Ok, so I'm a little disillusioned with "A Midsummer's Nightmare." I'm not scrapping it, but I'm just not enjoying writing it as much as I thought I would so I decided to start on this story sooner than I normally would have.

And just so you all know, the inspiration for this story came from animalgun. Thanks for the great idea!

And just to explain in advance, all dreams and flashbacks are written in italics. Sorry if that gets a little confusing.

Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach or any of its characters. I only own my own characters and ideas.

She was in pain. Oh, was she in pain. Who knew that hell was so hot? Her skin shriveled at the contact with the flames, but not to the point where it was destroyed entirely. Was that part of the torture, she wondered? Fire that burns but doesn't consume? And then suddenly, it was cool. Well, not cool exactly, more like freezing. But that could have been because she was encased in ice. Ice she recognized…

Kurosaki Karin awoke with a start, drenched in cold sweat.

"It's just a dream," she whispered, trying desperately to calm herself. "Just a dream." She turned her head to gaze at the man sleeping peacefully beside her. His breathing was calm and steady, and his cheeks had a slight flush to them. He was warm when he slept, so different from the cold exterior he portrayed during the daytime. Karin usually relished the fact that she was the only one who was able see him like this, but right now, all she wanted was to have his body heat flow into her and provide her with some much needed comfort. She snuggled up close to him wrapping her arm around his waist as she did so. He groaned lightly at her movement and opened his eyes.

"Can't sleep?" he asked gently, smiling softly. That was another thing Karin loved about sleeping with him. He was so much more apt to smile when he was vulnerable in the middle of the night. He reached his hand up to wipe the hair off her brow and found that it was damp.

"Are you hot?" he asked. Karin shook her head.

"I had that dream again," she told him. "Only, there was more to it this time. I recognized the ice." He looked at her with concern.

"And…" he prompted, not entirely sure he wanted to hear the answer. He felt like he already knew, and he didn't like it.

"It was Hyourinmaru," Karin said simply, not meeting his gaze. That had confirmed both of their fears. He sighed, then put his hand on her chin to raise her face.

"You know I would never do anything to hurt you," he said seriously. "I don't know why you're having these dreams, but it bothers me that you think I might…"

"I know perfectly well that you would never do anything like that," she stated flatly. "I don't know what these dreams are telling me, but whatever it is, I'm not going to listen to them. Maybe I've been hit in the head with a soccer ball one too many times." He smiled again and snaked his arm around her, kissing her softly as he did so. She lay her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes, allowing his protective presence to wash over her, calming her nerves and relaxing her more than anything else possibly could.

"Good night Karin," he whispered tenderly.

"Good night Toushiro," she replied, falling back into slumber almost immediately.


When Karin awoke the next morning, Hitsugaya was gone. He always was. It used to bother her, but now she just accepted it as a necessary evil in their secret relationship. Love between a living soul and a shinigami was absolutely forbidden in Soul Society. It was one of the cardinal rules: Never fall in love with the living. And Karin and Hitsugaya had broken that rule so severely, Karin sometimes thought it was a miracle that shinigami didn't swoop down on her from all sides and drag her, bound and gagged, to Soul Society to face trial.

But they had been careful. As far as Karin could tell, no one knew, not even her family. Karin registered it as mildly amusing that her father and brother were completely oblivious to the fact that she had a guy in her bed every night. But then again, they had never been particularly observant. She thought that Yuzu suspected that she had a secret lover since she hinted at it every now and then, trying to pry information out of her.

Karin entered the kitchen for breakfast in a very good mood. She had woken up when Hitsugaya left that morning, which meant that she had convinced him to stay a few extra minutes while she kissed him good morning.

"You look happy today Karin-chan," Yuzu noticed. "Did you have a good dream?" Karin shrugged nonchalantly, taking the bowl of rice Yuzu was offering her.

"Was it about someone special?" Yuzu asked slyly. Luckily, Karin managed to stifle her surprise at the question with a laugh.

"Yeah right!" she joked. "Me with someone special, that'll be the day!" Yuzu pouted.

"But Karin-chan," she continued eagerly. "You've been so happy lately! Are you sure you don't have a boyfriend or something?" Karin laughed heartily.

"Yuzu," she replied, "please tell me which one of the idiots in our class I would date?" Yuzu considered this.

"Hibiki-kun's cute?" Karin didn't have to pretend to scrunch up her face into a look of disgust.

