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13 November 2013 @ 08:23 pm
Thwarting Walls (Chapter 2)  
'Hitsugaya-kun' Captain Unohana's voice resounded through the hallway. 'You can go in now.'

I looked up at her, my eyes giving her silent thanks. I stood up, walking fluidly past her, pausing only to give her a small nod. I carried on down the hallway until I reached the room where the girl with the raven hair was. I paused on the threshold, my hand on the door-handle, wondering what I would find beyond the wooden frame. I twisted the sphere of metal in my hand and pushed on the oak slab. The door swung open with a soft creek and I tentively walked inside.

What I found inside was not what I had imagined at all. With the injuries she had sustained, I thought I would have found her deeply unconscious, attached to a ventilator or at least an oxygen mask, covered in bandages and showing little or no sign of waking up any time soon. In reality, she was covered in bandages - yes, but she was very much awake and alive, breathing of her own volition, a look of pure boredom dancing across her delicate features. She was lying on her back, her raven hair sprawled across a pillow, throwing a ball at the ceiling and catching it when it rebounded. For the first time since Momo passed on, I found a ghost of a smile creeping its way across my features. I didn't know what it was, but something about this girl amused me.

'I see you're up.' I stated, suprised that I had to work to keep my voice dead-pan.

'I see you've still got that stick up your arse.' she retorted with such quickness I couldn't help the shocked look spread across my face. She raised her head off the pillow just enough to make eye contact with me. The girl was grinning, looking just a step away from laughter.

'Excuse me?'

'You heard me, grade-schooler.' She promptly burst out laughing, I assumed at the quizzical look I must be wearing. That was the type of thing used to get a reaction out of me - about 300 years ago. Since then, however, I have grown to a height which rivals my lieutenant's. The second thing that struck me as odd was that where she came from, there was absolutely no way to become literate, let alone have a schooling system. Even in some of the most affluent areas outside of the Seritei, a tutor was required to gain a decent education - so how did she know anything about a schooling system?

'Seriously? C'mon Toush, it hasn't been that long. Don't tell me you've forgotten me already.'

Toush? Where on earth did she get off calling me that? Were we close? Well, obviously - she knows my name and has the nerve to call me by a nickname. Even Hinamori wasn't allowed to get away with that once I was a captain - and yet, I don't feel like I should repirmand her at all. It's like it is natural. And what did she mean by 'forgotten me already'? I was beginning to think that coming in here was actually causing more confusion, rather than resolving.

'Fine then, jerk' she said, her tone filled with faux anger, flashing me a toothy grin 'I'll remind you. You saved me from a hollow; we played soccer together. C'mon - I'm practically handing it to you. You helped my team woop some middle-schoolers' asses! It was brilliant.' She smiled at me patiently, waiting for me to put all the pieces together.

I thought back:

I vaugely remebered a soccer game. We were stationed in the world of the living - it was before the winter war. If memory serves me right, it was Karakura town. There were some elementary school children playing soccer in a park, I was sitting on the roof, observing one of them for some reason. I believe she had unusually high spiritual pressure - especially for a nine year old human.

I remember a ball with a black and white pentagonal pattern bouncing towards the road. I stopped it before the inanimate object's fate was sealed. There was that girl again. She came running towards me.

'You stopped my ball. Thanks' she said, a warm smile spread across her face and for a second I felt my heart stop.

'Be more careful next time' I said trying to sound as nonchalant as possible. I threw the ball to her and flash stepped off.

'Hey, it's you again.'

'Yeah...'

'I just wanted to thank you for saving my ball.' I turned my head to look at her, and felt a lump rise in my throat. She looks stunning, her amethyst eyes catching the fading orange light, casting an elusive shadow over her features. I looked away and took a second to compose myself.

'It's fine.'

'You're late.'

'How can I be late if I never said I was coming?' I caught sight of her knee - purple and inflamed. Without warning, a mixture of emotions over took me. I felt things that I hadn't felt in a long time. Concern, anger, revenge, caring, worry, affection. Was she in pain? Who did this to her? They would pay.

'Your hurt?' I surprised even myself. I hadn't meant to voice my concerns to her - no, I couldn't afford to voice my concerns to her. If there was one thing that I had learnt in my long lifetime, it was that, ultimately, you always get hurt in the end.

