Walking Through the Void Author/Artist:
4 (our distance and that person); 21 (violence; pillage/plunder; extortion) Disclaimer: Bleach
is owned by Kubo Tite and affiliated corporations. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
is owned by Joss Whedon and affiliated corporations. Spoilers: Bleach
: everything up to the HM arc. BtVS
: seasons six and seven never happened. As always, though, read at your own risk. Rating:
It's not terribly
smutty, so I'm rating it a hard R, but some might think it warrants an NC-17. I have no clue how rating systems work.
Ichigo wondered if he would be considered sick for being aroused by the violence in front of him.
But was it really violence? It wasn't as if Tatsuki was randomly starting fights, picking on those weaker than her and using her strength to threaten and cajole.
Besides, the ass she was kicking wasn't human. Didn't that count for something?
"Time!" Tatsuki called out.
Ichigo held up the stopwatch so that its face shown in the moonlight. "Three minutes, forty-two seconds."
She tossed him a grin over her shoulder. "I finish under six minutes, and dinner's on you."
He scowled and pocketed the stopwatch. They both knew she would finish with seconds to go.
After all, she had been studying martial arts since she was four. She was strong, swift, and her kicks and punches were powerful enough to make him wince in sympathy with her enemies. Combined with the powers given to her when she became the Slayer, she was more than a formidable opponent for a few vampires.
Tatsuki dodged a kick and delivered one of her own, knocking a vampire flat on its back. Another came up behind her, and her name was about to rush forth from his lips when she suddenly spun around, surprising Ichigo and the vampire, and jabbed a stake in its chest.
Before its ashes hit the ground Tatsuki was going after another, her footsteps muted on the moist black dirt. The vampire she had left lying on the ground scrambled to its feet and ran off, heading for the dense foliage that lined the western side of the park.
Once again, words died in his mouth before he had a chance to speak them. Tatsuki latched onto another vampire that had been attempting to run, grabbing its collar, spinning it around, and impaling it with the stake.
The she turned and threw with accuracy a stake at the fleeing vampire.
It pierced its chest.
The vampire exploded into dust.
Ichigo clicked the timer. She had staked the last one at five minutes and thirty-seven seconds.
"I think you organize all this so that you can get free meals," he grouched. Her all-time record, in the eight months he had been recording her fights, were twelve vampires in eight minutes.
Tatsuki rushed to his side, sweat glistening on her brow, cheeks red and glowing, her eyes alight with excitement and triumph.
"I am sooo great!" she boasted. "Matsumoto-sensei says that the Council has been raving about my talents."
"Ready to call it a night?" Ichigo didn't wait for her answer. He picked up her equipment bag, shouldered it, and held out his other hand for her to take. "We both have school in the morning."
"Ugh, did you have to kill my mood?" She took his hand, and Ichigo was shocked at how cold it was, colder than the air that was nipping at their noses and ears. "I thought today was Friday. I was sure today was Friday...."
"Have plans for the weekend?"
"Matsumoto-sensei wants me to clear out an abandoned warehouse near the edge of town, so I'll be there for most of Saturday night."
She tilted her head back and studied at the night sky. "At least there's no full moon. To have to deal with werewolves on top of vampires -"
He quieted her with a kiss.
They always made love like this, in silence, in darkness, on the floor near her bed with a chair jammed against the door.
As he removed his shirt and she unbuckled his belt, Ichigo wondered if it would always be like this, secretive, an affair cloaked in darkness, the moon the only witness to their affair.
Tatsuki removed her bra, and Ichigo stopped wondering, eager to remove the cold from his body, melt the ice from his blood. He laid her gently on the carpet and began pressing butterfly kisses along her neck, working his way between her breasts, going further down her stomach until he arrived at the edge of bliss....
Everything about her was soft, warm, inviting, and hypnotic. His fingers skimmed along every curve, his palm itching to cup as much flesh as possible. He was ravenous, nibbling and feasting on her skin as if he would never experience this again.
If someone had told him he would be doing this with Tatsuki....
Sometimes, he still didn't believe it.
She was told her destiny fourteen months ago on a night darker than black.
She fought her battles alone, under the pretense of taking extra lessons with her Watcher and the newest English teacher at their high school, Kazunari Matsumoto.
