Hinata's eyes fluttered open.
Where… where am I?
Crisp white sheets and bright fluorescent light. A sterile smell and the strange noises from different machinery.
Someone was slumped in a chair next to her, unruly dark hair being hiding her face and the slight swell of her stomach barely visible from her position.
Hinata sat up very slowly, careful not to wake her. Turning, she could see another person, smaller this time, head resting against the edge of her bed.
She glanced out the window next to bed with hopeful eyes. The Hokage Monument looked back at her, tall and proud, six sets of eyes boring into her own.
Hinata sucked in a tight breath and immediately turned towards the door. Kakashi stood there, looking exactly the same as he had when she was just a genin – face mask, jounin jacket, and nose stuck in a little orange book. He raised his gaze to hers when she noticed him.
"So you're finally awake, huh? It's been a couple months you know."
Oh. She looked out the open window again, and a breeze ruffled her dark bangs.
"I hope you're not thinking of running away for a second time," he cut in suddenly. "Kurenai would be terribly upset. And then I'd have to drag you back here to make her happy again."
"So you're committed to making her happy?" Her gaze turned calculating.
"Always," replied Kakashi without a hint of doubt. "So do I have your blessing, Hyuuga-sama?"
"For as long as she wants you back, Hatake-san."
His eye creased, a sure sign he was smiling. "Fair enough."
"Kurenai-sensei." Her eyes softened almost imperceptibly. "How are you?"
"Oh, you know, this and that…" said the jounin, voice breaking. Suddenly, Kurenai flung her arms around Hinata, hugging her tightly. She tentatively returned the affection after stifling her knee-jerk reaction to flinch at human contact.
"Hyuuga Hinata, if you ever worry me so much again, so help me, I'll – I'll – I'll do something really nasty, I swear! Do you hear me?" She was whispering hoarsely now, a few tears leaking out onto Hinata's shoulder. Hinata grasped her teacher tightly.
"Okay, sensei… I'm sorry… I'm really sorry… "
Without warning, the door swung open, and Ino, Shikamaru, and Chouji walked in, accompanied by Neji and Tenten, all of who were being very careful not to wake the still-snoozing Hanabi. Ino walked over to her and grinned softly.
"Hey," she whispered. "How are you feeling?"
"… o-okay." Hinata managed a hesitant smile.
"Good. Well, we're still here for you, you know? Right, guys?"
For once, Shikamaru didn't respond with a 'troublesome'.
"You betcha," said Chouji, smiling.
"Nii-san?" She looked up at Neji, apprehension in her posture.
"Welcome home." He cracked the barest hint of a smile, but it was enough. Tenten held his hand supportively and nodded to Hinata.
"Thank you all so much… I'm surprised you haven't locked me up already…"
"We all know – now, at least – that your intent in leaving Konoha was to help it, not to harm it," said Ino matter-of-factly. "I don't think the Hokage has much of a punishment planned, either."
"Good to know," Hinata said softly. There was a moment of peaceful silence in which she ruefully smiled at them all. All of a sudden, her life was so grounded… so sturdy. The only people she considered precious anymore were gathered right here in one room… and she didn't have to stay away anymore.
There was a loud barking sound outside.
"That must be Akamaru. I'll take care of it."
With a poof of smoke, she had changed from a hospital gown into a pair of shorts and tank top. Ignoring the cries of those who wanted her to remain safely in her bed, Hinata quickly leapt down into the hospital courtyard.
"Oof!" The hulking dog happily leapt onto his mistress, licking her face excitedly before woofing loudly in her ear.
"Yeah, yeah, I heard you," she said, lying back on the grass and closing her eyes. The warm sun kissed her face gently.
A broken whisper. "Onee-sama?"
Hanabi was standing at the window's ledge, having finally woken up. Her eyes were wide with disbelief and hope, and her lips trembled dangerously.
Hinata smiled back, her calm, reassuring big sister smile that Hanabi remembered painfully well.
With a shout, she flung herself out of the window and raced into Hinata's arms, crying fiercely.
"I w-was s-so alone after y-you left, onee-sama, I'm s-so s-sorry about the way that I t-t-t-treated you," wailed the teenager into the crook of Hinata's neck. "I was always s-so m-mean…"
"Shh, shh, Hanabi-chan. It's fine, now," whispered Hinata into her ear, smiling softly. "I'm back now, right?"
"And you won't leave me?" The tears were still streaming down her face, but Hanabi's voice was as steady as a rock. The stutter had disappeared.
