Eventually, the train passengers began to dwindle, until there were only about nine or ten in the car, including Toshiro himself, and the finally relocated Karin Kurosaki.
She was sitting on the other end of the train car, in one of the seats. She was hugging her knees, and keeping her heels balanced on the edge of her seat. Toshiro couldn't see her face, because it was buried into her knees, but he had a feeling he wouldn't be able to stomach the hurt he had inflicted in just the few words he had spoken in anger to her.
Way to go, Toshiro, he told himself, Way to mess up a perfectly fine day out.
He watched her from afar. Twice he gathered up the courage to go over to her, and twice he chickened out at the last moment not knowing what he would say to her. So he stood uncomfortably on the other end of the train car, just observing her.
Finally, Karin's feet dropped off the chair and back onto the floor, revealing to Toshiro that she had in fact, fallen asleep.
Well that worked.
Toshiro swiftly made his way across the train car and carefully took the seat beside Karin. With a sigh, he closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the glass of the train window. Why was it so much easier for him to breathe when he knew Karin was safe?
What had he done? He'd scared Karin such to the point where she actually thought he would hit her.
All they had ever seen of each other was the fun the two of them had when they played soccer together once a month. It really shouldn't have surprised Toshiro that Karin would get scared when she saw him like that.
He had always been vacant and inscrutable towards her during those games, but he had never been outwardly mean
like he had been today.
Karin suddenly stirred next to him. She rolled slightly to one side, and her head ended up resting on Toshiro's left shoulder.
Toshiro's eyes flew open and he froze for a moment, but when Karin didn't seem to wake up he relaxed again. He raised his head from the window and looked over at her. She was so peaceful when she slept like a little doll.
And he had frightened this little doll. He had seriously scared her.
With regret in his eyes and guilt weighing down in his chest, Toshiro carefully slid his left hand over and placed it on top of Karin's, where it lay on the seat beside her leg. He squeezed it ever so gently. "I'm sorry, Karin
" he whispered.
"I know you are," Karin murmured, "Don't worry, I forgive you."
Toshiro jumped up out of the seat in surprise. "What the hell - ?!" he exclaimed, "You were awake this whole time?!"
Karin did the general actions of a person who just woke up. "Not so loud," she groaned, sitting up and stretching out her arms and back. "No
" she yawned and rubbed her right eye, which was having a harder time of opening than her already opened left eye, "I just woke up when I shifted onto your shoulder."
Toshiro facepalmed. It was completely immature and out of character for him, but at the present situation was completely acceptable.
Karin blinked as she gazed around the almost empty train car. "Jeez," she turned her attention to Toshiro, "We didn't miss our stop, did we?"
With a sigh, Toshiro turned around and slumped down on the floor in front of the seat he had been sitting in a moment ago. "No," he assured her, sounding completely drained, "We still have a ways to go, actually."
"Oh," she shifted once again this time laying down on her right side across the seats behind Toshiro. She tucked her right arm under the side of her head as a pillow, leaving her left arm draped across her left side. "Well then
maybe I'll get some more sleep," she finished.
Toshiro sighed, "You are going to drive me to insanity, Karin Kurosaki."
Karin lifted her left hand up and started to absentmindedly play with the ends of Toshiro's crazy white hair in front of her. "Nah," she told him, "You're just all out of balance because someone actually caught you being nice."
Cut it out
" Toshiro turned his head to the side and swatted at Karin's hand gently, but missed when she pulled it away too quickly, "Weren't you going back to sleep or something?"
Karin's body seemed to think that was an appealing idea, and yawned. "Yeah, I guess," she murmured, letting her eyelids slowly fall, "Wake me up when we get there."
Toshiro didn't reply. He turned his head forward again and closed his eyes. He wasn't going to go to sleep or anything, but it was more comfortable to close his eyes and rest a bit.
That is, until Karin poked him in the back of the head and made his eyes fly open again. He shifted ever so slightly to look back at her from the corner of his eye.
"Hey," she called sternly, not even bothering to open her eyes again, "I'm serious. You better not just take off and leave me here on the train. You have a real knack for disappearing suddenly."
"I could say the same for you," he mentioned. He turned his head forward once again and closed his eyes. "It's a tempting idea
but no," he assured her, "I'm not going to leave you on the train. I'll wake you when we get to the stop."
" Karin murmured, already half-asleep again.
True to his word, when they had reached the Kurakawa Train Station, Toshiro woke Karin, and the two of them headed off the train, away from the station platform and into the dark night.
" Karin finally spoke after they had been walking for a couple blocks.
Toshiro raised an eyebrow at her with a sideways glance, "Hm?"
" Karin's eyes remained on her feet as they walked along packed snow on the sidewalk, "
wanted you to know
that I meant what I said. I do forgive you."
