Story time! Okay, so this was written for emichii/gimmical-impact for Hitsukarin Secret Santa (with the prompt being "lights"). But I kinda cheated and wrote about an idea that was already rattling around in my brain, but hadn't written because it had epic story potential, and I didn't feel like starting another epic. I figured I could kill two birds with one stone, and that this way, I wouldn't have to plot out every single thing and the fic would be shorter.

Clearly I have too much faith in myself, because this turned out waaaay longer than I anticipated. But once I started, I couldn't condense it anymore. Why do I even try to write short things. LOL

Anyway, hope everyone had a great holiday and is now having a good year so far. I've got one more project I'm obsessed with and have to finish, and then Rapture is next on my list. ^_^

It's terrifying how her life changes in an instant.

While she hadn't planned out her entire existence, she generally knew the direction her life would take. She did before today, that is. Without her consent, she is jolted onto another, less stable track, freefalling through uncertainty with a complete stranger. She is so angry, she's sure she can spit fire.

She is thirteen, and it seems like a normal Thursday afternoon until she and her twin walk home from school and right into chaos. It's not the chaos she's used to—her father and brother yelling, battling in the living room, the television blasting, pots and pans clanging in the kitchen as Yuzu fixes their meal. Instead, the silence as they enter the house is deafening, sinister even.

Her father is waiting for them, and the expression on his face immediately makes the bottom of her stomach drop out. Karin has never seen him look so serious. This, coupled with the fact that Ichigo is also here—why is he here? His school won't let out for another hour—alerts her to the fact that something is seriously wrong.

"What happened?" Yuzu asks quietly, clearly on the same wavelength. On a normal Thursday afternoon, she would set her backpack aside and get to whipping up their dinner. Today, her hands wring the straps nervously, her feet seemingly rooted to the ground.

Karin also wants answers. Because unknown to her twin, there are two other people standing in their kitchen, wearing the same robes she saw Ichigo sometimes dart away in. A boy, no taller than her, with white hair and an intense gaze. And—"Rukia-nee?"

"Rukia-nee?" Yuzu asks, alarmed. She looks at her family confusedly. "Is she okay?"

Rukia looks at them sadly. On the table, Ichigo's hands clench tightly into fists.

"What are you doing here?" Karin demands. She points at the white-haired stranger. "Who is that? What the hell is going on?"

Yuzu scans the general direction of where Karin points, and sees nothing. "Who?"

"Sit down, girls," Isshin says, so full of authority that they both sit at the table immediately. "We don't have much time."

"For what?" Karin asks, and no one answers. She turns to her brother, but he won't look at her. Can't look at her. "For what?"

It is Rukia who takes mercy on them. "You are in danger," she tells them gently. "We must act quickly."

Ichigo stands, slamming his fists on the table. His sisters startle, but no one else blinks an eye. "WHY?" he thunders, rounding on his father before throwing a scathing look back to Rukia.

Isshin's expression hardens. "You know why."

Rukia moves to put a hand on Ichigo's arm, and for a moment, Karin thinks he might throw her off. But he doesn't. "This is the only way, Ichigo. They will use them to get to you."

"Then why are you here?" he spits, too emotional to realize just what he is admitting. "Being exiled and put back in that…that thing!"

Her gaze softens. "I'm not exiled. All of this is my choice."

Yuzu shudders, and Karin realizes that confusion has brought her sister to the brink of tears. "What is happening?"

"Don't panic, honey," Isshin replies, though it does no good to squash the panic welling behind the girl's eyes. "We just have to go on a little trip, is all." He retrieves something from his pocket and disperses one to each of his children, though Ichigo won't take it and Rukia has to.

Some kind of tiny pill sits in Karin's palm. "What—"

"We don't have time to explain," Isshin interrupts, tone almost pleading. "Please, just take it, all of you. You too Yuzu. Better safe than sorry."

Karin wants to protest, but Yuzu slips the pill between her lips without question, so she numbly does the same. It dissolves immediately, bitter on her tongue.

