Disclaimer; Don't own Bleach, 'nuff said.

...Did you know Nell is not listed as a seperate character? I am sad about that. --;

He hadn't really thought about it, but there were parallels.

In fact, Abarai Renji wasn't one for thinking. He liked to act, to storm ahead and deal with the consequences later.

He wondered if this was partially his fault. Rukia, moping in her division. Everyone else that had gone with them to the living world, sober. Quiet.

The entire Gotei 13, on high alert, constantly training.

And him. Thinking dangerously, about what Ichigo would do. About what he could do.

And staring dead ahead.

He didn't think he'd come here. After all, he wasn't Hitsugaya - who, he'd heard, refused to come on the grounds that he couldn't put with another argument, repeating the same lines - or Kira - who, it rather made sense wouldn't come, since he was part way responsible, more so than Abarai's halfhearted thoughts. But come he had, to be informed she was asleep again, and he shouldn't disturb her.

As if he'd become a vice captain because he was all loud noises and gruff demeanour.

He sighed, shifted against the uncomfortable doorway. He'd never seen another person look so weak, so exhausted and defeated. Her hands were raw, red skin, small little things that kept scratching and pulling, demanding and reaching for something no one in their right mind would ever grant her. Her face was set, no longer the gentle smile he knew from the academy, the loving grin he'd seen make recruits giddy and overconfident, but something sad, empty, full of tears and held back anger that would spill when her eyes opened. Eyes he didn't want to see. He remembered three things about her in particular. One, being the handing over of his vice captains badge. Her and Kira, smiling, glad he could join them for after meeting talks and things like that. Such dorks, he only went because it meant there had been conversation, instead of the two sitting in silence, Kira nervously glancing at her every five seconds. Dorks.

The second was her and kidou. He'd never been good at the stuff, granted, but watching her constantly practice, breaking down each spell into it's components, figuring it out and piecing it together had made him think that maybe he could, one day, have the sort of patience and calmness to do that.

The third was the day they'd risked their lives. He should have seen it then - well, they all should have, but what did they know? Still so much like children, desperate to live, and him, like a freaking angel out of nowhere. No wonder she fell, and fell hard. He mulled it over, thinking back to what she'd said. To be as strong as them. Captains. He'd said it was impossible, but look at him now. Look at all of them. Kira, dork. Vice captain of the third division. A good swordsman, kidou user. Himself, vice captain of the sixth division. Crap at kidou, he'd admit, but a good swordsman, capable of bankai. And her. His mind ground to a stop, the similarities once again stirring. Sure, phsyically you'd never see it. Orihime was one thing, this girl another. But Orihime was meek and mild, polite. Not suited for battle, but for defense.

For protection.

And that was what Hinamori had always aimed for. He'd asked her once, and that dreamy smile and surfaced and she'd stated, bright as sunshine, "I want to help. I want to be able to protect everyone I care about with my own strength. I want to be the kind of person you can rely on to be there when needed. One day, I want to be a captain." He sighed, irritated. Captain? That dream had fled her pretty quickly. She'd become so content to be a vice captain it had driven her to pick up Tobiume in anger and frustration, to fight.

Orihime had tried to fight.

What had happened? He liked the old Hinamori, the one that had tried to help him with kidou, learned some more-than-basic healing to patch him up after a particularly bad session, had brought watermelon with her, had a smile that could light up an entire goddamn room of the moodiest shinigami, the innocence to make even jaded him think that maybe one day what they were doing would make a difference, do something. Innocence he desperately wanted to see now, innocence he needed, wanted to drown himself in and fool himself with. Not this, a shell of the vice captain he knew and had admired. She was part of the reason he pushed so hard, as important to him as any other friend that had actually bothered to stand by him.

She was brave. That had forced him back. She was determined. That had unsheathed his sword. And she was weak, and that was why he wanted to protect her.

Protect the protector? He sighed once again, took a few steps forward, paused. Her breathing was shallow, strained. Everything about her was struggling, fighting. She shouldn't have to, she should be peaceful, calm. What he remembered her as.

He was the blade of the trio. Kira was the shield. And Hinamori, to him, had been the armor, and the person to return home to. The reason for fighting. People like her should never be in positions like this.

Orihime shouldn't be in Heuco Mundo.

He was pitiful, standing here, unable to do anything but stare. He couldn't even reach out and hold her hand, as much as he wanted to. And he did, he wanted to comfort her somehow, anyhow, to bring back her innocence and laughter and smiles.

He glanced back at Rukia, curious to the expression on her face. She'd never really known Hinamori, only knew her from look, from her reputation as vice captain, and now as infirm, potential worry. He hated that. She'd been used, nearly killed, and she still wanted to defend his name. She still wanted to defend everything, even as it tore her apart. Would Orihime do that? Would she attempt to save the arrancar and the shinigami, the vizard?

He followed the unseated shinigami back out of the fourth division buildings, closed his eyes against the image of Hinamori lingering in his mind. "Are we going?" He grinned at the affirmation.

He wasn't one for thinking, but upon meeting Nell, he was stuck by how quickly the little arrancar placed the life of the so called NellDonde Bandits in Ichigo's hands.

Just like Hinamori and Aizen.

And he closed his eyes and sighed. Even here, in this forsaken and dangerous place, he was reminded of her.

He hoped Nell wouldn't try and fight. Abarai was tired of seeing innocence get shattered.