Okay, I know this is going to sound strange, but ideas for a fic involving the two main characters in this piece have been plaguing me for quite a while now. I have quite a few failed attempts at pieces involving them, and was therefore pleasantly surprise with the outcome of this piece. The idea for this came when I was watching episode...62, I think it was? Or was it 64? Hmm. It was after everyone's return from Soul Society, and when Orihime wakes up in the middle of the night after dreaming about her brother, only to get a 'visit' from said brother, which leads to her being abducted. Aaanyways, there's a moment when she recalls the moment where Byakuya saved Rukia from Ichimaru Gin's death blow, and she starts crying. (Well, because Byakuya was an older brother, and he protected his little sister, and she just missed her brother so much...)
I'm new to writing fanfiction for 'Bleach', so I really hope that I've done alright. Especially since it's been so frustrating, trying to come up with something for months now! Although now I'm not sure if I want to leave this as a standalone piece, or if I want to add at least one more chapter.
Disclaimer: Sadly, I don't own 'Bleach'. It all belongs to Kubo Tite. If belonged to me, a certain Cuatro Espada would still be around. Sniffff!
Enough from me here; enjoy!
To Live and Breathe Again:
She stared at the ruins that lay beyond them; ruins that had once been the place of her –somewhat voluntary- imprisonment. Dark stains littered the ground, along with torn clothing. Yet the most disturbing sight was that of the wounded, Arrancar and Shinigami alike. And the dead... Grey eyes welled with tears as she forced her eyes away from the faces –both familiar and unfamiliar- that lay eternally still before her.
How many had died? How many were grievously wounded?
Was it all because of her?
But...she had honestly thought that...that she would be buying her friends more time, if nothing else. And then...to be told...to be told that she was nothing more than a distraction---
"Nii-sama! Nii-sama!" The pained, panicked cries tore her attention away from the scene before her. Turning around as she attempted to pinpoint the location of that familiar voice, her eyes widened slightly when she saw her dark haired friend kneeling on the ground. Kneeling next to a black and white clad figure with long dark hair.
She knew enough of Kuchiki Rukia to know that she would never be crying unless things were really bad.
Swallowing against the pain that seared through her body –the price she paid for holding up her defensive shield for so long- she moved forward, heading towards her near hysterical friend.
No one seemed to notice her moving, but then again, there were other things on their minds. Was Karakura safe? What was happening there? Were their friends safe?
Her breath was coming in gasps as she forced herself to continue moving, her eyes fixed firmly on her friend and her brother. She was going to reach them. And then she was going to see if there was anything that she could do.
Whatever relief she felt at finally reaching her friend was lost when she glanced down at the figure stretched out on the ground.
Blood. There was so much blood.
She fell to her knees with a painful 'thud', but ignored the pain that came with it. The still figure's clothes were ripped, and blood oozed out in thick streams from inside the tears. The usually impassive, unblemished face was littered with bruises and cuts...but what was most worrying was the faint, too faint rise and fall of his chest.
Byakuya-san, she thought, gnawing on her lower lip for a moment, oh Byakuya-san. What...happened to you...?
"I –Inoue! Inoue you-!"
The desperation that she saw in her friend's wide eyes cut her deeply. After all, who else would understand the thoughts running through her mind better than her? Better than she who had also been in such a situation...which ended with the death of her beloved brother?
The desperation in her friend's eyes was replaced by a wild gleam as she glanced at her. A pale hand shot out like a snake, gripping her arm painfully.
"You can...you can do something, right? You can save him, right Inoue?"
Almost immediately, her grey eyes filled with tears as she stared at her dark haired friend. How can I save anyone, she wondered briefly, bitterly, when all I seem to do is get the injured or killed?
"Kuchiki-san, I-" she winced as the grip on her arm tightened. She had no doubt that it would leave a bruise, but then again, it wasn't as though she didn't have any of them already. "Kuchiki-san," she repeated, leaning forward and ignoring the pain that seared through her stomach as she did so, "I don't-"
"-You have to, Inoue! You're the only one! You're the only one that can save him!" cried out Rukia, moisture developing in her own eyes. "Nii-sama can't –he can't-!"
