Orihime In Hiding 18

Orihime in Hiding 18-Library Voices

It was after two o’clock in the morning when Orihime awoke from the frantic dream she’d had since her rescue. She awoke with her arms outstretched, fingers closing.

She sat up groggily, one hand going to her forehead, groaning. It had always been the same. But recently, within the last few days, the dream had changed.

She wasn’t sure if she was reaching or fending. Grasping or refusing. Aizen had underestimated his hold when he sent Ulquiorra to give her the choice to protect her fiends.

To her, to protect her friends meant at any cost, not simply by appearing to aid him in his misaligned cause. The word sacrifice hadn’t been brought to the surface. Not yet.

The word on her lips was a familiar one, but not the usual one when she awoke from the dream on other nights.

She sat up, sleepily rubbing her face, drawing her knees to her chest. The word was a name, and it was one that had been on the forefront of her mind lately.

She slowly swung her legs out of bed and took a moment to find her robe in the closet. She closed it snugly with the tie at her waist, and then found the blank book and a pencil from the desk.

“Shh,” she said as she quieted the Hello Kitty jingle’s bell when she opened her door fully, stepping into the hall.

Silently she moved down the dark hall, passing Renji’s room, glancing at him in bed through the open door. She was becoming accustomed to seeing him with his hair down, but the tattoos on his chest and back still gave her pause sometimes.

She ascended the stairs and went into the living room where the moonlight spread across the floor, throwing shadows of the trees outside from the sidewalk. She sat on the couch, curling her legs beside her, pulling the robe over her toes. She opened the book, sighing as she found where she’d left off. There wasn’t much written in it, just ramblings on various thoughts of her stay in Las Noches.

Nothing that would help anyone, she thought. The moon was bright enough to see the blank page, so she didn’t need the lamp. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, the pen paused over the page. And then she began sketching the layout of the halls as she could remember them.

“What are you doing down here?”

“Yip!” She flinched at Renji’s voice, making the pencil spike a heavy line on the page. She looked to him as he came into the room, glad he’d thrown on a t-shirt before startling her. She glanced at the katana in his hand. “I just wanted to think for a while.”

He nodded and went to the door, looking out the side window for a moment. “You want the light on?”

“No.”

He looked to the kitchen for a moment. “Did you hear something?”

“No.” She pulled her feet closer as he took a seat on the other end of the couch. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“I wish you’d told me you were coming down here.” He grabbed the remote control from the coffee table and sat back in the couch. He flicked on the TV, taking a moment to switch among the channels. He decided on a late running West coast hockey game, and then looked to the book she held. “What’s on your mind?”

She sighed, erasing the thick line she’d accidentally drawn when he surprised her. “Not much. Just, just trying to remember anything.”

He nodded, watching the game for a moment. He frowned at the stats banner on the top of the screen. “Two overtimes. Long game.”

She sketched for a moment, hoping to put the layout of the complex on paper before it slipped away like all the rest of her memories of that stark, cold place. “How many do you think there are?”

His eyes narrowed, rubbing his chest. The curry frosted brownies hadn’t sat too well from the previous day. “You’re not talking about the game, are you?”

“No.” She redrew a line carefully. “Of these people that keep finding us.”

He sighed, pushing his hair back, frowning at the game. “I don’t know. Don’t worry about them, Orihime.”

She nodded. “Why do you think Ishida is here?”

“I know Soul Society didn’t send him. Probably came on his own.” He cleared his throat. “He cares about you.”

She smiled, pink tinting her cheeks as she drew. “He’s so quiet.”

He shook his head. “Not always.”

She looked at the floor plan she’d drawn, sighing. She closed the book. “Leah left the cake for us. She said it would melt by the time she got home with it. We can have it for breakfast.”

“Sounds good.”

“And potato salad.”


Ishida left the house he was borrowing just before three o’clock. He’d spent the weekend thinking of how best to locate Orihime, and he was anxious to confront Leah again. He knew she knew. He just wasn’t sure why she was lying.

The waitresses at the Manic Groove had been helpful, and it was on their hints that he decided to find out if he could spot Leah at the high school, perhaps speak to her before Tuesday.

