Word Count: 2,983
(A/N: Written for the IchiRukiLove 'That was Interesting' challenge.
I had an idea to do a fic like this after watching the Bleach episodes 183-184. I noticed how all of the Squads started to fight against each other because none of them would relinquish their territories. It got to the point where it seriously looked like they would kill if they thought it was the right path to choose.
Anyway, keep that in mind while you read this. Watching the episodes helps too. I mean, Ikkaku and Hisagi were really going at it. Even Renji participated; he and Iba almost killed each other.
So I took the idea and made it into a fic.)
The chaos had been apocalyptic.
The entire Seiretei erupted after the Winter War. Completely erupted. Squads fought against each other. Simple orders from the Sou-taicho were turned into all-out battles for dominance. Squad barracks became territories. Territories became zones. Zones became places of anger and bitter resentment. Friendships between Captains and Lieutenants dissolved at the slightest provocation. Brothers drew their swords against each other and sisters sharpened their blades in silence while their tongues spat hellfire in every direction.
It must have been a combination of everything; the fear, the mayhem, the stress, and the turmoil of Aizen's betrayal, his attacks, and his attempt to dislodge the King of Soul Society had finally exploded.
It began with a simple order. Three squads were to go and destroy several Menos in Rukongai. When they reached the area they destroyed the Menos and then turned on each other. The result was bloody and fanatical. Of the sixty who left only twelve returned. They entered their barracks wild and bloody, telling strained stories of how they had been attacked by this squad or that lieutenant. Their companions listened with hungry ears and grew incensed. Reason was pushed aside as the attacks were planned.
The result was sanguinary.
In only one year nearly half of the Seiretei was exterminated. The orders from the top were completely ignored as squads attacked each other relentlessly. Each one chanted that they were only doing this to keep the peace but only blood was spilled. Meetings of subordinates were held in secret in order to plan assassinations of their leaders. Subordinates were later killed by the men serving underneath of them.
The carnage continued until only the basest of Shinigami were left. The few captains and lieutenants who had managed to escape the state of paranoia hid underground, waiting for the chance to return without being in immediate harm.
The Rukon District burned. Innocent souls were taken up in the flames while their protectors fought tooth and nail for any inch of power they could achieve. Men with blackened souls, murderers, and rapists roamed the streets and controlled those too weak to fight back.
Families were destroyed, lives were ruined, innocence was lost, and in the end power was left in the hands of only one person…
Only a few powerful beings remained in the Soul Society. Together, they held a secret council and debated on who to place in immediate control of the Seiretei. Something had to be done. They spoke for hours on end about who to select. Someone with a clear conscious, someone who saw only black and white, good and evil, right and wrong. Someone who was powerful. Someone who was unfamiliar with the traditional and catastrophic laws of the Soul Society. Someone who was compassionate. Someone who could fight for his position if it came to that. Someone unattached to the blemishes of the Seiretei yet commanded the same respect as any captain.
In the end there was only one option.
They came to the living world to find him studying in his sophomore year at college. He was working to be a doctor like his father. They approached him with a desperate plea. Save us, they said, we need you.
They couldn't believe that he hadn't sensed it. They stared in disbelief as his brow lowered more and more and more until his eyes became livid. He didn't say anything for the longest time. He merely looked behind him.
That's when they saw her standing only a few feet away.
"Is this why Byakuya told you to stay?" He demanded, his voice rough and tense.
She nodded only once before turning her head away in sadness and shame.
He turned back to them and nodded once.
That's how Ichigo Kurosaki became the Ruler of Soul Society.
"Damn," Ichigo muttered, feeling the cricks in his back starting to get the better of him. He straightened himself and sighed when he heard several pops come from his spine. Shaking his head he released his pen from his grip and threw it onto the desk. He stared at it for a moment before summoning a messenger.
She bowed respectfully but didn't raise her head. "Yes, Kurosaki Sou-taicho?"
"Send these over to the western territory of the Seiretei," he told her sternly, "Tell their leader that they can only receive the provisions they need when they agree to the pact, lay down their arms, and rejoin the Squads."
"Yes, Kurosaki Sou-taicho," she didn't even raise her head as she accepted the documents and exited.
Only a few seconds passed before another attendant appeared. Ichigo groaned and pressed a hand to his face. "Yes?" He muttered.
"Sir," the man said clearly, "The Eleventh Squad has rounded up the dissenters in the thirty-first, thirty-second, thirty-third, and thirty-fourth Rukon districts."
Ichigo turned to him and frowned softly, "Already?" He paused to raise an eyebrow and shrugged. "That was interesting, I thought for sure they'd put up more of a fight. Oh well, tell Kenpachi to keep them in the holding cells until I deal with them," he shook his head and ran a hand through his scraggly orange locks. They were longer than he liked but lately he hadn't had the time to cut them. "I'm taking the rest of the afternoon off," Ichigo said suddenly and the attendant before him blinked up in awe.
