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[personal profile] queenofchalices
Title: Moon Over the Tower: Chapter Five
Series: Bleach
Rating: R
Warnings: het (IchiHime), blood, scariness. Should be read with the lights off.
Spoilers: This is AU. We don't need spoilers where we're going.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to a lot of Japanese people, namely people like Tite Kubo and Shonen Jump. You'll notice how none of those are me. The LiveJournal format that you'll probably be reading this in (if you're one of my friends) is rough draft and is subject to revision. Consider this a 'sneak peek'. If something sits the wrong way with you, let me know. This will probably (never) be updated weekly, until I eventually drop it like every other project ever. Not responsible for epileptic seizures or allergic reactions. May contain eye-and-brain-bleeding levels of radioactive ANGST and/or peanut products. Please sit a reasonable distance from your computer screen.

Author’s Note: Thank you all for your wonderful reviews! I'm glad there are so many people enjoying this fic! I'm definitely going to try to keep up my current pace, while also starting on a fan comic! If you want to see what I've drawn so far, my DA name is sailorN1! Anyway, please enjoy this chapter! I certainly enjoyed writing it!

____________________________________________

Orihime woke early the next morning to find the large estate still, a blanket of freshly-fallen snow covering the sleepy world outside. If she were at home, she might go outside and play in it, or scoop some up for drinking or cooking. She wondered if she could go out into the courtyard for that. Did nobility play outside when it snowed?

As she watched the white world outside, the thought of the graceful Count playing in the freezing snow, rosy cheeks as red as apples, came to her mind. For some reason, she thought it suited him somewhat; his black clothing made her think of night, and that made her think of the snow that was on the ground now. Well, that and the fact that he kept his whole house like ice.

Thinking of houses brought Rangiku back to her mind. Was she alright this morning? Was her fire warm enough without Orihime there to chop the firewood? Was she over her cold? Perhaps her blacksmith lover had brought her some firewood? Orihime vaguely wondered if Rangiku had taken advantage of her absence to have him over.

Now it was Orihime's turn to have cheeks as red as apples. The stray thought brought scandalous images to her mind of what her sister could be doing while she was away. The bodies of a pair of shadowy lovers intertwined before a flickering fireplace in the theater of her mind, sighing and moaning passionate oaths to one another. And after the first thought or two, the shadows melted away to reveal the man's short, spiky red hair, the well-endowed woman's long, auburn waves, the way his hands roamed over even her most personal places...

Orihime squeaked and slapped her hands over her eyes, as though she were actually watching the show instead of daydreaming it. A tiny whimper escaped her; these sinful thoughts had plagued her ever since she'd met the Count, and it was starting to weigh on her conscience. She dared uncover her eyes, concentrating on the pure white snow outside instead. As soon as her hands were free, she crossed herself; surely these scandalous thoughts were the work of some demon or mischievous fairy!

Orihime spent the rest of the morning keeping herself busy with various odd tasks. Idle hands were the devil's playthings after all, and keeping herself occupied was the easiest way to avoid having to think about the strange feelings she'd been having. She tidied her room, dusting along forgotten shelves and rafters, chasing cobweb spiders out of their nooks and crannies, and cleaning the dust bunnies out from underneath her bed. Once that was done, she went downstairs to the empty kitchen and fixed her morning porridge. She even lit a small fire in the fireplace; a woodpile had been laid by the dining room's hearth just for her.

After breakfast, she cleaned the kitchen from top to bottom, scrubbing the floors and washing the baseboards. She had put on her familiar peasant's dress to do this, not daring to get one of the Count's fine dresses dirty with her busy work. By the time noon rolled around, she was wet and sloppy, having cleaned everything in the kitchen and dining room she could reach. But the housework did the trick; instead of fretting about her newly-awakened lecherous imagination, she was playing games with the duster and chasing bubbles across the floor. Her face practically glowed with mirth through her sweat.

By the time she was almost ready to stop for lunch, Orihime heard the first signs of activity for the day. She instantly recognized Tatsuki's light, firm footfalls and turned to greet her. One hand still held a wet rag she was using to wash the china cabinet while the other mopped damp hair away from her forehead.

"Good morning, Tatsuki!" she happily chirped, turning to see the black-haired girl standing behind her. Orihime's smile faded into a look of confusion as she noticed the horrified stare Tatsuki had turned on her.

