Disclaimer/Notes: There is no owning of Bleach going on here. I'm only kidnapping the characters and forcing them to act out my fangirlish whims. This was written because there needs to be an IshiHime kiss! (Yeah... in my dreams.) I've seen a few attempts, but it seems almost impossible to keep the two of them in-character while making them do something like that. So here's my attempt. It involves a post-HM Orihime and a very obsessive-compulsive Ishida. I hope that, through her ordeal in Hueco Mundo, Orihime might learn to stand more on her own two feet. I think she's made a little bit of progress so far. Anyway, I'll shut up now.
He didn't notice her, at first.
First, he noticed the dew, glinting like diamonds on emerald grass, cradled between the folds of green. Next, he noticed the rustling lime-colored leaves and the way they seemed to whisper to each other from all around him. He heard the sorrowful hum of the ocean and the crescendo of its waves battering the shore. He lost himself in the sounds of rushing water, catching his breath after a long run, and when he looked up, she was beside him, staring forward just like he was.
And he lost his breath all over again.
He swore that her smile made the brand-new sunlight dim by comparison. "Ishida-kun! What are you doing here?"
He played with the rims of his glasses. "Oh! Ah... well, I was running. I do that sometimes when I can't sleep or when my mind is too busy to study. ...What brings you here?"
Orihime smiled. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. For once, she had forgotten the clips, and those golden-red locks had taken advantage of the fact, falling messily over her face and eyes. "Well, I just like to watch the sunrise sometimes." She blushed. "Only... I slept in a bit, and I just missed it. But I decided to come out anyway!" She tucked another unruly strand back as it slipped into her face. "It's so pretty, isn't it! The sea."
It shone clearly through wide gaps in the foliage. The water was just a few shades darker than the sky, a steely blue that foamed white against the pale sand on the shore. With the way the sun rose over it, one could almost believe that the barrier between ocean and sky had disappeared. "Yeah," he said. He shifted nervously on the bench, suddenly uncomfortable. He felt like he should say something. At last, he broke the silence. "Ah...Inoue-san, you look different."
She did. Ever since the events in Hueco Mundo, she hadn't been the same. Her seemingly forced bubbliness had been traded for a more serene smile and a more natural demeanor. Her eyes held sorrow and knowledge and that same, unshakable happiness, all at the same time. She was still as random as ever, proposing crack conspiracy theories and forcing her cooking upon innocent bystanders, but when it was all said and done, she seemed somehow calmer. More certain.
She looked mature, older than her years and more beautiful than ever.
"Me?" She laughed quietly, tucking hair behind her ears as a wind displaced it. "Different? I don't think I'm really different."
He didn't reply for a moment, staring solemnly out at the sea. "No... you are. You're stronger."
She was silent. "You think so?"
Her slender fingers twined together in her lap, and she looked up at him. "I'm glad, then! When I saw...what had happened to everyone, I made a decision." She paused, and Ishida listened raptly in the silence. "I decided that... I didn't want everyone to have to protect me. I think, for a long time, I was unfair to Kurosaki-kun. I think I believed that he would protect me and keep me safe, because he's always been so strong, even when I first met him. But I forgot it was my job to protect me. And I want to protect some other people too. So... I don't know if I really am strong yet, but I hope, maybe...one day, I can be that way."
Before he knew it, a warm smile spread over Ishida's face. Inside, he felt something like pride and happiness and love, and he couldn't think of any place he'd rather be. "That's great, Inoue-san. We can both get strong."
She nodded slowly, and she smiled again. That smile... so serene.
He was happy for her.
She stared out at the fading golden sunrise, unaware of his gaze. God, but she was beautiful.
Her eyes, the color of the sky and the sea and the bluebirds that sang songs on his windowsill, directed their soft gaze at the sky ahead. Her nose was a button, her cheeks dimpled. The hair that cascaded over her shoulders made silky curls around her arms and back, its bright autumn color contrasting against the loose, thin white cotton dress that embraced her curving figure. A soft pink sweater hung open over the dress. Her smile was light and warm and not-too-bright. Just perfect. He moved closer on the bench, and he thought that if he reached out, he might have been able to touch her.
As he watched, a veil of hair slid over her eyes. She didn't bother with putting it back in place. It seemed like she'd given up on that particular quest. Ishida fidgeted, trying to ward off the almost insuppressable urge to touch her face and tuck her hair back. He'd always been a little bit obsessive-compulsive. The loose strands bothered him. He gathered up the courage a couple times and failed to act, but after a while—he did.
He couldn't help it. He really couldn't.
And somehow, he ended up kissing her.
