Author's Note: Two and a half years ago this was supposed to be a gift piece for Lems (lems dot deviantart dot com). I phail. Anyway, check out her amazing SasuHina artwork. I'd also like to thank Renoa Heartilly who noticed an excerpt of this piece when I first joined tumblr some while ago, and that really touched my heart.
So, with CPR and Faux, The Chaos Theory, even The Benefits of Amnesia, I'm not sure why I keep coming back to this theme.
I haven't been actively working on my writing for a good while. Apologies for rustiness. And corniness.
There was an eyelash on her cheek, under her left eye. He stared at it. "Do you know why you're here?"
"Yes," said Hinata. A Konoha hawk had intercepted her on the way home from the Earth country with a note from Tsunade instructing her to meet Uchiha Sasuke in Kusa. He was injured, apparently, and would need to be escorted back to Konoha for healing. It made sense. Most of the other villages were behind Konoha in their understanding of medical ninjutsu.
Sasuke was sitting up in his hospital bed, his bangs hanging in his face and shadows under his eyes. He looked pale. Hinata searched him for injury, but could not determine what was wrong.
She heard the door open behind her and turned to see a doctor enter the room. He was a middle-aged man wearing glasses and holding a chart. Hinata could tell on first glance that he was not a medical nin.
The doctor nodded at seeing her, brown eyes scrutinizing her white ones. "Am I to understand that you're a Hyuuga?"
Hinata was surprised by the inquiry. "I am a Hyuuga by blood," she corrected him.
"Good." The doctor sighed. "Here, take this watch." He pulled what seemed like an old fashioned watch out of his lab coat. The face was large and round, the hands marking every second that ticked by. Hinata hesitated, and accepted it. She noticed the time was wrong, the hands moving too slowly. "Go ahead, put it on," said the doctor.
"What is this for?" Hinata wanted to know.
A look of comprehension crossed the doctor's face as he realized Hinata's lack thereof. "Your Hokage didn't inform you? Your comrade–" he nodded to Sasuke, "–uses a rare type of chakra found mostly in Kumogakure – lightening. Lightening is meant to be used externally, or through ninja tools."
Hinata nodded, understanding. Sasuke's recklessness was not unknown to her. "He channels it through himself." It wasn't a question.
"On several occasions, it would seem. It has caused progressive damage to his heart."
Hinata looked back down at the watch in her hand. "So this is to…"
"The watch is set to the speed of his pulse. His resting heart rate is 40 beats per minute. If it goes lower than this, he is in danger. If it goes over 90, or becomes irregular – as I understand, you have the ability to resuscitate him, so to speak?"
"I – I never-" This was far more responsibility than Hinata had anticipated. He turned back to Sasuke, who was impassive, except for the tightness at the end of his jaw.
"Come here," he said hoarsely.
She went over to him, and Sasuke grabbed her wrist, jerking her down somewhat. He pulled her hand to his chest. She inhaled as her heart pounded. Her focus should have been on his.
"Can you feel it?"
40 beats…40 painstaking beats.
"If something happens, you can use the jyuuken. A pulse of your chakra. That's all it will take to..."
He did not admit his life was in her hands.
Konoha was a two-day trip.
Both knew that maintaining the byakugan would drain Hinata's chakra, so instead, she simply observed his shoulders, waiting for them to sink. Her eyes could have been watchful, like an opponent's. Even eager, as a vulture's eyes were. But mostly, they felt curious, like a child's eyes. Concerned, like a mother's, or maybe a wife's.
Sasuke could feel her walking behind him, never standing alongside him. On the contrary, she was following him.
For a while Sasuke wondered if it was hostility that kept her several paces behind, but he slowly came to realize her general disinterest in trying to engage him. It was not irritation or frustration, more like an emotional fatigue. It was more annoying than if she had tried talking to him.
He didn't know why these thoughts caused tightness in his chest, but he suddenly felt winded. He took deep inhalations, trying to catch his breath. But he couldn't catch it. He reached out for something to hold onto.
He felt Hinata grab his hand, tentatively, but then she dropped all airs and precautions. She buried herself under his arm and pressed her ear to his chest. As she looked down at the watch on her wrist, she produced a casual gesture that made his heart race more. She was going to have to do something.
Can you regulate it without damaging it? he'd asked tersely.
I don't know, Hinata had responded, in her offensively singsongy voice.
So they stood there in silence, both knowing he had to calm down. And as reckless as he was, he had an acute desire to survive. Hinata was his only medic, and his only defense against everything between that spot and the gates of Konoha.
"It's evening out," she whispered, finally, her soft voice continuing to mock him. She lowered her hand he had not noticed was raised in preparation.
If he was getting better, then why did he feel worse? His vision swimming, Sasuke began to sink, and Hinata followed, guiding him to his knees. He bowed his head and closed his eyes, feeling pathetic.
"We should make camp," he breathed, hating how weak he had become.
"We would be too vulnerable here."
Sasuke lifted his head to see that she had activated her byakugan.
"There's a small village to the West. We can get a room." She climbed up from her knees and offered him her hand.
