The idea to write something based on these characters has been annoying me for a while, but I didn't want to, out of the fear that a) I wouldn't be able to get the characters right, and b) that it would take my focus off the current 'Bleach' fanfic that I'm writing.

As it turns out, I was distracted from my current fanfic because I was stubbornly disallowing myself from giving in to this urge! So I thought I'd write it and be done with it. Hehe. Of course, it's pure speculation etc. but I just thought it would be interesting if something like this happened, involving Shinji and Orihime. (I think it was all his talk of her being his 'first love' that started the ideas rolling in my head -even if he was only joking. But then again, who knows, huh? It's Hirako Shinji after all)

Disclaimer: Kubo Tite; it all belongs to him. You probably wouldn't want to have anything to do with 'Bleach' if it belonged to me.

The Princess, the Cat, the Scientist and the Vizard in Masked Armour:

The end of the war, the 'winter' war as it had been called, -even though it had taken place a while before winter-, had not come about without forcing changes in many of those involved in it.

And this girl, with hair the colour of the sunset, was no exception.

The haunted gleam in her eyes seemed to shine so much, like a beacon, that he couldn't quite figure out how none of her friends seemed to notice it.

Especially Ichigo.

But then again, he supposed the brat was too enthralled by the fiery sparks in a certain pair of deep, purple eyes to notice anything else, much less her.

Which was funny, given his evident concern for her welfare and all that jazz.

It had taken a month for his quiet frustration to get the better of him, and for him to approach the vibrant haired girl himself.

(For all their apparent collective 'genius', and desire to see her safe and unharmed, her friends sure were idiots when it came to keeping her emotionally safe, and emotionally unharmed)

He'd seen the fear in her eyes as he started to frequent the school once more, always making sure to be there in the morning before she herself got in, and to greet her with a big wave and a cheery smile.

But he also noticed that the fear seemed to get fainter and fainter with every week that he spent taking great pains to establish a routine with her.

He had known for certain that the fear had become less important to her than what it was before, when she had allowed him to walk her home one particular day, when she had stayed in the school library for so long that it was late in the evening when she left the school premises.

As the weeks had passed, it became a common occurrence for him to walk her home after school. Not every day, of course, because she did have other friends and other things to do.

So did he, for that matter. Even if Lisa and Hiyori said otherwise. Well, Hiyori said otherwise; Lisa just gave him that look of hers that told him he was being an idiot. (What did she know about him anyway? Hmphf.)

Anyway, the weeks had turned into months; months during which he had successfully established several routines with the girl.

And it was these slowly constructed routines that had been threatened when Kisuke told him to stay away from the school. Why? Because the Shinigami liaisons positioned around Karakura were, apparently, getting suspicious of his behaviour.

Of course, he'd argued with the man.

If Kuchiki Rukia –the highest ranked Shinigami 'liaison' in Karakura, from what he knew- wasn't bothered by his continuous appearances, why should he be worried about other small fry?

For all Kisuke's logical explanations, there was only one last minute attempt that had made him change his mind –much to his surprise. And Kisuke's too, although the sly genius hadn't shown it.

He had thought strongly about ignoring Kisuke's warning, but he really didn't want his associating with the vibrant haired girl to make her even more of a dodgy character in the eyes of certain people in Seireitei.

So the old routines were dropped, because, really, what other choice had he had?

But damn, hadn't Kisuke been correct when he'd said that when one door closes, another one opens.

So maybe he didn't arrive in school before she did, to greet her with a smile and a wave.

Instead, he turned up on the route she took to school, just as she turned a corner, or crossed a road, her schoolbag and sometimes a slice of bean paste slathered toast clutched in her hands, as she tentatively returned his smile and wave.

So maybe he didn't hang around after school, bored out of his mind as he waited for her to finish whatever she had to do, so he could walk her home, listening to her ramblings and keeping an eye out for her clumsiness.

Instead, he turned up randomly outside her front door, not giving her a moment to let out a surprised 'Hirako-kun!', before asking her if she was up for a milk shake, or a hot chocolate at the cafe three blocks down, and listening to her ramblings and keeping an eye out for her clumsiness as they walked.

But what they were doing at Kisuke's shop at the moment –that wasn't a part of any routine whatsoever.

He hadn't really thought that someone as innocent (or not so innocent, given what she had witnessed) and naive (or not so naive... damn that Aizen) as she was, would get along so well with Shihouin Yoruichi... but what d'you know? She did.

