Protecting Her Rear

"Hurry up Ichigo or all the good ones will be gone!"

Ichigo couldn't help the slightly skeptical look he gave his girlfriend as she tugged on his arm. He tried not to let the girl pull him off balance as she yanked on his arm forcefully…more force than he would have anticipated. Apparently, she was REALLY keen on getting to Free Comic Book Day.

Sighing, Ichigo moved his long legs a little faster as he said, "Orihime, I doubt they will run out of comic books so soon. The whole thing only started 15 minutes ago and it only takes about 10 minutes to get there."

Orihime's face had a determined look as she declared, "That's what I thought last time! But when I got there I only just managed to get about half of the comics I wanted while the other half were completely gone!"

With a sigh, Ichigo said, "Fine. I just hope you can keep up."

Ichigo's stride lengthened so that he had overtaken Orihime and was now in the lead in a matter of seconds. When he looked back, he couldn't help the small wry smile that lifted the corners of his mouth as he saw his girlfriend beaming up at him while jogging to keep up.

At the pace they were setting, Ichigo and Orihime reached the comic book venue in seven minutes exactly. There were huge banners announcing 'Free Comic Book Fair' in bright colors all over the shop windows and above the streets. Tables were set up outside the shops with only a sampling of wares in order to draw larger numbers inside.

True to Orihime's prediction, the event was in full swing with avid fans and polite passersby clogging up the streets. Vendors were trying to attract as many people as possible to their tables while customers asked questions or fawned over different wares that were available so that there was a cacophony of sound. Ichigo thought ruefully that he was surprised he could still hear his own thoughts over the hubbub.

Orihime was completely in her element with all the excitement and organized chaos going on around her. She knew exactly where she needed to go in order to get the comic books she wanted, so she once again took the lead and began weaving her way gracefully and purposefully through the crowds. Ichigo once again felt the corners of his mouth soften slightly as he allowed his 'kid-in-a-candy-shop' girlfriend pull him along.

When they arrived at their first destination, Orihime went first to the section where the free comic books were set out and picked up copies of 'The Thrilling Tales of Gregory Gregson', 'All Around the Cobbler's Bench: Chronicles of Weasel and Monkey' and 'Heaven's Key'.

Ichigo didn't even have to ask any questions because Orihime immediately turned to him and started explaining, "This one is all about a boy who travels in space meeting all sorts of people and creatures on different worlds. Weasel and Monkey are searching for an ancient relic from their ancestors called 'The Cobbler's Bench' that disappeared many years ago. The result was that any Monkey descendant was forced to chase the Weasel family until finally these two decided that enough was enough. And this one is a romance between an angel and a centaur. They fell in love when the angel came down to help the centaur after he was gravely injured, but then the angel was taken away by an evil devil so the centaur vowed that he would never stop until he saved her. The only way to do that is to find a Heaven Key."

Ichigo nodded his head in understanding and really tried to keep a straight face as he asked, "Now, what exactly did the angel see in the…centaur?"

Orihime's face and eyes glowed as she proclaimed, "Oh, the angel is able to see into the true heart of any person or being and she saw that the centaur's heart was noble, honest and courageous! Even though he has scars all over his face and entire body so that he looks nearly grotesque, she loves him anyway! Isn't that romantic?"

He was not able to completely suppress his smile as he said, "Sounds like it. No wonder you enjoy it."

Orihime giggled as she nodded before turning back to the table to see what other comic books were available. Watching his girlfriend for a time, Ichigo decided to observe the crowds for a time when his gaze landed upon a group of boys standing at the next table over from them. He was about ready to dismiss them from his attention when he followed their ogling gaze over to where they were staring at Orihime as she excitedly examined different wares. Turning his eyes back to the boys, Ichigo could tell that they didn't seem to be aware of Ichigo's presence.

The group of boys looked to be in their first year of high school or last year of middle school. There were about five of them and they were all of pretty average height except for one who was a head shorter than the rest. They weren't wearing any school uniforms and were instead wearing jeans and t-shirts advertising which comic books characters were their favorites.

It wasn't like Ichigo had never had to endure others staring at his girlfriend and he was once again about to ignore them when the boys turned to one another and started elbowing each other and sniggering. Ichigo decided that enough was enough.

Taking two strides over to where Orihime was obliviously flipping through comic books and stood on her right side so that the younger boys couldn't fail to see him now. He put an arm around Orihime's shoulders in a kind of possessive gesture before he turned to face the boys with a ferocious scowl on his face.

