turn in the bathroom.  When she got back to the bedroom, she was pretty sure he was dead to the world. She shut off the lights and crawled back under the sheets, leaving a bit of space between them.

 

***

 

Ulquiorra sighed as Monday came around. He met the delivery people in the alley, giving them cash for the fruit that he offered in the cafe. He got his daily delivery of the stuff he couldn’t bake in the store; bagels, donuts, english muffins, and the like. He was very surprised as the clock hit seven and Grimmjow walked into Coffee & Sadness. The guy looked tired, but totally at ease. 

 

“Yo Ulq,” he said and walked up to the counter. “My lady’s birthday is tomorrow, I think—”

 

“Your lady?” Ulquiorra asked his brow barely moving. 

 

“Well kind of. I spent the entire weekend in her bed, and let me tell you. Damn. Kind of want to show some appreciation for a job well done,” Grimmjow replied.

 

The green eyed man sighed and motioned for one of his underlings to watch the register while he helped his friend. A handmade coffee candle, an indie made mocha lip balm and some small batch vanilla caffeine hand lotion, along with a gift certificate were placed in the white paper gift bag with the words Coffee & Sadness printed on it with the social media accounts associated with the shop.

 

“Thanks. Um, you said all this stuff is handmade?” Grimmjow asked as he eyed the bag.

 

“Jodi makes it at her house and sells it online. I offered to give her some brick and mortar space to sell it. Women go nuts over this stuff,” Ulquiorra explained as he ran Grimmjow’s credit card. “Anything else today?”

 

The other man shook his head and headed out the door. Ulquiorra watched him, imagining that Grimmjow was probably going to sit that bag on someone’s desk without fanfare or he was going to forget about it. 

 

He hoped today would be normal without any weird or massively complicated orders to do.

 

***

 

Even though it was a national holiday, Orihime came into work on Monday, hoping to have a chance to talk to Grimmjow about the logo she had designed.  She knew he would probably come into work today; he had mentioned it and he still had a lot of ground to cover to undo Joe and Connor’s fuckup. Plus, she wanted to see him.

 

The weekend had been a lot of fun.  They went through all the condoms they had left between them on Saturday and had to leave her place that night for more.  They lazed around when they weren’t screwing, either napping or playing on their phones. They watched parts of a few movies and made out.  It was a good time. She was feeling pretty comfortable with him by the time he had left.  

 

She was also feeling a bit sore.  She stretched an extra-long time that morning and went for a walk around the block to limber up before she showered and got ready to go into the office.  She decided to stop in for some coffee on the way.  

 

She eyed Coffee & Sadness as she approached, imagining her logo worked into the current signage.  It would look good, she thought, and she was smiling about it as she entered the shop. She kept smiling all the way to the register.

 

Ulquiorra had his back to her but he turned around. A sigh left him. Maybe he should change the name of the shop to Coffee & Sighs. “It’s too early for your bullshit coffee orders, Miss Inoue. What can I get for you?”

 

She smirked.  “Technically it’s my day off,” she said and eyed the specials board.  Someone was standing in front of it. “What’s the new flavor this month?” she asked, glimpsing at his eyes, then narrowing her own as she studied him.  She had gotten some of the finer details wrong. She couldn’t see them from where she had sat as she sketched him the week before.

 

“This month is caramel apple. The flavor of the season is the standard fare of basic bitches, pumpkin flavored everything,” he stated.

 

She brought her knuckles to her mouth and laughed silently, causing her shoulders to shake.  “Tell it like it is, Ulquiorra,” she muttered under her breath. Grimmjow had mentioned the man’s name several more times over the course of the weekend, and she was able to say it now, not that she thought he would hear her.  She cleared her throat. “Um, right then. I’ll have the caramel apple in a latte, I suppose. Two percent is fine,” she said, offering him an amused smile.

 

One eyebrow rose significantly as he looked at her. Had she said his name? He didn’t remember telling her who he was. He scowled for a moment before punching in her order. “Five dollars,” he said picking up a cup and sticking the order sticker on the side after it printed out. He wrote her name in neat uppercase letters and waited for her money.

 

She took her wallet out and fished out some cash, leaving the billfold open and letting her driver’s license hang out as she shuffled through the bills looking for a five or five singles.  “...four, five. Here you go,” she said, making sure the bills were all right side up and facing the same direction before handing them to him.

 

The stern look lessened as he took the money and counted it. She had managed to make his life a bit easier by doing what she had with the money. This woman was still a mess. “You should put your license in a secure place. Anyone could get your address and rob you or murder you,” Ulquiorra stated before he went to make her latte. He made the espresso and then foamed the milk. He measured out the syrups before making sure everything was mixed before he spooned the foamed dairy on top of the liquid. He added just a dash of cinnamon before putting the lid on top and placing the cup on the counter.

 

“Thanks, this smells amazing,” she said, ignoring his creepy comment about her license.  She decided to sit in the shop for awhile; being early on a holiday, it wasn’t as busy as usual and the sofas on one of the elevated areas of the shop were mostly free.  She had never had a chance to sit at them before, so she made a beeline to the one with the best view; one that included a view of the cash register.

 

He had several more people come in and Ulquiorra got their orders before he went out on the shop floor and picked up some paper off the dark concrete. He straightened the merchandise. He refilled the napkin container on the counter and made sure there were straws in the cup. Today would probably be slow, but Ulquiorra wanted to make sure everything was good to go for business. 

 

The green-eyed man could feel her watching him. He decided to give her something to watch. He brought his clipboard to the front counter and leaned over it, propping his chin on his hand with the point of his elbow on the polished stone countertop. He was looking over what needed to be done. 

 

Super exciting . Not.

 

Orihime’s brows rose slightly as he struck an unusual pose, for him, anyway.  She had a small sketchpad in her purse, as usual, and took it out quickly, working up a quick anatomy study.  He had such great lines. While Grimmjow was built and tall and really, quite similar to a large tree or pick-up truck, this Ulquiorra guy was built more like a dancer or a runner.  He was graceful. She could watch him all day and not get bored, probably. She could draw him all day, that was for sure. He had a very interesting look. Even his face lent itself to her flights of fantasy, imagining him as a prince or a thief or a ninja or some kind of pirate or whatever.  The Batman thing came back to mind, and she drew a quick, comical sketch of the caped crusader with a mask that highlighted the shopkeeper's stern, heavy brows and large eyes. She chuckled as she finished the last of her coffee.

 

She sighed.  She didn’t want to go yet.  Oh well, the cup had a cover on it; no one would know she was just loitering at this point.

 

As soon as he was done going over the list, Ulquiorra straightened his spine and replaced the clipboard under the register. A couple more customers came in. It looked like it was going to be a dead day, not that he minded. It meant more time for him to people watch. It was one of his favorite things to do. Every couple of seconds he would glance at the redhead, who thought she was being covert. She wasn’t. Ulquiorra finally sighed and poured a cup of black coffee with milk in it and brought it over to her. He set it in front of her. “At this point do you want a photo you can giggle at?” he asked, staring only at her face.

 

“A photo of what?” she asked, looking back.  The events of the weekend had left her feeling a bit bold and flirtatious. The effect hadn’t worn off yet.  “I’m not giggling at you.  I mostly giggle at myself, if I’m being honest,” she said, offering him a small, innocent eyebrow raise and a smile.  “I am interested in people,” she admitted.  

 

He was about to snap at her, but her last statement struck deep within him. She was someone else who liked watching others. “Well, it’s good you’re not giggling at me. Why do you keep staring at me? I’m not that good looking.”

 

“Haven’t you ever heard the phrase, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”?” she asked.  “I think most people are good looking, if you are actually looking. Some more so than others,” she said, now embarrassed and pursing her lips as she picked at an invisible object on the hem of her skirt.

 

He’d heard the phrase, but being bullied for most of his life over how he looked, her sentiment didn’t really put him at ease. “It’s good I’m not looking,” he replied and turned around, walking back to the coffee counter. What was it about this redhead that made him want to be social or question her? Why was he engaging her in conversation? Why was he interested? It didn’t make a lot of sense to him.

 

Orihime picked up the cup he had left at her table and sipped at it.  “Coffee,” she said to herself in a warm, happy hum. Well, if she had a refill she may as well make herself comfortable.  She took a set of earbuds from her purse and queued up some music. She pressed play and began to listen, her head and shoulders moving slightly to the beat as she drew, her lips making the shapes of the words that she knew from time to time.  This time it was “Friday I’m in Love,” by The Cure. It made her happy. The coffee made her happy. This place made her happy. She didn’t realize she was grinning. She was just in her own little world of Columbian coffee, music, art, and her new blog post, where she would put up the batman sketch, recommend a few songs from her playlist and review Coffee & Sadness’ new flavor of the month.  She made sure to add a message to tip the awesome waitstaff.

 

As the clock neared eight, Ulquiorra walked back into the office, leaving one of the employees upfront. He started up the laptop and typed into the browser the name of his business. That silly blog popped up and he clicked on it. Whoever ran the blog made posts almost daily. Today was no different. 

 

He read the last entry and put those songs into the music app and let it play softly throughout the shop before he emerged again. This time he went to the work room and decided to get some work done. An hour must have passed, because Ulquiorra’s after-hours work was done and he knew it took at least sixty minutes to prep everything. He peeked his head out of the door. 

 

Orihime was standing up and gathering her things, so he decided to come out of hiding and walked over to where she had been sitting. “Give me the cups and I can toss them,” he said.

 

“Oh, alright, thank you,” she said, giving him the cups.  She hoped he didn’t notice that she had doodled “C&S” with a little apple and caramel candy next to it.  It had just been something to keep her hands busy while she listened to music.

 

Ulquiorra nodded before turning around and making his way to the trash can, depositing the plastic lids in the matching recycling bin beside it.

 

Orihime checked the space around her to make sure she hadn’t left anything and then put her purse over her shoulder and walked to the exit.  As what had become a habit, as she got to the door she paused and looked over her shoulder. If anyone was looking in her direction, she would always smile and nod a silent farewell.

 

The owner of the shop was staring directly at her. He was wearing an unamused look but he nodded back at her.

 

***

 

Orihime entered the office with a smile on her face and stopped at her desk to drop off her purse before making her way to Grimmjow’s office.  She knocked on the doorframe as usual, even though there wasn’t even anyone else in this area of the office today.

 

“Hey, Hime,” Grimmjow said, looking up and going back to his computer screens. “I got your sketch.”

 

“And?” 

 

Grimmjow pushed himself away from the desk and pinched the bridge of his nose. “It’s okay, but not a logo,” he said with a neutral expression. “I scanned it anyway and emailed Ulq about it. He’s good at answering the same day. We should know soon.”

 

“Oh, I see,” she said, only mildly disappointed, at least outwardly.  She wasn’t expecting to blow anyone’s mind with it, but she had poured her heart into it and it stung that it was more or less rejected.  However, Orihime had learned how to deal with rejection a long time ago. It wasn’t going to break her down or anything. “If you need help with anything, just holler. I know you have a lot of work to do. I’m going to keep working with the graphics program until lunch and then I’ll get out of your hair if you don’t need anything,” she added with a rap on the doorframe and then spun around toward the large open shared workspace where her computer was.

 

“Hime!” Grimmjow called out. He knew that wasn’t what she wanted to hear, but he was one of the bosses. If Ulq liked it, then no big deal. If he didn’t like it, it was Grimmjow’s ass on the line. Maybe he could charm his way into her good graces. “Come back in here, please.”

 

She returned a moment later.  “Yes?” she asked.

 

Grimmjow stood up and then placed the gift bag on the desk. “Tomorrow’s your birthday right?” he asked, raising a brow at her. “Would you care to help me with Doofus and Dillhole’s mistakes? It’d give you some experience with the graphics program.”

 

She chuckled and peeked inside. “You know me too well, Mr. Jaegerjaquez,” she said with a smirk.  “Thank you. And yes, that’s what I’m here for. You can put “intern goals” on my chair when I blow this popsicle stand.”

 

“I kinda figured you like coffee,” he said, giving her a smile. He then cleared his throat and got back to his business tone. “I’m going to send you the files and then we can discuss what needs to be fixed. This is something you need to learn how to do, Miss Artiste.”

 

***

 

Orihime stretched and looked out the window.  It was dark already. They still weren’t done.  She was starving and getting sleepy. She went back to his office and again, knocked on the doorframe.  This time, though, she didn’t wait for a response. “I’m hungry. I’m getting a muffin and some coffee. Want anything?”

 

“Regular--Wait, does he have a new flavor up yet?”

 

“Yeah, you can pick caramel apple or pumpkin spice,” she answered.

 

“Uh, get me an amaretto Italian soda and three grilled cheese,” Grimmjow said, looking up from the folder in front of him. He stood up and dug into his wallet for some money and handed her twenty-five dollars. “Get yourself something too.”

 

“You got it,” she said, then left and hurried across the street.  She wasn’t sure if they would be closing early because of the holiday.  Normally they’d be open until ten, and it was only just before six, but she wasn’t sure.  She sighed in relief when the door opened.

 

Ulquiorra was sitting at a table reading one of his favorite books of all time. Business was pretty much dead today. Most of the people that needed coffee were celebrating Labor Day with their friends and families. He glanced up at whoever just walked in and then put the book down. “You’re back?”

 

“Can’t seem to stay away,” she muttered.  “I need a couple to-go orders, if you’re not just about to close or anything,” she said, cringing a bit at the idea that she might be inconveniencing him. 

 

“The sign says until ten. I might close early though,” Ulquiorra replied as he stood up. It had been just him and Ethan running the place. Truthfully he had been bored and welcomed the distraction. “Okay, what do you want?”

 

“Well, my boss wants three grilled cheese and an amaretto Italian soda.  I’ll take another caramel apple latte because that was like, um, a party in my mouth. And a muffin.  What’s good today?”

 

“We have blueberry, lemon poppyseed, chocolate, vanilla bean, banana nut, caramel apple and pumpkin pie muffins,” he replied as he tapped in the order as she said it.

 

“Are you trying to tell me that they are all good? Are you humblebragging?” she asked, a bit giddy in her fatigue.

 

Ulquiorra glanced at her and shook his head. “The lemon muffin is amazing. The caramel apple one needs some tweaking, but it’s decent. I like the vanilla bean muffin though. I put Macadamia nuts in them.”

 

“Oh, I do like nuts.  Makes it more of a meal, I think,” she thought out loud.  “I’ll take a lemon and a vanilla, then. One for now and one for breakfast,” she said, giving him a squinty-eyed grin.  The song she had listened to earlier in the day came over the speakers then. “I love this song,” she commented.

 

His lips twitched as he fought not to laugh at her statement. He blinked several times before he told her the total. It was over twenty-five dollars. Ulquiorra saw her frown and his mouth twisted to the side. “Since it’s the end of the day, I’ll knock it down to twenty, even. Okay?”

 

“Really?” she asked, handing him the twenty. “Guess the rest goes into the tip jar, then.  Consider it a “convenience fee” for having to deal with me twice in one day,” she said with a giggle.

 

“If you came in here with those silly and unbelievable coffee orders that you do, I’d charge you double,” he replied. Ulquiorra walked over to the fridge and opened it and used wax paper sheets to extract three premade sandwiches. All he had to do was put them in the pan and cook them. He got out three skillets and brushed each sandwich with butter before he plunked them down on the stove. Then he went about getting Orihime’s muffins, using the same method to grab the baked goods and put them in a smallish box. 

 

Orihime leaned over the counter and watched him, snickering about the crazy orders comment. “Susan and Karen are not in today; you’re safe,” she said quietly.  If he didn’t hear, he didn’t hear.  She didn’t notice how the way she was posed showed off quite a bit of her bust; her blouse tugged down at the buttons, and with the way she was leaning, it looked like she was about to have a wardrobe malfunction.

 

“I would really not like this week’s incident to be you baring your breasts,” Ulquiorra said as he brought the box to the counter. “I’m sure you’re a nice woman, but honestly, the effort is wasted.”

 

Orihime looked down and saw what he was talking about and blushed.  “Sorry… um, didn’t realize. They are just kind of out there…” she looked like she was going to die of embarrassment as her eyes pressed closed and she took a step back and adjusted her clothing.  Then it sunk in, what he had said. The effort was wasted.   She laughed.  No wonder he had reminded her of Uryu.  She visibly relaxed then and took her items.  “Anyway, won’t happen again. I’ll be sure to wear my nun costume from now on,” she said and walked toward the door, once again stopping and nodding a goodbye.

 

Hmph. He thought as he watched her. She walked with a fair amount of confidence. “Make it a pregnant nun just for shits and giggles.” Ulquiorra said as she turned around.

 

“Maybe for Halloween, but only if you go as the dirty confessional priest, okay?” she didn’t turn around to say it, still looking over her shoulder to watch for a reaction with one eye.

 

Ulquiorra wasn’t really paying attention to her, but he smiled. It was such a rare thing for him to find joy in anything, but when he did, it was blinding. He began to wipe the counter down, but after a moment he stopped when he didn’t hear the small beep that told him someone opened the door. 

 

He looked up at her with that smile on his face, the merriment fading quickly.

 

She watched it fade as one might watch the sun set past the horizon, a mix of anticipation and poignancy on her face, and when it was over, she mourned for a second and then smiled again.  “Well, then, that was worth it. I’ll probably see you tomorrow, Father. No promises about crazy orders,” she said. Although her words were playful, her tone was soft and sweet. “Goodnight,” she said before turning back to the door.

 

The only farewell she got was a slow nod.

Chapter Text

 

Ulquiorra posted the photo he took of the apples, caramel cubes, a cupcake, and a latte. He gave the same blurb he did as last month, except changing a few words and hashtags. It was a very autumnal feeling. All he needed were some fallen leaves and a chunky sweater. He rolled his eyes at himself.

 

Friday was a busy day and night for the shop. People got paid. Kids had all the time in the world, at least they seemed to think that. He watched as the storm clouds rolled in. It was going to rain. Rain meant quiet nights with no one bothering him. As he clocked out, he gave Rangiku a rundown of what things had been like that day, then went through the storage room door to the hallway that would allow him to go upstairs. As soon he was inside his apartment, he took a deep breath and released it in a long hiss. He didn’t have to speak to anyone, really, until Monday. He didn’t want to speak to anyone.

 

He had gone to Starrk’s the night before, on Grimmjow’s invitation, only to be told by Nnoitra that the guy had bailed because his bitch had called and Grimmjow went running. Wonderful. He stayed for a drink and a chat with the bar owner before retreating to his haven. He needed to answer emails from vendors.

 

Cathy, the cheese person, was trying to get him to add a cheese platter to his menu. She even said she would teach him how to arrange it. Ulquiorra had his suspicions that she wanted to do more than that with him. He would probably have to find a new person to buy bleu cheese from. An idea struck him, and he walked over to his desk in the far corner of the living room and wrote down peach/gorgonzola on a pad of paper before he started taking off his work clothes. It was time to switch things around anyway, with the start of the colder months.

 

He loosened the tie and unbuttoned the vest, shedding them as he reached his bathroom. His body was nice looking. Ulquiorra had spent most of his time while in prison working out. It was a way to release the irritation he felt keep himself out of trouble. People mostly stayed away from him. Occasionally he got bullied, but it was prison. The guys in there thought they could do as they pleased.

 

It was hilarious that his cell partner called him “Iceman”, and there were rumors that he worked for the mob or some stupid nonsense. Ulquiorra wouldn’t involve himself in dealings like that. It was bad enough his uncle dabbled with those types of people.

 

Ulquiorra’s father had made his wealth by legitimate means as a talented desiger/builder. People wanted ultra modern houses with minimal lines. People needed a builder to make changes to plans. On the other hand, Sousuke Aizen, Robert Cifer’s half brother, made his fortune with bodies, politics, and shady real estate deals. He had to have half of Chicago in his pocket. 

 

Not that it mattered. He didn’t talk to his uncle or his cousin all that much. Speaking of his cousin… Nnoitra finally told him what Gin was doing this far north. His uncle had offered the man a lucrative sum to become his personal lawyer. 

 

How had Nnoitra found this out?

 

He had finished hooking up with Nel and was leaving his uncle’s house when he overheard the conversation.

 

Ulquiorra didn’t like Gin. The man had tried to get the book thrown at him with sentencing and he was pissed off that he didn’t get to drag Ulquiorra through the mud. He couldn’t; Ulquiorra pled guilty. That entire ordeal had cost him over a million to get cleared up and out of his way. He still had the mark on his record though.

 

First Degree Assault. Stab victim.

 

Luppi Anetor was not a victim. He was a manipulative bastard. He thought it was funny to catch Ulquiorra’s eye in college. At first, Ulq thought he was a female, only to realize, as they were grinding against each other in Ulquiorra’s dorm room, that Luppi was male. Ulquiorra decided to try it out, only to find that he wasn’t really into him.

 

Luppi was the worst sort of person. He was bitchy. He gossiped about everyone. He thought he was better than everyone. He basically told Ulquiorra that he would shit on and step on anyone who stood in his way. Ulquiorra hadn’t meant for things to take a turn for the worst with Luppi. 

 

A few months into this thing that they had, Ulquiorra was tired of it. Luppi wanted to have sex. The green-eyed man wasn’t interested. The fight happened. Luppi had a baseball bat and was going to hit him. Ulquiorra just decided to jump first. He punctured Luppi’s lung with the small knife.

 

He still saw the blood on his hands some days. He still felt the metal of the handcuffs on his wrists. He remembered his mug shot. He remembered the lawyers, the jail, the judge… Everything. It hung on his brain, especially when he couldn’t sleep at night. 

 

His phone dinged.

 

Grimmjow. This time he wanted to know what he thought of the logo. Dammit. That was right. He needed to answer emails. 

 

Truthfully, the drawing he was sent was good, but Ulquiorra knew it wasn’t his friend’s work. Grimmjow’s designs were very no-nonsense. This drawing had a romantic quality. Someone else drew this. Someone who had been studying him for a while.

 

While he was at it, he could try bribing the person who owned coffeeandsadness.com into giving it up along with all the social media accounts associated with the name. He’d offered almost ten grand the last time, and whomever was behind the blog turned him down, explaining that he was wasting his time and that they were attached to the URL. 

 

A heavy sigh left him as he emptied his pockets out, placing all the items onto the bathroom counter and removing his dress pants and boxer briefs. He’d shower, eat and then go to the grocery. Then he could contemplate the logo some more.

 

***

 

The first week of Orihime's senior year went well.  Most of her classes were mid mornings, except on Thursdays when she had two in the afternoon.  Rotten Brand Management had extended her internship and allowed her to work as able, since she didn’t cause any trouble and didn’t complain about running errands.  It helped that Grimmjow had asked that she be kept on specifically. She didn’t know anything about that, though.

 

Tonight, she was going to celebrate the first week back to school in the books.  Her girlfriends had talked her into getting dressed up and taking a train from Evanston to Lincoln Park.  The club was not fancy, but Orihime’s girlfriends didn’t do things halfway.

 

She was kind of excited.  Her budding relationship with Grimmjow had started stripping away the layers of hurt and humiliation she had been carrying around since breaking up with Uryu Ishida her freshman year.  She was looking forward to going out and dancing, and maybe being flirted with. It felt good. She even decided to splurge on a dress. It wasn’t expensive, but it was new .  She even bought some new underwear, something that matched the dress.  Both were a dark wine red, although the panties were basically just strings that held a piece of lace together in the front.  The dress had metallic thread sewn throughout it so that it sparkled a bit when she moved. It was short. It was tight. It showed off a lot of decolletage.  She had chuckled when she first tried it on; she was reminded of what her favorite, probably gay, baristo had said about her boobs. He certainly would not approve. It was a wasted effort.

 

Too bad for him.  She thought she looked awesome.

 

She borrowed some costume jewelry from a friend and stood in front of the mirror and sent a picture to Grimmjow.

 

- Going out tonight.  Maybe if you’re not too tired you can play catch me if you can.  Later <3

 

Grimmjow raised an eyebrow as his phone went off. He picked it up and glanced at the text message. Damn. Damn. Damn.  Orihime looked good. Too damn good. He had spent most of the week at her place, leaving her bed in the early morning hours to drive across the city to his own place. He barely made it to work on time, but she kept him busy. He managed to take her out a couple times to have dinner or lunch.

 

Just looking at the photo, Grimmjow reached under his desk to adjust his cock. It was amazing how hard she could make him.

 

- you’re going to keep ME waiting? That dress is nice. Don’t break any hearts. Still at work tho for the moment.

 

She chuckled.

 

- no promises about the heartbreaking. Sorry to keep you waiting, but if you gotta work… y’know.  Well, if you finish early you can come rescue me from the girls? Lol jk 

 

They were just fucking, for now.  Orihime had a strong suspicion that Grimmjow would duck and run if she pushed any relationship stuff on him, so she tried to keep it lighthearted.

 

- tempting me now. Lmk where you’ll be and I’ll swoop in. I like playing cat and mouse

 

After he sent the text, Grimmjow decided to cut out early. His boss had already left for the day. Most of the people were gone. He called Ulquiorra. If he was going out might as well take a wingman or at least get the guy laid.

 

“What Grimmjow?”

 

“Wanna go out?”

 

He could hear the disgust in his friend’s voice. “No. I’m at the grocery,” he stated. 

 

Blue eyes rolled as Grimmjow got into his car. “C’mon let loose.”

 

“Why, so you can ditch me again?”

 

“Tch. If you saw her, you’d drop everything too.”

 

“Highly unlikely,” Ulquiorra said. 

 

“Fine, asshole.”

 

He hung up and then sent Orihime another message.

 

- leaving work. Taking a shower. Your place?

 

She was already on her way out.  

 

- Gonna get a boost at C&S first.  Meet you there? Otherwise we’re going to Apt. in LP.

 

Grimmjow sighed. 

 

- I got a shot of something you can have.

 

Orihime smiled and scoffed.  “I’m sure you do,” she said to herself, not watching where she was walking.  

 

- Oh?  Well I plan on having a shot of tequila and after that I’m at the mercy of whoever’s buying.  *wink wink* lol

 

It took him some time to reply due to traffic, but Grimmjow scowled at the phone when he saw her message. Hmph. Okay. After all she was a college student.

 

- Going to find a new king for your castle?

 

Oh.  Oh my god.  Her mouth fell open as she read that.  What did he mean? What was he implying?  Only one way to find out. Her heart pounded as she typed out her response.

 

- You wanna be king?

 

A grin stretched his lips and he replied.

 

- I’m already king.

 

Oh. OH. Oh my god. Her face turned bright red as she read the message and her breathing sped up.  Wow. Oh. Okay. Wow. “Oh,” she said aloud, and her hands shook as she tried to reply. 

 

Another message came through. 

 

- I staked my claim.

 

“Holy shit!” she squeaked.  She walked on unsteady legs with a grin that hurt her cheeks, it was so wide.  Even though it was already dark, the reflection off of those pearly whites could blind someone.  She guessed when her friends inevitably asked, and she called Grimmjow her boyfriend, she wouldn’t be lying.

 

- Noted.  Xoxo.

  

When Coffee & Sadness came into view, she still had that huge grin on her face.  She didn’t think anything could bring her down at that point. She waved through the glass at the group of friends who already stood in line for coffee inside.  She stood outside for a moment, fumbling with her purse to put her phone into it before opening the door.

 

She knew her friends.  They were probably all getting soy pumpkin spice lattes with extra sweetener.  They were smiley and happy and fun, but they were basic AF. She heard a chorus of giggles and saw the blond guy behind the counter sigh.  She made eye contact with the woman taking orders and gave her an apologetic nose wrinkle.

 

When it was her turn to order, she said to the woman, “So, I guess it’s good that Mr. Cifer isn’t in.  My friends are nice, but…” she looked at them and smiled. “I’ll have a double shot of espresso, please.”

 

Rangiku glanced at the woman. She recognized her from the other week. Ulquiorra had comped her a latte or something. She then looked at the clock on the register screen. It was after eight. Her boss was probably upstairs. “Yeah, Ulq would just sigh louder than Izuru. Six dollars please.”

 

She took out her card and swiped it through the card reader.  She needed her cash for tonight. “He seems down,” she said softly, eyeing the man making the coffee.

 

“Nope, that’s Izuru for you. He and Ulq make the sadness of this place pop,” the blonde said and grabbed a cup to make Orihime’s order. After it was done, she brought it to Orihime with a smile. “Are you friends with Ulq?”

 

“No, not really.  He talks to me sometimes, but not really in a friendly way.  Last week he told me it would be gross if my, incident?” she said, as if she was unsure if that was the right word, “for the week would be my boobs falling out of my shirt.  Guess he’s gay, huh?”

 

All activity stopped behind the counter and then the three people working, Rangiku, Izuru, and Jake, all started laughing. “Oh, darling, no. He’s not gay. Trust me, I know. He didn’t want to disrespect you,” Rangiku said after wiping away a tear. Oh, that had been a good laugh.

 

Orihime’s brow furrowed.  She didn’t get it. Why would he care about disrespecting her?  He was usually on the rude side, anyway. “Well, maybe he just doesn’t like me, then,” she said with a nervous chuckle, stepping away from the register and to the pick-up counter.

 

Rangiku shared a look with the other two and then went to help the boys making those basic bitch lattes.

 

***

 

Grimmjow called Orihime about twenty minutes later. “Where are you?” he asked.

 

“Hey!” she answered, a bit shy after the texts from earlier.  “I’m still trying to round up the Pumpkin Spices. Where are you?”

 

“Haaa! That’s not a nice thing to say about your posse. I’m pulling up to this coffee shop,” he said. He could see Orihime through the glass. 

 

She turned around and stood up, smiling at him when she saw him.  She couldn’t sit still. She started walking toward the door, the apples of her cheeks glowing.

 

As soon as he was inside, he smirked at her. “Let me get something to drink. I have a feeling I’m going to need the energy tonight,” Grimmjow said, putting his arm around her waist.

 

She brought her hand to her mouth, her eyes drifting over to her group of friends, who had not missed the big, hot, blue-haired man escorting her back to the counter.  Ha! Suck it, bitches, she thought to herself and chuckled. “You look nice,” she said, putting a hand on his ribcage.

 

“You look nicer. Puts me to shame,” Grimmjow said. He turned to Rangiku, who had her hands on her hips and was looking at them with a disapproving glare. “Sup Ran? Iced coffee with uh… bourbon flavor.”

 

“Eight dollars.”

