Hey I'm back!! I can't believe it's been so long. I've been so busy I haven't got time for a decent social life, let alone indulging in fanfiction writing. Lamentably.
I got this idea one night while battling insomnia. I had a sort of weird dream. It involved my cousins and the conclusion of the Bleach manga (heaven forbid that should happen anytime soon). There was Orihime in a wedding dress, and something regarding a weird plot that turned out to be orchestrated by Kenpachi and Yachiru who wore pirate disguises, and then my boyfriend and his band sang happy birthday to my mom dressed like The Beatles. Cue cricket sound. That's pretty much all I remember. Something good had to come off of sleep-deprivation.
Author's note: This takes place after my other fics; I do make a few vague references to them, but if you haven't read them, it probably makes no difference.
Another author's note: I'd like to dedicate this to my good friends, Alexz and Jake, in honor of their engagement. CONGRATULATIONS, GUYS!!
Yet another author's note: By "western", I mean non-traditional Japanese wedding but rather the white-gown-and-veil wedding that is common in the west (and not a cowboy-style wedding, as my dear friend Tough Cookie thought I might be referring to, with a very scared look on her face. No, not in a million years).
Last author's note, I promise: It's 6am as I post this. I'm leaving in 10 minutes. We'll be in Edinburgh for Harry's cousin's wedding. (ZOMG! I love weddings!)
Music: "Strange condition" by Pete Yorn; "Breathe in" by Frou Frou; "Don't you (forget about me)" by Billy Idol; "Humdrum" by The Corrs; "Wedding bell" by Depapepe, "See the world" by Gomez.
Disclaimer: I don't own them; they're Kubo-san's. But he said it was okay if I borrowed them for a little while. The title is from a TV comedy about a couple and all the shortcomings on their wedding day. Thanks to Anne for the suggestion.
- by Deathberry15
It was almost time.
After five years, the moment had finally come. Five years ago, after all the tragedy, all the turmoil, Ichigo and Orihime had finally found peace, and they had found each other. It took them only weeks to realize that it could really last forever. A year later, a new stage in their lives began when they graduated from high school and became "adults". A year after that, they were practically living together – if you could call "living together" the brief interaction they shared randomly every other day, what with Ichigo going through the rough training to become a crime scene investigator, and Orihime starting a medical internship—. Three years ago, they realized they were willing to do anything to make it last.
But only a year ago, Ichigo popped the question.
They'd been having a small celebration in Orihime's flat for her birthday, albeit a lively one –the shinigami were there—, but as soon as everyone left, he asked her. They had talked about it before a few times, but it still caught her by surprise. She muttered a stunned "yes" before pulling him onto the bed and not saying anything else for the rest of the night. This one topped all of her previous birthdays.
He waited until she woke up the next morning to give her the ring. It had been his mother's engagement ring; his father had given it to him after making a scene when Ichigo announced he would be proposing, delivering a tearful speech about family and love –through which Isshin himself did all the crying, really—, and pummeling his son for not taking "the big step" sooner and making him a grandfather earlier while he still had the energy. Ichigo was very glad when it was over.
To his delight, it fit Orihime's hand perfectly. And then she went around happily telling everyone about it.
Tatsuki rarely cried; she was just not the crying-type. But when her two best friends made the announcement, with huge smiles plastered on their faces, she couldn't hold back the tears, and random thoughts zoomed through her head, such as glittering wedding cake with figurines on top and first babies and the possibility of everyone finding their soul mate. As corny as it all seemed, those thoughts made her happier than anything in her life so far.
She wasn't also the type who'd be eager to be a bridesmaid, and handling the pressure of helping to prepare the reception and planning parties (she had never been to a wedding before, let alone a Western wedding). But when Orihime asked her if she'd be her maid of honor, Tatsuki couldn't refuse. After all, this was her best friend. It was also Orihime; she would need all the help she could get. And there was likely no one better for the job than Tatsuki.
Thankfully, this would be just a simple religious ceremony followed by a party; no rehearsal or procession – without Orihime's parents it wasn't really doable, anyway—. Besides, it's what Ichigo and Orihime wanted, anyway, lest there would be much embarrassment involved. And nobody expected shinigami to keep much decorum on such a solemn occasion. They were there to have fun.
Tatsuki recruited the help of her mom and Orihime's aunt. Surprisingly Kurosaki Isshin offered as well, revealing he had a special savings fund for his three children's weddings, because "that's what Masaki would have wanted" and "if only she could see her boy all grown up and getting married" and it just "has to come out as the party of a lifetime". In fact, he was determined to make it a wedding like nothing ever seen before –on Earth or Soul Society or in both at once, really—.
Meanwhile, Rukia and Matsumoto, the other two bridesmaids, were actually helpful when it came to throwing a bachelorette party, –albeit not as rowdy as Matsumoto would've probably made it if she had worked on her own—. But it turned out crazy enough; shinigami women sure know how to have fun in the living world. Tatsuki could only imagine what could've gone on over at the guys' party.
Orihime had barely half a mind for all the details she had to take care of; what with a hectic schedule at the hospital and a badly-kept day planner (which basically translated into "bad memory and poor organizational skills"); she decided on the color for the bridesmaids' dresses (lavender), the flowers (white lilies and purple morning glories), and the flower girl (Yachiru was the only viable option, since Karin and Yuzu were too old now). It took her only two weeks to find a dress she liked, but one month to finally accept it as a gift from her new father-in-law (he made a big fuss about it). She and Ichigo were in charge of the guest list, hiring the music, sending out the invitations and picking the flavor for the cake (vanilla with strawberry-filling; some innuendo Tatsuki didn't want to think about).
The date was set. The hotel was booked for the reception, and the ceremony would take place in the terrace. Decorations, photographer, bouquets, centerpieces, food and tuxedo rentals were all in order. Before they knew it, the day had come.
It was not easy to orchestrate a wedding ceremony and reception for such a peculiar guest list. On the one hand, visitors from Soul Society couldn't decide on which side of the aisle they were supposed to sit, since they were acquainted with both the bride and the groom; plus, it was hard enough for them to blend in, given some peculiarities and extravagances –like Kenpachi's, er, hairstyle, and Komamura's mask—, and Tatsuki made a mental note to ask Rukia if weddings were something wholly new for shinigami, because it sure seemed like it. On the other hand, some of them fit in quite well, and she had to admit that at least Urahara, Byakuya and Kira cleaned up real nice. Some of the ladies attracted more attention than it was advisable, though.
