A/N - Took me longer than I thought to write this chapter. I wasn't happy with it so I fixed/rewrote most if it, so don't hurt me! I thought about making both Hinata and Neji commit suicide, but thought better of it. I'm too young to die at the hands of angry readers.
Faintly, Hinata thought she heard someone scream her name, their voice filled with profound panic. She dismissed it as her mind wishing that someone cared enough to come and save her. But no one would bother themselves to come. No one loved her enough to even want to come. As far as she was concerned, no one who was still alive loved her at all. She would have never even considered doing this if her mother had still been alive, or if Neji had become her friend again. Her mother at least had loved her for who she was, not hating her for what she wasn't like everyone else in the Hyuuga clan did.
It felt wonderful, to stand up here and feel no pain, no sadness, nothing holding her back from being free from the burdens the chained her soul. She was a bird who refused to live tethered on the ground or put away in a cage made out of the hate and disappointment her father and the rest of the clan had built around her. Finally she could cut the tether, open the cage door and fly away from the web of deceit, anger and pain that made up her clan, who shared her blood and looks but not her gentle mind and loving heart that went against everything her clan believed in. But none of that mattered anymore to Hinata as she took the fateful step off the monument's top.
An arm laced itself around her middle as she started to fall; at the same time the sharp stones of the monument slammed into her back. Hinata gasped and struggled against the person who was trying to save her, but he or she refused to let her go. Slowly, the arm eased her back up onto the top of the monument and a little ways away from the cliff-face.
Hinata could feel the hot breath of her rescuer as he held on to her for a moment, as if afraid to let her go. As if he feared that if dared to release her, she would fall to her death. As if he did not want to lose her; as if she was precious to them.
Finally her rescuer removed his arm from her waist. Hesitantly, Hinata turned to see who it was. Eyes as pale as the moon and filled with relief along with fading fear met her own pale eyes; it was Neji.
Hinata started to get to her feet to run to the edge, but Neji caught a hold of her arm, his hand closing over her most recent cut which still bled sluggishly. "Please, don't do this, Hinata-chan." The fear that had started to leave his eyes so fast it almost frightened Hinata. She jumped slightly, surprised at Neji saying her name without using 'sama'. Instead he had used 'chan', as if he still loved her. But she didn't care anymore.
Hinata found that having decided to end her own life, she was no longer afraid or unable to speak in her older cousin's presence. "Why did you stop me, Neji-niisan?" she asked without stuttering, eying Neji calmly.
Neji was taken aback. This wasn't the Hinata he knew. The Hinata he knew would've been blushing and stuttering right now, pressing her fingers together; this Hinata was talking smoothly and without emotion. It frightened him, and he was not easily frightened. "I stopped you because I love you, Hinata-chan. You are my cousin and my little sister. I saw you leaving and how you looked, and I knew I had to stop you."
Hinata watched him, seeming almost detached. Swiftly he continued; "I kept asking myself how I could hurt the only person I ever cared about so badly like I did with you. I hate myself for what I did to you during the Chuunin Exams. Every day I tried to gather enough courage to ask you to forgive me, and every day I failed. Every time I saw you, I wanted so badly to say something, but then I would remember feeling your blood soaking through the bandages on my hands, and how you refused to back down; how you challenged your fate, and I turn away in shame."
While he was talking Hinata watched him unblinkingly, her opal eyes blank. Neji took a deep breath and pressed on. "I'm asking right now for your forgiveness, Hinata-chan. If you don't want to forgive me, I'll understand."
Her answer surprised him. "I forgave you a long time ago, Neji-niisan." Hinata informed him. "I kept hoping you would forgive me, but you still ignored me; still you hated me. Even while you ignored me, I always thought of you as my elder brother, someone I could look up to. But still you hated me, just like father and Hanabi do. Just like the clan does. I am a burden to my team. Why should I continue to live when my family would rather I was dead?"
