Disclaimer: I do not own the characters from Bleach featured herein.

This is a companion piece to my other Ichigo/Orihime piece called Green Knight. That was originally intended as a stand-alone, but I felt that another perspective would have more of an impact.

Warnings: het, kinda random, mild swearing

Enjoy.

Stalwart

Ichigo knew he was dreaming. It was about the only thing he was sure of. He knew it yet, every time he tried to actively think on the concept or articulate his knowledge, the thought would slip away from him. It was frustrating but then, everything about his situation was frustrating.

He became aware, truly aware, of himself when he realised he was tied to a post in the middle of a field as grey-faced shrine maidens threw cats into the air. He immediately wished he weren't so aware upon seeing that.

Moments later Inoue showed up and even his dream-logic was spun in circles until it puked by that.

Still, as insane as it was, he was glad to see her.

Especially when she untied him and helped save his life.

Injuring herself in the process … typical Inoue, not even thinking of herself when others are around. Ichigo wanted to shake her every time he saw her do something like that, almost as much as he wanted …

He wanted …

She was staring at him now … he had been saying something and she … Inoue … Orihime … he called her Orihime and she … hell, that look, did she … did he …?

What did he want?

"Orihime."

He wanted …


Kurosaki Ichigo woke up expecting to feel horrific.

Instead he woke up painless. Mostly. There was something … a dream … a memory … echoes of a feeling. He was supposed to do something, or someone was supposed to do something. Something was definitely supposed to happen but didn't. Or maybe it hadn't happened yet. Maybe he just wanted it to happen.

… Wanted what?

Ichigo shook himself from his confusion and sat up, raising his hand to his eyes against the sunlight shining through the window.

His hand.

Perfectly uninjured.

No doctor alive could have repaired the damage inflicted with no scarring in just a night. No doctor dead, either, come to think of it. But there was a girl who could.

"Inoue?"

Ichigo sat up, bracing himself automatically for pain he knew he wouldn't feel. He'd never get used to this odd feeling of perfect health after a fight. He'd also never forget to be infinitely grateful to Inoue for causing such a feeling. It was weird. He knew that all she did was reverse the damage so it had never been done. Still, Ichigo would always wake up feeling even better than he had before starting the fight.

Like he was some hero in a video game gathering XP.

It was probably nothing like that.

Still … he was feeling it again. That lingering feeling. Hope, as though he had the power to take on every level of hell and slaughter every legion inhabiting them. Like he was experiencing life for the first time and wanted to savour every breath taken. Like he wanted to smile.

Swinging himself from his bed, Ichigo stretched out his muscles — cramped only from sleeping.

He'd have to remember to thank Inoue again.

Hell, after all the times she'd patched him up and saved his life, she probably deserved more than thanks. Once this stupid business was over, he was going to do something really special for her. Inoue deserved it more than anyone.

"I'm thinking doughnuts, maybe ice-cream."

Maybe even …

Ichigo shook his thoughts away and refused to acknowledge the heat in his cheeks. Best to move on from yesterday, crushing defeat, bad dreams and all. He'd think about frivolous things when he had time to pay proper attention to their details.


Ichigo almost wished he was back in that dream again. Even that could not be so bizarre and unsettling as this. Anything would be better than hearing this. Hearing that Inoue …

No. It wasn't true. Their insinuations were completely off the mark. There was no way she would leave with them of her own accord. There was no way she would just leave in the middle of the night without a word unless something had happened.

He clenched his fist and the memory of pain hit him. He refused to look down at the unmarked flesh and give in to their doubts. They weren't his doubts. He would never doubt her. There was no one among them who could possibly cast such a shadow upon Inoue Orihime's name that would be at all convincing. Darkness slid right off her and Ichigo refused to contemplate any other opinion on that.

He would get her back. He would save her and he would shove those ugly shadows back into their old smirking undead faces and shout out, "This is what innocence looks like!"

He would storm the gates of hell alone if need be to save her.

Ichigo turned his back on the shinigami, knowing he was turning his back on far more than it appeared and not caring at all. All he could think about was Inoue … what she had done for him … that she had chosen to help him before all others.

He wanted to go back to that dream again, where she had touched him held his hand, spoken his name and let him …

He wanted …

He wanted to save her. He was going to save her.


Hueco Mundo was dark. Everything stood out in such contrast because of that darkness. The huge white fortress rising from in the sea of white sand seemed somehow even darker than the endless starless night that surrounded it. It was perhaps the most intimidating place in existence.

Ichigo took all of this in at a glance and dismissed it. He barely took notice of his companions' noises of awe; he merely let another rush of gladness flow through him at the thought that he was not alone in his decision. He didn't even concentrate on the huge intense auras that even distance and his own deficiency at sensing reiatsu could not hide.

He was completely focused on that single point of pure brightness he had come to steal back.

Inoue … Orihime … I'm coming for you. I will save you.