A/N: Just a short return to the Bleach fandom to exorcise a ghost that's been haunting me, ever since I noticed a certain little addition the anime made. So, without further ado:
Reflected In His Eyes
In the eyes of a human-turned-shinigami, she does not reflect. In the eyes of a Hollow, she wonders... But she is older now, and the world is no longer a place for fairytales and knights in shining armour and demons who leave their hearts in her hands; and besides, she knows things aren't quite so simple as fancy words and naive confessions would have her believe.
She wears her hair longer and her smiles brighter these days. She pushes aside her memories of those dark times. The halcyon days will not return, however, and despite the love she has for Ichigo her thoughts will sometimes stray back, back to the white walls and white desert and white robes and white—
Orihime wonders, when did lying to herself become the easy way out? Still, if the others knew what she knows – if they had lived what she'd lived – maybe then she could live without pretending. They don't know, and she won't tell them, because that might make them worry and she's caused her friends enough of that. No, things are normal now. Perhaps if she repeats that thought frequently enough, it will settle and start to become a reality of its own. She hopes so.
It takes a special kind of acting to keep up the facade even when alone. It takes months of living it to forget it's a facade at all.
She finds herself forgetting more and more, now.
There are little things that bring it back. A scarf on display in a shop window, a solid jade-green the exact shade of vanished eyes (those eyes he thought saw everything there was to be seen, those eyes that couldn't see the heart); the dark-haired, white-shirted shape walking away before she realises it's just an upperclassman without his blazer (she'd seen his back so frequently, every time he left that lonely prison to wander free and caged among the passages of Las Noches); the tarnished silver of a bracelet she finds lying at the bottom of a drawer (come with me, woman).
Woman. Always "woman" with him. In his eyes she was never a little girl to be sheltered, kept out of harm's way – of course not, she was their prisoner after all, and the shutting up in an ivory tower was to keep her caged, remind her of her place – yet in his eyes, those eyes that saw so much, his form of address now reasserts itself in her mind as a warped kind of compliment, which of course he would never make. It was not in his nature to be complimentary. She doesn't think of that. Not as much as she would have, long ago. All the same… it strikes her as rather silly, that her abductor, jailor, enemy saw her as the one thing her own nakama never did.
("Come with me, woman." Then, a lifetime later, "Are you afraid?")
"I'm not afraid," she says to her living room. Then she realises what she's doing and laughs at herself. He can't hear her, of course. She's being silly. Playing pretend. So caught up in her game of forgetting, she almost forgets what happened on that dome.
It's something when the demon is the saviour and the knight is consumed by a darker self, when the princess, who went to the proverbial slaughter with her head held high, breaks down and begs a corpse to save her. But it happened, and she would do well not to forget that. Not that bit. She has to remember how weak she was – breaking the promise, calling for help and betraying herself – so that, in the future, she can be the Inoue Orihime she wants to be.
Idly she considers whether she'll reflect in that someone's eyes yet.
When she sleeps, sometimes she sees another one's hand reaching out to her, that hand with his heart offered freely, and as she reaches back she can see it. Her reflection.
She is reflected in his eyes. His, Ulquiorra Cifer's.
Five lifetimes of love, she has promised to Kurosaki Ichigo. But Orihime cannot carry that promise to fruition anymore. Not now her heart is held in a dead man's hand.
One day she will stop pretending. Today is not that day. So she'll keep on playing out her masquerade of one, with her smile as her mask and her heart as her fan, shields against the truth, against the memories, against reality. Before that, however…
She'll paint the walls white.
Apologies for any OOCness that might have crept in (though this is the way I've always seen Orihime). I've not written for Bleach in two years and am only tangentially in touch with the canon these days, but I've been checking with the canon and I seem to have got my facts straight.
And yes, in the anime version, Orihime really was reflected in Ulquiorra's eyes as he died. If I recall correctly, this also occurred in the tower - before Ichigo turned up.
Concrit would be much appreciated, and I'd love to hear people's thoughts, but at the end of the day - well, you've read it. And perhaps you can take something away from this. That's better than a hundred reviews.
Thank you for reading!