Turn back the Pendulum
Chapter 10 – Insight
Chapter's Music: You make me smile by Blue October
Find you by Karmina
When Ichigo started their descending, she could see through the wild rain his rooftop and when her feet touched the ground, she ran to hide under the porch. Ichigo joined her, already in his human body and opened the door, picking his key from a pocket full of mud. Orihime giggled seeing his disgusted face and he scowled at her, making her smile sweetly. He eyed her, confused at her reaction and the girl just shrugged and kept her mysterious smile.
When they entered the house, they felt like they had run miles and just fell to floor, with their backs to the wall and in front of each other. Ichigo opened his mouth, but was interrupted
"Why aren't you at...?" yelled Isshin, but when he saw who entered with Ichigo his expression changed from annoyed to an upbeat smile. "Inoue-san! How good to see you here! So my stupid son finally took his head from his butt and apologized for his disrespectful behavior?" he asked, eyeing the girl curiously.
"Never mind that we are soaked with mud and we almost died in a flood!" Ichigo replied, with his migraine back.
"Oh no!" Isshin exclaimed, alarmed. "Are you alright, Inoue-san?" the doctor approached the girl and started checking her pulse and her head. Ichigo gritted his teeth, but didn't say anything; at least his father was doing something useful.
"Yes, yes. Kurosaki-kun kept me safe!" Inoue explained, looking at Ichigo. His father patted him in his head, while saying "Good boy".
"What am I? A dog?" Ichigo asked, pushing his father away.
"Well, I am going to grab some bandages to treat your head's wound, but it would be good if you cleaned the area first." Isshin advised, heading to the door connecting the house and the clinic.
"Well, we really should take a bath, I don't know about me, but you look awful!" Ichigo said and Inoue pouted.
"You're mean, Kurosaki-kun!" complained Orihime, but followed him nonetheless.
"I will grab some football shorts from Karin, but..." he looked at her cleavage and quickly averting his eyes, kept talking. "But she or Yuzu doesn't have your size in shirts, so you will have to wear something from by wardrobe. I hope you don't mind..." he said, apologetically and a flash of Inoue wearing his favorite hoodie clouded his mind. He pushed that thought aside and entering his room, gestured to his wardrobe so the girl could choose. She looked around and grabbing something from the inside, brought with her the hoodie from his vision. Ichigo shook his head to clear his thoughts from dangerous paths and lead her to the bathroom.
"Oh, my boy..." his father's voice came from behind him, while he looked with empty eyes to the bathroom's door. "When you suggested you should take a bath, I was this close" he showed his thumb and index finger almost touching "of making a remark about how someone could take that to a wrong conclusion, but I didn't, so you can see how an awesome dad I am!" he pronounced, proudly, with his chest puffed out.
Ichigo flushed, honoring his name, and punched his father's face against the wall. He descended the stairs and walked to the clinic, where he could take his own bath. Taking his time in the warm water, he thought about his actual situation. Inoue would still be in danger because of her high reiatsu and her natural naivety and keeping his distance didn't work out that well to the both of them, so, what would he do next? She liked him, in a way he would never dream and that information led his imagination to impossible paths until now... Well, he had to take a step at a time and work with what he had...
"Are you dead in there?" Isshin asked, banging the bathroom door. Ichigo grumbled and grabbing his clean clothes and redressing himself, opened the door to a grinning Isshin.
"What's with the stupid expression?" he asked, while his father almost skipped the entire way back.
When they entered the house, the mud spots were nowhere to be seen. Ichigo eyed his father, doubtfully, but looking at the approaching person the mystery was resolved. Inoue was walking with some rags and a bucket of clean water, but what grabbed his attention was how his hoodie looked like it was made to be used by her. Of course its sleeves were much bigger and larger than her thin arms and it reached her mid thigh, but he couldn't shook the thought that invaded his mind "Damn, she is beautiful!". The shorts showed her bruised legs with clean bandages around them, just like her head.
"Inoue, why are you cleaning my house? It should be my responsibility to do that or that stupid father of mine!" he grumbled, looking with a menacing expression.
"Kurosaki-kun, it's the least I could do! I got it all dirty with that mud, so it's my obligation to clean my mess! And now excuse me, I have to clean this hallway!" she said in a demanding voice that made Ichigo obey immediately. Damn, he was so wiped!
He followed his father after the man grabbed his arm and pulled the boy behind him, leaving the girl cleaning.