She lied to everyone - parents, friends, teachers, *him* - about what she was doing after school when others had went home for the day.
The first person to accidentally discover her secret was Mizuiro.
The second person to accidentally discover her secret was him.
He was *livid*.
When Ichigo found out that not only was her life not her own anymore, but that she had been hunting and slaying by herself for as long as she had been the Slayer - his anger at Mizuiro for being complicit in her lies was less intense than the rage he felt at him for allowing her to go on her nightly haunts by herself. Mizuiro’s reasoning - that his research skills were better used in the library, that his weakness and untrained body would be a hindrance rather than helpful - wasn't good enough for Ichigo.
*Someone* should have been with her, watching her back and providing her with more than just myths and legends.
So along with keeping his mouth shut about her newly acquired powers and destiny, he offered to come along on her nightly raids. He was walking the streets anyway, kicking Hollow ass and working off the frustration of not knowing what was going on in Hueco Mundo.
She rejected every attempt he made to accompany her on her slayings, and one day, after being rejected again, he snapped. So did she. They fought as if they hadn't known each other for over a decade: punches were thrown, words spoken with disregard for the other's feelings. Lies were uncovered and truths were spilled readily, like blood from a fresh wound.
It was a week before they made their peace, mostly because Ichigo couldn't bear thinking of Tatsuki fighting her battles alone. Yes, she was strong, and yes, she had acquired powers that helped her on her mission, but Matsumoto's words were a constant presence in his head: no Slayer has lived past the age of twenty-one.
That... made him violently, frantically ill.
Still, she refused, and her thin lips and jutting jaw dared him to try. So though it took him half a semester to forgive Mizuiro (he should have been there), and though he promised to never forgive Matsumoto (he was a *Watcher*; it was his *job*), he faithfully went to Matsumoto's house after school to read musty books with yellowed pages in the hopes of finding something that would help Tatsuki defeat the evil denizens that were popping up with a lot more frequently now that certain dark forces knew that the Slayer resided in Karakura Town.
But it *killed* him whenever she left Matsumoto's home and ventured to those dark places that no living soul dared go. Waiting made him ill-tempered and anxious; his imagination went wild and often times got away from him. She shouldn't be fighting by herself; she shouldn't have to take on the Underworld alone.
So he appealed to Matsumoto and piled on a guilt so intense the old man could have buried five generations in it.
Matsumoto thought him courageous and brilliant.
Tatsuki. Was. Pissed.
But more than that, she was hurt, believing that his wanting to accompany her implied he had no confidence in her skills. Neither were correct, but the former's belief didn't matter much; the latter, though, was absolutely convinced in her way of thinking, and so he said jokingly, "I won't fucking intervene if that's your only complaint."
He knew it was a mistake the minute he said it. The corners of her mouth twitched, and she made him promise on his zanpakutō that no matter how dire the situation got, he would not intervene on her behalf. He couldn't even warn her of impending danger!
He called her stupid for two weeks after that and tried to get her to change her mind by being cold to her.
She was too excited about having him witness her newly given strength and speed to care.
He caved when Matsumoto sent her to catacomb infested with incubi in search of a powerful bejeweled cup.
He brought her assignments when she couldn't go to school and sometimes did her homework when she was unable to write.
Matsumoto manipulated paperwork so that her absences wouldn't be noticed by the school administration.
Mizuiro spent a great amount of time outside of school helping Matsumoto research Tatsuki's enemies. He scoured the Internet for information about upcoming apocalypses, clipped newspaper articles on mysterious events, and catalogued the numerous journals and books that Matsumoto had yet to take out of their boxes.
It was a comfortable arrangement, one that worked well. They all became good at lying and deceiving, abusing and manipulating everyone's ignorance, even their friends'. When someone commented on Tatsuki's bandaged hands, or when they noticed the faint blue and purple bruises on her arms, the bloodshot eyes, the yellow-ish discolorations on her cheek - Mizuiro created stories out of thin air, spinning tales so convincingly that even Ichigo found himself believing some of them.
That was always easy to do during the day.
Not so easy at night.