If deciding who sat on which side was tough, it was absolutely nothing compared to making the seating arrangements for the tables at the reception. Tatsuki had to explain somehow to her mother and Orihime's aunt why seating General Commander Yamamoto with Ichigo's grandparents was not a very good idea, and that there was no way that Hitsugaya would spend the night at the kids' table. Luckily they didn't ask too many questions, and it seemed that things would go well.
But every wedding, as Tatsuki's mother put it, was "a high-scale event involving amateurs under pressure". Everything never goes right.
About an hour before the ceremony, Tatsuki left the hotel room where she, the bridesmaids and the flower girl were getting ready, and crossed the hall to knock on the honeymoon suite and check on Orihime. She should've been almost ready; the photographer was taking a few pictures prior to the ceremony.
As she approached the door, she could hear an argument between two female voices. One mostly, but she could barely understand what it was saying. Tatsuki frowned in confusion and gently knocked. "Orihime?"
"It's open… I think," came a faint voice from within.
There was a growl and the other person seemed to be coming toward the door, because the voice gradually grew nearer as she spoke. "It only opens if you use the key card on the outside or if you get off your butt to come open it yourself, you silly child."
The door was flung open and there stood Tomoko-san, the hair and makeup lady. She looked annoyed. Tatsuki got a bad feeling.
"Tomoko-san, hi. How are we doing?" she asked pleasantly.
"We're not doing anything at all, in fact. You have to talk to her. She's not ready, she's not getting ready. She's still in bed!"
There was a pause, and Tatsuki blinked. "Wait… what?"
Indeed, when she walked inside, she was met with the sight of a lump on the unmade bed, and a head of bright red hair poking out from under the covers.
"Get up, you lazy girl! You're getting married in an hour!" Tomoko-san shouted, poking Orihime through the covers. The girl didn't stir.
"Orihime, what's wrong?" Tatsuki asked in alarm, nearing the bed. "Why haven't you gotten dressed or anything? What are you still doing in bed?"
"I think I'm sick," came Orihime's groggy response. Tatsuki blinked and shook her head.
"She's just nervous," she reassured Tomoko-san with an apologetic smile.
"I'm not nervous. I might be coming down with something."
"I don't believe you. You always said you never got sick."
"Well, I was wrong."
Orihime's voice was decidedly faint, but it didn't seem like she might be faking it. Tatsuki forced her friend to roll over so she could look at her face, and what met her eyes was enough to make her nervous too. Orihime's face was pale, her eyes looked slightly sunken and her lips were thin and dry. She did indeed look sick.
Tatsuki took a deep breath. "Listen, Orihime, it's okay to be nervous. It's a big day, I know, but it's going to be fine. We've taken care of everything, and you don't have to worry about a thing except looking great. Trust me, you'll feel better soon, when the anxiety wears out and you're having fun at your party."
"I can't get up. I feel weak and feverish."
"You're being ridiculous," Tomoko-san snapped. Tatsuki's comforting smile faded and she looked exasperated.
"Er, Tomoko-san, could you perhaps wait outside for a moment while I try to talk some sense into her?" she asked politely. "Please?"
"I don't have all day," the older woman tapped her foot.
"Twenty five years doing this… never met such a stubborn girl in my entire career… the worst are the western weddings, always… fairy tale dreams…" grumbled the lady all the way to the door. Tatsuki waited for her to step out to turn back to Orihime.
"What's gotten into you? Why are you suddenly acting like this?"
"It's not acting. I'm seriously ill."
"It's just cold feet. Every bride gets cold feet."
"No, it's not. It's something else."
"If I'm not mistaken, you were pretty excited about the prospect of this day, up until, well, 'this day' finally arrived. Why is that? What changed?"
"Nothing changed. But I can't get married if I'm sick. It'll be a disaster."
Tatsuki searched her mind quickly, trying to think of something else to say. Orihime toyed with a corner of the blanket.
"What if I faint while walking down the aisle? I've read some terrible stories in those bridal magazines, about women passing out in front of the whole congregation, about brides throwing up in the middle of the vows, about getting the hiccups… Any of those things might happen to me in this state. I can't do this right now."
Orihime turned on her side and closed her eyes. Tatsuki blinked in surprise and her mouth opened and closed several times before she could speak.
"Wh—what are you saying then?"
"Maybe we should call the wedding off. I don't think I can do this today. Some other day…" Orihime said in a breathy voice.
Dumbstruck, Tatsuki had to support herself to stand up. She looked around the room. The white gown hung from the closet door; the veil, the shoes, the jewelry, Tomoko-san's makeup cases and hairdressing utensils, were all arranged ready for use. It was less than an hour until the ceremony. Tatsuki was starting to feel a little sick herself.
"Okay," she muttered, swallowing hard. Her mind raced. "Okay, I'll be right back. You stay here… uh, stay here," she added, though it was obvious Orihime wasn't going anywhere. Not on her own free will, at least.
"As if it weren't enough to have to wear this stupid gigai again, I now have to wear this stupid suit too," Renji complained, struggling with the cuffs of his tuxedo jacket. He stepped out of one of the hotel rooms, followed by a group of tuxedo-clad men, including the groom. It was still over forty five minutes until the ceremony, but they were supposed to have some pictures taken before.
"Stop whining, would you? You sound like a little kid. It's not any more comfortable for any of us. Buttons… whose bright idea was it to make tuxedos with so many buttons?" Ishida said, helping Ichigo with his bow tie. "How are you feeling, Kurosaki?" he asked.
Ichigo, who looked like he was exerting himself trying not to sweat, cleared his throat. "Good. Nervous. Good. I'm fine," he said. "Chad?"
"We're good," the best man answered plainly, patting Ichigo on the back.
"Stop saying that," Ishida rolled his eyes. "It's going to be fine."
"What's with the deer-in-headlights look, Arisawa?" Renji asked. The other three guys followed his gaze and saw Tatsuki, who had just come out of the honeymoon suite looking pale and uneasy, blanching even more when she turned and caught sight of them. She shook her head energetically.
"Oh, nothing. Nothing. I'm fine. We're fine."
"Oh really?" said Ishida. The guys noticed all at once the disgruntled woman sitting in a chair right outside the room, arms folded, muttering to herself.