Toshiro felt that uncomfortable burning high on his cheeks. "Y-Yeah
" he muttered, turning his eyes away to look off in the opposite direction at absolutely nothing, "And I meant what I said. I am sorry for scaring you."
"Tch," Karin scoffed, folding her arms under her teen breasts, "Whatever. Startled me maybe, but you're not scary, Toshiro."
Toshiro rolled his eyes. The burning was gone almost immediately, of course. "You were scared, Karin," he informed her, "You don't have to admit it if you don't want to, but you were scared."
Karin turned her body towards him a little, so she was sort of walking sideways. "Don't you tell me who or what scares me," she snapped at him, "Just because you lost your temper for a moment there doesn't mean I'm gonna start cowering in front of you every- GAH!"
"Karin!" Toshiro exclaimed.
In trying to walk sideways, Karin's lame sprained ankle had somehow tripped her other good leg, and she stumbled forward. Perhaps if Toshiro hadn't been looking off into space, and instead been watching her, he could have easily grabbed her to stop her from falling.
But he had been staring off in the other direction, so by the time his head whipped around, and his eyes registered that Karin was falling, the only thing he could think to do was throw himself on his back, underneath her, so she landed on top of him.
Which she did.
" Karin lifted herself up on her arms, "Crap. I have got to stop ignoring the fact that I am currently somewhat handicapped."
"You're damn right you do!" Toshiro snapped. He propped himself up on his elbows beneath her and glared at her angrily, "Fuck Karin. I am seriously getting sick of coming to your rescue."
Karin's eyebrows slanted forward in her own glare. He was cursing again, so he was worried about her, but still! He didn't have to be an ass! He could just ask her if she was all right. "Then don't," she snapped back, "I never asked you to come to my rescue in the first place anyway!"
"What was I supposed to do?" he argued, stretching himself up farther closer to her, "Let you fall in the snow?!"
"Why not?!" Karin fought back angrily, "At least the snow doesn't yell at me for landing on it!"
Toshiro's jaw tightened, "I'm not yelling at you for landing on me it didn't even hurt! I'm yelling at you for not paying more attention to your well-being so that I don't have to worry about all the accidents you get yourself into when I'm not around help!"
"I don't need your help!" Karin exclaimed, "And I damn well don't need you worrying about me!"
"Well it doesn't work that way!" Toshiro was getting seriously pissed, but this time Karin wasn't backing down, "I'm going to worry about you whether I want to or not!"
Karin gritted her teeth. "Well knock it off!" she ordered, "Just because you're worried about me doesn't mean you get to be an ass to me in the little time I get to spend with you! I'm a big girl. I can take care of myself. And I most certainly can handle a fall in the snow. So if you're going to get all angry with me every time you save me from something as simple as a stumble over a rock or a trip on the sidewalk, I'd rather you just didn't bother!"
Toshiro didn't answer. He simply stared at her. He was still glaring, but it seemed to be softening. She was so strong. He admired her for that in a way he had never admired anyone before. Plus
he was pleased she was safe. Well, safe enough to be yelling at him.
"What?" Karin demanded, "Nothing to say now?! Is the shock of knowing that maybe there's someone in the world who doesn't need your protection too much for you? Good. I like you a lot better when you shut up anyway. I don't know what I was thinking trying to get you to open up and be normal for just one freaking day!"
"I could care less if you don't need my protection," Toshiro replied coldly, "And since when are you the final judge on who can be normal or not?"
"Pfft," Karin scoffed, she was still a little angry, but it was starting to settle a little. "You couldn't be normal if you life depended on it," her tone was practically challenging him.
So Toshiro did what he did when anyone challenged him. He met the challenge head-on.
"Whatever," Karin continued, "Like it matters to me whether or not- Mmf!"
All of a sudden, Karin found herself unable to lash out at Toshiro anymore
he was kissing her.
Yep. Toshiro was laying in the snow, propped up on his elbows. Karin was laying on top of him, with her gloved hands in the snow on each side of his body. And for some unknown reason, their cold lips were now pressed together.
Toshiro had initiated the kiss and seemed to know what he was doing. He closed his eyes and pressed his lips firmer to Karin's, moving them along hers and waiting for her to respond.
It took a moment of frozen shock, but she finally did. Karin's eyes slowly closed, and her lips kissed him back. Her head tipped to the left, and his tipped to the right. Karin's mouth opened a fraction of an inch and Toshiro's icy breath swept into her mouth, along with his tongue. She opened her mouth a little more, letting him in and kissing him back pleased.
Toshiro's thought process was clouded. What the hell was he doing?! He was kissing a human! What was wrong with him? He knew he needed to stop this
but it was hard. He had never wanted something as much as he just wanted to lay here in the snow kissing Karin.
