At the Hands of a Hollow
Chapter 13: Awaken
Kisuke elbowed him before following Yoruichi to the back of the shop, "It means that she technically has three parents, and you're one of them."
They disappeared just like that.
His heart rate increased as his mind twisted into a pile of questions. Sitting on top of all of that, though, was a collection of fragments of excitement, which seemed to grow in number with each knew addition to the heap below.
At the same time as all of that, his throat seemed to be closing in. Even if he tried, he couldn't speak. As he walked away from Urahara Shoten, when the hollow's voice echoed 'King?', he couldn't find a word to reply with, anyway.
Thursday came by quickly. As soon as he woke up in the morning, and started up his brain, he started thinking about time. Time didn't mean anything any more.
It was only a few weeks ago that everyone's problem began, only a few weeks ago that Orihime was raped by his inner hollow and became pregnant. It was just two days ago that a half-human, half-hollow child with three parents was born.
Born? Maybe that's one way to describe it. Despite Ichigo's newer feelings towards her, he still couldn't think of much but the way she ripped her own path out of her mother.
The next thing he needed was answers. Of course, Kisuke Urahara was probably already analysing the whole situation carefully. Building up from what he already knew.
Ichigo didn't really want to mess around thinking about it, but he couldn't help himself. It wasn't like he could just sit by and believe whatever they told him, either. It had to make sense, he wanted everything to be clear. Because all he'd had to work with for a long time before was a complicated mess.
There was another question too. What had happened to Orihime, really? They said she was recovering, but he wasn't sure what that meant. Was it like a coma, or just deep, slightly extended, regular sleep? He wouldn't know until he saw her, but he didn't want to.
Somewhere in the pits of his heart, he didn't want to see that girl, who he had come to love much and even more in the recent weeks, unless she was happy and healthy. After everything he'd seen, it was hard to imagine that the girl he used to know could switch back to her original state from the sickly, weak body she had been sporting for so long.
But still, he tried to have some faith in Urahara. He had been surprised by him a few times before, and he was more or less a reliable person. But how could he live with himself if it didn't work out? If she could never be the girl she used to be?
Then he thought about it. Of course she couldn't.
She was suddenly a mother, she had a baby. It was a monster baby, even though she had already started to prove herself to be safe enough. Life would be different, no matter what.
Would she return to school? Then where would the child go? How could they expect to treat her like a normal baby and show her off outside? She grew too quickly. She was just too different.
Orihime wouldn't know what to say. Could she give up her life as a human? Would she? There was a possibility, quite a strong one.
She was known for being kind and generous. After she saw the pregnancy that came from being raped by a hollow through to the very end, there was no way she could give up on her own daughter. That just wasn't who she was.
He began to think about it, just who exactly she was, or had been before. Orihime Inoue was his light. The way she acted, the way she looked and thought; it was all so bright. She had probably never done anything unkind in her life, not without perfectly clean reasoning.
She was beautiful, the kind that had every other girl in her school jealous. Unfortunately, it was also the kind of beauty that had the boys drooling all over her. But she had Ichigo for that, he would protect her.
Orihime was smart, she was always in the top fifty of her year group. Of course, there were moments were she seemed a little slow, but a girl with an imagination like hers, so vibrant and creative, couldn't pay attention to such boring matters of logic all the time.
She was quite clumsy, too... but she never let trips and short falls down a few stairs ever get her down, even if she landed on the floor. Her head was so hard that it could actually be described as a weapon.
When it came to it, she wasn't the best at fighting. But her heart and soul weren't intended for fighting, she hated to see anybody hurt. Again, he was there to protect her. He'd follow her anywhere just to keep her safe from the little blue men.
She could charm a demon to save a building full of people on fire, or convince a noble brat to feed the poor, and he wouldn't doubt that she could force the Head Captain of the Gotei 13 to keep an abandoned kitten as his pet! However, the most impressive thing she'd down by far was capture the heart of an orange-haired, misunderstood, changed and broken substitute shinigami.
