Invisible Writing, Part Eight
Characters: Ishida, Orihime
Warnings: sexual innuendo, copyrighted song lyrics
A lull in the plot. Ishida and Orihime's relationship takes a turn.
Disclaimer: Kubo Tite owns Bleach, and Incandescens owns the imagination that gave me the scenario for this particular fanfic.
Description: Orihime acquires a slave in Hueco Mundo--Ishida.
Warnings: Mild sexual innuendo, violence, reference to character deaths
Special thanks to Incandescens and Finnigan Geist
Ishida’s hands rose in a panicked gesture as he gasped the words, and Inoue-san caught his fingers with hers. That physical contact, to his surprise, did calm him.
For a moment, he thought that they looked like Elizabethan dancers facing one another in some scene from Shakespeare. Then worry possessed him again.
"You told me," Ishida said, "that you were going to convince him to give you the hougyoku--or at the very least, you’d get a decent clue as to where he kept it. You did not tell me you were going to offer yourself to be turned into an Arrancar or--"
"But I was right about his wanting my memory back, wasn’t I?" Her eyes were bright and hopeful. Ishida had not seen her look this carefree since before she remembered her kidnapping. "I just have a feeling," she said, "that I can find it. He said there was a bond. I always knew there was a bond."
"This is ridiculous," Ishida said and pulled back his hands. He sat down with an abrupt huff on the edge of the bed. "Aizen is a master manipulator. You can’t trust a thing he says. He can create illusions--we learned of that in Soul Society. He probably carries the hougyoku with him at all times, and here you are telling me that you can take it from him without his knowing?"
"I just feel things," Inoue-san said, "and I know they’re true."
Ishida did not want to insult her, so he kept quiet about the simple fact that for days and days she had believed that she was a being created by Aizen.
"I know that intuition isn’t always right," she said, as if reading his thoughts, "but logic isn’t always right either. We have to use both. You’re logical, and I’m intuitive; we can work together."
All that afternoon the two had been going back and forth over the issue of whether or not Kurosaki the Hollow could be changed back. Inoue-san was convinced that either witnessing the hougyoku’s powers or getting Aizen to start the Arrancar process on herself would give her the answer. The hougyoku, Ishida had argued, was important to the course of the war, but its retrieval should only be attempted if there was a decent chance of success. He said that their own lives mattered more to the war effort at this point than Kurosaki’s--for all they knew, even if they had the hougyoku and the means to change Kurosaki, the Hollow who used to be their friend would still squash them.
"He won’t," Inoue-san said. "He’s had all this time to kill either of us if he wants to, and he hasn’t."
Ishida felt distressed that Inoue-san was willing to risk so much for Kurosaki.
"Sometimes," he said, "there are matters more important than one’s feelings for just one person."
Inoue-san looked appalled at that statement. "Are you saying that the course of the war should override my wanting to help …." Her eyes looked downward, and her eyelashes fluttered over her blushing cheeks. "Kurosaki-kun is our friend. Who are we if we are always worrying about things bigger than friendship? We would be like Aizen if we put things like the universe and the war over--"
Ishida must have looked hurt, because when her eyes rose to meet his, she waggled her hands before her and attempted to erase her words. "I didn’t mean that you were like Aizen! I didn’t mean that at all! I know that you’re worried about me and that you want me to be safe! But I’m so, so, so worried about Kurosaki-kun. I didn’t get a chance to help the others that day--maybe I can still save him."
Ishida thought of his grandfather, and he knew perfectly well the desperation behind not being able to save someone.
He started to gather empty snack cartons from the floor. "Dinner," if one could call it that, had consisted of profoundly non-nutritious packaged foods from the Living World. Almatriste had set a large basket of candies, chips, and juice-boxes at the foot of the bed and then had left him and the princess alone.
Inoue-san didn’t even have to ask the handmaidens to leave anymore; they left intuitively at the merest exchange of eye contact between him and the princess. Although it was very convenient for Ishida to be thought of as "Querida’s lover," Inoue-san, typically, seemed to have no clue that this was what was going on.
"You didn’t eat much again," she said. Her hands grabbed him by the elbows to get his attention away from picking up trash. Her familiarity unsettled his senses; ever since their night huddled together, she seemed to have no qualms about touching him all over. "Let’s just rest. We can talk about all this again in the morning. We have time."