Now, as he rested against the uncomfortable bark of a dying tree, Ichigo berated himself for making such a promise. It was hard to stand in the shadows and merely observe. He was used to doing, taking action, guarding and protecting his friends' back.
Only cowards hid.
He was not a coward.
He straightened suddenly when a vampire rushed at Tatsuki and grabbed her by her neck. Tatsuki struggled to free herself from his grasp, but the vampire held firm, his sharp teeth bared, ready to sink into her throat....
Ichigo made a move toward them, but Tatsuki's eyes snapped open, and even though no moonlight shone through the dense branches above their heads, he could clearly read the message she was sending with her eyes.
Interfere, and I will hurt you so bad.
Properly chastened, Ichigo leaned back onto the tree, every muscle in his body taut.
He couldn't do this forever. Something - someone - would have to give. It was becoming too painful, too difficult, to watch as some blows slipped past her defenses, agonizing that it was either that not being near her in case something did happen.
Because he couldn't not be here. Whenever he couldn't be with her because he had to go fight a hollow, images flickered then flared in his head. He imagined her hurt, terrified, lying in the middle of a horde of vampires. Sometimes, he imagined her face behind the mask of one of the many hollows he fought; at other times, she was lying battered and defeated, dying amidst the shattered pieces of weathered tombstones.
He told Mizuiro about their relationship after spending months stressing about how to take it to the next level. While he knew about sex (his father was a doctor, after all), he didn't understand how to go about doing it with her. Everything he knew about it was from books and educational videos; none of those had talked about the mechanics of sex, how to receive and give pleasure, how to do it so that she would want to do it with him again.... He had had his fair share of wet dreams and uncomfortable mornings, but this was totally new - he was going to touch her in ways he had only imagined.
He was both excited and frightened.
Mizuiro just seemed like the best person to go to for advice. Ishida and Keigo were out of the question. He was sure neither them had touched a girl let alone had sex with one. Chad had been a possibility for the longest, but sometimes he got too deep and philosophical when all Ichigo wanted was a simple, direct answer.
It was a huge relief when he discovered Mizuiro had been sexually active since he was thirteen.
It was also a little depressing.
But Mizuiro was kind and patient and listened as Ichigo explained all his problems.
Mizuiro smiled as he scanned the papers for more supernatural news. "Buy some condoms and keep them with you at all times."
Ichigo's jaw dropped.
"You don't want to risk getting her pregnant."
"WHO'S TALKING ABOUT PREGNANCY?"
"Your classmates if you don't lower your voice."
Ichigo looked around at the empty library before sitting down in his seat. "Think anyone heard?"
"Most definitely," said Mizuiro. Ichigo paled. "But we can tell them we're doing an extra credit report for Matsumoto. He'll cover for us."
Ichigo sagged in his seat and rubbed a clammy hand down his face. "Man, this is crazy. What the hell are we doing?"
"You'll enjoy it once you start doing it."
Ichigo shook his head. "I mean, all the secrecy...."
Mizuiro raised an eyebrow. "You truly have no idea why?"
"No, I don't." He propped his head on his hand and asked, "Is there anything else I should know about?"
Ichigo grimaced. "Don't make me say it."
"You know, there is an old saying that if you can't *talk* about it, then you shouldn't be *doing* it."
Ichigo pondered his words.
Mizuiro closed the newspaper and set it to the side, reaching for another as he said, "It's natural, Ichigo. Your body knows what to do. And don't get mad - not trying to say anything bad about Tatsuki - but she's not ignorant. She'll know what she wants, what feels good, and knowing Tatuski, she'll tell you."
Ichigo growled. "Are you implying something?"
"I'm saying that she's not ignorant. Inexperienced, yes, but not ignorant. There is a difference."
He regarded Ichigo for a second.
"Unfortunately for her, you're both." He returned his attention to the paper spread on the table in front of him. "And you're the son of a doctor…"
Tatsuki made short work of plundering the warehouse.
The vampires were many. She had been caught off-guard by the sheer number of them - more than twenty-five - with the number increasing with the passing of minutes.
Ichigo had arrived later than he had anticipated. His fight with the hollow had taken considerable effort and time; running here had sapped him of the rest of his energy.
