_debbiechan_ (_debbiechan_) wrote in bleachness,
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_debbiechan_
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"Risky Art of Listening," NC17 pt 1, IshiHime IchiRuki


Someone just wrote to alert me that when I friends-locked my LJ, I also locked away early chapters of "Invisible Writing" and other ff. I'm off to unlock those posts right now, but I probably won't find all of them. If anyone not on my F-list sees a locked posted that includes a fanfiction or drabble, please tell me. I will get the hang of LJ eventually but right now it's spinning my brain.

And now, for your romantic pleasure, an IshiHime and IchiRuki tale:



The Risky Art of Listening
by debbiechan



Disclaimer: Kubo Tite created Bleach. I don’t own the characters of Ishida and Orihime, but after writing IshiHimes for so long, I feel like their “in love-ness” is my doing. Somebody tell Kubo-san, though, that I’m waiting for a superior, canon version of IshiHime love.

Description: NC17 A post-manga story. Orihime proclaims her love for Ichigo “eternal” and that’s more than Ishida can take. Meanwhile, Ichigo appears to have an issue with Rukia’s “purity.” Ishida/Orihime, Ichigo/Rukia.

Warnings: Mild spoilers within references to canon storyline, masturbation, M/F sex, and WAFFY romance. This story may or may not infuriate IchiOri shippers.



Part One

“What would make me feel worse than being lonely is being in the way.” ~ Orihime, chapter 228.



The gloom broadcast itself down the sunny street. Before Ishida felt her reiatsu or saw her face, he sensed Orihime’s gloom.

He walked faster towards her apartment but when he saw her sitting, alive and with no missing body parts, on the porchstep, his pace slowed. He carried a paper sack from the nearby konbini and dug inside it for their usual refreshments.

“Is it that bad?” Ishida handed Orihime a soda bottle and sat next to her.

“Today it is.” She managed a self-mocking smile. “I’m so stupid. I keep thinking I’m over it.”

“Ahhhh, Kurosaki again.”

There was a second beverage--not for Ishida, really, but for Orihime’s special melon and chocolate drink. Ishida would drink half of his chocolate soda and Orihime would drink half of hers and then she would mix the two portions together. Like mad-scientist-Hime, she would pour the liquid from bottle to bottle.

She had hit upon the concoction one afternoon months ago and now it was a ritual for her and Ishida to share the strange drink--mutual spit included--when they met on her apartment porch. Ishida didn’t delight in the drink like Orihime did, but he didn’t think it was half-bad. He always took a few sips. Chocolate mint was a respectable flavor, after all, and chocolate-melon was … similar.

“Stupid.” Orihime swigged her melon soda. “Why doesn’t it go away?”

“Maybe it’s not supposed to go away. Maybe it’s supposed to change somehow.”

Orihime shrugged. “Something happened today after school.”

Ishida’s blue eyes were looking past her, but Orihime knew he was paying close attention.

She didn’t ask his permission to speak anymore because she knew he would give it. It used to be that he would say, “I’m listening” and those words would encourage Orihime to step past her embarrassment and say what she wanted. Now he didn’t have to say the words. There were still moments when she wasn’t sure if she should continue talking, but her fondness for Ishida and trust in him filled the awkward lapses in her soliloquies.

He couldn’t hear everything of course. Sexual longings and fantasies about honeymoon cruises across the seven seas were topics reserved for Tatsuki. But Tatsuki sometimes laughed away Orihime’s problems. Tatsuki had known Kurosaki-kun for so long that seeing him as a serious love-object was hard for her.

Ishida-kun rarely offered solutions or promised “everything will work out in the end.” He listened. He didn’t laugh.

“I walked with Tatsuki to her dojo, and when I was coming back….” Orihime’s voice dropped to a whisper. “I saw Kurosaki-kun and Kuchiki-san walking home together.”

Ishida’s voice was soft and patient. “Well, they live in the same house so it only makes sense--”

“It wasn’t the walking together part that bothered me.” Orihime face wrenched into an expression of hard grief. “I’m so terrible. I should be happy for them--”

“They leave school together every day. They arrive together every day. That doesn’t necessarily mean--?”

“It wasn’t the walking together….” Orihime gripped her soda bottle neck. “He kissed her.”

