Another one-shot for you all! Sorry for not updating my other stories, but I finished this first. At least it's actually a one-shot this time, and will not be a thousand more chapters :P I promise!

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


"Someone's a little feisty tonight, huh?" Karin murmured in her companion's ear as he wrapped his arms around her waist. With a grunt, he pulled her back into his apartment, shutting the door behind him for some privacy. It wasn't long after that that they collapsed on the couch together. He buried his face in her hair and breathed deeply.

"You smell good," he moaned, and she laughed.

"An uncontrollable side effect of showering," she teased. Even when in such a compromising situation, it was hard for her to let go of her love of sarcasm. He rolled his eyes and started kissing her neck. With a delighted squeal, she leaned her head back to give him easy access. He unclasped the most top fastened button of her silk, deep green blouse – she's had to wear it for a business meeting that afternoon, along with her black, pencil skirt. Ever since she'd grown older and started working, her tomboy side had had to make some sacrifices. It wasn't all that bad, though. There were good sides to growing up, like having the most amazing boyfriend.

"Oh...Shiro..." she managed to choke out before she bit her lip. He was making his way down. With a pleased sigh and a shiver that had nothing to do with her shirt only having half sleeves, she shifted a little on the couch, trying to get herself more comfortable. It was during this task, however, that she felt something hard and pointy stab her hip.

"Ouch!"

With a jump, she pulled back from him, rubbing the part where she had been pricked. He pulled his hands back immediately and stared at her with wide, confused eyes in surprise at the outburst.

"Sorry," she apologized, standing up. "Something just hit my hip and it hurt. One minute."

With a determined gaze, she pulled back the sofa cushion, trying to locate the object. Throwing the small cushions aside, she dug her hand in the area between the big cushion and the side of the couch. After some digging, she finally felt something thin and glossy.

"Aha!" With a triumphant smirk, she pulled it out, gazing at it curiously. It was a thin, white card covered in plastic – a driver's license. She grazed her eyes over the name and the picture.

Her face fell.

"Hey, who's Hinamori Momo?" she asked softly, looking from the small ID in her hand to her awaiting boyfriend. He looked up at her in frozen shock.

"Uh, why do you ask that?" he asked nervously, finally standing up and looking over her shoulder to see what was in her hand. When he caught a glimpse of it, his face fell faster than hers had.

"This driver's license belongs to a Hinamori Momo," she said, waving it in front of him. "I've never heard of her. Who is she?"

"Oh, just a friend," he explained quickly, trying to distract her by wrapping his arms around her waist again. She pulled away.

"No. I've met all your friends," she said thoughtfully. "But I've never met her." Her eyes narrowed dangerously. "Who is she, Shiro?"

"Oh, come on, babe," he said instead. "Are we seriously having this conversation right now?" He was sweating a bit; she could see his forehead glistening. "How about we get back to the couch?" She couldn't believe she had ever found his "suggestively" wiggling eyebrows sexy. They looked absolutely ridiculous to her right now.

"I don't think so," she retorted. She flipped the diver's license at his face before striding farther into his apartment. Ignoring his protests, she barged into his bedroom, going through his closet and drawers furiously. Inside the drawer of the bedside table, she found a thin tube.

A couple of weeks back, for her job, she'd had to go on a business trip to France for seven days. So, before leaving, she'd gone through his place they sometimes shared and picked up anything there that was hers, in case she needed it. Since then, his apartment should only have contained his things.

She stared down at the lipstick in shock. It didn't belong to her.

"Karin. Babe," he heard her pleading by the doorstep. "It's not what it looks like."

It was like a balloon popped in her core, suddenly weighing down her stomach with almost nausea. An unfamiliar feeling of fear crawled up her neck.

Her boyfriend was cheating on her. Her thoughtful, sensitive, intelligent, loving – perfectboyfriend was cheating on her with Hinamori Momo, the woman she had never met but hated for looking like such a sweet girl in her driver's license picture.

She ripped her jaw apart. "Just answer me this," she spat out through clenched teeth, still refusing to look at him. "Does she know about me?"

There was a beat of heavy silence, and then he looked to the ground. "...No."

"I see."

And with a deadly calm, she placed the lipstick back where she had found it, shut the drawer, and headed for the door. When she passed through the doorway, she paused.

"Rot in Hell, Daishiro," she hissed, and her fist collided with his cheek. He fell back and hit the wall, crying out in pain, but she only grabbed her shoes and ran out of the apartment.

.. ღ ..

She wouldn't cry. She refused to degrade herself by actually spilling tears over that bastard. But she did feel her throat clog up. After all, they'd been dating for a year and a half now. She'd given him all her time. She'd even introduced him to her family! How could he just do that?

Shaking her head to rid herself of any lingering sadness, she instead stopped by the curb of the busy street. Cars were zooming by quickly, and many people were still bustling through the shops despite the lateness of the hour. Some men passing by leered at her, wolf-whistling or staring at her exposed legs. Some of the older crowd gazed at her curiously, perhaps wondering why her heels – which she hated but had worn for her meeting – were in her hand and why her clothes were in a disarray. Her eye liner, the only makeup she could actually bear to put on, was probably all smudged too. She ignored them all and instead placed two fingers in her mouth, letting out an ear-splitting whistle.

"Taxi!" she called out, waving an arm.

