It's a long fic. The second part of it will come in a later post when I find the time to post it.
Disclaimer: Kubo Tite, Shueisha Inc., Perriot Studios, Viz media and perhaps others own the rights to Bleach but fanfic is textual thievery in the name of love and art, hurrah!
Description: PG13. Canon timeline exploration of Orihime's feelings for Ichigo. Spoilers for Arrancar arc. Orihime-centric, brief appearances by Sora, Ichigo, Rukia, Matsumoto, Ulquiorra, Ishida.
A Speck of Sand or Maybe a Star
L'un rencontre souvent sa destinée en prenant le chemin pour l'éviter.
French proverb—"You often meet your fate on the road you take to avoid it."
1. Tanabata wishes
Orihime had never seen a cucumber until the day her preschool class made decorations for the Tanabata. Kasan never cooked, and the only vegetables Orihime had seen before were already cut up and soaked in sauce in heat-and-serve cups.
“What is this?” Orihime held up the beautiful dark green shape. It was shiny and slender and covered with tiny white spines. It smelled alien but fresh, like something from
“It’s suhyo, stupid,” said the older girl next to her. “You stick toothpicks into it and make a little cow. Here, let me show you.”
Orihime didn’t know anything about the Tanabata story or why everyone was making cows out of vegetables or why the teacher was pinning yellow paper stars on blue felt on the walls, but when time came to sing a song about the weaver princess, Orihime gasped.
“MY name is Orihime,” she announced to everyone. “My name is Orihime just like the weaver princess in the story!”
“A very pretty name,” said the teacher.
“Your parents must be weird,” said a student.
Orihime did suspect that her parents weren’t like other people’s. Kasan and Tousan yelled at one another a lot. Unlike parents on television shows, they were never present at the table at the same time for family dinners.
“Orihime?” asked the girl who went by the unextraordinary name of Momoko. “Are you going to grow up to marry a cow herder?”
Orihime was making her cucumber cow walk around her desk top on its spindly toothpick legs. A cow herder must be a kind and patient person. Tousan had called Kasan a slow and stupid cow many times. Didn’t cow herders wear funny hats and fight with bad guys who wore feather headdresses in the Western movies? Cow herders must be amazing men.
“One day, of course,” said Orihime. “I will marry someone amazing. That’s the way my story goes. It has a happy ending.”
That afternoon Orihime asked Nii-chan what he was going to be after he finished school, and Nii-chan mentioned many occupations Orihime didn’t understand--accountant, bookkeeper, lawyer.
“Those sound boring,” Orihime said. “You should be a cow-herder!”
He laughed. “Oh, your class is preparing for the Tanabata, isn’t it? Why should I be a cow-herder? There are no cows in mid-city
“But cow-herders are amazing men.” Orihime plopped next to her brother on the sofa and took the television remote from his hands. She changed the channel from the news to a kids show. “You are amazing, so you should herd cows.”
“Ah, Orihime-chan. Amazing, am I?” His eyes looked suddenly serious. “I want to be the person you see. Thank you, Orihime-chan. I wish that someday I can live up to your expectations.”
2. Doodled in the stars
The next year Orihime was in Kindergarten in a new school, and on the week of Tanabata the class held an important performance for the parents. Orihime’s parents didn’t come-- not that they had come the year before (their attendance at school events had been as rare as their presence together at the dinner table), but this year they did not live with Orihime and her brother.
“Places! Places!” The teacher clapped her hands and pressed a button on her little music-player. Lovely Okinawan sounds wafted across the playground, and all the little girls in their colorful yukata began a dance of stars across the universe.
Orihime mouthed a silent “yo!” at her brother in the audience. She danced, and he smiled at her.
He had saved her.
Orihime didn’t remember it all exactly, but on a night that was a blur of pain and fear, her brother had swept her into his arms and carried her away to a new place to live. A tiny apartment that never smelled like what Tousan drank, that brownish stuff with the strong scent like rotting flowers. And Orihime no longer got little scabs in the shapes of crescent moons on her upper arms from Kasan grabbing her with those long nails. And there was an oven in the kitchen that actually worked! Nii-chan cooked stews in pots, and he said that one could put whatever one wanted in a stew as long as potatoes were there for the basic flavor.
Orihime didn’t know exactly what her brother had saved her from, but she understood that he had saved her. She felt at peace in her new apartment and excited about putting as many different ingredients into the potato stew as she could find in the refrigerator. Burdock, taro, a yummy big onion called a leek. And every night, her brother chopped real vegetables with a fat blade and let her scrape the pieces from the chopping block into the pot. And every night, she and her brother sat together at the table and gave thanks for their lives and their happiness.
