Basically the story is about what happens to Ichigo and his human friends in between the 17 months after he beat Aizen and the current arc, The Lost Substitute Shinigami arc. I wondered what happened during those 17months. All the characters seem more or less happy, particular Ichigo and Orihime. I was expecting them to be more down or depressed after everything that happened. Ok granted it was a year and a half, for their wounds to heal, but that brings me back to what happened during that year and half. Being an IchiHime fan I came up with the idea of Ichigo and Orihime bonding with each other over the past year and helping each other deal with what happened. Obviously the fic has some spoilers for the Fake Karakura Town arc. I welcome constructive criticism and knowing my grammar I will probably need it.
Character's thoughts are in italics and apostrophes. I put Zangetsu's words in italics as well, but he has quotes around his words.
Edited: Thanks to AlternatePosition the grammar mistakes I made in this chapter have been fixed. I am re-posting it. Sorry for anyone who saw this in their mail-box and thought it was a new chapter.
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach. If I did the FKT arc would not have been as long as it was.
"If you use this technique, you will lose all of your shinigami powers. Farewell, Ichigo."He replayed those words in his head over and over again. Zangetsu had told him, no he warned him, that if he used the Final Getsuga Tensho he would lose all of his shinigami powers. But defeating Aizen and protecting his town was worth any cost, and if he had to do it over again he wouldn't have changed anything. He had defeated Aizen, saved his town, and miraculously all of his friends survived. He had nothing to complain about. In fact he should be happy. Damn it he was happy!
'Then why do I feel so….hollow?'he asked himself. He never wanted to be a shinigami to begin with. He only became one to save his family from a hollow and that was it, or at least that was how he had intended it, but the job was forced on him by Rukia. He winched at the thought of the raven haired shinigami, who had changed his world. Now he would never feel her presence, never argue with her, never talk to her, and never see her again.
"If you use this technique, you will lose all of your shinigami powers."
A frown appeared on his face, not his usual I don't give a damn frown, but one of sorrow. 'Zangetsu said I would lose all of my shinigami powers, but I always assumed that I would still be able to see spirits. I thought I would be the exact same way I was before I became a shinigami. I never knew that my ability to see spirits was a part of my shinigami powers.'
Now he realized the full weight of Zangetsu's words. His farewell had been more than just that. Zangetsu's words were meant to send Ichigo off into an entirely new life, one of normality. Gone was his old life, no longer would he fight hollows, send lost souls off to peace, or even see spirits. For the first time in his life, Kurosaki Ichigo was truly normal.
'Stupid! Why are you sad?' he asked himself. 'This is what you always wanted, to be normal. No more having people look at you oddly for talking to someone they can't see. No more attracting hollows with my reiatsu, no more having to miss school to fight crazy wars. No more seeing Rukia or the others...'
Ichigo was standing just outside of his family's clinic, his gaze on the night sky. The sun had set a long time ago, and its counterpart had taken up the task of illuminating the sky. The moon was full tonight which made it a beautiful sight to behold, but its beauty was lost on Ichigo. His eyes were on the sky, but his attention was on the past. More specifically his attention was on the events that happened last month.
His frown grew. It had only been an hour or two since he woke up, and since he saw Rukia fade away before his eyes. He had put on his usual mask of indifference in front his friends to ease their worry. He didn't want to burden them with his problems, especially Ishida and Inoue after what happened. In Hueco Mundo, during his last battle with Ulquiorra, he had lost control of his hollow and attacked Ishida, impaling the quincy with his Tensa Zangetsu. The way Inoue looked at him when he finally regained control of his body that completely terrified expression, tears running down her face. How could he burden them with his problems after everything he did to them? And this was not a problem to begin with. He was not going to bitch about losing his spiritual power. "You're normal now just like you always wanted," he whispered to himself.
"Kurosaki-kun," cried a weak and gentle yet warming voice.
The orange haired ex-substitute's eyes followed the direction of the voice and found the owner; they instantly fell on the familiar brown eyed and orange haired woman standing in front of the Kurosaki clinic only a foot away from him. "Inoue?" he said. She was staring at him. Her brown eyes were filled with apprehension and uncertainty, her lips curved upside down in her own frown. He had become familiar with this look; this was the look Inoue had on her face during his fights with Grimmjow and Ulquiorra. "What are you doing here?"
