An End and A New Beginning
She opened her eyes and watched the movement below her. Lifting her paws she stepped over the broken walls, sweeping people out of her way. With a surge of glee she stepped on those too slow to flee and snapped her jaws at those who did. She whipped her tails in pleasure as she caught someone in her teeth and felt the crunch of bone and splash of blood on her tongue.
She felt a sudden shudder of revulsion at what she had done, a part of her urged her to continue.
Hinata shuddered, she was not herself. The fox was using her to carry out his slaughter. This was not her. Another man perished in her jaws. The pleasure returned.
The fox was in her mind, controlling her body, skewing her perception of her actions. She wanted to retreat into the darkness but she couldn't let the fox have full control. Her body was burning with the fox's power and the conflict of emotions in her mind complicated everything. Only one thing held her attention. At the back of her mind, there was a comforting presence, keeping the Kyuubi from taking full control. Holding her mind separate so it wasn't consumed by the fox's bloodlust.
His eyes opened, Naruto was kneeling on the head of the fox as it made it's way over the walls. He felt light headed, drained. A moment ago he had a strong feeling of being with Hinata but now she was just the fluttering feeling in his mind. He finally realised what was happening. Their three minds had merged. They had become one being. Three parts of a whole. The fox was using both him and Hinata, but along with that the Kyuubi was limited. The two human's were ill suited to channel his power properly even though Hinata's form had been adapted. Because of this the Kyuubi would not be able to hold the form for long before his hosts began to suffer damage.
As the fox attacked the sound on the wall the Leaf regained hope as they slowly realised, the Kyuubi was fighting for them. The fox had moved through the village and stepped over the walls to attack the sound in the open ground. The Leaf on the open ground retreated back to the city under the fox and many shuddered as they sprinted under the beast.
"Tsuande-sama!" the shout in her ear snapped the hokage out of her shock.
"I'm here" she responded into the mouth piece of her radio.
"The Demon it's…how can it…" the voice spluttered. Tsunade moved to the top of the gate to see how this changed the battlefield. She had a clear view of the clear ground, village and the fox. The Konoha leaf on the Kyuubi's side drew her eye. She couldn't think how it was possible. From the symbol her eyes moved to Naruto. It was hard see him from here, he looked so small compared to the creature below him.
After a moment Tsunade took a deep breath, lifted the mouth piece and relayed her new orders.
"Ignore the Kyuubi, Naruto has somehow got the thing under control, everyone who can get back to the village and leave the Sound outside the village to Naruto." She couldn't quite believe she had just said that.
As she watched Leaf teams started to fall back and the Fox covered them. A few times she saw it use its tails to block attacks aimed for the Leaf. After a moments hesitation she added,
"Be ready to assault the fox.. Just in case…"
Dealing with so many small targets without causing any damage to the city was hard and the sound had started to focus attacks on the fox. Elemental attacks hacked at the fox's feet. The Kyuubi snarled, it had to keep moving which made it harder to tell the difference between the factions. The Kyuubi's nine tails shot down like whips hitting the smallest areas they could to avoid collateral damage. A bit down the field it spotted a number of Leaf that were trapped at the tree line.
"Over there" Naruto shouted at the creature. The kyuubi snorted as it turned around to avoid attacks on it's paws. Throwing down a tail it scattered a number of Sound near the Leaf team. After the team didn't get the hint the fox curled its tail around them, picking them up. Being too far from the walls to dump them there the fox dropped them carelessly on his back. The tail then returned to striking at Sound.
The Leaf team clung to the fox'x back in shock. They had heard stories about the Kyuubi but were too young to remember the attack.
"Shikamaru?" Chouji called to his team leader not knowing what to do. Shikamaru told him to hold on while he tried to think. The fox had started to move again trotting around the field to avoid attacks to its feet, the swift movement of the tails over their heads was also not good.
Shikamaru had led a group of a dozen men, the only one he knew in this group was Choji. Their group had gone in after the first teams popped up from the trenches. They had been holding the line until the giant snake swept some of them up and tossed them. Since then they had been picking up lone shinobi who got separated including a few medical nin. Shikamaru looked around him trying to think of how to get off the fox safely but he caught a glimpse of something between the moving shoulder blades of the fox.
"Is that…Naruto?" Chouji followed his gaze.
"Naruto? What would he be d.." He got cut off as one of the tails passed very close over head. "Hey Shikamaru!" Chouji called after him as the man darted up the fox's back. A sudden jerk of the fox's shoulder nearly sent Shikamaru sliding off. Gripping hand fulls of fur he held himself steady as he got to the head.
"Naruto. What are you doing?" the Nara demanded, he grabbed for Naruto's shoulder to steady himself but the blond felt like he was on fire and Shikamaru recoiled holding his hand. Naruto turned his head to look at him, he was drenched in sweat and looked like he was straining. It was then Shikamaru noticed that Naruto's feet and hand were sunk into the fox. "Did…did you 'summon' this monster!"
"You could say that." Naruto smiled shakily, it didn't last long. For a few moments Shikamaru watched as the fox snapped and attacked randomly.
"We have injured with us." Shikamaru told him, "Can you get it to stand still for a moment so we can get off?" Naruto closed his eyes. For a moment Shikamaru thought he didn't hear him, but the fox jerked to the side and moved towards the walls. Three of its tails wrapped together forming a furry slide to the walls.
"Chouji! Go, get them off!" Shikamaru called down to his friend. Chouji nodded and the group moved as quickly as they could off the fox.
"Do you have a radio?"
"No, Hinata had our radio." Naruto shook his head. Shikamaru thought for a moment then hunkered down next to Naruto. He pressed his radio to his ear and tried to reach the hokage. Once the other passengers reached the wall the fox started to move again.
"Tsunade-sama" one of the radio operators called for the hokage. "Nara Shikamaru wants to talk to you. He says it's urgent"
"What isn't urgent!" the irritated woman snapped.
"He says he's with Naruto" This caught Tsunade's attention. She grabbed the headset that was held out to her.
"Tsuande-sama" the boy answered back.
"Where are you?" she asked.
"I'm on the Kyuubi's head, Naruto is here, he is 'controlling' it" Shikamaru sounded like he couldn't believe what he was saying.
"It's more of a suggestion" Naruto added in the background.
"In that case there are a number of sound to the south attacking the gate, can you get the Kyuubi to stop them?" Tsunade asked, she couldn't help but think, 'this is not going to work'
To the surprise of everyone in the command post the Fox turned to glare angrily at the Hokage, after a moment it moved to the south and attacked the group of sound the Tsunade had pointed out.
"That's impossible…" someone behind the Hokage muttered. Tsunade lifted the headset she dropped in shock.
"Nara, can you give the radio to Naruto?"
"Erm… I can't touch him, so no." Shikamaru said after some hesitation.
"In that case I want you to stay there. We will need a direct line to the Kyuubi."
"Great…" muttered Shikamaru, he grabbed a fist full of fur as the fox's head jerked downward to attack. Next to him Naruto kept his eyes closed and head bowed. His body was shaking with effort.
"How long can you keep this up?"
"That…depends on Hinata" Naruto told him. Shikamaru had no idea what he meant by that and looked around, he couldn't see Hinata, what was she doing that helped Naruto control this thing?
"Hey look out to your left!" Shikamaru just noticed a large group of Sound heading towards them. One of the front sound sent a slicing wind attack at the fox. The warning came too late and the attack sliced the Kyuubi's leg. It jumped around to face the sound and growled loudly. Naruto let out a shout as a patch of red started to spread on this top.
