This was my end of a fic request over on Livejournal. I do not own Bleach.

Orihime passes one hand through it, watches it part and ripple over her sleeve.

"It's...moonlight, isn't it?"

She knows he hasn't left yet, because that weight (the one that swings in her chest like a pendulum, hangs from her collarbone so her whole frame is pulled down) is still there: but the silence stretches on and on and on, on until Orihime thinks she cannot stand it any more.

And at that crucial moment of breaking, Ulquiorra speaks. His voice manages to blend all the little sorrows she has ever felt into one sound.

"Don't ask foolish questions, woman. They have done you nothing so far."

"I..." and with this, Orihime steps fully into the shaft of light from the window. It seems so gray and tired, no radiance or secrets to tell. "...It's just...I can't make the moon shine without sunlight."

A brief press of bravery- borne out of loneliness, weariness, desperation at being in the dark for so long-compresses all the words in Orihime's throat, so they come out quick and awkward.

A blotchy flush creeps up her throat and face. Her shadow wavers.

"...Does that mean the sun comes up here, too?"

Ulquiorra stares at her.

Orihime has been a prisoner in Las Noches just long enough to know that Ulquiorra's silence is not really silence, his calm not really calm; it is a constant flow of unsaid words, a constant tension in his face and shoulders, both so practiced and complete that no one notices the difference.

No one, apparently, except for her. Orihime is not sure if this makes Ulquiorra more or less frightening.

(The pendulum swings, the pendulum cuts, the pendulum falls.)

"There is no sun here," he finally states. Quick, prepared, keen. Words also coming from a throat compressed by...something. "What you see is the other side of the human world's moon."

This so surprises her that Orihime turns around sharply, causing light to flash across the walls in kaleidoscopic patterns.

"Our moon?"


There must be something in her voice, because Ulquiorra speaks again. Sparse, measured, as if he is dropping the words down a dark well. "You are happy about this."

She looks over her shoulder at him.

And Orihime cannot realize that the moonlight reflects off her hairpins that way (those fragile, precise little things that are the vessels for her soul), that way which turns them into pinprick stars in the darkness, or that this strange image is what suspends Ulquiorra there in the doorway. (There are, of course, no stars here either.)

"I know that moon," she finally manages.

Because it has suddenly become Orihime's anchor, become the moon she's watched through a telescope and picked out faces in and once howled at with the neighbor's dog.

Tired and gray and weary as it is (like those very human sorrows in Ulquiorra's voice and gaze), it becomes a sort of friend.

She turns to study it once more, and does not look back towards the doorway again until the weight disappears from her chest.

(Orihime waits a very, very long time for that.)

Thank you for reading.