The girl's cheeks suddenly flared red. "I….um… well you see….," she couldn't help but stutter and trip on her own words. 'Why do I always have to get so flustered when I am around Kurosaki-kun? God this is so embarrassing,' she thought. "I was just um…." 'I wanted to see how you are doing. I wanted to make sure you were really awake and I wasn't dreaming. More importantly I just wanted to see your face. How hard is that to say? Oh no, he keeps staring at me I have to say something.' "…. taking a walk!" she exclaimed. 'That's perfect!' she thought, patting herself on the back. "I was just taking a walk."
Disbelief fell on Ichigo's face, causing the orange haired beauty's blush to intensify. "You're taking a walk." he repeated.
"Yes, I was taking a walk. I was at home when I looked out of my window at the night sky to watch the stars. I thought the stars looked so beautiful so I decide to get better view by going outside. I just started walking and star gazing and I thought it would be great to be an alien. Aliens get to see stars all the time and they have these really cool space ships with huge laser guns. You could travel around space looking at stars and shooting big laser guns to blow up meteors and stuff." She raised her arms to the sky, extending her index fingers in thumbs making gun shapes. The healer started to mimic laser noises, firing her imaginary blast at the sky.
The ex-substitute's eyes widened in surprise at Inoue's imitation of an alien, it took all of his will power to keep his mouth shut. He didn't know why he was surprised, after all this was Inoue, for her this was normal. 'I'm not sure if I will ever understand her.'
Orihime finished her alien demonstration and returned her attention to Ichigo, whom she noticed was giving her a strange look. Her embarrassment increased 10 fold. At that moment she just wanted to crawl under a rock. "Without even realizing it I came here," she said barely above a whisper.
Ichigo's right eye brow rose and his trade mark scowl returned. "You are telling me you walked here without paying attention to where you were going?"
"Um….I guess so," she spoke in the same low tone. She noticed his scowl became even scarier.
"Inoue it's already dangerous for you to be walking alone at night, but to walk without paying attention to your surroundings."
"I guess that's kind of dumb, huh?" She gently punched herself in the head.
"Yeah that's dumb! What if some guys jumped you, or worse?" his voice rose louder than he intended it to. Being reprimanded made the healer's face fall in shame. A pang of guilt hit the ex-substitute. He didn't mean to yell at her, he just wanted her to be safe. 'Good job genius.'"Hah," he exhaled, while he rubbed the back of his head. "Look I didn't mean to yell at you. I just want you to be safe." He averted his gaze from her. For some reason he always found it hard to look Inoue in the face whenever he had to apologize to her.
A small smile formed on the healer at his confession.'Kurosaki-kun is so kind. He is always worrying about me. Not just me, but all of his friends.' "Thank you for your concern, Kurosaki-kun." She continued to smile.
"No problem," he uttered. His brown eyes found their way back to Inoue's face. Her flawless skin was illuminated by the moon light, her own brown orbs sparkled, and even her hair seemed to glow with unearthly yet enchanting shine. For the first time he noticed her beauty, I mean really noticed it. He wasn't oblivious he knew she was gorgeous, hell Keigo told him that every day. But this time he actually stopped and took notice of her.
"Kurosaki-kun?" She was watching him in curiosity. 'Why is he staring at me?'
"Huh?" 'Wait, have I been staring at her this whole time? Damn that's embarrassing. Get it together.' A light blush graced his face, and he once again looked away from her. "W-what is it?" he finally asked.
"I was just wondering um... never mind."
He was thankful she didn't question him. It was embarrassing enough that she caught him just gawking at her, but if she had asked him why, there was no way he could answer that without her thinking he was some kind of perv or stalker. An awkward silence fell upon them, that neither teen was eager to break. Instead they just stood there, turning their attention to the night sky. They watched the stars dancing and dazzling. The moon continued to fight the darkness around it. To Ichigo it looked as though the moon was trying to protect the stars, so that could continue their dance. 'Inoue is right, the stars look nice tonight.'Several minutes passed before Ichigo finally broke the silence. "It's getting pretty late. Come on, I'll walk you home."
"Umm!" she squeaked. Surely her ears were playing tricks on her. There was just no way that Kurosaki Ichigo, the object of her affection, actually said he would walk her home. "I…I'm sorry, but what did you say?"
