"Love is not lifelong passion, nor fiery devotion. Love is dancing on the brink of Madness."
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or any of its characters.
Hinata woke up alone.
Curled up on the same couch, she stared tear-eyed at the mangled wedding dress stewn on the floor in front of her. A familiar orange and black jacket was thrown over her shoulders and she hid her face into the cloth, too numb to cry. Her porcelain face was smeared in drying blood. Rain trickled down the glass window behind her, but she seemed barely aware of her surroundings. Thunder rumbled in the distance, but she remained motionless.
It had been several hours since she had woken up, but a lifetime seemed to have passed since then.
She woke up, bright-eyed and smiling to find that she was alone, Naruto's jacket wrapped snugly around her to keep her warm. A note was tucked into the pocket, in Naruto's sloppy scrawl saying that he went to Tsunade to check on the search for his companion, and he would be back a few hours later. Another sloppy happy-faced doodle and signed Naruto at the bottom. She laughed at his poor attempt at drawing.
She had called Neji to see if he was doing anything. Apparently Tenten was out with Ino trying to find the right hair-styles for the wedding and he was bored stiff. He had eagerly accepted her suggestion of going to the beach, in an attempt to avoid his girlfriend's shopping spree. Tenten and Neji were an odd couple together, yet it was about time they finally accepted one another.
The two Hyuuga cousins met up on the beach, Hinata looking flushed and excited while Neji looked cautious and wary. He smiled at the sight of his cousin and Hinata gave a bright grin in return and linked arms with him.
"How have you been, Neji-nii-san?" she chimed.
"Good, more or less. The wedding is in about a week, ne?"
Hinata flushed again with excitement. "Yes it is," she whispered.
Neji arched a perfectly elegant eyebrow and stared down at his younger cousin. "You've changed, Hinata," he said finally. "You're much more confident. Ever since Uzumaki came into your life, well, you're very cheerful and optimistic these days."
Hinata stopped to take off her shoes as they approached the sand. She rose with a quizzical expression on her face to mock her cousin's. "Is that a bad thing, Neji-nii-san?"
"No, no," he said, chuckling. "It is a good change. I'm happy for you, Hinata."
Hinata beamed. "I'm glad. I feel like everything is starting to fall in place now. Otou-san will have Hanabi has the rightful head the way he always wanted it to be. Hanabi gets to be in a place where she can shine. I can be with Naruto. It seems like a perfect ending for me, Neji. I couldn't be happier."
Neji smiled and said nothing.
They walked along the beach in silence for a few moments, the waves crashing upon the shore. The sun shone crimson in the cloudy sky as it began its course to set into the glimmering seas. In the distance, there were seagull cries. The sand crunched beneath Hinata's feet and between her toes. The entire beach was bathed in scarlet from the sun.
Walking with Neji always set Hinata at peace. A few years ago, Neji might have been at her throat, throttling her with murderous vengeance. But Naruto had changed that. Now Neji and Hinata were as close as siblings and he was finally able to accept her. He proved to be a true big brother to Hinata, and maintained a very protective yet kindly attitude towards her. He even grudgingly accepted Naruto to be right for her.
"You're happy then, Hinata? Truly happy?"
Hinata closed her eyes and rested her head on Neji's shoulder. "Oh yes, Neji. Happier than I've ever been."
He didn't answer her that time. "What's that?" He said, puzzled.
Hinata opened her eyes and stared out at the sea, confused. "What are you talking about?" she asked when he suddenly pointed in front of them.
"That, right by the water. What is that?" He said, squinting.
Hinata followed his gesture and saw a swarm of gulls crowding around a dark long object that she couldn't make out a distance ahead of them. Perplexed, she cocked her head at the sight. "A... dead fish?" She wondered aloud.
Neji shook his head slowly. "It's too big to be a fish," he replied, frowning. With a quick hand-motion, he activated his Byakuyan and his intense gaze surveyed the sight ahead. Hinata fell silent at the sight of his Byakuyan - whatever that thing was, it had Neji serious. His expression darkened.
"Stay here," he said, in a strange voice. "I'll go check it out."
Obediently, Hinata remained standing where they were as Neji stode ahead. He picked up a handful of rocks and threw them at the crowd of gulls. The action sent the birds scrabbling away, taking off in a mad flutter for flight towards the sky. Neji stood for a few moments, his arms tensed at his sides. Suddenly, he recoiled with a gasp.
Hinata forgot what he had commanded her and ran forward, anticipation rising in her throat and curiosity taking over her better conscience. "What is it, Ne--..." She suddenly stopped and stumbled in her tracks, staring wide-eyed at the sight before her.
Half-mauled by the gulls. In the red sunlight, it was hard to make out from a distance, but Hinata could see now that blood mixed with the seawater and soaked into the sand. It reeked of blood, a smell of lingering greasy copper coins in the air. The waves pushed it onto the shore and it slowly sank back down again, only to be pushed back up. The body was torn up beyond recognition and the head-- The head was gone. Completely decapitated.