As soon as they take it, Ichigo sharply pounds a fist on the table again. But then he slumps, visibly deflating like a balloon. Wordlessly, he holds out his hand, shooting the pill Rukia places on his palm down his throat.

"We have to go," the white-haired boy murmurs, and Karin starts at the sound of his voice. It is deeper than she expected, more raspy. He's looking right at her, and her heart falters in her chest.

"He's right," Isshin says solemnly, and then he is pulling all three of his children into an embrace and squeezing tightly. And it is different than all of the other times he had done so, so unlike the other times, she can feel it, so Karin doesn't push him off. Instead, she presses into her brother's side and buries her face into her father's chest.

He kisses the top of her head. "Be strong." His eyes lock with Ichigo's, and he ruffles his hair. "Be safe." A squeeze to Yuzu's shoulder, but no extra reassurances.

It suddenly occurs to Karin that her family is going on separate trips, that it is splitting in many directions, and she has trouble swallowing around the lump in her throat. "Wait!"

Isshin lets them go, but keeps a firm hold on Yuzu. "Go with Toshiro-kun, Karin."

Her head whips towards the boy—Toshiro—who looks back at her, expressionless. "What—"

Rukia pulls her into a quick hug. "Don't worry about your brother. I'll take good care of him." Behind her, Ichigo's jaw is set painfully tight. But from the determined look in her eyes, Karin can tell Rukia means every word she says.

"We'll be together soon," her father says, smiling. From the fake way it looks, she can tell he means nothing he says.


Silently, she follows the white-haired boy, walking with just enough distance between them to signal her displeasure. Though she is sure he already knows, that her fury is palpable in the air. It is so intense, it's making her feel nauseous.

Still, he says nothing, quickly guiding her down the familiar path that she knows leads to Urahara Shoten. She wants to snap at him, to remind him that now isn't the time to pick up a goddamn candy bar, but she is just so angry, so so angry, that she swallows the shout, clamps her teeth down so hard on the inside of her cheek that she tastes metal. Says not a word, and follows him into the store.

Urahara seems to be waiting for them. "Welcome," he says, and it is the same as always, except now there is no annoying lilt to his voice, and now he's looking at her from under his stupid hat with an expression that has to be pity. "What can I do for you two?"

"The gigai," the boy—Toshiro—says. Straight to the point, she'll give him that. "Quickly."

Urahara looks at her again, and Karin definitely sees pity. She is going to punch someone. She is going to be sick all over the potato chips display. But then he turns away, and she swallows heavily to combat the bile climbing up her throat. "Follow me."

He leads them past the storefront, back where she assumes he lives. In passing, Karin catches sight of Ururu and Jinta, but neither of them will look at her, and they quickly disappear.

They stop in a small storage room. Urahara lifts the lid off of a crate and reaches into it. "Gigai," he says nonchalantly, and Karin nearly jumps out of her skin when she sees him holding up Toshiro, sees Toshiro examine himself before nodding.


And then the Toshiro she's used to touches the one with the dead eyes, and with a small flash of light, there is only one Toshiro, wearing jeans and a black polo shirt and scrutinizing the other items Urahara has in the crate. "This will do. You know where to send the bill."

"Of course," the shopkeeper says. He frowns slightly. "That gigai—"

"I am aware," the boy interrupts cooly. He reaches into the crate and pulls out a backpack, slipping the straps over his shoulders. "Is there anything else? We are running out of time."

Urahara readjusts his hat. "That should be all."

Toshiro nods once, then turns to her. "Let's go, Kurosaki."

She doesn't know what to do. So she follows.

"Have a good night, Kurosaki-san," the blond man calls after them. "Be sure to stay hydrated."


There is a taxi waiting for them a few blocks over, and Toshiro opens the door for her. A chill runs down her spine, and she has the sudden realization that they are actually leaving. That they might not ever be back.

For the first time, Toshiro looks directly into her eyes. Behind the frosty exterior, Karin can see the sadness in them. "We have to go," he says quietly, fingers brushing her elbow. She jumps, as if touching a live wire, and he hastily retrieves his unnaturally cool digits. He looks away. "We have to go."

Karin breathes in the Karakura air, holds the taste of it right next to her heart.

