I don't own Bleach. Bleach owns me.

When she had first seen him, it had been an accident.

She was upset that her brother was missing and had kicked her soccer ball into the street in frustration. He appeared out of nowhere, kicking it back to her and warning her to be more careful. When she went to thank him, he had disappeared as mysteriously as he had come.

Much later, when he saved her and her friends from the Hollow, she had learned that he was a Shinigami like her brother.

He was a captain and he was strong.

He amazed her.

That, however, was the last time that she saw him. She looked around for him everywhere after that, hoping to find him playing with his little phone or staring at the sky. The only time she did seem to find him was in her dreams.

It was like clockwork. Once a month, usually around the same time, she would dream of him, facing away from her, dressed in a black shirt and jeans. Sometimes, a large bluish dragon would be in the dream too, floating around him and peering at her with its menacing red eyes.

"Kurosaki Karin," it would hiss, and although it always said more, something important, she never remembered when she woke up. She would sit up in her bed, freezing, wondering why she had had that dream again.

This particular time was very similar. Hitsugaya faced away from her, wearing a black shirt and jeans. The dragon's here this time. It swirled around him, making his snowy hair sway.

"Kurosaki Karin." It was talking to her again. The weird thing was, its voice always seemed to be in her head.

What do you want with me? she thought, and the dragon seemed to hear her. It floated a little closer to her. It said something else, but for some reason the words didn't make sense; all she heard were hisses.

What do you want with me? she thought again, more forcefully.

The dragon peered at her, growling. "Kurosaki," it hissed, "…WAKE UP."

Her eyes shot open. She heard Yuzu's light snore. She was in her room, in her bed. She sat up slightly, scanning her surroundings. Her heart nearly stopped when she saw him.

He was in a black shirt and jeans, and he was facing away from her, his snowy hair glowing in the darkness.

"T-Toshiro?"

He turned quickly towards her, his aquamarine eyes widened in surprise.

"Toshiro, what—"

He put a finger to his lips, glancing towards Yuzu. He held out his hand. "Come with me," he said quietly.

Karin couldn't seem to get out of her bed fast enough. She threw the covers back, almost tripping while rushing to meet him by her window. Not realizing how intimate the act was, Karin leaned in close to the captain's ear, her warm breath caressing his cheek. "We need to go somewhere else," she whispered. "My idiot brother and his crazy girlfriend are right next door. Don't even get me started on my dad."

Hitsugaya stared at her, his body suddenly rigid. Karin returned his gaze impatiently, still unknowingly too close for comfort. "Let's go, Toshiro," she whispered, sighing and crossing her arms. "You don't expect me to jump out of a second-story window by myself, do you?"

"Sorry." Snapped out of it and all business, Hitsugaya wrapped his arm around her middle and literally swept her off her feet, suddenly carrying her bridal style. Karin sucked in her breath, hyper-aware of every inch of her skin that touched him.

With the ease and agility of a cat, he jumped from her window, landing softly on the ground below. She removed her arms from around his neck and placed her feet on the ground. "Let's go to the park or something," she suggested.

He said nothing, just followed her when she led the way.

They sat on a park bench, Toshiro looking into the sky at the stars. It was completely silent, and it was driving Karin mad. She had a million questions to ask him, including what the heck he was doing in her room at three in the morning.

"Oi." He was looking at her again, his eyes seemingly probing her soul. "Kuchiki Rukia is dating your brother now?"

Karin was appalled. They hadn't seen each other in months, and this is what he wanted to ask her? "Technically no," she answered, irritated. "They're too stupid to realize that they love each other. It's insanely obvious. I'm pretty sure everyone knows it but them." She paused, then added an afterthought. "Rukia's supposed to be sharing a room with us, but she sneaks into Ichi-nii's room every night. I don't know why she even bothers pretending she sleeps with us. Even Yuzu knows she leaves."

Hitsugaya smirked. "My fukutaicho would be ecstatic if she heard this," he said conversationally. "She'd spread it all over Soul Society."

