A/N: I saw episode 132, and got a total urge to write a fic with karin and Toshiro. :) It's a day in the snow! Hope you enjoy it!
Karin glanced out over the snow, then up at the dark sky. She wrapped her arms around her shoulders and rubbed them subconsciously, glancing around for her soccer ball. It was a Saturday morning, and no one was around due to the snow. However, that hadn't stopped Karin from grabbing her ball and trying to get some practice in. She had been so anxious to leave her house—her father was being particularly stupid that day—that she had completely forgotten to grab her coat.
She walked over to her soccer ball, lightly picking it up with her frozen fingers. She smiled faintly as she remembered how her mother had used to organize the family on Saturdays, taking them to the woods for a picnic, or to the park to play a game. Back then she had always taken those moments for granted, always assumed that they would continue to stay simple. But nothing ever stayed simple long.
Straightening, clutching her ball underneath her left arm, she took one last sweep over the empty field. It was peaceful here, really. Most kids her age were inside, playing video games while drinking hot chocolate. Karin had never found pleasure in staying indoors, trying to raise her gaming score to impress her friends the next time they came over. It seemed rather pointless to her. She would much rather go outside, into the beautiful weather, and play soccer or some other sport.
Often times, when life got to be too much, she ran. She didn't have an MP3—her father had said that if she wanted one, she'd have to save up for one, so she bought a new soccer ball instead—but the silence fit her needs perfectly. It gave her time to think, or if things were really bad, it allowed her to escape the problems, if only for a little while.
Once, Ichigo had asked to come along with her on a run. He had gone about halfway through her normal route when he suddenly stopped. When Karin asked what was wrong, he only shook his head and took off in the other direction, telling her that he'd meet up back at the house. Karin resisted the urge to stop him; she had a bad feeling about the direction he was running towards. As she watched him go, she prayed he'd be all right, and had returned to her home early to wait for her brother to get back.
After that, he never offered to accompany her on her runs.
Karin ambled off of the soccer field—the snow was getting too deep to practice anymore—and began walking. She ignored the snow landing on her shoulders as she headed towards an unknown destination. It was early yet; no one expected her back for another hour at least. Her family knew that snow didn't bother her.
After about fifteen minutes of walking, she arrived at her destination. In surprise, she looked down, at the spot where her feet had unconsciously led her. Her mother's grave gleamed in the snow, and the flowers that they had brought the previous visit had wilted. Frowning, Karin reached down and pulled them out of the jar that they had been in, studying them silently. They had been lilies, though they were browned enough to be unrecognizable.
Karin stuffed them into her pocket and knelt down beside her mother's grave, looking solemn, "Don't worry, mom. I'll bring some more flowers once the snow stops." The dead didn't speak, and as such, she received no response that her assurance was heard. Sighing, she stood, closing her eyes in silent prayer.
Once she was done, she opened her dark blue eyes sadly, staring at the sky once more. She blinked as her eyes became misty, and quickly wiped them on her shirt sleeve. The last thing she wanted to do was cry in front of her mother. That stage of her life was done and gone.
Karin shivered, realizing that the temperature was steadily dropping. She knew that she would have to go back and get her coat soon, or risk getting sick.
Just then, someone held out a heavy coat, thrusting it in front of her. Surprised, she quickly looked up, and dark blue eyes met calm sea-green orbs. She continued to stare, and he shifted uncomfortably.
"You're going to catch a cold if you don't wear a coat," Toshiro commented, jostling the coat so she'd notice it.
Karin blinked, "Won't you be cold?"
"No," he responded, "I don't get cold easily. Take it."
She hesitated, and was about to stubbornly push it away when a sneeze wracked her body. Toshiro's eyes flashed with concern, and he moved behind her, putting the coat over her shoulders. Karin scowled, but the sudden warmth was too inviting, so she didn't take the coat off.
Toshiro studied her face, "You're pale. How long have you been out here?"
