_debbiechan_ (_debbiechan_) wrote in bleachness,
_debbiechan_
_debbiechan_
bleachness

The Risky Art of Listening, Part Two NC17


Here it is. I hope you like.
Sex scenes within for those who are uncomfortable with that sort of thing but there's also comedy.

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. In this part, Orihime finds out what rejection really means, Ishida buys peanut butter, and Ichigo clarifies his relationship with Rukia. Ishida/Orihime, Ichigo/Rukia.

Warnings: Mild spoilers within references to the canon storyline, sexual stuff, high romance. This story may infuriate or may not infuriate IchiOri shippers.


Part Two


“All I know is what I cannot allow.” ~ Ishida Uryuu, chapter 124.



It took all weekend to convince Ichigo, but Rukia convinced him to do it. Come Monday lunch period, Ichigo gathered his nerve, ate the last bite of his sandwich, and said with his mouth partly full:  “You know, what you guys have been thinking all along about me and Rukia…. ” He swallowed. “You’re right.”

There was a tiny, uncomfortable silence and then Keigo gasped, “You’ve stolen the virtue of the pure Kuchiki-san!”

“That’s not a nice thing to say,” said Mizuiro.

Ichigo crumpled his sandwich wrapper into a tiny ball and looked tough. “All I meant, Asano, is that she’s my girlfriend. We talk about things. We kiss and stuff.  We’re … exclusive.” Ichigo was looking at trees beyond the schoolgrounds. “There’s not much more to say except Rukia said I could tell people about us now.”

Ichigo had wanted people to find out without his making a formal declaration. Having Asano and Mizuiro show up when he was making out with Rukia on a park bench would’ve been nice. It would have been a crude method like Rukia said, but at least Ichigo wouldn’t have had to talk.

He thought the subject was closed beyond accepting a few awed congratulations. He hadn’t expected to field questions.

“How long has this been going on, Ichigo?” “Does your family know?” “She lives in your house--isn’t that sort of awkward?” “Are you going to marry her?” “How do Shinigami get married, anyway?” “Do Shinigami need birth control?”

Only Ishida and Chad were quiet.

“Sado, did you know about this?” Keigo was going to make a big deal about it all.

“I suspected,” Chad said.

“Ishida?”

“Of course.”

“This is serious,” Keigo went on. “Kuchiki-san is not like one of those many frivolous beauties Mizuiro dates. Now I must give up pining for her because she’s Kurosaki’s.”

Ichigo walked to the trashcan to throw away his sandwich wrapper. There. He’d done exactly what Rukia had said to do.  He’d set an example of how love among friends could happen, that relationships didn’t have to stay the same, that it was not a social disgrace among men to admit commitment to a girl.

He glanced at Ishida who seemed unmoved. He was supposed to be moved.

Rukia just doesn’t understand how guys think.

“If my hopes are crushed with Kuchiki-san,” Keigo was saying. “There’s still Inoue-san. Dare I hope? She’s the highest pinnacle. The Mount Olympus where only gods can feast on the nectar and ambrosia of her charms. Her snowy breasts are high peaks no mortal can scale--!”

Ichigo watched a trace of indignation pass across Ishida’s face. This was the point at which Ishida told Keigo not to speak of Inoue that way.

He didn’t.

Rukia’s right,
Ichigo realized. He’s trying to get over her. Ishida’s gone batshit wacko over Inoue.

--

When Ishida noticed that Ichigo was following him home, he expected a lecture. Lectures from Kurosaki usually involved being knocked to the ground and yelled at, so Ishida turned around with the intent of blocking a charging Kurosaki.

His already low intelligence is plummeting if he thinks he can sneak up on me.

He didn’t want to play a stupid martial arts game with the dumbass, but he didn’t want another interrogation with Kurosaki spitting nonsense in his face.

Ichigo was walking unhurriedly with hands in his pockets.

“Where’s your girlfriend?” Ishida asked. He knew a set-up when he saw one.

“She wanted me to talk to you,” Ichigo said.

Ishida didn’t ask about what. He knew about what.

“Inoue didn’t even come to school today.”

Ishida said nothing. Ichigo was keeping a fair distance from him. It looked like he had no intention of tacking Ishida to the ground.

“Rukia said that Tatsuki said that all Inoue does is eat ice cream and cry.”

“Have you turned into a schoolgirl, Kurosaki? You sound like one. What you’re talking about is none of my business.”

Ichigo’s face turned serious. “Yes it is. You’re the cause of it. Inoue’s crying over you.”

No, Ishida wanted to say. She’s crying over you.

“You’re a Quincy, right? Besides this whole pride thing, isn’t there something you’re always saying you have to do? Protect your friends? What about Inoue? What about her feelings? Maybe her feelings need protecting.”

I tried to protect her feelings from you. For a whole year I did this. You’re the one who unintentionally hurt her. You’re the one who didn’t see her for who she was.

“Look, I know what a pain it is to be around a crying girl, but the only person I see you protecting right now is yourself.” Ichigo looked Ishida in the eye. “You don’t have to confess to her, Ishida. Just be her friend again. That’s all she needs.”

