Rating: NC-17, for boy smex and self-smex.
Word Count: 1706.
Spoilers/ Warnings: Set post HM arc. Not a very happy fic, peeps!
The world seemed surreal to Orihime after she returned from Hueco Mundo.
It was if she could poke a finger through the sky, through someone’s smile, peel back the saturated colours to find only blackness beneath – she felt like she was only one stumble, one trip away from crashing through the scenery and discovering she was living in a manufactured reality.
Then again, nearly everyone else was living in a fake world; safe in their little bubble that there were no such things as monsters, that the afterlife was a thing unknown or a thing of faith – that they were in control of their lives through diet and healthy living and how they voted. She envied them that.
Maybe living in a manufactured world was not so bad after all. And then she realised – living in a manufactured world was not the terrible thing; it was knowing that it was false.
But what of her right now? Thinking that this world was fake, that the colours had been over-saturated by an external hand, when it most likely was just that the rich colours just proclaimed how real they were? She knew she was disconnected. She just didn’t know how to fix it. And the more she thought about it, the worse it got. She now couldn’t sleep.
She set her alarm for seven, and went to bed at ten. She couldn’t get comfortable, and by four a.m. she was still wide awake, despite having eyes that felt like they had been rubbed with sandpaper. No matter how little sleep she got, she was still up at stupid o’clock, her jaw hurting through lying there with clenched teeth. She could hear her own heartbeat racing, thumping hard in her neck and inside her ears, and she could not shake the thought that she was listening to herself slowly die. It made things worse.
She hoped that warm, malted milk and hot baths before bed would help. They didn’t. She tried running around the block for an hour, joining Tatsuki’s judo practices, hoping to just physically exhaust herself. But no matter how sleep deprived, how mentally and physically drained, she still lay in bed cycling stupid anxieties about things she couldn’t change through her head. She had even noticed a grey hair. Who had grey hair at sixteen? It lay nonchalantly alongside the rest of her copper ones, well, what she had left; her scalp was shedding hair far more than usual. The few times she put her hair in a ponytail, it was thin - sad.
She went to the Doctor, who just said ‘stress’ to the lone, bleached hair, the thinning, and the insomnia, and suggested she see if those things went away by themselves before they try anything more drastic. She didn’t hold much hope for that, but doctors were doctors and she had to hope that they knew more about these things than she did.
There was only one thing that seemed to help; masturbation. It seemed wrong somehow, as if she had perverted the whole point of touching herself – that she was doing it not because it felt nice, or because she was feeling keyed up, or because she was fantasising about what real sex would be like with someone special. It felt functional; and even though it worked and she was able to settle into slumber, the fact it was so functional, so detached from a proper purpose, made her feel more disconnected than ever.
It stopped being as effective. Lying on her front, her arm trapped between her stomach and the sheet, the mound at the base of her thumb firmly pressed against her clit, sometimes she would catch the wave, that spark of heat, from imagining it was Kurosaki-kun, or even Ishida-kun, pressing their pubic bone right up against her while they slowly fucked. But as those images stopped working she grabbed at any image that worked, or might work; Abarai-sama, Chad, the guy who worked at the Seven-Eleven, a robot, a spacecraft full of aliens, Chizuru, Gackt – even Aizen-sama flashed through her mind. Anything, anything – just so long as she could feel that satisfying clench and unclenching of muscles, followed by that warm melting as she finally relaxed.
She ground herself against the pillow, flexing against her arm with Aizen-sama smiling, his fingers against her lips, and it still wasn’t enough. God, she still called him with the honorific automatically, even after everything he had done. She disgusted herself. Disgusted she couldn’t sleep. Disgusted at the images she would dredge up.
Disgusted that you’re still pretending that nothing is wrong to your friends.
She threw the blankets off. There was no point in continuing. Not now. All she would do would be make herself sore, and keep sleep even more elusive. She checked her alarm clock; it was half past four. She pushed her feet into her trainers, not bothering with socks. The streets would be quiet. There was nothing stopping her going for a walk. Maybe if she were lucky she’d see something beautiful, something that she could think about when she returned to her bed; something that would sink everything else down into the murky depths of her subconscious where it couldn’t bother her.