"Eh, have you seen Kuchiki-san or Matsumoto-san?" Tatsuki asked, hoping to divert the attention from the makeup lady.
"What's going on? Is there a problem?" Ichigo asked.
"Nothing too serious," Tatsuki replied, oozing uncertainty. The lady half-sniffed, half-snorted and shook her head.
Ichigo rolled his eyes. "Tatsuki, I know that tone and that look. What's wrong?"
Tatsuki bit her lip and fidgeted nervously, before sighing. "Okay. Don't panic but…" she took a deep breath. "Orihime has not gotten dressed or even showered yet. In fact, she hasn't even gotten out of bed, because she says she's not feeling well, and now it's almost time for the ceremony and I'm losing my nerve, and she's in her pajamas lying in bed with a pale face and a weird groggy voice saying that maybe it would be better to call the whole thing off."
Four pairs of eyes as wide as dinner-plates ogled at her. The lady jiggled her leg in contempt. Tatsuki swallowed hard again.
"I'm not panicking," Ichigo said, surprisingly calm. However, he jerked forward past Tatsuki and started jiggling the doorknob violently, and it took a moment for the others to realize what he was trying to do.
"Ichigo, calm down," Renji said, trying to pull him back.
"I just want to talk to her," Ichigo retorted, pushing them all away.
"You're only going to make things worse like this," Ishida said, wedging Ichigo away from the door. Tatsuki loosed Ichigo's deadly grip on the doorknob.
"I was going to find Kuchiki-san and Matsumoto-san to help me talk to her. You'll only make her more nervous," she said. "Look, it's just cold feet. She'll get over it. Get me the bridesmaids, please."
"I'll go find them," Chad said, walking toward the end of the hallway.
Ichigo breathed heavily. "Fine," he said, throwing up his arms. He sat down on a nearby chair, next to Tomoko-san, and put his head between his hands.
"I'm sure it'll be fine. She'll feel better in a moment and relax. We just have to figure out a way to get her ready in such a short time," Tatsuki said.
Tomoko-san snorted again. Everyone ignored her.
"What's going on?" Karin and Yuzu suddenly approached the little crowd in the hallway. They wore identical dresses, although Yuzu's was pink and Karin's green.
"Onii-chan, you look so handsome!" Yuzu exclaimed.
"Why is everybody hanging out here looking all gloomy?" Karin asked.
"Erm… It's Orihime," Ishida started. Karin's eyes grew wide.
"Oh my God! She ran away, didn't she?!" she shouted. Tatsuki frowned.
"Nobody runs out on my brother!"
"Karin, that is not it! She's nervous and she hasn't gotten ready at all. She's lying in bed claiming that she's sick," Tatsuki replied.
"Oh," Karin said, calming down. "But it's only like less than an hour till the ceremony."
"We know that," Renji snapped.
"Well, then, shouldn't there be someone talking to her, trying to bring her to her senses?"
"Hellooooooo!" Matsumoto said in a sing-song voice, waltzing over, followed by Rukia and Chad.
"Oh, yeah, like that's going to do the trick," Karin said sarcastically, jabbing her thumb at the ditzy vice-captain. Both Matsumoto and Rukia wore long lavender satin dresses like Tatsuki's –although Matsumoto's décolletage was much more noticeable—, and had their hair pulled back into elegant buns.
"Chad explained. Should we all go in at once?" Rukia asked.
"I guess. One of us has to be able to convince her, right?" Matsumoto said.
"Convince her of what? If she doesn't want to get married, then why should you force her into it?" Renji asked.
"Renji, I think it would be best if you put your foot in your mouth before I put mine instead," Matsumoto pointed menacingly to her shiny 5-inch heels.
"What do you mean 'if she doesn't want to get married'?" Ichigo asked, lifting a troubled face toward Renji. Matsumoto proceeded to punch Renji in the chest, making him wince, and she smiled with satisfaction.
"Ichigo, ignore him. He's a moron. We'll talk to her; I don't think it should take long," Rukia said.
"What's going on?"
They turned to find Hitsugaya and Hinamori coming down the hallway. He wore a tuxedo, and she was dressed in a light blue gown which matched his waistcoat.
"Oh, hey! What are you guys doing here?" Matsumoto chirped.
"Kurosaki-san wanted to see how the groom was doing," Hinamori smiled at Ichigo. He only blinked.
"And knowing that Kurosaki would prefer not to have any interaction with his father for the moment, considering someone might wind up with a head injury, we offered to come check on him in his stead," Hitsugaya added. Seeing the worried faces looking back at him, the captain frowned. "Is there a problem?"
"It's Orihime. She's… gotten cold feet," Tatsuki said sensibly.
"Oh dear," Hinamori exclaimed. "Couldn't that be sorted out with a hot foot bath?"
"Not literally. It's a metaphor. It means she's backing out," Ishida explained. Again, Ichigo looked up at him, horrified.
"She's not backing out," Tatsuki rolled her eyes in annoyance.
"We'll talk to her," said Rukia quickly, ushering her and Matsumoto into the room, followed by Hinamori. The others were left waiting outside.
"I don't get paid enough for this," Tomoko-san grumbled under her breath, although everyone heard her.
Orihime was still lying in bed, asleep (or pretending to be). Rukia and Tatsuki approached carefully.
"Orihime?" Tatsuki called quietly.
"Maybe she is really sick," Rukia whispered.
"Maybe the cold feet have made her sick," Hinamori suggested.
"Don't be silly. I'll sort this out once and for all," Matsumoto said. She bent over Orihime's sleeping form gently, then violently flung the covers off and cupped her hands around her mouth.
"GET UP! GET UP NOW!" she yelled into the girl's ear. Orihime's only response was to hug the pillow around her head to block out the shouting.
"Oh, how diplomatic," Rukia said sarcastically.
"You should be wearing your dress and looking fabulous! What the hell do you think you're doing?" Matsumoto continued, shaking Orihime, who still wouldn't open her eyes and continued to be limp.
"Not doing the trick, Rangiku-san," Hinamori said.
"But it's a beautiful dress and you look beautiful in it. How can you not feel the urge to put it on and have everyone see you in it?"
Orihime coughed and sighed.
"Orihime," Matsumoto sat on the edge of the bed and looked at her friend seriously, "the guests are waiting; the place looks awesome, the food is delicious. I know it because I tried it when no one was looking. The weather is perfect. And the photographer is ready to snap pictures of you looking like a million dollars."