Exposed, Ishida’s face went slack. He couldn’t return Ichigo’s hard stare.

“I’ve been there, Ishida.” Ichigo turned to leave. “Just be her friend.”

Ichigo walked away and Ishida stood on the sidewalk for a while. The whole I’ve-been-there-you-don’t-know-shit attitude bothered him, but not as much as the reminder that he had sworn to protect Inoue-san at the cost of his life. Why not at the cost of … feeling uncomfortable as she talked about her eternal love for someone else?

I’m being a bastard. And to Inoue-san of all people.

--


When Orihime told Tatsuki that Ishida was an attractive guy and would make an ideal boyfriend for some lucky girl someday, Tatsuki knew something was up.

“Hold on. You never used to talk about him that way. Are you starting to feel something for Ishida too? He’s not even around anymore. Is that what it is? Is it unavailability that attracts you to guys?”

“I don’t feel that way about Ishida-kun,” Orihime said. “It’s just that I…” Her eyes welled up but she blinked back the tears. Tatsuki, making tea, didn’t catch the emotion in Orihime’s face.

“I miss him,” Orihime went on. “I never appreciated him when he was around and now when I remember … how he listened and smiled and cared… I miss the way he made me feel.”

“Rebound love never works out,” Tatsuki said. “That’s what I hear.”

It was true that Orihime wasn’t feeling love for Ishida. Not in the way she recognized love as what she felt for Ichigo. She loved Ishida too, of course, but as a friend. A support and a companion. Like Tatsuki but different from Tatsuki because … he was Ishida-kun!

That’s what made it so delightfully bad when she kissed him in her imagination.

Orihime clutched a pillow.

The real Ishida-kun would never do that. Orihime had been in his arms before. They were protective and firm and brotherly. Quincy pride, he said. He was always talking about Quincy pride. He was gentlemanly and kind and he would never ever…

smear his face against her naked breasts and kiss them.


His expression was always steady and his control over emotions was obvious so he really wouldn’t turn into a heavy-lidded, lustful boy if she took his glasses off …

would he?


“I think taking a shower and eating something real will make you feel better,” Tatsuki said.

Orihime wanted to take another nap. Ice-cream, naps, and imagining Ishida touching her. It hadn’t been an altogether bad day.

“You still feel tired?” Tatsuki asked.

“A little.” It was an all-over ache like the flu. But it wasn’t the flu.

When Tatsuki had arrived late Sunday evening from her judo trip, she’d found Orihime red-eyed, watching television and eating plain vanilla ice-cream. Tatsuki had been convinced that Orihime had encephalitis. There was a current outbreak in Taiwan, Tatsuki said. Orihime couldn’t get the girl to go home and unpack until agreeing to have her temperature taken. It was normal. Funny, Orihime had thought, she hadn’t been feeling anything but normal both physically and emotionally for days.

This evening Orihime felt better. She was still in her pajamas and watching t.v. but she’d reassured Tatsuki that she hadn’t cried today and that she’d crumbled sesame crackers into her ice cream.

Tatsuki had given her an algebra handout and missed assignment. Tatsuki had taken her temperature. When Tatsuki became convinced that Orihime didn’t have the Asian bird flu, she blithely told Orihime about what Kuchiki-san had announced at lunch.

“I think she said we’re an item. Rukia tries to use slang as much as possible, but it sounds really funny when she’s using her important, official Shinigami voice.”

Orihime didn’t bother telling the story of stumbling up the couple kissing. That would seem gossipy at this point. That little scene wasn’t the reason Orihime felt so lonely.

“So Ichigo and Rukia are official,” Tatsuki said. “She said it like it was a wedding announcement.”

Orihime lowered her eyes and felt a pinch of pain. Tatsuki was brusque like that--always saying things about Kurosaki-kun with no regard for how Orihime might respond. Sometimes Orihime thought that Tatsuki didn’t take her romantic feelings for Ichigo seriously; other times it seemed like Tatsuki was being deliberately realistic and trying to get Orihime to be that way too.

“You know what pisses me off, though?” Tatsuki punched her palm. “After all the times I asked Ichigo about him and Rukia, I have to hear it from Rukia.”

Orihime felt required to ask to keep the conversation going, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to hear everything about Kuchiki-san’s announcement. “What did the girls say when Kuchiki-san told them?”

“You would’ve thought someone just kicked the deciding field goal! I think the teachers must’ve thought we were having a party right on the grounds because everyone was squealing so much.”

“Kuchiki-san is the first girl in our class to have a boyfriend,” Orihime said flatly. “It’s a big deal.”

“I was the first one in our class to reach the national finals,” Tatsuki said. “There was no squealing.”

“I’m sorry I wasn’t there to congratulate Kuchiki-san. I’ll do that tomorrow.”

Tatsuki was looking in the cupboards for something. “Mahana asked me later if your staying home had anything to do with Rukia’s announcement. You know--how it might break your heart to hear it.”

“Natsui Mahana?”

“Yeah, her. I bet most of the girls don’t even remember you had a crush on Ichigo because their own silly infatuations come and go so fast, but Mahana thought Rukia might have told you first to give you fair warning.”

