Because people gave me some ideas when they commented on part one, I've reworked some things and written a part three. Here comes a part, which ye perverts should know, doesn't have anything explicit in it.
The Girls, Part Two
Disclaimer: Rest assured that Kubo Tite didn’t write this fic. And I didn’t write Bleach; he did.
Description: IchiIshi, IchiRuki, IshiHime, IchiOri (Yes, there are some teenage love and sex issues in this one) A continuation of the story trilogy that includes “Real Sex,” “Pretend Love,” and “After You Died and Even Before That,” but it can stand alone.
Author’s note: In another fandom, I liked it when yaoi didn’t ignore canon girlfriends and wives. I thought it would be interesting for an IchiIshi story to look at the girls with whom Ichi and Ishi are often romantically associated. I’m afraid that I’m going to be hated by every fan who ships any one or more of the pairings listed in the above description, but I had a lot of fun writing this story. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it.
Warnings: This part is R. The subsequent part will be NC17 (yes, this story expanded due to reader feedback and is now three parts). Also, soap opera romance, !drama, a little fluff.
Must I go bound and he go free?
Must I love one that don't love me?
Or must I act a childish part
And love the one that broke my heart? ~ from “Blue-eyed Boy,” traditional
Ishida cherished Inoue Orihime. There was no other way to describe what he felt for her. She was the kindest person he had ever known, and despite her many and esoteric talents, she was humble unto a fault.
Before knowing her, Ishida hadn’t considered humility a virtue. He thought humble people were pure fakers. Prideful people, on the other hand, had to back up attitude with action or risk being called fools. As of yet, Ishida hadn’t been called one (he didn’t count Ryuuken… or Kurosaki for that matter). He understood his own virtues, and while he knew that a little of his own pride what boyish bravado (Ishida could fake being brave), he also had authentic pride. A Quincy pride built on generations of skill, honor, and sacrifice. Humility was for beggars and other people trying to get you to give them something. He even had associated humility with shame.
Inoue-san was never ashamed.
She spoke out of turn and said things incomprehensible to most people. She would dance at the most unexpected moments and people would stare. Inoue didn’t care--her love for life was a thing of beauty.
And if someone told her that she was beautiful herself, she would cock her head and say, “Really? You think so? People say that a lot.” It wasn’t that she was too simple to be unaware of her looks; it was true humility.
She was smart and magical and beautiful, and it made Ishida furious when boys would try to “accidentally” bump her ample chest in the hallways.
He wanted to protect her. In a perfect work, not a drop of misfortune would befall her, and she would not know the merest prick of pain.
Ishida picked up the student address book and looked for her name. Then he considered that calling her would be rude after she had walked all the way to the hospital to check on him. He would go to her apartment. Besides, he had been a hermit long enough. As much as Ishida liked the quiet indoors, a lack of sunlight had begun to bother him.
As misfortune would have it, the skies were still overcast.
Damn gloomy weather. Should’ve blown away by now.
He expected to be rained on, but he kept walking and when he got to Inoue’s apartment, she was sitting on her doorstep.
“It’s going to rain,” Ishida said. Sometimes he felt that it was his obligation to point out the obvious to people--especially to Inoue-san.
“Oh I know,” she said. She smiled and the day turned bright as far as Ishida was concerned. “I’m waiting for the rain to start. The clouds look funny right before they spit the raindrops out. I think they puff up more!”
Her smile was amazing, and Ishida couldn’t help but stare at it.
Inoue-san can cheer up the Dead. Come to think of it, she certainly entertained a lot of dead people in Soul Society.
“I’m so glad to see you looking alright, Ishida-kun. You’re father told me that you were fine, but he said it so grumpily, that I didn’t know if I believed him.”
“Yes, he’s like that.” Ishida sat down next to her on the step. It would be useless to try to convince her to go inside. “You shouldn’t worry about me and Kurosaki. Haven’t you learned that by now? We can take care of ourselves. We always come out alive.”
“No one thought you’d come back from Hueco Mundo.” Inoue’s smile disappeared. “I tried to have faith but… I cried so much because I thought you two were dead. I remember thinking I never got to spend enough time with Ishida-kun. I don’t think I ever knew how much I cared for you until then.”
