Disclaimer: I do not own a great many things. There are many things I wish I did own. Right at this moment, I wish I owned a donner kebab with jalapenos because I'm kinda hungry. I also wish I owned Naruto. But as my father always said, if wishes were rhinos, we'd all be trampled to death. Actually, he never said that, but it's still true.
Chapter 1: Tears for Armageddon.
"Now you have heard my story, the withered man rasped through cracked lips. "Let me hear your answer."
There was a long silence as the boy stood with his eyes squeezed shut, clenching his trembling fist. "I… think you may be right," he finally answered. "I think I understand you."
"Really?" asked the man in the chair, surprised in spite of himself.
The young ninja shook his head as if trying to clear it. "I understand you…. but I can't forgive you. I still hate you." Raising his head, he stared into the lavender, multi-ringed eyes of his foe. "But even then, I might have been able to let go of my hate. I might have been able to say I wouldn't kill you. But you did the one thing I could never overlook." His voice wavered, quaking with emotion. "In my whole life, only one person has ever told me that they loved me. Only one person has stood in front of me and said 'I am not afraid to die for you'. And you murdered her. For nothing." He swallowed a ragged breath as tears threatened to choke off his voice. "For that… for her… I have to kill you."
The air in the hideout began to throb with tension. Nagato returned the boy's glare without blinking. He had never really expected anything else. Although for just a moment he had dared to hope… "Then let us finish this."
In an instant, Naruto's eyes burned with rage and fiery alien power. His clenched fist sprung open as nails extended into claws and a swirling vortex of chakra formed in the center of his palm. The air thickened as the crippled man in the strange device began to focus his power once again and the woman standing beside the machine stretched out her arms, seizing control of the thousands of pieces of paper that formed their hiding place, ready to collapse them and bind the boy.
But faster than thought, the jinchuuriki of the Nine-Tailed Fox exploded forward in a blur of vengeful fury.
In the darkness of the cell, the only illumination came from the full moon shining through the window. From where she lay on her futon, Hinata gazed up through the bars, a constant stream of tears trickling from her pearl-white eyes and tracing their way across her face. Despair pressed down upon her as she lay there helpless. After all these years on the run together, so long spent living in danger, she'd thought she'd come to terms with the possible consequences, but every second felt like a death of its own. Even as she lay trapped in her cell, her lover's life was being drained away.
At this very moment, somewhere else in this fortress, Uchiha Madara and the surviving members of Akatsuki were nearing the end of the extraction ritual that would tear the Nine-Tailed Fox from Uzumaki Naruto's body and complete their Moon's Eye Plan. Hinata didn't know the exact details, but she and Naruto knew that if this came to pass it would be the end of the world as they knew it, with all of mankind subsumed into an eternal genjutsu by the power of the Ten-Tailed Beast.
And Naruto would not survive the extraction. He would die to see Madara's mad dream of world peace brought to fruition.
Hinata's stomach kicked and she reflexively laid her hand gently on her swollen belly. It was so cruel, she thought, for this to happen now, when their child was so close to being born.
"It's alright," she whispered to her baby. "I'll protect you. It'll be alright." Her voice caught in her throat. "I… I don't know how… but I promise… it'll be alright."
The doctor who'd inspected her only three days ago had estimated that she would give birth within no more than a week. Naruto had been searching for a secure place for them to take shelter in order for her to deliver. They'd made so many plans, prepared for so many eventualities. But less than a day later Madara had found them -most likely following a lead from that same doctor- and there had been no escape.
"We've been searching for you for quite some time, Naruto-kun." Madara's voice was calm, almost friendly, despite the situation. "You've been quite hard to find. But now it's time for you to come with us."
Naruto tensed. This was bad. Madara, Zetsu, Kisame and Kabuto had caught them flat-footed and there was no way Hinata would be able to either run or fight in her condition. His only choice was to fight- but he doubted even he would be able to take all four of them at once. If he could just hold them off long enough for Hinata to escape to a safe place before fleeing himself, leading them away from her... Aloud he answered "And what makes you think I'll give up so easily after evading you for this long? You think you can suceed where Pain failed?"