Neji shook his head. "Hinata-chan, I do not want you dead. You are the gentlest person in Konoha. You would rather use your skills to protect others than to just prove that you're the best. Despite what you think, your teammates care about you and think of you as a friend, whether they show it or not. I've seen the way the three of you work together. Hiashi-sama is a fool for not seeing that you possess the greatest two powers anyone can have; to love those around you and to believe in the people others hate or despise. Your love and belief in others shows them that someone does care about them and gives them the courage and the power to press on. It's a disgrace Hiashi-sama and the rest of the clan doesn't understand this about you; but now I do."
Hinata's expression didn't change. "What are you getting at?"
"What I'm trying to say is that I want to help you prove to them what you are. And I also want to be the one who is always there for you; the one who gives you the gifts you give to your precious people."
"You're lying." Hinata said coldly. "Father sent you. He doesn't want me to disgrace the Hyuuga clan. And if I go back he'll brand me and send me to the Branch House for attempting suicide."
"No! That's not why I came!" Neji replied, a note of desperation creeping into his voice. "Hiashi-sama isn't at the compound right now; I was the one who found the message on your mirror. I came here on my own. Please say you won't die on me," Neji added pleadingly.
Hinata got to her feet and wrenched her arm out of Neji's grasp. "So you were the one to find the message." Her voice was lanced with something Neji couldn't name, but was thankful Hinata was at least showing some form of emotion. "So what? Father - " she stopped herself. "Hiashi would've been furious with you for letting me do this, since he charged you long ago to protect me." She walked back to the edge of the cliff-face as Neji jumped to his feet. "Tell Hiashi that I didn't need a babysitter."
Slowly, Neji approached the edge, careful not to come too close to Hinata, afraid that if he startled her, she would jump before he could stop her. "So you don't believe me, Hinata-chan? You of all people should be able to see whether I'm trustworthy or not. But no matter what you think, I still love you. And if you plan on jumping off the Hokage Monument, then so will I. If I have to live my life without my cousin and sister, then my life isn't worth living."
This statement seemed to startle Hinata, though she didn't seem to believe it. "Why would you say something like that?"
Neji started to take a step toward her but stopped when she tensed, as if she would leap over the edge if he moved in her direction. "Because I mean it, Hinata-chan."
"Liar." Neji could barely stop himself from flinching at the sudden wave of bitterness that washed over him, originating from his cousin. "I grew to understand that you would continue to despise me for something I would give my life to change, to be able to bring your father back. If I had thought there was the slightest chance you would've forgiven me, then I might not have made the choice to come here today."
Neji started. Hinata-chan, you mean…you mean if I had something earlier you would never have hurt yourself like this?
What Neji failed to notice was that he had been more startled than he had thought. His whole body had jumped, weakening the ground beneath his feet.
It broke. Neji began to fall before he could jump back. Quickly Neji grabbed a hold of the cliff before he fell further, but he was still a good ten feet from the top.
"Neji-niisan!" Neji heard fear in Hinata's voice, telling him that she still cared about him. Despite his predicament, Neji felt his heart twist with guilt. She had loved him even after all that he had done to her.
Hinata dropped to her knees above him. "Neji-niisan, I'm so sorry! This is all my fault…"
Neji tried to look up at her. "No, it isn't Hinata-chan. I -" he stopped, pale eyes wide in amazement.
Hinata was still kneeling above him, but her eyes were closed, her hands locked in a seal he didn't recognize. Blue chakra was emanating from her small frame. Then her chakra began to lower itself down the monument, washing gently over him. It formed a bubble around him before lifting him up; the only thing between him and falling was Hinata's chakra. Neji stared at his cousin as he arrived at the top of the monument, still within the chakra bubble as it moved him away from the edge before depositing him on the ground and disappeared.
Neji got to his feet, looking for his cousin. Hinata was on her hands and knees, breathing heavily. She turned to look at him, a faint, sad smile on her face. Neji leapt forward and pulled her back from the edge before she could jump off. Wrapping his arms around her, he held her close. "No," he whispered fiercely in her ear. "I'm not going to let you die on me. Not my little sister."
