Day 5 Prompt: Betrayal

How long does it take to form a habit?

Thirty days. One month.

It took even less than that for Ichigo to grow used to her steady presence in his closet. How odd that spending just another month with her made her absence feel like a loss.

It was ridiculous, of course. Two months was hardly enough time to form a bond, let alone get to really know a person.

And yet, he had come to know Rukia, hadn't he? She had a strong sense of duty. She loved rabbits. Her drawings sucked ass.

He'd seen her smug. He'd seen her smile.

He made her cry.

All within the span of two months. All because of him. And because of him, she was going to die.

Rukia didn't deserve such a fate. She'd thrown away everything that night they first met. All on a whim, too. That was what shook him most.

Saving lives to her was as easy as breathing. She saved his family's lives. Inoue and Tatsuki's lives. Chad's life. Even Kon's.

And his. So many times in a thousand different ways. In ways that put her own at risk.

She was so stupid. She always harped on and on about how reckless he was, but then she went and acted just as foolishly.

Ichigo turned to his now-empty closet. "Hypocrite."

He wished he could hear what her snarky response would be. At least then it would trigger a petty argument or a wandering conversation. Anything but this awful stillness.

How long does it take to break a habit? Another month? Two?

Nighttime was too quiet without her.

Their late conversations had been sparse, at first. In the early days, Rukia would scold him over improper fighting stances or techniques, and he would ignore her out of pure spite. Ichigo wasn't sure when exactly this shifted into something more casual. He did remember the topic that sparked it, though.

"What's it like there?" he asked her one night. "In Soul Society, I mean."

Rukia seemed startled by the question. Probably because he acted like he didn't care much about their work before. That didn't mean he didn't want to know more about her world.

"It's...peaceful." She dragged the word out like some unruly dog. Like a practiced courtesy even she didn't believe in. "You never have to worry about hunger unless you have spirit energy. Thankfully, a lot of people don't."

"What happens if you do have spirit energy?"

"Then you become a Shinigami."

"No, I don't mean that. I mean, if most spirits don't feel hunger, then they don't feel the need to eat obviously. But if you even have the slightest bit of spirit energy, what are you supposed to do? I can't imagine a world where the majority doesn't need to eat needs farms or food production. Are you just gonna starve? Can you even starve if you're dead?"

Rukia looked away. "You can. Your soul might even fade because of it."

"So what're you supposed to do then?"

"Weren't you listening to me, idiot? You become a Shinigami."

Ichigo sat up in his bed. "Yeah, but what if you don't want to be a Shinigami? I mean, there's gotta be other ways to help people with spirit energy in the Soul Society."

"I didn't think humans could be this naive." There was a hint of a smile in her voice. "Surely even in the World of the Living, most resources are relegated to merchants and the wealthy."

"I'm not naive," he snapped. "You're the one that acts like Shinigami are doing ghosts a favor by sending them off to Soul Society. That place sounds awful if you have spirit energy."

"What else can I do? Most humans believe that the life after this one is peaceful. Who am I to take that away from them?" she asked. "Could you honestly tell me you'd say anything different?"

The headlights of a car washed over his ceiling, illuminating his room for just a split second. It was long enough to catch the weary frustration in her eyes, harsh and heavy and cold.

Her gaze became more of a challenge to hold. She was right. It hurt her to be right.

Ichigo's eyes fell first. "No, I probably wouldn't. It's just…."

"Just what?"

"It's just sad. I don't know. I haven't even been a Shinigami that long, but even I know it can be exhausting. Dropping everything to kill Hollows, running the risk of serious injury or death…. Not everybody's gonna be cut out for the kinda work you guys do."

"Yes, well. You make do."

And just like that, she shut the topic down. He still had so many questions he wanted to ask.

"I guess," he said instead. "Oh, and Rukia?"



"For what?"

"For making you feel bad, I guess. I still have a lot to learn about this Shinigami thing."

Rukia was quiet for a long time. Then she laughed, a soft, genuine sound that took him completely aback. It was the first time he'd ever heard her laugh that way.

A part of him wanted to hear it again. To see the gentle smile that accompanied it.

It wouldn't be the last time he cursed the darkness between them.

"Fool," she whispered. "You don't need to apologize for something as trivial as that."

His face grew warm. "Too bad. I just did."

"Hm." She shuffled for the closet door handle. "Good night, Ichigo."

"Yeah, good night."

The screen sliced through their space and wreathed the room in damnable silence.

Ichigo regretted not trying to make her laugh more that night. He regretted not doing a lot of things during those months with Rukia.

Once he finally had time to process everything that happened the night Renji and her brother took her away, all Ichigo felt was angry. Mostly at her.

It didn't make sense for him to feel this way, he knew. She saved his life. His pathetic, worthless life.

She protected him one last time, and he couldn't even scrounge up enough decency to be grateful.

No, he couldn't think that way. He would rescue her. He would protect her in the same ways that she was always protecting him.

He was right to be ungrateful. He was right to be angry.

Rukia gave up everything for him. She did so without hesitation. But Soul Society simply decided her years of service, her sacrifice, her life meant nothing.

And she had agreed with them. Kicked him away, yelled at him, threatened him, and agreed with the bastards that attacked her that she had no right to her own life.

It was a betrayal he was not willing to stand for.

So he would stand and fight. It didn't matter who. It didn't matter how many. Anyone who got in his way was an enemy. Anyone who put Rukia through that hell wouldn't get to decide her fate. Rukia herself could fight him on this if she wanted to. He wouldn't let her be resigned to her own death.

He already decided her opinion about all this didn't matter. All that did matter was her safety. Her happiness. The chance to hear her laugh that wonderfully soft laugh again.

Ichigo would let that guy with the cane and weird hat train him if it meant a shot at recovering any of that.

Two months. In just two months, Rukia had changed his world.

Now he would do anything to change hers.

A/N: This is probably the shortest fic I've ever written lol. I usually write multi-chapter fics, but this was fun, too.

Happy Ichiruki Month! It's my first time participating, so I'm kind of nervous (but also excited).

*Crossposted to AO3.