Ishida’s eyebrows raised.

“Oh, oh,” Orihime sputtered and talked faster. “I forgot. You don’t still like Kuchiki-san, do you? Or did you not ever like her? I’m sorry--I don’t remember.”

“I do not,” Ishida said measuredly, “have feelings of that sort for Kuchiki-san.”

Orihime examined Ishida’s face and when she seemed satisfied that he wasn’t in the throes of romantic disillusionment, she went on.

“They looked like they were arguing like always and then he bent down--he had to bend down far because Kuchiki-san is so petite and maybe that’s why I noticed something was different. Then he took her face in his hands like this--” Orihime demonstrated the gesture and kissed the air feverently. After a long smooch and a little sigh, she said, “They really did it.”

The sight of Orihime making out with an invisible girl was sexy. Ishida cleared his throat. “What did Kuchiki-san do?”

“I looked away but it seemed like they were quiet and kissing for a long time and then….  Kuchiki-san knocked him to the curb with her elbow.”

“I see.” Ishida pushed his glasses up his nose. “Kurosaki landed on his rear as always. I wouldn’t have expected such ungentlemanly behavior from him, but he can be so presumptuous sometimes.”

“No, he wouldn’t have kissed her if they hadn’t kissed before.” Orihime looked less troubled as her mind deliberated. “I think she pushed him into the street because they were in public. Usually when he does something that makes her mad, she kicks him hard. This time….” Orihime took a deep breath. “She held out her hand to help him up.”

Ishida looked dumbfounded.

Kuchiki-san being kind to Kurosaki in public? Hand-holding? This was more serious than kissing.

This was also a turning point, Ishida conjectured, for Inoue-san. After months of wanting to tell Kurosaki that she loved him, months of wondering if the guy didn’t love Kuchiki-san, months of wanting not to feel cast down by the issue and trying to “get over it,” was she now going to be kicked out of her fantasy?

“I think the course is set,” Orihime said in a faint voice. “There’s no stopping their feelings and they’ll get married one day.”

“Well,” Ishida said gently, “that was what we expected.”

Orihime set down her melon soda. The bottle glinted. One lens of Ishida’s glasses caught the glare, and a whiteness blinded him.

“I will always love Kurosaki-kun,” said Orihime’s earnest voice.

He’d heard her say it hundreds of times; why did the words bother him so much today?

 “Always,” Orihime repeated with a sweetness so sincere it lightened the dark drama of her words. She never sounded foolish saying foolish things. “Always.”

Damn light.
He couldn’t see. Ishida turned his face away from direct sunlight and looked at the street.

“Of course you’ll always have special feelings for Kurosaki.” Ishida could never bring himself to use the word love in any context but talking about his grandfather. “But it doesn’t have to hurt anymore. It doesn’t have to make you feel unworthy.”

“Oh I don’t feel unworthy. I used to wonder why not me? What’s wrong with me? But I don’t think that anymore. I think my love for him betters me.”

Birds chirping. No breeze. Orihime’s street was a quiet one and by this hour, people were inside their homes preparing dinner. From a window above Orihime’s apartment came smells of oils, spices and meats frying. Sometimes, on these spring days when Arisawa Tatsuki was staying late at the dojo for tournament practice and Orihime was lonely, Ishida stayed for dinner. Her cooking was not really bad--the flavor combinations were just unusual. She used potatoes more than rice and smeared vast amounts of butter and bean paste on everything. Ishida still owed her for one meal, and he remembered, with unusual irritation, that he’d forgotten to pick up soy sauce at the konbini.

“I need to stop fighting the idea that I’ll get over it.”

Ishida closed his eyes and gritted his teeth.

“Love like this is eternal.”

Ishida tried to count to ten.  He got as far as three. “No it’s not eternal,” he said. “People get over these sorts of feelings all the time. People move on.”

“I can’t.”

“Yes you can. Do you want to be miserable about this the rest of your life? Do you think Kurosaki would want you to be?”

“Misery is just a little part of it.” Orihime sounded full of conviction and resolve (like someone, Ishida imagined, bravely preparing herself for a lifetime of daily insulin injections). “The good part is that l know how deep love can be. Some people never get to know that.”

