Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach or any of its characters.


"Look, Toushiro, it's snowing!" Karin cried, excitedly pointing towards the sky where, sure enough, powdery flakes of snow were drifting slowly to Earth.

"Yes, that tends to happen in winter," came her companion's sarcastic drawl.

Karin rolled her eyes and playfully smacked his arm. "Trust you to ruin such a beautiful moment with your stick-up-the-ass attitude," she replied, smirking as he glared at her. However, his glare was soon replaced with a slight look of concern when she sneezed suddenly.

"Are you cold?" he asked, already slipping out of his jacket to give to her, despite his gigai's ability to feel cold. His grandmother had raised him to be a gentleman, after all.

"Nah," she replied. "A snowflake just landed on my nose and it tickled." Hitsugaya looked unconvinced.

"Really, Toush-"

"Hitsugaya-taichou."

"-I'm fine," Karin continued as if she had not been interrupted. "But I should head home soon. Otou-san will worry since the snow will make the roads all slippery. And I have been gone for a while." The two had met early in the morning for a one-on-one match on the soccer field, and then spent the rest of the day walking through the town.

Hitsugaya nodded and already started pulling out his cellphone, hoping to kill a few Hollows before the sky darkened.

Karin glared at the offending Soul Pager. "Really!" she cried indignantly. "I haven't even left yet and all you can think about is work. Where's my good-bye kiss?" Hitsugaya raised his eyebrows at her and she grinned. "So now you look at me. Well, no need to look so eager. I was just kidding. As if I would give my first kiss to a workaholic bastard like you."

Toushiro sent her an irritated look, trying to say "I am not eager" and "I am not a workaholic bastard" at the same time. Karin just stuck out her tongue, and accidentally caught a snowflake.

"Oh! A snowflake just melted on my tongue!" she cried joyfully. The shinigami captain just sent her a look of disgust. "What?"

"You ate the snow and you don't know where it's been?"

"I know where it's been," Karin replied, pointing up. "It's been in the sky."

Hitsugaya rolled his eyes. "You are such a child. The snow does not simply materialize from the sky. It's created through a natural process. You see, water evaporates because of heat and forms vapors in the clouds. The atmospheric temperature decreases as one goes higher. Once the temperature is low enough, the water vapors must condense-"

"Alright already," Karin interrupted. "You sound like an old man. Kami knows you've got the hair to be one. Don't you ever stop thinking and turn off your brain for a while?"

"If I turn off my brain, I'll die," was his snarky reply.

"Technically, you're already dead," Karin countered, feeling proud that she had outsmarted the child prodigy. "But, seriously, why don't you just stop working for a change and appreciate the beauty of the snow?"

"Snow is not beautiful," was his answer. "It is lethal and a useful resource in battle."

"We're talking about harmless tufts of snow, not How To Kill A Hollow 101. Sheesh, your brain is still in work mode." And to emphasize her point, she curled her hand into a fist and knocked it against his forehead. It was a startling contrast to the usual gentleness she used when playfully ruffling his hair, and Hitsugaya did not welcome it. He swatted her arm away angrily, but did not put away his Soul Pager. Karin glanced at it, irritated, before suddenly reaching out and grabbing it from his hand.

"Kurosaki!" he cried in protest, turning to face her. She frowned at his outburst before a grin stretched out across her lips.

"I'll make you a deal. You walk me home, and I'll give this back to you. And don't give me that look. You should be thanking me for looking out for you. After all" -and here she lowered her voice- "all work and no play makes Toushiro a dull boy." Toushiro just sent her a confused look. "Not that you aren't already," she continued in (thankfully) her normal tone of voice. The two had started heading towards the Kurosaki Clinic as she talked. "But I don't want you to come crying to me when your brain explodes from overwork."

