Title: Prison Breaks (1/2)
Ship: Ishida/Orihime yay!
Rating: From Teen to Adult Only
General Summary: There are various types of prisons in this world. A person, a building, a situation, a heart,--these are all prisons, at times. This is how you escape them. ORIHIME. URYUU. A Darwinian lesson on survival, where living another day is important, and love is not expected. And yet it happens.
Spoilers: Lots of spolers, up to 238.
Dedications: To Seren, because I don't need a reason to write her fics, I just love it. And for debbiechan, because she wanted to see this happen.
A/N: I've divided this into two parts, because I'm lazy, and because it needs to be done this way. It's how the story goes. Oh yes, to anyone else who thought Ryuuken talking with Orihime was awkward and cute? You're not the only one! Let us all pretend this is before it was stated that Quincy Papa was a bastard.
I cannot but remember
When the year grows old --
October -- November --
How she disliked the cold!
-Edna St. Vincent Millay, When The Year Grows Old-
It feels like two decades have passed.
It feels like two decades have passed since she was above Kurosaki's sleeping form, her lips a hair's breath away from his. She couldn't do it. She had wanted to, oh she had really wanted to kiss him. To see how Kurosaki's lips felt, just once before she died. Because nothing good would come out of her visit to Hueco Mundo, of that she's sure. She could've kissed Kurosaki, and yet she didn't. There was a small part of her mind, of her heart, that said: 'No, Orihime. This is not how your first kiss should happen.'
It feels like two decades have passed since then, and actually, it's just two hours. Two hours of waiting near the building Ulquiorra indicated. Two hours of sitting on the cold ground, head between her knees, crying, crying and crying. Her lips still tingle, and the egoistic part of Orihime, the part that rarely shows up, asks 'Why didn't you kiss him, you idiot?' She pushes that part far away, and brushes tears that won't stop coming.
No-one is on this street. No one will witness Orihime's fall from grace. No-one will see her look over her shoulder one last time, before heading out to whatever awaited her on the other side. No-one will--
Is there. Orihime panics, remembering Ulquiorra's threat. If anyone sees her, he will kill them. It doesn't matter to Orihime that this could be a stranger headed her way, or a kitten, or a bird. What matters is the need to hide. The need to save them. This is her tragic way of saving them. And no-one will ever know.
'This reiatsu,' she thinks, and her eyes widen. Her breath travels up from her lungs, only to die in her throat. She recognizes this reiatsu. She does, because it's been so long since she's felt it. The last time she felt it, actually, was in the Soul Society.
The smell, the power, the pressure of the reiatsu clouds Orihime's senses, and the name, the name is so strong on her tongue, that she can't move it, that she can't speak it. She can't voice it. She can't even feel glad, because she knows this is what she should feel. He has his powers back. He'll stop being sad and angry all the time. He'll smile again. But Orihime is sad and angry, because she won't get to see those smiles.
So she hides, as well as she can, and closes her eyes. Feels the reiatsu. Records it in her memory, embeds it in her soul, sews it on her heart. If seeing Kurosaki asleep one last time hurt, then this kills her. Feeling him again, here, safe, alive; it brings tears to her eyes, and she wants to cry for the sake of shedding them. She also wants to see him, perhaps, one last time. She wants him to witness Orihime's fall from grace, her abduction, her weakness. It's silly, and egoistical, and nonsensical, but the fact remains, it's there. Orihime wishes to see Ishida Uryuu one last time; to let someone know that this is not her choice. Her hands were tied, and it was her, or her friends' lives. She's not that important, her friends are more.
But no. Ishida Uryuu isn't to see her. Him seeing her would mean him dying at Ulquiorra's hands, later on. She can't do that to him. So she presses herself closer to the wall, and hopes Ishida will pass by her quickly.
Unlucky. So unlucky.
Her eyes open with a snap. Her heart beats faster. He is walking her way. He has seen her. He has seen her. He is going to talk to her. He is going to die. "No," she cries, and turns around. Orihime runs. Orihime wants to be a bird, a small bird, fast and sharp, so that she can escape him.
His hand grasp her wrist, and he spins her around to face him. The force of the spin makes her collide head-on with his chest. Even his chest is different now. Ishida Uryuu has grown. He has changed. He's a man now. And soon, because of her, he'll be a dead man. "Inoue-san, what are you doing here? Why are you crying?" he asks, concerned.
"You can't stay here," she whispers furiously, pushing his hands away. "Ishida-kun can't stay here. I won't let you die. I won't…you have to go."
Ishida's eyes widen. "What are you talking about? Are you hurt? Did someone hurt you?"
