13 – Cold

Wake up.

Wake up.

Wake up, Neji. Wake up.

WAKE UP!

"Wake up... please... please... please... no..."

Hinata's small voice was lost in the hum of disbelief from the steadily growing crowd. Hiashi, Hanabi and dozens of others gathered around in the courtyard of the Hyuuga compound where ANBU had just brought back the body of the genius from the branch family. A lifeless, cold corpse. The shell of him. Lost so suddenly. It was a shock to all. So many eyes looked upon him, perfect in all ways- looking for all the world that he was asleep. Died from wounds in duty, but there were no wounds to be seen. Immaculate, invincible. Sleeping... just sleeping.

Not another name for the shinobi died during service.

Not dead.

Never dead.

Strong people like Neji just couldn't die. It didn't seem fathomable.

In the cold incomprehensible revelation of his passing Hinata had been the first and only one to run forward. Passing by on the way back to her room, she had seen the ANBU members as they arrived in the compound. Puzzled, she ventured out further to investigate and saw who they carried on a stretcher between them.

There was a ringing silence in her head, a calm as it hit her like a blow that shattered her to pieces. It was just starting to snow, large, feather-like flakes dancing down into the courtyard, but she didn't care... she stared, numb for a few moments. Then dropping the tea and the book she was carrying, she ran out to the masked jounin. She didn't even ask what had happened, she didn't care. All that mattered was him. She just threw herself to her knees beside Neji, her Neji-nii-san and cried out in anguish.

It was her cries that had attracted the attention of the rest of the clan members. Bereft, cries born of pain, disbelief and loss that one so young as she shouldn't have to feel. All shinobi had to deal with death, and even she was no stranger to its reality.

But this was close to home... close to her heart. No. This was an arrow shot directly in the centre of her heart.

This was Neji.

She stared at his face, haite-ate laid out on his chest so that the undeserved mark of the caged bird on his forehead would've been seen by all. But it wasn't there.

It will fade... only with death..

He was the person he should be now, unmarked. Hair spread out like tendrils of silk over the white pillow of the stretcher. So perfect.

Just sleeping.

"No... no... nonononono... no!"

Hinata stared at his face, as though he would open those white eyes any minute and burn holes right through her with his gaze.

Like always.

She willed him to wake up. Just staring at his skin numbly.

Like always.

She was thinking how much she'd thought of touching it before now. She'd always thought that he would be cold, but she knew in her heart that if she ever did touch that skin, he would be warm and she would be proved wrong.

She put both her small, frail, shy hands on his noble cheeks. Yet her tears fell more. His skin was as cold as the snow falling around them. She never wanted to be proved right.

"Please Neji. Please wake up. Please don't be..."

She couldn't say the word. It was as if saying it would make this horror true. Instead, she lifted his head and gently moved him so it was in her lap.

"Wake up... wake up so I can tell you... wake up so I can say... everything... so I can tell you. So I can say all the things I should've said!"

No one moved now, watching this. No one spoke. Typically the Hyuugas would never show their emotions, drawing power from their ability to always be detached, and to use others' emotions against them. But it wasn't the case now. Hinata wasn't the only one crying. Other people's tears were being shed, quietly, nobly. The tears out of white eyes and normal ones alike. Head and branch family members. Somewhere along the way Gai-sensei turned up and looked on the scene with a look of horror which turned to a torrential flood of his own tears. But somehow everyone knew not to disturb what was happening, the scene of grief unheard of for a Hyuuga. They just stood in the snow, numb from shock and cold.

Trying to comprehend that Neji was dead.

The shy heir cradling him now certainly couldn't comprehend it. All the things she'd hoped... all the things she'd wanted to say and do. Had he known? Had he felt the same way? She would never know.

Could he have understood how much she wanted to touch him?

Did he forgive her?

Or was he still in pain when he died?

She touched him now. Shy fingers over his forehead, nose, eyelashes, lips... every inch that she'd looked at while she knew he didn't notice her. All so cold. He was just so cold. She kept going, handling the column of his throat with utmost care and then touching the definition around his collarbone exposed by his loosened hakama.

Then she stopped and bowed her head. She felt that burning need, in spite of all her cold.

She needed to kiss him just once.

No one stopped her as she bent down. Her hair fell onto his cheeks before her mouth got there. But surely, her warm lips met his and she clung for a few seconds, not touching him in any other way. She closed her eyes and imagined him, training... eating dinner... speaking to her... smiling in that mocking way of his... she imagined Neji as he was everyday. Just Neji. It was as if somehow she could breathe warmth and life back into him through that kiss.

Pulling away finally she studied him, snowflakes decorating his skin. She felt the cold on her lips.

And she knew.

She broke down now. Her sobs consumed her, she started pulling at her hair, kneeling with the snow piling up around her. She screamed and gasped. Feeling like someone was ripping something away from her body.

But once more she crawled forward. Leaning over Neji. Imploring him. Shaking him. Pleading with him. With anyone. Begging.

"No... you can't be gone! I love you Neji! I do... I do! You can't be gone... you can't be gone when you don't know. When I don't know if you still hate me! Who will be strong for me... for us?!" Feeling like she had not control, she hit him in the chest. Once, twice. "What am I without you... and you don't even know!"

Now, the rest of the Hyuugas reacted. She screamed until strong arms grabbed her and pulled her away, whispering endearments to her. A scene so unthinkable of quiet, timid Hinata. A flurry of emotion. She heard nothing but the cold truth in her head.

Neji is cold.

She slumped in the arms of her father. The realisation and the pain shooting through her.

Neji is cold.

Neji is gone.

Neji will never know.

Neji will never wake up.

XxXxXxX

A/N: This will be the end of Behind the Byakugan for now. I'm sorry to have ended on such a sad note, but the angst really makes up for all the fluff. And I did only want to write 13 of these.

Not to say more NejiHina won't come later!

Thank you everyone who has read any, some or all of this story. It was a labour of love, I do love NejiHina.

As always, leave me a review :3 Especially if you would like any of these one shots developed into full length fanfictions. I want comments, criticism... anything!

I hoped you enjoyed reading, anyway! Love to all!
-Nell (E.Y.N)