Hey guys! I'm back with another story! I got the idea while watching the Bleach Filler Episode 228 when the Shinigami Women's Association went to the beach and inspiration for this story just struck me like a pie to the face.
A HUGE thank you to AlecksPopsFireworks for helping me out with some of the ideas in this one-shot.
So for giving me all of this help, this one-shot is dedicated to AlecksPopsFireworks!
Author: MeteorLeopard (HoneyBadger)
Title: Sandcastles and Kisses
Heat. It was just plain stinkin' hot. All this sticky hot air pressing down on everything, especially me. It's like today was custom-made for the sole purpose of annoying me! Why was there so much damn air everywhere?
Yes, this environment was just perfect for me. After all, what ice prince didn't flourish in sun, sand and salt water? Being in the sunshine the whole day really did wonders for my temper too. It made it boil right up and I became even snappier. Or at least, that's what Matsumoto had commented on earlier, comparing me to a crocodile or, even worse, an alligator. Just why did I agree to come to the beach again?
"Hey, you guys in the kitchen! I can't find the broccoli!"
…oh yeah. That's why.
I didn't move from my spot on the floor but luckily another female voice answered the first.
"It's right next to the cheese and leeks, just above the red bean paste in the cooler box with the chappy design!"
"Which one? The flower-chappy or the pajama-chappy?"
I kept my back turned to the store as I lay on my side, hidden behind a table. I had my eyes closed in a fruitless attempt to stave off the heat. Of course, just doing the ostrich-treatment couldn't solve all my problems, I knew that. But it felt pretty good for the time being to just ignore everything.
"Oh, it's the flower-chappy one. Kuchiki-san helped me pack that box and Ishida-kun helped with the other." Inoue answered the very first voice currently coming from behind the storage room door that was left half opened.
I vaguely thought that was why the one from Ishida didn't contain the deadly red bean paste, cheese and leeks. That Ishida boy did seem to have a shred more sanity than the average human that I'd met so far. The only reply from Ishida was to flip the vegetables he was currently frying.
"Right at the bottom then?" came the voice from the store room.
"Hai, there should be about five packets there that I'd planned to use, but seeing that you're now here I think I'm going to have to resort to my two spares!"
I gritted my teeth. Who in their right mind brought seven packets of broccoli to the beach?
"Inoue-san, I do know that we're feeding several very hungry shinigami, but seven packets of broccoli might have been overdoing things."
Finally, a sane comment.
"Six would have been ample."
"Orihime-san… what's the shoe polish for?"
"Well, you see-"
"Excuse me?" came a new voice from the entrance. "Could you please give me some ice?"
Oh great. Now that Kurosaki had shown up. And by the feel of things, Abarai was with him too. And obviously they wanted ice. What else.
"Okay!" Inoue twirled around on her heel from facing the back storage room.
"What're you doing here?"
"Working." Inoue replied in her happy voice, meaning that she was head-over-heels to see Kurosaki. Honestly, what she or Kuchiki Rukia saw in the guy was beyond me. I stayed lying behind the table. Maybe if I kept quiet they'd go away.
"You're too loud, Kurosaki."
Obviously, Kurosaki just had to go and make a totally oblivious statement, announcing to the whole world his level of ignorance.
"Sado-kun's here too."
Right on Inoue's cue, Sado walked to the store entrance carrying a clinking crate of bottles.
"Why're you here?"
Still with the ignorance.
"Didn't you hear? Unohana-taicho asked them to do this," Abarai spoke up. So far it looked like they'd forgotten about the ice. Good.
"Shinigami might be my enemies, but I couldn't deny Unohana-taicho."
Right. For us Shinigami being the Quincy's enemies, Ishida sure was there often to help out. He was in mayor denial.
"We're renting this entire beach for the day. We can't kick back and relax if there are people from the real world here." Abarai made it sound like the humans would actually try and initiate a conversation with us… hah. As if!
"So that's why everyone came," Kurosaki said.
Wow, congratulations Sherlock.
"Anyway, didn't you need some ice?" Inoue spoke up then.
Damn. Did she have to go and remind them?
"Oh, that's right. Ukitake-san's got heat exhaustion, so we need some ice to cool him down."
"How horrible! I'll get it right away!" Inoue didn't move from the spot though and just yelled at me. "Toushirou-kun, ice please!"
"Good grief, I told him not to overdo it." I sat up and grouchily turned to everyone. I hoped my icier-than-usual glare would keep their mouths shut.
"Toushirou, you're here too? Why aren't you with everyone else?"
Tch, that Kurosaki was going to find his behind encased in ice one day if he didn't stop calling me by my name only! I worked hard for my title dammit! Even Inoue was pushing it! At least she added the 'kun'. But I still didn't like it.