'This little scratch - it's nothing!' she replied, flashing me one of her cheeky grins.

'Toshiro… You can see that thing too?'

'Look, I'll explain later. Right now, you've got to get out of here.'

She looked around desperately, and I could almost see the cogs turning in her head – she was thinking about how she could get her friends out of there.

'She's selfless' I thought, amazed at her utter disregard for her own personal safety. Here she was, a small, slight ten year old girl, faced with a monster that she knew she had no way of defeating and yet, all she thought about were her friends.

I felt something: something ugly, possessive, needy – I was jealous. Jealous of the fact that that these seemingly ordinary, and slightly stupid, humans had somehow earned her protection, her care, her devotion. What had they done? Could I do the same?

'Have you got anywhere to say...'

I scowled; she chuckled.

'Do you want to stay at mine?'

'Hey Toush? What'cha doing up here?'

'Thinking – you should try it some time.'

I instantly regretted the cutting tone in which I had said that. I shouldn't be taking this out on her – she didn't do anything. In fact, she's the only one who knows what really happened and isn't treating me like glass, like I'm going to break given any point. She's the only one who hasn't patronised me with useless words like 'It's not your fault' or 'It couldn't be helped'. I wish they would stop. They don't know it, and they mean well, but every time I hear their words, dripping with sympathy, the guilt that has been slowly eating away at my heart flares up like some angry beast. It makes me want to lash out, to cry, scream, shout, hit, kick, bite and scratch at someone, something. Sometimes I feel too tired to carry on. Sometimes I think it's better if I don't – not just for some sick sense of self-preservation, but for others too. All I do is hurt people, and in return they hurt me. There's only so much one person can take.

Warmth. I felt a warmth radiating from my side, slowly spreading through me, encasing me, cocooning me, shielding me from this hateful world. I open my eyes and confirm what I had suspected.

Karin is holding me.

She is sharing her warmth with me, the captain with a heart of ice. I leant into her, resting my head against her shoulder. Her small hand rubbed my back soothingly, leaving a trail of warmth where it touched. My body curled involuntarily towards her, craving her warmth.

'It's alright.' Her voice is so soft, and I know she understands. 'Everything will be alright.'

That was the final straw. Something cracked under the strain at long last. I had been dreading this moment, where I would have to face my feelings and the overwhelming guilt, loss and anguish at what I had done, but somehow, a small part of me was glad that this was the time when my body decided to do it.

That night was the first time I cried for my sister, and most probably the last.

I cried for her memory, her demise, for her love for a traitor, for her cruel death.

'I bet she's happy now.' A soft whisper echoes in my ear.

I look at the girl with my bloodshot eyes. She returns my gaze with care and affection glistening in those lilac hues, and I feel a lump rise in my throat.

'She's free. You set her free, let her rest in peace. You may not see it, but the rest of us do. I know it was painful, I really do, but it was for the best. I'm so sorry, Toush.'

There it went: the final part of my self-control.

I curled into her even more, my hands clamping down on her sides as I cried, screamed, yelled, told the whole world how it wasn't fair. And all the while, she held me – rubbed her hand across my back, stroked my hair and kept her warm arms around me.

I cried more than I had ever done, yet, I didn't regret her seeing it. When I was finished I rested against her chest, exhausted. We stayed like this for a few more moments before Karin reached down for one of my hands. She pulled my arm up over her neck, and slipped her other arm round my waist. She stood up, supporting me. I leant against her, only half aware as to what was going on.

'C'mon Toush, walk for me.'

'Where are we going?' I asked, feeling my consciousness fading.

'Inside... C'mon, you're dead on your feet.'

At this point I wasn't really aware of anything solid. The only constant thing was the gentle hold on my waist – one that, even in semi-consciousness, I was sure wouldn't run away, wouldn't be scared off by the icy shield. For the first time in my life, I felt…

Safe…

'Karin…' I whispered.

'About time!' she said, flashing me her signature grin – the one which made my heart stop. I knew we had a lot to sort out, but at this particular moment in time, all I could think was:

She's here. She came back. She remembers me…

And right now, that's all I needed...