D: Dun hate me too much plz for the angst *goes off to work on heartbeat*


000

i.

"What do you mean she hasn't said a word?!"

"I mean what I say. Inoue-san refuses to talk."

The redhead groaned, bringing his hand up to his face. How could she refuse to speak? Everything was back to normal! You'd think she'd be rambling on about great things are now…

ii.

It was only three days after she was rescued. The day hell himself had disappeared. Ichigo and the vizards were in the final battle with Aizen. No one saw it coming, and apparently neither did Aizen.

Shinji and the rest of the masked group had gone in to attack, with Ichigo planning to attack him from behind with his most powerful attack: Getsuga Tenshou.

Only, it didn't play out like it was planned. Ichigo had gotten stuck in Kyoka Suigetsu's attack, and horrifying images flashed across his vision, bringing him into complete hypnosis. The Gotei 13 could only watch from the sidelines as the substitute cried out in horror and desperation, slashing blindly at blank air.

Many people thought it was fate. Most of them thought it was luck. Either way, Aizen was gone as soon as Ichigo unintentionally slashed at Aizen. Shinji drove in for the final attack, beheading the demon in front of hundreds of shinigami. He even held up his severed head, a huge grin on his face. All looked at the blonde man with bewildered looks, but soon cheers erupted from the death gods.

Slowly but surely, Ichigo was brought out of the short-lived hypnosis, but his eyes still remained haunted. Amber eyes flashed with pain, desperation, and confusion. The substitute's head whipped around frantically, as if looking for something.

He needed to find her. Now.

He dashed through broken street after street, eyes darting left and right with hope of finding any trace of her. Her faint glow of the shield from her Shun Shun Rikka, those tattered white Arrancar clothes, silken auburn locks… Anything. He needed something to assure him that she was okay.

It wasn't until he flew by one of the streets, and almost missed the blur of auburn at the end. Stopping abruptly, he turned around and frantically headed towards what he hoped to be her. He wanted to find her… No, he needed to find her.

And he did.

She was sitting on the ground, the all too familiar orange glow casting onto her frail, beaten body. He took in her ragged form; his eyes hovering over every inch.

"Inoue…" he whispered, his legs failing to take that extra step forward to her. 'She's really okay…'

But as soon as she turned around upon hearing his voice, he realized he was far from correct. Bruises and cuts adorned both her face and other exposed skin, as much as he could see. Her eyes were full of both desperation and longing, and her usually vibrant auburn locks had fallen around over her shoulders and spilled down her back, and in some places, were caked with blood.

She looked tired. Tired of fighting, tired of crying… Just exhausted from all the events that folded out in front of her small form. But she could rest soon. Truly, she deserved it.

"Inoue…" Ichigo's voice called out to her again, finally forcing himself to take another step towards the healer. Inoue Orihime… She continued to look at him, despite her eyes taking heavy blinks. She did not avert her gaze.

Her lips curled up into something surprising. Practically gave him a heart attack too, but she smiled. It wasn't her usual grins, and it wasn't forced either. The smile was his sunlight in the aftermath of all this continuous darkness and troubled times. She was his sunlight.

"Kurosaki-kun…" Orihime breathed, taking her shield down and turning around to face him. "I-Is it… over?" She shook lightly, possibly fearing that the battle was still continuing. He nodded slowly, letting his facial muscles relax and allowed his lips to curl up into his own, hidden smile.

"Yeah… It's over," he replied, taking yet another step towards her. Her hands curled into tiny fists onto her tattered clothes, bunching the fabric up. She shook lightly, as her eyes began to shine with unshed tears.

"Thank goodness… I-I'm so glad…" She spoke softly, not wanting to bring her volume up any louder. For the first time in a long time, it was quiet. No clanging of clashing swords, no thuds of injured people falling again and again.

It was silent, and it was deafening. But it was welcomed.

