By the way, I have changed my name. The former was something I'd chosen years ago and I felt like it didn't fit me anymore. So say hello to the new me ;)
I do not own Bleach!
Senna still remembered the first time she had ever laid eyes on him. The memory would stay etched in her mind, bright and shining like the full moon, for the rest of her days, and she cherished it. She kept that time, that secret wonderful time they spent together, closer to her heart than anything else. He had once told her, love was belonging. He spoke of it with such passion, she couldn't doubt that he'd felt it before, this all-encompassing burning love that you felt when you knew, you knew you belonged to them and they belonged to you.
"Not like property," he'd said, "it's more complicated than that. Like…you feel like they own you, because you'd do whatever you could for them, to make them happy. And they'd do the same for you. You're theirs, and they are yours."
Ichigo's eyes had been aflame with something deep and sorrowful. The backlit glow of this almost-confession lent a golden shine to his brown eyes. He hadn't been looking at her when he said it; instead he was gazing into the middle distance, into some time where she didn't exist. Whether it was the past or the future she didn't know, but the thought sent a small shock of pain through her heart. She knew who he was looking at – she had seen the photographs, though she doubted that he was aware of it.
"I guess you've been in love before then," she said, with a small, strained smile. If Ichigo had noticed her being anything other than her usual chirpy, hyperactive self then he made no mention of it. He just looked at her with eyes that were faraway and closed and shuttered, and that same pain from before throbbed in her chest.
Why is he so far away? she thought. Where is he? What is he thinking of?
It was common enough for people to zone out, she reasoned to herself, but this was something different. Ever since she had met Ichigo during class on that fateful rainy day, she'd known that he kept something locked up inside him, secret and hidden from everyone else. It showed in the way he talked about his past, his hometown and his friends; when they chatted casually about inane subjects like movies and favorite foods, the mention of certain things would spike a light in his eyes, so bright and heartbroken that she was forced to change the subject.
Senna wasn't stupid. She was chatty and bright-natured and maybe a little ditzy at times, but she hadn't won a scholarship for nothing. She'd known pain and loss and heartbreak, and it looked like Ichigo did too.
It was one of the reasons she'd fallen in love with him so quickly. There were many others, and she knew they made an odd couple, but they shared more things in common than people thought, and the bond between them had only strengthened over time.
Even now, lying against him, she could feel it. The beat of his heart in time with hers, warmth of his bare chest almost sending shivers down her spine. She sat up, tilted her head to the side, taking the time to rake her gaze over her beautiful man. Her fingers traced lightly over the arch of one eyebrow, meandering down over a cheekbone and then the curve of his lips. She saw them twitch a little, the shadow of a smile pulling at them lightly, and her hand dropped to his neck, his chest, until her hand was pressed flat against the tattoo.
The lines burned. The blue eyes stared at her, almost challengingly. She knew it was silly – it was just a tattoo, it couldn't look at her, she was being stupid and imagining things – but it was true, nonetheless. How angry it was! Those teeth, that snarl, the way its paw was raised with its claws out, ready to slash at her. She'd never liked it, but had never dared tell Ichigo.
Only once had she raised the subject. Once, and never again. The shock and anger that strained the lines of his body hadn't been worth the knowledge and she'd dropped the question, eyes to the floor, hands clasped together tightly. He'd let it go. From then on, she knew it wasn't something either of them wanted to discuss.
She kept staring at it. On and on that blue seemed to go, endless and deep as the ocean. What was it about? What did it mean to him, this snarling black creature carved into his skin, over his heart? Was it just that man, or was it something more? Suddenly, she ached to know. They were engaged; they belonged to each other, wasn't that what Ichigo had said?
"How could you keep this from me?"
The words escaped her in a pained whisper, her amber eyes brimming with tears. It was more than just a tattoo, she knew that. She'd seen the way Ichigo stared at it in the mirror, his face drawn tight and miserable as he dressed in the morning or after bathing. It was never mentioned, never talked about but it was on him, with him, every hour of every day. Like there was someone else in the relationship that he carried on his heart, even while he was with her.
