Well, it's been a while since I've written a story told in snapshots, though these scenes might be too long to be called just that. Beware: There is a lot of Hisagi in this, which is probably a bit obvious.
Also, I hope none of you get too frustrated with the narration in this. Just remember that you're reading it from a very limited perspective, so you don't get to see everything.
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach or any of its characters.
Neighbors were a curious thing, Hisagi mused. They could either be your best friend, or your greatest enemy. Or they could be just about the most insignificant people in your life.
Take his neighbor, for example. Hitsugaya Toushiro was his name, he believed, and he couldn't remember ever holding a semi-decent conversation with the man, despite the many years they had lived side-by-side. He was a quiet one, meaning the only times they truly interacted were those awkward moments when both stepped out of their homes at the same time and felt obligated to speak. And they had never learned enough about each other to know if they had anything in common – except that they were both writers, which had been the result of a very uncomfortable exchange. So neither of them was really eager to try becoming best friends.
Hisagi didn't particularly mind, though. He chatted enough with the neighbor on his other side that he felt content he had chosen a nice neighborhood to live in, and he appreciated not being bothered when he had deadlines to meet and was stressing out at his work desk. Hitsugaya lived such a reserved lifestyle that he never had to deal with excessive noise or annoying favors. So he was quite content with the arrangement himself, and he didn't bother much with his neighbor.
They had a perfectly nice routine, in his opinion, and he didn't plan on Hitsugaya becoming a part of his life anytime soon.
.. ღ ..
Everything changed one early morning, when Hisagi found himself tackling a particularly heinous enemy: writer's block. His article was due by the end of the week, and he was just about ready to tear his hair out in frustration at his lack of imagination. Really, he knew what he wanted to say, but he just couldn't get the damn words out! And that was the worst kind of writer's block, in his opinion, because it was the most stressful.
Well, he decided, perhaps sitting out on his front porch would help the problem. Maybe some fresh air would get his mind working, and he could finally finish his article. It was quite early in the morning still, meaning he wouldn't have to worry about distractions just yet. Most people were asleep, after all.
So he sat down in a chair on his porch, and he had only just written down two words when Hitsugaya's front door swung open.
Now, Hisagi didn't consider himself a snoop. He knew when he would cross a line or when things definitely were not his business. He also knew that spying on regular, everyday people – especially his own neighbor – was a sleazy move. But he wrote for a gossip column in a magazine, so his eyes tended to stray on their own. And he just couldn't help himself when he saw that a woman had stepped out, followed directly by his neighbor.
"Will you be all right getting home?" he heard Hitsugaya ask her gruffly. The air surrounding him was completely stiff, as if he was forcing the words out. But the girl nodded, tightening the folds of her jacket – which was too big for her – and shuffling from foot to foot.
"Yeah. I have my wallet, so I'll just take the bus. Thanks for the jacket," she added, fingering the fabric. "I'll return it when I can."
Hisagi thought back to last night, and he remembered Hitsugaya's busty friend coming around to visit him. She was an extremely energetic person, so she'd made tons of noise that had passed straight through his thin walls. Hitsugaya had fought her admirably, but in the end, she'd forcefully dragged him down the street while chattering nonstop about going drinking. And they'd apparently done just that, because Hisagi presumed he was witnessing the after effects of that right now.
He peered closely at the girl. She was quite good-looking (Way to go, Hitsugaya), but he was sure she would be more so if she wasn't so...mussed up. Her hair was a complete mess, and she had hastily stuck it in a messy ponytail and kept running her hand through the loose strands. The black dress she was wearing was quite short, the proof being how the jacket almost covered up all of it, and he could see through the collar that the straps had slipped off her shoulders, which was probably why it kept sliding down her chest. She didn't seem to have realized about the straps, because she made no move to fix them; instead, she kept impatiently yanking up the dress through the jacket. On her feet were extremely high heels, impractical for their small neighborhood but probably very suitable for the bar the two had been in last night.
Oh, and her lips were swollen, and her neck and collarbone were covered in hickeys.
By this point, Hisagi was shamelessly straining his ears to try and hear the conversation. Obviously his assumptions had been correct; the two had let themselves get highly intoxicated last night and taken part in some...regretful activities. He had never expected his neighbor to be that kind of man, but he could easily guess that his friend had probably forced the alcohol on him. She didn't seem like the type many could win against, after all.