The sight of the body made Hinata feel faint. She stumbled back a few steps and Neji took her by her shoulders and pulled her back protectively. "A body," he confirmed in a low voice.
"N-N-Neji..." Hinata whimpered softly.
"It wasn't an accident either," he said in a dark voice. His tensed Byakuyan-white eyes scanned the corpse with an expert eye, from years of experience with the ANBU squad. "This was murder."
There was a sudden gleam on the mauled chest, caught in the fading sunlight. Hinata squinted, confused. Then slowly, against her better reasoning, she reached forward and picked it up.
A jewel. On a string. A green diamond-like jewel.
"N-no..." Hinata felt something heavy contrict around her, as if the very air surrounding her had become poisonous. She sank to her knees on the wet, bloodied sand, lifting the necklace into the fading sunlight, staring at it in disbelief. "No, it can't be..." She stared at the necklace that she knew all-too well, that a certain Kyuubi showed her on the night they first went out, given to him by the Hokage herself...
"Hinata...?" Neji said slowly, sinking beside his cousin, but he was cut off by a sudden scream.
"Naruto!" Hinata suddenly seized the bloodied remnants of the corpse's hands in her own, her eyes wide with disbelief and sorrow. "God, no, please!! Naruto!" She sobbed, touching the bloody hand to her cheek, weeping uncontrollably. "Naruto!" Her body hunched forward and she sobbed over the broken, bloodied body. As much as she wanted to deny it, she knew it was true.
She knew his hands. She knew his ragged remains of clothes. She knew that necklace on his chest. She knew.
Despite how much she wanted to deny it.
"Hinata!" Neji cried, baffled by his cousin's behavior. He grabbed her by her shoulders and slightly shook her as if to help her regain some of her sanity. "Hinata, what are you talking about?!"
"It's Naruto, Neji," she cried, turning back to the headless body. "He's dead, oh God, he's dead!"
She threw her head forward and wept over the body, sobbing a keening cry pouring out her grief.
"We've got to contact the ANBU," Neji said, somewhat grasping the situation. He touched his cousin's shoulders tenderly as her cries grew softer. "Hinata, you have to come with me."
She shook her head stubbornly. "I'll stay here," she whispered. "With Naruto."
Neji looked up, torn, between staying with his cousin and getting help. Finally, he stood, uncertainly. "I'm going to get help, Hinata," he said gently. "I'll be right back, I promise." He squeezed her hand with conviction and vanished.
"Naruto..." she sobbed, crushing the hand against her heart. The world seemed to be crashing down on her shoulders, bearing down its weight on her. She could barely breathe, she felt like she was suffocating. She wept his name and tears mingled with blood on the ground.
A shadow cast across her back, although she did not notice in her sorrow. Standing a few feet behind her, dark eyes watched her with a crooked smile on his lips, chuckling low and dark to himself as he turned and walked away, leaving the broken fiancée to her grief.
Hours had passed since then. Hinata found herself curled up on her couch, staring blankly before her. Her computer screen was still on and lists from the wedding blinked on the screen. It seemed pointless now. Her wedding dress, torn out of its box and thrown onto the ground. Wasted now. The ring on her finger, holding the promise of eternity, of love, of a lifetime of memories. Worthless now.
"He never even got to see me in that dress," Hinata whispered. "He wanted to see me in that dress so bad..."
She curled into a tighter ball, snuggling Naruto's jacket closer to her.
Could it be true? It was only a few hours ago, really, that he was right beside her, laughing as though the world would never stop. He was alive, breathing, and laughing only hours ago. Could it be fair that he was dead now, headless and decapitated? She could still smell him here, his unique scent caught in his jacket around her shoulders.
How could it be? Everything had finally started to make sense. Father had his perfect heir. Hanabi found her place in the world. Hinata could finally be with her lifelong crush. Everyone was happy. It was absolutely perfect. And it all fell apart in a matter of hours. Suddenly, the world seemed empty and lifeless, without meaning or hope. Suddenly, Hinata had no reason to live, no reason to stay. Not without his laughter. Not without him.
The phone had rung several times, but every time, Hinata did not pick up. In the background, shee could hear the answering machine play back.
"Hinata!! Oh my goodness, Ino and I just found out what happened! We're so sorry. We're heading over to your place right now but we're caught in traffic..."
"Hinata, it's me, Hanabi. I just heard what happened, I'm really sorry. Do you want me to come over...?"
"...Hinata!! This is Ino! Tenten and me are still in traffic, but pick up! Hinata, we're so worried for you! Hinata, just pick up the phone..."
"Hinata, this is Neji. Pick up right now, I have to talk to you..."
"...Hey, it's Shikamaru. Ino is making me call you 'cause you won't pick up. Come on, Hinata, you can't cry forever..."
"Hey this is Kiba. Sorry that I didn't calll sooner, but I just heard what happened. I'm really sorry, Hinata..."