He acted before thinking about it, and reached out, slipping his fingers through her hair, letting them curve through the strands and rest against the back of her head. His other hand brushed the haphazard strands from her face, and he pulled her closer.
Suddenly his lips touched hers—hell, he couldn't kiss, he'd never learned how to kiss before; what the hell was he doing?—and they were just as warm and soft as they looked, receptive. Her eyes closed, like maybe this was a dream, and even without seeing, his lips against hers could feel that she smiled. He lifted the hand on the back of her head, displacing cool amber strands and twining them around his fingers, pulling her closer.
She returned it, slowly at first, then eagerly, and her hand reached up to his face. It didn't push him back and it didn't pull him closer. It was just there, warm fingers cupping his angular features, teasing the strands of messy black hair that hung around his face.
When he'd first met her, she'd always worn strawberry lipgloss. He could smell it everytime she smiled at him. But her lips tasted different today, like some wild tropical fruit mixed with the salty scent of the sea. Somehow, that made everything better.
Finally, the rational part of his mind overrode everything else, and he realized something. He was kissing Inoue Orihime. He'd sort of known that, of course, but his mind presented it to him as a frighteningly urgent fact, and suddenly it sunk in.
He was... kissing her. Kissing Orihime. Inoue-san. The girl he went to school with. The one who loved Kurosaki.
He let out a squeak and backed up, wide-eyed and breathless, until he was perched on the very edge of the bench. Her eyes opened slowly, and she smiled at him. His heart was beating a violent tune against his ribcage, and he knew that if he didn't calm down, he was going to flat-out faint. He opened his mouth, but all he could speak were pathetic fragments of words.
Orihime's gaze on him hadn't lessened. Her smile grew and if he wasn't too busy hyperventilating, he probably would have observed a happy glint in her eye. "Wow, Ishida-kun! That was awesome!"
Kiss. He'd just... kissed her. He'd never ever kissed a girl in his life. "You..." his voice was a barely audible whisper. "H-hair... you... you had hair in your face," he pointed out weakly.
Crap. He was going to faint. His head was spinning like a merry-go-round.
Her next words snapped him to attention. "Hey, Ishida-kun, can we do that again sometime?"
Leave it to Orihime to ask the most insane questions.
He played nervously with his fingers, refusing to make eye contact. "I'm really sorry. I...don't know what came over me, Inoue-san! I... I've been so distracted lately, and..."
"But did you mean it?" Her face was solemn, curious.
What did she mean, did he mean it? Did he love her? Was what had just happened more than the culmination of a few sleepless nights and a random impulse?
Yes and yes.
She was silent for a long time, and he felt horrible. She worshipped Kurosaki. What the hell had he just done? He'd sworn a thousand times that he'd never, ever tell her what he felt for her, because he knew it would hurt her.
She didn't look hurt, though. She grinned and met his eyes. "They say that a kiss is worth a thousand words."
He didn't bother to correct her mistaken phrase.
"Then if that's true..." She smiled. "Can I say something, too?"
He was going to die. Right then and there. Wacky blood pressure. A coronary. Dead.
She leaned forward, her movements smooth but shy, and cupped his face, secretly pressing her lips against his from behind the fingers. Her lips lingered for a moment, and then she pulled back, smiling. She giggled. "Now that all that stuff is done with, let's go get something to eat!" She twined her fingers in his and stood, pulling restlessly.
He numbly got up to follow her. The colors of the sunrise had begun to fade into sakura pink hues, and Orihime skipped along, pulling at his hand to make him catch up.
"Mm, Ishida-kun?" came a curious inquiry.
He nodded acknowledgement.
"Ishida-kun, can you tie a cherry stem into a knot with your tongue?"
He stared blankly.
"How about candies? Can you unwrap them in your mouth?"
"Because they say that you're a real good kisser if you can do those things! And you're real good."
If Orihime didn't merrily skip them into an oncoming car, he was surely going to die of embarrassment.
Author's Notes: Yay! I had so much fun, especially with the last part! I imagine Ishida would totally freak if he actually did anything like that. I think the only way he'd just up and kiss her is if he did it completely on insane impulse. This is a oneshot, but I may end up turning it into a collection if I get the urge. Lol. This story is set after the current manga arc, so that's why Orihime is portrayed a little bit differently. I imagine that at some point, she's going to have to learn to rely on herself, and maybe see past Ichigo's shadow to find that there's someone who's been beside her all the time. (Ah... I shall stop with my fangirl ramblings!) Well, this was great fun for me! I hope that you had fun reading, as well. I'd appreciate any thoughts! Please Review?