Orihime in Hiding Chapter 5
Ok, guys let me make this quite clear. I did not write this story, it was written by Renji’s Girll. So please please please give her the credit not me.
And with that here’s the next installment.
Chapter 5- Pineapple
Thirty minutes after Hitsugaya left, Renji and Orihime decided it was time to grocery shop. They’d already seen a supermarket listing in the phone directory — Fresh, Food, Ideas, Your Local Busch’s Store — the page of advertising had read, displaying a pineapple beside the slogan, and according to the handy map of Brooklyn provided in the front of the directory, Busch’s was close.
But it still required driving.
Orihime pulled her door shut as soon as she got into the passenger seat, leaving Renji standing outside to look at her despairingly.
She stared back at him until he went around the truck and got in behind the steering wheel.
“You’re supposed to wait until I shut the door for you,” he said, taking a moment to fit the key in the ignition.
“Oh. Why?” she asked.
He jammed the key into the column again. “I’m not sure. That’s how I’ve always seen it done in the television shows.”
“Not everything on television is real, Renji,” she said kindly. She could think of several items advertised on the small set they’d watched over the course of the day in the living room that had been theoretically flawed.
“I know that.” He turned the key and the engine started. The directions to the supermarket were simple; left, left, right. He shifted the truck into reverse, and put one arm on the back of the bench seat, looking behind them.
Backing out of the driveway onto Brooklyn-Pierport road took a few moments, but two minutes later they were making the turn at the intersection in town. Driving wasn’t something Renji had done much — in any part of the living world — but Ikkaku had been full of advice before he’d left for this assignment. Of course, Ikkaku was generally full of other stuff too, Renji thought, so how good the advice could be was anyone’s guess.
“Ooh, there’s the pastry shop,” Orihime said as they made the turn at the traffic light, nearly clipping his hat as she pointed to the Cake Cottage.
“Yeah,” he said, moving her hand so he could see the lane he was pulling into. The hat was distracting enough; he didn’t need her hauling herself halfway across the cab to point out donuts. Plus, every time he turned his head the baseball cap’s bill caught on the window. He took a moment to look at the little buttons on the door, flipping a few testily. Finally the window zipped down a few inches.
“Mine, too,” Orihime said, smiling and fingering the buttons at her own door.
He kept his eyes on the sparse traffic ahead of them. “Did you bring the list?”
“Uh-huh.” She patted her small patchwork leather purse. “You know, in the tips book Rukia lent me, it says you’re not supposed to shop for groceries when you’re hungry. Are you hungry, Renji?”
He nodded. Between the two of them, when wouldn’t one of them be hungry? “Not all of the stuff in there applies to every situation,” he said, referring to the manual Rukia had insisted was necessary study for Orihime in America. Like the phrase ‘Selling like hotcakes’ she’d used at what had passed for breakfast that morning. “You’re a foreign exchange student, Inoue. You’re not supposed to fit in.”
“Oh, but I want to,” she said softly.
The supermarket came up on their right, and he slowed the truck for the turn, bumping the hat bill on the rear view mirror.
“Damn thing,” he muttered, tempted to take the hat off.
“I think it looks good on you,” she said as he glared at the parking lot sprinkled with cars. “What is that on it?”
Renji had inspected the cap Hitsugaya had left for him in detail, but he still wasn’t sure. It was a black hat, with a serious-looking man embroidered on the front. A sports team, Hitsugaya had guessed. “It’s a Blackhawk.”
He saw her hold her breath as he parked at the far end of the lot.
He shifted the truck into park. “I’m not sure. A bird, I guess.” But that didn’t explain the pissed-off guy with the feathers in his hair on the patch.
Beside the grocery store was a smaller store called Happy Dollar, with a big friendly dancing dollar sign in green. The entryway to the Busch’s supermarket was crowned with an art deco pineapple standing six feet tall in shades of brown. For a moment they stood looking at it until a car waited for them to move out of the crosswalk.
“Why is it called Busch’s instead of pineapple?” Orihime wondered as they made their way inside.
Renji didn’t have an answer.
They found a cart in the entryway and headed into the bright building where a catchy tune neither of them recognized was playing. The cart they chose tried to go in a direction they didn’t want it to, and the faster Orihime pushed it, the more the front left wheel veered into things. Like stacks of precariously balanced cereals and glass jars of mayonnaise.
“I’m not going back for another,” Renji told her as he commandeered the cart. “I’ll push it.”
She smiled, eyes going over the mountains of food items. “Okay.” She pulled the list they’d made out of her purse.