She gets in the car.


The taxi driver begins to protest driving children without an adult present. Toshiro shoves a stack of bills into his face, and he shuts up and drives.


It's a good thing that their destination was only an hour's drive away, because as soon as Toshiro ushers her out of the cab and up a few flights of stairs to a simple, one-room apartment, Karin loses her lunch all over the floor.

She is simultaneously freezing and burning up, her skin clammy. Her hand shakes as she lifts it and wipes her mouth. She is disgusting.

Toshiro looks at her sympathetically, and when he touches her this time—chilly hand resting worriedly near the small of her back—she doesn't protest. Is too weak to as he leads her to the small bathroom and plants her in front of the toilet.

"Let it out," he murmurs, and she finds his voice, the slow pattern his fingers make on her back, oddly soothing.


She is disoriented, and oddly empty.

As she sits up, sheets and a blanket fall away from her form, and she realizes that she is laying on a futon. It's dark out, the only light coming from the streetlamp outside the window. It startles her to see eyes looking at her from across the darkness, but then she remembers seeing them in her convoluted dreams and relaxes slightly.

"Where are we?" she demands, or tries to. Her voice croaks with disuse.

"A safe house." His is no better, and he clears his throat. Slowly moves closer, trying not to startle her. "We'll leave as soon as you're better."

Karin fists the sheets in her lap. "How long have I been out?"

He is there then, close enough for her to see the bags around his normally bright eyes. He pushes a water bottle in her direction, and she instinctively takes it. "Three days."

She chokes, water dribbling past her lips and down her windpipe. He makes to reach for her, then stops himself. "What's wrong with me?" she finally whispers.

The silence between them makes her stomach clench, and for a second, Karin thinks she might vomit again. Outside, the wind sways the branches of a tree, making the latticed shadows on Toshiro's face dance.

"Nothing is wrong with you," he finally says. "Those were just the aftereffects of the reiatsu eraser."


"Your spiritual pressure. It's why you could see spirits."

Karin's blood freezes. Why is he speaking in past tense?

"It's unique to each individual. Yours and Ichigo's, they were too strong, and would give away your locations."

"So you erased it," she says quietly. And not just that—her family. Multiple parts of her, parts that she needs to feel loved and safe and whole, all ripped from her at once.

He looks away.

Karin lays back down, turns away from him. Pulls the covers over her head and hides the hot tears that trek down her face.

She bites her lip.



"I made some tea," he says, holding the mug out to her.

"I don't drink tea," she snaps, lying through her teeth.

She is pissed off. She is fury incarnate. Rage is fighting to get out of her, and she wants to let it. But he is the only possible target, and she remembers his gentle hands, his sad eyes, and it is too unfair to take it out on him.

She takes the mug with a sigh. Wraps her hands around it, attempts to filter some of the warmth into her newly barren soul. "Will you answer my questions now?"

They are sitting cross-legged on the floor because their apartment has no furniture aside from the futon she slept on, and the hardwood creaks when he shifts. The sun filtering through the window makes his snowy hair glow, like a halo. It's absurd. Everything is absurd. "Of course."

"Who the hell are you?"

"My name is Hitsugaya Toshiro," he replies easily, taking a sip of his tea. "I was assigned to protect you."

"You," she deadpans. "No offense, but you're shorter than I am. How old are you, eleven?"

She can tell he's irritated by the sudden tightness in his jaw. "Eighty-six," he grumbles. "And I'm Captain of the Tenth Division. I'm more than capable."

Her mouth drops open, but she quickly recovers. She remembers the dark robes that she caught her brother wearing, that Rukia-nee was wearing the last time she saw her, what Toshiro was also wearing. She still isn't exactly sure what her family is involved in, but whatever it is, her current companion is apparently high-ranking. "You're a captain? Why would a captain be assigned to protect a teenage girl? Isn't that below you?"

For a few silent moments, he merely holds her gaze, his jaw still tight. Then, he lowers his stare to the contents of his mug. "I volunteered."

"And why would you do that? You don't even know me!"

"But I know your father." He shifts again.

