"Sakura." Sasuke began to feel the faintest hint of a smirk tugging at his lips before he froze. All of this, these feelings he was having, the kinship he felt for Naruto and the more complex feelings he had for Sakura...they were coming back. They were faint, but they were there. The bonds were returning, and he was letting it happen. And as the more pleasant, wholesome bonds returned, his hatred for Itachi was receeding. The realization sent him crashing downward, and he felt his face stiffen reflexively. A vague part of him was aware of the worry growing in Sakura's eyes, her face in such close proximity to his. The rest of him was quickly tearing away from all the emotions he had so recently rediscovered.

And just as quickly, the hatred was coming back. He hadn't really been eliminating it at all, just repressing it. It filled him with a newfound anger and determination, he had been wasting his time here! A single thought played itself over and over in his head...What are you doing?! He thought there may have been a way to rid Sakura of her memories of him, and Naruto and Kakashi and...the others, as well, but a bitter voice in his head told him it was a waste of chakra.

He stood aprubtly, ignoring Sakura when she called after him and grabbed his katana from where it leaned against the couch. Before she had time to try and stop him, he pushed chakra into his feet and leaped up onto the roof, racing out to Konoha's wall. Memories of his parents and his clan and his family that he had been allowing fragile friendships to overshadow flooded his mind, and Sasuke shoved everything meaningless away, regretting everything he had done in the past few weeks. Waste of time...

He dropped down from Konoha's wall, pausing for just a moment. He could sense her, nearby. With someone else. Activating his sharingan, Sasuke crept forward slowly, silently, recognizing the two chakras instantly. Part of him didn't want to know why he wasn't hearing any conversation, and part of him just wanted to see them one last time. He hadn't been able to face Sakura, not after the way she had reacted the last time he had left. It had almost made him think twice. All of them made him hesitate, and hesitation was something he couldn't afford. Itachi had certainly never hesitated. He stopped moving, intending to turn around and just keep going. Last he had heard, Orochimaru was intending to pursue the 3 tails Bijuu, and he knew he'd have to be around for that.

But he had gone too far, and he could see them. Hinata, with her arms wrapped around Naruto's neck and his arms around her waist, pressed together in an intimate embrace. Her head was resting on his shoulder and her eyes were closed. Sasuke felt his teeth clench together. He was self-destructive, he was sure of it. The one girl who didn't have feelings for him was the one he decided to become attached to...he had probably done it on purpose. She loved Naruto, of course she did. He knew that. Hell, everyone knew that.

It was Itachi, he was the reason Sasuke couldn't stay. He was the reason Sasuke hadn't been able to close the distance between his lips and Sakura's, why he couldn't just be there for Naruto and try to move on. He didn't want to move on. He had to kill Itachi, he would kill Itachi, and he would get the answers he needed.

Hinata opened her eyes, and they focused in his direction, but he was already gone. He didn't think she saw him.


Hinata stumbled away from the place she had left Itachi. This was all so...insane. Her hands were still trembling from the intensity of her encounter with the older Uchiha, and she knew that she would likely never see him again. And it all felt so wrong. This fight between him and Sasuke, the way that it all was going to end, it seemed so perverse and tragic. The most frustrating thing was that she hadn't the faintest idea why she felt this way. There was no logic behind her feelings, only an intuition that came from the crossing of her Byakugan and Itachi's Sharingan. She was sure that Sharingan and Byakugan had met in battle hundreds of times before, so why did these strange things happen between hers and Sasuke's and Itachi's? She could only begin to guess, she would need more insight before she was sure or could form an actual theory.

She knew quite a lot about the Byakugan now, more than Neji because of the privelage of being born in the "right" part of her clan. So she needed to know more about the Sharingan. A disturbance of chakra broke her thought pattern, and she stopped walking. Itachi was gone now, she could tell. The trembling in her hands had escalated until her entire body was quivering. She tucked the piece of cloth from Itachi's cloak into her pocket, dropping to her knees.