He headed down the sidewalk, recalling where the high school was on his first trip through town when he’d arrived. His hand went to the button up shirt’s pocket he wore over a gray t-shirt, feeling the hairclips there, frowning at thoughts of the few people who could have delivered them to him. He’d ruled out Kaname Tousen. The former Division Nine captain wasn’t interested in Orihime Inoue so much as his sense of justice. Ishida didn’t think the mutinous shinigami cared one way or the other about the human girl.

His hands balled into fists at the thought, the beauty of the warm day lost on him as he passed the well-kept houses along the sidewalk. Aizen was out of the question, for obvious reasons. Perhaps a disgruntled Espada or Arrancar. His scowl deepened. Perhaps Gin Ichimaru wasn’t the traitor he appeared to be. At least, not a traitor to Soul Society.

He turned down the sidewalk that led to the high school, noting the short, heavyset crossing-guard that waited at the opposite corner, her sign lowered as she spoke with a waiting mother who had a child in a stroller at one hand.

Ishida looked to the buses lined in the semi-circle of parking lot before the school, their diesel engines humming in a steady drone. The schoolyard was empty, but the front entry doors were propped open, muted sounds of teacher voices coming from inside.

He stopped under a young elm tree, eyes on the building, hoping Leah wouldn’t object to having a few words with him. He smiled. Maybe Orihime was even staying with her at her house. He wondered how they knew each other.

The end of day bell rang, and the sounds within the building grew louder with laughter and students calling to each other, locker doors shutting and slamming. It took a few moments for the first students to trickle out the double doors.

Ishida watched them mill around the yard, some going to buses, some to the sidewalks. His eyes moved over the crowd of students as they gathered in larger numbers, scanning every female form for Leah.

And then he saw her, but it wasn’t Leah. Ishida’s smile stretched wider as he recognized Orihime’s copper-brown hair, the slight bow she made as she spoke with two friends. Her book bag was at her shoulder by one strap over her rose colored blouse, her denim skirt hemmed with a white ruffle at her knees. She smiled at the girl beside her, and it took him a moment to realize it was Leah.

A large hand clapped over Ishida’s shoulder from behind, making him start, flinching so hard it nearly knocked his glasses from his face.

“What the hell are you doing here, Quincy?” Renji demanded as the boy turned.

“Ugh!” Ishida righted his glasses, glaring back in surprise. “Abarai! What are you doing here?”

Renji looked to where Orihime and Leah were still talking with Meg at the schoolyard. “I’m escorting Orihime Inoue through her student exchange to America. That’s the official story. Who sent you?”

Ishida frowned contemptuously. “No one. Someone contacted me.”

Alarm came to Renji’s face. “Who?”

“I don’t know.” Ishida’s eyes went back to the schoolyard.

“How can you not know?”

“I didn’t see them.” Ishida unwillingly looked back at the red-haired man. “They left me a note.”

“What did it say? Where is it?”

Ishida was looking back at the students. “Oh, here she comes.”

“What did it say?’

“In a minute.”

They watched as Orihime and Leah broke off speaking with Meg and started across the side street to meet them. Leah nodded at something Orihime said, and then the latter girl stopped midway in the street, her eyes going to Ishida. A squeal came from her, and she grabbed Leah’s wrist and half dragged her to the elm tree.

“Uryû!” She smiled, bowing when she met them, half dancing a few steps. “You’re really here!”

He grinned, extending his hand, which she shook eagerly. “Orihime, it’s good to see you.”

“Hai, this is Leah. This is Uryû Ishida, my friend from the exchange program,” Orihime introduced.

“Hi,” Leah said, working up a guilty smile. “Sorry about last Friday.”

Ishida nodded. “Okay.” He looked back to Orihime. “Program…”

“Just go with it,” Renji said in Japanese.

Ishida nodded, eyes fastened on Orihime until she blushed.

“Oh, we have to go to the library for a book,” she said to Renji.

He frowned, looking to Leah. “Where’s the library?”

“A block past the fire station in town. Not far,” she said.

“Okay,” he said, nodding.

Ishida hung back with Renji as Orihime and Leah started into the sidewalk traffic with the other students.

“What about this note?” Renji asked. For a moment Ishida didn’t answer, his attention on the sway of Orihime’s hair across her back, the smile she sent him when she looked back at him.

“Uryû,” Renji growled.

“What?”

