IchiHime Week 2017
Word count: 1605
Ichigo was staring at her hair.
Orihime’s back was to him as she animatedly told Tatsuki and Chad about a customer that had come in to the bakery asking for a large order of her newest creation: mint and lamb filled steam buns. Her boss had told her she was crazy, but lamb was served with mint all time so why not put it in a pastry? She was sure this was the beginning of her great bakery empire, and she would be sure and remember her friends from her lofty position Queen Baker of the Land of the Rising Sun. Her hair was swishing and trembling as excitedly as the rest of her body. She swept back some her hair over her shoulder, and Ichigo seemed to lean in closer and close his eyes a little.
Suddenly, she whipped around to say something to him, and with his battle-honed reflexes, Ichigo straightened and listened to her with calm and cool collection, answering her with only the tiniest of stutters and the slightest blush that could be mistaken for the heat of the day.
Renji snorted and rolled his eyes. And as if sensing his disdain, Ichigo turned and glared suspiciously. Renji crossed his arms and glared right back. The human was an idiot. Didn’t he see how much bullshit he and Rukia had to go through because he didn’t have the guts to be honest with her? Waiting for the right timing and accomplishments and her brother’s approval and blah blah blah. What did any of that matter? Renji uncrossed his arms, and reached for his fiance’s hand under the table. She didn’t even blink as she continued to calmly sip her tea, but he grinned at the red creeping up the back of her neck and the way her fingers curled around his as his thumb gently stroked the back of her hand
Yep, Ichigo was an idiot.
Of course, he was one to be talking, but he didn’t have an example of almost unrealized love right in front of his face like Ichigo did. There was no excuse for this – “Oh for pity’s sake,” Renji grumbled, as Orihime turned back and Ichigo went back to mooning over the back of her head like a sick puppy.
“Hm?” said Rukia.
“Your protégé is an idiot.”
“Hm, only an idiot if it takes him decades and decades and decades to be honest,” she said.
Renji cleared his throat and shifted at the steel hiding behind her velvet tone. “Right, well, I – he – he’s got me as a bad example, right? Right in front of him! But he’s been swooning for years now! He’s the savior of the world and legal and still hasn’t had a girlfriend.”
“Kurosaki-kun has a girlfriend?” Orihime asked cheerily. Rukia squeezed Renji’s hand so hard he whimpered, and Tatsuki and Chad looked at each other in mutual exasperation. Only Ichigo, whose face dropped with disappointment, didn’t notice that her happy tone was a little too high and like she’d forced her very generous happiness for him through a very tiny needle eye.
“N-No! I don’t…have a girlfriend, I…No, definitely don’t have one.” Ichigo was blushing hard and staring daggers at Renji. “What the hell are you two talking about over there?”
Renji rolled his eyes as he shook out his hand. “I said, you can save the world, but your pathetic ass has the reached the legal human and age and you still haven’t had a girlfriend.” He looped his arm around Rukia’s stiff shoulders. “What’s the good of all that if you ain’t got a girl?”
Orihime glanced between the two of them as Ichigo stewed and tried to think up an appropriate response. “Kurosaki-kun, he’s kind of right, you know.”
Ichigo gaped at her, betrayed.
“I mean!” she remedied, waving her hands. “You’re so busy and stressed with school, you should have…someone to relax with and have fun!”
All the hearts around her cracked a little at her earnestness, except Ichigo’s heart that was cracking for himself.
“Well, I…I don’t really – Hey!” he nearly shouted, startling her. “What about you? When’s the last time you had a boyfriend?”
“Boyfriend?” she asked, pointing to her own chest. “Um…well, I’ve been busy with the bakery and…stuff…no time for boys, eh heh heh heh.”
Rukia narrowed her eyes at the two. “Orihime, didn’t you go on that date a couple of weeks ago with a boy?”
Orihime blinked at her, the blush at the apples of her cheeks beginning to spread. “Um, well…yes.”
Ichigo’s face paled as his adam’s apple bobbed.
Tatsuki nodded. “You guys are meeting again right?”
Orihime dug her thumbnail into the edge of the table. “Well…yes.”
Ichigo continued to stare at her, strain showing around his eyes.
“What’s he like?” Rukia prodded. Renji turned to stare at her, but she elbowed him.
“Well…nice” she said.
The pale, carrot-topped statue next to her crossed its arms. “Well, why don’t you introduce us?”
“What?!” she stared up at him with huge eyes. “Introduce you?”
