Aw yeah, almost the 200 review mark for the story as we wrap it up with this final chapter! Thank you for all your support and kind words. That what was kept me writing, even though I got sick of this at times.
As for the big announcement, I am glad to say I'm hoping to have a sequel to this story. It's still in the planning stages, and with how busy I've been with school, I'd say it might not be written out for a little while. But please keep an eye out for it if you're interested!
Grimmjow and Aizen were completely alarmed at the squad of police officials rushing through the doors, surrounding the group of four. Ichigo hadn't looked too concerned, to Orihime's surprise, and it made her wonder if he had known about this beforehand.
"Let go of the girl, Aizen!" One of the officers yelled out, his tone of voice sounding as if he had dealt with him before. "And you, the blue-haired one! Step away from the boy!"
Considering he wasn't armed like he probably should have been, Grimmjow had no choice but to step away from Ichigo's bleeding body, looking pissed off. "Tch... Way to ruin the fun," he scoffed, folding his hands across his chest and moving back to Aizen's side. He still held onto Orihime, looking unfazed at the group of officers.
He was reluctant to give Orihime up, but at the same time, didn't look too intensely bothered by it. "Here," Aizen spoke tonelessly, tossing her onto Ichigo's beaten body. She immediately tried to help him up and help him in anyway way that she could. The team started closing in on the two, guns still raised against them.
Aizen put his hands in his pockets, despite their orders to keep them in the air and in plain sight, and in an instant, he smirked and explosions went off all around the parking garage. With rubble flying and debris being thrown all over, Orihime had thrown herself over Ichigo's body and attempted to protect him the best she could, while everyone else had dove for cover on their own.
The building fell apart in many places, but the bombs that had apparently been set around the ramp hadn't been so bad as to crumble the entire thing till there was nothing left and kill all that were in it. Groans and moans of pain were heard from various officers around, and some were already moving out of the various chunks of cement that had been blown up from the walls and ceiling.
Ichigo blinked heavily, already disorientated from his previous beating, and he felt a heavy body lying on top of him. His injuries from before were screaming out in pain at the foreign weight, and it took all he could to muster the strength to sit up and move the body off of him.
He was shocked and frozen stiff to see Orihime covering him, her small hands gripping his shirt tightly as she cried silently. "I-Inoue..." he choked out, trying to get her attention. She was slow with her movements, but she raised her head and groggily looked into his eyes.
"K-Kurosaki-kun..." she whimpered, a faint smile gracing her face. "Are you okay...?" Her words were slow like molasses coming out of her mouth, but she didn't have the energy to speak any faster nor sit herself up. Ichigo cracked a weak smile and although hurt, he still pulled her into a hug.
"I should be asking you that..." he whispered, burying his head into her shoulder. Even though she was covered in dust and dirt, he could still smell her wonderful scent of vanilla about her. "You just threw yourself on me after a fucking bomb went off."
Orihime tried to hug him the best she could without hurting him any more, but her urgency to hug him as if to never let go was getting the better of her. "I wanted to protect you..." she explained weakly, burrowing herself into his chest.
The two fell into exhausted silence for a moment, only hearing the voices of officers pulling each other out of rubble and trying to find the two other teens. Ichigo and Orihime were so tired, all of the stress and fatigue catching up with both of them, they didn't think either of them could yell out to let the others know where they were.
"Much good that did..." Ichigo commented quietly, absentmindedly running a hand through her hair. "You're such a mess right now." He was teasing her, even if his tone hadn't sounded like it at the time. Orihime sighed and clutched onto his shirt tighter.
"I told you not to follow after me..."
Giving her a small squeeze, Ichigo pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "And I told you I couldn't do that. You mean too much to me." Orihime kept quiet after that, and he was more than okay with the silence. He knew she was awake, albeit tired, just as he was. Once the voices of the officers got nearer, alerting the others that they had found the two teens, Ichigo could tell they would be safe for the time being. Orihime would now be safe.
After hours in the hospital, labeling both Ichigo and Orihime to have no more than bruises and scratches as well as a lot of exhaustion, the two were able to return back to the hotel. Ichigo had some internal bruising, but he was very adamant about not keeping Orihime in the hospital longer than she had to, just because he was so immensely injured. They also scared the living daylights out of the poor innkeeper, coming in looking like death warmed over and requesting another room for the night. Luckily, they hadn't had to be questioned by the police until tomorrow, which meant some time for themselves and a hell of a lot of sleep to catch up on.
Keeping in silence, Ichigo held onto Orihime, absentmindedly stroking her hair as he awaited sleep. He'd thought as soon as they had the chance, he'd fall asleep and stay sleeping like the dead, but perhaps there was just too much that had happened and he was unable to. They only had to deal with kidnappings, abuse, and bombs, he mused dryly.