Ishida put down his drink. “Deep?” He felt impatient for the subject to change. He wiggled one leg up and down reflexively, and his toe nudged the bottle. Brown liquid poured into crevices in the wood and made a big splotch on the lower step.

“Don’t worry about it,” Orihime said. “That’s impossible to clean up. The wood absorbs it.”

“I suppose it’s not a disaster on the order of a tsunami or an outbreak of polio.” Ishida sounded like he was talking to himself.

“Hmm?” Orihime didn’t know if he was talking about the spilled drink or her eternal feelings.

“This isn’t healthy,” Ishida said. “Something’s bound to happen. Something’s going to change your feelings.”

“No, no,” Orihime said. “You don’t know what it’s like to love someone day in and day out for so long--”

“Yes I do.” The words were spoken clearly, and Ishida was aware that he had spoken them.

“Kurosaki-kun is an amazing person,” Orihime went on. “Something about him makes me feel proud and hopeful for all humankind. I’m privileged, in a way, to be in love with him.” Orihime turned her sweet face towards Ishida. “Just as I’m privileged to have such a friend like you, of course. You to keep listening to all this--”

“You’re not listening to me,” Ishida said in a cold voice.

Orihime’s eyes widened. “I--I’m sorry. Did you have something you want to talk about, Ishida-kun?”

Ishida was shaking his head in bewilderment. “All this time and you don’t see it. You don’t hear it.”

Orihime was afraid. Ishida never spoke to her in this tone of voice.

Ishida stood up. His mouth made a little scoffing sound and he kicked the empty bottle off the step. It was not a hard kick, not remotely a violent gesture, but Orihime sat up straight and put her hand to her lips in alarm.

“I should take my own advice,” Ishida said, “and move on.”

Orihime stared, clueless.

“Ishida-kun?”

Her innocent confusion murdered a part of him.

“I’m sorry, Inoue-san. I don’t think I’ll be sharing a chocolate melon concoction with you today. I--” He was struggling for composure. “I don’t know if I’ll be back tomorrow. It’s not your concern--it never has been. I’m not going to trouble you with it and--”

“What’s the matter? Are you okay?”

He glared at her. It was the death-glare he gave to enemies. “Don’t follow me,” he said.

Orihime backed away, startled, and Ishida left.

--

Her, her, her, her.  It had always been her--from the first meeting of the handicrafts club in secondary school when he’d observed her embroidery with more than mild interest to the perils of Hueco Mundo when he would’ve given his life to save her.

He’d noticed Orihime before Kurosaki even met her, so Ishida knew that his feelings hadn’t been born out of rivalry. Maybe his feelings had been aggravated by rivalry, though.

Kurosaki is such a moron. He hasn’t noticed, not all this time, how her breath catches whenever he shows up.

Who wouldn’t be enraptured by with Inoue Orihime? She was beautiful, smart, creative. Gifted with powerful healing abilities. A good-willed girl who thought the best of everyone….

There’s something about her that makes me feel hopeful for humankind.

Orihime’s earlier words about Kurosaki were too apt, and Ishida frowned at the comparison.

He didn’t feel like eating. He didn’t feel like showering or sleeping. Even breathing felt like a chore. And weighing on his soul was the knowledge that, eventually, he would have to explain his outburst to Inoue-san.

If she figures it out--which I doubt she will--she’ll be all pitying and kind. But if I tell her she’ll be like that anyway. Maybe I shouldn’t tell her…. Oh shit, I have to talk to her.

Sometimes Ishida had believed he never wanted her to know. Other times, as Orihime with Kurosaki, he’d held onto an impossible hope that maybe, just maybe, she might return his … strong feelings.

What was most discouraging was that Ishida couldn’t envision anybody else mattering as much in all his life to come.

Who else had been with him beyond the Realm of the Living and back?

He wanted to lavish Inoue Orihime with all the chocolate and melon flavored foods in the world. He wanted to protect her from people who would take advantage of her trusting nature. He wanted to slay without mercy anyone who threatened her physical safety. And he wanted to lick her into gigantic, jubilant, exalted orgasms every night. 

Damn, damn, Inoue-san. I could be the best lover ever for you.

Would he ever be able to erase her from his repertoire of fantasies?

