And here's chapter five! This was all originally meant to fit into chapter four, but I sort of wanted to flesh out this particular interaction between Orihime and Shinji, so I ended up writing too much to fit into one chapter. Hence the division into two.

Ah well.

Disclaimer: Would anyone really think that I created everything that 'Bleach' is about? [crickets chirping] Yeah. Didn't think so.

Chapter Five: A Not So Surprising Visitor

When the evening rolled by, it found Orihime seated on her bed, staring at the neatly organised bookshelf at the other end of her room. Something about it irked her. It wasn't that she didn't like the books, or the bookcase itself –definitely not; it was more the fact that it was…well, that it was too neat.

And when that registered in her head, she found herself confused.

Since when had she started to complain when things were neat? For as long as she could remember, she actually liked it when things were organised, and neat –it was one trait that she shared with Ishida-kun, although, perhaps, she was not as picky about it as she knew he was.

Sighing as her thoughts began to wander once again, she brushed a hand through her hair before setting her shoulders and standing up. She had work that she needed to do, and sitting around staring at a perfectly fine bookcase, positioned exactly where it should be, wasn't going to help her. That didn't stop her from glancing back at the bookcase before she left her room, shutting the door with a bit too much of force, but not really noticing it.

She had only just taken another look at the fourth question of the History assignment she was having trouble with, when the doorbell rang, startling her so much that she jumped. She turned her head to the door, brows furrowed as she wondered who it could be. She never usually had visitors, especially not at this hour in the evening.

Unless… unless it was Rangiku-san, on one of her usual visits.

But the 10th Division's Vice-captain hadn't said that she'd be visiting, so…

Brought out of her thoughts when the doorbell rang again, she quickly pulled herself to her feet, before striding towards the door. There was a time when she had been able to simply open the door, with a welcoming smile on her face, but experience had taught her that, sometimes, it paid to be cautious.

With that in mind, she stood on her doors as she squinted through the peephole that was a bit too high for her, and—


Thoroughly surprised, she moved back and unbolted the extra lock she had fixed on the door (not that it would have been able to prevent anyone...inhuman from entering her apartment without her consent anyway), before swiftly turning the key and sliding out the security chain.

When the door was finally opened, the first thing that she saw was the impossibly wide grin and the white teeth that it revealed, before her eyes lifted to meet the familiar gaze.


The grin widened –if such a thing was possible- as the blond tilted his head to a side.

"Nice to see you haven't forgotten me, Orihime-chan," he declared, winking at her. "How've you been?"

There was a brief pause as she blinked up at him.

"Um…good, thank you," she said, "And you?"

"Meh." He waved his hand casually. "Life could've been better –but hey, life's always been pretty shit for me, so it's no biggie." The grin was back. "Besides, things sure are looking up now…"

The smirk on his lips told her that she had been unsuccessful at turning away quickly enough before he caught sight of her flushed cheeks. "Now, now, there's no need to be so shy."

"I'm not shy…" she mumbled, although she didn't quite believe in the statement herself.

"Yeaaaaah, suuuuuure you're not," drawled Hirako Shinji, smirk still on his lips. "So, tell me, Orihime-chan…" he moved a little closer, and her brows furrowed as she looked up at him. "Did ya miss me?"

Grey eyes looked away, focusing on some point behind the taller man's head.

"I… I didn't hear anything from you, so I thought you might be busy," was what she said, not quite knowing how to respond to such a question, even after being on friendly terms with the Vizard for a while now. It was still sometimes difficult to tell if he was just fooling around or if he wanted a serious answer.

"You okay, Orihime-chan?"

"Yes." The nod was an automatic one, and her eyes were still fixed on something or the other behind him.

"Riiiiiiiight, and I'm not good looking at all," drawled the golden haired Vizard, unable to stop from grinning when he saw the confused expression on the girl's face. "Meh, never mind tha', Orihime-chan." He waved a hand casually. "So? What's gotten you all down an' mopey?"

She hesitated, and the moment she realised that was what she was doing, she knew that it was the wrong thing to do. For she had come to realise that the man in her doorway was quite observant.

Fooling her friends was one thing, but attempting to fool him required a bit more effort -and she was far too tired that evening to put in such an effort.

"It's nothing, Hirako-kun," she said, eyes still averted. "I just…I'm just…tired. I've been studying a lot. And…and things have just been –I mean, I'm just… it's just…"

The fingers that slid under her chin brought an abrupt halt to her words, and she had no other choice but to look at him.

"I'm pretty sure people have told you tha' you're a terrible liar, Orihime-chan," commented the Vizard, shaking his head with his lips quirked in a smile. "But it's alrigh' –I ain't the type of person who goes around poking my nose in other people's businesses."

She stared at him, grateful beyond words for the fact that he wasn't going to press her to tell him what had happened, even though she knew that, throughout the course of however long he was able to keep her company for, she would eventually end up telling him what it was. It was strange, the way she confided in him, sometimes even without realising that that was what she was doing.

He gave a light, playful pinch to her chin, "You said you're tired? Well, we have the perfect remedy for that." She blinked up at him, bemused. "Hot chocolate." Seeing the blank expression on her face, he quirked an eyebrow at her. "Hot chocolate –remember? The last time we spoke on the phone, we-"

"Oh!" Her eyes had widened. "I knew there was something I had forgotten." How could she have forgotten the plans they had made when he had called her the other day, when Rangiku-san had been present?

It was rather careless of her, really.