"But most importantly," Rukia cut in, "Ichigo is ready. He's waiting for you."
Orihime thought about it, looking at each girl in turn, at their eager, beaming, hopeful faces, then flopped back onto the pillows and pulled the covers up to her head.
"If I go out there I'll faint. I'm seriously ill," she muttered through the fabric.
"How about if you drink something or take a pill that will make you feel better? Isn't that what people do?" Rukia asked, touching Orihime's shoulder comfortingly.
"But all the pills and medicines make me drowsy," Orihime replied with conviction. "Instead of fainting, I'll fall asleep during the ceremony. That's not any better."
Rukia looked at the others and shrugged. "I'm out of ideas."
"Great," Tatsuki said ironically.
"What's going on?"
Ichigo and everyone else standing outside the suite looked up at Hirako and Hiyori coming around the corner. They were soberly dressed; he in a tuxedo, she in a black and white gown, and both looked nicely made up for the occasion. Except maybe for her pigtails and sandals.
"Oh, didn't they tell you? We're having the ceremony here. And you're late," Renji joked.
"I suppose you're being sarcastic, but since you're not at all funny, I shall ignore that comment," Hirako said, earning a glare from Renji. "What's really going on?"
"Nothing. We're trying to sort something out," Ishida said.
"Orihime-chan's feeling a little nervous, so we're trying to calm her down," Yuzu added.
"And I see you're doing a great job from out here," Hirako joked.
"What's the matter, baldy? The little lady's not up for the challenge of hooking up with you till blissful death doth relieve her from your company?" Hiyori asked.
"Hiyori, be nice to Ichigo," Hirako grinned mischievously. "It's not his fault if Orihime-chan doesn't want to marry him. She should've realized a long time ago that she was making a big mistake."
"Somebody restrain me before I murder the two of them," Ichigo sneered.
"Ichi-nii, we said no fighting on your wedding. Not from anyone," Karin warned.
"Yeah, daddy would be upset," Yuzu agreed.
"Dad doesn't need to know."
"Alright, calm down, people," Ishida announced. "Enough with the lame jokes at Kurosaki's expense. We all know Inoue-san will come out eventually and we'll be able to move on with the wedding, maybe a bit behind schedule. Let's just be patient. If you didn't come along to help, then this hallway doesn't need to be any more crowded." He gestured for them to leave.
"Hey, what's going on?" Ikkaku asked, appearing suddenly at his side.
"Why do people keep showing up here? This isn't exactly a transit area," Ishida pointed out, annoyed. Ichigo shrugged and shook his head.
"It makes sense. I haven't been humiliated enough, and spectators are required to witness when I hit rock bottom," he said.
"We were getting bored down there," Yumichika said, adjusting his lapels. "The captain thought it'd be a good idea to come check on Kusajishi-fukutaichou, too. You know, make sure she doesn't shun'po down the aisle or hurl the flower petals into people's mouths."
"Well, maybe you should go do that, before Ichigo threatens anyone else with homicide," Renji said, pushing Ikkaku and Yumichika in the direction they came from. He stopped, though, and frowned at Ikkaku. "You brought your sword?!"
"No," Ikkaku replied, outraged at the suggestion. They all stared very hard at him, and he rolled his eyes and sighed. "Yes."
"Get rid of it now," Hitsugaya said.
"Why should I?" Ikkaku's hand went to his back, where the sword was concealed awfully well under his tuxedo jacket.
"You're not going to fight here," the 10th division captain retorted.
"But why is it such a big deal that I carry it around with me?"
"Because you might give someone a heart attack. And I will not take any responsibility if you get arrested."
"Oh yeah? Arrest me? Pffff. I'll take on all of them," Ikkaku replied. Then he looked confused. "What's it like getting arrested in the living world?"
"It's like a binding spell, only they use metal round thingies to bind your wrists."
Ikkaku snorted. "I take on all of them."
"Oh, so you don't mind getting arrested? You'll cause a commotion," Yumichika put in.
"No one's getting arrested. Would you just get rid of the damn sword? You don't even need it!" Hitsugaya started losing his composure.
"You never know! One should always be prepared!" Ikkaku retorted.
"For what? It's a wedding!"
"Is there an end to this circus?" Ichigo muttered, burying his face in his hands again.
Tatsuki knelt beside Orihime, trying to stay calm.
"Orihime, you always said that you never got sick, because your brother wasn't here to take care of you anymore. You know he'd be so proud to see how you've handled yourself so well on your own, and now that you're getting married, don't you think he'd be even prouder and happy?" she asked gently. "What would he say right now?"
Orihime blinked a couple of times, then her large eyes filled with tears and her face scrunched up in pain. Tatsuki panicked.
"No no no! Don't cry! I didn't say that to make you cry!" She turned to the others in desperation. "Help me!"
"Hey! I've got an idea!" Hinamori exclaimed suddenly, clapping her hands cheerfully. Everyone turned to her, including Orihime, whose face seemed to relax, and they all looked at Hinamori expectantly. The black-haired girl shrugged.
"Sorry, I just said that to stop her from crying. And it worked!" she grinned sheepishly. Orihime sighed and flopped back against the pillows, the redness disappearing, to be replaced once again by the pale yellowish hue.
"Yeah, great job, nitwit," Matsumoto said.
Nobody at the end of the hall was going anywhere or doing anything. The guys and Hiyori looked sympathetically at Ichigo, while his sisters patted his shoulders comfortingly, but no one said anything to him. They spoke among themselves, though.
"What do you think is going to happen now?"
"Are the girls coming out any time soon?"
"What do you think is really going on with Inoue?"
"Maybe she really figured she'd make a mistake or something."
"Rukia once made me watch this thing called 'soap opera', and the exact same thing happens all the time. Although usually it's the guy who leaves the girl standing at the altar."
"So we went through all this hoopla for nothing?"
"What'd you reckon he'll do now?"
"I can hear everything you're saying," Ichigo snapped, glaring at the group of men. They didn't know he wasn't supposed to hear them. Hitsugaya alone seemed to be the most sympathetic.
"Kurosaki, stay calm. There's still time. I'm sure they'll sort this out in time," he said. "In any—"
"What are you still doing here? Everyone's downstairs waiting for you!" Yoruichi's voice interrupted him. She and Urahara appeared around the corner and headed toward the group. She wore a green dress, and he a tuxedo with a tie of the same color as her dress.