Pictures of scantily clad girls in magazines didn’t impress him, and Internet pornography moved him more with disgust than with lust. It had felt wrong and obsessive at first but the only female he could make love to in his mind was Inoue Orihime. Yes, Inoue-san the child-like, virtuous beauty. She had lips that begged to be pressed with kisses and breasts that deserved to be held like precious pearls and--

Oh shit.


Ishida felt too disaffected to eat or breathe, but his body always responded to erotic images of Inoue Orihime.

He touched his neck. He pulled at the collar of his simple t-shirt. Maybe he needed to invest in an air conditioner. Karakura summers were unbearable sometimes, and it was only May…

Orihime asleep in his bed. A cotton blend--not too clingy, not too thin--covering her voluptuousness. White, certainly the nightgown would be white. He would gather her long hair in one hand and kiss the nape of her neck….

Ishida firmly believed that Orihime’s sensuality would react to his own like chocolate to summer heat. He could never confirm this, of course, but long ago, in Soul Society when his feelings for her had been at an apex, he’d added melty chocolatey-ness to the list of Orihime’s many assets. She was a sensuous person--he knew she was.

Before pushing down the elastic of his pants, he felt compelled to touch his own face, to push his fingers into his own hair. He was starved for touch; he admitted this fact to himself only when he felt this hot and desperate. He lifted his shirt. He palmed his nipples.

He called her Orihime in his imagination. A wonderful name. The name of a magical star.

Orihime.

Ishida’s hand trailed down a belly that was moving up and down from his deep breathing. He didn’t have the exquisite control over his own hormones that he did over his bow, but he didn’t mind needing a lifetime of practice.

He couldn’t help it. He made love to her in his mind every day. Even now, after swearing to move on.

He slipped his hand into his underwear and fell into an unpleasant pleasure--he was angry with himself, he was obsessed with her, he was itchy in the early summer heat, and his cock was as stiff as his attitude towards plebian perverts who bought girlie magazines. Soon it was a torture to breathe. Jacking off could distract him from every other worry in the world but when she was the sole object of his erotic fantasies, how could he distract himself from her?

Imagining that his hands held her legs apart led him to a dizzying height. Imagining that he was kissing the insides of her thighs rushed him to the brink.

He could bring her joy. He really could.

She would never know that.

--

Orihime tried to tell herself that Ishida bolted because he was jumpy and worried about college entrance exams. When Ishida couldn’t stay for dinner, it was because he had to study for them. He was very diligent about his studies. Most people didn’t hit the books for the comprehensive tests for months but….

There had been no mistaking that look in his eyes.

Ishida-kun is angry with me.


The horror of that realization made the tears spill over, and Orihime put down her ice-cream spoon. She didn’t eat for the rest of the evening and she didn’t call Tatsuki because she knew that her best friend would be exhausted after training. And really, what was there to say? Kurosaki-kun and Kuchiki-san were practically engaged and Ishida-kun had finally snapped from listening to Orihime’s relentless fangirling. These things weren’t terrible--it was just that Orihime felt terrible.

I’m not a terrible person--I’m not!

Night was staggered sleep and strange dreams. Weddings, funerals, friends boarding planes to far away lands.  Most mornings, Orihime would open her window and talk to the birds, but upon rising the next day she thought:

The birds don’t care.

The birds wouldn’t miss me if I stayed in bed all day or took the bus to Osaka to blow my last yen on cupcakes.

She went to school, though, and when she saw Ishida-kun, he said “Good morning, Inoue-san” and that was it. He walked away. When Orihime took her seat after the morning bell, students turned to look at her. Her gloom was that discernable.

At lunch, she couldn’t eat and gave away her lunch away. “My stomach hurts,” she lied. She stared dejectedly at the melon gummies no one wanted because she had rolled them in cocoa.

“Do you want my miso noodles?” Mahana asked. “They’re good for bad stomachs.”

“Whatever you do,” Rukia said, “don’t get medicines at the Urahara shop. They don’t check the expiration dates.”

Tatsuki narrowed her eyes at Orihime, and Orihime smiled back weakly.

After the final bell, Orihime watched Rukia scold Ichigo for misplacing her homework. Their bickering had always seemed charged with sexual tension, so … was that tension all resolved now?

“If I fail this social studies test, it will be your fault. Yuzu didn’t clean up this morning--you did. You threw away my homework, Ichigo.”

