Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach. It and all its lovely characters belong to Kubo Tite
Summary: In which Orihime is herself and Ishida laments on his unrequited love
“Yes, Inoue-san, a bunny. May we return to work now?” Ishida sighed, threading a needle with soft yellow thread.
“That one looks like a zombie dragon trying to break a vending machine.”
This time, the archer did look up. “…what?”
“That cloud!” chimed Orihime, jovially pointing out the window before her. “It looks like a-“
“I-Inoue-san, I heard you, I just,” he paused, sliding his glasses up the bridge of his nose. Damn nervous tic. “I just… how can you possibly see that?”
“Well you see,” the girl stopped momentarily before dethatching from her perch on the windowsill. “I’ll show you, Ishida-kun!”
With that charming bounce in her step, Orihime moved to Ishida’s side. She took hold of his arm and pulled, with more force than she probably noticed or ought to have, him from his seat.
“Inoue-san!” he stammered, watching in dismay as the spool of thread he was using clattered to the floor and rolled away, leaving a trail of sunshine colored thread in its wake. It was only after he decided the thread was really insignificant in the long run that it dawned on him that Inoue Orihime held his arm. She shouldn’t… it was inappropriate! It… It was completely harmless, he told himself. He noted with a tinge of sadness that it was harmless. He was well aware that whatever affection he felt for Orhime was unrequited.
“Look!” her voice jarred him from his thoughts. She let go of his arm and looked back and forth between him and the sky, pointing at an oddly shaped cloud overhead. “You see that part there? That’s his tail, and that’s his head. And those ones over there are his really big claws. They’re big like that ‘cause he’s going to rip the whole machine to pieces!”
There were so many things wrong with that logic that Ishida didn’t even know where to begin. He supposed he should start with the most pressing question. “Why would a dragon want to break a vending machine?”
“It took his quarter, Ishida-kun,” she responded seriously, looking him squarely in the eyes.
He stared at her, baffled. But dragons slept on mountains of gold. Why would they care for a quarter? How would one even hold a quarter? It was not only the most random shape he ever heard of in a cloud, but it was completely ludicrous. It was absurd! Childish!
Whatever words she continued to ramble fell on deaf ears. Ishida paid little attention to her detailed scenario of exactly how Sir. Reginald the dragon went on a quest with exactly enough change for one soda in hopes to obtain his beloved cola. He was fixated on her. God, she was beautiful. All she needed to do was smile and it felt as if all that was wrong with the world could crumble before her innocence and quiet strength.
Damn. He hadn’t been paying attention. “Er, yes, Inoue-san?”
“Did I grow an antenna?”
“Did you what?”
“Well, you’ve been staring at me, so maybe I’m turning into a robot or something,” she concluded.
Ishida chuckled in response, shaking his head. “No, your head is antennae free.” He smiled a bit at her brief look of disappointment. “My mind was simply wandering.”
“Oh.” She cocked her head to the side. “What were you thinking about?”
“I was thinking about what color lace I should use for the dress I’m making,” he lied smoothly.
“Black?” He had expected her to say something more colorful.
“Mmhmm!” She rocked back and forth on her heels, gazing at the dress lying on the back table of the empty handicrafts club. “Then it’ll look like a cute little bumble bee,” she added.
“I’ll consider it,” he answered, already calculating exactly where to put the lace.
“You don’t want to watch the clouds with me?” she asked.
Perhaps it was a bad day to work on the dress, Ishida thought as he walked back to pick up his thread. It was so cheery outside. Someone as sunny as Inoue should be in a similar atmosphere. And she had come to keep him company.
“I could hand sew on the lace outside if you’d like,” he proposed.
“Really?” She sounded delighted.
“Of course, Inoue-san. Lead the way.”
The girl cheerfully skipped along, doing just that. The archer followed behind her, taking time to pull out various types of black lace and a few spools of thread. They sat outside, she looking at shapes in the clouds overhead and he listening silently and stitching diligently. They stayed side by side for a time. Ishida grew more comfortable with the proximity to Orihime as the clouds sailed by. They even conversed with one another: about the clouds, philosophy, books, which type of bean paste was clearly superior, schoolwork, and more. The topics all seemed so unrelated, but somehow, Orihime’s brilliant mind transitioned between them with ease. He listened to her chatter, uncommonly content with the world. Maybe he would have the courage to actually give her the dress he’d made for her this time, instead of selling it in a fit of cowardice. The thought was small, but empowering.
“That one looks like a strawberry.”
Destroyed in an instant.
He stiffened. Of course she would be thinking of him. She was always dwelling on Kurosaki. He couldn’t fault her for it. The shinigami was brave, devoted- a complete imbecile. But Ishida understood the depth of emotion Orihime felt for the strawberry haired shinigami. It was admirable that anyone could love so deeply and devoutly. It was crushing.
“Oh. Yes. I suppose it does.”
If she noticed the change in his demeanor, she gave no indication. It was probably for the better. There was no need to trouble her with his petty jealousies. She loved Kurosaki- it was black and white. He smoothed out a pucker in the lace and continued to sew, thinking of Cyrano De Bergerac. The poet was lucky, in a way. Though he was cursed with a hideous nose and forced to watch the love of his life, Roxane, pine after his friend, he had the gift of knowing that it was his poetry that wooed her. She was in love with him, though he could never let her know it.
It was tragic, but so much more hopeful than knowing there was nothing the object of your affection would ever love about you. He was no poet, and Orihime’s love was not so frail that it could be swayed that easily. No, Ishida lamented, he would always love Orihime, whether or not feelings of romance lingered, but she would forever have her sights set on a man who did not love her, and likely never would. He hoped for her sake that Kurosaki would see what beauty stood before him- what grace and charity were embodied in the wonder that was Orihime.
“What’s the dress for?”
His thoughts crashed to a halt again.
“You’ve been working on it for a while,” elaborated Orihime. “What’s it for?”
Lie, lie, lie.
“It’s for… I’m going to sell it.”
Her mouth formed a small “o” as she looked at the dress in admiration. “I bet you could sell it for a lot of money! Then you could get discovered by a fashion designer from Paris and he’d sell it in a clothing line and then you’d get famous and move to France! Or,” she said, considering the less outlandish alternative, “you could use the money to buy something really cool!”
She gave him a pointed look. “And make sure you don’t sell it cheap! Last time I went to our school’s sale, I got three dresses for only thirty-two bucks! Can you believe that Ishida-kun? And they were beautiful. And I took them home and thought, ‘Well, maybe I can alter them so they’ll fit me!’ And guess what? It’s like they were made for me!”
He stared at her in shock. She bought them?
“Do you know who “Crose” is? Tatsuki said it was probably Spanish or Italian or something, but I can’t tell. I think it’s the designer’s name.”
“It’s Italian,” he said without thinking.
She cheered. “I got such a good deal on designer Italian dresses! You should see them Ishida-kun, I’ll bring them next week.” Now she was excited, waving her arms enthusiastically.
As she rambled on about the “Italian dresses,” Ishida felt the unfamiliar sensation of hope bubbling in his chest. There was something of his she loved after all. Maybe, one day, he would be able to tell her whose work she so praised. But for now, he would remain content.
He finished his last stitch on the lace and held the dress up to the light for examination. Well, dress? Maybe there is hope for me yet.