“Good job! Good job!” The teacher was applauding the little stars who had danced to form the Milky Way.
Orihime bowed, and the paper star on her head fell off. She picked it up and ran to join her brother in the audience. It was now time for the Kindergarten boys to do their dance of the kappa spirits in the river. It was a dance that had something to do with the Bon festival, but Orihime still got the Tanabata and the Bon confused; she knew that they were connected somehow, sometimes by stars, maybe by a river, always by people being happy and hoping for good things to come.
“What are you going to wish for this Tanabata?” her brother asked.
“Shh, you’re not supposed to ask!’
“I want to know,” said Nii-chan as the music played and little boys jumped around on the grass pretending to be river spirits. “I want to know what my Orihime-chan needs to be perfectly happy.”
“I am perfectly happy,” Orihime said, but as the celebration went on, she took out a pencil and wrote some things on her paper star that she might like to copy later on the multi-colored strips of paper that would hang on the bamboo tree:
By Inoue Orihime
- Nii-chan’s happiness
- Mackerel (Orihime didn’t know how to spell this so she drew a picture of a fish)
- Socks with tigers (Again, a picture)
- No more sickness, only happiness
- Adventure and fun (These words were not only hard to spell but were difficult concepts to explain so Orihime drew a picture of a pirate ship with a skull and crossbones flag shooting giant cannonballs across the ocean at a robot who was firing back long and sparkly missiles)
When the time came to write wishes on the colored strips, Orihime forgot her star and scribbled other words for the bamboo tree--remembering only her wish for mackerel. Later that evening, when she and her brother were having dinner, he pulled out the little yellow paper she had worn on her head for the star dance.
“I have Orihime’s wishes!” he sang.
“You can’t read them!” Orihime exclaimed. “They won’t come true if you read them!”
“Nah, you’re Orihime. Your destiny is already written in the stars! Look!” He held up the little paper star. “Written all over it.” He did a double-take. “Doodled in the stars actually. What’s the little skeleton doing on the boat there?”
“That’s a pirate flag. Don’t you know anything?” With her chopsticks, Orihime lifted a big piece of fish out of her stew. One of her wishes had already come true. How about that? She had wished for mackerel only this afternoon and by dinnertime, her brother….
Orihime narrowed her eyes. “Hey, you’re sneaky.”
“Me?” Nii-chan chewed his potato stew with all the day’s marvelous ingredients. One night Orihime had put jelly beans in the stew, and he had called them a “brilliant choice, better than duck sauce.” This evening he chewed, and his eyes smiled, and he held the yellow paper star with Orihime’s wishes between his fingers.
“Your art and spelling are amazing, Orihime-chan,” he said. “You’re such a clever and beautiful little girl.”
Orihime could not imagine a more wonderful person on the face of the planet than her brother at that moment.
Nii-chan could make the kappa spirits turn into fish that would jump into potato stews, and Nii-chan could make pirate ships fly into the heavens where the king of the robots would assign everyone a star and say, “Here, eat your fish and write all your most secret wishes on the stars.”
And Nii-chan, being the sneaky wonderful person he is, would steal all the stars from the robot king and find a way to make the pirates’ wishes come true. And the pirates would be reformed and take down their skull and crossbones flag and raise one with a dancing panda.
Orihime sighed with happiness over her steaming delicious dinner. She was going to have a wonderful life.
3. Crash in her heart
Being grown-up was where it was at. Being a child was stupid. Being a child was unseemly. Being a child was SO last year.
That was the attitude of the girls in Orihime’s middle school class. No one wanted to be mistaken for a primary schooler. No one would be caught DEAD humming festival songs or writing a wish on a piece of colored paper for the Tanabata tree.
Orihime wanted to grow up, to meet her destiny and be liked by everyone, but it was confusing when her heart still wanted to do childish things. She wanted to spin in circles when the sun was shining brightly. Her classmates laughed.
They laughed about things she couldn’t help too--like the color of her hair. They were always saying it was “too glamorous” “too grown-up” or “the color of your grandmother’s tea.” It was all very confusing.
What was clear was the rage from the girls who pushed her down and cut her hair with big shiny shears that looked like gardening tools. Orihime remembered rage like that. Long long ago she had seen it in her mother’s eyes. Blind and senseless rage. She remembered being knocked down. She remembered asking Kasan “why?” but this time she didn’t ask.
The attack itself wasn’t so bad but after, looking at herself in the mirror, Orihime felt shame. She looked like such a baby. What could she possibly have done to provoke them? She acted so immature, and now she looked as childish as she acted. Her hair had not been this short since she drew with crayons.