The streets were quiet, so quiet that she knew she wasn’t alone in her nocturnal wanderings. Sounds bounced around corners, echoes muddying the location of each night-dweller. A fox, or a cat, knocked a lid from an old fashioned rubbish bin. Orihime heard footsteps, the tight click-click of high heels on their way home. If she was out any longer she would be hearing the first wave of workers heading out for their pay; the milk men, the paper deliverers, the factory shift workers. But she could hear a set of footsteps that sounded too exhausted, too tired to belong to these early birds, but not determined enough to be heading home. In other words, the footfalls sounded as lost as hers was.
Maybe this would be someone she could talk to.
Or maybe not.
She walked carefully, careful not to make a sound, nor to damage the paper-thin world as she sought out this other midnight stroller. And then she heard voices, the bass tones of male throats carrying on the air.
… the same… need you…
She could hear a groan and then a thump, but not the groans and thumps of violence. It was the groan of passion and a falling against walls. She didn’t need to see to know the causes. Orihime knew she ought to leave these lovers alone, but the lonely sound of those footsteps was too hard to let go. These two had found each other, had found solace. Maybe seeing them, painting bodies onto the voices would be enough for her to do the same.
She crept around the corner, and saw the figures caught under the orange streetlamp as if they were performers on a stage. A stage for her, and her alone; they did not think they had an audience. She watched them, or as much as she could see of them. It was frantic, primal. The one closest to her, the man in the black kimono pushed up over the other’s back clutched the others hand so hard that Orihime thought his fingers would break – and yet he was not complaining. She knew it was this one, the smaller one with the dark short hair that she had heard walking; the need to feel anything, even something as painful as a broken hand, or sex that was too much, too soon – she understood that. Her hand snaked inside her own pants as she watched their skin become slick with sweat, as they both tried to find purchase on their lover’s skin, trying to grab hold of each other to make it real.
To stop each other from drowning.
It was over nearly as soon as it had begun; the one in the black kimono throwing his head back, his long hair rippling in sympathy as his body jerked out its final contractions, the cry of release sounding just so much like a battle cry. Orihime watched as he reached around his lover, hoping to catch him in his grasp, finish him off as well. The wind caught the words he whispered and tossed them straight to Orihime; ‘I love you.’
She saw how the uke stiffened, turned, extracted his lover and turned cold. She watched as he adjusted his glasses, and realised she was seeing Ishida-kun. It was a shock; so very, very different from the images she had been using to make sleep come. She watched as Ishida cleaned himself down, tidied his clothes and his hair.
‘But I do!’
She watched as Ishida folded his arms. ‘No. You don’t. This?’ he gestured to the scene that surrounded them, and Orihime instinctively ducked even though she knew there was no chance of her being seen, ‘This is raw, desperate need. A gaping hole needing to be filled - never love.’
The other man bowed his head, stayed silent. He passively let Ishida adjust his clothes too, make him respectable. She watched as Ishida gently ran his hands through the other’s hair scraping it upwards until he could fasten it into a ponytail. Abarai-san… the orange light had leeched the colour from his hair, but like this, with his tattoos exposed, and the way his hair sat – it could be no-one else. She watched as Ishida kissed him, first on the nose, softly, before he gently pressed his lips against Abarai’s.
This wasn’t love?
Who was Ishida kidding? What was this tenderness? What was this complete and utter unmasking of each other? Even though she now recognised them both, the figures before her were fragile, vulnerable, in ways that she never saw in daylight.
They’re hiding just like you are.
Ishida claiming his love was false, unreal, base and grasping – it was no different from her claiming that her world was manufactured, fake. He was scared – that was all; scared of the shifting sands of reality. Nothing more, nothing less.
Orihime quietly stood up, determined to make her way back home undetected.
She had a feeling she could sleep now.