Saturday morning came with lightning, thunder and rain, and Karin was one unhappy puppy. Thankfully, by ten o'clock, the skies had somewhat cleared.
She had strewn the contents of her meager wardrobe – all of her clothes had been buried under the rubble that used to be her home, these were newly purchased by Ichigo and some were gifts from Urahara – and Yuzu had also shared her own.
:Can you please decide already?: grumbled Yuutsubame.
Shut up. I want to look good.
:It's not gonna matter, is it? He's seen prettier.:
Again, shut up, Karin scolded her zanpakuto spirit. I know he's seen prettier. I want to look good anyway, okay? I want photos and all that shit, so that when I have kids, they'll point to the hot guy in the pictures and I can brag.
Yuutsubame snorted, but remained mercifully silent.
"If you want to watch Batman you might need to book your tickets online," said Yuzu, poring over the newspapers.
"I've already bought tickets, Yuzu," said Karin, pulling off a green-and-white striped tank top and tugging on a brilliant purple tee shirt instead. "How's this?"
Yuzu frowned and shook her head. "Mm. The red?"
"The red, yeah."
Karin changed again and that was when Urahara knocked on the door. "Karin-chan, Hitsugaya-san has arrived downstairs and I've fitted him with his gigai."
"Oh, okay. Thanks." The dark-haired girl finger-combed her hair from her face. "So. How do I look?"
Yuzu examined her sister and smiled. "One more thing... Here."
"Yuzu," said Karin, flushing a little. "This is lip gloss."
"Well, duh. You are gonna kiss him, right?" asked Yuzu, arms akimbo.
"Well..." Karin shrugged. "I'm not gonna say no..."
"Then use it, and... here." Yuzu added a chain with a black pendant. "Now you're ready."
Hitsugaya was waiting downstairs, as promised, and Karin raised her eyebrows in appreciation. "Nice," she commented, taking in the pale blue shirt, black jacket and dark jeans. She grabbed her coat and pulled it on, making sure that the tickets were inside her pockets.
Like a Jack-in-the-box, Urahara emerged from a side door and grinned at both of them. "Naa, Ururu-chan is asking if should we be counting both of you for dinner?"
Karin shot him a Look. "No."
"We're not?" asked Hitsugaya in an aside after they had left the shop.
"I've found a nice Chinese restaurant near the theater," said Karin. "I'm assuming you like Chinese."
He shrugged nonchalantly, and followed Karin down the street. "So what movie are we watching?"
"The Dark Knight." And that was followed by an explanation of the previous film that lasted until they got to the bus stop. Along the way Karin waxed effusive about Christopher Nolan, Batman Begins, and Christian Bale.
It turned out that the last movie Hitsugaya watched was Citizen Kane. A bemused Karin was regaled with a recount of Orson Welles' powerhouse performance, and though she was interested in the movie, she was more fascinated by Hitsugaya's passionate discussion of the sprawling epic.
"If you liked that story, I bet you'll love this one," said Karin. "I'll lend you the first one. It'd be awesome."
"Sounds good," Hitsugaya answered.
They alighted and, while they were on the way to the theater, they heard a loud exclamation. "That can't be Toushirou!"
Karin covered her eyes. Oh FUCK.
Shut up. You don't get to act as my big brother. And HE swears a hell of a lot more than I do.
When she opened her eyes again, she saw that Hitsugaya had been accosted by a bunch of girls from her class, chief among which was Tina. They had gathered about the white-haired captain and some were coyly fluttering their hands or lashes. Karin rolled her eyes. It was a disgusting display, she felt, and wished she could just teach all of them a lesson. Say in karate, perhaps. She'd learned some from Tatsuki-nee-san, and she'd bet good money that all of them would scream bloody murder at a single broken nail.
The slim, pretty girl tossed her long plait over her shoulder coquettishly and remarked, "How have you been? It's been so long since we saw you last. Karin-chan and Yuzu-chan wouldn't tell us where you've gone to, the meanies."
"They weren't supposed to," said Hitsugaya in a bored tone.
"We've missed you," added one of Tina's hangers-on. "I mean, school is so tedious without someone cute in class, you know?"
