Push Comes to Shove

- Epilogue -

Karin slams the door shut behind her, chest heaving from running home. She spent the entire trip back cursing herself for not remembering to bring an umbrella along to the store – it's only a short trip, after all, and it didn't look like it would rain when she left – and now she's cold and wet, two things she absolutely hates, especially in conjunction with one another. She grumbles as her hair drips water onto the floor, and her shoes squelch a bit as she takes them off. The soles so waterlogged it will probably take over a day to get them completely dry. That's when she notices it: an extra pair of shoes. Obviously a girl's, based on the size. But who's shoes…?

"Yuzu, who's the guest?" she asks plainly when she finds her sister sitting at the table working on homework. Karin grabs a towel from the kitchen and starts to dry her hair off. A hot bath would feel really good right about now…

Her sister doesn't even bother to glance up from her homework, just keeps working the math equations as she answers. "Oh, it's just Tatsuki-chan. She came home with Ichigo a little while ago. They're up in his room." She suddenly slams her pencil down, though, making Karin jump. She stares back at her sister, who is looking uncharacteristically manic at the moment.

"Yuzu… are you alright…?"

"Honestly, though! Ichi-nii is never going to get a girlfriend if he keeps acting like this and only inviting tomboys over! It's just so frustrating!"

Karin wonders just who it's frustrating for, because from the looks of things her brother seems to be doing just fine. So he can be a little moody and overprotective at times, and the whole giant sword-wielding, world-saving alter ego deal would undoubtedly put him at a disadvantage on the dating scene if he ever entered it in the first place (there's baggage and then there's that), but he seems to be a happy, healthy teenage male. Her sister, on the other hand, seems to have an unhealthy determination to become an aunt sooner rather than later. Karin wonders, not for the first time, how she can possibly be related to someone like Yuzu.

Her musings are interrupted by a rather loud thump as something crashes to the floor in the room above them. Karin and Yuzu both look up, confused and a tiny bit apprehensive: the room above the kitchen is Ichigo's room. They glance at each other before looking at the ceiling once again. There's a little shuffling and then nothing.

"It's… just Tatsuki-chan up there," Karin mutters, desperately reigning in her imagination. "Just Tatsuki-chan."

"Uh huh," agrees Yuzu. From the distant yet curious look in her eyes, however, Karin can tell her sister isn't making nearly the same effort as herself. "Just Tatsuki-chan…"

A/N: I couldn't help but throw in this last bit - the beginning of Chapter 197 of the manga really made the wheels of the devious part of my brain start turning. Anyways, thank you all so very much for reading and providing feedback. This was a blast to write but all good things come to and end, I guess. Thanks again and with any luck I'll be back soon!