 

“What?” Grimmjow said glaring at her. What the fuck was up her ass tonight. “You’re not going to budge, are you?”

 

“Grimmjow, I know you. You’ll complain until I make it an iced coffee with a shot of bourbon flavor and a shot of espresso. Even then you’ll bitch, so I’m making a cold brew with a shot of espresso and bourbon flavor. The extra dollar is the bullshit fee.” Rangiku explained. 

 

Damn. The blonde knew him well. He pulled his wallet out and handed the woman a ten dollar bill. He moved to the side and brought Orihime with him. “What’s the big occasion that you’re going out?” he asked.

 

“Just back to school. Most of them were out of town for summer internships. Kind of a kick off party,” she explained, as a couple of her friends drifted over in their direction.

 

“Orihime!  Who is this!?” a tall blonde said.

 

“Yeah, how come you didn’t tell us you had a boyfriend?!” a brunette with dark skin asked, walking straight up to Grimmjow and saying, “Hi, I’m Jackie, it’s nice to see Orihime with someone of your… I mean up to her caliber,” she purred, running a hand down the back of his shoulder.

 

“Um, Grimm, this is Tori and Jackie.  This is Grimmjow,” she said to the women.

 

Grimmjow completely ignored the woman who touched him, then turned to the other woman. He nodded at her. “Hi,” he said.

 

Orihime had stiffened when Jackie approached.  She was constantly chasing men away from her and swiping them for herself.  She relaxed and dipped a finger into Grimmjow’s back pocket when he ignored the other woman.  

 

“Are you coming out with us?” Tori asked.

 

He didn’t look at her, instead looking at Orihime. He had dealt with bitches like this before. “Am I coming with you, Hime?”

 

“You usually are, Babe,” she purred.  She didn’t even care about going to the club anymore.  “Wherever you want me to come, I will,”

 

Grimmjow grinned at her then turned to the woman who addressed him. “Any more questions?”

 

The blonde smiled knowingly.  “Nope. Have a good night, Orihime, though I’m sure you will.  It was nice meeting you, Orihime’s boyfriend,” she said, pulling Jackie away with her.  Tori was a good wingwoman.

 

Orihime mouthed, “Thank you,” to the blonde and waved.  “Guess my schedule just opened up, unless you want to go to that club,” she said.

 

“You’re all dressed up. I’d hate for it to go to waste, since you look so damn delicious in it.”

 

“Okay.  You want to go there or somewhere else?”

 

“They’re your plans,” Grimmjow said with a lusty expression. “I’ll come wherever you go.”

 

“GRIMMJOW! COFFEE!”

 

He turned his head and then looked to see Rangiku holding his cup. “Let me get my drink and we can do whatever you want. I say we go out with your friends.”

 

She bit her lip.  There was a glimmer of realization that he might be the one.  This might not be just affection. She might be able to love him.  It was still early, though. Better to let those feelings percolate and see what happened.  She smiled and nodded. “Let’s go, then.”

 

He got his drink and then escorted her out to his car. Grimmjow was only a gentleman to a point. Orihime was on her own when it came to opening car doors.

 

She got in carefully; her dress was very short.  She buckled up and sat back. “This is a nice car, I never really said anything before,” she mentioned.  It was just an innocuous comment.

 

His eyes glanced at her legs. Grimmjow nodded as he put the car in gear and drove off. “You know where this place is?” he asked putting a hand on her upper thigh. 

 

“Yeah, just get on the expressway, I’ll navigate from there,” she said with a smile.  She raised her leg into his palm a bit. “How was your day?”

 

A finger or two slipped under the hem of her dress. “It was okay. Missed you around the office,” he said as he headed towards the expressway. “At least you’re learning right?”

 

“Hmm,” she chuckled.  “Yeah, but one sometimes wonders which experience is more, um, educational,” she said, twisting her hips a bit so that his fingertips brushed against her new lace panties.

 

“Those feel nice. Damn, if I didn’t have to drive I’d have my fingers inside you right now,” Grimmjow said and glanced at her.

 

“Well, it is just a matter of time, anyway,” she murmured, looking over at him.  She’d never had an opportunity to study him like this. He usually had eyes available to look at her or she otherwise felt unable, but here, in the car, when he had to focus on the road, she had a chance to really have a good look.

 

She already knew he was handsome and well built.  He was a big man. His jaw was big. His neck and shoulders were big.  His chest was muscular and broad. Even his nose was a bit on the big side, jutting to a strong point.  She imagined how they looked together, side by side. It wasn’t a bad image.

 

For a moment, the mental image of them together glitched, and Orihime had a glimpse of herself next to the questionably gay baristo.  She smothered a laugh. What was that about?

 

It didn’t matter.  Grimmjow was looking more and more like her future.  Her heart fluttered.  

 

“Whatcha grinning about?”

 

“Oh, nothing, just thinking,” she said, sounding altogether too pleased.

 

His fingers brushed against the front of her panties again. “I tried to invite Ulq out, but he’s being a bitch. He probably would have put that one bitch in her place,” Grimmjow said, applying more pressure.

 

“Ooh!” she squeaked.  “Well, I guess that’s for the best; I don’t think he would like to see me like this,” she chuckled.

 

“Why do you say that?” Grimmjow glanced at her before letting a finger trail along the edge of the lace. “Open your legs a bit wider.”

 

She bit her lip and breathed hard in anticipation as she did as he commanded, sinking slightly into the seat to raise her entrance off of it.  “Well, last week I was in the coffee house and leaned over the counter. My boobs kind of ballooned out of my top a bit and his reaction was of the “ew” variety,” she said with a small smirk.  “I thought he was gay but that blonde there took offense when I said something. Guess she has a thing for him.”

 

“Nah, they fucked once. Don’t tell Ulquiorra he can’t do something, or that you can make him do something. He’ll prove you wrong. He has proved several women wrong,” Grimmjow said. His hand slipped under the lace and he gently stroked the skin. “I think Ran told him he couldn’t fuck his way out of a wet paper bag with directions. Apparently, she came back the next day and applied for a job.”

 

Orihime scoffed. “He can’t be that good.  He’s no you,” she said, looking at him with half-lidded eyes and melting into her seat.  Just having his fingers on her skin was making her core thump. “I don’t know how I’m going to behave myself tonight.”

 

“No one says you have to, Hime. Nothing says you have to behave. I’m not going to behave.”

 

She whimpered.  “Grimmjow,” she cooed, reaching over to put her hand over his crotch.

 

He grinned at her before focusing on traffic. “Don’t distract the driver, Princess,” he growled, shifting in his seat.

 

“Sorry,” she murmured, still smiling. “I’ll save it for later, your majesty,” she added, licking her lips.

 

Grimmjow still had his hand between her legs when they pulled into the parking lot of the club.

 

***

 

The club was packed.  Of course, Orihime and her friends, plus Grimmjow, got to skip to the front of the line.  The music was loud and the drinks were served quickly. Orihime straddled one of Grimmjow’s legs and leaned her weight into his hands as she swayed her upper body from side to side in time with the music.  Her head leaned back, exposing a long expanse of neck and chest. She didn’t have a care in the world. She was here with her man and having fun.

 

Grimmjow looked smug as he sat at the table. Watching this pretty young woman practically shaking her ass on him was a turn on. His hands slid up and down her torso as she did it. “Having fun?” he asked in her ear before biting her earlobe.

 

“Yeah, are you?” she breathed, “I’m about ready to screw you right here, though,” she murmured into his ear.

 

“As much as I would love that,” he replied, running two fingers down the bare skin of her back, “I’d much rather fuck you in my car or maybe take you to my place.”

 

“Both?’  she proposed breathlessly.

 

Damn. Damn. Damn. She knew how to drive him crazy and turn him on. “You know how to keep a man happy, don’t you?” he asked, his teeth scraping against her neck.

 

She shrugged.  Experience had taught her otherwise.  “If you’re happy, I’m happy,” she said, one of her small hands gripping his shirt.

 

“I’m happy,” he said. “Sure you don’t want to go out and dance with your friends?”

 

“Do you want to watch?” she asked, backing up a bit to regard him.

 

Watch? He grabbed her by the back of her neck and kissed Orihime hard. “Go have some fun,” Grimmjow replied.

 

She smiled in a daze at him for a moment until she got her head back on straight.  “Alright,” she said dreamily and then got up to join her friends, dancing on the outskirts of the group so Grimmjow could see her.  She had her hands all over herself and sometimes on her friends. She stared Grimmjow down as she bent her knees and lowered her ass nearly to the floor.  She didn’t flinch when one of her girlfriends came up behind her and ran her hands up and down Orihime’s front, trying to get attention. Orihime loved the feeling of being young and alive and sexually aware.  She loved the idea of Grimmjow being turned on while watching her.  

 

She didn’t notice when her friend had left and a man took her place.

 

Grimmjow stood up and glared as Orihime started dancing against another man. What the hell? He walked up to the small woman and scowled. “Hime,” he snapped.

 

The man behind her snarled, “You got a problem, Buddy?”

 

Orihime shrieked, not anticipating a male voice behind her, and leapt towards Grimmjow, grasping the fabric of his shirt and trying to hide herself in his body.  “Who was that?!”

 

His lip curled as he stared down the other man. Scrawny motherfucker slinked off, giving the blue haired man the middle finger. “What the hell was that, more like it,” he replied. “You ready to go?”

 

She nodded, still clinging to him.  “I don’t know. I was dancing with Madison and then you got mad and then Maddie was a man?”  She looked up at him with a grateful pout and said, “Let’s go.”

 

Tch. Those women probably ditched the redhead because Grimmjow had snubbed their ring leader. “Bitches,” he muttered and took her hand.

 

She wrapped her other hand around his arm and squished her tits into it, wanting to feel invisible as she followed him outside.

 

They hadn’t been there very long. Grimmjow’s mood had turned slightly sour. This is why he didn’t do things like this. All he wanted to do was go find that guy and beat his face in. “You okay?” He asked once they reached the car. He had her pinned against the passenger side door.

 

“Better, now. Thanks for the rescue,” she said, obviously ashamed at what had happened.  “Sorry for ruining the night.”

 

“Not your fault,” Grimmjow growled. He leaned down and captured her lips in a hard kiss, his hands sliding up her rib cage to her tits. 

 

She was putty in his hands.  “Grimmjow,” she cooed when he broke the kiss.  “I want you.”

 

“Gonna wait,” he said, breathing heavy against her neck. “I’m gonna have you soaked when I get you in my bed. Take those panties off.”

 

She nodded, licking the side of his neck before looking both ways, and seeing no one, reached under her skirt and pulled the panties past the thickest point of her thighs, then let them fall down to her ankles.  She stepped out of one side, then lifted a high-heeled foot to pick them up off the other, balling them up in one hand. “These are already soaked. I’ve been dancing on you or watching you all night,” she whispered into his ear and bit the lobe.

 

He chuckled before he rubbed her slit, letting his fingers slide against the soft skin. She was wet. “I want it dripping.” Grimmjow pulled back and stared at her before he took a step back to show her he was fully hard.

 

She wet her lips and looked at it.  “I really, really want it, though,” she pouted, looking up at him with wide, round eyes from under her lashes.

 

“I said,” Grimmjow replied and pinned her again making sure his cock was pressed against her body, “I said you are gonna wait. I don’t have anything with me.”

 

“Oh,” she breathed.  “Doesn’t mean I can’t have it,” she said, putting a hand on his ass. “Just means I can’t have it in me.”

 

Hnngh. This chick was going to be the death of him. “Yeah? Doesn’t mean I’m going to give it to you.” He smiled at her before kissing her again. “Get in the car.”

 

“Okay,” she whispered, smiling at him like he was the king.  As far as she was concerned, it was true.

 

As soon as her tiny form was in the car, Grimmjow pounced, pulling her into his lap. He had the seat as far back as it would go to make room for her. Being in the dimly lit back corner of the small lot had an advantage. “I can put it in, just means I can’t stay there,” he murmured to her.

 

She wasn’t sure about that.  “Umm,” she bit her lip. Her resolve was wavering.  “I could just put it in my mouth?” she offered. “It’s tempting, but…” she whimpered.  She really wanted him. She put her arms around his neck and whined.

 

A grin spread over his face. Then his phone vibrated in his pocket. Jesus. He was trying to get laid and someone was disturbing him. He reached into his jeans and pulled out the device. He used his other hand between her legs, stroking the skin there. “What Ulq? I’m bus--Oh. Yeah? Okay. Okay. I’ll get test runs printed up. Nah, one of my interns did it. Maybe, a gentleman doesn’t kiss and tell.” Grimmjow looked at Orihime and flashed his brows. “Yeah. I’ll tell her.”

 

When he hung up, he slipped two fingers into Orihime. “Ulq liked your design but he wants to meet with you to make some changes,” he murmured before tossing his phone into the passenger seat.

 

She gave him an excited, toothy grin. “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!” she squealed.  “Really?” she asked, her eyes closing as his fingers pushed into her.

 

“Enough about work,” he growled, as he fingered her. She was wet and getting wetter with each stroke. “Yeah, this is good. I can’t wait to have you ride me on my bed. I’m going to love hearing you scream my name, Hime.”

 

“Take me home, then” she said, biting his neck softly.

 

When Grimmjow removed his fingers from her, he brought them up to his lips and sucked all the moisture off. Not bad, he thought. He then reached over for his phone and motioned for Orihime to return to the seat. “I’m going to have to keep condoms everywhere with you, aren’t I?”

 

“It would be prudent,” she said under her breath, hitching her skirt back down to cover her ass. She didn’t want to leave a mess on the seat.

 

They pulled into a posh looking apartment building’s garage and Grimmjow parked the car in spot number six. “My lucky number,” he said to Orihime before he got out. He waited for her and led her out of the garage to the door. The lobby was nice. The building was nice. As much as Grimmjow paid a month, it had better be nice. “It’s not your humble abode,” he smiled.

 

“No, it sure isn’t,” she said, her eyes widening as she took in the space.  She was completely overwhelmed. She had been in some McMansions before, back in the ‘burbs, but this was next level.  She had always lived in old, dirty buildings. Everything here was immaculate. It was new. It smelled like freshness, not ashtrays and feet and mice droppings and cat piss. “Wow.”

 

“Yeah? You like?” he asked as he pulled her up the stairs. He lived on the second floor. It wasn’t like it was Ulquiorra’s apartment on the third floor and not forty-five feet in the air. “Apartment six, okay? Can you remember that?”

 

“Got it,” she said with a giggle.  Everything was six. “Six. Spot six, apartment six.  I think I can keep it straight,” she said as her heels tapped up the stairs.

 

When they arrived at the door that had a six on it, Grimmjow unlocked the three locks and let Orihime in, before he entered behind her and relocked the door. “Welcome to Casa Jaegerjaquez, Miss Inoue.”

 

“Thank you, my liege,” she said with a giggle. “This is quite the castle.  You have good taste,” she said, turning slowly and stopping when her eyes landed back on him.  She had good taste, too, she thought, looking him up and down.

 

“Ya thirsty? Hungry? We can take a few minutes to settle down before I have you on your knees in the bedroom.”

 

“Some water would be wise, at least,” she said, walking towards him, smiling at his hospitality. “Do you have company over often?  This place is clean.”

 

“I don’t normally bring anyone home.”

 

She blushed.  Was she special?  She couldn’t ask, it would appear too conceited.  She just looked to the ground, off to the side, and smiled.  “Thanks,” she murmured.

 

Just as he was about to kiss Orihime, his phone rang. Again. Jesus. Fucking. Christ. “I swear to fucking--” It was Ulquiorra again. “Fucking asshole.” Blue eyes looked at Orihime and he sighed. “Kitchen is behind me. Glasses are above the coffee pot. I’ve got to take this. Client and all that.”

 

As Grimmjow walked away and around the corner to the area he considered his office, he answered the call. “What?”

 

“I know you said an intern did this. I’m curious as to which coffee gofer did it,” Ulquiorra asked.

 

“Do you even get the names of the coffee people?”

 

“I know a couple of their names,” the other man answered.

 

“It’s the one I’m fucking and you keep cockblocking me,” Grimmjow growled. “Why is it so important?”

 

He heard the sigh. “It’s called curiosity. I am the client. I deserve to know who did the logo.”

 

“Are you busy Monday?”

 

“Why can’t I know now?”

 

Another low growl was building in his throat. “Because she’s at my house and I’m getting ready to spend the weekend with her,” he stated in a slow and angry way.

 

There was a hint of amusement to the reply. “Wow. Must be serious. Gonna let Nnoitra fuck this up too?”

 

“Fuck off, Ulq. I’ll see you Monday.” Grimmjow hung up and turned the phone off, irritated and in no way an amorous mood now. He sighed and went back to where he left Orihime. A strained smile came over his face as he sat down on a barstool and started untying his boots. “Are you busy on Monday?”

 

“I have a class in the morning and I was planning on going to work after that. Why do you ask?” she said after finishing her glass of water.

 

“I set up a meeting with Ulquiorra on Monday. So when you come into work, I’ll tell him to hop on over to Rotten,” he said and then sighed, running his hands through his hair. “I know I promised you screaming but… he kind of stressed me out. Do you mind watching a movie or something? Talk? Tell each other bad jokes?”

 

He had been too wrapped up in his own distress to notice her hiss in a sharp breath at the news of meeting Ulquiorra on Monday.  “Um, yeah. That sounds good. Do you, um, have something else I could wear?” she asked, looking down at herself. There was no way she was going to hang out with so much of her… hanging out.

 

“Yeah, T-shirt, okay--Wait… You have nothing on under that. Jesus.” He looked down at his lap and shook his head. Just thinking about that was turning him on. “My pants would be huge on you.”

 

“Yeah, probably,” she said with a giggle.  “I could maybe wear your underwear, I mean…” she turned around and gave her ass a tap.  “It holds stuff up,” she said with a slight grimace.

 

Grimmjow stood up and stripped his t-shirt off, letting it fall from his hand. He could forget his problems and his stress for now. “C’mon, let me show you where you’re going to spend the next couple days.”

Chapter Text

 

Orihime’s class was the same as always, but her leg wouldn’t stop jigging on its own.  Her sketches were a mess. She slipped out of class before she even showed her work to her critique partner, citing an upset stomach.  

 

She went home to wash her hands and check her face and change her clothes.  She was nervous. She thought she ought to take a shower since she had been sweating.  If everything went well at this meeting, this would be her first paid art job. Her internship was just a regular job.  This meant something big to her. It meant she was a professional artist.

 

She had to look perfect.  She had to be perfect. She wanted to be taken seriously.

 

So she took a shower.  She blew out her hair to perfect straightness and volume.  She put on soft, natural-looking makeup. She took out a pair of very fitted maroon slacks and a matching sweater with half-sleeves and a low mock turtleneck. She even wore a white belt.  She never wore belts.  It looked respectable and polished without looking try-hard.

 

She looked at herself in the mirror after putting on ballet flats and nodded.  She was ready for this. She grabbed her bag and walked out of her building. This could be the day that eclipsed the art award she got when she was sixteen and her acceptance and scholarship to Northwestern.  A deep breath was required before she walked through the doors of Rotten Brand Management.

 

Grimmjow watched for the woman when she came in. He walked out of his office and said, “Inoue!” before turning back around and taking a deep breath. Kuchiki wanted this settled and done this week if Ulq wasn’t buying a media package. He had a gift bag printed with the logo on it. He had a paper cup with the logo on it. He even had a paper sleeve with the damn eyes on it.

 

To be honest, with as many sketches he had seen of Ulquiorra at Orihime’s apartment, he felt a little threatened. It was daunting to see them there. He had never seen one sketch of himself while looking through her drawings and giving critiques. 

 

He was on the phone with Ulquiorra when Orihime stepped inside. “Yeah, okay, see you in a minute.”

 

When he saw Orihime, he gave her a smile, “Ready for this? Ulquiorra is very critical.”

 

She inhaled slowly and nodded. “I gathered that.  I’m ready.”

 

“Good. Stay here, I’m going to get him.” Grimmjow said and left the office.

 

***

 

Ulquiorra looked bored as he took his hair out of the bun he always put it in while working. He didn’t need the health department on his ass for hair violations. He made sure it looked neat before he left the coffee shop, straightening his tie as he walked out of the door. He looked both ways before he jogged across the street, and got there just as Grimmjow came out of the building. “Grimmjow,” he said.

 

“C’mon. Look, be nice to her. She’s only an intern. She’s not used to people tearing apart her entire creative work. I know she’s sensitive to that even when I go over her artwork,” Grimmjow said as they walked inside. 

 

“This is your girlfriend, for lack of a better term?”

 

“Eh, kind of. I really like her.”

 

He scoffed. The green-eyed man was led past the clusters of desks. Grimmjow entered the office first and Ulquiorra was prepared to see some blonde office bimbo. He didn’t expect to see the person he was curious about. He stood in the doorway, mouth set in an angry line and stared at Grimmjow. 

 

Grimmjow was fucking Orihime Inoue.

 

Why would that make him irrationally angry? Why would that make him want to punch the other man?  He had been fully set on going with that logo, but now? Now Ulquiorra didn’t want it. A deep sigh left him.

 

Orihime saw the look on his face.  He hated it. He absolutely hated it.  The tentative smile on her face fell and she tightened her lips up to keep them from giving away her disappointment.  She slapped on the fakest eye-squinting smile she could. “Nice to finally, um, actually meet you, Mr. Cifer,” she managed, her voice not at all confident.  She should just shut up. She should just crawl into a hole and die. She hoped the makeup she was wearing covered the absolute humiliation she was feeling at this moment.

 

“Out,” Ulquiorra stated and moved so that he wasn’t blocking the doorway.

 

Orihime’s eyes widened and she looked from Ulquiorra to Grimmjow.  Was he talking to her?

 

Grimmjow looked at his friend with a scowl. “You want her to leave? She’s the designer,” he said.

 

“Yes, I want her to leave.”

 

Grimmjow’s gaze slid from Ulquiorra over to Orihime. He gave a slight nod and a tiny, tiny smile, trying to tell her it would be alright. 

 

She nodded back and gave Ulquiorra the same small nod she always did, with a shadow of the smile she usually gave him.  Her chin wavered this time, though. After she cleared the door she made her way to the ladies room quickly and locked herself into a toilet stall, leaning against the door, trying desperately not to sob out loud as she used toilet paper to dab her eyes.  She was a failure.

 

As soon as Ulquiorra closed the door he looked at Grimmjow. “You’re fucking her?” he snapped. He wasn’t sure where this irritation was coming from. 

 

“Does it matter? You’ve never cared about who I’ve hooked up with before,” Grimmjow answered.

 

“Tch. You could have told me that she was working on this. I could have made arrangements for this project to be transferred to some other agency or firm. Maybe Byakuya would have given it to someone more responsible!” Ulquiorra said.

 

Grimmjow’s face became confused. “What the hell is your issue? What the--Oh, I get it. Dude, I’ve been fucking her for a while. Probably within the first week of her starting here. Jealous? Is that it? You acted this way when I was fucking Sung-Sun and you were talking to her.”

 

There was another scoff. Ulquiorra turned his face away from Grimmjow, unwilling to let him see his expression. He knew his eyes would give everything away. He was not jealous. There was something about Orihime Inoue that he didn’t like. That is what he told himself. “Shut up, Grimmjow.”

 

“Nah, you want to act all high and mighty and live a fucking commoner’s life. You don’t have to work. You don’t have to do shit. You’re sitting on--”

 

“I SAID SHUT THE FUCK UP!”

 

The room was silent after Ulquiorra yelled. Shit. He had never had an outburst like that.

 

“Heh,” Grimmjow said, a short chuckle leaving his mouth. “Really? I bet you’ve never said two words to her, have you? But I bet you’ve given her free coffee, right? You won’t talk to women but you think these little drinks you give them will make them swoon over you, huh?”

 

Ulquiorra straightened his spine. “I will inform Byakuya that I no longer require your services at this moment, and if I decide to pursue this idea again I will choose someone else.”

 

“Go ahead Ulquiorra. You’re just pissed off,” Grimmjow said. “What? Poor little orphan boy who spent time in prison has a tiny crush on a woman who wouldn’t think twice about him? Pathetic. She wouldn’t give you the time of day, you know. You’re not her type.”

 

The green-eyed man said nothing. His chin tipped slightly up. He turned on his heel and opened the glass door, slamming it behind him. Byakuya Kuchiki walked over to him while Ulquiorra waved him off. If he could have slammed the door to Rotten Brand Management’s entrance, he would have done so. 

 

As soon as he was back in his coffee shop, his hair was pulled back into a messy bun and he snapped at anyone who got in his way. He had to press down those feelings that were surfacing. 

 

***

 

Grimmjow knew he blew it. He knew he did. Ulquiorra was pissed off. Grimmjow pressed his buttons and now he was getting his ass ripped by his boss because he hadn’t closed the deal. He also blamed it on Grimm’s inappropriate behavior around the intern. 

 

“She’s my girlfriend,” he said.

 

It didn’t matter to Kuchiki. There was a time and a place for everything and fucking interns on every surface that Grimmjow had access to wasn’t appropriate. His behavior just caused them to lose a client. It didn’t matter if that client was a friend or not.

 

When he got back to his office, he texted Orihime.

 

- You okay?

 

She blew her nose and read his message.  Was she okay? No. Was it his fault? No. She sucked.  She had no right to be designing logos for people’s businesses.  He didn’t need to be burdened with her feelings. She was worthless anyway.  

 

- Um, yeah, I’ll be okay.  Are you? Did I get you in trouble?

 

Grimmjow shook his head as he paced his office. He wasn’t in trouble. She wasn’t in trouble. He sighed. He knew what it was. Grimmjow got jealous and territorial easily. It wasn’t Orihime’s fault that this happened.

 

- I’m gonna cut out early. Wanna come with me? 

 

That sounded like the only logical thing to do.

 

- Yes.  I’ll meet you outside.  I don’t want anyone to see me so I’ll go through the back stairwell.  Can you grab my purse? It’s in your office.

 

Grimmjow saw her purse. He used the computer program that tracked the employees’ hours and clicked logout. He looked at her purse again. He knew he was right about Ulquiorra. The man had been pissy and acted the same way when Grimmjow told him he was fucking the last quiet woman.

 

Did his friend have a crush on Orihime?

 

He knew how the guy operated. He’d known him since their freshman year of high school. He’d seen it a handful of times. Ulquiorra had a strange thought process when it came to relationships and people.

 

- Yeah, go to my car.

 

He grabbed the bag and kept his head down as he traversed the office floor. No one stopped him as he exited the building. As he went around the corner of the building, he saw Orihime standing beside his car. She looked like she had been crying. 

 

Dammit.

 

“Princess,” he said, coming up to her and wrapping his arms around her shoulders. “I got your purse.”

 

“Thank you,” she squeaked, letting her body sink into his and holding him tightly.  She didn’t deserve him, but she wasn’t going to let him go if he wanted her.

 

“It’s okay. Ulq’s just got a hair up his ass today. He’ll come around,” Grimmjow said, rubbing her back. “He’s a private person and was probably shocked that you took time to sketch out his eyes like that.”

 

Orihime nodded into his chest.  What Grimmjow said actually sounded believable.  “I should have never used him as a model. I should have just drawn a sad coffee bean,” she said, still hiccuping a bit.

 

Grimmjow kissed the top of her head. “Do that next time. He’ll come back in,” he told her. “Now, I’m in the mood for waffles, do you like waffles? Wanna go get some breakfast for lunch with me? Afterwards we can go to your place or mine and cuddle for a bit,” he suggested.

 

“Yes, please.”

 

***

 

After eating they ended up at her place. Grimmjow kissed her slowly as soon as the door was closed. “You did great today, Hime. You acted professionally. If you’re going into this business, you’re going to have difficult clients, okay?”

 

She nodded and returned the kiss. “Thank you.  I’m glad you were there today. I don’t think I would have been able to do it alone.”

 

Grimmjow cupped her jaw and tilted her face up to him. Again he kissed her slowly and tenderly, letting their lips brush together and linger. He guided her over to the bed and made her sit down before he stepped back. His dress shoes came off. He stuffed the black socks inside of them. His suit jacket came off and he draped this over Orihime’s desk chair. He looked at her as he unfastened the cuffs of his white and dove gray striped shirt, then started unbuttoning the front of it. She probably expected him to take it off but he didn’t, only untucked it from the trousers to his suit.

 

He knelt down in front of her and placed a kiss on each of her cloth covered knees. Then he looked up at her. “You’ve got this, if you want it.”

 

Her heart pounded.  What was he talking about?  “This?” she asked, putting her hands on his.

 

There was a flash of confusion that went through his brain. He wasn’t sure what she was talking about. He had been talking about the whole art career thing. It seemed like she was talking about something different. He gave a nod anyway. “Stand up so we can get these clothes off you,” he replied, standing and then pulling her to her feet.

 

Oh. Oh. Oh. She tried not to let her heart pound out of her chest as she stood.  What did this mean? It seemed like this was official now. They were a couple.  She smiled a breathtaking smile at him and pulled her sweater up and over her head.

 

Grimmjow finally stripped off the dress shirt and laid it over the suit jacket. He watched as she undressed, admiring how her hips wiggled as she lowered the pants she wore. When she stood in front of him naked he said, “Sit on the edge of the bed. I’m going to do something to you that I only do to people who deserve it. I think you deserve it.”

 

Curiosity piqued, she did as he said, sitting on the very edge of the bed, balancing most of her weight on the balls of her feet.  “Like this?” she asked, looking up at him innocently.

 

He gave a nod and nudged her thighs apart more as he knelt between them, placing small kisses on her stomach and cupping her tits. He rubbed his face all over her breasts and his tongue lapped at her nipples, bringing them to peaks. “Lay back if you want, and bring your knees up,” he murmured, trailing a hand down her torso.

 

She did lie back, and she brought her heels to the edge of the bed, grasping her knees to take some stress off of her back.  She watched him carefully. She had no idea what she was in for.

 

He kissed her thighs before he looked at what he was presented with. It was a pretty, pretty picture. His thumbs pressed on either side of her slit and he moved them in a slow circle. As the deep pink skin revealed itself, he adjusted himself so that he was closer to her and his goal. Grimmjow bit his lip as his fingers slid down that slick skin. He teased her opening, dipping his fingers into her core with shallow movements. He kept glancing at her to see if he could gauge her reaction.

