I watch you in the presence of others, speaking to them casually, treating them like close companions. I hate seeing you like this, knowing that I alone don't hold your attention, and I hate the depth of this jealousy I feel, this desire to monopolize your existence. It's at times like this that I feel no happiness, only the loneliness of having you so close yet so far and the self-loathing of knowing what a pathetic wreck I am. And yet it's only at these times, where I can only feel pain and depression, that I can be truly certain of myself.
I can't bear to look at you anymore, not like this, so I slip away in the cover of the night, knowing you weren't even watching me go. Without you there in front of me my anger and envy subside, only to be replaced with the longing from your absence. Even when I try to run from you, you're the only one on my mind.
When you're close to me, speaking to me, teasing me, that's when I feel happiest. To be able to bask in your glow again, feeling your warmth right next to me, knowing that I am still part of your life, that you still want me to be part of yours, this is my greatest pleasure. But this is also when I feel the most pain.
Did you know how I felt about you, Yoruichi-sama? When I first laid my eyes upon you, you were shining like a goddess, so high above me. It was then I devoted myself to you, swore to live for you alone. When you spoke to me, it was not as a weapon or a subordinate but as a comrade, someone worthy of your presence. It was then that I trusted in you, promising my loyalty to no other. And when we made that promise, that silent night amongst the cherry blossoms, it was then that I gave you my heart. When that promise was broken, when you left without a word, without a sign, could you have known what that had done to me? My devotion was shattered, and my life felt like it was nothing but a lie. My trust was betrayed, and I could never believe in anyone or anything ever again. My heart…my heart was crushed, torn to pieces, leaving nothing but agony and sorrow. You left me as an empty shell, a worthless existence that had nothing left to live for. It was all that I could do to build a cage around my pain, sheltering myself with walls built from rage. That was the only emotion that could drive me forward, the only thing that would let me carry on without you. Yet even then it was you that influenced my every move, my every action. I followed in your footsteps, trained to surpass you in every way, made myself stronger so that one day I could seek revenge for the pain you had caused me. It was always because of you.
But in the end I forgave you, didn't I? Of course I did, I could do no less. You broke through that wall I'd encased myself in so easily, pushed away that hatred that I fooled myself into believing. After all, no matter what pain you caused me, even after you had abandoned me, my devotion, my trust and my heart still belonged to you.
And now that you're here with me again, I know things will never be the same. Every time you smile at me, every embrace you give me, I wish that such times would never go away. I still remember that promise we made, and I want nothing more than for it to come true. But I understand now, I understand that the promise was only the foolish dreams of a child, just a whimsical fantasy. It was never meant to be kept, never taken seriously, no matter how much I wished for it. I fooled myself into believing that you had betrayed me, but I know that was never true. Some compare you to a cat, who can never stay in one place for long, can never be bound to anyone. But I know you better than that. I know your kindness and your loyalty, so I know you would never hurt the ones you truly care about, and so I know that if you truly cared about me, you would never have betrayed me. I know that even if you're everything to me, I am nothing to you.
It's this truth that torments me the most, more than the longing for your presence, more than the self-loathing of my own weaknesses. It's because of this understanding that every time you're with me my joy is tainted with agony.
Nights like this, when you're so close, are when my mind is most conflicted. I still remember the first few nights after your return, when my sleep was plagued with dreams that I had denied for a century. I woke those nights tasting blood from biting my lips, and found gashes on my arms from where I had scratched myself. After that I had turned to the 4th division captain, asking for something to help me sleep. She had asked no questions, her discretion a trait I appreciated greatly, only giving me what I needed. The dreams still haunted me after that, but at the very least I was no longer inflicting injuries upon myself. Now, I walk to the 4th division's quarters, seeking out Captain Unohana once again. As I reach her room though, it feels as though she is absent. Knocking anyway, my suspicions are confirmed when a soft and timid voice answers, and immediately I recognize the lieutenant.
