Chapter 10

Neji had felt better and he knew for a fact that he had looked better. His hair was in disarray and his eyes were underlined by lack of sleep. His body almost refused to move but he still managed to drag himself into the hospital to Sasuke's room.

The Uchiha was surrounded by machines and people in white. Sasuke had never looked as fragile as he did then and it disturbed Neji to see it. He stood there in the doorway, torn between rushing over to his partner's side and giving the scroll to Tsunade, who was standing by Sasuke's bed, conversing with Shizune quietly. The Hokage felt his presence, and paused mid sentence to glance up at him. He must have looked like hell, for her eyes widened when she saw him.

The Hyuuga quickly tore his gaze from Sasuke and walked over to her, joints stiff and aching. He reached into his pocket and withdrew the scroll, such a tiny thing to have such an important life tied to it. Neji didn't dare open his mouth to speak; afraid that if he did the thin thread of control he was holding onto would break. Tsunade seemed to understand, accepting his silence as she accepted the scroll.

A thousand doubts plagued Neji's young mind- what if it was a fake? What if he had been lied to, right to the bitter end? It made him want to scream and cry and shout and just collapse into a miserable heap- and if he was any other person then maybe he would have given into the urge. But Neji was Neji, stubborn and proud and so very brave that even then he stood tall, even as his knees threatened to buckle under the stress.

Tsunade rolled the scroll open, scanning its contents with impassive amber eyes. Neji waited as patiently as he could. It took all his will not to ask her what it said. A couple agonizing minutes later, the Hokage looked up from the black writing and met Neji's white gaze. The small nod was all he needed to see before he collapsed into a crumpled heap on the ground.

Neji slowly blinked open his eyes, narrowing them as bright light hit his face. He turned his head to the open window, where it was a clear sunny day outside. He could hear the bustle of the busy streets as the market was flocked with people just a couple of blocks away. It took him a moment to remember where he was and why.

The Hyuuga bolted up in the bed he was lying in, immediately regretting the action as every muscle in his body seemed to scream in protest. He gave a small wince, but he silenced any pained groans that threatened to work its way up his throat. His hair was a loose, tangled mess about his shoulders that he brushed from his face impatiently. He glanced around the glaringly white hospital room, but it was empty.

Neji's heartbeat quickened. Was Sasuke in surgery? Was he okay? Was he going to live? The Hyuuga's hands clenched into fists on top of the blankets covering his legs. Was the scroll right after all? What if its treatment didn't work?

Neji couldn't stay there and wait. He was sick and tired of feeling like a helpless outsider. That was Sasuke in there fighting for his life. His Sasuke. The possessive thought crossed his mind before he realized what it meant, but he found that he wasn't surprised. Sasuke was his now, just as he was the Uchiha's. Six months ago, if someone had told him he would feel like this Neji would have laughed in their face, uncharacteristic or not. But now, after all they had been through, it seemed only natural that they would belong to each other. It was typical, Neji thought with a small sardonic smile, that it would take a mission like that to show Konoha's two coldest shinobi that, yes, they were able to love. And they did so passionately.

This silent acceptance made Neji even more impatient to see what was going on. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and shakily got to his feet, dully noting that he was still in his mission clothes. It seemed as if they were in too much of a hurry to bother to change him. That both relieved him and worried him. It meant that they immediately put Sasuke in surgery, but that also suggested that Sasuke was in far worse condition than Neji had feared.

The Hyuuga made his way carefully out of his room, his legs quickly finding their strength once again. He peered out into the hallway, but it was deserted. Neji muttered a curse and activated his Byakugan. It took a few precious moments of searching before he found them. They were crowded in a large room just down the hallway, nurses and doctors surrounding Tsunade and Shizune, who were leaning over a prone figure on the floor, the inky black of seals mapped out around him- Neji didn't even need to recognize the familiar chakra to know who it was. He was off down the hallway before the raised veins on his temples faded.

He stopped in front of a closed, metal door. A red light above it glowed brightly in the dull hallway, showing that a surgery was in process. Neji gritted his teeth and stood there, unmoving, trying to decide what to do. He wanted to badly to simply throw the door open and barge inside, to demand to see how Sasuke was doing. Was he going to live? Did Neji do the right thing by killing those men? Or was the Uchiha doomed because of Neji's impulsive anger?

