I would have totally entered this fic into the contest, except that I technically uploaded it eleven months ago. Thus it is not eligible. I do have an actual entry that I will post later, however. But here's this old one in the meantime since pretty much no one read it before.
Title: Ishida: Communication
Summary: You don't need to say something smart to do something smart.
Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach.
Once upon a time, there was a Rain Princess named Amehime. She lived in a beautiful palace on the brightest side of the moon. The palace was built on the backs of a thousand able turtles. These turtles were forced to walk endlessly, so as to always keep the castle in the warmth of the sun.
The Rain Princess cried for those poor turtles and her tears soaked the earth far below. She felt sorry for the turtles, but her parents, the King of the Heavens and Queen of the Stars, refused to give the animals a break. They would not allow the turtles rest for even a single day, because they knew the earth would dry up and wither away and die if their daughter's tears stopped for too long.
Only one man appeared concerned with the well-being of the turtles: an Outsider who lived on the far side of the moon. Not being part of the palace’s staff, this man only came to visit on rare occasions and every single time he did, he always looked so sad whenever he saw the turtles. He would give them food, secretly, but not so secretly because the Rain Princess caught him once.
She was immediately smitten and hopelessly in love. The Outsider never learned of this royal infatuation, due to his love for another, yet Amehime was fine with that. Actually, it made her very sad, but that was fine since it meant it meant she could cry without the turtles. Isn’t that happy? She convinced her parents to free the turtles and she still was able to cry every night.
Everybody was happy, except for her.
"Let me see if I heard you right, Inoue-san. This is your idea for our Japanese Language project?" Ishida gestured with a notebook in exasperation. The notebook, of course, was what Orihime used to write her first (very) short story—the one seen above.
After classes finished, the two had met up in an empty classroom to discuss their aforementioned Japanese Language project.
She nodded enthusiastically. "Yup! What do you think? I write. You illustrate!"
"It's...a children's book," Ishida said, sounding unusually uncertain. As in, he wasn’t sure if it was a children’s book.
"No, no, no!" Orihime disagreed with him, very certain of herself. "This will be a book for all ages, not children!"
At a loss, Ishida rubbed his temple. "But it has turtles and princesses and it's a fairy tale. I think."
Fairy tales typically had happier endings, but this appeared to be one, regardless.
"So? I like those kinds of things and I'm an adult. I'd read this book if I hadn’t wrote it. Wait. I wrote it and I think I can read it, too."
Ishida was in a serious dilemma here, the one every man must try to solve: How to tell her?
"Uh, that may be so, but our assignment is about The Tale of Genji. We’ll fail if we do this!”
Well, Ishida did try, if nothing else.
Orihime’s eyes fell downward. "Does that mean you won’t illustrate for me? Is my story too depressing?”
Depressing? Just a smidgen.
“It means I won’t do this for our assignment. Your story is, um, okay,” Ishida flustered but did as well as he could. “We still need to pass our classes, though. Hmph. Aizen’s gone and our only reward is being put months behind in our homework…”
Ishida trailed off since his partner was clearly not listening to him.
“I see,” Orihime turned away from Ishida. “Thank you for your time. Let’s meet up later to finish the research project. I knew we wouldn’t do this, it was just a joke. Sorry!”
And she ran out of the room, empty-handed.
“Wait! You forgot your notebook!” Ishida yelled at long-gone ears. He grabbed her manuscript and carelessly flipped through it. “Honestly,” he muttered, “let me say what I need to…
“I never said I wouldn’t illustrate the story for you.”
Outside the classroom, far from any desks and chalkboards:
Red leaves fluttered aimlessly in the air and across the road, matching the red sky in the background. In this autumnal setting, Orihime spoke to herself. Just so everybody else knows, she was alone, else she would not have spoken these thoughts aloud.
“I knew I shouldn’t have written that fairy tale. It was really fun to write! But…Ishida had a point, who would even want to read it? Probably no one. I don’t think I even really want to. It was fun to write, but it kind of made me sad by the time I was finished. I mean, it’s so easy to have everything turn out the way I want it to in the story, but it only reminded me how difficult it is in real life to get what I want. In real life, Kurosaki-kun will never look my way. I could live an infinite number of lifetimes and love him every single time, but I doubt he would love me even once.
“Heh, but he could have fallen for me in my story…but I didn’t need him to. I think I know what I want; Kurosaki-kun to look at me as a woman, if only once. We don’t need to live happily ever after. If I just got a little acknowledgement from him, I feel as though I could easily love him from afar for the rest of my life.
“No, I shouldn’t have written that story. Life won’t imitate my imagination. I don’t think he’ll ever see me as anything other than a friend. I’m not good enough to be seen as more than that.
“I’m not even good enough to write a decent story...”
Meanwhile, far away from any red leaves and red skies:
The room had almost turned completely dark, but Ishida hadn’t noticed. All his focus was on the brightly lit drawing board, the only light in the room. His ink-stained hands frantically moved his pen across paper, criss-crossing and shading. Rejected sketches littered the floor. While Ishida worked hard, he spoke to himself more honestly than he should have.
“Every time, this happens to me. I let somebody down because I don’t open my mouth soon enough. I don’t tell them what I really think and they misunderstand me. I can only blame myself, since they have no reason to understand me due to me never opening my mouth. How does Kurosaki manage to blabber so much? It’s annoying, yes, but talking so much has its advantages: people understand you better.
“But more importantly, because people really know who you are, they feel comfortable enough to tell you about themselves—you get to learn a lot about them. You learn when you should open your mouth before it’s too late. You get a lot back if you’re willing to give it away first.
“I’ve never been able to take that first step and really tell another person about myself. I’ll never be able to be like Kurosaki; I’ll never be an annoying guy that never shuts up and opens his heart to everybody.
“But, just this once...I think I can make an exception.”
Late at night, after Orihime heard an unexpected, demanding knock at the door:
“Who could it be now?” she wondered, answering the door. “Yes, come in!”
The door opened, but she couldn’t see who it was. Numerous rolls of paper hid the person.
“I’m not too late, am I? Sorry.”
Orihime started in recognition and then hung her head, remembering her earlier actions. “Ishida-kun? What are you doing here?” Curiosity got the better of her, though, and she couldn’t be morose forever. “What are those?” Straining for a glimpse, she indicated at the rolls of paper.
Ishida’s head appeared as he dumped the paper into Orihime’s surprised hands. “Your illustrations,” he said, and Orihime nearly fell over when placed another object onto her hands. “And your notebook.”
For a moment, Orihime stared. But it did not take very long until she looked at the drawings.
“These are pretty good!” her eyes widened. “Yeah, just like I pictured everything! Hey, it’s the turtles! And the Outsider...”
“You know, we can do this and the book report,” Ishida pointed out.
Orihime turned to Ishida, after looking at all the sketches. “You haven’t sketched everything yet,” she realized.
The final scenes hadn’t been drawn yet.
“No, I haven’t,” Ishida replied. “But I will finish illustrating the story for you. Just do one thing for me, first.”
“What’s that?” she asked, ready to communicate.
Ishida opened his mouth and gave her his honest opinion.
“Change the ending.”