“You didn’t do your homework, Rukia.”

“I started it!”

“You never even bring your books to school. Why are you acting like it’s important all of a sudden?” He leaned over to tie his shoe.

“MAYBE I’m thinking of the future.” Rukia grabbed her fellow Shinigami by the collar. Her angry breath stirred the spikey hairs on his head. “Maybe I’ve decided that I want a modern education.”

“I thought you were getting that from reading all those kinky comics.”

So this was a healthy relationship? They kicked, they shoved, they punched, they argued. Orihime wondered if, in order to be touched by the person she loved, she’d take a kick to the jaw.

Of course, Kurosaki-kun and Kuchiki-san weren’t only shoving and kicking anymore. They were probably doing who knows what--

“You!” Orihime startled as Tatsuki grabbed her arm. “Why are you acting strange?”

“Strange?”

Tatsuki led Orihime away. “What did I tell you? You guys are not supposed to keep anything from me anymore.”

“We’re not--” Orihime could barely get out the words because her mouth felt slow and depressed. “No one’s keeping anything from you. Honest. It’s just me, not the whole group--I--”

“Then tell me what the hell is the matter with you or I’ll shake the truth right out.” Tatsuki held Orihime by the elbow. “I’m your best friend; it’s an insult not to tell me.”

Orihime didn’t know which to reveal first--the Kurosaki kiss or the Ishida de-friending--and couldn’t speak.

“ORIHIME!”

“Ishida-kun is mad at me for some reason. I don’t know what I did. Honest I don’t.”

Tatsuki let go Orihime’s arm. “Ishida-kun mad at you?” She was genuinely shocked. “It’s hard to imagine anyone being angry at you, let alone Ishida.”

“I was going on and on again about Kurosaki-kun. I guess that was annoying.”

“Usually is,” Tatsuki said. “Wait a minute--you didn’t tell him your dream about Ichigo and the strawberry syrup, did you? That would’ve been enough to send anyone screaming and running away!”

Orihime shook her head. “No, no, I never tell Ishida-kun those kinds of things. He’s a boy.”

Tatsuki patted Orihime on the head and said that she was proud of her for having figured that out recently but maybe Orihime had slipped up and said something impolite? Ishida was easily embarrassed. He was also very proud. Could Orihime recall having said anything to inadvertently offend the proud Quincy? Orihime, still reluctant to talk about the Kurosaki kiss, tried to remember as much as she could about that conversation.

“I don’t think I did anything besides babble the way I always do. Besides, if I had insulted Ishida-kun, don’t you think he would’ve told me? He’s always upfront and honorable. He’s always nice to me.”

Tatsuki nodded. Both girls agreed that Ishida’s behavior yesterday and today at school had been very peculiar indeed.

Conversation turned to topics of judo tournaments and t.v. shows. They were passing the park when Orihime came to a dead stop and slapped her cheeks with her hands.

“I remember something!” she exclaimed. “Right before he stalked off, he said that he should take his own advice?”

“Now we’re talking,” Tatsuki said. “What sort of advice does he usually give?”

“Not much. He listens well. Sometimes he tells me what cooking oils I should use, what vegetables are cheap and tasty…. That afternoon he was telling me that I should get over Kurosaki-kun and move on. Who doesn’t tell me that? He accidentally spilled his chocolate soda--”

Tatsuki’s face looked pained.

“What? What?”

“Never mind.” Tatsuki patted her friend on the shoulder. “Really, don’t worry about it. Ishida’s weird and when he gets over whatever’s bothering him, he’ll be your friend again. I’m sure of it.”

Orihime did not feel comforted.

--

A few more days of Ishida being cold to Orihime and most of the third year class knew something was up between the two. Girls fought like this--one froze on another and then both relished the drama and rumors that abounded. Students thought it very strange that the seemingly emotionless Ishida Uryuu was playing that game.

Kurosaki Ichigo thought it very strange that Ishida was deliberately hurting Inoue.

On a Saturday, when Ishida was headed for the city library and Ichigo was accompanying Rukia on her quest for a modern education and a book about good study habits, Ichigo spotted Ishida and told Rukia to stay where she was.

“What? Where are you going?”

“Personal business. This is between me and Ishida.”