Hinata gripped his shirt in her hands. "Th-thank you, Neji-niisan!"
Neji tightened his arms around her. "Hinata, how did you manage to raise me up like that? You did a hand seal I'm not familiar with."
Hinata raised her face to look at him. "The seal is called the Precious Heart seal. When someone who is precious to you is in danger, forming that seal and concentrating on how you need to save that person will almost always work. There is no set way on how to mold the chakra, so I had to do what I thought was right. I'm just glad it worked."
Footsteps approached the two from behind. Neji turned his head to look at who it was. Kiba and Shino were running toward them; Akamaru was tucked down Kiba's jacket front. Fear and worry lined Kiba's face and Neji suspected Shino's was the same behind his dark glasses and high collar. Both their bodies were tense.
Hinata had also turned to see who it was. When she saw her teammates approaching, she got to her feet along with Neji. The two halted in front of them. "What are you doing here?" Kiba snarled at Neji.
"I came here to save Hinata-chan." Neji informed him calmly. "But she ended up saving me instead."
Kiba turned to his teammate. "Is this true?"
"Hai, Kiba-kun. I -" she stopped and turned away, ashamed. Neji took a step back to allow Kiba and Shino to approach her. "Hinata-san, we saw the message on your mirror. . . " Kiba began hesitantly.
Hinata gasped and flinched as Kiba touched her arm. Slowly, she turned to look at him. "I don't ever want to be that frightened ever again." Kiba said, meeting her eyes. "So don't so anything like this again."
"The same goes for me." Shino stated. "Both Kiba and I care about you, Hinata-san, as does Kurenai-sensei and apparently Neji-kun. You are not alone."
Tears filled Hinata's eyes as Kiba put an arm around her. "I-I don't deserve your forgiveness -"
"That's right, Hinata. You don't."
All four of them spun around. Behind them was Hiashi, Hanabi and the elders. Hiashi's cold eyes were on his oldest daughter. "How could you contemplate such a shameful thing, Hinata? How could you disgrace yourself and your clan by your actions of cutting yourself and attempting suicide? Answer me!"
Hinata opened her mouth to speak, but Neji beat her to it. "It's because of the way you've treated her for as long as I can remember, Hiashi-sama, and the way I treated her, both physically and mentally. It's our fault she did this. We drove her to such measures."
"Shut up, Branch trash!" Hanabi spat at him. "You were not spoken to; my sister was."
"What Neji-niisan said was true, Hiashi-sama." Hinata said, surprising everyone by not stuttering. "For every cruel thing you said to me, there is corresponding wound on my heart. When it all became too much for my heart to take, then I cut myself. You hated me no matter how hard I tried and even when I was pushing myself harder than you were pushing me. What was there to live for? Nothing." Hinata looked over at her cousin, and then at her teammates and friends. "Until I realized that I had a different family other than you and Hanabi. I have three brothers, two of them not linked to me by blood but by friendship. They have always been there for me even though I failed to realize that."
Hiashi's face flushed. "So . . . you are telling me that these . . . boys," - he motioned to Kiba, Shino and Neji - "are the ones you call 'brothers'?"
"You will pay for the disgrace you have brought to our clan. I am sending you to the Branch House, and you will be branded with the Caged Bird."
"I won't let you do that, Hiashi-sama." Neji said as Shino nodded in agreement; Kiba on the other hand swore vividly at Hiashi. "She means more to me, her cousin and brother than she ever did to you, her father, Hiashi-sama. I have come to realize that deep down I always loved her. I cannot say the same for you."
"You forget your place, Branch boy." Hiashi growled, forming the seals that would activate the Caged Bird seal. Hinata, Kiba and Shino all started to rush forward to stop him when Neji held out his arm. "No! Don't risk your life to stop him! There will be pain, but now I realize that I can stand that kind of pain."