I almost consider turning away, but think better of it. Sliding the door open, I watch the girl's expression as it shifts suddenly to surprise…no, more like fear. I don't care. I don't enjoy her presence either, but I can't say that I hate her. No, if anything, I think I envy her, and after all the time I spent trying to understand myself I think I know why. She reminds me of myself as I once was: a weak, timid girl with an innocently blind faith for her captain. It wasn't easy being around her, being reminded of the content life I once had, and even worse was that I knew her faith would never be turned against her.
"Where is your captain," I demand, wanting to leave as quickly as possible.
"S-she's away," the girl stammers out, stating the obvious. I growl in irritation, and she quickly scrambles to grab something, thrusting it in my direction. "S-she left this for you."
I stare at the package in her hands, and recognize the herbal mixture. Snatching it away quickly, I turn to leave, but not before the girl opens her mouth again.
"Is it for nightmares?" she asks, and I whip my head around in time to see her place a hand to her mouth in surprise, probably not even knowing why she said such a stupid thing.
"It's not," I say icily, and stalk off, slamming the door behind me.
No, it's definitely not nightmares; those would never give me troubles. No, what haunt me are memories, an unbidden recollection of the life from my past. In my dreams I see us together again, without the pain, without the sadness. Just the happy days where I could still live in my childish fantasies, blissfully unaware of my ignorance. These dreams are more terrible than any nightmare; subtly mocking me, telling me that no matter how I try to hide, your presence will always be there, that even in my sleep my life still revolves around you. The final reminder of my twisted soul: that I cannot stand to see the very life that I desire most of all.
In my room, surrounded by darkness, I lay curled on the hard, cold wood floor, the futon several meters away. It had been a long time since I could sleep with any comfort around me. The softness of the bedding reminded me of your touch, the warmth of the covers like your embrace. Only by denying myself such things can I even hope to temper this longing I have for you, only by exposing myself to harshness can I avoid being reminded of you at every turn.
As the tiredness slowly creeps into my body, and the turmoil in my mind fades for that brief moment between waking and sleep, I finally come to an understanding. I am an oroboros, existing only to cause my own suffering. I will continue to seek what causes me the greatest pain, unable to let go even while I am burned by the touch. Always, for as long as I live, I will always seek you, unable to let you go.
Because, Yoruichi, you're my everything.
I can feel the brisk chill from the night as I idly stare up at the stars. When was it that you'd left? I'd been watching you from the corner of my eye, enjoying the attention you were giving, yet I turn my head for only a moment and you vanish, disappearing without a sound. I tried to follow, leaving the moment I noticed you were gone, but I couldn't find you. Where are you hiding now? Are you avoiding me?
I feel someone approaching me long before they arrive, though they aren't really trying to sneak up on me. Bringing my gaze down from the heavens, I'm a bit surprised to see Retsu Unohana walking toward me.
"Shihoin-san," she greets politely, but confirming that she is there to talk to me.
"Out for a moonlight stroll?" I ask playfully, but she remains serious. I figure she isn't here for idle chit-chat, so I get right to the point. "Is there a problem?"
"Yes," she answers, "In regards to the 2nd division captain."
"Is the little bee causing trouble again?" I inquire, wondering what you could have done to warrant such a direct consultation.
"Quite the opposite, it appears as though something has been troubling her," she replies, watching me intently, "Or rather, someone."
"Someone?" I repeat. I can't say I like the way she's looking at me. It's almost accusing, but not quite. Whatever it is, I have the distinct impression that she's implying I was the one troubling you. "She's a strong girl, I think she can deal with her own problems."
"She has a poor history of dealing with issues of this…quality," she says. Again, she dances around the subject. I hate head games. If she's trying to get to a point then why can't she just go and say it?
"So you think I'm the problem?" I ask, getting it right out in the open.
"Perhaps," she answers cryptically, "I am only aware that during each of your visits she will appear at my doorstep, requesting an aid to help her sleep."
"So? Maybe she's just excited to see me," I shoot back. I'm getting a little irritated now. Implying that you're bothered by me is one thing, but to say that I'm screwing you up is entirely different.
"Perhaps," she repeats, and turns to walk away. I almost shout something back at her, but bite back the impulse. There's no reason for me to get so angry. After all, I know you. Every time I see you, every time I greet you, you light up brighter than the sun. You've never had anything but a smile when I'm close to you, so how could I possibly be hurting you? There's no reason to believe someone else's words, because the truth is already clear to me.