Ichigo crossed the street. Ishida, sensing a brewing angry reiatsu, turned around. Ichigo grabbed Ishida by the shirt and slammed him against a wall.

“Why are you are you being so cruel to Inoue? Don’t you see how miserable she gets when she sees you?”

The irony made Ishida sigh. The dumbass noticed how Orihime acted around Ishida but not how she acted around his own dumbass Shinigami self.

Ichigo yanked at Ishida’s school tie. “What could Inoue possibly have done to deserve this treatment?”

“She didn’t do anything,” Ishida said, and at that, Ichigo let him go.

He didn’t quit giving Ishida a menacing look, though.

“Then what’s with this ignoring her business? She’s really hurt by it.”

“I’m not ignoring her.” Ishida straightened his tie and cocked his head in the direction of the library. “As you can see, I’ve been preoccupied with other things lately. Some of us want to be accepted at top universities. We involve ourselves in these activities known as studying and preparing.

Ishida walked away. The accusation of cruelty disturbed him. She couldn’t be that upset, could she? Didn’t Orihime have other friends to talk about Kurosaki with?

The library was no longer a bright, quiet haven of books where Ishida could escape social obligations. Ishida knew that he had to talk to Orihime sooner or later. Surrounded by memories of a smiling girl on a sunny porch, he entered a cold, stale building.

Someone needs to turn down the air-conditioning in here.


“Looks like you really scared him,” said Rukia as Ichigo returned to her. The sarcastic voice was not much different from her ordinary voice. “Just look at him run. He’s terrified of you.”

“I don’t get it,” Ichigo said. “He’s not being Ishida.”

“Looks like he’s being Ishida to me. He’s cold like that, you know.” Rukia stroked her chin. “Inoue’s the one who’s truly upset…. Hmm, maybe Ishida knows what her problem is and is giving her some space?”

“Have you talked to her?”

“No way,” Rukia said. “I know what happens when girlfriends share secrets.” She held up her latest josei. “In this one, people end up in the psychiatric hospital because of misunderstandings and rumors. I’m not getting involved in this.”

“You don’t act like a normal girl,” Ichigo mumbled.

“That’s because I’m a mature woman.

“If you’re a mature woman, then why are you uptight about my kissing you in public?”

“Because, you idiot, mature people don’t neck in public--that’s something teenagers do!”

They bickered for a block and then parted ways because Ichigo said the librarian was always shushing them and he didn’t want his library card revoked. “Fine!” Rukia said and pushed the library doors open.

Once inside, she realized that she didn’t know how to check out a book. 

Who needs Ichigo to show me how?
She could manage perfectly well in this human world without Kurosaki Ichigo …well, except for the fact that she wanted to be with him.

There was no such thing as simple need involved in love at all, Rukia told herself. No way.

Or if there was, there shouldn’t be.

--


Orhime’s body hurt. Her arms, her feet, her face. These were the body parts she engaged with Ishida those afternoons, and now they felt listless. On the porch, she’d wiggled her toes in contentment, thrown up her hands to express her many emotions, and her face had smiled at his. He never touched her--friends who are girls and boys don’t touch--but there was something about Ishida that warmed her body. His presence was a comfort. She’d gotten used to it.

Orihime wasn’t used to her body hurting like this.

Why did people describe Ishida as “cold”? He wasn’t even being cold with her now. Just curt. Shut-off. His eyes still held an intimacy with hers when they met, and his eyes said leave me alone, I’m not ready to talk about this.

What could it be? Ishida had never been a mystery to her before.

Orihime was stirring green tea into her ice cream.  Ishida liked this flavor even though a lot of people called it “old people ice cream.” Ishida knew how to stir-fry noodles, spoon jelly into pancakes, and peel sweet potatoes without cutting his knuckles.

Doesn’t he owe me a meal? I think I made dinner the last time.


The memory of Ishida gasping in horror because there wasn’t a pickle press among her kitchen utensils made her laugh and then cry into her bowl. Vanilla, green tea, and tears--a new flavor.

Orihime had been crying a lot this week. She had I-miss-Ishida feelings on top of I-miss- Ichigo feelings.

She was used to feeling an absence of Kurosaki Ichigo, though. A dissatisfaction with the amount of attention he paid her. A melancholy when he seemed involved with anything but her. An ache inside her chest whenever she thought about how much she loved him and how he would never know.