"Inoue," Ichigo muttered, managing to take those final last steps towards her, and squatting down to see her, eye-to-eye. "It's okay now…" Her eyes got bigger for a moment, before slowly letting them flutter closed. It was as if her body told it was finally okay to rest. The substitute held onto her, making sure she wouldn't fall. He didn't have to, but he kept her body close, breathing in her scent. Even after all this war and bloodshed, he was still able to smell that faint vanilla she always had about her.

"It's okay…" he mumbled to himself, as she was now sleeping, unable to hear him. "You're okay now…"

How wrong he was.

iii.

"So can I see her or not?" Ichigo asked, speaking in a low, menacing tone. His knuckles turning white from the constant strain of hands curled into fists. Urahara, owner of the Urahara Shouten, merely waved his fan in front of his face, raising an eyebrow slightly.

"She's not going to talk, so what's the point? She's still drained, you know."

Ichigo bit his tongue, holding back the want to say he needed conformation that she was okay. He wouldn't believe it until he saw it.

"You don't know what she's gone through. Knowing her, she'd probably want someone there by her side," Ichigo rebutted, his already tight fists growing tighter.

"And you do? How do you know?" Kisuke responded wittily, snapping his fan back into it's original place. "She tired, let her rest more." Ichigo kept his mouth shut tight, his lips pinching into a small line and his eyebrows arching deeply.

"Tomorrow. Tell her I'll be back tomorrow," the shinigami ordered, before gruffly shoving his hands into his pockets and abruptly left the shop disappearing into the night. The blonde gave a light sigh before peering lightly into the healer-occupied room, seeing only a small, curled up form. Soft sobs could be heard from under the cover of her blankets.

Of course she knew he would be coming the next day. She heard every word. His promise of return, his concern over her wellbeing. It made her heart ache, and that's why she was crying.

iv.

"Is she awake?" The redhead's tone was irritated as he questioned. He slung his schoolbag over his shoulder, giving a heavy glare to the owner. Ichigo had rushed to the Urahara Shouten as soon as school got out, with high hopes he could see her once more.

"She might be," Kisuke replied dully, waving his fan as he commonly does. "Though are you willing to assist with a chore?" Ichigo's muscles tensed up. Now was not the time to do stupid chores!

"I don't have time for your shit! Let me see Inoue!" He bellowed, smacking away that annoying fan away from the man. "I need to see her!" He yelled out, a tone of desperation apparent, that definitely did not go unnoticed.

"… Fine. But don't expect too much. And don't force the poor girl either." Kisuke slid open the door to reveal the thin frame of the girl he knew so well. She merely sat on the floor, looking out the window. She wore pajamas that were clearly too big for her, but they still framed her body nicely. Either way, it was better than her Arrancar uniform, which signified she was one of them.

'She looks so… broken.' Was the bitter thought that crossed his mind as he took nervous steps towards the healer. He paid no attention to the door closing behind him, but only focusing on her.

"Hey Inoue…" Ichigo called out, his tone awkwardly nervous sounding. Orihime didn't respond. Not even a twitch of her body. If it hadn't been for her shoulders rising and falling lightly, to show her breathing, the shinigami would have assumed the worst. "I hope you don't mind that I came to see you… I- We were worried about you…" He talked to her slowly, pulling at his suddenly too-tight collar.

And she turned around, and startling him as well. It was a relief to finally see her, not so covered in blood.

"So… Urahara-san said you don't want to talk?" The substitute asked, choosing his words carefully and speaking in a cautious tone. Her half-lidded stare continued, as Orihime shook her head lightly from side to side. He daringly took another step towards her. Step by step, he made his way to her, only being careful with each foot. It was as if he was walking on fire.

"Inoue, won't you say anything?" Ichigo inquired lightly, now taking a seat next to her small body. She tensed up a bit as he was sitting down, her frail hands shaking lightly. Again, she shook her head once more.

He didn't know what came over him, but the redhead grasped her hand in his. He held onto her hand, hoping it would possibly stop shaking. Her once lifeless eyes suddenly were alert and open, and her cheeks grew red. She opened her mouth, as if she was going to say something, but soon snapped it shut once more. This caused some disappointment to bubble up in the young boy.