So you can imagine my surprise when I find myself right outside your room. So maybe I was a little worried – just a little. And there's no harm in checking, right? What's the worst that could happen? I'd pop in there, you'd wake up, and I could just tease you a little. I'd probably do it anyway, just to see your blush.
I carefully slip inside your room, as silent as possible, not wanting to wake you until I was ready. I'm confused, though, when I see your empty futon. The thought that you wouldn't be here hadn't even occurred to me, but it was a baseless assumption in the first place. I'm ready to leave, wondering where else you could be, when the smallest of whimpers stops me. My attention is immediately drawn to the sparse corner of the room, and I feel my heart drop in my chest.
There you are, hands pressing tightly to your heart, knees brushing against your chin, curled up like an infant who is afraid of the world. Your face is grimacing, lips twisted in a pained frown, and your eyelids are scrunched tight, an occasional twitching telling me your eyes aren't settled even in your sleep. Is it just a bad dream? I move toward you carefully, though I can't understand why I'm being so cautious. As I come nearer, your lips part, a harsh whisper escaping them.
"Yoruichi-sama…" you say, in a voice that I'd never heard before. There was no hint of that timid adoration I am so accustomed to, or even that brisk indignation that you're so well known for. Even the anger that I'd felt that day you faced me was nowhere to be found. No, your voice is ragged, desperate, like you're gasping for air but drawing none. I can't understand it, the sound escaping your lips, all I know is that hearing you like this is too much to bear.
I move closer still, until I'm right next to you, and crouch down low, hand wavering only inches from your face. Do I want to wake you? Comfort you? I'm not certain, not of myself. I gently brush away the strands of hair that cover your eyes and you flinch, the foreign touch making you whimper, but you still don't wake. I peer closer, trying to read the emotions etched in your expression, and see that tears that have dried around your eyes. Did you cry yourself to sleep? Softly I rub at your eyelids, trying to clear them, but this time your stir, and suddenly I find myself staring into your silver irises, freezing as I realize I've been caught.
Emotions flash across your face as you drift into reality, from confusion as you take in the surroundings, to fear as you're caught off guard, to shock as you finally recognize me, panic as the thought settles further in, and finally, for only a brief moment, grief. You hide the last quickly, but it's too late. I've already seen it. Your pain was intense, almost frightening to see, and I know in my heart that I was the one that caused it; the look in your eyes told me so.
"Y-Yoruichi-sa - " you try to say, but I've already acted on impulse, pulling you to me in a tight embrace. You struggle, trying to push away, but I hold on tighter.
"It's okay," I whisper into your ear, my voice cracking slightly as I realize I'm close to tears myself, "It's okay. Just let it out. Let it all out."
Any other time you would have put on a brave face, acted like nothing was wrong, pretended that everything was just like it had always been. Now, though, when your emotions are still fresh in your heart, when you're most vulnerable, there's nothing you can do. It starts as a wracking sob but quickly escalates until you're wailing out loud, the sound muffled as you bury your face into my shoulder. You aren't crying, you aren't screaming. Your voice isn't filled with sadness or anger, only pure and raw emotion that you've bottled up for far too long. Its killing me to hear you like this, to see you so weak and fragile, but I only hold you tighter.
I've been so blind. I was fooling myself to think that everything was alright. No, I wanted to think everything was all right. Just like before, I didn't want to believe that I could hurt you, that I could cause you such suffering. When you broke down in front of me that day, spilling your heart, tears streaming down your face, I thought that was the last time I'd have to see you like that. You had forgiven me, so I acted like everything was all better. But the scars I had left were deeper than that, and all I had done that day was tear away the surface that you'd wrapped yourself in, making those wounds bleed freely again. All this time you've been bearing the injuries I'd left, leaving them to worsen as you hid the suffering from me. But not anymore. I'm the only one that can take away this pain, and as long as it takes I'll stay here until you heal. Every time you need a shoulder to cry on, every time you need to lay your heart to bear, I'll be here.
Because, Soi Fon, you're my everything.