Karin looked at him as if he suddenly grew another head. He realized his attempt to stay off of a certain topic failed.

"What were you doing in my room, Toshiro?"

Hitsugaya inwardly cursed, but could think of no credible excuses. "I was checking up on you."

Karin felt a million emotions at once, but she felt that the safest one to display was anger. "Why the hell would I need checking up on?!" she seethed.

Hitsugaya sighed. He had awakened her Kurosaki fury. "You have strong reiatsu, and because of this Hollows target you. Besides that, you always seem to be getting into trouble."

She huffed, crossing her arms and facing her body away from him. "I don't need to be babysat. I can take care of myself!"

There was silence again, and Hitsugaya glanced at Karin, who was refusing to look at him. Her onyx hair was blowing in the breeze, and she was wearing red and white pajamas.

"Why didn't you come during the day?" she asked, still not looking at him.

The truth was, he was afraid to interact with her. Something about her made him act unlike himself. When he was around her, for some strange reason, he got soft. He would find himself smiling, and he would do pretty much anything that she said. Not only that, she made him feel…different. Uneasy somehow.

He was glad when he finally left the real world. He could finally go back to being his intimidating captain self and wouldn't have to bother with that Kurosaki girl anymore. But, as the days went on, he found himself thinking about her more and more. He began to worry about her safety—not only did she have strong reiatsu, she was Kurosaki Ichigo's sister: she was a sitting target. So he visited her at night, a time when she was peacefully sleeping in her bed, obviously unharmed, and at a time when he didn't have to talk to her.

Of course, he wasn't going to tell her that. So, instead, he told her the rest of the truth. "I'm not stationed to this world, and therefore shouldn't be here. Tonight was a Shinigami Women's Association meeting, and Matsumoto always gets so hammered at those that she doesn't even notice I'm gone."

Karin bit her thumb thoughtfully. "Those meetings are around the same time every month, aren't they?"

"Yes," Hitsugaya answered slowly, wondering where she was going with this.

"You've visited me every month since you left, haven't you?" She was finally looking at him again, but all Hitsugaya wanted to do was turn away. He couldn't believe that she had figured it out.

Karin didn't wait for an answer. She stood up and walked towards the row of swings, sitting down on the one on the end. She could see Hitsugaya staring at her from his spot on the bench.

"Don't just sit there, Toshiro," Karin scoffed, pushing her hair out of her face. "Get over here and push."

His blood boiled. Hitsugaya Toshiro, tenth taicho of the Gotei 13, was being ordered around by a human girl. What made him even madder was that he knew he was going to listen to her.

Hitsugaya sauntered over, angry at himself for letting her control him and actually liking it. He pushed.

"I guess it wasn't a dream then," Karin said, mostly to herself. "You really were there all of those times."

"What are you talking abut?" Hitsugaya snapped, still annoyed.

Karin ignored his tone. "Every month I would have the same dream. Usually, it was of you facing away from me."

Hitsugaya was embarrassed. He thought he was being smooth but she had seen him all of those times. He cleared his throat. "Usually?"

She had gone up into the stars and back down to him again before she answered. "Well, sometimes you would have this dragon thingie floating around—"

Suddenly he was in front of her and she was no longer swinging: he was holding the chains and she was at a complete stop. His aquamarine eyes burned into her black ones. "You saw him?" he asked gruffly.

She was surprised to say the least, and him being so close to her didn't help. "Yeah. It was always trying to tell me something, but I could never understand."

Hitsugaya let go of her swing, lost in his own thoughts. He started walking away.

"Hey, Toshiro!" Karin leapt off the swing, more confused than ever.

"I've never heard of this before," he muttered to himself, not paying her the slightest bit of attention.

"Toshiro!" She was walking next to him now, but he continued to be off in his own little world.

"He hardly talks to me." His face was scrunched in concentration.

She had had enough. She took a deep breath and stepped in front of him. "TOSHIRO!!"