Finally, though, his better judgment came back to him, and he pulled away from her sharply, turning his head to one side. His face was burning painfully and worse than it ever had before. Clearly, he was blushing.
"Normal enough for you?" he asked, unable to look at her after what he had just done.
Karin was about to answer - what she was about to answer with, she wasn't sure, but still - when a bit of bright red in the glow of a nearby streetlight caught her eye.
"Oh jeez!" she suddenly got off her arms and sat back. Her butt landed promptly in the snow, between the legs she had folded back on either side of her. "Toshiro, you're bleeding!" she told him.
"No I'm n-" Toshiro followed her eyes to the patch of red snow around the part of his arm near his wrist that wasn't covered by his blazer sleeve, and the decent sized gash on the arm itself, "Oh. Look at that."
He pushed himself up into a sitting position. Karin was situated on the ground between his open legs, and when he sat up he absentmindedly slid his knees farther up so they were at about the same level as her waist. He stared at the gash on the side of his wrist, as if willing it to close with sheer willpower would actually work.
Karin reached forward and grabbed his hand, gently pulling his wrist to her and pushing the blazer's sleeve out of the way so she could get a closer look at the wound. His eyes slowly made their way to look up at her concentrated expression. Why did she care? It was just a stupid little cut. It didn't even hurt.
"Okay," Karin said with a single nod. She looked up and around, her eyes finally stopping on the streetlight pole across the street. "Huh?" she was clearly surprised by something, "What is that?"
"Hm?" Toshiro followed her gaze over to the streetlight, "What? I don't see- Ah!" A suddenly pain on his arm caused his head to whirl back to her. "What was that?!" he asked, astounded.
Karin held up a nice, jagged piece of glass about the length and size of three 500 yen coins. No wonder the gash looked so big, but didn't hurt. Well, now it hurt. Now that the glass was out and the blood was flowing. Toshiro took the chunk of bloody glass with his other hand, studying it with surprised eyes. The thing must have been hidden in the snow or something. It was amazing no one had stepped on it before then.
Reaching in her back pocket, Karin pulled out a clean, folded, white handkerchief. She stuck a corner in her mouth and tore off a piece, then repeated the action again and again until the square of white cloth became five, roughly equal-sized strips.
Toshiro discarded the glass and refocused his attention on Karin. She licked one of the strips and used it to clean the gash before quickly wrapping it up with the other strips. The gash was close to his wrist, but not on any arteries or veins more off to the side and therefore made it easy for Karin to tie the thin strips in place around his arm.
When at last Karin let go of Toshiro's arm, he eyed her make-shift bandaging. It was pretty well done, considering the circumstances, but still
"You didn't have to do that," he told her, "It would have healed fine on its own." To be honest, he probably wouldn't have even wasted the effort of the First Aid Kido on such an insignificant cut.
"Yeah, I know, I get it," Karin replied, irritated avoiding his eyes by looking down at his wrapped up arm, "You're a big strong Soul Reaper who doesn't have any need for human healing solutions. I didn't even mean to do it, okay? It's just
my family runs a clinic, so I just kind of did it out of built in habit."
Toshiro face was blank. He kept his head tipped down, like he was looking at his arms still, but his eyes moved up to Karin's frowning expression. "Well
thank you," he told her, not having anything else to say.
Karin blinked and looked at him. "Um
" it took her a couple seconds for her brain to remember what the proper response to 'thank you' was, "You're welcome, I guess."
Toshiro brought his head up to face the straight on and smirked. "You look cold," he commented on Karin's blue-ish lips and pink cheeks.
She felt cold. "Yeah," she breathed, her lack of steam that came from her mouth just further proved that she was so cold her breath was almost the same temperature as the Winter outside.
Toshiro pulled the blazer's sleeve down over the handkerchief bandaging ad he slowly got up to his feet. He offered Karin a hand, "Come on. Let's get you home."
With a sigh, Toshiro laid down on the thick, comfy bed mat he would be using for the night sleeping on Karin Kurosaki's bedroom floor, donned in a pair of her older brother's blue, black and turquoise plaid Winter flannel pajamas.
How had he let himself get talked into this one?
Toshiro blinked. He wasn't even sure he could answer that with a statement, so he did so with a question, "Why do you sound so surprised?"
Karin was standing on the mat in front of her front door. The porch light was on and poured over herself and Toshiro, who stood in front of her. She couldn't believe that the time was gone. That he'd be leaving, and she wouldn't see him again for many months, when they eventually started up their soccer games again in Spring.
" Shit. She didn't have any ideas on how to make him stay. "Oh
Well, it's kind of late..." she offered lamely, "So I thought
I don't know
Maybe you could spend the night and get some rest before you go back to the Soul Society."