So he hid in the shadows - again - and watched silently, but he was rapidly approaching the edge of insanity. He hated doing nothing. It was not a part of his personality. He was a fighter, someone who fought now and asked questions after his opponent was immobile on the ground. To sit here and watch as she took a beating... it was madness. He had to have been insane to agree to this. Was he that much of a masochist?
God, he was sick, because he also could appreciate that his sidelined activities allowed him to watch her at her best.
She was nothing more than a flurry of arms and legs, her dance a complex array of punches and kicks. He could appreciate from his position the strength and power that her compact body possessed. There was something musical about the sound of bone meeting flesh, something intoxicating about the metallic scent of spilled blood.
Still... it was hard. He was itching to join in, end her fights before she was seriously injured.
But, as he was constantly reminded by all of them, this was her duty, her destiny, and he would have to get used to it if he planned on being with her.
Finally, she staked the last vampire. Ichigo immediately rushed to her side, afraid she was going to fall over from sheer exhaustion.
But she was reaching for his wrist and pulling him behind her and saying quickly, "My parents are out of town and won't be back until Sunday evening and I've already wasted most of the night -"
They made it to her house in record time.
They began kissing as soon as the front door closed.
They were naked by the time they made it to her room.
"Bed," he said against her mouth. "I don't care how fucking loud it squeaks. And the lights stay on."
They weren't loud, but they weren't quiet. Now Ichigo knew the kind of sounds she made when he nibbled on certain parts of her body, touched her in certain places.... Everything old was new again. He had never before been able to admire her body, for time was a precious commodity and always in short supply.
Now, he drank her all in, appreciating the pale skin, small breasts, and narrow waist. They both watched, transfixed, as he entered her; being able to watch the myriad of expressions that crossed her face as she climaxed made him rock-hard and ready for a second go before she had come down from the first.
They had sex several more times that night, both eager to experiment and challenge each other in ways they couldn't have before.
By the time the sky grew lighter and the stars faded from the sky, they had exhausted themselves to the point that neither was willing to go downstairs to get a quick snack.
Sleepily, Tatsuki turned away from her window and nuzzled his neck. "It's too soon for morning."
Ichigo grinned and buried his head in her hair. It smelled of blood and sweat, sex and jasmine.
He was quite sure the first two weren't supposed to make him hard.
"What time do they come back again?" he asked, pulling the sheets over them. Tatsuki pressed herself closer to him and mumbled something unintelligible.
"Not until this evening."
"Have anything planned for later today? There's this movie out that I want -"
She pressed a kiss against his jugular. His pulse quickened.
"I had planned on spending the rest of the day in bed with my boyfriend...."
Ichigo stilled. Had she...?
"What's wrong?" She raised herself on her elbow and looked down at him. "Why'd you freeze?"
"You just called me your boyfriend," he pointed out stupidly.
Tatsuki stared at him, puzzled. "You are... aren't you? I don't go around having sex with all my guy friends." Quickly she added, "And you better not be doing this with your girl friends."
"I only have you!"
Rolling her eyes, she started counting off her fingers. "Rukia, Orihime...."
"Rukia's a shinigami. As for Orihime… you were willing to kill me before this happened, so she's always been off-limits. You’d castrate me if I looked at her the wrong way."
She gave him a look so violently threatening that Ichigo turned flaccid.
But then she grinned, wickedly. "Nah, I wouldn't castrate you." Her finger traced the muscles in his abdomen before dipping lower, making him jump in surprise.
"There are other ways to torture a man."
And she went about proving it.
During the day, Ichigo observed her from afar.
Oh, they talked and joked and teased each other like the old friends they were, but since he was afraid that someone would see the obvious desire that ignited in his eyes every time he saw her, he kept either distance or friends between them.
If Tatsuki noticed, she didn't say anything. Mizuiro did, though, and once asked him about it.
"She's the one who decided to keep things secret," Ichigo told him one afternoon during lunch. "I'm just helping her out."
Mizuiro sipped his juice. "Still don't understand why?"
Ichigo's eyes narrowed. "No, do you?"
Mizuiro shrugged. "She's not my girlfriend."
Ichigo rolled his eyes. He had considered asking Tatsuki what the deal was, why they couldn't be a couple during the day and in public, but he had this fear, irrational and perhaps unwarranted, that her answer might not be to his liking, so instead of risking a wound to his ego he drove himself to the brink of insanity thinking about it.