 

She gasped softly when his fingers sank into her, her feet rising off the edge of the bed as she pulled on her knees with one hand, the other one sinking into the flesh of her own tit as she hummed.  She had closed her eyes. From her vantage point, and with her breasts in the way, she couldn’t see much of what was going on, anyway.

 

Well that was something, he thought. As his face moved closer to her body, Grimmjow used his fingers to explore her deeper. When he was far enough in, he swiped his tongue up her slit, letting the flavor of her body seep into his mouth. He did this several times as he moved his fingers in and out of her.

 

Her throat constricted and a tight, high-pitched sound came out of her nose. Her core clenched around his fingers at the first contact of his tongue.  This was new. Uryu had never done this. She was having a hard time dealing with it. She didn’t know what do to with herself. Her legs shook and her ass squeezed.  This intensity was delicious, but agonizing. “Grimm,” she cried desperately.

 

He hummed against her flesh, mouth and tongue working her clit. He only lifted his mouth to ask, “What is it Orihime?” before he pressed his mouth back to her. He was enjoying doing this, when he normally didn’t like it. It seemed like Orihime was having a life changing experience.

 

“Oh god,” was all she could say. “Oh, god,” she repeated, this time more obviously in the throes of near-bliss.  Despite her passion, her voice remained velvety soft and still sweet. There was never anything vulgar or aggressive about her like this.  The unassuming, sweet, flighty persona she showed everyone everyday was really who she was, through and through. Her actions now, at his mercy, and feeling like her blood was on fire, only drove that point home.

 

His fingers curled slightly inside of her and he sped up both the movements of his tongue and hand. It seemed like she needed this today, instead of just being pounded into multiple orgasms.  

 

It was like a locomotive barreling down on her.  Her breath hitched once, and again, and soon she was gasping for breath and bearing down on a mind-shattering orgasm, her core attempting to suck his fingers dry and her voice rasping noisy, desperate inhalations.  Her legs trembled as she fell apart in his mouth, and when she couldn’t take it anymore she cried, “Grimm! Grimm, please!”

 

The blue-haired man didn’t stop then, not until her legs closed around his head like a vice. It was only then that he pulled back and grinned, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “Heh, what’s wrong?”

 

She mumbled something unintelligible, ending it with a long, soft whine.  “I-- I--” she took a few more steadying breaths. “I’m dead.”

 

His smirk got bigger as he stood up and quickly undid the belt around his waist and trousers. Grimmjow kept the white, trunk style boxer briefs on as he let his pants fall to the floor before he picked those up and laid them on top the rest of his clothing on her desk chair. “Scoot, I wanna lay down.”

 

It was on her mind to protest that she wanted to return the favor, but she knew she would suck at it right now, no pun intended.  She gingerly lowered her legs down and rolled around until there was enough space for him.

 

“You act like you’ve never had someone’s face buried in you,” he murmured, pulling her close to him.

 

She buried her nose into his chest and breathed deeply.  He smelled like comfort and strength to her. And clean sheets. “I haven’t,” she said, wrapping an arm around his middle and throwing a leg over his.

 

Fuck. Well he was just racking up all kinds of firsts from her. “You’re welcome, I guess. I hope the first time was everything you expected it to be,” he laughed.

 

“Uh… yeah.  Thank you, for that,” she said, giggling a bit.  “You keep surprising me in a lot of good ways,” she murmured, a finger trailing down from the hollow of his throat to his heart, where she flattened her palm out to feel the beats.

 

Shit. Grimmjow frowned at her hand and then looked at the ceiling. This wasn’t supposed to happen. This was supposed to be fun, but he could feel himself at the start of catching feelings for this redheaded woman. 

 

The last time he felt like this, Nnoitra fucked everything up. Grimmjow couldn’t look at Nel without acting like a prick. Nah, Orihime wasn’t like that. She was a good girl with a level head on her shoulders. Sure, she lived in la-la land, in her own bubble, but it made her happy. She barely spoke to anyone when they went out. He noticed her ways.

 

In a huge group, she seemed to just blend in. She only stood out when she was on her own. “Hime? Are you okay now?”

 

“I’m better than okay; I’m with you,” she said and kissed his chest.  “Are you still okay?”

 

Dammit. Yeah. He was definitely standing with a net trying to catch all the feelings for her. “I’ve been okay. Let’s get a nap and we can do something.”

 

***

 

She woke up first.  She silently padded to the restroom and took care of business and cleaned herself off.  She went back to the other room and slipped into a cheap silk robe that she had hanging on a hook and looked at the person she was now considering her boyfriend.  He looked so peaceful lying there. She wanted to capture it.

 

As silently as she could, she pulled a wooden stool to the side of the bed, a few feet away.  She took out a sketch pad and a pencil and began to sketch him. She got the outline of his face on the pillow with his arm curled under it.  She got the lines of the muscles in his back as he lay on his stomach, the covers low on his hips. She got the way one of his knees jutted out to the side.  Then she started on his features. She felt warm, relaxed, and comfortable. She didn’t notice when he woke up.

 

“Take a picture, it might remain in this position longer than I can,” he murmured, his blue eyes opening and staring at her.

 

“Oh!” she peeped, smiling at him.  She sighed and relaxed her posture again, giving him a mildly scolding shake of her head, but saying nothing.

 

She didn’t want to say anything.  Just beyond that warm expression lay a cold feeling pulling at her chest from behind her.  Why did she feel guilty? Oh. Right. Coffee shop guy. The one who hated her guts. He told her to take a picture on more than one occasion.

 

And, as if to add insult to injury, as she closed her sketchpad, a loose piece of paper with a sketch of the dark-haired baristo himself fell out.  “Jesus,” she muttered under her breath, picking up the sketch and tossing it onto the desk beside her a bit carelessly. Ulquiorra Cifer had done his best to ruin her day.  Grimmjow had fixed it for her. She wouldn’t let his efforts go to waste. She stretched. “Did you have a nice rest?”

 

He had seen the sketch. Grimmjow rolled over onto his back and stared at Orihime for a moment. “You two have a thing or something?” he asked.

 

“Who two?” she asked, smiling and tilting her head in confusion.

 

“You and Ulquiorra,” he said. Grimmjow pushed himself up and gazed at Orihime with a neutral expression. “He acted like I stole you away from him or something.”

 

Orihime pulled her head back a bit and frowned in confusion.  “Why would he act like that? He basically treats me like a disease.  I’m pretty sure he hates me. Usually.” She opened the sketchpad again and showed him what she had just been working on.  “I had sketched him because I wanted to use his face in the logo design. Most people are vain,” she said as if that explained everything.

 

“Hmmm, I look damn good,” Grimmjow smiled. “No one knows Ulquiorra owns the place. He’s a normal worker; the morning manager. It’s probably why he wigged out. I think when he comes back, you should do either a sad coffee bean or a sad coffee cup.”

 

“That’s what I was going for!” she said in enthusiastic solidarity.  “I thought that he was coffee and sadness.  I sat there and looked at a plain white empty paper cup and thought, yeah, this cup is the guy.  The guy is the cup. It’s sad. It’s coffee. It’s eyebrows and teal ties,” she said, laughing at the absurdity.

 

Grimmjow smirked at that. “I just wanted to know if you two had something and I didn’t know about it. I’d want to know things, like who is better and all that shit. I’m competitive. I need to win.”

 

“Well, there’s no competition when only one person is playing, so you can relax, alright?” she said in a fond voice before putting the pad down and going to sit next to him.  She put her hand on his and threaded her fingers between his. “I could get used to this, you know,” she murmured.

 

“It’s nice,” he replied. It was nice. Grimmjow shook his head at himself. “It’s something we can ease into.”

 

***

 

Ulquiorra sat at the bar of Starrk’s and stared at the glass in front of him. Five whiskeys had gone down and now he was nursing number six. Huff. Six. Fucking Grimmjow’s favorite number for some fucking reason. Dumbass. He’d always been a dumbass.

 

If Ulquiorra was interested in someone, Grimmjow took over and seduced her. It just happened. Usually when there was a relationship established, that was when Nnoitra fucked Grimmjow over. Would it happen this time?

 

Who knew.

 

“Ulq, want another or you good?”

 

“Absinthe,” he said.

 

Nnoitra looked at the green-eyed man and raised his eyebrow, staring at him from his good eye. “You’re gonna man up and get absinthe?”

 

“Yeah, give me a fucking cocktail.”

 

Nnoitra looked at Starrk who just shrugged. 

 

Ulquiorra saw it. “I’m a grown man. I think I can handle it. The limit is what? Three?”

 

The tallest man nodded. “Okay, one absinthe cocktail coming up.”

 

The green-eyed man watched with a stern expression as Nnoitra poured water over the sugarcube with the slotted spoon. It was not something he usually paid attention to, how his friend mixed the drinks that he made. Not that Starrk’s had much of a menu, and their food selection was usually smaller than the booze. The green drink was placed in front of him. 

 

He stared at it.

 

“What’s going on with you Ulq? You never drink this much,” Nnoitra asked. 

 

“Grimmjow. Grimmjow and his cocky attitude, his stupid ability to charm anyone out of their fucking underwear, his dumbass blue fucking hair...” Ulquiorra grabbed the drink and drained the glass dry. Wow. That was like several punches to the face. 

 

“You’re supposed to sip it, idiot,” Nnoitra said. “Another?”

 

“Give me a minute,” Ulquiorra replied, laying his head on the bar. “There was an intern over at RBM and she kept looking at me. I gave her coffee.”

 

“Did ya fuck her or something? I’m not following you man.”

 

“Nope. Grimmjow is. She’s got red hair and these eyes that I think could find out all my secrets. She’s got this--and that smile… She’s quiet, not like those loud ass pumpkin spice ordering dumbasses,” Ulquiorra muttered. He lifted his head and looked at his other friend that knew him all the way since freshman year of high school. “I could have gotten the--I could have talked to her. No, Grimmjow has to stick his dick in everything then brag about it like he’s the only one who knows how to fuck. I know how to fuck. I’ve got the bitches that I have dicked coming back and begging me to do it again. He can go fuck himself.”

 

Nnoitra blinked several times before he grabbed the glass that Ulquiorra’s cocktail had been in. A pale hand shot out and grabbed his wrist. “Give me another,” Ulquiorra said.

 

“You sure?”

 

“I’ll tip you a hundred fucking dollars, just get me another one!”

 

When Starrk had to call Rangiku, after Ulquiorra fell off the barstool after his third green cocktail, Nnoitra stood back and watched the man. It wasn’t like Ulquiorra to lose control of himself. He had a crush on some stupid office slut. Big deal. The bigger deal was the news Ulquiorra told him. So, Grimmjow had a woman. It explained why he wasn’t coming in after work. The man used to be like clockwork. In the bar at seven o’clock, have a glass or two, bitch about people, maybe pick up some young woman who was dumb enough to come through the door, and then leave.  

 

He decided to text Grimmjow.

 

- Ulquiorra tells me that congratulations are in order. Is it that redhead you bought the 75 for? Ya should come in and visit.

 

Yeah, Nnoitra knew he was stirring the shitpot, but he was bored with Nel, and Tier pretty much kept him from preying on anyone who had a just-turned-twenty-one look and tits.  

 

***

 

Grimmjow looked at the text as he lay next to Orihime in her bed. Nah, he knew what Nnoitra was up to. He was trying to get the lay of the land. And Ulquiorra saying congratulations? Pfffft. That was a load of horseshit. He texted the guy back.

 

- Maybe. Work hectic. TTYL.

 

***

 

Hangover of the century? Check.

 

Feeling like death? Sure.

 

Listening to the damn bottled blonde hens clucking like mindless, idiotic animals? Absolutely. 

 

It was a week after his foray into Starrk’s and he had purchased a bottle of absinthe for his apartment. The stuff was good, and he was feeling stressed out last night for some reason, so he knocked back three of them. His head was pounding this morning. He stood at the register and sighed as he took some babywearing mom’s order for a large hazelnut/eggnog coffee with heavy cream. This woman wanted it almost the color of a latte.

 

This bitch was a Karen or Sue or whoever the woman was that ordered foamed milk from RBM. He tried to ignore the building across the street. He tried to ignore the flash of copper and blue hair that he saw going out of the building when it hit six. 

 

Funny… That same copper color was headed in the front door of Coffee & Sadness.

 

Oh. Oh. OH .

Chapter Text

“Orihime.  I want my non-coffee latte.  I want it from that place across the street, not the shit-inducing crap factory you’ve been going to all week.” That was from Karen.  She was classy.

 

“While you’re at it, can I get a chai latte without any milk?” It wasn’t really a request from Susan, and it wasn’t really a real drink order.  She wanted fucking tea. TEA. IT’S NOT A LATTE WITHOUT MILK, SUSAN!

 

Orihime sighed and smiled.  “Certainly.”

 

By the time she left the building, she had six different people’s orders, including Grimmjow’s.  They were excited that she was going back to C&S. Well, Grimmjow wasn’t super excited, but she understood why, or so she thought. The owner had treated her like crap last week.

 

But she was a big girl.  She’d faced rejection before.  She knew how to get over it, no matter how bitter and painful the initial sting was.  So, when she walked through the glass doors of Coffee & Sadness and caught the owner’s eye, she smiled at him.  She nodded and smiled at him again as their gazes crossed while she was waiting in line. It wasn’t like she was searching him out or anything, she just like observing things.

 

Of course. Just his luck. He felt like hell, and probably looked like hell, and she was back. The reprieve had been nice. When she got to the counter, Ulquiorra stared at Orihime. “Yeah?”

 

Okay, so he was still unhappy with her and her work.  Oh well, can’t please everyone. “I’m back,” she said like the guy from The Shining, except in her soft, dulcet timbre.  “Karen and Susan are back at it. We need a scalded milk and a chai latte with no milk, a black coffee with two sugars, a cappuccino, a rose tea, a latte with an extra shot of espresso and bourbon flavor, an iced coffee, and…” she paused as she looked up from her list and into his eyes.  “Caramel apple latte for me, please.”

 

He hadn’t even begun to tap the order into the screen. He couldn’t wrap his head around the first two cups. “I wonder if Karen or Susan sit at home, knitting and drinking their hot milk at night,” he replied. Ulquiorra pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. “A scalded milk. A chai tea. Black coffee two sugars. Cappuccino. Rose tea. Latte with an extra shot of espresso and bourbon, aka fuckface’s order. Iced coffee. Caramel apple latte. Right?”

 

She laughed at his commentary.  She even laughed about the thing he said about Grimmjow.  Her boyfriend described his friend as scathing, and this fell in line with what she had been told to expect.  “That’s right,” she said, giving him soft eyes. Then she muttered quietly, “Karen and Susan have their tin foil hats and their Fox Mulder figurines with them while they knit and try to unravel the coffee ordering conspiracies that flummox the rest of us.”

 

Just the side of his mouth came up and Ulquiorra gave her the total. The RBM coffee credit card was swiped, and he handed it back as soon as the stickers started printing. The easiest orders were done first, and even though he knew Grimmjow wanted his drink in a large cup, Ulquiorra put it in a medium cup. He did, however, give Orihime a large caramel apple latte. When he had the drinks in two carriers, he brought them over to her and set them down on the counter. “Heads up, next month it’s peanut butter or maple but if you want the caramel apple latte, just let me know,” Ulquiorra commented before he went back to the register.

 

Orihime stood there for a moment, watching him.  She realized she missed him. That was weird. Why would she miss the guy who tore her heart out of her chest and stomped on it?  Well, he was funny.  There was no one in line at the register, so she decided to go over there again.

 

“Hey,” she said, not much louder than a whisper.

 

He glanced at her. “Did I get something wrong? I’m a bit hungover, but I’m sure I got it all right. Tell Karen and Susan to kiss my ass though,” he stated.

 

Orihime laughed.  “I’m sure if they ever brought their too-good-for-errands asses in here themselves and took a look at you, they’d love to,” she laughed at herself then. “Actually, I just wanted to apologize.  I realize I should have asked before sketching you and plopping your face onto promotional material. It was unprofessional. Rookie mistake. Sorry I made you waste your time,” she said, looking down at the countertop and blushing before rapping it once with her knuckles and looking back at him with a red face and only slightly pinched eyes.

 

She was apologizing although he’d been a dick? Where was the woman who wouldn’t give him the time of day? Why was she doing this? Was it just to torture him more and remind him what a pathetic loser he was? “What other ideas did you have for a logo?” He asked.

 

No. No. That’s not what he wanted to say. He meant to tell her that it had been rude of her to do that. So he tried again. “Also I don’t do old or crazy women,” he said a moment later.

 

Her head tilted to the side and that pinched expression in her eyes evaporated as she smiled at him fondly.  “You and me both, mister,” she said and laughed. “Well, the only other ideas were a sad coffee bean or a sad cup, but I kind of got stuck on your eyes and put all my eggs in that basket. Looks like when I aim wrong, I commit and really go for it.”

 

“Why my eyes? They’re just… eyes...”

 

“Correction, they are coffee and sadness eyes,” she said playfully, tipping her head a bit towards him.

 

“There’s this blog I follow that has the same name as the shop. They would disagree with you on that. They think they have the market cornered on what is coffee and sadness. I’ve offered to buy it from them and I always get the same reply. So, maybe you should find the person who owns coffeeandsadness.com and draw their eyes,” Ulquiorra said, his face smoothing out into his passive expression that he wore most of the time when dealing with people.

 

She covered her eyes with a hand for a moment and nodded, grinning foolishly while he spoke.  “I happen to have drawn her eyes. They’re not that special, to be honest,” she said, trying not to laugh or squeal.  This was a bit too uncanny. “I’ll let her know that she should keep her damn trap shut, though. Thanks for the tip about… About the caramel apple…” She looked back at his face.  What the hell was she doing, rambling on like this? She started walking sideways toward where she had left her order, very slowly.

 

“It’s a woman? Can you tell her I want her instagram name too? Also… Peanut butter hot chocolate… It’s going to be a big hit,” Ulquiorra said as he watched her.

 

She nodded with a wide, closed mouth smile.  The apples of her cheeks glowed red and stretched under the pressure.  “I’ll tell her. Also, I’ll be back for that hot chocolate.”

 

“I’m only giving you free coffee twice a week.”

 

***

 

9.30.19

Evanston, IL, Coffee & Sadness: Flavor of the Month Sneak Peak

I heard a rumor that there might be maple and/or peanut butter on special at C&S starting in October.  Start lining up now. I know I will be.

On an unrelated note, October brings thoughts of earlier sunsets, colder weather, and Halloween.  Someone cheeky I know suggested a pregnant nun costume. I’m not sure about that. I’m more of a Frankenstein’s bride or derpy pumpkin girl, myself.

Today’s inspiration was sitting on my windowsill.  I’m sure he likes his coffee with cinnamon and a touch of sadness, too.

Today’s playlist: There is a Light that Never Goes Out - The Smiths.  Just Life Heaven - The Cure. Here Comes the Rain Again - The Eurythmics.

 

There.  Last blog post of the month was up.  She had done a cute sketch of a chubby sparrow on her windowsill with a scarf on and a tiny cup of steaming coffee in front of it.  It was fanciful and lighthearted, but she had managed to stuff a pinch of sadness into its mostly angry-looking beady little eyes.

 

She wasn’t worried about the pregnant nun comment.  She was sure he wouldn’t remember his off the cuff remark.  She wore her favorite jeans and a soft, oatmeal-colored sweater and made her way to school, stopping for coffee on the way.

 

She opened the door and got into line quietly, rubbing her arms.  It was windy today. Cold. She should have worn a jacket, too. Oh well.

 

Ulquiorra was in the office and looking at the blogpost. Rangiku was standing there beside him. “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.”

 

“What now?”

 

“Nothing. I’m going to recycle a playlist. This is--Urgh. I probably look so fucking stupid,” he said before picking one of the saved lists on the laptop. He came out of the office to help out around the counter and saw Orihime.

 

She was the one behind coffeeandsadness.com. She had to be. He had only made the pregnant nun comment to her. It wasn’t like he talked to all of his customers. He took their orders and that was it. There were seven pumpkin spice lattes to make before Ulquiorra moved Jack to making orders and Orihime got to the register. He looked at her when she stepped up. “Morning,” he muttered. 

 

It didn’t matter if she was behind it. She told him she wouldn’t sell it to him. He didn’t need to be friendly with her either. She was Grimmjow’s woman or whatever.

 

“Hi,” she said, only slightly guarded at his coldness.  “Um, medium coffee, please. Black.”

 

Ulquiorra looked at her and nodded, trying to keep his eyes on her face, but they kept glancing at her cleavage and collarbones. “Two dollars,” he replied. She handed over the money and he turned around to grab a cup and filled it up. He took it to the other end of the counter so that he could put a lid on the cup. 

 

The pumpkin spice lattes were gone, so he waited for Orihime.

 

She watched him for a moment.  Usually he would give her her order at the register.  After a couple of seconds she followed him to the pick-up spot and stood against it. 

 

“You, uh, you look nice today,” he said as he slid the coffee across the counter.

 

The guarded look on her face disappeared, replaced by a pink glow and apply cheeks, and a slightly shy expression.  “Oh, um, thanks,” she said, with a puff of air at the end. “Um, so do you.”

 

He gave a weak laugh. “I look how I normally do, without the hangover this time,” Ulquiorra replied. He wanted to confront her about the blog but he found himself losing courage. “Enjoy.”

 

She made eye contact with him and kind of fell into it, going to that dreamy, contemplative place she was prone to visit without warning.  Her head slowly went to the side, and she found herself smiling at him. “I do,” she murmured after a moment.

 

“You do?”

 

She blinked, her eyes widening before she looked down at the cup in her hands.  “I enjoy it,” she said, then shook her head a bit. “I’ll see you, Ulquiorra,” she said, taking a step back from the counter.  Her face was red again. What was she even thinking about? What kind of weirdo talks about how they enjoy their coffee-buying ritual?

 

Ulquiorra watched her go a frown on his face. He couldn’t believe he just flirted with Grimmjow’s girlfriend.  What would possess him to do such a thing? Maybe this was karma coming back to Grimmjow. Maybe Ulquiorra could be like Batman and be a playboy. 

 

He wouldn’t. Yeah, he had money. He wasn’t flashy with it. He didn’t have cars out the ass or multiple houses. He had his business and that was it. Sure, he invested in Starrk’s business, but that was to help a friend, Ulquiorra didn’t expect any turn around from that, though. 

 

He also wasn’t one to entertain multiple people. He barely entertained one person for longer than twenty-four hours.

 

Ulquiorra told Rangiku to take over for him. He’d be back.

 

***

 

Grimmjow looked at Ulquiorra, his lips set in a thin line. “You want to her to design two more logos even though you hated the first one?”

 

“Grimmjow, you’ve known me for years. I felt… threatened. If she could sketch my eyes and put that much detail into them, then I was not guarding myself like I should. No one needs to know how vulnerable I can be,” Ulquiorra replied.

 

“I’ll put Julie on it,” Grimmjow said and began typing something up. He didn’t know what was up with Ulquiorra, but something seemed off. Why else would he come into Rotten and ask for an audience with him?

 

“I want Orihime.”

 

The blue-haired man’s back stiffened. His eyes narrowed. He turned his head slightly to look at the other man. “What? What did you just say?”

 

“I want Orihime… To work on the design,” Ulquiorra said, in a careful way.

 

“Ah, I thought...”

 

“I don’t stick my dick in people you and Nnoitra have already fucked. I made that promise to myself a long time ago,” came the reply.

 

Grimmjow visibly relaxed at that. There was nothing threatening his relationship with the redhead. “I’ll offer it to her, but if she refuses the job, I’ll put someone else on it.”

 

The dark-haired man nodded before he left and Grimmjow leaned back, wondering what was going through Ulquiorra’s mind. It didn’t matter, Orihime wouldn’t take the job. She still seemed wounded about his rejection of her first design. He decided to text her anyway.

 

- Morning gorgeous. Cifer just came over and asked if you’d design him two more logos. Up for it? If not I can hand it off to someone else. LMK.

 

Orihime took a break between classes and checked her messages.  A huge grin came over her face when she saw who it was from. The grin subsided into something more curious when she read the message.

 

- Wow, that’s a surprise.  I’m up for it. I’d like the chance to redeem myself.  Good morning to you too, handsome. <3

 

His eyebrow rose as he read her words. Her little emojis were cute. He gave a chuckle before replying. 

 

- Are you sure? You don’t need to subject yourself to Ulq. Nothing says you have to do this. I don’t want him tearing you down again. I missed you last night. You working today?

 

Swoon.  Gack. Swoon.  She could barely contain the squeal that wanted to come out.  

 

- I miss you too.  I have one more class, then I’ll be there.  Thanks for worrying about me. <3 I’d rather replace that feeling of failure with one of success, if it’s possible, though.

 

The smirk on his face grew wider.

 

- Come straight to my office. I have something I wanna reprimand you for ;) 

She laughed.

 

- Ninety minutes.  I’ll be there.

 

***

 

Ninety minutes later, she was at his office door, knocking on the frame as always.  “Mr. Jaegerjaquez? You wanted to see me?”

 

Grimmjow had been busy in that time from her last text until now. He told Mr. Kuchiki about Ulquiorra wanting another design. The man said that was good, but there was a slight threat that if Grimmjow didn’t deliver there would be dire consequences. He wrote another work order for the request and sent it to Orihime’s company email. 

 

If she was going to do this, might as well make it legit.

 

“Come in, Inoue. Close the door,” he said, pushing himself back from the desk. He remained sitting there as she did as he said.

 

After she closed the door, she walked to the side of his desk and smiled at him.  “So, am I in trouble?” she asked, referencing his text from earlier.

 

“Maybe. Come here,” he said pulling her so that she was in his lap. Grimmjow buried his face in her neck, breathing against her ear. His hands came up to trail between her breasts. “You look good today. I like this.”

 

She smiled and kissed his cheek. “Thank you, I hoped you’d like it,” she said.  She wrapped her arms around his neck. She wanted to crawl under his skin. She wanted to always be with him.  

 

Shit.  She wanted to tell him she loved him.  Her heart ached a bit and her arms tightened.  She would never be the one to say it first, though. 

 

Grimmjow let his head dip down to place a small kiss on her collarbone and then another at the start of her cleavage. “Classes tomorrow?” he asked when he straightened his head.

 

She couldn’t stop herself.  She kissed him on the mouth, closing her eyes and pushing into it, breathing his breath into her lungs.  One of her hands found his face and she nestled his jaw into it and kissed him again, before answering, “Just one, but I could blow it off for you.”

 

“Now, now, Princess. Just because it’s your senior year doesn’t mean you can fuck off. You need to graduate,”  Grimmjow purred. 

 

“I know, but…” she whined softly, running her fingers through his hair.  “Why did you ask?”

 

He chuckled. “Maybe I wanna spend the night with you,” he replied. Grimmjow’s hand went to the bottom of her sweater, slipping underneath and touching her stomach with teasing fingers. “Or have you in my bed again.”

 

“Good,” she purred. “I want to go home with you,” she said.  It made her feel a lot more secure in herself and in their relationship because he said things to her like this.  It made her feel like she didn’t have to worry about any of the insignificant details in life.

 

“I want you to go over to Ulq’s shop and sit down and talk with him about what he wants. You need to interact with the client and find out what they envision. I should have had you do that before you started before. This time we’re going to do it right,” Grimmjow said as he held her.

 

She nodded.  “I apologized to him already. Hopefully that will smooth the waters a bit,” she said, resolving to herself that this was a good idea.

 

He hummed. “You should wear a skirt. It gives me better access.” Grimmjow was hoping to seduce her. A blowjob sounded great right now.

 

“It’s getting chilly for skirts,” Orihime replied.  “Besides, I thought you were a visual guy. You don’t get much more visual than these jeans,” she said, standing up off his lap and turning around.  Her jeans were almost painted on, and she lifted the bottom of her wrap sweater up to show him all the way to the bare skin on her waist.

 

He let out a sharp growl. “I can’t fuck you while everyone is here, Orihime. You know this, but damn.” His palms slid down her ribcage and her waist to her hips. “Damn. Damn. Damn.”

 

She loved this. She loved teasing him and making him want her.  He never disappointed her with his reactions, either. “What is it, Baby?  You need some help with something?” she asked, bending over slightly and letting her ass sway a bit.

 

There was a crack as Grimmjow brought his hand down on her ass. “I might take an hour lunch just to satisfy my need,” he said in a lust-filled voice. “I really want to see you suck my cock though.”

 

“Right now?” 

 

“Door is closed, blinds are shut,” he smirked. “You’ve done this before.”

 

She turned and smirked at him.  She said nothing as she got to her knees and crawled under his desk.  She did everything. She unzipped him. She got him out. She sucked him off.  She swallowed. She made sure he was clean and put him back and wiped her lips off with the back of her hand.  “Feeling better now?” she asked when she was done, looking up at him with a sweet smile from between his legs.

 

Grimmjow’s knuckles were white as he had been gripping the arms of his office chair with a death grip, trying to keep quiet. He eventually relaxed his hold and leaned down to kiss her. “For now,” he replied, helping her to her feet. “You make me a happy man, Inoue. Go get some work done. I’ll set it up for Ulq to meet you tomorrow.”

 

She took a deep breath in through her nose, glowing at his praise.  “I’m really glad,” she said as soft as velvet. “I love... I love making you happy,” she said before exiting his office.

 

There were some nasty glares thrown Orihime’s way. He saw them as he stood at the door and watched her. Grimmjow knew the women in the office were jealous of Orihime. Oh well. They were dumb bitches. He went back to his desk and texted Ulquiorra. The text he got back from the man made him frown.

 

He had plans for Orihime tomorrow night. Dammit. He gave her the news.

 

- Ulq says he’ll meet you around six pm. Has to work until then.

 

Orihime didn’t see this as a problem.  The meeting couldn’t last that long. The man could barely tolerate her presence on most days.

 

- Okay.  That works for me.  At his shop? I can just walk over to your place afterward.

 

Grimmjow sighed. Ulq was constantly cockblocking him.

 

- Yeah. Let me know when you’re done. We’ll have dinner. 

 

***

 

Ulquiorra let Kira know what was going on as the clock approached six the next night. Izuru just nodded his head and went about his duties. The green eyed man stood by the counter and waited for Orihime. He was nervous for some reason.

