A/N: Okay, so I ended up with about 35 of these things, but they're all really short. The titles, and subsequent themes, all come from the IshiHime 100 themes, which can hopefully still be found on their livejournal community. I decided, screw it, they don't all have to be different chapters. Even all together, they're not very long. If it'd be easier to separate them, let me know. They were all written a long time ago, so they don't take much into account anything new that happened. If I put anything new in, it's bleeding over as I type these up. Also, still don't have a beta, but I tried to edit them myself. Points for trying?
Disclaimer: Really, now. You know the drill.
First Day of Fall
Most of the leaves had already begun to change color. The park had become a vast array of oranges, reds, and golds. Ishida Uryuu found himself drawn to it this year, more appealing due to a comparison a classmate had made between the leaves and Inoue Orihime's hair. He felt more than a little silly, laying on the grass, gazing at the leaves as they fell, but he couldn't bring himself to stop. That is, until he was tripped over.
Inoue blew through, leaving a wake of gasping breaths, soon-to-be bruises, and heartfelt apologies. "I wasn't paying attention because I was playing with the leaf angels," she explained, leaving Ishida even more confused. "My brother would always bring me here, so I come back every year to remember him. What does fall remind you of?"
Before he could catch himself, he let slip "You." As she blushed, he hurried to cover his mistake. "Because the-the leaves. They're the same color as your hair." The next thing he knew, he was being throughly hugged.
"Thank you Ishida-kun! Come play with me! With twice as many people, the angels will be twice as happy!" He decided there were worse ways to spend an afternoon than trailing along behind Inoue.
Ishida had always loved to sew. It helped hone his precision, and his skill with his hands. He learned to relax, focus, and clear his mind. But he was beginning to appreciate sewing for a new reason. "Ishida-kun, your stitches are so even!" was a big part. Also, "That's a beautiful dress!" and "Can you teach me how to do that?" He decided that the very best part was watching her face light up as he presented her with a skirt similar to one she had admired in a catalogue. As she looked at it with awe, he felt a fierce pride in his creation.
"You see, I made the skirt a little fuller, like some of your others, and I put the zipper on the die instead of the back."
"It's perfect." She whispered.
Yes, that was definitely the best part.
He was completely fascinated. He'd stare in class, watching the way the colors changed. He loved the way it looked in the sunlight, always pulled back by the hairpins that he knew were the source of her powers. He could always pick her out in a crowd, and his eyes always gravitated toward her and her radiant hair. It had come to represent her as a whole: unique, striking, warm, soft and undeniably beautiful. He watched it shine as it flowed around her and vowed that someday he'd learn how it felt between his fingers.
"Ishida-kun, can I try on your classes? They're so cool!" He surrendered them reluctantly, and she put them on. "Oh, no! I can't see anything! I don't think your classes work, Ishida-kun."
She stumbled around sightlessly, and knocked over a stack of books, a science project, and a few people before Ishida, also unable to see, caught up with her. He removed the glasses from her face, and she was struck by how well she could see his eyes. She kept her own eyes locked with his until she saw his blush. "I like your eyes, Ishida-kun." she said quietly.
He didn't have a chance to respond before they noticed the eyes of their classmates and broke apart, Ishida growing even more red, and Inoue beautifully oblivious to their thoughts.
"Are you talking to me?"
That was it, he'd decided. He'd seen her sitting there on the school's lawn, and something inside of him snapped. Today, he resolved, he would tell her how he felt. He sat down next to her, and began quite confidently. "Listen, Inoue-san, I'm sure you've noticed by now, but I just wanted to tell you that...well, you're a very special person to me. I know it's silly and that I'm not the person you wanted to hear something like this from, but there is is. It's completely true." She just sat there, and he mustered up the courage to keep speaking. "I'm sorry, Inoue-san. I know this is probably awkward for you, but-"
"I'm sorry, Ishida-kun, are you talking to me?" He saw her remove a pair of small headphones from her ears and she brandished an mp3 player. "See! Tatsuki-chan bought it for me. Isn't it so cool?"
He found that now, he had lost all his nerve. "It's very cool, Inoue-san."