Ishida, who had been perfectly comfortable in Inoue’s company a moment before, flustered at that remark. She cared for him. Had she ever said such a thing before? As he recovered from this unexpected disclosure, he began to preen under its charm. He noticed that she didn’t say she’d experienced any such revelation about Kurosaki.
Is she over the bastard? Or is that her love for him is so absolute that it can neither increase nor diminish in strength?
“Kurosaki missed a lot of school too, but he showed up on Friday. He looked strange when I asked him where you were.”
“He always looks strange,” Ishida said.
She giggled at the remark.
She wasn’t going to press Ishida further, and Ishida was glad that he wouldn’t have to struggle to explain his recent absence from school. If it was anyone but Kurosaki he was angsting over, he wouldn’t mind telling Inoue-san all about it.
He felt perfectly comfortable again.
For a long time they sat in silence, each at peace with the other. The clouds didn’t rain. Inoue looked at the sky, and Ishida looked at her. He sometimes forgot how gorgeous she was, and it occurred to him that if anyone were to pass by, he would feel a stirring of pride to be seated to such a gorgeous girl.
Always competitive with Kurosaki (and guiltily so when it came to Inoue-san), Ishida found himself wishing that Kurosaki would pass by.
Ichigo couldn’t decide what was the right thing to do--tell Inoue about his secret homosexual love affair with one of their best friends or spare the girl the truth. Rukia didn’t know what he should do either. The problem, they both agreed, wasn’t that Inoue would care about or even notice the homosexual part, it was that Inoue loved Ichigo.
When Ichigo put forth his philosophy that maintaining the status quo was always the safest path, Rukia asked him since WHEN had he ever taken the safest path? When Ichigo said that he wished he’d never found out about Inoue (and that it was mean of Uryuu to tell him), Rukia said, “No, it’s important to know if someone likes you. So you don’t accidentally torture them by getting naked in front of them or something.”
Ichigo, at that point, told Rukia that maybe she should have a little conversation with Renji, and Rukia had kicked Ichigo in the head.
At last, after a weekend’s worth of intense discussion (in which Ichigo was only kicked twice more), Ichigo came to the conclusion that it was better to let Inoue fall out of love with him gradually. Telling her that he loved Uryuu would be like throwing ice water on her heart.
“Maybe you’re right,” Rukia said, “but I don’t think she’s going to fall out of love with you anytime soon. The girl’s got it bad.”
“How can you tell if someone has it bad?” Ichigo was thinking of Uryuu, who hadn’t called and hadn’t been seen by any of his classmates for so long. Ichigo would have been really worried if not for reiatsu-sensing skills--however poor--that told him that Uryuu was still in Karakura.
“He’s hiding,” Rukia said. “That means that it would hurt him to see you. A person has it bad whenever it hurts.”
At that last word, Rukia lowered her eyes and a slight smile crossed her face. Ichigo’s conscience jabbed him in the heart. Rukia was the bravest person he knew. He couldn’t match her.
“I know what.” Ichigo bit his thumb and hoped she would go for the idea. “Maybe you can tell Uryuu for me. He’d believe you.”
Rukia’s leg started to rise. It was a threatening gesture. Usually she just high-kicked him before anyone could see her panties.
“No, listen, Rukia. You tell him that you know I couldn’t be in love with you the way I am with him.”
“I read that exact line in a josei last week.”
Ichigo persisted. “He needs to know. He needs to know that I told you everything.”
Rukia lowered he leg. “Still doesn’t erase the fact that you were unfaithful to him.”
Ichigo didn’t miss the twinge of bitterness in her voice.
The two were looking solemn, face to face on the family sofa when Ichigo’s father walked in. Isshin winked at Ichigo. He said “Cha cha cha!” and walked out the front door.
“Doesn’t that annoy you?” Ichigo closed his eyes as if Isshin were a persistent ache between the eyes.
“He’s always acted like that,” Rukia said. “I think it’s cute.”
Ichigo didn’t want to talk about his “cute” father, so he steered the conversation back to Uryuu. “Are you going to do it for me, Rukia? I can’t tell him anything--he won’t believe me.”