Behind his mask, Naruto could feel Madara smirk. "Oh I think it's long past time for you to stop running, Naruto-kun. After all, with your child on the way, surely now is the time for a father to think of his responsibilities to his family, wouldn't you agree...?"
The threat made the red rage boil up within Naruto, but he fought it down. The last thing he needed now was to lose control. But he would die a thousand times over before he allowed these bastards to get anywhere near Hinata and their child. "If you so much as TRY to hurt them-!" he gritted out between clenched teeth.
A sudden gust of wind howled between the trees and Naruto stepped forward as a blizzard of fluttering objects was carried on it towards him. Lashing out with his kunai he shredded as many as he could reach- but the majority of them were rushing past him, adopting a tight orbit around a startled Hinata. Turning in a flash, the young man was about to dive back to protect his lover when he froze at the sight of the figure standing behind her.
Konan. Her face twisted in hate, she held one hand up in front of her, ready to detonate the cloud of explosive tags circling Hinata like a swarm of deadly insects. She locked her gaze on Naruto's without blinking. "Give me one reason," the woman hissed in a low, deadly voice. "Make one move. Give me a reason to do it and I swear I will."
Naruto's quick-thinking mind raced through his options, searching desperately for a plan. While he had never had Shikamaru's genius for strategy, he had always been unparalleled at improvising ways out of seemingly impossible situations. Several ideas came to him almost instantly.
None of them would save his lover and their child.
Hinata was paralysed. She might possibly survive the multiple detonations- but both she and Naruto knew that there wasn't even a slight chance that their child would. If she hadn't been so heavily pregnant she may have been able to protect herself with the kaiten, to fight, or even just to run, but with her body so weighed-down and close to delivery, even if she could fight, there was no way her baby would survive combat unharmed.
If it had been only her, she would have told him to flee. If he had refused, she would have fought beside him, no matter the chances of her survival, or even forced Konan to go through with her threat to prevent herself from being used against Naruto this way. She had done it before. She had been willing to die for him that time four years ago and she was still willing to die for him now.
But the life of their child was the one thing she could not ask him to sacrifice. And even if she could, she knew it was the one thing he would not risk, no matter what.
Uzumaki Naruto fell to his hands and knees as the members of Akatsuki closed in around them. Tears stung his eyes as the words he'd sworn he'd never say slipped past his lips.
He raised his head and stared into Hinata's eyes, a million words conveyed in a single look. If this was going to be their goodbye… "Just… promise me you won't hurt them."
A shadow began to creep across the moon's surface as Hinata gazed up at it, stroking her pregnant belly comfortingly. The eclipse had begun. Madara had mentioned this- that the blood moon, which happened only once every fifteen years, would prevent them from completing the ritual to revive the Ten-tailed Beast until it had passed. Rather than being frustrated by the delay, the masked man had been elated, calling the eclipse a glorious heralding of the new age that would come. The extraction of the Kyuubi from Naruto would be already underway. It could only be a short time now until the ritual was complete and the whole world was engulfed by the power of the Uchiha's illusion. The young woman wondered what would happen to her afterwards. Would she be reunited with Naruto in the endless dream? Would they be able to meet their long lost friends? Would their child still be born? Might they even be happy somehow?
Hinata shuddered at the thought. The idea of being trapped in a happy delusion, born from the sacrifice of the man she loved, never being able to hold her real child in her real arms, was more of a nightmare than a dream. No matter how miserable the world became, she'd never willingly turn her back on it and retreat into a fantasy as long as there was someone who needed her here. The young woman wiped the tears from her eyes and took a deep breath, smiling slightly as she felt the child in her belly kick again in response to her caress.
A sudden chill of foreboding ran up her spine. Hinata didn't know why, but she felt heavy, like there was an unseen weight pressing down on her entire body. She gasped as a shock ran through her, emanating not from somewhere in her body, but deep within her soul. A sudden feeling of hollow emptiness rose up inside her, as if part of her had been torn away.
She didn't know how she knew, but she could somehow tell without a doubt that Naruto was dead- and she and their child were alone.
A choked sob escaped her throat as tears filled her eyes again and she turned away from the window as the eclipse approached its peak and the moon's pale white surface began to darken to red. Only a short while longer and it would all be over…
Hinata gave herself to oblivion.