When they made love, she could never bear to look at it. Those blue eyes tore into her soul and it made her want to cry. She could never, never -
"What is it?"
A hand caressed her cheek, wiping away tears that she hadn't known she was crying. Senna stared at Ichigo, and her face crumpled.
He frowned, "Senna? What's the matter?"
She shook her head, drawing her mouth into a tight compressed line so she might stop crying. She had to stop crying.
"I'm sorry." Senna's words were a jumbled, clumsy murmur. He didn't know why she was crying so out of the blue but Ichigo sat up and drew her to him, hugging her tightly. His sisters weren't exactly crybabies but he knew what to do with a woman in distress. So, as she sobbed, her rocked her back and forth, kissing her hair, rubbing her back with his big, rough, callused hands. He kept on repeating it, kept saying sorry, and that wasn't what she wanted to hear. She didn't want him to be sorry.
"Do you even love me?" she asked him, pulling back. "Tell me the truth. Do you?"
His mouth dropped open. "You...what? Are you serious?"
"Yes!" It was the closest she'd ever come to snapping at him and Ichigo blinked, the confusion and shock written clearly on his face.
"Why are you asking me this?" Now he was hurt. Hurt. The irony of it.
"I can't...it's just..." As she tried to express her feelings in words, the fire left her. The tears stopped flowing and she hung her head. All she felt was helpless, and stupid. What was wrong with her? These sudden outbursts of anger and desperation didn't fit, it wasn't like her, it wasn't Senna – she told herself it was just a stupid tattoo, she didn't know why she was making such a big deal about it, there was nothing, it was nothing. Nothing.
"Senna?" Ichigo was clearly worried now, frowning deeply as he lifted her chin until she was looking him in the eye. "Are you OK? Seriously? If you want to talk about something...you know we can."
She licked her lips. Her mouth had turned dry. Without even knowing why, she clenched her fists until she felt the skin would burst over her knucklebones.
"Nothing," she said. "It's nothing."
"Don't worry about it, Ichigo."
"Don't say that, of course I'm worried! You wake me up in the middle of the night, start crying and asking me if I love you – of course I do! You don't know how much you mean to me, you idiot-" Ichigo stopped himself there, cutting off with a harsh indrawn breath and turning away. His mouth was pressed into a thin hard line, and Senna could feel tears burning again in her eyes.
"I'm sorry," she whispered. She blinked rapidly, forcing herself as hard as she could to stay composed.
"Are you really OK?" He tilted his head, looking at her so concerned and worried that it broke her heart. "You haven't been eating much lately, have you? Is that what's going on?"
"How could I not? There's only one person I know in the entire world who eats raw garlic, and you haven't touched it for...well, weeks. I had to throw out all your food in the fridge, it was going bad."
"Garlic is good for you," she tried to argue pathetically, still sniffling. With a small smile, Ichigo pulled her close again, cradling her gently against his chest.
"Yeah I know, but not raw and not that much...and you seem pretty tired too, you know. Now, really," he pressed his forehead against hers, "what is it? Tell me what's wrong. What good is a boyfriend if you can't tell him anything?"
"I hate that tattoo."
The poison in her voice surprised them both and Ichigo moved back, staring at her. For a moment he could say nothing, mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water until he finally pulled himself together and cleared his throat.
"Well yeah, I kind of got that...impression. Lately. You can't even look at it. Why, does it bother you?"
"Obviously it does," she mumbled, "it's him, isn't it?"
The silence that descended was thick and stifling. She didn't dare look at him; she could already feel his burning gaze on her bare skin, raw and white-hot with pain and disbelief.
"What are you talking about?" he asked. He was trying to sound normal but the cracks in his voice belied him.
Senna raised her head and looked Ichigo in the eye. "I saw the photos. I wasn't sneaking around, I promise – just looking through a family album and an envelope fell out and all these pictures scattered everywhere. I couldn't help but look at them. You and that blue haired man. You got that tattoo for him, didn't you?"