"Oh my God, what are you doing?!"

Orihime continued to watch Tatsuki in puzzlement as she walked over and took the washrag from Orihime with shaking hands. As she pried the wet rag from Orihime's fingers, Orihime fancied she just might explode.

"What's the matter?" she finally asked gently. The other woman shook her head furiously.

"Why on earth would you do housework?" she demanded, "Especially in this weather! You're going to ruin your hands!" Orihime cocked her head to the side, not quite comprehending what the fuss was about.

"I can just put some oil on them," she said innocently, "This is what I always do." Tatsuki gave her a frustrated sigh.

"Noblewomen don't do chores, Orihime," she chided, "And they don't have chapped hands, and they don't roll around in soap suds!" Orihime suddenly realized her mistake and folded her hands before her skirt, looking down at them in embarrassment.

"O-Oh," she stammered, "I'm sorry, Tatsuki. I was just trying to keep myself busy..." Tatsuki sighed and took Orihime's hand, leading her back out of the dining room and towards her own quarters.

"Just don't do it again," she sighed, "Nemu and I can take care of that sort of thing. You don't need to worry about it." Orihime frowned. Were they really the only two housekeepers in this castle? No wonder it was so dusty!

"A-Alright," she said haltingly, "Umm... I did have a question for you, though." Tatsuki stopped and turned to look at her, her angry expression now curious instead.

"What did you need?" she asked, not at all unkindly. Orihime felt a tingle of relief upon realizing that Tatsuki was no longer angry with her. As soon as that passed, however, it was replaced with embarrassment at what she was about to ask.

"Do... Do you know where the chapel is in this castle?" she asked timidly, "I would like to... t-to go to confession." Tatsuki gave her a blank look for a few moments, blinking slowly. She glanced furtively off to the side before a low hum escaped her pursed lips.

"Yes, there is a chapel," Tatsuki said slowly, "I can take you to it after we get you dressed." Orihime nodded her shy understanding before another thing occurred to her.

"When we're done with lessons for the day," she began, a smile covering her face, "Can we go play in the snow?"

_______________________________________________________________

Last night had been particularly unkind to Ichigo.

First, there was the matter of Orihime's sister. The older girl had rankled him when he really shouldn't have been rankled at all. She'd somehow touched a nerve; something between her countenance, her confidence, and her keen tongue had gotten underneath Ichigo's skin. The things she had insinuated had made him blush; worse yet, on some level they had put ideas into his head.

Not that his head needed much help coming up with ideas on its own. That was the worst part; the things Rangiku had said had already occurred to him on some level, even if he didn't want to think about it. Orihime was making him think and feel things that he knew very well he shouldn't. Every time he was around her, it strained his resolve. The girl was walking temptation and she didn't even know it.

That was another thought that had stuck with him, as well. Ichigo could hardly help his attraction to her, but what about the other men Rangiku had mentioned that were besotted with her? Ichigo knew without having to be told that those men had little interest in her but the carnal. It shouldn't have bothered him; humans were generally base and lustful like that. It was only natural that those men should be charmed by her. It was only natural that they should want her in their beds.

But it did bother him. It bothered Ichigo a lot, actually. It disgusted him that other men would look at Orihime like that. It sparked the same protective instinct he had for his sisters, and the same disdain he would've had for anyone who would look at them lustfully. But this instinct felt slightly different. If he was perfectly honest with himself, it didn't anger him because he felt that no one should ever think about her that way, as with his sisters; it angered him precisely because he did think about her that way already.

As loathe as Ichigo was to admit it, the night Nemu had drugged Orihime, something had changed within him. For the first time in his life, Ichigo had wanted a woman on more than a physical or physiological level. He hadn't just wanted her blood, or to sleep with her; he'd wanted to keep her. And that scared him.

He knew it was wrong. She wasn't born into this life like he or his sisters were; she was too gentle, too pious for the kinds of things they did. That was part of the reason she so fascinated him. If he were to truly bring her to his side, she might lose that sweetness and innocence that had attracted him in the first place. He didn't want to see a callous and violent Orihime; she was perfect the way she was. And that was provided she would even stay after finding out the truth about him and his servants; she might simply fear for her mortal soul and flee.

And Ichigo refused to pursue her if he couldn't make her truly his. If they stayed together in half-measure, her fate would be even unhappier. Once he'd finally taken her, she would forever be unable to become like him, autonomous and rational. Should he try to turn her after taking her virginity, she would simply become a ghoul, ravenous and devoid of real free will.