“She really thought I’d stayed home because of that?”

“Did you?”

“Coincidence,” Orihime said. “I didn’t know there was going to be an announcement.”

Tatsuki transferred some stew from the Arisawa household into a covered dish and then put the dish in the fridge because Orihime was still claiming that her stomach was too upset to handle anything but ice-cream. “I’ll eat it later,” Orihime promised. “Thank your mom for me--her food is always delicious.”

Maybe Orihime’s stomach was fine or maybe it wasn’t--all she knew was that even the mention of a home-cooked meal made her tongue feel heavy and coarse. She didn’t want to taste anything.

The Chinese tea that Tatsuki’s mother said was good for stomachs had been brewing long enough. Tatsuki poured a large mug for Orihime, knelt next to her on the futon, and her “mother Tatsuki” persona evaporated. Orihime saw the young girl Tatsuki, the one who had questions she couldn’t answer with a kick to the jaw, hurts that couldn’t be fixed with a special Chinese tea.

Tatsuki asked quietly, “Is this what falling out of love with Ichigo feels like?”

Falling out of love? Who does that? What does that mean? Because, Tatsuki, I’ll always love you, I’ll always love Kurosaki-kun, I’ll always love Ishida-kun….

“I don’t think I’m out of love,” Orihime said. “My stomach just hurts.”

Her legs hurt, her fingers hurt, her face hurt from not smiling. And if she let it, her heart hurt terribly.

“Everything’s changing,” Tatsuki said. “People are growing up. But it’s supposed to get easier once we’re grown up--that’s what I hear.”

Orihime couldn’t hold back a yawn. Was there something sleep inducing in the tea? “Didn’t you promise your mom you’d be back before it started raining?”

Tatsuki glanced out the window, and Orihime’s eyelids drooped.

“Nuh-uh.” Tatsuki poked her friend in the shoulder. “No more naps. Go take a shower. And mom said to eat some rice with no butter if you can’t handle the stew.” Tatsuki stood up and found her umbrella. “I think you’re using ice-cream like a narcotic. Enough is enough--all that dairy is probably what’s making you feel bad. Do your homework and I’ll see you at school tomorrow, okay?”

“Okay.”

In the shower, Orihime felt like her whole world could change, but it hadn’t yet. The evening felt important. Thunder and lightning outside. The rush of rain. The sound of running water that continued even after she turned off the faucet.

Her present life, heavy and drenched, and imagined futures washing away….

--

Ishida didn’t know why he expected her to be on the porch. It was late. It was raining. Nobody sat outside in the rain.

Nobody except a person like Inoue-san.

When he turned her street corner he was disappointed not to see her there, smiling under an umbrella, enjoying something most people found bothersome or depressing. But Kurosaki had said she was crying so why would she be outside? Sitting on the porch in the rain was what her usual whimsical self would do.

Crying all day and eating ice-cream.


How could he have been so thoughtless? How could he have been so self-centered? She needed a friend more than ever, and he had stalked off merely because Orihime hadn’t heard his impulsive confession. Of course she hadn’t heard him.

She had been blathering eternal love for someone else. Who would expect to hear a confession in the middle of that?

I should be glad she didn’t hear me. It was a pretty lame confession.


All he had said was yes I do in response to Orihime’s you don’t know what it’s like to love someone day in and day out.  He had merely said yes I do. Three little words, and not the ones usually associated with a confession of love.

Yes he did know what is was like to love someone day in and day out. A person beyond your reach and the daily goings-on of your life. Besides Inoue-san, he loved his grandfather that way. A dead grandfather. With Inoue-san, he had different feelings but they were already tinged with a similar loss.

The moving on plan hadn’t worked out too well; whether Ishida was sitting with her on her porch or hiding from her in the library, his feelings for her didn’t budge.

Inoue-san had explained it before--love was a constant. It burned in your heart and didn’t burn away. It annoyed you, possessed you, made you a fool or made you a better person. It just wouldn’t go away. Maybe it was eternal? An eternal hurt?

So yes, he was standing on Inoue’s porch again and maybe he was a fool but he wasn’t here because he’d made a vow to protect her. He was here because of love. He didn’t like to use the word because it was too important, but that was fine--he didn’t have to say the word aloud to feel what it meant. And Inoue-san would never have to know.

Ishida shook out his umbrella and knocked at the door.

“Who’s there?” came an unexpectedly cheerful voice. Orihime had missed school so Ishida had been worried that she was ill. She didn’t sound ill. “Who’s there? Are you a burglar or a bad person?”

Only Orihime would ask.

“Ishida Uryuu,” said Ishida loudly. “I brought you a present!”

The door opened and there stood a beautiful girl in a bathrobe with her wet hair dripping.

“I’m sorry,” Ishida said. “Is this a bad time? Were you about to go to bed? I’ll just give you this and come back tomorrow.”

“Ishida-kun, I’m so happy to see you!”

She was. She took him by the shoulder and ushered him inside. Her smile shone; it made him feel at ease right away. How could he ever have wanted to escape that smile?

“What is it?” Orihime took the paper bag from Ishida’s hands and looked inside.