“You can’t lie, Ichigo. And even if you could, Ishida would know.”
Ishida discovered that the easiest part of the day was when he went to visit Inoue-san. The two would sit on the porch step, and never once would she ask him why he wasn’t coming to school.
But even Inoue could not make him forget the reason.
Ishida was certain by now that Rukia and Ichigo were practically betrothed, the way the whole school had always suspected. He wanted to ask Inoue about them, but didn’t dare. He hoped that one afternoon she might mention the couple.
Ishida had begun to bring Inoue-san little gifts. The first was unintentional. He had picked up an origami butterfly thrown on the sidewalk. He didn’t know why--the paper was silver and had caught his eye. Maybe he had thought it was something valuable. It was still in his hand when he arrived at the porchstep, and Inoue said she loved it because Ishida-kun had “rescued” it from being rained on and swept to the sewers. The next day Ishida brought a bag of caramel chips because he knew she liked the exotic food.
Today he brought odds and ends from his fabric basket. Strips too thin for him to do anything with but maybe Inoue might want to braid them….
“What a good idea,” she said. “I can make hat bands!”
Tomorrow, Ishida thought, he would bring her a straw hat.
“I know you can’t tell me about your training,” she said. “You must be working very hard, so I know it’s too considerate of you to take time to pick out some fabric you thought I might use.”
Oh so that’s what she believed. That he was training during school hours with his dad. He wasn’t. The two had gone to the room beneath the hospital once, and Ishida had been so lackluster that Ryuuken told him to come back when he felt like being a Quincy again.
That line had really hurt, and Ishida had decided to leave Ryuuken’s house. Maybe he had over-stayed his welcome or maybe it was time to face Kurosaki at last.
When Ishida moved back into his apartment, naturally Kurosaki wasn’t there--even though Ishida had hoped to find him sitting on his couch.
“How long is to going to be before you come back to school, Ishida-kun?”
“Not long.” Ishida squinted into the sky. The fog had cleared away yesterday and today seemed unnaturally bright.
“Oh good.” Inoue-san hugged her knees. “The last time you disappeared with your father, everyone was worried about you. I’m glad that this time I’ve been able to see so much. I get lonely sometimes when Tatsuki is at judo or afternoon soccer practice.”
Lonely. Ishida guessed that Inoue-san knew the meaning of the word as well as he did.
The interesting part was that anyone passing by would never guess that he and Inoue were lonely people pining after the same impossible lover. They sat close, like lovers themselves.
Wouldn’t it be perfect, Ishida began to dream, if they could spend all their days this close to one another?
A school-desk rattled.
The acoustics of the empty classroom amplified the voice so that it sounded even angrier.
“Keigo, you’re always saying stupid shit like that, and nobody’s really interested. Do you hear me? Nobody cares.”
Keigo and Mizuiro looked at one another as Ichigo stormed out of the room.
The desk Ichigo had shaken with a white-knuckled hand was now skidding across the floor. It was crashed with a soft thump against a stack of new chalkboard erasers and fell over without making as much noise as Ichigo had.
“Was it something I said?” asked Keigo.
“I think it was the part about Ishida and Inoue-san playing house at her apartment. Maybe Kurosaki didn’t like it that you were implying something about Inoue’s virtue?”
“Maybe.” Keigo shrugged. “Or maybe he likes her.”
“Anyway, you shouldn’t have said that. It didn’t come out sounding very nice.”
“It’s the truth!” Keigo folded his arms and looked browbeaten. “I really did see Ishida coming out of Inoue-san’s apartment this morning.”
Ishida was sitting on Inoue’s porch again.
“About last night,” he started.
“Oh don’t apologize again.” She stretched, yawned, and put her elbows on the step above them. “Tatsuki will probably be bringing my homework by soon. I called her and told her I’d overslept. You know, I haven’t skipped class not once this term, and she didn’t think it strange at all that I slept until three in the afternoon.”
“Were you hoping to get one of those perfect attendance certificates?”
“Oh don’t be guilty about that too. I don’t care about stuff like that. And you didn’t put me out, not at all. You can come here and eat boiled eggs whenever you want!”
