They left without saying goodbye. Sora was not the superstitious sort, but he was symbolic. Someone had told him once that "a farewell was necessary before you can meet again," and, if Sora had his way, he and Orihime would never meet their parents again.

"Oni-chan." Sora looked down as little Orihime, only three, tugged on his sleeve. He knew he should correct her pronunciation, but having her call him "Little Demon" with such adoration was too adorable.

"What is it, Orihime?" he asked softly.

"Going to Kitty-san's?" Her late babysitter had always been Kitty-san, although she had no actual cats. Her walls were decorated with cat pictures and stuffies. Sora wondered idly what had been done with them; the old woman had no kin.

"No, Orihime," he said. "We're going away." He waited for her next question, but nothing came. He looked down at her again, wondering if something was wrong, and saw her little face looking up at him, her eyes far too piercing for a three year-old. How much did she actually see? he wondered. Did her eyes really pierce into his soul, or was that simply a figment of his torn conscience? She had a look of such wisdom about her sometimes, like a little Buddha. As much as Sora loved her for it, it disconcerted him. Children were not supposed to seem so wise.

Then she turned away, looking back at the house they were rapidly leaving behind.

"Goo-" Sora quickly grabbed her waving hand, stopping its motion and her words. Orihime turned back to him with a confused frown. "Oni-chan?"

"Don't, Orihime," he said. "Just...don't." If she said goodbye, they would meet again. He couldn't let that happen. Even if she looked at him with that expression, her face a disturbing mixture of childish confusion and ancient perception. "We're going to miss the train," he continued, hoping to wipe the expression away.

"Train!" Sora smiled as Orihime's expression immediately brightened, making her look like a child again. Immediately she tugged on his hand, dragging him along. "Train train train train train!"

They did not say goodbye.

They said goodbye every time one left the apartment. Maybe he was superstious after all; the idea of not saying goodbye terrified him. Five years passed and they did not see their parents. And then Orihime turned eight and Sora learned from an uncle that their parents died in a car accident. His wish had come true; they had not met again. But Orihime...if he had his way, they would never part. But the world did not operate the way Sora wanted it to, and so all he could do was say goodbye. Say goodbye, and pray that they would meet again every time. The fear he felt every time they parted, the relief he felt every time he saw her again, these things didn't change, even when Akane came into his life. Whatever the vivacious young nurse was to him, it could not change his feelings for his little sister.

But Orihime's feelings for him seemed to be changing. Sora slid his shoes on that morning, looking at the hairpins that still lay on the table by the door. 'I HATE THEM!' she had shouted. 'They're stupid and childish and ugly!' The words still stung, even in memory. Orihime's angry back, her face turned to the wall where he could not see it, hurt even worse.

"I'm...leaving for work, Orihime," he said hesitantly. No response. Were the hairpins really that awful? He'd take them back if she really hated them that much. But Akane said... He sighed. He was going to be late. "Good-" His voice choked on the goodbye. He couldn't say it. Why couldn't he say it? Goodbye, Orihime. The words were in his mind, but they wouldn't come out of his throat. He stood in the doorway, needing to leave, but unable to without saying goodbye.

And she wouldn't say goodbye. It doesn't matter, he told himself. It's just a silly superstition. Just leave. He forced himself out the door, his every footstep painful.

He did not say goodbye.

The world was going black all around him. He was vaguely aware that he was in a lot of pain, but he felt it without feeling it. He was unattached to it; the pain was not a part of him.

He realized he was dying.

Orihime. What about Orihime? She was only twelve. Would their relatives take her in? Not likely. They were all well-off and selfish. None of them would want the responsibility of taking care of a child. They might send her money, but that would be all they would do. Money was easier than love. Who would love her? Who would hold her and comfort her and laugh with her? He had to live, damn it! He couldn't leave!

His body left him no choice in the matter. Willpower could not stop the bleeding, or mend the smashed organs. There was nothing else he could do.

"Go...bye." He had to get the words out. If it took his last breath, he would get it out. "Ori...hime...go...od...bye." His world went black; his mind went blank. He had died. But he had gotten the words out.

Someday, somehow, they would meet again.