Almost immediately, a small, yellow cab stopped in front of her. With a scowl still plastered on her face, she threw her heels in first, and then slipped into the back seat right behind the driver, slamming the door shut.

"Karakura, please," she ordered gruffly as she put on her seatbelt. She'd stay with Yuzu tonight. Her sister would be perfect to divulge in a tub of ice-cream with and call that lousy ex-boyfriend of hers any name in the book in any language she could think of.

"That's very far," the driver answered back, though he drove out to the street smoothly anyway.

She felt herself get irritated. "Yeah, well, I can pay you whatever it costs," she snapped. He looked back at her through the rear view mirror, and she caught his sharp, questioning stare by accident.

Her breath caught. He had pretty eyes.

"Sorry," she murmured, almost automatically. "I've just had a lousy day."

He didn't say anything, only keeping his eyes on the road, so they continued on in silence, driving to the exits of the city. She knew Karakura was far without him having to say it. A couple hours drive, at least. But she didn't want to stay here where her lousy ex-boyfriend was, but rather wanted to get away. She'd call in sick to her work; she had vacation days saved up anyway.

As they drove out to the rural outskirts of the city, she propped her elbow up on the door handle and cupped her jaw with her hand, gazing out at the scenery whipping by. Time flew, and she found herself leaning her head against the cool window, her arms wrapped around her. Once in a while, they passed through small, unknown towns, and he stopped once for a refill of gas, though she paid no attention. The sky had started darkening long ago, and now it was almost pitch black. The constant purr of the engine and the grinding of tires on gravel was very soothing. Plus, if she concentrated enough on the fuzzy, green blurs, it almost made it impossible to think of anything else. That felt nice.

She was so caught up in her own sad, little world that she almost didn't notice when the driver turned on some music. A few classical notes drifted through the air, and she sharply trained her gaze on his back.

"Didn't peg you for a classical man," she said to make conversation. He just grunted, and she frowned. "I like it too, though," she tried again. "It's nice to listen to when work's driving you up the wall. Otherwise, I might just sock my boss in the jaw one day."

Her chuckles died down when he didn't make a peep. Instead, he fiddled with the knobs on his dashboard and raised the air-conditioning. When he moved, her eyes were drawn to his torso. She found herself running her eyes over his broad shoulders and neck. They looked so masculine, even from just the back. She cleared her throat.

"So, uh, long day?" she asked him, finally tearing her gaze away from the physique she could see and meeting his gaze again.

"You could say that," he replied, and that was it. Yeesh. This guy wasn't much of a talker, was he? But then again, neither was she. He just had some strange power to make her want to keep blabbing on.

"Tough day all around, then," she said. Even she could feel the hardness of her tone, and she soon let out a bitter laugh. "I just found out my boyfriend's cheating on me," she informed him. He had to keep his eyes on the road, but she could tell he was listening. "With some chick I've never met, but she looks like a good girl. Shame what's he's doing to her. Don't know if she could handle finding out."

Why was she telling him all this? He was most definitely not Yuzu, and he wasn't even anybody she knew! He must be thinking she was nuts...But he hadn't said anything yet. And it felt good to tell this stranger about her problems. She just wanted someone to sympathize with her, like how her sister always sought comfort whenever something horrible happened.

"I thought he was a good guy," she went on, pursing her lips and folding her arms, looking out the window with wistful eyes. "We had some good times. A lot of good times, actually." Unknowingly, a small smile made its way to her lips, and the driver raised an eyebrow as he sneaked a quick peek at her. "I thought I knew him."

"Have you ever been betrayed, Taxi Driver-san?" she asked curiously, looking at him through the mirror as they stopped at a red light. They were in another small town now that stood on the isolated path they were driving on.

His eyes were hard as he looked back at her. "More times than I can count," was his grave reply. "This your first time?"

She laughed bitterly. "Maybe. Maybe you can say that my mom leaving was the first betrayal, but dying is not really her fault, I guess. But I never knew her, so it makes me feel better to have someone to blame."

"That's not going to make it go away," he said, accelerating as the light turned green.

She just pursed her lips and didn't answer. Of course she knew that. One only had to look at her father and brother and their love for Masaki to understand how wonderful she had been.

"Do you think kicking Daishiro in the nuts would?" she asked hopefully, and he smirked.

"You could try," he answered, "but in my experience, I've learned that the satisfaction only lasts a few hours – tops."

"Oh, well. It was a nice thought," she said with a sigh. "I guess that sucker punch on my way out will have to do. I hope I at least broke his jaw."

Reminiscing about painful goodbyes, she felt her sadness well up inside of her, and as she looked at the passing buildings, she found her heart aching. She wanted something to make it go away. They were nearing the outskirts of the town now, and the driver signaled a left turn to head to the exit path.

And then, they passed by her oasis.

"Stop the car!" she ordered. Startled, the taxi driver swerved around other traffic and pulled over. Ignoring the honking car of the lone driver behind them and the shocked shouts of anyone who had seen them, she opened the door and jumped out. "I'll be right back!" she called over her shoulder to the darkened area she knew the driver was seated in. "Just wait here."

Without giving him a chance to answer, she rushed inside the small convenient store. She hadn't even bothered to put on her shoes again, so the few customers and employees gave her some dirty looks, but she pretended she didn't notice, instead going about her business. When she came back out, she had a large, brown paper bag in her hand. Inside were multiple bottles of liquor.