He looked around the moderately sized store. It wasn’t very busy, just a few guys wheeling out a load of cases of beer and a few young girls with fancy bottles of juices and bubblegum. They gave Renji a wide berth.
He tried to look over Orihime’s shoulder, ever mindful of her lethal forehead, and decided her loopy hiragana was too fancy to read.
“What are we getting?” he asked with a sigh, returning a stare to an older pudgy woman who had stopped to stare at him.
For a moment the woman was motionless, and then she shook her head and went her way.
Orihime consulted her list. “Daikon, kabu, kabocha, hakusai, soba, fish of any sort — I heard it would be harder to find good fish here, Renji — natto — but I think that’s in the prepared dish aisle — any kind of mushrumps we can find, kitchen, and sweet bean paste.”
He leaned closer, and she moved back an inch, sizing up the bill of the baseball cap. “Mushrumps? Mushrooms, Inoue. And it’s chicken, not kitchen.”
She giggled, a hand going to her mouth. “Okay. Ooh, look, vegetables.” She pointed to the end of the store. And it had actually sounded more like bejetabudesu, but he knew what she meant. He nodded and wheeled the wobbly cart to the produce section of the sore.
It was a lost cause from there on. Little in the vegetable section looked familiar, save the Chinese cabbage, the bulbous mushrooms, the spring onions, a few of the squash, and some of the fruit, which Orihime insisted were mis-marked. In all, it was a pathetic array of small, wimpy vegetables.
It took twenty minutes to wade through the produce section, and five minutes of bickering over the names of everything, and then they headed for the meat’s service counter.
Which Renji thought was an odd name for the surely-looking fledgling butcher behind the glass case. Everywhere they looked were piles of red meat, with only one small case devoted to fish. His eyes went over the dry, blanched-looking fish that appeared long-dead.
“We’re going to starve to death here,” he muttered, and then signaled the lanky butcher. “How old is this shit?”
“Renji,” Orihime hissed with a poke to his arm.
“I want to know.” He leaned across the counter, staring down the butcher who looked too young to have a knife. “Is this fish fresh?”
The butcher looked over the case, and then back to Renji. “Think so.”
“Is this all?”
“There’s frozen in aisle fourteen.”
Renji leaned back from the counter, his gaze settling on Orihime, who had grown oddly quiet. Hell, if she was going to be cooking, and if this was their food source, it was going to be a hell of a long …What was it? Week? Month? Summer?
Dammit, he thought, not the whole summer. Not in a human body and living off whatever she was going to pass off as food.
Despite its half-dehydrated appearance, and with extensive hand-to-case jabbing, he selected what was eventually translated as a pound of yellow fin tuna and two pounds of salmon. At least the colors were okay, he thought, watching the tuna steaks and slabs of salmon being wrapped.
“We could eat kitchen,” Orihime suggested, a smile tempted the corners of her mouth hopefully. She pointed down the wall of the store where refrigerated cases housed assorted packaged meats.
He nodded, giving up on the linguistics for the moment. “We’re going to have to.”
The rest of the store was as bad or worse, but neither of them cared, more interested in trying to put enough resources in the cart to see them a few days through. It took ten minutes to pass the check-out register, and Renji was relieved there were no problems with the bank card Soul Society had provided.
When they got home — how that word made Renji homesick — he sat at the kitchen table as Orihime unpacked their six bags of groceries. It was nearly sunset. She chatted blithely about the trip to town, stacking assorted strange looking boxes and cans on the counter they were to call food.
“Are you hungry?” she asked,
He looked up from the small wooden case Hitsugaya had left for them. “No.”
“Not yet,” he said, trying to delay the inevitable.
She nodded, setting the produce to one side on the counter.
He looked at the contents of the box. One watch, one bracelet, one gold chain with a key at the end. He took the watch. It was a handsome specimen, leather band, large dial, black, soft and comfortable. He turned it over to see the ‘live wire’, Hitsugaya had called it. The back of the watch was equipped with a metal circle, meant to run off body temperature. His body temperature, to be exact.
He took out the silver halves of a blue bangle next. They were of a similar metal, except detailed with ornate scrollwork entangling over them, and set with a medium blue stone in one half.
Orihime’s birthstone of sapphire, he’d been told.
“Come over here,” he said as she finished putting the cold groceries in the refrigerator. “We’ll get these set.”
She nodded and settled into a chair at the table. “Ooh, pretty.”