"So much has changed, hasn't it?" It was a sunny, clear day, and she was suddenly struck by what seemed so ordinary to her, and how strange it would have felt not too long ago. Her powers, certainly. Her new found self-confidence. The company of the boy beside her, and his own loss and gain of power. The absence of longing for Kurosaki. Maybe not an absence of fondness but she was sure that the intense need was gone.
"Is that a bad thing?" he replied.
"No, not bad at all." She looked over at him and saw him staring intently at her. She could feel it now, in the place where that burning had been. A gentle glow, mild but strong. "Kiss me?"
He seemed startled, but did not hesitate to comply.
He walked into his apartment, and felt like breaking into song and dance. He would never, of course, but he could not control the grin on his last few days were as close as he would ever get to any kind of heaven, he was sure. Now, he did not have to imagine kissing her; he could go off memory. He knew exactly what she sounded like when she whispered her affection. He had always believed luck was an instrument of fiction, but how else to explain it? His Lady Luck had finally looked his way.
She could sense his reiatsu being released, and she was irritated. She had already asked him several times to at least call before he went Hollow hunting. After all, what if he was hurt, and she couldn't get to him in time? She began to feel more Hollow in his area, and she ran all the way to where he was. Just in time, it seemed, because he looked ragged and if she had not quickly raised her shield in front of him, he would have taken a crushing blow.
She ignored his frantic shout of "Inoue, stay back!" and ran to stand next to him. She defended, and he vanquished one after another. As she took him back to her house to fix him up, she extracted from him a promise that he would let her help him from then on.
It had started with a comment by Kurosaki about the class assignment, and how his was incomplete. The group of friends watched as Ishida mentioned that he had been finished for weeks. Kurosaki predictably took this as an affront to his intelligence, and proceeded to insult Ishida's manhood. This is where the shock began.
"Kurosaki-kun! How dare you say such things? Ishida-kun is not gay!" Inoue jumped to his defense.
"How would you know?" Keigo asked in his usual perverted manner.
As Tatsuki beat him up for even suggesting such things, Inoue merely blushed. "Because I know."
Everyone was very uncomfortable, and Kurosaki hastily changed the subject. Once everyone was distracted again, Inoue shot Ishida a grin.
Inoue was doubly excited, because not only was she at the New Year's festival, and exciting event on its own, but this year she was accompanied by Ishida-kun, making it extra special. She stood next to him, and their friends were milling about. If anyone noticed how close together they were standing, or the hands clasped inside Ishida's coat pocket, they weren't saying anything.
Inoue laughed as she counted down to midnight with the crowd, her and Tatsuki each trying to outshot the other. When midnight hit, amongst the loudest blasts, Ishida leaned down and planted a kiss on her cheek.
"Can you believe it? Our beautiful Inoue-chan with that freak!" Keigo cried.
"I didn't see that coming." Ichigo responded, almost petulantly.
"It's a good thing she'll be focused on someone smart enough to open their eyes, Ichigo." Rukia said bitingly.
"Are you calling me stupid?"
"Maybe I am. What are you going to do?"
I'm going to-"
"I think they will be good together." Chad diffidently put in.
"How could you say that? My sweet beautiful 'Hime with that loser is the world's biggest tragedy!" Chizuru sobbed.
"Hey, shut it. Ishida will take care of her." Tatsuki quickly defended.
"You don't think I would take care of her?"
"I think you're a pervert."
"I say it's a good thing. Maybe he'll mellow her out and she'll pull him out of his shell." Mizuro had to give his opinion voice.
"I can't even imagine a less strange Inoue." Ichigo replied, nursing a few new scratches.
"I'm sure it will work out for the best." Tatsuki ended the conversation, silently daring anyone to challenge her.
Before, Inoue always carried with her the scent of strawberries. It drove Ishida mad because the connection was not lost on him. Her shampoo, her lip gloss, her bubble bath all scented the same. In all of it, she wanted to feel closer to Ichigo. So when Inoue came to school smelling of Jasmine, everyone was shocked.
When Chizuru mentioned how beautiful her love was smelling, Inoue merely replied "Sometimes change come with you least expect it."