Ichigo gave her hand a tight squeeze, before giving her a small, somewhat painful smile. He just sat with her for a few moments, letting uncomfortable silence consume them both.

"I wish I knew why you don't want to talk…" The substitute shinigami murmured, looking into her confused and nervous eyes. "I kinda miss your rambling…" He confessed, his cheeks heating up a bit as well. She only looked at him, unwilling to say everything running through her head. Ichigo stood up, letting go of her hand only at the last minute. She almost wanted to grab back onto it, and hold his large, warm hand desperately. Oh, how she wanted to pour her heart out to him.

But she couldn't. She wasn't able to bring herself to do it. She swallowed hard, looking up to the tall teenager.

"I'll be back tomorrow again. And then I'll bring you back home, okay?" He promised, putting his hands into his pockets. She nodded shakily, her heart beating rapidly once more.

And he left.

v.

The next day, Ichigo went to the Urahara Shouten, and found her in the same room. She was instead dressed in a white sundress instead of those cartoon pajamas she had on previously. He had to stop and just look at her, awkwardly wondering to himself when she had gotten so pretty.

"Ready to go Inoue?" Orihime nodded, clutching her handbag tightly. He took her hand in his, leading her out of the room and out of the shop. She turned red at his sudden gesture, and wondered what he was thinking about all this.

Ichigo, on the other hand, had reached out to hold her hand intentionally. Even though it had been almost a week since the final battle now, he still needed conformation that she was there. Conformation that she hadn't suffered so much pain, left, or at worse, died. The substitute shuddered lightly as he remembered those heartbreaking visions he had experienced. It wasn't until later he realized everything he had been forced to see from the final battle was merely an illusion caused by Kyoka Suigetsu.

She bled and bled, her precious red liquid pouring out from a sword wound caused by his own Zangetsu. Her pale form even called out to him, choking on her own blood as she desperately asked, "Why? I-I thought you wanted to help me…" He remembered her fat tears rolling down her cheeks as her skin grew dangerously pale.

Ichigo let go of another heavy shudder, exhaling shakily from the memories. Fake or not, they now haunted his mind. Her small hand squeezed his, and the boy was brought out of his horrible reminiscing. Orihime looked at him with concerned eyes. He stopped walking for a moment, looking at her sincerely.

"I'm fine… Let's get you home…" He murmured, still unable to erase those horrifying images from his mind. She hesitated before nodding once more. The two teens continued walking. Eventually, Orihime grew enough courage, and she rested her head on his arm as they walked. He didn't mind, and quite honestly, he felt even more relieved with her presence so near by.

Something cracked inside him, and Ichigo would later realize it was the start of change. The iron hold he had on his emotions was breaking, and the healer next to him was the one tearing it down.

vi.

Two weeks later, Orihime returned to school. She still refused to talk, but having her back was enough for him. Tatsuki had cried when she saw her friend again, and even thanked Ichigo for bringing her back. They had even convinced Ochi-sensei that the healer had a terrible cold, and was unable to speak. Days continued to go by, time passing as if nothing had happened. To the two redheads, it all seemed so unreal.

Ichigo watched the healer give a faint smile to Tatsuki, waving to her friend from the school entrance. As soon as she was out of sight, he grabbed her hand once more, as it had become a daily habit. He didn't think much of it, and he honestly didn't care. If he would feel better after holding her hand, then he'd do it. She didn't seem to mind much anyways.

"So… Do you want to do homework together again?" He asked, kneading the back of his neck nervously. She didn't do anything for a moment, but soon gave his hand a small squeeze, nodding lightly as she smiled. "Tonight?" She nodded again, her face heating up.

They soon reached her flat, and they stood at the top of the stairs for a moment, just being in each other's company. "I guess I'll see you later, Inoue," Ichigo mumbled, lightly running his thumb over her knuckles. Orihime gave him a big smile of understanding, causing his heart to beat questionably fast.