But Ichigo’s life was great now. He looked happy with himself and the beautiful Shinigami girl who walked with him everywhere. Orihime was honestly glad for him. It was a good thing that she had never confessed to Ichigo--think about how embarrassed they’d both be! And Ishida had always been goading her to do it too. “Resolve this,” Ishida had said. “Don’t wallow in uncertainty.”

There was no more uncertainty now--not after the kiss she’d witnessed. There should have been relief in her heart, but that last afternoon on the porch with Ishida, Orihime had only been feeling loss, loss, loss. What was it that had driven the usually sympathetic Ishida away? Had he been frustrated with her unwillingness to let the dream go? Ishida, who was usually so understanding, hadn’t understood. The dream was over, yes, but her love wasn’t. It was eternal.

But everything was okay; the emotions were bearable. She would miss Ichigo in her life for all her life, but her love was unselfish. She could love Kurosaki Ichigo from afar, as a friend and not a lover, and take satisfaction in his happiness.

Orihime scraped her dish and washed it. Tears were rolling down her face.

Orihime wanted her dear friend Ishida to be happy too but there was an element of extreme selfishness here on Orihime’s part. She chided herself for it but there was no getting around it: she was lonely a lot of the time and when Ishida was around, the loneliness melted away. She wanted him back--to bring bags of different-flavored potato chips that he thought she might like, to take her seriously, to really listen to her and understand.

But his eyes said leave me alone. On the porch, he’d said don’t follow me.

Orihime didn’t want to make things worse for him. Maybe his problem was really none of her business.

Don’t get in his way and burden him with your own problems.


Orihime wiped her eyes and kicked open her futon. Another evening of late judo practice so no Tatsuki. And tomorrow Tatsuki was going to some pre-tournament competition thingie so Orihime wouldn’t see her all weekend. Onii-chan’s photo sat at his shrine but Orihime had already told him everything and the loneliness still was there…. The other girls--they couldn’t know what it’s like to love with eternal love a boy who had saved the world--and Ishida, well Ishida was angry at her, and… and…

Orihime needed someone right now.

Her body hurt from the loneliness. Her need pushed against her skin and she felt swollen and exhausted.

Times like this she missed having a mom.

Another loss, another weakening need.

Even though it was a warm night, she huddled under her thickest blanket, and something Rangiku had told her once came to mind: Love is harder than war. Now, what had been the point of that little aphorism? Something, something about how Orihime knew how to love and that love was stronger than an army, blah, blah, blah. If that was true, how come she hadn’t won the heart of the great warrior Kurosaki Ichigo?

Go to sleep, Orihime.


It would be wrong to lull herself to sleep thinking about the would-be husband of another girl, so Orihime made her mind a blank and put her fingers inside her panties.

The first few circles were benign and emotionless but then as she started to get wet, random images floated through her mind.  A straw hat…the folds of the beautiful and terrifying dress she wore in Las Noches …the embroidery of the last pillow she’d made--oh yes, sometimes when she worked too long on a project, the thread patterns were branded under her eyelids! Right now she could see the flowers, leaves, curlicues so clearly that she felt a happy (if somewhat sexed-up) pride in her work…

Ugh, stupid me, proud about a pillow while other people live full, fantastic and sensual lives
. …Kurosaki-kun’s good, strong face with the sun in his eyes. How tiny Rukia seemed when he leaned over to… no, stop it, stop it, think about something else… pillows, pillows… Ishida-kun showing her how he’d made the bullion stitches on his pillows … fabrics, fabrics, pale uninteresting unemotional fabrics. She wanted her mind to be a blank so she wouldn’t think about Kurosaki Ichigo, but she didn’t want to lose the rising feeling. Handicraft materials are not sexually exciting …

Oh she was a loser … she couldn’t even have a nice orgasm to relax herself …What’s wrong, what’s wrong with me?  Ishida-kun was angry with her … he had given her such a mean look… such a scary look….

Heat whipped between her legs.

Oh this is bad, this is very bad. The badness felt good, though, so Orihime didn’t stop. Flashing, passionate eyes. If she took his glasses off she could touch his face. If she took his shirt off, she could lick his neck. If she were a bad person and if he were a bad person they would throw themselves at one another and go crazy with their mouths ….

