I don't normally write song fics. However, I often pick out a music playlist that loops while I'm writing, sort of as an inspiration thing, or to keep me in the mood. This particular song - Again Again by Lady Gaga - stuck in my head when I started work on another Karin/Tōshirō fic. I somehow have the feeling that this won't be the last 'song fic' that I'll publish on this site.
This isn't quite the typical song fic found on . These lyrics reminded me more of possible spoken dialog, and as such I have incorporated it into the conversations. The lyrics are italicized, and I'm afraid I've taken the liberty of altering words (as well as most of the chorus), to fit the story.
I've only been exposed to the anime, and cannot say I'm well versed in every detail of Bleach. I make no claims to any form of compliance with canon. I am borrowing the characters, trying my best to preserve the world, and running with it. My apologies if I skew a character portrayal. I'd be more than happy to receive your feedback.
I own neither the lyrics to this song, nor any of the characters or world in which they are portrayed. They belong to Stefani Germanotta and Tite Kubo, respectively. My thanks for the chance of borrowing their genius.
As always, reviews are more than welcome and greatly appreciated. Thank you for reading, and enjoy.
She felt him as soon as he stepped through the gates into town. Slamming back the rest of her drink, Karin got up and headed out to the front of the club. Orihime was the only one who noticed her leaving; quite possibly she felt him too, but Karin merely shook her head when the redhead shot her a concerned look. Any confrontation with him was private, her accumulation of dirty secrets. Karin didn't want Orihime, or anyone for that matter, present for any of it.
The cold night air felt nice against her flushed skin. There had been too many people and too much noise in the club. The crush of bodies generated an almost unbearable heat. But this cold air was too much like him, and she resented that it felt good. She resented anything that remotely reminded her of him.
She started climbing up to the top of the multi-level parking structure, where she knew it would be deserted. He was close, now, moving too fast to be trapped in a gigai. It wouldn't do to have people watch her talking to thin air.
It was a simple matter to climb onto the edge of the railing, her feet hooked onto the lower bar. The parking structure, as well as the club, were on the outskirts of town, part of the new 'business district' that had sprung up in recent years following the steady growth in town population. She found that this high up, she could see the expanse of forest that so far had survived industrialization. It was a cloudless night, the moon half full hanging in the center of inky black. A handful of stars were scattered across the sky, twinkling, oblivious to her pain. She wished it would all go away. She wanted to rip the sky apart, wanted to conjure up a hell of a storm, making everyone else as miserable as she felt… Damn these beautiful nights, she thought to herself. Especially after all those nights on the roof top spent with…
She took a deep breath. It was not good for her to get angry. Not over him.
Then there he was. She could hear his feet touching the ground, only the barest whisper of his sandals brushing the cement floor. More importantly, she could feel him, that all too familiar energy that was a siren's song calling for her heart.
"You've got a lot of nerve, coming here." She hissed, staring unseeingly into the distance. She wouldn't turn around. She couldn't look at him. She knew what she'd see. The impossibly gorgeous eyes, handsome face, the mess of hair that despite it all was ridiculously soft. The face that had barely aged, but she was steadily becoming older. She knew it was absurd to think of herself as ancient when she was on the cusp of 21. but when the person she loved didn't look a day over 14…
It was a painful reminder that she was destined to grow old, become even more hideous, and die alone. And he'd continue to be young, and lively, and breathtakingly gorgeous…
"I'm still with him," she said as tonelessly as she could muster, gesturing vaguely in the direction of the club she had come from. The plain silver band on her right hand was muted under the moonlight. "Isn't that what you wanted?"
There was silence from him, but she could feel the fluctuations in his reiatsu, subtle, but more than enough for her to read him. After all, she knew him better than anyone else, didn't she?
She would have said more, but she suddenly felt all that anger turning into sorrow, and her throat constricted. It wouldn't do to cry. Not now. Not again. She took in a shaky breath and pressed her lips tight together, not trusting them to not turn downwards, to give away even the slightest hint of how badly his presence shook her up.
