Prompt: Summer festival (Tanabata, Obon, etc.), last year of high school, kimono, plushie doll. Any of these. =)
July – the one time of year Orihime loved the most.
Perhaps it was because of the romantic story of star-struck lovers in Tanabata that only allowed meeting once a year. The idea fascinated yet horrified her at the same time. As it stood now, the thought of not being able to see Ichigo, the one she had loved for so long, only once a year made her heart twist in ways she knew it shouldn't.
However, only weeks prior to the festival, she, Ichigo, and her other friends all graduated from Karakura High, marking this as the last summer before they'd all leave to go to their means of post-secondary education. Orihime's plans were to attend a school in Hokkaido, as an institution provided a full-ride scholarship for her. (She knew it would've been silly to reject that offer considering her financial status.) Ichigo decided to stay around home and "intern" at their family clinic while attending some classes at a nearby community college. And since Hokkaido wasn't very close to home and she more than likely wouldn't have enough money to come home more than once a year, she'd dedicate a week or so around Ichigo's birthday and Tanabata to come home.
Her birthday didn't matter so much. It was Tanabata and Ichigo's birthday that she loved being in Karakura for.
Watching people walk by, families, couples, children, she took in the scenery before her. Maybe Tanabata festivals would be fun in Hokkaido, but they'd be no where near as thrilling as they would be with her friends. Everything in Karakura seemed homelier around this time of year.
As a light breeze blew through the park, the fabric of Orihime's pink and green kimono floated with the wind. She shivered temporarily, at first finding it cold but soon welcoming it. Even if her event with her friends would be cold, she'd still accept it regardless.
"Inoue?" A familiar voice called out to her, causing Orihime to turn her head towards the source of the sound. On the right of her, making his way through a pair of first-graders was Ichigo, clad in fitting jeans, a dark red T-shirt, and a baseball cap upon his head. She couldn't deny that she was a little disappointed to see him in street clothes. She secretly hoped he would've worn a yukata. Regardless, he still looked plenty good-looking in her eyes.
A smile broke out on her face and she stood up, removing herself off the bench. "Good evening, Kurosaki-kun! You're here early," she commented, knowing without looking at a clock or watch it wasn't the meet-up time for their friends. She herself had left an hour beforehand just to people-watch and take in the festival's scenery. It couldn't have been an hour already.
"But you're here even earlier," Ichigo replied, readjusting the baseball cap on his head. "I was wondering if you were going to come before the time everyone else was. Now I'm glad I decided to leave when I did." He looked so nonchalant as he spoke, it surprised Orihime that he was able to speak so calmly, in addition to the actual context of his statement.
Flushing lightly, she mentally willed her blush to go away as she composed herself to talk to Ichigo. "Are you saying you left earlier on purpose? ... For me?" Ichigo didn't blush or anything like she did, but he smiled lightly and nodded.
"You've always been one to arrive early," he commented in return. His eyes shone as if he was recalling all the times she'd been the one to be at an event first. The words insinuating that he'd been noticing that all these years only made her face grow hotter.
"S-Still," she couldn't help but stutter. "You didn't need to come earlier just because you expected me to." Now she was feeling a little odd for showing up at the park when she did, especially since Ichigo came as well, giving them a whole half an hour before the others would start to arrive.
"It gives us more time to spend before then, doesn't it?" Ichigo replied. He pulled his hat down just a little to cover his eyes, turning to face towards the nearby pond. "Besides, we haven't gotten to spend time together like this before and since you're leaving for Hokkaido soon..." He trailed off, unsure of how he should finish. She was sure Ichigo sported a faint blush on his cheeks now, but Orihime couldn't be sure due to the different hues everywhere caused by the sunset.
"Thank you," Orihime murmured, a small smile of her own gracing her features. Ichigo turned back towards her, glancing at her from beneath the bill of his cap. At first his face looked tensed and nervous, but it was her grin that made him relax a bit. On the inside, he was thankful she didn't think the idea of hanging out together was weird.
Taking a step ahead of him, Orihime began her way towards the other end of the park. She turned around to face him for a split second and motioned for him to follow. "Let's go make our wishes, ne?"
Bemused by her enthusiastic attitude, he couldn't help but smile that gentler grin he seemed to only show around her and followed her in pursuit.
The fireworks at the very end of the night were Orihime's favorite part of the festival, but for today, it could be considered the most dreaded. After this, it meant she would have to leave for Hokkaido the next day to give herself enough time to settle onto the campus. The thought was heavy in her heart and by now, she wasn't sure she'd be able to have very much fun without her friends.
Before she and Ichigo met up with the others, Orihime made her wish, per usual of the Tanabata festival. While in past years she wished to keep on loving Ichigo fervently, things were a little different this year. She knew her feelings for Ichigo wouldn't change, at least not for any time soon, so upon the paper, she wrote for Ichigo's safety. She knew he was a tough guy, able to stand on his own for quite some time, but Orihime made the mistake of assuming he'd be alright in Hueco Mundo during his fight with Ulquiorra. Without her around healing him like she had in high school, it was all a mystery as to how he would do after she left.
Letting go of a staggering sigh, she rubbed at her eyes to wipe away brimming tears. The fireworks and their colors were getting all blurred together because of her sudden bought of crying. Not to mention she couldn't have one of her friends come over and be concerned. She'd cried far too much in the past few years; she didn't want them to see her crying now. Orihime wanted to appear to be a strong, matured college-bound woman.
