Title: Finding Her Heart
Disclaimer: I own neither the characters nor Bleach.
Promises were always very easy to make, but keeping them… was another matter altogether. As Ichigo soon found out.
"This. Is. Bloody. Impossible."
Ichigo swore as his head whacked against the table, for the fifth time that afternoon. There was a gasp as Orihime hurried over from the doorway, concern literally sounding off her crashes and bangs. He cursed again, quieter. Friday afternoon.
Three days of searching. Three days of constant looking under desks, peering into shelves, and shuffling over cabinets (and of course, numerous head-banging in Ichigo's case) produced nothing but a string of disappointments, brought in the form of many origami hearts. Someone clearly thought it'd be more festive to trash the school with tissue paper. The git.
And the more they searched, the more Ichigo became aware of how impossible the task just exactly was.
Finding a single card, hidden somewhere in a big school like this, in a season where the average teenager physically became insane. For a card he had never even seen.
Sure… Easy peasy, simple pimple.
There was a bump on his head. Ichigo scowled as his fingers rubbed at it tenderly; another trophy of yet another failure. His other hand was pressed against something weirdly squishy on the table leg and there was another loud thump as Ichigo saw it was gum – just chewed by the looks of it too.
Goddamn the bastards to chew gum in class…
But a gentle hand suddenly touched his fingers, and Ichigo almost hit the table again out of the surprise. It was soft, and warm.
"Are you okay?"
Ichigo peered over, and immediately looked back down again, flushing slightly pink. Orihime was close. Dammit, did she not realise how close she was?! He could smell her perfume, or her fragrance or maybe just her natural smell… whatever it was, it was making him feel all funny. This had been happening a lot recently. He thinks he might have gotten the flu.
Her hand was still on his. Ichigo stared fixatedly at the small hand and couldn't seem to move. By god, her hand was still on his. His knuckled whitened as they froze up. Did she not realise her hand was lying right on top of his?!
"It's late, you should go home."
Then she stood up. And the hand was gone. Ichigo blinked.
"What are you talking about," He said to her, wiping his hand hurriedly on his jeans. "Saturday's tomorrow. This… This is our last chance to find the card."
But Orihime simply shook her head, smiling.
"It's okay… I mean it, Kurosaki-kun!" She gave a tinkling laugh as Ichigo raised his eyebrows sceptically. "You helping me these past few days is more than enough. Thank you…"
Ichigo looked at her. She did appear to be sincere.
"But…" He glanced around – at the misplaced tables and scattered chairs – and could not believe he was saying this. "The guy… I mean… The-The person you wanted to give the card to… He… He doesn't…"
Ichigo stumbled over his words. And Orihime blushed.
"No... That's okay too. He's… already given me the nicest present I could ask for."
There was a long silence after that, as Ichigo stared wordlessly at her. Orihime twiddled with her fingers nervously but determinedly held his gaze, cheeks flaming redder and redder by the second.
Then Ichigo felt something resembling bitterness gnaw at his chest.
"Oh… Is that so…"
They stood together awkwardly, as an uncomfortable quietness became deafening in the silence. Orihime was chewing on her lips and Ichigo thought she looked almost disappointed. He looked away; something was definitely eating him inside.
Picking up their bags from the corner of the room, Ichigo tried not to think about the soft feel of her fingers as they swapped hands. He smiled as warmly as he could when she thanked him.
"I'll-" Her eyes glimmered silver and he had to swallowed down a lump, "I'll walk you home."
Half an hour later, and a soaking wet Ichigo returned to the Kurosaki clinic. He shook the water out of his hair, and sighed in relief when Isshin didn't come kicking out of a nearby room. The rain began to pour halfway back from Orihime's house, and he somehow managed to step into three puddles along the way.
"Yuzu? Karin? Oyaji?"
Shoes were kicked off and Ichigo stumbled into the kitchen. There was a note stuck on the refrigerator, scrawled in some messy handwriting. Ichigo just about made out that Isshin had gone to pick up the girls due to the rain, and some other instructions about taking care of 'Rukia-chan'.
