"Have you ever wondered what life would be like for everyone else if one thing had happened to you differently?"
Neji looked up at his younger cousin, her eyes tired from more than the evening spar they had just finished. "What do you mean, Hinata-sama?"
"Have you ever wondered what would have happened to other people if you had done something differently? How one moment of your life affected so many others?"
He stared at her confused. "I have often wondered how my life might ha—"
"Not your life," Hinata interrupted in a voice so soft Neji wondered how she could command so much of his attention. "Everyone else's lives. Have you ever wondered what others would be like if not for you?"
"I suppose not," Neji replied thoughtfully. "Why do you ask?"
He watched as her eyes traced the blazing horizon of the setting sun. The flickering, fading lights that danced in her pale eyes aged Hinata far beyond the years shown in her body.
"I have often wondered what might have been, if my life had turned out differently." She paused, breathing in slow, deliberate breaths, as if she could breathe in the wisdom of the world if only she concentrated hard enough. "I have often wondered what everyone would be like had my life ended long ago."
Neji could think of nothing to respond with. Her tone was not suicidal, depressed, or condemning. It held nothing but light consideration, the like one might have when deciding what to make for dinner. "Hinata-sama . . ."
"If I had not been saved when I was a child, your father would be alive instead of me. What would you have become then? Would it have taken you so long to let go of your hatred? Would you ever have hated in the first place? Would Father have remembered me as something more than a failure? Hanabi would have been far more protected, that is for certain. Would Father have been as demanding of her, though, if I were not there to be compared to?"
"Hinata-sama, you did not die as a child," Neji spoke gently, unsure of how to direct this conversation. When they fought he always had control, but when they talked it was always Hinata who would lead him. But this was not the path he had expected to follow her down.
"No, I didn't. And those things never could happen even though I wonder. But when I think more, I find I can't help but seek the possibilities. What if I had not survived our fight in the Chuunin exams? Would you have cared? Would anyone have cared the failure of the head family died at the hands of a branch member? Would Father have been grateful to you for disposing of me? Would you have even considered sitting with a member of the head family as you are now?"
Her words stung like needles as she spoke. He had accepted that what he was before had not been what he wanted to be. He had come to terms with the fact he had, at that time, wanted to kill one of the few people he now trusted. But accepting did nothing to hinder the calm apathy that filled Hinata's quiet voice.
"Hinata-sama, I would have come to regret killing you, if I had finished that fight. Looking back, I am grateful that I was stopped."
She never looked to him. Her eyes remained fixed upon the piercing light fighting to stay above the earthen cover.
"That is the problem with answering that way. You are looking back as you are now. If I had died at your hands would you have changed enough to regret my death? Or would you feel justified in your actions? It was I who accepted the challenge and refused to back down. It was the stubborn heir that looked on you with pity. Would you really have come to regret killing me?"
Neji was thankful for her distracted gaze, now. He would not have been able to hide the truth in his own eyes. Would he have really regretted it? "I do not know, Hinata-sama. But since I am what I am now, and not what I could have become, I am grateful I did not succeed in killing you."
For the first time during their talk Neji watched a fragile smile grace her tender face. "That is true. You are what you are now because those things didn't happen. So then I wonder what will you become if I were to die tomorrow? What if I was lost, no body, nothing to tell if I were alive or dead. Safe or kidnapped? People would be sent out, of course. But would it be because they cared or because they feared Byakugan being found? If I was taken my Byakugan could damage the clan, make them weak when they should have been strong. I am a liability to the Hyuuga, yet, I can not decide if it is better I die or not."
Neji wasn't sure what shocked him more, her words or the casual manner in which she talked of her own possible death. It was obvious she had thought on it many times before, and that only made her conclusions all the more painful to hear. He slowly leaned over, taking her chin into her fingers and pulling her attention completely to him.
"If you were to die I would make sure the person who killed you suffered. And if you were to be lost I would go looking for you."
"Why?" she whispered, and Neji could almost feel the longing in her very breath. A longing for something that even Hinata didn't know.
Why? The answer Neji wasn't sure of. The answer confused him.
"Do you want to die?"
For the first time, real emotion filled her eyes. Surprise and uncertainty mixing beneath a lavender curtain. "I do not know."
"I do not want you to die."
His lips pressed against hers without awaiting permission to do so. But the soft, tender affection expressed more than all the jumbled words that had filled his mind at her question. Why was unnecessary, he simply didn't want her away from him. Yet, to her it was everything. The confused longing overflowing her eyes with silent tears he felt slip over the fingers on her cheek demanded an answer. Any answer would have been enough as long as it was there.
He pulled away and brushed the tears from her face. "I would grieve."
Her face slipped all together into his comforting hold. "Then I do not want to die."
Hope you all like it. The idea came out of no where and I have watched to many movies with Shakespeare dialect as of late, so that is why it is rather older style sentence structure.
Please review, it means a lot to get feedback. However if your only review is to say, "OMG THEY ARE COUSINS!" please leave quietly. I have reasons for choosing this pairing that might surprise you.
Thanks to all who read.