“American peanut butter,” Ishida said. “I went uptown to do some shopping this afternoon and noticed this--”

“Uptown? Was it expensive?”

“Not at all. No one buys it. People say the texture is too sticky and last year some people in Osaka had allergic reactions to it, so I guess…. People are afraid of peanut butter.”

Orihime looked at the label. “Jif!” she said. “That doesn’t sound scary.”

“Maybe before eating it,” Ishida suggested, “you could put a little bit on your tongue and wait to see if you have any itchiness or swelling. That’s what I did.”

“You like peanut butter?”

“It’s not bad. I only tried it today. I bought another jar for myself and tasted it to see if was something you might like.” See, I’m a damn good friend. “It’s salty-sweet, so I think you will.” She was looking at him funny--her eyes full of kindness.

“Let’s eat it!” Orihime said.

She brought spoons. She made tea. They sat at the low table the way they had dozens of times, and they (mostly Orihime) scraped the jar of peanut butter clean. Orihime said that it was too kind of him to stop by when he was studying so hard. He had always been too kind. She had never realized how kind he was until he wasn’t there. Ishida had to fidget and protest before she quit with the kindness compliments.

“I missed the potato chips you brought as much as the company,” she joked.

He would never reveal the real reason he’d been away, but telling her that he was at the library all the time wasn’t a lie. He told her he’d come by more often now. He said he still owed her a dinner. Would she like gyoza? Would she like a vegetable stew?

He waited for the soliloquy. He waited for at least a mention of Kurosaki. He waited for Orihime’s eyes to get that dreamy look.

She was sucking on her peanut butter spoon when the look surfaced, but this evening Orihime wasn’t looking past him; she was looking at his face. There was something different about her, but Ishida didn’t know what. The wet hair? She looked beautiful.

Why was she staring at him like that?

Maybe Ishida himself should bring up the subject of Kurosaki. Maybe Orihime was too heart-broken and wanted Ishida to believe everything was fine. He didn’t want to say the accursed name Kurosaki and open the floodgates, but maybe that’s what she needed. A good cry and a good friend. Some honesty here.

“Inoue-san,” he began.

“Ishida-kun, I want to tell you something.” She had this way of interrupting people. She had this way of turning dreary conversation turn into a festival of laughter. She had this way of making you forget what you were going to say.

“I missed you so much, Ishida-kun. It felt pretty horrible to miss you.”

Well, that was unexpected.

"After Tatsuki, you're the best friend I've ever had."

Friend.


“Kurosaki-kun can be anywhere and I’ll be loving him, always loving him--”

There was the name. This rest was going to hurt, but he could take it.

“But I can’t love you from far away,” Orihime said. “I need you here.”

He wasn’t sure what that meant, but she emphasized the words by taking his hand.

She needs her friend. I knew it. She needs a friend here. I’m her friend.

“I’m here,” Ishida said. “I’ll be by tomorrow in all likelihood. Then Friday... maybe….”

Had he ever touched her hand before? The skin was silky, and he knew the feel of many kinds of silks well. He was so starved for touch; he wished he never had to let go.

“I need you here,” she repeated.

“I’m here,” he said.

--

“She messed everything up by not being at school,” Rukia said. “I was going instruct everyone about the do’s and don’ts of couplehood, but then Inoue wasn’t there. Then I thought I’d save the speech for tomorrow, but I knew you were telling the guys and….” Rukia lay herself backwards on Ichigo’s bed and wiggled her school-socked feet.  “The girls would be pissed if they heard it from one of the guys and not me.”

“I’m never doing that again,” Ichigo said. “Keigo had a mini-seizure. Worse than his usual ones.”

“You still have to tell your dad,” Rukia said.

“He’ll figure it out.” Ichigo closed his book and lay down perpendicular to Rukia. “Or else he already knows. If I tell him in person like it’s some big deal I’m going to get hugged and kissed and embarrassed out of my mind.”

“Oh, he’s going to embarrass you anyway,” Rukia said. “Sooner or later, about something or other--why not over me? You should tell him. After all, he’s crazy about me, and I’m a very good catch.”

Ichigo closed his eyes. “You sound like we’re getting married.”

“That’s how the girls acted too!”

“The girls? It sounded like someone threw a snake into the hen house. You could hear the commotion from the other side of the building.”

“I know. I don’t know why people get so excited about things like this.”

“I don’t know why the guys kept asking me if I was going to marry you.”

Rukia stared at the ceiling, and Ichigo did too.

“The guys asked you if you were going to marry me?”

“You better go back to your room and get ready for bed, Rukia. Yuzu and Karin might start to suspect something if you’re up here too long.”

Rukia got off the bed. Ichigo tensed because she looked like she was about to say something important but she didn’t.

“Is this what we want for Inoue and Ishida?” she asked. “Having to worry about what people think? Are they having sex, are they going to get married, how does he put up with her this and why does she put up with his that. Couplehood isn’t just about the couple. It’s about everybody they know too.”

“Fuck what everyone thinks,” Ichigo said.

“You’re one to talk. You’re the one who’s too embarrassed to tell his dad.”

