Summary: When Valentine's Day comes, can a certain bespectacled Quincy pluck up the courage to tell the girl he loves just how he feels?
Disclaimer: I have been to busy trying to obtain 'Inuyasha' to even contemplate owning 'Bleach.'
Orihime Inoue sat with an uncharacteristically heavy sigh, her reddish-orange hair seeming to flare out as the late evening sun streamed into the apartment where she lived by herself. Her relatives gave her the financial support she needed, but all lived too far away for her to move in with them – that, and moving would disrupt her school life and her social. Her turquoise hairclips glinted in the light, the 'flowers' contained within at rest.
I can't believe it's already been half a year since we got back from Soul Society… Her eyelids drooped slightly, a wistful smile spreading over her face as she remembered the series of adventures and misadventures that had lead them – her, Kurosaki-kun, Sado-kun, Ishida-kun and Yoruichi-san – to the place originally, then those who had aided them. There were far too many to count – Hanatarou, Ganju, Abarai Renji, Kenpachi and Yachiru, and even the stranger, who had halted her and Ishida and then taken her away from the battle after the once-Quincy had threatened him into doing so… and those were just a few. There were more, far, far more than that.
And then all but Kurosaki-kun and Yoruichi-san had been captured – even she had, the member of 11th squad who Ishida had forced to take her having handed her over to his captain and vice-captain as soon as he was discovered with her. And then – and this surprised her the most – her captors had broken into the prison, freed the others and taken them all away, partly to use them as bait to lure Kurosaki-kun into the open…
And all this to rescue a single shinigami who was to be executed, Kuchiki Rukia, whose presence in their world had altered the destinies of her and all three of her classmates'. The smile faded slightly as she remembered when she had told Kurosaki-kun that she liked him as more than just a friend. It had been that very day, after school as soon as the rest of the class had all left the classroom. Rukia was waiting outside for someone – Orihime didn't know at the time that it was Kurosaki she was waiting for – and, when she realised that her potential love-rival was a safe distance away she'd out and told him.
He'd been very kind about it, well, about as kind as he can get, she reflected – he hadn't laughed in her face, or bluntly told her to go away as she thought he might, as soon as the words were out. Instead he'd said that he saw her as a friend, even a little sister, but couldn't feel for her the way she did for him. In hindsight, she knew it was an act of kindness, really, telling her that he didn't feel the same. It saved all the pain and heartache that would probably have come later if she hadn't said. Not that she knew of these things – Tatsuki-chan had told her about how it hurts sometimes, and had known from experience. Orihime wasn't hurting though – she was happy for Kurosaki-kun and Rukia-chan, happy that he at least found out from her, and not from anyone else. Sure, she felt the tiniest bit numb, but that was only to be expected after finding out that your long-time crush loved someone else, that your feelings were unrequited.
She stood, turned her back to the window. The sun had long gone down; she guessed she'd been sitting there for at least an hour. Her hand found its way to the blind and pulled it down, then she walked across the room and started preparing for bed. For some reason, she was feeling very tired…
Still half in her school uniform, her eyes slid shut. Her breathing evened out as she lost contact with the physical side of life, slipping instead into a world of dreams and wild, unbridled fantasies.
It was a Wednesday. Wednesday the 13th of February.
Several blocks away a young teen lay awake on his futon, on top of the covers, staring at the ceiling vacantly. Bluish-black hair spread out over the pillow – it looked much tidier normally, but he couldn't be bothered to sort it out. Not tonight. Idly he wondered what she was doing, but stopped himself. It wouldn't do to dwell on it – he already knew his love was unrequited.
In his eyes she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen, with her long hair and somehow knowing gaze. The way she moved, the way she talked with such confidence and even the way she smiled made him feel as if he needed to be beside her. But he already knew there were too many barriers to overcome. She was the most popular girl in the class, the one everyone loved, the one always ready to take a risk and come out on top. Even complete strangers could somehow find themselves liking her. And he… he was the loner. Top in just about every test, with a personality and physique that just screamed, 'Geek!' He respected tradition, liked sewing and things like that, hated it when his father badmouthed his deceased grandfather – who was probably even more a father figure than his real one – and mostly kept to himself or, when he still had them, would go off for hours on end training his Quincy powers, striving for perfection. But now he didn't even have those – he'd sacrificed them to prevent the captain of 12th squad from going after her after killing him…
A tiny smile appeared on his face as he remembered the feel of her skin under his hands, as he had bandaged the injury across her shoulder. He could remember, even now, the light flush that had crept across her face as he worked. The feel of her body pressed up close to him after he had pulled out of the way of those blades, only for a moment yet it would be printed into his mind for the rest of his life. Then, not long after that, how he had grown close to angry when that shinigami had started flirting with her. His face and voice hadn't given any trace of it away when he had calmly suggested that his 'senior officer' wait until a more suitable time and not during such a time of conflict, but inside he was close to seething. But she hadn't noticed his anger, or thought nothing of it. It was clear that she only thought of him as a friend, that he couldn't even dream of being even a potential rival for her affections, she was so smitten with Kurosaki. And Kurosaki didn't even seem to notice what he was missing, his affections solely for the shinigami Kuchiki Rukia.
