Disclaimer: I do not own any aspect of Naruto. Naruto is the property of Masashi Kishimoto and probably Shonen Jump, with license to Viz Media
Author's note: no beta, all mistakes are my own. Thanks very much for the reviews! I really enjoy your comments and I would definitely not have written this without your support. It helps to know that someone wants to read it :). – Warning. This is a different writing style then the rest of the chapers. It just came out that way. I hope it works. Let me what you think.
To Have and to Hold
Hinata in surgery. Come at once.
Shikamaru transitioned the mission planning work to Genma and walked out of the Hokage tower within 6 minutes. Another 4 minutes to get to the hospital through the wind and rainstorm. And then 3 more minutes to find out the correct surgery unit. Thirteen minutes.
It took thirteen minutes to walk from their apartment to the corner store and back to pick up popcorn for movie night. It took thirteen minutes to set one trap in the Forest of Death for the chunin exam. Thirteen minutes was 8 minutes longer than the longest time Hinata could stand to let him tickle her before she would retaliate with a mix of kissing and a well place poke with her gentle fist to temporarily immobilize his left wrist.
Shikamaru walked at a deliberately through the familiar hospital halls. He turned left at the end and then up the stairs. His white knuckle grip on the note in his right hand, the only sign of his anxiety.
Shikamaru wondered if thirteen minutes was the length of time it took for his whole world to change. For Hinata to disappear from this life.
He found the surgery unit.
He found the worried faces of Hinata's teammates on her current mission, Naruto and Sai. If they were worried, there was something to be worried about. If Hinata had died, they would be sad, angry, in denial. "Worried" implied hope.
Shikamaru took a deep breath.
Naruto jumped up. His fists clenched "Shikamaru! She's going to be alright." Naruto's nervous energy caused Shikamaru's stomach to twist.
Sai stood up more slowly. "She took a hit to the neck. It looked bad." He stated.
Shikamaru's mind whirled, but he stayed focused. "Who is operating? Ino or Sakura?"
"Tsunade." Sai answered. "With Ino as her assistant."
Shikamaru's felt sick. It must be critically bad for Tsunade to operate.
"Neck injuries are usually fatal in the field. How did you get her back?" His face tight and features darkened with the storm clouds passing the window.
Sai and Naruto exchanged a glance. "We didn't know it was that bad. Ino explained that the damage probably wasn't that bad initially. Just enough to hurt a lot. But after running back to Konoha, the damage to the major blood vessels and the spinal cord increased." Naruto explained as best as he could.
"Hinata must have realized something was wrong and come straight here. We didn't stop at the gate to check in, Hinata just kept going and then passed out halfway here."
The room fell silent and the three young men sat down.
Shikamaru's eyes were fixed on the surgery door. Waiting and willing Ino to walk out and explain everything. Was Hinata at risk of dying? Of paralysis?
Each minute seemed to stretch into an eternity. Naruto and Sai both looked tired and wet from their rushed return to Konoha. The rain storm outside grew noisy.
"I need to notify her father." Shikamaru stated. "You both should check in since you skipped the gate."
Sai crossed his arms. "She is our teammate." He didn't move.
"Then you should know that you have responsibility to report in your mission results since she cannot." Shikamaru said. He stood as he walked over to the nurses station to find a messenger.
Sai and Naruto exchanged a look and headed out to report.
Living or dying, they were all shinobi. They knew their duty and Hinata would not thank them for ignoring their responsibilities to wait idly outside her room. Shikamaru knew that.
Hinata opened her eyes. "Hi." she replied. She could feel the exhaustion in every cell of her body. She wondered if she was dying.
"You're going to recover. It was close." Shikamaru answered.
She smiled at him. He knew her so well. She felt the warmth of his hand holding hers and closed her eyes.
Hinata opened her eyes. "It's okay." Ino finished taking her vitals and tucked her back in.
"Go back to sleep. Kurenai will bring Ryouta tomorrow to see you."
Hinata smiled. "Thanks Ino." Ino pulled the curtain closed to give Hinata privacy. She could still hear Ino's voice as she drifted back into sleep.
"But Ino..." Naruto complained.
"Go home. She needs to rest. And so do both of you. You can visit tomorrow." Ino shooed Sai and Naruto away.
"Kurenai-sensei. Otou-sama." She smiled. Hinata reached out for the baby. "Ryouta!" The dark haired boy obligingly snuggled with his auntie as she hugged him. He reach out to grab a fist of her long unbound hair.
"You look much better than I expected daughter." Hyuuga Hiashi commented. "I'm glad to see that."