Ichigo walked up the stairs. The house really was eerily silent. He opened Yuzu and Karin's bedroom and saw no one was there. Grunting slightly, he went into his own bedroom and pulled open his closet, but to his surprise, there was no one there either. A clap of thunder sounded outside and Ichigo guessed that Rukia was probably doing some shinigami work.
He took a shower, and spent extra long in the warm water as he tried to ignore the hollow feeling in his chest. His head hurt. She was disappointed…
There was still no one at home when he stepped out and Ichigo was beginning to hate the silence. He almost wished for a fight with Isshin, or Yuzu to fuss over something. The rain was still pouring. He hated that.
Scowling now, Ichigo marched over to his desk to turn on the radio, just wanting to break the silence. But then his eyes caught the sight of something. Something red and curved. Sticking out of a book.
He pulled it out.
It was a card.
And as Ichigo continued to stare at it, he realised something else, something that made him want to shout and stomp and groan into his arms all at the same time.
It was a heart-shaped Valentine's card.
He then turned his attention to the book it was folded between. And sure enough, it was definitely his. It was a textbook he had been carrying all this week, but never actually gotten to use it due to constant hollow calls. Somehow, the card had slipped in unknowingly… it was in his bag the entire time.
Oh the irony…
Ichigo reverted back to the card, and smooth a hand over it. It had become creased during its ride in his bag – he was never one to be careful – and the rain had slightly faded the redness of the card. But it was definitely the object they had been looking for all these days. He could still feel Orihime's reiatsu hovering around it, even after several days; a good indication of just how long she must've spent on it.
His face soured a little, and the fingers clutching the (tattered) card tightened.
Glaring slightly, Ichigo touched the handmade decorations gingerly, finger poised over the fold, and felt an inexplicably intense urge to turn it over and kill the name.
But then he remembered her disappointed expression, the sad smile and that solitary figure; and heard the promise he made to himself.
"He's… already given me the nicest present I could ask for."
No. He just wanted her to be happy, that was all.
Yuzu and Karin yelled as Ichigo rushed past them; Isshin blinked in surprise before he saw the card held in his son's hand. He urged the girls inside and closed the door, grinning from ear to ear. Pride beamed in his heart. Like father, like son…
Halfway down the road, Ichigo was panting. The rain had soaked through his flimsy shirt (he had forgotten to wear a coat) and his shoes were making squishy sounds with each step. Couples huddled under umbrellas turned and stared at him as he ran past, pointing and whispering loudly.
(Keigo would be telling the whole class about a bleached-blonde psychopath dashing past him in the rain on Monday morning.)
Until finally, he was at her doorstep.
Taking a few deep breaths, Ichigo felt his heart beat harder than usual. He pushed the sodden orange hair out of his eyes and he looked down at the card in his hand. It was dry… relatively. He had sealed it inside a plastic pocket before rushing out; but it appeared that some water had leaked in despite that. It couldn't be helped.
It was Matsumoto who opened the door, wrapped in a towel and with a lollypop in her mouth. She had just come out of the shower.
Ichigo, who had been expecting Orihime, almost dropped the card in surprise, his voice suddenly stolen. Meanwhile, Matsumoto stared at him with a mixture of surprise and curiosity.
"Ichigo?! What's up?"
But before Ichigo could answer (or even attempt to do so), another person blundered into the scene. She was carrying a pink, wooly dress robe.
"Rangiku-san, you forgot to wear this!"
But then Orihime saw him, and her mouth fell open to join his. The rain began to drizzle outside and Matsumoto looked between them in amusement. Understanding dawned on her and she sniggered. Slipping the robe on over the towel, Matsumoto winked at Ichigo in the most unsubtle way before strutting off to the living room, throwing a loud "good luck, Ichi-boy!" over her shoulders.
Silence fell around them, again. But it was not uncomfortable this time. Ichigo stared into those clear grey eyes and all at once, every cold pore in his body warmed. He smiled at her gawkily.
Orihime relaxed, finding herself familiar with this situation, and smiled back.
Ichigo thought he could've kept on smiling like that forever, however a quiet jostle in his hand reminded him of why he had come here.