"Kurosaki-san, your father is wondering what's going on," Urahara said. "We offered to do it for him, since he's busy welcoming the guests, but according to him, Hitsugaya-san and Hinamori-san had already offered to do the same."
He took notice of Hitsugaya and looked around at the group assembled, and then at Ichigo, who propped his chin upon his hand and looked like he had a stomachache. "I know this is probably a dumb question, but… is everything alright?"
"Inoue-san isn't ready," Chad said briefly.
"What?! Why?!" Yoruichi demanded.
"Because she wasn't really getting ready," Chad answered.
"She's… nervous about the wedding. She thinks she's sick," Yuzu said.
"Like hell she is! I'm talking to her," Yoruichi pushed Renji and Ikkaku out of the way and banged on the door.
Hinamori answered the door.
"Seriously?!" yelled Yoruichi and without waiting for an answer, shoved past a wide-eyed Hinamori and into the room. The guys watched Hinamori making a circular motion around her ear with her finger, and point at the woman who just barged in, before the door slowly swung shut.
"I hope she manages something, and soon. I'm thinking Kurosaki's dad will come up finally and he won't be as subtle," Renji murmured.
"Yeah, he'll knock down the door with a kung fu kick," Yumichika said.
The girls turned toward the door when they heard Yoruichi exclaim from the door, then march in, eyes ablaze. Hinamori came up behind her, shaking her head.
"You let her in?" Matsumoto hissed to Hinamori, who shrugged.
"What's this gibberish about the bride being sick?" Yoruichi put her hands on her fists.
"Shh, Orihime-chan is going through a crisis, and unless you're here to help, you'll let us do our job."
"Yeah, and a great job you're doing. You have less than half an hour left."
Tatsuki ignored them and turned back to Orihime.
"Listen, Orihime, isn't this something you've always wanted? At least since you've known Ichigo? Haven't you always dreamed of having a perfect, fairy-tale wedding, to marry the guy you've loved for so long? And who happens to love you back?"
Orihime looked down at her hands.
"Don't you want to be with him?" Tatsuki asked.
"Of course," came the reply, so softly it was barely audible. Tatsuki smiled sweetly.
"Then what's stopping you?"
"This is so corny," Yoruichi sniffed.
"Keep it to yourself, would you?" Matsumoto sneered. Yoruichi threw up her hands.
"I'm sorry, it's just that, it seems to me that this is really between Orihime and Ichigo. She's acting like this and feeling like this because obviously there's something that they haven't quite sorted out yet, and it's none of our business. If she can't do that, then maybe she just can't go through with this. And maybe she shouldn't go through with this."
"Okay, then you go ahead out there and tell Ichigo that there's not going to be a wedding, that he can go home and go back to his life, and we can all do the same, and let's all act like nothing happened, right?"
"What I actually meant is that it should be Ichigo talking to her. They're the ones who are getting married; they should sort this all out before taking that step, right? If they can't be honest with each other, then this marriage is off to the worst start."
The girls exchanged looks, and then glanced at Orihime. She turned red and pulled the covers over her head.
Half an hour had gone by already. The guys all stood around distractedly, while Yachiru, who had finally come out of the bridesmaid's room, was walking among them, tossing imaginary petals around and humming quietly to herself. She actually looked like a cute flower girl.
"I had never seen her so… behaved," Renji commented.
"We gave her something," Ikkaku smirked.
"To keep her, er, manageable," Yumichika added.
"Don't tell captain," Ikkaku put a finger to his lips. They both sniggered.
Renji looked horrified, but before he could say anything, the door to the suite opened, and all the guys, including the brooding Ichigo, stood up like a bolt. But it was Yoruichi who came out.
"Where's Tomoko-san?" she asked.
"She's getting herself some hors d'ouvres. She says she deserves to eat the food if she's going to put up with this," Ishida replied.
"Somebody go get her. We're going to have to force Orihime into her dress and pin her down to get her makeup and hair done," Yoruichi said. "I'll get her arms."
Ishida frowned and chuckled. "You're not serious." Matsumoto appeared beside Yoruichi and nodded.
"She's dead serious. Now go find her! And bring me a glass of champagne while you're at it!" Matsumoto demanded. Ishida raised an eyebrow, but turned and headed down the hallway toward the elevators. Yuzu got up frightened.
"You're not forcing her to do this." It was more a statement than a question. The guys sighed and went back to lazing around the hallway, and Ichigo sat back down and ran a nervous hand through his hair.
"Yuzu, we can't just call off a wedding for no good reason," Tatsuki said, coming up behind Matsumoto. "Do you have any idea the time, the money, the organization that has been put into it? Can we really make the call on throwing all of it out the window? I don't think so."
"No good reason? What if she's really ill?"
"She's not ill. She's just scared."
"Why would she be scared of marrying onii-chan? I thought she loved him."
"Of course, but maybe this has nothing to do with him. Maybe it's just her."
"It absolutely has everything to do with him," Karin interjected, crossing her arms defiantly. "If she didn't want to marry him in the first place, then she should've just said 'no' from the beginning."
"But that's the point. Why is she suddenly backing out?" Yoruichi put in.
"She's not backing out!" Tatsuki said exasperatedly.
"Oh, I think she is," Ikkaku said.
"Nobody's asking you!" Matsumoto hit him upside the head.
"But she could've done it a long time ago. You know, before today," Karin said.
"Maybe that's what she was scared of," Hinamori replied.
"Oh so it's better to do it on the big day and just leave Ichi-nii standing at the aisle?" Karin retorted.
"Would you all stop talking about me as if I'm not here?!" Ichigo shouted, standing up. Tatsuki, Karin and Yuzu fell silent.
"Sorry," Karin said.
"Sorry, onii-chan," Yuzu murmured.
"Sorry, Ichigo," Tatsuki sighed. Ichigo closed his eyes as if he had a headache.
"I have to talk to her," he said.
"We've already talked to her," Tatsuki responded tiredly. "Look, Kuchiki-san's still in there, and hey, she's probably managed to talk some sense into her, you know how good she is. Maybe we won't have to pin her down anymore to do her makeup."
"I know. I still need to talk to her."
"Kurosaki, you can't," Ishida said, reappearing just then, with Tomoko-san in tow.
"Why not?" Ichigo asked.
"Because as I've mentioned already, you're likely to just make things worse."
"Gee. Thanks," Ichigo said sourly. Ishida shook his head; for once he knew he had to be nice to Ichigo.