Ishida reached out and switched off the lamp at his bedside. In a cruel twist of fate, even though his Quincy powers were gone he would still feel them, or rather the hole where they had been, and also the spiritual presences of the others. Sado's, Kuchiki's, Kurosaki's and… hers.
"Inoue," he whispered, savouring the feel of her name on his lips. How he wished he could find the courage to say her name like that when she was in earshot, but he never could…
But she'll never see, he thought as he lay in almost-darkness, the thin stream of moonlight the only light in the entire room. She'll never see how much I care…
Sunlight was streaming through the windows when her eyes finally opened. Orihime sat up, stretching to wake her muscles. Her eyes travelled over to meet the alarm clock, wondering why it hadn't gone off, when she realised she was awake an hour early. Still, she felt better than she had in weeks.
Her thoughts wandered to the dream. It was the second time that she'd had it – she was standing underneath a row of sakura trees, their branches laden with the fragrant pink blooms, with another person who was quite a bit taller than her. She was never able to see her companion's face, no matter how hard she tried, but she knew that just being there beside them was enough to make her feel warm and somehow secure. She could feel the heat of their hand as they held hers, and then she had turned to them, kissed them gently on the cheek. The first time she had the dream she'd thought it was Kurosaki-kun, but after last night's she realised the figure wasn't quite tall enough to be him. More like Ishida-kun's height, but she was certain it wasn't him. After all, Ishida didn't really seem to be interested in girls on the whole, preferring to spend his time alone. But then, maybe he just hadn't found the right girl yet.
Less than an hour later she was waiting outside the apartment block where she lived. Her friend was late – this wasn't like her, since Tatsuki was usually the one waiting around for her. Humming a soft tune under her breath she leant back against a lamppost, staring up at the sky.
"Tatsuki-chan! Where've you been?"
The tomboyish teenager blushed and looked away. "I-I had something I wanted to write, okay? Oh, and sorry for being late…"
Orihime grinned and started walking. "I haven't been waiting too long. So what were you writing?"
"Uh-huh." Tatsuki deliberately looked in the other direction from her friend, the crimson flush still on her cheeks. They stayed silent until they reached the school grounds, at which point the other girls they hung out with crowded around them, chatting about boys and other related topics. Suddenly Orihime realised what day it was –February the 14th. Valentine's Day. A small smile appeared on her face as she realised what it was Tatsuki had been writing – who to, she didn't know, but it was good that she was finally getting over her problem with the last crush she'd had – on Ichigo, needless to say.
'Kurosaki-kun sure is a girl magnet, isn't he?'
For once Ishida hadn't been the first one in the classroom – today that 'honour' had fallen to one of Kurosaki's friends. He wouldn't include himself as one of the orange-haired sometimes-shinigami's friends, since he was more like a rival. A rival he was on slightly better terms with than a usual one, but a rival nonetheless. He walked towards his place, discreetly slipping the reason why he was late into the desk of its recipient – not that the other boy would've noticed, anyway. He didn't usually bother with this sort of thing, thinking it a waste of time, but today something had just… compelled him to. He wasn't sure what, but somehow knew it was the right time to. But he hadn't been able to put his name.
A chatting knot of girls walked into the classroom, just behind Sado, Kurosaki and a few others; Ishida's heart leapt when he saw that she was among them. Not wanting to have anyone notice he was looking in her direction, he immediately busied himself with anything inconspicuous in range – namely, a textbook he had randomly grabbed from his bag which they conveniently had a test for that very day. Unfortunately teachers didn't seem to care whether it was Valentine's Day or not, and then wondered why grades always seemed to drop in the tests set for that particular day.
Glancing up over the top of his textbook as Inoue stopped at her desk, he saw her eyes widen at the sight of the envelope that lay on top of her books. Her hand reached out, picked it up. For a moment he wondered if she would actually open it…
…but the moment never came, one of her friends coming over to chat to her. She immediately slipped the letter into her schoolbag, where she would probably forget about it…
'So much for hoping,' he thought bitterly.
This will be a twoshot fanfic – there is another part coming. Watch this space!