"I'm taking the afternoon off," Ichigo repeated, his tone much more forceful than before, "Tell Hitsugaya; he's in charge while I'm out."
The man in front of him blinked his muddy eyes twice before coming to his senses, clearing his throat, and preparing to shunpo away.
"Wait," Ichigo told him and he obeyed immediately. "I'd like you to summon Rukia Kuchiki as well."
If the man was shocked before he now looked like a bolt of lightening had hit him right on the forehead. "S-Sir?"
"You heard me," Ichigo snapped, "Now go."
He was gone.
Ichigo slumped into his chair and felt his bones creak. Damn, he was only twenty years old and here he was, the practical dictator of the entire Soul Society. He frowned at his poor choice of words, he wasn't exactly a dictator… more like a keeper of the peace.
Ever since he had been asked to bring the Soul Society into order he had worked nonstop. In the beginning it was more like what he was used to doing: taking down monsters who threatened to destroy others lives.
Now it was humans. He had to take them down completely. Never before had he killed another human being, Hollows yes, but people… no. But he had to; innocent people would be at risk if he didn't.
When he took power he had chosen only a handful of people he knew he could trust. Those who were alive anyway. His friends from the Eleventh Squad were his main force; they beat down the brutes that killed for no reason other than they wanted to. Those from the Fourth Squad healed as many as possible, Soul Reapers and normal souls alike. The Captains that were left—only three that were not in hiding, Kenpachi, Unohana, and Hitsugaya—were his advisors and helped him learn the ins and outs of the Seiretei.
Things were slowly coming to order. The number of dead each day was reduced by the thousands, fields stopped burning, livestock was salvaged, and those who would attempt to restart insurrections were put to death.
The only person he barely saw these days was the one he wanted the most. His best friend, his companion, his nakama, and… and… his everything.
In the beginning Rukia had stayed with him, he had practically begged her to stay. He told her that he didn't want her hurt, that he loved her, and that he'd do anything to keep her safe. Her head had whipped up at his spontaneous confession and she asked him if he meant what he said. He only nodded and kissed her. When he released her she had stared at him silently before swallowing and pulling him towards her bed.
That night, amidst all of the chaos swirling around them, they found their tiny slice of heaven inside of a veritable hell.
Then when the number of fighters had diminished to nearly nothing, she had disobeyed his orders and entered Kenpachi's team. She now helped enforce the law in the unruly Seiretei.
Yet there was not a single day that went by that Ichigo didn't wish she was beside him in both his work and his bed, not a single hour where he wasn't worried, and not a single minute where he didn't think about finding her and holding her as tightly as he could.
"You called for me?"
He didn't even hear her enter. His eyes widened and he swallowed hard. "Rukia…" he breathed.
She stepped from the shadows and Ichigo could swear that he'd never seen anything so beautiful. Her body looked thinner, her skin was paler, and her stance was one of exhaustion. Yet her eyes… they were just as piercing and as violet as he had dreamed.
"Hi," he said, standing from his chair and walking over to her. Without saying another word he pulled her into his arms and rested his cheek against the top of her head. She stiffened slightly but then slowly relaxed and pulled her hands around his waist. Her nails dug into his plain shihakusho and she sighed, pressing her face into his chest.
"Are you okay?" He asked her as quietly as he could. She nodded and he smiled. It was the first smile he had shown in nearly a year.
Without saying another word he used shunpo to whisk her into his bedroom; it was a large, regal room that could have fit two complete homes inside of it. He turned and locked the door behind then and sighed. He had to be careful. He didn't know who was watching. If anyone saw him with Rukia it could instigate new riots.
Toshiro Hitsugaya had told him in the very beginning that their enemies could take her and use her as bait, they could use his relationship with her—since she was a remaining member of such a noble family—to start arguing that he was only after a title and money, or they could even kill her.
All this could happen to her just because she loved him and he loved her.
"When was the last time you slept?" He asked her, gently sinking down into bed.
She turned to him and wrapped his hand inside of hers. She began to trace her fingers around the callous' and lines on his palm. She smiled weakly and blinked up at him. "When was the last time you slept?"
He sighed and pulled her hand up to his mouth. He kissed it gently and shook his head. "Few days."
"You're crazy," she whispered, leaning against him, her head in the crook of his neck and shoulder.
"So they tell me." He rested his head on top of hers and felt his breathing start to even out. He felt so peaceful when she was around. He smiled inwardly and remembered back when her very presence would have incited arguments, screaming matches, and resulted in large bruises. That was back when he had been so dense. He hadn't realized how completely and totally in love with her he was.
"Where were you," he asked, leaning back on the bed and tugging Rukia with him, "When I summoned you?" He added a yawn to the end of his sentence and smiled foolishly.
