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francis elena

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i.

"Are you afraid of dying?" Shiro asks her, when they are ten years old.

"I'm not afraid of anything," she says, as though it's a challenge.

"I've been having dreams. I'm all alone in a huge city, and it's raining. I can't get indoors because all the buildings are locked, and the streets are filling up with water faster and faster. I try to swim but there's so much water pouring down all around me. Eventually, the entire world is underwater and I have to hold my breath until it hurts. Then I wake up."

Tatsuki frowns. She's not afraid of fighting, but you can't beat up water. She wants to be able to say, "Don't worry, I'll protect you." Instead she comes up with, "It's only a nightmare. I used to dream that you or Ichigo would beat me at karate but we both know that'll never happen."

Shiro doesn't tell her about the whole dream. He doesn't tell her about the never-ending blackness that stretches out below him, the faces he sees in the depths. Mom, Ichigo, Dad, Karin and Yuzu, sometimes even Tatsuki herself. He sees them drowning and they reach out to him, he swims furiously but he can't reach them before he runs out of air.

I can't protect anyone. He still smells his mother's blood when it rains.

ii.

They are both drunk, but he has walked her home like a gentleman. Orihime had squeezed her hand and said, "be careful" but he was Shiro and she was Tatsuki and whatever his reputation with girls might be, it wasn't like that with them.

They ride the elevator up to her apartment, she leans against him and he looks at her, his beautiful girl. Her blue eyes are hazy with drink; he has liquor on his breath. They come out of the elevator kissing and stumbling towards her room.

He bites hard on her neck in the spot he knows girls like; they sink into the bed. It starts to rain outside, she mumbles "maybe you better stay the night."

He thinks not Tatsuki, it was never supposed to be like this. Her mouth engulfs his hardness, she swallows up his thoughts. I love her. "I love you," he says automatically. Shit. The minutes run together, he slides himself inside of her. She is wet, tight; he is drowning.

She moves on top of him, her back arches and her hips roll smoothly. They flow together to the peak, shallow breathing and gasps as they are flooded with pleasure. Light leaks into the deep blue sky of early morning, she floats beside him and passes into sleep. He holds her, allows himself to melt into her skin.

iii.

Tatsuki reached for anger, and found only emptiness. She felt her body sinking, like a stone in water. Shiro's voice seemed far away, she was burning somewhere in her chest.

"Tatsuki. It's not gonna work. I can't, okay?"

Her body curled tightly into itself. "Why not?" She hears herself say, and she damns herself for sounding so weak.

"You can't fix me. I don't want to be fixed." He stands up from the bed, moving away from her. She wants to follow his body, but his mouth says "You know I'm not a good guy. I just end up hurting everyone." The storm howls through the trees outside, branches scratch against her window.

"Why are you so afraid to let people in?" She took a sharp breath, gaining speed. "Not everything can be easy, Shiro. Don't run away. Stay here and fight with me."

"And why should I do that?" He is trying to be cutting, he is trying to provoke me into giving up on him.

"Because I love you." It bubbles forth before she can stop the words, it comes out like a reprimand. He should know better.

"There's no such thing as love. It's just a thing people say to get what they want." He almost believes this. The rain beats down harder outside, clattering on the roof.

"What did you want?" Her head was swirling, she remembered their bodies together moving fluidly and his mouth on hers. The current of her body pouring into his.

"You, I wanted you." But I will fail you. His mouth is set but his eyes waver for a moment. She doesn't see.

"And? You had me." Last night, in her bed. Against the wall. And before that - they've had each other their entire lives.

"It isn't enough." He will not be moved, she breaks like waves against the rocks. She releases a breath she didn't realize she had been holding. Her lungs burn.