Toshiro closed his eyes and raked a hand through his spiky white hair with a sigh. "I really shouldn't, Karin," he told her unknowingly giving Karin a speck of hope when he said shouldn't rather that can't "I've already overstayed my time in the World of the Living. I'm going to get in serious trouble if I don't head back soon." He dropped his hand and re-opened his eyes, catching Karin up in his turquoise gaze, "We both are."
"That's not true," Karin argued, taking a step forward. Maybe she was the one caught in Toshiro's gaze, but he still found himself unable to look away from her pleading black eyes. "I mean
" she dropped her voice just a little, "If you really overstayed your time, wouldn't they send someone to come get you? They obviously don't need you very much if they haven't even tried to contact you."
Toshiro was about to argue that his subordinates probably had tried to contact him, and that his lack of having his hollow pager was the reason they couldn't, but he was really tired of arguing with her. Besides
a comfy bed in the human world actually sounded nice right about now.
"I'm not sleeping in your brother's closet," he murmured, joking.
Oh right. He had given in.
Well, it wasn't like he was regretting that choice now. He was completely comfortable, and staying in the company of a girl he was coming to realize was quite close to his heart. It wasn't the worst way he'd ever spent a night.
"You are going to be the death of me, Karin Kurosaki," he told her sitting on the bed beside his floor mat, doing a quick evening brush-through of her hair. She had already changed into a pair of long red drawstring pajama pants and a small form-fitting black shirt with ¾ length sleeves, brushed her teeth and gotten a good 25 minute lecture from her father and brother about disappearing and staying out so late.
Meanwhile, Toshiro snuck around and entered the house via Karin's window, where he waited for her to come up from being reprimanded. Incidentally, she brought up the mat and the pajama's when she came.
"First I was going to drive you to insanity, and now I'm going to kill you?" Karin asked, smiling, "Wow. You have this whole agenda set for me I had no idea of." She reached over to her bedside dresser and threw the brush in the middle drawer, then moved herself around on her bed so that she was laying on her back with her head hanging over the edge.
"All the blood's going to rush to your head if you stay like that," he changed the subject, "And if you faint, I'm going to have to take you downstairs to your father, and he'll find out I'm up here."
"Ugh," Karin rolled over and propped her head in her hands and her elbows on the edge of the bed to hold it up, "You're so annoying."
Toshiro sighed sharply and stood up. He started to unfasten the buttons of the flannel pajama shirt he was wearing.
"W-What are you doing?" Karin asked, sitting up.
"What does it look like?" he asked. After getting all the buttons undone he started to slide the shirt off.
Karin's mouth dropped and not just because Toshiro was totally ripped "You can't just walk around in my room half-naked!"
"It's hot," he stated, irritated, "I'm going to roast if I sit around in long sleeves and thick cotton." He pulled the shirt off and dropped it on the floor next to the mat, then sat back down cross-legged.
"Okay, I know you don't get cold," Karin sounded almost like she was trying to reason with him, "But seriously, how can you be hot? It's chilly in here."
"Maybe you should wear thicker clothes," Toshiro jabbed, his eyes wandering up the extent of Karin's bedtime ensemble.
Karin reached over and threw a pillow at him. He probably could have moved out of the way, but Toshiro didn't feel like moving, so he left the pillow hit him. "Or you could stop being such a freak," Karin replied.
"And just who are you to call me a freak, Spirit Girl?" Toshiro picked up the pillow with one hand and flung it back at her, hitting her dead in the chest and knocking her back onto the bed.
"Don't call me that!" Karin snapped, getting back up into a sitting position.
"Don't be so loud," Toshiro warned, "Your family will hear."
Karin didn't have a comeback for that one. He was right. Instead, she flopped down onto her side and let one arm dangle off the side of the bed in defeat. "You seem to have and issue with keeping your clothes on," she commented, "First you're lending me your jacket, now you walking around shirtless. Jeez. I don't even want to know what comes next."
What came next however, didn't come from Toshiro, it came from Karin. "Ech-choo," she sneezed, burying her face in her pillow for two more sneezes.
"What was that?" Toshiro asked, holding out each word longer than he needed too.
"Nothing," Karin muttered stubbornly into her pillow, though her eyes were on him.
"That was not nothing," he came off sounding a little cross without meaning too. He wondered why that was briefly. "That was a sneeze," he stated the obvious.
Karin buried her face in the pillow again. Oh crap. He was totally gonna find out!
"Karin," he called sternly, crawling up onto the bed beside her, "Are you ill?"
"No I'm not sick!" she snapped, keeping her face buried in the pillow and shifting away from him, towards her headboard.
"You've been out in the snow a lot these past few days," he mentioned, moving closer at the same time she was moving away, "Do you have a fever?"