“Look, it’s a pain in the ass to deal with people so the best thing to do is to avoid them. The only person you need to worry about is me. You can’t please everybody but you need--”

“I don’t need you for anything, Kurosaki Ichigo.”

“Oh don’t start that again. You don’t even know what I was going to say.”

“I was listening. Something about how I need to please you.”

The bickering started; it was like a private language and Ichigo felt comfortable inside it.

Rukia knew there were other ways of expressing love--quiet, simple, considerate ways. But Ichigo was a hardhead and a clueless moron, and if she didn’t kick him in the face how else could she get his attention? If he didn’t yell at her, how else would she know what he was thinking? If they didn’t bicker, how would she know what he was even listening?

--

Things had been going fine. Peanuts. Happiness. The nice feeling of being inside while the rain slammed against the windows.

It wasn’t until Orihime took his hand that her world turned inside out. Until that moment, he had been her good friend Ishida-kun, the one she’d missed so much. Then he’d said I’m here, and the sedate, gentle timbre of his voice and the warm feel of his skin changed everything. He turned into a possible lover.

Or had he been that before? Since when? Since the first time she’d imagined him kissing her? Before that?

Lover.

Their eyes weren’t meeting but their hands weren’t letting go. Orihime’s hand covered his, and the two hands rested on the table. He didn’t move, but she felt a stirring in his reiatsu.

She was scared. Then she wasn’t scared. Then she was scared again.

Girl friends are not supposed to touch boy friends. Is this why? But I want to….

Her hand petted his. Once. Twice. Her fingers pressed down, and his fingers rose to mesh with hers.

Still friends. They were still good friends. Good friends who were sharing a particularly emotional hand-holding.

They were not good friends. Orihime couldn’t look him in the eye because he was not her good friend. A good friend she would smile at. She could release a good friend’s hand. She couldn’t let go this hand.

Still not looking at him, she let go his hand. 

Her hand didn’t go far. She held it tense and half-open in the space between them. She hesitated--I don’t need to touch him, I don’t need to touch anyone--

then she touched his hand again. Her fingertips glided up his arm. They got as far as Ishida’s elbow and then they traveled back down.

Was she fondling his forearm? That’s what it looked like. Her fingers moved lightly up, slid back down. Up, down. The motion itself was as irresistible as the feel of his warm skin.

His other hand, the one with the cross, stopped her fingers. As his hand gripped them, the cool metal of his bracelet grazed her arm, and she dared to look up.

She felt a shock when she saw his face.

He wasn’t Ishida-kun. He was the warrior with eyes like blue fire and the hard-jawed expression she’d seen that last afternoon on the porch. He was handsome. He was all sharp edges and seriousness. He was … angry.

“Are you playing with me?” he asked.

Orihime didn’t understand. “I--I--”

“Do you want to pretend I’m Kurosaki? I’m not him.” That proud, noble voice. “For you to treat me as anything other than a friend is an insult to me. You don’t love me that way.”

Had she actually made such a forward and rude gesture against him? She had. She had stroked his arm and her intent had been clear. Orihime felt nothing but shame--still, she couldn’t let go of Ishida. Her fingers, in fact, clutched him harder.

They stared at one another. His eyes were hard, and Orihime didn’t know what to say.

This is the worst night of my life.

Orihime knew she had experienced great losses in her life, and she thought of Sora. But she couldn’t remember ever feeling this humiliated and lost. Every rejection in the world was staring at her. Every regret. It was too late. It was too late to take back the fact that she’d touched him, to take back the fact that she wanted to touch him, too late to change how he felt about her and … and….

He was so angry.

His chest was heaving, and his mouth was so mean.

Was he ever going to be her friend again?  He’d said she insulted him. Something about how she didn’t love him that way.

Her face was going from hot to cold in the horror of the moment, and still she couldn’t move.

He hadn’t let go of her hand.

They stared at one another until the tears were spilling out of her eyes. The sight of them did not soften his expression. She didn’t love him that way? How could he know that for certain? Maybe she didn’t. Maybe she didn’t yet.

There was a sudden white light in the room and a thunderclap a few moments later. The rain was pouring steadily outside.

“I could love you that way, Ishida-kun,” she whispered. “Maybe I already do.”

The surprise broke his anger. “What?” His eyes widened. “You don’t know what you’re saying.”

“I’m sorry,” she said. She tasted tears at the corners of her mouth. Why did she always have to cry? “I’m sorry to have insulted you but please, whatever you do….” She hated her own neediness. “Whatever you do, please don’t leave me.”

“I told you I wouldn’t.” His voice was completely different. A boy’s. Her friend’s. “I’m here. I’m right here.”

“You’ve always been here for me,” Orihime sobbed. She hadn’t let go of his arm and he hadn’t let go of her hand. Were they going to be stuck like this all night? “I don’t know why I didn’t see it before. You’ve been here all along.” Her sobs were coming fast now.

“Inoue-san, I’m sorry. I should’ve expected you to be in this confused state of mind and I shouldn’t have been so … so scolding.”