"So, I should be going," he heard her say, a tinge of discomfort in her voice. Hitsugaya gave her a curt nod as a reply, his expression stony. She turned to go, but turned back at the last second and began to bounce on her feet once again. "Listen, um...maybe we should just forget about last night? I mean, you were drunk, and I was drunk..."
"It was a mistake," Hitsugaya added coldly, his face like ice, but he seemed rather angry by her proposition. For a moment, Hisagi imagined that he saw a flash of hurt in the woman's eyes, but then her face blanked out impressively, and she nodded with just as much bitterness. Then she turned on her heels and stalked away.
His neighbor stood standing on his porch for a while, his eyes closed as he breathed through his nose. He also began to rub his temples, trying to soothe a probable hangover as he made his way inside. Hisagi watched him curiously, though he smoothly averted his eyes when Hitsugaya abruptly looked his way and caught his gaze. After an uncomfortable silence, the writer couldn't help but try and make conversation.
"So, rough night?" Inwardly, he cringed. What had possessed him to say such a thing? This was definitely crossing a line, and it was bound to make things awkward between them. Well, more than they already were, if that was even possible.
As he had expected, Hitsugaya just glared at him furiously and slammed his door shut behind him.
.. ღ ..
Only two days had passed before the woman returned again. Hisagi had to commend her for her bravery. He didn't think anyone would actually show up at the doorstep again after a one night stand (that jacket should have been a goner), yet there she was.
He hadn't meant to see her. He only wanted to shut his window – which coincidentally faced Hitsugaya's house and gave him a moderate view of his porch – but as he fumbled with it, he noticed that the woman was fidgeting at his door. And she looked very different than how she had looked that night. In fact, she looked just like a normal, everyday woman who was very decently covered in her jeans and blouse. He wouldn't have even guessed it was the same girl, except that his neighbor hardly ever had women around.
He watched as she rang the doorbell after taking what seemed like a reassuring breath. A moment later, he heard the front door open, and then his neighbor's voice came from the doorway.
"Kurosaki?" There was obvious shock in his voice, as if he hadn't expected to see her again. "Why are you here? Don't you work in the afternoons?"
Hisagi raised an incredulous eyebrow. He remembered things about her? Wasn't it protocol to even forget the girl's name after a night together? But Hitsugaya had practically remembered "Kurosaki's" life story, it seemed, even though he had been drunk.
"They gave me the afternoon off," she explained, folding her arms across her chest. "Look, I don't have your jacket yet; it's at the dry cleaner's. But, um, when I left here a few nights ago, I forgot..." She trailed off, and Hisagi was interested to see she seemed extremely embarrassed.
He could practically hear the smugness in Hitsugaya's voice as he asked, "Your brassiere?"
Kurosaki's face turned beet red, and she huffed, unable to think of an answer.
"One moment," Toushiro told her, and he heard footsteps as the man apparently ran back into the house. A moment later, he came back and handed Karin a paper bag (Hisagi cursed). "Here you go." And, not finished making her suffer just yet, he asked, "What woman forgets something like this?"
Kurosaki rolled her eyes. "I had a hangover, okay? And I was just trying to get the hell out of here."
There was a pause, and then he answered, "Oh. And I thought you were just kind enough to leave it behind for me."
She turned even more red, if that was possible, and glared at him so impressively that Hisagi could have sworn his plants caught fire.
"Bastard!" she shrieked, and then stomped away. As she spun around, however, she accidentally locked eyes with Hisagi, who had been practically leaning out of his window to hear their exchange. He offered a sheepish smile, and she looked absolutely mortified as she ran away down the street.
He was clearly not very good at this eavesdropping thing.
.. ღ ..
A whole week passed before he saw her again. And it wasn't from a porch or through a window this time. No, she actually rang his doorbell. Imagine his surprise when he opened the door – rubbing his stomach under his shirt and yawning unattractively, at that – and found her waiting impatiently on the other side. Needless to say, he fixed himself up really quickly and offered her a pained smile.
"Can I help you?" he asked, hoping he'd conveyed his surprise. But really, he was blown away, and momentarily he wondered whether she had gotten the wrong house. Then again, she seemed to be dressed up too nicely to be visiting Hitsugaya; she was wearing a nice, formal dress, much more conservative than the itty-bitty number she'd been dressed in that first morning. And she was wearing matching heels and had her hair styled in an elegant bun. He also took notice of the large shopping bag hanging from her arm.
