Disclaimer: I don't own any of this. It's probable that even the plot has been done before.
Inoue Orihime had three truths.
One: Kurosaki Ichigo loved Inoue Orihime.
Two: Kurosaki Ichigo also loved Kuchiki Rukia.
Three: For one night every year, Inoue Orihime would not be as important as Kuchiki Rukia.
It had been a year since they had last seen Kuchiki, but to Inoue, it had been far too long. Even though they had all hoped that some exception might be allowed, given that the humans in question were not ordinary humans and had, in fact, saved the entire universe, Kuchiki was to be given one day a year to return to Karakura Town and visit. They crowded into the restaurant, and sat around the biggest table there was. Inoue sat next to Kurosaki, of course, but she found herself doing it out of habit more than any real desire. Kuchiki sat on his other side, and this seemed to Inoue to be quite a fitting arrangement. She noticed that no one sat on her other side, and found this quite odd. But then, she had put her purse there quite quickly, hadn't she? She didn't stop to think about it, as her eyes were on Kurosaki.
Instead of the doting gaze she was so accustomed to, she found herself studying him - actually looking at him critically, as if he was a design of hers in which something seemed a little off. This didn't happen usually, as she found that fashion design came quite easily to her, but she was familiar enough with the frustration. He was dressed, as usual, in a t-shirt and jeans, even though they had gathered in quite a nice restaurant. It seemed to her that she hadn't seen him dress nicely since their graduation.
The others looked nice, but not over-dressed, and she noticed that Kuchiki had seemingly abandoned her dresses in the past year. She wore instead a small pantsuit, and she looked terribly grown up. It was then that Inoue realized that they were all grown up - a group of twenty-somethings who were all relatively successful. Perhaps Kuchiki was just trying to fit in?
Inoue herself was dressed in black slacks, heels and a blue silk top, her jacket relegated to the back of her chair. She enjoyed the looks she got, but noticed that her fashion sense was at odds with Kurosaki's. After all, how were they supposed to be together if they never looked like they were together? She had tried making him something once, just once, and he had complained about how uncomfortable he was in the dressier clothes, and never wore them again. She never considered making him anything again.
They finally progressed past all the greetings, and started getting into the meat of things. Who had broken up, who was together. New jobs, new classes and the like. Inoue seemed to be drifting, unable to hold her focus, trying so hard to actually process the details she was abosorbing. Kuchiki, on the other hand, was grinning ear to ear and soaking up all the details about her friends' lives, and Kurosaki was basking in her glow.
It was the little things about him she found she truly couldn't stand. The big things didn't seem to matter as much. They tended to be things that were much more forgivable in a long-term sense, and things that rarely intruded upon their easy lives. To be sure, he had been in love before, but Inoue was not so insecure as to think he could never love her, too. She didn't even mind the fact that once a year, Kurosaki almost completely ignored her in favor of the woman he had once loved. She understood, and she knew that neither of them would ever be anything other than completely proper.
She understood many things about him, and she tried to be as calm and rational as possible, but sometimes the smallest things about him seemed to bother her so. It was in the way he would come to her home all sweaty from training, and scoop her into a giant hug. She loved his hugs, but she couldn't help but feel repulsed at the feel of his grimy face pressed into the side of hers. It was the way he ate, the way he would get a haircut that was obviously meant to be styled and then come home and never do anything with it again, and the way he would put his plate in her sink with food still on it. They were little things, and constant reminders that though she surely loved Kurosaki, she may not be as in love with him as she had once been.
Kuchiki had begun to talk about her own life, now that the server had taken their orders and left, and Inoue noticed Kurosaki's unwavering attention. She found it funny that he didn't stop paying attention to her, not once, when that was the littlest, worst thing about him. Inoue understood that sometimes her mouth got ahead of her brain and she would begin to babble, and she was truly trying to stop it. But surely he would at least have the courtesy to pay attention to his girlfriend, no matter what nonsense she was spouting? He began to engage Kuchiki in conversation, and though his voice is exuberant, one of the qualities of him that she loves so much, it is not gruff. Inoue tried to remember the last time she heard such a delicate, gentle tone to his voice, and she found that the last memory she had was a year old, exactly. She found it odd, when she had certainly always been the more delicate between herself and Kuchiki, but she didn't bother to dwell on it. She never really did.