"G-Guess what?" He scratched the back of his head and held up the card. "I found the card."
Orihime blinked twice at this, eyeing the ruined card with no expression on her face. Ichigo retracted his hand a little, wondering if she was upset.
"I'm sorry, Inoue." He said, and he was. "I… I didn't realise it was in my book, my bag the entire time. I-" Her eyes shot up to him and widened. "I didn't take it, I swear! It just… just happened to be there. I don't know why either… I saw it… just now. Really, I didn't steal-"
"I believe you, Kurosaki-kun."
She was smiling... She was smiling.
Ichigo relaxed, letting her take the card off his hand. She traced her fingers over the spots he'd touched moments before and gently turned it over. Her face softened as she read what was inside and Ichigo kicked himself for getting that feeling again.
"I…" He whispered. "I didn't read it. I… I didn't read it."
She gazed at him, and Ichigo longed to decipher that expression on her face. It was pained, but sincere, joyous, yet sombre. But he knew she believed him.
"I'm so sorry it's ruined."
But she shook her head, and that sparkle was back in her eyes.
"No, thank you, Kurosaki-kun." Now, she was beaming, positively glowing with joy. "I'm so happy, so incredibly happy! I know how he feels now, and that's worth more than a thousand of these terrible handmade cards."
She was smiling, so wide and so unconstrained that it was impossible to look away.
There was a tug on Ichigo's heart, as goosebumps finally shown themselves on his arms. He looked into her eyes, and felt jealous. The guy obviously loved her too… But then that was hardly surprising, how could anyone not?
He sneezed, and Orihime seemed to suddenly realise he was drenched from head to toe.
"Oh I'm so sorry, Kurosaki-kun, come in, come in!"
He dodged away from her fingers, not wanting to know how he would feel if they touched him. The card was still fluttering in her hand, and Ichigo knew he needed to get away, soon – fast.
"Nah, it's okay, Inoue, I've-I've got to get back now anyway, or my sisters would worry."
She seemed reluctant to let him leave, and Ichigo fought the urge to sneeze again. He gave her another crooked smile before he turned around.
There were some light footsteps and Ichigo froze when an umbrella was thrusted into his hand. Soft, warm fingers wrapped his own icicled digits around the handle, and lingered. He could smell Orihime, even though he couldn't see her.
"Take this, Kurosaki-kun. I know you don't like the rain."
He felt her step back as she let go of his hand, and heard the tenderness in her voice as she spoke again.
"But sometimes, it can link together even the most unlikely of hearts."
Saturday, February 14th.
Ichigo was in bed with a cold.
Yuzu changed the towel on his forehead for the third time that morning (it was barely 9am) and tutted as he coughed violently.
"Serves you right, Ichi-nii! Running around in the rain like that! Don't you know to wear a raincoat at least?!"
Ichigo groaned, wishing he could just become deaf. He didn't have the energy to argue back, his body was just too weak to do anything except lie pathetically on the bed; and besides, Ichigo coughed again, she had a point.
"Yuzu-chan, why don't you go out with Karin-chan today? It's such a lovely day." Rukia had come up and was leaning against the doorframe; she flashed Ichigo a smirk when Yuzu wasn't looking. "You've been working so hard lately and you deserve a break. Leave your brother to me. I'll take care of him, promise."
Ichigo stifled a groan. He knew Rukia's version of 'taking care' of him was just a prettier name for non-stop mocking and ridiculing. But Yuzu really did deserve some time out from all the chores that had been accumulating lately. Thus he stayed silent, glaring at Rukia behind the quilt.
"I don't know… Ichi-nii is really sick…" Rukia gave her best performance, and Yuzu soon softened. "Okay, thank you, Rukia-chan. Onii-chan!" Ichigo blanked as Yuzu turned back to him suddenly, a finger wagging before his face. "Listen to Rukia-chan obediently and take lots of rest! If you don't get better in two days, I'll get Daddy to treat you and you know what that's like!"