“Yeah.” He took the gold chain and used the small key to fit into the end of the bangle, but snuggly, and clicked open the lock. “Reach over your left arm.”
A fleeting look of hesitation crossed her soft brown eyes, but she held her wrist to him. He connected the bangle halves by one side with the key, locking it. He next closed the second side, the click of the lock securing the bangle on her wrist.
“It’s pretty,” she said.
“It’s just a precaution,” he said, buckling on the watch to his own left wrist. “In case we get separated. There’s a twenty-five-hundred foot range, nearly half a mile. If you go beyond that, I’ll know.”
She smiled, her fingers going over the silver metal testily. “And then?”
Her face had softened, more so than he’d seen it since a certain somebody had rescued her. Damn strawberry, he thought. Duty was fine, but… sometimes there was more. “I’ll find you. Got it?”
He hung the chain with the key around his neck, watching her lips purse at whatever thoughts were coursing through her head.
He already felt the draw at his wrist from the watch, a small pull. He cleared his throat, waiting for her to dismiss the hurt in her eyes. With all her attributes, he didn’t know why she hadn’t attracted a certain Y chromosome. Actually, one of two that he knew were prone to her affections.
He sat back, estimating her as she looked at the bracelet. “I guess I could eat.”
Earlier that day, the figure had studied the photo of the girl he held, waiting for his lunch in a small diner that had sprung up on his way southwestward. The waitress had left coffee, and his order of some sloppy special-of-the-day was being prepared by the frazzled cook behind the counter.
Young, about fifteen, he’d been told, with deep auburn hair, and soulful brown eyes verging on gray at times. It was a school photo he held, so her smile was timorous, her school uniform spotless, her hair held by barrettes to one side of her head. Oh, and she’d smelled like sunflowers, he’d been told.
Orihime Inoue. He wondered why she was of such interest to the man known simply as his Employer. Of course, she was a delicate, innocent looking thing, buxom lass, but there had to be more than that for a man to commission such a bounty. He wasn’t the only hired hand for this venture. But he knew he was the best.
His Employer was another matter. A simple, unassuming man with thick framed glasses and medium brown hair who looked to be anyone and everyone’s brother and father. His mannerisms were benevolent, masking the nearly unthinkable of asking to task what was a herd of mercenaries.
‘And she smells like sunflowers, sometimes,’ his Employer had said. And he didn’t want her hurt. There was too much invested in her.
“Thank you,” he said as the waitress set his plate of something on the table.
The girl wouldn’t be alone. His Employer was quite sure she’d be chaperoned by one or more individuals.
He drank the coffee he took black and glanced with disinterest at the plate of meat and potatoes slathered in dark gravy.
He had been provided with no photo of most prospects that’d be chaperoning the girl. He had descriptions. He had memorized the physical descriptions, and of them all the tall female with strawberry blonde hair was the most enticing. “The epitome of womanly pulchritude,” the strange white-haired man with the disturbing permanent grin had said when he’d met with the Employer. She’d been described as having an inordinately large bosom, and a mole on the side of her lip, at which mention the man with the eerie grin had nearly drooled.
There were others, too. One could be a much slighter girl with dark hair, and while deadly, was in a weakened state and probably would not be present.
The man sampled the meal before him and found it nearly palatable. His mind mulled over the rest of the potential bodyguards. Most notably were the bald man and the red haired man. These his Employer had described as tenacious, dangerous, and more persistent than either of the women. The odd physical features had struck the man as odd — shocking red hair and tattoos on one, a sleek bald head and the tendency to remain barefooted for the other — gave him an instant image in the absence of actual photos.
All of these, his Employer had insisted, were currently human, but far more powerful than any human he’d ever encountered.
Which set the man’s guard on edge. Were currently human? What else could they be?
Two others were potential chaperones to the girl, and would be actual humans, but had proved themselves highly skilled.
He looked at the photos of these two prospects. Even after all his hours of study, the man couldn’t determine why these two youths –merely teens — would be considered dangerous. The first was an orange-haired boy of about sixteen years, with a determined countenance and extraordinary abilities with a sword.
A sword? At this the man knew the mission would be unlike any other he’d undertaken.
The second was also a teen, of similar age, but of less bulk in stature, with dark hair, and studious eyes shielded by glasses. He was well-known as an archer.
The man pushed back his plate and studied the photos in detail. Of the six prospective bodyguards, these were the only two real humans. The rest were of a temporary status.
It was those words that made Karl Rybak know he was getting involved in something beyond his capabilities. But that had never made him turn down money before.