Failure to Comply
Inoue could feel him out there, breaking his promise to her. Worse yet, she felt him trying to shield his reiatsu from her. Did he not take her seriously? Or did he just think he was so weak? She wanted, more than anything, to run to him and make sure he was okay. She also knew that last time it had gotten her nowhere. So this time, she merely sat with her teacup, followed his muted reiatsu, and tried not to worry.
Flowers and Fairies
After much debate, the Shun Shun Rikka decided they would not have to run off Ishida. Tsubaki was still slightly sulky about it, though. They had observed, and it seemed like keeping him around would be the best course of action. It was obvious that he cared about her, and the happiness radiating off her when he was near was undeniable. It had taken quire a while to convince Tsubaki not to act on his plans for Ishida's destruction, and in the end, he had decided he could always come back to it later, if nothing else. The others were fairly sure he'd never have to.
Inoue had invited him to dinner, which was in no way a first occurrence. Something about the look in her eye, however, made him apprehensive. When he showed up at her apartment, opening the door in response to her "come in!" he was slightly shocked (though nothing really shocked him recently) by the scene before him.
A stuffed panda bear sat at the head of an entire court of stuffed animals. "Ishida Uryuu," Inoue began. "You stand accused of breaking a promise, and going out Hollow hunting two nights ago. How do you plead?"
"I'm sorry, but before we can proceed, I'll need to know how you plead."
"Guilty," Ishida started, "but-"
"As there is no question of guilt, prosecution suggests we move on to sentencing." She went to pick a piece of paper off of Judge Panda's stand. "You have been sentenced to 24 hour surveillance by your wonderful girlfriend. I suppose you'll just have to move in together."
"What just happened?"
"Well, would you like to appeal?"
"No, I'm pretty sure it was rigged anyway."
Inoue was not sure why she had to keep the fact that she was living with Ishida a secret. She had told Tatsuki, of course, but he insisted on her not telling the others. She knew he was only trying to protect her reputation, but she wanted to share how happy she was. And though, in her imagination, the look on Ishida's face when she told everyone was quite funny, she wanted to prove that he could trust her. So, she could keep quiet, no matter what.
With the arrival of Inoue, his apartment had exploded with color. Every color of the rainbow could be found somewhere, between the new curtains she hung and the throw pillows that now resided on his previously stark couch, or the new sheets in the linen closet and the flowers she kept on the table. Suddenly, the place was filled with her, and that was just the way he liked it.
When she looked back on it later, Inoue Orihime would only vaguely remember the pain. And the blood. There had been quite a bit of blood. But what she would never forget was the way he moved against her. The feel of his skin, the look on his face. How gentle he was with her. The tiny noises he made in the back of his throat. The way he worried about her afterward. The sublime feeling of just laying there, wrapped in his arms. She was certain that never before had she felt more loved than in that moment.
His fantasies had become a mirror image of his life. Lately, he had been seeing it so clearly. He knew the mirror would be imperfect, with cracks and curves causing distortions. Certainly he never fantasized about the strains he knew would surely come, but the way she looked when she woke up next to him was exactly the way he imagined.
The biggest challenge of all, he decided, was Orihime's cooking. The first time she made dinner, he hadn't thought to watch her. He sorely regretted it. The next time, he kept a watch on her, unwittingly providing her with a new game. She would try to sneak in something 'adventurous,' and he would valiantly try to stop her. He came to enjoy the game, too, if only because he loved the way she distracted him. It almost made up for the times he lost.
He was not quite sure he was going to make it until finals. He came close to giving himself away constantly. Rumor mill be damned - he'd let everyone know she was completely his, and if he felt like kissing her at any time, he'd just do it. Only the patience borne of years of practice kept him from having his way with her right on the school's lawn. She flipped her hair and raised her hand to answer a question, and he found himself re-calculating the seconds until graduation.
Moment in the Spotlight
A knock at the door. "It's okay, I'll get it." Orihime got up, put on her silk robe. Uryuu struggled into a pair of shorts, just in case.
At the door he heard a large chorus of "Surprise!" and giggle from Orihime.
He hurried into the living room to hear her say "Look, Uryuu-kun, they're here for your birthday!"