Ichigo barely had enough time to gloat over the fact that the boys' faces were blanching and frozen in terror when Orihime turned to look up at her tall boyfriend and ask him if there was anything he wanted from there. When Ichigo shook his head no, Orihime was about to reach for his hand to lead him toward her next destination, but Ichigo kept his arm firmly, yet gently, around Orihime's shoulders and walked beside her away from the table. Orihime didn't seem to mind and didn't seem to think anything was the matter since she continued chattering away about some of the comic books she had been looking at. Keeping one ear focused on her voice, Ichigo snuck a glance behind him and saw those five boys looking at him in awe as he walked away with his beautiful girlfriend.

At the next table, events remained almost identical as before, only this time Ichigo was constantly scanning for more goggling eyes. After two more stops, Ichigo began letting his guard down slightly. He focused once again on Orihime and how her carefree manner as she scanned through all the different comics made him want to grin.

As they were about to leave for the next table, Ichigo heard a faint rumbling sound coming from below. He didn't have to lower his gaze to his girlfriend's face in order to know where the sound had come from or what had caused it.

Before Orihime could begin making excuses, Ichigo held up a hand and said, "I saw several food vendors a little ways back. How about you go on ahead while I'll get us something to eat and bring it over."

Orihime shook her head furiously as she said, "I'm not hungry!"

Ichigo rolled his eyes and said, "Number one, you're a terrible liar. Number two, I'm hungry too. And finally, let me rephrase my last statement. I AM going to get us something to eat, so you go on ahead and I'll catch up. Capisce?"

She gave Ichigo an affectionate smile saying, "All right then, Mr. Bossy-Pants."

Ichigo gave her a mock frown and said, "I'd better be the one wearing the pants. You couldn't order a horse to change direction if you tried."

Orihime crossed her arms and said, "Of course I wouldn't order him too. I'd ask him nicely."

He stood there stunned for a moment before an image of Orihime sitting on a horse as it was grazing lazily and trying to sweetly ask him to move. A snort escaped him before Ichigo let out a loud, but rather short laugh.

Leaning down to kiss her cheek, Ichigo said, "I know you would. Anyway, you'd better get going or the rest of the books you wanted will be gone, remember?"

Orihime smiled before giving him a kiss on his cheek and darting away. As he went to go and acquire the food, Ichigo couldn't keep the small grin from lifting the corners of his mouth.

Even before Ichigo had begun dating Orihime over a year ago in their second year of high school, he had known about Orihime's interesting taste in food. He cringed when he thought about how he had been rather put off by her combinations of food, but now that he had spent more time with her he had grown rather used to it. Actually, since they had been dating, Orihime's choices had calmed down somewhat and Ichigo had become a little more adventurous. Basically, they had begun to try and accommodate the other person rather than forcing the other to bend or change to suit their own preferences.

Once he had acquired a small variety of different foods and two beverages, Ichigo began making his way in the direction he had seen Orihime go when they split up. After a few minutes of making his way carefully through the crowds, Ichigo finally was able to see a head of auburn hair bobbing around so that he saw it for a few moments before it vanished again. He quickened his pace slightly since as he had been carrying the food Ichigo had realized just how hungry he was. More than once, he had been tempted to sneak a few bites, but he had squelched those urges immediately.

As he approached Orihime, Ichigo opened his mouth to call out to her, but stopped about fifteen paces away from where she was standing. For the moment, Ichigo's eyes were not focused on his girlfriend, who was completely absorbed in flipping through a comic book, but rather on a man standing on Orihime's left.

The man was probably in his early twenties and while he certainly wasn't bad looking, his most handsome feature was his shoulder-length black hair. He was holding a comic book open in front of him, but it was quite obvious that his eyes were nowhere near the page. Every couple of seconds, the man would take a small step forward, slowly closing the gap between himself and Orihime. Apparently, he didn't want anyone to suspect that he was cautiously stalking his prey and Ichigo could see that he had almost reached his goal. Two more steps and the man would reach Orihime's left shoulder.

This was worse than the young boys, who probably would not have been able to talk coherently to someone as beautiful as Orihime without their puberty cracked voices failing them. This man preparing to 'go in for the kill' was obviously someone who was VERY confident around women, so he might not be as easy to scare away. 'Might' being a relative term. In other words, Ichigo was prepared, but he certainly wasn't worried.

His first course of action was to stride purposefully over to where his girlfriend was standing. As he walked, Ichigo quickly debated over whether to cut the guy off by making his way over to Orihime's left or to try and draw her attention away from her 'sneak attacker' by coming in on her right side. The next moment, the decision was made and he smoothly took his place on Orihime's right.

"I'm back. I thought you might want to try the sesame pretzels and I managed to convince the vendor to sprinkle some cinnamon sugar on them too. We'll go out for dinner a little later, so I just got enough to tide us over until then."

The moment Ichigo had taken his place at her side, Orihime had turned and focused her entire attention on him. Not on the food he was holding, not on the beverages he was carrying, but on him.