Oddly enough, Orihime had been stiff in his arms since the moment they laid down together. While she kept herself as close as she could to his welcoming arms, she was hesitant about something that Ichigo had yet to identify.
On the inside, Orihime was tearing herself apart. She knew she was safe and back with Ichigo, and as much as she loved being held by him, she thought she didn't deserve an ounce of his feelings for what she did to him and his family. She was still ashamed and terrified of how Ichigo would react knowing she had been the reason for all of this.
"Hey... What's wrong?" he asked, very aware she was still awake. She shook her head in his chest, and she accidentally let out a staggered sigh. She refused to tell him why she was so upset, only because she knew it would break his heart.
Orihime took the chance to flip sides, lying so she wasn't facing him, but rather, away from him. Ichigo was confused and a little hurt, but he shifted himself in the already small bed so he held her from behind, keeping in mind to watch his aching midsection. Raising a hand to brush her hair behind her ears, he kissed her shoulder lightly and continued on.
"I know something's up, Inoue... Won't you tell me?" he requested, trying to be as gentle with her as possible. He figured there was still some post-distress she had going on and didn't want to push her too far. Again, she gave him no response aside from a soft sniffle escape her.
He had wanted to be careful with her, but he'd be damned if he let her cry like this.
Grabbing a hold of her shoulder, he turned her back over so she lies on her back. Every time he saw tears falling from those beautiful eyes, he always had a sick feeling to stomach. Ichigo nervously gave her a small kiss on her cheek, feeling her tears on his lips when he did so. He cupped her other cheek with his hand, keeping her close.
"Come on, Inoue, please..." he whispered, kissing her again. "You're driving me nuts that I don't know what's wrong."
"Why..." she asked, tentatively threading her fingers into his bright hair. "Why don't you hate me, Kurosaki-kun? I've done nothing but cause you trouble..."
Ah, figures... he thought in his head, now hearing that it was this whole ordeal that made her so upset. For all that had happened, it only seemed natural for that she was angsting over whether or not his feelings changed. "Of course not. Why in the world would you think that?"
As Orihime held him, she wanted to take from him as much love as she could beforehand in case he'd pull himself away in disgust and horror. "I killed your mother!" she started sobbing, her will crumbling. "That day my brother got murdered and the day I ran out in front of the street, it was your car that I caused to crash."
Ichigo was shocked beyond belief, but at the same time, due to thinking about the possibility prior to this event, he didn't feel anger or hate towards her or her actions. "How... How do you know?"
"Aizen told me that my brother's killer saw me run across the street, and he remembered your hair from that day," she told him, her words broken up by her crying. She let him go in self-hate and tried to sit up and get away from him, but he instinctually kept her in one place, held tight against his chest to keep her from leaving. "Oh god, I'm so sorry, Kurosaki-kun..."
He was still letting it all soak in, that his previous thought process was now proved correct. He didn't feel any hate, and he didn't think he'd ever be able to towards the girl he cared so deeply for. And he was aware it was all unintentional, that day their relatives died. Orihime was running to protect herself from her own death. And had his mother still been alive today, he probably would've been scolded for making a girl cry.
"Its okay, Inoue..." he cooed, reassuring her. She shook her head in the negative, so very adamant in accepting his positivity. But Ichigo could be persistent as well, and he lifted her head up to meet her eye to eye. She looked at him with pained pools of gray and a trembling bottom lip. He kissed her tenderly to show his feelings though physical contact, if she was so determined to not to understand through words.
Pulling away, he rested his forehead against hers. "So if I say its okay, I really mean it," he told her sternly, but still keeping his tone gentle with her. She kept quiet about that matter, and still seemed upset about it, so Ichigo tried to change the conversation to something else. "So did you see me walking back at Aizen's place?" he asked, attempting to make her smile. "It was shitty steps, but that's promising, don't you think?"
Hearing Orihime's faint laugh and a small smile appearing on her lips, he thought it was at least some progress. She was still tearing up, but it just might take some time for things to calm down for her, was all. "Now, sleep, Inoue... You need it."
Nodding, Orihime wrapped her arm around his side, being wary of his bruised front side. Ichigo was starting to nod off, just about to reach that blessed darkness he'd been avoided the past few days, when her quiet voice whispered something almost inaudible.
"Kurosaki-kun, I... I knew you before," she blurted out, bringing him back to the late, but awake world.
"What do you mean?" Ichigo asked, stifling a yawn as he spoke.
"Back in daycare, when we were so little, um..." she wasn't sure how else to continue, so she let herself trail off. It took Ichigo a few minutes, and Orihime was sure he'd fallen asleep when he inhaled sharply.
"Oh! God, that was so long ago, Inoue. How do you even remember stuff like that?" he inquired, genuinely shocked and baffled at her good memory and their apparent relationship way before she moved to Karakura as a teen.