"Actually, it is not possible-"

"And besides, you're a child, so you should be having fun while you can. This is the best time of your life, kid. Right now, there's no need to worry about dating, or makeup, or endless shopping trips to the mall to find that perfect prom dress, which will probably be butt-ugly and, after being worn once, remain in the back of your closet for the rest of its life. And the depressing thing is that it doesn't even end up in Soul Society, so being suffocated by other butt-ugly and only-worn-once clothes is all it has to look forward to."

"I'm not a kid," Hitsugaya mumbled.

Karin sent him an exasperated look. "Seriously? That's all you got from that? Well, I hate to break it to you, Toushiro, but you are a kid. Or at least, you look like one," she added hastily after catching the dark look on his face, "and so you'll be treated like one. You get used to it after a while, and you might as well make the most of it. I use it to convince the owner of my favorite ice-cream shop to give me free scoops of ice-cream every once in a while. Trust me, if I was older, he would have leeched me for all the money I have."

Hitsugaya listened to her ramble on just so she could fill the silence. He didn't mind the quiet, but after spending so much time with her, he had become used to her need for noise and chatter. He had a distinct feeling it reminded her of home.

After helping her with her soccer game and saving her life, the two had continued to meet and soon became...friends, he admitted grudgingly. Matsumoto was overjoyed that he was spending time with "kids your own age instead of wasting all of it trying to throw away all my sake and ruin my life."

Right. And the paperwork just magically did itself.

But he, too, was thankful for his friendship with the eleven-year-old. It was nice to take a break from Soul Society and pretend there was no Aizen, no Arrancars, no Hinamori in a coma pining for her bastard of an ex-captain...

"-and to this day, I swear that rabbit was looking at me funny. Oh, we're home!" Karin suddenly realized. "Well, thanks for walking me. A deal is a deal." She pulled the Soul Pager out of her pocket and handed it to him. "Pick me up tomorrow, around two?"

Hitsugaya gave a curt nod for confirmation and the two parted.

.. ღ ..

The next day; 1:30 pm in the Kurosaki household.

"Yuzu, I'm heading out soon. Do you need me to pick up anything on my way back?" Karin asked her twin sister.

"Not today," she answered. "I had Otou-san shop for me yesterday when he was coming back from his conference. But, Karin-chan, make sure you dress warmly, okay? There was a huge snowstorm last night and the temperature dropped this morning. I don't want you to get sick."

"Sure thing, Yuzu. I was planning on it. By the way, have you seen my soccer ball?"

"Oh, no. You can't play soccer today. The news this morning said all the roads are covered in ice and I'm sure the field is, too. You'll only get hurt."

"Oh, but Yuzu-"

"No buts," Yuzu cut in with a determined look on her face. "Otou-san already has extra patients because of the ice. He doesn't need you added onto the list. I'm sure you and Toushiro-nii can find something else to do. Build a snowman, or make snow angels."

Karin rolled her eyes. "Right. Because we're totally the type to do that kiddish stuff," she said sarcastically. "Besides, Toushiro doesn't see the fun and beauty in snow. To him, it is only 'a useful resource in battle,'" she quoted in a horrible imitation of his deep voice.

Yuzu blinked. "Oh? I didn't know Toushiro-nii liked snowball fighting."

Karin snickered. I guess that's one way to describe his powers, she thought.

"He sure does, Yuzu," she said gleefully. "And a snowball fight sounds like a good idea. Maybe I can call up the guys!" She ran to the phone to call up her friends. Ten minutes later, she was hanging up angrily.

"Unbelievable. All four can't make it. Ryouhei, the idiot, twisted his ankle by falling down the stairs. Donny's visiting his granny. Pinta still hasn't done the homework we're assigned over the break, even though we've had two weeks. And I can't even get a hold of Kazuya."

"Well, you could always have a two-person fight," Yuzu suggested.

Karin looked slightly put out. "Maybe. But it's not as much fun."

When it got closer to two, she put on her winter gear and waited for her friend to show up. At exactly two on the dot, the doorbell rang. Karin grinned as she answered it.