"All right," she said, slamming the door shut. He pulled away immediately, eyeing her with curiosity, but she only uncapped the first bottle.

"Hey, how long is this gonna take now?" she asked him, taking her first swig. It burned going down her throat, but she ignored it. It would get better soon.

"A while," he answered carefully, keeping a watchful gaze trained on the bottle she was downing. "Another hour, at least."

She grinned. "Perfect." She took another swig. "Just enough time to get drunk." She slurped some more.

"Are you sure that's a smart idea?" he asked her.

"Nope," she replied, popping that last syllable. "That's why I'm doing it. You just take your time. I gotta finish these before we get to Karakura; my sister doesn't allow alcohol in the house."

"All of those?" he asked her, incredulous. "By yourself? That's very dangerous."

She rolled her eyes. "Who are you, my father?" she quipped back, and then paused. "Well, no. I'm pretty sure my dad would me the one supplying the alcohol..." She saw his eyes crinkle in the mirror and realized he was grimacing. "Oh, don't get me wrong," she continued after taking another drink. "He's a good enough guy, but a shitty parent."

He pressed his lips into a thin line and didn't say anything as they drove out into the isolated, dark path, only the headlights guiding their way. She just took another large swig.

.. ღ ..

"And ya know what else...?" she slurred, waving her second bottle of liquor in the air and growling. "He was never really that good of a kisser, anyway. I just went along to make him feel good about it, but it was like kissin' a wet dog. I always left with wet lipsss..."

She trailed off carelessly, her eyes a little unfocused. It had taken only twenty minutes of drinking for her to start rambling on about her ex and all of his bad points – all the reasons she should have dumped him in the first place. They were still on their lonely dirt path, alone except for each other and the occasional dog that howled from one of the many farms they passed. He'd turned off the music long ago.

"I mean, you'd think a man of twenty-five would know when to keep his tongue to himself," she went on with a harsh chuckle. "I've dated better guys, so who cares about this one?" Looking curious, she leaned forward. "What about you?" she breathed deeply on his neck, causing him to flinch just slightly. "Who betrayed you, Taxi Driver-san?"

"Just a man I thought I knew," he replied nonchalantly, shrugging. "I've had a new father for a long time now, though. I don't think about him anymore."

She slipped her hands through the space between the seats and clumsily patted his shoulder in comfort.

"That's the right attitude," she told him gravely. "I don't even think of Daishiro anymore either."

"You were just talking about him," he reminded her.

She blinked rapidly. "I was...?" Completely confused, she just gazed at her liquor bottle for a long time. When nothing clicked, she just shrugged and downed the last of the drops inside. "You know what else?" she continued, reaching into her paper bag for a new drink and unscrewing it. "He had a really annoying laugh too. I mean, it sounded almost like a giggle. Why the hell would a man want to sound like a high school girl? Don't ask me."

"Miss," the driver suddenly spoke up. "Which bottle are you on?"

She just stared at his back, trying to figure out what he'd just asked. "Oh!" she cried. "This is my...third one? No, fourth. No, third," she finally decided. "This is my...third one."

He sighed. "I thought so. Don't you think that drinking so much is dangerous?"

"Don't worry. I can hold my liquor!" she announced proudly, thumping her chest. "You know who couldn't, though? Daishiro. He was always out before his second cup. What a pansy," she sneered.

He sighed, having expected the insult. She'd been going on about him this entire time, and he'd listened because there was nothing else to do. He could hardly jump out of the cab, though he'd been tempted a few times when she'd begun insulting his moves in bed. He did not need to hear that, but her mind was clearly too foggy right now to comprehend jut how much she was sharing with a man she'd only met a little over an hour before.

"One time," she went on with a slur, "he even passed out in the back seat of my car. I had to carry him to his apartment. Can you believe that? I mean, who doesn't have the common sense to stop when they've had too much?"

He eyed her incredulously at the irony of her words, but she didn't see.

"He was always an idiot, though," she went on instead. "He messed up reports all the time at his workplace. The only reason he didn't get fired was because I always secretly bribed his boss to keep him on. I guess I'll have to put a stop to that now." She smirked in satisfaction at the thought.

She opened another bottle, and he tried one last time.

"Miss, I really don't think you should be drinking so much -"

"Ugh, you are such a stick-in-the-mud!" she cried out in exasperation. "I told you I can handle it! If it worries you so much, why don't you come back here and drink some, so that I can't?"

It hit her after she'd said it that it wasn't a bad idea. She always did like having someone to drink with, never mind who it was.

"Come join me?" she asked again lazily, patting the seat beside her.

"I'm driving," he reminded her pointedly.

"Then stop driving," she said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, and then she took another swig.

He seemed to consider her for a moment, not sure whether this would be a good idea. She impatiently waved him over. She wouldn't hold back on the alcohol, and soon it would be gone. This wouldn't be a good idea – not at all. But she seemed adamant to have him join her, keeping her eyes trained on his back as she kept waving at him. With a sigh, he actually pulled the car over, stopping it in the darkness on its dirt path. She beamed when he turned off the engine, however reluctantly.

