Watercolor World

Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach. That honor belongs to Tite Kubo.

Warnings: Speculation, Hinted Violence

AN: For the Bleach contest on LJ. The prompt was "Fantastic."

Her entire universe is a tapestry of colors. Blues and pinks and greens. Whites and black. A swirl of sunlight and sparkles and all things beautiful. Bright like giggles and little girl kisses pressed to the back of his neck as they run around. The sound of bells jingling with each step.

But sometimes… sometimes, she opens her eyes. And there is no laughter.

She looks around and sees the dead and dying. Hears the sounds of their screams. Smells the rot of them on the air and tastes the agony. She shivers, but it's not from the cold. Not from the lack of a roof over their heads. Not with him curled around her, one eye open as he sleeps.

They leave Rukongai; there are no more people willing to play with them there. Come to the shining city within the walls. And everybody is so happy to see them. They talk about she and he all the time, say all manner of wonderful things about them. That he's such a good fighter, how easily he beat the last captain of the eleventh division. How amazing it was. The best match ever.

She watches as the body crumbles to the ground and doesn't move afterwards. A monster shrieks nearby, a cry of defiance before the sword through the mask. But when she touches the woman's skin, it's already cooling beneath her fingertips. Tiny fourth division healer almost as small as she is, and now, half her face is missing. She can see inside the skull, just stares on as it collapses inward with a sloppy, wet sound.

The butterflies are black and pink here, and she chases after them with a squeal. Byakushi always has candy up his sleeves, and sometimes, his fingers thread through her hair as she sits on his desk. His sister sneaks her hugs and gives her Chappy-shaped chocolates. They both take her to their big, big house. And Byakushi doesn't even yell when she brings her club friends with her. He just looks so surprised to see them all eating and having tea. He can't even speak he's so happy.

Feather-brow shoves her to the dirt, and the claws skewer him in the belly instead. He doesn't cry though, merely grunts and slides his way free. His insides drip out as he ends the Hollow with a single slash. But afterwards, he doesn't even seem to care. Even Baldy doesn't seem to care as they cradle her broken arm and the bone torn through the skin. And when the frightened medic finally arrives, he heals her first.

The man with the funny hat and pretty pink haori brings her dolls, and his friend with the white hair who coughs all the time reads her stories. They and the braid-lady watch her for hours some days, always full of smiles and sweets and wishes that they could take her home with them. But she just grins at that and shakes her head. She always goes back to him at the end of the day. Goes home and crawls into his lap, listening to the noise of their division and allowing it to lull her to sleep.

The air is thick with a thousand scents. All of them horrible. The odor of pain. Of torment. Of the little boy lying at her feet with his neck bent at the wrong angle. His eyes are glassy, and she can see her reflection if she peers close enough. His fingers are still gouged into the dirt, as if trying to keep from being pulled back. But he has no legs anymore, the Hollow made sure of that. Eating him bit by the tiniest bit. She can still hear its voice ringing in her ears as it taunts him before she slices it clean through.

There is no hurt here. No pain. She doesn't even really know what that means. There's nothing but sunshine and big smiles. Her feet dangling down his back as he runs after their newest playmate. Just she and him and their wonderful adventure. All the people so happy to join in. Jumping up and at them as they walk by. So eager to play their game. To see his sword and show him their own.

"Ken-chan, what's this?"

She holds up a hand to let the red liquid drip down her palm. She licks a little from her finger, but it's coppery. Bitter and hot. It stings as it crosses the cut on her wrist. And her eyes prickle. She doesn't know why. She doesn't understand at all. Doesn't get why they meet these new people and why they never seem to come back. Doesn't know why he isn't smiling anymore. Why his hand on her shoulder is so heavy.

She loves him. She loves her friends in this place. Feather-brow and Baldy and Pineapple-head. Byakushi and his sister. Braid-lady and Drunk-guy and Big Shirou and Little Shirou and everybody else. It's so nice. So wonderful. So perfect. Nothing but watercolors and laughter. There is no such thing as death.

She smiles at him then, eyes glazing over once more. She laughs, a little girl giggle, and kisses his cheek before running off. He just watches her go with a mixture of love and relief and despair. Of knowledge terrible and horrible and world-shattering.

And deep in his soul, Kenpachi dreads the day she finally wakes up.

Ever Hopeful,