There were numerous ones, each crazier and more imaginative than the last.
The best one he came up with was that she wanted to maintain her reputation as a boy-hating (or boy-disinterested) tomboy. He didn't understand why she would want to be thought of as such, especially since she was, at the very least, an Ichigo-loving tomboy, but that answer made the most sense, and most importantly, his ego remained un-bruised.
Still, Ichigo contemplated more answers during classes, shutting out the droning voices of his teachers, turning his back on Keigo's repeated attempts to get his attention. By the end of school, Ichigo had decided that his reason was the best one and was resolved to make peace with their relationship... for now. If the secrecy and late-night hook-ups weren't bothering her, then he shouldn't be bothered by it.
But later that night he was much more urgent, his fingers shaking and clumsily fumbling with buttons and zippers and clasps. His face was aflame with embarrassment - why the hell was he nervous? - but Tatsuki didn't tease him about it. She smiled against his lips, taunted him with her tongue, soothed his bruised ego with kisses along his collarbone, his neck, his jaw.... He leaned into her, impatient and hungry, pressing her deeper into the carpet as he tried, with the little time left before sunrise, to show her just how special she - this - was to him.
The clearing smelled of scorched earth and burned flesh.
Her enemy tonight was not a vampire but a demon three times her size.
Ichigo monitored the fight from the highest position on a thick tree whose branches were bare and sturdy. His body shook with barely controlled restraint as the fight went on for much longer than they had estimated.
She had warned him before they left Matsumoto's that tonight would be different. A new foe meant that the fight would be a blind one. Her Watcher and Mizuiro had tried to gather as much information about the demon as they could, but most of it had been gathered from second-hand accounts of the destruction and power the demon caused whenever it awakened.
None of it had helped Tatsuki prepare for the fight she was engaging in.
He muttered curses under his breath, sent up silent prayers that the fight soon ended. Tatsuki was breathing heavily, her arsenal of weapons broken and discarded at her feet. A wicked burn made her left arm useless, and blood seeping from a gash in her forehead blinded her right eye.
Not to say that the demon was having an easy time of it. One of its arms lay trembling in the field, and it was missing an eye; but the thing wasn't tucking its tail and running away. Even in the faint moonlight could Ichigo see the malice and hunger that gleamed in its one good eye.
Ichigo looked at his watch. It was nearing one o'clock. She would have to end this fight soon. Not counting the time it would take to get to Matsumoto's house and get Tatsuki bandaged –
At times like this, Orihime would have been -
The air vibrated about him, then stilled.
Ichigo's head snapped up.
The blood drained from his face when he saw Tatsuki lying motionless on the ground. His body went from hot to cold to complete numbness at the sight of her bleeding, a new wound seeping blood through her t-shirt. Disbelieving, he gripped the branch so hard he drew his own blood.
He searched for her spiritual energy. It was there, but very faint, flickering like a candle in a drafty room. Ichigo's legs ached with the need to rush to her side now, but he knew that in his human body he would not be able to defeat the monster in front of him.
His fists shook at his side. Get up, he called out silently to her, get up!
She remained motionless. The demon continued to approach her still form, its tongue darting and flicking, saliva dripping from its yawning mouth.
Ichigo said to hell with the consequences and slammed his medallion into his chest.
The demon must have sensed the difference in spiritual pressure in the clearing, for it came to an abrupt stop and lifted its head to taste the air.
Ichigo landed near her, his zanpakutō drawn and brandished in front of them. With his other hand he checked her pulse, relieved to find it faint but steady.
With a low growl the demon began shuffling backwards away from them, hissing once more at the pair before darting into the brush.
Ichigo stared into the darkness, indecision making him freeze.
He knew what he needed to do, but it was in direct conflict with what he wanted to do.
He made the decision and hoped no one died from it.
He sheathed his zanpakutō and gathered her in his arms. "Tatsuki? Tatsuki, can you hear me? Say something, please..."
For several unbearable seconds she did not move. He was on the verge of breaking down when her eyes fluttered, then opened.
The relief that washed over him was strong enough to make him fall to his knees.