"Two hours, maybe?" Karin supplied. She was about to retort that she didn't need anyone harping over her health, but stopped. It felt kind of nice to have someone worry about her. She had pretended not to need anyone, but with Toshiro, her defenses crumbled.
"Two hours?" he raised an eyebrow, something that Karin had never been able to do, "I'm impressed. Not many humans can stay outside that long in just a shirt."
"I like the cold," Karin stated, wrapping his coat around her, "It keeps me awake and clears my mind. Plus, not many people are outside when it snows, so I can be alone for a while."
Toshiro nodded in understanding, "Do you want me to leave?"
She shook her head, "You don't have to," she smiled slightly, "Being alone is nice, but having company is just as good."
They stood there for a while, silent, staring at Mrs. Kurosaki's grave. The wind blew slightly, tousling Toshiro's white hair, blowing it into his eyes. He pushed the strand away in mild annoyance, glancing sideways at Karin.
"How old were you?" he asked quietly.
She didn't say anything for a moment. He was about to turn away, sure she wouldn't answer, when she smirked to herself, "I was three. I didn't much understand what was going on, but still…" she paused, "it changed all of our lives."
Toshiro continued to stare at the gravestone, the words etched into it running through his mind. Beside him, Karin sniffed slightly. He looked at her again, not knowing what to say.
"Most people tell me that they're sorry for my loss, but they aren't," Karin whispered, "They didn't even know her. And saying sorry doesn't compensate for what was lost…"
He stayed silent, noting how the wind blew her hair into her face, pale with cold. She looked so lonely, standing there beside him, so different from her normal defiant attitude, that Toshiro wanted to help her. He wanted to tell her something that would make her feel better, to wipe that sad smile off of her face and have her tease him like she normally did. But he knew that nothing he could say would make any difference. This was something she had to deal with on her own.
Toshiro moved silently, wrapping her in a comforting hug. He hoped it would be enough, as it was the best thing he could think of to do. She had to figure things out on her own, but it never hurt to remind her she wasn't alone. The soccer ball lay forgotten at her feet as she turned into Toshiro's chest, finally allowing tears to break free.
He held her tightly to his chest, saying nothing, letting Karin release the feelings that she had kept pent up for so long. He knew that she didn't do this often, and that she would regret it later, but for now she could do nothing but sob into his shirt.
A few minutes later Karin pulled back, sniffling, face pink from embarrassment, "…Sorry…" she mumbled, "I didn't mean to…"
"Don't worry about it," Toshiro shrugged it off, "I'm sure it's hard."
She nodded, "No one really talks about it at home. I can't ask my dad or Yuzu, because they'll just change the subject. Ichigo would listen, but I can't ask him to do that. He was old enough to remember a lot about mom, and he blames himself for her death… He was there when it happened, you know."
Toshiro thought for a moment, "That's probably why he's so bent up on getting more power. He doesn't ever want to be in a helpless situation again."
"Yeah," Karin picked up her soccer ball, wiping her eyes on his coat, "But I'm always afraid that he'll go and do something stupid, and get himself killed too."
"Kurosaki?" Toshiro feigned surprise, "Do something stupid? Impossible."
Karin laughed, and he smirked, glad to have lightened the mood. The burden seemed to have been lifted from her shoulders, for a while at least.
"Let's go," she glanced at her mother's grave, "I think I'm done here for today."
Toshiro turned and led her out of the graveyard, back onto the deserted street. It would seem that everyone was inside today, but that suited them just fine. Karin glanced at the soccer ball in her arms and an evil grin grew on her face. She looked at Toshiro, who was about ten feet ahead of her. His back was to her, so she took the opportunity to kick her soccer ball powerfully, aiming right for his head.
He froze, waiting for two milliseconds before stepping to the left, allowing the ball to whiz by where his head had just been. Karin scowled and ran after it, passing Toshiro in her effort to fetch her ball. He began running as well, easily keeping even with her, an amused smirk on his face.
