Lucky Substitutes

Written by: Mikami

A/N: I followed suit after reading the ONLY Shinji x Orihime fanfic on FF dot net. It's quite possibly the first and only of its kind. The crack pairing wheels in my head started turning after seeing Shinji interact with Orihime. Yes, he's creepy but he's certainly interesting…so why not give him a little fun?

"You can't make it?" she asked, attempting to keep the seep of disappointment out of her voice. Orihime's grip tightened unconsciously on her cellphone as she forced her lips into a smile. Her fingers, which had drummed nervously on the table minutes before, sat stationary beside a wafting mug of hot chocolate. Ichigo's voice sounded apologetic but his tone did nothing to temper the sinking feeling in her chest.

"Oh, no, no!" she said quickly. "It's okay! I'll be alright! I'll just let Tatsuki and the others know. Don't worry, they won't mind. Maybe another time ok?"

He spoke to her again, somewhat enlightened by the promise of next time. After he apologized once more, Orihime managed a cheerful goodbye before hearing the click on the other end. When the dial tone alarmed in her head, she slowly put her cell phone away while the full flood of discontent was made apparent.

Orihime sighed and peered out the window. So much for her plan. As strolling couples in their scarves and fall coats linked arms and passed in front her eyes, Orihime decided never to bank on Tatsuki's clever suggestions again. Perhaps in the back of her mind she knew it wasn't going to work out but the more optimistic, hopeful side won over and she settled for listening to her best friend's last push.

Just invite him to hang out with you, me, Keigo and Mizuro, Tatsuki had said. And when he gets there, say that we bailed.

You want me to lie to Kurosaki?

Tatsuki had rolled her eyes, No Orihime. Not lie, just bend the truth.

It made perfect sense at the time—that bend of truth made the thought of an 'unofficial-date-by-accident' seem so opportunistic. But as Murphy's Law would have it, Ichigo had cancelled last minute and now she was left sitting at Cafe Swiss all by herself.

Orihime swirled the whip cream topping in her mug of hot chocolate and absently wished she asked for sprinkles and orange marmalade earlier. She had already spent close to seven hundred yen and she may as well have gone the whole nine yards—the occasion called for it now that Ichigo wasn't present.

It was chilly that fall afternoon and Orihime thought it was a good time to visit the new cafe in town. It was a quaint little place that was becoming popular with high school and university students alike, offering the latest blends in hot caffeinated drinks and baked goods. It was only her second time in and she wanted to share it with someone special.

It's funny how something always comes up, Orihime thought gloomily.

The bell at the door rang as a few other people took refuge from the autumn wind. The line was growing and the baristas were working double time to the rise of chatter among their customers. One voice, however, shot through Orihime's dismal thoughts and irked her slightly when it broke the train of her bleak reverie. She peered to her left while taking another sip of her drink. The tall, lean figure in the charcoal, collared trench coat was yakking loudly away on his cell phone, while his droning voice fluctuated between aggravation and boredom. The screech in his last sentence set off a twitch under Orihime's eye and seemed to do the same for the others close by as she found herself observing him out of her own tedium.

When he finally approached to order, the voice on the other end of his phone bristled harshly before he snapped it shut and shoved it into his coat pocket. Impressively, he managed to order complex blends of hot drinks without a glance at the menus above.

Orihime turned back to her own drink, which was an uncomplicated hot chocolate and wondered fleetingly that if she were hot chocolate, then what would that make Ichigo? Something with a strong taste, maybe. Espresso, straight. Orihime knew she would be unable to drink that.

"Unlucky in love," she mumbled absently to herself.

"Who is?" queried the voice above her.

Looking up from her drink, Orihime lifted startled eyes toward Hirako Shinji, who was balancing a cardboard tray of hot drinks and baked goods.

"Hirako," she said, clearly caught off guard. "How are you? What are you doing here?"

He must have sensed her surprise because that familiar, yet eerie grin graced his sharp features. Unconsciously, Orihime swallowed and fingered the handle of her mug timidly.

"Eh, not much is goin' on," he replied, shrugging. "I lost in Mashiro's game of janken and had to haul my ass over here for a coffee run."

"Oh, I see."

With his prior annoyances forgotten, Shinji became amused at the way Orihime's eyes cast fleeting glances from her mug to his collared shirt. Every time she found the will to look at his face, a nervous laugh was expelled.

"What's a pretty girl like you doing in a couples-infested place?"

"Oh, I—" Orihime uttered. "I just thought I'd drop by again. Their hot chocolate is so good and it's my second time in! I couldn't stay away."

The grin on Shinji's face widened a fraction as he set down his cardboard tray and took a seat across from her. "At least that sounded half convincing, ya know. I'll give ya another shot to make the statement believable."

Orihime's cheeks pinked in embarrassment and focused her attention on the table.

"Was it that obvious?" she smiled, but it was softened by a hint of somberness.

Shinji slung an arm leisurely over the back of his chair. "Crystal clear, love. I'm as good as readin' people as I am writing stuff backwards. Got ditched, huh?"

"I…don't really want to think of it that way. Something came up and he couldn't make it."

"So it's a he then?" Shinji put a thoughtful hand to his chin. "Man, with a cliche excuse like that, it makes me glad he didn't hang around. The guy sounds like a twat."

Orihime laughed and mustered the boldness inside to look at his face. That grin had always stirred a small sense of discomfort within, even when he wasn't provoking. In fact, Hirako Shinji hadn't been anything but nice to her. At the same time, Orihime wondered if her automatic wariness was justified after she got to know more about the Vizards' intentions concerning Ichigo.

"You're not the only one that's called him that," she said. "Tatsuki too."

"Anyone I know?"


"Orange hair, ugly as hell?" Shinji continued flatly. "Talks big, thinks small and can't sense reiatsu worth a crap?"