"Because I hate the heat." That's all I replied. I wasn't in the mood to chat. Not that I ever really was.
Inoue's voice was still way too happy. How could anyone be happy in this weather?
"Toushirou-kun's in charge of making all out ice with Hyorinmaru."
"Ergh… should you really be using your Zanpaktou for that?"
Let me tell you, Hyorinmaru wasn't exactly thrilled either when he found out. I really just wanted, no, needed to take my temper out on something right now! A huge Hollow for example.
"Back off! Do you want the ice or not?" I settled for snapping at Kurosaki instead.
A creaking of rusting hinges sounded from the storage room door and a moment later came the sound of someone slapping their bare foot back onto the floor after probably using it to open the said door, causing most of the people to turn and look towards them. I already knew who it was but even so I turned my head around.
A flower-chappy printed cooler box preceded a smallish figure with lean muscles and a small frame out the door, supported rather awkwardly in the person's arms and blocking their face from view.
I glared at the offending cooler box. I hadn't seen her in a while or even today yet because by the time I'd arrived she had already been in the back of the store trying to sort out the food and I'd gone straight to sulk behind the table, so the horrendously-patterned chappy cooler box was really getting on my nerves right now. That and it contained the seven packets of broccoli.
"Orihime-san, a little he-"
I saw her losing her balance before she even swayed. I was up within a second and reappeared to take the disgusting cooler box from her.
"Do you really have to be so clumsy?" I surprised myself by not sounding annoyed. Just very bored.
There was a beat of silence before the inevitable outburst. "Oh great, it's you."
By that she usually meant, 'Nice to see you too'.
Karin was still supporting half of the cooler box's weight and I had the other half, tough I could have easily taken the whole thing. But even so, it was rather heavy and for a human girl like her to carry it alone… Yoruichi's training had paid off apparently.
Karin leant to the side to glare at me around the cooler box. "I've got it now, thanks Toushirou." The tone of her voice suggested I'd just insulted her by referring to her mother. Oh wait. Bad expression. She wouldn't merely take a reference to her mother as insulting. She'd retaliate with murder. She'd demonstrated that quite nicely to me one afternoon on a group of punks who'd made her sister cry.
I stepped back and shrugged as Karin made her way over to the kitchen area where Ishida was still frying up the vegetables. I suspected that he had been the only one Unohana had let loose on the stove.
"K-Karin! What are you doing here? With them?" Kurosaki was clearly flustered.
Karin heaved the cooler box onto the counter next to Ishida and stepped away from it to look at her brother like he'd just spilled coffee down his pants. "Working. What's it look like I'm doing?"
"Ah, well, I mean-"
My already simmering temper was rising a little. Dammit. First that chappy cooler box was in the way, then when she looked at me she glared, and now Karin insisted on keeping her back to me!
Karin's only response to her brother was to reach into the cooler box and bring out a packet of broccoli, pick up a smaller looking version of Kurosaki's Zangetsu and begin to viciously chop the broccoli to chunks.
I glanced back over at Kurosaki who looked like he'd somewhat recovered from seeing his little sister at the beach shack in a swimsuit. Wait… Swimsuit?
My eyes unwilling traveled back to Karin who still had her back facing me and I felt a short pang of disappointment before I hurriedly crushed it again. Karin was wearing a longish button-up black shirt with semi-long sleeves and it hid everything quite well… Especially from the back.
"Ah, anyway. The ice…"
Kurosaki had to go and bring that up again. If he had just needed the ice for his papaya smoothie then I would have refused flat out; and enjoyed the looks of anger that I'd get from him. But as it was, it was needed for Ukitake's wellbeing and I couldn't exactly say no to that. So I reluctantly pushed myself up from the floor to walk outside with Kurosaki, Abarai, Inoue, Ishida and Sado. I noticed Kurosaki shoot his sister furtive glances every now and again as though making sure that she wasn't going to follow him outside. I frowned. So Kurosaki hadn't told her everything yet. And that's all that Karin was really waiting for. For her older brother to come right out and tell her about everything that was going on in his life. It wasn't like she didn't know anything. In fact, she'd become such good friends with Matsumoto after that one afternoon when I'd helped her with her soccer match they'd been in contact ever since. And then she'd met Yoruichi somehow and literally hit things off with her, gotten to know Soi Fong, been introduced to Nanao through Matsumoto and somehow gotten a connection to Ukitake. I sighed internally as I materialized Hyorinmaru in my gigai. That's how I had ended up spending the day on the beach in the first place. Ukitake had invited me, I had refused, he'd invited Karin, I'd agreed. Damn, I was way too transparent.
