I can't sleep. Again.

I just can't get comfortable. I lay on my stomach, lay on my back. my side. I try hugging my pillow to my chest, try putting a pillow under my knees. But I'm not sinking into rest at all.

Oh, I have sleeping pills. They're in the medicine box I keep in the second cupboard over in the kitchen. But I'm afraid to take them because I know that once I start, I'll need them more and more and then I won't be able to sleep again without them. I've been through that ordeal before.

I had tried drinking a glass of warm milk to fight it, just like I have ever since I was a kid. But it's not working for me tonight. The milk just tasted stale and unpleasant in my mouth, no matter how much cocoa flavor I added to it.

I tried spraying my pillow with lavender to relax myself, but the smell was too strong and I ended up flipping my pillow over in a huff. I tried adding another blanket for that comforting weight effect. This lasted about ten minutes or so. I started to feel constricted and I kicked the blankets off. Then I got too cold, so I settled for pulling the just topsheet up.

I tried humming myself a tune and that didn't work. I tried visualizing myself a relaxing place, like a forest at sunset or a field of poppies at dawn. That didn't work either. I tried telling myself a bedtime story about a happy jounin who sleeps happily at night and has a happy day the next day because she is awake and refreshed and happy and everyone loves her for it. And as I'm sure you can guess, this wasn't effective in taking my worries away or doing much of anything other than making me feel stressed.

I tried fantasizing about that massage from a hot beefy guy I hadn't gotten to enjoy in Matsuya. Perhaps because of my mood, this train of thought backfired on me and the fact that I wasn't getting any and wasn't planning to anytime soon sank in a bit too much. I padded off to the kitchen shortly after this and drank a glass of vodka, and then another.

I tried turning on the light and reading for a bit, but I didn't get tired at all. Not even my most dry psychology text helped. Now the alarm clock is glowing 3:42 a.m. and I'm not a wink closer to sleep than I was back at half past eleven when I put myself to bed.

So I lay in my bed on one side and stare out the window at the lights and rooftops. The clouds are rolling thin and wispy through the summer sky. The full moon outside casts its blue-gray light down on me and my little bed and my pillows and my quilt.

There's a lot to think about.

Hinata is suffering.

Today I was allowed to see her for the first time. On this, her third day since the fighting, she was moved from the trauma ward to intensive care. Hyuuga Neji's attacks were almost fatal. A ninety-eight percent killing intention, a medic said at one point. Which, if true, would mean there was two percent of Hyuuga Neji that did not want to kill Hinata. I wonder if that two percent wanted to save her by not killing her, or wanted to torture her more by not finishing her off.

Either one seems likely. The left ventricle of the heart, the trachea, and the left lung have suffered strong damage, and the diaphragm below her lungs was partially severed. The girl is in a lot of discomfort. The drugs are heavy on her system so that she can't feel anything. There is an IV drip in her arm to keep her hydrated, and catheters to take care of waste matter. She has two tubes in her mouth. One tube reaches down to the damaged trachea to keep the blood draining, keep it from entering the lungs as much as possible. The other tube is hooked up to a machine that's helping her breathe. The blood leaks periodically through the drainage tube, like a coffee machine percolating in slow dribbles of gore. The machines whirr and click, and breath is taken in and out of a twelve-year-old girl's chest.

She sleeps, wakes up, looks around the room with heavy eyes, and sleeps again. I sat with her today for the long hours of the evening, after I was done training the boys for the day. I didn't bring them, I wasn't sure how they might take seeing their Hinata in this state. It's too soon. No one else comes for her. Not like I honestly expected her relatives to visit her. But maybe, deep down, I had hoped.

I stayed, but there was nothing I could do to ease her pain. Her lips were dry and chapped around the plastic tubes. I put balm on them. That was all I could do for Hinata.

The thin summer clouds in the night sky drift across the moon, hiding it from view. I roll onto my back, watching the play of light and shadow on the ceiling.

Gekkou Hayate is dead.

It's still hard to believe, even though it's been a whole day and a half now since I heard at the meeting. It feels so weird. Hayate has been ill like the walking dead for as many years as I've known him, but nothing's ever gotten to him. Nothing has ever brought him down. He always seemed to come through the most dangerous missions without a scratch. And the man could have been vomiting up his own lungs and spleen and he'd never call in for a sick day voluntarily.

The circumstances of his death are still vague. He was found dead at Kikyou Castle. This means he was killed inside the village. Which means something is afoot. Orochimaru supposedly tampered with something in the second round of the Chuunin Exams, but as to what purpose, no one has said. In fact, no one is saying much of anything. I get the feeling it's being sort of swept under the table so as not to disturb the Leaf's position with the other Hidden Villages while the Chuunin Exams are going on.

I lay there and run through the patterns of tree branches outside the window with my eyes. It makes me feel sorry for Hayate to be swept under the table.

I worked with him a little bit when I was a Chuunin. I had been assigned for a year or two under the Hokage, research and clerical section. Hayate was one of the jounin who worked with the division sometimes. I liked him somewhat. I always found him professional and polite, and he had good attention to detail and neat handwriting. He was younger than me and a hundred times more talented but he never made me feel ashamed. He was kind to me. I never really made friends with him or anything, but I respected him, from afar.

I think if I had known he would die so soon, I might have told him what I thought of him. Or maybe tried to hang out with him a bit. Or something. But it's too late for that now, isn't it?

I turn onto my belly. I trace the tiny floral print of my sheets with one finger, over and over.

He left someone behind.

She's a jounin, Anbu. She lives in my neighborhood and so I had often seen them together before. I don't know her well, but she's beautiful and tall and healthy. Thick, shiny hair like a princess in an old scroll painting and long, strong legs I'd kill for. When she moves, it's like liquid flowing down the street, dark black ink in motion. She's a born killer, a born assassin. You don't need to know anything about her to feel it when she walks by you. She's deadly.

I saw her this morning, praying bravely in front of the memorial with a big bunch of incense and a food offering for the deceased. Her shoulders square, her perfect hair shining in the sun. She looked the very picture of a courageous Hidden Village woman. Way of the Kunoichi textbook material. Respect the dead and fight on. Don't regret, and don't ask why.

I saw her later, too, when I was walking home. She was standing in front of the door of her apartment-- their apartment. An apartment they'd surely come home to together after missions. The place they had probably eaten dinner together, made love together. And now the door to the home was hanging open, and she was just standing there. She leaned heavily on the doorframe, her lovely head limp. Her eyes were empty, bereft. Haunted.

Ironic, isn't it. One of the most able women in our whole village and she's powerless against one thing.

It was only a short glimpse and then I passed on. But that look in her eyes sent little shock waves through me, right down to my toes. I have seen those eyes before. I saw them on my mother, too.

There are some things I'm scared of. Cockroaches, I hate cockroaches. And being held down by an enemy is scary. Being unable to breathe. Complete darkness. Lightning striking close by. Being lost somewhere. Yes, there are some things that I'm scared of.

There are some other things I'm terrified as all hell of.

I look up at the moon and offer a silent prayer to whoever is out there listening.


notes from author: two things. 1- bizarrely enough, yes, I wrote this before 328. 2- is there an AsuKure C2 yet? I'm too lazy to make one, but I'll staff and help archive if someone makes one.