Hinata beamed that the small spoken affection from her reserved father. Kurenai smiled at the exchange. "I brought a few of your things from home. I understand you will be in the hospital for a little while." She unpacked a small bag with a hair brush, a small photo of a Asuma-Kurenai "family" dinner. A pretty yukata to wear as a bathrobe and a few other essentials.
"Let me brush your hair." Kurenai half-asked. It is a small gesture. A familiar gesture between close friends or between a mother and daughter. Hyuuga Hiashi wondered at the good fortune that brought Yuuhei Kurenai into his daughters life.
"I'm not sure Ryouta will let go for that long." Hinata replied with a giggle as she tickled the baby.
"I'll hold him." Hiashi stated as he reached to pulled the boy up. Hinata surrendered Ryouta to the Hyuuga patriarch without complaint. The mildly surprised look on the baby's face transformed into pleasure as Ryouta repeated his game of grabbing a fist full of Hiashi's long dark hair.
Hinata giggled at the slight. Kurenai smiled with affection.
She gently pulled the brush through Hinata's hair.
"Thank you for the flowers Sai-san. They are lovely." Hinata said. She admired the overly large yellow centers with the delicate white petals. The small cluster of flowers gave off a light pleasant smell. The smell of springtime.
"Chamomile, 'Energy in adversity'" Sai explained.
Hinata's grin grew broader. "They are perfect."
Sai's mouth twitched. A genuine moment of pleasure at the compliment. "I must go. My best wishes for a fast recovery, Hinata-san."
"Thank you Sai-san. Goodbye." Hinata replied.
Sai left with a quick "Goodbye." to Hinata and Naruto.
Naruto watched Sai go and then looked at Hinata's pale face with her dark hair in soft waves around her. She looked beautiful.
"We were both really worried about you Hinata-chan." Naruto said.
"I'm sorry. I should have let you know my condition."
"When Ino sent for Tsunade, we knew it was really bad. I...I was really scared." Naruto looked down at this feet. "I didn't want anything to happen to you."
"I'm okay now Naruto-kun." Hinata reassured him. She did not promise to be more careful. She did not say it would never happened again. They both knew that this was part of their life. "Don't feel bad about it Naruto. I'm sorry I worried you." She smiled to try and brighten his spirits.
"Hinata-chan, I haven't always been a good friend to you. I'm sorry." Naruto said. Hinata began to protest but he waved her to silence.
"Hinata-chan. I'm sorry I never answered your confession."
"That's okay Naruto-kun. I understand."
"It's not okay Hinata-chan. You almost died to save me from Pein. And I never answered you!"
She looked at him. Her blonde inspiration. His sunny smile twisted with guilt.
"Naruto. I watched you for a long time. I know you pretty well. You never give up. You are loyal and brave." Hinata smiled. "And you would never intentional hurt me." She looked into his bright blue eyes. "It's okay. I never expected a response."
Naruto sighed. But his smile relaxed and the guilt seemed to fade.
"Hinata-chan...I'm willing to try."
"Try what?" Hinata face showed her confusion.
"You know." Naruto replied. He blushed and rubbed the back of his neck.
Hinata replied with a blank look.
"I'm willing to try...things...with you." Naruto explained. "I'm answering your confession."
Hinata's face flamed red. Her eyes widened in extreme surprise.
She opened her mouth to speak.
And closed it again.
Naruto smiled, his charming sunny irrepressible smile. "I guess your surprised. Heh heh." He rubbed the back of his head again.
"Naruto-kun." she started. She took a deep breath. The redness of her face faded to pink.
She smiled at him.
"Naruto-kun, thank you." Hinata replied. Naruto let out a breath he was holding and reached for her hand. She let him hold her hand. "Thank you for your friendship."
"How could you not know?"
"Hey, we are on continuous missions and this was the first time I had been on a team with Hinata in a really long time. And Shikamaru never mentioned it!" Naruto defended.
"They've been living together for 2 months! They've been formally engaged for at least that long!" Ino said.
"I didn't know!"
"You're so dense Naruto." Ino sighed.
Naruto looked down studying the ground.
"You're lucky it was Shikamaru and Hinata. Any other couple and you would have been eating pieces of the wall." Ino said. She took pity on him and then curiosity prompted her to ask. "You didn't really want to date Hinata, did you?"
Naruto continued to study the ground. "Well Hinata is pretty awesome." He pushed his hands in his pockets. "I just...I felt like I should try. She confessed and I never really responded. And she took that hit for me. Even though I would have been able to take it, she tried to protect me. Again."
Ino's expression softened. "Hinata is a good kunoichi. Naruto, she did it because you were her teammate. And her friend."
"I know. It just reminded me of how amazing she is." He sounded wistful.