"Sit upon the frozen heavens, Hyorinmaru."
The huge dragon roared its protest inside my head as I forced ice from my sword and into the boiling hot air on the sand.
Bored and annoyed, I turned back to Kurosaki. "There."
He looked stumped. "It's too much."
Okay, so maybe releasing so much of my reiatsu wasn't necessary. And maybe creating an iceberg large enough to sink the second Titanic wasn't quite necessary either. And making that iceberg take form in the shape of a dragon also wasn't completely necessary. Maybe I just wanted to get rid of some of my temper… Or maybe it had something to do with the fact that I could feel Karin's reiatsu presence right behind me that made me want to show off.
"Hmm…" came her voice and Kurosaki whirled around to look at his little sister currently staring at the dragon-iceberg that I'd made materialize on the beach. I couldn't really tell whether she was impressed or not. But I sure hoped she was.
"Ah! Karin! This – I mean, this is just-"
I kept my mouth shut as I glanced back and forth between a very panicked looking Kurosaki and an annoyed Karin. She was glaring at him as though daring him to try and lie to her again. Honestly, I couldn't see how he would worm his way out of this one.
"Ah well, you see here, this is just-" I silently implored Kurosaki to just do the right thing the first time round instead of messing everything up and then having to fix it again like he usually did. "Toushirou's an ace with special effects and stuff you see and ah… he, he said he'd put on a show for us now! A-and ice is his specialty-"
I gritted my teeth for a moment before closing my eyes, already knowing Karin's next move.
She turned on her heel and stormed off the beach, marching right back into the sea shack with her fists clenched tightly.
I gave a frustrated sigh and sheathed Hyorinmaru again, heading back to the shack myself without sparing the Kurosaki boy a second glance. I didn't turn my head when I heard Abarai speak. "Are you stupid or something?"
"Huh?" Kurosaki replied moronically.
Abarai sounded like he seriously wanted to punch something. I hoped it would be Kurosaki's face. "Your sister doesn't like being lied to."
Damn straight not.
I almost sighed in relief when I felt the shade from the sea shack cover me again. Stupid sun. I only had to look around for a moment before I spotted Karin standing at the counter and glaring at the broccoli whilst swinging the chopping knife down on the green sprouts with enough force to crack the board. I frowned again as her back was turned to me.
"Stu – pid – idiot – Ichi – nee!" With each word she severed the board into fragments. I watched for a while until most of her anger had vented and then walked up to the counter and picked up the other knife that Ishida had formerly used, pulled up another chopping board and rescued some of the broccoli from Karin. I didn't say anything as I just listened to her rant in broken segments whilst I cut the offending green vegetable that she was obviously using as a substitute for her brother to take her temper out on. Better than the original I guess…
Eventually her knife came to a rest on the board and I turned to look at her, sensing that she had exhausted her supply of colourful four-letter swearwords.
"He'll come around."
Karin didn't reply and just kept staring at the mutilated veggies.
"He needs to get used to the idea of you knowing everything. He can't tell you before then."
I thought I saw Karin's frown deepen for a moment. The only other time I'd seen her frown like that was when she'd asked me about her brother after the soccer game. Although I had almost missed what she'd said; being suddenly lunged at and getting your shoulders grabbed by a nice girl tended to short circuit my thought process. Or at least, that's what had happened when Karin had done that to me.
"Why… doesn't he trust me Toushirou?"
I just looked at Karin. Knowing her, she had more to say.
"You told me all about Shinigami without me even asking. So why," Karin bit her lip, "won't Ichi-nee tell me?"
I looked back down before I answered. "Kurosaki is your brother Karin. I am not your brother so I don't… have that brotherly protective streak in me." Though certainly there was another protective streak in me but there was no way in hell that I was going to mention that to her. "It's more difficult for him to bring you into this than it was for me." Huh, like it was a walk in the park telling her that I was 120 years old!
Karin was quiet for a moment but when I glanced back up at her she had a slight smile on her face. And when she turned her head to me to show me that smile I was already anticipating the jolt in my stomach.
That weird jolt had been coming every time that she smiled at me lately and at first I had found it really unsettling. But then, once I had gotten used to it, I found that I rather liked the feeling. I had been missing that all day.
"Thanks," and her smile suddenly morphed into a slightly mischievous grin. "Special-effects man."
I stared at her for a moment before blinking once and getting a frustrated scowl on my face. "What… are special effects?" Damn, I hated not knowing something. Of course, I could have kept quiet and played along but that would just get me back later, especially with Karin being who she was. She wouldn't let it go.
