A/N: Based upon the John Mayer song "Love Soon."

Disclaimer: I don't own the song or Bleach. Sorry.

'Be like the river,' Inoue kept reminding herself. 'Patience and poise and beauty and grace and above all, patience, patience, patience.'

It was becoming harder and harder to be like a river, though. She had always proven to be patient with her friends, but this was a test greater than she had ever faced.

Ishida was the greatest test of patience she'd ever endure. Not that she minded, of course - she'd actually like to endure him for a rather long time. It was getting to that point that was the hard part.

Couldn't he see that Kurosaki was gone? That even if he wasn't, the part of her life where she was completely in love with him was over and done with? She loved him, yes, and she always would, but she didn't have to spend the rest of eternity alone, and she had no plans for doing so. But he was being so noble and self-sacrificing, and just so, so, Ishida about the whole thing that she was at her wit's end.

She understood that he was trying to give her time to heal, but she knew that the year's time had been too long when she was plotting her Valentine's Day chocolates months in advance. She also knew that now when she thought of love, she didn't think of a burning in the pit of her stomach or an aching sense of loss, but of spectacles reflecting the afternoon sunlight, of warmth and companionship, and the aftertaste of chocolate-melon-soda afternoons. Her knight was no longer a fighter. He was a fighter who happened to take the long way to his apartment in order to walk her to hers.

It was on one of those afternoons that she decided she just couldn't bear it anymore. As they rounded the final corner and her tiny apartment came into sight, she just couldn't hold in the words that to her were months late already.

"What do you think we are, Ishida?" She asked gently.

He shot an odd look at her. "Do you mean in the grand scheme of things, or…" he trailed off, and she just knew that he was referring to what she was referring to.

"No, I mean us. The two of us."

"Well," he delayed, and pushed his glasses up his nose. "I would say we are friends."

"What kind of friends, exactly?" She pushed, anxious to know, to finally solve this and get it out in the open, one way or another.

"I'm not really sure about what makes one kind of friend different from another, Inoue-san. I've never had friends before." If Inoue didn't know better, she'd say that Ishida was blushing. But that couldn't be - Ishida never blushed.

She felt a wave of pity for him. Could it be that he wasn't crossing the line because he wasn't sure how? She knew he loved her - knew it like she knew the sky was blue, and that seaweed was the best flavor of ice cream. Perhaps she had over-estimated his social skills, and obvious though she had been, maybe he really had no idea that she returned his feelings? But then, maybe he just wasn't ready, or -

No, she had to stop that. She had to finish this, and it had to be today. She didn't want to rush him, but she really, desperately needed to get some of the issue resolved, or she was sure she was going to crack.

"Well, you see, Ishida-kun, there are different kinds of friends. There are people who you know, ones you see at school or at work or wherever, and you care about them more than acquaintances, but you're not particularly close. Then there are the kinds of friends that you see after school, too. You're close to them, too, and you'd probably be one of the first to notice if they were abducted by aliens. Well, maybe not, because they'd be the first to notice, wouldn't they? Well, actually, the aliens would be the first to notice, and then it depends on whether or not the aliens have drugged your friend, because maybe you would notice before they did if they were still out and-

"Sorry. That got away from me, didn't it?"

"It's okay, Inoue-san. You know I don't mind."

"Thanks. So anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, close friends."

By this time, they were standing by her stairs, where he usually left her to continue up while he went down the block, and then he would stop at the corner to make sure that she had gotten in, and neither would turn the corner or go in the apartment until a final wave was exchanged and Inoue had shouted good bye. Now, however, Ishida seemed rooted to the spot, looking confused, but mostly guarded.

"Then, Ishida-kun, there are special friends. Friends who could become more than friends. They're usually just like your close friends, but you feel a little more for them."

Ishida kept a blank look on his face, but she could tell that he was dreading where she was taking the conversation.

"Anyway, I was wondering what kind of friends you thought we were."

Still he said nothing, and she wondered if he had dreamed of this moment. She certainly had. But he was silent still, seeming as if he was trying to put together the right words in his head, but they just kept slipping away from him.

At that point she realized that this wasn't her moment at all.

For whatever reason, he wasn't ready yet, and even though she was frustratingly ready, it had to be a two-sided thing. She could still get her fairy-tale confession from him - it just wouldn't be today.

"It's okay, Ishida-kun, I understand," she said, and he started to say something, but she cut him off. "By that I mean I really understand, or at least I do for the most part. It's not like when someone says in stories that they understand and they really don't. Because I really do understand, Ishida-kun. You're not ready. That's okay. You can cross that line whenever you want."

"I - well - thank you, Inoue-san," was all he could manage.

"You take your time, Ishida-kun. Take as long as you need." She leaned in to give him a swift kiss on the cheek before continuing. "But I'm calling it 'love' soon."

She left him there, gaping like a fish as she took the stairs two at a time. He finally turned to walk the other way, and she waited at the door for him to get to the end of the block. When he turned around, she was standing there, skirt billowing in the breeze, and she was sure she looked very dramatic, which she promptly ruined by waving with her whole arm, and yelling "Bye, Ishida-kun!"

She walked into her house, and laughed slightly at his bewildered expression. Yes, she was definitely calling it 'love' soon - if only to see the look on his face when she did.