Someone plopped down into the spot next to her and at first she assumed it to be Tatsuki. While still in a general group before, Orihime had been spending most of the night with her, while Ichigo hung out with Sado and Keigo. It was much to her surprise to see Ichigo sitting down, with two taiyaki in hand. He held out one of them for her.
"Here, Inoue. You looked like you could use a snack," he commented, offering it to her. She tentatively took it with one hand and reached for her bag.
"Thank you, Kurosaki-kun..." she mumbled, embarrassed that he got something for her. She took out her wallet and pulled out enough money to cover her part of the snack. "Here." She forced the change into his space, waiting for him to take it, but he just glanced at it and shook his head instead.
"It's my treat," he continued, the edges of his lips threatening to tweak themselves in a small smirk. This caused her to blush brighter all while her heart raced and pounded in her ribcage. He was being so kind tonight, more so than usual, and it left Orihime a little anxious. She knew she was either getting her hopes up and seeing things that weren't there or maybe she was trying to see the most of Ichigo, even his utmost caring side, as she could before she had to go.
To keep from letting a mix of a sigh and groan out, she bit down on the treat and closed her eyes tight. Regardless of whether or not Ichigo was acting different, she was growing sadder with each nearing moment of the end of the festival. She didn't particularly want to leave Karakura, but she also knew Sora would've encouraged her to go explore the world, because no matter what she did, her friends and family would always be there for here no matter the location. She wasn't regretting anything, but it still made her upset.
"The fireworks are cool," Ichigo murmured, sensing the silence that fell upon them. It was unusual for Orihime to be quieter, thus the sudden conversation, but he also gathered the notion that it had something to do with her leaving.
Raising her head to watch the bright explosions, she sniffled faintly and blinked. They were beautiful as always, and in a sense, she felt like each firework set off into a plethora of colors mimicked the way her heart beat so rapidly in her chest. "They're very pretty," she replied, muffling her words with another bite of taiyaki. Her throat was starting to hurt from the restrained tears and had she not taken a bite of it, it probably would've been all too obvious.
Another silence graced their presence, and neither could tell if it was comfortable or not. Ichigo had finished up his own taiyaki and let himself collapse onto the grassy hill he sat upon. The cool blades felt funny as they brushed his tanned skin, but it didn't bother him so much, as he had other things to think about. Pulling his hat over his eyes, Ichigo knew he wouldn't be watching the rest of fireworks.
Orihime was busy watching the fireworks when he mumbled something under his breath. Although slightly teary-eyed, she allowed herself to turn and lean just a few centimeters closer to Ichigo. "What was that? I didn't quite catch it..."
His lips were pulled into a tight line and Orihime couldn't see his eyes at all when he murmured, "You'll be missed, you know." To Ichigo, it was the simplest way he'd be able to say he'd miss her. He'd been giving it thought all evening on how to approach the issue, but it was the best he was able to come up with.
A little unsure of how to interpret his words, Orihime tilted her head a little to the side, turning away from him ever so slightly as she quietly replied back, "I know I'll miss you, Kurosaki-kun..." Coming home once a year or not, she would still miss the sound of his voice and his touches. Like those times he would casually tap her on the shoulder; those were the times she cherished.
Just then, Ichigo's hand reached out to grip the crook of Orihime's elbow. Startled by the sudden action, she turned back around to face him in concern, and was soon met with a pair of lips. It was awkward and inexperienced, especially considering how he had pulled her down partially to kiss her. She was just about to flail and flip out that she must have accidentally fell on top of him in his attempt to grab onto her, thus instigating the kiss, but he soon broke it off and blurted out a string of curses.
"F-Fuck, Inoue... I just... I didn't mean to..." he groaned, pulling his hat down even further over his eyes, if possible. "I'm sorry, but..." Swearing again, he thought of himself as only stupid for letting his actions take control and doing something he personally didn't regret, but Orihime may now be upset with.
Still shocked, she raised her hand to her lips, covering them with a wide pair of eyes. Her words were caught in her throat, but with the fireworks ending soon, anything she needed to ask or say needed to be done now. "W-Was that supposed to be an accident, Kurosaki-kun?"
Ichigo only shook his head in the negative, purposely looking at the ground and not at her. Embarrassment and frustrations be damned, he couldn't lie to her. But he considered himself stupid for doing that right when she would have to leave so soon. Things would be forever awkward because of what he did.
"Then... it's okay," she murmured, lightly placing her hand on top of his in reassurance. A slight shake could be felt coming from her appendage, alerting Ichigo she was just as anxious as he was at the moment. "It's okay, Kurosaki-kun."
Sneaking a quick glance, he was surprised to see her so accepting about it. He was about to say something more, no doubt more apologies and another round of cursing at his stumbling over words, but Orihime leaned a little closer to him to kiss him in return. It was faint, no more than a vague brush of their lips, but in her mind, what she did took so much courage.
She pulled away just as quick, her face as red as a tomato. "A-Are we even now?" she found herself blurting out. Ichigo was now the stunned one, but in the recesses of his heart, he felt a swell of happiness and eagerness that he hadn't felt for quite some time. It was light and uplifting.
Swallowing thickly, he brushed his fingers against his lips for a brief moment. "Inoue?" he called out her name another time. Just as she turned towards him again, the last firework shot up into the air and exploded into a rainbow of bright colors. In that time, Ichigo's lips curled themselves up into a heartfelt smile, something that made his cheeks hurt, but in a way that he whole-heartedly accepted. "I'll miss you too."