Disclaimer: See Chapter 1
A/N: Yay! The End! I had a brief idea for a sequel, but there's still a whole lot of kinks, and I have a few other projects. As far as I'm concerned, this is finished. Thanks for the lovely reviews, and for even clicking in the first place. Hope you like the last bit!
Inoue flew up his stairs, two at a time. Over and over in her head, she chanted, he loves me, he loves me, he loves me. She knocked on his door, and received no answer. After a second try, she went for the handle, and found the door unlocked.
The scene she stepped into broke her heart.
His apartment was a mess. Papers were everywhere, torn and wadded up. Books were scattered every which way, as if they had been thrown and left where they landed. She could see that his sewing box had been thrown and had burst open, and through the crack of the door to the bedroom, it looked as if that room had been destroyed as well.
And sitting in the middle of it, completely unresponsive, was the love of her life.
Inoue decided to take the gentle approach, knowing he wouldn't come out of it until he was ready. She merely went about tidying up. She put all of his books back on the shelves, doing her best to re-straighten the pages. She picked up his torn notes, and put them in a stack for sorting later. The sewing kit had proven to be a difficulty all on it's own, as it was hard to find the pins and needles in the carpet. Eventually, she had found what she believed to be all of them, and was going about arranging his sewing kit in the precise way that she knew he liked it when she heard him speak.
It was the quietest, most heart wrenching thing that she had ever heard. "Why can't anyone love me?"
Her first instinct was to deny it vehemently, but she forced herself, once again, onto the gentle track. She walked over to where he was sitting, and simply sat next to him. "There are plenty of people who love you, Ishida-kun." She whispered to him.
"Hoshikawa-san obviously doesn't."
"I think she loves you more than you know."
Ishida's face came up in a flash, and she couldn't tell if he was more angry or desperate. "Did she contact you?"
"She was crying on my shoulder an hour ago."
"What did she tell you? Anything?"
Inoue thought perhaps he was worried she knew just why Hoshikawa had left, and Inoue didn't really blame him, all things considered. "She asked for advice, cried, and sent me over here."
"Oh. So, what did you tell her?"
"I didn't say much of anything at all, actually. I don't know what she's doing next. She promised me we'd still be friends, and she asked me to come to you."
"Yes. You see, she wouldn't have sent me if she didn't care about you."
"She cares about me, but she doesn't love me."
Inoue was suddenly upset. "She loved you so much! You have no idea what it took for her to tell you no. She did it for you!"
He grew still, and Inoue knew she had made a mistake. "Perhaps I'm just supposed to be alone."
"Don't be silly Ishida-kun." She chastised. "You have friends who love you, and I love you."
"Yes, but you'll all have families one day. You'll marry Kurosaki and have tons of kids, and you'll never remember anything about me, will you? You won't even send the clothing anymore, and after that's done, we won't really have a link. You won't need the advertising anymore, and then there won't be a reason to call anymore. It'll be the same with all my other friends, too. That's just the way of things."
"You really think I send you my entire male line just because I need the advertising? Have you ever considered that I do it because I created them with you in mind? You've really never wondered why all the prototypes come in your size, and your favorite colors? I give them to you because I made them for you. And Kurosaki-kun would be a little alarmed at your picture of the future, I'm sure. I think he's going to be a bit too busy for kids, given that he'll be residing in Soul Society in a few weeks."
Ishida's eyes widened. "Are you going with him?"
"No. I realized that there's so much more for me here. Besides, he's got a thing for Kuchiki-san."
Ishida snorted, the first sign that he may be over the worst. "Everyone knew he had a thing for Kuchiki-san. I think sometimes even you knew he did."
"I knew. I convinced myself that he could love both of us."
"I think I know how he felt."
Inoue took her chance where she could - she wanted to hear it from his mouth before she openly admitted her feelings. Perhaps Hoshikawa had been wrong. "Ah, do you? Moving on so swiftly? I must say, I'm proud, if a little shocked."
"No, no, but I know what it's like to love the person you're with, but have a deeper love for someone else."
"Ishida-kun, you never said anything. Who is she?"
"It doesn't really matter. She's unattainable, anyway."
Inoue caught his gaze, and held it. "I don't know why you think she's unattainable. You're wonderful. Any woman would be lucky to have you."
"You know, don't you?" He asked. He knew he should have had the presence of mind to at least beg Hoshikawa not to say anything to Inoue.
"Why are you here?" He knew that this day would come, but he had hoped to have a little longer. "It's okay, Inoue. I don't think I can handle your pity."
"Pity? You're Ishida-kun. You're smart, you're nice, you're brave. There's no reason for me to pity you."
"You would be okay still being my friend, then? Knowing what you know?"
"No. I don't think so."
Ishida wondered why it had hurt so much. He'd been preparing himself for it for years, now, but he found that it still hurt more than he could bring himself to say. "I don't want to just be your friend, Ishida-kun. That's not enough for me anymore. I need so much more than that." Ishida's eyes shot open, and he searched her for any sign of laughter. He thought that he hadn't seen her more serious since that day on the battlefield, so long ago, when she dealt Aizen's final blow before anyone else could begin to finish him. "That is, if you're willing to give it."
"Inoue Orihime, would you do me the honor of accompanying me to dinner tonight?" He was surprised by the boldness of his statement, but he supposed it meant nothing against the boldness of hers.
"Gladly, Ishida-kun. Gladly."