Karin burst out laughing and my eye began to twitch as I tried to keep my annoyance at both the heat and my ignorance in check. I wasn't going to snap at her unless I could help it.
The new voice aside from mine and hers coming from the entrance stopped her laughter short and she began to turn her head towards her brother. Kurosaki was standing there a little shamefaced and awkward. I didn't blame him.
"Can… we talk?"
"Come on Toushirou!"
"No." I remained lying behind the table and didn't move a muscle.
"And just why not?"
"I told you. I hate the heat."
I heard Karin straighten up and huff irritably. I had my eyes closed and kept them closed. There was no way that I was going to fall into the trap of looking at her now. Because that would just weaken my resolve even further.
"And yet you come to the beach. Honestly Toushirou, I don't get you."
Good. Because if you did, the truth would be embarrassing.
"Just come outside for a little while! We can finish up in a few minutes and then you can come hide inside again."
I could already imagine her annoyed expression but I refused to open my eyes to check if I was right.
"What exactly do you have against building a sandcastle anyway?"
What did I have against it? Truthfully, nothing much. Just that it was a childish thing to do and if I was caught playing in the sand Matsumoto would never let me live it down. In fact, knowing her she'd probably brought her camera along just in case Karin managed to talk me into doing something stupid. And right now, she was doing an excellent job of it.
"Just loosen up for once in your life and have a bit of fun!"
Fun? I didn't reply to that. How could Karin be suggesting that I go and have some 'fun'? Oh. Right. Because she knew she was able to manipulate me. Duh.
If I said anything now I'd probably only give her more ammunition to twist my arm with so I kept quiet and just adjusted my hands behind my head. Karin let out a low hiss, which could mean one of two things: One, she was severely annoyed with me. Two, she was going to break my spine.
"Fine then! Stay inside and sulk for all I care! I'll just go find Yachiru or somebody else to hang out with then!"
And then I heard her footsteps run from the sea shack, her bare feet barely making a sound. I couldn't stop the silent sigh of relief that slipped from between my teeth then. Thank goodness she had gotten tired of trying to convince me and given up just before I caved. I gritted my teeth. I hated being so soft around her. How the heck was she able to blatantly defy and bend my will without so much as even lifting a finger?
I pinched the bridge of my nose. This was getting beyond ridiculous. Just by looking at me she made my chest clench and when she smiled my stomach strangled itself!
I let out a low hiss like Karin had earlier and sat up. I needed some shaved ice.
The pink-haired candy addict grinned sweetly. "Right there."
Karin followed the pointing finger and slowly a grin formed on her face too. Oh, this was going to be perfect. She turned to Yachiru who was intently studying a rather large crab. "I dare you."
With wide and innocent eyes the little girl looked up at Karin. "Hihi."
A moment later a cry of anguish sounded across the beach as Ikkaku was nailed right where it hurt by the crustacean, conveniently 'dropped' there by Yachiru. Karin grinned and slapped Yachiru a high-five.
"Ehehehe! Now Rin-chan owes me ice cream!"
I had just spooned a particularly large portion of shaved ice into my mouth when a pink hurricane swept into the room and proceeded to bounce off the walls, laughing like a demented sugar cube.
"Rin-chan, Rin-chan! Come and get me my ice cream!"
"I'm coming already!"
I grimaced as Karin's voice floated through the door, closely followed by Karin herself. I turned my head to look and my eyes went instantly wide. Underneath that open black shirt, Karin was wearing a turquoise blue, close fitting, curve revealing semi-sporty two piece bikini. My throat closed up and logic took a hike. I think… my brain just imploded.
My eyes stayed glued on Karin as she reached into the broccoli containing cooler box and pulled out a bubblegum flavoured ice cream on a stick. Yachiru bounced up and down once, snatched the ice cream and disappeared through the door grinning from ear to ear.
"Seriously, who gave the girl the extra dose of cream soda?"
I think it was sometime when Karin put her hand on her hip that I realized that my face was bright red. By the time that Karin turned to face me, I was stubbornly eating my shaved ice with my back turned firmly to her.
"Hey, that looks good. Where'd you find the shaved ice Toushirou?"
I didn't reply. Just her voice suddenly felt like a punch to my gut. A really, really strong punch. What the hell was wrong with me?
I stared down my snack and stuck another bite into my mouth.
"Hello? Karin to Toushirou here! Oi, popsickle!"
…popsickle? She had just called me… and I can't even retort! I could kick myself! Why can't I just look at her without lighting up like a friggin' Christmas Tree?
Karin suddenly reappeared right in front of me, depositing herself very neatly on the floor. I knew that she was glaring at me from the tone of her voice. "Why the hell are you being so cold Toushirou?"