In a fluid motion, she jumped off the railing, intent on stalking back to the club. Her fists were clenched tightly to her side. She would slap him, really, no. Punch him. Anything to save herself from the tears that threatened to fall. But it would break her heart later, never mind how much the bastard deserved it.
"Karin," he said. His voice reverberated in her mind, that deep, warm, husky tone. The only thing warm about him, that heartless…
She stopped before she could help herself.
And there were his hands on her cheeks, cupping her face, guiding her to look at him. His turquoise eyes were locked with hers, and she was drowning…
"No." She said, with what little bit of strength she had left. She wrenched herself out of his grasp.
"I hate you," she said. "I can't have you, this isn't fair." Her voice was breaking, and there was no way of stopping the tears anymore. Her vision blurred. She hated being this helpless, damn it all. If only she could just fling herself off the top of this damn parking structure. Her shoulders shook as she stumbled back, trying to find her orientation. Where were the damn stairs? She needed to get back to the party, to that crush of people, the mind-numbing noise, the suffocating heat. She tried to move but his arms were suddenly around her. She was trapped in his arms, and she felt so good right there. How she hated herself right then, weak willed, giving so easily to him despite it all.
She reached up over his shoulder to wipe away her tears. The stars swam back into view. She took a deep breath, and then another.
"My birthday's coming," she said, her voice carefully neutral, if not a little shaky. She felt him slowly let her go, hands firmly on her shoulders, turning her to face him.
"And you know what I hate? I hate that after all this pain you've caused me, despite how clear you've made it that… I'll never have you… If I had one wish, you'd be it."
She bit back a laugh at how pathetic she sounded. Shaking her head, she stepped back, arms wrapping about her body. She hated how she enjoyed the cold of his touch. She looked away.
"Karin," he started to say. She flinched when he tried to touch her again.
"No, Tōshirō, please. Stop," she pleaded. "Don't make me look at you... don't… When you're around, I… I can't help it. I lose myself inside your arms. Did you know that I become irrationally rude to people with blue eyes? Because you've got blue eyes like no one else, and I find myself hating them, for not being you. Hating them, because they remind me of you. You told me to move on. You made me… Hell… now I have someone waiting for me right now down there… waiting for my answer… And yet you keep coming around, again... and again…"
He didn't say a word. He never did. But as she watched, his turquoise eyes were changing from sea green to stormy blue. Screw him, she tried to tell herself. He didn't deserve to be sad. This was his choice.
"Don't you dare," she growled, finding some of that fiery anger, holding onto it for dear life, anything to stop the tears. "Don't you dare use those eyes on me. You broke my heart."
She turned heel and fled.
Tatsuki made a perfect companion for those lazy Saturday afternoons, when it was overcast and intermittently raining, and life seemed absolutely bleak. The woman was like Karin in many ways, most noticeably in their strong self-reliance, determination, tough exterior… and less noticeably in how they both carried an endless depth of secrets and sorrow.
"So I begged him," Karin sighed as she concluded her story of that night, a week ago. "I promised myself to forget that smug little brat, and yet he keeps returning. And each time, I find that all the walls I built up get torn down with the first brush of his reiatsu against mine…"
Next to her, Tatsuki toyed with the paper cup of coffee in her hands. "What about Ren? Doesn't he make you at least a little bit happy?"
Karin bit back a laugh. "He never really saw me. Not when we first started dating, not even now. I think he was more in love with my dad, than me."
The coffee cup in Tatsuki's hands spun out of control and toppled. A slow trickle of coffee leaked across the tabletop from the hole in the plastic lid. But neither woman even spared a glance at it.
"Your dad?" Tatsuki sputtered with uncharacteristic surprise. "No offence, Karin, but your dad's… well…" There was no good way of ending that sentence. Tatsuki trailed off, shrugging.
Karin smiled ruefully. "Yeah, he is one of a kind, isn't he? But he's also the owner of the largest clinic Karakura has. As a doctor, he's got an outstanding reputation. Plus otou-san's got a good working relationship with the Ishida family. Think about it. Ren's applying to some of the best medical schools in Japan. What better way to get in than to have several glowing recommendations from some of the most esteemed members of the medical community?"