All he noticed was the dumbfounded expressions as everyone took in the surroundings of the apartment they so obviously shared, and their conspicuous dress. Kurosaki was the only one able to speak up. "Well, happy birthday?"
Every other day it seemed, she had a test in one class or another. She knew college would be hard, and she was determined to try her best, but the examination schedule seemed to be a little out of hand. She would take her seat and use the concentration exercises Uryuu had taught her. They all quietly sat as the professor gave instructions. He would then watch, hawk-like, as the students worked. She was always the first one done, and then she'd get to enjoy some lazy time in the sun until she went to check the results - first again. The stature was nice, but the congratulatory kisses she got upon returning home were even better.
Orihime loved eating out, though to be honest it usually represented a failure on her part. It meant she had forgotten, and made something super tasty that Uryuu inexplicably didn't want. She supposed getting to go out made up for her failure, though.
Uryuu saw it as dodging a bullet. When he found a dinner on the table that looked like it was seconds away from crawling off, he would suggest that it looked like it would be a tasty lunch, and she should take it with her tomorrow, and don't worry Orhihime-chan, they could just go get something, he'd give up a delicious dinner so she could have two very delicious lunches.
She always agreed, and he hoped he wasn't hurting her feelings, Still though, she had a good time, and he had the satisfaction of knowing he'd gotten away with it yet again.
They were idly lounging after coming home from the large college graduation party at the Kurosaki clinic. They talked of the future plans of their friends, and talk eventually shifted to their own future. Orihime took over the conversation, filling it with silly plans for mecha and strange business ideas. As she gradually wound down, Uryuu began talking as well.
"I was thinking - well, you're all done with school now, and I'll be starting my internship soon enough. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I'd love it if you'd marry me as soon as the planning allows."
She said nothing, but he noticed, pressed up against her as we was, that her heart was beating faster. "Unless you don't want to that is," Uryuu continued. "I mean, I'll understand."
"Oh, no! I mean, yes! Sorry!" She exclaimed as if jumping out of a trance. "I started imagining the ceremony, and I didn't realize I hadn't answered yet, and-"
"So is that a yes?"
"One hundred percent yes."
They had their closest friends over, everyone just assuming it was yet another post-graduation party. They had decided to wait until after dinner, but eventually Orihime could wait no longer. "We're engaged!" She blurted.
No one even stopped eating. Ichigo managed, between one bite and another to ask "You mean you weren't already?" Orihime could only gawk at him. "Honestly, Inoue-chan, you guys have been living together how long? Everyone knows you love each other and why you've been waiting. As far was we're concerned, you've been engaged for years. And, of course, we're happy for you."
Orihime had been planning this day for months. She was dressed up and ready to go - all that was left to do now was wait. Tatsuki sat with her and tried to keep her distracted, but to no avail. She straightened, fidgeted, and re-straightened. She paced the length of the room over and over. "I'm not scared, I'm just ready. It's been so long, and I'm ready to be there."
"Relax, Orihime-chan. Just a few more minutes, okay?"
Orihime tried to sit still, but she was soon back to more of the same. Then finally, finally, there was a knock at the door. "Show time!"
She stood, flung the door open, and moved inexorably toward the rest of her life.
He treated her like the most precious thing he'd ever seen, and she reveled in it. He recounted the story of their first time in her ear, whispering with such emotion. He moved the same way he did in the shared memory, although they were much better this time around. She was enchanted - half in one time, half in the other, and completely in love.
Later that night, she woke to him watching the way the moonlight played on her skin as she slept. As he held her close, she drifted off to thoughts of love and family.
Everything he touched, it seemed, was golden. Any sewing project that passed through his nimble fingers, any tricky disease he brought his intellect to bear on, any goal to come forth from his driving ambition. Her as well. When he kissed her, wrapped his arms around her, gave the hundreds of tiny touches every day without even thinking, she felt nothing short of pure gold. She craved it - she was forever marveling at the feelings the smallest touch could bring. It gave her the confidence to succeed. It gave her the daring to be bold. Every single touch gave her the strength to make it through the day.
"Come on, Ishida. We are getting you drunk." Ichigo had said.