He didn't know how long he stood there, rocking on the balls of his feet, nearly stepping forward more than once. But his hands remained clenched at his sides and he didn't move even though his heart screamed at him to do so. His mind, his logic, told him to wait. And, for the first time in a while, he listened to it.

It seemed like ages before the red light faded. Neji hadn't moved an inch during the whole time, only his pounding heartbeat his company. No one had passed him in the hallway. The rest of Sasuke's team must have been out on a mission or otherwise engaged for they were no where to be found.

Neji had drifted into a worried daze during his wait, but he snapped to attention the minute the door before him was pulled open. Tsunade staggered out, looking tired and much older than before. Her amber eyes betrayed nothing as she raised her gaze to meet Neji's. The Hyuuga tried to swallow past his dry throat, silently begging for the Hokage to speak.

Tsunade's eyes fell shut and she heaved a great sigh and it was as if a huge weight lifted from her shoulders.

"We were able to remove the seal." She said, a hand gliding up to brush her blond hair from her face. "The surgery was a success."

Neji almost didn't believe her and would have doubted the news if he hadn't heard her speak the words himself. His knees nearly buckled with relief and he was too overcome by emotion to be embarrassed as his eyes glazed over with tears.

Half an hour later, Neji was sitting by Sasuke's bed on a wooden stool that was much too uncomfortable to be anything but torture. He shifted restlessly every few moments, his eyes narrowed in annoyance as the hard flat surface dug into his behind. Tsunade had said that Sasuke should wake after a few hours and by then his eyesight would have already started to return.

Neji was impatient. The end was within sight. All he needed now was for Sasuke to open his dark, obsidian eyes and drawl a sarcastic remark and everything would be as it should be. So he braved the uncomfortable chair and held Sasuke's pale hand in his own, no matter how cheesy the action was.

Neji shifted again, his frown returning. Impatient or not, sitting on this stool was painful. It just added to his hope that Sasuke would wake soon.

"Can you not sit still for more than five seconds?"

Neji's eyes snapped up from where they had been staring blankly at the cotton hospital sheets. His breath caught in his throat as white met black for the first time in months. It took him a few moments to be able to speak around the lump in his throat.

"Sasuke?" he whispered and his voice sounded more horse than the Uchiha's.

The younger ninja's lips twitched into a small smile, his dark eyes drinking in the sight of his partner, memorizing every detail, every perfection, every fault.

"You look like shit." He finally said, his smile twisting into a smirk.

Neji was stunned into silence before he gave a loud, amused snort.

"Well, seeing as how I haven't slept properly for days, I would think that my appearance would be understandable." He said, not able to keep his own smile from forming. "Not like you're one to talk either, Uchiha."

Sasuke rolled his eyes and pulled Neji down so that the older was leaning over him, one hand pressing against the pillow beside Sasuke's head.

"Shut up and kiss me, you asshole." He growled.

And who was Neji to deny him?

Their lips met with the lazy affection of long, lost lovers, exploring as if they had all the time in the world. Their breaths mingled, their hands still twined tightly together, a personification of the bond they now shared. The soft touches and careful caresses expressed emotions that neither could put into words.

They pulled apart smiling, two of the coldest shinobi in the Fire country, lost in each other in a daze so thick one could choke on it. But they knew they deserved it, every single second of their love, and they both knew, as they laid there together on the flat, uncomfortable hospital bed, their legs tangled in the white sheets, that no matter how fucking cheesy or stupid or mushy it was, nothing could ever take it away from them.

He stopped suddenly, his worn sandals skidding in the dirt. The scent of wet moss and dry leaves wafted up around him as the wind blew back his long hair from his sweaty face. He didn't seem to notice as his companion stumbled to a halt behind him, inches short of colliding.

"Give me some warning next time." The other growled.

But he ignored his partner, his ivory eyes locked on the wall towering over them, its long shadow covering them in a dark shade.

His companion shifted impatiently.


The one in question let out a long sigh and allowed a small, relieved smile to grace his lips.

"Sasukeā€¦. We're home."