Sasuke stared at it for a while, then looked back down at the dusty road. He placed his hands against it and forced himself to his feet, welcomed by dizziness once he was upright. Hinata swung her arm behind him, and placed her free hand against his chest. Sasuke wrapped his arm around her shoulders as she guided him towards the village. Like a wife leading a drunkard. There was no intimacy involved.
Sasuke was known for his unshakable composure.
It was interesting to see him digress from it.
In their hotel room, Hinata lay on her side in the bed opposite his, watching him as he tried to ignore her. For a while he stared at the ceiling until his eyelids began to lower.
Hinata's strong eyes had no problem seeing him through the darkness. But as her byakugan would impair her if she used it all night, she mused over how she would monitor Sasuke's heart while he was sleeping. If she oversaw him only tangibly, he could slip away without her notice. This would lead to the failure of her mission. Her muscles tensing, Hinata sat up.
She climbed out of her bed and padded towards his, but then stopped herself short of making contact. She pressed her lips. "Sasuke, I have to—"
Sasuke's eyes remained closed and his body remained quiescent. Hinata carefully climbed onto the bed, resting her palm against his torso. His eyes snapped open, irritation crossing his brows.
"It's okay," she said in comfort and apology, lying down on her side while keeping her hand in place. "It's okay." She felt his heart beat quicken beneath her fingertips, but in only moments, it returned to its regular pace. She watched as he glared, not at her, but the role she played - a witness to his state of vulnerability. A muscle twitched at the end of his jaw but somehow he stayed at his 40 precarious beats.
"Sleep," Hinata offered. "I'll make sure you wake up."
But Sasuke's glare endured, and just as she feared she would spend the whole night beneath the weight of his frustration, his gaze lost focus, and she could tell that he was losing his battle with fatigue. His attention drifted to her temple, then back to her eyes. Her ear, her eyes, her chin, her throat, then finally, his lashes met, and his breathing evened out.
Hinata stayed up and listened to the ticking of the watch.
She opened her weary eyes and gazed at the unfamiliar ceiling before abruptly sitting upright, hurriedly looking around the room. Sasuke was no longer beside her. How could she have fallen asleep?
Hinata climbed to her feet and walked to the bathroom door, beyond which she could hear the shower running. She didn't even know if he was okay.
She held her head, stressed, fatigued, and brimming with self-resentment. And then there was the panic. She had to ensure that Sasuke was all right.
So she knocked. "Sasuke?
Unsurprisingly, there was no response.
Becoming irritable, Hinata tried the doorknob. "Sasuke?" she entreated, her voice raising in pitch.
This time she didn't wait for an answer. Instead she activated the byakugan to see him leaning against the shower wall, head back, eyes closed. He looked as though he was in pain.
With a swift spin, Hinata kicked the doorknob off. She then ran to him, not caring as the water soaked through her clothes. She placed her hand against his chest, trying, desperately trying to measure his pulse, but there was no ticking of her watch, just the inconstant pattering of the water against her back.
"Hinata," said Sasuke firmly.
Hinata raised his face to his. His words were lined with measured patience and his eyes averted, not looking, not thinking. In fact, some color had returned to his face.
"S-Sasuke," she said.
"Oh..." Hinata's own face colored as she registered how she had ambushed him there. She pulled away and walked out, where she paced and shivered, trying to collect herself.
It wasn't long before Sasuke returned to the room, a towel around his waist. He eyed her in her wet clothes.
Feeling drained, Hinata sat down on the bed and drew her wrist to her ear. She listened but the watch failed to tick. She rattled it but knew it was no use. "It's b-broken." And now she was stuttering. Sasuke would that she was scared.
"Che," was his only response, as he dumped his towel then pulled on some slacks. Only after he had dressed and sheathed his weapon at his hip did Sasuke sit beside her on the bed. He took her wrist.
Hinata started, "What are you-"
"Hold on," Sasuke cut her off. "Your pace is probably close to mine."
He closed his eyes and raised his free hand to his throat pressing his pointer finger against his carotid artery. Over the next several seconds, he measured his pulse against hers.
Finally, Sasuke eyes snapped open. "40," he said. "We're the same."
She held onto his wrist as they walked for continued access to his pulse. Sasuke seemed irritable, but cooperative. Neither had expected to stumble upon someone else.
Hinata could feel Sasuke's pulse rate start to increase. As she watched him scowl, she realized the problem. Sasuke didn't like people seeing him when he was this vulnerable, and now with Kiba, the number of people was growing. If she disclosed what was going on to Kiba, she would likely just make matters worse. Her only option seemed to be creating distance between the two male shinobi.
"You look terrible." Kiba frowned at the shadows beneath Hinata's eyes. He spotted her and Sasuke's linked arms and looked genuinely concerned. "What's going on?"
"We're just coming back from a mission together," said Hinata, trying to sound cheerful but she felt terrified.
Kiba furrowed his eyebrows. "You two never do missions together."
Hinata waved him off. "Everything's okay—p-perfectly fine."
"You don't look okay. And, hold on, weren't you coming from the Earth country?"