"agh, dammit. You're not at full strength" Naruto stated, the fox growled in answer.
"I know boy!" the Kyuubi snarled in Naruto's mind.
"We're bound together demon, we all get hurt! You didn't mention that" Naruto snapped.
"I didn't know!" the fox barked back. Shikamaru watched in amazement as Naruto seemed to be talking to himself.
"Enough the two of you, they're attacking" Hinata's voice rang out. The fox jumped to the side to avoid an other wind attack. As the fox landed another sound summoned a stone spike that pieced the fox's paw. Both the fox and Naruto let out shouts of pain. The Kyuubi snarled loudly and swept the area with his tails, crushing a number of the sound.
"Vermin!" Spat Hinata, Naruto cringed at the savagery in her tone as the kyuubi's temperament influenced her again.
By now the sound had regrouped to an extent and they were focusing attacks on the fox, they were coming from all directions. It also didn't help that leaf attacks on the sound sometimes hit the fox. A large fire attack consumed a number of sound but also burned the Fox. Naruto started to pant heavily. Shikamaru snapped up the radio.
"Don't hit the fox. Its hurting Naruto as well!" But most of the leaf shinobi had no love for the fox and none of them pulled any punches. Shikamaru got a better grip and relayed orders from the command post to Naruto, a few times Naruto berated the fox for grumbling and told him to remember his deal. The fight went on and the fox was slowing down.
"Shikamaru, we can't keep this up…" Naruto grunted after a while, a trickle of blood started to run from his nose. "I can't hear Hinata anymore."
"What?" Shikamaru was getting more and more confused.
"Get off, I don't know what will happen when this fails." he snapped. The blond was nearly doubled over entirely now. Shikamaru hesitated for a moment, he didn't want to leave his friend but something told him that he was being deadly serious for once.
"Good luck then" Shikamaru carefully made his way down the fox's back. One tail was stretched as far as it would reach towards the walls. He sprinted as fast as he could down the tail and jumped for the walls. A leaf caught him as he didn't quite make it. Tsunade spotted him as the chunin pulled him up onto the wall and stomped over.
"Why aren't you with Naruto? We need that thing to clear a path to the north."
"He's losing control." Shikamaru panted.
"What do you mean losing control!" The hokage paled.
"He said he can't keep the summon going. Other than that he wasn't making a lot of sense." he shook his head and looked back at the fox. It was backing up towards the crumbled part of the wall. The Kyuubi was retreating.
It got behind the walls and the pursuing sound instead started to attack the regrouped Leaf. The Kyuubi howled and started to shrink. As it shrank it snarled and growled. It was shirking un-uniformly, it's tails disappeared and parts of its body reduced at a quicker rate then others. It was falling apart.
Naruto fell off the Kyuubi's head as it shrink below the level of the roofs. He scrambled to his knees and watched the fox as it got smaller. He was worried about Hinata, when she'd first changed she was always there, but the longer they fought the less she talked and a while ago she stopped altogether. Eventually the fox reached human size and its shape changed, its fur flattened and joined together its colours became duller. Then the red ink split to reveal pink skin. The redness retreated under clothes until it had shrank down to a tiny picture of a fox, barely the size of a hand. The fox had gone all that remained was Hinata on her hands and knees struggling to breath. Her skin was an angry red and looked inflamed. Droplets of blood fell from her mouth and nose.
Hinata choked on the blood in her throat, Naruto fell beside her. He wasn't moving anymore, Hinata reached for her boyfriend but had no strength left, lifting her arm over balanced her and she fell and rolled over on her back. Her eyes flicked around the devastation around them. The Sounds main force had hit them hard. Hinata, Naruto and all the other Leaf Shinobi had fought with all their might, but the result was lost on Hinata as she lay there and watched Naruto match her struggle to breathe. She felt guilty at leaving Takara and the feeling in her gut had only worsened. Konoha was in flames but whether the leaf had driven out the sound with their help with the fox or had succumbed was unknown. Hinata's breathing slowed and her eyes slid closed as she thought back on the events that had lead up to this terrible battle.
"Where did it go!" Tsunade bellowed. "Get someone over there and find out where it went" she looked at Shikamaru, for once he didn't argue. He ran out of the command post picking up a few exhausted shinobi and a medic on the way.
Tsunade rubbed her head, the Kyuubi's appearance allowed the leaf to regroup in the village, but it didn't give them enough time to reform ranks. What was left of the sound now was their best fighters, whereas some of Konoha's best fighters had disappeared. Jiraiya had reported that he'd taken down the summoned cat and was trying to get back to the village but was held up in the forest. Takara hadn't reported in at all since the start of the battle. Kakashi and the other senior jounin, were in different spots around the city, far from their original posts. The medical corps were run off their feet and had commandeered a number of shinobi to help move the injured.
"Tsunade-sama! Reports of an other large force coming from the west." one of the radio operators called.
"Impossible, they can't have a reserve force. Can they?" a jounin asked.
"If they do, we are fucked" answered another.
"More reports coming in! they're getting closer."
"Get those spotters back on the radio and get them to identify the shinobi" Tsunade ordered. The radio men tried to hail the spotters with little success. The remaining leaf forces were on the northeast side of the village. That's where the sound attacked and that's where the broken wall was, there was no way they could shift enough people to the west wall in time.
Radio chatter had flooded communications, Sakura pulled out her earpiece to try and think clearly. She had been in a group of medics led by a senior medical-nin. They had been an advance group that was behind the leaf lines. Their job was to get the injured out of the line and back to the village. But that plan was shot with the snake breaking the line. They couldn't move the seriously injured quickly enough, they managed to gather a number of leaf to create a small safe area. Another group of medics joined them along with a number of fighters. Among them was Ino and Sasuke.
Sasuke had insisted on getting a splint on his leg and got back up to fight regardless of the girls protests. The Kyuubi's appearance gave them a little time to arrange for the walking wounded to make a break for the reformed leaf force, Ino volunteered to make the run and forced Sasuke to come with her due to his injury. As before the more seriously injured couldn't be moved in time and Sakura planned to stay with them. As the leaf moved back towards the village, the sound moved back towards the forest making their safe spot very dangerous.
"We really have to move." a chunin defender told the medics.
"We are nearly ready." the senior medic shouted back, he passed a bandage to Sakura for her to finish bandaging the chest of a jounin. Sakura had her hands full with the bleeding jounin and didn't notice the movement in the trees.
"Behind!" the chuunin shouted, Sakura spun to fend off the attacker. The sound thrust his hand forward to strike at Sakura's throat. A chain came from behind and wrapped the mans arms to his torso. Before he could struggle a large lion pounced from the trees. It knocked the man done and savaged his throat. A woman bounded through the trees and made sure the Sound was dead.
"You okay?" the woman asked but Sakura turned her attention back to her patient and finished wrapping him up before she gave the woman and her lion any more attention. There was suddenly more people in the area, people running on through, with no blood splatters, no dented armour. Another medic knelt opposite Sakura and took over for the tired girl. Then it finally clicked.
"Matsuri?" the woman grinned,
"Can I borrow your radio?"
"Someone from the new force is on the line, they got one of our radios" Tsunade snapped the headset off the operator and jammed it onto her own head.
"Identify yourself!" she barked.
"A nice greeting…" replied a calm voice, "Its time for us to repay a favour." Tsunade chuckled and sank down onto a table. She rubbed her head.