(Then again, he wouldn't have expected someone as innocent and naive as the princess would get along with someone like him either)

And it just so turned out that, on the days that he had nothing to do (also accurately described as the days he knew Hiyori was in one of her 'moods' and would like nothing better than to kick the snot out of him), he had established his own personal routine of visiting Kisuke. Just for the heck of it. He had a nice, bright room towards the back of the shop, where he could take a nice, comfortable nap without being disturbed.

And if the princess was also there to talk to Yoruichi –or Kisuke, or Tessai-, he made sure to never approach her when he sensed her presence somewhere else in the shop.

As charming as he was, he did think that there was something called overkill. Heaven forbid he give her the impression that he was stalking her.

So he masked his presence from her whenever he sensed her presence.

Except for today.

Because from what he sensed of her reiatsu when she entered the shop, she was not in the most cheerful of moods.

In fact, it felt as though she was...frightened. And somewhat...lethargic. Like she was lacking energy -all of that in one package.

He might have chosen to ignore that too, but he hadn't seen the girl for two weeks now. She was busy with end of term exams, and he had been asked by Kisuke to test Ichigo's powers, and his control over them (it seemed that Seireitei was concerned, and Kisuke, rightfully, wanted to test the brat himself, before Seireitei poked their fingers in what wasn't theirs to poke)

So here he was, seated opposite the vibrant haired girl who was yet to meet his gaze, doing a good job of ignoring the spying cat also in the room, as he attempted to figure out if he had done something to deserve this sudden silent treatment.

She's been quiet for far too long, he thought, as his tawny eyes narrowed ever so slightly.

"Say, Orihime-chan, did the blue men do anythin' to upset you today?"

When he heard the snort, he allowed a momentary shift of focus to glare at the smirking cat. Damn that Yoruichi. It wasn't like he liked talking about 'blue men'. Or men in general. But he had come to realise that they were important to the girl, and sometimes, were the only way to draw her out of the shell she withdrew into.

Thus he was at a loss as to what he should say when she nodded absently.

"Oh." He paused, wracking his brains. "Well. Send 'em to me, and I'll hand them over to Hiyori. She'll teach them a thing or two." If she doesn't kill you for believing in something so ridiculous, and then kill me just for the heck of it, he thought with an inward cringe.

The vibrant haired girl nodded once more, and he suddenly discovered that he was bothered by the fact that she still hadn't looked at him. "Ya wanna tell me what's going on, Orihime-chan?"


She trailed off, but still, at least she had said something. That was always a good start.


He saw her swallow and found his tawny eyes following the curve of her throat, lingering for a moment on the bit of her collarbones that he could see, poking out from the purple, v-necked sweater that she had on.

Surprisingly, the first thought that entered his mind was not a perverted one.

Has she been eating well...?

"I had-" she trailed off, swallowing once more. It was at that moment that he realised he was still staring. At a place that was definitely not her face. "I had a dream."

He took in the paleness of her features, along with the distinct half moons under her eyes. I didn't know that dreams made ya look like the livin' dead, princess...

"I saw... I –he...he was in it..." she whispered, and his eyes were now drawn to the way her hands clenched the fabric of her short patterned skirt.

Oh, he thought, taking in her words and behaviour, that certainly narrows it down.

And when he thought about it, it did.

There was only one 'he' of whom any dreams had the power to make her behave in such a manner.

There was only one 'he' who, from what he had discerned himself and from what she had told him, still evoked fear in her.

"What did he do?"

She swallowed again.

"He... he asked me to... he wanted me to smile." And when she looked up at him, briefly, he saw the fear mixed together with disgust. He knew that the bastard had actually asked her to smile once. She had told him that it was just before he had announced his plans for Karakura.

Damn you, Aizen, he thought darkly, you still haunt her, even in death.

"Is that all he said?" he inquired. The girl nodded, before letting out a quiet laugh.

"I...I know. It's silly. I know –I know he can't do anything anymore. He's... he's dead after all..." The grip she still had on the fabric of her skirt told him that despite this knowledge, it still frightened her.

He still frightened her.

"People don't need to be alive to scare the shit outta us, ya know," he commented, lightly. "My great aunt's probably been reincarnated a good dozen times by now –but she still scares me silly."

Orihime nodded, although she didn't look very reassured.