This was definitely too much. It didn't even feel like it was her business. Hinata felt as if she was living in a dream, in someone else's life, in another universe. The cold air and the wetness from the rain was helpful, it kept her thoughts sharp and together so she didn't break down. Then, a laugh choked out of her throat when she sensed someone approaching. Hinata stood up slowly, sniffling and wiping the rain from her eyes.

She knew it was Naruto before he called out her name, before she even saw her. Knowing that he was there made things complete, somehow sewing things into place and making her feel warm and uplifted. She rushed forward through the trees, looking for his bright blue eyes...

His face broke into a surprised, hesitant smile when he saw her, and for the first time she didn't feel any shred of embarassment. Right now, she was going to forget the doubts she had about him and Sakura. All that mattered was the two of them. He wanted her, and she loved him. Hinata flung herself at him, wrapping her arms around his shoulders. "Naruto-kun..." Before he could speak, she pressed her lips against his ear. "No matter what happens, I want you to know that I'll always be here for you, and I'll always fight for you." She felt adult and mature murmuring the words, and confident as he wrapped his arms around her waist.

"Hinata-chan..." But she just hugged him tighter, not wanting him to say anything that might ruin the moment. With a content sigh, she laid her head on his shoulder, eyes closed. They stayed that way for several moments until she felt something deep in her heart, a painful twinge that seemed to radiate from outside of her. She opened her eyes in time to catch a glimpse of a pair of red eyes that brought her no fear. But the expression on Sasuke's face made her gasp, breaking away from Naruto and starting to move towards where she had seen him.

As soon as she had seen him, he had vanished. She wondered if he had been there at all.

"Hinata? Are you okay?" Naruto touched her arm lightly, but she barely felt it.

What was that? She couldn't remember ever seeing so much emotion on Sasuke's face before, even in the years before she had spoken to him. So much pain, and so much hatred. She had no idea how much he was truly hiding.

"Sasuke?!" Hinata and Naruto turned to look at the place Sakura's voice originated from just as she burst through the trees, tears in her eyes.

"H-he was just here." Hinata whispered.

"He's leaving again!" Sakura rushed forward, and Naruto's body tensed.

"What?! Are you sure!?"

"He had...the same look he had when he left the first time!" Sakura seemed to be having a hard time keeping herself together, although Naruto's entire attitude changed.

"We'll go after him this time. He can't have gone far, you saw him, didn't you Hinata? Can we catch up?"

Before Hinata could reply, Sakura spoke.

"Yes, I was very close behind him! Hinata, please-!" She grabbed Hinata's arm, and Hinata felt numb looking into the other kunoichi's eyes, so full of despair. Well placed emotions, the kind of love Sasuke needed but was running away from.

"R-right...!" Hinata whirled around, activating her Byakugan. Her brain had disconnected, trying to protect her from the crazy tide of things she was feeling. She didn't understand any of it. Her vision sped forward, searching out chakra. There was a faint hint of where he had been, but he was moving so quickly, she understood instantly that they wouldn't catch him. But she also knew that Naruto and Sakura wouldn't hear it. "This way!" She sprang forward, racing through the trees with the other two right behind her.

They raced through the forest as if hell was chasing them, all through the night until they reached the edge of the fire country. It was Sakura who said it, falling to her knees in despair. "We...were too late. He's gone." She sounded so haunted, so defeated, that Hinata couldn't bring herself to look at her. She focused on Naruto instead, who moved over to Sakura and folded her in his arms, tears leaking from his closed eyes. Sakura grabbed at his chest, and Hinata heard a faint clicking noise. Hinata couldn't even find it in herself to be jealous. She just dipped her head, panting heavily from the speed of their run.

She had failed just as much as Sakura and Naruto.

Why does he trust you? Why does he...care about you?

Bring Sasuke back to Konoha for me...

Is it broken, Hinata?