"Aw! Now we have to catch up to it!" she complained, huffing as she sprinted.
Toshiro scoffed, "If you hadn't thrown it at my head, this wouldn't have happened."
"I didn't throw it," Karin corrected, "I kicked it. And you were supposed to kick it back, or at least stop it."
"I could have. But what would the fun in that be?" he remarked carelessly, still level with Karin. She rolled her eyes and started to slow; the ball had stopped flying and was now rolling, leaving a light indent on the snow. Karin groaned as it rolled just to the edge of a hill, pausing for a split second before rolling down. She narrowed her eyes at Toshiro, clearly thinking 'this is all your fault'.
He chuckled at the expression, and Karin did an immediate right turn, moving to run down the stairs to reach the ball, which had stopped just before the street at the bottom.
However, she took five steps down and promptly slipped on the icy steps. Grabbing at the air frantically, she fell forward, unable to slow or stop her descent. She tucked her arms in, ready to use them as a cushion to protect her head, when Toshiro's body wrapped around hers. He tried to stop them from falling, but it was a losing battle, as the ice conquered him as well. He slipped, and the two of them tumbled down the stairs.
When they finally stopped at the bottom of the hill, Karin groaned and sat up, rubbing her head, "Ouch…" she muttered. She knew that, although the fall was bad, and they would have bruises from it, it could have been a lot worse if Toshiro hadn't been there to protect her. With that thought, she looked around for her friend.
Toshiro was lying less than two feet away, blood running down the right side of his face, stunning sea-green eyes closed. Karin felt a wave of panic rush through her, and she quickly crawled over to his side, bending over his still body.
"Toshiro?" she asked, touching his arm lightly. He didn't respond, and she sat there blindly for a moment, her mind a jumbled mess. Then she gathered enough of her thoughts to realize that a pulse check would be the first thing to do. She picked up his arm and felt for a pulse. It took a minute—a worry-filled, slow-ticking minute—before she noticed a faint beat. With the comforting thought that he was still alive, she pulled off his coat and began dabbing his face, trying to find where the cut was. She prayed that it wasn't too deep.
After she had cleaned the blood off of his face—he was getting kind of pale, and Karin hoped it was due to the cold, not blood loss—she located the cut. It wasn't too big, probably a result of hitting his head on the concrete, and she hoped that it was shallow. Head wounds bled a lot, often causing people false worry for a tiny scratch. She knew; they came into her family's clinic all the time.
She didn't have any bandages, but she hoped that applying pressure on the wound would stop the bleeding. Before trying that, however, she fetched her soccer ball and used it to elevate his feet.
"Come on, wake up…" she muttered, applying enough pressure to slow the blood flow, but not enough to damage his skull, "Please, Toshiro…"
He stirred, but didn't open his eyes. However, she took heart in that and continued to stop the blood, murmuring to him. Once the blood had slowed to a trickle instead of a stream, she ripped the bottom part of her shirt off to use as bandages. It took a moment, but once she had the first initial tear, the rest of the shirt quickly unraveled. She stopped just below her chest, then took the makeshift binding and wrapped it around his head.
As she tied it tightly, Toshiro groaned and opened his eyes, staring at the winter sky. Karin watched him warily, "Toshiro?"
He turned his head slightly to look at her, wincing at the motion, "Karin…" he frowned, "Are you okay?"
"Fine," Karin responded, smiling in relief, "What about you?"
"My head hurts," he shrugged as well as he could on the ground, "but I'm okay otherwise."
She nodded, "You must have hit your head on the concrete. You were bleeding a lot. I bandaged up the wound, but your coat has a lot of blood on it now…" she glanced at the said article of clothing, lying on the ground beside them.
Toshiro closed his eyes, "Great. Matsumoto is going to flip…"
Karin remembered the woman who had accompanied Toshiro, his subordinate, if she wasn't mistaken. She lowered her head, upset that she had caused so much trouble, "Sorry, Hitsugaya-chan…"
Toshiro looked at her in surprise. She had reverted to using his formal last name, something she hadn't done in months, "Don't worry about it," he sat up to show his point, "I'll be okay. It's just a scrape."