I guess jokes are a 'no' then. "Have you been thinking of him lately? Or of what happened?" he asked, adopting a more serious tone. Hiyori would have been surprised, if she had been there. It was surprising how many people thought the word 'serious' didn't exist in his vocabulary.

The girl shook her head.

"No," she said, quietly.

"Has anyone said anythin' to make you remember the war, then?"

"N-No..." She spoke up before he could say anything else, "but I..." she took a deep breath. "I was buying some groceries. And I saw... someone. He was tall, and...and had brown hair. And...and I bumped into him by mistake, and when he spoke – his voice was...it was..."

"Like his?"

She nodded.


"It's silly..." repeated Orihime, after a moment or two. "I...I shouldn't let this happen." She attempted a smile, but it seemed more like a grimace to him. "Next thing I know, I'll react like this every time I see someone with brown hair!"

If his thoughtful gaze was making her uncomfortable, she did her best to not show it. "It's just really-"

"It's silly, yeah, I got that the first time, Orihime-chan." There was a pause. "But it's also understandable. And I think you know that just as well as I do. Just 'cause the war's over doesn't mean the memories are just gonna go away like that, ya know." He didn't avert his gaze as she stared at him. "But really, Orihime-chan, you don't have to worry." He cocked his head to a side, "I seriously doubt that you can find anyone hideous enough to resemble him. It's...just not possible."

Her eyes widened. "I mean, his hair was always rather...freaky. But that new 'do' of his? That annoyin' little piece of hair that curled right into the middle of his face? I didn't know whether to laugh and attack him, or to scream and run away from him when I saw it!"

He shook his head with a heavy sigh. "And I thought that he might have learned somethin' from me, after his time as my fukutaichou. Ya know?"

"H-Hirako-kun! Tha –that's--!"

"Absolutely, one hundred percent true. And ya know it." He shuddered. "I thought turnin' into a bad ass was supposed to make people...well, bad ass. But not with him, no sir-ee. He jus' looked a lot more like the wuss I always knew he was. It's a pity we turned up in the middle of a battle and all. I'd have liked to take some pictures." He sighed. "For future amusement, ya know?"

Orihime gaped at him for a moment, and it wasn't until he saw her lips twitch that he knew that he had succeeded.

"T-That's..." the vibrant haired girl trailed off as she quickly clapped her hands over her mouth, causing a smirk to form on his lips.

"You can laugh, Orihime-chan. It's not like I'm gonna be offended or anythin'..."

But the girl shook her head, even though her shoulders were shaking ever so slightly.

"I..." she lowered her hands a fraction. "That p-piece of hair..." the giggle was quickly held back.

"What about it?"

"It was...strange..." There was a pause. "And it tickled too..."

The silence that fell upon them this time was one that went unnoticed to the golden haired Vizard. He was quite content with staring at the girl, glossing over the thoughtful expression on her face that scrunched up every now and then as she fought back a giggle.

It...tickled...? He frowned. What the hell?!

"Whaddya mean it tickled?" he asked, hoping it came across as nonchalantly as he wished, for his mind was distracting him with the various scenarios during which that...that friggin lock of hair could have tickled her.

It didn't help that all the scenarios were ones that involved the pair's proximity to each other. Intimate proximity, for her to feel tickled by the damned thing.

"Eh?" Orihime blinked. "Um...it just...tickled..." she explained, as best as she could. She must have misunderstood the expression on his face –whatever the expression was- because she started waving her hands, frantically. "I –I mean. He was talking to me and –and I –well, I couldn't really move, could I? But then I was shocked out of my fear when I saw that piece of hair...and it...well it tickled. Right here."

She was pointing to her nose, and then to the right side of her face.

Ai...zen...he thought with an inward growl.

"Is that so?" he drawled, uncaringly.

The girl nodded.

"Yup! Come to think of it...it was rather...soft," she murmured, her brows furrowing. "I wonder what type of shampoo he used..."


"Yes, soft. I wish I knew what shampoo he used –I can never seem to get my hair to--- ah. Um. H-Hirako-kun...what are you doing...?"

"Nothin'. Why'd you ask?"

Orihime fidgeted nervously, not very comfortable with the other man's nearing proximity.

"Uh. Well. You –ah, I mean...Hi...rako-kun...?"

The Vizard's smirk widened as he eyed her obviously flustered behaviour. Lazily crawling the last few steps he needed to take, he came to a halt when he was directly in front of her, and it was only then that he noted the flush that was spreading swiftly across her face and neck.