"Inoue-san, I should not be sleeping in this room tonight."
"Why?" Such an innocent face.
"It--it isn’t proper."
Her eyes said that she didn’t care about proper.
Almatriste and Lastimada sat in a large white drawing room decorated with plastic flowers, checker-print curtains, and macramé wall hangings. Living world candles burned--the combined scents of lavender, caramel apple, and French vanilla. A CD player was playing music by an artist formerly known as Prince:
Seems that I was busy doing something close to nothing
But different than the day before
That’s when I saw her, ooh, I saw her
She walked in through the out door, out door….
"If the boy’s presence doesn’t bother Aizen-sama," said Almatriste, "then I see no reason why it should concern us.
"Orihime-sama is letting him walk around with his collar undone, and the boy has powers. He may not be able to use them against Aizen-sama or Querida, but who’s to say Uryuu won’t turn against us?"
"You worry too much. Worrying doesn’t become an Arrancar. Fretting and moaning and longing are what inferior Hollow do. We should be gracious and calm--like our Aizen-sama."
The handmaidens told themselves that filling a cool white room with loudly-colored trinkets was an act of supremacy over Living World enemies. Aizen tolerated the display of these silly things, and no, no, no, they had no nostalgia for their Hollow lives whatsoever. From what little either remembered, a Hollow’s life was ceaseless wretchedness--a lonely yearning for the company of pitiful humans.
Sometimes Almatriste openly envied her mistress’ ability to express strong feelings. "Listen to that laugh of yours. Brighter and more magical than any human’s I can recall. You’re like a super-charged human, Querida--a human with spectacular extras bequeathed to you by your father." It seemed as though a being who could laugh and weep with such vigor would also be able to feel the utmost pleasure. "
Pleasure--the kind that came from fulfilling a deep yearning--was a dim memory.
The rain sounds so cool when it hits the barn roof
And the horses wonder who you are….
"How long have they been in there?" asked Lastimada of her mistress and her servant in the adjoining bedroom.
"It’s not our concern," said Almatriste. "Aizen-sama hasn’t taken Uryuu away yet. Maybe he set him up to be given to our princess in the first place. You know how he’s always providing her with special food and drink."
"Appetites," scoffed Lastimada and folded her arms.
Almatriste was flipping through a box of CD’s. She liked this music and was wondering if there was more like it.
She wore a raspberry beret,
The kind you find in a second-hand store
She wore a raspberry beret
And if it was warm, she wouldn’t wear much more….
Inoue-san had washed her hair and wrapped it in the long body towel with embroidered Living World names. She was wearing a light sleep kimono that she must have made herself because it did not resemble Arrancar clothing. Arrancar clothing was cut in severe patterns, seamed with spiritrons, and did not reflect the white light of the walls.
Thinking about clothes kept Ishida’s mind from thinking about the bodies under them.
What was he supposed to do? Aizen had said that Inoue-san was not ready to find the hougyoku, and perhaps that meant that she had to wait until the hougyoku itself matured before she could find it. Was Ishida going to have to wait, here in Las Noches, with the princess until that time? Was he--for a full month at least!--going to have to keep up the impossible argument that they should just leave?
"You’re still hurting about Aizen not being your father," Ishida said solemnly. He wondered if he would have to hold Inoue-san again in the bed.
"Yes," she admitted. "But speaking to him today felt like saying goodbye. I could tell that he didn’t really care for me. It was in his eyes."
"I’m…." Ishida sat down on the mat he had slept upon the first night in the princess’ room. "I’m sorry, Inoue-san."
Why was he doing this to himself? The sound of her voice, the sight of her white throat at the collar of her kimono--these things made him feel warm and weak. If he was going to protect her, he needed to be icy calm and ready to summon his powers at a moment’s notice.
"I can’t help but wonder," Inoue said. "If maybe Aizen can’t be saved too."
Now this was really going too far.
"What?" Ishida shook his head. "Oh no. NO. This man is the one who has caused all this misery. We went over this, Inoue-san. The Arrancar he created--unconscionable! I know you care for the guards and the servants around here. I know you care for everyone. But Aizen is evil and not to be spared." Ishida bit his lip to keep from escalating into a sputtering frenzy. "Think of it, Inoue-san. Aizen is the one responsible for Kurosaki being lost to us. Aizen is responsible for the monster Kurosaki is now."