 

Why had he told Grimmjow that he wanted Orihime? He was purposely baiting the other man into a fight, he knew that much. He looked at his fingernails and noticed a chip in the black polish he wore. Dammit. He’d have to fix them or go to the place where he got them done. He knew he had an aura of mystery surrounding him. The tattoos; the nails; the hairstyle, along with how pale he was just screamed he was an oddball. He just wanted people to leave him alone.

 

He was fine with the few friends he had. He was fine with the few sexual encounters he had. Why was he letting a ginger airhead into his space? What made her so special? 

 

He glanced at his watch and sighed. She was five minutes late.

 

***

 

She had gotten held up at the office by Susan. “Orihime, would you take my drycleaning?”

 

Another, younger, cattier woman chimed in.  “While you’re at it, you may as well take your cheap clothes to the incinerator.  Seriously, Orihime. We all know you’re with Grimmjow. You should let him buy you some nicer things.”

 

Orihime was horrified. She had never done anything to these women to deserve this treatment.  She always took their ridiculous orders for coffee or errands without complaint. She took Susan’s dry cleaning and left the office without another word.  She walked it down the block to the dry cleaners and then had to run to Coffee & Sadness. Shit. She was late.  

 

She dabbed her eyes before she opened the door.  She saw Ulquiorra immediately and let her head drop in an apology before she was in speaking range.  Once she was close enough she spoke, her voice unsteady. “I’m really sorry. I got held up at the office.  Susan must have her dry cleaning done.” She pressed her lips together in a line and pushed her hair out of her face.  “I’m sorry to make you wait.”

 

“No worries,” Ulquiorra said, with his arms folded across his chest. “Follow me.” 

 

He turned and walked towards a door that never seemed to open at the end of the small hallway that led to the bathrooms. It wasn’t opened by a key. Ulquiorra had to swipe a card to open the door. He was the only one who held this card. He let Orihime into the dimly lit hallway beyond the coffee shop before he turned and went to the staircase on the left side of the room. There was a glass door at the other end that showed the street. “Can’t Susan drop off her own dry cleaning?”

 

“Facebook wizards are much too busy and important to run their own clothes to the dry cleaners,” she said.

 

“Are you an intern or are you an office assistant? If you’re an intern, Grimmjow wouldn’t let you do trivial jobs like that,” Ulquiorra said. They reached the second floor and he turned to go up a flight of stairs that would take them to the third floor. There were two doors labeled A and B on the landing.

 

“I’m an intern.  But I’m the lowest man on the totem pole, so anyone can tell me what to do,” she answered, taking a breath mid-phrase to keep herself from getting breathless with the stairs.

 

“Tired already?” he asked with a trace of amusement. “Fifteen foot ceilings make for a lot of stairs.”

 

She scoffed gently.  “I’m not tired; just pacing myself.”

 

He went up and down these stairs every day. It was nothing for him. “You’d think being with Grimmjow, you’d be in better shape,” he muttered, before starting up the next set.

 

What was that supposed to mean? “So he told you about me?”

 

“I’m assuming that you’re his girlfriend. He said as much in his office,” Ulquiorra replied in a flat tone.

 

She didn’t say anything about that, but smiled.  It didn’t last long, though. Something about the way that Ulquiorra said it made her feel like he thought it was a bad thing.  “So how long have you known each other?” she asked.

 

Ulquiorra stopped and looked back at Orihime. “Since freshman year of high school,” he said. “Why?”

 

She shrugged.  “Just curious. He talks about you like he’s known you for a long time,” she said.  She wasn’t sure where this conversation was going or if she should be having it, being a client meeting and all that.  “So what’s up here? Your office?”

 

“My apartment.”

 

“Oh.  Wow,” she said, brows raised.

 

“I am unable to concentrate on serious business when on the shop floor. This is a matter that requires my utmost attention. Plus Izuru plays shit music when he’s managing things,” Ulquiorra said. “My apartment is quiet.”

 

“I like quiet,” she said with a small smile.

 

When they reached the top floor, Ulquiorra unlocked the door and let Orihime inside. He did as he normally did and removed the vest and tie, throwing them into the basket as he passed by the opening of his room. He escorted the young woman to the kitchen and motioned for her to sit at the island. “I’ll be a moment.”

 

“Okay,” she said, taking a seat. Her eyes followed him around until she couldn’t see him anymore.  She then looked around. This place wasn’t extravagant, but it was nice. Everything in it seemed high quality.  It had a nice aesthetic. It seemed refined. It seemed down to earth. It was a lot of opposing things, she thought, much like him. 

 

Ulquiorra watched her from where he stood in his bedroom. He studied her as she took in the space. He never brought anyone up here. Grimmjow and Starrk had been here a couple of times. Nnoitra once. Aizen dropped by every once in a while. 

 

Never had a female stepped foot in here.

 

When he got laid, he always went to a hotel, leaving immediately afterwards. 

 

He went through the ritual of taking off his work shirt and moved back into Orihime’s vision, if she chose to look at him, before stripping the fabric from his shoulders, shifting the muscles under his skin as his movements dictated. He stood there for several seconds before flinging it across the room towards the basket. Then he stood there for a moment as if he wasn’t bothered by anything.

 

Of course her eyes snapped to his form as soon as he came into view.  She watched him carefully as he moved, analyzing his form and actions with an educated eye.  Her head tilted to the side, and although she had no pencils or paper at the moment, her hand twitched to sketch what she saw.  All of her activity stopped when he turned toward her, shirtless, giving her a long, unobstructed view of his tattooed upper body.  She could only stare. She couldn’t take her eyes away.

 

As he turned his head, Ulquiorra saw her looking. The corner of his mouth turned up slightly before he knelt down to remove his shoes. It was then he glanced up and caught her eye. Did he look hungry? Kind of. Did he have the hint of desire or lust in his gaze? Yes. He’d let her stew on that for a moment. He walked out of sight again. His dresser drawers opened and shut and he finally emerged from the room wearing dark jeans and a dark blue t-shirt.

 

Orihime found herself at a loss for words.  Her face was hot. He was hot. Holy shit. She had thoughts like this before, but it had always been in a very detached way. Even now as he came back out clothed, wearing an outfit more casual than she had ever seen him in, she knew what was under that cotton.  Her eyes kept drifting to the neck of his shirt. She kept imagining it wasn’t there.

 

“Sorry, I’m not used to having visitors,” he said as he walked around the island. Ulquiorra automatically walked over to the professional grade espresso machine and started making himself a cup. “Did you want something to drink? I can let you try the hot chocolate. I can make dark, milk, white… Or even that peanut butter hot chocolate.”

 

She opened her mouth to speak but had to clear her throat first. “If you’re making some, I’d love to try it,” she squeaked.  Wow. Super chill, Hime. Oh well.  

 

As he had his back to her, he grinned. She was easily flustered. Ulquiorra brewed the coffee and then got down two mugs from the shelves above the counter. He added a spoonful of the concentrated liquid before he got some heavy cream out of the refrigerator, measuring it out. He got the peanut butter and chocolate chips out. He melted everything together then added some milk to the mixture before pouring it into the cups. “Whipped cream?” he asked.

 

“Whatever you recommend,” she said, her mouth watering.  It smelled amazing in there.

 

Ulquiorra turned his head and looked at her before going to the refrigerator again and grabbing a can of peanut butter whipped stuff he had found in a store. “The secret to amazing hot chocolate,” he said as he set the can on the island before bringing over the mugs, “is whipped cream. This stuff is whipped topping but it doesn’t matter. It’s peanut butter flavored. I’m still experimenting with the recipe.”

 

She picked up the cold cylinder and examined it for a moment before setting it back down and looking at Ulquiorra.  “And here I thought the secret to amazing hot chocolate was love. That’s what all those powdered mix commercials used to say,” she joked, trying to de-escalate the tension she was feeling in her body.  She felt like he was hypnotizing her.

 

An uncharacteristic snort left him. “I never serve powdered hot chocolate in my cafe. It’s all made by hand. I like taking my time and doing my best to satisfy my customers.” 

 

“I think you succeed,” she murmured, looking at the can.  Her face was pink up to her ears. She didn’t understand why he had her whipped up in such a state of uncertainty.

 

Ulquiorra picked up his cup and took a sip. “Hmmm, more peanut butter. The chocolate is still overpowering it,” he commented. Time to ruffle her feathers more. He went to the other side of the counter and pulled one of the barstools closer to where she sat. “So you said you had two other ideas for designs?”

 

Oh. Work. Okay, right, that’s why she was here.  She tucked her chin a bit and looked up at him with round eyes.  He was close to her. “Yes, they’re just works in progress, but I have them on my phone, if you’d like to see them,” she offered.

 

“Sure,” he said. She looked somewhat guilty or something. Ulquiorra propped his elbow on the counter of the island and placed his chin in his hand. “How long have you been dating Grimmjow?”

 

“Um, dating?” she asked.  She had to think about it.  When did it start? She picked up the mug he had given her and took a sip.  She was immediately pulled off of her train of thought. Oh my goodness. This was heaven.  Her eyes closed and a soft moan echoed inside of the cup. She kept it near her face and opened her eyes, looking at him over the rim of the mug, and said, “This is really good,” then set it down.  There was whipped topping on her nose. “Oh, about a month, I guess,” she said, finally answering his question. She didn’t count the office screws as “dating”.

 

Reaching over, Ulquiorra wiped the small dollop of whipped cream off her nose with the pad of his thumb. He pulled the hand back and sucked the sugary stuff off his thumb, making sure to keep eye contact with her as he did it. This playboy thing and flirting was easier than he imagined.

 

Her face turned red and she bit down on the inside of her lips.  Why did it feel like he was trying to seduce her? Why did her seat feel hot?  Why was her breath just slightly shallow? She wasn’t in a position to entertain those questions.  She turned her face from his and smiled at her hands. “Well, thanks. I’m not going to win any grace awards, am I?” she asked with an embarrassed huff of laughter.  She took her phone out of her purse and unlocked it, pulling up her photo library. “You want to see?”

 

“Want to show me?”

 

She had the first idea up and handed the phone to him. “It’s this and the next one,” she said, just barely over a whisper.

 

Ulquiorra looked at the coffee bean. It was cute. Maybe too cute. He swiped the wrong way and saw a sketch that looked like him. He swiped again seeing the little bird with the scarf. “I think I swiped the wrong way,” he said, using his finger to go the other direction. He came across the bean again and then saw the coffee cup. His eyes travelled over the design, then he went back to the bean. “Refine both of them. Combine them into one. Maybe have the bean leaning into the coffee cup. My supplier for the black cups is going to discontinue selling them so I’m switching to all white cups. The gift bags I have are white and so are the boxes for muffins and donuts.” 

 

“Is there anything else you might be interested to see?  I can try something out if you have any ideas,” she offered, happy at his tentative approval of her mock-ups.

 

“No eyes,” he said. “I did like the tear tracks you did with the first logo. Incorporate that somehow.”

 

She smiled.  She was disappointed, but not in anyway she was willing to admit to herself.  Especially not in the way a small part of her hoped he would tell her he was interested in seeing her.  She loved Grimmjow. Maybe he didn’t love her, yet, but they were on their way there, she thought. “Well, I’ll work on that, then,” she said, still glad that he was giving her a chance.  She picked up her cup and took another sip, careful not to get any whipped cream on her nose this time. She didn’t know if this was the end of the meeting or what.

 

He watched her for a moment. “Did you have other ideas? We can discuss them.” Ulquiorra gave her a small smile before it was gone.

 

Whoa. Just that small smile had rattled her cage.  “We can discuss anything you like,” she found herself saying. Jesus, Orihime, pull yourself together.  “Are there any other motifs or themes or moods that you’re drawn to? I’ll be honest with you; I’m not a logo designer, I’m an illustrator.  So my inclination is always a bit more fussy than what clients generally want.”

 

“Have dinner with me.”

 

“Oh, are you hungry?” she looked at her phone.  It was dinner time. “Okay,” she said.

 

Was he hungry? He was starting to be, but not for food. For some reason he was drawn to her. He wanted to do much more than discuss things with her. He wanted to take her from Grimmjow. He wanted her. “I’m not really hungry but I want to have dinner with you,” Ulquiorra said plainly.

 

For what felt like the fortieth time that night, her face heated up.  “Why do you want to have dinner with me ?” she asked, like it was a ridiculous idea.  Nobody noticed her or wanted her or particularly liked her.  That Grimmjow did was a miraculous mistake on his part.  

 

“No one is around to distract me with their basic bitch, nonsensical concoctions. You like quiet. You think you fade into the background while your friends dominate activities,” Ulquiorra said, standing up. He shuffled closer to her and stared at Orihime. “Why do you study me so much?”

 

She could barely breathe.  She felt like a mouse, and he was a cat.  “I, uh…” her voice was breathless. “I think you are interesting. I like your aesthetic. You move well…” she trailed off, inwardly berating herself. She sounded like a creep.

 

Oh. She didn’t like him for him. She just liked his aesthetic. That deflated his ego a bit. “I see. It doesn’t have to be tonight, but perhaps we can have a business dinner after you’re done with the sketches and ideas you have. I’m open to anything, except my eyes being used. I do like that little bird you drew for your blog.”

 

“Oh, so you know it’s mine?” she asked, the heat in her face suddenly replaced with cold.

 

He nodded. “The pregnant nun comment and the sneak peek,” Ulquiorra replied. He grabbed his mug and walked over to the sink and rinsed it out, feeling like a fool. She probably thought he was desperate or something now.

 

“Can I tell you something?  You might not find it interesting, but you might understand why I refused selling you the name,” she offered.

 

“It’s not important. You’ve stated in many an email that it holds sentimental value to you.”

 

Oh. Oh, okay.  She wasn’t important.  Whatever he was playing at with her tonight…  He was a cat. A cat batting at a mouse. What an idiot she was.  She should not be bothered by it, but hurt was pinching her features a bit.  “Alright. We can have dinner whenever you want me to have the mock-ups ready.  Yours is the only project I have, so name a deadline.”

 

“Whenever you can fit it in,” Ulquiorra said still not turning around. His hands gripped the edge of the sink and he sighed. “I know you’re probably busy.”

 

“Not really,” there was something wrong.  “Hey, what’s bothering you?” she asked softly, her tone worried.

 

“It’s nothing. I go through moments like these,” Ulquiorra said. “As I said, whenever you find time. I’m not fussed.” He turned around and his face showed a perfectly blank expression. “Are you done?” he asked pointing to the mug.

 

She wasn’t done, but she knew when she was being dismissed.  She slid off of the stool and brought the cup over to him. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, trying not to get emotional. “I’ll have Grimmjow let you know when it’s ready.  I’ll see myself out,” she said, at no louder volume, walking towards the exit.

 

“Tell me yourself. I’m working directly with you, not Grimmjow. I told him I wanted you,” Ulquiorra said. He didn’t add anything onto that or bother to explain what he meant.

 

She stopped and turned to look at him from across the kitchen. “Why me?”

 

“Why me?”

 

She stood and stared at him for a long moment, not exactly sure what he was asking. No matter what the exact nature of the question was, her answer would probably be the same. She took a slow breath through her nose before she replied, “Because I like you.”

 

“Ditto. See you tomorrow morning if you’re getting coffee.”

Chapter Text

Grimmjow waited for Orihime to text him. The meeting shouldn’t have taken this long. Ulquiorra was an in and out kind of guy. There was no pomp with him. There was no fuss. 

 

Finally, he just called Orihime. If she was still busy with discussing what Ulquiorra wanted, then he’d just say he was checking in.

 

“Hello?” she answered.  There was street noise in the background.

 

“Princess? Where ya at?” he asked as he started pacing the living room of his apartment.

 

“I’m almost to your place.  I just needed a walk. The meeting was… weird.”

 

Grimmjow scowled. The meeting was weird? Well, Ulquiorra was weird. “You okay? Anything bad happen? Do I need to kick Cifer’s ass?”

 

“No, nothing bad happened.  It was just a bit awkward. He had me come upstairs, made some coffee, looked at the pictures of the mock-ups, then more or less kicked me out.  It was just… confusing,” she said.

 

“Hold up. You went upstairs?” Grimmjow’s tone was incredulous. 

 

“Yeah, he said he couldn’t concentrate downstairs with the noise and the bad music,” she answered.

 

“You went upstairs.” He was not happy about this. Ulquiorra never took anyone upstairs to his apartment. Maybe that’s why he came into Grimmjow’s office; to antagonize him. “Tch.”

 

“Is that a problem? I’m here, by the way,” she said, waiting to be buzzed up.

 

Grimmjow buzzed her in as he made a circuit around the room again. “I don’t know if it’s a problem yet.”

 

She ended the call and walked up to the second floor and to door number six.  She knocked and waited for him to open up.

 

The blue haired man took a deep breath and opened the door. He wore a troubled expression. “Just so we’re clear and there are no misunderstandings, Orihime… you fuck around on me and we’re done. Okay?” There was no hello. It was just that. He stepped to the side and motioned for her to come in.

 

“Clear,” she said, a bit put off by the insinuation.  “I’m not fucking around on you,” she added.

 

“Good. I’m glad to hear that. I don’t play around when I really like someone,” he said, shutting the door. He grabbed her by the shoulder and pulled Orihime close.

 

“Grimmjow,” she started carefully.  She needed to know. She needed to cut out the uncertainty now.  “How do you feel about me?”

 

He took a step back and ran his hands through his hair. “I like you. I’d beat someone’s ass for you. I have feelings for you. I wouldn’t be spending the night at your place or have you here if I didn’t care about you.”

 

“Same,” she said softly.  “You’re not fucking around on me, are you?”

 

“Lady, you keep my balls drained. How can I even look at another woman when I got you?”

 

She chuckled at that.  “I don’t know,” she said.  It was as if the tension that had built up with Ulquiorra had all but disappeared.

 

“I know it seems like I’m a player. I ain’t.” Grimmjow pulled her close again, but this time he picked her up and kissed her. “My kingdom, right?”

 

“Right,” she replied with a blinding grin, then kissed him back. He made her feel safe and wanted. Being here with him right now filled her with a profound sense of relief. She knew he would take care of her. If she had a choice, she would be happy to come home to their kingdom everyday. “I love you,” she whispered between kisses.

 

He pulled back and stared at her for a moment. “What? Did you say?” His blue eyes searched her face. The last person who said those words to him ended up getting fucked by Nnoitra. Orihime wouldn’t do that to him. She was a good woman. He kissed her as he walked towards his bedroom. “My lady.”

 

He didn’t freak out.  She said it, and he didn’t freak out.  “I said I love you, Grimmjow.” This was huge.  Her pulse was pounding in her ears.

 

“I can’t say it yet, but I do adore you, Orihime. A couple more months and I’ll say it,” Grimmjow said, running his fingers through her hair. He kissed her again slowly before he sat her down on the bed. “You make me happy.”

 

She was happy and she wasn’t. The strong beat in her ears dissipated and changed into a bit of pressure between her eyes.  She gave him a tiny smile, more with her eyes than her mouth. She could accept this. This wasn’t anything like what Uryu had done.  Not even close. This was almost a promise. “You make me happy, too,” she said.

 

His hand slipped down her neck, giving one of her tits a gentle squeeze before he moved it to her thigh. He bit his lip and looked at her, trying to gauge her reaction as his hand moved under the hem of her skirt. As soon as his fingers brushed her panties, Grimmjow hissed. “Damn, you’re already wet for me.”

 

Well, she was already wet.  She’d been wet. The thought of Ulquiorra staring at her shirtless flashed through her mind and her hips raised to meet Grimmjow’s hand.  “Hmm,” she moaned. “I’ve been waiting since yesterday afternoon.” It wasn’t a lie. He hadn’t touched her after she went down on him in his office.

 

“I’m sorry. Kuchiki can go fuck himself with me staying late and working on stupid projects. It could have waited until today,” Grimmjow growled as he pulled the fabric to the side. “So hot for me, aren’t you?”

 

“Yes,” came the hot, rough whisper.  “I want you, Grimmjow. I want to feel you.  I want you,” she mewled. She wasn’t sure what had come over her.  She felt hot and desperate. She needed relief.

 

Shit. She was saying all the stuff to get him going. He exhaled a long breath. Reaching between their bodies, he quickly undid the fastenings of his trousers shoving them down with a little bit of difficulty. “You on birth control?” he asked, glad that he had some sense to ask that before he just entered her.

 

“Yes,” she breathed into his ear before kissing him, sucking his tongue into her mouth and whimpering through her nose.

 

Grimmjow growled again, giving his cock several strokes before he pressed against Orihime’s slit. A low groan left his throat. She was so fucking soft and velvety. She was so hot and slick. “Fuck.”

 

She wasn’t quite expecting it, even though she had wanted it.  A high-pitched sigh left her throat and she clung to his shoulders.  “Grimmjow!” she called to him on an inhale, and she rocked her hips over the head of his cock, catching it in her entrance.  She trembled in his arms as she let her body slide down onto him, looking into his eyes with a mix of affection, arousal, and fear.

 

“It’s gonna feel intense at first,” he told her resting his forehead against hers. He hadn’t done this in a while and even then it had only been a couple of times. He kissed her, then pulled back, giving her a hungry glance. “You okay, Princess?”

 

Her skin felt like it was on fire.  She didn’t know why this terrified her so much.  She had never let herself be so exposed and vulnerable before.  “You’ll take care of me, right?” she asked, her voice wavering. Unsteady fingertips caressed his face as she raised her hips off of his lap a bit and came back down slowly.

 

“I’ll always take care of you, baby.” Grimmjow helped her move, his hands grabbing her hips, bouncing her gently on his cock. “You feel so good Orihime. So damn good.”

 

“So do you,” she whimpered.  She wasn’t satisfied like this, though.  She paused her movements and sat on him, pulling her sweater off and unhooking her bra, tossing it to the side.  Her fingers started working on the buttons of his blue dress shirt. Once they were free, she pulled it off of his shoulders and pressed her front to his. Only when she had that skin to skin contact did she start moving on top of him again, holding him flush to her body and crying softly in bliss as she moved.  

 

This was so much different without a condom.  So much hotter. Surprisingly, it was a lot more emotional. She was really giving herself to him.  “I’m yours, Grimm,” she murmured below his ear, her hands coming up to tangle in his tufts of blue hair.

 

He laid back, taking her with him while he thrust into her core at a rapid pace. This was too damn good to hold back anything. As soon as he got close to going over the edge he changed his pace to slow strokes. A loud groan. “Dammit, Hime. You’re going to make me come.”

 

“Come inside me, baby,” she mewled, pressing soft kisses into his lips. “I want you to.”

 

“I’m gonna get you off after I get mine,” he growled. He resumed that punishing pace, feeling his body start tightening as his orgasm loomed over his head. “Fuck. Fuck. Hnnnngh.”

 

That didn’t take him long until he was feeling his dick twitch and pulse inside of her. He could feel the force of his come bathe her walls with his seed.

 

She listened to his voice and felt his pace stagger and become erratic.  She felt warm stickiness begin to trickle down her inner thighs. The heat in her body began to cool as she waited for some kind of reaction from the man underneath her.

 

Grimmjow panted as he lifted Orihime off of him and to the side. “It’s been a while since I’ve experienced that. Damn. Give me a minute to figure out if my brain is still working and I’ll repay you.” He grinned at her and then sat up, capturing her lips with his.

 

She smiled back at him, returning his kiss with enthusiasm. When he lay back, she rolled onto her side, letting her head lay on her arms as she watched his face.  She didn’t want his ejaculate making too much of a mess on his bed, and was avoiding that by staying on her side. “I have never done that before,” she admitted.

 

Grimmjow looked at her with wide eyes. “Never? Damn. I just keep taking a lot of your firsts don’t I?” He laughed before getting up. His dress pants were a fucking mess. When he came, he really came. He got rid of the pants and his underwear, leaving them on the floor before he walked out of the room to the bathroom and grabbed a hand towel. He was back in the bedroom in less than a minute. “I’m going to lay this down, sit on top of it, okay?” 

 

She nodded and watched him put the towel down, then carefully rolled her hips on to it and sat up.

 

Grimmjow knelt down and watched as everything he put inside of her dripped out. When it slowed, he nodded and stood up. Sitting beside Orihime, he grabbed her breast and played with the nipple, fingers pulling on the skin. “I’m going to make you come now,” he murmured against her neck as he switched to the other tit. 

 

“Please,” she answered on a breath, letting her head loll back.

 

“Anything, Princess.”

 

***

 

That night, she woke up around two in the morning to use the bathroom and make a couple of notes.  She’d been dreaming of hard green eyes and the number four tattooed on a pale body. She took her phone out and opened up the notes app, just tapping out, “four.  Cup. leaning bean.”

 

She probably wouldn’t remember what it meant when she woke up in the morning.

 

She crawled into bed next to Grimmjow, snuggling up to him.  How did she get so lucky? He had gotten her off, although it was just doing it to get things done.  It wasn’t the mind-blowing experience she had been expecting when she first sheathed him raw. She was a bit disappointed.  Still… he had said he adored her. He said in a couple months, he would be telling her he loved her. That she was his castle.  His princess.

 

She was probably going to marry him.

 

She smiled at that thought as she drifted back off to sleep.

 

***

 

Ulquiorra sighed as he lay in bed that night. It was around two… Maybe later? He didn’t know. He never paid attention to the time when he was in his apartment. Time was meaningless. He found that out while in prison. In prison, all Ulquiorra had was time. There was time to go outside. Time to eat. Time for activities. Time to shower. Time to sleep.

 

After he was released, he didn’t like time constraints and only kept them for his work day. Working thirteen hours a day kept him out of trouble. 

 

However…

 

Being around Orihime Inoue was making his brain have lapses in judgement. He wanted to see more of her, both socially and physically. He wanted to see her smile and bite her lip. He wanted to make her blush more. He wanted to watch her draw and do little things like push her hair behind her ear. 

 

He was being stupid.

 

Grimmjow had said she wouldn’t give him the time of day. She had admitted she only liked him because he had a certain vibe; a certain look. She didn’t like him for him. He should have known that.

 

No one liked him for who he was. Everyone he had fucked with the exception of Sung-sun had been a challenge.

 

He didn’t fall asleep that night. He kept thinking about Orihime and how he made her blush. How he had been so close to kissing her. 

 

Did he care that she had a boyfriend? Nope.

 

There was an inkling that told him that she wouldn’t care either. No one would let him take things as far as he did if they did not enjoy it. Orihime had seemed like she had enjoyed it.

 

***

 

Despite waking up in the middle of the night, Orihime was awake before Grimmjow.  She had pulled out the little sketchpad in her bag and was working on the suggestions Ulquiorra had given her.  The bean was less cute. The cup was less cute. They both had what would be teal tear marks going down their cheeks.  The bean leaned against the cup in an almost tragic lover pose, as much as a bean is capable of such a thing. Both items had their eyes closed.

 

The scratching of her pencil probably woke Grimmjow up, but she didn’t notice.

 

“Clocking in a bit early today, aren’t you?” He asked rolling to his side and slowly opening his blue eyes to look at her. “You’re not even scheduled for today.”

 

“I have a class at ten,” she said, not looking up from what she was doing but smiling in response to what he said.  She sat there on a hard chair, wearing his dress shirt from the night before, with her pad balanced on her knees. “I want to get this done before tomorrow so I can work it up on the computers at the office.”

 

He rolled over onto his stomach, grabbing her pillow and burrowing his face into the surface. “I’m sorry about last night. I meant to get you off but feeling you against me… It was too much. We can try that again if you’d like.” Grimmjow turned his head enough to eye her and show her he was blushing slightly. “You look good in my shirt. Hnnngh. I can see you standing in my kitchen wearing one of those shirts. I’d come along, letting it inch up and then just bend you over the counter and make love to you.” 

 

Her face turned pink at that and she slowly turned it towards him.  “Oh yeah?” She smiled at him in a dreamy kind of way. “That’s a pretty picture, although even on my tippy-toes I think I’d need a stepstool to make that work,” she said with a giggle.

 

“Alexa, add a stepstool to my grocery list,” Grimmjow said and laughed.

 

Orihime giggled and put her index finger to her lips.  “I want to draw you,” she said.

 

“Like one of your French girls?” He asked, the smile widening on his face. “I’ve never had someone draw me before.”

 

“Just like my French girls,” she said with a little growl to her voice.  “I’ve never had anyone draw me but myself. I won an award for it, though, so I guess I don’t need anyone else to do it,” she said with a chuckle.

 

“You free this weekend? You can draw me then.”

 

“Yep,” she said.  Then she set her sketchbook down and stretched, letting the hem of his shirt ride dangerously high on her thighs.  “Wanna take a shower with me?” she paused then, realizing it was impractical. “Shoot, nevermind. I don’t have anything here to change into.  I’m better off doing the walk of shame and getting ready at my place,” she said with a giggle.

 

Grimmjow snorted and sat up on his knees. His dick was already hard. “You think I’m going to let you walk back home?”

 

She smiled at him slowly.  “No, I know you’ll take care of me,” she said.

 

***

 

Orihime took a long hot shower when she got home.  As good as being fucked raw had felt at first, it was kind of gross, now.  It took some doing to feel clean. She blew her hair out and got dressed for school.  She was feeling lovedrunk; happy and romantic. She braided her long hair, letting the plait hang over her shoulder, and put on her favorite jeans, a lacy mauve top, and a gray hoodie with a black jean vest sewn over it.  It was cute and sporty and sweet-looking. She was in a real relationship now. She didn’t need to look like she was flaunting it all over town, but she was in love. She wanted to look it.

 

She bounced into Coffee & Sadness at around nine in the morning.  She noticed that it didn’t smell different. The basic bitches were not more subdued. Pumpkin spice season was not officially over. Ohhh, she was going to give Ulquiorra a hard time, she thought to herself, chuckling as she got into line.

 

How many fucking lattes had he made? How many fucking pumpkin spice or pumpkin pie lattes had he rung up? He wasn’t even paying attention as he looked at the total number of lattes they had sold that morning. It was crazy. Almost fifty fucking basic bitch specials had walked out the door. 

 

He was irritable today. The no sleep combined with the blondes in their sweaters and painted on jeans and boots… He was done. Absolutely done. Maybe he just needed to get laid. Glancing up he saw Orihime in line and sighed. He didn’t need her bullshit today.

 

“Excuse me,” said a snotty blonde woman standing in front of the redhead.

 

“What?”

 

“Uh, I’m ready to order.”

 

“Well?” Ulquiorra said.