"Tell me, Orihime-chan," he drawled, "what was the punk doing, to be close enough for you to feel his hair?" Her grey eyes widened. "Better yet, what were you doing? Hmm?"

"I –" she squeaked as he moved his face closer, causing her to instinctively draw her head back. "I was –one of the Espada took me back –that was when he was talking to me, when he –um...when he asked me to smile! H-Hirako-kun, I don't think—"

But he didn't move away from where he was rudely peering into her personal space. Nor did he push himself any further.

"An' that was it? Just that time?"

"J-Just that time, Hirako-kun."

He observed her for a moment longer, before nodding.

"I wouldn't be surprised. The punk never was the type to hit on chicks. I even wondered if he...played for the other side, ya know?" He shook his head sagely. "But if he was, he would've made moves on me, so I guess he was straight..."

He eyed the stunned girl again. "But if he didn't make any kind of move on you, Orihime-chan, I think I'm gonna have to doubt his orientation again. It's not like he would've seen any better -and all in one lovely package too..."

The puzzled expression on the fair face was rather heartening to the Vizard. Where once he might have exasperatedly muttered about her cluelessness in worldly matters...it now served as a source of relief.

For it told him that even if some of her naiveté and innocence had been lost throughout the War, she was still herself. It told him that while she could handle death, war, and guys dressed in black and white fighting with swords and masks on their faces...she was still pure.

And damn was he being corny or what?

Though, he knew now why people hitting on her never got very far –her apparent cluelessness as to what they were trying to achieve must've politely driven them off.

He smirked. And all of that without her even knowing she was doing it...


He shook his head.

"Nothin' Orihime-chan. No need to worry your pretty little head about it."

She flushed again at the teasing, and quickly looked away. His smirk widening in a manner that would have screamed 'run Orihime-chan, RUN!' had she been looking at him, he leaned forward once more. "Say, 'hime-chan..."


"I was wonderin'..." his nose was almost touching hers –and up close, he silently marvelled at how big and alive and grey her eyes were, "if you we—" The shifting of the air around them was all the warning he got, before something was, literally, lodged in his face.

His first thought was 'Hiyori', but it soon changed when he felt the sharp, razor like claws.

The last he checked, Hiyori only used her feet and hands to try and end his exist on a daily basis. She sure as hell didn't have claws.

Unable to help himself, he screamed. Like a little girl, to his later shame.

Throwing himself backward, his hands fumbled with the lump of whatever it was that clung to his face, digging the claws in deeper. "Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, owowowowow geddit off! Geddit off-!"

"Hirako-kun! Y-Yoruichi-san!"

Ah, so the lump was a cat. Not just any cat, but a flippin', spying, demon cat.

"Gerroff me yer furball! I'm not cat food!" He yelped. "OWWWW!!! KI-KISUKE!!! GET YER DAMNED PET OFF MEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!"

On hindsight, he probably shouldn't have said that, for, as it turned out, that only angered the 'pet' even more.

"Yoruichi-san, please, stop it. I think you're hurting him..." pleaded Orihime, looking pleadingly at the back of the noble-turned-cat's head. "Yoruichi-san, please. You are hurting him..."

It was with a hiss that the beast retracted its claws before leaping off the Vizard's face, nestling itself in the willing arms of the human girl instead.

"My face," moaned the Vizard, tentatively brushing his fingertips over the mass of cuts on it. "The hell did I do to deserve that, ya piece of shit—"

"-Ah, Hirako-kun, maybe you shouldn't say that," cut in Orihime hurriedly, as she felt Yoruichi tensing in her arms. The Vizard stared at her for a while, before he eventually looked away with a sigh. "Are you alright, Hirako-kun? Do you need me to take a look at your face? I can heal it, if you want..."

He shook his head, looking back at her with the familiar smirk on his lips.

"Naw, don't worry about it, Orihime-chan. I heal pretty quickly. Nothin' to worry about."


"Don't waste your concern on him, Orihime. He's not worth it," added Yoruichi, baring her teeth at him as he glared at her.

"So says the demon cat..."

"Do you want more cuts on that ugly mug of yours?"

"No thank you. Geez, there's no need to be so jealous of my natural beauty, Yoruichi..."

"Natural beauty? Is that the term they use these days?"

"What's that—"

"-Um...I'm sorry to interrupt..." Yoruichi and the Vizard both turned to look at the girl who seemed a bit uncomfortable under the weight of her stares. "But it's getting a bit late..."