Cold? Oh right. I hadn't ever outright ignored her like this before. No matter how much she teased me, she always at least got a one-word answer out of me. But right now I was acting like she wasn't even there! And technically, it should be the other way around. After all, I was the one who had refused to build that sandcastle with her!
Karin was sounding seriously annoyed now. If I didn't answer her soon, I don't think she was going to let me live. I tried answering by opening my mouth, but my throat was still closed tightly. So instead I masked my failed attempt by swallowing another spoonful of shaved ice.
"Fine then." And Karin snatched my shaved ice off the table and jumped up. By reflex reaction, my head snapped up aswell to yell at her. I instantly regretted it and heat flooded my face. Great. Now I was hot on the outside and inside! I was supposed to be an ice-prince dammit! How could anything I do be hot?
Luckily Karin was already running towards the shack entrance with my shaved ice held aloft and laughing. "Yachiru, come back and get another snack!"
When she ran outside I was never so glad that she didn't look back. But I was left staring after her, my eyes wide and my heart pumping like I'd just fought for my life against that first Espada.
How hadn't I noticed the bikini before now? Oh, right. She'd always had her back to me or been standing sideways. Either that or she was upset with her brother. I stared at the entrance where Karin had just vanished through. Well… at least I know I can focus on the right things at the right times… Fantasizing about her while trying to comfort her was not going to work.
And I collapsed a few seconds later onto my back with a groan.
Karin only returned half an hour later, sighing as she entered the shack and making her way over to me again. I couldn't help but look up at her and, to my relief, I didn't turn quite as red as I thought I would. All I had to do was focus on her face and I'd be fine. But as she got closer, I noticed how there were little bits of red stuff sticking in her hair and face and, when I glanced further down, her skin seemed to have a reddish tinge to it. I quickly caught myself and looked back at her face, hoping that she was too occupied with picking what looked like seeds out of her hair to notice that my cheeks had acquired distinct tomato-like qualities. Luckily she was, and she just passed by the counter, snatched up a spoon from there and sat down beside me before promptly digging into my second portion of shaved ice. Now that she was so close I could actually smell a sweetish smell on her.
"Wait. Why are you covered in watermelon?"
Karin huffed as she swallowed her first spoonful and then buried her spoon in the ice again. "Anti-Hollow watermelons are surprisingly hard to break through. And they're all gooey inside. I've got watermelon where no sane person should ever get watermelon." She popped the second, even larger spoon into her mouth and promptly froze up and clutched her head as the brain-freeze kicked in.
"Oi, quit eating my shaved ice!"
Matsumoto and Nanao walked into the shack just then, also both spattered with red patches.
Karin laughed and just reached over to ruffle my hair. "Whatever you say, Lolly."
I blinked once stupidly before registering. "Lolly?"
Ukitake walked in supported by both Kiyone and Sentarou and, judging by the look on his face, he'd heard the nickname.
"Yeah, like ice-lolly. You know, those fruit flavoured frozen-water snacks?"
Karin was still ruffling my hair and although I had kind of taken a liking to her fingers running through it, I did think that this was pushing it. So I reached up and pulled her hand off my head, my fingers inevitably touching her hand and sending electricity down my veins. And just as I leant in to better yell at her, Kurosaki, both of the Kuchikis and Abarai walked back in along with Yoruichi and Soi Fon, just in time to catch Karin and myself practically nose to nose and me still holding her hand above my head. "Will you just keep your hands to yourself Karin?"
Ukitake looked stunned. Apparently he hadn't known about me calling Karin by her first name. That or that sentence could be interpreted in two ways.
Karin just laughed and pulled her hand away to ruffle my hair again. "Aw, don't go taking things so personal now Toushirou!"
"Taicho!" Both Sentarou and Kiyone cried out simultaneously and immediately started fussing over the guy. I noticed Karin freeze, her hand still on my head, and her head turning to face the gathered and gaping crowd.
"Taicho! Are you alright? Say something!" Kiyone wailed whilst Sentarou propped the man up against the counter.
Ukitake kept his eyes closed but managed to mutter, "Sorry. But, I'm just so happy."
I almost groaned. Both because Ukitake had said something so stupid, and also because Karin removed her hand from my head just then. I definitely liked it there.
At Ukitake's words people began to turn their heads back towards Karin and me. My temper was still pretty short and my face must've spoken volumes. "What the hell're you all staring at!" My tone just sealed the deal and the staring Shinigami hurriedly made it their business to go about their own business.
I didn't even respond when Matsumoto pushed the cup of sake under my nose. "Come on taicho! Loosen up a little!"
"Tch, you're no fun. Ichigo, you try a bit!"
