Beside You

"You saved us, Ishida-kun," Orihime whispered as she stood beside her unconscious comrade's bedside. Tears were running down her cheeks. "After when we all thought all hope was lost…you saved us."

Orihime remembered the moment when Ishida-kun blocked Yhwach's blow as it was about to kill Kurosaki-kun, who had fallen unconscious from a blow to the head. The unconscious bodies of her comrades were scattered around the area of where the battle had taken place. Orihime was ashamed now to think that Ishida-kun would allow Yhwach to kill them all. Orihime had been stunned when she found Ishida-kun blocking the blow meant to kill the orange-haired Shinigami. Yhwach had only stared at him for a moment and laughed. Orihime had watched helplessly as Ishida-kun and his former father battled. She remembered of how she was afraid that Ishida-kun would fall when she saw the amount of blood he had lost. Ishida-kun had defeated and killed Yhwach hours later, ghastly wounds surrounding his body before he collapsed onto the floor.

Orihime now stared at the unconscious figure. It had been several days since the final battle had ended, and the orange-haired girl had healed the wounded the Shinigami. Expect for a few grievous like Ishida-kun's, most of everyone were now walking and going about their daily activities. There were many deaths in Gotei 13. Orihime remembered as attended the funerals, the burning fires in her mind as the surviving Shinigami looked on grimly and solemnly. One of those who died was Matsumoto-san, who had comforted her when Orihime had confessed that she was envious of Kuchiki-san's relationship with Kurosaki-kun, and had sobbed into her chest until she was calm. The tenth division was especially quiet, for they had lost both their vice-captain and captain in the war. Orihime stared, looking at Hirako-san, who was uncharacteristically grim and subdued as the body of Hinamori Momo was burned. Orihime had heard that she had died battling the captain of the tenth division, Hitsugaya-san, and had the blows of their swords had killed them both. She had heard whispers that the two Shinigami had been in love with each other, and Orihime silently bowed respectfully to the burning pyre. I would have not been able to kill anyone I love, especially not Kurosaki-kun.

Or do I love him? Orihime thought as she held Ishida-kun's hand in her own. She had seen Kurosaki-kun kissing Kuchiki-san underneath a tree when she had been walking by after visiting Ishida-kun, and was surprised to find herself unaffected. Kurosaki-kun had said asked something similar when he had told her that he and Kuchiki-san were now in a relationship, his brown eyes widening at the smile on her face. "I am simply happy that Kurosaki-kun is happy," Orihime had said. The orange-haired Shinigami had smiled as well before bracing himself to tell Kuchiki-san's older brother, the captain of the sixth division.

Now as Orihime watched the young Quincy breathe and held his hand, she thought about what the said Quincy meant to her. She had only known Ishida-kun from the small handcrafts club they had been a part of, where she had simply watched him with curiosity. It was only when she had gotten to know him during the time they had rescued Kuchiki-san did Orihime know of how much she actually cared for him. In only a couple of days they had spent together, Orihime cared for Ishida-kun greatly. She had been afraid when he suddenly shielded her with his own body, and decided to face the Shinigami Mayuri-san on his own. She was inherently grateful when he came back, wounded but alive. She had tried fussing with his wounds, but he wouldn't allow her to heal him. "Focus on yourself, Inoue-san." It was only later did Orihime realize that something was wrong with Ishida-kun. His expression appeared forlorn, and he would often stare at the sky when he thought no one was looking. When Orihime had exclaimed why he had chosen to forsake his Quincy powers against that Shinigami, the dark-haired first year hadn't replied for a moment. He looked away and adjusted his glasses for a moment before turning to her. He started telling her about his grandfather, of how the old Quincy had taught him how the ancient craft of the Quincy arts, and of how his grandfather had been killed by six Hollows when he had been a boy. The Shinigami had arrived too late to save his grandfather. "When I saw them standing there, looking at his body, I knew immediately that I hated them." Ishida-kun had told her that the actual reason why the Shinigami had been so late was because the same Shinigami he had fought against had wanted to experiment with his body. "He showed me a picture," Ishida-kun had stated with his head bowed as Orihime gaped in horror. "And he told me…that my grandfather was screaming for me when he had died. It…turns out that he had been alive until that Shinigami used him." Ishida-kun's hands had tightened, and his face was a mask of insufferable pain. "That was why…I had to use all the power that I had to beat that Shinigami."

"But...Ishida-kun…certainly there couldn't have been all darkness in your heart, right?" Orihime had whispered. She was surprised to see a slight serene expression when he said,

"Yes. I also wanted to protect you, Inoue-san." Orihime had continued to look at the young man in shock as he said goodbye and walked away. When she had been rescued from Heuco Mundo, Orihime remembered the tone in his voice when he told Kurosaki-kun that he didn't need to tell him to shield himself with his body. It reminded Orihime of when her older brother had promised that he would always protect her. Her heart had stilled when she had seen Ishida-kun missing his hand when he had tried to fight Ulquorria, and had inwardly screamed for Kurosaki-kun to stop when he had stabbed Ishida-kun in the stomach. She remembered of how she had pleaded with him that she was sorry, so very sorry when he suddenly told her that there was nothing to be forgiven. At that moment, Orihime felt as if her world had stopped. The pain and guilt that had built up inside her disappeared as soon as Ishida-kun said those words, and she felt as if everything, for that moment, was fine. Orihime had contemplated calling Ishida-kun by his first name since she found that she spent most of her time with him out of her comrades. Then she had blushed, thinking, No! People will think I like him and that we're… Orihime hadn't known how to respond when Urahara-san told them that Ishida-kun had betrayed them to join Yhwach. Although she had stated that there were more important things than his betrayal, Orihime had hoped that she would not cry when she saw him again. For some reason, even beside the enemy, she had found herself happy to see him again. Why had she been so sad when he would say her name, saying that he had already made his goodbyes without looking at her?

And why…did she heal Ishida-kun first when Kurosaki-kun and the others had been more seriously wounded and wounded longer? Why did she cry when Orihime heard his heartbeat?

The answer came suddenly.

"I love him." Orihime felt her single hand tighten in his own. She looked down at Ishida-kun, staring at him as if she truly stared at his face for the first time. "I…" Happiness flowed through her. Orihime almost laughed, thinking that she never thought that love could feel this way. She had thought love was what she had previously felt for Kurosaki-kun, but she found that the love she now had was much deeper. Like the love Hinamori-san had for Hitsugaya-san… Orihime softly caressed Ishida-kun's cheek, staring at his face intently. I love him.

Maybe…he would feel better if I was beside him. I always wanted to try it with Kurosaki-kun, but... Orihime slightly pushed Ishida-kun aside until she was able to face him. She lied on her side, watching him breathe, and softly brushed her hand across his face. I am happy, Ishida-kun… Orihime thought as she slowly began to sleep across from the young Quincy.

Ishida Uryū awoke to find his gaze directed at Inoue-san. The young woman's orange hair framed her face, making her seem more beautiful than she already was. Uryū stared at her face, wondering of why she had chosen to sleep with him like this. His thoughts faltered as her saw her smile. Ah…Inoue-san… Uryū thought as he moved his body for her head to lie against her chest. I am…happy…

The two Shinigami Kuchiki Rukia and Kurosaki Ichigo had arrived to say a small hello their unconscious comrade and dedicated Orihime before both of them stopped short. Orihimehad her head against Uryu's chest, and the Quincy had a one of his hands protectively over her. His other hands was wrapped in her hair, and the two looked more peaceful than the two had ever been.

The two Shinigami smiled.