"Hinata! Pick up, right now! I mean it!"
At the sound of that voice, Hinata suddenly sprang to life. She cried out and leapt off the couch and sprang for the nearest phone, knocking over a lamp that exploded onto the ground in a loud crash. She tackled the receiver and picked up the phone. "Naruto!? Naruto!" she cried, crying anew with relief. "Naruto, are you there!? Thank God, I thought you were dead..."
"Hinata-chaaaaaaaaaan!! It's Naruto! I'm still at Tsunade's place, I'll probably be out really late. Kiba and me were gonna hang out for some ramen later! Don't worry about me, Hinata. Just make dinner for yourself. I love you, Hinata."
Beeep. Thursday. Two-twenty-three. P.M. End of final message.
Hinata sank onto the ground onto the glass pile without noticing. It was a message. Just a message. "Naruto," she bawled into the receiver, as helplessly as as child. "Naruto! I miss you so much! Come back, please, please, come back Naruto! Come back...come back and smile at me again. Laugh at me for being so stupid for thinking you're dead... Just come back, Naruto, please..."
If you'd like to make a call, please hang up and try again.
Slowly, she dropped the receiver with a heavy thunk onto the ground. Hopeless. She knew it was hopeless. She covered her face and cried.
Minutes passed. Hours passed. Eternities passed. Hinata didn't move. She crawled under the desk into a tiny ball underneath Naruto's jacket and didn't move. She barely breathed. She didn't say a word.
There was a gentle knock on her door. She didn't get up.
Slowly, the door opened and Neji came in, closing the door behind him. "Hinata?" he said softly, looking around the dark apartment. There were no lights on. He took Hinata home hours before when they found the body and left to join the investigation teams to discover as much as they could about the crime. But there wasn't a single light on in the apartment. He half-wondered if she was still here.
He walked through the apartment, calling her name softly, when he suddenly stepped on a piece of glass. He recoiled and stepped back. Wincing, he pried out the piece of glass, thankfully not drawing any blood. He stared at the myriad of shards on the ground. The remains of a lamp? Then he heard soft sobbing. Making his way carefully around the glass, he saw Hinata, curled up beneath the desk, covered in Naruto's jacket.
"Hinata," he said gently. "Hinata come out. It's Neji."
She didn't move.
Beepbeepbeepbeepbeep. He looked down and saw a phone receiver on the ground among the scattered pieces of glass, still on message playback. He turned it off and set it back on the counter.
He sighed and got down on his knees, crawling underneath the desk next to Hinata. He touched her cheek gently. She stirred and stared at him with lifeless white eyes. "Hinata, it's me, Neji," he said gently. "Let's go out now, Hinata. You're covered in blood."
She shook her head, barely.
"Come on," he urged her gently. He scooped her up in his arms and carried her out of the desk. She barely protested against him and let herself be carried, limp as a doll.
He carried her into the bathroom and wiped off her bloody face. He took out all the shards embedded in her legs. She barely moved, much less winced. When he finished, he carried her back out and put her on the couch. She remained sitting there, motionless and lifeless, as he cleaned up the remains of the lamp. He returned with a bowl of soup and set it in front of her. She stared blankly ahead of her.
"Eat, Hinata," he commanded softly. "Your friends'll kill me if they found out you haven't eaten."
She didn't answer him.
"They're still stuck in traffic, you know. Something about a car accident due to the rain."
She still didn't answer.
"You have to eat, Hinata. At least eat."
When she still didn't answer him, he sighed in defeat and picked up the bowl, turning back to the kitchen.
She finally stirred. She looked up at him and said quietly, "Ramen."
"Ramen?" he said, raising an eyebrow.
"Ramen, please, Neji," she said quietly.
He paused, staring at her wordlessly. "All right," he finally said. "If you want ramen, you can have ramen, Hinata."
She nodded, slightly, before staring wordlessly ahead of her, blank once more.
He went into the kitchen, and noticing there was a new message on the phone, clicked the button on his way in.
"Hey Hinata, it's Sasuke. I'm back in Konoha. You won't mind if I stop by your house some time, do you? I really want to see you again..."
A/N: GASP CAN IT BE TRUE?! Yesh I've updated two times in two days! It must be a new record!!
I tried to make this one somewhat long-ish to make up for the really short previous chapter. I kinda forgot to talk about it, but the other chapter was really short because it was leading up to the tragedy and horror of this chapter. Yeah. Hope you're satisfied.
Hahaa. Whooo what can I say. I have to apologize for the teenager-angst and depressing grotesque bloody suicidal turn of the story. But I had to keep it realistic because, hey, her fiancé just died. Be nice now, children. Anyways, as you can see, Sasuke will soon have his first appearance in the story. So to all you faithful readers, CONGRATS YOU'VE LASTED THIS FAR!!
Mini-poll here: who do you think is the killer? It should be fairly obvious by now, but I'd like to have your input on this.
REVIEW PLEASE. It makes me feel like people are actually reading.