"You're that bastard's neighbor, right?" she snapped, and before he could even nod, she shoved the bag into his hand. "Give this to him." Then she ran to the car parked right by his curb, and just before getting in, she turned and yelled, "And tell that jerk that I have a date tonight!"
"All right..." he mumbled to no one in particular, as she had already driven away.
That was how Hisagi ended up on Hitsugaya's porch that evening, holding the bag and feeling extremely uncomfortable with the entire situation. It was bad enough that both parties had already caught him listening in at least once, but now he was directly involved, and his neighbor would not appreciate this. Resisting the urge to bolt, he rang the doorbell and stood his ground when the man answered.
"What can I do for you?" Hitsugaya asked, folding his arms and leaning against the doorway. He raised one eyebrow quizzically, which, Hisagi had noticed over the years, he seemed to do often.
"I have your jacket," he explained, holding out the bag nervously. "That woman came by and dropped it off for you."
Hitsugaya, who seemed aghast at the news, snatched the package while glaring at him and demanded angrily, "You spoke to her?"
"Not really," he relied hastily, holding his hands in front of his chest in defense. He really wanted to be anywhere but here right now. Damn him and his snooping. "She just gave this to me and left."
Hitsugaya eyed him suspiciously, trying to decide if he was telling the truth. He also peered into the bag as if to make sure it really was what he had said it was. For some reason, he seemed...disappointed. But there shouldn't have been any reason to be, Hisagi mused; now he would have no reason to see Kurosaki again.
Wait, was that it?
Before he could fully ponder the thought, Hitsugaya asked, "Did she say anything else?"
The writer bit his bottom lip, undecided whether he should share the last bit of information she had yelled at him before leaving. He felt obligated to do so, as she had put her trust in him to relay her message. But if Hitsugaya really did feel disheartened that he might not see her again, then it meant he had feelings for her, however small, and he didn't want to hurt his neighbor.
Finally, deciding it really wasn't his business to meddle in, he told him, "Well, um, she told me to tell you that she...has a date tonight."
Hitsugaya gave him a sharp look, almost disbelieving. Then he nodded once, looking rather resigned, and shut the front door in Hisagi's face.
The writer could only breathe out heavily, relieved that he had not been hurt while playing the messenger.
.. ღ ..
It was late that night when Hisagi heard the distinct sound of Hitsugaya's car pull up in the man's driveway. Through the thin walls, he could hear just about everything happening outside, and what he heard had him almost dropping his fork in shock.
There were two slams from the car doors, and then he heard Kurosaki's unmistakable voice yelling into the night, "You had no right! Who the hell do you think you are, anyway?"
"Karin," Hitsugaya sighed wearily, and Hisagi raised his eyebrows at the notable switch to using her given name. "You're blowing things out of proportion. If you would just stop and think about what happened, you would be thanking me."
"Oh, really?" Karin shot back mockingly. "Then, please, do share. I would love to hear this."
Feeling like a sleazeball but unable to help himself (again), Hisagi sat pin straight and dead silent, listening earnestly to everything happening outside. He had even muted his television to cut off all extra noises that would make things harder to hear. He was practically afraid of even swallowing.
"That man was obviously too good for you," Hitsugaya replied coolly, and the writer could have smacked him against the head for the foolish move. Really, he wouldn't blame Karin if she hacked him to pieces right then. To her credit, though, she stayed silent and let him continue. "He would have realized that one day and left you heartbroken, so I just intervened before you could get hurt."
"You asshole!" she finally blew up. "So you barge in on my date, spill food all over my expensive, new dress, drag me away from him without an explanation, and now you're insulting me?"
There was a door slam, but the screaming continued, so Hisagi assumed they had both stepped into the house. Now the words were muffled, and he couldn't understand what they were saying, though he could tell things were getting heated with each passing second. Their voices mixed together as they tried to outdo one another in the argument, and then things started dying down a little, though he could still hear them going back and forth. Finally, he rushed over to the window and opened it, sticking his head out.
Now, don't get him wrong. Even with all the spying he had done thus far, he would never have condoned this sort of blatantly rude behavior from himself. But he felt slightly responsible for this argument, as he had been the one to relay the message. (In his defense, how was he to know his emotionless neighbor would go as far as to kidnap her)? He just wanted to clear his conscience.
"How did you even know where to find me, anyway?" he heard Karin ask, her voice dripping with suspicion.
"You told me yourself that this was your favorite restaurant," he heard the casual reply. "It seemed the place you would take someone for your first date."