"I will apologise formally later, for now, we have work to do" the voice said, she could picture a slight smirk on that usually passive face.
"Thank you" Tsunade pulled off the headset and felt a wave of relief.
"Who are they?" asked the operator, taking back the headset.
"It's the Suna forces. The cavalry have arrived." If Gaara had been there could probably would have kissed him.
The sand shinobi's first objective was to take the heat off the worn out Leaf. They first moved to the gates and walls that were under attack. Then they spread out into the forest. The Sound started to retreat once the Suna force entered the fray. Most of the sand army entered the forest after the fleeing shinobi to track the remaining invaders, the rest started search and rescue. Checking the battlefield for survivors, treating the injured and fighting the fires that had started in the village. Needless to say the leaf were very happy to see them. A number of Sound surrendered but most fought to the death.
Gaara joined Tsuande in the command post and from there they co-ordinated both their forces. The sun was beginning to set. The fires had been put out and any non damaged buildings were turned into trauma centres. The hospital was for critical cases only, its courtyard was full of bodybags and a nearby butcher shop was being used as a temporary morgue, the wall of the hospital was covered in lists of names, those confirmed dead. Konoha medics and doctors were worked to their limit but they received support from Suna doctors. Civilians were not yet permitted to leave the shelters, their presence would complicate the rescue effort. The forest was still full of teams, both suna and leaf, patrolling for any stray Sound or any injured. Prisoners were chained together and held out side the wall, they were watched by mostly Suna forces because the leaf guards were prone to violent out bursts.
"Tsuande" Gaara came up behind the hokage, she was watching smoke rise from the burned buildings of her village. "One of the teams found something you'll want to see."
They came to a small clearing within the forest. The first thing that Tsunade noticed was a Leaf shinobi get zipped up in a body bag and be taken away. The hokage watched as Suna ninjas carried the dead man away.
"What did you want to so me?" she asked, Gaara folded his arms and inclined his head to his right. Tsunade squinted into the fading light to another body on the ground. Its head severed and laying a bit away from the rest of the corpse.
"It's over then" Tsuande said giving Orochimaru's head a kick to turn it over. The empty eyes stared up at her.
"So it would seem." Gaara added, "We will have to do something about the Sound village. They will be without government and probably have low defences."
"Yes, we don't have the resources to carry out an occupation." Tsunade told him.
"Leave that to us. You've taken a major hit, its our turn to do you some favours." The kazikage shifted his gaze from the body to Tsunade.
"You don't have to do that."
"Yes we do. We both know that if the Sound had won here they would have continued to attack us. We have to nip this in the bud."
"What do you propose?"
"We inform them that their 'kage' is dead and try to open up a peaceful negotiation. Hopefully we can open up relations with a more reasonable leader."
"You really think that will work without having to move in your armies?"
"I hope so" Gaara said. Tsunade looked around the clearing.
"Do we know who killed Orochimaru?"
"I'm afraid I don't recall her name, but she was found over there. Your ANBU commander." Gaara nodded towards a tree with a blood pool at its base. "One of your own found her and called for our medics."
"She's alive then" Tsunade said with a sigh, her relief was short lived as Gaara remained silent. "Right?"
"I do not know, but I was told her survival was not expected." Tsunade rubbed her face.
"That woman has proved extremely difficult to kill in the past, lets hope her luck holds up." The sun had finally set and darkness filled the forest. "Thank you for showing this to me, but I'm afraid I must excuse myself, its been a very long day."
"Of course, let me know if you require any further aid." Tsunade nodded and turned to leave. Konoha would need all the help it could get.
Megumi sighed and rubbed her eyes. It was her turn to do rounds. With so many injured even low ranking medics like her were posted in the hospital. It was nearly five in the morning and most of the senior staff were trying to get some sleep in the tiny staff rooms of the hospital. It was four weeks after the invasion, everyone was scattered all over the city with various tasks. She was here, Shin was up in the Royki village clearing rubble of the destroyed buildings and Aiko was in the hospital with a broken arm and three ribs. Her friends had survived.
"If anything is out of the ordinary call for one of us." a senior nurse told her as she left the staff room.
"I will" there was nothing much Megumi could do other that patch up small wounds, she didn't reach the stage in her training where she dealt with more serious injuries. She was only here to check on patients when the doctors couldn't and change bandages to free up nurses. She shuffled from ward to ward looking in on those in them. She stopped in to talk to Aiko who had difficulty sleeping with her broken ribs. After a whispered conversation Megumi moved on. Finally she came to the last room on her rounds. The critical care ward. The patients in here were almost dead when they were found, now they where being kept alive by life support machines. Megumi pushed the door open and stepped into the dimly lit room. For each patient she would have to check their vitals against those recorded in the charts at the bottom of their beds. If there was any drastic change she would have to call a nurse. Megumi hated this ward, it creeped her out. It was full of the rasping hiss of iron lungs and the beep of monitors. No one snored, no one moved, everyone was silent and still as if they were already dead.
She shook herself and started on the first bed. The sannin Takara. The rumour was that she had killed Orochimaru by tearing his head off with her bare hands. She'd been found by Gai and rushed to the hospital she was dead when she arrived but doctors managed to revive her. Since then however she'd been kept alive by these machines. Megumi had overheard doctors talking to Gai about turning off the machines a week ago, at first he had refused point blank, but the doctors explained it was to see if she would try to breathe on her own, so finally he agreed. They had shut down the machine as planned and for a short while it looked like Takara wasn't going to respond, but a tiny rasping breath meant the machine was turned back on. Gai was in tears the whole time, shouting, cursing and calling Takara a stubborn bitch. Megumi checked the iron lung, it's settings hadn't been changed and according to the chart they would disconnect the machines again in a few days and if she didn't show any improvement on the last time the machines would stay off and she'd be allowed to slip away.
Megumi replaced Takara's chart on the end of her bed, there was nothing major that had changed. She moved on down the room. Checking a man who had third degree burns on 80% of his body. The next bed was empty, its occupant having died earlier that day. The next bed held a poison victim, she'd been almost completely paralyzed but was slowly regaining the ability to move. Megumi moved to the last two beds and looked at the people in them. Naruto and Hinata.
Both had recently been taken off the iron lung but Hinata still had an oxygen line running to her nose. What was strange about the two of them was that they had identical injuries in some places. Both had the exact same wound on the back of their left hands as well as a few more on their arms, legs and even one on their chin. They had both been found in the area where the Kyuubi disappeared and a few people began to suspect that Hinata had been in some way involved with it as well. Hinata's chakra pathways had been torn to pieces and none of the doctors could explain how that happened. Even with the improvements in their health neither had woken up.
Megumi checked their charts against the machine read outs. Hinata's heart had been weaker than Naruto's before but it seemed she was getting stronger. Megumi hoped she would wake soon. After the battle everything had been chaos and the little redhead was terrified, she was a shinobi, a medic, but she wasn't prepared for the horrors of war. She was still a child, and she needed someone to tell her everything was okay. Her two friends had their own worries and had little time to talk to Megumi. She missed Hinata's reassuring smile and encouragement.
"Any change?" Megumi jumped at the sudden voice, it was one of the nurses.
"Er, no, nothing…" She answered quickly and wiped her eyes out of sight of the man.
"Okay then, its nearly seven, why don't you head home?" he suggested and ducked back out the door. She just nodded and after drying her eyes, followed him out the door.
