half full of kindness

The swing creaked backwards and forwards with each shove of Orihime's sandalled foot on the dusty ground. She wasn't big enough to make it sway more than a few inches each way, and there wasn't any big brother to push her now. She had to swing herself. Her lower lip pouted out as she set her chin and concentrated on this.

Hands caught her from behind and shoved her upwards. She squeaked as the swing reached almost horizontal, and the wind of her movement tossed her hair up behind her before she came down again, penduluming to the other side of its arc.

"There you go," a male voice said. She turned her head to see a man standing there. He stepped out of the way of the swing, but stretched out a hand to catch her and push her again.

Orihime thought about him all the way up and down again. She knew that she remembered his face from somewhere, the amused eyes, the line of scars across his forehead . . . "I know you!" she squeaked. "You're the brother of that girl I was talking with that time! Her name was Road!"

Up and down again. The man smiled at her. He still had the same really nice smile. "That I am," he agreed. "My name's Tyki. I remember talking with your brother Sora while you and Road were playing. How's Sora doing, Inoue-chan?"

Orihime swallowed down tears, her happiness gone as quickly as it had come. "He's dead," she said very quietly. "There -- there was an accident . . ."

"Ah. There, there." He pushed more gently this time, letting her rock to and fro. "I'm so sorry, Inoue-chan. I know you loved him a lot."

Back and forward the swing went, back and forward, and Orihime couldn't manage to say anything.

"I wish I had him back," she finally whispered.

Back and forth.

"Do you really?" Tyki said slowly.

"He was my brother," Orihime said, trying not to cry. "I mean -- if it was Road, you'd do it for her? Wouldn't you?"

Back and forth.

"Road liked you," Tyki said, slowing the pendulum of the swing's arc till it was barely moving. He put his big warm hands on her shoulders. "So I'll say this instead of her. Your brother's gone, Inoue-chan. He was a good man and a good brother, but he's gone now, and you won't do him or yourself any good by wishing him back."

Orihime hiccupped on a sob, and tried very hard to be a big girl and not cry.

"Suppose I told you that he's in a better place," Tyki said gently. "That he's looking down on you from Heaven and that he's happy and that he wants you to be happy too. He'd like you to grow up to be a pretty girl who does well at school and who marries a nice man and has lots of children. Maybe you'll name one after him. But that's what he wants for you."

Orihime peeked up through her fringe. "Really?" she asked.

"Really," Tyki said. "And I'm sure that's what Road would say too. Because she wouldn't want you trying to wish him back, and nor would I."

Orihime swallowed again. Then she jumped off the swing, ran round, and hugged him round the legs. "Thank you," she said in a muffled voice. "You're a really nice person."

He ruffled her hair. "I am some of the time, Inoue-chan. You just caught me at a good moment."

That spark of curiosity which never left her, even in the worst and darkest of times, made her ask, "What if I'd caught you in a bad moment?"

He patted her on the shoulder. "Then I'd have told you to wish, Inoue-chan."

"Eh?" she said.

"Now be a good girl." He stooped down to give her a quick hug, then stood up again and sauntered away, leaving her standing there and watching him. Her tears were all gone now.

The swing's arc gradually slowed: back and forth, back and forth, and finally a trembling halt.