A firm hand on her shoulder cut her off. Glancing up, the sunset haired young woman saw the familiar red-haired Vice-captain, and more tears welled in her eyes. She had known that he was still alive, but she hadn't caught a glimpse of him throughout the fighting. To see him standing there, albeit bruised, battered and bleeding, was a sight to behold.
Said red-head couldn't quite mask the pained expression that flashed across his face as he glanced down at his still Captain.
"No, Rukia," he said after a long moment, tearing his eyes away from the dying noble. "She can't. She can't heal him."
"What? She has to! Renji, she's the only one-!"
"Unohana-taichou already said that she did the best that she could, Rukia," explained Renji, his voice so low both girls had to strain their ears to hear it. "There's nothing more that can be done. Taichou is... It's too late, Rukia..."
The wail that left her usually composed friend's lips tore at what was left of her battered heart, and she didn't even notice when she released her grip on her arm. How many had suffered here? How many had died?
How many, she questioned, brokenly, how many do we have to lose?
The tears that fell from her eyes were partly due to the scalding pain that seared through her limbs, but were mainly due to the sight of her friend throwing herself onto her brother's still figure, her entire body shaking with her sobs.
There has to be something I can do, she wondered, helplessly, Surely there must be something –anything-!
"Rukia..." She watched as her petite friend paid no attention to the hero of the day –no, to one of the heroes of the day- as he came to a shaky halt behind them. His tired eyes flickered over to her and his eyes widened when he saw the tears on her face. "There's nothing-?" he queried, not daring to finish the question.
It was Renji who answered.
But it seemed that the substitute Shinigami wasn't prepared to give up.
"What about Unohana-taichou? Can't she do something?" he queried, somewhat harshly at his eyes briefly fell on his dark haired friend's quivering figure.
"She can't, Ichigo."
"Dammit, don't say that! Where is she?"
"She's with Sado and Ishida. They'll make it if she sees to their injuries in time." Renji closed his eyes. "But she said it was... it was too late for taichou."
Orihime watched the three figures around her, before her gaze stayed fixed on Rukia. Her eyes softened as her friend's dark hair and Shinigami uniform was replaced by short, vibrant orange hair and a school uniform. She had been in the same position before, sobbing over her brother's eerily still figure.
Oniichan, she thought, watching as her friend called out to her brother in sheer desperation. If only they could hear us, she mused with a pang, if only they could hear us and let our voices draw them back...
She remembered all too well the feelings that had broken out within her what seemed like years ago, when Kuchiki Byakuya had protected his sister from Ichimaru Gin's fatal blow. Although the panic emanating from her friend had been but a fraction of what she could sense now, she could tell how much her friend loved her brother –even if he had initially thought to go ahead and let her be executed.
But then here he was...
The rational voice in her head whispered to her, telling her to forget it ('don't even think about it!')
But...they are family...
The rational voice in her head increased its pitch at the thought ('but there's nothing you can do about it!')
They were all they had; the brother and sister.
The rational voice in her head sounded a touch panicked at that ('you can't stall Death! It is foolish to even try!')
They needed each other... no matter how differently they felt on the matter...
The voice was now screaming at her ('no! Don't you dare! You can't –not in the condition you are in!')
But then again, she never really listened to that rational voice in her head, did she?
My Onii-chan and...Kuchiki-san's Nii-sama.
She could feel her heart pounding in her chest as she shuffled forward on her knees so that she was close as close to the noble's body as she could get. Placing a hesitant hand on her friend's back, she applied some pressure there to catch her attention. It took her a few tries, but eventually, Rukia pulled away to look at her.
Her eyes widened when she looked into her grey eyes, realising then what she was going to do. Orihime smiled as reassuringly as she could when she saw her friend's eyes run down her body, taking note of the tears in her clothes and the odd blood stains, her eyes resting on the gash in her stomach. "Inoue you..."
"I'll do my best, Kuchiki-san," she murmured, feeling the eyes of their male companions on her back. "Please, move aside."
Her friend didn't move for what seemed like a long, very long moment to her. Just when she was about to repeat the request, the dark haired Shinigami clumsily shuffled a few steps away, a different light slowly beginning to creep through the desperation and anguish that had invaded them.
Hope, realised Orihime, with a pang. She thinks I can do this...