"When did I..." There was a long stretch of silence, and then she said incredulously, "You still remember that? It was a week ago, and we were drunk, and we didn't think we were even going to meet again."
"I remember interesting people," Hitsugaya answered softly. "Your words were intelligent enough for me to remember the conversation, rather than the usual garbage people around me seem to spew."
"You would care about words, being a novelist," she returned, sounding endlessly amused.
"Hey, you remembered, too," he pointed out, and it seemed like he might be smiling. But that was impossible. Hisagi was sure he had never seen his neighbor smile even once, even after all these years. Then again, he had never seen him with a lover either, or going to such lengths to keep her away from other men.
For the most part, it seemed their argument was over. He was sure it would come back with a vengeance at some point, considering all the hurtful words that had been said, but Hitsugaya had managed to appease her for now with his words. At least, their voices had dropped to normal levels, and he couldn't even hear them once he had closed his window again.
Content that he had not ruined three lives, he returned to his forgotten dinner.
.. ღ ..
You'd think he would have learned the dangers of leaving his home by now. But, no, he just had to get the paper the next morning at the exact same time those two stepped out of the house next door.
He choked at the sight of her. She had stayed the night? It certainly seemed that way, though she was in a lot better condition than the first time she had stepped out of that house. Her hair was actually well-kept and she didn't have smudged make-up surrounding her eyes. But she was not in her dress from the previous night; instead, she was wearing what was unquestionably men's clothing.
"Thanks for letting me spend the night, Toushiro," he heard her say. "And for letting me borrow your clothes, too. Sorry I fell asleep on your couch so suddenly."
"It's fine," Hitsugaya assured her amiably enough. "And it's the least I could do, since I did spill all over your dress."
"I'll return them as soon as possible," she promised, hugging her folded dress to her chest.
"Hopefully not the same way as before," he teased. "I think we've bothered my neighbor enough."
The two shared a private laugh, and to Hisagi's horror, their eyes automatically flitted to his porch, where they found him bent halfway for his newspaper and watching them with interest. There was a pregnant pause between them, during which they stayed frozen in their positions, before he scrambled for the paper and straightened, scratching the back of his neck.
"Lovely day!" he called out nervously, forcing a smile on his face. It probably came out more as a grimace, in his opinion. To his relief, rather than get angry – because, boy, could she yell – Karin just snickered at his uncomfortable predicament.
"Sorry for bothering you before," she replied, thankfully overlooking his mistake. But Hitsugaya dangerously scowled over at him, hovering over her almost like an overprotective boyfriend, so he mumbled something intangible and rushed back inside.
Damn. Things would probably never be normal with his neighbor again.
.. ღ ..
Karin didn't return again. Days passed, then weeks, and yet he didn't spy her in the neighborhood at all. (Not that he was keeping an eye out for her, like some creepy stalker. Nope, not at all). The only way he knew was because Hitsugaya became more irritable as the days passed.
Hisagi thought she would have at least dropped by to return the clothes, like last time. But a parcel from her simply arrived at Hitsugaya's mailbox one day – he only knew because the two coincidentally checked their mail at the same time! – and inside were his clothes. There was also a note, and he heard his neighbor muttering angrily about "working overtime" as he stalked back to his house. He was obviously starved for some of her attention at this point.
But it still came as a complete surprise when the stoic man showed up at his doorstep one day, a ridiculous proposal in mind. What didn't come as a surprise was that it obviously a ruse to see Karin again.
"I need you to throw a party," the novelist stated seriously. He didn't make eye contact as much, which was how it was obvious how uncomfortable he was with this.
"A party," Hisagi stated blankly, unable to fully compute the bizarre request. First of all, the two had hardly ever interacted beyond pleasant greetings (and his accidental-but-not-accidental stalking). Second, Hitsugaya was a quiet, private man who seemed the type to absolutely abhor parties. Third, it was apparent that he wasn't exactly thrilled about the idea of this party, either. So this could only have been a plan to achieve a different goal, and his money was on a particular woman.
"Yes, a party," his neighbor snapped impatiently. "You throw a lot of those, right? Just invite some people over and drink, or whatever it is you do at these things."
"Drinking about covers it," he admitted with a nod. By now, he was slightly amused. "And I'm assuming you want an invite to this party?"
"And a guest," he added hurriedly, before furrowing his eyebrows. "Actually, make that two guests. Matsumoto would never forgive me if I didn't bring her to a drinking party."