 

“You are so rude. I bet you couldn’t charm your way into a girl’s bed.”

 

One eyebrow rose as he stared at this woman with the messy bun, oversized sweater and smokey eye makeup. “Really? Give me your number, your latte is on the house,” Ulquiorra said and gave the woman a small, tiny amused look. 

 

The dumbass fell for it. She giggled and wrote her number down on a scrap of paper that was laying on the counter. She didn’t ask how he knew she was going to order a pumpkin pie latte with a shot of espresso. Ulquiorra rolled his eyes at the blonde as he handed her the drink and she giggled again.

 

Ugh.

 

Orihime watched the exchange, and all the joy she had brought into the door with her burned away.  When she got to the counter, she simply said. “Hi. Medium black coffee, please.” She didn’t wait to be told the total, just took out her two dollars and left it on the counter.  She was going to give him a hard time. She was going to stay at the cafe until it was time for class. She was going to order something sweet, but now she just wanted to get the hell out of there.

 

Ulquiorra rang up the order and then put Ethan or Joe or whoever was working that morning on the register to finish taking orders. Orihime had looked like she was on cloud nine but now it looked like someone kicked her puppy or something. He made her order slowly before walking it down to the pickup counter. “What?” he asked, tilting his head to the side. “Usually you talk to me. No words of wisdom today? Where’s my morning smile from you?”

 

“I got it wrong,” she said. “Pumpkin spices are still everywhere,” she muttered, trying to keep it friendly.  He was still a client, after all. She gave him a tight smile.

 

“You’re mad.” Just from her body posture and the way she was treating him she seemed mad. “Do you actually think I’m going to give that a call?” He scoffed and shook his head.

 

She shrugged, raising her brows and shaking her head.  “I don’t know. I don’t know you that well. And either way, it’s none of my business, is it?”

 

“Quit acting like you’re butthurt, then.” Ulquiorra sat her cup on the counter but kept his hand on it. “At any time you can leave him and come to me. Just keep that in mind.” Why had he said that? The lack of sleep must be affecting his brain more than normal. He turned and walked into the workroom. He didn’t need to see her reaction to his foolish words.

 

Her mouth fell open and she watched him leave with round, disbelieving eyes.  She felt like a robot as she took her coffee and turned around to leave the shop.  What the hell? What the fucking hell was that?

 

That robotic glaze stayed with her the rest of the day.  She went home after class and sat in a chair, staring out the window.  She could not wrap her head around what had happened that morning.

 

By the time five o’clock rolled around, things weren’t any better.  Her mind was a swirling, messy cloud of confusion. There was only one place she knew to go when she felt like that.  She threw a jacket on and walked the block and a half to Starrk’s.

 

Nnoitra was there. Starrk was in his office doing paperwork. He watched the redhead as she came to the bar. A smirk came over the tall man’s face. Ulq had been in here again bitching about Orihime Inoue today. It was fun to see the man freaking out about a fucking place to stick his dick. Then Ulq he said he had a blonde bitch to call. The blonde showed up and started giggling. It was funny to see his old friend work his magic. 

 

It was rare that it happened, but it did.  

 

The two left the bar, and he could have sworn Ulquiorra said hotel.

 

Now this pretty little thing walked in and her captor was nowhere around. “Hey Orihime,” he said wiping the bar down with a wide smile.

 

“Um, hi,” she said, distracted.  She took out her debit card and set it on the bar.  “The usual, please.” She always refused to look the tall man in the eye.  He terrified her.

 

“One Death in the Afternoon, coming up. So where’ve ya been? Haven’t seen much of ya or Grimm in here lately,” Nnoitra said as he mixed the drink in front of her. “Ya’ll work down at Rotten don’t ya? I think that’s what he said.”

 

A nod.  “Yeah, I’m down to part time now, though.  I’m sure he’s still at work. It’s early. We’ve been occupied lately,” she said, offering a small smile.  She still wouldn’t look at his face, though.

 

Hmph. Uppity bitch. Well whatever. It was only a matter of time before he got the bitch where he wanted her. It would take a couple of weeks or months to wear her down, but eventually Nnoitra always got the girl. The girl always was a crying mess afterwards. They came back time after time until Nnoitra booted them to the curb. It happened with Sung-sun. It happened with Cirucci and Giselle and Candice and Nel. Out of all the bitches he had “stolen” from Grimmjow, Nel was his favorite. She was dumb and submissive and her daddy could get her anything she wanted.

 

“One death in the P.M. for ya,” Nnoitra said. He kept smiling at her. “I invited Grimm and his girl out a couple weeks ago. Fucker never texted me back. When ya see him, tell him to hit me up.”

 

She rolled her eyes.  “Thanks. Like I said, we’ve been busy,” she said, taking her drink and going to he preferred seat over on the velvet sofas.

 

Mmhmm, bet you been busy, Nnoitra thought to himself as he wiped down the bar.

 

***

 

Ulquiorra’s hips snapped into the woman under him. She was loud and acting like she was having a religious experience. He could feel her tightening around his cock again for the fourth damn time. He had her wrists pinned to the mattress after she scratched him the first time. He wasn’t one for being marked. And he especially wasn’t going to let some anonymous bitch do it. 

 

After one more orgasm on her end, he finally pulled out. “You good?” he asked.

 

“Uh huh, did I get you off?”

 

Ulquiorra could have scoffed at the woman. He lied to her. “Yeah, sure. I’m not very expressive or loud when it happens. I’m going to the bathroom and then get dressed.”

 

“You’re not staying?” the woman asked, sitting up.

 

“No. I can’t sleep in strange beds, but you’re welcome to stay until checkout time,” Ulquiorra said, walking to the bathroom and disposing of the condom. He splashed cold water on his erection before wiping himself down. It had been fun, and somewhat of a good time, but he hadn’t been into it.

 

When he walked out of the bathroom with a towel around his waist, he looked at the woman who was smiling at him like she was in love or something. “Yeah?” he asked.

 

“Nothing, I was just wondering if we could, you know… hook up again. It’d be fun to date a guy who works at a coffee shop. You’d give me free coffee right?” She said smiling at him. 

 

Ulquiorra looked at her and noticed she was trying to press her fake tits together to entice him. “Nah, I’d charge you double,” he replied.

 

“Oh honey, you’re so funny. So tomorrow?”

 

Ulquiorra was shaking his clothes out although he had draped them over the chair. She just kept chattering away at him. He wasn’t even listening. “Huh? Yeah, sure, whatever. I’ve got to go. See ya Britney.”

 

“It’s Bryce.”

 

“Yeah, see ya.” 

 

***

 

Ulquiorra went back to Starrk’s scowling. The owner of the bar seemed surprised he was there. Again. “What?” He asked the other man. 

 

Starrk just shook his head and set a glass of whiskey in front of Ulquiorra. He turned in his seat to eye the patrons and he caught sight of a redhead. Fuck. This wasn’t good. This wasn’t good at all. He didn’t need to be around Orihime right now.

 

He took a sip of the alcohol and glanced up to see Nnoitra smiling at him. “What do you want?”

 

“You got done fast,” his tall friend said.

 

“She wasn’t that interesting. The pornstar sounds and the screaming got old pretty quick,” Ulquiorra muttered. “I can give her your number. Might bypass the whole fucking Grimmjow thing over. You two should switch it up sometimes.”

 

“Nah. You and Grimm have a thing that ya’ll do when it comes to females. Me and Grimm got our own song and dance. Speaking of which… His girl is here.”

 

Ulquiorra scoffed. “I see this. Send her over a drink. Does she have a tab?”

 

Nnoitra nodded. “Yep. Want me to go see what she wants or just send her another death?”

 

“Send the death I guess. Also put her drinks on my tab,” Ulquiorra replied. “I have no clue what she likes here though.”

 

“She drinks the death’s in the afternoon and the seventy-fives. Tries not to get too blitzed.”

 

Ulquiorra considered this information as he studied Orihime from where she sat on the couch before taking another sip. She looked dazed. She looked like she was spacing out. He had no clue why he told her what he did today. It had been embarrassing for him. She didn’t give two shits about him.

 

So what did he do?

 

He pulled out his damn phone and looked up the closest florist to the coffee shop. He got the owner’s email and sent it off, inquiring about having a single flower delivered to RBM everyday after lunch. Why was he so interested in her? Why did he have this desire to be with her? 

 

His eyes followed the waitress who set the drink down in front of Orihime.

 

“Gentleman at the bar sent this over,” the woman said with a smile.  

 

“Thank you,” Orihime said, not really present yet. She looked down at the drink for a long moment and then back at the bar.  Ulquiorra.

 

She stared at him for a minute and then nodded, picking up the drink.  

 

Ulquiorra saw her out of the corner of his eye. He turned his head slightly and returned the nod before taking another sip from the drink in front of him. It was the least he could do. He’d been a dick to her for as long as he had the coffee shop open. First it was trying to buy the URL. Then he was rude to her when she came into the shop. He had basically told her that if she wanted to leave Grimm he’d be open to being with her. He had told Grimmjow he wasn’t interested in his girl.

 

Orihime was not sure what to think.  She had texted Grimmjow around six thirty asking what he was up to.  “Working late”, was the answer. She told him that she was at Starrk’s, and invited him to join her if he got done early enough.  She didn’t get a response; and it had been over an hour.  

 

She looked down at her phone once more and decided that her mind was not slowing down.  The absinthe was not doing the trick today. So, she decided to go talk to Ulquiorra. Maybe he would explain.  Maybe he would do something to piss her off or somehow right the tilted frame that her mind had become. She stood up, taking her things and drink with her, and walked over to the bar, sitting beside her client.

 

“Thanks.  To what do I owe the pleasure?”

 

“Dunno. You don’t have a tab to pay either. I took care of it,” Ulquiorra said. He should have fucked that woman until he came. Maybe he wouldn’t have come back to Starrk’s if that happened.

 

She was quiet for a moment and considered just going back to her previous spot.  Something about this was giving her red flags. She should just go home and wait for Grimmjow to call.  But on the other hand, this was going to keep bothering her. “You don’t know?”

 

Ulquiorra shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said in a quiet voice. “Does that bother you?”

 

“It confuses me,” she answered, wrinkling her nose.  When he raised his glass to his mouth, she distinctly detected the smell of latex and sex.  “Not that much, I guess,” she smirked after that, taking another drink of her own. “Well, I wanted to say thanks and thanks for the first one, too.”  She looked at Nnoitra finally. “Can I get my card, please?”

 

The grin on Nnoitra’s face was unsettling to Ulquiorra. He didn’t like it. That grin meant the man was scheming, After Nnoitra walked away to get Orihime’s card. He looked at her. “I confuse myself at times. Look, what I said to you today...”

 

She snorted when he said he confused himself.  She was going to give him a witty comeback. Then he addressed the elephant in the room and the smile melted off her face.  “Yes?” she finally prodded after he paused for too long.

 

“I’m not going to apologize for it. I’m not going to take it back. I said what I said and I meant it,” Ulquiorra replied. He glanced at her before he finished his drink. “Why’d you get pissy this morning?”

 

She was getting upset now.  She had to get a hold of herself.  Right. Her witty comeback. “I thought I was your favorite customer, I guess. I thought you didn’t care for pumpkin spice, and yet it’s still on the menu and even you’re drinking it.  It’s stupid. I’m just one who fades into the background of the bolder and more beautiful. I was upset with myself, I guess.” She lost her face in her glass after that.

 

“Pumpkin spice is the flavor of the season until December. And I fucking hate it. I wouldn’t ever drink it.”

 

“You reek of pumpkin spice right now,” she murmured into her glass.

 

“I never tell you that you reek of bourbon caramel and espresso,” he quipped back.

 

“Touché.”  She took another sip.

 

Ulquiorra sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Didn’t you feel it? In my apartment? Was I wrong--Hey Nnoi, get me another.”

 

The guy nodded before he handed Orihime her card. 

 

She waited until the other man had walked away to reply.  “I don’t know. I know I…” She stopped. This was ridiculous.  “I told you I like you. I do. I like our morning banter about Susan and I like watching you. I like your drinks and your eyes.  I think you’re funny. I don’t know much else about you, though. I think I’ve spent too much time watching you and making up a fantastical backstory for you.  This morning you kind of broke the illusion.” She was not going to address the “feeling “ in his apartment. That was way too dangerous. “About what you said this morning, well, that’s bold.  I don’t know what you think would make me believe that you mean it, though.”

 

Ulquiorra watched the glass of whiskey being set down in front of him followed by a glass of water. He took a sip of the water first before he answered her. “You know everything there is to know about Grimm, then? I think you’d be the only person I might consider telling about my past.”

 

Her eyes slid over to his.  “What makes me so special?” she asked, a dubious glint in her eye.

 

“I don’t know. I’m wondering that myself. I’ve not wanted anyone in my life since I was seventeen, almost eighteen.”

 

Her cheeks turned red again.  He wasn’t playing around.  At least it didn’t sound like it.  She was starting to feel very uncomfortable.  She was having a hard time breathing and her chest burned.  She should have just left it alone. She took a slow, deep, shaky breath.  “Can I show you why I won’t give up coffee and sadness?” she asked, totally changing the subject.

 

Ulquiorra nodded and looked at her. Now he was thinking about the fact that he shouldn’t have slept with the anonymous woman.

 

She took out her sketchbook from her purse.  She flipped it over to the last page, and then flipped that over to reveal the thick back cardboard cover.  Attached to it was a picture of a sixteen year old girl with bright red hair, standing beside a large drawing with a small placard next to it that read: “Coffee and Sadness.  Orihime Inoue. 11th grade. Warrenville.” The drawing was a picture of Orihime lying over a table with her hand in the foreground and her cheek resting on her arm, wearing a heartbreakingly sad expression.  Beside her was a steaming cup of coffee. There were houseplants in the background but the rest was negative space. There was a blue ribbon hung on it.

 

His green eyes took in the drawing. He took in the photo that she was showing him. It held sentimental feelings. He gave her a nod before he picked up the whiskey glass and drained it in one go. “I’m sorry.”

 

“Sorry for what?  I’m not offended that you want your business name.  It’s logical. I’m just trying to let you in—” What the fuck was she talking about?  “I’m just trying to show you why. It’s not because I don’t want you to have it. Its because it’s who I am.”

 

He studied her face for a moment. ”I’m sorry I hounded you about it,” he finally said.

 

She laughed. “I’m not.  It made me feel valuable.”

 

“You should feel valuable all the time, not just when I offer you enough money to make you comfortable for a couple of months.” Ulquiorra paused and looked down at the bar top. “I should get home and stop bothering you.”

 

It was on the tip of her tongue to contradict him. She wanted to keep talking to him. But... she had a boyfriend.  She was in love with Grimmjow. And actually, he was bothering her; not that him leaving would stop that.  “I’ve never been valuable,” she said under her breath, and then glanced at him.  “I’ll be in tomorrow for hot chocolate. I hope you have the ratio figured out by then,” she said with tiny smirk.

 

“I’ll stay up all night figuring it out if I have to. It has to be perfect,” Ulquiorra replied. He stood up, confident on his feet. He gave her a nod before going over and talking to Starrk before he left the bar.

Chapter Text

The next morning Orihime kissed Grimmjow goodbye and went straight to the office.  She didn’t have classes on Thursdays until the afternoon, so she had packed a bag after she left Starrk’s and Grimmjow picked her up.

 

She worked with just office coffee for the first half of the morning, but by ten-thirty she was dragging.  

 

“Orihime, I need--”

 

“A non-coffee latte, Susan?”

 

The older woman smiled. “Yes.  With the pumpkin spice flavoring.  Karen was telling me how exotic it was.”

 

Orihime grinned widely.  She looked absolutely overjoyed.  “Excellent. I will have to try it for myself, sometime.  I’ll be right back with that,” she said and left to go over to Coffee & Sadness.

 

He watched Orihime walk across the street. He saw her come in and gave her a nod. He had spent a couple of hours trying to get the ratio of chocolate to peanut butter right but then decided to go back to his original recipe. “Morning, Orihime. Black coffee?”

 

She grinned at him like she had a wonderful secret.  “Nope,” she said, squeaking a bit. She could not wait to unload the gem Susan had gifted to her.

 

“Do not tell me you came in here with some nonsense coffee orders.”

 

She bit on her grin and blushed a bit, then shook her head. “Just one.  Are you ready?”

 

“Not really, but lay it on me,” he said.

 

Susan would like a non-coffee latte with exotic pumpkin spice,” she said, breaking into a fit of voiceless giggles.  “And a PB hot chocolate for me.”

 

Ugh. “There’s nothing exotic about it. It comes from a syrup maker. I bet even starbucks uses the same damn extract. What the hell is with these women who need pumpkin spice everything?” Ulquiorra grumbled. He shook his head. “I bet there’s pumpkin spice KitKats or something.”

 

“This would not surprise me,” she said, shoving her hands into her pockets.  She was wearing the same maroon outfit she had worn during the first meeting she had in Grimmjow’s office with Ulquiorra.

 

He tried not to stare. He tried not to stare at her or notice how the clothing was molded to her body. He failed. He rang up Susan’s order and the hot chocolate and said, “Five bucks.” 

 

Orihime raised an eyebrow at him.  “Is it senior discount day? Because Susan’s not that old.”

 

“Nope, I comped your coffee. My favorite customer and guinea pig gets the first cup free.” Ulquiorra gave her a minuscule smirk.

 

“That’s how you get ‘em hooked, isn’t it?” she said, smiling back at him.  For some reason, when they had the counter between them, it felt like all the awkwardness and danger of their previous encounters was irrelevant.  This was just their customary banter. She had missed it.

 

The smirk grew bolder. “I’ve already got you hooked. The coffee is just a bonus, right?” He gave the guy working behind the counter with him Susan’s cup before he went to get Orihime’s order.

 

She watched him.  He seemed more cheerful to her than he had, maybe, ever.  She felt a warmth in her chest, and she approached the counter, leaning into it and smiling gently.  She was fond of him. “Right,” she said as she watched. Too much time had passed since he asked the question, so it was probably an orphan statement, but she didn’t care.

 

Of course, Susan’s pumpkin flavored milk was sat in front of Orihime first. Ulquiorra was putting the peanut butter whipped cream on her drink and fitting the lid on it. He brought it over to her and leaned forward slightly. “I put a top on it so you don’t get whipped cream on your nose this time.”

 

Her smile widened, appling her cheeks and turning them pink. “Thanks for looking out for my nose,” she murmured.

 

“It’s a cute nose,” Ulquiorra said. He was going to say more, but there was chattering behind Orihime.

 

He straightened his body and saw the basic bitch brigade come in… It included the woman he had sex with the previous night. He glanced at her. “Have a good day,” he said to Orihime.

 

She saw where his eyes had moved and turned to look.  It was that same woman. She recognized her. She saw the hungry look in the woman’s eyes and how she mouthed the word, “Hey,” to him suggestively.  

 

When Orihime turned back around to pick up her drinks, the glow on her face was gone.  “You too. I’ll be in touch about the project in the next couple of days,” she said dryly and left.

 

***

 

Ulquiorra looked at the blonde and honey brunettes in front of him with their sweaters and jeans and boots. “I’m sorry Bethany, but--”

 

“Oh you’re being silly again. It’s Bryce.”

 

“Brenda,” he said pointedly. “I told you I’d charge you double. The price of the latte for you is ten dollars.”

 

The woman scoffed while everyone else giggled. “I can bring you lots of business and you want to treat me like this? I can’t believe I got you off last night.”

 

Ulquiorra sighed, already tired of this. He just decided to end this entire exchange. “You didn’t. Thanks for playing. You’re looser than a Chicago brothel.”

 

There were more titters as whatever-her-name-was turned and walked out of the shop. Ulquiorra took the orders for four pumpkin pie lattes and then avoided Rangiku’s eyes as she stood in the doorway of the work room. When the counter was clear he finally met her eyes. 

 

“Busy? All five of them?” she asked with a smirk. 

 

“No. Just the one that walked out. She kept talking. It was unattractive,” Ulquiorra replied. He wiped down the counter and then decided that things needed to be stocked. The thing was, nothing needed to be stocked. “We need more pumpkin spice.”

 

“What’s with the redhead?” Rangiku asked.

 

Ulquiorra shrugged. “She’s dating Grimmjow. I’m having RBM work on a logo. She’s--”

 

“You’re flirting with her, Ulq. In the three or four years I’ve known you--”

 

“Shut up Rangiku. It’s not a big deal. Maybe I’m trying to branch out and try to be social.” Ulquiorra turned away from the woman and decided to wipe tables off.

 

***

 

Orihime sat at her desk, clicking at her mouse, not really working.  She sipped the hot chocolate and closed her eyes. Damn it. It tasted exactly like it had at Ulquiorra’s apartment. She sighed to herself.  Why was she even wasting her thoughts on it? Why was it bothering her? Was she just flattered? Was she so desperate for attention that she was jealous when he gave his to someone else?

 

It had to be that.  She was fooling herself anyway that it meant anything more than flirtation and whatever.  Besides, she was not going to entertain any advances. She was just letting him feed her fragile ego.  It was a dick move, Orihime. Even if he didn’t mean it, it could easily be interpreted badly. 

 

She walked over to Grimmjow’s office.  He was her future. He made her feel safe and loved and happy.  She knocked on the doorframe.

 

Grimmjow looked up at her and waved her in. “Hey, beautiful. What’s up? Get anywhere on the Coffee & Sadness thing?”

 

She blushed and let herself inside of the office, closing the door.  “I am having a bit of a mental block, but I was stopping by to see if you had plans for lunch.”

 

He nodded with an unhappy expression. “We got a new campaign for a new client. The bossy woman called me directly and said she wanted to have lunch to talk about what she wanted, and Byakuya is riding my ass already. Apparently she’s wanting to shell out a lot of money to get her logo right. She wants us to make her the brand. Pffft. How about dinner? I’m cutting out early tonight.” 

 

“I have class this afternoon, but I’ll be done by four.  After that?”

 

Grimmjow was going to answer but there was a knock on the office door and Susan stuck her head inside. “Orihime, you have a delivery,” she said in a bitchy voice.

 

“A delivery?  I didn’t order anything,” she said in a confused voice.

 

“Who is it Sue?” Grimmjow asked standing up and walking over to where Orihime stood.

 

“It’s a florist.”

 

Orihime smiled and looked at Grimmjow.  “Did you?”

 

He certainly didn’t, but he smiled at her. He might as well take credit for it. “You’ll have to go see.”

 

She pressed her lips together in an embarrassed smile and walked over to her desk quickly.  On it sat a single white daisy with a yellow center in a little tube of water. There was no greenery or card.  Just a single stem. It seemed an odd gesture. She picked it up and smelled it and then looked up over at Grimmjow, who stood in his office door.

 

He smiled at her. Inside his head he was livid. Who the fuck would send his girlfriend a flower? Who knew where she worked? It had to be Ulquiorra. He was the only one who would dare do such a thing.

 

“Like it?” he asked.

 

“It’s sweet,” she said with a little smile.

 

He gave her a nod. “I try,” Grimmjow said.

 

“Thank you. I love it,” she said, giving him a look full of significance.

 

“Oh for god’s sake, do it at home, you two,” Susan bitched before walking the other direction. “Oh, Orihime, can you get me a grilled cheese from across the street?  I’m too busy for lunch today.”

 

Orihime threw some side eye in Susan’s direction.  “Do you want any exotic drinks with that?”

 

“Actually, just a jasmine tea.  I feel like everything has dairy in it,” she muttered.

 

Orihime’s eyes widened and she mouthed the word, “Wow,” in disbelief.

 

“Sue, grilled cheese has dairy in it,” Grimmjow said before he turned and went back to sit at his desk.

 

Orihime sat at her desk for a moment, fishing around for the RBM credit card that now just lived in her desk drawer.  If anyone else needed it, they knew where to find it. She picked up the flower and spun it around in her fingers a bit.  Grimmjow was sweet. She’d have to show some appreciation later, she thought, before getting up and getting ready to go back over to Coffee & Sadness.

 

When she got in and saw Ulquiorra, she was determined not to get down about him.  He was just her favorite baristo. That was all. She was his favorite customer. She loved Grimmjow and he… well he liked her a lot.  Ulquiorra didn’t have any right to sway her mood. She had gotten a flower today. She had a serene, sweet look on her face when she opened the door and got into line.

 

“Peach and gorgonzola to go. Maple coffee. Three grilled cheese.” He told the woman her total and then handed off the order to one of the underlings. He had to keep focus and ignore Rangiku’s words. So when he looked up at the line, he did a double take. Orihime was back. She was just a customer. He took two more orders before he got to her. “Another pumpkin milk?”

 

Orihime’s smile widened a bit. “No.  Can you believe that Susan feels like she’s had too much dairy?  She wants a grilled cheese, by the way,” she joked, but her tone was not as acidic as it usually was when discussing her coworker.  “She’ll have a jasmine tea, though. And did I hear something about peaches?”

 

Ulquiorra nodded. “It’s a thing that may replace the fig and bleu cheese tray, or I might add it to the menu. It’s the same price though. It has a warm honey drizzle with a pinch of cinnamon and black pepper.”

 

She bit her lip as she imagined it.  “Okay, then. One of those, too, and um…” usually she knew what she wanted but her head was in the clouds after the floral delivery and the new lunch thing she’d be having.  “Um… Umm…”

 

“Caramel coffee pairs well with it. Or a latte. I can even make caramel hot chocolate,” Ulquiorra said, looking at her. He had seen the florist delivery van. She had to have gotten his small gift. “Or just a black coffee with a splash of skim milk?”

 

“You don’t carry skim milk,” she said, tilting her face a bit.

 

“I am stocking a small bottle for you,” he said quietly and looking down at the screen.

 

“Then black coffee with a splash of skim, please,” she said at equal volume.

 

“Card,” he said, then swiped it through the reader after she handed it to him. Ulquiorra gave her a quick but tight smile after he was done. “Let me know what you think of the peaches.”

 

“I will, but I’m sure I won’t be disappointed,” she said, taking the card back and smiling down at the floor.  “It might inspire a new playlist.”

 

He nodded. “Free advertising is a good thing. Ethan will get your order.”

 

“Thanks Ulquiorra.  I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said, rather confidently for her.  Almost businesslike. Still kind, though.

 

There was a slight flinch after she said that. Whatever. She. Was. A. Customer. He had to keep repeating that to himself. She had a boyfriend. She wasn’t interested him. “Yup. See ya.”

 

***

 

Evanston, IL.  Coffee & Sadness New Menu Review

Peaches and Gorgonzola.  PEACHES AND GORGONZOLA. PEACHES AND GORGONZOLA!!!   That is all, thanks for reading.

Just kidding.

But jokes aside, do you want to experience a food orgasm?  I know you do. Go to C&S. Order the cheese plate. Tell them the “Rotten Gofer” sent you.  You can thank me for it later.

I’ve been a bit busy lately.  Life and all. Here’s something to brighten your day.  It definitely put a smile on my face.

There was a sketch of the daisy under the text.  

Playlist:  Walking on Broken Glass - Annie Lennox.  Lovesong - The Cure. Floating - Alina Baraz

(bit of a genre departure, but c'est la vie)

 

***

 

A couple weeks passed by. Ulquiorra counted ten flowers delivered to Orihime. Monday through Friday, between eleven am and one pm, the van would pull up and the guy would take the flower in and then come back out.

 

He had to wonder if that’s why Orihime seemed like she was happy everyday that she came into the coffee shop. He couldn’t focus on her for long.

 

There was a flood of young women and men coming into the shop ordering the new fruit plate. Ulquiorra knew who was responsible for this. He had seen the blog post. One young couple said they came all the way from Gary, Indiana to try this thing. 

 

It was good. It wasn’t a food orgasm. 

 

Saturday he decided to go shopping. The grocery store was surprisingly not busy this early in the morning. Maybe he should make walnuts optional with the fruit plates or offer those whole wheat crackers the vendor had been wanting him to try. Hmmm. It was something to think about.

 

He was so lost in thought in front of the dairy display, holding a small carton of heavy cream, that he didn’t notice Grimmjow. It took the man poking him in the side of the head to get his attention. 

 

“Ulq, what the fuck are you doing?”

 

“I’m comparing products,” he replied.

 

“Nah, man you know what I’m talking about. Yesterday it was a pink rose,” his friend growled. “You’re making me look bad. I’m gonna have to send her bouquets or something.”

 

Ulquiorra shrugged. “It’s not my fault--Wait… how did you figure it out?”

 

“Dude,” Grimmjow said, as if that explained everything.

 

“Whatever. You’ve probably made her think they’re from you, so no harm done. It’s just a small gesture to put a smile on her face.”

 

There was a frustrated sigh. “Why are you doing this? And damn straight I made her think they’re from me. You wouldn’t believe how much I’ve been getting laid.”

 

“I told you already.”

 

“You can’t have her. She’s mine.”

 

Ulquiorra looked at Grimmjow with a bored expression. “Really?”

 

“Really. I’m not about to share with someone either. You can want her all you’d like. That’s all you’re going to be doing,” Grimmjow stated.

 

That was probably the wrong thing to say to Ulquiorra. The man just issued him a challenge all nice and neat and wrapped in a bow. “We’ll see about that Grimmjow. Heaven forbid the flowers stop and you’d have to figure out how to woo her on your own.”

 

“Did you not hear me? I said you can’t have her. Do I need to kick your ass?”

 

“When have you ever kicked my ass?”

 

It was the truth. As many times as they fought, Ulquiorra was quicker than Grimmjow and always won their battles. The only time Grimmjow had won was when the bigger man kicked Ulquiorra in the balls. 

 

“Whatever. I know how to woo my woman.”

 

“Tch.”

 

“Tch,” Grimmjow returned. “Keep it up and you’re going to find out.”

 

A sly smirk came over Ulquiorra’s face. “We’ll see. Good day, Grimmjow.”

 

***

 

“I’m done with the mock ups.  Did you still want to do dinner to look them over or do you want to just meet at the office?” Orihime said that Friday morning when she came in with the office coffee order, almost a week after Ulquiorra’s encounter with Grimmjow.

 

“Grimmjow wouldn’t like me to have dinner with you. I’ll look at them next week probably,” Ulquiorra said as he looked at the lists of coffees. Grimmjow’s order had changed to a maple bourbon coffee with cream. Susan was still on her bullshit, as was Karen. Byakuya Kuchiki was still a boring-ass bastard. The one named Julie was also fucking boring. Tim wanted an Italian soda. “All the people in your office have no imagination.”