Uncertain eyes turned to the still Captain, although she stopped them from roaming over his body to take in the cuts. There was little time to lose –both for him and herself.
Taking a shuddering breath –one that pained her bruised ribs- she mustered as much strength as she could within her as she mentally called upon her Shun Shun Rikka.
She heard a gasp the moment the soft yellow barrier morphed into existence, covering the dark haired Captain from head to toe.
"Inoue! What are you doing?!" But she paid him no heed, focusing her mind on the task at hand. "Inoue!"
Another exclamation followed.
"Inoue! You're not-"
Gomen, Kurosaki-kun, she allowed herself to think sadly, before she tuned out his voice. But I have to do this. I...I want to do this. He is important to---
Despite biting down on her lower lip as hard as she could, the pained cry still managed to leave her lips, earning worried glances from her friends, even from Rukia. But she ignored them as well. She had no time to reassure them –and quite frankly, if she believed that what the pain was trying to tell her was right, she wouldn't be able to reassure them. Not without lying.
She didn't want her last few moments to be of her lying to those she held dear to her heart.
No. If she was given the choice, if this had all been under different circumstances –'no,' she urged her powers, 'keep going. ...Must not...stop...'- she would have preferred to spend her last few moments telling her friends that she loved them, and that she appreciated everything that they had done for her. That she would never, ever forget them...and that she would always watch over them...
But life didn't always go according to plan.
Her vision was becoming hazy as the yellow light of her healing barrier flickered weakly. She knew that it wouldn't be long now; that the barrier would just dissipate. But she couldn't let that happen! Not until she had finished her task.
She could see already that the cuts and gashes were mending themselves, albeit at a very, very slow rate. The tears in his clothes would still remain, of course...but what did it matter, so long as he was alive?
"-can't! Look at her! She's not well enough to-"
"-know that, but look! He's healing! Taichou's injuries are being healed! Can't you-"
Renji-kun, Kurosaki-kun, please don't fight, was what she wanted to say, but she couldn't find it in her to do so. Concentrating and focusing what remained of her power on the noble lying before her was difficult as it was; she couldn't, no, she shouldn't allow herself to be distracted...
Tears ran down her pale, scratched cheeks as waves of black slowly started seeping in to the corners of her vision. No. Not yet. She couldn't –not yet, dammit!
The hand on her shoulder briefly pulled her out of her thoughts and away from her concentration. Turning, she saw her dark haired friend kneeling beside her, her tear filled eyes fixed on her brother.
"That's..." there was a pause. "That's enough, Inoue. I – he – there is no way for you to-"
Rukia shook her head, a single tear trailing down her cheek as she turned her eyes to her friend.
"Thank you," she whispered, her voice trembling. "F-For doing your b-best... but you are...you need to stop. We can't lose you too, Inoue."
Orihime's eyes filled with tears once more as she attempted to focus on what she could see of her friend through the black haze that seemed to be invading her senses at a steady rate.
The yellow barrier flickered once more, forcing her to dig deeper within her, to dig wherever she could, to muster up that last bit of strength that she just had to have, in order to sustain it over the 6th Division Captain.
"-noue, she's right. Stop it now. You can't... ..."
Was it just her or did Kurosaki-kun's voice sound so...far away...? Kurosaki-kun...? Why—
Her attention was caught when, out of the corner of her eye, she caught a slight movement. It wasn't much, she realised as she turned her gaze back to the still figure, but it was something...she was sure ---there! The right thumb and forefinger! They...moved...!
She wanted to turn around and tell Rukia this, she wanted to tell her the good news –because it had to be good news- but suddenly found that she couldn't move her body.
Wave after wave of pain came crashing down on her, forcing another cry to escape her lips.
"-no! Unohana-taichou! Someone get Unohana-taichou-!"
"-mmit! Inoue –Inoue!"
"-go. Please, you can't...Inoue!"
The voices were sounding fainter and fainter by the second, and she wasn't sure if the dimness of the yellow barrier was an indication of its weakness, or if it was because she could hardly see through the ocean of black clouding her vision.
