Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach.

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Absolute Power

It wasn't often that Hitsugaya felt worried.

Not that he didn't worry; he did, plenty enough, and he just never showed it. Showing emotion just wasn't his style. That aside, it was quite obvious that Hitsugaya never gave much thought to the level of power he could achieve.

It just wasn't his style.

But lately…

Lately, he thought about it a lot.

There had to a limit. No matter how much he fought, how much he trained, he always met someone stronger. And he fought and trained to surpass and beat that person, only for the cycle to continue. There had to be a limit.

And as he thought about this, he always thought about what would happen—who would reach that limit first, him… or his enemy.

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Matsumoto had become quite good at picking up on Hitsugaya's moods. She supposed she should be, considering she'd served under him for years and that fact didn't seem like it was about to change anytime soon.

And when he got that look—that look where his eyes glazed over as he gazed into the distance and he tapped his pencil lightly against the desk to some beat she couldn't hear—she knew it was time to either beat a hasty retreat or try to figure out what the hell he was thinking about.

Matsumoto was feeling very courageous today.

"Captain?" His eyes cleared slightly and he looked at her, blinking in confusion. Matsumoto sighed, sitting on his desk comfortably and pushing aside his papers. "What are you thinking about?" she asked.

Some part of her knew this was just a waste of time; she considered herself one of the few people who knew Toushirou Hitsugaya, really knew him, and she knew him well enough to know that usually he didn't like to share his problems unless Hell had suddenly stopped being hot.

So she promptly came to the conclusion that Hell must have frozen over when Hitsugaya spoke, his voice soft.

"Matsumoto… do you think I'm strong?"

Matsumoto frowned, tilting her head to one side slightly, causing her hair to spill over her shoulder and into her eyes; she lifted a hand to brush the strands back. "Yes," she said. "You're one of the strongest people I know, Captain."

"Is that so?" His voice… was tired.

"Yes." She frowned in confusion. "At least… that's what I believe. Why?"

For a moment Hitsugaya lowered his eyes to the desk, studying the wooden surface before him; finally, he bit his lip and closed his eyes. "There has to be a limit, Matsumoto."

"Sir?"

"A limit to the amount of power one can have." He slowly opened his eyes. "Or am I wrong?"

"N-no, sir, I think… that makes sense."

Matsumoto was horribly confused. She didn't know where Hitsugaya was coming from with this or where he was going; the topic had come out of nowhere and crashed onto her shoulders, painful and quite unexpected.

"I train, Matsumoto," he murmured at last, his voice shaking just slightly. "I train and I fight, but it seems no matter how strong I become, there's always someone out there who's stronger than me, who fights more and trains longer than me, and then I have to fight and train even more to surpass them, only to go through it again." His hands clenched into fists as they shook. "That's why I believe there must be a limit to the amount of power one can have, without having absolute power, you know?"

A creeping sense of anguish and sadness welled in Matsumoto's belly; suddenly, she understood where her young Captain was going with this, understood it all to well. "Yes, sir."

Hitsugaya nodded, still staring at his desk and not at the face of his Assistant Captain; he exhaled heavily.

"So I can't help but wonder," he continued, "what will happen when one of us—the enemy or I—reaches that limit. I mean, if I reach that limit first, it's okay, because then it means I'm strong enough to protect everyone I love, you know? But what if… I don't?"

His voice broke here, faltered, his hands still shaking; quietly, Matsumoto rested her hand over his own fisted one.

"What if the enemy reaches that limit first?" he whispered. "What happens then, when they are more powerful than me and there's nothing I can do? What happens when I'm not strong enough to protect everyone I love?"

Matsumoto said nothing, just quietly stroked his fisted hand with her fingers; slowly, oh so slowly, she felt his fingers relax and go limp beneath hers, go still as the trembling ceased, but she didn't lift her hand away.

"What happens then, Matsumoto?" His voice shook, and finally he lifted his head so his eyes met hers. "What happens when I'm not strong enough, when I begin to doubt myself and falter?"

She could never in a million years imagine her young, clear-eyed Captain faltering in anything he did, doubting himself or his abilities; but now she was being forced to realize that he could imagine it happening, and it was enough to break her heart.

Some part of Matsumoto knew she could make some bright, cheery remark and destroy the current mood of the office; or she could take the knowledge her Captain had revealed to her and somehow convince him everything was going to be okay.

As far as her Captain went… it was no contest.

"I don't know," she admitted, quietly resting her forehead against his, both shocked and a little touched when he didn't pull away, just closed his eyes. "I honestly don't know. But Captain…"

He slowly opened his eyes, meeting her gaze.

"Remember this." A small smile flitted briefly across her face. "Whenever you falter, I'll be strong enough for both of us."

The End

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Random. My first shot at platonic Matsumoto/Hitsugaya, but I don't know...

I was listening to "You'll Be Safe Here" by Rivermaya; very gorgeous song, mainly was the inspiration for this whole piece to begin with.

Read and review, please!