“I want to see the note.”

Ishida frowned. “It was sent to me. It had a set of coordinates, longitude and latitude.”

Renji raised an eyebrow. “That’s how you found us?”

“With Urahara’s help. A little.”

“He doesn’t know where we are.”

“He knew what the coordinates were.”

“Anything else in the note? Where’s the paper? Do you have it with you now?”

Ishida reluctantly pulled his gaze away from the girls ahead of them. “It came with her hairclips.”

Renji nearly stopped walking. “Are you sure?”

“I know Orihime’s hairclips when I see them, Abarai.”

“Yeah, I figured.”

Ishida frowned at Leah’s back. “She lied to me.”

“What do you expect her to do? Pass out her friend’s address to some unknown stalker?”

“Well, no…” He sighed, watching the girls cross to the next block. “I guess I should’ve expected it.”

A new thought occurred to Renji. “Where are you staying?”

Ishida didn’t want to say it, didn’t want to admit it. “A place in town.”

Renji frowned at the vague answer. “Where?”

Ishida sighed. “At a house that’s owner recently passed away.”

Renji chuckled.

“Hey, I don’t have Soul Society footing the bill for this, okay?”

Renji nodded. “This place is a spiritual void, so don’t be using any Quincy tricks out here.”

“I’ll do whatever –”

“I’m telling you, don’t,” Renji emphasized sharply, returning Leah’s look as she turned to glimpse them at the change of his tone.

Ishida didn’t agree.

They walked in silence for the next two blocks, until they’d reached the main four corners in town, and crossed at the traffic light.

The Brooklyn Public Library was like the rest of the town — small, with a smaller budget, mostly made up of young reader programs and older ladies interested in genealogy. Renji and Ishida followed Orihime and Leah through the double doors and into the main hub of the building. To the right were the children’s sections, with two conference rooms and a stair leading to more rooms in the basement, with a sign reading “Jump Frog Reading Program” at the stair entrance.

To the left opened the fiction and reference areas, with comfortable upholstered chairs in a square around a low table by the magazine and newspaper racks. Against one wall were three computer terminals, each with a pre-teen boy hunkered at the screen, engrossed in the game before them.

The librarian was a portly, bespectacled, gray dressed woman in her late fifties, and she looked shrewdly at the newcomers.

Leah turned to Orihime, who was looking at the train of five preschoolers heading to the staircase. “Cookbooks are in reference,” she said, pointing to the left. “Come on.”

Orihime glanced to Ishida and Renji, smiling at the first, and followed Leah into the tall bookcases. Renji watched them go, then looked down as a whimpering sound grew louder.

“Oh, hi,” Meg said from nearby, waving and catching up to take little Josh’s hand as he stood a few yards away from Renji, sniffling and crying as he looked at the red haired man.

“I see you’ve been here before, Abarai,” Ishida said, looking to the boy.

Renji returned a wave to Meg as she took the small boy with the rest of the children to the basement staircase.

“He cries easily,” he grumbled, looking to the librarian who was eyeing them suspiciously. He glanced around the room. The windows were large, their panels opening out into the bushes above the greenery that lined the brick building, a soft spring breeze wafting in through the screens. He headed for the magazine rack.

Down a row of bookcases he saw Orihime and Leah, their heads bowed over a large book the latter girl held, both nodding, speaking lowly. He looked to Ishida, who had joined him at the rack.

“What are you doing here, Quincy?”

“Finding something to read.”

“In Brooklyn.”

“I told you. Same as you, Abarai. I was concerned about Orihime.”

Renji plucked a magazine with a car on the cover off the rack, thumbing through it. “I’m supposed to be here. You’re complicating things.”

Ishida glanced at the librarian, his voice lowering. “I didn’t know you were here.”

“Well, now you know. Now you can leave.” Renji stuck the magazine back on the rack and looked over the rest of the selection. “I can take care of this.”

“Not until I’m satisfied she’s okay.” Ishida pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, frowning over the magazines.

“You think I can’t do my job?”

“I’ve seen Soul Reapers work.”

Renji glared at him. He picked a magazine off the rack and shoved it at Ishida. “Try to look like you know what you’re doing here.” He grabbed a newspaper and found a chair near a potted Ficus plant, looking to Leah and Orihime as they rounded one of the bookshelf corners.