Hiashi left the Hyuuga compound early that morning. They were lucky, their home had been too far into the village to have sustained any major damage, and for that reason Hiashi wanted to get out of there. It had become a place for the people who had been made homeless to stay. The order in his home had been shattered, although he wouldn't complain aloud, a lot of families were hosting refugees through out the city. This was the first morning that he hadn't been called by either the family elders or for a jounin meeting, he had been trying to do this for the past few weeks.
He strode through the now empty courtyard outside the hospital, he remembered being here to identify the deceased Hyuugas, it was not a pleasant thought. The nurse at the front desk look ready to pass out with exhaustion, she started to rise from her seat but he waved her down.
"I know where I'm going." he told her, the nurse didn't even try to tell him about the visiting hours, any attempt to enforce them was unsuccessful so as long as each visitor was quiet and didn't get in the way they were allowed inside the hospital. Hiashi strode to the stairs and climbed up a few floors. At this time of the morning the only people moving were the nurses on their early morning rounds, the hospital was strangely quiet. He continued down the corridor to the end and pushed open the heavy doors. The quiet was replaced with hissing and beeping.
Hiashi checked the room, he was the only visitor. Sunlight had just begun to creep into the room. He walked to the last bed and stood at it's end, studying the occupant.
Her hair was tangled and spread out on the pillow, her face had a yellowish tint to it as the bruises had nearly faded but not entirely. There was still some dried blood on her eyelashes. He remembered the defiant look those eyes had given him so many times. Her hands lay limp on top of the blankets, a bandage around her left, needles and tubes in her right. He remembered those hands curled into fists and raised at him.
Hiashi let out a sigh. There was so many things left unsaid, so much time wasted. In the last few months he had begun to realise what his pride would never let him admit. She was so prideful, just like him. Although she would probably never admit it. Hiashi had been thinking about what he would say to Hinata before the battle but when he tried to speak to her she shot him a distasteful glance and his pride swelled up again. She left the village for her place in the field without either saying a word to the other. Hiashi had regretted that and he planned to say his piece after the fight. The battle was harsher than he thought, the early rumours said that all forward teams had been killed. He had scanned the lists outside the hospital and still found no trace of her. Even when asked to identify dead Hyuugas, there was no sign, it was finally three days after the battle that a full list of dead, injured and missing was compiled and posted on public boards. Then he found her. Hiashi had tried to go then but the critical ward was still closed to visitors and the entire hospital was still in complete chaos. He was here now, but his carefully planned speech had slipped his mind. Hinata was not the failure he remembered, she was greater then he could have made her. Hiashi couldn't put his thoughts into words. He would gladly call her daughter again, but would she permit him, would she in turn call her father without spite or sarcasim. Would she forgive him at all?
Hiashi sank to his knees and lent his head on the bed,
Hinata opened her eyes and found herself standing near the main gate. She glanced at her hands and body, she was unharmed and in her normal clothes. Looking around, she saw the village was also in perfect condition. No damage, no fires, no people. The streets were empty.
"Alright Kit?" Hinata spun round to look at the gate. Takara was leaning against the guard post, at her feet was her large backpack, her katana propped up next to it. Like Hinata, the older woman had no injuries and was in her normal clothes, even the scar over her eye was gone. Beyond the gate a thick white fog covered the road.
Hinata jogged over to the gate.
"Going somewhere?" Hinata asked looking at the bag.
"You could say that." Takara took a few lazy steps towards the gate.
"What about your stuff?" Hinata reached for Takara's bag,
"I won't need them" Takara turned to smile at Hinata, the girl put the sword back down and trotted up next to Takara.
"Let's go then." Takara put her arm on Hinata's shoulder as the girl stopped speaking.
"Sorry Kit, you gotta stay behind this time."
"What? Why?" Hinata was confused, Takara wouldn't go travelling without her.
"Because you are still needed here" Takara nodded back towards the village, Hinata looked back at the buildings. "My task is done."
"But I still need you Nii-chan"
"No you don't" Takara gave a gentle smile and released her grip of Hinata's shoulder. "You're strong enough to look after yourself and your loved ones. You don't need me around."
"But I 'want' you to stay." Hinata stated as Takara took another step towards the gate.
"Ah, sadly we don't always get what we want." The older woman shrugged, she put her hands in her trouser pockets and started to walk lazily down the road.
"Nii-chan!" Hinata called after her. She tried to follow Takara but try as she might she couldn't make any progress outside the gate. Takara stopped at her call and half turned to look back at her.
"Look after yourself, Hinata" With a wink Takara turned and continued walking. Hinata broke into a run and reached out but she may as well have been running on the spot. She shouted for Takara to come back but the woman kept walking into the mist. Her outline began to fade until she was nothing more than a shadow, finally she was gone.
Hinata's eyes snapped open, her chest felt constricted, she couldn't breathe. Her legs were tangled in something and her arm we wrapped by a wire. Her vision was blurred, she couldn't make out her surroundings. Something tightened on her shoulder. Hinata batted the thing away as another seized her other arm. She twisted to try and free herself but a weight held her legs and the thing returned to push her down. Something pricked her neck and a heavy blackness enveloped her.
"Everyone okay?" the doctor asked.
"I'm fine" responded Megumi pinching her nose. "What happened?"
"She was in a panic, probably thought she was still in the battle." Sakura told the redhead. The three of them had been changing the bandages of the burned man when Hinata's heart rate suddenly jumped up. Not longer afterwards Hinata herself sat bolt up right and pulled on the IV tube in her arm. Megumi who was nearest put a hand on her sensei's shoulder to get her attention but Hinata threw her arm up striking the girl on the nose. Sakura grabbed Hinata's shoulders to hold her down and Megumi threw herself over Hinata's legs to stop them thrashing about. While she was held the doctor jabbed her with a sedative.
"Here" Sakura handed Megumi one of the tissues from the trolley.
"Thanks" the red head took the tissue and held it to her nose. "What now?"
"Well, that sedative should calm her down a bit, she'll wake up a bit more slowly in about an hour. That will give her time to take in her surroundings." the doctor explained. "We should finish this first, then we can worry about her." he indicated the burned man and they returned to bandaging the man.
As the doctor said Hinata started to wake up again after a short while, this time she did wake slowly. Looking around with groggy eyes she tired to sit up but a hand pushed her gently back onto the bed.
"Sorry Sensei but you have to stay there." the red head told her, she'd been told to wait for Hinata to wake up. Hinata looked at the girl in confusion, she knew this girl but couldn't think of her name.
The red head reached over Hinata's head and pushed a button. After a few moments someone else was looking over her.
"Can you hear me Hinata?" the newcomer asked, Hinata blinked trying to gather her thoughts. "Can you understand me?" Hinata nodded clumsily. "Do you know where you are?" Hinata glanced around the room, the day light from the window was hurting her eyes.
"…ospital…" she croaked. Her throat was tight and sore. Sakura nodded with a smile.
"We're gonna help you sit up so I can get a better look at you. Okay?" Sakura told her then nodded to Megumi. The medics got on each side of the bed and pulled it up so Hinata was in a reclined position.
"Wha' …" Hinata gulped dryly, "happened…"
"Suna came. They helped us drive the Sound back and destroy them." Megumi piped. Hinata let her head rolled to the side, a glint of light caught her eye. On the bedside table was her necklace. The milky opal held in the legs of the tiny silver fox.
"…'aruto?" her voice cracked.
"He's in the next bed" Sakura tipped Hinata's head in the other direction then pushed the curtain away from his bed. "He woke up yesterday but he's resting now. He'll be fine."