He was about to leave when a big gust of wind to hit them both. The healer brought up a hand to her face, in an attempt to keep her hair in place, but it was to no avail. Ichigo could've sworn he heard something else crack, as he brought up his hand up to her face, moving back strands of her hair behind her ear. Orihime's eyes grew wide at the close proximity of his hand to her face. 'I-It's so… warm…' She thought as the heat from his palm radiated onto her cheek.

Ichigo gave her a warm smile, before turning around to leave. "Later… Inoue."

Another crack inaudibly sounded, and the feeling of change grew.

vii.

It just had to rain on his way to Inoue's house. He really hated that rain.

Beating on the door to her flat, he shivered in place, really hoping she'd open the door soon. And she did. Orihime flailed the door open, a small smile on her face. Only, it was to be replaced with a gasp, and big eyes upon seeing how drenched he was. The healer grasped his arm with her hands, and pulled him quickly inside. The substitute couldn't tell if he liked the burning sensation he got from her contact or not.

The healer took his wet hand and dragged him to the bathroom, where she pulled out a dry towel and offered it to him with a smile.

"Thanks, Inoue," he spoke softly, genuinely thankful for her kind deed. She gave him a bright smile and clasped her hands behind her back. The healer gently scolded herself that she couldn't be so nervous. He had been to her house before to do homework before, but something about this evening felt different. Whether it was good or bad, she couldn't put her finger on it.

Orihime exhaled shakily as she stared at the soaked boy in front of her. The rain caused his bright orange locks to cling to his forehead, making his hair look longer than it usually was. Half-lidded eyelids hid burning amber orbs, focusing intently on the dry towel in his hand. She knew it was wrong, but she couldn't help but bring her gaze lower, seeing his T-shirt sticking wetly to his perfectly sculpted form. Her cheeks grew hotter as her grasp grew tighter.

"K-Kuro-" She started, but immediately stopped as she realized she opened her mouth. Those same amber eyes shot up to look at her. The healer threw her tiny hands over her lips. She had done the thing she least wanted to do.

viii.

"Did… did you just talk??" Ichigo asked, wondering if his hearing was deceiving him. He swallowed thickly, playing that lone syllable she spoke over and over again in his head. He missed hearing her voice so damn much, it sounded so good to his ears.

Orihime shook her head violently, her big gray eyes looking horrified. She took a step back in the already small bathroom, hoping he wouldn't prod the moment further.

He did. And he grabbed her wrists, pinning them above her head against the wall.

"You spoke… Inoue, you talked," Ichigo spoke flatly, a tone of ferocity hidden within his words. "Say it." He commanded. His hot breath feathered over her face, his close proximity making her knees weak. She averted her gaze to the side, finding a sudden interest in the now disposed of white towel lying on the floor.

His grip on her tiny wrists grew tighter, and Orihime forced herself not to wince any more than she already had. She mouthed the word, 'no', doing her best to stand her ground. The grasp grew tighter, and she was now forced to gasp at the very uncomfortable pressure. She had to tell him to stop, but she couldn't, she wasn't supposed to…

"S-Stop, please…" She begged, reluctantly giving into the order to speak. "K-Kurosaki-kun, i-it hurts." He only stared at her with big eyes, before realizing how hard he was holding her wrists.

But he didn't let go. He merely didn't hold her so tightly. Her cheeks grew incredibly hot as she stared back at those amber eyes she fell in love with, burning with such intensity.

"Y-You finally talked…" He breathed, his expression lightening up just so slightly. Clearly he didn't get what it was she said, but only understood that she just talked. She continued to look at him, feeling guilt for both not saying anything, and talking when she wasn't supposed to. Soon, desperation flashed across his eyes, and his brows fell. The already heavy feeling in her heart just grew heavier. "Please, Inoue… Talk to me…"

Fear grew in her eyes, and he definitely noticed it. "Anything, Inoue… Just say anything…" He begged again, unconsciously gripping her harder again. She shook her head, tears escaping down her cheeks. 'No', she mouthed again.

ix.

And it shattered. The wall he had created fell to the ground.

x.