"You don't understand. Talking is just not your thing."
"If we're getting married, we should be able to talk things over and come to something, right?"
Ishida exchanged looks with Tatsuki, looking for support. Tatsuki shrugged and tried to think. She was, quite frankly, too tired to deal with this anymore.
"You shouldn't see her right now. It's bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the ceremony," she said bluntly.
"Tatsuki, if we've been able to overcome everything that's happened to us all these years, I think a little wedding superstition is hardly going to make any difference," Ichigo said matter-of-factly. There was a general murmur of agreement. Tatsuki sighed and stepped aside to let Ichigo through.
"Fine," she muttered, and Ichigo took a deep breath before opening the door.
"Finally," Yoruichi said as soon as he disappeared inside the room. "Now we'll get somewhere."
"Just one question: in case the wedding's off, we still get to eat, right?" Hirako asked. "Because I was looking forward to that. And let's face it; they wouldn't let all that food go to waste, would they?"
No one answered him. Hiyori smacked him right in the face.
"Rukia," Ichigo said.
Rukia turned, abandoning her futile efforts to talk to Orihime, especially since the girl had her covers up to her head.
"What are you doing here?" she asked, standing up and looking around scared, noticing there was no one else in the room to back her up.
"Could you leave us alone for a moment?" Ichigo spoke very calmly.
Rukia cocked an eyebrow. "Does Arisawa-san know you're in here?"
"I don't have to ask anyone for permission to talk to my wife," Ichigo sneered, frowning at her. Rukia walked over to him and stood on tiptoe to whisper in his ear.
"Technically, she's not your wife yet. And quite frankly, I'm not so sure she's going to be," she sucked her teeth. "At least not anytime soon."
Ichigo glared daggers. "Get out."
"I'm not trying to be mean," she lifted her hands in defense. "She's just really headstrong."
"I think I'm familiar with that trait of hers."
"Suit yourself." Rukia shrugged.
"It's my wedding. I'm not exactly doing this to humor you."
Before she could retaliate, he turned away from her, clearly indicating that they were done. With a sniff and stomp, she spun on her heel and left the room.
Once she was gone, Ichigo was able to focus on the matter at hand: a bulk under the covers.
"Hey there," he said gently.
The bulk moved imperceptibly. Ichigo took it as a sign that she was listening. He knelt next to the bed, trying to see through the sheer fabric of the sheets.
"You know, people out there are really worried about you. There's a huge debate going on outside, and nobody quite knows what to do."
He crossed his arms on the mattress and rested his chin on his forearms. "And I… I've been out there for what felt like hours that stretched into days and weeks, completely and utterly terrified at the idea of you changing your mind about this." He sighed. "I couldn't care less about this party. To me it's just a big act put together to please our families and friends, like they've come to see a show. And you and me, we're the stars apparently. You're not backing out just because of stage fright, right?"
The lump said nothing. Ichigo continued anyway. "If that's the case, though, we can just tell them all to go to hell, and cancel the play and do something more private and spontaneous. No more spectators, no more high expectations, right? I honestly don't care about ceremonies and processions and traditions."
There was a sigh from the lump, and Ichigo mimicked it. "Something tells me that's not exactly it."
The covers finally came off slowly, and a tousled head emerged, half shielding a face that reflected too much grief for an occasion that was supposed to be joyful. Ichigo felt a wave of relief when she uncovered herself; he didn't feel like talking to a bulk of blankets anymore, but she had to come out on her own.
Even in her state, she looked pretty. Her bright red hair was messy, and she wore cute red pajamas. He smiled in spite of everything.
"You look so handsome," she said, smiling sadly, fingering his bowtie.
"Why did you change your mind about the wedding?" he asked, no beating around the bush anymore.
"I didn't. I haven't changed my mind. Truth is, I don't know if I ever made up my mind in the first place," she said sadly. "I'm so confused, I don't even know…"
"Then why did you say 'yes' when I asked you to marry me, if you weren't sure?"
"Because I thought I was," Orihime assumed a fetal position. "I've been so busy thinking about being a doctor, and being with you, and just doing what I've been doing so far, that I kind of let myself go with the flow. But it wasn't until today that I actually started thinking if this is what I really want. I didn't know if I was ready, and right now I'm not sure if I am."
Ichigo sighed with worry, shaking his head slowly. "I wish you had said something earlier."
"Well, this is actually the first day in a very long time that I have enough time on my hands to think about it. I woke up and I didn't have to go to the hospital, or do anything else for the rest of the day, only… get married."
"How much longer do you need to think about it?"
Orihime didn't answer. She bit her lip, avoiding his eyes, and toyed with a corner of the sheets. Ichigo slipped into bed beside her, wrapping his arms around her and she snuggled up.
"This reminds me of that time when you were sick, and I took care of you," he said, resting his cheek on the top of her head.
"I thought I was dreaming when you kissed me that night," she said, smiling sleepily.
"I'm glad you weren't."
She bit her lip again, and looked up at him worriedly.
"You love me, right?"
Ichigo chuckled. "Yes, of course. I wouldn't have asked you to marry me if I didn't know that I love you and that I want to spend the rest of my life with you."
Orihime grimaced, and so did Ichigo. "However long that is," he added, thinking of Hollows and Arrancar. Those were a part of his life too, with all the risks.
"Do you love me?" he asked.
"I do. I always have, longer than you might know. And that is my main concern."
Ichigo sighed again. "You're afraid that I've changed."
Hesitantly, Orihime nodded.
"People change. I've changed, I can't help it. There are so many things in my life, including you, there's no way to stop them from changing me. But hopefully it's a change for the good. I mean, you make me happy. And that was kind of new to me back then." He stroked her hair. "You've changed too," he grinned. "I always liked you, ever since we met, because you were always nice to me, and you were sweet to everybody. It seemed that you were always happy, which is something I couldn't understand because I was always so pissed off at everything."
"But you and me, we were always so similar, and if there was anyone who truly understood how I felt, it seemed to be you alone. You're caring and you were always so perceptive about me, when something was wrong, when I was going through a rough moment. Being the dolt that I am, I admit it took me too long to notice how important you were for me. But I'm glad I eventually realized it."
"And you stopped being this shy girl who just wanted to stay out of trouble, and you turned into someone who really wants to prove her worth, someone who would do anything to protect the ones she loves, and fight for what she believes. I think that's a pretty good transformation, don't you?"
