Hero Support

Disclaimer: Throughout the entire fanfiction, I don't own anything, especially Bleach.

Dedication: For my lovely lovely Yvonne-chan. May the Lord bless and flourish and grow and prosper you in every prospect of your life. This is entirely for you. I spent months on this. In return for your beautiful blogskin!

Hero support.

I am familiar with the term. It is what kindly and sympathetic people use on those who do all the background work, while the 'real heros' are battling the big bad guys. I hear it frequently, especially around Urahara, Yourichi and the higher-ranked shinigami, as they discuss strategies between themselves. It is a nicer sounding term than 'sidekick'. So when Inoue turns to me with those innocent large eyes of hers, and asks me:

"Why do they call us 'hero support', Ishida-kun?" Her head tilts questioningly on one side, her tender gaze holding puzzlement.

How do I answer her? Because we do all the work behind the scenes? Because we follow the 'real heros', like Kurosaki and Kuchiki? Because, even with our powers, what we can do is nothing compared to what they can achieve? Because we cannot be 'real heros', so we take the job behind them?

I give Sado a wary glance, but he shrugs lightly and turns away.

"We use 'hero support' for those who, obviously, provide support for the heros," Yourichi answers Inoue, leaning against the door frame, "mental, emotional, physical, medical support. Without the support, there would be no hero."

That would be the nice way of putting it, but I keep my thoughts to myself.

"Oh." Inoue quietens down after that carefully constructed reply, but she is no fool, she understands the hidden meaning in Yourichi's answer. I would not be expecting her to speak on the subject anymore. But, just to cheer her up, I take her out to dinner. The 'real heros' are too busy preparing for battle to have a proper meal.

She doesn't speak much on the way to the restaurant. I am not particularly worried about being attacked out in the open by the enemies; Urahara assured us that the situation would not allow them to make an open attack on us. I am, however, more occupied by the thoughtful silence between the two of us, which is only broken after we have been seated and are waiting for our orders.

"Are we very weak, Ishida-kun?" Her voice is soft, but steady. I wish I am not the one she looks to for answers. I do not have all of them.

"No," I say firmly, "we are not weak at all. You realise we have much, much more spiritual energy then ordinary people. We have the power to protect them. It just so happens that the people around us are stronger than us, and so they can do more. No, we are not weak."

The waitress places two bowls of steaming hot ramen in front of us, smiles politely and retreats. My eyes follow her enviously; there is one who does not carry the ridiculous kind of burdens we do.

Inoue sighs suddenly, "It seems all we can do is sit and wait for it to start."

I know she is referring to the war in winter. That is what we call it, it. Like a detestable chore we want to get over and done with as soon as possible.

"We are training hard as well," I remind her softly, picking up my chopsticks. Inoue's gaze is detached, wandering.

"Will it be very scary?" She asks absent-mindedly, chin resting on her palm, elbow on the table, the look in her eyes faraway. It is not unlike the expression that she gets when she is in a world of her own, except that her look now holds a trace of uncertainty and exhaustion.

"Not only will it be scary, it will be confusing, chaotic, devasting, nerve-wrecking and draining as well," I sip my soup demurely. Inoue blinks, and then our gazes meet for a few moments. My pulse quickens, as usual, and I smile, albeit sadly, at her surprised round amber eyes.

She begins to smile, and soon she is chuckling gleefully to herself. I cannot keep myself from continuing to smile; she is so beautiful when she laughs, her amber orbs twinkling, her rosy lips curving upwards delicately. My heart wrenches slightly; will this be the last time I see her laugh?

Inoue catches me submerged in my thoughts and beams sheepishly at me. "I'm sorry for being so pessimistic, Ishida-kun."

I return her happy countenance and give up on consuming any food, leaning back in the high-backed chair. "Don't blame yourself, everyone has been feeling under the weather lately." I pause awhile, my thoughts overwhelming myself.

"The war," I turn my line of vision back to Inoue, "will be difficult."

"Indeed." I am worried for Inoue. She is not meant to carry such burdens, to fight in a war between powers far beyond our imaginations. It is as if I am waiting for her to break under the pressure, waiting to catch her. I cannot carry her burdens for her. Not in this war.

"But it will also be a new beginning," she meets my eyes and gives me a soft, honest look, so full of tired hope, determination, patience and love. "Because we will win, won't we, Ishida-kun?"

My heart melts, and I feel it soaring high. Our eyes exchange a sweet secret of understanding.

"Of course," I reach for her hand across the table and squeeze it encouragingly, "because that is what hero support do."