To "seichirokamui", as a thanks for all her encouragement. I think you'll like this one too...
Plot: Orihime unintentionally stirs Ichigo's weakest spot. It's a painful experience for both of them, but they will find it essential for promoting there relationship. Life is not just sunshine and daisies after all... But they both already had learned that at an early age.
One-shoot. From fluff to drama and back.
Disclaimer: Thanks to Kubo Tite.
English is still not my native, nor will it ever be... ( just telling those of you who're not already familiar with my oddities)
Orihime's eyes were closed, and the sun's rays were warming her face nicely. The flickering orange light shone through her eyelids, and even though a wind was starting to blow, she wasn't cold. Her back was secured comfortably into her boyfriends broad chest, and she she didn't need anything warmer than what his body-heat provided.
They were at one of there favorite places: under a huge oak tree, halfway up the little hill, from where there was a nice view of Karakura town. They found this place during one of there many wanderings at the beginning of their relationship. Their first kiss had happened here, and they had been coming here often for practicing the same art away from prying eyes. This was their secret place.
Orihime felt a light touch on her chin, and her mouth was pulled upwards into a warm smile. She lifted her head from his shoulder, and looked up, to see chocolate brown eyes stare back at her gently.
'Umm?' she inquired.
Ichigo only shook his head as an answer, smiling, and leaned slowly down to connect there lips together. Orihime turned in his embrace, so that they were now facing each other. Ichigo put his hands to her sides, lifting her up easily, like she was feather light. He pulled her closer, and positioned her more comfortably in his lap.
Orihime giggled a little. She just loved how strong her boyfriend was... She raised two tentative hands and brought them to roam under the sleeves of his shirt, feeling the hard muscles of his biceps. As always, she was letting him control the situation, taking delight in the sensations he was giving her. She felt safe and secure.
When she was with him, she could let go of everything... there were no worries, no anxiety, because he was there for her. His strong arms protected her from three world's worth of troubles... He was always there to protect her when ever hollows showed up from Hueco Mundo. He had protected her a few month ago, when members of the stealth force showed up from Soul Society, bringing orders from the Central 46 to take her and Chad in for questioning, concerning their business with the fullbringers... (Ichigo had told them to either just go back to Soul Society, or to go to hell, and in such a manner, that they had no means to argue – namely with his sword...)
In the human world he constantly protected her from thugs, and troublesome "admirers"... Somehow there were always too many of those around her... Only last week, he had made her formidable landlady apologize to her, after the old hag had behaved rather rude with her, because she hadn't been able to pay her in time, due to a hold-up in her salary at her workplace, the bakery. And of course he was always there to prevent any coming catastrophe her own clumsiness and happy-go-lucky attitude was sure to bring upon her.
Ichigo always acted like a total gentleman around her, being gentle with her, and looking out for her wishes, even before she could have said them. He did everything he could think of to make his girlfriend happy. He was always the one to come up with ideas for what they should do, but usually choose something that would please her. He made her feel like a real princess...
This was exactly what she needed. She was a girl who naturally needed some guidance, some watching over in this life, and ever since her brother died, she had no-one. Everybody always said she was an air-head, and she had to agree with that. She needed underlines for being able to write the pages of her life in some order, and she had used her strong Ichigo for that purpose even before he started returning her feelings. She was like a gentle dove, who could only fly freely on the sky, when it has a safe home to return to. Ichigo was the perfect safe harbor for her... She needed someone as strong as him by her side.
Now her whole word seemed perfect, because after two years of always standing in his shadow, Ichigo had finally decided to return her feelings. She didn't know what brought it about. One day, when they had been going home together from school, he suddenly asked her if it was all right for him to hold her hand. Just like that. And from that day on, they were together. It had been totally different from what Orihime had always imagined. There were no big confessions or open declarations of love, no red roses, or falling down on knees, and certainly no white horses, or cheesy background music...