"Let her be. She needs something to take her mind out of that situation. She told me what happened while she was cleaning the stairs." Isshin explained, while his son sat in front of him at the kitchen table. "I'm proud of you... For those past weeks you were not yourself, you were always grumbling and frowning for nothing, even more than normal and even in front of your sisters and it felt like you lost some of your... flame... I don't know if that is the right word, but I do know that what you were doing was wrong and would hurt both of you more than what was reasonable." Isshin said, while eyeing his son with an expression that the boy only saw twice in his life: when he ran away to the river after his mother's funeral and when his father taught him the Final Getsuga Tensho and sent his only son to a fight he wasn't so sure he could survive. "So make sure that that dumb head of yours doesn't pull a stunt like that again, all right? That girl suffered more than we could imagine; for what I know her parents were bad people, her only brother died, her world got turned up, she was kidnapped and God only knows what she suffered there, then came all the memory lost business, so, please Ichigo, don't do more rash decisions about her without telling Inoue-san, she deserves to know..." Isshin shut up and sighed, looking at his son with a deep expression.
"I know that, why do you think I pulled out that stunt, as you said. What I did was not right, but I had to try..." Ichigo confessed, in a depressed tone.
"She is already too deep in…" Isshin said, making his son look at him with a confused expression. "You know what I'm talking about and I guess that's the reason for the sudden separation, am I right?"
"Was it that obvious?" Ichigo asked, accepting the hot tea his father made.
"Yes, it was. But you couldn't see it because you were too worried all the time... Why do you think she is always so worried about you? For god's sake, the girl entered a mythical place to save someone she barely knew with next to none offensive powers!" Isshin said, exasperated. Shaking his head at his son idiocy he prepared to left the kitchen, but stopped and turning around commented: "I bet it wasn't your brilliant mind that came up with that, so who did you eavesdrop?"
Ichigo grumbled under his breath his friends' names and Isshin laughed. "You know what they say about people who hears others' conversations!" and still laughing left the place.
When Inoue entered the kitchen, with a contagious smile, Ichigo had already a mug with hot tea prepared for the girl. She fidget in the middle of the kitchen, blushing, until Ichigo grabbed her arm and made her sit in front of him. She grabbed the mug and smelled the chamomile's aroma, smiling appreciatively.
"Inoue?" Ichigo called, grabbing the girl's attention. He just remembered something that his mind, for the last weeks, tried to repress, but unsuccessfully. "When we fought that hollow, you made him return to his normal form and you kept the other as a prisoner inside your shield... In that moment I didn't thought of it, but now I started wondering, did you start training again?" Ichigo asked, eyeing the girl. She blushed even more and played with a piece of paper that was over the table.
"Urahara-san and Yoruichi-san helped me..." she confessed, fidgeting in her chair.
"A little after all the fullbringers's problems... Please, don't be mad at them! If they didn't help me, I would have done it alone and probably would take way more time to reach this level!" Inoue said, looking desperately at him. "I told you that I don't want to be left behind! I'm capable of protecting the people I love, even if you don't agree. You are not the only who cares about Karakura Town and want to protect it! I do too! And I want to protect you!" Inoue blushed, but couldn't stop herself, like when she yelled at him beside the river. "You have to accept that people want to protect you too! You can't carry the weight of the world alone, please share it with me, let me help you!" she begged, grabbing his hand and holding it between hers.
Ichigo looked at her like it was the first time he saw her. She was right, she was no longer the fifteen years old girl that dreamt of being a robot in the future, the girl that kept her head in the clouds all the time, in front of him was, not a girl, but a woman with all the power in the world to fight beside him and help him win. How could he have been so dumb disdaining her rightful place next to him? Ichigo shook his head and looking at her shining eyes, smiled understandably.
"Thank you for putting some sense into my thick head." Ichigo thanked, squeezing her hands.
Orihime sighed and got up, walking around the table until she was right behind him. She didn't know what she was doing, until she felt her own arms put themselves around Kurosaki-kun's shoulders and chest and her cheek rest over his head.
Ichigo felt his body freeze when the girl's arms fell over his frame, but when he felt her face against his head and the warm that she sent to his body, he felt himself relax and let his hands grab her owns, that were over his heart.
"Thank you..." she whispered against his hair and in that moment all of Ichigo's carefully made plans crumbled like a castle of cards. He jumped to his feet, making the girl almost fell backwards, but turning around he pressed her body against him and his lips against hers.
This time was Orihime's body that froze. Her brain couldn't wrap itself around the idea that the man she loved was kissing her. But when her hands found his warm cheeks and the smell of chocolate, that she always associated with him, invaded her nostrils, she finally accepted it and let her body relax under his touch.
When they departed for air, Ichigo looked at her like a deer caught in the headlights, his cheeks were red like a tomato and his chest was moving like he just ran for miles and miles. He touched his own lips, where Inoue's taste still lingered and for some moments the girl thought he would pass out. He fell over the chair and buried his face on his hands. His shoulders started trembling and Orihime thought that maybe her kiss was so bad that she made him cry.
