Part One of a two-part fic co-authored with Ninx.
Disclaimer: I don't own them. This story has been jossed to hell by now anyway.
Someone Who Outdrew You
The night is getting chilly, turning toward morning, but Orihime is sweating when Kuchiki-san's eyelids finally flutter open. For the first time since she began healing Toushirou-kun, Orihime allows herself to relax for a moment. And everything blinks out.
It's a moment, just a moment, that she slips out of consciousness, but a moment is enough to disorient her completely – when she jerks herself back to awareness there are hands on her shoulders, holding her up, and she knows they're Kurosaki-kun's hands.
"Are you all right?" he asks. "Inoue?"
She's not all right. She wants to shake him off and race home and she wants never to move from between his hands but what she does is say, "Mhmm," and sit up. "Just worn out," she adds apologetically, because she knows Kuchiki-san is not fully healed, but she can do no more tonight. He lets go of her shoulders.
Kuchiki-san is leaning up on one elbow and prodding the patched-up wound in her torso through the hole in her robes, and now she says, without looking up, "I had no idea you'd become such a strong healer, Inoue."
"Oh," says Orihime, "I'm – oh, be careful, Kuchiki-san, that's still delicate! I did my best, but…" she glances at Toushirou-kun.
"You've done a lot of work tonight," Rangiku-san says firmly at the same time Kurosaki-kun growls, "She said stop poking at it, Rukia." He's not doing a very good job of keeping the worry out of his voice.
Kuchiki-san glares, then sits up slowly and says, "I guess we won, since you're not dead."
Orihime tries not to flinch, and dares a glance at Kurosaki-kun.
"They won," he says, nodding toward Toushirou-kun and Renji-kun, behind him. "You won. I didn't."
"Don't be a fool," Kuchiki says sharply. "The one who did this to me, the one you fought – his power was completely unlike the others. Neither of us is dead. That's enough."
"That's what I told him," Renji growls, sounding a little petulant, but relieved.
Kurosaki-kun is silent.
Rangiku-san kneels next to Orihime. "We should get you home," she says, rubbing Orihime's good arm. "Captain?"
"I'm coming with you," Toushirou says wearily. "Abarai?"
"I'll go back to Urahara's," he answers. "…In a few minutes." Orihime wonders how much longer he'll be able to keep upright. She'd heal him, too, but…
"Come on," Rangiku says. "Everybody up."
Kuchiki-san is already climbing to her feet, ignoring Kurosaki-kun, who keeps moving as if to help her and then changing his mind. Orihime stands too, leaning on Rangiku.
"Thank you for healing me, Inoue-san," Kuchiki-san says, turning toward her and bowing. Halfway down, Kuchiki wobbles, and suddenly Kurosaki-kun is there, steadying her with white-knuckled hands.
Kuchiki straightens sharply, wrenching hard to break his grip and swinging a fist at the same time. It connects with Kurosaki-kun's jaw, but Kuchiki-san is too weak to recover her balance, and just as she strikes him, she staggers backwards. Orihime cries out, makes a feeble attempt to move, to help, but Rangiku tightens her grip on Orihime's shoulders. Renji drops the sword he's been leaning on and manages to get under Kuchiki before she falls.
"Moron!" Renji-kun barks at the bundle of angry injured shinigami struggling to get up out of his lap.
"What the hell is wrong with you, you idiot!" Kurosaki-kun shouts as he storms over to them. His voice is raw.
"Stop looking at me like that!" she shouts back, managing to get back to her feet with the help of a hand shoved against Renji-kun's face. "I'm fine!" She stumbles a little.
"That's enough!" Toushirou-kun snaps.
"Uh-oh," Rangiku whispers to Orihime, "we're all in for it now." Orihime can hear the smile in her voice.
"None of us is fine," Toushirou says. "But we are all alive and we have information about our enemies that we didn't have a few hours ago. And now we are all going to get some rest so that we can stay alive long enough for that information to do some good. Get out of here, all of you. Kuchiki, let Kurosaki help you home. It'll obviously make him feel better, whether you need it or not." Then he turns and walks away.
Rangiku-san starts to pull Orihime after him, but Orihime shakes her head and grabs Rangiku's hand. "Just a minute," she says softly, and then, louder, "I'm sorry I couldn't heal you completely. Kuchiki-san."
Kuchiki looks startled, then sad. "You did more than enough. I will be fine."
"Yeah," Kurosaki-kun says. "Thanks, Inoue." Orihime manages to smile.
Then Kurosaki-kun turns and crouches with his back in front of Kuchiki-san.
Orihime's smile falls away. Rangiku's hand on her shoulder tightens again.
Finally, Kuchiki-san says, "I do not need that much help."
Kurosaki-kun looks at her over his shoulder. Even from here, Orihime can see something like sadness under the annoyance in his expression. "Rukia…"
"You're barely standing," Renji, back on his feet and leaning on his zanpakutou, growls. "Just let the idiot carry you home and beat him up tomorrow."
"I'm going to kill you both," she mutters, but she steps forward and slides her arms around Kurosaki-kun's neck, lets him hoist her up.
As he begins to walk slowly away, Kuchiki-san on his back, her head already beginning to slump toward his shoulder, Rangiku tugs on Orihime again, and this time Orihime allows herself to be pulled away. She leans into Rangiku-san as they walk, and is nearly home before she needs to wipe her eyes.
End Part 1