The changes in Ichigo's behavior towards herself had been so subtle at first, that their friends didn't even notice it... But she welcomed every new tell-tail of his affections gladly. Every day brought something new. Ichigo had led her into the relationship slowly, gently, but confidently, taking always one step at a time. It took two weeks until he asked her properly out on a date. And monthes before the first kiss... but Orihime realized that the wait only made it more special, like it was with X-mas gifts... Their relationship made her feel like she was a small child living in a world of a thousand little X-masses. They didn't declare they were in love, jumping into a relationship, but worked hard to build one, step by step.
Orihime sometimes felt that she was being unfair, and she should be more active and initiative in there relationship, but it was so nice a change to finally have somebody to look after her, that she just couldn't help taking advantage of that. Also, waiting patiently for Ichigo to make the first move seemed like the best – or she should say the only working – strategy with him. They really completed each other...
But Orihime knew that something was still missing... Even though they've been dating for half a year now, and it was evident that they both cared for each other deeply, she could tell that his boyfriend was holding back... on the emotional side of things, and on the physical too... They still haven't done much beside kissing. There was occasionally this light in his eyes that promised more, but nothing ever came out of it... Her own hormones were now starting to make her kind of impatient. But when ever she tried to be more "active", he would pull back immediately...
This made her uneasy. She felt this hesitance in him, and wondered if he was still uncertain about the extent of his feelings for her... It felt like it, and that made her sad. Because she was sure about her owns... The only thing she could do was trying to show them to him in every possible way, hoping that more time would gradually solve this problem.
Tatsuki-chan told her not to worry, because Ichigo had always been real dense, especially concerning emotional matters... Rukia-chan suggested he might be cautious, because of his hollow, and that he must be repressing his "instincts" to protect her. Abarai-kun – who unfortunately overheard the conversation – even suggested alcohol to solve this problem... and Rangiku-chan delightfully presented her with a few tips on how to be more straightforward, which made her blush whenever she thought about them...
But today, none of this mattered, because Ichigo seemed eager enough without any encouragement... They continued to make out under that tree, the kisses becoming more and more heated. Her hands left his shoulders, to come up and be entangled in his orange locks, and his hands were searching her back, making her arch into him. Orihime was so lost in this peaceful world, that she didn't notice the temperature drop gradually, even though there were now goose-bumps on her arms. The wind was blowing more fiercely by the minute. No sun-rays fond there way through the thick blanket of ugly gray-black clouds...
Suddenly Orihime felt the warmness of Ichigo's body disappear, and she opened her eyes disappointed, to find out the reason for the sudden end of kisses. Ichigo's face was turned upwards, looking at the sky.
'A raindrop... we should head back... ' he said.
Orihime looked up too. It was evident that a storm was coming. They could feel a wave of wind sweep up the little hill, that was stronger than the ones before.
Orihime started to laugh.
'I don't mind a little rain, silly... ' she tried to turn his head back, wanting to resume the kisses, but he wouldn't let her. She pouted. 'Even if we run now, we won't reach any shelter before it hits... best wait it out here...'
Ichigo was wearing a frown, that was very close to his average scowl, but she noticed that his eyes danced uneasily as he studied the darkening sky.
'Let's go anyway... I don't want you catch a cold or something!'
Orihime was a little confused by his seriousness, but didn't argue further.
'Ok. ' she said, getting up, and patting the dust from the backside of her jeans, trying hard to do it just the way Tatsuki-chan instructed: in a way to drive all boys crazy. 'But I bet I could make you stay... ' she added playfully, sending him a seductive smile.
He didn't even hear her. He was already collecting their belongings, pushing her jacket at her, and taking up their bags. Orihime's face fell. Looked like the sunshine took her boyfriend's sunny mood with it. She didn't understand...