"…'ara?" Sakura hesitated for a moment,
"She's here too" a faint smile flickered over the injured woman's lips. Hinata's eyes felt heavy again she couldn't talk anymore, she needed to sleep for another while.
It was another few days before either Hinata or Naruto could stay awake for any longer than half an hour, and mostly the ward was empty as the medical staff were occupied else where. Once she was thinking clearly Hinata made one demand. Where's Takara?
Reluctantly Sakura told Hinata about the sanin's injuries but couldn't pull back the curtains for her to see because of the other patients between them. After that Naruto pitched in,
"What about Orochimaru?" Sakura settled herself into a chair, she had just come off duty and thought she may as well update the two of them.
"He's dead, Takara killed him." Hinata smiled at her sensei's achievement, then she remembered her dream, 'My task is done', her smile faded.
"What about the gang?" Naruto ploughed on.
"Most are okay…" Sakura's expression darkened.
"Most?" Hinata asked, Sakura nodded not lifting her gaze from the floor. Both waited for Sakura to gather herself to tell them.
"Neji has lost his left eye, Shino's arm was crippled, Akamaru's leg was broken, Kiba was stabbed in the gut. Other than that everyone came through with cuts, bruises and exhaustion, except…" Sakura trailed off.
"except?" Naruto prompted.
"Sasuke… he…" Sakura clutched her hands on her knees. Naruto scowled and gripped his blankets.
"How?" Hinata asked after a moment of silence.
"Ino and a few other medics were moving injured back to the city while you kept the sound distracted with the Kyuubi. But they were caught by two sound squads before they reached the wall. Sasuke told Ino to keep going with the injured and he took on the sound."
"That idiot, he was injured…" Naurto cursed as a tear rolled down his face.
"He…he stopped them though. Then made it back to the walls." Sakura continued. "Ino tried her best to help him but he died of his injuries." The three of them fell silent for a moment.
"Ino told me that he found it ironic." Sakura continued. "He said that it was funny that he would die in the defence of a town he abandoned"
"Karmic retribution, he said." Ino entered the conversation. She had brought water and a thin soup for Naruto and Hinata.
"Why did he throw his life away so easily?" Naruto punched the mattress.
"I wouldn't say he did it easily, if he hadn't stepped up like that a lot of people would have died, including myself." Ino told them putting down the tray. Her voice cracked and she wiped her eyes and another silence fell in the room.
"Anyway," sniffed Sakura, "You two should eat something." she tried to steer the conversation away from the death of their friend.
"Yeah…" Naruto and Hinata answered sadly.
"A doctor will be coming around in about half an hour to look you two over. Most of your wounds healed as you were asleep. So if you get the say so you should be able to leave tonight." Ino told them, she wiped her eyes and left the room.
A doctor did come later that afternoon, she closed the curtains around each of their beds and examined them closely. Most of their wounds had been closed by medical jutsu's the rest had almost fully healed naturally.
Naruto got the all clear to leave but the doctor was not sure about releasing Hinata. Her chakra pathways were still decimated.
"I still have no idea how you managed that…" she commented as Hinata pulled her clothes back on.
"I don't have to stay do I?" Hinata asked.
"I suppose not, but no combat missions for a month at least." the doctor scribbled a note on Hinata's medical record.
"I really don't think that will be a problem…" Hinata muttered,
"I'll tell you the same as I told him too, no heavy foods for the rest of the week. Don't over exert yourself and lots of rest. If you still feel sore or lethargic at the end of the week, come back here."
"Right" Hinata said, the doctor waited until Hinata finished getting dressed before she pulled the curtain open to leave. Naurto was already dressed and waiting on his bed.
"You okay?" Naruto asked.
"I could ask you the same." she responded. She flexed her leg experimentally before trying to stand up. Satisfied that they wouldn't give out she slipped off the bed and leant on the windowsill while she waited for the pins and needle sensation in her feet to fade. As she waited she glanced out the window. They were on the top floor or the hospital and had a decent view of the village. She had been told she had been out cold for just over four weeks, but the village looked like the battle could have taken place yesterday.
Hinata turned away from the window and walked carefully to the end of the ward. She stopped at the first bed. Naruto wrapped his arms around Hinata from behind. She gripped his arm in return.
"She'll be alright…" he said, his tone was unsure but she smiled at him anyway. For a while Hinata stayed at Takara's bedside. She couldn't bring herself to leave the woman alone just yet. Eventually Hinata couldn't take it anymore and she had to leave before she burst into tears. She promised Takara she's come back to visit her the next day, but the only response was the rasping hiss of the iron lung.
Almost a third of the village had been entirely destroyed and another third was damaged by fire or earth tremours, most of the buildings had been homes. As Hinata and Naruto walked home they saw so many people camping in tents in the park, more sleeping on the benches in restaurants and many crammed into the homes of their friends.
"This is terrible" Hinata commented as she watched a family sitting outside a tent in the park.
"I know…" Naruto muttered.
"Look, its one of the lists" Hinata stepped away from Naruto to look at the list of the dead. She scanned down the list, she saw the names of a few people she knew from the jounin meetings, a number of Hyuugas she'd got on with and of course she found Sasuke's name.
"Aww, Bap…" Hinata muttered.
"Bap?" Naruto looked at her quizzically.
"He was a jounin I was teamed with a lot when I was first made a jounin, Flick too…" Hinata felt the sting in her eyes as she see the names of her old friends, the nickname team, they had called her Pearl. She didn't really keep in contact with them once she took over team three but seeing their names here saddened her.
"There are so many…"Naruto muttered as Hinata scanned the last few pages.
"There would have been a lot more if it wasn't for you." the couple turned to see a tired looking Shikamaru. "Sweet talking that demon brought us a bit of time."
"Did it really make that much of a difference?" Hinata asked.
"Didn't you see?" Shikamaru looked to Naruto, "Didn't you say she helped you?"
"I saw it but not through my eyes." Hinata muttered. Shikamaru looked at Hinata for a moment.
"It took the two of you." His eyes flicked from the identical scars on their left hands and then to Hinata's tattoo. His eyebrow arched. "How did that work?"
"The Kyuubi needed a living vessel." Hinata said quietly to avoid being overheard. Naruto looked at her wide eyed. "You really think we could hide this from Shikamaru?" she said.
"Suppose…" Naurto muttered. "But what happens now?" he asked as she swept his eyes around the street.
"Now? We rebuild" Shikamaru said following his gaze.
Hinata lay in bed, she had woken up before the alarm again. It was the same dream as before, Takara leaving her at the gate and disappearing. She watched the second hand tick around the clock. Behind her Naruto took and deep breath and sighed as he snuggled closer to her in his sleep. Hinata smiled, she gently lifted his arm from around her waist and slid from the bed, pulled on a robe and headed for the bathroom. She crept into the living room of their apartment, careful not to wake Kiba asleep on their sofa. His home had been destroyed in the attack, and with their apartment being as big as it was they invited Kiba along with his mother and sister to stay with them. The two women shared Hinata's bedroom, Kiba got the sofa and the dogs all curled up on pillows on the dinning room floor. Hinata slept with Naruto in his room.
She padded past the living room and into the bathroom. She rubbed her eyes and checked her reflection in the mirror. Like most people in the village these days, she looked tired. The scar on her hand caught her eye as she splashed water on her face. Holding her hand up she tried to channel a little power. The skin of her hand simmered and a thin layer of white chakra coated her hand. Hinata smiled, her chakra was slowly returning and it had only taken a month.
