title. a child's play
summary.
Ichigo groaned, almost heartbroken as he looked down at Inoue Orihime. Small, cute and, yes, flat-chested.
note.
thanks oh so much for reading and reviewing! :D thank you, thank you, thank you! :) this fic is so fun to write, a stress-reliever, to be precise! i hope you guys continue to enjoy this weird fic :D if there are errors, please do tell! thank you!

disclaimer. Bleach (c) Kubo. oh woe is me. :D


The corner of Tatsuki's mouth twitched.

Large doe eyes blinked up at her and the twitches progressed in frequency until a tic developed in her temple.

"Are you shitting me?" Tatsuki asked, finally shattering the tense silence.

At once, Ichigo spoke from her right. "Hey, watch your language!" The karate champion rolled her eyes and uncrossed her arms in front of her chest.

"Are you telling me that this is Orihime?" grilled Tatsuki, ignoring Ichigo. "Last time I checked, she has boobs." Tatsuki emphasized her point by making groping gestures with both hands.

Ichigo slammed a palm on the floor, causing Orihime to jump in surprise. "Tatsuki," he hissed, his eyebrows twitching. "You're the third person who mentioned…" Tatsuki raised an eyebrow at him when he trailed off, his face burning with bright magenta color.

"Boobs," she said flatly. Tatsuki could fairly visualize an artery rupturing inside Ichigo's head.

"Don't say it so casually!"

"Fine, you virgin," Ichigo spluttered but Tatsuki made a dismissive handwave and turned to glare at the blond shopkeeper. "I believe you have an acceptable explanation for this?"

Urahara giggled behind his fan. "Well~ it's not my fault if Inoue-chan likes candies very much!"

"This is not premeditated, I trust?" Tatsuki was calm, smiling even, but Ichigo knew what lie beneath the calm exterior. After all, this was Orihime's fire-breathing, man-eating dragon.

"Of course not~ Inoue-chan is a well-loved customer! You wound me, Arisawa-san!"

"Anyway," Rukia intervened before Tatsuki could gnaw Urahara's head off and play soccer with it. "This is temporary, is it not?" The rest of the occupants of the room glanced at the little girl who was staring at the dark-colored cat, obviously fascinated with the animal. Her wide eyes religiously followed every movement of Yoruichi's tail.

While they discussed, Orihime was slowly and very carefully crawling towards the oblivious cat. Her eyes held a determined glint, her lower lip under her small white teeth. A small hand was slowly reaching forward. Finally, small stubby fingers wrapped themselves around the tail and without warning, Orihime gave a powerful yank, put the tail in her mouth and bit hard.

Yoruichi jerked and her fur stood up. "MEOWRRR!"

Scratch.

The conversation stopped as heads turned. "Inoue, what…" Ichigo paused when the little girl turned to look at him.

Tears had welled up in Orihime's eyes, her lower quivering cutely as she whispered, "I-Ichi…"

With a jolt, Ichigo shot up from the floor and quickly came to her rescue. He scooped Orihime up. "Yoruichi-san!" he bellowed.

"What!" snapped Yoruichi, "She bit my tail!" the cat screeched.

Ichigo's eyebrow arched in disbelief, "I… Well…" He recovered quickly from his astonishment. "But why do you have to scratch her? She's just curious!" He defended. The cat snorted and sulked. Ichigo sat down, putting Orihime on his lap as he examined her face. She was sniffling quietly, her large doe eyes wide and watery as she clutched the front of his jacket with her small fist.

"You okay?" he asked anxiously. Orihime smiled timidly, blinking back her tears. She dragged him down to her level and hugged his neck. Ichigo felt his cheeks heat up at the innocent but intimate gesture, but he patted her back gently. With an earnest frown in place, she studied him, then she started to climb up to his shoulder while making small huffing sounds. Still blushing, Ichigo did not say a word as Orihime tugged, huffed and grunted until she reached her destination – his shoulder. She straddled his shoulder and wrapped her tiny legs around his shoulders and neck. He winced when she curled her hands into fist, hanging on to his bright locks to steady herself.

Tatsuki arched a brow at him. As a response, Ichigo glared, though he knew his blushing ruined the preferred effect. "She really likes you, huh?" Tatsuki commented nonchalantly with a shrug as she watched Orihime wrap her small arms around his head and rest her head on top of his. Ichigo grunted as a reply, eyes averted to the side. He knew it was just a candid observation but the thought of Orihime liking him sort of caused a tingle in his spine.

"So," Rukia said, "all we can do is to wait."

"Hai~ I'm working on it very diligently, Kuchiki-san!"

Rukia narrowed her eyes. "Are you sure this is an accident?"

"So suspicious!"

"You are suspicious." Rukia snorted.

When Orihime started to wiggle her way down, Ichigo helped Orihime get down from his shoulder. She sat quietly beside him for a moment, a contemplative frown on her face before crawling closer to Yoruichi. This time, Ichigo watched her attentively. Yoruichi narrowed her eyes as the little girl approached. Orihime stared back with wide-eyed innocence, a hand reaching out to touch the dark fur. Still watching her, Yoruichi let Orihime ran her fingers across her fur and later, allowed the girl to press her cheek on her furry head.

Tatsuki, meanwhile, was shaking her head. "This is ridiculous but whatever, the damage is done and there's nothing I can do about it." She glanced over at Orihime cuddling the cat. Tatsuki sighed. "Well, I'm off. My parents and I are going somewhere so I can't stay very long." She stood up and patted Orihime on the head. "See you soon, kiddo."

Ichigo had stood up as well. "Me too. Inoue and I are going to the park." He gestured to Orihime to come closer. Orihime obediently put the cat down and walked up to Ichigo.