He buried his head in her hair and promised that this would be the last night she fought alone.
She groaned. "W-where...?"
Ichigo cleared the emotion from his throat. "It left us. We need to get to -"
She grabbed him by his lapels and pulled herself up. "Go... after... it...." She took a deep breath, then winced in pain. "It'll... kill... a lot...."
He was incredulous. "You're hurt. I can't protect you and fight it." He picked her up, taking extra care not to aggravate her wounds. "I'll take you to Matsumoto - "
"No...," she moaned, weakly pushing against his shoulders. "Go... after... it... I'll... be... fine...."
With a quick look back at his soulless body hanging limply on a branch, Ichigo said, "I'll get it later."
"I'll get it later!"
His sharp tone made her mouth slam shut.
He arrived at Matsumoto's house seconds later. His loud knocks startled Mizuiro and Matsumoto from their slumber, and he deposited her into Matsumoto's arms as soon as the door opened.
"Fix her," Ichigo commanded before leaping back into the night.
It took him several minutess to find the demon. It was an easy kill. One blow from his zanpakutō incinerated the monster, leaving a smoldering, charred area on the concrete near a shopping center.
There was no evidence it had killed anyone during that time.
He made a quick detour to return to his body; and in his human form it took him seemingly forever to arrive at Matsumoto's.
Ichigo was relieved to see Tatsuki sitting on the couch, impatiently awaiting his return. Her face was still pale, and the light in her eyes were dimmer than they had ever been, but she was okay, and that was all that mattered.
Until she started yelling at him for not going after the demon instead of taking her to Matsumoto's....
Mizuiro immediately made his excuses and headed for home.
Matsumoto made them take it outside.
They took it to her house instead.
He was on her before she had locked the bedroom door, pulling her onto the floor, her whispered pleas hot against deaf ears. She whimpered at his violent kisses, dug her fingernails into his biceps…. He caught her wrists and trapped them between them; in retaliation, she bit down hard on his ear. Ichigo choked back a scream, wrenched his ear free of her teeth, and punished her again with his mouth.
He wanted to hurt her for making him bear witness to her pain, hurt her for sealing their distance only during the few hours before sunrise. His face was burning, and his skin felt as if it had been rubbed raw – he needed to get warm, wanted to eradicate this feeling of loneliness and darkness that had permeated his being since their first kiss.
Fuck destiny. Fuck the Chosen One shit sprouted by Matsumoto. She didn't understand what she was doing to him – he couldn't do this any longer. He couldn't be a passive audience to her suffering, couldn't keep meeting with her under a cloak of darkness.
Watching was taking a toil on his mind. Knowing was causing him more pain than any he had endured in any of the three realms.
He was in deeper than he thought he would be, and it terrified him to his core. He had known that falling in love with her would be stupid, dangerous, insane. They were both marked and wanted for dead. They had little time to be teenagers let alone lovers. What had made him believe that he could do this with her of all people?
Their futures were unclear, clouded by the schemes and machinations of forces more powerful than them. They would never be happy; they would never be safe. He had reached that conclusion long ago, on a night when the world had been asleep, and they had been lounging against a rusted basketball pole on a cracked court, waiting for vampires to appear. Looking up at the stars, Tatsuki's head resting on his chest, he had realized that for as long as they lived their lives would be like this, mere reactions to the forces plotting their demise.
Destiny and duty were conspiring against them, but she didn't see that. If she did, she wouldn't keep this vast distance between them.
So he fought with her, silently, nails scratching, teeth biting at sensitive flesh. He gripped her hips hard, dug his nails into her thighs until she cried out against his mouth. He didn't care that she wasn’t ready, forgot that certain protections had to be taken. He only wanted to rid himself of the ever-present frost that had settled in his joints and the gloom that had settled like a dark cloud in his head.
He wanted… needed… to extort from her a promise that she wouldn’t take on the world by herself.
He would be there, if only she would let him.
He needed to erase the fear and pain that he had experienced upon witnessing her bleeding amidst the trampled flowers and overturned earth.
Later that night, situated close to the edge of her bed, looking at her curled-up form and the immense amount of space between them, Ichigo wondered if his extortion was worth losing her warmth.