Orihime seemed to be trying really hard not to cry. She buried her face into his shoulder and gave a shuddering sigh. "I guess you're right."
"We're good people, aren't we?" he asked.
"We try to be, at least," she answered with a shrug. Ichigo snickered.
"Have you ever given any thought to the future?" she asked sheepishly.
"Sure. Haven't you?"
"I don't really remember."
"Well, I realize we haven't really ever talked about it, but… we can talk about it now, I guess."
She seemed reluctant, like she was embarrassed. "Just… what are some of the things you've given more thought to?" she asked quietly.
"Well…" he debated with himself, then seemed to make up his mind. "I got us a bigger flat. I was going to tell you tonight, but I guess it doesn't matter anymore."
Orihime sat up and looked at him with wide eyes. "Really?"
"My dad pulled some strings," he smirked with satisfaction. "But maybe later, after we've both gotten our degrees, we can move to a house. I thought you might like a garden. And it'd be nicer for our kids to grow up, too."
Her smile grew even bigger. "You've thought about kids?"
"I've thought about at least having two. It's up to you if you want more."
"Boy and girl?"
Ichigo nodded. "I haven't thought about their names, but I know we're not naming the girl 'Usagi', I don't care how much Rukia insists. Promise me we won't name our daughter 'Usagi', please," he was suddenly begging with an air of true desperation. Orihime pouted.
"Awwww. Why not?"
"Oh please," Ichigo wailed, and she laughed. "I'm kidding. I promise, no 'Usagi'." He pretended to wipe sweat from his brow.
"What else?" she asked.
"I have a feeling our son will have a rock band, or at least he might think about it once I give him a drum kit for one of his birthdays," he grinned mischievously.
"Probably," Orihime laughed.
"And maybe we'll have a dog, because I don't think Yoruichi-san would agree to be our housecat."
"Uh-oh, don't let her hear you say that."
Ichigo suddenly felt so comfortable, all his nerves were gone. Of course he had been nervous, but it was more the adrenaline than anything else, like when he came face to face with a Hollow. This was a different thrill, of course. This is something he wanted, something he had waited a long time to obtain. He couldn't let go of that feeling so easily.
"Can I ask you something?" he began.
He cleared his throat. "That lacy white thingy that barely covers anything… is that what you're wearing… tonight?" He pointed at the delicate white lace lingerie neatly placed on the armchair, next to her veil and her shoes.
Orihime tried to hide her grin. "Oh… well, I picked that one out but…" she sighed, "Rangiku-san thought I should just wear what's in the little red bag over there."
Ichigo nodded slowly and glanced at the aforementioned bag, sitting next to him on the nightstand. He blinked innocently. "Can I take I peek?"
She pretended to think long and hard. "I don't know if you should." Seeing his comical good-boy look, she sighed exaggeratedly and rolled her eyes. "Oh, alright."
He snatched the bag up eagerly and reached inside.
"Uh, there's only… strawberry-flavored lip gloss in here," he looked confusedly at the tiny tube of cosmetic.
Orihime nodded and looked at him. "That's right."
It took him only a split second to realize what that meant. He closed his eyes and dropped the bag. "Rangiku-san is a bloody genius."
Orihime laughed. He missed her laugh. It had been such a long, stressful period of planning and preparation, of not seeing each other for more than fifteen minutes during the day, and at night just before they went to sleep. He was so comfortable, that he considered staying like that. If only they could really call the wedding off, then they wouldn't have to put up with all that hoopla downstairs and they could finally relax. But they couldn't do that. At least he hoped they wouldn't have to.
"So…" he started tentatively. Orihime glanced at the clock, and suddenly looked worried, springing from the bed like a rabbit.
"Get out! I have to get ready!"
"Yes!" Ichigo pumped his fist into the air and jumped up. Before he could get up, however, she pinned him down again, sitting on his belly, and kissed him.
"What did I ever do to deserve someone like you?" she asked. He looked at her, a bit dazed.
"I'm going to assume that is your way of saying 'thank you', because that's actually my line," he grinned.
Outside the suite, the group heard a shrill voice approaching from behind the door, just before it flung open.
"Oh. Hi, everyone!" a flustered and bed-headed Orihime smiled at the people hanging around outside, before she started gesticulating animatedly, panic in her face. "Tomoko-san, what are you doing? I'm going to be late!"
Tomoko-san grumbled before stomping off into the room after the frantic girl. Before the door closed, Ichigo emerged, looked deeply satisfied.
"Don't tell me you two had sex while we were waiting out here," Tatsuki demanded. Ichigo's face shifted into his trademark scowl.
"No," he retorted spitefully, but then smirked. "If that had been the case, you'd probably still be waiting."
"Oh spare me," Tatsuki rolled her eyes. "How in the world did you get her to move, then?"
"Well, we talked."
"About things we hadn't talked about. Things that she couldn't exactly talk to you about."
"So there will be no forcing?" Yuzu asked, smiling with relief.
"The wedding's back on?" Rukia added.
"The wedding was never off," Ichigo said. "We just had to sort out some things. We've been so busy planning our wedding that we hadn't really talked about what we were getting ourselves into. But now that it's been settled, everything's fine."
"See? I told you," Yoruichi responded.
"Okay, so Inoue-san's got about twenty minutes to shower, get dressed, have her hair and makeup done, and take some pictures before the actual ceremony," Ishida looked worried. "Perhaps she can still pull it off."
"You're damn right she will! And we'll make sure of it!" Matsumoto shouted, pumping a fist into the air. "Let's get this party on the road. I'm starving. Come on, girls! We have to get Orihime-chan ready in time!" She pushed a very startled Rukia, Tatsuki and Hinamori into the room and closed the door.
"Oh, good, now I can go and tell Kurosaki-san that he doesn't need to worry, before he thinks of coming over to see what's keeping you," Urahara said.
"IIIIIIIIIICHIGOOOOOOOOO! LET'S GOOOOOOOOOOOO!"
Just as Urahara turned, however, he saw a blur of black and Ichigo was on the floor, sprawled and still like road kill.
"Too late," Hirako said, while everyone sweatdropped at the sight of Kurosaki Isshin standing over his son looking victorious and pumped up.
"My son, what in the world do you think you're doing? You're keeping everyone waiting! The crowd's going rowdy!" Isshin said dramatically.