She looked up at the sound of the bell tinkling at the door. It was a busy restaurant, and it was not any news that anyone would be coming in, but she found she could not hold her attention on Kurosaki any longer. Brushing the snow off of his long, dark overcoat, Ishida stepped in, and began to unwrap his scarf. He walked over to the table, and Inoue found herself removing her purse from the chair next to her before she could even think about it. When her thoughts caught up to her actions, she began to hesitate. Would he want to sit next to her? There were a few spots on the other side of the round table that provided a better view of Kuchiki, which he would surely appreciate, and which would allow him to sit next to someone he perhaps liked better. But she did not hesitate long, for she knew that having started the action, she had to finish it. To return the purse now would be an insult to him.
She supposed she shouldn't have been surprised when he draped his coat over the back of the chair next to her, followed by the scarf, and easily sat. "My apologies Kuchiki-san, everyone. My exams held me up and I was forced to take a later train."
Someone inquired after his girlfriend whom he had met at school two years prior. She was a sweet girl, quiet, shy, but kind, and everyone had taken an immense liking to her, even if she knew nothing of their powers. "Hoshikawa-san still had a few exams to sit, and she did not want me to miss it. She sends everyone her regards."
After he had placed his order, the occupants of the table settled into several different conversations, and Inoue found Kurosaki to be quite busy talking to Kuchiki. Not that she supposed she expected anything different, but a simple conversation before she was ignored for the rest of the evening would have been nice. Ishida began to speak from next to her, and it was a moment before she realized that he had directed it at her. She shook her head to try to clear the odd fog from it, but found herself having no luck. She felt increasingly as if she was just watching her own life, and she was observing more than she ever had before. She decided to let it happen. After all, it could have been a sign that she was to pay attention, for important things may have been happening.
"Are you okay, Inoue-san? You seem out of sorts."
She found herself regretting that university had brought him out of his shell ever-so-slightly, and had given him a modicum of knowledge of emotion. She assured him that everything was fine, and began to ask about his exams.
"They went well. I'm sure I secured very good grades, and I have quite a bit of hope that I will continue to be at the head of my class. And your designing? How has that been?"
She made small talk about her tiny but growing fashion design business, and she noted with satisfaction that all of his clothing was from her men's line. All blues and whites and blacks and thin stripes, it seemed as if the entire line was made with Ishida in mind. He was her favorite marketing tool, anyway. She would send him clothing, and he would tell anyone who was curious who had made them. Sometimes it seemed to her that she heard from people he had referred to her more often than she heard from the man himself - this was especially true during study crunch time - but she always found herself pleased to know that he still wore the clothing she gave him.
She continued to talk, but decided for some reason to let her brain stop interfering in the odd things she truly wanted to say, but tried so hard to suppress. She began to talk about fashion design for aliens, and what they would like to wear, and continued on from there. But the oddest thing she found was that no matter how deep in the strange ideas she got, he never once stopped paying attention to her. He was completely focused on her, and he even made small interjections from time to time.
They continued to chat as they ate, and she observed him more and more, still feeling disconnected from her surroundings. As he spoke of his expectations for his last semester and the beginning of his medical residency, she noted the careful way his food made its way to his mouth from his plate. Everything about him screamed of his fastidious nature, and she found herself contrasting him to the occasionally yucky hugs of Kurosaki. She found she could not even imagine him grimy, much less getting it all over her. His hair was in a style that was obviously meant to be low maintenance. She assumed it was so that he could get up and go places in a hurry, and still look as if he was prepared. She found that she greatly approved of that.
She continued to think of all the things about Ishida she approved of, and found that the list continued. And there, as he was working on eating his dessert and the conversations were dying down, she realized that she could never imagine Ishida forgetting to take his shoes off as he came into her apartment, day in and day out. She could never see him as the type to mock her desire to work in the fashion industry, no matter how gently. She found that all in all, life with Ishida could be quite desirable.
And there it was. As she observed him she realized with a shock that pulled her our of her foggy state, that this was what her love life had been leading up to. The whole thing with Kurosaki, the annoyances, the love had all been preparing her for a relationship with the man next to her. They were both more confident now - she with her power, he with his peers. They hadn't been ready before, and much as she loved Kurosaki, she suddenly felt as if she had been merely passing the time. Her perfect man sat right next to her, and she suddenly wanted to shout it out, even in front of her friends, and the entire restaurant, and the entire town, 'I love you, Ishida Uryuu!'
She opened her mouth to recklessly satiate her desire to share her newfound knowledge, when he addressed the table. "So, I have news for you all."
She was tempted to tell him it could wait - after all, what she had to say was of the utmost importance. She decided, however, that it would be terribly rude of her to interrupt. After all, she had only realized it herself minutes before, and she could wait a few minutes longer. Ears perked up across the table, theories were silently formed in a flash, and everyone gave Ishida their attention.
One moment more, and she could tell him, just one more space of time.
"I'm going to ask Hoshikawa-san to marry me."
The only thing she could think was - Oh.