Orihime's face lit up with gratitude and excitement and she replied, "Thank you! You are so sweet!"

She was about to continue, when she suddenly jumped and let out a small squeak of surprise.

Ichigo was about to ask her what was wrong when the man behind her cried out, "I'm so very sorry! It was an accident."

As the man had been talking, Orihime had turned to face him as her face turned bright red and she unconsciously took a step back towards Ichigo. Forcing himself not to smirk at Orihime's actions, Ichigo turned his attention back to the other man in order to figure out what had happened.

Without meaning too, Orihime cut Ichigo off when she stammered politely, "Oh, that's all right. You just startled me. No harm done."

The man inclined his head politely saying, "All the same, I do apologize. It was quite careless and clumsy of me."

It dawned on Ichigo exactly what had happened and he suddenly understood why Orihime's face was so red. He clenched his toes (he wasn't so mad that he forgot that he had food in his hands that would crumble if he made fists) and commanded his features and body language to remain neutral and calm as if he didn't actually know what was going on.

Orihime was obviously too embarrassed to say what happened and she probably completely bought the guy's excuse of it being an accident because she did tend to look for the good in everyone. The guy was obviously an arrogant jerk who had used such methods before many times with great success. If Ichigo had to guess, this man would not be at all fazed by a 'raging boyfriend defending his girlfriend's honor' since he had probably seen it plenty of times. So, Ichigo would have to change up the act to 'cool and collected boyfriend flaunting just how devoted his girlfriend is to him'.

Looking the man square in the eyes, Ichigo said calmly, "Well, since no one was injured, I guess there's no harm done. Just try and be more careful next time, ok buddy?"

Turning his attention back to Orihime, Ichigo said, "These pretzels are going to get cold and these drinks are going to get warm if we don't eat them. C'mon, there's a bench we can sit at over this way."

Since his hands were full, Ichigo stuck out his arm and made a small bow as he said, "Allow me the pleasure of escorting you over there."

Orihime's face was red, but this time in glowing admiration and affection at her boyfriend's gallant behavior. She laughed softly and threaded her arm through Ichigo's and walked away with him.

As they were walking, Ichigo asked, "So, did you get all the comic books you wanted?" to which Orihime proclaimed, "Yes!" and immediately launched into an explanation of all the comic books she had managed to acquire and which ones she was already thinking of purchasing.

Once again as they were walking away from a potential threat that had been dealt with, Ichigo couldn't help but look back over his shoulder at his defeated adversary. The man was looking after them with an unreadable expression on his face that Ichigo didn't like, so he decided to settle things once and for all.

Bending his head to Orihime's level, Ichigo gave his girlfriend's beautiful hair an affectionate kiss. Orihime's immediate response was to look up at him before stopping them both so that she could stand on her tip-toes and kiss as far up on Ichigo's face as she could reach, which happened to be next to his right eye.

Then they continued on with Orihime going on with her explanations as Ichigo looked back one last time. The man's face looked borderline humiliated at his complete defeat.

'Well, not complete just yet,' thought Ichigo.

Making sure the man's attention was on him, Ichigo mouthed the words, 'Never in a million years,' before giving Orihime his full and undivided attention once again.

Ichigo had promised to protect Orihime over a year ago and he never went back on his promises. At the time he had made it, Ichigo never could have guessed just how much he would come to enjoy protecting Orihime from threats both great and small. It gave him an excuse to spend lots and lots of time with her. Not that he could think of anyone else he would rather spend this much time with.

Life around Orihime was rarely dull and he loved every minute of it.

Author's Note:

This is just a silly one-shot that I came up with after my brother went to 'Free Comic Book Day' at our local library. I've never gone to something like this since I'm not big into comic books, but since Orihime does have a manga collection I figured I would take the liberty of just altering things a little and have her go to a comic book thing.

The entire event was completely made up, so I have no idea if events like this actually happen this way. I just thought I would have fun with it.

Just so I don't get anyone too mad with me, the whole 'who's wearing the pants in the relationship' was not supposed to be sexist. It just kind of naturally flowed after the 'Mr. Smarty-Pants' remark, so I hope no one was offended.

I do not think Orihime is stupid, since she does have some of the highest marks in her class. But there have been times when she has been rather clueless. However, I am the same way and the whole part with the older man approaching Orihime, I actually took that somewhat from something that happened to me in Chicago. My older sister saw me flipping through a book while a much older guy seemed to be checking me out (must have thought I would be an easy target or something) and so she walked up next to me and started talking to me. To be perfectly honest, I didn't know about it until she told me about the guy later, so I was pretty clueless right then. Guess that's another reason I can relate to Orihime so much.

Anyway, hope you liked this because I did have fun writing it!