Her brother tried to help. “You can pull the hair away from your face with these,” he said, offering her the hairpins. “Very stylish. Very French.”
“You don’t understand!” Orihime shouted. “Those are what little kids wear. You still treat me like a little kid. Stop it. Some things are just none of your business!”
And there was nothing to say after that. Dinner was eaten in silence. Brother and sister went to bed in their respective futons in the same room, and Orihime made sure she faced away from her brother all night. She slept little, staring at the wall. In the morning she got dressed for school even though she was not planning to go there, and she didn’t say goodbye when her brother left for work.
Maybe I’ll never go to school again, thought Orihime in the very quiet apartment. I’ll just tell Nii-chan to tell the teacher I died.
She felt the crash in her heart before she heard it on the street.
After that, everything was a blur of pain and fear just like it had been on the night Nii-chan had carried her away, only this time she was carrying him, dragging his body over the pavement. She held one of his arms over her shoulders and could lift him no higher than his knees, and his head drooped and shook red drops of blood over her clothes as she dragged him.
The lady on the sidewalk shouted that she had already called an ambulance, but no one tried to stop Orihime. A little boy ran to ask, “Where are you going? Where are you taking him?”
“A clinic.” Orihime’s voice was breathless. “There’s a clinic.” She had to get him to the clinic near Tatsuki-chan’s house. Tatsuki-chan had described it perfectly. The best medical clinic in all
There had been blood that long ago night too. A bottle had been thrown. Pieces of glass had flown against Orihime’s skirt and legs, cutting her knees. The brown drink spattered on the walls. Take her. I don’t care. Kasan’s slurred voice. Orihime remembered and felt no horror. Horrible? How could anything be horrible if Nii-chan was with her?
Nii-chan was still breathing, his hair dripping warm blood.
Fine, fine, everything will be fine, Orihime told herself. She was running away from her parents’ house, from the smell of rotting flowers, from a darker destiny.
Don’t leave me, Nii-chan, her heart sobbed as she rounded the corner to Tatsuki’s street. Don’t leave, don’t leave me alone. But her eyes were without tears, and she held her mouth in a tight, resolute line.
The boy who answered the door looked sleepy, and his hair was sticking out in all directions. His hair was the most unusual color Orihime had ever seen. A kind of golden orange like a sunrise. Punks dyed their hair orange, but this guy had eyes too mild to be a punk and besides, he was wearing a uniform from Orihime’s school, and he worked in a medical clinic. He had to be a very nice guy.
“We’re not open yet.” He rubbed his eyes and put his keys back in his pocket before even looking at her. “Shit! Did you--? Here--let me--”
The boy took Orihime’s brother from her back. “Did you carry him here yourself?”
“He was hit by a car,” Orihime said in a calm voice. She was out of breath but her words were steady. “His head is bleeding but there doesn’t look like there’s any other part of him … hurt. He was lying unconscious on the street when I found him.”
The boy called the doctor. The doctor called an ambulance. When a tiny girl wearing a strawberry hairclip opened the clinic windows and the early morning sun poured in, Orihime saw that her brother’s face was whiter than white.
The room she had walked into was her destiny. An unforeseen destiny, first year middle school. The voices were kind. The light was tender. The tiny girl’s hair was a pretty golden color in that light. The boy who was Orihime’s age had buttoned his shirt and put on his jacket already, but his hair still looked slept-on. It looked like hair no comb could take down.
And Nii-chan was dead. He had died sometime after Orihime had shouldered him off to the boy. Orihime had not felt Nii-chan’s going away, but all she knew now was that there was no going back to their life together.
Her childhood was gone. Her safety was gone. Her brother was dead.
Orihime felt no pain yet, no sense of loss, but Destiny had arrived. It was flooding softly through the windows with the sunbeams.
4. A dream and a new purpose
Three years later, the boy who had answered the clinic door was in Inoue Orihime’s high school class. His name was Kurosaki Ichigo, and he was the main reason Orihime hadn’t taken her grandmother up on an offer to come live at the old Inoue homestead in
“Is there someone I can call?” Kurosaki Ichigo had said to the stunned girl when her brother had died. When Orihime shook her head no, he told her to please sit down, that she could stay in the clinic as long as she wanted.
She had wanted to get to know the boy better, but he never ended up in any of her classes.
For three years, Orihime had lit incense and prayed for her brother’s soul and wished deep in her heart that the next morning she would pass Kurosaki-kun in the hallway. On the mornings that she did pass Kurosaki-kun in the hall, she was glad to know that the Buddhist saying about even the wishes of an ant reaching heaven was true.