He looked at her in surprise, shocked out of his thoughts. She really could be scary sometimes. Well, she was a Kurosaki.

"What's going on? What was that thing?" Karin had her hands on her hips.

"His name is Hyourinmaru. He's my zanpakuto, my sword."

It was silent. Karin looked at him, confusion evident on her face. "Your sword is a dragon," she said finally. He nodded, and she took it as an invitation to ask more questions. "Why was he talking to me?"

"I don't know." He looked away from her again, seriously baffled. "I don't know why you can even see him. He's the image of my soul; only I should be able to see him and talk to him. I've never heard of anyone seeing the true form of another's zanpakuto."

"Well, what did he want?" Karin asked impatiently. "Ask him or something. You can do that, can't you?"

He scowled at her. "You're so damn bossy." The next second, however, he was looking at her with a blank expression.

It was sort of creeping Karin out. His eyes had no emotion in them at all; his whole body just looked like an empty shell. She put a hand on his shoulder. "Hey, are you alright?"

Suddenly, he blinked, and Karin could tell that the person behind his gaze was once again him.

"I think it's time for you to go home." He looked flustered, and even in the dark Karin could tell that he was blushing.

"What are you going on about?" Karin demanded, ignoring the way her heart sped up when he looked at her that way. Honestly, he was too good looking for his own good.

"It's getting really late. Let's go."

"What did he say? Toshiro, hey—"

He had grabbed her hand, and was leading her home. In her surprise, Karin followed.

The walk home was quiet. Karin kept stealing glances at their hands. She noticed how he didn't just hold her hand, he cradled it as if it were precious and delicate. It made her heart work in overdrive. Even so, Hitsugaya didn't remove his hand, so neither did she.

"Karin." She jumped slightly, startled, and looked around. Oh. They had stopped walking, and were in front of her house.

"Karin," he repeated in a whisper, sending goosebumps down her arms. "Are you ready?"

She nodded in reply, and once again he swept her off of her feet, in every sense of the phrase. Suddenly she was back in her room, and Hitsugaya set her upright.

She glanced out the window, judging the distance that he had just jumped. "Not bad for a grade-school kid," she said, knowing it would annoy him.

He didn't take the bait. "I'm going to go now, Karin."

She smiled, ruffling his hair affectionately even though she knew that it bothered him. "Well then, see you later, Toshiro. Try not to stalk me so much." She started to laugh, but she realized that he had grabbed the hand she had put in his hair and was holding it by the wrist.

Karin swallowed, suddenly not able to breathe because of the look he was giving her. His eyes, normally icy, were melting right in front of her, and could seemingly see right through her.

She tried to regain her composure, looking away from him and babbling about how he should get going before he got in trouble, but when his other hand gently turned her face, forcing her to look at him, she was once again struck dumb.

Then, his lips were on hers. It was a cautious kiss, light and sweet, and it probably only lasted a couple of seconds. To Karin, it lasted an eternity.

When they parted, she noticed that he looked as surprised as she felt. He opened his mouth to say something, but seemed to change his mind. "Go to sleep," he muttered, avoiding her gaze. The next second, he was no longer in her room, leaving her alone with her thoughts.

Unconsciously, her fingers grazed her lips. "See you next month," she whispered.

Yuzu snored, making her remember her sister was in the room. Karin sighed, the magic broken, and climbed back into her bed, pulling the covers over her head.

All at once Hyourinmaru's words returned to her, making her sit up in shock. She realized then that the reason she didn't understand him before was because she wasn't ready to. Smiling, she returned to her awaiting sheets and fell asleep.

In the next room, Rukia held Ichigo in a headlock.

"Dammit, Rukia!" he yelled, struggling to get out her iron grasp. "Let me go! I'm going to bankai his ass!"

"Oh, shut up Ichigo," she snorted. She smiled, her eyes sparkling in the moonlight. "Ah, young love!"

Kurosaki Karin. Return his love.

I approve.