“I’ll tell you what. I’ll buy you dinner tonight to pay you back for breakfast, okay?”
“Okay!” Inoue wiggled her toes in her sandals and looked as happy as Ishida had ever seen her. “I’ll tell you what else. You can cook the food here, and then you can spend the night again!”
Ishida brought his knees together and began to sweat. “Um… um….”
“It’ll be fun! Last night ended up being so serious so we need to have some fun now!”
“Inoue-san, it really isn’t proper for me to spend nights at your apartment. People talk. People pass by this porch all the time.”
Ishida thought he’d refrain from telling her about Keigo Asano. This morning’s catastrophe made him wince, and while Inoue was babbling about how no one rides bikes anymore and how this street was perfect for bikes, Ishida tried not to remember the incident.
Which means he did.
After Inoue had declared that she was exhausted and was going to stay in the futon, Ishida, not even considering he might not be safe from any classmate’s eyes, had opened the door. It had been 9 a.m. after all. Long past the morning bell.
Squinty-eyed, more than a little tired himself, and confused as to which direction he was supposed to take to walk home, Ishida had looked up to meet Asano’s eyes.
What’s with all the truancy? had been his first thought. Inoue-san and I have started to behave like Keigo Asano. Not good.
Ishida’s second thought had been: Damn. He’ll tell Kurosaki that he saw me in rumpled clothes. I’m not supposed to be distressed and neither are my clothes. I’m supposed to be over Kurosaki.
It wasn’t until after Asano waved a nervous hello and scampered away like a squirrel who’d found a buried nut that Ishida noticed where he was. On Inoue Orihime’s porch not three steps away from the door. Hair still wet from a shower and clothes wrinkled from having been slept in.
I’ve ruined a girl’s reputation.
Long after Keigo was out of sight, Ishida had stood the porch with that horrible thought. Then he had another one: Keigo didn’t belong in this neighborhood. He lived out in the fourth district so he didn’t need to pass this way to class…. A likely explanation would be that word had gotten out about Ishida’s daily trysts with Inoue, and boys were spying. Or maybe it was just Asano. He seemed the type.
Unable to work his conscience into believing that the situation had looked as innocent as it was, Ishida had turned around and gone right back into Inoue’s apartment. He needed her to calm him down. Even if she was asleep and all he did was watch her breathe.
Rukia told Ichigo not to go. “You’ll look like a stalker,” she said. “And if Inoue catches you spying around her apartment, she’s going to get her hopes up. She’ll think you really have a thing for her.”
“Ishida and Inoue, Ishida and Inoue.” Ichigo was still so furious that he couldn’t say much more than that. “Inoue and ISHIDA.”
The two were walking away from the schoolyard. Rukia, who’d heard Ichigo’s outburst from outside the classroom, was now making it her duty to keep him from beating up a building.
The grounds near the school were empty. Class had let out an hour ago. Sports teams were on the practice field, and only specialty clubs were still in the building--they and stragglers like Keigo Asano.
“I’m not saying that he made it all up,” Rukia said, “but it has to be totally innocent. I mean, this is Orihime we’re talking about here.”
Ichigo was still breathing hard.
“And Ishida too,” Rukia added. “He doesn’t strike me as the kind of person--”
“Tell me Rukia, if a year ago someone had asked you if Ishida struck you as the kind of person who would end up having sex with me, what would you have said?”
She frowned like he’d gotten her there. Then she argued, “I don’t know--Ishida has always been pretty intense. I could’ve seen him making a pass at you, but it takes two to tango and you were scared of that stuff then, remember? Who knew you were going to turn into a sex machine?”
Ichigo blushed at the sex machine part. “See,” he said. “You never can tell with people.”
“Still, it doesn’t make sense. Why would Ishida start seeing someone--I mean, it’s been too short a time since you and he … had this falling out.”
Ichigo was going to correct her. He was going to say we broke up, Rukia, but he stopped himself because it was such a puerile remark. That’s right--it was just high school stupid stuff. No one’s love here was on the order of a Shakespearean romance. Nothing destined, nothing grand. He should just forget about it because it was all stupid, stupid stuff.