"Hey," Ichigo muttered as he entered Urahara Shoten. Yoruichi was by the entrance, standing over Ururu, who was sweeping.
"We have some news," the woman leaning on the wall with crossed arms said with what was either a slight wink or an eyelid spasm.
"Kisuke is sleeping," she grinned.
Then a two-minute staring competition began. After a thorough inspection, Ichigo glared at her with a ghostly dark look on his face. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"He's finished most of the main work around here."
"Orihime is fully-healed and will probably wake up today."
Yoruichi watched the corners of his mouth twitching right up until he huffed a quick, "Well that's good."
She nodded and turned away from him, and began to walk away. "Where are you going?" Ichigo called after her.
"There's tea in here, I knew you were coming," she said.
He breathed a laugh, how he failed to detect something as simple as spiritual pressure amazed him. But he told himself he didn't care and followed her.
As they reached the third round of tea, the sun reached the top of the sky. They finished their conversation about hollows and how quickly each of them could kill one, Yoruichi brought up an important subject.
"I'm sure you've wondered about the child, what we're going to do with her."
"Well, obviously. Everything's gonna change now, and I have no idea how... but Orihime will decide most of this stuff, right?"
"Indeed, but as you take up half of the father position, you should have a say, too."
Ichigo blinked at her, wide-eyed. "I don't want to think about it yet, and anyway, we don't know what's going to happen next. If the kid turns out to be a vicious monster, none of this will have even mattered and Orihime will be upset."
Yoruichi reached up and stretched her arms, "And won't it affect you at all?" she said with closed eyes.
He slumped down and leaned on his own arm. "I'm not gonna answer that," he muttered.
Suggestive yellow and rather feline eyes opened and she snickered as her gaze followed his expression of annoyance. "That's fine, I think I can guess what the answer is..."
Ichigo set his face into a scowl as she stood up, "I'm going to get some food, it's about lunch now," she said.
He let out a "Mhhn," noise in reply and sat in silence. His eyes closed as he just relaxed. Silence wasn't a new thing to him, in fact, most of the time it was all he knew. Right from the moment his hollow got out on the first night, silence had followed everywhere.
It was in Orihime's secrets, after her confession, the realization, the next confession, too. It was in the slow days in which he'd sit by her side as she grew weaker and weaker. It was also in her face as the child exited her, and she turned into a broken statue. Then he lived in it as he shut himself off from everybody else, and waited in the darkness for his light to reappear.
Then he heard a door, and the silence was broken. Shuffling across the floor, and then a pause. Ichigo rose from his seat and went to the door. Who was out there? Jinta or Ururu? The door slowly started to slide open, and he waited. But he just wasn't sure what he was waiting for.
Then it was revealed, a delicate hand. Then a shoulder, covered by flowing locks of auburn hair, and then a clear gray eye. It sparkled as it saw him, but then the one who opened the door froze. Ichigo was left with just half a face. But he knew that face better than any other.
He took it upon himself to pull the door right open in one swift action, and then he met with the full form of the girl. Not the girl he'd had to grow used to seeing, the original one.
Her face twisted into a smile she couldn't control. Not her pale, hollow face. It was her colourful, innocent face, full of emotion. And the rest of her was just as relieving to see. Her ridiculously skinny body had filled out to it's original size, with help of course. The bulge at her abdomen had finally gone, and she was herself again.
Neither of them said a word to the other, they simply wore stupid grins and slid into an embrace. Her wobbly knees pulled them both to the ground, but still they held on. Their arms were so tightly wrapped it was as if they would lose each other forever if they let go.
They stayed and closed their eyes. Peace had returned in a way, but everything was still changing. They saw things clearly, he gathered her love as she clung to him, just as he gave her what she'd been dreaming of in his arms. And just to make it clear, he moved his head backwards and gently pressed his lips to hers. No words were even needed.
After Ichigo and Yoruichi had forced some food into her, they sat down with some more tea. The levels of peace and tranquillity rapidly rose as they lounged about at the table.