I don't think... she resisted the urge to screw her eyes shut against the pain, both physical and emotional, this just may be it. A small smile worked its way onto her face. Looks like...there won't be a chance for...me to become an astronaut. Or...a teacher. Or-
She felt herself fall forward, her body feeling both heavy and light at the same time. Alarmed yells sounded behind her, but there was little she could do to acknowledge them.
Oh dear, she thought vaguely, her consciousness weaving in and out as she realised just where she was falling, I hope...he doesn't mind...m---
A pair of steel, blue grey eyes snapping open was the last thing she saw as she collapsed onto the now mostly healed Captain of the 6th Division.
Unohana Retsu sighed to herself as she did her routine, weekly check up on the unmoving figure on the bed. There was no change in her condition; it was the same as it had been since she had first lapsed into this coma, nearly four months ago. Despite the strength of the belief her friends had in her, she knew that doubt was beginning to creep into their minds.
Four months was, after all, a very long time.
"They miss you, Inoue Orihime-san," she murmured, placing a cool hand on her patient's pale forehead, absently brushing aside limp strands of her once vibrant, sunset coloured hair. "Please keep fighting," she added, giving the still figure one last look before she withdrew her hand and turned away.
She was almost at the door when she sensed the familiar reiatsu outside the room, and her eyes softened somewhat.
He was here whenever he had the time to spare –something that had not gone unnoticed to those in the 4th Division. It wasn't odd to catch a glimpse of a pale scarf down the corridor, or to see a familiar dark haired figure walking through the building, his destination never changing.
Of course, he never once went inside the room, a fact which irked her somewhat, but she knew the noble well enough to know not to comment on it. That wasn't to say that he simply stood outside a closed door for a few long moments before leaving; no, he did at least look inside the room, whenever the door was opened... But she couldn't recall sensing his reiatsu inside the room, or having ever seen him inside.
What she did know without a doubt, however, was that her unique patient unsettled the noble. Rather, he was unsettled by her actions as they emerged victorious in Hueco Mundo, four months ago.
Sighing inwardly, she reached out and opened the door, smiling at the tall noble.
"Kuchiki-taichou," she greeted him, as she moved across the threshold and out into the corridor with a deliberate slowness that would allow him to glimpse inside the room before she shut the door behind her.
"Unohana-taichou," he greeted quietly, blue-grey eyes flitting briefly to the bed that lay in the corner of the room before focusing on her. Silence fell between them as she quietly shut the door. "Has there been any change?"
She shook her head slowly.
"I am afraid not," she said ruefully.
"But the fact that she is still here, as opposed to passing on...that gives me hope." She saw the questioning look he was sending her and smiled. "It tells me that she is still fighting, Kuchiki-taichou. It tells me that she is fighting to live."
His eyes gave away nothing as they stared at the closed door, looking for all the world as though they could see through it, while she patiently stood where she was.
A moment later, he gave a slight nod to himself, before he glanced briefly at her.
"I apologise if I have delayed you in any way, Unohana-taichou," he said politely, with a slight bow of the head.
"Not at all, Kuchiki-taichou," replied the older woman easily.
"I will take my leave, then."
"Of course." He turned on his heel and strode down the corridor as unhurried and calm as he always did. If she had not known him for as long as she did, she wouldn't have guessed that there was something on his mind that troubled him.
Shaking herself out of her thoughts as she thought of the other patients she had to see to, she spared the door behind her one last glance.
Come back to us soon, Inoue-san. I believe that there are those who require answers. Answers that only you will know how to give.
With a gentle smile, she too turned on her heel and headed down the corridor.
Well, that's about it from me for now. I'm still trying to decided on whether I want to keep this as it is, as a one-shot, or if I want to add in another chapter or two. A part of me wants to at least add in another chapter, one that, perhaps, takes place a few months later when Orihime wakes up...but...aargh, I don't know!
I apologize for the length of this, along with the very little detail as to how exactly the 'good side' in Hueco Mundo emerged victorious, as well as writing nothing at all about the events taking place in Karakura with Aizen and the rest... but I didn't want to go into too much detail and take the focus of the story away from where it's at now. Sorry about that! And I realise that I may have made Rukia a tad too emotional -but hey, I figured that if there was one situation she would lose her cool in (apart from anything that involves her friends in danger etc) it would be Byakuya on the verge of dying.
Anyways, that's it from me!