“You’ve been here all along,” Orihime wailed. She couldn’t stop herself from sputtering and sobbing. “You put up with all my craziness over Kurosaki-kun, and I didn’t notice that you were--that you were--” She choked but she said it. “You were here for me when he wasn’t.”

“Inoue-san….”

“And now it’s too late. It’s too late for you to ever love me!”

They tore apart. Orihime threw her arms on the table and her face over her arms and her long hair covered her while she cried huge, ridiculous sobs. Maybe Ishida-kun could forgive her. Was he good enough a friend that he could forgive her for making such a fool of herself?

It was loneliness that had driven her. It was a need to touch and be touched. But it was also him--there was no one like him. No one kinder or smarter or more wonderful. And now he thought she was a disgusting, sleazy, mentally unstable….

She would remember that when he moved, the peanut butter jar fell off the table and she was grateful that it wasn’t made of glass. Her life was a big enough mess already. She would remember that she didn’t see his face--only that she felt her shoulders being lifted and her hair being brushed away from eyes that were blind with tears and sore from crying.

And then he kissed her.

Right away she could tell that he’d kissed her a hundred times in his imagination.

Her body flushed with a hundred feelings, her mouth opened, her head tilted back.

And she reached to take off his glasses.


--


She tasted like peanut butter. His tongue pressed hers. So this was a kiss. Ishida didn’t know what he’d done to deserve this moment, but he was kissing the girl of his dreams.

Stop. Don’t take advantage of her feelings. She’s upset. She’s saying and doing things she wouldn’t ordinarily do.


He tried to pull away but found himself kissing her forehead, her wet eyelids, her cheeks, and squeezing her shoulders even harder with his hands. “It’s alright,” he heard himself telling her. “Everything’s going to be fine. You don’t have to cry anymore.”

“What’s happening?” she asked.

“It’s just me,” Ishida said.

Her lips found his again, and that’s when things got completely out of control.

There was some tumbling sideways onto the floor involved. Her thick robe fell off one shoulder, and her nightgown was transparent enough for him to see a blushing-pink breast. The lace didn’t even try to camouflage the nipple.

“Inoue-san, your robe!”

She must’ve thought that he wanted her to take it off when he had just wanted to alert her to an unintentional indecency.

But Orihime had risen to her knees and taken off the robe before he could clarify himself.

“Like this, Ishida-kun?”

She could have naked for as much as Ishida could see. The nightgown clung to her body.

Nylon tricot does that.

He couldn’t breathe.

He knew he should try to remedy the situation by retrieving the robe and protectively wrapping it around her. He knew he should say wait, Inoue-san, this could go too far.

He could only grab her wrists and pull her close and kiss her neck and breasts through the hardly-there fabric.
 
She reacted like she’d been zapped with a lightning bolt. Her hands grabbed his hair. This wasn’t chocolately-melty. This wasn’t slow and delicious. This was furious and starved. He sensed it would kill her to let go, and he knew it would kill him not to kiss her again so he closed his lips around a nightgown-covered nipple. She made a squeaky sound that could’ve been delight and then a moaning noise that could’ve been agony, and he rubbed his hands up and down her back.

It seemed like a lifetime of little throaty noises later that Ishida raised his head. There was a wet circle on the cloth where he’d been sucking, and he was about to address the other nipple when she pushed him down and unzipped his shirt.

The catch at the end gave her a little trouble. She yanked at it and then yanked again and it looked like she was lowering her head to bite it off with her teeth when the catch came undone and the shirt front parted.

“Inoue-san … Orihime… I….” His own vulnerability as she palmed his chest and licked at it with a hot little tongue made him say, “Stop, stop. This is too soon.”

“No it’s not.” A supremely confident voice. Inoue-san had never sounded this grown-up and sexy before. “You like it don’t you?” She twirled her tongue around his nipple and breathed warm air on his chest. Ishida got the feeling that he was about to be coerced into some sexual activity that they both would regret.

Or maybe they wouldn’t.

Ishida grabbed one shoulder, flipped her over (with the other hand holding the base of her skull so she wouldn’t hurt her head on the floor), and kissed her hard.

She fit. They matched. Her top lip was exactly where it was supposed to be. Her right hand was touching exactly what he wanted it to touch. His left hand was large and long-fingered enough to hold her whole luscious breast.

There was nothing to this. Practice? Who needed practice? This was easier than standing in a stream and tediously shooting arrows. But it was like gathering his powers in that he needed his heart to tell him what to do.

--

Some things are inevitable, Urahara had told Ichigo once. Like Death. Like puberty. Like postal errors and lost keys. Other things are yet to be because one is the designer of one’s own fate. “But in order to design your own fate, Kurosaki-san, you have to take into consideration that even in the simplest life plans, there are threads of inevitability. ”

Ichigo thought he understood that now, and he was damn well surprised because he never understood half of what the weirdo shopkeeper was talking about.

Late evening. Maybe past midnight. Ichigo couldn’t see his wall clock because room was dark.

Rukia had fallen asleep in his bed. That meant Ichigo would be awake and sexually frustrated all night.

They had argued about his not understanding the meaning of the word “independent.” She’d said that wanting to be independent was the reason she’d left her brother’s palace and why she was here, doing what she wanted in the Living World, living with a high-schooler.