It was too dark to see and her eyes hadn't adjusted yet, but she heard his door open and close. Soon, the door right beside her opened too, and she drunkenly wiggled over to give him room. He sat down beside her and shut himself in.

"Atta boy!" she yelled, pressing a bottle of liquor against his chest. He took it, still hesitant. "Don't be shy," she slurred. "Drink up!" And she banged her own bottle against his in a toast before downing some more. He took a controlled sip along with her.

Now that her eyes were finally adjusting to the darkness, she finally got a good look at his face – her first look, she realized.

"Hey, you're pretty handsome," she crooned, placing a finger on his chin. Her cheeks were flushed red.

"You're drunk," he muttered back.

"As can be," she agreed cheerfully. This always happened to her when she drank too much; her personality did a complete 180. It explained why she was suddenly trying to get closer to him. Her arms slipped around his neck, and she draped herself over his front, though mostly because in her drunken state, she couldn't manage getting back up again. He uncomfortably scooted back, but she wouldn't let go, and he ended up with his back pressed against the door with her still clinging on.

"Miss...?"

"Mmmm." She gave a little moan as she closed her eyes and laid her head down against his neck. It felt good to have human contact right now, to drive away Daishiro's imprints. "Call me Karin," she told him.

"Karin," he repeated in his deep, husky voice, and she shivered.

"Yes?" she whispered.

"Could you...scoot back?" he asked awkwardly.

"No."

He sighed in defeat, having expected that answer.

"Mmm, you smell good," she suddenly mumbled. "Is that cologne?"

"Um...yes," he answered her.

"Well, it smells divine. Daishiro never smelled this good. His cologne was stinky."

"I'm sorry to hear that." He was seriously running out of replies for her never ending insults.

"Yeah, me too," she agreed, bobbing her head up and down. However, her eyelids drooped, and she lazily kept nodding, not realizing she should stop. He awkwardly and hesitantly reached out a hand, cupping her chin until she was still.

"Wow, thanks!" she said breathlessly with a laugh. "I was getting dizzy there for a second. Like -"

"Daishiro's cologne made you?" he interrupted her, sounding exhausted.

"How did you know?" she gasped. With wide eyes, she knocked on his forehead. "Can you read minds?"

"Of course not," he negated gruffly, grabbing her palm and pushing it away. "You're just..."

He looked up to scowl at her, and found that she was too close. And she was fluttering her eyelashes, waiting for his answer expectantly. He blushed furiously, and she snickered.

"You're not really a ladies' man, are you?" she teased him. "I don't bite...much." She winked, and he rolled his eyes at the line.

"Miss Karin," he said firmly. "You've completely lost all inhibitions. Would you really be making a pass at me otherwise?"

"Why not?" She shrugged. "You're a good guy."

He sighed. "I'm just your taxi driver."

"Don't say it like that," she scolded him. "You're a person, too. I mean, you drive really well." She patted his arm as some sort of comforting gesture. Then, her eyes narrowed all of a sudden, as if a thought just hit her. With great effort, she lifted her head and gazed up at him hazily.

"You know," she managed, looking around in wonder, "I didn't know cabs drove out this far."

"They don't," he replied simply, sipping at his drink and looking at her from the corner of his eyes.

She looked up at him in surprise. "They don't? But then, why did you...?"

"...I was curious." There was a twinkle in his eyes.

"About what?" she asked with a giggle, snuggling up closer to him. He seemed uncomfortable once again, though he did not push her away.

"About you." He looked slightly embarrassed by the admittance.

"Awwww!" she squealed, and leaned over to sloppily kiss his lips. It was just a peck, but he still froze for a moment. She, however, only giggled like nothing had happened.

"Do you often kiss strangers?" he asked softly, not meeting her eyes.

"Of course not, silly," she answered, and then kissed him again. "So, tell me. What about me made you curious?" She settled herself against him again and looked up intently, as if waiting for story time.

"Well," he began, licking his lips, "you...looked rather...sad. And I couldn't help but wonder why."

"'Cause my asshole of a boyfriend cheated on me," she replied with a nod, taking a sip of her alcohol as the pain tore through her again – she obviously hadn't drank enough yet for it to have the proper affect.

"And you weren't wearing your shoes," he added. "Or a sweater."

"I don't get cold easily," she explained with a wrinkle of her nose. "And I hate heels."

He looked down at her curiously, unconsciously wrapping his arms low around her waist at the same time. "Hmmm. I think you're the first woman I've known who feels that way."

She giggled. "Yay! I'm special! Cheers." And she leaned away to take another deep swig of her drink. When she detached her lips, she suddenly gave a loud hiccup. Scowling, he shot his hand out in response and grabbed her drink from her instantly.

"I'm cutting you off," he said sternly. "You're drunk."

"Nuh-uh," she insisted, shaking her head and wrenching the bottle from his hands, holding it away. "I'm fine."

He only glared at her fiercely and held out his hand. She pouted but gave in and gave him the drink, and he settled the bottle under the seat.

"You're no fun," she complained.

"There is a whole line up of people who've told me that over the years," he answered simply.

She huffed and leaned away, crossing her arms. He trained his harsh gaze on her, giving her a look that had her head spinning. Those eyes of his were just about the most gorgeous things she had ever seen. And they were trained so intently on her, staring right at her rather than through; that made her feel good, like he thought she mattered. Daishiro, she realized with a painful jolt, hadn't looked at her like that in a long time. Meeting the driver's gaze, she let a small smile creep onto her lips. Getting as close as she could to him, she brushed her lips against his cheek.

