Author's Note:

This was written because of my unfailing weakness for rare pairings, and because I am very, very tired of seeing the "Kabuto is a completely amoral dipshit who's only fucking around with Hinata for his own sick pleasure" plotline that seems to make up 98 percent of all KabuHina fic, especially since, as I argued in my January 28th entry in the Chuunin LJ community (thanks for not doing links correctly, ff.) there's a decent amount of evidence in the manga that Kabuto is not entirely evil, steeped in blood though his hands may be.

PG-13 for moderate violence, mild sexual situations, language and some grim stuff.

Just for clarification, the only honorifics I'm using here are -chan, -kun, and things like Hinata calling Neji "Neji-niisan"--in other words, things that don't have a direct equivalent in English. All other honorifics (such as -san, -sama, etc) and terms will be translated into their English counterparts, but place and proper names will be left in the original Japanese.

Also, this takes place in a AU timeline set sometime after Naruto returns to Konoha, but before Sai makes his appearance.


Can you lick my wounds please

Can you make it numb

And kill the pain like cortizone

And grant me intimacy

How'll we split your chromosomes

-Massive Attack, "Antistar".


ANBU's deep interrogation rooms were set in rock, hundreds of feet below Konoha's surface, their location utterly unknown to the thousands of pairs of feet that walked over them daily. They worked by the light of lamps that burned low and weak, and sent oil sputtering in drops to the stone below. Even here, they did not remove their masks. Silent as the rocks themselves, they moved as easily as cats in the dark, wraiths that could vanish in the space between one blink and the next .

Ibiki Morino alone sat unmasked, behind a solid oak table that was bolted to the floor in the main interrogation room. ANBU filled the corners, save for the one where the Fifth Hokage sat, her pretty, round face set in an expression that swung between annoyance and active disdain.

Hinata sat away from Lady Tsunade and before Morino on a narrow, three-legged stool and fervently wished herself elsewhere, so filled with fear and tension that she burned with it, a constant ache nibbling her nerves into ragged sieves. She wiped her sweating palm on her pants leg and tried to keep herself under control.

Better here than with Orochimaru, right? Though--though, right now there's not that much of a difference...

With some difficulty, she pulled her attention back to what Morino was saying.

"--and let me offer you my sincere condolences on the death of your father, Lady Hinata." Morino's face was empty of any emotion but there was the smallest hint of something like pity in his eyes; Hinata took that in and clung to it with everything she had. She nodded, once. There had been weeks for her to get over her father's death, and to her utter shame, she had been too distracted with other events to properly mourn him. She hoped he would forgive her for the lapse. Once or twice she'd cried briefly, when she thought that no one would be able to hear or see her.

Kabuto had never liked it when she cried.

Morino spread folders on the desk in a wide fan; the records of her earlier testimony and medical examinations.

"Now then, we were discussing the particulars of Lady Hyuuga's captivity under Orochimaru, were we not? So many odd things to discuss. Forgive me, my lady, but you won't mind swearing to me again about the nature of your captivity, will you? I confess, I find it very surprising that, in addition to your lack of physical damage, you claim absolutely no intimate contact whatsoever took place while you were held prisoner--"

"Honestly, Morino!" the Fifth Hokage exploded from the background seat she had been relegated to; the interrogation was all ANBU's show, which she clearly and bitterly resented. "Do you have to be so damn blunt about it? I told you already that my examination found--"

He silenced her with a look. "From Lady Hinata's lips, please."

"I--" She tried to speak, and faltered under his uncompromising stare. "I--" The next attempt failed just as badly as the first one.

Lady Tsunade rose to her defense again, the chair creaking quietly with her movement; Hinata silently offered her thanks to every god she knew. Her chest ached horribly, and she put a hand to her heart, trying to either quiet it or stop the pain. It defied her and continued to beat wildly under her hand.

The Fifth's mouth was so thin a mosquito couldn't have landed on it. "Since you're scaring Hinata out of her wits and we seem to be dead set on repeating things already discussed, I'll state it again. Upon her return, Hinata was given an exceedingly thorough medical examination by both myself and Shizune, one in which all possible factors were considered and examined for. We found absolutely no evidence of molestation or intercourse, forced or compliant." The Fifth raised her headdress just enough so the hard expression in her eyes was fully visible, then added: "She is, in short, still virgo intacta."

Morino pursed his lips slightly. "But you yourself stated some time back--in fact, I believe it was when the full extent of Yakushi's complicity with Orochimaru was discovered, in the reports you and Naruto Uzumaki made discussing the incident with Orochimaru--that Yakushi, at that point, 'surpassed the knowledge and skills I had as a medic ninja in my prime.' Didn't you?" The twitching around his mouth might have become a smile, if he ever let things get that far. "One of his specialties is known to be the regrowth of cells. Is it not possible then, that---"

"He never touched me. N-not like that. He only touched me when he was doing medical procedures. I swear to it." Hinata's whisper cut through Morino's insinuations and silenced Lady Tsunade's growing tirade; everyone's eyes moved to her, causing her to flush an even deeper scarlet.