"Howdy stranger," she said as she noticed Hitsugaya's lack of a greeting. It used to bother her, but she realized it was just part of his personality. She called a good-bye into the house and stepped out onto the porch.

"Let's hit the town! We can't play soccer today because of the ice, so you're going to have to entertain me some other way." Here, on spur of the moment, she paused to give him a seductive look, and grinned when she noticed he looked slightly uncomfortable. Enjoying his reaction, she reached out and looped her arm through his, intertwining their fingers in the process, in order to further embarrass him. He flinched from the contact, but disappointingly said nothing. "And besides, this gives me a chance to introduce you to the joys of snow. Maybe we could make a snowman!"

Hitsugaya sent her an incredulous look.

"Sorry. Yuzu's idea. We don't have to." She looked at him slyly. "After all, I have my own personal snowman right here. And you don't even need a magic hat to play with me. Though that would make you ten times cooler. Pun intended." And she laughed gleefully at her own bad joke. "At least you don't melt when the sun comes out. That's definitely worth some points."

As they walked through the neighborhood, Karin took in the sight of the town covered in white snow, which was glittering under the sun's rays. It gave the town a majestic feeling. She hoped to find something to do – something that would bring Toushiro happiness through the snow – and as they passed by the river, she did.

"Look, Toushiro," she said, yanking on his arm and forcing him to face the now completely frozen river. He saw people playing on it, each of them wearing some strange type of shoe that caused scratches in the ice.

She caught his confused expression and gave an explanation. "They're ice-skating. The shoes they're wearing each have blades on the bottom that help them balance and glide on the ice. It's actually an Olympic sport, though it's super girly and the contestants wear a lot of glitter. It's perfect for you!" She caught his glare and quickly continued. "I mean that it should be easy because your zanpakuto is ice-based. And it's safe, too. Every year, when the water freezes, the community center does a safety check to make sure the rink won't crack, and then they rent out skates to people."

Hitsugaya looked uninterested. He saw no fun in simply gliding on the ice for no reason, but Karin insisted this would be good for "removing the stick up your ass, at least a little bit," and with much coaxing, she dragged him to a small booth where a man was handing out the strange shoes the skaters were wearing. After signing their names, the man gave them each a pair of skates (highly embarrassing Hitsugaya when he realized his feet were actually smaller than Karin's, thought it made sense because she was slightly taller) and the two gingerly stepped onto the ice.

Karin, having come to the river for years with her family, skated out gracefully. Hitsugaya was another story. His shinigami form was immune to cold and ice, and so he hadn't realized it could be so...slippery. The second he put his foot on the ice, his body lurched forward as his feet fell from under him, and he landed flat on his face. The gigai's face throbbed in pain, and Toushiro cursed under his breath. He sat up, and the first thing he noticed was Karin laughing her ass off.

"Kurosaki!" he yelled, aggravated, as he tried to push himself up. "It's not funny. How on earth...am I supposed to... ack!" His wobbly legs gave out under him again and he fell flat on his back this time. Karin's roars of laughter got louder.

"Come on, Toushiro!"she cried. "You can do better than that. How the hell do you not know how to skate with a zanpakuto like Hyourinmaru? Ice is your element!"

He could feel the eyes of other skaters boring into him and tried to calm himself. However, his anger was still reaching breaking point as he tried once again to stand up. This time, he only managed to put his hands on the ice, ready to push up his upper body, when they slipped on the wet surface, and he actually went skidding straight across the rink. He passed right by Karin, and instead went barreling into the snow gathered by the rim of the river.

Spitting snow out of his mouth, Hitsugaya sat up. Oh, if only Matsumoto could see him now. She would bust a gut laughing. And by the sound of things, it seemed Karin was about to do the same.

"T-Toushiro...y-you look...r-ridiculous!" she wheezed out between her laughs. Hitsugaya turned his face away, dusting snow off his shoulders but not even attempting to stand up, lest he embarrass himself again.