The next moments were a vivid reality. She held him at those narrow hips. She put his hand on hers and guided his fingers to a place where they made circles, circles, wet sloshing noises--

Uhhhhh.
Orihime came unexpectedly.

She lay feeling smothered by the thick blanket for a while, and then she got up, pulled her nightgown down, and it stuck to her crotch from the wetness there. She poured herself a cup of melon juice.

I really thought that way about Ishida-kun.


She drank the whole cup and poured herself another.

That turned out well. I must have a great imagination.

--

A pile of study guides and summarized literature lay neglected on the floor. Rukia was lying on the couch and skimming through her new josei when she suddenly put it down.

He doesn’t want to see her … it’s sudden … he doesn’t act like himself.

Ishida is in love with Inoue!


How could she not have realized it before? Every red-blooded heterosexual male over the age of twelve in Karakura was in love with Inoue, and here Ishida was spending all this time with her and getting to bask in her wonderfulness.

Of course, Rukia thought, he probably got a good dose of that Inoue scatterbrain, so if he still loved her after hanging around with the goofiness, he really loved her.

She had to tell someone so she ran to Ichigo’s room and burst in without knocking.

Ichigo was sitting on his bed with a textbook on his lap. He looked startled then happy to see her, and Rukia wondered why he wasn’t bitching at her about not knocking. “Feels like my room too,” she said as she’d prepared to say. “I’m used to coming in whenever I want.”

“No one saw you come upstairs?”

“Huh?”

Ichigo patted the mattress next to him and gave Rukia what he must’ve thought was his most dashing, lascivious look. Rukia thought his face looked silly. Cute but definitely silly.

“Not that,” she said with aggravation. “Not that, not that.” Were all men this needy all the time? “I figured out what’s going on between Ishida and Inoue!”

Ichigo didn’t look that interested.

“Love!” Rukia said. “Ishida is in love with Inoue! That’s what people in love do at first--they try to get over it by ignoring the people they love….”

“Sounds familiar,” Ichigo said. He looked sideways at Rukia.

Rukia ignored him. “Ishida’s been in love with Inoue since forever! Lots of little strangenesses about him make sense now.” She sat on the edge of the bed. “Didn’t you find it odd how super-protective he was of her? Almost like Tatsuki.”

“Well… yeah … but that’s how Ishida is.” Ichigo was scooting himself closer to Rukia. “Asano and some other people kept saying Ishida was in love with Inoue but I didn’t believe it. He’s the kind to be more in love with himself. And some people thought that he was maybe….” Ichigo wiggled his fingers in a universally accepted high school sign for frooty.

Rukia snorted in exasperation. “Just because he makes clothes for dolls.” She lifted her legs parallel to the floor. “Look at this--amazing embroidery, hmm?”

She was about to say something else but Ichigo tackled her by the waist and pressed her to the mattress.

She didn’t want to forget her plan but she endured a long and passionate kiss. Ichigo was a fabulous kisser. Then she pushed on his chest. “Get off me, you perv. How many times do I have to tell you I’m pure, I’m pure!”

“We don’t have to go all the way,” Ichigo offered. “Can’t you still stay pure if we--”

“Shut up. There are more important matters at hand. Don’t we need to find out if Inoue feels the same way Ishida does? And if she does, doesn’t she need to know that Ishida loves her? And what about Ishida--he’s going to continue being miserable until he can be in Inoue’s arms.”

“I thought you said you didn’t want to get involved in some cheap romance story.” Ichigo gestured at the little book Rukia still held in her hand.

“Ichigo,” Rukia assumed a look of profound seriousness. Her eyes narrowed and her voice dropped an octave. “These are our friends we’re talking about here. We have to help them.”


TBC



Feedback and typo and misspelling catches as always very much appreciated by neurotic me.
I'm doing a little something different with POV and am wondering it that's clear.
Also, it occurred to me the other day while watching part of the Bound arc that a lot of manga-readers' fiction is going to seem to have an OOC Ishida--for Bleach fans who haven't read the manga that is. The tension btwn Ichigo and Ishida in that arc just isn't there. They're bff.

The Risky Art of Listening, Part Two
Tags: ichiruki, ishihime, the risky art of listening
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