"Reviewing strategy plans," she whispered, she positioned herself so she was lying to face him, her body curled closer to his and her eyes fluttered a few times before she yawned as well. "I was alone."
He reached out his arms and pulled her closer to him. "Good," her chest molded to his and he smiled gently into her hair. He used one of his hands to cup the back of her head and began to run his fingers through her silken hair. "We have to be safe."
"I know," her forehead was resting against his collarbone and her hands were curled into fists in the thick cloth of his Shinigami clothing.
He rubbed her back with his free hand and felt all of his fears for her unraveling. He was holding her in his arms. She was alive and whole. She was still his Rukia. She was here.
"I love you," he whispered, kissing the top of her head gently.
"I know," she murmured sleepily.
In the dim silence of the room Ichigo tuned his ears so he could hear the beating of his own heart. He felt her reiatsu pulsating next to his and grinned softly when he honed into her even more. It seemed like her spiritual pressure pumped an infinitesimal amount with each beat of her heart. He listened for a minute more before realizing that his reiatsu did the exact same thing. His heart and her heart beat steadily and their reiatsus fluctuated along with them.
It took him only a moment to realize that they were beating in time with each other.
"When this is over," he told her in a strong yet small voice, "I'm going to marry you."
She breathed in deeply and nuzzled even further into his chest. "I'd like that."
He inclined his head and swallowed hard when he saw her lying peacefully in his arms. Her breathing was just so quiet. Except for the small smile curving her lips she looked like she could be… dead. He choked slightly when he realized how large of a possibility such a thought had of becoming true.
His arms tightened around her and his heart began to beat just a bit faster. "Just… just stay alive, okay? Stay alive until this is all over Rukia."
When she didn't answer he shook her more urgently than he intended. She moaned gently and her eyes blinked blearily. "Hm?" She grumbled.
Ichigo convinced himself that his heart wasn't breaking just a tiny bit. She was so exhausted that she didn't even have enough energy to hit him for annoying her. He bit his bottom lip and felt a familiar sinking sensation entering his stomach.
How had it come to this? How could a few arguments and a couple of fights begin an all-out war within the entirety of the Seiretei? How long would it continue? How was it that such a powerful society had collapsed from the inside out? How was it that he had been chosen to undergo the task of restoring it? He was only twenty years old. A child compared to everyone else. How many more would have to die before everything was resolved?
So many questions had yet to be answered. Yet, only one really mattered to him. Would she end up losing her life? What if he couldn't protect her? What if he was so busy trying to save this heavenly hell that he wasn't able to stop that one stray sword, that one odd knife, or that one batch of secret poison?
Ichigo felt something fiery burn behind his eyes and he clutched her even tighter to his chest. She moaned a bit in protest but he ignored her. He had to make sure she understood. He had to hear it come from her mouth.
"You have to stay alive Rukia," he said in a clear voice. "You have to, through all of this, you have to live." He pulled back enough so that he could look at her. Her sleepy violet eyes looked at him warmly as he said, "You need to live. Once this is all over we'll get married and we'll be happy. But we need to promise each other that we'll stay alive."
She blinked at him and after a moment, a slow smile crawled across her face. "Ichigo," she whispered, she detached one of her hands from his shihakusho and brought it up to his face. She cupped his cheek and gently rubbed her thumb under his eyes. "You're crying."
"Am not," he said immediately, he brought a hand up and rubbed his eyes hard, erasing any trace of the fiery sensation he had experienced earlier. He then placed his hand over hers, sandwiching it between warm skin. "Promise me." He breathed; his voice was thick for some reason. "You need to promise me."
She just smiled and nodded, "I promise Ichigo. I will do everything in my power to stay alive."
"Not good enough," he said roughly, inching closer to her face, "You need to promise me that you'll stay alive. No matter what."
His face must have startled her because her smile disappeared in an instant. He stared at her for several moments before he finally saw the shock disappear. She rubbed her hand over his cheek again and drew in a deep breath. She looked straight at him with her burning violet eyes and spoke in a tone devoid of anything but absolute certainty.
"I promise to stay alive, Ichigo Kurosaki, so you can marry me."
Ichigo exhaled a breath he hadn't even realized he'd been holding in. Within the next second they were kissing; full, meaningful, beautiful kisses filled with expectation, hope, and love.
He broke away after a moment and was breathless. "Sleep," he told her gently, tucking her head underneath of his.
She complied and sighed softly. "I love you, Ichigo." She murmured before her heavy eyes fell and she disappeared into a land of dreams.
Ichigo held her tight and returned the whispered sentiment. He closed his eyes as well and finally felt himself falling into a heady and much needed sleep.
Their hearts beat in one singular rhythm, locking their promise tight and tighter with each steady beat.