A/N: Some reviewers have expressed some disagreement with the way this fic is labeled. I have changed the summary, as well as a couple of things that I simply overlooked before. Also, I included some text in a note below that, in retrospect, wasn't really appropriate for the situation. It has been removed. For this, anyone rereading has my apologies.
Everyone thought he was dense. Couldn't see the forest for the trees. And, well, he wanted to keep it that way.
In actuality, Kurosaki Ichigo was much more intelligent than everyone thought.
He knew the inevitable would come, but he couldn't help hoping he could bypass it. He hoped she would sort of just get over him and move on to Uryuu, who was obviously head over heels for her. And they thought he was dense. If he was dense, she was just stupid.
Orihime was gorgeous. She really was a 'catch,' and everyone knew it. Except her it seemed. Sweet, innocent, creative, vivacious. The descriptors he could come up with would be a mile long.
He felt bad, because he knew one day he'd have to break her heart. And he hated that. She was a friend, and he wanted to protect her, not hurt her. Yet, at the same time he tried to force some distance. He didn't want to give her the wrong impression.
If they touched, especially if he initiated the touch, he acted as though he didn't notice anything. He guessed she probably got the same butterflies in her stomach that he did when Rukia was around. Ichigo tried to act as though Orihime was just another buddy, someone like Sado or Ishida. Not 'girlfriend' potential. And, honestly, that's all he could ever see her as.
Most guys would kill to have the bombshell Orihime as a girlfriend. And she was beautiful. She just wasn't what he wanted.
Orihime had a tendency to be too meek, too polite and kind. Offering to help anyone in the gentlest way possible. And he just didn't need that. Like it or not, and he'd never admit it aloud, he needed someone to kick him now and again, to keep him in line.
And Rukia was that someone.
Sure, he could keep living in the 'real' world, like his dad and Urahara had done. But, he was technically dead. Though nothing seemed to be too different in his human body, it was slowly changing. The more time he spent in his shinigami form, the less real everything in his human form felt. And, really, he could kick any one of those taichos' asses, except maybe Yamamoto. But he was old and bound to wear out quick enough.
But, the idea of eternal life thrilled him. Not eternal, because even in Soul Society you couldn't literally live forever. Even if Yamamoto seemed to defy that rule. But you could choose so much more time for your life. And he could do what he'd always wanted to do. He could protect innocent people and souls.
It had been a hard decision. Once Kon slipped up and let the secret of his dad out… the fiasco had been one for the record books, no doubt. But, he'd since spoken with his dad, and they'd reached a new level of understanding between them. And, Kurosaki Isshin was overjoyed, crying true, honest to god tears when Ichigo told him the news.
Ichigo was going to live in Seireitei with Rukia, Renji, and the other friends he'd made. As soon as he finished some of his University.
And then, when he told his dad, and he remained the only person outside himself and Rukia, that he and Rukia had decided to start a relationship, his dad hugged him. Not one of those crazy "Daddy loves you! Yet you still kick him!" sort of reactions, but a true, heartfelt congratulations.
Since he'd decided to stay in Seireitei he couldn't very well be with Orihime. It wasn't fair to her. It was the most difficult decision he'd ever made, deciding to leave his sisters and father, however temporarily it might have been. He was leaving all of his earthbound friends. No doubt they'd meet again, and he would still be the nineteen year-old college kid killed in a car accident. Or whatever other excuse he and Rukia could come up with for those who weren't aware of everything.
And, he had chosen to leave Orihime behind. It wasn't because he didn't love her. He loved her very much. It was simply that he wanted to spend his life, every last bit of it, with Rukia, and he couldn't ask her to remain in the real world. That was cruel. At least he thought. He knew she'd give up her life in Seireitei, but he had become such a part of that life, too, that he simply couldn't go in and rip it away.
No doubt that Orihime would live with him in Hueco Mundo if he asked, but, he didn't want that. He always felt like he'd be taking advantage of her kindness if he ever attempted to take things to the next level.
No, Kurosaki Ichigo wasn't as stupid as he acted, as everyone thought he was. Only Rukia and Isshin knew this. He had hoped Orihime would realize this, as well, of her own merit and stop trying to pursue him.
So, as he stood on the roof of one of the university buildings, waiting for Orihime as per her note, he gathered his courage and steeled his resolve. He just hoped she'd understand. And he prayed, though it was likely to be unanswered, that she wouldn't cry. Not now, not ever. Not for him.
But, though everyone thought he was ignorant, stupid, dense, dumb, whichever you liked best, the truth was simple.
Kurosaki Ichigo was never very good at breaking hearts.
A/N: I know boys can be dumb, and they often are, but if you're dropping the right kind of hints, I have yet to see a male who didn't realize it eventually. And, I fully believe Ichigo is just afraid to break her heart. So, when he does something to almost give her hope, he acts stupid. Cowardice? Maybe. But, think about it. If it's your nature to be kind, you'd do it, too.
I know it's a twisted psychology, but it's the cold, hard truth.
I hope you've enjoyed, and if you're an IchiHime shipper, I still hope you've enjoyed my little angsty one-shot.