The words turn her blood to ice. Every time he answers her question, a million more pop up in its place. She has the very strong urge to throw something. "What is going on?! Where are we?"

Her voice breaks at the end, and she hates herself for it. Toshiro no doubt hears it, but to her relief, doesn't react.

"You're in protective custody," he says calmly. "You, your sister, and your brother. Kuchiki Rukia and I were assigned to protect you."

From what? she wants to ask, but does it really matter? Her brother had probably swung his giant sword at the wrong monster, and now they're all in danger. Or maybe it was her. Maybe she cursed out annoying spirits one too many times. It's also quite possible that it has to do with her father (who has become such a mystery in the past few days that she wonders if she ever really knew him at all).

Either way, it's come to this.

"And we are currently at a safe house," he continues. "As soon as Soul Society contacts us, we will move to the next location."

"And until then?"

"We wait."


It's too much information, and not enough. Either way, it quickly becomes sensory overload, and Karin decides to put the questions on hold. Besides, if she's getting the gist of things right, she has plenty of time to ask.

They spend the day inside the apartment, eating the meals Toshiro prepares and having awkward conversation. To her surprise, when it's time for bed, he merely sits in a corner.

"Don't you need to sleep?" she asks, baffled. He looks so tired.

"Of course I do." He yawns, as if punctuating his point. "Probably more than before I came here, but I do sleep."

"Really." She frowns. "And you normally sleep like that?"

Toshiro pointedly looks around the unfurnished apartment. "I don't know where else I can."

"Right here, obviously," she says, patting the empty spot next to her on the futon. It isn't until his head whips in her direction, a stunned look on his face, that she realizes just what her proposal sounds like and flushes. "G-Get your mind out of the gutter. You need your sleep too, and I don't see how you're supposed to be protecting me if you're a zombie. There's plenty of room for both of us."

The intensity of his stare makes her uncomfortable. Makes her fidget. "I don't think that's a good idea."

"Don't be stupid." He's actually making her second-guess herself, but she digs her metaphorical heels in the dirt and stands her ground. "I'm not even using the space, anyway. Just stay on your side and everything will be find and dandy."

She thinks he might fight her some more, but he is so, so tired, and she can see it on his face. "You're sure?"

She lifts the covers in response. He gets up, and Karin marvels at how different he looks—instead of his dark captain's robes, or the jeans and polo, now he's dressed like her, in a tshirt and sweatpants found in the apartment's single closet. He doesn't look like he can do much protecting, and he certainly doesn't look eighty-six.

Tiredly, he reaches for the light switch, and then she can only just make out his hair in the darkness before she feels him slide under the covers and turn his back to her.

She does the same, her heart beating audibly in her ears, the warmth of his body slowly seeping to her side. "Toshiro?"

She feels him turn to face her, but can't muster up the courage to meet his eyes.

"Will I see my family again?"

For a moment, all she hears is their breathing, the melancholic rustle of the covers as he shifts.

"I don't know."


Toshiro doesn't get contacted for another two days, and Karin isn't exactly sure how it happens. All she knows is that she is emerging from the bathroom, hair still damp from her shower, when she sees him packing a small bag.

He pauses slightly at the sight of her, and then continues to stuff another shirt in the bag. "Time to go."

To be honest, she's kind of excited. Being cramped in a small room, not able to go outside and with little to entertain herself is making her stir crazy. But dread also pools in her stomach, and she has to concentrate on not freaking out.

He seems to be able to tell anyway, a sympathetic look passing over his face.

"Where are we going?" she asks before he can voice his pity.

He zips the bag. "Who knows."


This time, they travel by bus.

She takes the window seat, staring at the disappearing trees and houses as they drive through the mountains.

He's looking at the tv closest to them, though Karin doubts that he's watching the old movie that's playing.

She wonders if he's as anxious as she is.


It's late when they finally arrive to their destination, so late that her eyelids keep fluttering closed. But then he puts a cool hand on her wrist and she is wide awake, pumped full of adrenaline.

"This is our stop," he says, and then he stands, his touch abruptly gone. She follows him down the aisle, and then down the bus steps.