From the other room she heard the alarm go off, after four rings it shut off. Hinata finished her business and returned to the bedroom. Naruto was sitting up on the bed ruffling his hair.
"Mornin'" he grunted.
"Morning" she chuckled as she headed to the wardrobe. "We've got another fun day ahead of us again"
"Please tell me you're being sarcastic…" Naruto groaned as he scratched his stomach.
"Of course I am" she threw him a clean t-shirt from the drawer.
Since they got out of the hospital they had been given daily missions, and it was always the same for the past month. Clearing rubble and construction.
It had been slow going and the first priority was housing, rebuilding homes that were destroyed. After breakfast Hinata went outside to get some fresh air. Two Suna Shinobi walked down the street. Hinata watched them go.
After they helped Konoha, Gaara took the Suna force into Rice and headed for the Sound village. Jiraiya had gone with them as a representative of the Leaf. She had heard that the Sound village had been left utterly unprotected by Orochimaru and they surrendered as soon as the Suna force reached the top of the volcano cone. The shinobi left in charge of the village opened lines of negotiation with Suna and since then talks between the three villages opened up. Gaara returned to Suna with two thirds of his army, the last third stayed in the Sound village to keep an eye on the Sound and to protect the civilians since only a small number of Sound shinobi were left behind in the village. A number of Suna volunteered to return to Konoha to help rebuild.
Hinata walked down the street towards the building sites. Along the way she paused at an intersection, as expected there was Aiko and Shin waiting. Hinata smiled at her team, Megumi was still under the command of the medical corps and hadn't yet been released back to team three and Aiko had only rejoined them after getting the all clear about her ribs. The three of them continued on down the street, soon the noise of hammering and sawing filled the air along with the smell of cut wood.
"Another day, another building." Hinata muttered to herself.
"Heads up!" Hinata called to Naruto. He was waiting on the first floor of a building that was little more than a frame. Hinata lifted a thick beam and hoisted it up to boy.
"Got it" he shouted, and pulled the beam up. In turn he took the heavy beam over to the carpenters and held it while they hammered it into place. Then he returned to the edge where Hinata would throw up another beam. Using Shinobi to do the heavy lifting reduced the need for cranes and therefore saved time. Once the carpenters finished laying the support beams they moved on to laying a floor, this meant Hinata and Naruto got a bit of a rest. Shin and Aiko took over throwing lighter, longer planks up to the carpenters. Hinata put her hands on her waist and lent back. Her back was stiff and sore. It gave a satisfactory pop and she let out a sigh.
"Your back still giving you bother?" Naurto asked, he'd jumped down from the frame.
"My spine was splintered, its always gonna give bother" Hinata shoved him, the injury she got on her first ANBU mission into grass was normally only stiff in the morning but the recent days of labour had just caused it flare up more than usual.
"I remember" Naruto said, they had to get a Royki doctor to repair her spine.
"This house is going to be nice when it's finished." Hinata said looking at the shell. She watched the construction around her. Aiko and Shin helping the carpenters lay the floor, nearby Lee and Neji were lifting support beams for another house that the foundation had just been laid. Neji looked over and gave her a quick smile, the left side of his face twisted strangely around his eyepatch. She knew what the smile was about. The first time she went to the Hyuuga compound after she woke up Hiashi wanted to speak to her. Hinata was geared up for another argument but was stunned when the man fell to his knees and put his forehead on the floor and asked for permission to call her daughter again. Hinata was shocked, she'd never thought Hiashi would ever apologise, never mind in the main courtyard of the Hyuuga compound. Hinata pulled the man to his feet and told him he could but it would take some time for her to fully forgive him and call him father again. Hiashi smiled and made to hug her but she stepped back. He stopped and nodded, he had a lot to make up for.
"Sensei!" Hinata looked around pulled from her daydream, in the street was Megumi leaning a pile of lumber to catch her breath.
"What is it!" Hinata demanded from the redhead.
"She's awake" Megumi grinned. Hinata scrabbled to her feet and sprinted off down the street ignoring the civilian foreman calling her back. She jumped up on to the rooftops to avoid the packed streets. It was almost too good to be true. Hinata had visited Takara everyday since she woke up and there had been almost no change for the woman. Hinata dropped down into the courtyard and slowed to a jog as she came in the doors. Ignoring the calls of the receptionist she started up the stairs. She flung the doors to the ward with such force they nearly flew off their hinges.
"keep it down!" scolded Hebi, sweat on his forehead meant he had just got here himself. Hinata puffed an apology and looked past the man. Takara's bed had been propped up and the woman was laying back. An oxygen tube ran to her nose as she was still having some problems breathing. Her grey eyes were half lidded and she didn't seem to know what was going on. Next to her bed sat Gai, he was holding her hand in his, Hebi and Hinata stood at the end.
"The doctors had her on some pretty strong pain killers" Hebi said when he saw Hinata's confusion.
"She's not entirely awake yet" the doctor explained while changing Takara's IV to a more suited cocktail of drugs now that she was awake.
"Any idea how long it will take her to come around?" Gai asked.
"hmm… maybe a few hours, could take 'til tomorrow." the doctor told them with a shrug. In the bed Takara was having trouble staying awake.
"You can stay here but let her sleep if she drifts off. She's gonna be confused until she does fully wake up."
Takara drifted in and out of sleep for the remainder of the day, but none of the three visitors left. Hinata was laying in one of the empty beds of the ward, Hebi sat at the end of Takara's bed and Gai occupied the armchair next to the bed. Gai had slumped onto the bed and had fallen asleep, Hinata had just dozed off and Hebi volunteered to stay awake to watch Takara.
"…eb…" Hebi turned at the whisper. Takara's eyes were half open, watching him.
"hey…" he whispered back. "How are you feeling?" she just blinked in response. "Right, stupid question." Takara's mouth twitched as she tried to speak until she finally formed,
"He's dead, you killed him." Hebi smiled at her, she closed her eyes and for a moment Hebi thought she'd drifted off again but a tear leaked from one of her eyes and rolled down her cheek. "You finally got him." he continued once he realised it was a joyful tear. "There's others here to see you." Hebi told her with a point at Gai but Takara hadn't the strength to move her head to look at him just yet. Instead Hebi reached behind him and gently shook Hinata awake then reached over Takara and hit Gai on the head. The two of them woke instantly.
"She's awake." he said quietly. Hinata rolled off the bed and stepped in front of Hebi and Gai stood up from his chair and leant over the bed. Takara's eyes drifted between the two of them and the corner of her mouth twitched.
"Takara…" Gai reached forward and pushed the rebel strand of hair away from her face, as he drew his hand back he let several tears run down his face. "I thought you'd left me this time." he blubbed and rubbed his eyes roughly on his sleeve.
"You were the one calling her stubborn" Hinata laughed, she let her tears run freely. Between them Takara smiled and let them talk over and to her. Orochimaru was dead, her task was finally done.
They stayed with Takara the entire night, as the night wore on she became more responsive as the sedative effects of the pain killers wore off and by morning she was able to follow their conversations and occasionally pitch in, she didn't do this much, her throat was raw from the breathing tube and lack of speaking, she was how ever beginning to get a bit of strength in her limps. Hebi told Takara of the battle. In the fight a number of squads attacked the Royki and Buki-haji villages, being outside the main walls they were easy targets. Because of this most of the buildings had been destroyed in both clan villages and the poison works had been burned to the ground. All non-combatants of both clans had already been moved to the shelters within the mountains so they were alright, but a number of Royki and Buki-haji shinobi were not as lucky. Gai told her more of what happened at the main battle front and when he mentioned the Kyuubi's appearance Takara stole a glance at Hinata. Whether it was approving or disapproving Hinata couldn't tell. Hebi glanced at his watch.