"I shouldn't have kicked that ball at you," Karin said, "It's my fault that you got hurt."
"I had to make sure you didn't," he stated calmly, "Just think of my injuries if Kurosaki discovered that I had let you fall down stairs," he chuckled, "He'd challenge me to a battle right there and then."
She smiled slightly, "Yeah, he would. He'd get his butt kicked, too."
"True," Toshiro smirked, "It was just a little mishap. It's not a big deal, and it's not life threatening. Believe me, I've been in much worse."
Karin nodded, and helped him stand up. He wobbled a bit at first, but quickly regained his balance. She grabbed her soccer ball and his coat, and the two of them started back up the stairs, both using the handrail this time. At the top, Toshiro paused, "Are you heading back to your house?"
"Are you?" she countered.
He blinked, "Yeah, eventually. I'm going to walk you home first, though. It's not safe to walk alone."
Karin scoffed, "Please. I've been doing this all my life, nothing's going to happen."
"You've probably been going down stairs your whole life too, but that didn't stop you from falling."
"Touché," she grinned, "But I'm not going to go back without making sure that you get to your place okay. You're still recovering from a lot of blood loss, and it wouldn't do for you to faint on the pavement."
Toshiro narrowed his sea-green eyes, "I won't faint."
"And I won't fall, but we're insistent on accompanying one another home, correct?" Karin countered, "So how about we go back to where you're staying and then, when you feel better, you can take me home."
He didn't have a comeback for that, so he scowled at her instead, "Damn, you Kurosakis have got to be the most stubborn people I've ever met."
"It's pretty much just me and Ichigo," Karin responded, "But thanks anyway."
He grumbled a reply and started forward, with Karin tagging along behind him. The snow continued to fall softly, covering up their tracks as they made their way to Orihime's house. When they arrived, no one was there, and Karin enjoyed the warmth that washed over her when they walked inside. Toshiro closed the door and led Karin inside.
"Orihime's letting us stay here while we're in town," he explained.
"Got it," Karin looked him over. He wasn't a pretty sight. His face and hair still had blood on it in certain spots, and the bandage that she had used on him was starting to loosen. His face was paler than usual, and it made him look almost like a ghost with his white hair.
"What?" Toshiro demanded, meeting her gaze.
"You," Karin folded her arms, "You look like you got hit by a bus. Go take a shower, will you?"
He glared at her, but stalked out of the room, muttering something about a faux body. Karin laid down on the couch, resting her eyes as she listened to the shower turn on in the next room. The sound was soothing, and pretty soon she drifted to sleep.
When she awoke, she noticed that the shower was quiet, and wondered how long she'd been out. She sat up, rubbing her eye with the heel of her palm, glancing around the room. The first thing she noticed was that someone had covered her with a blanket. The second thing she noticed was that someone had also layed out a shirt for her, probably to replace the one she ripped up. The third thing was that no one was in the room. Curious, she got up and began exploring the house once she slipped into the new shirt.
No one was in the bedroom, but she heard rustling in the kitchen and headed towards that direction. The minute she walked in the doorway, Toshiro turned around, eyeing her.
"Finally woke up, huh?" he asked, turning back to the stove. Karin rolled her eyes and ambled over to him, peering over his arm at the pot. Stew was cooking in it, and she cocked her head.
He shook his head, "Matsumoto does. I'm just heating it up. I figured you might be hungry."
Karin was hungry, in fact. She had skipped out on breakfast that morning, desperate to get out of the house. She glanced at the time and blinked in surprise; it was already 2 o'clock.
"How long was I out?" she inquired.
Toshiro eyed the clock as well, "Two, three hours? I let you nap; you looked tired."
"I didn't sleep well last night," Karin admitted. She hadn't been sleeping well since Ichigo had gone missing, but she wasn't about to tell him that.