Orihime had to chuckle in spite of herself at Shinji's suggestions. Perhaps she really was too obvious—it seemed that everybody she knew was aware except for the one person that mattered. So she settled for a shrug and gave Shinji a tiny smile as an answer.

He understood instantly and rolled his eyes. "That's a tough cookie. To think I initially took ya for the type that went for normal ones. I guess it can't be helped eh?"

"Not really," she said into her drink, while taking another sip.

"All I gotta say is, ya really need broaden your tastes. A guy like that is so one-dimensional, you'd get bored outta your skull."

"He's not all that bad. I think he's pretty funny and I can't help but laugh when he's around. I'm sure you saw that when he was training with your group."

Shinji wiped his nose absently. "I must be seein' somethin' else because I sure as hell ain't feelin' the urge to laugh whenever he's around. It's more like the urge to kick him in the face for being a talent-less hack."

He glanced at Orihime across from him and discovered her widened eyes.

"Relax, darlin'," he chuckled offhandedly. "I didn't mean to pull a Hiyori."

Orihime gave him a smile, albeit a little forced while continuing to look him over. He wasn't wearing a hat today despite the windy cold outside. However, he'd left his dark grey trench open, revealing a black pinstripe shirt, a white tie and black slacks. She vaguely wondered how he looked so impeccable all the time.

"That's a lot of stuff to bring back," she commented lamely toward the cardboard tray.

"Yeah well, when seven of the laziest bums send you on a snack run, that's what usually happens," he said, plucking one of the cups from the tray. He tore open the plastic lid and took a sip.

"I haven't seen them in a long while. How are Hachi and the rest?"

"They're alright—some livelier than usual. It must be the weather."

"Let me guess," said Orihime, amused. "Hiyori hates the cold."

"She hates it more than Ichigo's nerve to talk back to her," Shinji smirked.

Orihime sighed and peered into the depths of her hot chocolate, feeling more relaxed. She hadn't recalled having a one-on-one with him before and it was decidedly different than what she previously imagined. His slight lecherousness when she first met him seemed apart of his surface demeanor and was a far cry from how he acted now. After a long pause, Orihime looked up with curiosity in her eyes.

"Hirako," she fidgeted a little, unsure. "I hope you don't mind me asking but…what are you still doing here? I heard Ichigo didn't want to join the Vizards."

The smirk turned into another carefree grin on Shinji's face. At her question, he leaned toward her as far as the table would let him and fixed her with a glint in his taupe irises. Folding his hands neatly in front of him, his eyes playfully narrowed a fraction.

"Wow, I had no idea ya wanted me gone that badly," he said lightly. "Bummer. My charm had the opposite effect on ya."

"Oh! I-I didn't mean it that way," Orihime replied quickly. "I just…was wondering—"

"If me and my friends would take a hike once Ichigo said no," Shinji finished for her.


Shinji withdrew from leaning on the table and sat back again with a shake of his head.

"That's to be expected from someone like ya, I guess," he simply shrugged. "If ya don't know all the details, can't do nothin' 'bout it."

It made Orihime think for a second; he just reminded her that she didn't know anything past the basics and she wasn't sure if she even had the right to ask. Orihime looked at the blonde Vizard with the unreadable grin playing at his mouth.

"All I can say is that I'm a persistent guy. I'm not in the habit of takin' no for an answer."

"Oh," Orihime replied, scratched her head. "Well, I wouldn't have known that. Come to think of it, I don't know anything about you."

"True," Shinji leaned over again, closer this time, giving her a clear view of the pewter flecks in his mischievous eyes. "But would you like to?"

His tone had dropped a few octaves and turned teasing as Orihime felt a warm feeling crawl up her neck and spread throughout her face. Her embarrassment added to his arsenal and he gave her a fuller smile. Shinji had to admit her slight discomfort and wariness of him was quite attractive.

"Aw damn," Shinji groaned, peering down at the drinks in the tray.

Orihime blinked, suddenly aware of the brisk change in his strange demeanor.

He sighed exasperatedly, "The stuff's just lukewarm now and it's gonna be cold by the time I get back."

"Hirako," Orihime started to say, once she saw him getting up from his seat.

"I expect a beating for this…cheap asses didn't give me enough money for everything…" Shinji continued to grumble as he picked up the tray.

When he finally turned to her again, his usual, silly grin was pasted on his face, "It's been fun chattin' up a storm, Beautiful. Gotta head out now, so I'll see ya around."

Orihime watched him maneuver around the table and the long line of customers nearby. As he began his trek to the door, for some reason she felt unable to find her voice. Orihime grabbed her mug and polished off her hot chocolate before getting to her feet and whirling around to catch Shinji's departing form.

"Hirako," she called. It was louder than expected because a few people in the back of the line craned their heads toward her.

"Eh?" Shinji halted abruptly.

Orihime clasped her hands together and her fingers began to fidget again under his gaze. Her loss for words was starting to become annoying.

"I…thanks," she said as a genuine smile began to light her face.

"Nothin' to it, darlin'." The complementary leer on his face was gone and Orihime swore his features softened for a second.

"If ya ever wanted to know more," Shinji said, in that same low tone. "Ya know where to find me…"

The bell above the door jingled loudly as Shinji exited the cafe, leaving Orihime at the table. A fierce autumn wind blew outside, carrying with it a cluster of leaves as people on the street tried to avoid being swept away. Her eyes remained fixed on Shinji's charcoal trench coat until he vanished within the onslaught of pedestrians. The smile she had left him with stayed on her lips as she buttoned her coat. Perhaps her second but lone visit to Cafe Swiss wasn't a waste after all.

— Finis

A/N: I think I liked how it turned out despite it being an experiment. I realized that Shinji is a lot of fun to write.