Summary: Behind the clouds is the sun still shining.
Disclaimer: Kubo Tite owns Tatsuki and Orihime, but Umbrella-san owns itself.
Notes: Written for Slodwick's A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words Challenge: The Four Seasons.
Tatsuki was angry at her. They had fought that morning, not a good fight with swords and banners and the noble princess bending over the plucky peasant in the middle of the battlefield: "I have come to save you," she would say; "My lady," he would reply, "did you remember to turn the gas off?"
Not that kind of fight, but the bad kind, with words and bile-green anger and the turning away of faces. It was Orihime's fault. Tatsuki didn't say so, but it couldn't be Tatsuki's fault because she was right.
"You need to stand up for yourself," she'd said. Her hands were shaking when she helped Orihime pick up her pencils. "I can't always be there. I try my best, but -- you have to stop letting those assholes trample all over you!"
Orihime had a Persian design. She flew when you said the magic word: "pumpkin", but only when said on alternate Tuesdays in a mock French accent. She wanted to remind Tatsuki not to forget the accent, but she couldn't because they were fighting.
"I don't like to -- " She didn't like angry words. They could go so wrong, and then it was too late to take them back. But they were having angry words because she didn't like angry words. Maybe more words would spoil it. You shouldn't mix colours with whites.
"And I don't like watching you being pushed around," said Tatsuki, throwing Orihime's pencil-case on her desk like she hated it. "But it looks like neither of us has a choice."
She went away before Orihime could say she was sorry, and now Orihime was walking home alone. Except for her umbrella.
"Sorry, Umbrella-san!" she whispered guiltily. She didn't want it to be angry at her too. One person was enough. The sky was half-dark with Tatsuki mad.
Would Orihime have the time to apologise? The sun was so ephemeral. It could all be gone by evening. She would be alone, wandering in the nuclear fall-out. She would grow extra arms to deal with the post-Apocalypse: one pair for hunting, one pair for gathering, one pair for wiping away her tears. No place for handkerchiefs in the dystopian future.
But she had a white handkerchief with spots, pink and purple and blue and ketchup. How sad not to be able to have such a handkerchief. She would choose another future. World War III could be forestalled. She would sing: that would fix it.
"Except in 1962, when Fu-ji-wa-ra's face was blue ... " Building walls of Jericho around the world, protecting it with the power of song. It started to rain in agreement.
Orihime opened Umbrella-san. It popped open in a flurry of positive reviews for her performance. It was not angry after all.
"Who knows the mystery of love, except the Cupcake King?"
But the wind was cold. It buffeted her: no strawberry tarts at the cosmic hotel, and they were her favourite. Orihime and Umbrella-san struggled against it, an adventurer and her Sancho battling the hungry windmills of the weather. But their opponents were too strong, and too bourgeois. The wind had no respect for the shining ideal. It blew her umbrella inside-out.
"Man overboard!" she said, but Umbrella-san assured her that it was fine. It could soldier on. With such an example before her, Orihime could do no less.
Life with an inside-out umbrella would not be too bad. She would lead her umbrella by the hand, telling it the best places to find peaches. (In a crate under the bed, on the dinner table, in the refrigerator.) Their friendship would be strengthened by adversity and peach juice. They would love each other all the better.
But the rain would gather in the cup formed by Umbrella-san's upturned hair. A pool would form, then a lake, then mermaids and freshwater plankton and strange fish with lamps on their foreheads would come to live there. There would be a theatre and a shopping centre and a street with only noodle bars.
Orihime began to feel tired. It was nice to have so many friends, but she could not be Atlas. She was not strong enough. She was faltering. If she let go, the lake would spill out of Umbrella-san, followed by the mermaids and the freshwater plankton and the fish with the lamps on their foreheads.
"Why have you betrayed us?" they would cry, in the last bubbling breath you get before you die.
"I tried," she would say, "I tried but the world is so heavy." They would be angry at her. Alone again, alone --
"Orihime," said Tatsuki, "what do you think you're doing?"
A hand took the umbrella from Orihime. Tatsuki's hair was lank with rain, her face wet and grim with it.
"You're soaked through," she said, but not in an angry way, because they were the same.
"Only my hair is longer," said Orihime. Tatsuki blinked, then smiled. She looked down at the umbrella.
"Look," said Tatsuki. "I'm sorry I yelled at you. You just -- "
"I need to be stronger," said Orihime. Tatsuki put Umbrella-san the right way out again, but it was okay. Tatsuki would catch all the mermaids, all the freshwater plankton and the fish with lamps on their foreheads.
"You can't always provide the aquarium," said Orihime, to show that she understood.
"No," said Tatsuki. "You're plenty strong already." She brushed Orihime's hair out of her face.
"I get impatient," Tatsuki said. "When people hurt you. I shouldn't have taken it out on you. You could've walked into a drain."
"I can swim."
"With a broken leg?" said Tatsuki. She rolled her shoulders and sighed, putting Umbrella-san up like a standard. "Guess my gran's right. Need to control my temper."
Orihime, Tatsuki and Umbrella-san against the world. Three is a better number than two.
"Dragons need respect and regular feeding," said Orihime.
"Shouldn't have left you alone."
"It's all right, Tatsuki-chan," Orihime said, meaning she hadn't been frightened. Never really lost or lonely. Nothing is broken forever.