'No,' Hinata thought. 'My heart isn't the one that's broken. Just the one that deserves to be.' She clenched her hand into a fist, drawing it up to her chest and dipping her head. That pain on Sasuke's face...she had been the cause of it. She knew it. Hinata would have loved to believe that she was simply being egotistical, that someone like Sasuke would never care about her, that she would never have to hurt anyone like him. That she would never be able to. As the tears began falling from her eyes, she felt once more like she was living someone else's life. Could she have done anything? If she had realized what Sasuke was feeling sooner, would it have made a difference?

And what did she feel in return?

Hinata let her gaze flicker to Naruto one more time just before deactivating her Byakugan.

What she saw made her reactivate it instantly. Sasuke vanished almost completely from her mind, because the situation forming was so much more pressing. His chakra was changing so rapidly, flooding and swirling in violent patterns. The color was different too. And Naruto's body was shaking, his arms still clenched around Sakura who attributed his motion to crying. "Sakura!" Hinata cried out, watching the pink haired kunoichi's eyes slowly widen as she sensed the change, the forming of sinister chakra that leaked from Naruto's body. He wasn't in control anymore, he didn't seem to be able to move.

"SAKURA, MOVE! KNOCK HIM UNCONSCIOUS!" Hinata was racing towards them, screaming the words as she did, even though they were ones she never thought she would say. She had never faced Naruto influenced by the Kyuubi in a combative situation, and she didn't want to. She lifted her hand, channeling the chakra and intending to drive it into the side of Naruto's head. His arm snapped around, grabbing her hand. The red chakra had sunk into his skin, and pieces of it were melting away. Slowly, Naruto turned his head to look at her. Hinata heard Sakura screaming as the chakra burned her, and felt that same pain on a lesser scale. She saw a flicker of tortured recognition in Naruto's eyes, which were rapidly turning color as his skin continued to dissolve. Luckily for Hinata, Naruto stood and swung his arm with intense strength, sending her flying through the air.

She had time only to cover her face and head with her arms before colliding with the ground. The force didn't knock her unconscious, but she felt the dirt crater with the strength of her impact. Pain rocketed up her side, and she coughed, knowing at least one of her ribs was broken. Sakura was still screaming.

Why was this happening? Naruto had lost control before, but...had it ever been this bad? Hinata forced herself to focus, counting...two tails...and now three? She could see something lying on the ground by Sakura, a necklace. That necklace that Naruto always wore. Sakura must have accidentally pulled it off. It restrained the Kyuubi. But it shouldn't have come flooding out like this. And now a fourth tail was forming. Naruto seemed to manage to release Sakura, and forced her away from him with a blast of chakra with what must have been his last conscious moment, because then he threw his head back and let out an inhuman roar.

The jutsu. The one Itachi and that other Akatsuki had spoken of. The one that released the Kyuubi. Hinata forced herself to stand, but was unable to straighten up without a sharp pain in her side. She couldn't run away, and even if she was physically able to, she knew Naruto would be destroyed if he killed Sakura. Naruto was crouching, his entire frame trembling as the red chakra continued to pour out. As quickly as her shaking hands would allow, Hinata created a clone which ran off in the direction of Konoha for help. Naruto watched it go with his head tilted to one side as if debating whether or not he should follow.

Hinata took a step towards Sakura while Naruto was distracted. If she could somehow drag herself and Sakura a safe distance away, maybe they would be able to just...wait for help. Hinata knew even at her best she didn't have a chance in hell at stopping Naruto. The flow of chakra seemed to slow slightly, and Hinata knew Naruto was fighting this. At some level, he must still know she and Sakura were nearby, and he didn't want to hurt them. That's what Hinata told herself, anyway. Because if Naruto gave up, what hope did the rest of them have?

Hinata tried to move a little faster, only to feel the sharp pain in her side intensify and double, sending her to her knees as her breath gave out and blood came coughing up her throat. Naruto's head snapped around as the third tail continued forming, and his mouth stretched into a strange grimace. Hinata stumbled the rest of the way to Sakura, trying not to think about whose blood was making her hands slippery. "S-Sakura-san, come on."