"You kids be careful," the bus driver calls after them, and then Karin is reminded of how ridiculous they must look, two children traveling alone late at night.

She wonders how this is ever going to work.


Their next apartment is bigger than the last one. Instead of merely encompassing one room, it has two bedrooms, along with a small kitchen and living area.

Karin wordlessly drops down on one of the beds, mentally and physically exhausted. Toshiro gently places her bag next to her closet, and then with one last, unreadable look, leaves the room, shutting the door behind him.

But no matter how tired she feels, her mind refuses to quiet itself. The air feels different, tastes different, and she is just too on edge. Instead of being granted the sleep that she craves, she spends the night watching the shadows dance across her ceiling.


"Why do I even have to go?" she asks, pouring tea into both of their mugs. "Does it even matter anymore?"

"Yes," he murmurs, nodding his thanks. "Legally, you have to be there. And we don't want to gain more attention than we have to."

"Really," she scoffs, incredulity dripping from the word. "It's not like we're two minors living alone or anything."

His gaze softens somewhat. "More reason not to stand out any more. Besides, our lives could use more normalcy."

Her venomous answer burns on her tongue, begging to be unleashed, because really, someone is apparently trying to kill her, and she has been ripped from her family and placed into some sort of witness protection, and how the hell is anything ever going to be normal? But when she looks at him, she sees the darkness under his eyes, how his gaze has a sort of hollowness to it, and she knows he slept just as well as she did.

So she swallows tea that is still slightly too warm and forces the words back down.



It takes a cautious hand on her arm for Karin to respond, and when she does, she jumps as if shocked.

Her classmate takes her hand back, startled. "I'm sorry." She adjusts her glasses. "It is Yamada, right?"

"Yes," Karin breathes, annoyed. Because Yamada Hanako, really? Isn't she supposed to be inconspicuous? Yamada Hanako says, I clearly am hiding something, but please ignore me. "Can I help you…?"

"Fukada." She shifts. "Fukada Yumi. Remember?"

Karin doesn't. She doesn't see any point in doing so—in trying to forge relationships with people when they can never really get to know her, when they might have to be forgotten at a moment's notice. Still, she doesn't tell Fukada this. She doesn't tell Fukada anything, and the girl bites her lip at the awkward silence.

"Is that your brother?" she asks, inclining her head across the room. Not taking the hint.

Her eyes follow hers, land on the white-haired figure seemingly engrossed in a book. "To—" Karin catches herself. Swallows. Shrugs. "Taro? Yeah."

"He's cute," Fukada whispers mischievously, but Karin has stopped listening, instead focusing on Toshiro, who she can now tell looks at the pages but sees nothing. For a second, his eyes meet hers, and he looks as tired as she feels.

She looks away.


It takes about a week before Karin decides she no longer gives a shit.

She is exhausted, unable to get any sleep in a bed that is not hers, in a house that is not hers, in a town that is not hers. Whenever she's able to doze off, her slumber is restless, filled with dreams and faces that wake her, ready to cry.

On the sixth night in her new home—after hearing her sister's laugh and seeing her brother's scowl and feeling her father's smothering, yet comforting embrace—she wakes with a start, grabs her pillow, and climbs out of bed.

The distance between their rooms is short, and in no time at all, she is standing in his doorway, looking at his form under the covers. His bright hair is the only thing clearly visible in the low light, and she stares at it, knowing he's awake and waiting for him to say something. To stop her.

He merely shifts, makes more room. So she walks over and slips underneath the sheets.

He turns to face her, normally clear eyes surprisingly dark. She wordlessly returns his stare, wondering if she looks just as haunted.

He exhales, the warm breath caressing her face, and then he shuts his eyes, snowy eyelashes fluttering closed.

She sighs, heart calming slightly at the reminder that she is not alone.

They have each other.


It's the first night that they're both able to sleep soundly, and when the alarm goes off the next morning, it takes a few minutes before either of them hears it.

After that, Karin's room is rarely used.


They're having dinner one night when Karin notices something peculiar. She leans over the table, towards him, and though he keeps a wary eye on her, he doesn't shy away from her, from her curious hand burying itself into his hair.