Toshiro nodded and took the pot off of the stove, pouring the food into two bowls. He handed her one, then took the other one and brought it to the small table. Karin took a seat as he poured them water to drink. They ate in silence, enjoying the food, before she decided she needed conversation.
"So, what a day, huh?"
He glanced up at her, "Yep. It certainly was interesting."
She studied his face, locating the cut high on the right side of his forehead. It really was tiny, now that it didn't have blood gushing from it, and Karin felt a pang of guilt as she remembered him lying on the pavement, still as death. What if he had gotten killed? People died from falling down stairs all the time, and she still considered them lucky that they didn't break anything.
Toshiro noticed her silence and lowered his eyelids in exasperation, "I'm fine, Karin. I told you before, I get much worse in most of my battles."
He really did look better, now that he wasn't bloodstained anymore. Karin looked back at her food, blushing slightly. Of course he was fine. He was much more powerful than she could ever imagine, and a little thing like falling down the stairs wouldn't affect him much.
Toshiro watched her, "You're okay too, right? You're sure you didn't break any ribs or anything?"
"If I did, I'm sure you would have realized it by now," she stated, "All I got were bruises. Nothing new there."
He seemed satisfied with that, and turned back to his food. They finished eating just as the front door opened. Toshiro waited patiently until the door had closed, then counted down on his fingers. Just as he hit one, a cry was heard.
"In here, Matsumoto," he called, completely composed, while Karin had jumped by the loud noise.
Seconds later, Matsumoto appeared, beaming, "I took care of two hollows today, Captain."
"Good job," Toshiro responded. Matsumoto glanced at Karin, and something clicked.
"Kurosaki Karin!" she exclaimed, giving the girl in question a tight hug, "I didn't even notice you!"
Karin gasped for breath as Matsumoto released her, eyeing the vice-captain warily, "Hi."
"Are you done eating, Karin?" Toshiro asked. When she nodded, he collected her plate and brought it to the sink. Then he straightened, facing the two girls, "Are you going to stay for a while?"
Karin shook her head, "I really should be getting back. Yuzu will be worried, even if dad doesn't notice."
"I'll walk you back," Toshiro offered. Karin stood, rolling her eyes.
"I told you, it's not necessary. I don't live too far away."
Toshiro opened his mouth to object, but Matsumoto stepped in, "I'll take her, Captain. It'll just take a minute."
He didn't look happy, but he conceded to that idea, and the two girls left the apartment. Once the door had closed, Matsumoto leaned in to Karin, "So, what happened between you two today?"
"Well, I fell down some stairs, but Toshiro took the brunt of the fall," Karin said. She wasn't about to mention what had happened at the graveyard.
"Really?" Matsumoto blinked, "He must really like you!"
Karin started, "What?"
The older woman nodded confidently, "The Captain doesn't do something like that for just anyone. Normally he'd pretend not to see anything and walk off in the other direction. It's not that he doesn't care; he just doesn't concern himself with someone else's business."
"And the fact that he still hung around after that…" Matsumoto thought for a moment, "He must have wanted to make sure you were okay."
Karin mulled this over as they walked, "He's really nice. I like him a lot," she paused, "Is that illegal? For me to like a shinigami?"
Matsumoto laughed, "For a Captain, nothing's illegal. But I'm not sure; the idea's never come up. All I know is that when he sees you, he's in a good mood the rest of the day."
Karin blushed slightly at that comment, and came to a halt in front of her house, "Thanks for walking me, Matsumoto."
"No problem," she stated, waving it off, "Have a nice night, and don't go falling down stairs. If the Captain's not there next time, you could really get hurt. And I don't want to have to deal with him when he hears that." She winked and turned, heading back for Orihime's apartment.
Smiling slightly, Karin shifted her soccer ball and pushed the door open, entering her house. The day hadn't been a complete waste.
A/N: There you go! Hope you liked it:)