Was this a dream? Hinata was surrounded by blinding darkness, assailed by a deafening silence, hurtling through absolute stillness, crushed under the weight of an infinite emptiness. She wanted to scream but she could not even draw a breath.
Could this be the Infinite Tsukiyomi? Could something have gone wrong with it? Unable to move, unable to scream, unable even to breathe, Hinata could only wait for the terror to end.
Just when she thought she would go mad, a faint voice appeared in her mind, a quiet whisper she could barely make out.
The void contracted one more time, then exploded around her.
With a scream, Hinata's eyes snapped open. Her heart was racing as if it were about to burst and she was gasping for breath like a marathon runner as she tried to shake off the residual terror of her bizarre nightmare. She pushed herself up into a sitting position in her futon, desperately trying to calm her racing heart.
Immediately she knew something was wrong. Her body felt awkward, different, like a set of clothes that had shrunk in the laundry. Her torso especially felt bizarrely light, as if haIf of it was missing. She just felt wrong, not entirely Iike herself, as if someone had taken her out of her body and crammed her into someone else's.
Automatically she brushed her hand gently against her belly, to reassure her child that she was still there to protect it.
Her hand met empty space.
Panic shot through her like a lightning bolt as she looked down at her body and was immediately followed by an overwhelming horror. Her belly, which should have been heavy with her and Naruto's unborn child, was as flat as if she'd never been pregnant at all. Her baby was gone.
A scream rose into her throat and exploded into the dark of the night. Hinata clutched her hands to her head in terror, on the verge of hysteria. It wasn't enough for Akatsuki to have taken her village, her family and even her lover from her, they even had to steal her child from her womb. As Hinata's last sliver of hope was ripped away from her, she could only squeeze her eyes shut and continue to scream as she felt herself finally succumbing to the despair she'd fought against for so long...
"Hinata-sama, please calm yourself!"
The unexpected voice cut through Hinata's distress like a bucket of iced water poured over her head. Her voice cut off instantly and her eyes snapped wide open in shock. That voice, that manner of address- both were things she had not heard in years. No-one had called her 'Hinata-sama' since the fall of Konoha. And as for the owner of the voice...
"Chizuru... san...?" she whispered, her voice quavering. Slowly she raised her head and met a pair of warm white eyes like her own, filled with concern.
"Yes, Hinata-sama, it's just me," Hyuuga Chizuru reassured her. The old woman put a gentle hand on Hinata's shoulder. "Did you have a bad dream?"
Hinata wasn't sure that this wasn't a dream she was having now. The kindly old retainer looked exactly like she remembered. But Hyuuga Chizuru, the woman who had helped raise her ever since her mother had died barely a year after her sister's birth, had been dead for over ten years.
As the initial shock subsided, Hinata slowly began to examine her unnatural-feeling body. She'd been so caried away by the shock of her baby's disappearance that she'd failed to notice the other things that were missing. Most significantly, if the only thing that had changed had been the loss of her child, she shouldn't even have been able to see her stomach. It wasn't until the seventh month of her pregnancy that she'd been able to see it past her embarrassingly-large breasts without some serious gymnastics. Instead, her chest was as flat as a washboard. Stealing her child made at least some kind of horrible sense, but why would Akatsuki want to steal her boobs?
Holding her hand up in front of her, she studied it carefully. Her fingers were tiny and delicate, the nails small and undeveloped. She ran her fingers through her hair, only to find it ended just below her ears, the same childlike bob cut she'd worn up until after Naruto had departed from the village for his three-year training trip. Finally, she looked around the room she was lying in. Rather than the bare stone walls and barred window of her cell, she was sitting in a small, modestly decorated bedroom with tatami matting on the floor, a sliding fusama panel door, a few pieces of furniture and an open window fitted with paper shoji screens. The room was familiar to her, so much that it hurt. This was her bedroom at the Hyuuga manor, that she'd lived in for practically her entire childhood.
"Hinata-sama...?" Chizuru repeated, concern audible in her voice. "Are you alright?"