"Not exactly," she said. Her face took on that seriousness that Ishida had seen when she was about to intuit something fairly astute. That face on Soukyoku Hill, lit by glowing flashes of combat. The face that understood Kurosaki like no one else did.
"When that Arrancar struck down Kuchiki-san," Inoue said softly, "that was when Kurosaki-kun screamed. You didn’t see it. You were looking at me. Your bow was pointed at Ulquiorra…."
It was somebody’s fault indeed--all Aizen’s. Didn’t she see that? Everyone was trying to save everyone else that day except for Aizen. Aizen wanted Inoue-san for his own selfish, evil, horrible, horrible reasons. He was sitting high and mighty in Las Noches while people fought and died.
"You didn’t see him, but I did," Inoue went on. "Kurosaki-kun lost it when Kuchiki-san … died. Then the Arrancar who killed her went down…"
Ishida sighed. He didn’t want to face this sadness, but if talking was necessary for Inoue-san….
"The Arrancar’s name was Grimmjow--he was the one who had injured Kuchiki-san before. The other Arrancar here made fun of him for falling to Hirako-kun. I don’t think they knew who killed Grimmjow, though. The battle was so confusing…."
Those understanding eyes again. Large and gray and full of love for Kurosaki.
"Even through the shield that held me, I could feel how Kurosaki-kun was losing. He was losing to the monster inside him. His zanpakutou was impaled in his own hand, and he pulled it out with the other hand, and flipped it over to the hilt. He…."
Ishida didn’t think he could bear the pain in her voice.
"He was going to give Kuchiki-san a soul burial, but…."
Ishida expected Inoue-san to cry, but she didn’t.
"He couldn’t find her soul," said Inoue in a simple tone. She lowered her head.
Ishida struggled to find the words to comfort her. "Kuchiki-san told us herself," he said, "that when a Shinigami dies, her soul is reborn in the Realm of the Living."
Inoue-san lifted her head. "But when Kuchiki-san left his world," Inoue-san said, "Kurosaki-kun left it too. But where he went--I don’t know. Maybe somewhere not nice. That’s why it’s important that I get him back."
"Maybe…." Ishida dared to voice this thought only because he wanted to convince Inoue-san to give up on the idea of saving Kurosaki and to go home. "Maybe Kurosaki does not want to return to his world if…." His words were soft and measured. "If Kuchiki-san is not in it."
Her eyes met his, and they both knew the truth.
Kurosaki Ichigo cared that much for Kuchiki Rukia.
Inoue Orihime cared just as much for Kurosaki Ichigo.
And from the way Inoue’s eyes shone with sympathy, Ishida knew that there was another truth she understood now.
Ishida Uryuu cared that much for Inoue Orihime.
He had expected to be ashamed--or at least humbled into looking away. Instead, his eyes stayed fixed on hers, and he welcomed her trust and acceptance. She was his friend. She would not humiliate him… or be unkind … or …
She walked towards him, put her hands on his cheeks, and kissed him.
It was a light brush on the lips, and it caught Ishida completely by surprise. This is uncalled for. This is not fair. His whole body flushed, and he could feel heat sting his ears. His hands were moving of their own accord onto her shoulders--to stop her. Yes, to stop her.
But he could not stop her. She kissed him again. Her mouth opened on his this time, and there was a soft wet place where his bottom lip lay against her top one.
They stayed that way a moment.
Ishida felt that his breathing had slowed. Then his face moved forward, and they were really kissing. He had never kissed anyone before, but this was how he had imagined it would be--his longing pressing against someplace that assuaged the longing. She was kissing him back. Her teeth bumped his, and then her head pushed his glasses up so that the lenses were crooked on his forehead, and it wasn’t movie-star perfect, but it was her.
He stopped only to breathe. He pressed his cheek against her ear and hugged her close the way one would greet a longlost friend. He knew it wasn’t a romantic gesture. "Why?" He breathed against her ear. "What does this mean?"
"Don’t think," she said, and she was kissing him again.
He fell backwards on the mat at the foot of the princess’ bed, and she climbed on top of him. Her thighs in the thin robe straddled his, the bath towel fell off her head, and her fragrant wet hair fell against his face.