An image of Isshin standing on the kitchen table, two syringes in both hands and laughing manically as he advanced towards his only son jumped to mind, and Ichigo cringed. Yes, he remembered…
"Yes fine, I'll be good." He forced a smile onto his face, looking more like a grimace than anything else. "You go have fun, Yuzu."
By the door, Rukia smirked.
"Soooo, Ichigo!" The petite shinigami sauntered back to his room two minutes later, grinning like the cat that had just gotten the cream and the apple pie. "Why'd you go out in the rain protection-less yesterday? It's not like we don't have umbrellas at home."
Grumbling, Ichigo shut his eyes. "Leave me alone."
Rukia just grinned broader.
"But then I suppose Inoue's umbrella is prettier, I mean, why else would you have kept it by your bed all this time!"
Ichigo shot up, hand reaching out to grab the umbrella; it wasn't there. Tearing the towel off his face, he saw that Rukia was holding it in her hands, and laughing at his reaction. He turned red.
"For heaven's sake, leave me alone, Rukia. I'm bloody ill, aren't I?! At least act human!"
He laid back as Rukia's giggles died down.
"But I'm not human. I'm a shinigami, remember?"
Ichigo muttered something rude.
"Whatever, Ichigo, at least I'm up and about. You're the one who's crippled in bed and not even able to check the mail."
"… what mail?"
"Y'know, your human bills, reminders, fake contests, all that jazz…" The bed creaked and Ichigo felt Rukia lean in. "And not to mention, love-letters and heart-shaped cards."
Ichigo was glad he was facing the wall, for his face was hot and he didn't think it was to do with the cold, especially since his hands were still cold and clammy.
"I found it already," he mumbled, speaking to the wall, "and gave it back to Inoue yesterday."
There was a dramatic sigh from Rukia; then Ichigo felt something drop on his head.
"You are such an idiot. And I thought Renji was the worst of the lot… Does having testosterone mean lack of brain cells?!"
The weight lifted off the bed, and Ichigo felt Rukia walk away. She halted by the door.
"Eat that porridge, drink your medicine and don't mope all day." A pause, then evilly. "By the way, Inoue came by half an hour ago and dropped something off."
Ichigo sat up, and immediately clutched at his head in pain. He swore loudly. Rukia smiled as she walked down the stairs. Well, at least he was genuine…
Lifting his head up, Ichigo blinked as a sloppily-made envelop sat in his lap. It was red in colour, the same red as the card he found yesterday.
He tore it open frantically (cursing later for not preserving it), his heart pumping impossibly fast in his chest, and saw it was different to the other one. Smaller, less detailed, but still definitely handmade. And heart-shaped.
On the cover, the word 'Kurosaki-kun' was written in clear, bold lettering; almost like it was worried he'd miss it. His heart skipped a beat, it was definitely for him.
Suddenly nervous, Ichigo gently fingered the edge and blinked away the sleep from his eyes; then tentatively, he turned it over.
There were two lines. Neither of which were great verses of prose or heartbreaking poetry. Ichigo sat on his bed, his head swarming with congestion and body limp as a ragged doll, and suddenly felt like he could do anything. Birds chirped outside and sunlight streak in through the window. And as he sank back into the pillows, there was the ghost of a smile on his lips.
When Rukia later returned, armed with another mug of medicine, she laughed to herself at the sight of Ichigo clutching the pillow like a child, drooling slightly and altogether, looking like a doofus. He hadn't drunk his medicine, or taken a spoonful of his porridge but Rukia simply pulled up the quilt and let him be.
The card fell to the floor, and Rukia bent down to pick it up. She recognised it at once; for it was incredibly similar to the one she had taken and hidden in Ichigo's bag not too long ago. Only the message was different.
Smiling proudly, she placed it neatly on Ichigo's desk. The red heart blazing gloriously in the sun.
"I knew you never stole my heart,
Because you had it from the very beginning."
But I finished it!!! –Throws confetti- The drag in updating is ridiculous, I'm so sorry! But I finished it!! TT I quite like this story, in that the idea is rather cute Not quite sure if I pulled it off but whatever…
I finished it!!
I hope you all enjoyed it and thank you so much for sticking with me!!