And should he pursue her without any intention of turning her, she would simply grow old and die as a regular human. But any children conceived would be halfbreeds, cursed and ostracized among both humans and his own kind. They would also be completely unable to inherit his title or holdings. He would be dooming them before they were even born.

With these gloomy ponderings in mind, Ichigo had embarked on the night's hunt. He had expected it to go easily; he only hunted in his family's holdings if they had a problem with overpopulation. Since this wasn't the case at the moment, he had ventured outward to the poorer outlying mountainsides and valleys.

Unfortunately, the humans there had cottoned on to his hunting patterns. When they came last night and disembarked from the carriage, one of the peasants had taken precautions. He had somehow armed himself with a fine silver dagger before leaving his home to tend his sheep for the night. Instead of being easy prey, the shepherd fought back and managed to escape.

So not only had Ichigo had to rely on his manservant to do all his hunting for him, but the prey itself had been pretty poor quality. Ichigo was no stranger to poor blood; he frequently fed on the ill and destitute, as they often had few resources and were usually abandoned by all else. But last night's meal had been particularly foul; an ill old vagabond who had had too much rotgut and too little anything else. Ichigo still had that bitter taste in his mouth.

Worse yet, that old blood had done little to heal his wounds. Wounds made from silver never healed easily, and this was no exception. But the poor quality of last night's meal guaranteed he wouldn't heal before Orihime saw him for the day - or any time soon, really, since it refused to clot properly at all. And even though he could always make up an elaborate story about being robbed, he'd just rather not go to the trouble at the moment. Plus, it hurt like hell.

This is how he came to be in the chapel this morning; his original burial place was in the family crypt there. And although he usually slept in his chambers in the castle's west wing, the soil from the tomb acted as a healing salve. He knew from experience that it was practically the only thing that would stop the bleeding from his wound before it completely drained him.

His sleep was as poor as last night's meal, however. He was unused to sleeping in the musty old tomb, as strange as that should've been. Even creatures like him could grow accustomed to comfort. As such, he slept fitfully and awoke as soon as he was fit to walk. He had just risen and was fully intent on making his way back to his chambers when he heard them. Two familiar voices floated from the front part of the chapel back to the hidden tombs as Ichigo made his way out. When he heard them, he immediately stopped and stayed hidden from the sight of the main chapel behind a thin wall.

"Is there a priest here?" he heard the softer voice ask sweetly. Ichigo's eyes widened as he recognized Orihime's voice. What the devil was she doing in the chapel?

"I doubt it," Tatsuki answered, "I wouldn't know, anyway. I try to stay away from this place as much as I can. It gives me the creeps." Orihime made a little noise that sounded somewhat offended. Ichigo imagined that her face had taken on a worried pout from the sound she'd made.

"Tatsuki!" she scolded, "You shouldn't be that way! If you don't come to church, you... you'll be condemned to eternal damnation!" Ichigo's eyes grew dark.

Her voice was so earnest and concerned, but Ichigo knew her pleas were going to fall on deaf ears at best, scornful ones at worst. He and Tatsuki had been raised without religion; while it was a solid fact for the rest of the world, his family lived outside of it. They simply could not reconcile their existence with it. After all, what kind of God would create creatures such as he, who could neither live nor die naturally and must prey on others for their very lives?

Because of this, Ichigo did have an aversion to the church and its accouterments. Those instruments of human religion could never harm him; they merely annoyed him whenever some superstitious peasant would hold forth their rosary as though it would save them from him. He was a vampire, not a demon, for goodness sake!

Would Orihime do that if he revealed himself to her? The thought darkened his countenance. He didn't want to think about her being afraid of him, as though his mere presence would send her screaming into the maw of Hell itself. He didn't want to think about her running from him or brandishing a rosary or a flask of holy water at him. Mostly, he just found himself not wanting her to think badly of him. The realization made him grit his teeth.

"Orihime, don't preach at me," he finally heard Tatsuki say, "Just go do your business so we can go. I don't want to be here any longer than we have to." Ichigo knew very well why that was: Tatsuki knew he was sleeping here. She must have thought he'd still be asleep for her to bring Orihime in here.