The Vizard blinked.

"Eh? I'm pretty sure that it's not even late afternoon yet, Orihime-chan..."

"Oh! Um, I –"

"-Or could it possibly be that my Orihime-chan wants to remove herself from my presence? It can't be! Do you dislike my presence?" His eyes were wide as he kept the grin off his face when he saw her horrified expression.

"Oh, no! T-That's not it at all, Hirako-kun," she said, vehemently, "I –I just...I mean, you're a nice person, and..." she trailed off, biting on her lower lip as she felt the weight of Yoruichi's gaze on her.

"Hmm?" drawled the golden haired male.

The sudden wave of heat that washed over him as he followed the movement of her teeth was, he decided, a fault of the weather. It was unusually warm for this time of the year. Or maybe it was the lack of ventilation in the damned room.

"I just need to do some more studying, that's all..." explained the girl. "I have two class tests tomorrow, and I really want to do well in them."

Yoruichi nodded in her cat form.

"Understandable," she mused. "Although I don't think you need to worry so much. You're smart, Orihime."

"T-Thank you, Yoruichi-san!"

Pouting slightly as the attention was taken away from him, the lone male in the room spoke up.

"What are the tests on, Orihime-chan?"

"Two of the science subjects. Chemistry and Biology," replied the girl.

Yoruichi turned her head to glare at the Vizard, almost immediately knowing what to expect.

She wasn't disappointed.

"Ohhh." His smirk widened. "You need any help with 'em, Orihime-chan? I'd like to think I'm rather good at biology... and I could help you understand a bit more about chemistry..."

"Eh...?" Judging from the threatening hisses that left Yoruichi's lips, Orihime guessed that the Vizard had said something that she had missed –something that had angered her friend. "Thank you very much for the offer, Hirako-kun, but I'll be fine. They're two of my best subjects after all!" she exclaimed, pumping one fist into the air.

The Vizard just grinned. Clueless indeed, he thought, the sharp, usually always leering eyes softening as he gazed at her for half a moment longer. Ya really are somethin' else, princess.

"That's very interestin' Orihime-chan..." he drawled after a moment of silence, raising his eyebrows at The Look the amber eyed cat sent him. Ignoring the thing, however, he effortlessly pulled himself to his feet, startling the vibrant haired girl. "What're you waitin' for, then? Let's get you back home. You'll get more work done if you go now..."

"Oh. Yes," agreed the girl with a nod, as she moved to put Yoruichi down. "It was nice talking to you, Yoruichi-san. And you, Hirako-kun." She smiled up at the Vizard. "And...thank you, Hirako-kun. For...listening."

He shrugged.

"You know I'd never say 'no' to you, Orihime-chan," he teased, enjoying the faint blush that dusted her cheeks as he grinned down at her.

He wondered absently if she knew that he could see down her v-necked sweater.

Probably not.

Not that he was lookin' or anythin'...because tha' would be very ungentlemanly...

Wait, was that peach lace that he could see under her sweater?

He thrust his hand out in offering, keeping his gaze averted as the healer used the offered limb to pull herself to her feet.

While he liked a good view as much as any other male did, it jus' didn't feel right.

Not with this girl.

"I'll walk ya home," he muttered, as he turned on his heel.

"Eh? Oh, no! There's no need—"

"Time's a-wasting, Orihime-chaaaaaaan..."

Staring at his back for a moment, she hurriedly gathered up her bag and hurried after him, Yoruichi at her heels.

As they made it outside, they saw Urahara himself, seated at the entrance. A warm smile appeared on his face as he saw her.

"Going home?" he inquired. She nodded, returning his smile. "Would you like someone to go with you?"

Orihime shook her head, half heartedly wondering how long it would take the shopkeeper to realise that he wasn't responsible for what had happened, simply because he had told her that she wouldn't be of any use in the war. It had been the truth after all, hadn't it?

"Thank you," she said, sincerely, "But Hirako-kun said he'll walk me home..."

The shopkeeper frowned slightly at that, as he glanced briefly at the Vizard, who in return fixed him with a steely look.

"I see." There was a pause. "The new Shinigami are out and about. On patrol..."

Orihime wondered if it was just her, or if her Vizard friend had tensed at that. Turning to look at him, however, she couldn't spot anything to show any hint of displeasure.

"Hirako-kun...?" she queried, finally.