"I will not."
"Ever again. I'm staying in Konoha for good, I swear."
"Good to hear," a voice lightly commented to their left. The two remaining members of the Hyuuga Main House turned to look at the Rokudaime, in full Hokage regalia.
They both stood up.
"Hokage-sama," Hinata said, bowing slightly. "I hope I haven't inconvenienced you with my presence."
"Quite the contrary," he replied with formality. "Your dispatching of the leader of the Akatsuki was quite helpful to Konohagakure and the Five Greats."
"That is good to hear," said Hinata softly, looking at the ground. There was an awkward silence for a few minutes.
"… are you guys gonna kiss?" asked Hanabi cheekily, looking up at the two adults with a smirk. Hinata's face immediately flushed.
"Hanabi!" she hissed, cheeks glowing. "Don't be so rude! The Rokudaime -"
"What do you think, Hanabi-chan?" interrupted Naruto. Hinata looked at him, red as tomato and scandalized, while he ignored her.
"Wellllll…" said Hanabi, grinning widely. Hinata turned back to her with a warning glare, which was completely disregarded.
"DUH! It's obvious to everybody else, so why don't you just get it over with already?"
If possible, Hinata turned even redder. "Hanabi!That was highlyinappr – ohh - !"
Naruto quickly stopped her protest with a chaste kiss to the lips.
During her many wandering years, Hinata had lived in her routine: get up, eat, fight, heal, and sleep. There was no hope for the next day, or for the next year, or for anything in particular. She was simply her schedule, and the occasional hallucinations she would have of Kiba and Shino. Those two things defined her existence.
But when Naruto kissed her, she felt…different.When he offered only his pure feelings and affections, no strings attached, it made her feel like there was more to her. Because he wanted her, she must have worth outside of the deadening monotony she had called life since she was fifteen. Hinata finally felt she could enjoy something, could hopefor something. He could do something that nobody else had ever accomplished.
He made her feel loved.
When he pulled away, giving her a respectful amount of space, he glanced hesitantly at her, as if expecting rejection.
Instead she smiled brilliantly, laced his fingers through hers, and said only one thing.
"Doing anything tonight?"
She had been out of the hospital for two months, and not much had changed. Kurenai was still her beloved mother figure; Hanabi was still her baby sister; Neji was still her cousin, albeit much happier than previously. Naruto was still… Naruto.
Hinata stretched against the trunk of the large oak tree, smiling a bit as the wind ruffled the edge of her dress. She was not quite allowed to be a ninja again…
"Yo, Hinata," Naruto said, swooping out of nowhere and kissing her soundly on the lips. She leaned into the touch eagerly.
…but when your boyfriend was the Rokudaime, it was easier to get things done. She smiled, wider this time, as he lied down and made himself comfortable with his head in her lap. She brought a hand up to rest in his hair, occasionally running the tips of her fingernails over his scalp gently. His eyes closed and he yawned.
"It's hard work being the Hokage, ne?"
"It's easier when I've got you with me, Hinata." Naruto cracked his eyes open a bit to watch pink spread prettily over her cheeks and he grinned.
They sat in peaceful silence for several minutes.
Sasuke appeared suddenly, like a bat, skulking in the branches of the tree next to theirs. He raised an eyebrow.
"Am I interrupting something?"
"No," Hinata said.
"Yes," Naruto said at the same time. Sasuke rolled his eyes.
"I need to talk to you." He sent the blonde a meaningful glance.
"Geeeeez, Sasuke. I'm sure that whatever you say can be said while Hinata-chan is here."
Sasuke only scowled harder. Hinata, sensing the oncoming discomfort, retracted slightly, pressing herself tighter against the tree. Naruto, however, would not move; instead, he chose to make himself more comfortable, closing his eyes and stretching languidly. His hand found her own and squeezed it tightly.
"I'll just come out and say it then," said Sasuke, gaze transferring to Hinata.
"Stop pretending, Naruto. She's not Sakura, and she never will be!"
Immediately, Naruto was up. He scowled at Sasuke fiercely. "What the hell are you trying to say? I would never –"
"She's just her replacement – you're using her!"
"How dare you –"
Hinata stepped in, placing a hand on Naruto's forearm. He calmed slightly. She looked Sasuke straight in the eye.