"I will inform you as soon as I finished the antidote, Kurosaki-san!" chirped Urahara.

Ichigo glared. "Are you going to make me pay for it?"

Urahara cocked his head to the side. "Well, well, well~ aren't you a gentleman, hmm? Please, pray tell me, are you willing to foot the bill in behalf of Inoue-san like a devoted, kind-hearted… friend?"

Ichigo's scowl deepened, not liking the shopkeeper's tone. "I… I – forget it!" He bent down and lifted Orihime. "We're off! Tell me when the antidote's done!"

_&.

Fifteen minutes later, they found themselves walking down a pathway leading to the town's park. Orihime was happily skipping in front of him as Ichigo hovered behind her. The park was in sight when Ichigo heard an annoying but familiar drawl.

"Oi, Ichigo, you tosser."

Recognizing the voice, he turned around. "Shinji!"

The blonde Vizard grinned at him, raising a hand in greeting. "Yohoo, missed me?"

Ichigo reached down for Orihime's small hand and faced Shinji. "You finally crawled out of your hellhole. I was looking for you! Did you guys change address or something?"

"Who's the kid?" asked Shinji instead, raising a curious brow. The hairpins were familiar as well as the hair color.

"None of your business!" snapped Ichigo. "I mentioned to you before that I want to train with you guys. Did you forget?"

Shinji made a face. "We're in a holiday, idiot. Cut us some slack, yeah?"

Ichigo frowned and gave a sigh. He knew he was being inconsiderate but he needed to take action before everything blew up out of proportion again. He wanted to avoid another dome incident. True, the transformation helped him to honor his vow to Orihime, but the stabbing-a-friend accident still managed to turn his stomach. "Look, I have to take better control of my powers and learn to use my new mask."

"Look," Shinji mimicked, "We—"

"… Ichi?"

The two males looked down at the tiny girl. Seeing Orihime's creased brows, Ichigo crouched down in front of her. "What is it, Inoue?" The girl opened her mouth but Shinji spoke.

"Inoue?"

Ichigo fought the reflex to hit his forehead with his palm. Damn.

"Wait a friggin' minute. Inoue? As in Orihime-chan?"

Ichigo threw Shinji a sour look. "Shut the hell up for a sec, will you?" He looked at Orihime again. "What is it?"

Orihime scrunched her eyebrows together in a look of deep concentration. "I… I n-need… I need to pee."

Ichigo looked at her blankly. "Pee?" he repeated. Orihime replied with a sharp nod. His hollow cackled maliciously in his ear.

Sweet.

He ignored the white menace – but not without picturing himself puncturing a stave into his hollow's stomach. That white perverted bastard.

"Al…right…" said Ichigo slowly.

"Oi, who's ta kid?" prodded Shinji, peering down at the auburn-haired little girl.

He knew it was no use to lie about it. "It's Inoue." Ichigo replied nonchalantly, taking her hand.

Shinji's jaw dropped, his eyes round. "Wha—"

"Urahara-san. Don't ask."

For a full minute, Shinji regarded the child quietly. And then, he asked in a very serious tone. "What happened to her boobs?"

A vein stretched, throbbed and exploded.

"OW! DAMN IT, ICHIGO! DAMN Y– OWW!"

_&.

Eight pairs of eyes stared with rapt attention. Orihime stared back unblinkingly. Ichigo, who was watching the spectacle before him, grunted. "Is this first time you guys saw a kid?"

"She's goddamned tiny," Kensei growled, scowling heavily as he examined the strange creature before him.

"Hey, watch your language!" admonished Ichigo.

"Idiot Kensei! Look at me, my name's Idiot Kensei!" Mashiro chirped, pulling down the skin below her right eye as she stuck her tongue out. A large vein throbbed above Kensei's eye.

"She looks like a shrimp," Hiyori sniped. Lisa surveyed the little girl with seriousness while Love and Rose looked genuinely curious and fascinated.

"I think she's cute," drawled Shinji. "Makes me wanna hug her an' never let go~" and he proceeded into doing so, but Ichigo grabbed the back of Shinji's shirt and shoved him away.

"No hugging!" he bellowed.

"You're possessive." Kensei commented offhandedly. Ichigo twitched. Where did he hear that comment before?

"I'm not," he grunted, fed up with the farce. "I'm here to talk about my training! Can we talk about it now? When do we start?"

Shinji heaved an overdramatic sigh. "Fine, fine… I'm in the lovin' mood right now so let's do it," he said and unsheathed his sword.

Ichigo scowled. "Wait, now? But Inoue's here. I promised her that we—"

"You got it bad, huh?" snorted Kensei as he sat down on a rock. Rose and Love nodded, while Lisa rubbed her chin contemplatively. Hiyori rolled her eyes and Hachi smiled gently. Ichigo gawked at them, stuttering.

"What the hell are you talking about!"

"Oh come on, quit blabberin', idiot. Yer so predictable," Shinji drawled lazily, eyes heavy-lidded as he shouldered his sword. "I'm gonna kick yer ass for ruinin' my holiday."

Ichigo sighed. "One hour," he said, retracting his representative badge. Without thinking, he pressed the badge to his chest. His spiritual body remained standing while his corporeal body keeled backward.

Orihime gasped loudly.

"Huh?" Ichigo turned around to look at Orihime. Her eyes were huge and eventually, they began to swim in thick tears.

His eyes widened, Oh shi—

Nice one, king, nice one. His Hollow sounded pissed.

"ICHIIIIIIIII…!" Orihime shrieked.

Shinji groaned. "What an ass."