Hinata stared at her blankly. "What... is this...?" she stammered. "Is this some... some kind of trick? Some kind of genjutsu?" Was this what the Infinite Tsukiyomi was? But if that was so, surely the all-engulfing delusion wouldn't be so easy to see through, would it? Was this some other devious trick of Madara's? But what purpose could he possibly have in making a pregnant teenage captive dream of her childhood?
Chizuru's wrinkled brow furrowed even more deeply at her young mistress' words, but she smiled reassuringly at Hinata and gently took one of her small hands in her own weathered ones. "A genjutsu? Oh Hinata-sama, you must have been having a nightmare!" The retired kunoichi folded her fingers, still encompassing Hinata's own, into the seal to dispel genjutsu. "Kai!" Hinata felt a brief pulse of chakra ripple through her tiny body, enough to disrupt any genjutsu placed on her, but the world remained unchanged. "There, you see?" the old family retainer chuckled,"It was all just a dream. You should try to get back to sleep, Hinata-sama."
Slowly Hinata allowed Chizuru to lay her gently back down on her futon and tuck her in. The old woman's hand smoothed the girl's bangs back from her forehead, then she quietly rose to her feet and moved to the open door of the room to leave. Before sliding the shoji closed behind her, Chizuru gave Hinata one more gentle smile. "Good night, Hinata-sama. Sleep well." Then she was gone.
Despite Chizuru's reassurances, Hinata lay in her futon with her eyes wide for only a moment before rising silently to her feet. Her mind was awhirl with confused, chaotic thoughts and questions that she had no answers for. Was it possible that Chizuru-san was right about it being a dream- all of it? Had she only dreamed of becoming a ninja, of joining Team 8 alongside Kiba-kun and Shino-kun, of the Sand and Sound invasion, of the destruction of Konoha at the hands of Pain and her years living on the run?
Had she only dreamed of Naruto-kun, the love they'd shared, his kisses and his embraces and-? She blushed briefly. Had she only dreamed of the strength and courage he'd given her, the nights they'd spent securely in each other's arms, the child they'd made together?
Had it all been a dream?
Tears overflowing her eyes once again, she stumbled to the window, pushing the shoji open with trembling hands. As she gazed out into the familiar but long-gone grounds of the Hyuuga mansion's garden, her eyes were drawn to a glow in the sky- and she gasped.
The moon glowed the color of freshly-spilled blood as the eclipse's peak began to pass. Hinata stared up at the glowing eye in the night sky, her mind awhirl. Could this just be a coincidence, that the same eclipse had been shining over her in her cell as well as down on this long-forgotten room from her childhood? Madara had said the eclipse came exactly every fifteen years, so...
Fifteen years. Could it be possible? Could she somehow have been sent back in time fifteen years to her childhood? Could she really be here again?
Could she possibly have been granted another chance?
Clutching her sleeping robe around her body, Hinata walked silently across the tatami matting, carefully stepping around Sakura's slumbering form. Her roommate rolled over in her sleep as Hinata passed, mumbling something incomprehensible. On the other side of the room, Ino and Tenten were sleeping soundly in their own futons, unladylike snores drifting from the blonde girl's open mouth. Doing her best to remain silent, Hinata carefully slid the shoji door open and stepped out onto the balcony, closing the door again behind her.
The view from the second floor of the inn was startlingly beautiful, letting Hinata look all the way across the moonlit valley below. The full moon illuminated the entire scene, shining silvery light dancing off the surface of the stream that ran down from the hills and the leaves still wet from the afternoon's rain. The former Konoha-nin marvelled at how quickly the clouds had cleared, leaving the sky clear and glittering with the light of a million stars, as she stopped at the edge of the balcony and rested her hands on the railing, gazing out into the night.
A rattling to her right alerted her to the screen door of the next room over sliding open. Looking across, her heart skipped a beat as Naruto stepped out, carelessly shoving the door closed behind him. Walking across to the railing, he leaned on it wearily, staring forward blankly into nothing.
Although both rooms shared the same balcony, Hinata hesitated to walk across to join Naruto. Even though it had been a week since they had officially started "going out" in the aftermath of the destruction of Konoha, (her face still flushed red at the thought that she was now Naruto's girlfriend) she was still hesitant to be too familiar with him. At this moment Naruto looked perturbed by something and Hinata struggled with whether to approach him, or whether he'd prefer to be left alone.
