A/N: I am well aware that I'm using poor Abarai Renji very badly. I don't have anything against him, but he was just so handy!

A Matter of Opportunity

"I'm glad all that warfare you had going is over, Rangiku-san," Karin said from where they were sitting on her brother's bed, watching Rukia and Ichigo argue.

"You bet! Now we can just relax and go shopping," the older woman exclaimed happily. Karin grimaced. Shopping wasn't exactly her thing.

"Hey ladies!"

"Hi Abarai, where have you been?" The two turned to the redhead who had appeared through the window, carrying a brown box with a lot of tiny holes in it. He looked rather anxious about the package.

"Ehh, around. Hey, Karin, I figured you might like this."

"Abarai! Maybe I should leave the two of you alone?" Rangiku said suggestively, earning herself an elbow to the ribs from Karin. The man in question just blushed.

"You stay right where you are," Karin ordered her sternly as Renji handed over the package. It was rather sizeable and kind of heavy and… did it just squeal?! She looked sternly at him. "What is this?"

"Just open it," he said, avoiding her question and looking the other way self-consciously. With a raised eyebrow as only comment, Karin started tearing into the packaging. Yup. It had made a noise.

"A bunny?!" She looked incredulously at him. "What on Earth made you think I want a bunny, Renji?" He looked so heartbroken it was almost sad.

"I suppose…" his half-hearted excuse-to-be was broken off by the door opening.

"Ichigo, there's someone… here… to…" Yuzu gaped at the crowd gathered in the room.

"Yuzu," Karin called before anyone could start messing things up, "want a rabbit?" She held up the helpless little brown animal toward her twin, knowing very well that Yuzu could never resist something so cute. Before anyone had reacted to the situation, the light-haired girl was already cuddling the trembling little creature.

"But why do you have a rabbit, Karin-chan?" The dark-haired twin shrugged.

"I got it from a friend," she intoned carefully. She was eighteen, she wasn't stupid; and she knew Renji well enough since he'd visited the house occasionally over the last six years, even if it was only the last year they'd had any contact, after Ichi-nii had finally accepted that she had figured it all out. Or rather, after Jinta and Ururu had hinted at the wrong thing and she'd managed to get her hands on some Soul Candy. She was good at being a Shinigami.

"Thank you so much!" Well, at least Yuzu was happy about the rabbit.

"Just remember to hug him and pet him and call him George," Karin said sarcastically, making all the visiting Shinigami stare at her, confused, but her twin frowned.

"Don't make fun of him! But I think I will call him George after all."

"Gah!" Karin threw up her hands in the air. Had everyone thrown their minds out the window, today? "I'm going out for a bit." She got as far as the front door, where a young man was waiting.

"It's been a while, Kurosaki."

"Toushiro!" He was always good company. "Are you here to talk to Ichi-nii?"

"I was, but…"

"Hold that thought," she broke off, "bloody Abarai's rabbit turned the entire place into a circus." He raised an eyebrow and she answered the unasked question: "He brought me a rabbit. It was cute and all, but I didn't really want one, so I gave it to Yuzu."

"A rabbit? Abarai?" He seemed stunned. "Why would he do such a thing?"

"C'mon, let's get out of this place."

"If you say so." He followed her in silence until she turned and walked into a small park and crashed on the green grass between the cherry trees.

"Ah, nobody around to do stupid things."

"I still don't exactly understand. Abarai-fukutaichou. Gave you. A rabbit?"

"Yes. A tiny, brown bunny," she confirmed. When the only response was stunned silence, she looked up at him. "Do I look like that kind of person?" That was a personal question. She was a brave, self-assured young woman and they hadn't spent all that much time together, but she trusted him. He wasn't even sure what to answer, and a beep from his receiver followed by a Hollow's roar saved him from trying.

They both quickly left their Gigai to Mod Souls and headed in the direction of the sound. It was a rather sizeable foe, but it wouldn't be trouble. He had never fought alongside her before, though, so he held back and watched her spring into action with her deadly steel beneath the cloudless sky. It was hot, but it hadn't reached the peak of summer yet so it was still bearable. Watching her like this, crashing down upon the unsuspecting Hollow like an angel of vengeance, he could understand what Abarai saw in her. The afternoon sun was blazing like fire in her eyes as she finished it off with a single, powerful slash of her Zanpaktou. Yes, she was… something extraordinary. Just a moment later she was in his face, grinning madly.

"Why didn't you join? It was good exercise."

"I didn't see a reason. You looked like you had it under control." She smiled a little at the compliment. Abarai had terrible people skills.

"Want to head for the soccer field later? Some competition could be fun."