“What’s the matter now?” Rukia asked.
“I think he did it on purpose,” Ichigo said.
“Keigo? Yeah, he skips class all day and then shows up just as school lets out? He knows that you--what’s the word you use?--hang here with me or Chad until fourth year clubs let out. He had something juicy to tell, and he wanted--”
“I’m not talking about Keigo. I’m talking about Uryuu. He’s doing all this to get me back.”
Ichigo felt his fury calming as he considered that yes, yes he was crazy. Crazy enough to go spy on Uryuu and Inoue.
“You wouldn’t!” Rukia said. The girl was a mind-reader. “You leave them alone. They’re both probably talking about how wonderful YOU are.”
“I didn’t say I was going over there. I’m burning up so bad that I need a shower. If by any chance I do decide to go to Inoue’s … well… um….” Ichigo remembered what Rukia had said about his not being able to lie. He decided that he really did need a shower first and he would think the stalking issue over. “Just don’t follow me, okay?”
And he was gone in a flash of shunpou.
They had been together for over twenty-four hours now.
“If you didn’t have all those books and that big desk,” Inoue was saying. “I think it would be great if you could just move in. Think of the rent money we’d save. And we would be able to talk all the time, every morning and every night.”
Ishida looked at her and sighed. She still didn’t think of him as male, did she? The very fact that she could sleep with him in her futon and then consider his living with her in that tiny apartment--
“Inoue-san, it’s not proper.”
“Oh I know people think that.” Inoue closed her eyes and turned her face to the sunny sky. “But isn’t it more important to do what’s good for your soul than to worry about people think?”
Inoue-san was right. Being around her was good for the peacefulness of his soul.
Last night hadn’t been good for the peacefulness of his body, though. Holding Inoue-san while she cried and cried about Kurosaki had given Ishida a long-lasting erection. At first he had been relieved to discover that his own heart-aching over Kurosaki hadn’t inflicted permanent damage to his penile functions, but then the longings of Ishida’s lower body had started to climb upwards.
He had found himself wanting to run his fingers though Inoue’s magnificent hair….
“Why is it,” Inoue said on the porch, “that people stay in love with people who don’t love them back?”
“Changes are difficult,” Ishida speculated. “Maybe people get used to the feeling of being in love and don’t want to let go.”
“But then couldn’t they just go and fall in love with other people? Then they could get rid of the obsession but not the love.”
“Maybe they want to keep the obsession too.”
It was past lunchtime, and Ishida knew that something was still wrong with Inoue because she hadn’t gotten up to eat. She hadn’t eaten much for breakfast either--only a tablespoon of red bean paste. At first, Ishida had felt horribly guilty for eating what he discovered was the sole egg in her refrigerator, but then Inoue had reminded him that she doesn’t like eggs.
The girl has peculiar tastes. That’s why she loves Kurosaki.
It didn’t take long for Ishida’s mind to answer that thought: So that makes me peculiar as well.
A breeze blew Ishida’s hair across his face. The same breeze blew Inoue’s hair behind her. It was such silky, long and dazzling hair that Ishida thought he might be in love with it. A softer orange than Kurosaki’s--almost brown. What did people call that shade? Ginger?
When Inoue’s hair fell down against her neck again, she looked at Ishida with clear eyes and said, “I should be in love with you, Ishida-kun.”
At any other moment in his life Ishida would’ve been knocked off the steps by such a statement, but right now Inoue’s words seemed to follow. He received the compliment like a treasured confidence. He knew that they were the kind of words he would recall whenever he felt discouraged--that even when he was old and near death that he would turn them over and over like cinders in a dying fire.
“I would so make a better boyfriend than Kurosaki,” Ishida said.
Inoue smiled. “You two. You never quit.”
“It’s not just that old dumb rivalry that’s making me say that.” Ishida set his jaw. “It’s just the truth. The very fact that Kurosaki can’t see you for who you are proves how stupid he is.”
She was still smiling. “Oh, he’s not stupid at all. Kurosaki-kun is very smart.”
“Uh-uh.” Ishida lifted a scolding finger. “There you go praising him again. What did I tell you?”