"Then how 'bout we prove them wrong?" she suggested, and went for his lips.

He dodged out of the way. "You're not thinking straight," he told her sternly. "You would only regret it in the morning."

"I promise I won't!" she shot back, leaning away.

He shook his head. "Nevertheless, I am not that kind of man. I was raised right, and I won't take advantage."

She considered that, and then grinned. "You're a pretty good guy, you know that?" she finally said, tapping his arm with a light punch.

He hesitated. "...No, actually," he admitted. "There's never been a line up of people to tell me that...You were the first." A look of wonder overtook his face as he blinked over at her.

She flushed under his scrutiny. "Well, you are," she continued in a rush, patting his shoulder. "There aren't many guys out there anymore who would do what you just did."

"I suppose you're right," he agreed, looking disapproving. "So, does this mean we can finally stop drinking and get you home?"

"Nope," she answered easily, leaning back in her seat and throwing her head back with her eyes closed. "Besides, you can't drive after you've been drinking."

"You're right," he realized with a groan. This was definitely not his smartest move; he hadn't even thought of what would happen after he joined her.

"So we're stuck here?" she pondered, sounding strangely hopeful.

He grimaced. "I suppose. I could call another cab, but -"

"No!" she cut across him sharply. When he gazed down at her curiously, she still had her eyes closed, but she was breathing slowly. Through the darkness, her hand snaked across the seat and found his. "Let's stay here for a while," she suggested quietly, intertwining her fingers with his.

"Karin?" he asked.

"...I like being out here with you," she admitted in a small voice, still refusing to open her eyes and look at him. Her face looked deadly calm, though. "It makes me forget everything that happened. I don't want to go back yet."

He sighed, unconsciously squeezing her hand tighter. "All right," he agreed, pinching the bridge of his nose with his other hand. "We'll stay out here. For just a little while."

She smiled softly and slowly at his reply. "Thanks." Hesitating for just a moment, she pulled their joined hands to her lips and kissed the back of his palm gently as a gesture.

Looking down at her peaceful face, he resisted the urge to cup her cheek. They were so close now that he could count every single eyelash on her always fiery eyes, creating little crescent shadows under her closed lids. She looked so detached, like there was nothing hurting her anymore. He wanted her to always look like that. It was the kind of expression anyone could spend their entire life searching for and treasuring.

He'd just been minding his own business that evening, taking his usual break from work, when he'd heard a door slam violently from the building across the street. Cracking open one eye, he'd looked around. When he'd first seen her run out of that apartment, her shoes in her hand and her eyeliner smudged, he'd felt that instant pull to this mysterious, beautiful woman. Of course, anyone would have been curious, but he hadn't been able to look away. Why did she look so heartbreakingly distraught? He didn't know why, but his eyes followed her, and when she'd rounded the curb and disappeared from his view, he'd felt himself instantly turn on the engine and follow after her slowly, keeping with her pace.

There had been men eyeing her, and he'd felt a primal urge in him to throttle them. Why, though? That question had haunted him for just a moment, but then she'd stuck out an arm.

"Taxi!" she'd called, and he'd switched on his sign like his life depended on it and pulled up next to her before any other taxi could. She was his...Customer, of course...

She'd asked for Karakura. Didn't she know that was a ridiculously long way away? Any sane person would take a train there, and any sane taxi driver would have kicked her out right then, claiming they didn't have that kind of money for gas. But her voice! It had been raspy and choked, but it had sounded like music to his ears. He was too curious by then already for his own good.

Never had he imagined that she would be such a captivating person. So witty and charming, even when suffering from heartbreak. He listened to her troubles, and he could already imagine himself hating this Daishiro for life. In fact, he did. Letting her drink hadn't been a good idea. Joining her had been even worse, but there was no way to turn back on her now. He'd known that since the moment he caught the despair in her eyes as she'd taken the first swig. It wasn't like Matsumoto, who drank for fun, but to forget her troubles the easy way. But who was he to tell her 'no'?

It was only when she'd kissed him that he'd realized he was a little too far into this now. She was in his cab and his responsibility. He'd had to be strict and keep her away from the drink, even when she'd pouted and acted too adorable for her own good. She'd been pressing herself a little too close for his comfort; he had only Matsumoto to thank for building up his tolerance after all these years. It had taken some work, but he'd managed to win over his desires.

Now, he leaned back, away from her face and against the window instead. It wouldn't do to let all that self-discipline go to waste in the one moment she had her eyes closed. As he'd told her, he wasn't that kind of man. So, with a frosty determination, he closed his eyes too, and the two engulfed themselves in silence.

As the minutes ticked by, neither realized when they dozed off with their hands still clasped together tightly.

.. ღ ..

When Karin woke up that following morning, her neck was a little stiff. And though that normally would have made her cranky, she found she wasn't. Not because she had been sleeping on something wonderfully warm and soft, but because she had a killer headache, and that was what was making her cranky.

"Why in the hell...?" she grumbled, sitting up and clutching her head. When she tried to go for her aching neck, however, she found she couldn't. Her hand wouldn't budge. "What in the world...?" Confused and getting angrier, she looked down. "Ack!"