The other kunoichi's eyes were clamped shut in pain, and Hinata could tell a good deal of her skin had been burned away by the Kyuubi's chakra. Sakura was already trying to heal herself, but she stopped suddenly, eyes opening and looking at Naruto. The fear in Sakura's eyes finally transferred to Hinata, who had been supressing it beneath pain and a sense of purpose. "C-can you walk?" Hinata tried to help Sakura into a sitting position, while she fought to ignore the growing chakra behind them.

Sakura shook her head then whispered, "You have to get away from him...if he gets any farther he'll...kill both of us." Hinata clenched her teeth together, grabbing Sakura's arm and wrapping it around her shoulders while she put her own arm securely around Sakura's waist. She was having a hard time breathing, and the blood continued to drip from her lips. "No...! Just leave m-me, Hinata!"

"Y-you'd d-do the same...for...f-for..." Hinata decided not to waste any more energy or oxygen on words, instead forcing herself upright once again and starting to stumble away from Naruto. She had barely been walking for a minute when another roar sounded through the trees, followed by a blast of chakra that knocked Hinata and Sakura off their feet. Facedown in the dirt, Hinata could practically imagine her punctured lung trying to inflate properly. How much time before help arrived? Were they far enough away to be safe from him?

Hinata felt something touch her side and jumped, twisting around to look at Sakura, whose hand was pressed against her ribcage. "D-don't...move..." Sakura hissed, concentration etched onto her face. Hinata held as still as she could, then winced and gasped as her lung was repaired. While she worked, Sakura whispered, "Get Yamato, or Jiraiya or Kakashi...even if you have to leave me. We can't lose...Naruto."

Hinata nodded curtly. Sakura was devoting just enough chakra to her burns to keep herself from bleeding to death, which meant that she couldn't entirely heal Hinata. But with the ability to move freely, Hinata knew she could manage. When Sakura finished, her hand dropped to her side and her eyes closed halfway, her entire body sagging with the effort. "S-Sakura! Don't die, okay? Naruto needs y-you even m-more than...than you need him." It wasn't pain or even fear that made her stutter that time.

Testing the limits of her mobility and feeling satisfied, Hinata lifted Sakura again, this time helping her into a piggyback position on her back. Then she started running back towards Konoha. It killed her to leave Naruto behind, but what other choice did she have? There was yet another roar, and this time Hinata sensed the chakra approaching, stronger than the last one. She couldn't stop herself from turning around.

Hinata's eyes widened, a wave of chakra racing through the trees in an outward ripple that was decimating the foliage in its path. None of her defensive jutsu would have any effect on chakra of this magnitude. And the destructive power of the chakra was terrifying. Hinata noticed that the chakra was moving as a ring, with the inside being safe once the chakra had passed it. Focus, She thought desperately. Focus... She tightened her grip on Sakura, praying that she wouldn't mess this up. If she did, they might not survive. Fold the chakra in and let it go all at once... The wall of chakra was approaching faster and faster, and Hinata could even sense the heat that radiated from it before she released the jutsu.

Time closed in on itself, and she felt Sakura gasp in surprise and pain as they whirled forward. The deadly chakra brushed against them just enough for the two kunoichis to feel its force before there was nothing to feel, before they were moving outside of space altogether.

Then the sensation stopped and Hinata stumbled, panting heavily. Transporting two people with a jutsu like that took more chakra than she would have guessed. Sasuke must really be something else. Hinata felt a spark of anger amidst all the panic and terror. This was his fault. If they hadn't had to chase after him, they'd be close enough to Konoha for someone to help them. Hinata realized something else at the same time.