Ichigo had taken offense at being called “a high-schooler” instead of a “substitute Shinigami.” He’d told her not to use him as an excuse to defy Byakuya and all his messed-up noble ways. Rukia had taken offense to her brother’s ways being called “messed up.” She was a princess and she was pure and there were certain codes even she had to follow.

Ichigo, who couldn’t memorize well for school exams, could somehow recount what followed, word for word, in his mind.

“I don’t have to follow your codes so how come I’m the one who’s sexually frustrated?”

“Do you think I’m not?”

“Then why can’t we do it? Don’t give me that I’M PURE shit again because I don’t understand it.”

“We’re not married. That’s why we can’t do it. Do you understand that?”

“Are we going to get married?”

“You tell me. You’re the one who acted like getting married was this unthinkable thing.”

“You acted that way too.”


“Well maybe I don’t think that.”


Ichigo had asked Rukia to marry him in a shout so loud it shook the whole house.

“THEN YOU BETTER MARRY ME BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO KEEP ARGUING ABOUT THIS, SO DAMMIT, WILL YOU PLEASE MARRY ME, RUKIA?”


“Well, that settles it,” Rukia had said. “Everybody knows now. They’ll be disappointed if we don’t get married.”

Ichigo looked at the sleeping figure next to him. Rukia was still wearing her school uniform, and she was curled into a crescent. Like the little moon of loveliness and purity that she was. Ichigo considered covering her with a blanket but he didn’t want her to wake up and start yelling that she didn’t need a blanket.

--

Ishida and Orihime had found the futon and were wrestling it into shapes beyond its usual rectangle. Ishida was shirtless, and Orihime was completely nude. Ishida’s legs were tangled in the nightgown, and Orihime’s panties had been tossed and lost, not to be found again until years and years passed and the apartment was occupied by an elderly male tenant.

The rain still roared, but the sound of heavy breathing was louder.

“I have condoms,” panted Orihime.

Ishida felt a shock of dread, but that feeling only made him harder. Should he?

“I’ll show you.” She got up and walked to a drawer.

Ishida had never seen a vertical live naked girl and the sight made him want her horizontal and within reach again. He knew that his senses were over-stimulated, that his body had been touched more in the past few minutes than it had ever been touched in his whole life, but he was still a reasonable person. “We don’t need condoms,” he said.

“Ishida Uryuu!” Orihime held up a shiny blue square. “Weren’t you listening in health class?”

“No, no, I mean we don’t have to go there.” Ishida was surprised at how natural it felt to be flustered and trying to explain himself to a naked Inoue Orihime. “We can do … other things.”

Her face lit up. One could never guess that she’d been crying earlier. “Oh! Okay.”

She was walking back when an irksome thought occurred to Ishida. He cleared his throat. His voice was weak. “You have condoms?” The idea that she’d bought them with Kurosaki in her plans was going to put a damper on the evening.

She still held one. Black foil.

“Some people from Family Planning were handing them out in the mall. I got a few and I got an idea so I made Tatsuki go back and get me some more. I thought the handicrafts club could use the wrappers for projects. You know how we’re always running out of colored foil?”

A naked girl, the one he had obsessed about for over a year, sat beside him and put her silky arms around his neck.

“Don’t you want to know how I really feel about you?” Ishida asked. “Don’t you want to make sure that this isn’t a crazy, rash one-time thing?”

She kissed him. Peanut butter would forever be a sexy taste. “I already know how you feel,” she said.

How could she know? She was recently broken-hearted; she was susceptible to insanity. Before he did anything else, he at least wanted to tell her that he loved her and that he’d loved her for over a year and that he would never love anyone else. This was as good a time as any to confess. In fact, it was the best opportunity he’d had yet to use the word love in an appropriate context.

“If I were anybody else,” she said, stroking his hair, “would you be here?”

“No.”

“Would you be half naked and doing all these ungentlemanly things?”

Ishida smiled. “No.”

“Okay, then let’s have a crazy one-time thing tonight and tomorrow we’ll have another one and the day after that we can have another one and so forth until the stars burn out because I want to do this with only you. We can talk about things on the porch later but right now--” She sighed deeply. “If we stop, we can never have this night back again.”

He took her meaning. Even though they had all the time in the world to learn more about one another, they also had now.

They may as well do sex things.

“You’re so smart,” he said.

The rest of the evening was about living fantasies. Simple ones, the kind two inexperienced teenagers could enact but also the kind two spiritually gifted people could turn into monumental feats of endurance. Ishida made sure he had kissed every other part of Orihime before he kissed between her legs. She arched her back and gasped and moaned but it Ishida who may have felt more pleasure because he was quite sure that he’d convinced Orihime that no one, human or Shinigami, could match his tongue for speed, sensitivity, and innovation.

It also just turned him on so bad to have his face there. Here was the nearest he’d been to her soul so far.  The burning core of her reiatsu singed all his senses--touch, taste, smell, hearing, sight. An amazing intimacy deeper than sex, the thrilling newness of the place, the strange familiarity of a red darkness he’d summoned in his imagination so many times.