She started to march off, dragging Sasuke with her. The Uchiha seemed increasingly ill-tempered, but he went along with it. Kiba was too inquisitive, just like their sensei. "Please don't worry, Kiba-kun," Hinata called over her shoulder. "We really have to go."
She quickened her stride, hoping Kiba didn't follow, hoping he understood the plea in her eyes. Sasuke was holding his chest again, so she rubbed his arm in an effort to get him to relax. By then, she was terribly short on ideas.
And to her relief, Sasuke seemed to be cooling down. He was looking at the ground in self-resentment, perhaps some embarrassment. He reminded her of herself at that moment. She wanted to reassure him but she pressed her lips and walked on.
Sasuke just seemed to be getting paler. They were three miles to Konoha when someone met them on the road to the gates. Hinata could make out a figure in orange. "Naruto-kun!"
The blonde shinobi closed their distance, his eyes filled with concern as he wrapped Sasuke's arm around his shoulder, and to Hinata's surprise, Sasuke accepted his assistance. She hadn't even realized the Uchiha had been feeling so weak. Naruto knew him well. Her face burned. Sasuke seemed more welcome to Naruto's assistance than he was to hers.
Hinata hesitated before she released Sasuke's wrist, but the moment she did, she wanted only to grab it again. She had passed her responsibility for Sasuke's life over to Naruto but suddenly she wanted to take it back. It took an internal struggle to hold herself together.
"Let's go." Naruto offered a reassuring smile.
But the moment the trio turned forward, bodies dropped from the trees, and six masked shinobi were surrounding them. Naruto tensed and Hinata assumed a fighting stance.
Sasuke blinked, but it seemed to take excessively long for him to recover from the blackness of his closed eyelids. It was like he had created a two-second gap in his life, and the surrounding shinobi were that much closer.
He blinked again, and it was a struggle to re-open his eyes. He drew his sword from its hilt as he pulled away from Naruto.
Hinata was being targeted, the kunoichi among them. Someone swung a kunai at her throat but she intercepted it with two of hers. She didn't notice the other ninja that materialized at her back, blades drawn, soon slamming towards her. Sasuke felt his chest tighten. And tighten.
A surge of power hit his chest. He gasped awake, to see Hinata, her hands on his torso. He stared up at the sky, too weak to process.
"Sasuke," she repeated with urgency.
His lips moved, but no words left them. He took a few gasping breaths and was consumed by dizziness…he was tired. His eyes began to lower again.
Racing footsteps padded against the dirt. Someone dropped to their knees at his other side, placing their hands on his chest with Hinata's. He recognized the warmth of Sakura's chakra. His eyes opened wide.
Sasuke sat up, panting as his eyes darted about. The six masked shinobi had become bodies that surrounded them. Sakura and Hinata were knelt on either side of him, Naruto standing some yards away, his back turned and shoulders tense.
Sasuke gasped as someone collided with his chest. He unconsciously curled his arm around Hinata.
"You're okay," she said.
"Aa." He frowned at her. Naruto glanced over his shoulder, his uneasy features broken by a smile.
Sakura merely sighed. "Thank goodness."
Sasuke tried to pull away from Hinata, but she would not detach from his chest, seeming obsessed with the beat of his heart, like she feared it might stop again. Sasuke inhaled as he surveyed the three of them. "Thank you."
But Hinata did not register it. She had spent so much of her effort keeping him alive it was hard to believe she had succeeded. She stared vacantly ahead, her fingers knotted in Sasuke's clothes, Sakura watching in curiosity and Naruto's amusement turned to concern. Hinata felt her hands being manually detached from Sasuke's shirt. His lips brushed her ear as he muttered, gently-
But Hinata was distrustful of his words so activated the byakugan to freely scrutinize the contents of his chest. She could see that his heart had sped up again and reached out to grab the front of his shirt. Sasuke caught her wrist.
"It's racing," she said fearfully.
"It's fine," said Sasuke meaningfully.
Hinata blinked in comprehension before she reddened and pulled away. Holding Sasuke's stare for just a moment longer, she deactivated the byakugan and climbed to her feet to finally mumble, politely, "I'm glad you're all right."
The next morning, Sasuke slept in for once. As he opened his eyes, he could feel another's body pressed to his back, arms having wrapped around him at some point in the night. It was his wife's warm body. "You weren't a bad comrade."
"Hmm," was her only response.
Sasuke took one of her hands. He idly examined it. "Thank you."
She did not respond.
"Are you crying?" he questioned.
A moment passed. "I almost killed you." Her words came out weak.
"How?" He stroked her hand.
"I made your heart race."
It was true. She had done it repetitively throughout the mission. Sasuke hesitated before responding, "That couldn't have been helped." He turned to face her, admiring her wet face, her vulnerability. She always stole from his composure hard as he tried to carry apathy on missions. They kept things professional, but his subconscious never seemed to collaborate. She caused him distraction. She caused him panic. The two things that clashed with being a shinobi. "This is why we don't do missions together," he said in all seriousness.
Hinata snorted and forced a smile. "Because I make your heart race?"
Sasuke finally indulged in brushing a stray eyelash from her cheek. And with one part indifference one part honesty, he concurred, "Because you make my heart race."