They started to go down the narrow path that led back to the the town, ducking under low branches, and avoiding bushes. Ichigo led the way, going so fast, that she had trouble keeping up. More and more raindrops fell on their heads, and when they were only halfway down, it started to rain in earnest. Thin yellow lines of lightning illuminated the sky, followed by the roar of thunders. Orihime got out of the sleeves of her jacket, securing the robe over her head. Ichigo only had a sweater. It wasn't waterproof, but he pulled it's hoody up to achieve some protection. Despite all this, they became soaking wet within no time.
'Ichigo! Wait up!' Orihime cried. Than she added to herself more quietly: 'Told you we should have stayed under that tree... EEK!'
She tripped on a loose root in the semi darkness of the storm, and fell down, rolling a few meters in the slippery mud. Ichigo turned back, and helped her up. His expression was angry.
'Quit fooling around, Hime! Here, hold my hand!'
Orihime's protest was struck in her throat. Ichigo was keeping a firm hold on her hand, and was practically hauling her after him. She was confused, and a little hurt. Why was Ichigo suddenly behaving so rough with her? What did she do to deserve this? He was never before like this with her... And why was he so impatient? What could be the meaning of this... She studied Ichigo's face under his hoody while they were running. His mouth was pressed together in a thin line, and his eyes were round, insecure... like he was afraid for some reason. Maybe Ichigo was afraid of thunderstorms? The mere thought was ridiculous...
They reached the outskirts of the town, and were now running through the flooded streets. Ichigo stopped to look around widely, trying to decide which way to run next, when a big, fancy, black car glided past them, spraying them with water and mud. Ichigo, who was on the outer side of the pavement, got a face-full.
'Oh, how careless they can get!' Orihime exclaimed looking after the BMW angrily. Then she searched her jeans's pocket for a handkerchief. She drew one out with a triumphant expression. 'Tadam! And it's even still kind of dry!' She started to brush his face clean gently. But he stayed her hand.
'What are you doing...?' he whispered. His eyes held pain in them.
'Just cleaning your face... I... ' She was really starting to get worried about him now... maybe he was coming down with a sickness, or something... 'Let's just hurry home, ok? But I'll walk on the street-side... I won't get any wetter than I already am... and I have a jacket!'
He looked at her, and his expression was a mixture of disbelief, shock and fear.
'What did you say...?'
'I know Yuzu expects us for dinner, but my apartment is closer...' Orihime suggested.
'Ok, let's go there.' he agreed weakly.
She took his hand now, smiling at him encouragingly. 'Here, this way... I know a short-cut!'
He let her lead the way this time. She too was now anxious to get home as soon as possible. They went a few streets further on. They only needed to find the little bridge to take them over Karakura river, her apartment being not far on the other side. But she missed the correct turn in her haste, and they arrived to the riverside a corner away from there destination. Orihime wanted to run on, but felt her companion suddenly ducking his feet into the ground firmly, not moving...
'No way... no freaking way... ' she heard him say. It was weird enough in itself, but his look that went with those words scared her more than anything. She put all of her effort into trying to move him on, pulling on his hand, but to no avail.
'Come on!' she cried.
He finally turned his stare on her, and unreasonable anger was burning in his eyes.
'I'm not going that way!' he declared stubbornly.
Orihime felt herself at a total loss for what to do.
'Ichigo! What's the matter?' she asked, concern coloring her voice.
'Nothing... just let's go some other way, please!' he said, more softer now, almost pleadingly.
Suddenly Orihime heard a scream through the howling wind and loud pounding of raindrops. As she turned around to search for the one in trouble, she felt a disturbance in the spiritual pressure waves...
The spirit of a little boy was being attacked by a hollow not far from them, at the riverside. He was clearly running as fast as his short legs would carry him, trying in vain to outrun the monster gaining on him. They had to help that poor boy!
Orihime turned back to Ichigo, expecting him to be already ready for battle. But he didn't move.
'That boy needs help!' Orihime shouted, hoping to shake him out of it. But then she saw his eyes. They showed pure terror... He was frozen.