Ishida looked down at the magazine. Sewing Monthly. He sent Renji a dark look, but sat down with the magazine in a chair to the left of him.

Renji opened the newspaper without looking at it, eyes going to where Orihime and Leah’s voices were barely audible from a row of cases. He glanced at the news story on page three of the paper. “’Three Gunmen Arraigned in Court Tuesday,’” a headline read. He looked to the front of the paper. Pierport Crier, the masthead read. He opened the page to the story again.

His eyes followed the account. “’… rash of school attacks…four in the last month…total of seven…’” He frowned. The paper didn’t mention the crossing-guard or the intruder he’d buried in the garage. That brought the real total — and he was convinced they were all connected — to nine. He looked to Ishida, who had his face a six inches away from the open sewing magazine.

Renji leaned closer him. “How good is your English?”

Ishida looked over the magazine edge. “Having trouble with a word?”

“No, I want to see that paper you have. The one with the coordinates you got.”

Ishida’s eyes narrowed at him. “Why?”

“Dammit, can I see it?” Renji looked to the librarian who was watching them like a sentinel on lookout. He glanced back to Ishida. “How did you know it was Brooklyn?”

“I didn’t. It was a general area. I went to Pierport first.”

Renji sat back in the chair and looked to the newspaper story. According to article, all the attempted abductions were within fifty miles of each other.

“Why you?”

Renji looked to Ishida. “What?”

“Why you? Why did Soul Society send you?”

“I don’t know. Maybe Ikkaku won at Jan-Ken-Pong. Or maybe he lost. How the hell should I know?”

“Because it’s of some concern to me that she’s been stuck with you for a month, Abarai,” Ishida said tightly, his tone growing louder.

“Hey, your lousy imagination can go to hell, Quincy. I’ve been nothing but proper! Ask Orihime.” He glanced to the librarian as she put her hands on her plump hips.

Ishida leaned closer. “Why not Matsumoto-san?”

“She’s looking after Tatsuki elsewhere.”

Ishida’s dark eyes opened wider. “Really? I didn’t know.”

“This isn’t your concern. You should leave before you screw things up.”

Ishida sat on the edge of his chair, the magazine crumpling in his hands, his voice increasing in volume and speed. “I’m not the one sticking out like a big red fern with racing stripes! I’d be better chaperoning her than all this!” He gestured in Renji’s general direction.

He glowered at the Quincy. “Racing stripes? Hey, I’ve fitted in just fine around here!”

“You made that little boy cry by merely looking at him!”

“I didn’t –”

“Gentlemen!”

They looked up the see the librarian in all her grayness standing before them, looming in breadth and heather skirt and sweater, gaudy African bead necklace dangling as she leaned over Renji. “Library voices, please, gentlemen.” She looked at him for a moment, then to Ishida. “Are you patrons here?”

“Uh, we’re guests,” Renji said after a pause. He looked around the room of shelves, seeing neither Orihime nor Leah. “Guests of Leah Porter.”

“I see. In that case, please restrain yourselves while in the library.” She gave him a quick wrinkly smile that fell off as soon as she was done with it. “Thank you.” She sent Ishida a glance before departing back to her hub of counters at the center of the room.

She looked to the doors as a blond man entered and came to the counter.

“I’d like to fill out a membership application,” the man said, his hands deep in his jean pockets, wearing a t-shirt and unbuttoned long sleeve shirt overtop.

Renji slouched farther into the chair, glancing to where Orihime’s voice drifted in hushed tones from the tall lines of bookshelves. He watched the man at the counter nod and take the form the librarian handed him. The man looked to Renji as he sat in a stuffed chair two away from Ishida. The man reached for a magazine from the round table between the chairs and set it on his knee, then bent over the form with a pen. Ishida had his elbows propped on his chair arms, his face stuck in the magazine. It appeared to Renji that the Quincy was actually reading it.

The man with the form dug out his wallet from his back pocket and sorted through it for his driver’s license.

Renji looked to another man who came through the double front doors. This one tossed a wave to the librarian, gave the rooms a brief look, and headed straight for the boys at the computers, leaning over one as he played the game. The man was in his mid twenties, Renji figured, the dark, handsome kind that would turn a girl’s head. And probably make a beeline for Orihime and Leah, he thought as the dark-haired man pointed at the screen where the boy was playing.

