A winter dream

… the winter wonderland

Disclaimer: If I owned Bleach these two would end up together. Sadly, that's not the case any time soon, so we have to put up with a fictional love story.

Act 1

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"Life and death are not meant to be valued in fairness. You just live and die for the ones you love."

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"Take my hand, now!"

"No way! Take back what you've said first," Karin squeezed. Her palms were sweaty, the muscles in her arms painfully strained – her whole body literally shouted for her to let go. The still rational-minded part of her brain thought just the opposite, nonetheless her mind was whirling as if it couldn't decide how stupid she was able to become while she was constantly denying his help. Both options were pathetic.

"You're going to die, Kurosaki. You're still going to pick at that?"

She gulped while taking a peek at the depth below her dangling feet. It was not so deep… maybe twenty meters or thirty or a little more. Heck, she didn't know. "I can swim, you know." If the current wasn't too strong, she continued silently. Sweat impeded to drip off her forehead and thick bangs of her black hair clouded her sight; her situation hadn't been the best from the start and, seemingly, this super-midget was just going to make it worse.

"Yet it's going to hurt."

"I'm no scaredy-cat."

"Never said that."

"Did!"

"Did not!"

"Shut up! I'm not gonna take your helping hand unless you eat your words." She snapped. A strong breeze blew the hair out of her face, giving her a clear sight of her surroundings. Unfortunately, the distance down to the water wasn't one to disregard anymore. The river created heavy stirs as it was lapping against the iron bridge piles; if she fell – and in the back of her mind she held no doubt, sooner or later this would be the case – it would be straight down into one kind of hell. Karin fastened her eyes quickly on him. The sight of his teal eyes in dazzling contrast to his white hair sent even more chills running over her skin. His face was not far from her own one as he was bent-forward, holding out his hand.

"That's childish, Kurosaki. I will not hold you back if you want to prove your brainlessness."

"Thanks. You're a midget no less."

His eyes had started twitching in annoyance long ago, now with his jaw clenched his expression would have amused Karin endlessly. As unfavorable as the situation had become – her clinging to the brim of a bridge with only her fingertips, he settling over her in a more comfortable position – it seemed not a good idea to break out in a laughing fit. Plus, the involuntary grimace of her face while thinking over her mad sense of humor made her guess that he was able to read every thought from her face. A veine below his hairline popped strenuously like he had reached a whole new level of blank irritation.

It barely impinged on the tone of his voice. "I can sit here all night. Even considered how stubborn you are, I wonder how long you can last." All he did was stating the facts flatly and objectively.

Karin could've layed her fingers around his neck and hold him close and ki- ... Eh! What the hell was that implying?
For goodness' sake, she wanted to kick his ass! Period. Don't think any further.

She grumbled. "Toushirou!" As soon as she was safe and dry she would continue mapping out a plan to pay him back. Her sweaty grip loosened. Later. If she made it.

Karin didn't let go, she never planned to, but her muscles refused to take it anymore. Maybe they had more brain than her.

It happened way too fast to react, even to scream. The feeling of the air rushing her by consumed her ears, the slow waves of the river drawing nearer so fast intoxicated her eyes that she couldn't bear to shut them even for a split second. Even though the first stinging rush of wind hitting her onyx colored eyes disabused her sense of pain, it was long before her self preservative instincts kicked in. She never thought of the dead end of life as a mesmerizing, addictive moment. It was thrilling, however.
To her befuddled mind it ended in a too abrupt halt. A jerk was running through her body, and then concentrated on her left arm. As Karin didn't feel herself swooshing down as an act of the law of gravitation any longer she cast up her eyes which she hadn't even realized to hold tightly closed.

Confusion washed over her; she blinked several times. "You!" She managed through shivering lips with her brows furrowed. Shaking her head fiercely, her hair danced around her face and she tried to slip off the deceiving feeling of loss. Gradually the ecstasy faded away, leaving her feel strangely hollow. Karin didn't brood too long about it; yes, it was strange but something else was distracting her too. A wish for near-death experience (involuntary or not) was perplexing, yet Toushirou was strange and in some ways unpredictable.

He saved her.

Then again he was strange as a matter of fact; first he refused to apologize for a trivial matter (anyway, trivial or better non-existent in his opinion, but needed to be apologized for in hers), then he threatened to watch her fall in all seriousness. And now he lifted over the edge with surprising facility and clouded eyes, so quick that she scarcely felt a breeze before her shoes touched the ground. The look was gone, so she figured it had been her imagination.

Hitsugaya grunted. "You always get me into a mess." He turned around and leaped into the centre of the ditch in the middle of the bridge where he picked up his demolished cell phone.

