Author's note: Okay, I haven't read the recent manga chapters of Bleach and frankly, I have no idea what happens to the group in Hueco Mundo, or after (?) Hueco Mundo. This is just something, surprisingly plot less, that I came up with. I only worked half day today, and I felt creative. I hope you enjoy it!
Never mind how they got together.
To tell the truth, she was a conniving person without even realizing it. It wasn't all about the superficial matchmaking she enjoyed getting herself involved with; in fact, it was the little things. When to smile, how to respond, where to be and not to be.
Of course, since she was, well, who she was, she always appeared in the places she knew she shouldn't be in or at, just because. Just because it might be interesting, just because it might give her something interesting to scheme around and obsess about. Like that time she thought it would be a good idea to pair up Hitsugaya-taichou and Yachiru-chan after seeing them walk remotely close to each other. This was actually a mastermind idea based on their estimated combined level of cuteness and the convenience of similar heights. Everything Orihime did she did out of good will.
The moment Rangiku-san found out about Orihime's plans – the latter had been voicing it quite proudly – an end was put to Orihime's brilliance. For that time.
Then the orange-haired girl got the impression that it was, perhaps, wrong after all to lure two so "similar" people together and that she should instead focus on bringing happiness to the ones who were exact opposites.
That was when dear Inoue-san started playing with fire. By all means, Zaraki Kenpachi was officially a member of the "right side" but he was still a devil, only humanized by the doll, slash accessory, that was Yachiru. Being romantically paired up with Unohana-taichou was plain pushing it. Just minutes before disaster was a fact she was saved by Renji who unexpectedly had quite the talent for knowing when she was up to no good. He effectively prevented her from slipping a handwritten note concerning a blind date into Zaraki's pocket.
Now that Orihime had so much free time on her hands she was far too occupied with the (in)famous subject of Love and wanted everyone to be as happy as she was. Kurosaki-kun and Kuchiki-san didn't seem to understand how perfect they were for each other despite Orihime's seemingly futile attempts to get them to date. At first, when that hadn't worked, she had just focused on getting Kuchiki-san and Ishida-kun together – as Orihime's best friend you had to put up with quite a lot – which hadn't worked out. At all. Ishida had just blushed, Ichigo had fumed and Rukia had, well, laughed until she cried. Then she'd smacked Orihime on the head and stomped off, for some reason offended.
And then there was that one time when Inoue took pity on Sado-kun and more or less offered him to Rangiku, who was so popular with the men in Soul Society. Orihime could've sworn he would be happy with the arrangement but the only one who was pleased with the attention was the sole woman who surpassed Orihime in the chest-area – of course, Matsumoto Rangiku.
Orihime tapped her fingernails against the flat table. She was bored, incredibly bored, beyond words bored. The kind of bored when she almost wished she was back in the living world. Almost.
But if she was there, then he wouldn't be with her. Even if she went there she would only be an invisible character, not even a shinigami. A ghost, that was what she would be. Since she was the romantic, fantasizing type of girl, that thought intrigued her. She could always return and haunt Tatsuki-chan.
As always, a pang of pain and guilt passed through Inoue's heart at the thought of her best friend – best human friend – and the knowledge that they couldn't communicate any more. Tatsuki was probably lonely. But strong, she had always been strong and actually, Tatsuki could sense the supernatural beings to a certain extent. Just not see them clearly.
Sigh. The days were so much longer in Soul Society and the amount of things she was allowed to do without getting scolded were few. As if that wasn't enough, she just barely got to see Kurosaki-kun and Kuchiki-san. Ishida and Sado returned to the living world and although Sado came to visit sometimes it wasn't nearly often enough. Ishida only tagged along when he absolutely had to, or when he had news to share. News, or dresses.
Rangiku was with Tōshirō-san and Shuuhei was on duty. Inoue Orihime had no one to play with. Even Renji, who probably wouldn't like being referred to as the last resort, was off with Byakuya somewhere secret. Bah. Secret. She ought to explore all parts of Soul Society so there could be no such thing as a secret place to keep from her in the future. That's what she should do.
That was certainly what she should do...
"Orihime-san, we're not supposed to leave this room", Ayame, one of Inoue's spirits, reminded quietly to which her mistress only replied with a broad, confident grin.
"No one will know!" Orihime assured and brushed the dust off her yukata. "Besides, he said shouldn't, not couldn't!"
Long, orange tresses blew in her face as Orihime slid the thin door aside. She had noted long ago that the wind blew here as well, as did the sun shine, as did the rain fall. This was just like the living world, except it was for the dead.
"You're the power of my soul, right?" she smiled and turned her head to look at her six so called fairies over her shoulder. She allowed them to exist in their true form as long as there was no one to interfere, or like in this case, when she was bored. They meant company, which she sadly lacked for the moment.
"She's right!" Shun'ō decided and flew over to Orihime, soon followed by a mischievous looking Lily and an obedient Ayame. Baigon shook his head and so did Hinagiku but both moved over to where their mistress was standing, in the draft between the room and the garden outside.
"Tsubaki?" Lily called impatiently, tapping her foot in the air. "You are also a part of Orihime-san, aren't you? If we're going on an adventure she's going to need you!"
"That's right, Tsubaki. I definitely can't do this without you!" Orihime urged but was rewarded with a glare.