"Please, just go!" Orihime shouts.
"I'm not leaving you!" Ishida shouts back, glaring imperiously at her.
The world stops. The sounds are muted. She hears his breaths, and hers, mixing together. She sees his eyes, questioning her. Her heart beats fast. Her tears are waiting. He wants an explanation. She wants to give it.
She only sees the sword when it's pierced Ishida's ribs; and she screams. 'Dead man, my fault, dead man, my fault, dead man, my fault…'
"What have I told you, woman?" comes the question.
"Ulquiorra, please," Orihime begs, "Please don't hurt him. It's not his fault."
"Of course not," the Arrancar smirks. "It's yours. Regardless, he must die."
Swoosh. Blue arrow. Blue light skims past Ulquiorra's ear. "Don't I have a say in that?" Ishida asks.
Ulquiorra narrows his eyes. "Quincy," he observes, mildly interested. "You missed."
Ishida is pulling another arrow. "I didn't," he says, and releases the arrow. "I was just giving you a warning."
The arrow hits target; Ulquiorra's ribs are now singed. The burn expands slowly, threatening to consume his body, threatening to leave him like dust. Ulquiorra is smart, he knows what a Quincy's arrow does. He knows that Aizen can cure him. He knows that if he insists on taking the woman, he'll end up dying. Their cause can't afford that. "This isn't over, woman," he says. And he's gone.
Ishida lowers his gaze from the sky, and looks at Orihime. She's staring at him, he eyes wide. It's déjà vu. She smiles, slowly, her lips curving up and her eyes shining. Ishida blushes, and adjusts his glasses up his nose. Months of training with his father, and one smile from her can still make him stammer. He acts well in battle, he's a hero if she's in danger. But if everything is quiet, and she's smiling, he loses his mind, and becomes a tomato. Red.
"Are you alright?" he asks, stepping close to her.
Orihime looks at him, eyes skimming his face, his shoulders, and his hands. She lifts her head, and smiles. "I am, now," she whispers, and throws her arms around his neck. "I'm so glad Ishida-kun has his powers back."
If she's sorry for having yelled at him before, she doesn't say. He understands now, though. He gets the fact that it couldn't be a deliberate thing on her side. He knows there is something more to this, aside from the danger. And he knows that Orihime needs to be kept safe.
"Come on," he says, pulling her after him, "You can tell me on the way."
"…and now we have to keep her here, hidden."
Ryuuken glares dryly at his son. He directs his gaze on the 'damsel in distress', and frowns. She doesn't look too much in distress. In fact, she looks at ease, standing behind his son. He would expect someone who is being followed around by Aizen and his minions to act more…whimper-y. He pauses, 'Whimper-y? I can't believe I used that word…'
"Father?" comes Uryuu's question.
Ryuuken shakes his head to refocus. And answers: "No."
"What?" Uryuu hisses.
"No," Ryuuken repeats, calmly. "It was a mistake to bring her here in the first place. These facilities are for our own use, and you have broken your promise."
"What? I…But!" Uryuu blurts out. "She's not a Shinigami!"
"She has been around them for long enough to act like one," Ryuuken says.
"Like hell she has!" Uryuu shouts in his father's face. "I don't care what your deal with the Shinigami is, father, but Inoue-san is not one! She couldn't hurt a fly! For heaven's sake, she allowed herself to be abducted just to save her friends. What Shinigami would do that?"
"Regardless," Ryuuken starts.
"Don't give me that!" Uryuu scoffs, surprisingly impertinent around his father. "She stays."
"No, Uryuu, you don't give me that," Ryuuken hisses. "She leaves."
His son is about to snap, and Ryuuken is about to punch him. He will not tolerate disobedience, not after all he's done for the ungrateful brat. Let the Shinigami take care of their little helpless girl. He won't take part in any of it. The girl moves and grabs Uryuu's shirt, pulling it softly. Ryuuken's eyes widen as he witnesses the change in his son's eyes.
"Don't worry, Ishida-kun," the girl softly murmurs, "I'll be alright."
Ryuuken observes the way his son's eyes soften as he speaks to the girl, and suspects. 'Is she the reason he dares be so impertinent with me?' He can't continue that thread of thought, because the girl is speaking again, to him.
"Ishida-san," she says, and smiles slightly. Sadly. "Thank you." Inoue Orihime turns around, and leaves the room, leaving only Uryuu and Ryuuken behind.
Uryuu glares at his father. "Do you really hate me that much?" he hisses, and turns around brusquely, determined to find Orihime again.