"I must return to the clan village, I will be back later." he gave Takara's shoulder an affectionate squeeze then left the ward.
"Take care Hebi." Takara rasped, she rubbed her neck as if to find her voice.
"I'll have to go too Nee-chan, I ran out on a lot of work yesterday. Do you want me to bring anything when I come back later?" Takara smiled at Hinata and shook her head. The younger woman leant over the bed and wrapped her arms around Takara. "I'll see you later then." Takara returned the hug gripping the girl as tightly as she could. She regretted her disregard for Hinata's welfare during the fight with Orochimaru but she was glad the girl was okay. Takara rubbed her neck and lent back against the propped up bed as Hinata left the room. Her head felt light with the painkillers.
"You alright?" Gai asked automatically.
"I'm fine" she said hoarsely, he rose his eyebrow at her.
"That's not something someone in your position should be able to say."
"I can't feel a thing Gai, they're pumping me full of morphine." she whispered and waved her hand feebly at the IV above her. "Even my legs are numb"
"I suppose. You know, you really scared me. I thought I was going to lose you that time." Gai started looking directly at Takara now. She didn't know what to say to that and just let him continue. "We've both had too many close calls in the last few years and I … I don't want to left behind anymore. I want to stay with you, always. If you will stay with me as well" he flicked his eyes to the bed as he spoke but when he finished he looked back up.
"Gai…I…" Takara looked at him without speaking for a while. "Did you… just as me to … marry you?" Gai nodded and turned red. "You asked me to marry you while I'm high as a kite on morphine?"
"Well I erm…" He rubbed the back of his head and tried to stammer out an apology. Takara chuckled until she started coughing.
"Takara!" Gai leant forward but she waved him off, when the coughing subsided she lent back on the bed again.
"Your sense of timing is terrible sometimes" she said with one last cough and a smirk. Gai said nothing he was still reeling after being berated for proposing. The room was silent except for Takara's laboured breathing.
"I should go…" Gai stood up.
"Then'll I just…"
"No Gai, I mean yes" Takara smiled up at his confused face until it broke into a massive grin. He leant forward and wrapped his arms around her. Too tired to lift her arms to hug him back Takara instead kissed him.
"I hear congratulations are in order."
"You heard about that?" Takara looked up at the exhausted hokage as she came into the room. Gai had left earlier that day almost singing. Since then the woman got a chance to sleep for a few hours. Now that she was awake again, Tsunade came to see her.
"Half the village has heard about it." Tsunade chuckled.
"So much for a quiet engagement" Takara shook her head, "Can you get me a drink please"
"You're feeling better then?" Tsuande asked as she poured water into a plastic cup.
"As well as I can considering the circumstances." Takara said, a hint of dismay in her voice. Tsunade handed over the cup and sat down in the visitors armchair.
"I'm tired." she stated plainly.
"understandable…" Takara replied after taking a drink of water. The moisture was welcomed by the dry skin in her throat.
"You know, if something had happened to me in this war, the leaf would have been left without proper leadership." Tsunade looked out the window at the village. Takara rose her eyebrow and paused mid drink. "This thought came to me as I tried to get some sleep a few days ago. I was woken because it seems nothing can be done without my okay…" she sounded irritated, but after a deep breath she just looked stressed again.
"So what did you come up with?" Takara asked.
"I need to have an heir, someone to take over as hokage when I'm too old to carry on. Which might be soon." Tsunade sighed, she hadn't taken her eyes off the window.
"You have a candidate in mind?"
"Jiraiya was my first thought, but he's just as old and tired as me, besides he refused it before. Then I thought of someone else." Tsuande turned to look at the woman in the bed. Takara put down her cup and looked back up at Tsunade, her face was stern as she stared at the hokage.
"I can't accept that." Takara said plainly.
"You are the next logical choice, the first sanin of your generation." Tsuande rounded on her.
"That may be but…" Takara scowled and looked at the bed. "You weren't told were you?"
"Told what?" Takara said nothing but jerked her head towards the end of her bed. Tsunade strode to the bed frame and picked up the chart. "oh…"
"When I get out of here… I'll be in a wheelchair. Probably for the rest of my life. Now you see why I can't accept. Besides I'll just turn grey with that job." Takara tugged her dark hair as she tried to avoid the painful topic with a joke.
"I suppose…" Tsunade replaced the chart and slumped back in the chair. "Shikamaru was to be on my list too but he wouldn't never accept. He's too damn lazy."
"I can think of someone though." Takara added after pondering for a while.
"Is that really a good idea." Tsunade had a good feeling she knew who the woman was thinking of.
"He's not as foolish as he used to be, give him a few years and he'll be even more powerful and a little wiser." both woman looked out the window to watch the last rays of sunlight fade from the village. As they watched Naruto was bounding across the roofs of the village with a huge grin on his face and being closely followed by Sakura wielding a giant wooden beam.
"You're sure about that?" Tsunade asked.
"Not anymore…" Takara answered and covered her face with her hand.
Hinata darted down the shop aisle after the small child.
"Come here, what have I told you about running away from mummy" She said as she scooped up the giggling girl. Resting the child's weight on her hip she returned to the front of shop where Takara was waiting with the shopping on the ground next to her.
"Got her" Hinata chimed, as she set the small girl back on her feet.
"Thanks Kit, now hold on to mummy's hand" the baby reached up and Takara gripped her hand. Hinata lifted the shopping as they left the shop.
It was now two years after the Sound assault on Konoha and the village was finally getting back to normal. Takara and Gai had gotten married in a small ceremony after she was discharged from hospital and since Gai had no clan he took the name of Royki. Hinata remembered him saying that after all the effort Takara put in to getting her name back she would not give it up, even for him. Not long after the wedding Takara announced she was pregnant. She gave birth to a healthy baby girl, with Hinata and Lee as the god parents she was named Monoki. The baby girl had a thick mop of jet black hair and grey eyes as well as her mothers features, although she seemed to have Gai's energy. They had brought a house in the newly rebuilt area of the village, the room needed for a family. Hebi had offered a house in the Royki clan village but with Takara's legs it was too inconvenient.
Since leaving the hospital Takara had regular physiotherapy for her legs and through hard work and plain stubbornness she managed to get limited use of her legs back. On good days she was able to walk unaided but most of the time she walked with the aid of a cane. There were some days however when she would still need to use the wheelchair.
"What time is it?" Takara asked.
"Nearly noon" Hinata told her after glancing at her watch.
"Plenty of time then" adjusting her grip on the cane she walked on. The cane had been a birthday gift from Hinata, it was solid black with the head of a dragon cast in silver as the handle, what was special about it was that if the head of the dragon was twisted it would allow a blade to be drawn from within the shaft. Since Takara had lost her katana in the war this was a good replacement. As they neared the house they saw Gai standing outside the front door talking to Kakashi, they came up behind them in time to overhear Kakashi ask,
"Where's hop-along now then?"
"Right here" Takara snapped as she cracked Kakashi on the head with her cane. Ever since she threw him though her office window he had stopped calling her Snake Eyes, but now teased her with 'Hop-along' needless to say, it annoyed her greatly. "You're early." she added.
