Water for the Tribe

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Written as a bribe-fic for Spaz, who is wondrous and amazing and loves the Inuzuka as much as I do. She asked for Kiba/Hinata, post time-jump, keyword "water." I couldn't help but add Hana as well. In typical Inuzuka fashion, she...took over. Sorry it's not quite what you asked for, Spaz, but I hope you like it anyway...

Special thanks to my beta, Phoenix of Eternity, and to Shroud and kimi no vanilla, who gave valuable advice.

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Kiba comes home stinking; there are traces of old fear in his scent, a sour reek of vomit, the stale musk of sweat. Over it all lies the salty metallic tang of blood, far too strong, far too sweet. Hana breathes through her open mouth as she helps her mother strip his bloody jacket away from his shredded torso, but the coppery taste still coats her tongue, and the water with which she washes his wounds runs pink and refuses to clear.

Akamaru crouches shivering beside the table. No one has the heart to kick him away, not when Kiba's limp hand still trails over the edge, fingers searching blindly for the familiar head. Two of Hana's dogs curl up beside him to keep him company; by now he dwarfs both the grey nin-dogs, but he accepts their presence with the forsaken whine of a lost puppy. Even Kuromaru, lurking huge and black at Tsume's heels as she stalks out shouting for someone bring the Godaime, pauses to gently nip the white dog's ear instead of driving him to his feet with an exasperated snarl. Hana smells the fear in the dogs, the worry in Kuromaru and Akira and Amaya's scents and the desperate grief in Akamaru's, and for once in her life she would give anything to be as dull and scent-blind as the rest of Konoha.

The dogs reek of fear, and Kiba stinks of death.

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Godaime-sama comes eventually, striding in front of an unusually subdued Tsume. Hana smells anger and hope and fear all mixed together in a roiling mess of desperation she hasn't smelled since the day her father's body came home from his last mission. Tsume stands a little uselessly in a corner of the clinic, one hand shoved deep into a pocket, the other tangled in Kuromaru's thick ruff. Hana forces herself not to look at her mother as she stands at the Godaime's side and explains in a voice sore from not-weeping what she's already done. The tiny progress she's made towards healing the worst of Kiba's wounds, the terrible rent in his belly she's already stitched, the concoction of blood pills and soldier pills she's mashed up and forced down his throat.

"Good work, girl," the Godaime says absently, in a voice Hana might use to praise someone else's dog; she's almost surprised when the Hokage doesn't pat her head. But Tsunade's hands are already occupied, skimming lightly over the shredded meat that remains of Kiba's chest, glowing a steady pale green as they return to center over his collapsing lung. "He's a tough one; he'll be all right."

"He'd better," Tsume snaps from the corner. "No whelp of mine is gonna let some motherless maggot of a missing-nin beat him."

Her voice is harsh, but her scent is thick with the salt of unshed tears.

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When the Godaime leaves, Hana escorts her as far as the gates to the Inuzuka compound. Akira and Amaya stay behind in the house with Akamaru, but Katsu slinks at her heels, waiting for the moment to shove his broad grey skull under fingers searching for support. She leans against the gate and against him and watches the Hokage stride away, green-clad back still straight and supple despite the chakra she's poured into that terrible scarlet-stained body back into the clinic, until at last lungs inflated fully and a heart beat smoothly and water poured over a ravaged torso ran clear.

"You can come in now, Hinata-chan," she says softly.

A shadow stirs behind a tree some ten meters away from the gate, and the white-eyed girl steps slowly away from her shelter. The front of her torn jacket is crimson with Kiba's blood. Hana's nostrils flare almost unconsciously, finding worry and fear and guilt and grief.

But Hinata is unwounded. And somehow, Hana isn't surprised.

"He's sleeping now," she tells the Hyuuga girl in the same quiet, soothing, level tone she uses to calm an injured nin-dog or a whelping bitch. "You can come see him if you want."

Hinata hesitates, torn halfway between acceptance and flight. "But—if Kiba-kun is sleeping—I shouldn't, I mean, your family—"

Hana allows a tiny hint of a smile to curl her lips, baring the gleaming points of her teeth. Hinata, familiar with Kiba's far more feral grins, doesn't flinch. "My mother's out beating up some of my cousins; it's a common Inuzuka response to stress."

The tiniest, wavering laugh escapes Hinata's lips; she covers her mouth, looking horrified. "I didn't mean—"

"Don't worry; we know Kiba does it too." Hana forces her smile a little further. "Akamaru could use a friend now, anyway."

She holds her hand out, as slowly and gently as she would beckon to a feral dog, and waits.

And slowly, as fearfully and hesitantly as that battered and suspicious and untamed dog, Hinata comes forward and takes her hand.

-

Kiba's bandaged chest rises and falls as delicately as the fluttering sides of a suckling pup. His face is bone-white beneath the tan and the scarlet tattoos. Blood still crusts at the roots of his hair and in the beds of his nails; both he and the sheets will have to be washed again when he wakes, but at the moment Hana can't begrudge the extra work.

She leans her hip against the corner of Kiba's desk, one hand gently ruffling Katsu's head, and watches Hinata crouch by the side of the bed to greet Akamaru before the white-eyed girl rises again to stare down at Kiba. The white dog whines and lifts his questing muzzle after her hand as she straightens; Amaya, still curled up by his side, nips him sharply on the ear. Big as he is, she still maintains higher rank in the clan pack, and instead of snapping back he whines again and pillows his head sadly on his paws.

Hinata doesn't seem to notice. One small, calloused hand reaches out tentatively to brush against the scarred backs of Kiba's knuckles. Her fingertips slide away from his limp hand after a moment, then trace their way up to sweep the wild hair away from his pale forehead. This time, when her hand drops away, the backs of her fingers graze his tattooed cheek.

Hana smells salt before she sees the shining trickle kissing its way down the curve of Hinata's cheek. "He was trying to save me," the other kunoichi whispers, and her hand fists on the pillow beside Kiba's head. "If he hadn't got in the way—"

"Do you think he'd be any happier if it were you there?" Hana demands. "He knew what he was doing." She shifts her hip against the hard edge of the desk and adds, "Kiba protects what he cares about." A measured pause. "Akamaru's told us a little of what happened. He took that damage trying to save you while you were unconscious—and he managed it. I'd say that deserves at least enough respect to honor his sacrifice instead of telling him he shouldn't have done it."

The girl glances up quickly, flushing. "I didn't—I mean, I do respect Kiba-kun. He's strong and brave and—and—"

Tears still tremble at the corners of her eyes, pale and clear as the irises they reflect. But she lifts a hand and wipes them quickly away, and blinks hard, and swallows. "You're right," she says in a tiny voice. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be sorry," Hana says sharply. "It's a waste of energy and it gets you nowhere. Be useful. You're training as a medic, right? Godaime-sama healed the major damage, but there're still plenty of cuts and scrapes to be tended. I was planning to leave them for later, but as long as you're here, you might as well make yourself useful."

She pauses again, and takes her time scratching around the roots of Katsu's ears. "He should wake up in a few hours. You might want to be here when he does."

The light in the girl's face is almost painful to see. Hinata's eyes mirror her heart like still water, and for the first time, Hana sees almost as clearly as she smells.

She can't quite help a smile.