Disclaimer: I do not own any of teh pretty Hyuugas hereby depicted in the story.


Neji watched from the trees. Watched the woman along the cliff side as she trembled, despite the heat that had been plaguing Konoha the past month. For once he had no idea what to do. He couldn't even be sure his presence would provide any comfort to her. Not after what had happened.

Careful not to make any noise, Neji walked up behind the young woman whom he had hoped to never see like this. His hand was gentle as it touched her shoulder. "Hinata."

She didn't jump or cringe at his presence, and when the silence remained, he wondered if she had even noticed him yet. Neji knelt beside her and tenderly turned her face to him. The lack of tears on her face frightened him, though he wasn't sure why. He had somehow expected her to be sobbing, yet as hard as her body shook in repressed emotion, Hinata let none of it into her eyes. Perhaps that was why it scared him. Her eyes looked dead to the world. As if the seal now marring her fair skin did more than lock away the Hyuuga bloodline. Silently he prayed it had not ripped away everything that made her so beautiful to him.

"Hinata." Are you all right would be an idiotic question to ask. There was no way he could expect her to be all right. Knowing nothing to say to console her, Neji gently pulled her head to rest against his chest. To hide from him the mark he couldn't bear to see on her.

"It's an odd feeling." Hinata's voice was tired, old. As if in the last day she managed to live years. "I didn't think it would feel like this. I suppose I always hoped I would never feel it at all."

Neji willed his body to remain calm, for her. "In time, it will become bearable." He would not lie to her. No one with the cursed seal ever got used to it.

Hinata wrapped her arms around him, grabbing hold of his shoulders from behind. "In a way, I am relieved it is over. I think, I have always been in a cage, watching as they came to weld the door shut. I fought so hard, I never realized my wings had broken long before the cage did. Now that it is closed, maybe I can finally start to heal."

His hold tightened around her as she spoke. The loneliness and sorrow spilling out of her, though, none of it was apparent. But he could feel it. He recognized how familiar it felt, how close to his own locked-away emotions hers were. But there was no anger in her, none of the rage that, at times, still consumed him.

"You're wrong, Hinata. You did leave your cage, broken wings and all. They just put you in a new one before you could prove broken wings can mend. They would not wait to watch you fly."

The tears he knew she needed to shed finally fell, soaking into his shirt as sobs consumed her. "I . . . so wan . . .wanted to fly."

Neji kissed the top of her head and tenderly stroked her hair in some futile condolence. "You still can, Hinata. You still can."

She buried her face against his chest. "I can't. Not anymore."

"Yes, you can. Because the cage they put you into was mine, and no matter how long it takes I will make sure your wings mend. I will make you fly, even if I'm the only one who will ever see it."

She didn't look back to him and he didn't say anything more. For two caged birds just being there was enough.