He heard a strange scratching sound, and when a shadow loomed over him, he found Karin towering behind him, tears of laughter smudged on her face and a big smile gracing her lips. She crouched down to his level and placed a hand in his hair. Without saying a single word, she began gently brushing the snow out of his white locks, being careful not to miss any.

Hitsugaya couldn't help but squirm at the tenderness in her actions, and then sit as still as a rock, not wanting to make the situation any more awkward for himself by moving.

He was not used to people showing such outright affection for him. Matsumoto tried, but her idea of affection was slowly suffocating the life (or afterlife) out of him by holding him in a death grip and chocking him with her breasts. It was true that Karin had always treated him as a close companion by overlooking his icy personality and inviting him to join her soccer games, but this moment seemed slightly more intimate, and he was not sure he welcomed the change. After all, the best part of her company was the ability for both to be themselves and still keep a mutual acceptance of the other.

He was thankful when Karin finished after what felt like a painstakingly long length of time, and the tense moment passed. She stood up and held out her hand.

"Take it," she ordered softly, in response to his quizzical look. "I'll teach you how to skate." And for once, there was no sarcastic remark that followed. Her offer was sincere.

Of course, Hitsugaya ruined the moment by letting his pride take control and swatting her hand away. Karin watched in amusement as he gave one more feeble attempt to stand up on his own.

After a bruised coccyx and an even more heavily injured ego, he finally reached for the offered hand, ignoring the smirk on the owner's face. Karin pulled him up, being careful to go slowly because of his wobbly legs, and when he had reached a considerably good height, wrapped her other arm around his waist for support. The result was Hitsugaya pressed flush against her side, and he felt his stomach flip, only managing to bypass the returning tension by reminding himself that it was necessary for the skating lesson to proceed.

"Good," Karin commented, not noticing her friend's predicament. "Now pull your feet farther apart. Of course you're going to fall if you stand like a pole." Hitsugaya grudgingly followed her orders, not liking that she was in control of him now.

"Good job," Karin praised. "Now, slowly move this foot forward. There's no need to rush. It's like walking without lifting your feet. Just slide the skate forward. Good, good. Now the other one. That's great!" Toushiro wasn't sure if he should be grateful that she was being strangely patient, or furious that she was treating him as a parent would treat their four-year-old son when they accomplished something meaningless and expected praise for it.

"It's best to keep a rhythm," Karin continued. "Don't stop to think about it, or you'll definitely fall. One, two, three. One, two, three. Yeah, just like that! One, two, three..."

Slowly – very slowly – but surely, the white-haired captain began making progress. His legs became more sure of themselves as he managed to skate forward three inches without falling over. Karin grinned at the look of wonder on his face. He must not have realized it was there, or he would have surely tried to hide it.

She slowly removed the arm from his waist, making sure he wouldn't fall without its support. Toushiro didn't notice, so concentrated on his feet that his eyebrows had knitted together.

"You're doing awesome. Now let's go faster." Karin skated until she was in front of him and slipped her other hand into his free one. Holding onto him firmly, she skated backwards slowly, assisting the tenth squad captain in moving forward at a slightly faster pace than before.

"One, two, three...one, two, three...one, two, three..." she repeated over and over in a low voice.

As they skated together, they didn't notice that the rink had started to empty. The sun was going down, since days were shorter in winter, and many had headed home. The few that were left noticed the small couple gliding, their hands joined, and their lips curled up. None could resist smiling tenderly at the lovely sight.

"Just look at those two."

"That's so adorable!"

"They seem so happy together."

Comments flew around, though the mentioned pair did not notice. They were too busy with each other.

"Wow, Toushiro," Karin exclaimed. "You're doing really good. I guess being a child prodigy means you pick up on things fast, huh?"

"Well, it helps that I have a great teacher," Toushiro muttered in a low voice without making eye contact, embarrassed at actually giving someone a compliment. That was not his style.