Ryuuken remembers, in one second, how it felt for him when he fell in love with Uryuu's mother. How bold he had been, how wild, how determined to protect her, to keep her safe. He remembers how she could quiet him with a touch, and how he used to feel better near her. And he, unfortunately, sees the same reactions in his son. 'He is in love with her.' Ryuuken sighs, and massages his temples. He doesn't get along with Uryuu. He wants to, maybe, but he knows there must be participation on both sides in order for that to work. So he takes the first step, and to the back of his son, he says:
It's evening, and Uryuu is out to let someone know of Orihime's new whereabouts. Uryuu has told Orihime of the price he had to pay for his restored powers, and Orihime had laughed. "Well, it's still okay, isn't it?" she asked, "Because Kurosaki-kun isn't a Shinigami. He's a Vaizard."
So Uryuu leaves to tell Ichigo not to worry, and let them know the story Orihime has been obliged to tell him. About Aizen, about the Arrancar, about everything. Because, even if they don't know it yet, it's a matter of cleaning Orihime's name.
Now, Orihime is stuck in the training facilities for a long, undetermined time. For as long as it's needed, Uryuu tells her. For as long as it keeps her safe. Odd enough, she doesn't feel that safe with Ryuuken around. She feels…cold. The building, concealed as it may be, is nothing extraordinary. There's a kitchen, and two bedrooms, and a living room. There are two rooms she tried to reach, training rooms, but Ryuuken told her she wasn't to enter them at any cost. Ever. Orihime finds herself in the kitchen, making tea for three. Well, for three, hoping Ishida-kun will come back soon. Or else she's forced to drink tea with his father. Who might not want tea in the first place.
In the midst of Orihime's internal monologue on why Ishida Ryuuken is a tea-hater alien from Mars, a theory which involved some rubber ducks, an allergy to tea leaves, and the tentacle monster, Ishida Ryuuken walks into the kitchen. Orihime snaps out of it, and asks him if he would like some tea. He nods. She pours him a cup, and takes a seat in front of him. There's silence. Lots of silence.
Ryuuken clears his throat. "We seem to have started on the wrong foot."
Orihime blinks at him, "I don't know. I've started with the left foot this morning. And you?"
Ryuuken can't tell if she's joking, throwing sarcasm at him, or actually being serious. He considers talking to Uryuu later, to question his taste in the weirdest of women. He hardly ever feels awkward around a person. He's more of a person to take control and end up winning. And yet he finds himself oddly similar to his son, whenever in Inoue's presence. She has this way of making the Ishida men feel awkward and clumsy and so damn stupid. And Ryuuken is beginning to hate it.
"So you helped Ishida-kun get his powers back?" Orihime asks after a while.
Well, it was more like taunting and torturing his son without a reason, and in the very end, piercing him with an arrow, but, "Yes, I did."
"Why are you thanking me?" he asks, estranged.
"Well, Ishida-kun used to be so sad without his powers. He wouldn't talk to us, and he kept avoiding us. And now he has them back, and he can talk to us again, so I'm glad. That's why I'm thanking you." She smiles. "More tea?"
Ryuuken blinks uncomfortably. 'She's a strange one, alright.'
Oh, but how could he not have seen this before? Uryuu groans, feeling his ears go red.
Two bedrooms. One is for his father. Two bedroom for three people. And where will Inoue-san sleep? He vaguely searches his pockets for tissues, because he can foresee the nose-bleeding to come. He enters his bedroom to find Inoue already stretching out a futon, some feet far away from his own.
"Ishida-kun! You're back," she says, smiling.
"Yes, I…um, I went to see Kurosaki, and…um…they know. They thought you were--" he stops himself. He can't say it. He can't tell her that they thought she was a traitor. He can't, because he knows her smile will fall, and then he'll want to kill people for making Orihime this sad. So he just avoids the topic. "Father told me you two had tea." Which, to Uryuu, is really, really weird. Ryuuken never has tea. At least not with his son. There's some envy deep in his soul, but it's squashed in favour of Inoue.
"Yep," she says, sitting down on her futon. "We talked some, but…"
"Awkward, I know. My father is like that, sometimes." He smiles at her, and turns the lights out. "Well, goodnight, Inoue-san."
"Thank you," she whispers, and he can hear her settling down. "Goodnight, Uryuu."
There is only the sound of clothes shuffling as Ishida Uryuu searches, frenetically, for those damned tissues.
Three months must pass until the final battle, and a lot of things happen.
People train. People try to stay safe. People start a silent rebellion. Relationships are made, and flames are extinguished. Only to start again.