 

“That’s funny,” she said with a small chuckle.  “I think they imagine big. They imagine themselves very important.  Well, let me know about the meeting,” she said.  She had narrowed her eyes at his comment about Grimmjow, but said nothing.  “I have too much imagination, if I’m to believe my aunt.”

 

“But your imagination is valid. Your ideas are ones I can work with,” Ulquiorra replied. He looked up at her with slightly pink cheeks. He hadn’t meant to say that. “Not Susan’s non-dairy latte, you know...”

 

She smiled at that. “Do you smoke?” she asked, seemingly a random question.

 

“Occasionally.”

 

“I ask because I was thinking about my aunt.  She smokes. The smell is comforting.” She looked at Ulquiorra and smiled.  “Christmas is coming up. Maybe I can send her a gift basket from here. Do you ship?”

 

“I can ship. Do you want me to put together a basket for you to give to her?” Ulquiorra asked, blinking several times. He didn’t know what to think of this request. Before he would have jumped at her request, but the conversation with Grimmjow had him thinking before he acted.

 

“If it’s not too much trouble, I would love that.” She paused and closed her eyes, taking a deep breath through her nose and smiling.  “I know it’s odd, but I really love that smell.”

 

Ulquiorra’s face tinted a bit pinker. “They’re clove cigarettes. I try not to bring the smell in with me. It’s a bad habit but… I only do it anymore to get my head straight.”

 

She smiled at him in understanding, then looked around the shop.  “You’ve been busier. It’s pumpkin spice season. You just came back from your break—” Her face turned a bit pink. “Yeah, I know your schedule.  I practically live here,” she admitted with a chuckle. “Anyway, I don’t blame you for needing it.”

 

“It’s only going to get busier with the holidays coming up. You wouldn’t believe the amount of people who rush in the week of Thanksgiving. It’s madness,” Ulquiorra said to her. “Minter is coming.”

 

“Minter?” She asked, a confused smile on her face.

 

“Mint. Everything mint flavored. Peppermint Mochas. Mint hot chocolate. Mint and white chocolate lattes,” Ulquiorra replied with an amused glance. “Minter. Mint plus winter.”

 

She shook her head.  “Blech, not a fan of Minter.”  She laughed. “Don’t worry, I’m sure Susan and Karen LOVE it.”

 

“You’re not a fan of pumpkin season either,” Ulquiorra commented. He leaned onto the counter and stared at her. It was a challenge on his part.

 

She did not back down.  She thought he was teasing her.  She put her hands on her hips and arched her back slightly, raising her chin, then said, “Oh yeah?  You got a problem with that?” in some goofy mimic of an old crime movie detective voice. She held his gaze.

 

“Nope. Otherwise I would have already gotten your number,” he smirked at her and quickly flashed his eyebrows before returning to a passive gaze. “I’m kidding. I think it makes you interesting that you’re willing to try new things.”

 

She smirked back. “Well, Adventure is my middle name,” she said with a worldly air, then laughed.  “Just kidding. It’s Louise.”

 

He shook his head. “Okay Louise. Better take Thelma his coffee.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I know when I’m not wanted.  You’ll call me about the meeting?” she said, still with laughter in her voice.

 

“I’ll call,” he said pushing off the counter. “Have a good day.”

 

***

 

Halloween Treats

Hello dear netizens.  ‘Tis I, your friendly Coffee and Sadness blogger, here to spread tidings of good cheer and full-sized candy bars.  So, I’m sure you are aware that it’s Halloween this week. I’m between costumes… I think I mentioned the ideas from a previous post, but wouldn’t you know, Halloween Express doesn’t carry derpy pumpkin costumes, and the Frankenstein’s Bride ones are all just hideous.  So here we are. Starbucks mermaid, Pikachu, or Pirate Wench? If you wouldn’t mind voting below, I’d appreciate it.

Orihime had sketched out cute versions of each costume on a smiley-faced body, each holding a different flower.  She also embedded a limited-time poll for readers to vote.

Anyway, you should go to Enrique’s for some killer poisoned martini mix.  It’s half off this week. Also my home away from home, Coffee & Sadness the coffee shop (not this blog) is still in full Pumpkin Spice swing, but there is also some mapley goodness going on which is well worth it.  There is another treat on the specials board that I won’t name, because I want to hoard it all to myself like a dragon, but if you go, you’ll see it. OMG drool. Oh! Also, for the daring, Starrk’s bar will be having a Halloween night with candy corn shots and Witch’s Brew.  Good times.

Playlist: This is Halloween (The Nightmare Before Christmas), Sandman - Metallica, Thriller - Michael Jackson.

 

***

 

Grimmjow panted against Orihime, frustrated with himself. He couldn’t go back to using condoms with her. It just felt wrong. Not using them, though, meant he didn’t last or couldn’t go as long. 

 

It was a joke. He had to resort to fingering her or going down on her to get her off. If they had sex a second time, sometimes he could get her off with his dick. It was a fucking problem for him. It made him look selfish. It made him look like a prick. He always apologized for it. But now it just seemed like a hassle.

 

He rolled off of his girlfriend and flopped back onto the bed. “Maybe we should go back to using condoms. I know I can make you a screaming mess with those.”

 

“Yeah, I mean, I wouldn’t mind,” she said with a laugh, but inwardly thanking her lucky stars that he proposed it.  They were having as much, if not more, sex than ever, but it was getting to be problematic for her. It was all about him.  He had no self-control. It made her feel like an object instead of a participant. He even skimped on foreplay, so desperate, it seemed, to stick it in her raw and just go for broke.  

 

This was also affecting the way she viewed him as a person and their relationship.  Now that he wasn’t the best lover in all of human existence, she was starting to notice how he was selfish in other ways.  Things like having her do his laundry when he left stuff at her house, but never doing hers when she left it at his. He started sending her out to go get take out to eat in the office instead of taking her out.  He ignored her a lot when they weren’t being amorous, spending more time watching television or playing on his phone.

 

Sure, he was still affectionate, and he was kind.  He just wasn’t perfect. That was okay. It was eye-opening, though.

 

“I’m sorry,” he said glancing at her. “It’s like being a kid in a candy store. I can’t wait to have my treats and indulge on them. Maybe a couple of times a week we can practice safe sex and all that.” Grimmjow grinned at her then sighed. All this relationship stuff wasn’t the cause of the stress. His new client was a bitch and demanding. Kuchiki kept riding his ass to please her. It was really just draining him. 

 

He rolled towards her and kissed the swell of her breast. “What can I do to make it up to you?”

 

“Um… Take me to Starrk’s on Halloween?  A couple of my girls are going, but they are going to get laid.  I don’t want to be around that creepy bartender in a Halloween costume.”

 

“I’d be happy to take you to Starrk’s. What should I go as? I can play a really good thug. Or maybe a demon?” Grimmjow said, with a small smile on his face. “Uh, I was gonna ask… You got plans on Thanksgiving?”

 

She smiled at his agreement.  “Oooh, a demon, yes! And no, I don’t have plans.  Why do you ask?”

 

“Wanted to know if you wanted to meet my Mom. Could take you to see my hometown and where I grew up and met Ulq and Nnoi.” Grimmjow let his fingers circle her nipple. He wasn’t doing it to excite her. He just wanted to touch her.

 

Orihime’s eyes grew large and her breath caught in her throat.  “Oh. Oh, yes. Yes I’d love to meet her!” she answered, rather surprised but very pleased.  She was actively ignoring the voice in her head saying, ‘this is just where it started to go downhill with Uryu’ .

 

“Good. I’ll tell her to expect us on Thanksgiving. My mom makes some mean cranberry relish. It’s awesome stuff,” he said. “I’ll see what I can dig up with the demon gimmick. Might have to go to a Halloween store or something.”

 

“My blog readers have until midnight tonight to vote on my costume.  So far Pikachu is in the lead,” she said, snickering and anticipating a displeased reaction.

 

“Pikachu?” Grimmjow laughed. “You’re about the size of one. Think I’d look good as Ash?”

 

She wrinkled her nose.  “No… And I’m not squeezing into a Pokeball, so forget it,” she said with a laugh.

 

“We’ll figure something out. Is it a sexy pikachu? Little yellow dress and some ears?” Grimmjow asked. “I could go as Charizard.”

 

“You’re on the right track,” Orihime said.  “Charizard sounds cute.” The smile on her face lasted a good minute before she got sucked into less pleasant thoughts.

 

“I could be Snorlax. You know, a total bore, but that’s more Ulq’s calling,” he said chuckling. “Did you have a good day? I know I’ve been ignoring you a bit, but work. It’s important to me to get ahead. I want to have what Kuchiki has and build my own empire.”

 

She smiled at him.  “That’s a lofty goal.  That’s good.” She was clamming up a bit.

 

Grimmjow looked over at her but said nothing. He wanted to tell her what she wanted to hear but he wasn’t ready to say it. “Have I told you how happy you make me? How much I adore you?”

 

She smiled and  nodded. There was a tight feeling in her chest that she couldn’t place.  She didn’t trust her voice.

 

“You okay, Hime? You seem… tense or unhappy. Maybe I’m imagining things. I dunno.” Grimmjow sat up and then got out of his bed and walked out of his bedroom to the bathroom. Maybe she needed some space for a minute or two.

 

Now why the hell would he ask that and ditch her?  It made her feel like he didn’t care or want to know what the answer was.  She was frustrated. Everything seemed to be just a bit wrong. She didn’t want to tell him that she could never invite him to meet her mom, but she also wanted to.  And now he was gone, and she was sexually frustrated, and sad, and happy, and worried… it was just too much for one day. 

 

Grimmjow cleaned himself off and then got a warm washcloth for Orihime and a towel. He knew she had issues with wanting to be clean. She didn’t seem to like sitting around with his stuff inside of her. He took it back to the bedroom and smiled at her. “Sorry. Nature called. I did get you something to clean up with,” he said to her, holding up the two pieces of fabric.

 

“Thank you,” she said, reaching out for the items, and then it happened.  A hiccup. A sniff and another hiccup. “Shit,” she muttered, turning her face away and trying to be discreet about cleaning herself and keeping her tears quiet.

 

He felt like an asshole. Gently, as not to disturb her, Grimmjow sat down next to her and put his arms around her. “C’mon Hime. Tell me what is going on? Are you stressed about the job? Am I stressing you out? Is the whole parent thing stressing you out?”

 

His concern did her in.  She turned into his chest and sobbed.  She let it loose and didn’t stop for a few minutes.  When it slowed down, she wiped her face with her hands and kissed his collarbone.  “You are so sweet. I am just… I’m frustrated and stressed with the job. I told him it was ready and he won’t set up a meeting.  I want to meet your mom and it just makes me realize that, especially if you are successful, I can never introduce you to my mom.  I’ve never even met my dad.  I just love you so much and I feel like… Like… Like I’m not good enough.”

 

Oh. Oh. Grimmjow tilted her head up and kissed her slowly. She didn’t need to feel like that. “Hey, I’m the King, and my Princess should never feel like that. I don’t talk to my dad. He’s some deadbeat that lives in Michigan, or so I’m told. It’s okay if your mom is MIA. I don’t do well with the whole meeting-the-parents thing. They either tolerate me or detest me. I’ll talk to Ulq this week about coming in and looking at the logos. You’re doing a great job, Orihime. This is your paid gig. This job is all you.”

 

Grimmjow paused for a moment and looked into the woman’s eyes. “I’m falling in love with you,” he said before he kissed her again. “You’re too good for me, sometimes. You’re even better than me, but never have you been not good enough.”

 

She whimpered and tears flowed down her face.  She bit her lip and nodded at him. If he was falling in love with her, then the rest of it didn’t matter, she thought.  She was reassuring herself as much as he was. He wasn’t just using her for her body. That was a stupid thought brought about by not getting off.  “I love you,” she squeaked.

 

“I know you do. You tell me every day. I’m lucky to hear you say it,” he said as he gathered her into his arms, kissing her temple and then jaw before making a line of kisses from her ear down her neck. “I want it to be us, Orihime. You and me, Princess. I want to make love to you, if you’re up for it.”

 

She sniffled and nodded.  “I need you,” she whimpered.

 

The man nodded and laid her back against the pillows before reaching over to the bedside table and withdrawing a condom from the box inside of it. He looked over her body as he put the packet to the side. Yeah, he’d been neglecting her a bit. He was going to make it up to her tonight. He was going to show her he was the same man he’d been in September and before that. He leaned over her body and kissed her again, letting his tongue pry her mouth open. One hand reached for hers, intertwining their fingers together. The other hand was working her tit, squeezing and massaging the skin. 

 

She let him do as he pleased, following his lead.  She was glad for this. She wanted this. She still couldn’t shake off the melancholy that had taken hold of her, though, and silent tears still drained down the back of her throat as he kissed and touched her.  Her body was responding just fine. Her mind was only about eighty percent there, though.

 

He was nuzzling her tit with his nose and sighed with contentment before he took her nipple into his mouth. She was so responsive to what he was doing. There was just something off about this entire thing, but he promised he could be a better lover and man to her. As his mouth traveled lower, Grimmjow felt his cock become harder. He stopped just before he got to her slit. He sat back and withdrew his hand from hers before he picked up the condom. “Hey Hime?”

 

“Hmm?” she responded, looking at him with almost a baby face, with wide eyes and a pouty mouth.

 

Maybe he could say it. He bit his lip before blushing. He had to look down at his dick to put the condom on. When he looked back at her he smiled. “It’s me and you,” he said as he lined himself up against her. “I… I love you.”

 

She gasped, and her limbs froze.  She wanted to be happy, but she froze.  When he began to push into her she cried out and brought one shaky arm around his shoulders.  The other followed slowly, and her legs were next, wrapping around his hips. She held onto him, unable to speak or even process what he had said.  She was just shaken.

 

Grimmjow held onto her hips as he slowly rocked himself in and out of her body. Occasionally every few thrusts he would kiss her or latch onto her neck for a few seconds. “Me and you,” he murmured to her.

 

It felt like misery, really.  Misery mixed with bliss. He was making love to her like he used to. Her body craved him; craved this.  The bloom of affection she always felt before was back. However, there was a layer of cold right underneath that; a whisper of doubt that he was only saying it because he felt railroaded into saying it, for reciprocity’s sake.  And under those two layers, was a third that felt like poison. A voice telling her that she didn’t deserve him. She didn’t deserve his love or his trust or his affection. A voice that said she would never meet his mother. That she would fall so deeply for him only to have him tell her she was nothing to him.  And she would deserve it. Afterall, she couldn’t stop chatting up his friend. She couldn’t keep her previous boyfriend interested. She couldn’t save her brother. She couldn’t make her mother happy. She had been a burden on her aunt. She was a speck on the wall. Worthless.

 

She needed that voice to shut the fuck up.  She knew two ways to do it, and drinking absinthe at the moment was impractical.  “I love you, Grimmjow,” she breathed and took his face in her hands, kissing him deeply.  That did the trick.

 

“Hime, I love you,” he murmured back to her, still sliding into her body at a slow and steady pace. He noticed she was more relaxed now so he upped the speed just a bit.

 

Her legs tightened around him and she used them to rock her hips in time with his thrusts, helping herself along toward completion.  It was something she had learned to avoid doing when they had sex without a condom, because it inevitably led to him coming too fast. But her experience was always better for her when she was an active participant.  She was soon panting and tightening on him. She had a way to go, but she was getting close.

 

“I can feel it. Can you? You’re almost ready,” Grimmjow said to her. “I’m going to make you fall apart, Orihime. I’m going to make you call out my name.” His feet braced on the bed and he pushed himself up on his arms. He used a bit more force but still the same steady movements. The headboard was starting to hit the wall.

 

The sorrowful cries she had been silencing took on a secondary purpose now as she began to bleat out grunts of building pleasure and agony as she chased her climax.  She was much louder than usual, ragged vocalizations filling the room. “Grimmjow… Grimm, I’m gonna--” she really didn’t need to tell him. She’d never faked it. There was no mistaking when Orihime came.  Her walls clamped down on him and tried to milk him as she bit back a scream.

 

He fucked her harder, almost at that peak himself. It didn’t take long until he was groaning and all movement stopped except for the pulsing inside of her.  That felt fucking awesome. It lasted longer too. “Love you,” he breathed against her chest.

 

“Love you, too.”  She said, letting her hand smooth out his hair.  She did love him. She meant it. But she knew that he did not.  She had pressured him into saying it prematurely and it felt a bit hollow.

 

“Can I take you out to dinner? Like an actual sit down place? I’ll let you pick. Just tell me where you want to go and we will be there.” He looked up at her and smiled. He looked happy. He was happy. He was content, but Grimmjow knew that sometimes being content made other people dissatisfied. With her emotional outburst, Orihime made it known she wasn’t happy. He’d be a better boyfriend to her.

 

She nodded.  “That would be nice,” she said, giving him a small, genuine smile. “I want seafood,” she said then with a dry little chuckle.  She felt better now; the hormonal frustration of the past few weeks was ebbing away in her post-orgasmic glow.

 

“Good.”

Chapter Text

Ulquiorra had blocked several days off for himself. He needed it from time to time. He got his coffee from downstairs and smiled at Rangiku who just stuck her tongue out at him. She knew what he looked like when he smiled. She had said it was the cutest thing ever.

 

He left Coffee & Sadness, walking down the street and blowing on the espresso that was steaming in his hands. He’d walk around for a bit, letting the chill in the air clear his head. It was getting colder and colder by the day. Soon he would start letting the shaved parts of his head start to grow out some after finding his scarf and hat.


It was too cold in the winter to think about appearances.

 

Once he saw the lake, Ulquiorra stopped and took in the sight. He bet Grimmjow could see the lake from his place. He sighed. Thinking about Grimmjow brought on thoughts of Orihime. He didn’t want to have this meeting with her. He didn’t want the chemistry between them to die. Ulquiorra wanted to keep her around.

 

He had admitted to himself last night, as he stood in the shower and jerked off, that he wanted her. She was the thing that caught his eye. She was what he thought about when he couldn’t sleep.

 

Grimmjow issued that challenge to him. All Ulquiorra had to do was charm her. She’d submit to him. That’s not how he wanted to do things with Orihime, though. He didn’t want to play the petty games that Nnoitra and Grimmjow had been playing for years. Stealing girlfriends and trying to ruin friendships and fighting was high school shit. He was twenty-four years old. Those two were older than him. It was time to grow up.

 

He knew if he told this to Nnoitra, the man would argue that he was an adult. He paid his bills. He had a job. He bought his own shit. Grimmjow would say he was growing up. He had a mortgage, a car payment and a credit card.

 

Being an adult was different from being a grown up. Grown ups had their shit together. At least that’s what Ulquiorra always thought. His father seemed like he was extremely grown up. Robert Cifer had the world figured out and had his ducks in a row. Abigail Cifer had been an adult, but had childish tendencies. 

 

Shaking his head, Ulquiorra pushed the thought of his parents to the back of his mind. Their anniversary would be coming up. It was hard to anticipate Christmas Eve without thinking about them. The anniversary of their deaths would be approaching too. That New Year’s Eve was horrible, watching the firemen hose down the burning car. He hadn’t been that old. 

 

Uncle Sousuke said it was a tragedy. His half-brother had died too young. 

 

He didn’t want to think about Aizen right now either.

 

Ulquiorra found a bench to sit on and stare at the water and the boats that rocked in the small marina.

 

*** 

 

Pikachu had won.  Orihime sighed as she walked around the costume shop. She had been busy, and didn’t get out to shop until two days before Halloween, and all the cute costumes had been sold.  She twisted her lips around as she browsed the store and texted Grimmjow.

 

- Don’t bother looking high and low for a Charmander costume; Pikachu’s sold out. I’ll have to be creative.

 

She saw all kinds of slutty costumes.  They were just nauseating to her. She didn’t need to be out in public with her ass hanging out of a cheap, poorly constructed polyester french maid costume. Then she turned the corner and stopped.

 

Of course that would be in stock.  

 

She shook her head and laughed, picking up the nun costume and turning toward the cash register.  She could fashion a baby bump under the black robe with a throw pillow or something from home. Plus, she was pretty sure she would be the only one at Starrk’s wearing something like this.

 

***

 

Grimmjow sent his girlfriend a photo of himself wearing a Charizard onesie. It was pulled low over his eyes and he was smirking.

 

- It's called Amazon. :D I bought this the night you suggested it. Gonna be calling Ulq soon about your meeting. <3 hope you’re having a good day beautiful.

 

When he put his phone away he looked at Ulquiorra.


“Come to Starrk’s with us,” Grimmjow said to him. 

 

“Why?”

 

“Because maybe you can hook up with some bitch and get whatever out of your system.” Grimmjow gave him a glance and picked up his coffee cup. Ulq was nice enough to meet him for lunch at the coffee shop, but they just got coffee there while Grimmjow drove them to a burger place.

 

“Orihime looks down on pumpkin spice, basic bitch women,” Ulquiorra replied. “I wouldn’t want to make her frown.”

 

The scoff was loud. “Tch! You think you have a chance with her? Honestly? You’re going to get your ass beat, Ulquiorra.”

 

The dark-haired man raised an eyebrow. “I’m not going to sleep with her. I don’t touch people you’ve fucked. I do enjoy her company. I enjoy her--I just enjoy being around her. Is it really that odd that I can be your girlfriend’s friend?

 

“I don’t know man. I’ve been fucked over enough by Nnoitra concerning females. Why not find your own woman?” Grimmjow asked. “I swear to god though, if you fuck her or touch her inappropriately...”

 

The threat hung there.

 

It made his friend narrow his eyes. “She likes my aesthetic, not me. So I think you’re safe concerning that. She’s… She’s special, Grimmjow.”

 

“Duh, I know that. Why won’t you meet with her?”

 

“I don’t want her to stop paying attention to me.”

 

When Ulq laid it all out there, he laid it all out there. Fuck. Grimmjow stabbed one of the french fries with a fork to dip it into the cheese sauce he ordered. “You’re talking about sharing her. I don’t share man. What’s mine is mine.”

 

Ulquiorra shook his head. “I don’t want her physically… At least I don’t think so.”

 

“You’re proposing a fucked up relationship. I don’t fucking share.”

 

“I’m not asking you to! I’m telling you I’m going to be her friend, whether you like it or not.”

 

Grimmjow’s lip curled at this information. Orihime could have all the friends she wanted… She wouldn’t want to be friends with Ulquiorra, though.  “You can try, but like I said she wouldn’t give two shits about you.”

 

Ulquiorra gave him a small smirk. “If I can prove you wrong--”

 

“You can…I guess I’ll have to share but you’re not going to prove me wrong.”

 

***

 

“So I’m coming over to your place to get ready with Maddie and then we can all walk from there, right?  Or can your boyfriend give us a ride?” Orihime’s friend, Zara, asked.

 

“It seems a waste to drive just a block and a half, Zar.  How’s the hot chocolate?” Orihime asked her friend with the short brown hair.

 

“Oh, it’s really good.  Not as good as you talked it up to be, but it’s really good,” she replied.

 

Orihime nodded.  “Yeah, the guy who usually makes it for me is on vacation or something.  Usually it’s better than this. I don’t even know what it is. I know they follow a recipe or whatever, but--”

 

“It’s missing the secret ingredient,” Zara interrupted.

 

Orihime looked at her critically.  “And what is that?”

 

“Love, duh.  That’s what all those commercials say.”

 

Orihime nodded slowly.  “Right. That. Anyway, as I was saying, we can walk to Starrk’s.”

 

Zara rolled her eyes.  “So anyway, Hime, tell me.  What’s up with you and your boyfriend?  Is it serious?”

 

Orihime took a long sip of her hot chocolate before answering.  “He told me he loves me. He wants me to meet his mom at Thanksgiving.”

 

The other woman nearly spit the hot chocolate in her mouth out.  After she managed to swallow, she coughed and said, “Hold on. He what?!  You move fast, Orihime. Well done,” she said, looking sideways with a dubious expression.”

 

“What?  Just because of what happened with Uryu you think I can’t keep a man?” Orihime snapped defensively.  Usually she would have shrunk away from this but something about how Zara had said it touched a nerve.

 

The brunette knit her brows and looked at her.  “Who? I never heard this story. Spill it.”

 

Orihime rolled her eyes and sighed.  She explained how she dated this guy, Uryu Ishida, freshman year.  How he told her he was falling for her and how he was her first. How he told her he was going to take her to Connecticut to meet his family.  “And then, he pulled the rug out from underneath me.”

 

The other woman looked confused.  “How?”

 

Orihime rolled her eyes and lowered her voice a bit.  “We were in the middle of… you know. I finished, and then he just stopped and told me to get off, and that he wasn’t attracted to me and didn’t want me.  Then he just left and that was it.”

 

Zara’s eyes widened and she nearly dropped her cup.  “That dick!”

 

“I know.  Apparently I made him gay,” Orihime said bitterly.

 

“No, that’s fucked up.  Totally fucked up. I hope this Grimmjow guy is a better lover than he is.”

 

“Yeah, by a long shot,” Orihime said.  “What about your new guy? Kayden, was it?”

 

Zara sat back and curled her lips. “Well, it was all wonderful and orgasm central until he found out I was on the shot.  Then the condoms came off and now I never get off. He lasts three minutes if I’m lucky. It’s fucking frustrating.”

 

“Oh my god! So it’s not just me?  My god I thought I was going crazy,” Orihime confessed, trying to speak in hushed tones.  “It was mind-blowing the first month and then it was all, “Sorry Baby. I’m busy”, or a quick fuck that leaves me a sticky, frustrated mess.”

 

“Well cheers to solidarity,” Zara said, gently clinking her coffee cup against Orihime’s.

 

Neither woman paid any attention to the blonde woman slowly bussing tables behind them.

 

“So I guess Brynlee never got to that point with Grimmjow; she acted like he was god’s gift to women,” Zara said.

 

Orihime looked at her friend with a confused expression.

 

“Oh.  She was seeing Grimmjow a while ago.”

 

Orihime spit out her drink into her cup. “WHAT?  Are you telling me Bryn fucked my boyfriend!?” She hissed.

 

“Easy there, tiger,” the friend interrupted.  “This was way back in summer.”

 

Orihime’s scowl was deep.  “When?”

 

“Oh, between May and August, I think. I don’t think it was serious; just a booty call thing, but he must have broken it off for you,” the woman explained.

 

Orihime’s face turned patchy red.  “That’s interesting.” He had been fucking her and Brynlee at the same time.  “Well, look at the time, Zar, I gotta go. See you tomorrow!” Orihime said, gathering her stuff and leaving.

 

***

 

Grimmjow locked his car before he walked to Orihime’s place. He was wearing the Pokemon get up. The onesie he bought looked almost like the fire-breathing dragon. It even had wings and a tail. If he turned around fast enough he would whack someone with it. He was still shaking his head at Ulquiorra’s costume. The man had picked a priest outfit. It was a ludicrous idea. The guy didn’t believe in religion.

 

Ulquiorra continued on to Starrk’s when they reached Orihime’s building.  Grimmjow jogged up the stairs alone and knocked on his woman’s door, shifting his weight around as he tried to keep the basketball shorts he wore underneath from riding up. “Hime, babe,” he called out.

 

“Come in, it’s open!” she called out.  She had talked to her girlfriends about it over the past day and spent some time mulling it over.  She and Grimmjow hadn’t been in a relationship over the summer. Not really. She was not allowed to hold his… transgressions against him.  It didn’t mean it didn’t bother her, but she just wasn’t allowed to say anything about it.

 

She had stuffed a small throw pillow, attached to her skin with tape, under her nun habit and tied the white waist belt high under her bosom in an empire effect to emphasize the small bump.  She was just putting some dewey highlighter on her cheeks in an effort to make her face even more innocent looking than usual. She thought it was hilarious.

 

When Grimmjow walked in, he stopped short and stared at her. It was probably just a coincidence that his girlfriend was a nun while one of his best friends was going to be a priest. Those two probably planned this during their little coffee chitchats. “Hmph,” he said and shook his head. “The age old pregnant nun. Better be a joke because I ain’t ready for anyone to call me Daddy.”

 

Orihime turned around.  “Not even me?” she asked with a smirk.

 

His eyebrows disappeared with surprise. The hell did she just say? Grimmjow reached down to his groin and adjusted himself. Just thinking about it… “Maybe, we can discuss it. You look innocent though,” he said with a slight growl to his voice.

 

“Good, that is the point,” she said, approaching him and giving him a squeeze around the middle, despite the pillow between them.  “And is pregnant nun a cliche? Shoot. I thought I was being original. This costume didn’t come this way. You look cute,” she said, flipping her fingers on the hood part of his costume.

 

“Mostly frat boys with beards running around as pregnant nuns,” he commented. Grimmjow took slight offense at her cute compliment. “Charizard isn’t supposed to be cute. He’s fearsome. He’s bold and brash. He’ll kick asses and take names.”

 

“He’s adorable, and so are you, Grimmjow,” Zara commented with just a slight smirk as she came out of the bathroom in a sluttly cop costume.  “Maddie is still screwing around in there. She’s on the phone with Brynlee,” she said as if it was an obnoxious thought.

 

“Jesus fucking Christ. What the hell are you doing here, Zara? Orihime? You’re friends--What the fuck? No.” Grimmjow scowled and huffed. It had been a mistake to fuck that one intern. She was desperate and clingy. She was dumber than Sue. He pulled his girlfriend out into the hall. “You’re friends with those people?”

 

“Yeah I’ve been friends with them since sophomore year,” she replied.

 

“Motherfucker.” It was just his fucking luck. “Look, you shouldn’t invite Bryn out. She’s a bitch.”

 

“She’s perfectly nice, Grimm,” Zara said.

 

“Private conversation,” he snapped, turning his head to look at the woman who rudely stuck her nose into his business.

 

“What’s your problem with Bryn?” Orihime asked.

 

Grimmjow shrugged. “She’s… she’s dramatic,” he said. He didn’t want to explain why he didn’t like the woman.

 

Orihime narrowed her eyes at him.  He didn’t want to come clean? Fine.  “Are you almost ready to go, Maddie?”

 

The blonde came out of the bathroom in a mermaid costume.  “Yeah, he’s here, Brynn. No, I don’t think he wants to talk to you right now.  Yeah… I mean, yeah. What do you mean? You better be coming. Okay bye.” She looked at the other three in the room.  “Shall we?”