"No," Karin's back hit the headboard, so she shifted to the left and tried to make her way back along the bed in the opposite direction. Anything to keep out of Toshiro's reach.
"You do, don't you?!" he accused, following her along the bed with one hand reaching towards her head.
"No! I don't! I swear- Ack!"
Sliding backwards on the bed, Karin slipped off the edge and fell back onto Toshiro's temporary mat bed. It didn't hurt all that much, but it did make a loud THUMP!
Toshiro had to put a hand over his mouth to stifle his chuckles. "Are you-" he started, but then he had to stop and clear his throat, "-you okay?"
"Quit laughing!" she snapped, tossing the pillow at him while she attempted to get up.
Toshiro technically wasn't laughing, but still... he couldn't stop smirking at her falling off the bed. It wasn't like she had gotten hurt or anything, and with all the times she had hurt herself since the soccer game, he was glad to finally have one situation where he could inwardly laugh at her being an absentminded goof.
Still, he stopped smirking because it was upsetting Karin. "I'm not laughing," he mentioned, unable to contain the amused tone in his voice, "And besides, shouldn't we be worried? I'm willing bet your dad heard that thump."
"No, we're fine. That wasn't even that loud, since I landed on your mat," she told him. She grabbed the edge of the small dresser next to her bed and hoisted herself up.
Unfortunately, when she did so, the entire small bedside dresser tumbled forward. She moved just in time to avoid having her foot slammed underneath it, and flinched when it hit the ground.
Toshiro and Karin exchanged glances. Well, Toshiro's was more along the lines of an accusatory glare. Karin rubbed the back of her head and smiled a guilty, nervous smile at his expression. "O-kay... That he might have heard..."
"Oh really? You think so?" Toshiro snapped, already off the bed and picking up the dresser.
Karin grabbed the lamp that had been sitting on the dresser. Thankfully it hadn't broken when it landed on the mat. She placed it back on the dresser, then quickly helped Toshiro fold up the mat and stuff it into the bottom of her closet.
"Karin? Karin are you all right?" asked a voice on the other side of her door. Ichigo. He wiggled the doorknob a couple times, but found it locked. "Karin, I heard a crash. Are you in there?"
"Shit," she hissed under her breath. She turned to Toshiro, who was kneeling on the floor in front of her closet, right beside her. "We need to hide you somewhere, and fast!" she whispered, her eyes darting around the room, trying to find a spot.
"Go answer the door," Toshiro ordered, standing, "If you stall, Ichigo will get suspicious."
Karin raised an eyebrow at him, but gave no complaint. She got up and headed over to the door. She unlocked it, but when she glanced back at her room, Toshiro was gone. With a shrug, she opened the door for Ichigo.
"What do you want, carrot-top?" she asked with her usual sister-ly charm.
Ichigo came into the room, looking around questionably. "I heard something crash..." he repeated, his eyebrows furrowing in confused concentration, "I thought maybe..."
"Maybe...?" Karin repeated, wondering if the stupid carrot-top meant not to finish his sentence. She tried to keep him from noticing the way she was scanning her room - from which Toshiro seemed to have vanished.
Ichigo shook his head. "No. No way. If Toshiro were here I'd feel at least something of his spiritual pressure I'm sure," he murmured; talking more to himself than his younger sister.
Karin folded her arms and raised an eyebrow. "You thought I was hiding Toshiro up here?" she asked, trying to make it sound like the most ridiculous thing she had ever heard.
And she had almost convinced him. Until Ichigo caught sight of something hiding only halfway beneath Karin's bed. He went over and bent down to pick it up. "Why do you have my pajama shirt?" he asked, catching on to her little ruse.
"I...uh..." Crap. She didn't have anything for that. She glared at the garment in Ichigo's hand for a moment, then composed herself well enough to give him a simple shrug and a pretty good excuse, "Yuzu put it in my pajama drawer on accident."
"Is that so?" Ichigo asked, making Karin feel uneasy and completely see through, "Then where are the bottoms?"
Karin swallowed. Come on girl, think of something! "They're... I already wore them," she said, changing her mind and making her story that much less believable, "That is... I didn't want to wear the long sleeves, but I wore the pajama pants and now they're in the dirty clothes... Yeah."
Ichigo looked at her disbelievingly, but before he got the chance to say anything a loud, obnoxious song of some kind came ringing down the hallway. Karin was doing back flips on the inside. It was Ichigo's cell phone! And it was down the hall in his room!
With only a second glance around the room, Ichigo gave Karin a brief nod and headed out of her room. Simple as that. Karin closed the door behind him, then turned and leaned against the back of it, sliding down until she was sitting on the ground. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and when she opened them again, she nearly had a heart attack.
