Sorry this took so long everyone! A mixture of life, me being lazy, and me not feeling too hot are to blame, but whatever, you don't really care about that. Special thanks to Adobo-chan and Glowing Blue for constantly plowing me with amazing fanfic in hopes of sparking my muse. Thanks, loves, you're the greatest~

I don't own Bleach. On that note, the Queen has her bankai mothafuckaaaaaas *cartwheels into the sun*

"I can't believe this is actually happening," Karin breathed. "Are you sure you're not just fucking with me?"

"I'm not just fucking with you." He shook his head slightly. "You want to go. The soutaicho has given me permission to take you, so I'm going to."

The sound of the swear exiting his mouth sent a weird thrill through her, even if he was merely repeating her words back to her. Still, she couldn't help the smirk that took over her face. "I love it when you talk dirty to me."

As always, Toshiro took her teasing in stride, simply rolling his eyes heavenward and ignoring how the back of his neck warmed. "Did you want to go or not?"

"Of course I do!" she scoffed, jumping up from her bed and winding her arms around his neck. Before she could plant a grateful kiss on his lips, a giggle made them freeze.

Karin looked over her shoulder to find Yuzu, sitting cross-legged on her own bed, peeping at them from behind a book. Her long hair was fixed into a high, messy bun, and she was wearing one of their brother's old shirts—speaking is not communication—and a pair of sweatpants. It was the weekend, which meant Yuzu was dressed comfortably and supposedly studying, but Karin couldn't shake the feeling that Yuzu found her and Toshiro infinitely more interesting than her hohou homework. "What?" the dark-haired twin asked self-consciously.

"Nothing," Yuzu replied, her smile so big that it clearly was something. She returned her gaze to her textbook. "Nothing at all."

Awkwardly, Karin let go of Hitsugaya, cheeks aflame. He avoided meeting her eyes, clearing his throat. "I'll just wait for you outside then."

She bit her lip. "Yeah. Sure. I'll be right out."

He sent a nod in Yuzu's direction, leaving so quickly that Karin doubted he saw her sister wave back. As soon as the door clicked, Karin rounded on her. "What was that?"

Yuzu looked at her with wide, excessively innocent eyes. "What was what?"

Karin rolled her eyes. "Don't play dumb with me, Yu."

The fair-haired twin wrapped a strand of loose hair around a finger. "I was just looking at how cute you two look together."

"I never took you for a voyeur," Karin said wryly.

"And I never took you for an exhibitionist," Yuzu retaliated, the corners of her mouth twitching.

Mortified, Karin ran a hand down her face. "I didn't mean to. I forgot you were there—"

Yuzu laughed. "Karin, I'm just joking. You're allowed to kiss your boyfriend." She winked mischievously. "That's kind of the point."

"I'm just not used to that," she sighed, willing the heat in her face to go away. "I've always found pda gross. And we haven't really told people so…"

"You can't keep it a secret forever," Yuzu pointed out. "People are bound to notice you two acting lovey dovey."

Karin sat back down on her bed, feeling a little faint. "Is it that noticeable?"

Her twin finally gave up her pretense of reading, tossing her textbook to the side and shrugging. "Besides the kissing? Not really, to be honest. You guys have been drowning in sexual tension for years."

Karin glared at her, but Yuzu merely grinned.

"Seriously though," the youngest Kurosaki sibling continued, stretching her arms above her head. "When do you guys plan on going public?"

Karin fidgeted uncomfortably. "I don't know. When it feels right?"

Yuzu's nose wrinkled cutely—she had never felt the need to hide any of her relationships—but she just shook her head and picked her book back up. "Well, you should get going. Toshiro-kun's waiting for you, and watching you guys make out is very distracting. I have to study if I'm going to pass this exam."

"We weren't making out," Karin moped, pulling her shirt over her head.

"Just warn me if it's going to be more than that, because I'd prefer to not be in the room."

Karin threw the shirt at her. Yuzu burst out laughing at her own crassness, easily dodging the projectile. "Have fun on your date."

"It's not a date," Karin informed her, slipping a fresh shirt over her head and shoving on her combat boots. "Daisuke's coming with."

Yuzu rolled her eyes at her insistence. "Well have fun anyway. And be careful."

