She is used to him screaming at night.
It's nothing new. She's gotten used to it the way the rest of his family got used to it.
It's no wonder, really, that Ichigo is haunted.
When he was younger, it was because of the image of his mother. She knows, even now, when he's having a nightmare about his mother, because then his breath comes out in gasps, and he grips his sheets so tightly his knuckles turn white, and occasionally he whispers incoherent things. Apologies.
But Rukia feels guilty because she knows that her arrival only amplified his agony. Now, most nights, Ichigo just full-out screams. She doesn't know exactly what his mind is showing him as he sleeps, but she's got a few guesses. She thinks the sorrows of his shinigami situation catch up to him when he closes his eyes.
Some nights, Ichigo traces his scars as he sleeps. Ichigo, she thinks, is reliving the battles where he acquired those scars. And the agonized moans leaving his throat now are the ones that he was too stubborn to let out then.
Other nights are worse. Other nights have Ichigo's subconscious imagining other outcomes. She hates these nights the most, the ones where all the "what-ifs" gather. She can only assume that Ichigo is envisioning himself losing. Envisioning past battles in different ways: him not being fast enough. Or strong enough.
These nights are both the quietest and the noisiest. Sometimes, he just lays there gripping his hair, mouth open in a silent yell. Other times, he just screams from the pain of blades he could have been too slow to dodge, clutching at wounds he never received.
Sometimes she can't believe he doesn't wake up. But he doesn't, and when he wakes up every morning, he has no idea why he wakes up feeling so unsettled. He doesn't even know he does it.
But she is all too aware. This is why she keeps the closet door open a crack and stays up late every single night, long after Ichigo is asleep. She knows everything that haunts him. She is used to hearing him scream in the dead hours of the night.
But tonight is different. Tonight she hears something different. And she is surprised. She waits for a few minutes to make sure he's completely asleep, and carefully steps out of her closet to verify.
And she's right.
Ichigo is quietly sobbing. There are no tears- just a dry, hollow sound as his body shudders in this restless sleep.
Her guilt increases as she looks at him. She kneels down next to his bed and some crazy, selfish part of the back of her mind is hoping that maybe those sobs mean that Ichigo is having a nightmare about her. About losing her.
In any case, it is hard to watch him endure this new kind of nightmare.
She doesn't touch him as he shakes, but whispers comfort into the air above him. She knows she can't fight his demons for him, but she can be right there as he does.
She probably won't sleep tonight, but that's alright.
She is used to hearing him screaming at night. And that's why she'll be the one to save him.
It's not my favorite, but I'm still happy with it..