"Dad, if you dropkick Ichigo like that, this wedding might just turn into a funeral! Are you out of your mind?" Karin shouted. Isshin scowled indignantly.
"Me? Out of my mind? Have you seen our guest list? These people will have our blood in their hands, LITERALLY, if dinner is not served according to schedule!"
"Why is everyone making such a big fuss about the food?" Ishida wondered out loud.
"Yeah, how anti-romantic," Yoruichi agreed.
"Wedding food is good," Chad answered. They both looked at him, eyebrows raised. He blushed. "Well, it is."
Ichigo got up, and everyone braced themselves for an impromptu wrestling match between father and son. However, he put a hand on Isshin's shoulder and smiled.
"Dad, it's okay. We had a bit of a setback, but everything's fine now. We'll get this wedding going before the guests grow bloodthirsty."
Even Isshin was taken aback by Ichigo's calmness. Clearly befuddled, his mouth hanging open in shock, he muttered 'ok' and turned to leave very slowly.
"I think you made him short-circuit," Urahara grinned.
"It was easier than starting a fight here and now. This hallway is too narrow," Ichigo shrugged. "And Ishida will kill me if I get my tux all wrinkled."
"Yeah, don't you dare," Ishida threatened.
"We'll get going anyway. Soi Fong is saving us two seats," Yoruichi said, and she and Urahara followed Isshin to the elevators.
"We should go too, before all the good seats are taken," Hirako said, gesturing to Hiyori.
"I doubt you'll find any front row seats anymore," Yumichika said.
"Front row? I want to seat close to the door. I'll be the first in line for the buffet after the ceremonial shenanigans are over with."
"Enough with the food!" Hiyori smacked him again and dragged him away.
Tomoko-san emerged from the room, looking tired but satisfied, carrying her cases of makeup and hairdressing implements. "My job here is done," she said with what was supposed to be a pleasant smile. "Please, do NOT think of me for your next event," she added under her breath, and left without another word.
"Oh, wow, you look so beautiful," Tatsuki said breathlessly.
"Stunning," Rukia was wide-eyed in awe.
"I think I'm going to cry," Matsumoto exclaimed.
"Enough crying for today," Hinamori groaned.
"Oh please, it's a wedding. If you're not prepared for all the crying that will be likely taking place, then maybe you shouldn't have r.s.v.p'ed," Matsumoto retorted.
"Come on, crybaby, we've got to get going," Rukia said, pushing Matsumoto and the other girls along.
Tatsuki came out smiling from ear to ear and addressed the group of expectant faces gathered near the door.
"Okay, so let's say that it doesn't count if the bride wasn't actually wearing her dress when you saw her. But she is now, so please turn around, Ichigo. Let's try to make it through the rest of the day with minimal chaos. A little superstition never hurt anyone."
Ichigo sighed and reluctantly stood with his back to the door. Everyone around him held their breaths as the girls paraded out, followed by Orihime in her wedding gown. There was a collective gasp and Ichigo fought the urge to look over his shoulder.
The girl who stepped out was no longer the Orihime they all knew. This was a woman in all her splendor, just like brides should always be; a woman dressed for what should be the most important day of her life. Of course, that was probably just a fairy tale belief, but in Orihime's case, it was likely to be true.
The strapless gown hugged her form perfectly, the sheer fabric giving off a soft glow that made her look glamorous and angelic at the same time. Her hair was pulled back in an elegant chignon and adorned with her ubiquitous flower-shaped hairpins –she wouldn't have looked or felt like herself without them, even on her wedding—, and her face was fresh and radiant, unlike the paleness she had displayed just a while ago. Everyone stared in awe.
"Wow," was all Ikkaku could utter, the first one to speak up. Renji nodded.
"I had never seen one of those. It's…"
"Oh, he's about to say something corny," Rukia teased. Renji stopped and looked annoyed.
"No, now you've ruined it. I'm not saying anything at all."
"How are you feeling, Orihime?" Karin asked.
Orihime sighed. "I feel I'm going to throw up."
"Nonsense. You'll be fine," Yuzu beamed and hugged her sister-in-law. She sniffed, feeling her eyes brimming with tears.
"Let's go, Yuzu, before you run out of tears prior to the actual ceremony," Karin teased.
"Let's all go. It's almost time to start, and Inoue-san's got ten minutes for pictures," Hitsugaya said.
"Yeah, come on, Ichigo, you're not allowed in this photo session," Renji said teasingly.
"That was mean," Chad said.
"Shut up, I'm excited."
"Kurosaki?" Ishida called. Ichigo stood there, thinking of something to say, but feeling weird since he couldn't actually face the person he wanted to say it to.
"You look beautiful," he said finally. Orihime chuckled.
"You're not even looking at me."
"I know. I don't have to."
"Orihime, come here, let me fix your veil," Tatsuki said.
Ichigo followed Chad and Ishida down the hall; as he reached the corner, he ventured a quick glance. He was awestruck; not just by the vision in white standing at the end of the hallway, but also by the magnitude of this next step in his life, a brand new beginning. This was everything he had fought for, everything he wanted.
Good thing he wasn't superstitious.
Yet another sappy display of "fangirliness". I know I did. mischievous smile. I hope you enjoyed it, because I'm never doing anything like this again.
Western weddings in Japan involve a traditional procession, a rehearsal, and a whole lot of ceremonial stuff between the bride and groom and their parents. Considering Orihime's parents aren't around, this story took a turn from that.
And 'usagi' is 'rabbit' in Japanese. (It's also the name of the main character of Sailor Moon, but here's it's got more to do with Rukia's affection for bunnies.)
About Ichigo's choice of profession: there's this show on the telly called 'Pushing daisies' (which I haven't really watched) and it's about a guy who can bring people back to life with a touch, and then make them dead again with a second touch, so he "revives" murder victims, asks them how they died, "solves" the case and thus claims the reward. Ichigo's able to see spirits, so he can ask the spirits how they were killed and solve the cases (which is kind of like cheating, but his coworkers don't have to know). And after he's done with his CSI job, he can lead the spirits to Soul Society. Very convenient, right?
And Orihime is a "healer", in a manner of speaking. And she's a good student; she could get into medical school, anyway.
And Tomoko-san is a real person. She did my cousin's hair and makeup for her wedding, and she's grumpy. So right for the part.
Thank you for reading. Hope you enjoyed this one as well. Have a nice one!
-Nariko the Seer a.k.a Deathberry15