"Karin!" Tatsuki gasped. "That's an awful thing to say about the boy."
The woman shrugged. "It's only awful if it's not true."
Not having a reply to that, Tatsuki made a half hearted attempt at mopping up the trickle of coffee.
"Besides," Karin said with a positively wicked smile. "He never waits when we're.. you know.. hooking up." her voice dropped into a stage whisper, "He'd never.. you know.. last."
Never mind the coffee she was trying to mop up. Tatsuki dropped the cup on the floor, splattering the patrons about them with scalding coffee. "Karin!" She cried. "Too much information!"
"Karin! Stop!" Tōshirō called as soon as he caught sight of them. He appeared in front of both women as they stepped out of the coffee shop, before either could even register his presence. He knew Karin would run as soon as she felt him, and had taken pains to mask his reiatsu. He vaguely recognized the woman standing next to Karin, Tatsuki Arisawa, one of Kurosaki Ichigo's and Orihime Inoue's friends. She was fearsome, for a human woman, especially after Yoriuchi Shihōin herself had trained the woman. Tōshirō didn't think it prudent to cross her path.
Apparently, he wasn't cautious enough. The fist came out of nowhere. Not a slap, but an actual hard hitting punch that threw the boy off his feet. The few humans that were taking an afternoon stroll through downtown Karakura stopped to stare at the sudden, violent gesture, looking for the victim of the punch, the body that ought to have accompanied the sickening sound of a fist meeting face, the dull thud that shook the pavement.
He blinked, staring dumbly up at the two women. Tatsuki looked absolutely murderous, glowered at him, her right hand still fisted. Her left was wrapped around Karin's body, who stared helplessly at him with large, watery brown eyes.
Tōshirō wanted to punch himself for making Karin cry, again. He needed to stop messing up. He needed to make things right. A crowd had gathered, idle passersby speculating the strange scene.
"What are you staring at?" The crowd shrank back as Tatsuki sneered scathingly at the people.
Karin looked like she wanted to bolt. Tōshirō knew only too well how the proud woman hated to cry. And now that he had effectively caused a scene…
He climbed to his feet, and before anyone could register what he was doing, had whisked Karin up in his arms. With a series of flash steps, he had carried her up past the mess of buildings towards the outskirts of town.
He could faintly hear Tatsuki's angered shout. "Hey, shorty! Bring her back here! You've no right to run off with her! Bastard! After you broke her heart!" Tōshirō shook his head. Let the woman get out of that mess herself, explaining the sudden disappearance of Karin. He thanked his lucky stars Tatsuki didn't know shun-po.
She didn't say a word as he flew through the air, jumping from rooftop to rooftop towards that forsaken place he loved so much. She knew she ought to hit him, to scream, to do something. But the feeling of his arms around her, the press of his body and the cool chill of his breath against her cheek had all her defenses crumbling.
After all, she thought, whenever he was around, she always seemed to lose herself inside his arms. It was the way his reiatsu seemed to soothe and calm her, how, especially when in close contact, their very souls seemed to mingle, and he became the safest place she could imagine. He felt familiar. He was home. She sighed, and fisting her hands against the front of his kimono, pulled herself closer to him. What was a little more heart break? It would hurt when he left her later. The lingering sensation of his reiatsu wrapped around her would intoxicate and taunt her for the days to come. But all there had been was hurt, with him. It couldn't get any worse than it already did. She would savor him while it lasted.
Karin was secretly glad that she never grew much taller. It meant she was subject to mockery for being so short. It meant that she struggled to project the image of an assertive (and when necessary, aggressive) female because at first glance, no one took her seriously. But more importantly, it meant she was barely taller than Tōshirō, who had grown a fateful few of inches over the past decade. It meant that, on days when his hair seemed particularly unruly, his hair was taller than her. It meant that she still fit perfectly in his arms.