The girl stared, awed once again on the one hand and plainly pissed on the other hand. The latter feeling prevailed by far in the end. "All right, that's it. I'm going home!" To refrain herself to put her plan from earlier into action – because he just saved her life and she didn't want to appear ungrateful – she focussed on her family, probably worrying sick at home since Karin's curfew started nearly three hours ago. All the more reason to leave this place, finally.

Karin walked past him, clambering up and hopelessly sliding down again the crater which the long annihilated Hollow caused earlier on the bridge. In addition to her existing scratches she got more on her bare knees and arms. Her mood couldn't be worse. A stream of swearwords escaped her mouth which was dry from fighting and shouting, also a remnant from earlier.

"Come on." A voice behind her said quietly. "I'll bring you home."

Karin bit her lips. It couldn't get any worse, could it? She was startled and wide-eyed at the spot by the look of his back of the head when she turned around. "What the heck are you doing? I don't need a knight in shining white armor to my knees."

Toushirou narrowed his eyes. "Just shut up and get on."

Of course, he wanted to get over this quickly, too. "Tell anyone and you are even deader." Karin hissed and looked around suspiciously.

He snorted. "Tell Matsumoto and you'll never even make it to Soul Society." She couldn't see his face as she climbed on his back, but she figured this was his worst scenario of horror. "You win." She allowed the teasing tone in her voice; it withheld her from thinking of how she wrapped her arms around his neck, careful not to squeeze his hair.

"Ready?"

"No."

The boy's shoulders slumped, possibly he had given up all hope for her. "What is it now, Kurosaki?"

Karin made a face. This jerk! Would he be a bit less egoistic and think a moment, please? "People don't see you, right? What about me – I'm no soul, they're bound to see me fly by like a witch on an invisible broom."

"Are you calling me a broom, stupid?"

"Read between the lines what you want, I don't care, midget." On top of her comment Karin planted her hand onto his snowy shock of hair and ruffled it, making him tense under her touch. "What? Don't I get an answer now?"

Did she stretch it? The air did become a bit frosty though…

Toushirou barricaded himself behind a stern wall of silence. He jumped off in a vast sweep to the peak of a bridge pillar next to them. Not once he landed on asphalt, only on higher buildings, power poles, or street lamps. Karin could only describe his motions as something merging, something that was graceful and vigorous at once. Even though there was traffic on the streets below them, the noise reached her only dimly like there was wool stuffed into her auricles. Unwillingly, her face heated up. It wasn't like he did this with every human he ever met, was it?

Then, this atmosphere was rather intimat -

the flow across the midnight blue sky broke; suddenly Toushirou stumbled in midair. Karin's grip around his neck tightened automatically, her head sunk on his shoulder which rose and fell in short breaths. She sneaked a glance on his face from the side: his eyes were tightly closed while pearls of sweat were trickling down his cheekbones. "Toushirou, are you – ?"

Their way dropped downwards. Karin's stifled cry split the air as she watched the flat roof of a multistory building approach swiftly. "Pull yourself together!" She shrieked, digging her nails unconsciously hard in the Shinigami's shoulders.

His eyes snapped open, a shadow of their usual color, but they were open at least. He wasn't able to stop anymore but he whirled around in their fall, coiling his arms around her. When they dashed against the floor of the concrete building, vibrations went up and down Karin's limbs as they rolled further on the floor. She couldn't think, there was only pain of prospective bruises. A pressure pushed her head firmly against his upper body. Eventually, the motion came to a stop and they lay still.

Her senses took an eternity to return, her unclouded thinking much longer. Karin twisted herself free from the weight of Toushirou's arms, muddled by an elusive scent sticking to the black cloth his traditional clotthing, and quickly got off him. He hadn't budged or even made a sound since they hit the floor. Ferocious shivers reigning in her hands hindered her from feeling his pulse properly after she had kneeled down next to him. "Oi, Toushirou, come on. It's not the time to play possum. Get up. Oi, get up!" She jolted him by the shoulders several times without him moving an inch. "You midget, move! If you don't wake up this instant then … then …" She gasped for oxygen, still her lungs felt empty and aborted. Was that shock? Her father was a doctor so she should know if she were in shock, shouldn't she?

Her voice died away.
"… then…"

Her dark eyes went wide when she pulled her hand away. She didn't notice the wound before but it must have been there since he fought the Hollow. A circle of blood had seeped through his white haori, making her fitful breathing sped up even more. It's not ink, she thought forlornly. In the night it looks like ink, but it's not.

Karin shook her head. She had to get a grip. And help. He needed freaking help. What was she to do? "You idiot. Why did you protect me? Third time's not lucky! I could've handled that myself." She bent over him, tousling his hair lightly which dazzlingly contrasted even in the most pitch-dark night against the floor. What was she to do? "Don't die on me." She whispered.

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This is a two-shot; the next chapter will be uploaded in several days. Tell me honestly what you think about it, good, bad, whatever's in your mind after you've read it. Any feedback is welcome :D

Thanks for reading and reviewing!