Characters: Kaien/Rukia with Miyako mentions
Word Count: 798
Summary: Kaien remembers promises, and makes new ones.
Comments: Written late at night for snuzzie, whose Kaien/Rukia rabid fangirlishness knows no bounds. ♥
The first time he saw her, he was reminded of Hisana.
He wondered if it was a common practice among the former inhabitants of Rukongai to act meek and quiet in the presence of the noble clans. If so, he intended to dispel it. Neither he nor his taichou could focus on the battlefield if their subordinates were too in awe of them to take care of themselves.
It took longer than expected, but he didn’t mind. He enjoyed spending time with the smaller shinigami, and found himself going out of his way to see if he could squeeze yet another startled squeak out of her careful, composed frame. It became a game to him. During her breaks, while she was out patrolling--the time and place didn’t matter, as long as he got an ample reaction in return for all his efforts. And then he would laugh and hand her one of the treats Ukitake-taichou always had lying about his quarters, and she would pick at it quietly, as if afraid to speak, and he would talk to her about anything that came to mind. She always seemed so surprised when he paid attention to her. It only made him want to pay her more.
Once he got to know her, he was reminded of Miyako.
She was strong. He knew her natural disposition made it a struggle for her to fit in with her comrades; her adoptive status within the most noble house in Seireitei only made things worse. She hadn’t grown up among them like he had; among the blank faces and unreadable stares, the disappointment in what you couldn’t do and the indifference to what you could. But she got along. She didn’t complain. She was incredibly independent. He found himself respecting that about her; it was one of the first things he’d grown to respect about Miyako.
Her abilities were average, but she never slacked. Miyako was better, but Miyako was older, had trained for longer, had had time to carefully hone her skills. Their styles, still, were similar; their battle stance made them look like kin. When Miyako wasn’t there he found himself seeking the younger girl’s presence instead; she made him feel relaxed and at ease, carefree despite his duties as Second Seat to one of the oldest taichou in the Gotei Thirteen. He said all manner of things around her--had even surprised her once, when he told her he’d be there for her no matter what. But he wanted her to trust him. To accept that he had her back as much as she had his. Sometimes he found her too independent for his tastes; he wanted her to learn to shift some of the weight she carried onto another’s shoulders, though when he thought about it, he knew he wanted those shoulders to be his. He didn’t trust anyone else not to shatter that fragile faith of hers, and he knew he never, ever would.
When she killed him, he was reminded of himself.
He would have done the same for Ukitake-taichou. For Miyako. For Sentarou and Kiyone. His hand would have shook, and the tears on his face would have turned cold in the rain, but he would have forced himself to, for their honor and their pride. It was his duty as fukutaichou. It was his duty as a Shiba. He’d accepted it long ago.
It should never have been hers.
Her hands shook as she held him. Her entire body trembled under the weight of his own. She shouldn’t have to carry that weight, he knew. It was never her responsibility to support her superiors like this--to tear herself up inside over what she had to do for them. It was his responsibility to keep such an act from ever falling on her shoulders. He’d promised himself that he would show her the true meaning of trust, of codependence, of love. All three were something she had clearly lacked during her life in Soul Society, and he’d wanted to be the one to introduce them to her.
Instead he’d taken advantage of her. He’d sought her out and impaled himself on her sword, had knowingly staked guilt, selfishness, and betrayal into the very core of her soul. He apologized, but he knew it was pathetic. He didn’t know what else to do but thank her. Thank her for picking up where he was too weak to finish. Thank her for saving him from himself. Thank her for recognizing a broken promise when she saw one. He could feel the Hollow in him grow dim, and with it his own consciousness. Weak, he found himself making a new promise, half-lidded eyes already struggling to see.
If they met again, he would remind her of what not to be.