A few hours later, they were sitting around imagining what Ishida's future son (it had to be a boy) would be like. Chad was an exuberant drunk - meaning he actually contributed to the conversation. Ichigo was rowdy, and Ishida was sure birds were scattering for miles. Ishida himself was boisterous, though not obnoxious.
The longer the night, the more the drinks, the better he felt, if at all possible. Every time he thought again of Orihime's off-hand remark, he grew more and more proud.
Finally, he made it home, and curled himself around his wife and newly-conceived child, and quickly fell asleep.
Point of View
Orihime was constantly trying to imagine what things were like for her baby. Was she (it had to be a girl) aware? Could she hear her mother talking to her? Orihime imagined it would be like listening to someone in another room. The baby could hear her, but it was fuzzy and distorted. She imagined her baby imagining things, tried to think of what the child would be thinking. She thought of everything from her little girl's perspective. When her mommy moved, was it like being the passenger in a car? She decided that someday she'd ask.
She was always so excited about the whole thing. Not that he wasn't, of course, but she allowed her excitement to take away from the most important thing - her health. She was constantly forgetting to keep an eye on her blood pressure, sugar intake, and the myriad of other things important for a healthy pregnancy. She would instead spend hours drawing mecha for the baby, giving it lectures of the importance of a million things he'd never understand, and feeling it move underneath her heart. No matter how often he reminded her, her mind was always somewhere else. She was just too excited to pay attention to the important things.
Uryuu was always so paranoid. It drove her up the wall. He was constantly doing things for her, forcing her to take it as easy as possible. She was quite sure he would have chained her to the bed if he could have done it without hurting her. She knew it was only because he'd seen the consequences of what could go horribly wrong, but she was quite certain he might accidentally suffocate her before she managed to have her baby. She could be patient, however. It was just one more reason to count down the days.
She'd been told over and over that it would hurt - it would likely be the most painful thing she'd like ever do. To be honest, she didn't fault them. But her first contractions were minor things, and as they built, she focused elsewhere. What would her little girl be feeling right now? What would she grow up to be? Would they someday be a family mecha crime-fighting team?
Uryuu looked more and more puzzled the faster the contractions came, but she was blissfully unaware. Only looking back later would she remember the horrible pain her auto-piloted brain had pushed out.
Faster and faster - push when Fujiwara-sensei says so. And then it was over - the last contraction, the last push, the beginning of her new life as a mother.
Uryuu was sure there had never been a more serene birth. When her water broke, the two of them calmly gathered the bags they had previously packed, and he gently helped her into the taxi he had called. She sweated, gasped for breath, and pushed, but she didn't make a single noise. Not a scream, a cry, a groan. It was as if her pain was secondary and unimportantly. She gave one sigh of relief when it was all over.
Her doctor said it was the oddest thing - she'd never seen someone so calm, especially on their first birth. He knew he'd bring it up later, but for now he was content to hold his brand new baby girl.
If Miharu was anything, it was daddy's little girl. She loved her mother, but when she awoke in the night, she quieted down in Uryuu's arms much faster.
On nights, however, when he went out hunting, Orihime stayed behind to comfort the wailing child. She'd eventually relax, but she didn't sleep again until he was home.
Orihime felt the exact same way, knowing she could never go with him, and they took comfort in each other in his absence. As she rocked the crying baby in her arms, she felt the trepidation build in her own soul, reaching a crescendo as she followed his reiatsu and awaited his return.
Uryuu laid, holding his sleeping girl in one arm, and his sleeping wife in the other. He felt the familiar swelling in his chest and realized - this is what family feels like. He hated leaving them, hated doing a job alone that he had been so used to doing as half of a pair, but he could feel it - Miharu had a large reiatsu for one so small. It, combined with Orihime's own considerable spirit pressure, would surely draw in the Hollow in the area.
Neither of them said anything, but he knew Orihime had noticed that the previously rare occurrence had turned into a weekly affair. She knew why the frequency had increased, but she only gave him a knowing glance when they heard the howls and he quickly dressed. They would do anything to protect the life they had made together - it was what families did.