"Yeah, if you like pugs!" Yuzu giggled. "Face it Yuzu, there's no one around for me to date, even if I wanted to. You are forgetting the little fact that I have no intention of ever dating anyone!"

"But…" Yuzu protested.

"No buts Yuzu," Karin insisted, laying her empty bowl on the table. "Boys are stupid. They're not worth the effort. Thanks for breakfast." And with that she swept out of the kitchen, wanting to get very far away from this conversation.

So Karin was pretty sure that Yuzu at least, knew that there was someone special in Karin's life. But as Yuzu knew nothing about Soul Society, and couldn't even see Hitsugaya without a gigai, Karin thought it was relatively safe. Besides, Yuzu wasn't dumb enough to mention any of her opinions to the rest of the family, (she knew exactly how their father and brother would react,) so there was no risk of a rumor spreading to Ichigo, who was the only real danger in the house due to his close connection with Soul Society.

He had almost caught them once. Karin had made it perfectly clear, ages ago, that no one was to enter her room at night on pain of death. But she had been sick. Really sick.

"Achoo!" Karin sneezed, wiping her nose with a tissue and adding it to the overflowing mountain beside her bed. She felt awful. Hitsugaya placed a cold cloth on her forehead to attempt to stave off her burning fever.

"Can't you do anything about this?" she groaned. "Don't you control the cold or something? Can't you lower my fever?" Hitsugaya shook his head.

"Unfortunately, unless you want me to make it snow in here, or turn your blood into ice, I'm afraid there's very little I can do," he said sympathetically. Karin sniffled to keep her nose from dripping.

"You shouldn't even be here," she reprimanded. "What would happen to your squad if you got sick?" Hitsugaya squeezed her hand.

"Why don't you worry about recovering and I'll worry about my squad," he replied. "Besides, I shouldn't catch this. I'm pretty hearty."

"Oh, and I'm not?" Karin mocked. Hitsugaya smirked.

"Not at the moment, no," he teased. Karin grinned.

"Karin," Ichigo called, opening the door. "I brought you some soup…" It all happened so fast, Ichigo wasn't even entirely sure anything had occurred at all. He could have sworn he saw a figure sitting beside Karin's bed, but before he could blink, the person had vanished and Karin was livid.

"Ichi-nii!" she screamed as loud as her hoarse voice would allow. "Don't you knock!? What have I told you about coming into my room at night!?" Ichigo was slightly confused.

"Was there someone in here?" he asked cautiously. Ichigo knew perfectly well how painful Karin's anger could be. At least, painful for those she was directing it towards. Even when she was deathly ill, he did not want to serve as her punching bag. Karin glared at him.

"Does it look like someone's in here?" she shot back at him, folding her arms across her chest. Ichigo surreptitiously glanced towards the closet, but the door was wide open. There was no shadow visible under her bed. Unless the person in question had jumped out the window in under a second, no one but Karin had been in the room.

"Sorry," Ichigo apologized. "It must have been a shadow or something."

"That's not what you need to apologize for," Karin huffed. Ichigo sighed.

"Alright, alright, I'm sorry I came in your room without knocking!" he caved. "God, you teenagers and your privacy."

"I'm entitled to it!" Karin insisted. "You hate it when people barge in on you too, I know you do." Ichigo shrugged.

"Whatever. Eat your soup."

About ten minutes later, Hitsugaya snuck back into the window.

"That was close," he said gravely. "If you hadn't asked me to open the window…"

"Forget about it," Karin said, waving it away. "Ichi-nii won't come in again, don't worry. He didn't see you. We're safe." Hitsugaya wasn't entirely convinced, but decided that there was nothing he could do about it, so he shouldn't let it bother him.

Luckily, Ichigo never mentioned the incident again, and Karin was pretty sure that he had forgotten all about it.

Karin got dressed for school, trying to ignore the ominous feeling that was drilling a hole in the pit of her stomach. Her dream was still bothering her. She had been having the same one every couple of nights for the past month. It was getting progressively longer each time. It started off with just seeing the hell gates, but was followed quickly by the burning pain. Two weeks ago, she had seen the ice for the first time. Last week, it surrounded her. And then last night, she was sure that the ice belonged to Hyourinmaru.

Karin didn't exactly know what to make of the dream. Neither did Hitsugaya, that was clear enough. Karin had never had a prophetic dream before so she was pretty convinced that there was nothing to this one. It was just some nighttime annoyance. But then why wouldn't it go away?

Ok, that's the beginning. It's a slightly darker story than I usually write, but I kind of like the concept. Please let me know what you think. Thanks!