Renji’s communicator beeped from his back pocket, startling him. Ishida gave him an irritated look. The librarian’s attention shot to him. Renji stood up and fished the device out of his pocket, turning to go down a row of tall bookshelves.

So now the thing decides to work, he thought. It led him to believe it was the chip from Orihime that had interfered with the signal. Shunsui and Nanao had taken the chip — and the DNA riddled metal band from the dead man’s wrist — when they’d left Sunday evening, after the captain had finished off the bottle of brandy.

Renji pressed the ‘Show’ button and saw Matsumoto’s code on the screen of the communicator. He glanced at the man with the boys, seeing him place something between two of them, moving down the wall to the third. If it‘s food, the librarian will be all over them like a hawk, he thought. ‘No Food’ signs were posted all over the place. He looked down at the screen and entered a ‘Hold’ code and clicked the device off. He followed the shelves back to the chairs, where Ishida continued to ignore him, and then crossed the room to find Orihime.

A low chuckling broke out from the boys and Renji looked there to see red pinpoints of light jerking about the walls. The boys grinned, the laser pointers in their hands, chasing each other’s lights and making their own shooting sound effects. He looked to the desk to see the librarian standing at attention.

Renji ducked down between the rows of reference books, following Orihime’s soft voice as she ‘oohed’ over the photo of a dessert recipe. He made a turn at the shelves of biographies running the length of the outside wall and found Orihime and Leah with a book each. There was no sign of the dark-haired man.

“What do you think of this one?” Orihime held a book open to a page showing a whipped cream topped pie. “It’s a turtle pie.”

He frowned. “Turtle? With cream?”

“It’s a dessert,” she said, angling her head to see between the shelves of books, smiling when she spotted Ishida sitting with the magazine across from the bookcases. “He’s really here, Renji.”

He nodded, glancing to the other man as they moved along the back wall. “Are you about done here?”

“I am,” Orihime said. She turned to Leah as they paused at the bookshelf end. “Are you?”

“I think so.” Leah held two oversized books to her yellow t-shirt. “I hope your friend’s not mad at me for lying to him.”

He shook his head. “He’ll get over it.”

Orihime looked to the green dot of light that suddenly pinpointed on the autobiography of the Oatman Girls on the shelf against the wall. “What is that?”

“Some guy gave those boys up front laser pointers,” Renji said, eyes narrowing at the beam. “But those were red.”

Leah looked closer at the dot. “Why’s this one green?”

Renji watched the green flick to Leah’s shirt, just above the books. He looked back through the bookshelves to Ishida. The Quincy had lowered his magazine a few inches, eyes on the blond man a few chairs over. Renji looked to the man. Beneath the man’s magazine was a silencer-equipped gun aimed down the aisle of shelves, at Leah.

Renji grabbed Leah’s shirt, where the green dot had settled, and jerked her behind the bookshelf end cap.

“Hey!” she yelped, then flinched as the noiseless bullet put a hole in two biographies. Her mouth dropped open. “What was that?”

Orihime had pressed her back against the end cap of the book shelf, pulling her cookbook closer to herself.

Renji looked down the aisle to see Ishida quietly rolling up his magazine, rising from his chair. Renji looked to Leah, releasing her shirt. “Where are the restrooms?”

“Behind where you were sitting, that way.” She pointed along the back wall of books.

The green dot of light appeared again, roaming the biography section. Renji pushed Orihime ahead of him, and then Leah, moving them quickly along the back wall as the green dot tried to follow.

“What’s going on?” Leah asked as she hurried behind Orihime.

“Just go,” Renji said tightly, pushing her until she crowded the girl in front of her. At the end of the rows of bookcases Orihime made a left turn to where the restrooms were housed in an indentation for the facilities. Between the doors were a drinking fountain, fire extinguisher, and fire alarm on the wall.

He shoved them through the door with the ‘Women’ sign. “Stay in there.”

Orihime nodded, her hand taking Leah’s as the brunette girl started to speak.

Renji headed back into the main library room, his eyes moving to each side of it. He saw Ishida standing behind the man with the gun, the rolled magazine stuck in the blond man’s back, just below the nape of his neck, speaking lowly to him. The blond man nodded slowly, and Ishida reached in front of him to take the gun.