And just as Ishida was getting jokey, Inoue became serious. “What you told me was the truth.” Her voice was firm but then wavered. “The truth … that Kurosaki-kun is never going to return my feelings.”
Inoue-san looked at her feet and Ishida noticed how still her toes were. “You finally noticed it last night, didn’t you?” He had never felt so much for another person’s sorrow before, but maybe Inoue-san could grieve a bit less so they could have lunch? Ishida was famished and it wasn’t good for Inoue to cry so much and not rehydrate herself. And there was only so much more talk about Kurosaki that Ishida could stand ….
And Inoue-san didn’t look right. Did she have an electrolyte imbalance from lack of fluids?
“Can I get you some water?”
Inoue didn’t answer. “You understand so much, Ishida-kun. I wouldn’t mind at all if the rumor went around that you were my boyfriend. Any girl would be proud--”
Ishida’s head started to cloud. She wasn’t serious, was she? It would not be a good thing if right after being in love with Kurosaki, she fell in love with Kurosaki’s former lover.
“Last night I felt so safe with you,” she went on.
You really were. Any other man would’ve acted like a baboon and taken you on the spot.
“I know that you don’t have those kind of feelings for me now, Ishida-kun.”
“And I don’t have them for you….”
Had he heard right? Oh good. He could pay attention without the blood pounding in his ears.
“But even if you never can love me that way….”
Ishida wasn’t sure that was true. Maybe he could love Inoue that way.
“Do you think I’d make a good girlfriend for you? I mean, do you think anyone in the world would want me for a girlfriend now? After I’ve made such a fool of myself over Kurosaki?”
Ishida melted at her humility. A fool of herself? “Anyone, anyone in the world would want you for a girlfriend, Inoue-san. Anyone.”
She let out a little sigh and her eyes watered. “Thank you,” she said. “Thank you for saying that Ishida-kun.”
When she hugged him the way she did in broad daylight, Ishida was a little concerned that she was going to start sobbing the way she had last night, but no, she just held on. He took the opportunity to touch her shiny hair. Once, twice. Then a third light pat, and Inoue’s shoulders collapsed. She was quiet and comforted.
To anyone who was passing by it might have looked like he was the one holding her up, but Ishida knew otherwise.
Ichigo knew that he was crazy. Nonetheless he attempted some normal things--he took a shower, ate a snack, said yo to Yuzu who was knitting a scarf. Then he went outside and began to run at shunpou speed towards Inoue’s apartment.
He didn’t expect to see anything at Inoue’s apartment, of course, except for the front view of Inoue’s apartment. Keigo had said that Uryuu was leaving the place. In all likelihood, at this hour, the work-compulsive Quincy was studying for university exams in one of those anonymous library cubicles he liked so much, but Ichigo was going to be waiting for him at Inoue’s. He intended to catch the skinny little sneak when he returned for the evening sex Ichigo knew he liked too.
Ichigo bounded from rooftop to rooftop. He didn’t care if anyone saw him or not.
Dumbass Quincy, dumbass Quincy, dumbass Quincy.
Ichigo knew that there was nothing dumbass about Uryuu but he needed to repeat the phrase in his head. So Uryuu had not come to school all this week, and it had not because he’d fallen ill from a broken heart and pining for Ichigo. The bitter truth was that all this time, all this time, Uryuu’s evil intelligence had been planning revenge. An eye for an eye, a girl for a girl.
Was this Uryuu’s way of showing him how wrong he’d been? How much Ichigo had hurt him? Ichigo had already learned that lesson.
Ichigo would hide in the bushes. Yes, like a stalker. Like a crazy person. When Uryuu showed up, Ichigo would know that the only path to truth was craziness. He could then report his observations back to Rukia and have her eat her words about how innocent Inoue was and how gentlemanly Uryuu was.
Ms. Innocent and Mr. Gentlemanly, my ASS.
Then a vision of Uryuu in a suit and tie arose in Ichigo’s imagination. The dumbass Quincy would escort Inoue to a restaurant buffet where the girl could have a field day mixing and matching foods.
Uryuu would be the type to carry both their plates to the table.
The very gesture would be enough to make Inoue blush….