"What is with this town?" Toshiro asked. He looked pretty hilarious standing by the window in pajama pants - feet and chest both bare - brushing piles of snow off his head and shoulders. "Does it ever stop snowing?" he asked, shaking snow and water out on Karin's floor.
With a sigh, Karin got up from the floor and went to her closet. She was pretty sure she had some towels somewhere on the top shelf... Oh. Yep. She took two of the stack of four white towels. After tossing one onto Toshiro's head, she got down and mopped up the water he left all over the floor.
"I never imagined you would complain about snow, Toshiro," she commented.
Toshiro used the towel she had given him to dry his hair off the best her could as he went over and took a seat on the edge of Karin's bed.
Karin went over to the empty hamper in the corner of her bedroom that she was quite pleased Ichigo hadn't noticed, and tossed in the wet towel she had used to clean up the floor. When she turned back, she was instantly blinded by the towel Toshiro threw across the room and hit her square in the face with. With some sort of irritated half-growl in the back of her throat, Karin tossed the second towel in after that first and turned to glare at Toshiro, who was stretching himself out on her bed.
"And just what do you think you're doing?" she asked, appalled that he could just lay there with his hands tucked under his head like he was relaxing in a hammock rather than coveting her bed!
"Just resting my eyes for a minute. Hiding my spiritual pressure to such an extent that Ichigo wouldn't sense me hiding on the roof was exhausting," he told her, his eyebrows slanted forward as they always were. Karin found it funny that even when he was relaxing he still looked angry enough to suddenly leap up and kill someone.
And with that imaginative thought in mind, Karin took a small half-step away from her bed and replied, "Yeah, well it looks like we got lucky that someone called Ichigo's cell."
"Luck had nothing to do with it..." Toshiro murmured, sounding like he was dozing off.
Karin blinked, "How did you-?"
"Nevermind," Toshiro told her. Clearly his minute-rest was up, since he sat up, turned, and lightly got off her bed. He went over to the closet to pull out the floor mat while Karin climbed up onto her bed.
Her hand touched the spot where Toshiro had just been laying. It was really cold. She glanced over at Toshiro's back - still crouched in front of her closet, then leaned down and buried her warm, red face in her freezing pillow.
There was some shuffling as Toshiro pulled out the mat and set it back up on the floor beside Karin's bed. Then the shuffling stopped and Toshiro called her name. With an irritated groan from having to leave her nice cold pillow, Karin drew herself up to be sitting up, back on her feet. She raised an eyebrow at the Soul Reaper standing about three feet away from her.
"Question," he pointed to the wall behind her, "What is that?"
Karin looked behind her, but when she found nothing she turned back, "I don't se- Eeep!"
"Ah, so you are ill."
Toshiro was a lot closer than three feet now. In fact, he was less than 12 inches, and he had his palm firmly pressed against her forehead. Not that she was complaining. She almost moaned from the pleasure of his freezing touch on her warm face. Luckily, she got her head back together before she could carry out such an embarrassing act.
She smacked his hand away. "You tricked me!" she snapped, "And I'm not sick, you're just freezing!"
Toshiro climbed up onto her bed and sat beside her a little too close for her comfort. Still, she didn't move away. She hadn't noticed it until Ichigo had showed up, but her room was really hot without Toshiro around. He was like a walking, talking air conditioner on a burning hot day. It was nice.
"Well, now we're even," he explained, referring to back in the snow when she had distracted him so she could pull out the glass in his arm.
Back in the snow
Karin didn't think her face could get any hotter, but apparently she was wrong. And it was really starting to hurt. She hoped she wasn't getting a migraine or something.
"Karin?" Toshiro was getting worried now like, on the verge of swearing again, worried. Karin's face was getting redder, and the heat radiating off of her was actually making him a little woozy. He reached a hand forward and placed it on her forehead again, resisting a wince when he did so.
Karin reached up and brushed his hand away again, but weaker this time. "I'm not sick. Stop worrying about me," she sounded like a General giving orders.
Toshiro was good with orders. Well, with giving them. Not so much the other way around. His eyebrows slanted forward, his mouth set into a tight frown and his eyes locked onto Karin, "Shut up already, will you?"
"Wha-?" Karin did her best to look at him, despite her wincing from a severe headache she now had.
"Shut up," he told her, "Look, I get it, okay? You're Karin Kurosaki, little sister of the great Ichigo Kurosaki, and because of that you want to stand on your own two feet like your brother. I get that you don't want to lean on anyone or ask anyone for help, and I get that you don't want me worrying about you because we don't get to spend a lot of time together, and you just want our little bits of time to be simple and easy and
I don't know
fun, I guess."