"You were my first and only friend at the time," she replied, snuggling into his chest. "How could I forget?" Smiling at her, Ichigo had to admit it was a solid point. A sad one, definitely, but it made sense.
"See? It's fate." He didn't particularly like throwing around that word, considering how he was a person who preferred to shape his own destiny, but things had been too damn coincidental as of late, and it was all things he couldn't ignore.
Humming in approval and understanding, Orihime's eyes fluttered closed, nodding off into a deep sleep, in which Ichigo followed her example only moments later.
A few weeks later, they were back home and back in school. Ichigo and Orihime had been detained the following day for questioning and debriefing, only to find that Aizen and Grimmjow were never found underneath all the rubble. Whether or not they died or actually escaped was still unknown, but the police decided to close their case until further notice. If either of them were spotted again, either of the teens would be able to take legal measures if they so chose to.
Rangiku could only stay so long with Orihime before returning back to her own home. Her initial stay with Orihime was only temporary, and she had stayed plenty long already, but Orihime could tell there was a nagging feeling from her aunt as she stood by the door with her suitcase next to her.
"Are you sure you don't need me to stay a little longer?" Rangiku asked in concern, looking at her niece, then back at the boy next to her. Orihime nodded and turned to Ichigo, whom was still somewhat wrapped up in bandages like a mummy. Reaching out to hold his hand, she nodded and smiled.
"I'll be just fine, and Kurosaki-kun is just down the road if I need someone around." Ichigo grinned back at Orihime warmly, not really caring about how stupid he probably looked while her aunt was around. Truth be told, Rangiku was still worried about Orihime, and she probably would be for some time. With Aizen and Grimmjow still on the loose, she wouldn't know if they'd come back for Orihime. But she also couldn't stay here forever, and Orihime was already an independent individual that could take care of herself just fine.
Cracking a small smirk, Rangiku picked up her purse and slung it onto her shoulder, grabbing a hold of her suitcase with her other hand. "Well, if Ichigo-kun is going to be coming over more frequently, at least promise me you'll use protection!" Orihime turned the darkest red she'd ever been and Ichigo spluttered and flailed around.
"N-No, it won't be like that! I'm not going to do anything Inoue doesn't want to do," Ichigo explained, practically dying on the inside. She only smirked wider and grabbed the door knob. As much as she wanted to retort with another snappy, witty comeback, she knew it would make her already mortified niece pass out or something equally bad.
"Make sure you call regularly," she instructed Orihime, whom nodded promisingly as she watched her aunt leave out the door. Once the quiet click of the door was heard and the two teens both let go of a breath they didn't know they were holding in the first place.
"I'm going to miss her..." Orihime quietly admitted, turning to face Ichigo with a somewhat disheartened look on her face.
"You'll still be able to talk to her, don't worry." Ichigo motioned for them to go to the all-too familiar couch and sit where it's more comfortable, and she wholly agreed to that idea. Together they made their way there, Orihime walking and Ichigo rolling, but he stopped a good few feet away from the furniture, determined to at least take his own steps to it, despite still being somewhat injured. Orihime held onto his hands, inwardly very proud of how far he'd gotten with his walking. Taking step by step, she knew he was still weakened for the most part, but he was also trying his best. "You know, there was a reason I never wanted to walk before," he spoke under his breath, confusing his poor girlfriend.
Helping him down onto the couch, Ichigo opted to take her down with him, causing them both to collapse onto the cushions, with Orihime lying on top of him. At first she was going to protest at how he was still healing and she was far too heavy to be lying on him, but the sharp look in his eyes told him better not dare say it. "And what was that?" She half-pouted, curious as to his odd words.
Looking a little more serious, he paused to collect and determine just what words would be best to say. "With my mom... She was the most important person to me at the time. I thought, 'what's the point of walking if she's gone?'" Orihime frowned a little, considering this was the first time Ichigo had ever talked about his mother in such a sad way. If anything before, it had been either neutral or rather positive.
"So what made you change your mind now?" she asked, her tone gentle and not wanting to force the subject at hand. Ichigo managed to turn a little redder, at least compared to earlier, and desired to look at anything but Orihime. Though her open, wondering expression had him staring all over again.
"... My mom was my most important person before, but you, Inoue..." Watching her cheeks start to light up similarly to how his did, he thought she was starting to catch on. "You're my... my..." Trailing off again and growing frustrated, Ichigo swore under his breath and instead kissed the girl in his arms long and passionately, as cheesy as it seemed to him at the time. He knew he was a man better suited for actions, not words, and he really hoped she would understand what he was trying to say.
Pulling away and hearing a soft pop from the lips separating, Orihime's cheeks were red and her smile was wide. Even her eyes, partially closed from the kiss just moments before, seemed to be happy and glowing too.
"You're my most important person too, Kurosaki-kun."