Naruto was moving towards them. At a speed that even Kiba probably couldn't match. He could sense them, and he was coming after them. Hinata could only be thankful that he hadn't used another chakra blast-she didn't think she had enough chakra to pull off another teleportation jutsu. Instead, she dropped Sakura as gently as she could, then sank into a defensive position in front of her, casting her Byakugan out in all directions. Was Yamato on his way yet? Was there time?

There!

She could see a group of four sprinting towards them from Konoha, including Kakashi, Yamato, Tsunade and Jiraiya. But they were too far away! By the time they got to where she was, she and Sakura would either be dead or dying, if Sakura wasn't there already.

There was someone else, too. In the other direction. She knew he was still close by. He was just a magnet for destruction and despair, where else would he have gone? "SASUKE!!" She screamed the name with everything she had in her. She knew Itachi never would have released the Kyuubi, not like this, and not for no reason. Unless he was trying to prevent them from reaching Sasuke...

But no. She knew it wasn't Itachi, she could just feel it. Which meant it had to have been Sasuke, for whatever purpose. She didn't care much about his reasoning. All she knew was that if she died here, because Sasuke had screwed Naruto over yet again, she would hunt Sasuke down and kill him herself. Naruto didn't deserve this!

Just then, Naruto burst through the trees, literally tearing them from their roots and sending them flying into the air away from him. Hinata counted three and a half tails. The Kyuubi sank into a crouch, a low growl that sounded disturbingly like a chuckle rippling from its throat."SASUKE!" She decided to try again. "This is your fault! Come back here and FIX it!" Hinata didn't have the faintest idea if he could hear her, but it made her feel stronger just thinking about him. She had to survive this, so she could find Sasuke and...well...kick his ass and drag him back to Konoha.

The Kyuubi prowled forward slowly, toying with her. Hinata stepped forward, turning halfway around for momentum as she had seen Neji do so many times and forcing chakra out explosively from her hand straight at the Kyuubi. She couldn't think of him as Naruto, or she wouldn't be able to fight. The attack hit him square on, and instead of actually hurting him, it simply pushed him back several yards. She definitely wouldn't be able to hold him off for long, but now that she had an idea of what it would take to delay him, she felt a little more confident.

Hinata had been working on a technique with Neji's assitance. It was far from perfect, and whenever she had tried it in the past, she had ended up unconscious. But she understood her own limits now, understood how to move and how to channel chakra. Hinata swept her arms up and did spun again, rushing forward. "Juho Soshiken!" Her chakra took the form of lion dogs, launching directly into the Kyuubi with as much force as she could muster.

If she could stall long enough, maybe the others would arrive in time to save Sakura, at least. Sakura and Tsunade could heal Naruto. He would be safe, he had to be safe. As long as he was safe, she could live with anything else. Even her own death.

Hinata wondered how many moments she had left to live. The attack actually pushed the Kyuubi back a fair distance, but now she got the vague sense that it was irritated. It wasn't going to toy around anymore. The Kyuubi swung itself around, grabbing a tree trunk with its claws and flinging it at Sakura and Hinata.

Hinata sunk backward, taking inventory of how much chakra she had left. Enough, she decided, and swung her arms up, creating a cage of protective chakra around her and Sakura. The tree trunk ricocheted off the front of the dome and flew up overhead, landing behind them. Hinata started to stop the jutsu, but she hadn't realized the tree was just a distraction. The chakra blast following it was relatively small when compared to the earlier ones, but it would be plenty big enough to do some serious damage.

Acting on instinct, Hinata turned and covered Sakura with her own body as much as she could, closing her eyes in anticipation of the pain.

With the first stroke of good luck she had had in a long time, the force was powerful enough that she was knocked unconscious instantly. But the blessed unconsciousness didn't last long. Maybe only five or ten seconds. When her eyes opened again, she couldn't make sense of anything, not even which was up or which was down. Her Byakugan had deactivated itself, and she couldn't tell where Sakura was.

