Hinamori and the things she wishes she could be.

An Overpowering Smile

She is trying hard, harder than ever, to be a good vice-captain. Somehow it is now more important than before that she be strong and capable and ready for anything. Maybe, it is because this time it is only Renji who is wearing the formidable captain's robe, Renji with his uncomplicated ideas and lack of manners. The same Renji she has known since the academy.

Maybe he has changed a little, she catches herself thinking as she watches her new captain prepare reports for the annual captain's meeting. He leaves reminders for her about showing up for the vice-captain's supplementary, and the transfer request from the 13th division. She does not remember Renji being quite so used to all this paperwork before. He would slack and pull through in the last minute, always having to turn in reports right before the deadline, with Kuchiki-taichou breathing down his neck about proper procedure.

It is because of those memories that Hinamori is determined to work hard. Because Renji is not, cannot be accepted to be what Aizen-taichou was. He cannot be as kind to her, therefore she must learn to be more independent. He cannot be as gentle with her, so she will become harder and stronger and work more than before. He cannot carry her like a child, cannot worry for and comfort her, and so she will not need these things anymore.

Somehow she thinks she is being selfish, wanting all these things from Renji despite her oaths not to need them anymore. She watches Renji, discreetly, when he is being lazy and uncooperative again. It is a momentary thing these days, sometimes he will simply fidget and grumble meaninglessly again about inconsequential things for an hour or two before the work piles up and he becomes Abarai-taichou again. In those moments Hinamori swears she will become stronger and more outgoing and forceful, and someday she will come up and tell him that the work won't wait and to get it together again, no point in whining.

She tries to, tries hard, but it never really works. Because when Renji looks up at her from where he's slumped across his desk, papers scattered uselessly in all directions, all her carefully prepared scolding evaporates. She stutters it out anyway and Renji merely shrugs, or dismisses her with a lazy wave, and goes back to staring out the window at the training troops.

She swears she will not be fooled again, will not become complacent. So she keeps coming back to bother Renji when he's being lazy, keeps showing up to the vice-captain's semi-annuals even though she hates the way the others look at her, all that misguided pity. She does not feel that she deserves it, for all those years of being the pampered vice-captain, the indulged child among hard workers. No, it is fitting, Hinamori thinks.

It won't be like that again. So when Renji does not try to make her do her work, she goes out of her way to take on some of his, does it unobtrusively because she still can't quite manage to walk up to her captain's desk and take away his papers. She trains, hard, and spends her lunches in the office, and practices her stern expressions on Renji, even if he never seems to notice. Someday he will. He has to.

The worst thing is, Hinamori still misses it all. Despite all her wishing and training she misses the smiles (too kind, now that she looks back), and the affection (fake, she tells herself) and being treated like a little princess. For all of her hatred for being pampered, she is secretly flattered when Renji blows off her offers of help, and tells her to stay back during battle, and tries, clumsily, to push her to take a day off. When he grins at her in awkward encouragement, she slips too easily back into that old acceptance.

For all of its inelegance, it is honest affection. Hinamori wishes she didn't feel so guilty.

It is not like Aizen-taichou, she tells herself. Renji is not like that. He is honest, and brave, and trustworthy. He is not too easy to like, too sincere or too nice. He is awkward and brash. It is not like it was with Aizen-taichou, she tells herself. Hinamori hopes and hopes desperately that she is not falling into the same old patterns.

Sometimes she wishes she had been chosen as the 6th division vice-captain instead. In the 6th division, under Kuchiki-taichou's cold-hearted presence, she is sure she would have become stronger, more independent.

More importantly, she thinks, under that pitiless Kuchiki-taichou, she would be far away and protected from those people whom she wishes she didn't trust so much.

Maybe if she weren't so exposed to it, she would become immune to it, those people with their overpowering smiles.