Uryuu wouldn’t be toying with Inoue’s feelings this way, would he?
Before Ichigo’s mind could float to the conclusion that maybe Inoue and Uryuu were in love, he made a hard two-footed landing at the end of Inoue’s street. He put his hands on his hips and surveyed the area for the best place to spy.
He hadn’t looked far when he felt Uryuu’s reiatsu. He felt Uryuu’s contentment before he saw it, and then he saw it.
They were on Inoue’s front porch, just like Keigo had said that Akita and Toyama had said they were every afternoon. Inoue’s head was resting on Uryuu’s shoulder, and his arm … his arm was blatantly wrapped around her!
Ichigo dropped to a crouching position. Uryuu and Inoue were looking at the sky so they hadn’t seen him.
It was true, it was true. Uryuu had always had a thing for Inoue, hadn’t he? He talked about her like she was God’s gift and he had nearly killed himself in Hueco Mundo in a very un-Ishida-like frenzy to rescue her.
All this time Ichigo had believed it was the usual Quincy chivalry but….
It made sense now. They were both freakily intelligent. They shared the sewing thing. Uryuu was a fantastic person. Inoue was a fantastic person. They belonged together.
He didn’t want to think about it anymore. He didn’t want to look anymore. Telling himself that he was at least fortunate for having had the shortest stalker career in history, Ichigo walked back home.
“I don’t believe it,” Ms Ochi said. “We have full attendance today.” She nodded at Ishida. “So glad to have you back, Ishida-kun. It will surprise me if you’ve haven’t made up all your class assignments. Don’t you always?”
The class tittered.
“It’s no crime to be a conscientious student,” Ms. Ochi said.
Ishida had worked ahead, of course. His paperwork was in a clear plastic folder that he handed to Ms. Ochi. The folder was so thick and heavy that her wrist bent while taking it from him, and papers spilled out.
“Oh my.” She dropped to the floor to retrieve them. And while most of the class watched Ms Ochi crawling in her very short skirt, Ishida took the opportunity to look around. He didn’t want anyone to believe that he was too interested in his classmates, but he wanted to know if seating arrangements had changed.
Rukia usually sat next to Kurosaki; if she was sitting next to him, Ishida would know that relationship was serious. Such were the measures of romantic intensity at Karakura High.
She was behind him.
Behind her, a boy was straining to look up Ms. Ochi’s skirt, and behind him, Kurosaki, showing no interest in his teacher’s underwear, was staring out the window.
How long had it been since his eyes had met Ishida’s?
Only two weeks? A lifetime in high school days. Ishida felt like a stranger in his own classroom. It seemed too brightly lit--as it had when Ishida had returned from Hueco Mundo. Everyone was avoiding him in some odd, purposeful way.
Inoue-san smiled at him from the back of the classroom. After some debate, Ishida had conceded to her insistence that he sit in the desk next to hers.
Kurosaki wouldn’t be so moronic as to think that only two weeks after leaving him, I would’ve taken up with Inoue-san?
Ishida slumped in his desk. Since when had Kurosaki not been moronic?
Earlier, just before the bell, Ishida had caught sight of an orange head. This first glimpse hadn’t made Ishida’s heart flop the way he’d expected it to. He was cured! Inoue-san, he thought, had more of a lingering crush on the boy than he did.
But now--at the thought that just like everyone else, his ex-best friend presumed an affair between him and Inoue-san, Ishida felt abandoned. That Kurosaki would think so low of him, that Kurosaki would believe that Ishida had lost his decency and Quincy righteousness… the insult sent a little arrow into Ishida’s heart. It hurt. It hurt to realize that he was still madly in love with the moronic Kurosaki Ichigo.
Whether or not he had slept with or was still sleeping with Kuchiki Rukia.
At lunchtime, Uryuu was on one side of the schoolgrounds, and Ichigo was on the other. For some reason Ichigo never understood, the classes segregated themselves by gender at lunch. Rukia was eating with the girls, and he really wanted to be talking to her.
“Hey man,” said Keigo. “Go invite Ishida to join us.”
“I thought you said you didn’t like him,” Ichigo grumbled.