He heard Orihime huff a bit (and he imagined she must have crossed herself just then, too) before continuing on her way. He found himself entranced, tracking her footsteps as she padded softly through the chapel, and before he knew what was happening, they stopped just on the other side of the thin wooden wall from him. He heard a rustle of cloth as a curtain was pulled around and his eyebrows shot up as he realized where he standing; Ichigo had managed to wander into the opposite side of the confessional from Orihime.

He knew he should leave. He should just go back to his tomb until she was done, then go back up to his rooms. This was really none of his business and he had no right to eavesdrop on her private confession. But as she began to speak, he was compelled to stay.

"Forgive me, father," she began quietly, "For I have sinned. It has been ten days since my last confession." Ichigo swallowed, his throat suddenly gone dry. What sin could this sweet girl possibly have to confess? The prospect that she might have done something sinful tantalized him, his eyes wide and his imagination spinning around itself.

"Go... Go on," he croaked, dropping his voice several octaves and hoping she didn't recognize him. He couldn't help it, though; he wanted to hear this.

"I've been having such terrible thoughts," she whispered, voice trembling, "I-I keep thinking about the Count and... and about him touching me in places..." Ichigo could see her shadow from the other side of the wall covering its face. He knew it was wrong to be listening to this, but the idea that she thought about him privately was almost too much to bear. Perhaps he was secretly tormenting her just as much as she was him?

"I-In places a man should only touch a woman when they're married," she continued breathlessly, "I feel like such a pervert!"

'Well,' Ichigo thought heatedly, 'That makes two of us.'

"Tell me about these thoughts," he finally said, barely above a whisper, "Do you enjoy them?"

"He... He kisses me," she whispered, "On the mouth and neck and... and my breasts... And his hands go all over. They're so warm..."

Ichigo knew that last part wasn't the case at all, but he wasn't about to correct her. In fact, he wasn't about to do much of anything. He cursed silently as he realized he wouldn't be able to stand up anytime soon, either. At least he was wearing his bedrobe and nothing constricting.

"It... It's confusing," she continued, "It makes me feel r-really good, b-but at the same time, I know it's wrong..."

Ichigo could definitely relate to that. He hated this feeling as much as it thrilled him. His more base side wanted to encourage her to act on her fantasies. But his rational mind knew he needed to reign himself in. If his resolve broke, they would both be miserable, and he didn't want that for her. He ground his teeth against it, straining to keep control of himself.
Yet still, he wanted to hear more.

"I... I had a drink of wine for the first time the other night," she continued in a whisper, "And I passed out in front of him. It was so embarrassing! And when I woke up, I thought he'd undressed me a-and touched me all over, but... but it was just Tatsuki."

Ichigo realized he was breathing heavily. He really would have taken advantage of her, had Tatsuki not intervened. And then things would have really gotten out of hand; everything would've all been over. Even now, he could feel that inky black ichor creeping into the corners of his vision. He had gone too far. He needed to get her out of here before he did something stupid.

"Say five Hail Marys," he whispered hoarsely, "And go, please." He heard Orihime shift in her seat as she found her rosary, her breathing drowning out all other noise as she began quietly reciting her prayers.

Ichigo listened, transfixed. His fingers curled into his bedrobe as she prayed; he knew he should take the opportunity to leave, but something was keeping him still and fastening him to his seat. It was the sound of her voice; he'd never heard anything as sweet and hypnotic as it before. He listened enraptured as she quietly said her penance, until she finally finished with a cute little sigh.

"Thank you, Father," she said softly, rising with a rustle of her full skirts. Ichigo barely registered that he grunted in response, instead listening intently as she pulled the curtain open and stepped out. He heard her light footsteps trail toward the entrance of the chapel, back to where Tatsuki awaited her. She sounded light and airy, as though a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Ichigo, on the other hand, felt as though his chest was being compressed as she walked away. It dawned on him keenly then that he was indeed still hungry.

"All done?" Tatsuki asked warmly. He heard Orihime make a pleased little noise and imagined she nodded as well.

"Yes," she said, her voice as sweet as honey, "Thank you, Tatsuki." He stared blankly ahead as he heard Tatsuki grunt in response.

"You're welcome," the black haired girl replied, "Now come on. We've got a lot to work on today."