 

“You two go ahead,” Grimmjow said and glared at them. He waited until both women were out of the apartment before he looked at Orihime. “Bryn… She and I had a couple of hookups,” he finally said. “This was before I made my moves on you.”

 

Orihime rolled her eyes.  “No it wasn’t.”

 

“How do you know? Ya’ll talking to each other? If you know Bryn then you already know what the fuck happened,” Grimmjow said. “Okay so I fucked her and you a couple of times in the same month. I’m with you now and I don’t see that changing any time soon.”

 

Orihime felt worse than she thought she would when he confirmed it.  “I know it’s in the past,” she said quietly. “We should go.”

 

“Nah, we’re going to talk about this. I didn’t tell Bryn that I love her. I’ve never fucked her without protection, Orihime,” Grimmjow told her. He looked at her with pleading eyes although his mouth was pulled into frown.

 

“I know.  It just feels shitty, that’s all.”

 

“Look, at the beginning of your internship it was just fucking,” he said, pulling her close. “I fell for you, not her. I don’t have eyes for anyone else and I’m not going to share you, despite what that asshole thinks.”

 

Orihime pulled back in his arms enough to look at his face.  “What asshole?” she asked, her brows pulled into a confused line.

 

“Nothing. Ulq’s being dumb.”

 

Her confused look only deepened.  She had the sense not to press the issue, though.  “I don’t share, either,” she said cautiously, after watching his face for a moment.

 

Grimmjow let out a long sigh. “Good. Because I don’t want your friend. I love you, Princess.”

 

***

 

Of course the bar was busier than normal. Ulquiorra rolled his eyes before he scanned the crowd. He saw Grimmjow’s blue head and the hideous orange outfit he had on. He was surrounded by a gaggle of women. It made Ulquiorra amused to see the man looking miserable. 

 

He walked through the bar and ended up beside Grimmjow after pushing a sexy nurse and cop aside. “Hey man,” he said over the loud music. It was terrible.

 

“Hey,” Grimmjow replied back. “Princess, look who made it, Father Cifer is here to hear your sins.”

 

Orihime looked over and covered her mouth. “Oh my god,” she exclaimed, then she laughed at her accidental pun.  “Holy shit, I can’t believe you wore that! It was a joke!” She looked absolutely tickled. “I was supposed to be Pikachu, but the Halloween store didn’t have anything good left, so here I am.  Unreal!”

 

“I know,” Ulquiorra said with a sly smile. “I read your blog--”

 

“Hi.” A woman with brassy blonde hair interrupted him. “I’m Jess, one of Hime’s friends. You are?”

 

Ulquiorra looked her up and down in the french maid costume. “Hi,” he said in a curt tone.

 

“Hime! Who is your friend here? He’s hot!” This caused Ulquiorra to roll his eyes. 

 

Orihime gave her a tense smile.  “This is Ulquiorra. He’s a--” she began before the blonde cut her off. “--client of mine…” she mumbled as she got talked over.

 

“Oooh, that name just rolls off the tongue. Hi, I’m Jackie,” a dark-skinned woman said. She was wearing some kind of sexy dress… More like slutty dress.

 

“I bet you can’t say it.”

 

Of course this woman had to be dumb. “Hmmm, I bet you I can say it perfectly,” she purred into his ear. 

 

“So, Grimmjow...” Ulquiorra said, trying to ignore the woman. “We could totally switch costumes.”

 

Grimmjow was about to laugh but again… Jackie butted in. “Oh, why would you trade with him? You look so good in that. Can I confess my sins to you? I’ve been naughty.”


“Oooh! I want a turn!”

 

Ulquiorra shook his head and caught Orihime’s eye. He mouthed the word, “Really?” to her.

 

Orihime gave him a half smile that didn’t reach her eyes and shrugged.  She decided it would be impossible to talk to him, so she did something she had never done before.  She texted him. She had his number in her phone ever since the logo project started, but she had never used it.

 

- The sluts want what they want, I suppose.  LOL.

 

She turned to Grimmjow then and gave him a genuine smile.  “So, witch’s brew or candy corn shooters?”

 

“I don’t think the pregnant nun needs a drink,” Grimmjow said grabbing her by the hips. “I’ll take three witch’s brew.”

 

Ulquiorra glared at his phone before adding her information into his phone.

 

“Oooh who is Coffee Girl? There’s even a heart!” some female shrieked behind him.

 

He about had enough as he walked to the other side of Grimmjow close to where Orihime was standing. “I’m about to shank these bitches,” he muttered.

 

“Yeah, well watch out for Jackie. I snubbed her once,” Grimmjow said as Nnoitra came over with their drinks. He passed one to Orihime and then one to Ulquiorra before he took one for himself. “Happy Halloween.”

 

Orihime smirked.  “Yeah. Jackie gets pissed if she doesn’t get her way,” she said, leaning back a bit behind Ulquiorra and Grimmjow.  She didn’t want to attract Nnoitra’s attention.

 

Ulquiorra scoffed and shifted closer to Orihime. “Well she’s not getting her way tonight,” he said. “She’s the one who orders pumpkin spice muffins with a pumpkin spice cappuccino almost every damn day. You could have come as a slutty or sexy or trampy whatever like your friends. What made you pick a nun?” He threw back the green liquid and set the cup down.

 

“Orihime has class unlike her friends,” Grimmjow said quietly turning to smile at her.

 

“Yo! Ulq! Nice to see you out and about. What--Oooh someone’s been a naughty girl,” Nnoitra said collecting Grimmjow’s and Ulquiorra’s shot glasses. “I didn’t know ya’ll had a three way relationship. It looks like Ulq is with her more than your getup, Grimm. You guys want another round?”

 

Orihime glared at the bartender, making rare eye contact as she drank her disgustingly sweet shot as fast as she could.  “Not another one of these, what is this? Also, not a three-way.”

 

“It’s a premixed bullshit that brings in money, Babe,” Nnoitra smirked. “It’s cool if it is, I don’t judge.”

 

“Get us three Deaths please,” Ulquiorra snapped at the taller man. 

 

As soon as Nnoitra walked off Grimmjow shook his head. “Fucking prick,” he said. “I should have came as a demon who knocked the nun up.”

 

That made Orihime laugh, and she put her hands on him; one on the fuzzy yellow belly of the costume and another on his back.  “That would have been hot, but I like this fuzzy snuggle dragon,” she murmured to him.

 

Grimmjow chuckled a couple times. “What’s hot? Knocking you up?” he asked giving her a side-eyed glance and a wicked grin. “You already know I’m a demon, Orihime.”

 

“You two should get a room.”

 

“Why don’t you go get laid,” Grimmjow retorted as he pulled Orihime into his lap.

 

Orihime looked admonished.  Her eyes rose to Ulquiorra’s for a moment and she mouthed, “Sorry.”

 

“Whatever, I’m going to mingle,” Ulquiorra said as he walked off. He made a beeline directly towards Orihime’s group of friends.

 

“Alone at last,” Grimmjow said and let his fingers drift up and down Orihime’s back.

 

She felt guilty, and she didn’t know why.  She smiled at Grimmjow and pecked him on the lips before letting her eyes drift around the bar.  Inevitably, they kept landing on Ulquiorra. She couldn’t shake the feeling that she had done something wrong.  She watched him talk to Jackie and her other blonde friend, Tori. Her nostrils flared. Those two bitches would fight over him and then winner would gloat until they got bored.  She leaned back against Grimmjow’s chest and got her phone out.

 

- Careful.  They are hungry like the wolf.  Unless you’re into that kind of thing.

 

Three dots appeared on her screen then a message popped up.

 

- And? So what if I am into that? It’s just pumpkin spice. Don’t bother caring okay? Grimmjow’s made it clear.

 

Orihime bit her lip and nodded, turning her phone off.  She turned to her boyfriend and said, “Well, can’t say I didn’t warn him,” then kissed him.  “After this drink do you want to go somewhere else? This place just kind of feels like it’s full of desperate people.”

 

He pecked her on the lips before grabbing the glass Nnoitra set down in front of him. For some reason it did and it didn’t bother him that Orihime was interested in Ulquiorra. It was a conflicting thing to feel. It bothered him because Grimmjow was afraid that karma would come and bite him on the ass. It didn’t bother him because Orihime said she loved him. He took a long sip then nodded. “Where do you want to go? I’m good to drive if you want to grab some dinner or go trick or treating,” he said with a flash of his eyebrows.

 

“I don’t care. We could get some dinner.  After this drink I might need it,” she said with a chuckle.  She snuggled into his chest. “I really do like this thing.”

 

“You want it after I’m done?” Grimmjow asked as he continued to rub her back. “I’m not gonna wear it again.”

 

Orihime sat up and turned in his lap to look at him better.  “If I ignore the whole Pokemon thing, I rather like you with this mysterious hood. Maybe invest in one,” she said with a cheeky smile.  If Ulquiorra could flirt with her friends, she could flirt with his.

 

What the fuck?  What was that thought and where the hell had it come from?  Begone, cursed thought, Orihime said to herself. She took a long drink and said, “I’m going to the restroom, I’ll be right back,” then set her drink down and stood.

 

Ulquiorra watched as Orihime stepped away from Grimmjow. He excused himself from the women who were trying to get into his pants. He followed her and saw as she went into the ladies room. He decided to wait in the small hallway for her. 

 

His phone decided to buzz. It was Grimmjow.

 

- Remember… Touch her and my fists are going to talk to your face.

 

Oh fuck him. He was the one telling him to get laid.

 

Maybe he shouldn’t have drank whatever was in that shotglass and the absinthe cocktail. He never backed down from a challenge.

 

Orihime looked at herself in the mirror for a long time.  Yeah, she was not as tall or athletic or glamorous as the other women she came with.  She was cute though, wasn’t she? Like, not fantastic, but cute enough. Not disgusting.  She needed to just accept her life as it was, didn’t she? Stop comparing herself to her bolder and more beautiful friends. Even though her boyfriend had fucked at least one of them, he loved her, right?  He kept saying it…  

 

She sighed and her face fell.  She couldn’t shake the dread in her gut telling her that this was all a lie. That Grimmjow would wake up and realize he’d made a mistake.  Even worse was the thought that Ulquiorra would do the same and she’d have no one to talk to or feel connected to.

 

This was unproductive.  She just needed to get out of this bar.  It had to be a mix of Brynlee being there and the weird insinuation Nnoitra had made and the argument she had with Grimmjow earlier.  It was all just making her paranoid. She nodded to her reflection and walked out of the restroom.

 

She walked straight into him. Ulquiorra pushed her back into the bathroom and locked the door. “Tell me just once you don’t think about me. Everytime I attempt to look at another woman you get… upset. Why?” 

 

She squealed and looked around, not sure what was going on or who he was at first.  When she finally looked at his face, she looked like she had been caught off-guard. “I--- What?”

 

“Did you not hear me?” Ulquiorra asked walking closer to her. He was close enough that he could reach out and touch her face. “Tell me that you don’t think of me. I know you do. Your eyes follow me when I’m at work. They followed me around here.” He brought his hand up and the back of his fingers ghosted down the side of her face. “Why do you get upset when I want to fuck someone?”

 

“I… Of course I think of you.  I never tried to pretend that I didn’t…” she furrowed her brows but did not recoil from his touch.

 

He took this as an invitation. Ulquiorra moved so that his body was against hers. He brought his face close to Orihime’s. “Answer the last question, Woman.”

 

Orihime’s blood was on fire.  She could feel her pulse thrumming rapidly beneath the surface of her skin and other more tender places.  This wasn’t supposed to happen. Her innocent-looking face turned pink. “I-- I don’t-- I don’t want you to stop talking to me.”

 

His nostrils flared and Ulquiorra leaned down, letting his mouth hover above hers. “I’d talk to you over any fucking female in this bar or this city, Orihime. Your boyfriend knows this, but I’m going to tell you. You can decide if you want to talk to me or not after I say it. I want you.”

 

“Ulquiorra,” she said, her face crumpling and turning to the side marginally.  “I’m with Grimmjow. I can’t be disloyal,” she said, her lips trembling. Why was this bothering her so much?  Why did she feel so conflicted? Why did she feel like she was letting her chance pass her by and she was mourning its loss?

 

“I never asked you to be.” He took a step away from her and sighed. He had to adjust himself. Damn his body for getting hard over her.

 

Only her eyes returned to him. She took a shuddering breath and said, “I’ll never stop talking to you unless you ask me not to.”

 

He gave her a nod. “You should go. I’ve kept you long enough.”

 

She couldn’t move at first. Her legs wouldn’t move.  She couldn’t look away from him, either. She didn’t know where it came from when she said, “Anyone but Jackie.  Try Brynlee, I heard she’s a slut,” before finally finding her legs and leaving the bathroom.

 

He followed after her through the hallway that led away from the bathrooms. “I’d much rather use my hand than sleep with them,” he commented in a quiet voice. “Have a good night, Orihime.”

 

She stopped. She didn’t know where the impulse came from, but she grabbed his hand and looked him in the eye, her thumb trailing along the surface of his palm for just a moment.  “Don’t drive yourself home. Good night, Ulquiorra,” she said before leaving him.

 

***

 

Grimmjow sat at the bar and said nothing as Orihime returned to him. He kissed her and stood up. “Ready? Whatcha thinking for dinner? Wanna go to a pizza place that I like?” He suspected something happened while she and his friend were in that hallway but he had to give Orihime some trust in the matter. They were together. They were in love. He smiled at her. Ulquiorra was a rookie when it came to charming ladies.

 

Orihime took a deep breath.  “Pizza sounds good. We might want to ask Starrk to keep an eye out for Ulquiorra, though, I think he’s drunk. He shouldn’t drive home.  I told him that Brynlee would probably do it for him,” she said, looking a bit ashamed of herself. “Sorry, it was a cheap shot.”

 

“No worries, Orihime. Ulq will get home. He can call an Uber or something. Someone will deliver him to Coffee & Sadness,” Grimmjow said and grabbed her hand. “There’s this place… on the edge of Evanston that does an amazing chicken and spinach dip pizza.”

 

She grinned at him. “You’ve got my number, Grimm.”  She stood on her toes and pulled his hood down to hide her face inside of it before she kissed him deeply.  When she pulled back, she whispered, “I love you.”

 

“I love you too.”

 

Chapter Text

He still had flowers sent to Orihime at RBM.

 

Ulquiorra nodded to Orihime whenever she came into the coffee shop. He would make light conversation before handing her order off to someone else. They didn’t talk about what happened on Halloween, but he found out why he was so drunk. Nnoitra had given him a stronger than normal concoction and didn’t bother to tell Ulquiorra as he handed it off.

 

Like a dumbass he had drunk the entire glass in one go. No wonder he’d been drunk.

 

Grimmjow didn’t really say anything about it either. His friend was always smirking at him when they got together for a beer or a coffee, which didn’t happen much. The blue-haired man would tell him what Orihime was up to, or what their plans were, and how Ulq should hang out with them.

 

No thanks. 

 

He wasn’t an idiot.

 

He didn’t want to watch Grimmjow practically fuck his girlfriend while he was the audience. He went into Starrk’s a lot for the weeks leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. At least three times a week. It was comforting to be around other people who were just as miserable as him. Nnoitra leaned on the bar during a slow period and was chatting with him.

 

“Eyy, you look down man.”

 

“Yeah, a bit. Holidays always are a bitch. Birthday is coming up… Parents’ anniversary...” Ulquiorra took another sip of whiskey, swirling it in the glass.

 

Nnoitra nodded but Ulquiorra missed it. “Grimmjow’s woman ain’t looking your way...”

 

The scoff was loud. “She’s Grimmjow’s; not mine. She’s a friend, Nnoitra.”

 

“You ought to see your face. You believe the lies you tell yourself? Is she fucking both of you?”

 

Ulquiorra’s head swung back and forth. “No, you know Grimmjow doesn’t share. I don’t want her and she’s not disloyal to him. She has class, unlike some of the bitches you’ve drudged up to take home,” he stated in an almost bitter tone.

 

Nnoitra laughed. “Damn man, you got it bad.”

 

Ulquiorra shrugged and finished his drink. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. It wasn’t anyone’s business.

 

***

 

Grimmjow sat on the other side of his boss’ desk. Kuchiki was out for blood today. “You’ve had more than enough time to close this deal. What is the hold up? What is Inoue doing? Is he preparing to say yes to a full or partial media package?”

 

“I have no clue, sir. Ulq is being difficult. He doesn’t want to see the proofs yet. He’s been yanking Orihime around about it, too.”

 

The businessman sighed. “I wanted this closed by the time we shut down for the holidays. It may not happen. Do you think it could be closed by then? If she can't satisfy him, I’ll let her go and you get demoted.”

 

Ouch. When Kuchiki went for the throat, he really went for it. “Got it, but you know how Cifer can be, sir.”

 

There was a nod from his boss. “How are things with Riruka? Everything with the Dollhouse Designs project going according to plan?”

 

“Absolutely. She’s happy with the logo and the media package. However, she wants to see more color options, and we’re having samples printed up,” Grimmjow said. “She also wants stickers, which we’ve designed.”

 

The man hummed and nodded. “You have that advertising convention coming up soon; first week of January right? You should take Orihime down there to see what it’s like.”

 

“Anything else?”

 

“That is all, you are dismissed Grimmjow.”

 

When he walked back into his office, he flopped down on the desk chair and sighed. 

 

When Kuchiki wasn’t riding his ass, work wasn’t stressful. He could see his girlfriend practically every day. They had sex everyday. Grimmjow had gone back to using condoms because he liked making Orihime come and he knew she didn’t like the mess. Everything was sunshine and rainbows.

 

Except those damn flowers continued to show up. Ulquiorra probably still eyefucked Orihime whenever he saw her. It didn’t bother him… Not really… Okay, he was lying. He wanted to tear off the other man’s head and launch it into the damn lake. The thought of Ulquiorra touching Orihime made him mad. The thought of the man fucking her--he couldn’t think of it. He turned irate and usually ended up at Starrk’s pouring his thoughts out to Nnoitra about the whole thing. It irritated him to no end. 

 

Nnoi told him this was karma.

 

Grimmjow didn’t believe in karma.

 

To make things more stressful… He told his mom he was bringing his girlfriend to meet her. Ellen Jaegerjaquez was critical of anyone he had brought home. Whatever Ma; your choice in men wasn’t the best. Grimmjow wasn’t knocking chicks up left and right. He had a great job with a nice benefits package and a 401K. He didn’t have to answer to anyone.

 

He sighed. It wasn’t even eleven am and he wanted a drink or sex; something to relieve the stress he was feeling.

 

***

 

Orihime’s finger hovered above the send button.  What was she so afraid of? It was ridiculous. She needed to put her big girl panties on and get shit done.

 

  • Hey, it’s me.  Can we meet at the shop or something and go over these proofs?  I have finals coming up soon and I’d like to either get to work or shelve this project before I have to buckle down.  LMK. Thanks,

         Orihime

 

There, that wasn’t so bad, right?  All that he could say was no and she would be back to worrying, though.

 

It wasn’t the only thing she was worried about.  Things had been better with Grimmjow to a degree.  He still had that wackadoo client riding his ass. He was going out without her a bit more.  That was fine, though. They were at the office together almost daily and they always stayed the night together barring rare exceptions, but he seemed a bit distant.

 

And now she had this Thanksgiving thing in Highland Park to drive to. It was nowhere near as far away as Orihime had imagined.  It would just be a day trip. For some reason, that kind of disappointed her. If she made a poor impression the first day, she wouldn’t have the next to try to make up for it.

 

She was sitting at her desk at Rotten and tapping on the side of her foot as she thought, when she overheard her name in the hallway.  She got up and walked over to the filing cabinets that lined the wall, trying to overhear.

 

“Yeah.  She stopped by and asked why she was still working here when he got her fired,” Susan said in barely hushed tones.

 

Karen squealed in delight.  “Wait, is this the same Brynlee that he took to the company Fourth of July Picnic?”

 

Silence at first.  “And then he took her out with him on Kuchiki’s yacht.  It was them, Kuchiki, his girlfriend or whatever and a couple people in accounting.  Apparently she thought he was getting serious and then a month later, she was canned.”

 

“Harsh,” Karen said. “Do you know what happened?”

 

“Apparently he had thrown a project her way and she fucked it up, so it was legitimate.  But he should have never given an intern a project like that,” Susan said.

 

Karen snorted.  “Ha! Sounds like a pattern to me.  Speaking of underqualified interns,” she paused and walked into the room.

 

Orihime dove her head into the filing cabinet, letting her hair fall over her face.

 

“Orihime!  Can you run a coffee order?  I need a-- What’s the flavor of the month?”

 

Orihime’s first bitter thought was that apparently she was the flavor of the month. She pursed her lips and swallowed that thought down for the moment. She carefully raised her head and walked over, hoping that Karen didn’t see where she had been originally. “Um, it’s orange/cranberry,” she said, acting breathless, like she had just jogged over. 

 

“Oh, um, okay.  Well, that sounds like a good muffin but a terrible drink.  I will take a muffin then, and a pumpkin spice black coffee.  Susan?”

 

“I’ll have a cranberry/orange cafe au lait and a peanut butter cookie.”

 

“Sure, okay, I’ll be right back.”

 

Okay.  What in the ever-living fuck?  Had Grimmjow just been test-driving both of them and then fired the rejected car?  She was furious as she stormed into Coffee & Sadness and marched right to the counter.  It wasn’t busy.

 

Rangiku looked at Ulquiorra who looked back at her. He then shifted his gaze to Orihime. The two had been standing against the back counter ribbing each other like they did at times. “Hey Orihime,” Ulquiorra said as he moved to the register. “What can I get for you?”

 

“I can’t even…” she sighed.  “Sorry. Cranberry orange cafe au lait, peanut butter cookie.  Cranberry Orange muffin, pumpkin spice black coffee. A fucking sedative for me,” she growled.

 

Woah. He took a step back. He had never seen the tiny redhead angry. He rang everything up and handed them off to Rangiku before his fingers flew over the screen. The printer started printing another sticker. “Come down to the pickup counter. I’ve got something for my favorite flavor tester.”

 

He turned away from her and began to make a latte but he added gingerbread flavoring to it with just a smidge of english toffee. He was still trying to work out December’s Flavor Of The Month. He added a tiny dash of cinnamon to the whipped cream on top and then brought it over to her. Rangiku hadn’t even begun making the other two orders. He slid the cup across the counter and then leaned against it. “You okay? You seem a bit… pissed off?”

 

“I can’t even begin to describe how I feel right now,” she muttered, shaking her head and picking up the cup.  The smell hit her and she paused. She sniffed again and took a sip. This tasted like… It tasted like memories of the holidays she wished she had growing up.  Of comforting fantasies and dreams. She closed her eyes and a hot tear slipped out of the corner of one eye. “This is really, really good, Ulquiorra,” she whispered, nodding but not looking up.

 

He wanted to reach across the counter and wipe the tear from her face. He couldn’t. He promised himself he would behave. “It reminds me of you,” he admitted. “You’re...”

 

She raised her eyes to him and stared, waiting for him to continue.  When he didn’t, she asked him, “Ulquiorra, we’re friends, right?”

 

“Yeah, I would say we are,” he said giving her a hint of a smile.

 

“Can I ask you a favor?  Maybe in your office?”

 

When he nodded and then turned, Ulquiorra saw Rangiku’s face light up like a Christmas tree. “Mind your business,” he hissed at her as he was going past. There was a giggle before Ulquiorra flipped her off. He waited for Orihime to reach him before he turned to the left and went down the hall then made another left at the door to the apartments. They passed the bathrooms and reached another door, which he held open for her. “Come in.”   

 

She walked inside and stood there, waiting for him to join her.

 

After a second of evaluating the situation he did and then closed the door. “What do you need?”

 

“Could I have a hug?” she whimpered, looking at his chest.

 

A hug? She wanted a hug from him? He took several steps towards her and took the cup from her hand and set it on the desk. The hand reached for hers again, his trying to match up their palms. Her hand was so small in his. He tried to calm himself as his hand ran up her arm and then pulled her closer to him. His other arm wrapped around her waist. “Anytime you want one, you can have one. Just text me and we can meet somewhere,” he whispered to her.

 

She leaned her cheek against his vest and breathed uneasily, putting her hands on the backs of his arms and holding firmly, letting her body melt into his.  “Thank you,” she whispered, not letting go.

 

Ulquiorra didn’t let go either. But he did move the hand that was around her shoulders to tilt her head up. “You’re welcome. You never have to thank me for this,” he said. Again his face was dangerously close to hers. Fuck it. What was the worst Grimmjow could do to him? The worst Orihime would do was stop talking to him. It was a risk he’d take. He didn’t like her being angry or sad or needing hugs from him.

 

It was just his slightly dry lips brushing against hers. That was all it was and it left him wanting more.

 

There was a faint trace of tobacco on his lips.  It made her feel safe. She wasn’t disloyal. Ulquiorra didn’t want her in that way.  This was just one, lovely, generous, beautiful friend giving the other the gift of comfort.  That’s what she told herself. She pulled her face away but did not let go, nestling her head under his chin.  “Thank you,” she whispered.

 

“Do you want to tell me about it?” he asked, stroking her neck.

 

“Do you want to hear?  He’s your best friend. I don’t want to poison the well,” she sighed.

 

Ulquiorra chuckled and gave her one of his rare smiles. “The well was poisoned years ago. Tell me what he did. I know he’s behind this. You wouldn’t ask me for a hug if it didn’t involve Grimm. Did he hurt you? Cheat on you?”

 

She told him about Brynlee.  Everything that Zara had told her, what Grimmjow had admitted, and what she overheard Karen and Susan gossiping about.  When she was done, she felt drained, and was practically slumped against him.

 

He listened. He put the puzzle together. He sighed when she finished. “Yeah. Grimmjow usually fucks both interns and then when he finds the one he wants to spend the summer with he gets the other one fired. Except that usually stops when the college kids go back to school. I was dating someone who worked at RBM and Grimmjow fucked her. As soon as I confronted him, he had her fired. She went back to New York and I’ve not talked to her since.” He talked quietly as he leaned against the desk, still stroking her neck. “He kept doing it too.”

 

Her throat felt tight.  “He’s taking me to meet his mom this weekend,” her voice sounded like a rough rasp.  “Does he do that to all of them, too?”

 

“No. Ellen would kick out more than half the women he’s fucked if they even set foot in her house. He took Nel home. She’s my cousin. After he took her to meet his mom… that’s when it happened.” Ulquiorra replied. He sighed. “I want to kiss you again, Orihime. I want to make this alright for you.”

 

Her face turned red. “He told me he loves me.” Her weight felt heavier.

 

“He told Nel he didn’t fall in love. He liked her… A lot. He adored her. Grimmjow stood her up one night--he had to work on something--and Nnoitra fucked her. Grimmjow walked into him and Nnoi’s apartment and saw it. I was there to witness that for a second before I retreated.”

 

She felt confused. What Ulquiorra was telling her gave her mixed signals about Grimmjow.  It mostly felt like he was treating her like another in a line of heartbreak, but he didn’t fall in love with those women.

 

He said he was in love with her.  He said it all the time. “You and me, Princess.  I want it to be you and me.” He meant those words, right?  He didn’t say that to all of them, did he?

 

What if this was all a big misunderstanding?  What the hell was she doing here? Grimmjow would not forgive her if this got out of hand.  She started to straighten up. “I’m sorry, I have no manners coming in here like this when you’re working.” 

 

“It’s okay. I own the place,” he said and smiled at her. “Have you been getting my flowers? I send one to you every day.”

 

Her eyes snapped to his.  Her mouth opened and closed like a fish. “What-- You?  But he…?” she looked down and around at the floor like someone might jump up from under the rug and tell her it was some kind of joke.

 

“I started sending them to you in October… the third, I think. I asked the florist to send a single flower every day you were there,” Ulquiorra said. He sighed and shook his head. “Grimmjow took credit for them, I know. He wouldn’t think of that kind of stuff on his own. He told me I made him look bad.”

 

She took a few steps backward and the back of her knees hit a chair, which she fell into.  “What the hell? Why would he?”

 

“I was trying to charm you. I thought it didn’t work. Then I saw him in a store when I was out. He told me that you weren’t interested in me. He kept saying… He knows I want you. He knows I want to be your friend, and maybe more, but you’re with him and all I can be is your friend.”

 

It was then that it occurred to her.  She was leading him on. “I’m sorry, Ulquiorra,” she said, shaking her head.  “I’ve been hurting you, haven’t I?”

 

He shook his head. “No,” he stated. “I knew you were something I couldn’t have. I stupidly went for it. I can’t back down from a challenge. Grimmjow said I would never get you. I guess he’s right.” Ulquiorra gave her a tight smile before he reached beside him and handed her the lukewarm coffee cup. “You should probably get back. Susan and Karen need their carbs.”

 

She knew he was lying.  She had been hurting him, and now she was being dismissed.  She couldn’t hold it against him this time. She nodded.  “You are too good for me,” she whispered as she took the coffee and left.

 

Rangiku came to get him as soon as Orihime left with her items. “What happened? Did you have sex with her?”

 

“No. I value her too much to have sex with her,” he answered. “She’s unhappy with Grimmjow--”

 

“Ulq, she’s been unhappy with him. Her and her little friend came in and were spilling all kinds of tea and throwing shade everywhere. You were off work that day… One of your mental health days,” Rangiku said. “He’s been fucking her without a condom. I’ve told you Grimmjow’s a minute man. He’s gone maybe seven minutes the longest with one… Maybe more. It’s not been over ten minutes.”

 

“Can you stop reminding me that you’ve fucked him,” he said through gritted teeth, balling his hands up. “Jesus, Rangiku.”

 

“Ulq. That was a long time ago. Shouldn’t you get over it?”

 

“Why? Tch. I’m going back to work.”

 

“Do you want to have sex?” she asked as he opened the office door.

 

Ulquiorra stood there for a moment. “No. Not with you. Knowing you...”

 

She laughed. “I wouldn’t blab about it. Besides the most action I’ve seen in months is making a coffee delivery across the street and caught the owner’s eye for five minutes before some woman came up to him. You should have seen the way she got shot down.”

 

“You’re such a diva, Rangiku. C’mon we’ve got a shift to close before I hand it over to Izuru.”