"Well you know me…" Kakashi rubbed his head and stepped aside. Monoki stumbled forward into her fathers arms with a laugh. Gai swept the girl up and tickled her.
"I asked him to come to help set up" Gai explained as he held Monoki over his head and gave her a gentle shake, she shirked with joy and clapped her hands. Takara smiled at the pair then pulled a backpack from her shoulder and handed it to Kakashi.
"Here, make yourself useful." he took the shopping and followed Hinata into the house and through to the kitchen.
"There you are." Hinata said upon entering the kitchen. Naruto was sitting on the counter talking to Lee. He slid off and took one of the bags off Hinata.
"Well I only just got away from Tsunade." he explained and leant in to kiss her.
"Yeah yeah," Hinata grinned and pecked him on the cheek. "Help me get things ready."
It was Monoki's first birthday and a rare chance when everyone was in the village and not busy with work so Gai had suggested a get together at their house.
A small ball rolled into the kitchen followed closely by Monoki waddling after it. Hinata chuckled and picked up the ball and child.
"It's a bit busy in here for you to be running around." Monoki squirmed at being lifted, Hinata gave instructions to the men in the kitchen to layout the snacks while she was away. Naruto gave a mock salute and tore open a large packet of crisps to dump in a bowl. Gai walked in to the kitchen.
"She's getting fast." he commented and swept his hand through his daughters hair. "Can you take her through to Takara while I get her some juice?"
"Sure, come on you little terror." Hinata sidestepped Gai and headed down the hall to the living room. Takara had gone on into the living room and sat in her armchair, she was rubbing her leg as Hinata entered.
"A bad day then?" she asked,
"Aye, not as bad as Tuesday though." Takara's arm chair was higher than other seats in the house to make it easier for the woman to get in and out of it. "Anyway, you causing bother?" she smiled at the baby who was reaching out for her. Hinata passed Monoki down to her mother, she threw the little ball into he playpen in the corner. Gai came in with a tippy cup of juice and plate of cut up fruit for the baby to snack on.
"I'll get Kakashi to help me set up the tables in the garden." he told them and left calling for the copy nin.
"After I feed Monoki I'm going to get her changed, can you make sure that Gai doesn't make a mess?" Takara said with a chuckle.
"Alright." for a second Hinata watched Monoki on Takara's knee chew on bits of apple with her four little teeth then she returned to the kitchen.
After a few hours people started to show up at the house and soon the garden was filled with people. The air was buzzing with conversation. Monoki walked around trailing a cuddly snake toy her uncle Hebi got her for her birthday, Gai walked close behind making sure she didn't fall or bump into someone.
"A bit over protective isn't he?" Kurnei commented to Takara.
"Yeah, but Monoki has him wrapped around her little finger." The two woman were sitting on the porch leading into the kitchen.
"Wonder if he'll be the same." she glanced over at Azuma who was laughing with the older Akimichi, Nara and Yamanaka men. The two of them had gotten married not long after Takara and Gai, although their wedding was a much larger affair. It seemed part of the aftermath of the war was many couples realised life was too short to put things off any longer. There had been a lot of marriages in the village in the six months after the battle.
"How far along are you now?" Takara asked.
"Just over four months" Kurnei smiled and rubbed her expanded stomach, Takara smiled and looked out at her guests everyone seemed so happy. Despite the war, the destruction and the loss of life, eventually people would begin to see the joy in life again. Time had healed the wound and even though a scar remained people learned to focus on the good things. Her eyes fell on Hinata, she was joking with her friends, next to her was Naruto with his arm around her waist. It was rare to see one without the other these days.
As the evening drew in they were forced to retreat inside as it began to rain. Most of the guests took this as their que to depart as not all of them would fit in the small house. As the night rolled on more and more left until it was only Hinata, Naruto, and Lee remaining. Takara took Monoki to bed while the others cleaned up.
"Naruto, can you bring me Monoki's dummy, I left it in the kitchen" she called down the stairs, she had left it there on purpose, she wanted to talk to Naruto on his own. The blond bounced up the stairs into the baby's room with the pacifier.
"Here you go."
"Hold on a moment" she whispered after him, leaning into the cot she gave the baby her dummy, Monoki rubbed her eyes and sucked on the dummy then reach for her favourite stuffed toy, a small fuzzy fox. "I want a word with you before we go back down." she spoke in a soft voice to help lull the baby to sleep.
"What is it?" Naurto whispered.
"You've been putting if off for weeks now haven't you?" Takara looked over her shoulder at him and smirked as he shifted uncomfortably outside the door. "Thought so." She pulled a blanket over the sleeping Monoki and padded out of the darkened room, leaving the door cracked open a little so it wasn't in complete darkness.
"Why not do it now?" Takara suggested, "she's so happy after today."
"But Tsunade told me not to tell anyone about me being her heir, not even Hinata, not yet." Naurto whined. Takara clapped her hand over his eyes.
"The 'other' thing you've been putting off"
"Oh…" Naruto muttered. Takara shook her head, and chuckled.
"Still don't know what she sees in you" she teased and headed down the stairs holding tightly to the banister. Naurto took a moment to build up the courage then followed Takara down stairs. They were all sitting at the kitchen table and a slightly tipsy Gai was telling stories from when he and Takara were younger. Both Lee and Hinata laughed at him as he acted out a scene of his tale.
"Hinata?" Naurto chanced.
"he he …yeah?" Hinata looked up at him as she laughed at Gai.
"Can I have a word…" he jerked his thumb over his shoulder towards the glass door to the back garden.
"Sure." the couple went outside and closed the glass door, cutting off Lee's peals of laughter. The rain and stopped leaving a clear night sky above them. "It's a beautiful night." Hinata commented looking up at the stars.
"Yeah…" commented Naruto, but he was not looking at the sky, he was looking at her.
"Did you want something?" Hinata asked him.
"Oh yeah…" Naurto rubbed his neck and dug into his pocket. "How long have we been together now?"
"Hmm," Hinata counted off on her fingers, "Since we were sixteen, four years. Why?"
"You know that I love you, more than anything." He felt the heat rise in his cheeks as he blushed.
"Of course I do." Hinata looked at him with a hint of suspicion in her expression. Naruto continued to riffle his pockets. "Is something wrong?" Hinata asked.
"No, its just, erm…" Naruto opened his jacket and searched his inner pockets. He really should have done this before he asked her to come outside. At last his hand closed around what he was searching for.
"I wanted to ask you something for a while now but I kept putting it off until the time was perfect" He pulled the little box out of his inside pocket and sank down on one knee, holding up the little box he pried it open to show a small silver ring with a diamond set in a decorative holder resting on a deep blue pillow.
"Will you marry me?" he asked looking into her eyes. Hinata looked between the diamond and the bright blue eyes behind it. She was quiet for so long Naurto began to shake.
"You idiot," she said, "You really think I'd ever say no" Naruto broke into a grin he stood up and pulled the ring from the box. Hinata held out her hand to let him slip it on. He slowly slid the ring on to her finger once it was on he looked up into her eyes. In the kitchen Takara pushed away from the door she smiled to herself as she sat beside her husband at the table and leant her head on his shoulder. She'd stop listening in and leave them alone.
"I love you" Naruto whispered for no reason,
"And I love you" Hinata replied.
The couple leant closer together and kissed under a sky full of stars.
Its over, *sniff*
Thank you for sticking with me and i hope you enjoyed the story.
I hope that in future you will watch for any more stories I write.
Thank you all for helping me improve my writing
bye for now