Well, he could hardly say no to a gorgeous, drunk woman in his house. He was going to ask why the man couldn't just have one in his own home, but now he decided against that. Instead, he gave a noncommittal shrug.
"I suppose I could throw a small get-together," he agreed. "How soon –"
"Tomorrow," he stated, and it was so final that it didn't leave much room for argument. Not that he would have. All he really needed was loud music, food, and lots of alcohol – and viola! Instant party.
When he finally shut the door, making a mental list of people to invite, he was amused to hear the sounds of a cellphone on his porch. After a few clicks and tones, someone must have picked up, because Hitsugaya sucked in a steadying breath.
"Hello, Karin," he stated in a very casual tone. "It's Hitsugaya. Yes, I did get the clothes; that's not why I'm calling. Well, my neighbor just invited me to a very bothersome party tomorrow night, and I felt obligated to agree after all the trouble we caused him. And I thought that perhaps it might be a bit more bearable if I brought a guest with me." He broke off with the hint, and there was a pause as she must have answered. "Oh, excellent. All right, I'll see you sometime after nine tomorrow."
And Hisagi had to stifle his laughter as he watched his neighbor proudly strut home through the front window.
.. ღ ..
Hisagi didn't see it happen before his eyes (thank Kami), but the party had apparently been a success. Hitsugaya stood by his front door all evening until Karin finally arrived, and then he took her by the arm and proceeded to monopolize her for the entirety of the night. Somewhere during that time, the two must have finally come together as more than...whatever it was they were before.
Now, he couldn't be entirely sure, but he assumed it had something to do with when he spied the two among the crowd, through the throng of people. A slightly intoxicated Karin, her tight grip wrapped around his wrist, had been leading Hitsugaya back to his home for some time alone together. He was quite sure the two did not return to his house again.
The next morning, as he was cleaning up after the party and dumping all of his trash bags at the curb to be dropped off for pick-up, he caught a glimpse of them saying goodbye by her car. He whispered something in her ear that made her laugh – she never had seemed like the type of girl to giggle – and then she kissed him soundly on the lips before finally leaving for the day.
And just like that, Hisagi began seeing a lot more of her.
Her car was parked outside the Hitsugaya home most evenings, since she would drive straight over from work. The two would go out a lot, of course – he got the feeling she was a very energetic person – so he would see them holding hands as they left together. Sometimes, she would leave in the morning, and he would hear her car drive away.
Hisagi began going out a lot after that. After the first time he accidentally spotted them having a romantic dinner through one of Hitsugaya's windows, he began to fear the return of his stalker-ish ways – he just had an uncanny ability of showing up in the wrong place at the wrong time – so he would avoid them as much as possible. Normally, Hisagi was the type of man to stay home and enjoy a good book, despite what people thought when they first saw his ruggedly handsome features, so this was quite a chore.
But Hitsugaya and Karin were undoubtedly becoming closer. Sometimes over the weekend, he would notice how her car stayed parked on the street the entire time, meaning she had slept over. She would fetch his mail in the mornings from time to time, and once, when Hisagi had jogged over to borrow a thesaurus, she had answered the door wearing one of Hitsugaya's shirts.
They were such an odd couple, though. He couldn't help but take note of how different they were; she had a great sense of humor, albeit a very sarcastic one, while he hardly ever cracked a smile; she could be so forward with her passion, while it was obvious he detested public displays of affection; and she was clearly the more sociable of the two, the proof being that she frequently went out of her way to greet the neighbors. But maybe the charm was that she was bringing him out of his shell, little by little.
Whatever it was, he could see that they were happy, and that was really all that mattered in the end.
.. ღ ..
It really came as no shock when Hitsugaya came to his door one afternoon and asked to borrow some boxes. Well, okay, the favor was strange, but the reason behind it had been a long time coming.
"I kept some from my move," he remembered. "Never know when you might need them, after all."
"Just a few would be appreciated," his neighbor said, offering him a slight grin. He helped him carry all the flattened cardboard to his car, and as they placed it in the trunk, he learned that the novelist was driving them over to Karin's apartment.
The moving van came the very next day, and being the good neighbor that he was, he offered to help move Karin into her boyfriend's home. With a bandana wrapped around her head, she boomed out instructions while the men lugged furniture on her command. It was obvious who wore the pants in the relationship, as Ikkaku would say. Then again, she seemed to just melt every time Hitsugaya flashed a small smile her way, so maybe they were evenly matched.
"Champagne time!" she exclaimed when everything was all well and done. "Just a little house-warming drink."