Disarmed with a magazine, Renji thought. Impressive.

The librarian stepped into view from the hub of counters, hands on her hips, looking to the boys with the red laser pointers at the computers.

“Boys,” she said in a loud library voice.

Ishida headed the blond man to where Renji stood at the inlet to the restrooms, the gun now replacing the magazine stuck in his back.

“She’s in the women’s,” Renji said as they passed, his eyes moving over the bookshelves and computers.

Ishida nodded, digging the barrel of the gun harder into the man in front of him.

Renji looked over the room behind him for a moment, and then turned into the men’s restroom.

Inside Ishida had the blond man against the tiled wall, flat beside the sinks, hands at his head, the gun trained on his spine. He ran a hand on either side of the blond man’s ribs, shaking his head.

Renji grabbed the man’s hair and snapped his head around to face him. “Who sent you here?”

The man tried to shake his head, but couldn’t.

“A name. A description,” Renji prompted.

“Was his name Aizen?” Ishida asked, shining the green dot on the man’s hand on the wall.

“I don’t know names,” the man said, eyes straining to see the green dot.

Renji looked to Ishida. “I think there’s another one. I’m going back out. See what you can get out of this one.”

Ishida nodded as Renji turned to leave. He got halfway to the door before it opened and the dark-haired man appeared. A green dot appeared on Renji’s dark blue t-shirt, just above the yellow M decal before the man fired once as the door closed.

Renji sidestepped the shot, and it whizzed past him into the blond man behind him at the wall, sinking him to his knees. A second shot came from the sink area, but Renji didn’t turn to see what it was. He sent a fist into the man’s face, breaking the nose and one jawbone, and shoved him against the wall, ripping the gun from his hand.

He pushed the barrel to the man’s dark hair, the green dot eclipsed, sliding him along the wall farther into the small room. He spared a few seconds to look to the three toilet stalls and two urinals, satisfied the room was empty.

“Who sent you here?” he asked, bouncing the man’s head off the tiles with the gun barrel.

“I don’t know his name.”

Renji looked to Ishida, who was standing over the blond man on the floor, watching a pool of blood form from his back, and hand. He glanced at the Quincy. “You shot his hand?”

“It was just a reaction to him bursting in,” he said, indicating the second gunman. He looked down at the gun.

Renji shook his head, jamming the gun barrel again in the man’s head, bringing a few curses from him. “How many?” After a moment’s pause, he moved the gun to the man’s lower back. “Again, how many are there?”

The man glanced to the first man lying on the floor in an increasingly large puddle of red. “I don’t know. A dozen, I think.”

Renji’s eyes widened. “A dozen?”

Ishida felt for a pulse at the back of the prone man’s neck, shaking his head. “What are we going to do with him, Abarai?”

“I’m thinking.”

Ishida set the gun down on the sink and began ripping paper towels from the dispenser. “My fingerprints are on the gun,” he said, then looked to the bloody prints on the dispenser.

Renji pulled the dark-haired man from the wall, looking to Ishida. “Wash your hands and go find Orihime.”

“In the girls’ restroom?” Ishida used his elbow to turn on the water at the sink faucet.

“Yes.”

He blushed as he washed his hands. “I guess if I knock first –”

“Shit, Quincy, just go! I’ll clean up here.” Renji forced the second man to the floor, pressing the gun back to his head again.

Ishida dried his hands. “Your fingerprints are all over, too.”

“I’m not going to be human long enough for that to matter. Get going.”

Ishida threw him a look, and then left the restroom.

He crossed the water fountain to the women’s restroom door, pausing to look into the library main rooms. No one seemed to suspect anything. Kids and the librarian moved through the bookshelves without regard for the scene in the men’s restroom.

He tapped on the women’s restroom door, then turned the latch and pushed on it, but the door pushed back. “Orihime,” he said close to the door. “It’s me. Open up.”

Again the door met with force as he pushed on it. Behind him a shot sounded dully from the men’s room. He pushed harder on the door before him, opening it enough to see a strand of dark hair where Leah had her back to the door, leaning into it.

“Leah –”

And then the door opened and Ishida half fell in. He confronted Orihime and Leah’s surprised looks with a faint blush. “Are you okay, Orihime?”