The Hokage glanced at the cringing girl and sighed; the slight easing of her features combined with the low lighting brought the age back to her face. Bitterness was written there, and a rough pity. "Look, Morino. She's certainly not pregnant, and the only thing Kabuto seems to have inserted into her body was that tracking pellet, which I removed and destroyed with my own hands."

She jerked her chin towards where Hinata sat, her face dull with shame. "Naruto barely had time to set her on Konoha's ground before ANBU snapped her up and started the debriefing process. Hinata's been interrogated by ANBU from every angle from the moment she got back, her chakra and vitals carefully monitored--by ANBU-- to see if they showed any signs she was lying or under some kind of drug or compulsion. She wasn't. She isn't. Don't you think she's been through enough without having to reiterate all this to a new set of people every five minutes? If you're so bloody interested, as Head of ANBU's torture and interrogation department, you should have been there first!"

"Peace, Lady Hokage," Morino said, raising a hand for emphasis. "I apologize. Under normal circumstances, your word would likely be enough to satisfy things and the Lady Hyuuga could return home, where she is no doubt badly needed, instead of having to spend a week under observation here. However--if you'll allow me to repeat myself again--this is not a normal situation. This is the Hyuuga Heir being held captive by one of Konoha's greatest enemies and his second in command--who just happens to be a medic-nin of unusual skill and cunning--for six months, and then said Heir being retrieved after an assault on Orochimaru's lair apparently sound in both body and mind.

Considering that when we do find our ninja after they've been in contact with Orochimaru, they're usually enslaved corpses or in pieces at worst, severely injured at best. And yet for some reason, Lady Hinata was spared. Treated remarkably well, by Orochimaru's standards anyway, from what she tells us. So, you'll forgive me if I want to hear all the details again--for the sake of my own curiosity."

Hinata's fingers clenched on her lap, creasing the coarse fabric of her pants. Unable to find a good argument against Morino's reasonable words, the Fifth retreated into her corner, grumbling. "I know. I know. But I'd prefer that Hinata not end up as scarred by her debriefing as she has been by her stay at Orochimaru's."

The Chief Interrogator chuckled, though it sounded more like a rock being chipped than human laughter. "Your opinion and suggestions have been duly noted, my lady. However, at this point, Lady Hinata has nothing but time; she, by Konoha, Council and ANBU edict, must remain here for at least a week. So she might as well spend her time doing something profitable."

He snapped his fingers and one of the ANBU posted in the room gave him a notebook and pen that appeared out of thin air, without the customary scroll or puff of ninja smoke, more a magician's trick than a shinobi's. "Now then. For Lady Hinata's sake, we'll move off the more personal subjects and start with hard facts. We destroyed the one where you were found, but can you provide us with any information on Orochimaru's other lairs? Location, geographic details?"

She fought down a shiver, as much from Morino's gaze as the chill in the air; the interrogation rooms were kept deliberately cool in order to increase the subject's discomfort. "Not really. He changes lairs every week, sometimes even sooner than that if he thinks its been compromised--that much I know. And I overheard someone say that not all of the lairs are inside Sound territory. Some are inside other lands, but I don't know where."

"You never saw?"

She stared straight ahead. You do look rather peaked, I think you could use some fresh air..."Mr Kabuto would let me outside sometimes with two Sound ninja as escort so I could gather herbs and plants for his research. One of the locations was under a large tree, another was in a forest clearing. There was one that was underground, in a natural cave I think. But I don't have any idea where they were or even how far apart, because every time it was time to change lairs, he blinded me."

"Blinded you."

"Yes, or knocked me unconscious." Stumbling through uncertain ground in complete blackness, clutching Kabuto's hand in a death's-grip, not caring if it made her seem weak, because he was the only certain thing in the world and if his hand slipped from hers, she'd be finished..."Once we went to the new lair on a boat. But that was one of the times he knocked me out, so I don't know how long it took."

She swallowed against a dry throat and one of the ANBU silently lurking in the corner of the room materialized at her side to push forward a glass of water. She took a sip, tasted a bitterness so faint it was almost imperceptible-- they've put something in it; I guess maybe something good came out of this after all, I'm so much better at noticing drugs and poisons now--and felt her eyes fill with a sudden hot rush of tears, which she tried very hard to blink away unnoticed.

Morino was watching her with narrowed eyes; mountain granite held more mercy than his face. No doubt he was cataloging every single flicker of her lashes and drawing forth theories from them, each tiny movement another key to the story behind her story. But there really wasn't another story; what she had told them was the truth, every single word of it.

Her heartbeat quieted as she ran through the meditation and calming techniques that Kurenai-sensei had taught her, trying to force her body into a state of greater relaxation. Limpid as glass, as water, as light; separate the syllables, count them, relax. There was nothing to be afraid of. She had spoken the truth. Mostly.