The two girls pulled the chapel doors shut and Ichigo found he could breathe again finally. As he slumped forward, the evidence of Orihime's effect on him became inherently apparent again. He growled to himself; when was the last time he'd been compelled to deal with something like that? It had been years, at least. Damn it all, he wasn't a hyperactive teenager anymore!

Worse yet, he knew he wouldn't be able to resist if he was left alone with her. It wasn't just her blood; he knew that for certain. The beast he tried to keep suppressed stirred whenever she was around. That strange trait that had manifested itself first last year, when he'd reached maturity, flared dramatically whenever he thought about her now. It clawed and screamed to be let loose, begged to have its way with her. And Ichigo wasn't sure how much longer he would even want to resist it, especially not with what she'd just confessed to him.

So his path was now clear. She had not yet been in his residence a week, but Ichigo was now certain that he needed to get Inoue Orihime out of his house. And the sooner she was gone, the better.

Date: 2011-01-12 10:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alice-candy.livejournal.com
Haha! i can't help it - i was smiling all through out the chapter and enjoying Ichigo's discomfort while Orihime confessed. XD tsk, tsk, poor Ichigo, but gotta love how you torture him!

and as always, Orihime is just so adorable. great chapter! :D

Date: 2011-01-12 11:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cappuccinolady.livejournal.com
Thank you! I love screwing with Ichigo! He's my favorite to torment! XD

Date: 2011-01-13 05:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inuyatta.livejournal.com
Bahahaha, so cruel to Ichigo! I'd like to feel sorry for him, but I find I can't because of his own stubbornness.

Date: 2011-01-13 08:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cappuccinolady.livejournal.com
I love tormenting him in fics. He makes it so fun.

Date: 2011-01-13 09:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inuyatta.livejournal.com
It's just so damned easy too~

Btw, you ever heard of an IchiHime doujin called 'Sympathy'?

Date: 2011-01-13 10:33 am (UTC)
holyfight: (Said I'll always be your friend)
From: [personal profile] holyfight
-! Yes! It's by the same people who did "Place Where Rain Ends", right?

Date: 2011-01-13 07:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inuyatta.livejournal.com
Honestly, I'm not sure--there is a surprising lack of IchiHime doujin as far as I am aware. I take it you have read/seen 'Sympathy' then?

Date: 2011-01-13 07:33 pm (UTC)
holyfight: (Default)
From: [personal profile] holyfight
Yup! I'll have to look over it again, but I know I've read it!

There are actually plenty, they just don't focus so much on Ichigo as they do Orihime. He features in more Orihime doujin than any other guy I've seen.

Date: 2011-01-14 05:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inuyatta.livejournal.com
Oh, ok~ I asked because I actually bought the doujin in Japan and wondered if you wanted it. XD

Man, I need to find more IchiHime doujin, I barely find any that isn't actually Kon/Orihime.

Date: 2011-01-14 09:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cappuccinolady.livejournal.com
YES! :'D I just found one for sale on DA the other day, too! How much did you want for it?

I see a lot of Kon/Orihime, too! Which is usually really cute, actually. Makes me wonder where the little guy went in canon, you know?

Date: 2011-01-14 10:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inuyatta.livejournal.com
Oh! I actually got it as a gift for you, haha! I just was browsing through all the doujinshi in the shop (you should have seen how quickly the boys started hiding their porn) and happened upon it and thought of you. :3 If you insist on payment, then just point in the direction of translated Ichihime doujin, lol. XD

You know who else I wonder about in Bleach? Nel--WHAT HAPPENED TO HER~!?! ;-;

Date: 2011-01-14 09:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cappuccinolady.livejournal.com
Oh *awesome*.

They actually have a good selection of Orihime doujin on doujin-moe.com! If you want, I can give you my login so you can browse through the Orihime section instead of the public section, which is just... a bunch of random doujin thrown up there. There are a couple in English, too!

Apparently she woke up to see Kenpachi and thought he was a child molester. That's from the between-chapter sketches, though.

Date: 2011-01-14 09:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inuyatta.livejournal.com
:D

Doujin-moe! I-I would be interested if you would allow...*_*

O_o Should I ask where I would find this out? Sometimes, the between-chapter sketches are the better than the chapters, I swear. It's the only time we've seen Ishida blush because of Nemu

Date: 2011-01-14 09:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cappuccinolady.livejournal.com
I'll PM it to you!

http://ichixhime.actifforum.com/t1828p20-volume-34-cover

Eternal Dream posted them here!

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