Many of the first year students at Karakura High were scared of Kurosaki-kun because he was a punk street-fighter who hung out with a giant Mexican thug, but Orihime knew better. Her best friend, Tatsuki, knew Kurosaki-kun well and always told stories about what a good family boy he was. Even without Tatsuki stories, Orihime would’ve known the truth because of that morning in the clinic when Nii-chan died.
“Ichigo pretends to be an ass,” Tatsuki said. “It’s some stupid thing boys do. It’s called cultivating an image.”
The fact that Kurosaki-kun pretended to be grumpy when Orihime knew him to be kind made it easy to like him. Such a funny boy. Orihime would smile at the idea that she knew something others didn’t. As the weather grew warmer, she began to look forward to fireworks, octopus balls, and wishing on stars. She smiled a lot in first year high school, and the pain of her brother’s absence felt muted.
Then came the dream.
Orihime didn’t know exactly what Kurosaki-kun had saved her from in the dream, but she understood that he had saved her.
Then it became clear that Nii-chan was in the dream too, and Orihime would sit straight up in bed some nights with her heart pounding because her brother’s eyes in the dream frightened her.
The night that she dreamed the dream all the way through she understood that her brother was saved too. Somehow Kurosaki Ichigo had saved her, and in the end it had been Kurosaki-kun’s amazing ability to cleanse souls that had saved her brother.
The next morning she told Tatsuki the dream, and what did you know! Tatsuki had had the same dream! Orihime was ready to believe in another dimension where best friends shared their dreams, but Tatsuki put two and two together and said that it was like something or someone had tried to erase their memory of an event. She said that Kurosaki-kun was up to something; she didn’t know what, but she would find out one day.
Tatsuki didn’t find out, but Orihime did.
It was like stepping into a room called Destiny again, only this time there was no anticipation of sadness and loss. There were strange events, one after another, that made life exciting….
And brought Kurosaki-kun closer to her.
Summer came and with it a new sense of self and purpose. Orihime forgot to make a wish for the Tanabata, but it seemed like her long-ago wishes for adventure and fun were already coming true. Life felt charged with new possibilities. In a blur of joy and that feeling one gets when eating ice-cream too fast and the cold fills your ears and sinus passages with stinging delight, the days were carrying her towards a fate even Nii-chan could not have foreseen.
“Yes,” she said to her emerging powers, “I will learn to use you.”
“Yes,” she said to Urahara-san, “I will take your challenge and train to go to Soul Society.”
“Yes,” she said to Sado-kun over the telephone, “let’s go train at the warehouse tonight. I can’t wait!”
“Yes,” she said to Yoruichi-san, “I know the reason why I fight. I fight because I want to help Kurosaki-kun.”
And Orihime decided to commemorate the change in herself with a change in hair style.
When the rageful girls in middle school had chopped off her hair, she had trimmed it short to make it presentable but she’d hated it that way. When Tatsuki protected her from bullies, Orihime had grown her hair long again. Orihime’s hair told a lot about herself. Her new hairstyle needed to make better use of the hairpins she once wore to remember her brother but now wore with pride in herself as well.
She had already told every single person in school at least ten times that her brother had given them to her, and she never forgot how she told Kurosaki-kun in the hallway: “Oh ha ha, I scratch my head a lot, but you know, my hairpins never fall out, isn’t that funny? Aren’t these pins a pretty blue? My brother gave them to me.” The purpose of hairpins was to hold back hair, so maybe if her wonderful pins had more hair to grasp…?
Yes, thought Orihime, he will see me and my pretty pins in a new way and know that my powers were gained for his sake.
As the time to leave for Soul Society came closer and the days lengthened, Orihime’s bangs lengthened too, and she tucked them behind her ears, behind her hairpins and the source of her new secret power, and she thought that her new prominent forehead made her look more mature.
“You’re wearing your hair different,” Tatsuki noted on the banks of the
Would Kurosaki-kun notice? Maybe boys didn’t notice hair, but she wanted to show him how strong she’d become and all because of him.
It was festival time, and the buzz of crowds could be heard from far away. Night had not fully arrived even though everyone was impatient for fireworks. The first stars were visible against what looked like blue felt on the sky.
“What’s with that face, Tatsuki-chan?” Orihime wanted everyone to be happy, and didn’t like it when her friend looked worried. She smiled in the hope that Tatsuki would smile with her.
There is so much to hope for.
Orihime stretched out her arms and felt her emotions become legendary, felt them flow across the distance of the Milky Way and reach for Kurosaki-kun.
continued in the next post here