"Why not?" He didn't really have that much time, but he wanted to know more about this unexpected addition to their world. Her brother had been another matter; he hadn't exactly stopped long enough in one place to be scrutinized.

-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-

Elsewhere…

"Hey, I put Soul Candy here, has anyone seen it?" Rangiku looked a bit worried, for once.

"Yeah, Karin needed some," Ichigo admitted, "and I wouldn't leave Kon alone with her body, so I let her borrow a couple. I'll get you new ones." Rangiku's eyes widened.

"No good," she breathed. "Yachiru-fukutaichou sent them along for me. I've been staying away from them." The three looked at each other, knowing Yachiru's taste in jokes and all succumbed to gales of laughter.

-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-

Back at the park…

"AH!" Did she have to be so loud? He looked up at her, frowning.

"Don't get so… owah!" He had been thinking about Karin as a Substitute Shinigami, and wondered how the Captain-Commander would handle it, when she yelled. Then… "What the hell?!"

"Don't look at me!"

"You gave me that gikon pill!"

"Well yes, but…" they both looked at their Mod Soul-inhabited bodies, "…it wasn't exactly mine, there must've been some mistake al—aaah!"

At first they had just been hugging closely, which was really troubling enough in itself; where had she gotten those gikon pills? Seeing the Mod Soul in his body actually leaning over and kissing her, now that was definitely disturbing. Taking a shunpo step, he quickly returned to it. It always took a moment to reclaim a body after leaving it. That left him with enough time to realise that he should have pulled the bloody Mod Soul away first. Only, it was holding him way too tightly… and her warmth and those soft lips pressing against his were rather distracting. As he started to try and peel the Mod Soul off him he saw her gazing down at his plight in amusement.

"Will you help me already?" His voice was strained; he hoped she'd assume that he was simply annoyed. He wanted to believe that he was annoyed. She just laughed and returned to her body. He could feel the moment it stopped supporting him and quickly wrapped an arm around her back before she fell.

"Thanks." They both froze.

"This… is a bit awkward…" He couldn't let go of her, if he did she'd fall, but as long as his arm was around her she couldn't easily steady herself.

For once, she had no cheeky comments about the situation. Instead, her mouth was half open and her eyes wide. As he stared at her, still in a bit of shock, her look of surprise changed into one of curiosity and she shocked him even more by reaching up and touching his face with the one hand she had free. After a moment, just as he thought it couldn't get more confusing and bothersome, she pulled herself up, giving him a quick peck on the cheek on the way. He didn't have a clue how to react to that, so he just stood quickly and for a brief moment, their eyes locked together again.

"Come on. Ichi-nii is probably waiting for you."

"Right." Matsumoto would make fun of him forever if she ever found out about this.

-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-

It took him an entire day to realise she was acting as if he didn't exist, except for the rare occasions when it would have been outright rude to ignore him. Though he managed to convince himself that it was for the best, he felt a bit cheated; even if they hadn't always been actual friends, she had never acted this cold. Her gaze travelled past him like she didn't even notice his presence and the one time that someone questioned it she just laughed and said "What are you saying, stupid? It's just Toushiro, he's standing right there." There had been something closed about her eyes when she looked at him, then. He let it pass; there wasn't exactly anything he could do about it. It went on like that, while he tried to push the incident from his mind. It wasn't as easily done as he had imagined, though. Even though she acted like she didn't care, she kept showing up and reminding him of her existence. It wasn't so often that it was obviously purposeful, but considering her attitude he had expected her to keep away completely. He was still considering how to deal with his own side of things when Matsumoto shoved him a letter over breakfast almost a week later.

"I got this, Karin-san said to give it to you."

"Hm?" That was strange. He took it, fiddling a bit with the strange envelope on the way before managing to get it open. It was short and to the point, but very personal.

'If you don't believe, it's like it doesn't matter'.
I would tell myself such things. It's not always true. I'm sorry about that. If you want to go to the park someday, just call.

"What was it?" Matsumoto was too curious for her own good.

"Who knows? I'll go out for a while."

It was getting hotter by the day, but there was a fair amount of shade in the park. Karin had been playing a mock game of soccer with a few friends before it got too crowded, but since then, laying in the shade doing homework had been the most she had managed. In the end, even that had been too much and by the time Toushiro arrived she was snoozing lightly on her books in the shade of the leaves. It didn't matter, though, he thought. There would be enough time to talk when she woke up. Settling by her side against the tree, he ignored the rational part of himself for just a moment. 'If you don't believe, it's like it doesn't matter', but it did matter. She had been right. He wouldn't act like a fool over this, but maybe… maybe he'd just wait around… and see what could happen, after something strange like this.