Karin smiled gently in response, silently thanking him. Hitsugaya was grateful she had enough tact to not make a big deal about it, which was the opposite of what Matsumoto would have done.

"Hey, look!" Karin cried joyfully. "It's snowing again!"

The two made the mistake of looking up at the same time and, with neither paying any attention to the direction they were skating, hit the edge of the rink and suddenly fell over.

"Waah!"

The two yelped (well, Karin yelped, while Toushiro was too dignified for that) as they made contact with the ground. Thankfully, it was soft from the large amounts of snow that had accumulated from the overnight snowstorm.

Karin found her back pressed firmly against the packed snow, and as she slowly opened her eyes (which she had closed in shock in preparation for the pain of the fall), she realized that her front was pressed firmly against Hitsugaya. More accurately, Hitsugaya had her pinned to the ground with his own body.

No embarrassed blush made its way to her cheeks, no cute squeal of surprise left her lips; instead, sarcasm did.

"I know we're friends, Toushiro, but I wouldn't say we're this close."

The captain, flushing, scrambled off of her. She grinned at the panicked look in his eyes. It was fun riling him up.

"Aw, what are you getting all embarrassed for, Toushiro? You're making me shy."

Without waiting for a response, she grabbed his arms and helped him stand on the ice again. Neither was in the mood for skating any longer.

"The sky's getting dark," Karin noticed. Hitsugaya suddenly looked concerned.

"The weather is becoming more chilly. I'd better get you home before you catch a cold."

Karin stuck out her tongue at this, but did not complain; the fall had caused snow to slip down her clothing, and she was shivering.

Her friend returned their shoes for them, and the two headed toward her family's clinic. When they reached the front door, she looked towards him.

"See you tomorrow?" she asked. He nodded, and she noticed he looked absent-minded.

"Toushiro," she said, concerned, "what's wro-"

She was answered when he quickly leaned forward and pressed his lips to her cold cheek. Her eyes widened as he leaned back.

He licked his lips, anxiously waiting for her response, but there was none. Instead, she stood there in shock for a few silent beats, her gloved hand pressed to her cheek.

He suddenly panicked. Had he overstepped his boundaries? He'd had a sudden impulse and now he was regretting it. Though he had never been comfortable showing affection, he figured it would be okay with Karin, since she was always initiating the physical contact between them.

To his surprise, Karin suddenly burst out laughing, causing him to jump.

"Wow! So you can show emotion. And I always thought you were some freaky automaton." He glared at her, but she ignored it. "What was that for, anyway?"

He paused to ponder her question before shrugging. "A thank you, for today's lesson."

She grinned. "Well, then, I suppose you're welcome." And she leaned forward. He instantly froze, expecting a kiss in return, but she only reached out her hand and suddenly ruffled his hair playfully.

"Oi!"

Perhaps it was his anger, but small white flakes suddenly began drifting from the sky. He looked up in surprise.

"It's snowing," he commented. Karin only grinned cheekily before throwing his own snide remark back at him.

"Yeah, genius! That tends to happen in winter."

Before he could snap at her, she rushed inside, calling a hurried goodbye over her shoulder. She leaned against the door on the other side and grinned widely as she placed her hand on her tingling cheek, which had been, only moments before, numb from the cold.


I know this is very different from my usual writing style, mostly because it's not in the present tense (which is so difficult to write). That's because it is a very old piece that I decided to finally publish, mostly because I just finally wanted to be done with it. I feel a lot better now that the file isn't just sitting on my dektop, unfinished, mocking me...

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it. It's very fluffy. I wrote it as a HitsuKarin, then changed it to a Friendship fic, and then changed my mind again about making it a HitsuKarin. This is the result; a mix between a friendship and hints of a future relationship between the two (though this is a One-Shot. You'll have to get creative about their future yourself).

Please leave any comments. I love reading your reviews as much as I love HitsuKarin!