"You have a black hair," she says, amused.

Toshiro freezes. Looks away.

Still, she continues to tease. "I've never heard of people's hair turning black before. Is that normal where you're from?"

A pause. Long enough for the small smile to fall from her lips.


"No," he answers, meeting her eyes again. "It's not normal."

"Then what…"

"We didn't just have to get rid of your reiatsu." He swallows. "Mine is pretty noticeable too. We had to hide it."

She wants to press him, to make him get to the damn point already, but she stays silent. Waits him out.

"This body." He looks down at his hands. "Kuchiki and I agreed to these bodies. They slowly swallow our reiatsu. Slowly make us human."

"Human?" She slowly retrieves her hand. Makes a slight detour down his jaw before removing it completely. "How long does that take?"

"Ten years."

She guesses that it was assumed the enemy would be caught by then, or they would give up. Still, she waits until they are in their bed, covered by sheets and darkness, to ask, "What happens after ten years?"

They breathe.

"I don't know."


They're able to stay there for a good six months before all hell breaks loose.

Karin is walking with Yumi, who has managed to wear her down with her persistent friendship attempts. And then she isn't, and they're both flying through the air, knocked off their feet by some unseen force.

Her landing is painful, the rough gravel scraping against her skin, but Karin is more stunned than anything else. And then Toshiro is there, blue eyes steely and looking off into another direction.

"We have to go," he says, and she gets the odd feeling that the person talking to her isn't the one she sits across from at breakfast, sleeps next to at night. Just like her not-brother brother.

Her head whips around, searching for her friend, who lays unmoving on the ground feet away. "But Yumi—"

"It's not after her," not-Toshiro says sharply, and then his arms are around her, and he's carrying her, and they're getting away, running away from something she can no longer see.

It hits her again—the emptiness, the part of her she has lost. She thought that it was getting better with time, that eventually something else would fill its place, or at least things would reorganize so that she no longer has a gaping hole. But she realizes now that that is impossible, that she will never fully be rid of the chill in her bones.

Not-Toshiro seems to know this, because his eyes become soft with compassion.


They take a train this time.

Karin watches silently as the mountains flatten, as buildings get more sparse and farther apart.

The small farmhouse they arrive at has one bedroom and is on a decent plot of land, but she can't find it in herself to get even a little excited.

Nothing is guaranteed anymore.


"Is he your boyfriend?" a small group of girls ask curiously, surrounding her desk. It's been a few months, but Karin hasn't bothered learning any of their names. She learned her lesson with Yumi.

"Yes," she answers flatly, telling them what they want to hear. Praying they'll go away. Wanting nothing more than to go back to her isolated cocoon.

And then school is dismissed and he is there, right by her side, sliding her backpack over his shoulder. And she smiles, because that's all he wants too, him and her and their little house.


Sometimes she can't help but see her sister prancing beside her, smiling and prattling about her day. It sits on Karin's chest, squeezes all the air out of her, smothers her.

Somehow, he always knows. Quietly slips a hand in hers and grounds her in reality.

Only then is she able to take a single gulp of air, but it is enough.


"What's the matter?" she asks. He had left a few moments ago to get some groceries, but now he's back, hands empty, standing in the entryway.

He looks at her dazedly. "I'm cold."

"It's winter," she points out, eyebrows furrowing.

He looks away, distant. "I never get cold."

And she understands.

Wordlessly—because what can she possibly say?—she moves to their coat closet, retrieves a green scarf that matches his beautiful eyes. Takes her time gently wrapping it around his neck, his skin a little too warm to the touch.

Lingers a bit too long.

Watches him let her.


She is sixteen, and she can't stop crying.

Her hands shake, and he reaches over to steady them with his own. "This probably isn't a good idea," he says levelly. "But I think my lieutenant sent this. And it's obviously for you. So."

On the back, her brother's familiar script informs her, It's a girl.

Kurosaki Karin takes one look at the picture of her dark-haired niece and bursts into tears.