"At two in the afternoon?" Hitsugaya questioned, sighing heavily at her antics. But he didn't really seem to mind.
"There's never a wrong time for a drink, I always say," she said brightly, and poured all three of them a generous amount. Hisagi and Karin were really the only ones to drink, though. Hitsugaya had sipped about one-half of his glass by the time the other two had devoured the rest (and one more bottle after that, in all honesty). Karin passed out at the kitchen table soon after, and her lover had to carry her over to the couch in the living room.
Hisagi watched as he placed her down gently before grabbing a blanket from the linen closet and covering her with it. He brushed away strands of her hair sticking to her forehead, and through his drunken daze, Hisagi heard him happily mumble something that sounded like, "Our couch."
The beautiful sight sent a wonderfully warm feeling coursing through his body. Or maybe that was the puke he vomited up on the kitchen floor moments later.
.. ღ ..
Not long after moving in, Karin came to his door for the second time (but first as his actual neighbor). He raised an amused eyebrow when he noticed that she was dressed in a yellow apron and had her hair pinned back, looking more like a housewife than anything else. But what he found most humorous was that she was covered head to toe in white powder that was most likely flour. Then again, he based that assumption solely off the measuring cup in her hand.
"Hey, Hisagi," she greeted him cheerfully. She seemed just a little more happy than usual, considering how much she was smiling. Not that she didn't smile enough already, but Karin didn't do so for just no apparent reason, so something good must have happened to her.
"Did you need something?" he asked, wondering if he would unmask the reason for her mood during her short visit.
"Could I borrow some sugar?" she replied, holding out the cup.
"Oh, sure. Come on in, and I'll get some for you." He took the cup and stepped aside to allow her entry. Before she could take a step inside, however, Hitsugaya's door flew open and he stomped out.
"Karin," he hissed, cutting across their front lawns to join her on the porch. "What did you do to our kitchen? It looks like a war zone."
She looked extremely sheepish at his words and scratched the back of her neck. When she didn't answer, he sighed and wrapped her arms around her torso, ignoring the flour in favor of tugging her back in the direction of their house.
"Come on," he ordered.
"But Hisagi was about to give me some sugar!" she protested, refusing to budge. "I just wanted to make you some cookies." Suddenly overcome with excitement, perhaps from the reminder, she turned to Hisagi and beamed. "Hisagi, have you read Toushiro's new book yet?"
"Um, no," he answered, blinking in confusion and turning to him. "I didn't realize it was out yet."
"It just came out last week," Karin explained. "And he dedicated it to me!" She kissed Toushiro's cheek, wrapping her arms around him as well, though it was actually for affection on her part. "What did it say? 'To my best friend and lover, Karin, who is nothing less than the living embodiment of my inspiration.' I never knew you could be so sappy!"
There was a drizzle of red on Hitsugaya's cheeks, so slight that no one would notice it unless they were close enough. And Hisagi was.
"I can't believe you memorized it..." he mumbled in embarrassment, but cleared his throat afterwards and looked at his girlfriend sternly. "Karin, there is no way I'm letting you make cookies. Don't you remember what happened the last time you tried to cook? We don't have enough money to keep remodeling the kitchen every month."
"Oh, fine," she relented easily. "I'll just buy you some, then, and we can eat them after we...you know." She raised her eyebrows suggestively.
Hisagi abruptly shoved the cup back into her hand and shut the door before he heard something he really didn't want to hear.
.. ღ ..
Not much else changed in life, even with a new neighbor next door. She had already spent enough time at the house that it was just a normal occurrence, so the change was hardly noticeable. Well, Hisagi did have to grow accustomed to all the extra...thumping he heard from their second floor when he was returning home at night, but he managed to learn to live with it.
And then came that fateful night.
Of course, he thought bitterly, putting his face in his hands. After everything he had already walked in on, wasn't it perfect that he would see the proposal, too?
It was a year after Karin's move, and Hisagi was returning home from an evening at the bar with a few of his old college pals. He was carefree, his hands in his jacket pockets as he hummed a small tune. But then he passed by Hitsugaya's house to get to his own home, and did a double take when he saw the scene through the front window. (Who was the asshole that came up with the idea for windows, anyway)?
There was Hitsugaya, down on one knee with a ring in his hand. Karin stood pin straight before him, a terrified yet giddy expression etched on her face. Then he saw his lips move to form those four words that almost every woman yearned to hear. Will you marry me?