With a deep breath, Toshiro suddenly shot out and wrapped his arms around Karin, pulling her towards him. Her burning face instantly started to feel better pressed against Toshiro's freezing chest. "But for once
" he kept his voice low, but loud enough not to be a whisper, "Just shut up and let me help you."
"You've been helping me all day," she muttered, irritated.
Toshiro sighed, "Clearly, you do not understand the concept of 'shut up', Kurosaki."
Karin turned her face slightly to cool another side. She smiled, "Clearly."
Toshiro didn't sleep on the mat, even though they had gone through all the trouble of getting it upstairs, hiding it and bringing it back out again. Whatever. Like he cared. Karin's bed was more comfortable anyway.
"Do you remember after that first game together?"
He glanced down at the top of Karin's head, which was resting on his chest. Her fever had dropped exponentially, and for that he was glad, but still
They were kind of comfortable laying on top of her bed together. He had his head resting on her pillow, with one hand tucked under the pillow and his head, and the other hand laying on the bed beside Karin who was completely tucked in with the blanket he was supposed to use that night with the mat.
That first game
he thought, staring at the ceiling, "I was shorter than you then."
Karin rolled her eyes beneath her closed eyelids. Typical Toshiro. Of course that's what he would remember first. "But after it
" she murmured, "When you were getting ready to leave with Rangiku
"After you called me an Elementary student? Or was it a little kid?" Toshiro shrugged slightly, "Something like that."
"Yeah," Karin's voice was light, like she wanted to laugh, but was too tired, "I told you to come by some time so we could play soccer again."
"If I'm recalling this correctly, I said, 'No,'" Toshiro replied, confused as to why she would want to bring up something unpleasant at a time like this.
Karin nodded against his skin, "Yeah
But you didn't leave the mortal world
"I wasn't ordered to return to the Soul Society then," he explained. She didn't really think he stuck around this human dump five years ago just to hang around with her, did she?
"You came to Urahara's shop," she reminded him, "I was playing with Jinta and Ururu."
Toshiro remembered that part. She had nearly taken him out with a baseball, but he had simply stepped to one side and let it whiz past. Then she came running over to him to say 'Hi'. It had been totally normal until Urahara had started making snide comments about him liking Karin not only because she was a human, but because she was Ichigo's little sister as well.
"I asked if you wanted to verse me in soccer," she continued.
Toshiro frowned. "I still said, 'No'," he said tersely. Man, now that he was thinking about it, he was kind of a dickhead to her back then.
"It was okay. You were busy with Soul Reaper stuff. I didn't take it personally," she told him, hearing the tightness of his voice, and the regret trickling from the edges of his tone, "And besides, I found you later, remember?"
He had gone back to the soccer field late that night he saw her at Urahara's shop. It had been two days since their soccer game and he was just stopping by to make sure no other hollows had come out the way the Menos had. "I found you," he corrected, "You were practicing all alone in the twilight."
"And I challenged you to a game."
"Not much of a challenge."
"You still played."
"I had some free time on my hands."
Karin sighed. "Still," she continued, no interested in arguing with him, "It was
Toshiro could tell Karin was beginning to nod off. Maybe he should just stop talking and let her sleep? They had had one busy day after all
He had to ask
Do you love me?"
Toshiro had never been so emotional. In fact, even then he was actually frightened to hear what she would say. He held his breath and bit his tongue - instantly regretting the words after they had left his mouth.
What did it matter what her answer was anyway? It wasn't like
It wasn't like they could ever be together. There were rules. He had duties. It was all too complicated.
They had this one day of normalcy, but that wasn't how the world worked. The world wasn't all running away on trains and goofing off all day. The world was cruel and harsh and couldn't be changed - even with the best of intentions.
There were several long moments of Toshiro waiting before he suddenly started chuckling low in his throat. He tried to keep it down, but it was just too funny.
Karin was asleep. Toshiro had just asked one of the biggest questions a guy could ask
and she was asleep.
It was pretty hysterical from where he lay.
Where he lay
Hm. Toshiro tilted his head down slightly, watching Karin breathing. Every breath was her sustaining her life, while every second breathing ticked the clock down closer and closer to death. It was kind of ironic.
Without thinking, Toshiro lifted his hand up to her hair and picked up a strand. He just kind of held it in his hand, messing with it. He didn't know why, (though he had a sneaking suspicion it was something he had seen on one of the gooey romance movies MoMo had made him watch at some point), but it entertained him.
In fact, all of Karin entertained him. From the first moment he met her, all through their once-a-month games, all through the 5 years he had been coming to see her in the real world, all through this time they had spent together, and even now
she entertained him. She made him laugh - a feat rarely accomplished by only a select few.