Ishida was ready to burst when Orihime, sweat sticking to her forehead and chest still heaving from a variety of orgasms, pulled off Ishida’s pants with surprising ease and tasted him. She was sweet and curious, and when Ishida finally bucked forward with a little moan, she of course, being Orihime, loved what she tasted. She dug her fingers into Ishida’s thighs and requested that he could do it again right away, but he said there were limits to even Quincy power.

Ishida thought he been quite wrong about the chocolately-meltiness because even during intermissions the two kept grabbing one another and running frenzied hands over shoulders, hips, thighs. Pleasure after pleasure could not burn away the loneliness of years and years, so they had to keep at it. At some point, though, Ishida found his face resting at the crook of Orihime’s neck and his hand lying on her stomach as if it had dropped dead from pleasuring her.

But it hadn’t.

He moved the hand slowly, past the drenched hairs, over a sore clit, and parted the folds. Her response was a mmmmmmm and at last, at last, that sensuous chocolately-ness as she threw back her head. She even smelled like chocolate--a complicated grown-up smell he associated with coffeehouses and breaks from studying. His fingers courted her entrance for a little while, and one pushed inside with caution and gentleness.

“Does this make me not a virgin?” Her voice was sleepy.

“I don’t know.”

She liked to suck his ring finger, where there was a callous from sewing without a thimble. She sucked there while the finger of his other hand played inside her, and then she said, “I always thought you had the world’s loveliest hands. Like an artist should have but strong too.”

Ishida was getting that drunken turned-on look.

“I’m sure I loved you before tonight,” she continued dreamily. “Or loved your hands at least because I was always staring at them.”

The words made him pull out his finger and kiss her.

“I still have those condoms,” she said.

“Let’s save something for tomorrow.”

--

No one should’ve taken much notice when Kurosaki Ichigo, Kuchiki Rukia, Inoue Orihime, and Ishida Uryuu weren’t at school the next day. Those four had a habit of disappearing together for days to preoccupy themselves with “important work,” they called it. Sometimes it was life-saving work at Ishida’s father’s hospital. Other times they fulfilled emergency volunteer positions at the Red Cross. Most of the student body, however, suspected that the four went undercover for the police to fight Yakuza and drug-pushers.

“You know what I think?” Keigo was walking with Mizuiro after the final bell. “I think Kurosaki is doing Kuchiki-san and that Ishida’s working his way around the bases with Inoue-san.”

“How could you know these things for certain?” argued Mizuiro. “You haven’t seen anything. You haven’t heard anything.”

“Don’t you know, you reiatsu-challenged little playboy, that there are other signals in the air besides what can be seen by human eyes? Haven’t you felt the love in the air?”

“Not really.”

“He’s actually got a point for once, Mizuiro. For once.” Both boys startled when they heard Tatsuki’s voice behind them.  She was carrying an over-stuffed booksack of assignments--today wasn’t a judo day and she usually went to Orihime’s to catch up on homework but something told her she shouldn’t today.

“Arisawa-san!” Keigo bowed lightly and flashed amorous eyes. After Inoue-san, this girl was the sexiest in all the school. Ooh-la-la, athlete girls with tight muscled legs.

“It’s simple. People in love get these vibrant, irregular reiatsu surges. The soul is connected to the heart is connected to … something else, I forget.” Tatsuki looked cranky--but she always looked a little cranky so Keigo and Mizuiro didn’t think anything was wrong. “Don’t you remember Urahara explaining all that stuff? If you two weren’t so retarded, you would know exactly where Ichigo, Rukia, Ishida, and Orihime are. Some people feel, some people hear, some people see the spirit threads moving.”

“Listen to her,” Keigo told Mizuiro. “She’s got the greatest sensing abilities of all of us.”

“That’s creepy. She knows when her friends are making out?”

As soon as Tatsuki turned away from the boys, though, her face went from cranky to sad. She understood love. She understood it very well. It roped from reiatsu to reiatsu and pulled people together like a bow. There were threads of inevitability there, Urahara had said, but mostly things just got tangled up and knots happened in the most unexpected of places.

Tatsuki felt left out again.

She shrugged her booksack back onto her shoulder and walked home. She’d gotten used to the idea of Ichigo pulling away, but this new business with Orihime and Ishida had been rather sudden. She told herself that Ichigo and Orihime would be the friends they always were to her, but she suspected otherwise. People grow up. Things change.

I’m happy for you, Orihime. I can tell you’re happy.


The air was teeming with spirit threads. They wavered towards and away from her; each one held possibilities too numerous to even imagine, and the very idea that she hadn’t lived most of her life yet was exhausting.

But things got better when you were a grown up--or so she’d heard.


END



I didn’t think there was enough Quincy smex in this story so I’m going to churn out a one-shot sequel. Stay tuned.







More Spring Madness to Come...The husband is on break next week, has no papers to grade and... no, we're not going to the Bahamas! XD XD  He gets to go to his mistress, the Library, and when he's back and can watch the chibis, I GET TO WRITE! YEY!
Tags: ichiruki, ishihime, keigo, mizuiro, tatsuki, the risky art of listening part two
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