There was another hand attached to hers! And it had a very tight grip, refusing to let hers go. Finally, her eyes trailed upwards, and she found herself face-to-face with tan skin and white hair.

All of her memories came flooding back: Daishiro, Hinamori Momo, the taxi driver, the alcohol, the kissing, the hand holding...

Oh. So she'd fallen asleep with a random stranger in his taxi cab on an isolated road in the middle of the night. Surprisingly, it wasn't the stupidest thing she'd ever done. No, ever dating that slimy bastard Shiro took the prestigious number one spot. But back to her current problem.

Breathing deeply, she tried to remember if the two had done anything last night. Well, aside from her getting a little too touchy-feely and giggly, she was pretty sure the man had been enough of a saint to stop her from doing something completely stupid. Yes, she remembered that now.

'So, I'm not pregnant,' she thought with relief, patting her stomach. The movement, however, roused the person underneath her.

'Oh, shit,' she thought, panicking a little as he began to move. Gulping, she slid back in the seat as far as she could with their hands still clasped together and watched.

He awoke slowly. First, his eyes fluttered open. Her breath caught as she took in the aquamarine shade, and she vaguely remembered how they had drawn her the previous night as well. They flickered to the left and right, taking in the cab's ceiling. Then, with a grunt, he propped himself in his elbow and sat up. Running a hand through his messy hair, he looked up and finally saw her staring back at him.

"Oh, so you're awake," he said casually, letting go of her hand. "Should I take you back home now?"

Karin gaped at him. "Hold the phone!" she seethed. "That's all you have to say after everything that happened?"

"I've learned not to let the words and actions of a drunk have any permanent affect on me," he explained stoically.

"I am not a drunk," she snapped.

"You were last night."

She glared at him and his quick, know-it-all answers. What a jerk. She'd obviously just gone through a very emotional time last night, and here he was, just not in the least bit comforting -

'Oh, Kami, just listen to yourself, Karin,' she thought, rolling her eyes at herself and her pouty, Yuzu-like behavior. What did she expect from him? "He's a stranger, for Pete's sake."

"Then perhaps you should learn to be a bit more careful," he retorted coldly.

She blinked, realizing she'd said that out loud. Crossing her arms, she huffed, "You don't have to tell me that! I'm usually not that chatty with people I don't know. Last night was a special case, I guess."

'Or maybe you were the special case,' she added silently in her head, looking at him through her lashes.

He was rearranging his clothing, which had become a disarray throughout the night's sleep. Blushing, she realized her own clothes were a bit too revealing right now too. Her first few buttons had popped open, revealing the swell of her chest. The bottom of her shirt had creased up to reveal her flat stomach, and her skirt had rode up her thighs.

'Jerk didn't even say anything,' she thought bitterly, fixing herself up. '...Though it's not his fault, I guess. Get your head together, Karin!' she ordered herself furiously. 'Fixing your clothes would have been the first thing you would have done on any other day!'

"Well, you won't have to worry about putting up with me much longer," he said icily all of a sudden. "There's still a half hour drive to Karakura left, but after that, we'll never see each other again."

Karin felt a twinge of pain at those words, but nodded. "Good," she spat back. "Then let's get going."

With a cold nod, he stepped out of the backseat of the car and slipped into the driver's, slamming the door shut. The engine hummed as he turned it on, and then they drove on in silence. She crossed her arms and looked out the window determinedly, refusing to let her eyes stray to him, and he also kept a stony gaze on the road.

The air was thick. It didn't help that both were so hotheaded, or that they were on a deserted path with nothing but ranches to look at and nothing to distract them from their anger. So they brooded and remained silent, letting their anger fester. Karin could hardly stand it. She hadn't felt so awkward in someone's presence in a long time, and her headache wasn't completely cleared yet either, meaning she was in no mood for this. Meaning she was pissed. A passerby by could practically see the heated vibes she was giving off, and her forehead twitched constantly as she focused on the passing scenery and tapped her foot impatiently.

She didn't like being in this taxi one bit. It was too closed up and stuffy and she was getting antsy. She debated just getting out and calling another cab – anything to just get away from this rude driver. But she'd had a long night and just wanted to get home now, and waiting for an hour for someone else to show up did not sound appealing. So she would stick through this.

Huffing, she started fidgeting in her seat, just to appease her restlessness. However, as she adjusted herself, her foot suddenly hit something hard and cold. Curious, she slipped a hand under her seat and patted it a bit. Her palm made contact with a round object, and she pulled it out to discover a large bottle.

'My liquor,' she realized. 'The one he stopped me from drinking because I was too drunk...'

That's right. She'd been downing bottle after bottle, her inhibitions long gone, and he'd seen the danger and stopped her. She vaguely remembered that he'd constantly attempted to convince her to stop of her own accord throughout the night, but he'd finally taken matters into his own hand and kept her away from the liquor.

A mortified flush crept onto her cheeks as she remembered what happened afterwards. She'd tried to come on to him, tried to convince him to get busy with her in the back of a cab. Thank Kami he'd had the sense to say no when she hadn't. Drinking definitely was not good for her, and she knew if it had been any other driver, he would have taken advantage.