She entertained him
Her stubbornness. Her hard work. Her being clueless. Her intelligence. Her weakness. Her strength. Her disregard for her safety. Her protectiveness of others. Her mistrust of strangers. Her love for her family. Her jealousy. Her kindness. Her wrath. Her outspokenness.
just by being human.
And what a strange thing it was to be in love with a human.
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"Huh? Oh, Capitan! You're back!"
Toshiro felt all his hair stand on end the minute he walked through the door of the 10th Division meeting room. He had been expecting to get called to stand before the Central 46, so he silently panicked every time someone said his name or spoke to him. It was still early, and his nerves were already fried.
He sighed, forcing himself to relax, "Hello Rangiku. I trust all was well while I was gone?"
She nodded a few too many times, "But of course, Capitan! Nothing but work and more work. All pretty boring around here." She set down a stack of papers on his desk and clapped her hands together like she was dusting something off of them, "How was your trip to the World of the Living?"
"Fine," he brushed her off, heading for his desk and the mountain of paperwork that had accumulated while he was gone. He resisted the urge to groan. He had never had any issue with paperwork, but this was a bit much for being gone only one extra day. "My business
took a little longer than expected," he murmured, picking up a paper to read.
Matsumoto closed her eyes and nodded three times in agreement. "Well that's fine, sir," she told him, re-opening her eyes, "I covered for you."
Toshiro blinked in surprise and turned to look over at her with one eyebrow raised. "You
?" he began, but changed his mind and instead asked, "But why?"
She shrugged as if it were no big deal that she had put her ass on the line to protect his. She had made herself an accessory for what he could be tried for as treason, and she didn't seem to care in the least. "You're my Capitan, sir," she said simply, "I'll always be there for you."
Toshiro's expression went flat. What a load of crap. "Uh-huh
" he said, holding up the paper in his hand, "And the fact that you have done absolutely no paperwork the entire time I was gone has nothing to do with it, right?"
"Capitan!" Rangiku gasped, attempting to feign shock, "I'm surprised at you! How could you think I would stoop so low?!"
With a roll of his eyes, Toshiro placed the paper back on one of the stacks. He had finally figured out why there was so much damn paperwork and she was standing there trying to pretend like she didn't know what he was talking about. "Sucking up so you don't have to do paper sounds exactly like you!" he snapped.
Matsumoto nibbled on her lower lip. He had her there. "Hm
" she raised a closed fist to tap on her chin softly for a moment while she thought, "Okay then I guess I'll have to change tactics."
"To what?" Toshiro asked, raising an eyebrow.
She responded with another one of her nonchalant shrugs, "Blackmail."
"Tch," Capitan Toshiro scoffed, crossing his arms over his chest, "And just what do you think you have to use against me as blackmail?"
Toshiro stiffened. Every muscle locked together and threatened to keep him trapped in place for the rest of his life - however long that life may or may not be.
"He was practically insane," she went on, a smile spreading across her face when she noticed the temperature of the air drop a few degrees, "Screaming all these things about having you beheaded. Something about you kidnapping and raping his sister
Toshiro didn't want to say anything. He didn't want Matsumoto thinking anything less of his authority by thinking that she had gotten to him. But it was too late. Before he could stop himself he was rushing through an explanation like a 10 year old trying to avoid getting spanked, "I didn't do any of that! If anything, she kidnapped me! And all we did was kiss - which Ichigo doesn't even know about. Besides she- Wait. Where the hell are you going?"
Rangiku had started walking away after 'I didn't do any of that!' because, (if it wasn't already obvious), she had won this round. Which mad her feel pretty good, considering it was the first time she had won anything against her Capitan in over a decade.
She stopped and turned back slightly, jutting a thumb at the hallway through the open sliding door. "I was gonna head over to the hot springs," she told him with a smile, "You're welcome to join me as soon as you're done with the paperwork, Capitan."
"And just what makes you think I'm going to do all of your paperwork?!" he snapped, unfolding his arms and slamming one hand down on an oh-so-small area of his desk not covered with paper, "Just who the hell do you think is the Capitan here?!"
Rangiku placed one hand on her hip, using the other hand to wave a finger around in the air as she spoke, "Why, you are, Capitan! But apparently you're the Capitan with some dirty little secrets, and you know how bad I am at keeping secrets."
The two of them held each others eyes for a long moment. Toshiro with fury blazing in his irises and Rangiku just
being Rangiku. Finally, it was Toshiro who caved. He looked down and to the side, muttering what sounded like swear words in at least four different languages.
"See ya later, Capitan!" Rangiku bid him farewell and disappeared out the door.
Toshiro sighed with exhaustion. Emotionally, physically, mentally
These past couple days had completely drained him. "Women," he scoffed, yanking his chair out from his desk.
But just as Toshiro was about to sit down, he noticed something odd. All the space beneath his desk was also filled with stacks and stacks
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~