Before she could decide, Naruto quirked his head and turned to look at her as if he'd somehow sensed her presence even without her making a sound. Their eyes met and Hinata held her breath as he straightened up. "Hinata? What are you doing up at this time of night?"
Even after everything they'd gone through, Hinata still had to struggle not to blush. "Um, I couldn't sleep. I just thought I'd step out for breath of fresh air." She shifted awkwardly. "Um, what about you, Naruto-kun? Why are you out here?"
Her new boyfriend visibly struggled with the question for a second as he searched for an answer, then his shoulders slumped and he smiled weakly at her. "Eh... pretty much the same reason I guess. Couldn't sleep, even if I didn't have to share a room with Chouji and his snoring. Too much to think about."
"Oh... I see..." Hinata answered. She shifted her weight uneasily, wondering if she should ask Naruto what was bothering him- after all, with the things that had happened over the last few weeks, there were so many possibilities. Plucking up her courage, she walked hesitantly over to stand beside him at the rail. "Um, Naruto-kun, would you... like to talk about what's bothering you...?"
Naruto didn't look at her, just continued to stare out at the moonlit valley and for a moment Hinata thought he wasn't going to answer. Then he took a deep breath. "I was... thinking about... what happened with Pain. After you... told me... how you felt about me and he..." His voice caught in his throat. "...stabbed you, I felt more hate than I ever had before . Even after my Dad helped me get the Kyuubi back under control, I... I just couldn't forgive him for... what I thought he'd done to you. I... couldn't let him walk away after that, so... I killed him."
Hinata had no idea how to respond to that. While she'd heard how the battle between Naruto and the destroyer of Konoha had ended, this was the first time Naruto had ever spoken of his own feelings about that horrible clash. The thought that Naruto had been driven to kill in revenge for what Pain had done to her was simultaneously gratifying and yet profoundly sad. Hinata didn't know what she should say to him.
Naruto hunched his shoulders and pressed his chin down into his chest as he leaned on the wooden rail. "I still hate Pain for that. I'll never forgive him. Even after I found out that... you were alive, I still hated him. It's just that..." His voice started to choke in his throat. "I know that killing him... isn't what I should have done."
Hinata crept closer as the words began to spill from her boyfriend's mouth at an increasingly rapid pace. "I... I promised the pervert hermit that I'd end the cycle of hatred and revenge- the killing as payment for killing. But... when it came down to it, when Pain took someone special to me away, I... I failed him! I didn't have to forgive Pain, I just had to... all I had to do was... was not kill him, but... I couldn't... I just... I kept seeing your bleeding body at the moment he pulled that stake out of you and... hearing you tell me that... that you l-love me and..." He struggled for words as the tears overflowed from his eyes, "...and I couldn't let him live. I couldn't do that one, simple thing that might have ended the killing for good. I failed. Now that woman, Konan, is out there and she's ready to do anything to get revenge on me for killing Pain, and I don't know what I can-"
Naruto's tearful tirade cut off and his body went rigid as he felt arms wrap gently around him from behind. As he'd been spilling his heart out, Hinata had silently come up behind him and, unable to stand there and listen to him blaming and berating himself any longer, had followed her instincts and taken him in her arms, resting her head against his broad back. "It's alright, Naruto-kun. It's alright. There isn't a single person in Konoha who wouldn't have done the same in that situation. You can't say that you did the wrong thing."
Barely conscious of his actions, Naruto turned in his girlfriend's embrace and returned the hug, wrapping his arms around her and clinging to her as if her body was a lifeline. His voice choked with emotion. "But... but that's not good enough, Hinata! The whole reason the cycle of revenge that created Pain even exists is exactly that- because when everyone has the choice between taking revenge and letting it go, they all do the same thing! I... I had the chance to do better, to do the right thing and... and I couldn't. And now things are like this-" His body trembled in Hinata's arms. "-and I just... I just-"
Hinata couldn't bear it any more. Seized by an impulse close close to madness, she lifted her head, grasped Naruto by the chin and pressed her lips firmly against his. It was their first kiss together -and her first kiss ever- but it was heartwrenchingly bittersweet, tainted by the salt taste of Naruto's tears.