Hitsugaya leveled her a glare. "You go to school to be educated," he remarked quietly. "I see you haven't been making use of the opportunity. Come on, Karin. I believe the movie is about to start."
Leaving behind the gaggle of girls appalled at his bad manners and then agape when he actually took her hand and pulled her towards the movie theater, Hitsugaya strolled off without a glance backwards.
The movie was as good as Karin had heard. Hitsugaya seemed impressed also, and as they sauntered to the Chinese restaurant they discussed the nuances of the leads' performances.
"Heath Ledger died before this came out," sighed Karin. Then she perked up. "Could you meet him?"
"He'll be in North America," Hitsugaya countered. "And that is a really large Society. I wouldn't have the faintest idea where he landed."
"Hmm. Pity. It'd be nice to be able to tell him that I really enjoyed the show."
Hitsugaya gently remarked, "When you die, and you've entered Soul Society, you don't remember your human life."
Karin stared at him. "Really?"
"Was a shinigami in a special gigai. Kurosaki-taichou merely returned to his state of being a shinigami." Hitsugaya rubbed his nose. "But I'm not sure about you or your brother, because both of you are shinigami representatives."
"Be interesting to find out," said Karin, leading the way into the restaurant. As they perused the menu, the girl wondered what was going through Hitsugaya's mind. "I mean, I'm gonna be a shinigami all my life. I'm sure you can find out for me along the way."
Hitsugaya peered over the top of the menu. "It's not fair that you have to fight hollows all your life, Karin."
"I didn't think of that when I started," Karin admitted. The waitress came over and took their orders, so Karin waited until she was gone before continuing, "It was necessary then, don't you see? I had to help then. And now, after the whole mess with Aizen and Ichimaru, I have the power and I'm gonna use it if I have to."
"Thing is, we have very few shinigami we can post out now," said Hitsugaya thoughtfully. He picked up a braised peanut, munched on it and brightened. "This is really good."
"It is. What about the few shinigami?"
"I mean that when it comes time to post shinigami to the human realm for patrols or ritual cleansing, Karakura Town will be low priority, since there is a number of strong shinigami equivalents here. Your brother, for one, Urahara, Sado-san, Inoue if she gets better. Ishida also, though I would prefer that Quincies no longer involve themselves at all."
"And you." Hitsugaya inclined his head and sighed. "I would never have wished for you to carry the responsibilities, Karin."
Karin made a face. "You saying I'm incapable?"
"I'm saying that you have a life to live. Not... not burdens to carry." The captain looked genuinely remorseful.
To his surprise, Karin chuckled. "Newsflash, Hitsugaya Toushiro. I'm not gonna be carrying the burden alone," she commented nonchalantly. "You already listed all the help I can get if I needed them. Ichi-nii is going to college not far from here. Tatsuki-chan is damn kickass when she has to be, and Urahara is, well, my foster parent for the next few years at least. I'm gonna live my life, and this burden of protecting this town is part of that."
"You say that now," Hitsugaya said darkly, "but in two, three years, when you're going out on dates and you get the call to save some plus souls, when you're studying for a major exam and you're told to fight an incursion... You'll hate it."
Karin leaned forward on her elbows. "What are you saying then? Are you proposing to remove my shinigami powers?"
"That'll be-" He was interrupted by the food arriving and he lowered his voice to a whisper, "that'll be for the best. Unohana can do it, painlessly. Simply."
Karin stared at the captain in front of her. Then she took her cup of tea and flung it in his face, rising to her feet, and said evenly, "Screw you, Hitsugaya Toushiro."
Then she ran out of the restaurant, heart pounding and a sour taste at the back of her throat.
Hitsugaya found the girl at the playground. Her jaw was set and tight, and she was staring at her feet as though it held secrets she wanted to unearth. He sighed and walked slowly up to her. "Karin."
She didn't look up at him but kicked her toes into the ground softly. "Toushiro."
"I was left to foot the bill."
"You have an income. You can afford that."
Hitsugaya exhaled loudly and said, "Yes, I can, and here's your takeaways." Handing her a packet, he then took a place on a swing. "What did I say wrong?"
"You," said Karin in a firm tone, finally meeting his gaze, "are an idiot."