"Ah –did I say forgotten? N-No, I didn't mean forgotten," she stammered hurriedly, "I just…it sort of slipped my mind –but only because I was concentrating hard on tests and all of that make up work that Ochi-sensei gave me. It doesn't mean that I had forgotten about our plan, or anything like that –really, Hirako-kun, I—"


"-I think it's a good idea to go and-"


"-have some hot chocolate. It is quite cold isn't it? And besides, it'll be nice to-"


"-Y...Yes?" she gasped, out of breath.

"Breathe, princess. We don't want you to keel over, dead, do we?" With his hands now on her shoulders, acting the part of an anchor of sorts, she did just as he said, drawing in quick, rather shallow breaths of air until her racing heartbeat had slowed down slightly, and until she was able to use her voice again without feeling as though she was suffocating.

"S...Sorry, Hirako-kun," she said, a little weakly. "I just-" His hands squeezed her shoulders lightly, drawing her attention to him and the grin that was on his lips.

"Don't worry abou' it, Orihime-chan," he said, "As I said, it wouldn't do for ya to keel over and die. Not after everythin' that's happened, ya know?"

A distant expression worked its way onto her face at his words, and she nodded, giving him a saddened smile.

"You're right," she said slowly, "Kurosaki-kun, Kuchiki-san, Ishida-kun, Sado-kun and everyone else have sacrificed enough as it is, for my sake. It would be ungrateful of me to not take care of myself after that, wouldn't it?"

She noticed the thin glint that sparked to light in Shinji's sometimes puzzling, yet other times dancing eyes, but didn't quite know what to make of it.

"Yeah, sure, for their sakes," he muttered, "But also for the sake of a rather selfish, dashing example o' the male species..." She raised her eyebrows at him in confusion, causing him to send her a rueful grin before waving a hand dismissively. "Never you mind, princess." His hands left her shoulders. "How abou' we get movin'? Time's a-wastin' after all."

She hesitated, shifting her weight from one foot to the other as she glanced over his shoulder and took in the darker skies outside. It was getting quite late, and she knew that walking around at such an hour could, at times, be dangerous –especially when it came to not knowing who –or what- you could run into while outside.

"But...isn't it a bit late, Hirako-kun?" she asked at last, not noticing the thoughtful glance he sent her before he shrugged casually.

"The usual place is opened until late, remember?"

She worried her lower lip with her teeth, her brows furrowed, once again not noticing his gaze on her.

"There could be..." she paused, "We don't know who-"

"Or what we might run into?" finished the blond, tilting his head to a side as she nodded. He observed her for a moment longer before leaning towards her once more, well aware that he was breaching her personal space, but equally well aware –and well versed in this particular girl's body language- that she would move away if she was unbearably discomfited. "Don't you know who I am, princess?" he drawled into her ear. "I'm Hirako Shinji, the most awesome person –or creature- alive, yeah?"

He leaned back, inwardly pleased at the red tinge that had spread across her face; not because he enjoyed seeing her so flustered –well, no, that was a lie because he did enjoy it- but because it added some form of colour to her face, making her look less like she'd never been exposed to sunlight in her life, and more...alive.

Placing his hands on her shoulders, he carefully turned her around, pushing her inside her own apartment and following her until he came to a halt before the hallway closet he had noticed she kept her warmest coats in. Nudging her aside gently, he opened the closet, yanking out the first jacket he saw, before holding it out to her.

"...Eh?" She stared down at the jacket being held out to her before looking back up at him. "Just like that? Like," she gestured towards her attire, "this?" He quirked an eyebrow at her as he took in what she was wearing; an oversized white t-shirt and faded grey jeans, both looking much more like old and preferred comfort wear than anything particularly dressy.

"What's wrong with tha'?" he asked.

"But...but it's..."

"You look jus' fine, princess, don't you worry about that. Ever." He held the jacket out to her again. "C'mon now, the sooner we get there, the less time we'll need to spend in the cold."

Shaking her head –not out of exasperation, but rather something similar to...fondness...?- she shrugged on the jacket, zipping it up as high as it could go, before turning and taking the hand...no, the elbow, that was offered to her.

"Are you sure you don't have anything else to be doing, Hirako-kun?" Her eyes widened the moment the words left her mouth, "Ah, not that I don't want you here, or anything like that, but I just thought that you'd be a busy man, and so you wouldn't..." she trailed off when she saw the amusement on his face. "...I'm rambling again, aren't I?"

He nodded with a chuckle.

"But that's alrigh' –that's jus' who Orihime-chan is, and we wouldn't want tha' changed for the world." Taking advantage of the bemused and slightly flustered state she seemed to be in, he guided her back to the door, snagging and pocketing her keys from the desk in the hallway.

Making sure to lock the door behind them, they resumed their walk, as he led her towards the coffee shop that was conveniently only a few blocks away. "Don't ya worry abou' a thing, Orihime-chan," he said cheerily as he saw her look furtively around them, as though expecting some manner of hideous creature –or human, same difference really- to pop out of the darkness, "I'll protect ya'."

I'll protect you, from anythin' you're afraid of. ...But I can't protect you from yourself –that's somethin' you've gotta do yourself, no matter how hard I try.


And the next chapter will probably be posted in two weeks or so, because I've got to focus on my other Bleach story, and then there's the matter of assignments and the like. I seriously wish there was more fiction or art –or both, even- on these two, because they would be oh-so-interesting together!

Anyways, hope you liked the double-update.

Till next time,