Ichigo brought his lips to her already burning cheeks, placing light, but still wet kisses on her face. "Talk Inoue, dammit…" He murmured between contacts. He would never force her for anything else, but something erratic snapped in him, and he hungered to hear her voice. Her breath hitched as he continued to place light kisses on her cheek, down to her jawbone and neck. Never on her lips.

"Ku-Ku…" She breathed, her back arching lightly from the overwhelming sensation she was feeling. The swollen, burning feeling in her heart he was giving her. "Kurosaki-" He gave her one last kiss on her cheek before pulling away to look at her, a dangerous look in his eyes.

"You know how to say more than that, Inoue," he replied, his voice dangerously low. Her eyes widened in his frightening intensity. More tears threatened to fall, as she tried to wiggle out of his grasp.

"I-I can't…" She sobbed, and he resumed his task of placing light pecks on her skin. She arched her neck unintentionally, his hair tickling against her flesh. "I-I don't…"

"You don't what, Inoue?" He inquired, his breath trailing over her shoulder, sending a shudder through her body. Ichigo couldn't help but smirk lightly at his accomplishment so far, before bringing himself to kiss her neck again.

"I d-don't want you…" She stopped for a moment, trying to regain her constantly deprived breath. "t-to get hurt…" He stopped, freezing in his spot. What the hell would he get hurt from??

"You know, it hurts more that you're not talking to me," he spouted, watching her bit her bottom lip nervously. Fuck, if she was going to bit her lip any harder, she'd start to bleed. And he wouldn't let that happen.

He dropped her wrists from above her, and her grasped her face. Her so small face in his large hands.

And he kissed her on the lips. But it was too late. He could taste a tart, copper taste from that bittersweet exchange.

xi.

"Fuck, Inoue…" He swore sharply, applying his thumb to her swollen bottom lip. "Never. Ever. Let yourself bleed…" Ichigo told her forcibly, that tone of desperation reappearing. They were coming back to him, and he had to resist the urge to hold her tighter. If he held her harder, she'd probably break in two… But those images were so haunting. Her blood… It was never something he'd want to see, even if it was from biting her lips too hard.

"K-Kurosaki-kun…" Orihime whispered, lightly placing her hands on his arms. "I-I'm sorry…" She murmured. "I couldn't…"

"Inoue-" Ichigo cut her off sharply, his hardened gaze focused on her. There were so many emotions swirling around in his eyes, it was difficult to pinpoint at least one. "Why wouldn't you say anything before? Why were you silent for the last three, goddamned weeks??" His voice was shaky as he spoke, resting his forehead against hers. She watched him close his eyes wearily, and she felt sick. So sick with guilt.

"Kurosaki-kun…" she breathed, placing a light hand on his chest. "Y-You know of resolve so well… U-Um, you see… I had resolved to do something…" She explained, choosing her words wisely, and her voice very quiet.

"I don't care what it was that you wanted to do, it gives you no excuse to refuse to tal-" This time she stopped him, by pushing him away. The substitute's eyes snapped open in confusion, feeling an odd sense of dread for what she was about to say.

xii.

"Aizen's alive…"

He stared at her blankly, and her lips set into a grim line. "Inoue… Maybe you didn't see it clearly, but Shinji cut off that bastard's head. In front of hundreds. You can't tell me he's alive."

"He is."

"And how the hell do you know that?" Her eyes fell to the floor, and she didn't say anything. Ichigo took another step towards her, and she quickly inhaled, a gasp escaping her due to fear. Tears stung at her eyes again, and she forced herself not to bite her lip again.

"K-Kurosaki-kun…" She whispered, taking his hand in hers. She stroked her small, lean fingers over his right hand, tracing the lines and feeling his skin on hers. "I-I didn't want you to get involved …" Orihime hiccuped lightly, holding back more tears. Soon, she placed his heavy hand lightly on her lower abdomen, her eyes snapping shut. "Ku-Kurosaki-kun, I'm so sorry…" She sobbed.

xiii.

Aizen Sosuke was dead.

But inside of Inoue Orihime, he lived.

.

.

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