"Then I'm definitely not going."
Yes, to tell the truth, Orihime was a conniving person. Everybody had buttons, it was all a matter of finding them and pressing the right ones.
"Eeh, if Tsubaki isn't confident enough to come with us then he should just wait here for the master to come home, like a good boy", she smiled and Shun'ō chuckled quietly.
"Damn woman, I'll come, but only because you're helpless without me. I don't want to be blamed for your bad behavior later. I did what I could", Tsubaki snapped and flew past them without losing that stubborn frown of his.
"Yes, I'm helpless without you", Orihime agreed wholeheartedly without a care in the world and happily danced her way down the garden path until she reached the front gates surrounding the compound. There she sneakily hid behind a tree and waited for the guards to let their guard down.
A few minutes passed and the guards looked alert as always. Orihime was gravely troubled and considered climbing the wall instead of trying to escape through the entrance. It didn't even cross her mind that she could've just marched out of there without even having to explain anything, because that solution drastically lacked both drama and excitement.
"Okay, we need to distract them",Orihime declared and looked around for the perfect bait. She spotted a tree located just next to the gates and smiled triumphantly. "Ayame, Shun'ō, Sōten Kisshun: I reject!"
"I'm not a part of this", Tsubaki said, trying to convince himself rather than his companions. He observed without interest as Shun'ō and Ayame turned the large, old tree back into a skinny branch sticking up from the ground.
Just as Orihime had calculated, the guards were immediately alerted by this sudden change and left their posts. This allowed her to safely and unnoticed exit the sealed grounds and breathe some free air.
"Let's go this way!" said the redhead and walked off to the left where she almost right away stumbled upon a dead end. Her sense of orientation wasn't the greatest and even though she'd been here numerous times, she still didn't seem to be able to memorize her surroundings.
"Fine, we'll go that way!"
She wouldn't be Inoue Orihime if she got depressed by a minor error. Acting much like nothing happened, she hummed a cheerful melody and took to marching confidently in the middle of the street, greeting the people she met.
"Orihime, isn't this a secret quest?" Lily asked unsure and slightly annoyed. This was no challenge.
"Oh. Right! Okay, secret quest starting...now!" After the sentence was finished she disappeared behind a corner and then behind another and to her great satisfaction, she was shortly lost.
"Are you sure this is entirely okay, Orihime-san?" Ayame whispered, taken in by the grand atmosphere.
"We're doing great, I can't remember being here before", she wheezed in response and Tsubaki slapped his forehead. "Okay, this is not the location of the secret place. Let's proceed that way!"
Even though the days were longer in Soul Society, they were not endless. It had been just before noon when the party of seven left the house and dusk was approaching rapidly. The mood among them had been dropping, especially since the self-appointed leader was feeling hungry. Even as a ghost – how delightfully exciting that word was - she had weird cravings for the strangest things. Corn and chocolate, oatmeal and jellybeans, hot tea and liquorice...
Another wall came into view and Orihime forced a smile. "Okay, we must overcome that wall, it is without fail our last hindrance!"
"Really?" Hinagiku asked sourly, his high pitched voice a tad higher than usual. Baigon was the only one who hadn't said a thing since they left to explore the dark and dusty corners of Soul Society but under that mask he was probably looking as tired and discontented as the others.
The wall was easily forced and lo and behold – there were Kuchiki Byakuya and Abarai Renji, as if fate had brought them there just for Orihime's sake. The captain and the vice captain of the sixth division were standing casually by the side of the narrow street or, well, as casually as you could get Kuchiki-taichou to stand anyway. They appeared to be discussing something of utmost importance, Inoue decided and chose to withdraw before she was spotted. She had achieved her goal – the secret place was not secret any more – and if she didn't get back in time, he would be angry with her.
"Orihime", Byakuya's voice called without warning and the girl, who was straddling the wall in the most ridiculous manner, slowly turned her head towards him and smiled.
"I thought I told you not to leave the house today", he said in that monotonous voice of his.
"I'm out of here", Tsubaki announced and the six spirits transformed into two hairpins that landed softly in their mistress's palm.
"Well, you see, Byakuya-kun, we were on a top secret mission-, no, quest!" she quickly corrected, like that one word made a huge difference. "And then, we, uh...I...I'm...sorry?" she giggled childishly and clumsily tumbled down from the wall instead of gracefully hopping down like she had intended.
Renji grimaced in pain since he was the one who had rushed to catch her but tripped halfway and ended up flat om his stomach, eating dirt from the ground. After all, Ichigo wouldn't let him hear the end of "not rescuing Orihime even though he had the chance". His attempt hadn't been for nothing, though, since at least his captain's princess had landed softly.
"Let's go back", Byakuya said and went ahead. Orihime stood up and quickly caught up to him, walking by his side and blabbering about the day's adventures. Left behind was Renji, bruised and dusty but more than anything, amazed that his taichou had chosen that kind of woman to stay by his side. They made an odd couple indeed – even Zaraki and Unohana would've been better paired – but even after spending so much time, even living with that naïve, childish girl, Kuchiki-sama didn't soften up at all. And he didn't even yell or glare at her like he would have done with anyone else who disobeyed him. That girl had to be something.
Several months had passed already but how it had all began...?
Never mind how they got together. It wasn't clear, even to him.