"We will," Karin called over her shoulder as she shut the door firmly behind her. "Honestly," she muttered to herself, rolling her eyes at her sister's antics. But when she exited the room and saw multiple girls poking their heads into the hallway and looking at her curiously, she knew it probably wouldn't be long before her secret was out.

She found Hitsugaya waiting outside the dorm building, leaning against the brick wall and getting lots of stares from students in the area. "Don't you find this weird?" Karin asked him under her breath. "Everyone's staring at us."

He pushed off the wall and cocked his head curiously. "Everyone is always staring at us."

"Really?" Had they really always followed their every move with their hungry gazes? They had only been officially together for a few weeks, but Karin had never noticed all of the attention before that.

"I'm a captain," he reminded, a gentle hand on her elbow guiding her down the path and past their impromptu audience. "Captains don't usually hang around Academy students so much. And they certainly don't visit the dorms. It's only natural that they'd stare."

"But even Yuzu's doing it," she retorted.

"And that bothers you?"

"It doesn't bother you?"

He was quiet for a moment, gathering his thoughts. "It's kind of strange, yes. But Yuzu only caught me off guard because I'm used to trying to keep our relationship a secret. Other than that, I get stared at all the time, so it's not a big deal."

She rolled her eyes. "Well aren't you a charmer."

He smirked, his hand skating down her arm in search of hers.

Karin moved discreetly away. Still, Toshiro noticed, responding with nothing more than a questioning brow. "We're in public," she said in explanation.

"What, are you ashamed of me?" he asked, and she was reminded of what felt like a million years ago when it was just him, laughing his ass off, and her, dripping with pond water but still feeling the prettiest she could ever remember feeling, and the lanterns making his eyes glow almost ethereally, and the taste of desire on his lips.

"Are you ashamed of me?" he had asked, making her heart swell to unnatural proportions.

"No," she responded, her voice strong and certain. She looked at him pleadingly. "But I've never done this relationship thing before. And I didn't anticipate all of the attention. And I'm trying really hard not to steamroll over everyone's feelings—"

He held up a hand, stopping her ramble. "I understand," he said softly. "We can wait until you're ready."

For a moment, Karin considered saying fuck it and jumping him right there on the sidewalk. But, getting herself under control, she merely snaked an arm around his waist.

Surprised, he placed an arm around her shoulders. "I thought you said—"

"This is a friendly hug between friends," she said cheekily. "And we're just on a friendly stroll."

She could see the mirth in his eyes. "If you say so."

The walked for a few more minutes before Karin decided it as time to let go of him. Leisurely, they made their way to the Western Gate.

When they got there, they found Daisuke, nervously chattering to the massive Jidanbo. The boy's relief at seeing them was evident. "What took you so long?" he muttered to Karin under his breath.

She raised an eyebrow. "I was studying with Yuzu for our kido exam. And we're right on time, so…"

Daisuke flushed. Because he had been practicing in the Academy dojo that morning, he had told Karin that he would just meet her at the gate, but had obviously left too early. Instead of deigning her with a reply, he turned to the shinigami taicho, bowing. "It's good to see you again, Hitsugaya-taicho."

Karin elbowed Hitsugaya in the ribs. He grimaced, then inclined his head. "Sasaki," he greeted.

Daisuke looked distinctly perplexed at the exchange, but chose not to mention it. "Thanks for doing this for us."

Hitsugaya cleared his throat uncomfortably. "No problem. Are we ready?"

"Yes, sir!" the curly-haired boy answered enthusiastically. Karin saluted Toshiro sarcastically.

He rolled his eyes. After a quickly greeting Jidanbo and showing him the proper paperwork, he turned back to them. "I assume you both know shunpo?"

Daisuke and Karin looked at each other. While Karin was decent at it, hohou was Daisuke's worst subject; in fact, he had been working on it that very morning. "Sure," she answered vaguely.

They made it to the 40th district of West Rukongai before Daisuke started to slow down. By the 60th, even Karin was huffing and puffing. Hitsugaya was fast, though Karin could tell that he was holding back for their benefit. And as fit as she liked to think herself, running and shunpo were two different things. While running was purely physical, shunpo was a mix of physical and spiritual, and her spiritual strength had yet to catch up to her physical capabilities. "Stop," she finally gasped, completely out of breath.

Hitsugaya skidded to a halt, looking at them over his shoulder. While they were hunched over, trying to breathe, he had barely picked up a sweat. Bastard. "We're almost there."