Suddenly, she felt rather selfish. Here was a man who'd taken care of her last night when he'd had no obligation to do so, who'd kept her from making big mistakes without coddling her or taking advantage of her, and all she'd done was be rude to him all this time. Though she hated to admit it, an apology was in order.

She sighed. "Hey -"

"I'm sorry," he cut across her suddenly.

She opened and closed her mouth a few times, unsure of what she'd heard. What did he have to apologize for? Confused, she met his determined eyes in the rear-view mirror.

"I've been acting rather disrespectful," he continued, though he looked back to the road. Though he'd been just as angry as her, he'd taken the time in the silence to reflect and come to the conclusion that an apology was necessary. "It was rude of me to treat you in such a way after the night you've had, and for that, I apologize."

She smirked. "My respect for you just went down a couple notches," she declared.

He raised a questioning eyebrow at her.

"Don't go apologizing when you did nothing wrong, idiot," she chided him. "It was my fault. You were a good guy last night and I shouldn't have been so rude to you. So, I'm sorry."

He scoffed. "Yes, but you were going through a rough time and I'm sure I only made it worse. So, I'm sorry!"

She scowled. "Look. Just accept my damn apology and don't give me one back, because I don't want it."

"Well, I don't want your apology, either," he argued heatedly.

"It doesn't matter because I already gave you one!"

"So did I."

"Well, I won't accept it."

"Then, I won't accept yours, either."

"Fine!"

"Fine."

They fell silent, breathing deeply through their noses at their anger at the other's idiocy. They'd apologized, damn it! Why couldn't the other just accept it and let them move on?

Karin glared out of the window for a while, steaming. It had taken a lot of courage for her to admit she'd been in the wrong; it wasn't something her pride allowed her to do on a regular basis, yet the one time she had, the recipient just had to be a stuck-up jerk...But, it had been nice of him to apologize too. At least he'd been willing to take some of the blame off of her shoulders. The more she thought about their argument, the more ridiculous it seemed. She even started to calm down, and then let out a snort of laughter.

"I can't even believe I'm a twenty-four-year-old woman after that argument we just had," she said between her chuckles, shaking her head at her own childishness. "Did you feel as ridiculous as I did?"

"Yes," he answered, holding back chuckles of his own.

Rubbing the tears in her eyes, she sighed contently. The air was light again – not that it had ever been completely cleared since she'd woken up, but at least there was no more hostility – and she knew it meant all was forgiven. With a satisfied smirk, she unbuckled her seatbelt and slipped into the area between the front seats.

The driver's eyes widened in alarm. "Miss?"

She ignored him and wiggled her way through, collapsing on the passenger's seat and then pulling her legs along with her. Once she was seated, she buckled the seatbelt and grinned up at him. He was gaping at her, though his eyes were flickering constantly to the road to prevent any crashing.

"We can't have a proper conversation when I'm talking to your back, now can we?" she explained.

"We're almost to Karakura," he pointed out weakly.

Her face fell for just a moment before she shrugged. "Oh, well. We still have time." She beamed. "So, tell me your life story, Taxi Driver-san."

He breathed out deeply in exhaustion.

.. ღ ..

When they'd reached the outskirts of her hometown, she gave him her sister's address.

"You can't miss it," she'd said pointedly. "There's a huge sign that says 'Karakura Clinic' right at the front."

"Oh? Is she a doctor?"

"A nurse. She lives in in our childhood home with our dad, who gave her the house after we turned eighteen. Me and Ichi-nii were just sort of left to make it on our own. But, I managed all right." She'd grinned in pride. "I don't think becoming the CEO of a major electronics company is too shabby, if I do say so myself." She'd shrugged. "And between you and me, I'm kind of glad about practically getting kicked out. We all knew whoever got the house would be stuck taking care of Otou-san, and I did not want that idiot around all the time."

He'd raised his eyebrows but wisely chosen not to say anything.

"So, tell me about your father," she said now, sounding curious. "You said something about him last night, right?" She tried to remember that through the drunken haze.

He tensed for a moment before relaxing. "Nothing much to say," he replied vaguely. When she opened her mouth to protest, he continued, "He was a horrible man. Power-hungry, too. We weren't enough for him, my mother and me. He stabbed her through the heart one night and ran off, so we never saw him again. I was four."

"I'm...so sorry," she offered solemnly.

He shrugged. "Like I said, I don't think much about him anymore. Okaa-sama started dating again a while back and now has a new husband. He's a good man. I like him enough." He looked at her from the corner of his eyes and sent her just the tiniest of smiles. Her heart stopped beating for just a moment before she shyly returned it.

"I was four too, when I lost my mom," she told him. "She drowned and my brother saw it happen. None of use were the same after that."

They lapsed off into silence, each thinking about their own problems. At the same time, Karin looked out the window sadly and realized with a jolt that they were nearing her neighborhood. Her heart thudded in her ears and started beating a little faster.

So, her unexpected journey with this stranger was almost over. Soon, she'd be at Yuzu's, he would drive away, and she would probably never see him again. The thought left her feeling bitter and strangely lonely. It was strange how close she felt to him now considering how badly they had behaved towards each other a lot of the time, but she knew she had to ready herself for when he left her life for good.

"Out of questions?" he asked her suddenly, pulling her out of her thoughts.

"Hmm..." She paused to think about it, and when the obvious one finally hit her, she grinned sheepishly. "Uh, what's your name?"