"I ought to beat the crap out of you for trying to mess up one of my best friends relationship." She muttered. She sighed as she took in Naruto's dejected expression.
Ino reluctantly consoled him.
"Nara-sama. Good afternoon." Hinata sat up a little straighter as her soon-to-be father-in-law came to sit by her hospital bed.
"You look well for someone who almost died last week." Shikaku smirked. "I expect nothing less from a strong kunoichi of your accomplishments."
Hinata's face warmed with the compliment. She was especially gratefully that he named her as a kunoichi and not as a hyuuga. One of the things she loved most about Shikamaru was that he saw her as an individual. Not "just" a Hyuuga.
"Thank you for visiting." She replied. It was kind of him to visit, but unusual. Yoshino had already visited and brought the well wishes from the Nara clan. She waited for him to speak his mind.
Shikaku brought out a small portable shogi board. "It's boring in the hospital. Let's play a game."
She watched him set up the small pieces and wondered if he would go easy on her. When she looked up, Shikaku's amused face also revealed a hard glint in his eye.
Hinata suddenly realized this was some combination of "a gesture to keep her company", "a test "and "mental training so she would not get in this situation again."
Warmth spread through Hinata as a sense of "belonging" grew.
"Happy to be home?"
Hinata sighed contentedly. She brought the tea cup to her lips and took a small sip. "Very happy." She smiled.
Shikamara chuckled. "Better bed, better food, and fewer visitors."
Hinata yawned like a kitten and put her head down in her arms on the kitchen table. "I didn't mind the bed or the food." She closed her eyes for a few moments. "I feel fortunate that so many friends care enough to visit me." She muttered.
Shikamaru coaxed his fiancee to stand up enough so that he could pick her up and carry her to their futon to sleep. Hinata was well on the road to recovery, but she still tired easily.
"Well there must be something about home to make you smile like you have been released from interrogation." He teased her gently as he helped tuck in her in.
Hinata put held out her arms, silently requesting a hug from Shikmaru before he stepped away. Shikamaru smirked at the child-like gesture. They were all spending a lot of time with a small toddler. At least the toddler command for "hug me now" or "pick me up now" was one of his more endearing non-verbal commands.
Shikamaru leaned back down to give her the requested hug. He blinked and a moment later, he found himself looking up at Hinata. She had pulled him down and rolled so he was in bed with her.
Clearly more energetic than he expected.
"The best part of being home, Shikmaru, is that it is our home." She smiled at him and kissed his lips lightly. "And," one more kiss, "you" another kiss "are" and one more kiss. "here." She deepened that last kiss to emphasis the point.
Shikmaru lay in their futon with his fiancee, her hair flowed like silk through his fingers. And the smell of jasmine filled his senses. He followed her lead and returned all her kisses and affection.
Sometime later, he marveled at how lucky they were to have survived through the Atsukaki attacks and the 4th great ninja war. The promise of the future was never strong or bright for any shinobi. The possibility of a happy future always fragile. Here with Hinata, he felt even more driven to protect that possibility.
"I'm glad your home." He finally whispered to her. "I love you."
"I love you too." She snuggled more deeply into his side.
"Stop thinking so much." She gently scolded. "We'll be fine."
She paused. "And if not...than all the more reason to enjoy the moment."
He laughed a little. "We plan as much as we can. Then we live one day at a time. One moment at a time." Shikamaru quoted Asuma.
Hinata patted his chest gently. "He was smart man. Your sensei."
"And the coolest adult I have ever known."
Authors note: Finished. Please review!
Regarding the Naruto/Hinata scene: Hinata does admire and love Naruto. It was her respect for his determination and positive attitude that inspired her. That is canon. However, I believe her love for Naruto would not stop her from falling in love with Shikamaru and forming a deep and rich bond with Shikamaru over shared goals (in helping Kurenai) and in shared values (duty, loyalty, love etc.)
The scene included in this chapter is intended to show that her admiration for Naruto was part of what shaped who she became. But her present and future is with Shikamaru. It only takes her a moment to get over her embarrassment. It doesn't take even that long for her to turn Naruto down gracefully. Shikamaru is completely confident in his relationship with Hinata and is unconcerned by Naruto attempt to date Hinata. So it doesn't come up again. Except Ino is less forgiving.
Regarding the flow and style of the story: "To be a cool adult" is about the choices we make as individuals and the people we impact in our lives. The many short scenes show the importance of the couple in their group of friends and family. As teammate, friend, daughter/son, Aunt/Uncle, and finally partner/lover/spouse. Appreciating those relationships and respecting the responsibilities that come with them... hopefully you get the sense that Hinata and Shikamaru are well on their way to being "cool adults."
Thanks again for reading.