"I said I'll walk you home," he repeated in the same neutral tone as before.
"T-there is no need for you to walk me home, Kurosaki-kun. You're probably still tired from earlier, and you are right outside your house. I don't want to take you out your way. I'll just walk home by myself. I'll be fine, I'm used to walking home alone when Tatsuki-chan has to stay late for karate practice anyway," the orange haired healer blurted out in quick succession.
"No," he stated bluntly, confusing Orihime.
"No you are not walking home alone. It's late, and your neighborhood isn't exactly the best place to be at night." He had only been to her place a few times, but from what he saw it was run down. The residents were kind, and during the day it was all sun flowers and daisies. At night it was almost a completely different place. That's when all the wannabe thugs came out. He remembered the first time he had been to Inoue's place at night. How he was racing there with Rukia to stop her hollow crazed brother, Sora, from killing her. But even in all that confusion and hustle he noticed just how run down her neighborhood was. There was no way in hell he would let her walk home by herself. She would most likely get mugged or groped, maybe something worst. 'I'll be damned if I let some fucking perv have his way with Inoue!' His protection mode had fully activated.
She felt so stupid as another blush came to her cheeks. All she did was blush. Thankfully it was night, so she was sure he did not notice her constant blushes. "It's alright, Kurosaki-kun, I don't want to burden you."
"Idiot, it's no burden at all. What would be a burden is if you got jumped by some perv. If that happened then I would have to hunt him down and kick his ass for messing with one of friends. And you know Ishida and Chad would want in on this, and then all three of us would end up killing him and going to prison. Going to prison will be a huge burden," he joked, but it was still in his usual serious tone, which made it hard tell he was joking. Without another word he started walking.
Orihime remained still. She was lost unsure of what had actually happened.'Did Kurosaki-kun just make a joke?' she asked herself. Was that a good thing or a bad thing? He was always so serious, and he was often annoyed when Asano-kun or his father would goof around and joke with him.
"Hey Inoue!" he called, pulling her out of her thoughts. He had stopped a few feet a head of her. "Come on, let's get going."
"Y-yes, I'm coming." She jogged to catch up to him. Once she closed the distance between them, the two orange haired teens started to walk together. Silence returned to them, but this one was not awkward. It was strangely comforting. Her lips curved into light smile. Being in Ichigo's presence enveloped her in a warm blanket that made her feel secure, as though nothing or no one could harm her. 'I miss this feeling.'The smile disappeared, and a frown formed in its place. Orihime used to feel this secure feeling no matter where she went in Karakura Town. Ichigo's very reiatsu had the ability to produce this wondrous effect on her. However, these last few weeks she was unable to sense even an ounce of Ichigo's reiatsu. That never happened before; she had always been able to sense Ichigo's reiatsu. Even when Hachi's barrier had sealed Ichigo off from everyone in the Human World, she was still able to sense his reiatsu. When he transformed into that, horrible monster and his reiatsu became just as horrible, she could still sense a small part of his calming and warming reiatsu.
'That horrible form that he took on to help me,'she thought and guilt gripped her heart. She still had nightmares of the man she loved remaining transformed and desperately fighting off and killing all of their friends in order to "save" her. As frightening as that whole ordeal was, she was able to hold on to a sliver of hope, because she could sense small traces of her Kurosaki-kun's reiatsu. When he was finally freed from that thing, his normal protective reiatsu broke through with him, easing her heart-ache, and erasing the terrible memories of her stay at Hueco Mundo, if only for a moment.
In that moment she knew that everything would be alright, that's why she didn't bat an eye when he rushed to off to another fight to save Rukia and the others. The fluctuating reiatsu she felt at the bottom of the dome did not concern her at all. As long as she felt his reiatsu everything was fine. She remembered Ishida asking her if she was alright, and his surprised expression when she smiled at him and told him everything was going to be alright.
Little did she know, that would be the last time she felt Ichigo's reiatsu. Just as Orihime had finished up healing Ishida's arm, Ichigo's reiatsu disappeared without a trace. Now she knew that the reason it disappeared was because Ichigo went to the Human World to fight Aizen, but at the time she had no idea what had happened. All she knew was that her safe blanket was ripped away, and her body was forced out into the unforgiving cold. 'I was so frightened. I thought Kurosaki-kun might have….might have….really died, for real this time.'
