No, I don't own Bleach. Stop asking.


The sun is hot.

No need to laugh, or point out how stupidly obvious he can be. He just wants to prove a point.

The sun is hot, the wind is hot, the ground is hot, even the shade is hot.

And he hates the heat.

Stupid Rangiku, he thinks as he lies on his back and stares up at the ceiling fan, wishing it would work better. Stupid women's association, planning this stupid trip to the beach and forcing him to come along. He hates the beach. He hates the sun. He hates everything hot.

Outside the shack, he hears the sounds of the women yelling and laughing as they played on the beach, swam in the water, and made games out of flying beach balls and trying to pull each other's swimsuits off while the few men who tagged along gawk. The sight is every man's dream.

Except his.

The sun's too hot, and he thinks he's melting, melting into the floor. Eventually, he'll run out of sweat to drip, and his flesh will start to fall off, and when Rangiku finds him, he'll be a puddle of Toshiro. Then maybe she'll do the right thing and freeze him.

Look at that, it's so hot his imagination has begun to run wild.

He hears a sound, and complacently, he turns his head, expecting to see his lieutenant swinging in with her bust and her hips and her cherry smile, demanding for him to get up and play with everyone else in the sun. She likes to force him to do things he hates, just because he makes her do paperwork.

To his surprise, he doesn't see Rangiku. Instead, he sees the much smaller, more petite raven-haired figure of Rukia, who hesitates when she spots him as well. The confusion on her face tells him she didn't even know he was here.

"Eh… Captain Hitsugaya…" she stammers, a bit intimidated by seeing the ice-wielder looking miserable and red and drained of all energy. "Are… you alright?"

Does he look alright? Of course not, but she's being polite. "I don't like the heat," he tells her dismissively, as if this would explain everything.

And it does. Rukia may adapt well to the heat, but she also has a snow-type blade, and she usually enjoys the cool over the hot. "Okay…" she answers, moving to grab a couple of extra beach balls. "Er… do you need anything?"

It's nice of her to offer, he thinks, but waves her away with one hand. "I'll be fine," he replies. Damn, even his words sound like they're melting.

Rukia looks unconvinced, but she leaves him anyways. Just as well, she'll have more fun outside with everyone else than in here with him.

He growls at himself, immediately hearing how lonely that made him sound. But he's not lonely. He's used to being alone. The heat makes him think strange things.

He can hardly feel the fan any longer, so he closes his eyes, and imagines he's back on Hyorinmaru's icy plains. Now that's a welcoming place.

"Captain Hitsugaya?"

That same voice calls out, and he opens his cerulean eyes. His imaginations gripped him so tightly, he hadn't even heard anyone come in.

Rukia stands over him again, looking a bit concerned. "Are you sure you're alright?"

"I'm fine, Kuchiki," he grumbles, summoning enough of his strength to sit up. Really, he sort of just wishes she'd leave him alone.

But then she holds something out to him, and he blinks in surprise. It's a cup of ice-cream.

It's so hot outside, the ice-cream has already begun to melt. When he just sort of gapes at it for a minute, Rukia flushes, saying, "you looked really hot, so I got some ice cream. You like watermelon, right?"

And just like that, she's been promoted from distant subordinate to good friend. He reaches out and takes the bowl from her. "Thanks," he says, and she smiles, sitting down next to him with a bowl of her own.

"You're right, it's pretty hot out there," she sighs. "And someone wrangled up a bunch of sharks, so I can't go swimming."

He takes a bite of ice cream, almost smiling as the freezing sweet sent pleasant chills of ice down his throat and into his stomach, effectively cooling him. However, at her words, he shoots her a look of surprise.

She shrugs, obviously not too concerned about it. He doesn't know if he should be more worried about the sharks or her blasé attitude. "I think it's Captain Unohana's idea of a game, or something," she explains.

Of course, nobody knows what goes on in that captain's crazy mind.

They eat the rest in silence, and he can't help feeling disappointed when suddenly there's no more left. Forlornly, he places his bowl aside. Watching him, Rukia asks, "if you hate the beach so much, why'd you come?"

He snorts, "Lieutenant Matsumoto," in a venomous sort of way. Rukia smiles, licking a dribble of ice cream that slipped down her wrist.

The action looks so simple and inviting, he doesn't notice he's blushing until his face suddenly feels on fire. Luckily, she's too wrapped up in her melting ice cream to notice as he rubs his face with his hands, willing the blood back to the rest of his body.

Damn, the heat did weird things to his head.

"She's also the reason I came," Rukia says, placing her now empty bowl at her side.

"Who, Rangiku?"

Rukia nods, not seeming to notice when he switches from using her formal name to a more familiar one. "I wasn't going to, but she really wanted to invite Orihime."

That didn't surprise Toshiro – the two busty, strawberry blondes had grown quite close over the years. Still, he asks, "why?"

The petite girl smiles, looking back at him. "According to her, it's so Uryu can see her in a swimsuit. She likes playing matchmaker."

That, Toshiro knew very well. Once upon a time, he had been a member in a number of Rangiku's schemes to get him together with someone. They all ended in failure, because Toshiro could be a snarky asshole when he wanted to be.

As if she knew they were talking about her (and maybe she did), Rangiku came swinging into the shack at that moment, her eyes bright with a mischievous smile on her face. When she sees them, Toshiro can't help but notice a brief look of disappointment pass over her face.

"What?" he automatically seethes, but Rangiku holds up her hands in surrender.

"Don't be so rash, Captain! I just came to get Rukia, she's missing out on all the fun!" the busty blonde declares.

"Are you saying I'm boring?" Toshiro drawls as Rukia stands back up, muttering that she just ate, and she can't go swimming now. Especially in shark infested waters.

Rangiku grins, wagging a finger. "Now, now, Captain, I said no such thing. But if you want to have fun, we'll be just outside!" she grabs onto Rukia's arm and practically hoists her outside, with the short reaper stumbling after her, insisting that she doesn't want to play the shark game.

As they leave, Toshiro stands, before blinking in surprise. Did… did he just consider following them outside? Out of his cool-ish shelter and into the sweltering sun? All because Rangiku provoked him?

Rangiku provokes him often, and a small part of his brain says that maybe, he would like to talk to Rukia a bit more.

"Hmph," he snorts, laying back down to stare at the ceiling fan. The rest of him squashes down that notion to nothing as he shuts his eyes, trying to imagine the cold plain again.

Instead, the image of Rukia with ice cream pops up, and he practically gasps. In his mind, he remembers hearing, she likes to play matchmaker.

Matsumoto hadn't played that trick on him in so long (and never had it worked this well), that he forgot almost everything Rangiku did was out of some sort of sly ulterior motive. Inwardly, Toshiro snarls, now knowing who to blame for his sudden squeamishness.

Well, her and the heat.

Meh, weak ending. But still, ice cream! I've just been craving it.

Until next time!