Orihime heard the spirit scream again, and decided there was no more time to waste... she turned her back on her boyfriend, and rushed ahead, her hand finding the 6 petaled flower shaped hairpins, that were secured to the neckline of her blouse.
'Orihime!' Ichigo shouted desperately after her.
She shouted 'Santen Kesshun!' in time, and her shield was just able to prevent the hollow taking hold of he boy. At the same time, she could feel with satisfaction, that Ichigo was also activating his powers, and in the blink of an eye, he was before the hollow, dealing it a blow with his sword. It wounded the creature, but the cut was too shallow... it only served to anger the monster more. It came back, attacking, howling it's rage to the stormy sky.
Ichigo's blade stopped the thrust of his clawed hand, but he seemed to be struggling with holding back his opponent's strength. Orihime couldn't believe her eyes... this was just an ordinary hollow... nothing more...
Ichigo fell to the ground. The monster's second blow got to him, leaving a huge gash on his shoulder.
'Koten Zashun!' cried Orihime, and Tsubaki's attack cut one of the hollow's arms off. The monster momentarily forgot it's previous opponent, directing it's rage towards her. Ichigo raised his head from the ground to see the hollow advance on her. He tried to get up to reach her, but as there eyes met, both realized he wouldn't get there in time...
Orihime would never-ever forget the way he looked in that brief moment. It was such a torture, that she wished she could erase it from her memory completely, but it was burned there for forever... So desperate... so painful... so broken...
'Shiten Koshun!' she commanded her powers for the third time, and the hollow didn't even know what hit it. Nobody expects their own attack just being directed back at them instantly. The hollow's final roar died away, it's body disappearing in a wave of smoke.
Orihime just stood there, her heart beating wildly, and her whole body shaking with shivers. When she reached Ichigo, he was sitting up on the muddy ground, clutching his knees with both arms. His eyes were round, unfocused, staring into nothing. He looked up at her, when she gently called his name, but the look he gave her was so odd... she still didn't understand...
'Thank you so much for coming for us, Kurosaki-san!' Orihime said to Isshin, as they went inside the warm living-room of the Kurosaki Clinic. She had been unable to talk any sense into Ichigo, or get him to move at all... The case being this serious, she just took out her cellphone, and called Isshin, who came for them instantly by car.
'Have a seat!' the former soul reaper told her, pointing to the large sofa.
'But we're dirty and dripping!' the girl protested.
'Aw! Doesn't matter! I'll get some towels for you right away!'
Isshin disappeared upstairs. Orihime steered Ichigo inside, and sat him down. She looked at him with worry. He still haven't spoken a single word.
Isshin returned with the towels, and his doctor's bag. He sat next to his son, looking into his eyes. He examined his pulse, and took out the cuff for taking his blood-pressure. He was talking to him in a low, comforting tone all the time. His words also were much kinder than Orihime had ever heard him express himself before, especially when talking to his son. It reminded her of someone talking to a little kid... Finally he gave Ichigo two pills, which the teen swallowed without question.
'Come now... I will take you up to your room... you need a nice sleep...' he said to him.
Ichigo just nodded feebly. But then his head snapped up.
'Orihime?' he asked wildly, speaking for the first time.
'She will stay the night!' Isshin stated firmly. 'I'll get Yuzu to give her some dry clothes! Now up you get!' He led his son up the stairs slowly.
Yuzu came down shortly with the clothes for Orihime, and directed her to the bathroom. When she came out, after a warm shower, and drying of her hair, she found Isshin waiting for her at the kitchen table, with mugs of hot tee ready. She settled down to the empty chair next to him gladly.
'Now, Orihime-chan... please tell me what happened!' Isshin asked seriously.
'Is he going to be all right?' she inquired back.
'As far as I can tell he suffered an emotional shock... but since neither of you is actually hurt, I think he should sleep it off till tomorrow. I've given him some mild tranquillizers.'