A sigh escaped her mouth. The orange haired boy turned his head to her.
"Are you alright?" he asked, the concern was evident in his voice.
Not wanting to worry or burden him with her silly problems, Orihime put on the biggest smile she could. "I'm fine Kurosaki-kun. I was just thinking that's all." She really hoped that he bought it. Her lying skills were as Tatsuki said so painfully pathetic that even a three year old could see through them.
His eyes narrowed, examining her. He couldn't put his finger on it, but there was something off about her smile. 'I'm probably just imagining things,' he thought. He considered asking her what she was thinking about, but decided against it, not wanting to pry in her business. Instead he returned his focus to the road ahead of them.
Orihime's eyes lingered on to the man she had given her heart to. It was odd that even being only inches apart that she could not sense anything from him. What Urahara had said was true; Ichigo really had lost all of his spiritual power.
The rest of their journey was quiet. Several times Orihime tried to start a conversation, but every time she opened her mouth words failed to come out. So many questions came into her mind. How was he doing? What happened in his battle with Aizen? What did he do that made his hair grow so long? There was one question that she wanted answered the most, but at the same time she was afraid to hear the answer.
'Do you blame me for losing your powers?'Of course he did. The only reason Ichigo went to Hueco Mundo was to rescue her. If she hadn't gotten kidnapped, he never would have left Karakura Town. He could have continued his training, and then he might have gotten strong enough to defeat Aizen, without having to use that technique. He wouldn't have had to say goodbye to Rukia.
The image of Ichigo's face when he said his final farewell to Rukia came into her head. He tried to hide his sadness from them with a smile, but she could tell he was putting on a mask for their benefit. The bigger the smile, the more he was hurting on the inside. The smile he gave them was so big that he wasn't Ichigo anymore. It hurt her to see him in so much torment.
'Torment that I caused,' she thought, as she closed her eye lids. 'All I do is make those around me suffer. Sora had to struggle so much to raise me. He gave up everything, the chance to go to college, his social life, and even his health to give me a better life. How did I repay him? I told him his gift, the hair pins he probably spent hours to find, was stupid. Tatsuki-chan always has to stick up for me; she was nearly killed by hollows because of my reiatsu. Sado-kun and Ishida-kun came all the way to Hueco Mundo to rescue me, and they were both nearly killed. Ishida-kun even lost his arm trying to protect me. Kuchiki-san and Abarai-san could have gotten in real trouble with Soul Society for defying their orders to help me. They were constantly thrown into more and more battles. And Kurosaki-kun, you suffered more than anyone. The fights you endured with Grimmjow, Ulquiorra, and Aizen. All the pain you must have felt, all of the pressure to win, and all I did was watch. Because of me you can't even see Kuchiki-san anymore.' Tears were threatening to escape.
"Inoue," he called out, bringing her back to reality.
"Hmm?" she replied, swiftly rubbing her eyes to wipe away any escaped tears. She couldn't let him see her like this. She had caused him enough trouble. Orihime would suck it up, put on a brave face, and pretend that everything was fine. It was the least she could do.
"We're here," he said. He scanned her face trying to detect if something was wrong. "Are you sure you are alright?" he asked again. Like before, she gave a big smile. It did not ease his ill feelings in the slightest.
"I'm fine Kurosaki-kun, there is no need to worry about me," she insisted, while opening her door. He remained silent, giving his reply with a simple nod. "Thank you for walking me home, Kurosaki-kun."
He shrugged his shoulders. "No problem." He turned around to leave, gave her a quick wave. "Night, Inoue." The ex-substitute made his departure.
"Good night, Kurosaki-kun. Please be safe, and tell your sisters I said hi!"
He waved at her again letting her know that he heard her. Orihime remained at her door until Ichigo was out of eyesight. Suddenly the warmth that she had felt moments ago abandoned her. The healer frowned. "Kurosaki-kun, I'm sorry for causing you so much trouble." Tears returned. "I'm sorry for causing you to lose your powers," she whispered to herself, tears now falling freely.
That's the end of the first chapter. What do you think? This my first Bleach fan fic and to be honest I am nervous. I'm hoping that people like it, even though the idea is not original. Maybe I'll come up with a better title. Nothing comes to my mind right now.