"Sorry, I'm under age."
"Aw, well then how about you Ishida?"
"I'll decline that offer."
"Meh, you're all such party-poopers."
"Pass it here Rangiku-san!"
"Yay! Renji knows how to party!"
I remained in my spot behind the table as I watched Matsumoto pass around one bottle of sake after the next. It was long dark outside and I was mildly surprised that Matsumoto had only now procured the sake bottles. Slowly but surely many of the Shinigami proceeded to head down the well trodden path of drunkenness. Kiyone got there first closely followed by Sentarou who had been going at it a little more slowly. Isane was soon to join her sister Kiyone and fell into a giggling heap beside her, laughing hysterically at a moth. Ikkaku was next and soon dragged Renji down aswell by shoving the bottle into his mouth and pinching his nose closed, forcing him to either drink or choke. Matsumoto was also quickly inebriated and so was, surprisingly, Kuchiki Byakuya. Even Ukitake was tipsy as he sang the National Anthem of Tjoepie-Land with Unohana. Yoruichi was laughing loudly and pointing at "Ichigo's funny hair" while Soi Fon was sniffling quietly as she grieved the loss of her granadillas. Yachiru was given cream soda but that seemed to have pretty much the same effects on her as alcohol held for the adults and she was just a pink blur around the room as she terrorized an unsuspecting Ikkaku who was sure the bats of hell were trying to steal his cookies. Also someone, and I had a good idea who, managed to spike the coke set aside for the other human teenagers and some other shinigami who weren't partial to alcohol. So now Kurosaki, Inoue, Ishida, Sado and Kuchiki Rukia were swaying about the room with goofy grins on their faces whilst talking about butterflies, caterpillars and dandelions. I was pretty sure that this 'spike' wasn't connected with alcohol but rather a new prototype of some 12th Division potion. I just hoped it wasn't permanent. Having a super-powerful but stupid substitute shinigami around could cause problems. Wait a minute…
I kept quiet. Sooner or later the alcohol would get to the point where they would all just fall over and go to sleep. I just hoped it was sooner. Karin shifted beside me as Kurosaki drifted across the kitchen to rescue a cucumber from the chopping block currently lacking a knife.
She nudged me on the shoulder. "Thanks for freezing my coke."
I shrugged. At the time she'd been murderously angry with me but I suppose this made up for the punch I'd received. Out of all the people attending this 'outing' we were the only two people still in their right minds.
"Can't we leave and come back later?"
I shook my head. "No. If we leave there's no telling what they will do."
"Does it matter?"
"I've got enough expenses to pay out of my salary as it is. I don't need any more if I plan on eating this month."
After a while Karin began to grow slightly sleepy and her head began to droop towards my shoulder. I don't really know how I felt about that. On the one hand it would have been awkward having her sleep on me but on the other… kind of nice too. So when her eyes slid closed and her head dropped lightly to rest beside mine, I was still totally undecided. But the longer she stayed there the more I found I liked her there. Her breathing was just beginning to even out when Matsumoto fell to the floor in a spectacular crash, taking Kurosaki and Soi Fon down with her and Karin jerked awake. Sitting up, she brought a hand to her eyes and rubbed them, blinking a few times.
"Oh. They're all asleep now." I saw her looking around at the array of unconscious bodies lying sprawled all over the place.
Karin was looking around the room still a little blearily when I stood up and held my hand out to Karin. She looked at it quizzically.
"You wanted to leave, right?"
A smile came onto her face and that feeling of getting my insides strangled came over me again. But I liked it. As soon as Karin was standing she seemed to be wide awake and almost bounced to the door, looking back at me. "Come on Toushirou!"
I followed her more composed, although I was glad to finally be able to leave the shack currently stinking of sake for the more cooling night air. The breeze from the ocean was nice and smelled salty. I guess I was finally able to appreciate this fact because the sun was no longer shining down on me. It was still reasonably warm but it was bearable and I felt my mood lighten. The moon was bright enough for us not to need any other lights.
Karin was a few steps ahead of me, turning around to smile at me and glance back impatiently. Perhaps she was excited to finally get me out of the sea shack? She came running back just then and grabbed my hand. I've never been so glad that it was dark.
"Come on already!"
She dragged me down towards the waves but stopped a few meters away, crouching down in the sand and releasing my hand. I think I felt a twinge of disappointment at that. Okay, so a lot!
"What're you doing?"
She grinned up at me and I found that I could see her well, even though it was already dark. "What else, I'm building a sandcastle!"
I blinked once before I finally caught on. "No."
"Aw come on! Everyone's drunk or passed out from some or other overdose so there's nobody to see you but me."