Orihime nodded, and after collecting her thoughts she began telling Isshin everything that had happened since they left that tree's shelter on the hill. She told him how strange he was behaving, and her own confusion about it. Isshin followed her story with rapt attention. He was silent for some time after she finished. Finally he lifted his gaze, and his eyes traveled between Orihime, and something behind her back.
'Just as I thought so... ' he said softly. 'When I arrived to collect you, and saw the location... and the look in his eyes... ' he sighed again.
Orihime was impatient to learn more, but something told her she should not rush the explanation. So she remained quiet.
'You probably already know, that his mother, Masaki was murdered by a hollow almost 10 years ago... '
'It had happened almost at the same spot I fond you today...'
Orihime felt pain and pity squeeze her heart painfully. Her breathing suddenly became heavy.
'… and that one was a rainy day too... ' Isshin said, raising his head to look upwards, with unmeasurable sadness in his eyes.
Orihime's vision became clouded by tears. She just understood the odd expression Ichigo was looking up at her with, after the battle. It was odd, because it was the look of a terribly frightened nine year old boy...
Isshin continued, almost as if he could read her thoughts.
'I always knew that the memory of finding Ichigo that day would hunt me until my dieing day, but I never would have thought I would have to live it through again... ' his voice shook.
'Kurosaki-san... ' Orihime whispered, compassionate. The man sent her a small smile in return.
'It's all right, Orihime-chan... you know... one time when we were talking about you... I think I might have made some well deserved comment on your beauty...' the shadow of a grin appeared on his features, making her blush. '… and he said that your smile always reminded him of his mother...'
'Yeah... really.' Isshin was now looking ahead of himself buried in his own thoughts. Orihime didn't know what else to say, and after the silence was stretching on for some minutes she began to wonder if he had just forgotten her presence. But then suddenly he addressed her again. 'Hey... Would you care to take a cup of tee up to him... see how he's doing... ' he pointed at a tray on the table.
'Of course... '
Orihime stood up, taking the tray with her. As she wanted to go upstairs, she spotted the thing Isshin had been looking at earlier on the wall. It was the large poster of his wife...
When Orihime entered his room, Ichigo sat up in his bed instantly, fixing his eyes on her. He's clearly been waiting for her.
'You're still awake? I've brought you tee... '
He only raised his hand in her direction, silently inviting her closer. She put the tray on his table, and rushed to his side. He just pulled her into an embrace, wrapping his arms around her. They lied down to the bed, side by side, looking into each others eyes. Orihime could see that he had calmed a bit down now... perhaps the affect of the pills.
'Orihime... ' he called to her after a while. 'I'm sorry... I'm really-really... '
'Don't be... ' she told him gently, while caressing his face tenderly with one hand.
'But I should have... '
'… protected me?' she asked with a sad smile. 'Then I'm the one who should be sorry... I know I make you feel like you have to protect me... that's my fault... because I like it when you do... but it's just not fair that you should be the strong one, always. For this one time... let me be the strong one... let me be there for you... like you're always there for me... '
She felt Ichigo bury his head in her chest, waves of sobs shaking his body, as he cried silently. She tightened her hold on him, whispering shooting words. Finally she just fond herself humming the only lullaby she knew, the one her brother, Sora would sing to her sometimes...
The anniversary of Masaki's death was not far away, only a few weeks. When the day came, the Kurosaki family had an addiction to their yearly party.
'Get yourself together, Yuzu! You can do it! Together we will bear down this cruel hill, you and me!' Isshin cried.
'Oh, boy... here we go again... ' Karin sighed.
'Come on, Karin! Wipe that depressed expression off your face my daughter!'
'This is a cemetery, Dad... It's all right to be depressed here.' the black haired girl answered indifferently.
'You two should take after Orihime-chan! See how lively and cheery my future daughter in law is? Oh, I'm just so happy! And they are almost to the top already! Hey! We should overtake them! I can't hear what they're talking about!'
Isshin started running after his son and his girlfriend, but Karin grabbed and pulled the back of his shirt roughly, making him fall back onto his back.