Ice Cream and Bubbles
The girl, it seemed, was allowing herself to be subverted by her mother. They sat, enjoying ice cream in a flavor that Uryuu was terrified of, covered in soapy water. Miharu was always an adept pupil, and when her mother taught her to blow bubbles, there was none of the awkwardness of other children.
Uryuu watched as they both caught the bubbles, merely enjoying being on the outside this time. They were perfect, he thought - not for the first time - and he was fiercely proud they were his. In many years he would shed tears at the sight of a mother teaching her child the art of bubble-blowing, but for now, he was unbelievably happy.
"Okay, Miharu-chan, let's review what we did last week."
She focused, and summoned her bow. "Good. Now try and hit your target."
The girl did as she was told, getting quite close to the center of the red bull's eye they had set up in a deserted part of the park. Uryuu had been working with her for a few weeks, after he and Orihime had decided to begin easing Miharu in. She was terribly quick, and she learned lessons one after another.
Uryuu guided her through her training, helping her unlock her potential, showing her the blood line she was a part of. He realized with a pang that this was what his grandfather must have felt. He felt a surge of grief and love. "Are you okay, father?"
He brought himself back to the task at hand. "I'm fine. Try again, only this time, try for a bit more of an arc."
A Little Bit of Night Music
They had gotten all dressed up for a night on the town. Miharu was with her Aunt Tatsuki and they had permission to stay out late. As they took a light dinner and some wine at an upscale club in Karakura, they reminisced of their years together.
They danced for hours, it seemed, and he couldn't get enough of the graceful way she moved in his arms. "You're as beautiful as you were the day I met you," he breathed.
"I seem to recall Ishida-san not caring much for me at first," she teased, as he twirled her out, and in again.
"I cared so much, but I didn't think I had a chance. After all, everyone was attracted to you, and I was just the four-eyed freak." He held her close.
"I'm so glad I noticed you. I love you so much." They gradually began to wind down their last number.
"Happy anniversary, love."
"I won, father." Miharu smugly claimed.
"It's not over yet, Miharu-chan. Never assume that there is not a trick up your opponent's sleeve."
Miharu looked puzzled and proceeded to lay out all of her father's possible moves, and how they could only end in a checkmate. "Remember, you may not always be able to see the whole board."
He gave the prearranged signal, and Orihime piped up. "You know, if we leave now, MIharu-chan, we could get to the ice cream parlor before they close. I ran into Hayashihara-san this morning, and he told me he'd gotten a shipment of unusual ingredients. He promised to let us have our pick."
Miharu looked torn. "I guess we can always go tomorrow. It is getting a little late." Orihime continued, amusement sparkling in her eyes.
"No, no we can go now!"
She looked at her father, who was wearing the same smug expression she had just abandoned. "Victory isn't everything." she said as she hurried toward that door, "but I'm the one getting the treat."
Orihime was troubled. Miharu had just gone off to Tokyo's most prestigious universities, but she called her mother every day, it seemed, to talk about her nightmares. She was not the type of girl to be easily upset, but she had always been very intuitive.
She had a different nightmare every night, she said, with only one constant - her mother. They were graphic and violent, and she grew more worried as time passed. She even suggested coming home, but that would mean quitting school, and Orihime would not hear of it.
She did her best to calm the girl's fears, but she could not hide from herself. Was the time coming when her fairies would not be able to defend her as they had done countless times? She hid Miharu's worries from Uryuu and moved on. She would not live her life in fear.
Uryuu hated working emergency room shifts, but it was a favor for a colleague. It had been a slow day, until an ambulance called ahead. There had been a car accident, and one of the women involved was in critical condition. He couldn't see her through the commotion as they rushed her in, but as he went to help, a nurse stopped him.
"Maybe you should let the others handle this one, doctor."
"That's silly, I'm completely fine." He insisted. He started to walk into the room, and she inexplicably stood in his way.
"Please, don't. They'll take good care of her."
He stepped around her just in time to hear the flat-lining of the heart monitor and catch the quick, pitying looks of the others as he realized that Orihime was the woman on the table.