She approached him with a trembling hand and touched his shoulder. When he looked at her, she saw he wasn't crying; he was laughing.
"Are you laughing 'cause my lips tickle?" she asked, with her heart beating like a hammer.
"No, I'm laughing because I'm an idiot!" the boy said, leaving the healer even more confused. "I kept saying to myself that I should walk away from you and leave you alone and now that I kissed you, I will never be able of doing that. I got stabbed by my own sword!"
"Oh, you should be careful with that, Zangetsu wouldn't like seeing his master hurt" she said, in a worried tone.
"What...?" started Ichigo, but started laughing when the meaning of her words entered his mind. He closed the distance between them and grabbed her hands.
"Please, never stop being like that!" he asked and Orihime nodded, not really sure of what she was agreeing with.
"Oh, and one more thing... Did you talk with my dad about our fight?" Ichigo asked, remembering a detail of her yelling.
"No... Why? Should I?" the girl asked, confused.
"No, it's just you said something about Kurosaki-san and how you talked with..." Ichigo shut up, seeing the girl's face turn beat red.
She fidget on the place, embarrassed and opened her mouth, without knowing what to say that wouldn't make her sound like a crazy person.
Isshin choose that moment to appear at the threshold with a smile and Orihime smiled, relieved. Ichigo noted that and frowned, wondering what could make the girl so embarrassed.
"Inoue-san, I could give you a ride... Yuzu just called asking if I could get them, the school got flooded, so they are sending the kids home and this way you won't have to walk in the rain." the Kurosaki father offered, in a kind voice that made Ichigo really suspicious.
"Thank you, Kurosaki-san for everything!" Orihime said, bowing respectfully.
"You don't have to thank us; it was our pleasure, right Ichigo?" Isshin asked and his son couldn't let go of the feeling his father had a hidden meaning under his words.
Ichigo nodded awkwardly, while Isshin gestured to Orihime to follow him. She grabbed a bag with her muddy clothes and ran behind him.
Orihime kept distracted, at the back seat, the entire way, looking through the window to the windy and cloudy sky, while Ichigo kept his eyes in the rearview mirror. Isshin had to control himself not to burst laughing at the teens' antics. Like a normal father he obviously spied on them through the key hole, almost applauding his son when he finally made a move. He knew the girl would be a good influence, she already was...
"Here we are, Inoue-san!" Isshin announced, parking the car in front of her apartment building.
Before she even took her seat belt, Ichigo was already by her door, grabbing his black umbrella over her head when she opened the door. He walked with her until her door and when he stopped she could see a revealing red color over his cheeks. His hair was hidden under his hoodie and Orihime felt a little down, not being able of seeing that comforting orange.
"Well, see you tomorrow, Inoue." he said in an awkward tone. He looked behind and noticing that his father was playing with the radio, got down and kissed her on the lips.
She felt her heart burst with happiness, but before she could do anything, Kurosaki-kun was already running to the car. She opened her door and waited two minutes, until she was sure he wouldn't hear and then, falling to the floor, she started rolling around, giggling like crazy.
Kurosaki-kun kissed her... Kurosaki-kun kissed her... KUROSAKI-KUN KISSED HER!
And then, changing to a standing position, she finally caught up with that. She loved him for a long time and to know that he liked her too... She didn't how to feel, she wanted to sing and jump and dance and eat a whole shop of donuts! She wanted to tell everyone and no one, she wanted to scream out loud and take that sacred secret to the grave... She had so many contrary feelings she felt like she could faint. Controlling her breathing, she headed to the bedroom to change to warmer clothes; Karin-chan's shorts were starting to make her cold, so she changed to her pajama pants, keeping Kurosaki-kun's hoodie, however.
The next morning was a mess to Orihime's control. She didn't know if that was all a dream, but a look at the shirt she was wearing dissipated all her doubts. She felt bad for not washing his clothing with the rest of it, but the girl just couldn't make herself strip of it...
So, changing to her school uniform and grabbing her school bag and another one with Karin's shorts, she headed to a place where she could finally see if her doubts had any foundation. She didn't know what her relationship with Kurosaki-kun was, but she couldn't make herself regret that kiss and hoped with all her strength that he didn't too...
When she entered the school grounds, her eyes immediately started wondering, until she found one head that called her attention. She ran to the five boys and with a smile, greeted them enthusiastically.
"Hi Kurosaki-kun, Sado-kun, Ishida-kun, Asano-kun and Kojima-kun!" she said in a breath, while her bubbly energy made them happier instantly. However, the boys looked at the carrot top with apprehension. Ignoring their looks, Ichigo waved his hand, while saying a simple "Hey Inoue!" For a moment she felt a little taken back, but when he smiled his rarest smile: the one he gifted her after founding her in that sandy land of Hueco Mundo, she knew all she needed.