Naruto flinched in shock as Hinata's lips pressed against his, but within the space of a heartbeat he had already started to melt. His mouth moved over hers as if searching for something, seeming hungry, almost desperate as his girlfriend pressed her body in closer against him, holding him tighter. Whatever it was he was searching for, Hinata gave him everything she had, anything to relieve him of his guilt and grief.
The two young ninja clung desperately to each other in the still night, drawing what strength they could from the embrace, silently praying it would be enough to get them through whatever lay ahead...
TO BE CONTINUED...
Welcome to my second full-length Naruto fanfic. This one, despite the clear NaruHina base, is very much a different beast from Secret Songs of the Ninja. Where Songs was a 'For Want of a Nail' fic which is (in my opinion) most notable for disregarding almost all post-timeskip canon in favour of sticking to the "original" story, For Love is a 'Peggy Sue' fic which mostly follows the whole series canon (as best as I can anyway, the Naruto canon went completely snooker-loopy by the end- I mean come on, Kaguya?!).
Anyway, I was inspired to write this story by two things. The first was another Peggy Sue fic (which I shall leave nameless) where a bunch of characters, including Naruto and Hinata, were all sent back in time to their child bodies together. Unfortunately, the fic completely neglected to address what I (an ardent NaruHina fan) considered the most interesting aspect of the concept- how Naruto and Hinata, an actual married couple in that fic, would handle having to remain mostly separate from each other while they re-grew up again. This got me to wondering what would happen if Hinata was sent back alone (I'm sure it's been done before, probably even countless times, but I've never seen one yet) and that was that.
The second thing that influenced this fic was the origin of Hinata's "bad future". The overwhelming majority of all Peggy Sue fics start from this point (the rest have the characters living perfectly happy in a good future and being sent back against their will or by accident). The reason for the bad future is often as simple as "they lost the 4th Shinobi War against Madara" or something similar, but I remembered something I'd read on TV Tropes once. Apparently a not-inconsiderable number of readers were actually bothered by the fact that Naruto chose to spare Nagato at the end of the Pain Invasion arc, feeling that he should have killed Pain in vengeance for what he did. Now, this was listed on TV Tropes under the trope of 'Completely Missing the Point', but it still got me to wondering- what would have happened if Naruto had finished Nagato instead? Well as this fic plays it out, everything would have gone wrong.
Yes, I know "Madara" is really Obito (who doesn't), but nothing ever forced him to reveal that to Naruto in this continuity. Kabuto allied with Obito, but since the Shinobi Alliance was never formed and the 4th War did not happen as it did in canon, he either didn't revive the real Madara or simply kept him in reserve as a final weapon and never had to use him. It's not important anyway. (By the way, if you're wondering what happened to Sasuke, Kabuto got him as he'd originally planned. It's also not important anyway. I hate that guy)
The last notable thing that makes For Love different from all my other fics is that it's the first fic written completely on my tablet rather than my desktop PC. I usually work on it on the train or any other time when I'm out of the house with some free time on my hands, like when I'm stuck in a waiting room. This makes it quite a different, more casual writing experience to Secret Songs, which I have to actually have to sit down and commit to working on. I don't know whether that comes through in the writing at all, but it's still worth mentioning. I've actually written several chapters of this fic in advance already, in the hope of avoiding the MASSIVE gaps between releases that have crippled Secret Songs (or at least delaying the unavoidable stage where they start to happen) so I'll be releasing them at a somewhat steady pace over the next few months.
While I wouldn't expect anyone to give this story a rec on the TV Tropes Naruto fanfic recs page yet based on the strength of just one chapter (this fic has much, MUCH shorter chapters than Secret Songs), if you have enough confidence in me to want to do so anyway, I wouldn't say no. Just a thought. Either way, though, I'd definitely appreciate any reviews you'd be willing to give me. Nothing motivates a writer like seeing their work appreciated, after all.
Sent back to her own childhood, Hinata is overwhelmed by the potential of the opportunity she's been given- but thoughtless actions could have devastating consequences, and fate has no intention of giving her time to think. As she takes the first tenuous steps in her new life, will she be able to change things for the better, or is she helpless against the tides of destiny? Find out in chapter 2 of For Love, 'Hope for the Past'.