Hiashi smirked at Neji. "You should've let them try to stop me; I don't plan on stopping until you're dead."
Hinata gasped in fear as he father formed the last seal.
Furious, Hiashi formed the seals again, his hands glowing with chakra. Still nothing. He turned his eyes on Hinata. "What did you do?"
Confused, Neji removed his forehead protector and used it look at his reflection. A boy with the trademark Hyuuga eyes looked back at him; a boy with an unmarked forehead.
"The seal has been broken…" one of the elders whispered. "But how?"
Hiashi stared at Neji and his unmarked forehead. "This - this in impossible," he whispered. "That seal should only break once the person it is marked upon dies…"
Hinata looked at her cousin in amazement. How and when had that happened? Neji turned to look at her, his eyes asking the same question. Then Hinata's eyes widened, remembering an old scroll she had read in the Hyuuga library.
'The Caged Bird seal is one of containment and obedience, and will only lift on the person's death. There is, however, two ways for it to be undone. The person who created has the power to remove it. The harder and rarer way is for one of the Head family to willingly and with a pure heart to risk their life to save the one with the Caged Bird seal on them.'
Hiashi and Neji seemed to have remembered as well. Everyone present, even the elders winced at the sudden killer intent that radiated from Hiashi as he strode toward Hinata. Shino, Neji and Kiba stepped in front of her, each in a guard position.
"We will not allow you to hurt our sister!" Kiba spat.
"You'll have to get through the three of us," Shino said.
"And if you manage to do that, you'll have to fight her." Neji growled. "When she saved me, she used the Precious Heart seal."
Hiashi stopped. "You are lying. Hinata is far too weak to be able to perform such an advanced technique, let alone the basic ones."
The boys parted to allow Hinata to face her father. She said nothing, but formed the Precious Heart seal, eyes closed in concentration. Immediately, blue chakra formed a second skin around Hinata before pulsing out to form a barrier around her and the three boys. She opened her eyes, though leaving her hands in the seal. "Try and hurt my precious people, Hiashi-sama."
Hiashi activated his Byakugan; his eyes widened in shock at the power and strength of the shield and its creator. "This doesn't change anything," he hissed. "Both of you are banished from our clan. And know this: I can no longer Cage either of you, but if I could, I would. Hinata has disgraced us enough with her actions; Neji did so with his attempt to stop her. You are both forbidden to speak to anyone of the Hyuuga clan and are forbidden to enter the Hyuuga compound. I am going to inform the Hokage of this, and then the rest of the clan. Both your names shall be forgotten erased from every book, scroll and memory."
The Hyuugas left. Kiba had a rude gesture at their backs before turning to Hinata and Neji. "You two can stay with my family until you find somewhere else to stay. It should me fine with my parents."
Hinata glanced over at Neji. He looked a little disconcerted at the thought of staying with Hinata's boisterous teammate, but he thought he could get used to it. He nodded, smiling to let her know he was okay with it. Kiba grinned. "Alright! I'll make sure you both have everything you need!"
Hinata smiled back. Kiba is so kind to offer Neji-niisan and I a place to stay. Especially. . . Hinata trailed off in her thoughts, looking down at her arms. Her most recent cut had stopped bleeding but it still hurt. Against her will, tears filled her eyes. Being rejected once and for all by her father hurt her deeply. Not only was she exiled from the clan, but Neji was now sharing her fate. Especially with what I have been doing to myself.
An arm slipped itself around her shoulders. "Don't cry, Hinata-chan. You saved my life twice here. If what Hiashi-sama did to us is what is bothering you, don't worry. I am just glad I can still me with my sister." Neji glanced at Shino and Kiba. "and my two new brothers."
Shino nodded. Kiba grinned and shouted, "Together forever!"
Neji, Hinata and to their surprise, Shino shouted, "Together forever!"
A/N - Well, there it is. No one dies. Hope you enjoyed it!
- New Moon Werewolf and Little Red Riding Hood