My eyes widened a bit. How had she…? Karin smiled at me again and I closed my eyes in defeat. No point in fighting her at this stage.
So I knelt down beside Karin and began pushing piles of sand together. I saw Karin smile from the corner of my eye but kept my eyes focused ahead of me, concentrating on shaping the moist sand into the right shape. I didn't say much while I worked and neither did Karin. I was grateful for that because, as it was, this was something way out of my comfort zone. But surprisingly, I found that I was enjoying this.
Finally Karin sat back and surveyed our work and I did the same. Before us towered a huge mound of sand, moulded into a replica of, what we had hoped, was going to be Hyorinmaru. Karin tilted her head and cocked her eyebrow. "You know, compared to the real Hyorinmaru earlier, this looks like a lizard."
In my head, Hyorinmaru nodded in agreement. And I had to agree with Karin too. In fact, it resembled more of a gecko than an all-powerful ice dragon. I turned my head to face Karin. After shrugging once she smiled and I knew my gut was twisting violently again. But the feeling of what her one smile could do to me made any thoughts at the indignity of building a sandcastle vanish from my mind almost immediately. I could almost feel my mouth curving upwards too. Building this sandcastle with her had so been worth it.
Karin got onto her hands and knees and crawled the short distance to the sand sculpture and turned around to lean against it. I swallowed hard but went over to sit beside her again. For a while, all we did was sit and look at the sky. I had to admit, the sky in the world of the living was entrancing. That was part of the reason that I loved coming to the living world so much. But only part of the reason.
As if on cue, I felt Karin lean her head against my shoulder again and I glanced over to see that her eyes were still open and just looking at the sky. I held my breath, almost afraid that if I moved she'd realize what she was doing and move away. But when she didn't and just kept staring at the sky, I managed to begin breathing again. Somehow though, I couldn't really focus on the stars anymore and I kept my eyes on Karin's face instead. Her eyes were beginning to droop and finally her eyelids slid shut, hiding her dark grey irises from my view. I watched her for a little while, just staring at her. I suppose that this was rather voyeuristic, but right then I didn't really care. Carefully I reached up to brush away a strand of her hair from her face. I almost shuddered at how soft both her hair and skin was but kept it in check. Karin shifted slightly and I left my hand still, slightly worried that I had woken her. But she just moved her head until suddenly her cheek was pressing into my palm. I know my face heated up but luckily she was sleeping so she wouldn't notice. Her head had moved forward and was beginning to slip from my shoulder. Carefully I brought my other hand up aswell and very gently supported her neck and head, lowering her down onto my lap. She smiled a little in her sleep and my chest felt all tight again. She hadn't even meant to smile there but she had… at something that I had done. I couldn't stop my hand as I softly played with a few strands of her hair, not even feeling particularly bad about it.
And then, I'm not even sure what came over me… but I slowly leant down towards her and gently brushed my lips against her forehead. Her skin was so soft.
I just began to pull away when suddenly a hand tugged on the loose tank top I was wearing and I stopped just a small distance away from Karin's opened eyes. Panic gripped me as I stared back at her.
"What? That's it?" Her smile was so carefree.
I only had time to blink once before my lips were suddenly very busy and a shot of adrenaline hit my brain and made any rational thoughts fizzle out. She still tasted like watermelon. I felt my eyes close and I responded to her. Eagerly.
In the sea shack, the atmosphere was mingled between shock, surprise, unbridled joy and terrible fury.
"Let go of me Rukia! I'm going to mutilate the shrimp!"
"You stay right – here!" At the 'here', Ichigo gave a strangled cry of pain as his shoulder was very nearly dislocated. He would have screamed louder, but whatever Nemu had dumped into the coke was still strongly in effect and effectively dulled the pain.
"Shut up Ichigo." Renji told him a little slurred. "Remember, you owe her."
Ikkaku was grinning madly, mostly because to him, the world was spinning and everything looked hilarious. "Oi Renji, pay up."
"Pay? I don't owe you anything!"
"I won the bet." Ikkaku pouted, his bald head gleaming.
"There was no freakin' bet!"
Matsumoto squealed, still mostly drunk. "Where's my camera? I need my camera!"
Yachiru bounced up, just awoken from her sugar-induced feint but still hyper. "You mean the crab-catcher?"
"Yes! The crab-catcher!"
Ukitake was still incredibly cross-eyed but apparently he was able to see out the window quite well because a huge grin began to spread over his face. "Ah~ I'm sooo ha~ppy~" And he toppled over backwards, landing on a passed out Sentarou, goofy grin still in place.