"I know I can never replace Sakura-san. In the same way you are not Shino-kun, and Naruto is not Kiba-kun, I am not Sakura-san. I don't ever expect to be her replacement, and I don't – I don't think I am." She looked to the Rokudaime with a tiny bit of doubt in her eyes.
"Of course you're not!" Naruto said passionately, voice bursting with emotion. "Look, Sasuke, Sakura meant so much to me… but Hinata means just as much. I love them both equally, but it's a different kind of love with Hinata, don't you understand?"
Hinata was looking at Naruto with her cheeks tinged pink. Seeming to realize what he had just said, he turned to her with his cheeks redder than normal as well.
"A-ah, Hinata, I guess I … I, um…"
She only blushed more and looked away. Sasuke smirked.
"I think I see the difference. See you around, Naruto."
Three years later…
It was a late night yet again from the Rokudaime Hokage. His eyes were beginning to develop red rims and to water incessantly as he slaved over his paperwork. He glanced up at the clock.
It's almost one in the morning… he groaned aloud. And tomorrow I have to get up at six…
Naruto blinked dazedly, fighting sleep. "Yeah, Udon?"
His assistant bowed. "You gave me the day off tomorrow… I could finish this paperwork for you and it wouldn't be a big deal because I could sleep in."
Naruto's eyes widened. "Really? You'd do that?!"
He nodded, smiling slightly. "Thanks, Udon! You're the best!"
The young chuunin grinned at Naruto's ever-present enthusiasm. "Go home! She's probably still up waiting for you."
Grinning sheepishly, he nodded to his former "pupil" and disappeared silently into the night.
Naruto crept into his house silently, knowing that if his wife was asleep, any noise would wake her up. But when he sensed her chakra, it was not in the stagnant recovery state of sleep, but awake and anxious. He frowned.
He continued his noiseless trek and found her in their room, looking at something small and soft curled up on their bed.
With the moonlight streaming in through the widow, the highlights in her hair were clearly visible, and her skin was glowing ethereally. Her opal eyes seemed lit by some night-fire. But the look of utter dejection on her face ruined the goddess-like illusion for the Rokudaime. His frown deepened.
"After all that I've been through," Hinata began lowly, "I can't help but wonder when this will end. This is like a dream come true – it is a dream come true– and that worries me. I've never been truly happy in my life before now, Sakura-chan. Will I mess this part up as well? I wonder what it was like for Hideko. Did she know it was going to end, or did it just happen?"
The baby gurgled.
"But why should I burden you with an adult's problems? You're just my adorable baby girl, ne?" Hinata poked the girl's stomach and she giggled cutely.
"Then again, it's unwise to keep all of your problems to yourself all of the time."
"Naruto!" she gasped, spinning around and standing up abruptly. "I didn't know – I – y-you're home early…"
"Hinata, you are nothing like your mother," he said firmly, stepping forward to grab her shoulders. But she evaded his touch, wrapping her arms around herself and looking at the ground. Now her face was shadowed and tortured. Naruto felt his heart twist.
"You don't know that," she said, looking miserable. "I don't know that! I could be! She's in danger whenever she's in the same room as me! What if I snap? What if I –"
She was cut off as he encircled her in his arms, too fast for her to escape.
"We've been over this," he said. "We've been over it a million times. You are nothing like her! You made sure yourself when you decided not to kill Hideko. You are your father's daughter."
Finally, she allowed herself to relax, leaning against her husband.
"And our daughter is her mother's daughter," he continued, voice softening as she finally melted into him.
"I… I guess you're right…"
"Of course I'm right. I am the Rokudaime Hokage after all."
She snorted quietly, pulling away from him and sitting down next to the window. The otherworldly visage was back, but this time it was secured by the fragile hope in her eyes.
"Do you – do you think they've forgiven me yet?"
"They never blamed you in the first place, love. In fact…" said Naruto, so softly that Hinata could barely hear.
"I think they're rather proud of you."
If he saw the one crystalline tear that ran down her cheek, he didn't acknowledge it. She began to sing softly.
"Through the wind, through the dark, through the winter night
I will read all their dreams to the stars
I'll walk now with them
I'll call on their names
And see their thoughts are known -
They walk with my heart
And I'll never let them go
Never let them go
Never let them go…"
- - -
- - -
I'm so happy! But sad. But also happy!
End song: "Those You've Known", from the musical Spring Awakening. Total hit, by the way. Even if you can't go see it on Broadway, I'd totally recommend the soundtrack. If you'd listen to, you'd never believe it was based off a play written in the 1890s.