He landed lightly by his, no, their railing. With gentle care, he sat her down next to him. Wordlessly, he took her hand in his. His heart leapt when she didn't pull away, even if she refused to look at him. The words he had wanted to say to her died in his throat when he saw the forlorn look on her face, a look which, he realized in a moment of perfect horror, graced her face almost constantly. He remembered her face, smiling, exuberant, alive. But he couldn't remember the last time he saw her smile. Biting his lip, he stared off into the distance.
He didn't know how long they sat there, quiet, contemplative, watching as late afternoon turned to early evening. The grey clouds from earlier had drifted further south, revealing clear skie tinted orange and red. He marveled at the feeling of connectedness, just by having her near.
Over and over he had had conversations with Hyōrinmaru about the state of his soul, and the concept of soul mates. And each time he'd leave the conversation frustrated, sick of the sword's ambiguous answers. "You'll understand when you're older," was never something he liked to hear. For his zanpakutō to say that, implying he was lacking in maturity, left a bitter taste in Tōshirō's mouth.
She had offered to die to be with him. She had offered to enter the academy, become a shinigami the legitimate way. Karin had it all planned out. The scheming girl had cornered Urahara and somehow bribed or threatened the man. Together, an emergency plan had been put into place. Instead of a soul burial, with her at risk of losing her memories, they would open up a senkai gate and sneak her in undercover. "Simple!" She had told him. She laughed him off when he protested about giving up her life. To her, she asserted, he was her life. And he had balked at that. That was a responsibility that he couldn't handle, having her unwavering trust in him… She was worth more than he was-
And suddenly everything fell into place. He could hear a satisfied grumble from Hyōrinmaru in his head.
"Karin," Tōshirō said. He tightened his grip on her hand, knowing she would be jumpy. He didn't know where to start, but having broken the silence, he had to continue. "Thank you," his voice faltered. "Thank you for not giving up on me, despite… everything."
She turned to him, dark brown eyes glistening with unshed tears, the faintest of smiles across her face. "How could I?" she asked quietly. She turned away to stare at the sunset. "Like… Last week, When you were sad, I told you I knew." Almost as an afterthought, she added, "Your eyes changed from kinda green, to kinda blue."
A silence, and she shifted uncomfortably. "If I can't look at you, it's because it hurts to look into your eyes and see how much you're hurting yourself. If you didn't care about me, if you were truly just some bastard toying with my heart, I'd have left a long time ago.
"But no matter how angry you make me or how often you break my heart, I can't push you away. Because I know that you love me. And because when you're around, I lose myself inside your touch. It's an addiction, really, the feel of you, your reiatsu around me. And besides," her voice brightened for a moment, and a momentary emergence of old, playful Karin evident, "it helps that you're gorgeous. You've got blue eyes like no one else…"
With a quavering hand, he reached for her face, and ever so gently turned her to face him. Tōshirō looked her in the eyes, wanting for her to see, to understand, to feel the truth. "Karin… I'm so used to working with within the system, of following orders… of doing what is right.
"And then you came. You're so precious, so unprecedented, and I didn't know what to do. All I knew was… I couldn't have deserved you, with your brilliant smile, your easy laughter… You are so vivacious, so passionate about life. You taught me how to live. And then you expect me to ask you to stop living… I didn't know how to handle that. I mean… I don't deserve you, but it's obvious that you think I do, so… maybe I should just stop fighting this?"
He didn't notice her lifting her free hand until her fingertips were lightly pressed against his cheek in a soft caress, too captivated by the relief in her eyes, the genuine smile that was starting to spread across her lips.?
"Then tell me, if I leave him, would you be there? That… maybe you could be mine, all the time?"
There wasn't any hesitation now. Decisively, he pulled the ring off her right ring finger - the ring she had received from that boy Ren, a token of love. The ring she had worn, he realized, more out of politeness than out of genuine interest in the human.
They both watched as the piece of silver glinted under the sunlight, before disappearing from their view down into valley below. Then Tōshirō cupped her face, pulled her close, and kissed her. Again, and again.
It was like coming home.