Matsumoto snatched the crab-catcher from Yachiru and tried desperately to figure out which side went up. Eventually deciding that she'd just try all of her options, she clicked what she hoped was the shutter a few times before the sake took its hold on her once more and the last thing she saw was the floor coming up to greet her.
Matsumoto woke up feeling extremely groggy. Sitting up with bleary eyes, she glanced around the room at her recovering comrades. Noticing something clutched in her hand, she pulled it to eyelevel to examine. She frowned when she saw her camera. Hadn't Yachiru used it to catch crabs yesterday? Why was she holding this? Matsumoto frowned as she struggled to remember last night. Nope, it was a blur, just like any other night that she got drunk on. But… something had happened last night. She was sure of it. Something important… But what?
She looked around. Ichigo was gone and already outside somewhere, Rukia was strangely absent too and Yachiru was nowhere to be found either. And her taicho also seemed to be MIA. Wait. Taicho…
Ikkaku was just reviving Sado, Renji and Ishida when Matsumoto's squeal burst his eardrum. It very effectively brought the others out of their sake/coke/sugar recovery phases and jerked them upright and into consciousness rather violently.
"Matsumoto! What's wrong?" Inoue was up and beside Matsumoto instantly, most probably preparing to summon forth her fairy-power to heal whatever mental trauma Matsumoto had suffered through.
"L-l-l-l-ooo-c-k-k-k!" She was acting rather demented.
Ishida pushed his glasses further up his nose. "Matsumoto-san, I can't understand you."
Matsumoto looked a little strangled as she pressed her lips together before letting rip. "LOOK AT THIS!"
Ikkaku's other eardrum burst aswell. Matsumoto was swinging her camera therapeutically by the strap and staring so hard at everything that her eyes took up most of her face.
Inoue came closer and, upon inspecting the camera, promptly squealed too, clapping her hands together and jumping up and down in delight. Next came Yoruichi who grinned widely before bursting out laughing. Soi Fon was more composed but even the ever-serious ninja captain gave a tiny giggle. Soon even Ikkaku, who now held some animosity for the device which had caused damage to his hearing, gathered around it. And all either yelped, gasped or, in Ukitake's case, feinted all over again.
The cries of joy were suddenly cut off as though Tousen's Bankai of silence had descended upon them. The temperature of the warm summer day had plummeted into the arctic and frost was forming on the sun umbrellas. The camera shattered from the sudden change in temperature and Matsumoto yelped, just a teensy-bit scared to turn to face her imminent death.
Slowly and in slow motion, the shinigami's eyes travelled around to spot a glaring Toushirou with his arms folded tightly across his chest, his eyes glowing and reiatsu pouring from him and freezing the sand solid. Fear of death and mutilation had never been so prominent. And Toushirou's voice promised much worse to the poor idiot who even dared to disagree with him next.
"You didn't see anything."
The Shinigami nodded in unison. "Hai, Hitsugaya-taicho."
Kyoraku smiled his half-lidded smile. "So, did anything interesting happen while you two were gone?"
The silence was tense enough to snap and Ukitake and Nanao were wound tighter than a jack-in-the-box as they robotically turned their heads to one another.
"Whatever would happen at the beach that would be interesting?"
Kyoraku smelled a rat… that or it was his sake. "Yes, interesting. What happened?"
"The weather there was lovely!"
"Yes, just spiffing!"
Kyoraku leant forwards, looking like a tipsy bloodhound. Nanao adjusted her glasses. "M-maybe…"
"Nothing of consequence…"
"Really… just a small event…"
Kyoraku whined, "You're keeping secrets from me!"
"N-no! Whatever would make you think that Shunsui?"
Kyoraku wasn't buying it.
"Well… maybe we could tell just him?" Ukitake half-asked.
"Perhaps… he could protect us?"
Kyoraku blinked slowly. "Protect you? What from?"
The room iced over in two seconds and Kyoraku's sake froze solid in his cup.
Hey guys, hope you enjoyed it! Another BIG thank you to AlecksPopsFireworks for helping me out on this story! She gave me so many great ideas for this that I unfortunately lost count. So another huge thank you to her for all of her help!
I hoped you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Oh, and one last thing: I've taken a big liking to the Bleach Filler Episodes and since Hitsukarin is my favourite Bleach pairing, I've decided to embark on a quest! I shall be taking the Bleach Filler Episodes and rewriting them as separate, non-related one-shots. Anyone who can recommend a one-shot to me and some ideas on what could happen in the story is welcome to tell me and then I'll dedicate the one-shot to you. Even if you just recommend the Filler Episode, that would be great. It doesn't matter if Toushirou or Karin don't even feature in the Filler, I'll just manipulate the storyline until they are! Mwuhahahaha!