She watched the doctors work on her body, trying to bring her pulse back. She even tried to enter her body again, but to no avail. Panic was the furthest thing from her mind, however, Even though she knew she was dead, she was surrounded by a gentle calm.
She was detached from the frenzy surrounding her body, but something was tugging at her heart - or where her heart had once been. She then looked to the door and saw the stricken Uryuu staring not at her mangled body, but at her soul.
"Don't forget about me."
Uryuu knew he had to let her go. If she tried to stay behind, she would eventually become a Hollow. It was a thought he could not bear.
She headed toward him, and he made the tiniest of gestures and walked away. Anyone that had seem him would believe him overcome with grief, but he knew he had to get away from them for one last moment. In an empty room, he shut the door behind him, and she followed unhindered.
"Oh, Orihime, why?"
"I have to. Everyone does at some point."
"But why now? We still had years!"
"It's just time. Don't try to follow me. Miharu still needs you. I'll wait on you. After all, it's not like we haven't seen what happens after this life."
"But people never find each other in Soul Society!"
"You can pick out reiatsu. So can I. Don't worry." She turned, as if answering a call. "I have to go now. Don't forget about me?"
Over the next few weeks, he paid little attention to what went on. Miharu came home from school to attend the funeral, but the time came when she could not stay any longer. She offered to stay with him, but Orihime had been so proud of her when she was accepted, he knew he could not let her fall behind.
After a few days of not eating or sleeping, Ryuuken unexpectedly came by. But instead of the scolding Uryuu expected, Ryuuken merely made Uryuu sleep, coaxed him into eating, and covered his son's patients at the hospital.
Finally, over dinner one night, everything inside of him broke and began to slowly put itself back together. "What do I do now, father?"
"The only thing you can do - keep living."
"All this time and I'm still not sure. Maybe, though, you'll figure it out."
The thought suddenly occurred to him that the strange feeling he was experiencing was one-ness. He could barely remember before, before her, when he had been one.
For years and years she had been with him. He had never truly been alone, as she was the delight of the hospital staff, and her reputation was felt, if nothing else. Now, however, she was a taboo subject. Even their apartment, so full of her as it was, seemed empty without her physical presence.
Once again, he was shopping for one, eating alone, and generally reverting to a lifestyle he thought he'd escaped for good. He was relearning how to be one.
Orihime decided to stay in Rukongai, rather than Seretai. She stifled the objections by saying she could do more to help, there.
Instantly an old, large building was fixed up and dedicated to her use. She set up an orphanage. She helped people find their loved ones. Many shinigami visited, and she became the de facto representative to Seretai. Within a year, she was known through all the districts of Rukongai.
The laughter of the children and the smiles of the reunited families and friends made her feel happy for a time. But it always came back to him. As surrounded as she always was, she was lonely.
She knew, however, that it would not last forever. If someone like her could show up in Soul Society, surely he would, too. Whichever district he appeared in, she was certain he would find her. He would stop at nothing, she knew. All she had to do was wait.
"Could it have been different?"
He supposed one could say his life had been a success - he had a wonderful career, a brilliant child who had followed in his footsteps, and grandchildren he was already beginning to train. He refused to remarry, but no one was surprised - his devotion to Orihime had been legendary.
Secretly, he knew she was waiting for him just on the other side of death. Why take another wife when Orihime was so close? Even then, he supposed it would have been so easy to have missed her entirely, but they ended up together - who was he to play with fate?
Their's was a road filled with love, suffering, laughter, and hardships, and he wouldn't have traded a second of it for any price.
He awoke to the sound of a cart thudding by, and experienced momentary confusion. Where was he? Hadn't he just been sitting at his desk?
A man held out his hand to help Uryuu up. "Just get here?" Soul Society. He experienced a pang of regret, for his lost family.
The stranger started babbling about what had happened. "So, you see, I think of us as just shadows of our former selves-"
"Orihime. I need to find her."
"Missing home family? I know just the place. She came to us years ago. She's helped so many people. Surely, she'll be able to help you. Ishida-san is the greatest."
A wild hope jumped in his heart. "Ishida Orihime?"
"Perhaps. Everyone just calls her Ishida-san." Finally, after all these years, she was only a short walk away.
"Lead the way."