"Well, we should go... to class..." Keigo said, cutting the uncomfortable silence that fell over the group.
When they entered the school building, the buzzing was louder than normal and Ichigo, used to be looked with some fear, was not used to be looked with awed expressions like some of his colleagues were doing.
"Did you run over someone's cat?" Ishida asked, noticing the strange behavior as well.
"Not recently…" Ichigo answered, absently. He wasn't really interested in what they were saying about him, keeping his mind occupied with the movements of the girl next to him. But when Inoue's name fell from someone's lips in less than a chivalrous way, he stepped back and grabbed the boy's shirt. And that's when he understood that they were looking at Inoue and not him, like Ishida and he thought.
"What the hell did you say?" Ichigo asked, eyeing the boy with menacing eyes. Behind him, his friends watched surprised.
"A f-friend of m-mine said he s-saw I-Inoue-senpai ki-kissing a strange g-guy..." the boy stuttered, sweating at the throbbing of Ichigo's chin.
Orihime gasped and her friends looked at her, surprised and confused. Ichigo released the boy and looking around, caught a lot of people quickly diverting their eyes.
"So what if she kissed some guy? It would be a lucky one! And if I caught any of you talking about Inoue again, you're screwed!" and the menace in his eyes didn't left any space for doubts.
Inoue almost ran to her classroom, hiding her flaming cheeks, followed by a fuming Ichigo, who sent the dead glare to anyone that looked in Inoue's direction. When the two of them entered the classroom, leaving the boys go to their respective classes, Ichigo once again heard the buzzing of gossip in the air. He slammed the door shut, making the people inside jump and fell silent instantly. Orihime sat at her desk and started drawing, without looking up. Ichigo felt himself loose it again and tried to breathe deeply. Seating behind the girl, he could observe her long hair and how her shoulders tensed every few seconds. When the teacher entered, everyone went to their seats and the boy thought that he finally would be able of being in peace in a place without hearing comments about Inoue and her secret boyfriend. But, boy was he wrong!
Two girls next to him, found History too much of a boredom, so started whispering to each other. For the first minutes he could ignore them, but when their words became rather nasty and very unlady-like, he jumped to his feet, grabbing the entire classroom attention.
"Stop that, you little cockroaches! You don't know anything about her to say shit like that! She would go with some crazy lunatic to save her friends' lives, she would beat herself to protect everyone she cares about and you just start bashing her, with lies and jealous words! You don't know a thing about the powerful being she is!" Ichigo yelled, pointing an accusatory finger to the two petrified girls. Behind him, even blushing Orihime couldn't hide her smile.
"Sit down Kurosaki. Protect your girlfriend's honor another time!" the teacher said, with the intent of embarrass the boy, so he would finally sit.
"Sorry, but I couldn't wait for another time!" the boy said, without caring to correct his teacher, which didn't pass unscathed by the other students. When Ichigo sat, he could hear different comments being said, much more closely to the truth this time.
When they stepped out at lunch time, the entire school already knew that the delinquent was dating the naive girl. Keigo came running; bumping into the entire student body to stood in front of Ichigo and demand the truth. The orange top just nodded with his usual scowl and Mizuiro had to support him, before he could faint. When Orihime stepped out of the class, Ichigo's arm fell over her shoulders and pushed her into the mob. Keigo kept eyeing them with disbelieving eyes; Mizuiro looked rather proud, like a father who sees his son getting the girl; Sado was looking relieved and Ishida was torn between worry, smugness and relieve as well.
It was an odd sight to the students walking in that hallway: a boy with the most menacing scowl someone could imagine and eyes that pierced anyone who looked in his direction and under his arm, a blushing and giggling girl, considered the most beautiful of the entire school, and that in that moment looked like a kid on Christmas Day. And odd couple, indeed…
"You!" a female voice called right behind them. The boys turned around and faced a fuming Tatsuki, with her hands on her hips. So the boys just did the rational thing and stepped back. "I just came back from my tournament and I lost, so I'm really pissed off! So if any of you make some funny remark in front of Orihime I will cut you in small pieces and feed my dogs, got it? I'm the only who can tease both of them, you can say whatever you want to Ichigo, but not in front of her!" and smiling a devious smile, she followed the path the couple took. "I'm going to have so much fun!"
Ishida kept his eyes glued to her retreating form, and smiled fondly.
Last chapter of flashbacks! In the next we will be returning to the "present", with some fighting scenes to begin with!
I'm not really sure about this last scene with the school finding out about them, when I thought about it I thought it was cool, but now rereading it's not fully satisfactory. But I couldn't really think of any other way of people finding out, so...
Let me know what you think...