He grunted. “We’re your friends. We should check this guy out.”
“I already ‘checked him out,’ Ichigo,” Tatuski said with air quotes. “He’s really nice.”
“So, we’ve established he’s nice,” he glowered. “Any other qualities, or is he just a blob of nice?”
Orihime frowned a little. “Kurosaki-kun, I appreciate you looking out for me, but–”
“He’s hot,” Tatsuki stated.
“Tatsuki-chan!” Orihime hissed.
Her best friend shrugged and mouthed “what?”
Rukia chuckled into her tea as Ichigo looked as if he was torn between throwing this guy into the river or curling into a ball of misery.
“So,” he said when he found his voice. “He’s a…hot blob of nice.” Orihime choked. “Doesn’t mean he’s good enough for her.”
Orihime stopped fidgeting and straightened her spine a little, her voice soft and calm as she said, “Thank you for concern, Kurosaki-kun, but I consider myself an excellent judge of character through my highly developed female intuition. If we…get more serious, I’ll introduce you.” With that, she stood, calm and smiling, but with a little something off kilter about her expression and stance. “I’m sorry, I have to get up early in the morning. See you soon.” She smiled broadly at the Renji and Rukia, the subject of their little gathering. “Congratulations again, Rukia, Abarai-kun.”
They both nodded as Ichigo stared unseeingly at his beer. When she left amongst the chorus of goodbyes, Ichigo grabbed his glass and chugged until only bits of foam clung to the sides.
“More serious,” Ichigo grumped. “What the hell does that mean, more serious? More serious than what?” He paused, his glassy eyes growing a bit large under his scowl. “Does that mean they already are serious? You can’t be more serious unless you’re already some serious, right?” He cursed into his empty glass.
Renji and Rukia looked at each other and then simultaneously raised their fingers for more beer.
“Aren’t you two just too adorable,” Ichigo said acidly.
Renji and Rukia looked at each other and then simultaneously whirled their fingers in circles to keep them coming, ignoring the exaggerated gagging noises across the table.
After several minutes of watching Ichigo and his team practice for their next tournament, Orihime broke the blessed silence.
“Tatsuki-chan,” she sighed.
“Have you ever noticed?”
“The way Kurosaki-kun’s hair changes to the same colors as the sky as the sun sets.”
With a long, low grown, Tatsuki lowered her head to the soccer ball in her lap and stayed there.
“Something wrong, Tatsuki-chan?”
Her forehead still touching the ball, Tatsuki turned to look up Orihime’s concerned face. “How it’s going with the hot blob of nice?”
Orihime started. “Huh? Oh, well, he…we decided not to see each other anymore.”
“Oh?” asked Tatsuki, completely unsurprised. “What happened?”
“Nothing, nothing. Just…the usual – oh! Did you see the pass Kurosaki-kun made? He’s getting much better about passing and not trying to win the whole game himself, don’t you think?”
“Orihime,” she said, lifting her head finally.
“Well he started to go for the goal himself, but then saw one of his teammates wide open and–“
“For the love of – no! I mean with the nice blob.”
“Oh…you shouldn’t call him that,” Orihime said, managing to frown at her disapprovingly with her eyes still on the sweaty players.
“Well, I can’t remember his name. What was it?”
“It’s, um…aren’t name’s funny though? We should all refer to each other as poignant descriptions rather than names. Like Ishida-kun could be he-who-glints-his-eyeglasses-for-dramatic-effect and – “
“Oh my god, you can’t remember his name?”
Orihime sputtered and glanced at her sideways. “What? That’s silly. We dated for…well for a bit. Why would I forget his name? I just think hot blob of nice is…a nicer name?”
“So, what happened?” Tatsuki tried again. “You talk to nameless one too much about he-whose-hair-reflects-sunsets?”
Orihime sniffed and twisted the fabric of her skirt around her fingers.
“Oh my god.”
“Well, I don’t think I talked about him that much. Honestly…male egos, you know?
“Anyway,” Orihime said, her attention back on the practice field as the college boys strode back to the side, shaking hands and clapping backs. “It was fun while it last – oh.”
Orihime’s mouth remained stuck as a perfect ‘o’ as the stripping Ichigo pulled his shirt off the rest of the way. Sweat glistened off his naked torso that looked quite fetching in the low evening light, even to Tatsuki. She turned to her friend, who had leaned forward, her mouth still open.
“Hey Orihime? You should probably breathe.”