"I definitely did not say that," he remarked calmly.
Karin huffed. "You are one of the few people who know how very difficult it was for me to get my powers," she said, teeth gritting, "and you just – propose – to take them away, like they mean nothing at all? How can you even suggest that? I am very aware that, well, you are decades older than I am, and probably have a different perspective of things than I do – no, screw that probably, I'm sure you see things differently. But you have to consider me as well."
"Karin, a human's life is short enough without having to deal with souls and their problems."
"I've been seeing spirits since I was born, Toushiro. By the time I was three, I was conversing with my 'invisible friends' and only Ichi-nii understood what the hell I was doing!" Karin was on her feet, glaring down at the white-haired boy. "You understand how... how strange my life has been in other people's views, but you don't see that strange is my life! My father is a shinigami, my brother became a shinigami representative, and I chose this route too. It is a legacy that I am claiming for my family, all right?"
Hitsugaya looked away and sighed again. "Precisely because you have had a strange life that I want them different for you. Look... You and I – this 'date' thing, even, it's not natural. It's abnormal. Beyond strange, and I don't- I don't even know how to say this."
With arms akimbo, Karin faced Hitsugaya. "I kissed you before, even knowing that you are shinigami. Non-human. I like you, I really do, and I'm pretty sure this counts as a first love. But I am also very aware that I'm only an adolescent, and that I'm gonna grow up, grow old, before you even reach your full height."
Hitsugaya frowned at that remark, but stayed silent otherwise. Karin went on.
"I just wish you could see this. See us, the way I do. I want my powers to stay with me, because with them I have met wonderful people, invisible friends to others but real people to me. To Ichi-nii. By telling me that removing my powers is better, you're removing my friends. And worst of all, you're suggesting that I silence Yuutsubame! My zanpakuto didn't just save my life, Hitsugaya, it saved Kira-nii's. If you had even thought, just a smidge, of the implications, you wouldn't have said what you did." She inhaled deeply and added, "So yeah. You're an idiot."
Hitsugaya was looking rather bemused by her torrent of words, but eventually he did crack a small smile. He stood up and said, "All right. I concede the point. But it does mean you're going to have a busy time in the future."
"Me?" Karin grinned, her anger vented. "I'm gonna leave it all to Ichi-nii until he says I can join in the fray... or if I feel like a workout."
The captain smirked. Then he got up and stuffed his hands in his pockets. "So. We've watched a movie, we've – well, we didn't eat, but that's dinner. What's next?"
"Dinner," announced Karin. "I'm starving." She settled down and started unpacking the food from the bags from the restaurant.
Karin paused in the middle of opening the first package. She peered up at him, and then her cheeks reddened. "I dunno. I thought we could go to the games arcade, or maybe a walk down the riverside."
Hitsugaya sat down facing her. "The walk sounds good, but let's go the – what do you call that? - the games arcade. The next time you come to Soul Society to visit your father, we'll stroll through the Gotei's best gardens."
"Sounds good," said Karin, then her cheeks blushed deeply. "Um. Is that an invitation for a second date?"
Karin coughed. "I-I-I wasn't expecting you to be that frank!"
Hitsugaya shrugged, but there was a smile on his face. "As you said, you're going to grow older faster. But I think that, at least for these few years, since you're going to keep your shinigami powers... maybe we can have a few years of fun memories."
They shared a long look, and then Karin smiled happily. "Sure."
"Oh, and um. I don't usually do this, but..." Hitsugaya leaned forward and pressed his lips over hers, a brief and chaste kiss. "Thanks. For telling me I was an idiot, and for showing me that you do know what the hell you're going through."
Karin blinked a few times. "Oh. Okay." She thought over her words again, and added, "Uh, I think we had better not do that in Soul Society though."
"Two words. Kurosaki Isshin."
"Please. Have you met me? I've yet to meet the person who can resist my charms."
"You have any? Wow..."
The two bickered and feasted, each aware that the sunset behind them was gloriously orange and golden and pink, and both decided that whatever the outcome, having this one was quite special enough.
A/N: Thanks for sticking with this fic for so long! I'm continuing to clear the other fics :) The entirety of this will be posted in AO3 in 2013. Happy holidays!