Chapter Text

Orihime stewed in everything she’d heard the following day.  The morning of Thanksgiving found her no closer to any answers.  Grimmjow showed up to pick her up at around noon. She had dressed nicely, a skirt and sweater.  She had even bought a muffin basket the day before from C&S as a hostess gift for Grimmjow’s mom.  She was still holding out hope that all of this was just people trying to ruin her relationship maliciously, and Grimmjow was everything he promised her he was.

 

She refused to think about that magical cup of coffee or the warm, dry brush of Ulquiorra’s clove and tobacco flavored lips.

 

“You’re quiet,” Grimmjow said as they drove. “I should have brought a bottle of wine. Today already is tense. I hope my uncle Fred isn’t drunk as fuck when we get there.”

 

“Sorry,” Orihime said. “I have a lot on my mind.  I did pick up a muffin basket for your mom, though.  You can say it’s from both of us,” she offered with a smile.

 

He glanced at her. “Really? You’re a peach,” Grimmjow smiled for a moment. As usual people were driving like idiots… He almost flipped off the person in the lane beside him. “It’s nice of you to do that Hime.”

 

She shrugged.  “It’s the least I can do,” she muttered.  “You’ve been busy lately, even more than usual. I figured you would not have time to think about it.”

 

“Things have been busy. End of the year is coming, Kuchiki wants accounts done. Speaking of which, have you talked with Ulq about his logo? I would like it done by December fifteenth,” Grimmjow said as he got off I-94 by the exit ramp. He turned right to make his way to the small city. 

 

Orihime scoffed.  “No. I sent him a message to get back to me on Tuesday again, and he ignored it again.  I even went to see him. He changed the subject to coffee and flowers,” she floated the partial truth past him.  “I’ll try again,” she said, taking out her phone.

 

Grimmjow’s blue eyes glanced at Orihime and then back at the street he was now driving down. “He wants his logo to have something to do with coffee and flowers? He’s an oddball. I should take you past his childhood home.”

 

Orihime shrugged and made a noncommittal noise.  “Is it anything special?”

 

“A four-million dollar coastal home on the lake is something special,” Grimmjow said. “The guy is a multimillionaire. He’s been one since the age or four or five. It’s like a six bedroom house? I don’t know. It’s massive compared to my mom’s little apartment.”

 

Orihime blinked.  That didn’t make sense.  That didn’t fit her view of Ulquiorra Cifer.  “If that’s the case, why is he running day shifts at a coffee house?”

 

Grimmjow looked over at her as he stopped at a red light. “His parents died when he was young. Something went wrong with their car. They got in a wreck and it caught on fire. His uncle, who is a prick, brought him to the scene. So Ulq had to deal with that. He inherited his father’s fortune and continues to make money off his dad’s name. He told me that he doesn’t think he’s earned it and wanted to make his own way in life. He doesn’t drive. He walks everywhere or uses Uber or the train. He’s like a normal guy. He just became more guarded after… well… after the shit hit the fan.”

 

Orihime frowned.  “What shit hit whose fan?”

 

“Ulq’s been to prison.”

 

“WHAT?”  Her entire body whipped in his direction.  Her voice was not overly loud, but sharp.

 

Grimmjow nodded as he started driving again. “Yeah, uh… He was seeing this person. Me and Nnoi swore they were female. Ulq thought they were too. Luppi is a guy. Ulq wasn’t comfortable with that so he broke it off and Luppi attacked him. Ulquiorra stabbed him. He did three months in and then spent a lot of time on probation. Luppi’s living a comfy life in St. Louis, I think.”

 

Orihime was shocked.  She looked from Grimmjow to the street and back several times before asking, “But it was self-defense, right?  I mean, surely a guy like Ulquiorra would never stab someone for no reason.”

 

“It was self-defense, but Luppi said it was a hate crime or something,” Grimmjow replied. He turned another corner and they found themselves in front of some townhouses. They looked like they’d seen better days. “Nnoi’s been to prison, too, but that’s not surprising. Look at the guy. Only thing I’ve gotten in trouble for was drunk driving when I was… Shit… That was almost ten years ago.”

 

“How old are you?” she asked.  She knew, but the math didn’t add up.

 

“You’re asking that now? Twenty-six. Ulq’s about to turn twenty-five.”

 

“I know you’re twenty-six.  Nnoitra told me. I asked because I’m trying to understand when you got a drunk driving.  You must have just gotten your license.”

 

Grimmjow nodded. “Yeah, I had just gotten it, we took Aizen’s car with Ulq, Nel, and Nnoi and some other bitch and went joy riding. Are we going in? My mom is peeking through the window.”

 

“Oh, we’re here?”  She didn’t realize; she had been too wrapped up in the conversation.  “Poor Ulquiorra, though. Apart from the money, it sounds like his life has just been one double decker shit sandwich.”

 

“Eh, it’s had its moments. I can tell you that much. When he moved to Evanston to go to college, he was happy. He’s been running that coffee shop since his sophomore year but it was called something else, like Espresso IV or something,” he said.

 

She smiled at that. “Why did he change it?” she asked, obviously intrigued.

 

“Dunno, never gave us a straight answer. I mean I’ve speculated,” he said. “It could have been because of his parents. It could be because of a girlfriend he lost. It could because his existence is sad.” Grimmjow looked at Orihime and patted her leg. “Cmon, before I decide to take you to a hotel and have my way with you. You’re looking too cute today.”

 

She blushed at his words.  He always made her feel like this when they were together.  “Okay, okay, if I gotta go be social…” she teased, grabbing the basket of muffins and her purse and opening the door.

 

As soon as the couple walked into the door, Grimmjow knew his mom did not like Orihime. “What are those?” the older blonde woman asked, pointing at the muffins. “I’m doing keto, Grimmjow, and look at your damn hair. Didn’t I tell you to shave it and let your natural color come in? If God wanted you to have blue fucking hair, you would have come out with it and not blonde. I bet you still got that damn number tattooed--”

 

“Mom! Shut up. Damn. I came all the way up here and you’re already--”

 

“Ungrateful brat,” the woman said and huffed her way back to the kitchen. 

 

Grimmjow sighed. “That’s my mom.” 

 

Orihime’s face was white.  Her fingers had a death grip on the basket of muffins and she was breathing almost erratically.  This woman reminded her of her mother; the one she had not seen since her brother’s funeral. She was mentally transported right back to that day for a moment.  She wanted nothing more than to get out of that apartment and never come back.

 

“Come the hell in and quit letting the damn warm air out! I’m not heating the outside up!” The woman screamed.

 

Grimmjow slammed the door shut after moving Orihime out of the way and walked into the living room. There were several people sitting around. “Hime, this is Fred, Martha, Janice and Tony. Martha is my mom’s cousin and Janice is her sister. There was another aunt but she’s fucked off--”

 

“Don’t say that about Nancy,” Grimmjow’s mother said. “Who is this? Ain’t the green-haired trollop you brought around the last time.”

 

“This is my--friend, Orihime. We’re seeing each other. I thought I’d bring her up to meet you.”

 

Her eyes met his for a moment.  What the hell was going on here?  Why was he calling her his friend?  She said nothing to the people in the living room, just nodded silently without even a smile, trying to make herself small and disappear.

 

“I guess put the muffins on the table. Someone can get fat off eating them.”

 

“Now, now Ellen. Be kind,” the woman named Martha said as she got out of the chair and shuffled over to the kitchen. “Let me help you. You’ve been at this for days.”

 

“How can I be kind when he’s bringing some woman in here, looking like she’s about to get knocked up. Look at her skirt! It’s fucking cold outside--”

 

“C’mon Hime,” Grimmjow said. He took the muffins from her and set them on an end table before he walked to the front door then opened it.

 

Orihime made no arguments.  She walked out of the door and kept going.  She didn’t stop until she was at the car door.

 

There was some yelling and Grimmjow slammed the door before he unlocked the car. His footsteps were angry as he stomped down the sidewalk and got into the vehicle. He just muttered to himself as he started the car.

 

Orihime slid into her seat and put her seatbelt on.  She gripped the hem of her skirt and unconsciously tried to pull it down past her knees.  Her throat was burning and the backs of her eyes were starting to sting. She felt completely humiliated and traumatized.

 

The entire trip back to Evanston was quiet, with Grimmjow driving aggressively. He was mad. It was one fucking holiday that he wanted to show off his lady and his mother had ruined it. He had ruined it too. He should have told the woman that it was his girlfriend and not just a friend but he knew his mother would freak out more. “You want me to drop you off at home?” He asked as he entered the city limits.

 

She nodded rapidly, finally clearing her throat and whispering, “Yes.”

 

“I’m really sorry about that Orihime. I thought… She was obviously drinking or something. Maybe it was stress. I have no fucking clue. She’s batshit crazy,” Grimmjow said. It only was less than ten minutes later that he was pulling up to her building. He put the car in park and looked at her. “You want me to come up or...”

 

She sat there, breathing irregularly; pulling a breath and letting it all out quickly, and then pausing before doing it again. She didn’t know what she wanted.  “If you want to, it’s fine. If you have work or something it’s okay,” she finally murmured, looking at the dashboard.

 

“I didn’t plan on doing work today, but that’s a good idea. I can have shit done before I meet that bossy bitch again,” Grimmjow said, pondering this idea. “I’ll make this up to you. We’ll go somewhere fancy for Christmas, because I am not going back there. I’ll see you this weekend maybe, or on Monday, okay?”

 

She nodded.  Her head was hurting.  Her heart was hurting, too.  She just wanted to get into bed and not leave for a couple of days, maybe.  “Okay. Don’t work too hard, alright?” she said, offering him a sad smile.

 

He leaned over and gave her a kiss. “We can do our own thing next Thanksgiving,” he said with a nod.

 

Orihime nodded, leaning her forehead against his lips.  “Sounds good. I’ll talk to you later.” she said, before sitting back and opening the car door.

 

“Hey!” he said just before she closed it. He leaned over and looked at her. “Make sure you call Ulquiorra and get him to commit. Okay?”

 

She felt like he had slapped her in the face.  She was sure he was going to tell her he loved her, but this veiled threat is what she got. The heat in her face wrapped around her head quickly, fading into the back of her ears before it disappeared.  “I’ll do that after I calm down,” she said. “Don’t worry about it. If I can’t get him to agree I’ll take responsibility and resign. I have finals to concentrate on anyway.”

 

“Orihime, my job is on the line, so get it done,” he said. Grimmjow sighed. “I’m gonna go so I can hopefully salvage it. I’ll call you.”

 

“Okay.  Good luck,” she said, thinking more along the lines of fuck you.  “I love you,” she said as she closed the door.

 

Grimmjow blew her a kiss before he took off.

 

***

 

  • Dinner. December 11th. I’ll pick you up or we can meet at C&S. Dress is fancy-ish. Bring your work.

 

That’s what he looked at when he was typing out the text message on the day after Thanksgiving. He had given up. Orihime was with Grimmjow and it was time to hang up the torch he had been carrying for her since she walked into his coffee shop with her gaggle of friends. He’d been carrying it for longer than that. Ever since he wanted to change the name of Espresso IV to Coffee & Sadness. She was behind the URL. 

 

Instead he deleted the text message and decided on a different approach.

 

  • You busy?

 

Orihime had been busy the previous afternoon and much of the night, sobbing into her pillow.  She looked like a wreck. When she got Ulquiorra’s text that Friday, she took a couple of minutes to think it over.

 

He had offered her comfort.  He had offered her friendship.  He had said she wasn’t hurting him.  

 

She needed someone.  She needed to finish her project.  She needed someone and some liquid to stop the sounds of Ellen Jaegerjaquez and Louise Miller from ringing in her ears over and over and over again.  She needed the words “Friend that I’m seeing” and “My job is on the line, get it done” to stop rolling through her head like a damn parade.  

 

  • Wanna have a drink tonight?

 

Ulquiorra was surprised to see the message pop up. He smiled. He wanted to talk to her. He wanted to not be distracted by anything else. It wouldn’t be proper to invite her over for a couple of bottles of wine.

 

  • Sure, I can get us some wine and we can have a drink at your place or do you want to meet at Starrk’s? 
  • Or you can come here. 
  • That sounds really creepy of me.

 

Orihime really didn’t care.  

 

  • I live very close to Starrk’s. Let’s go there.

 

He sent her a reply with what time would be good for him. So when the clock struck at that time, he was standing outside of the bar in a black peacoat with a white scarf wrapped around his face and a black winter hat on his head. His hands were shoved into the pocket of his coat.

 

She came trotting over just a minute later, also bundled up in dark jeans, a white parka, and a black beanie with a faux fur pompom on top and little silver sequins on the cuff.  “Did I keep you waiting?” she asked as she reached speaking distance. Her voice sounded nasal.

 

“I’ve been here freezing my ass off for like two minutes,” he said and touched the ball on top of the hat. “You look adorable. Where’s your scarf? You’re going to freeze.”

 

“I don’t have one,” she answered honestly.  “Let’s go inside, my ass is frozen.”

 

“You sound like you’ve got a cold,” Ulquiorra said as he opened the door and let her in first. It was nice and warm inside the bar. “I’ll wait until we get a table or a seat to talk about what I wanted to talk to you about.”

 

She nodded. “I don’t have a cold. I’ve just had a rough couple of days,” she said in a weary tone as she entered the bar.

 

“I’m sorry. I’d give you a hug if you want one but considering… Anyway. How was Highland Park?”

 

“Awful,” she said, unzipping her parka and folding it over her arm before taking off her hat and shaking her long hair out over her black sweater.  “We were not there for long. How was your Thanksgiving?”

 

“I made myself a chicken breast and asparagus with cranberry orange relish. I made some rolls. I had peaches and gorgonzola for dessert,” he said with a smile. He unwrapped his scarf then removed the hat, shaking out his own hair. It was a rare thing he let it out of its bun. He unbuttoned the coat to reveal a green and white striped t-shirt. “I was going to text you back but I figured you were being domestic with Grimmjow.”

 

“No, he dropped me back home before two o’clock and went into the office,” she said without inflection.  “I should have called you up. Your dinner sounds much better than the bowl of oatmeal I had,” she said with a dry smile.

 

When they got to the bar, Ulquiorra looked around for Nnoitra. “Yo, Tier, is he here tonight?”

 

“Break.”

 

“Uh, what do you want Orihime? It’s on me, so… I’ll have a double Maker’s Mark, please,” he said to the blonde working behind the bar.

 

“The usual for me, Tier.  Thank you,” she said to the woman and then faced Ulquiorra.  “Thank you,” she said with a bit of a lilt, as though to differentiate him from the waitstaff.

 

“My pleasure,” he smiled. “Pick a seat.”

 

His smile made her do a double take.  “Uh, okay,” she replied in almost a whisper, as she lead the way to one of the back tables that she liked surrounded by velvet sofas.  Starrk had lit the place well. The table was well-illuminated, but the patrons sitting in the seats were cloaked in dim light. It allowed for private, intimate conversation or just private solitude.  Either way, Orihime liked it. 

 

Ulquiorra sat down beside her and took off his coat and laid it on his lap. He put his phone on the table in front of them and then sat there for a moment while he tried to think of what to say.

 

“I’m glad you texted me today,” she started. “I was starting to feel alone in the universe.’”

 

“I don’t want you to feel like that, Orihime. Would you have dinner with me on the eleventh? It’s a fancy place. I’d like to see the proofs you have for me,” he said turning to look at her.

 

She raised her brows in surprise.  “I’d be happy to. Why the eleventh, though?”

 

“It’s a day I have open. I mean I could do it on the first but it’s my birthday. I’m sure you’d like me to finally sign off on your designs for me,” Ulquiorra replied. He let his knee touch hers, nudging it.

 

She smiled at the gesture. It was cute.  “I would. And that is a good date for me, too.  It’s the day of my last exam for this semester. Anyway, what are you doing for your birthday?” she was genuinely curious.  He seemed reclusive. In fact, all signs pointed to Bruce Wayne. What did Batman do for his birthday right after his solo Thanksgiving?

 

“Uh, staying in. I have to get ready for December. Social media posts need to be made. Uh, menu needs to be changed. I’ve got to figure out the hazelnut hot chocolate,” Ulquiorra said.

 

“Ooh! Ooh! I volunteer as tribute!” she teased, raising her hand and leaning back into the sofa. “Hazelnut hot chocolate…  Mmmmm,” she closed her eyes and smiled, letting her head loll to the side before she opened her eyes again to look at him.  This was nice. He was nice. “I thought you said that Minter is coming?”

 

He nodded, the smile still on his face. “Mint is the flavor of the season along with eggnog. Gingerbread and hazelnut are flavors of the month,” he stated. “January is white chocolate and vanilla. I have this all planned out.”

 

“You are a pro,” she said with a nod.  She couldn’t take her eyes off of him. His smile was intoxicating. She smiled back at him and said, “You are a very pretty man. Is it weird for me to say that? I don’t care, I’m weird.”

 

A chuckle left Ulquiorra which turned into a short burst of laughter. “Want to come over Sunday night? We can test stuff and you can critique it, since you are my favorite coffee girl.”

 

“Oooh,” she cooed in a joking way.  “Are you inviting me to your birthday party?  And where, praytell, is my stall in your stable of coffee girls?  I mean, the favorite gets the big one, right?” she said in good humor.

 

He was entranced by her. “It’s in my bedroom,” he murmured and then blushed after he realized what he said. Ulquiorra cleared his throat and took a sip from the glass a waitress put in front of him. His face was on fire.

 

Orihime picked up her drink and tilted it in her hands for a minute, letting the awkward moment pass before she finally brought her glass over to his and clinked it before bringing it to her mouth. “To your health, Ulquiorra. And to finally moving forward with this.” She meant the project, although she didn’t specify. And as she took a sip, she realized she didn’t really care how he took it.

 

“Right,” he said, taking another drink. “So, um, it’ll be just you and me, but I usually make myself matcha cheesecake or some kind of cheesecake for myself for my birthday. It’s kind of been my thing. I’d be willing to share.”

 

Orihime’s brows tented and mouth watered.  She licked her bottom lip and then said, “Are you kidding me?  I am so there for this,” she said, the easy smile returning to her lips. She took another sip of her glass and looked straight ahead for a minute, then turned back to him.  “You know, I don’t mind promoting you on my site, too. Anytime. You can just send me whatever social media blast and I’ll pass it on. I’ll keep adding my playlists and whatever and also…” the thought occurred to her almost randomly as she thought of her blog posts, and how many of them had featured sketches of flowers lately. “I never thanked you for the flowers.  Thank you.”

 

“I know you liked them. I saw the drawings. Also, if you’re going to advertise for me, let me pay you for it. Name your price. You wouldn’t believe how many people I got from Chicago and all the way in Wisconsin to try the peanut butter hot chocolate,” Ulquiorra said. He reached out and tucked some stray hair behind her ear. “So be at my place around five on Sunday? I’ll make you dinner. We’ll drink coffee and eat junky sweets.”

 

She blushed. “Can I bring anything at least?  It is your birthday.”

 

“I’m a humble man that doesn’t need much. If you want you can surprise me. I like wine and absinthe and whiskey.” He wanted to tell her to just bring herself and maybe an outfit for the next day but he didn’t dare.

 

Her mind was racing now.  Booze or a bottle of wine? Easy.  She grinned as she imagined what else she could give him. Drawings or playlists or a favorite book or DVD, perhaps. Her heart was bursting with ideas and imaginings.  “I’m looking forward to this,” she said.

 

Ulquiorra’s smile got brighter again and he bit his lip. “Well now that you agreed to it, I’m looking forward to it. I’ve never really looked forward to my birthdays. They were just another day.”

 

“Oh, oh no, my dear,” she said with a closed-eyed headshake and a superior kind of affectation.  “Matcha cheesecake is not just another day. That is magic, for sure.”

 

“Tell me what else you like or love,” Ulquiorra said. He was watching her mouth with rapt attention. He looked at the line of her jaw. Dammit. He shook his head. It wouldn’t do to get drunk and try to hump her leg. He was sure she had enough of that with Grimmjow.

 

“I love coffee.  No, let’s be real.  I love the coffee that you make. And the hot chocolate.  What else…” she said, looking up at the medallions on the ceiling and tapping her chin.  “Oh, I love sad music. I love the sound of the rain and short, unpretentious poetry. I love Michael Keaton as Batman.  What do you like or love?” she asked, smiling at him.

 

He wanted to reach over and kiss her. Instead he took another drink. “I love the smell of coffee beans grinding. I love the smell of baked goods. I love how you remind me of warmth even though it’s freezing outside. I love the way snow falls at three am on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. I love how the city is silent at night when I can’t sleep.”

 

Her eyes gentled and she looked him in the eye for a long moment.  She heard every word he said. She hadn’t missed it. She wanted to continue this.  “I love the smell you bring into the shop after you come back from a cigarette break.  It reminds me of my aunt. It reminds me of being protected.” Her face suddenly crumpled.  “I hate the sound of women saying hurtful things to children, or lashing out to hurt someone unprovoked.”  Her jaw clenched and her eyes watered a bit. “I hate my mother.”

 

Ulquiorra leaned close to Orihime so he could whisper into her ear. “It’s valid. I love watching you smile or laugh. I love how you look at me. I dislike how Grimmjow makes you unhappy these days.”

 

She sighed.  He was not wrong.  Her fingertips played with each other on her lap a bit.  “I hate how much I want to believe him,” she murmured.

 

For a moment his nose nuzzled her ear. “You deserve to be happy, Orihime,” he breathed.

 

She shivered.  She wanted to believe him.  Her heart tore in two and part of it was in Grimmjow’s hands, the other in Ulquiorra’s. That was shitty of her.  She was a shitty person, though. Her mother had always told her so. “I don’t. I don’t deserve anything good,” she said quietly, closing her eyes.

 

From a dark corner of the bar, Nnoitra sat taking photos of the two before he moved and took some more from a different angle. Twenty minutes later Ulquiorra came up to settle his monthly tab and then he went back and motioned for Orihime to follow him. Nnoi didn’t give a fuck if he was on the clock or not. He slipped on his leather jacket and followed the two.

 

He wasn’t surprised as he watched Ulquiorra throw his head back and laugh at something. Then he recorded a video. Ulquiorra had walked Orihime to her apartment. They were talking. She nodded her head. Ulquiorra and her went into the building.

 

As he headed back to Starrk’s, Nnoitra sent off several text messages with attachments.

 

***

 

Grimmjow fumed. “WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?” he said as he open then slammed Nnoitra’s apartment door shut. The place was a shithole, so of course the door didn’t latch. “What the fuck, Nnoi?”

 

The tall man grinned as he sucked back a beer. “Hey man… He comes in all the time boohooing about how he wants to dick her down and how in love he is,” Nnoitra lied. “Ain’t my fault ya woman is playing you both.”

 

“What? No, you’re fucking wrong!”

 

“I saw the entire thing. He was kissing on her neck. I think in one of those photos, her hand is under his coat. Probably working him up. I bet you they’re fucking right now.”

 

Grimmjow wanted to rip shit up. He wanted to beat the crap out of Ulquiorra. He wanted to make Nnoitra swallow his own damn teeth. “Hime wouldn’t do me like that. She worships the ground I walk on.”

 

“Looks like she’s about to worship Ulq,” came the reply. Nnoitra smirked. “Anyway, they’re having dinner soon, I think? That’s what Cassie said after she cleaned off a table close by. He’s probably taking her to that one fancy place with the tiny portions and overpriced wine. You know… the one he took us too that wouldn’t let me in without a tie?”

 

The blue-haired man nodded, his lip curling. He could not believe this. This was bullshit. He had told Ulquiorra to stay away from her. “Give me a fucking beer. I’m gonna call Riruka after this and see if she wants to have dinner with me the same night.”

 

***

 

“So you’re a student?” Ulquiorra asked as he looked around the tiny apartment. He smiled as he picked up a drawing of a creature that looked like it was a cross between a deer and a horse. “Huh, I thought you were just a part-timer at RBM.”

 

“No, I’m a senior at Northwestern.  I’m a fine arts major with a minor in creative writing.  Grimm mentioned that you went to school here, too,” she asked, hoping he’d fill in the details.

 

He gave her a nod and picked up a drawing of a bat. “Yeah. I, uh, I went to Northwestern. Majored in business and accounting. It just made sense. I didn’t have any artistic ability. I’m ruled by common sense and logic. I love reading, though, and baking. I should have become a chef.”

 

She stretched her back a bit and smiled. “I’m glad you didn’t; we probably would have never met.”  Her stomach growled. They had met earlyish and she hadn’t eaten. “Are you hungry? I have some ramen or some premade meals in the freezer.  I didn’t eat anything tonight.”

 

He glanced at her and shrugged. “I can order something. You like chinese? There’s an indian place that’s really good around here,” Ulquiorra said, putting both of the pieces of art down and walking to a different area of the apartment. Her desk was littered with more drawings and illustrations. “Is this… Oh shit… That’s Rangiku. Wow. If she saw this she’d be begging you for it. Very shallow that one. Well, she can be.”

 

Orihime chuckled.  “Why don’t you give it to her?  I’m done with it. Like I said, I like watching people.  I’ve watched her. Also…” her stomach rumbled again. “Indian sounds amazing right now.”

 

“And inflate her ego? I have a hard enough time trying to manage it,” he laughed. A flash of green caught his eye and he moved the drawing on top. It showed a tiny bat figure with huge green eyes. It almost looked like him. He smiled before turning to face Orihime. “What’s your poison? Their curry is okay. The tikka masala is awesome.”

 

“Butter chicken is my jam, homes,” she said and shook her head, snickering at herself.  She was so dorky, she couldn’t handle herself sometimes.

 

“You’re adorable.” Ulquiorra smiled at her before he pulled his phone out and looked through the contacts tapping on the one that said, Depak’s. “Hey, this is Ulquiorra Cifer. I’m good. I need an order of butter chicken… Orihime? Do you want jasmine or saffron rice?”

 

“Jasmine, please,” she answered.

 

“Jasmine rice and the tikka masala… lamb. Yeah, saffron. Um also let me get some samosas. Uh huh. Just run the card,” Ulquiorra said as he paced the floor. “Um, no I’m at… Address?”

 

“Three three nine Howard.”

 

“Okay, see you guys in twenty.”

 

He ended the call and then put the phone back in his pocket. “Thanks for letting me come up,” Ulquiorra said to Orihime. “I know I said I wanted to walk you home, but I wanted to see where you lived and stuff.”

 

She smiled at him and said, “Well, thanks for picking a day when it wasn’t a total pigsty in here.  I had just cleaned the bathroom on Thanksgiving morning. Anyway, my work is always all over the place so you would just have to deal, regardless.”

 

“This place is better than the area Nnoi lives in. His apartment is always a mess,” Ulquiorra commented. “Grimmjow has a cleaning lady come in once a week. Mine only comes in twice a month to dust and change sheets.”

 

“Well, I am my cleaning lady, and let me tell you, I do not recommend her.  She sucks at it.”

 

Ulquiorra laughed. “So uh, back to the college thing. I pretty much fast tracked myself to be done in three years but I got into trouble and had to take a summer semester off. It screwed up my plans big time. I use my degree everyday, though.” 

 

Orihime’s grin tightened up and her cheeks dusted a bit pink, remembering what Grimmjow had told her about Ulquiorra’s stint in prison. He shouldn’t have told her. It wasn’t his past to share.  Now she felt a bit awkward and wondered if she should say that she knew. No, she decided. If he wanted her to know he would tell her himself. Otherwise it was not her business. Speaking of business, “I can see that you do.  Coffee & Sadness is a tight ship and it is just getting more and more successful. You should be proud of yourself.”

 

There was a slight smile as he sat down in her desk chair. “I am at times. Other times… Not so much. You look like you want to say something or ask me a question, I can’t decide which.”

 

She was caught out.  “Um, no, it’s just… Grimmjow has a big mouth,” she said, twisting her mouth to the side and twiddling her fingertips.

 

“That’s nothing new.” He gave her a glance and sighed. “I got into trouble. I did time for it.”

 

“He said,” she nodded and sighed, sitting on her bed and leaning over one of the small folding tables she had set up adjacent to it.  She picked up a watercolor she had done of Grimmjow and Ulquiorra walking next to each other in black suits and glanced at it for a moment.  “He talks about you a lot. I don’t blame you, by the way.”

 

“You don’t blame me? What do you mean?”

 

“For defending yourself.”

 

Ulquiorra nodded and looked at the wall. “I probably should have handled the situation better. I panicked. It got twisted and screwed up.”

 

He looked upset to her.  “Hey, it’s in the past,” she said softly.  “My past is no lollipop parade either,” she offered.

 

“You’re a… You’re a kid. At least you look like one.”

 

She smiled.  “I’m twenty-two.  You’re not that much older than me.”

 

He stood and walked over to where she sat, then took her hand and pulled her up. “Three years,” Ulquiorra said.

 

She looked at him, a bit confused by his gesture, but nodded.  “Three years. Almost. We have a birthday to celebrate before then.  Two years plus, for now.”

 

“I don’t have any parents for you to meet.”

 

She felt her face get a bit hot.  “Me either. Well, not that I would let you meet.  Not by choice, anyway.”

 

Ulquiorra put his hands on her waist. Why was he feeling like this? Why was he doing this? Orihime seemed to like him, but not in the way he liked her. He bit his lip and looked down at her before he swallowed.

 

She looked down at the hollow of his throat and her face turned red.  She felt her body respond to his touch and she knew this was a dangerous game to play.  She did not want to lose Ulquiorra. She did not want to cheat on Grimmjow. She did the only thing she could think to do to salvage this situation. She put her arms around his neck and held on tightly, pressing her cheek to his shoulder so that her face was looking out toward the room instead of under his chin.

 

He sighed and hugged her tightly. “Thank you.”

 

“For what?” She didn’t let go.

 

“Being my friend? Grimmjow said you wouldn’t give me the time of day, but you have.”

 

She scoffed.  “Grimmjow doesn’t know me--” she cut herself off. She felt a stinging behind her eyes.  She had to swallow hard and it tasted bitter as she realized that her off-the-cuff statement was actually very true.  He knew nothing about her. He never asked. He knew how her body felt. He knew how she fluffed his ego. He knew how she looked and smelled and tasted.  He knew her manners and her kindness, and how she would bend over backwards to help him, but he did not really know her. He never asked about her family or her past or her dreams.  She sighed. “Only the surface, I guess. He makes a lot of assumptions.”

 

“That’s Grimm for you,” he murmured.