"Yes!" Karin screeched, and she was so loud that probably the whole neighborhood heard her, though no one could blame the girl. "I love you, you bastard!"
Hitsugaya slipped the ring onto her finger, unable to keep the happiness from his eyes, and she proceeded to jump at him, wrap her legs around his waist, and kiss him so passionately that his legs wobbled.
Damn it, was all Hisagi could think as he returned home. I'm older than that guy, and he's getting married while I'm still single. This sucks.
.. ღ ..
He received an invitation to the wedding, though he assumed that was mostly Karin's doing than anything else. He spied some of their other neighbors among the guests, too, though the reception itself was very small.
Karin's family was an interesting sight. Her brother didn't crack a smile once, and instead spent his time glaring at the groom and sending him dirty looks. Her sister sniffed into a handkerchief even before the ceremony had started, and her father bawled into his arm like a baby when she first stepped out.
Karin, at least, was a vision in white. She looked beautiful with the flowers arranged in her hair and the bouquet in her hands. It was the first time he had ever seen her look so angelic, and apparently Hitsugaya thought the same, as he couldn't keep his eyes off her.
And so the two were finally married, though Hisagi was ashamed to admit that he grew bored by the whole thing and spaced off for much of it. He eventually returned to Earth when he finally heard the minister call for the end of the ceremony.
"You may now kiss the bride," he stated, politely stepping back to give the two their space.
Karin didn't need telling twice. Without a moment's hesitation, she grabbed her new husband by the shoulders, yanked him forward and kissed the life out of him. Some people gasped scandalously, but Hisagi chuckled, actually having expected this. He wasn't even surprised when she hitched her leg around his waist, paying no mind to how her dress slipped down her leg.
The women had gathered for the bouquet toss, and some were getting rather impatient. Finally, when it was obvious the kiss would not be ending anytime soon (voluntarily, at least), they yelled out, "Karin!"
"What?" she snapped crabbily, turning towards them impatiently. They glared pointedly at the flowers in her hands, and she suddenly look sheepish. "Oh. Oops."
She threw the flowers into the air behind her, and even before Matsumoto had pushed everyone aside roughly to grab them, she was already latched onto Toushiro again. Hisagi grimaced and decided now was not the time to interrupt them and offer his congratulations.
.. ღ ..
It was some time after the bride and groom's first dance that Hisagi became aware of his unavoidable need to use the bathroom. Since everyone was too busy heading out to the dance floor themselves, he figured no one would notice him slip out for a quick moment.
Well, the restrooms closest to the wedding hall were completely full, to his irritation, so he made the long trek to the ones all the way at the other side of the building. Actually, he might have been the only one to know about them, since he had arrived to the wedding quite a bit earlier than everyone else and had a chance to explore.
He had only just shut the stall door behind him, however, when he heard someone else enter and let out a laugh – a distinctly female laugh. He froze.
"We should not be doing this," he heard Hitsugaya's unmistakable voice say in worry.
"Oh, stop being such a worry-wart," his bride chastised him as the doors shut. "Everyone's using the bathrooms by the hall. No one even knows about these. We'll be perfectly fine."
"Well, isn't this just a little cheesy?"
"I don't give a damn if you think it's cheesy or not, Toushiro," she replied, purring slightly. "We're already here, and we're going to do this."
Hitsugaya didn't need to think long and hard about that. "No complaints here."
Oh, Kami. Please, no, Hisagi pleaded in his mind, feeling his stomach twist in horror. Don't tell him this was seriously going to happen! And he couldn't even say anything now, because he could already hear the two kissing on the other side of the stall door. All the poor man could do was cover his ears and close his eyes, hoping beyond all hope that his fingers would be enough to block out all the noise. So, of course, they weren't.
For the next forty-five minutes, he was treated to tiny gasps and delighted squeals, as well as every sound he had never wanted to hear from those two. At some point, he heard the sounds of zippers being undone and buttons being popped open, and he gulped heavily, suddenly very aware that he was intruding on something much more private than the morning after a one night stand.
Well, whether he wanted to or not, that was the day Hisagi learned that Hitsugaya was apparently a very efficient lover.
.. ღ ..
He had never expected Hitsugaya to remain his neighbor forever. He knew that in life there were people that came and went without a moment's notice. And the two weren't even that close, so he didn't think he would exactly be heartbroken by his absence.
Still, he couldn't help but wish he'd received a better notice than simply looking out his window one day and noticing a moving van at the house next door.