What had it meant, that smile of his as he knelt in a pool of his own blood, watching her run back to Naruto-kun and Neji-niisan?

One of the ANBU coughed quietly. Morino took some more notes, eyes focused on the lines scratched by his pen. Without looking up, he said: "Continue. You said before he made you gather things for him? Did you assist him in other ways as well?"

Hinata's lips had gone slightly numb from the drug in the water; she resisted the urge to touch them to see if they were still there. "He had me take notes for him, help him with his research. Fetch and carry books and scrolls that he needed. Fortunately he didn't...make me work with the test subjects." Not the live ones, anyway. "The prisoners. Just made me write out the records for him."

"Now, why on earth would he do a thing like that?" Lady Tsunade interrupted, frowning as she leaned forward into the weak light. "Giving an enemy ninja access to the records of his experiments and the techniques he used? That's crazy. Any ninja worth their salt does their damnedest to keep their secrets hidden, and to think that someone of Kabuto Yakushi's intelligence would just openly let you see and mentally record what he was doing...?"

He hadn't showed her; he'd taken her around and boasted. Told her exactly what he'd done and how he'd done it, in detail, trying to make her understand his fascination with the underpinnings of the human form. "I don't think he ever intended for me to leave," Hinata told her softly; the Fifth's mouth thinned in response. She took a deep breath and continued: "H-he's really arrogant. I-I know he never thought I'd get away, because I was so weak compared to him and O-orochimaru. He told me that. A lot. And because of the pellet he put inside me. He'd always know exactly where I was because of it."

Slowly, her gaze slipped downward, too timid and frightened to keep her head up and straight; she took note of her twisting hands and the cracks in the floor. "He said I should do something to earn my keep, but I think he was joking," she whispered.

"Of course, there's always the possibility that the materials Lady Hinata was given access to were all faked," Morino rumbled; she glanced up at him to find him looking into the distance, eyes considering. "Given Yakushi's...history, we can't rule out that factor."

He was too proud of the results to have them be fakes, she thought, and bit her lip against saying it. She didn't want to think about that particular aspect. No prisoners huddling in dank cells, no corpses horribly mutated, Kabuto, cool as a cucumber as he sat at the dissection table, scalpel poised over the dead man's arm laying open on the tray in front of him, no thoughts of Orochimaru bending over her with a smile and the touch of his cold hands.

Say it! Say it! Beg for it! For her life!

Sweat ran down her back, soaking her thin shirt and settling into the waistband of her pants. They'd taken away the robes she'd worn at Otogakure, but not the hairclip, apparently thinking that it was one of hers; she could feel it pressing into her thigh, a plain oval of wood that shone dark amber, like honey held in light. Once she went home, once she had five minutes alone in her room to cry and pray and think things over, she'd bury it in one of the formal robe chests, where she would never have to look at it, and no one else ever could.

"Hinata." Startled, she managed to look up into Lady Tsunade's concerned face, her warm, fierce eyes. She took Hinata's hands in hers, gave them a little squeeze. "This is horrible. I know. I also know that you won't get over what happened for a while. Maybe not ever. But just remember,"--and her grip grew tighter, letting strength flow between the two of them like air and light--"that you're alive. You survived Kabuto and Orochimaru. Very few people can boast that. When there's life, there's hope."

She couldn't help it; despite the gravity of the situation and everything else she had endured in the last six months, she still blushed and smiled like crazy every time she said his name. "N-naruto-kun said the same thing. Almost the same thing."

"But the main reason she survived is because Yakushi was primarily interested in her as a research subject, yes? Trying to learn the secrets of the Byakugan." Morino snapped his notebook shut and gestured to an ANBU, who handed him a fresh one. He opened to first blank page, took up his pen again, and the look he fixed Hinata with was not an encouraging one.

"I think you'd better start back at the beginning, from the moment your mission went wrong, and tell us everything. And I do mean everything. Understand, Lady Hinata; I don't think you've done anything wrong. But this case is so spectacular, so unprecedented in the sheer strangeness of it that I don't intend to let a single thing slip past if it means learning something new about Orochimaru and his plans."

Lady Tsunade moved back into the shadows, but turned her chair around and brought it closer, the better to see and hear and gave comfort by touch, if needed. Morino's smile was really just a twitch of his lip, nothing more.

Hinata took one breath, then another and held them, feeling the memories of that day, and all the days after it gather behind her lips. There were some things so ugly she wanted to keep them in the dark forever, never let them live and breathe in the light beyond her mind. But if she kept them, they'd poison her, and unlike Mr. Kabuto, they wouldn't be leaving her an antidote.

So she closed her eyes and gave the dark things up to Morino and Lady Tsunade, who surely had the strength to take them from her. But she knew, even as she spoke her first words, that there were some things she would keep behind.

"We had just completed the mission and were heading back to Konoha when we noticed something odd in the woods..."

In her mind's eye, she could see the great dark flock of carrion birds wheeling away over the trees, into the sky.