Ichigo said nothing. He could say nothing. His throat was dry, his tongue a fat lump of useless muscle unable to move in the confines of his mouth. He could barely even swallow.
"I knew because you were kissing each other," she said, "and it was pretty obvious you two were more than just friends. You told me you were into guys too, I shouldn't have been surprised but...but I was..."
"You never look at me the way you looked at him."
Her voice was a whisper of desperation. Ichigo pressed his mouth into a tight line and looked away, scowling deeply. Anger glittered in his eyes; his warmth slipped away from her as he pulled the sheets off his lap and stalked to the bathroom, slamming the door so hard she flinched.
Senna was left sitting by herself on the bed, face pale and tearstreaked. Her stomach roiled; with what, she didn't know. It could have been nerves, anxiety, anger, indigestion, anything. She clenched her fists and squeezed her eyes closed, gritting her teeth and refusing to shed another tear.
No, she chanted to herself, No, be strong. Be strong Senna, like you always have, don't give up now-
A strange keening whine escaped her. Her eyes were burning, her head aching, pulsing with emotion like an iron band tightening around her skull.
Drawing her knees to her chin, she curled up on the bed, wrapping her arms around her legs. She couldn't stop shaking, all the while rocking back and forth, gasping with short, shallow breaths.
"I can't-" she gasped, heart fluttering. White spots danced in front of her eyes. "No please, don't go, please, stay Ichigo, please stay-"
Waves of nausea swept over her. Senna felt like a piece of driftwood in a tsunami, picked up and madly hurled to and fro. She gagged.
"I have to-"
The bathroom door wasn't locked. Ichigo was showering in the tiny cubicle, steam so thick she could barely see the shadow of his hair through the white mist. Senna barely glanced at him as she threw herself over the bowl of the toilet, body rocking with the force of the heaves that propelled her forward.
Ichigo swearing was a faraway, blurry event. Senna could hardly feel, see, hear him as he pulled back her hair and wiped her forehead. He was still completely naked. The shower ran on, forgotten, and Ichigo hugged her to him as she retched and retched into the toilet, sobbing miserably. For what seemed like hours he rubbed her back and asked her desperately what the matter was -
"Are you sick? What did you eat? Holy shit, do you have food poisoning?"
"I don't know!" she moaned, in between the dry heaves that were now making her stomach cramp up, "I haven't...been eating...not hungry..."
"Not hungry? Seriously? Fuck..."
"It's not food poisoning?" Ichigo asked, panicked. "Fuck. Fuck Then what the hell is it?"
She shook her head, skin so pale he could see the lacework tracery of her veins at her temples and under her eyes. Her cheekbones were sunken and she looked wan, almost wax-like; her golden eyes were dulled over with exhaustion, and Ichigo kissed her temple tenderly. He held back his biting questions, trying to keep himself in check, although his insides were writhing with panic.
"You'll be OK. I'll make sure of it. You'll be fine," he whispered to her, stroking her hair.
Senna swallowed. Her mouth tasted like battery acid and her throat was criminally dry. She could barely hold herself up, instead resting limply against Ichigo's body.
In the center of his chest, between his pectorals, was the perfect space for her to lay her head. Senna listened to his heartbeat, faster and more agitated than what she was used to. Her fingers laced through his and they held hands tightly, Ichigo's squeezing hers in a death-grip.
There was a lump in her throat. It was hard to breathe. She squeezed his hand, his skin covered in scars and calluses. Such a strong, big rough hand. She remembered the ways he had touched her, at first hesitant and almost shy, tender, loving, passionate, wild – all these things and more. How she had opened herself to him like a flower to the sun, firm and bright and glorious.
Unbidden, her hand moved, bringing his with it. She settled them over her stomach, curving over it in an almost protective hold.
She looked at Ichigo. He looked back. Realization sank into him. Brown eyes opened wide.
"Well, fuck," he said.