Karin, at least, came over to give a proper goodbye.
"You're moving away?" he asked in shock, and she chuckled at his reaction.
"Yeah," she answered softly. "We figured it was time to live in a bigger house, where we could start our family." She looked up at him, a surprisingly gentle smile on her face. But it made much more sense when she placed a delicate hand against her stomach. "We haven't told you yet, have we? I'm pregnant."
"Oh, wow. Congratulations," he offered, scrambling to not sound rude.
"Thanks! We've actually been trying for a while, and we were starting to lose hope after a year passed. But then I found out that it had finally happened, and we thought it was about time we found a home more suitable for a big family."
As they were chatting, the movers seemed to have finished packing up everything inside the house. There was a great thump as they shut the back of the van, and then Hitsugaya stalked over to their car parked at the curb.
"Karin," he called from the driver's side, drawing attention from both of them. "Let's get going. We have to lead the movers to the new house."
"Don't you want to say goodbye to Hisagi?" she yelled back. Hitsugaya furrowed his eyebrows at the question before looking up at his old neighbor. A moment of understanding passed between them, and they exchanged curt nods. Karin rolled her eyes at the display.
"Well, I don't want to keep you," he said to her with a grin. She returned it in kind, taking one of his hands into her own and patting it.
"It was nice having you next door, Hisagi. Take care of yourself."
She waved over her shoulder as she ran to the car, ignoring the panicked look on her husband's face, and slid into the passenger seat. He could already hear Hitsugaya lecturing her to take better care of herself now as she buckled her seat belt and they drove away. Hisagi watched them go, a wave of sadness ripping through him as they turned a corner and disappeared.
The neighborhood suddenly felt too quiet.
.. ღ ..
It was many months later when he heard from them again. He was checking his mail soon after celebrating the start of a new year at the shrine, and he found a card waiting for him inside. The picture on it displayed his old neighbors, looking quite content as they snuggled on a couch. Toushiro had his arm draped over his wife's shoulders, and Karin had settled into his side.
In her arms she held a little slumbering baby, nestled in a thick, blue blanket.
He skimmed over the letter on the back, in which they had wished him a happy New Year's and proudly announced that Karin had given birth to a healthy baby boy. He was quite sure the entire card had been Karin's doing, but he couldn't help feeling touched that they had thought of him since the move.
"Is that from Hitsugaya-san?" a soft voice suddenly questioned him from behind. He jumped in surprise, not having felt a presence at all, and turned to come face-to-face with Unohana-san. She smiled at him gently, awaiting his answer.
"Um, yes," he mumbled, a little flushed under her scrutiny. She was the woman who had lived on the other side of Hitsugaya's home – his other neighbor. "They wanted to send me their greetings and let me know that they had a son."
"How wonderful," the woman replied, her kind smile growing just a fraction. "And I can't help but notice that you were very close to them, were you not, Hisagi-san?"
He laughed uneasily. "Well, I don't know if I would say so. More like I always found myself getting caught with them by accident."
"You certainly were involved with them, though," she pressed on, and he grimaced at the reminders of all of the tough situations he had found himself in concerning those two.
"Believe me, I didn't want to be," he attempted to defend himself.
"Of course no one wants to be," she agreed. "It takes skill to watch someone without getting spotted so easily. You need to learn to be discrete so you don't get caught in messy affairs, Hisagi-san."
She paused for a moment, looking like she was contemplating something as she peered closely into his eyes. Then she turned on her heels and walked off, though not before leaving him completely flabbergasted at her offer.
"You must come over for tea some time, and I'll teach you how I did so with those two lovebirds."
I had so much fun torturing Hisagi! I just had to make sure he ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time - all the time. And then I couldn't resist adding in the bit with Unohana-san, who was the only one who managed to successfully stalk them :P
Well, this got in my head yesterday, so I just had to write it. It was certainly an interesting perspective to write in. I wasn't sure why I picked Hisagi; I just couldn't pick a Bleach character who seemed nosy enough or fit in as well (except for Matsumoto, but she would have wanted to actually meddle in, and I didn't want another Rangiku-sets-them-up story :/). Then I decided that since Hisagi publishes the paper, it wouldn't be too far off to make him a writer for a gossip column, and a journalist seemed more like the type to snoop yet know where the boundaries lie.
Anyway, now that this is finally done and over with, I'm going to stop procrastinating on Melodies Unheard ^^; The next chapter should be out in a few days...