He stared at the shopkeeper for what seemed to be a long while, before shrugging.

"Sorry, Orihime-chan," he said with a grin as he turned to her, "I won't be able to walk you home after all. I jus' remembered that I promised Hiyori I'd see her... And you know how she gets if she's kept waitin'..."

Although slightly confused, the vibrant haired girl nodded with a smile.

"It's fine, Hirako-kun. Really. It's not like anything's going to happ—" She stopped, eyes widening as he moved forward, slapping his hand over her mouth. Urahara and Yoruichi stared at him too, but he ignored them.

"Not that I believe in it or anythin'," he explained, "but it's best not to tempt fate, ya know?"

Orihime blinked for a moment, before nodding. "Good. So. You should get goin'. Your books await you..." Lowering his hand, he nodded to Urahara and sent a glare at Yoruichi. "See ya' around. And Orihime-chan, do remember to lock your front door once you're inside," he drawled, turning on his heel before disappearing.

The vibrant haired girl stared bemusedly at the spot he had been standing in, before she shook her head ever so slightly.

"Well, Urahara-san, Yoruichi-san, I really should get going too," she said, giving them both low bows. "I'll drop by some time later, if I can..." With a last smile, she too turned on her heel and headed down the road.

The two Shinigami stared after her, the sound of her humming getting fainter and fainter, until it disappeared altogether when she turned the corner.

"That was interesting," said Urahara, the brim of his hat shielding his eyes as he leaned his head back against the wall.

Yoruichi snorted as she padded her way towards him.

"To say the least." She lay herself down beside him. "He seems to be good at assuaging her fears."

"Oh?" the scientist was curious. "I suppose she must not be discussing her fears with her friends, then..."

"I don't blame her for that. Besides, they're busy dealing with everything that happened themselves," reasoned Yoruichi, flicking her tail lazily. Her amber eyes softened. "And if Ichigo and Kuchiki Rukia are heading towards what I think they're heading towards..." She shook her head. "I don't think she'll ever be comfortable discussing her fears with them."

Urahara nodded.

"But who knows, Yoruichi-san? I still believe that Kurosaki Ichigo has strong feelings for Inoue-chan. Even if he doesn't quite realise it yet."

"There's a difference between believing based on fact, or believing based on the hope of it turning out to be true."

"But...but they're perfect for each other," protested Urahara with a pout. "Everyone thinks so!"

"I never took you for the romantic type, Kisuke," commented Yoruichi, sounding amused as she glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. "In any case, there'll soon be a third party to that equation, I think." She sensed her friend's gaze on her. "I don't think he will be able to keep deceiving himself..."

She snorted again. "Who'd have thought that this would happen? To Hirako Shinji, of all people?"

"I did," said Urahara, quietly. "It's been a long time coming, anyway. Perhaps not with Inoue Orihime-chan...but...with someone. I don't think his life's goal was to keep living forever, dealing with Hiyori-chan's violent ways..."

The cat shrugged.

"But he should bear in mind that she's human. And he's...not."

There was a disapproving expression on her friend's face that caught her off guard.

"I think he knows that, Yoruichi-san," he said quietly. "I believe that is why he hasn't done anything yet."

"Yet being the keyword."

There was a moment's pause.

"So if something does happen...requited, of course, you will speak against it?" questioned the shopkeeper. His friend was quiet for a moment before she shook her head.

"What I want is that girl's happiness -perhaps more than the girl herself," she muttered. "As long as she's happy with it, I'll be happy."

Urahara nodded.

"Besides, who knows what will happen?" he mused, sagely. "I think that love is the farthest thing from their minds at this point in time. The after effects of war can do that to people..."



It was rather long for just a one-shot, I know. But as usual, I have problems with the length of my writing. I hope this was easy to read. The first bit just had a lot of description and very little dialogue because I wanted to set the scene, and really didn't want the descriptions to get in the way of the dialogue if I chose to incorporate them into the story at a later point.

And I'm a bit worried about how I portrayed Shinji's character. When we were first introduced to him, I didn't really like him very much. I didn't hate him, but I didn't particularly like him very much either. But what do you know, I gradually started to like him more and more, to the point where I was itching to write something, anything, about him, but didn't because I was afraid I would get his character right. So it's a bit of a relief to finally think that I've got his character as right as I possibly could...even if that's not much!

Anyways, hope you enjoyed this! Even if it did sort of involve an odd mix of characters.

Keep smiling!