Orihime barely said a word, and she actually seemed quite anxious. Though the three of them had been talking, she hadn't contributed much towards the conversation.
"Orihime," Ichigo watched her intently, "are you okay?"
She snapped out of a day dream and pointed her gaze directly at him, "Y-yes! I'm fine! I just... feel... different, I think."
"How so?" Yoruichi asked her.
"Uhh," she began, "well I know I must look different now, or an improvement on before... when I w-was..."
"Carrying the child," Yoruichi smirked.
"Yes, w-well that's what I'm trying to say..." she sighed, one hand coming up to scratch her head, "t-the child... where... where is he?"
"'She', actually," Ichigo said with a smile.
"Really?" Orihime asked with bright eyes. She started to vibrate a little, and then swallowed her excitement into a pleasant smile. "You don't sound so disapproving of her any more," she commented happily.
He shrugged, "Things have changed a little, I'm not... too worried about it now. But I guess we'll just have to wait and see..."
"Right..." she said, "what day is it?"
"Uh, Thursday, I think..."
"Why aren't you at school?" she asked quickly, with a worried look drizzled in her enchanting gray eyes. He should have guessed that she wouldn't like this.
"I decided I didn't want to sit around in a class room, not while you're here and definitely not while you're awake," Ichigo protested, "and my attendance was never perfect, so I'm sure they're used to it."
Orihime looked quite dazed, exhaling with a short smile to herself. "Please promise me you'll go back soon, though. I don't want you to miss anything important. Maybe I'll return again, too... or..."
"...Yes?" he urged her.
"I-I guess not, I can't go when I have... uh, nameless..." she said.
"Nameless, that's a point..." Ichigo mused.
Orihime's eyes flickered between Ichigo and Yoruichi, until she whispered in a mouse-like voice, "Will I b-be able to see... her?"
Both of them smiled. "Of course."
She nodded her head and fell into her own imagination, wondering as she clambered onto her feet. Due to all of the resting, she was wearing yellow pyjamas. As soon as she realized, her cheeks flushed, and she stepped out into the hallway quickly, with Ichigo tailing her.
He led her to the door of the room containing the hollow-human hybrid child. She stared at the door nervously, as if she was waiting for it to open and for a monster to jump out.
Well, he couldn't tell her that wouldn't happen, because really, he didn't know that.
Orihime took a deep breath and slid the door open slowly. Ichigo stood behind her, waiting with curiosity. He wondered if he should let her have her first real moment with the child alone...
As soon as he stopped, she turned around and took his hand, leading them both inside the room. Then sat at the foot of the futon where she lay. Orihime watched her with wide eyes, along with Ichigo. He silently thought she looked like a little girl, endlessly appreciate of a new toy.
The baby's eyes opened, and Orihime started gradually leaned over her daughter, taking in everything about her. "So you're the one I've been fighting for," she giggled through the school of tears at her eyes.
Ichigo could hardly keep his grin back as she lifted the gurgling baby into her arms. The way she looked down at the little person she was obviously proud to have made, it told him that she was a mother.
With that, many things were bound to change. The one person she'd love more than anyone else in the world was that baby, and he felt strangely happy to think that. He reminded himself that he must be a father, too. But he didn't really feel like it. What he was focusing on here was Orihime, not the baby.
But as he watched her singing softly to the bundle of blankets, he thought that there was no way that he could stop himself from coming to love the child. If she could fight, even in the state she had been in, he would commit to protecting them.
"I'll fight for you," he whispered to her, "both of you, I won't let you go..."
She looked up at him, with that goofy look on her face. The look that told him she couldn't be any happier. "Thank you," she replied through her graceful tears.
And their lips met again.
I still suck.
Really, truly, honestly I tried to finish this before we got into 2013, but I had a bit of a writer's block. I just suck. So I tried to make it up to you in fluff.
But then, this isn't the longest chapter I've ever written... but over four pages, and that's average for me. I hope you like it anyway, and you'd better be glad to have our Hime back to normal~ ;)
Review, review, review~ I don't deserve it, but I need it! So pleeease~? :3