Karin just shook her head, unable to speak. Beside her, Daisuke focused on not passing out.

The captain stood there silently for a few moments, his teal eyes filling with concern. "Are you alright?" he finally asked.

"Super," Daisuke wheezed.

Karin held up a shaky thumbs-up.

Hitsugaya frowned. "I guess we'll just walk the rest of the way." Which is something that he didn't want to do. Walking meant bringing more attention to themselves in increasingly bad areas. "Stay close to me."

Karin knew that if Daisuke wasn't with them, her stubborn boyfriend probably would have insisted on just carrying her the rest of the way. But honestly, though she was already getting hungry stares from sketchy men, she didn't like being treated like she couldn't handle herself. Plus, they were only in the 60th district. Karin and Daisuke were from the 74th, which was much worse.

Still, she made her way closer to Hitsugaya's side, stumbling a little as she felt him suddenly rein in his iron-clad control on his spiritual pressure. Daisuke's hands involuntarily shook before he could calm them.

"Is that really necessary?" Karin asked, eyebrows raised in question.

His own eyebrow mimicked hers, and he cocked his head. When she turned around, all of the questionable people who had been observing them had lost interest, most likely after understanding what they were up against. "I think so," he replied breezily.

Karin shot a sidelong look at Daisuke, who was still breathing heavily. He shrugged in reply. Kiss-ass. "I just think," she prodded, "that maybe you're going a little overboard."

Toshiro's mouth formed a tight line. "And I just think that you're not being careful enough." He looked at her pointedly.

Of course he was worried about someone murdering her. What, did he think that someone was going to tackle her right then and there? Maybe shoot some poison darts her way? "Really?" she said incredulously.

"Really?" he repeated, just as incredulous about why she wouldn't want him babying her all day every day.

Daisuke's eyes darted between the two of them. "Am I missing something, or…"

"It's nothing," Hitsugaya scoffed, irritated.

"You're not going to be able to hover over me on my field lesson," Karin retorted, just as irritated.

Daisuke grinned, clapping her on the back. "I forgot about that! Man, you're so lucky to be out fighting Hollows. Us regular students only get to practice konso. And that's in a few more months."

Being in Advanced Swordsmanship definitely had its perks—her class was assigned to go on a mini-mission, more of an exercise than anything else. In a few days, they were going to the World of the Living to fight very-low-level Hollows for the experience. Though she used to easily do that when she was ten years old and had nothing but a soccer ball, any reason to get off campus and break the monotony of school sounded like a good time to her.

Hitsugaya's jaw tightened. "I may not be able to hover, as you put it, but rest assured, you will be in very capable hands."

Karin's blood pressure shot up, all amorous feelings she previously felt for the snowy-haired captain morphing into indignant frustration. She was not his child, not something that he had to constantly keep an eye on. She was his girlfriend, and though he technically outranked her, entering a relationship meant that they saw—and treated!— each other as equals. She may not have been as skilled as he was, but she did not like being belittled and treated like she was incompetent. "Why don't you understand?" she hissed, stepping in front of him and forcing him to look her in the eye.

"Why don't you?" he countered icily, exasperation simmering in his clear irises.

A beat passed, their faces inches away from each other in challenge. Then Daisuke cleared his throat, forcing their attention back to him. He rubbed his neck awkwardly. "Guys?"

Hitsugaya spun around, his captain's haori billowing around him rather dramatically. "Let's go," he barked. "We're almost there. Keep up."

And then he shunpoed out of sight.

Fuming, Karin crossed her arms, a foot tapping.

Her curly-haired friend looked visibly nervous. "Shouldn't we—"

"Let's go!" Hitsugaya's voice snapped, and when she looked for the source, she found him on the roof of an adjacent store.

Cursing under her breath, Karin grabbed Daisuke by the elbow and took off.

A/N: Funfact: I decided to spell "Hohō" with the "u" in its romanization and not "Tōshirō" because frankly, 1.) that accent mark thingy is a bitch to have to type consistently and 2.) "Hoho" makes me think of snack cakes, insults, and Christmas. So "hohou" it is.

I would just like to say that this chapter dragged out and it was supposed to end at a completely different point. But as always, I deftly underestimated my long-winded tendencies, so I decided to split it in two. Hopefully I can get the next chapter out soonish.

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you thought~!