She nodded, her eyes wide, focusing beyond him as he shut the door. “Are you okay?” he asked Leah as she held the books close to her chest.

“What’s going on out there? Where’s Renji?” She frowned at him, fingers clawing over the cookbooks.

“He’ll be a few minutes.” He looked to Orihime, disliking the fear in her brown eyes. “It’s okay now, Orihime.”

She nodded, glancing to Leah before switching to Japanese. “She doesn’t know the truth, Uryû.”

He looked to Leah as she frowned at Orihime. He was about to speak when a loud ringing erupted through the building, and the overhead fire alarm sprinklers suddenly showered water on the entire room.

“Agh!” Both girls shrieked at the cold water, looking to each other, and then him.

Ishida pushed his glasses up his wet nose, switching back to English. “I think Renji’s done.”

They stepped out of the restroom to find Renji reaching for the door latch. He looked over them quickly.

“Everyone okay?”

Orihime and Leah nodded and they all hurried through the library among the other people heading for the front doors. Most of the kids were laughing, some younger ones crying, and the librarian was standing in the center dictating ‘Move along, don’t push, single file.’

They stood outside on the sidewalk across the street as the fire truck rolled up to the hydrant before the library and four firemen in bright yellow coats and thick boots crowded around the entryway. There was no smoke in sight.

Ishida looked to Orihime, her blouse wet and hanging, dripping onto her shoes. She watched the building, her fingers squeezing water from her hair. He took off his button up shirt and draped it over her shoulders as her dark rose blouse clung to her.

She smiled back at him, pulling the cotton shirt closer around herself. “Thanks, Uryû.”

“Are you okay, Orihime?”

She nodded. He removed his glasses and wiped them with the end of his wet t-shirt.

Renji looked to Leah to find her watching him, the cookbooks clutched tightly against her chest. He wished he had a shirt to offer her, but he’d only worn the one. He could see she had new questions.

“Let’s go home,” he said.

They headed down the sidewalk as a larger crowd gathered in front of the library, the firemen giving orders and directing everyone to keep back. The incessant ringing of the alarm continued, making dogs in the neighborhood bark and howl.

They crossed the main intersection of town and Renji let Ishida and Orihime walk a few paces ahead, noting the girl’s proximity to the Quincy, her arms crossed in front of her, fingers holding his shirt closer.

Leah dropped back to Renji, and he was tempted to try to avoid her, but didn’t.

She looked at the wet ponytail of limp, red hair at the back of his head, following the tattoos down and then looking to his eyes. “What’s going on with you people?”

He glanced at the couple in front of them on the sidewalk. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Yes, you do, Renji Smith.” She held the wet books closer. “Why’d you pull that alarm? What was all that about the laser thingies?”

“Some kids were playing around with laser pointers, and –”

“But the green ones were gun sights, weren’t they?”

He grinned, not because anything was funny, but because she smelled good, even wet. “I think so.”

She looked back to Orihime and Ishida. “Thanks for pulling out of the way.”

He nodded.

“How’d you know?”

“I saw them come in.”

She frowned, wiping a strand of dark hair out of her face. “I want to know what’s going with her, Renji.”

He didn’t look at her until they crossed the next side street. When he did, she was studying Ishida.

She sighed. “Can you tell Inoue I said bye? I’ll see her at school tomorrow. I don’t want to bug them.”

“Come back with us.” The words were out of his mouth before he thought about them.

She lifted an eyebrow, stopping. “Would you tell me the truth if I did?”

He halted, looking to the Japanese couple pulling farther away ahead, and then back to Leah. “At least come back and get dried off.”

She smiled, nodding. “I’m going home. I’ll see you later. Abarai.”

Renji groaned as she gave the Brooklyn-Pierport Street a glance in each direction and skipped off across it to the other side. She hastened along the sidewalk, waving to him when he raised a hand.

He followed after Orihime and Ishida, who were walking a scant four inches apart.

He focused on the back of the Quincy’s head. Welcome to Brooklyn, Ishida.

Next Chapter

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~ by Miranda on February 17, 2010.

2 Responses to “Orihime In Hiding 18”

  1. 1st? I love this fanfic!

  2. Damn it T_T
    Second

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