“He is depressing,” Keigo said, “but I bet he’s not depressed now!”
“You just want gossip,” Mizuiro said. “When Akita-kun told you he’d seen Ishida with a girl every afternoon, you just had to go spy--”
“Ssssh,” Keigo elbowed Mizuiro and, in the rush to over-run Mizuiro’s words, spit salad dressing out of his mouth. “Hey, just look at Ishida sitting there! You know he wants to talk.”
“I think he wants to be alone,” Mizuiro said.
“Maybe he’s lonely,” Chad offered. “Ishida pretends to be what he’s not.”
Both Keigo and Mizuiro stared at Chad while they tried to figure out that cryptic statement, and then they went on with their bickering.
“Oh I’d love to be as lonely as Ishida-kun is right now.” Keigo was bouncing in excitement over his sandwich. “Ooo-wee.”
“Just leave him be,” said Mizuiro. “If he wanted to come over here, he would’ve. He doesn’t seem like the type who would want to talk about his love life.”
“Okay, okay, everybody shut up,” said Ichigo. “I’m going over there.”
Not looking back at his classmates, Ichigo marched across the grass. He wasn’t a coward, no way. Rukia had suggested that he was fucking the whole thing up by not going to Uryuu in the first place, and she was right. He should have gone to Uryuu. He should’ve pestered him. He should’ve told him this and told him that and touched him here and kissed him there and worn him down. Maybe that’s Uryuu had wanted all along.
“You just don’t get the protocol, do you?” Rukia had said one evening. “When one lover storms out of the room, the other lover is supposed to follow. That’s what happens in ALL the manga I read.”
Ichigo didn’t know if Uryuu and Inoue were an item or not. Just because they had been sitting together didn’t mean they were. Uryuu hadn’t looked secretive and Inoue hadn’t looked ravished but that didn’t mean that those two weren’t having a fuckfest just like he and Uryuu had had. But it didn’t matter. None of it mattered anymore.
“Ishida Uryuu!” Ichigo called. He was a few millimeters away from a tree where Uryuu, having finished his sandwich, sat with his head lowered over a book.
Uryuu looked up as if he’d sensed Ichigo walking towards him the whole time. He didn’t look surprised. What he did look--and this shocked Ichigo--was a little scared.
Ichigo walked closer until he was in the shadow of the tree.
“Listen, Uryuu. Don’t come and sit with us, okay? Keigo’s on a mission to grill you, and I don’t think you’ll like it.”
Uryuu looked back down at his open book. “I wasn’t planning to join you.”
It was one of those breezy late spring days, and the birds were making a racket. A couple were either mating or fighting in the branches just above, and Ichigo didn’t see how Uryuu could bear the noise.
“There’s something else.”
Uryuu didn’t look up from his book, but Ichigo could tell that he was breathing nervously. That gave him the courage to keep talking. “I know you won’t tell anyone else where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing, but don’t you think you owe me the information?”
Uryuu didn’t look up.
“Okay, that didn’t sound right. Maybe you don’t owe me anything after what I did to you. But you said that you needed time to think, and I just supposed that you would come back and tell me what you’d thought about.”
Uryuu closed his book. One of his long beautiful fingers held his place in the pages. “You’re right.”
He looked up at Ichigo. The dark green-ness of the tree reflected in his blue eyes. Eyes that looked deep and mysterious and beautiful, beautiful.
“We do have to resolve things,” Uryuu went on. “Why don’t you meet me after school?”
“I thought that was when you saw Inoue.” Ichigo hadn’t meant for his comment to sound caustic but Uryuu looked hurt. Strange. Even when Ichigo told him about having sex with Rukia, Uryuu hadn’t looked hurt.
“I’ll tell Inoue-san that I can’t come by today,” Uryuu said. “Let’s meet at my place. I can only imagine the sort of talk that’s going around, and I wouldn’t want anyone to see us arguing on the street and think it was about the girls.”
Ichigo didn’t know what he was supposed to think. Or what he really thought versus what Uryuu thought. In fact, Ichigo didn’t know anything about anything at all.
I guess I’ll find out tomorrow.
TBC in Part 3 (the final part)
ETA: Part Three is here