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"Did you know," Yuzu comments from behind her magazine, "that your boyfriend shouldn't be more than 10cm taller than you for the optimum kissing experience?"

Karin looks up from her homework to stare. "What?"

Yuzu waves the magazine at her. It's pink and glossy and features the kind of girl Karin sometimes pities because they look like they'll fall over if you yell too hard.

"That's what it says here," she says, pointing at the article.

Karin transfers her stare to the magazine. "You read things like this?"

Yuzu blinks back. "Why not? I think they're funny," she points out. "Aki lent this to me, we're thinking of splitting her subscription."

Her sister looks at the magazine, looks at her. Oh yeah, that growing up thing, she thinks. Make up, clothes, boys, all that. Karin hasn't actually thought that hard about all this yet.

She squints at the article. "But that's idiotic. Who measures their boyfriends? Or chooses them for their height?"

"Well, Shina does say she's not dating anyone shorter than her brother, but I think that was just to discourage Takeshi. Anyway, it makes sense. Wouldn't it give him backache if he was too tall?" Yuzu points out, ever the pragmatist.

Karin thinks of the tallest person she knows, all 2-metres-and-still-counting-dammit of him. Karin at fifteen is gangly and taller than half the boys in her class, and she doesn't even reach his shoulder. Maybe somewhere past his elbow.

Huh, she thinks. That stupid magazine probably has a point.

"Guess that makes sense. Does that thing have horoscopes in it? I'm not touching it if it does."

She leaves Yuzu to her magazine. At least someone in this family's growing up normal. Sort of, anyway.

She runs into him four days later at the grocery store. Her green plastic basket thumps him in the back when she lines up behind him at the cashier, and he turns to blink down at her. Karin stares up at him. He is too tall, she decides. She'll probably give herself a crick in the neck if she had to keep looking at him like this all the time.

"Hey," she says.

"Ah - Karin." Her name is still awkward on his tongue, ever since last year when she got tired of being called Kurosaki and told him to stop that. It's irritating but then, Chad's never seemed very comfortable with words.

He continues staring at her (not that she can see with his eyes covered by his hair; for all she knows, he's examining the floor tiles) and she shifts her weight from one foot to the other.

The queue ahead of him shifts, and the cashier eyes Chad's unmoving back with annoyance. Karin sees it, frowns and thumps her basket against his knee.

"Oi. Stop staring. It's your turn," she says, and bites back, idiot.

He starts at that and turns. "Ah! Sorry," he tells the cashier, incongruously sheepish. Sometimes she really does wonder if he's an idiot.

The contents of his trolley pile on the counter. Vegetables. Tofu. More vegetables. Karin stares at it; she'd have thought he was a red meat kind of guy; who gets so big eating vegetables?

The cashier takes forever ringing his greenery through. She should have picked the shorter queue after all, Karin thinks. Good thing Yuzu isn't in a hurry for her groceries.

He's still there when she finally gets outside, standing by the road plastic bags in hand. He could be waiting for the traffic to clear, or he could just be staring in the distance. He could even be waiting for her, though he has no reason to.

"You're a vegetarian?" she asks, coming up behind him

He looks at her. "No," he says. He sounds surprised.

"You didn't buy anything but vegetables," she points out.

He looks down at his shopping. "Cheap," he says. "They keep longer," he adds.

"Oh." She'd known he didn't have much money, but now she tries to imagine eating vegetables all the time because meat is too expensive and wonders, what else doesn't she know?

She knows he got a grant to go to the local college. He's studying to be a vet. On the weekends and long breaks Ichigo comes home, sometimes they hang out together, walking around the town, talking, probably not-talking, knowing them, getting into the occasional fight for old time's sake. She thinks he listens to some of music her brother does, low, rumbling American rock, some of it decades old, with beats that drum in your bones.

That's not a lot at all.

Distances, in more ways than one.

"Ah. ... Your bag?" he says, with a vague gesture.

Karin blinks and looks down at it. "What?"

He offers a hand for it, never mind that it's already laden. Karin gives him a blank look, then hefts its weight in her hand.

"It's not heavy," she points out. He nods and takes his hand back and this would be where they go on their seperate ways, but then she scowls and decides that if they're here, she might as well answer a question. There are green-painted benches scattered outside the supermarket, by the doors.

"Sit down," she tells him.

He radiates surprise. "Sit down?"

She jabs a thumb at the bench. "Sit down," she orders.


"It's only for five minutes," she snaps, scowl still in place, because if she's going to be stupid she might as well get it over with.

He sits.

This brings his eyebrows to roughly the level of her nose. She looks down at him (for once) and then realises that she can see his eyes through his hair now. She stomps on the sudden urge to push his hair out of his face so she can get a good look. He's looking at her with a mild, quizzical air (she also stomps on the urge to kick him in a sort of irrational self defense).

Sitting down, she's probably not more than 10 cm taller than him. She leans in so that they're eye to eye, noses almost touching. His eyes are clear and brown and brighter than she'd expected.

He shifts under her scrutiny. "Ah. Ku - Karin? Is there something -"

She straightens. "It's nothing," she says, still scowling and daring anyone - anyone - to ask for an explanation.

"Are you okay?" he manages.

"Yes," she snaps. "You should cut your hair so people can see your eyes," she adds.

"Can I stand now?" he asks, eyebrows raised a little. She wonders if he's laughing at her but he doesn't seem to be.

She snorts yes and he climbs to his feet, back to too-damned-tall again.

"See you around," she says over her shoulder, turning to go home and pretend this-never-happened.

He might even be smiling a little, in the way that isn't quite a smile but really is, but it's hard to tell and she can't ask him to sit down again.

Stupid magazine wasn't quite right, she thinks. Distances can be closed, after all.

Guess you just need to figure out how.


the end