She hasn't cried in years, but now she does so freely, knowing she is an ugly crier and will soon be too splotchy and runny to look at, and doing so anyway. Releasing all of the tension that she didn't realize she was harboring, and the tension that she did.

Toshiro looks concerned. "How can I help?"

Puberty has hit him full-force. He is now almost as tall as she remembers her brother being, but she has no problem rising on her tiptoes and throwing her arms around his neck. "You just did," she murmurs into his shoulder. "Thank you."


She is seventeen, and as she gazes at him through the darkness of their room, she knows exactly what she wants, what she has wanted for a long time.

Likewise, she sees the way he looks at her when he thinks she isn't looking, feels the way his once completely platonic touches linger.

So, after four years of sleeping by his side with an invisible barrier in between them, Karin finally decides to cross it. Gathering her resolve, she leans forward those scant few inches and presses her lips against his.

His eyes shoot open. "What are you doing?"

"What does it look like I'm doing?" she responds, a hand creeping over his chest. A tongue meeting the corner of his mouth.

But he grabs her, slides away. Stares at her from the edge of their bed, eyes bright and startled in the moonlight. "Why are you—" The words die in his throat, and he swallows. Leaves the room.

Karin listens for the shower to shut off, but even after it finally does, he doesn't return to bed. She stuffs her head under her pillow, face burning with rejection.


The next morning, he is waiting for her at breakfast. She wants to pretend that last night didn't happen, to act like they always do, but that hope is immediately crushed when he opens his mouth.

"I wanted to," he says softly, before she can even sit down, grab a plate.

She freezes.

There is a flush creeping up his neck, but he doesn't stop looking her dead in the eye, and his tone is steady and serious. "I've wanted to for a long time."

And now she's blushing. "Then why did you push me away?" she asks airily. As if his rejection hadn't felt like someone had stabbed her.

"Because you only did it because you think I'm the only one." He swallows. "And I don't want you to feel like you're stuck with me. You're…amazing, and you can have any guy you want."

Her blood thrums, burns beneath her skin, and it isn't from his compliments. She is furious. "Of course you're the only one!" she hisses, shoving him in the chest hard enough to make him take a step backwards to regain his balance. "It can only be you! Will only be you!"

For someone who is supposedly a genius, he's a fucking idiot. How can there ever be anyone else? Who else can possibly, truly understand her? Wordlessly rub circles on her back when she wakes up in the middle of the night, panicked, her family still dancing over the back of her eyelids. Give her space when she closes herself off and stares into nothingness.

His life was ripped from him just like hers. He may have chosen it, out of some weird sense of duty or whatever the hell else, but the fact still remains that Toshiro is effectively cut off from the world he had known, separated from his own friends and family.

They are the same.

He chose to dedicate his life to her, and Karin just doesn't understand why it's so ludicrous for her to want to do the same.

"Don't you ever tell me what I'm feeling," she yells. "I am not a child, and don't treat me like one. You of all people should understand that."

His gaze softens, and he reaches for her. She makes to push him again, but then he's captured her hands and slanted his mouth over hers and the fight just drops out of her.

She finds it hard to stay mad at the taste of his tongue.


It's strange for them to be in bed when the sun is filtering through the blinds, freckling their naked skin. It really highlights how gray his hair is starting to look with the black growing in. Really highlights the way he looks at her, often disguised by darkness.

She leans forward slightly and kisses the underside of his jaw. "What do we do now?" Valiantly ignores the idle patterns his fingers whisper across her thigh. Because her question is loaded, is serious.

She will graduate soon, and then what? Should she go to college for something, take him with her? Should they get married, raise a family in their little house? He can't just live his almost-human life merely following her around. He has to want things, to have goals.

They both need to find a purpose.

"Who knows," he says, and her breathing quickens when his hand roams slightly inward.

Like everything else, they'll get through it together.

A/N: I am a terrible person, but what else is new

P.S.: Don't ask me what was after them because idk and this is one of the places I didn't feel like plotting

P.P.S.: Who the fuck tries to hide people under the names John and Jane Doe get your act together Soul Society

P.P.P.S: I hope you liked it and that it was even remotely worth waiting for~