He rolled his eyes but answered, "Hitsugaya Toushiro."

"Oh." She scoffed. "Well, I'll never be calling you 'Shiro,' that's for sure."

He smirked in private amusement. "Good."

It wasn't long before they were turning into her street, and she held her breath as she began to see the familiar houses. They were so close to separating. She suddenly felt like she was wasting time, just sitting here in silence. She grasped at anything she could think of to say, and a question popped into her mind. Since this was her, she didn't pause to think as she asked.

"Hey, Toushiro?" she spoke up, looking thoughtful. "Since we were talking about work before, how come you're a taxi driver?"

He cringed. "That's a rather rude question, you know," he remarked coldly. "What if I'm simply not an intelligent man? What if this was the only job I could get?"

"Nah," she said off-handedly. "You seem like a pretty smart man, actually. I mean, you speak really formally, too. And you just give off the vibe of an intelligent person. I can hold a decent conversation with you, can't I?" She grinned encouragingly.

There was silence before he admitted, "I came from a poor family." His voice sounded pained. "My father didn't work, and my mother was too weak to hold a job for too long. We didn't have any money to send me to college."

"Oh." She hung her head, her eyes downcast. "...I'm sorry."

He scowled. "You don't need to apologize," he retorted, perhaps a bit more harshly than he had intended. "It's not as if it's your fault, and I'm not ashamed of it – only my father. The world doesn't revolve around money."

She hesitated before patting his arm lightly. "Pity doesn't make anyone feel good, huh?" she speculated, smiling sadly, and he nodded crisply. "Maybe that's why I liked talking to you so much. Thanks for not showing me pity, Toushiro. I promise I won't show you any, either."

"Thank you." He looked like he meant it, and she bit her lip, smiling softly.

It was then that they finally stopped outside of her home. It looked just as the last time she had been here, though it was deserted right now as the clinic hadn't opened yet. After paying him the ridiculously large amount her ride had cost, she reached to the back of the cab and grabbed her shoes from the floor. He watched her legs kick the air as she stretched, and she sighed once she grasped them and hopped back down in her seat. After slipping them on, she breathed in deeply before unbuckling her seat belt.

To her complete and utter surprise, when she got out of the cab, he did too.

"Toushiro?"

He met her gaze, and she could have sworn he had the lightest flush on his cheeks.

"I thought it would be best to have a proper goodbye," he told her, sounding stifled.

She blinked rapidly as he robotically walked around the front of the car and held out his hand. With a bemused smile, she took it. His hand was a lot larger than hers, and as it encased hers, she realized it was ice cold. That suited him, somehow.

"Goodbye, Karin," he said quietly. "I hope you'll find some way to resolve your problems."

"Uh, yeah," she replied, tucking some strands of hair behind her ear with her free hand. They hadn't let go yet. "I'll try to pick a better guy next time."

He actually allowed himself a small, brief chuckle, and she felt her face heat up. Who could blame her? This was rather awkward, considering all the things she'd done to him in less than twelve hours.

But, she could reluctantly admit that she'd liked being out there with him, on a lonely road with no one there but themselves and bottles of liquor for company. Out there with him, it had been easy to forget everything that had happened only mere hours ago. He was warm and safe and comforting, even though he wasn't trying to be. He didn't try to show her pity and he didn't try to agree with everything she said just to make her feel better. She liked that kind of strong will in a man. Right now, she could admit that he was even more appealing than Yuzu.

"So, I'll, uh, see you around?" she asked hopefully.

His face fell, suddenly serious again. "Perhaps," he answered vaguely, but they both knew there wasn't a high chance of that happening, considering how many cabs roamed the streets.

He slowly dropped his hand after that, and she watched as he stepped back, farther away from her. With a wave of his hand, he walked back to his cab. And it was then that she realized that she didn't want him to leave. He was a fascinating man, and she'd only just started to get along with him. There was so much she didn't know about him, so much she wanted to know about him. There should have been an endless amount of more experiences for them to share. But now they may never see each other again.

Well, she couldn't just let that happen, could she? She was Kurosaki Karin, for goodness sake! She had a way of getting what she wanted, no matter what she had to do to make it happen. And she'd be damned if she just let him walk away from her like this.

She thought about grabbing the back of his shirt but decided against it. Instead, she placed two fingers into her mouth and blew hard, letting out an ear-splitting whistle.

"Taxi!"

He paused abruptly and turned with his eyebrows raised to find her grinning mischievously.

"I'm going to need a ride to the city for work tomorrow," she told him, beaming. "How about it?"

A look of understanding dawned on his face, and his lips twitched up at her hint. He pretended to mull over it before giving her a curt nod and smirk.

"See you then."


Did I actually manage to make some of you believe that in the beginning, Toushiro was cheating on her with Momo? Or are my skills as a suspense writer completely nonexistent? I thought by giving him the 'Shiro' nickname and making the other girl Momo, it might fool some of you :P

Forgive the slight OOC-ness of Karin. Please? Well, she was drunk, so that's to be expected. I tried my best to preserve her character once she was sober again though, near the end.

Well, I'm glad I got this done finally. I really just wanted to put this up now because there's been a serious lack of HitsuKarin stories lately. Or am I the only one noticing this? o.O