'They went ahead exactly for that reason you Idiot! Just leave them alone!'
Orihime heard Ichigo chuckle beside her, as the sounds of his family's bickering reached them.
'… the same every year!' he commented. 'I remember Mom could keep my Dad in check with a single look if needed to. But other times, she just played along... those were the best... I remember this one time when Goat-chin's goofy nature got the better of him in a restaurant... he had made a bet on whether he could tie the waiter's shoelaces together while he takes our offer. He didn't succeed. But when he stood up to go to the bathroom, he just tripped, and found that his own ones had been tied!' both Orihime and Ichigo laughed at this. 'I didn't even know how she did it! It was brilliant!'
Orihime smiled warmly up at him. In the past weeks, Ichigo had been telling her a lot of stories like this, about his mother. This was something new, because he wouldn't even talk about her before. In exchange, Orihime would also talk about her brother, and it felt like they reached a new level of openness in there relationship. They still didn't talk about how much it hurt, that was a conversation jet to come... but they could feel themselves getting there. Ichigo was now letting her see his weak side too, the one she didn't even know existed.
Orihime now realized that she had been wrong before. Ichigo hadn't been holding back in their relationship: he was, in truth giving everything he could at the time. The hold back was not because of her, or because he was uncertain about his feelings for her. It was because of him. He always seemed so grown-up, so mature, bearing well the huge amount of responsibility on his young shoulders. But emotionally, he was still a little kid, carving a mother's love, and not ready for a grown-up relationship yet. He needed to learn how to let go of the pain of that nine year old boy, that was still living inside him. Orihime understood this. She also felt that she would be able to help him, if he would let her.
They payed there respects at Masaki's grave, and they visited Orihime's brother too on the way back. Yuzu made them lunch, and they ate together in the Kurosaki Clinic. They played a game of cards, like a big family, just enjoying to be together. Orihime was grateful for being included like this.
Early in the evening, they took their leave, as Ichigo wanted to walk her home to her apartment. Isshin stopped them in the hallway, handing out an umbrella for his son to take. He wordlessly took it, only sending his old man a smile as thanks.
They walked down the streets hand in hand, mostly silent. It was comfortable. The sky was cloudy, but not in a stormy way, it promised only a slight downpour at the most. But they reached their goal safely, without having to open the umbrella at all.
'Do you want to come in a little?' she asked hopefully, while searching for her keys. He only nodded, smiling.
She went to her bedroom, to change into her more comfortable home clothes. When she came back, she found Ichigo staring out her window. She went closer, and saw the thin lines of water running down against the glass panel.
'It's raining... ' she stated softly, like a sigh.
Ichigo turned to face her, and to her surprise, he smiled.
'I don't mind a little rain, silly... '
She sucked in a breath. They looked into each others eyes, their expressions softening tenderly. Ichigo lifted a hand, and caressed the side of her face lightly.
'I only don't like it, when I'm with you... ' he whispered. Orihime threw herself forward to embrace him.
'We have to talk about it, haven't we?' Ichigo mumbled into her back, while holding her tight. 'That day... '
Orihime pulled away, to look in his eyes once more.
'Yeah... I guess we have to.' she agreed.
'Then let's sit down...'
A/N: I know it's sad, but I hope not in a depressing way... It did lift my spirit, when writing. Even though my whole "Prices to pay" story was about the Orihime-Ichigo-Masaki triangle, it seems I still haven't written this topic out of myself. Maybe I should start thinking about why it moves me so much... Anyway, I still have an other story of the same kind, half finished. (an other ,very short one-shoot) Hope you enjoyed this one...
… and yeah! Finally a healthy strong Orihime! And I enjoyed showing Ichi's weakest side. He's still just 17 after all... I think all of the commenters on forums who say he's lame in the current manga chapters are keep forgetting that!
Please review! I love them long, I love them short, I don't care, as long as it's feedback! Thanks!