"Naruto-kun..." Hinata lifted her head, finding the Kyuubi and locking it in her vision. Something was in the way though, blocking the violent looking chakra. "Nn..." Hinata frowned, finally decided that whatever was blocking her vision looked something like a very small tree...with two trunks? It was a person. Kakashi and the others must have been closer than she realized! Nearly sobbing with relief, Hinata let her head drop back to the dirt.

"This is the last time I'm going to save you."

Sasuke. Hinata let her eyes drift upward to take in all of the person standing between her and the Kyuubi. Maybe she was already dead, and her brain was failing, causing her to hallucinate. But she always imagined that if she were going to hallucinate, Naruto would be the one with her. Not Sasuke. Not the person who had caused Naruto more grief and pain than anyone else. She was pretty sure that she hated him.

At least he's trying to fix this latest thing he's broken. Hinata thought numbly as darkness washed up and pulled her under again.


Hinata felt warm. This struck her as strange. It was nighttime and she was outside in the forest, shouldn't she be cold? And she was very comfortable. There was a pillow under her head and scratchy blankets pulled over her. The kind you'd find in hospitals.

The hospital...?

Hinata sat up, thrashing slightly to get the blankets off of her. She was in a hospital room, in a bed by the window. She could see Konoha outside. The sky was gray, with the faintest hint of pink on the horizon. Sunrise or sunset...? How long had she been asleep? At first she had thought she was alone, but then she realized there were other people in her room. Kiba and Shino were asleep at the foot of her bed, and Sakura was in the bed next to her. Sai and Ino sat vigil by her bed. Ino was asleep as well, but Sai was awake and looking at Hinata.

"H-how long...?" She whispered, swinging her legs out of bed.

"About a day." Sai replied quietly. It was sunset, then. "They said you'll both be fine, but they worked on you longer. You had a lot of other injuries, older ones." He seemed curious about an explanation, but Hinata didn't notice.

The door opened and Kakashi walked in, pausing when he saw Hinata. "Ah, you're awake. How are you feeling?"

"I-...I'm fine." She wasn't really sure how to answer. Kakashi nodded to Sai, who stood and walked out of the room briskly. Kakashi sat in the seat he had just vacated.

"N-Naruto-kun...? Is he...?"

Kakashi frowned. "Tsunade was working on him all night. He still hasn't woken up."

Hinata bit her lower lip worriedly.

"I wouldn't be too concerned," Kakashi continued. "He has survived much worse."

"R-right..."

Kakashi let out a small sigh, leaning forward. "Hinata."

"Kakashi-sensei...?"

"When we got there, we sensed that someone had just left. That someone held the Kyuubi at bay for almost three minutes."

Hinata didn't look at him, her eyes were too tired to lift them from the tiled floor of the room.

"It was Sasuke, wasn't it? That was why the three of you were out so far."

He phrased it like a question, but Hinata knew Kakashi didn't really expect an answer. "Naruto-kun and Sakura-san...they really care about him. But I don't know if there's any point in holding onto him. I don't know if he's worth it." Although Naruto-kun thinks he is. And maybe he's right. Sasuke needs people to fight for him. If they fight long enough, maybe he isn't really a lost cause.

There was a long pause, then Kakashi spoke again. "He visited me just before he left. He asked me to train you."

"Wh-what?" Hinata finally found the motive to lift her gaze to Kakashi's, which still appeared polite and calm, as always. She started to ask why, but knew she and Kakashi could only begin to guess at Sasuke's motives.

"I will have some time in the next few months, if it sounds like something you'd be interested in."

Hinata didn't hesitate. She wanted to be able to do more than just use her Byakugan and the Gentle Fist style. "Hai."

Then she stood shakily, holding onto her IV stand. They had dressed her in the hospital scrubs all patients wore. She didn't have any shoes. "I...Do you think I could see him?" Kakashii's frown deepened, but he stood to help her into the hallway and pointed to the room at the end of the corridor.

"I don't think anyone will bother you." He murmured, then offered to go with her. Hinata shook her head and stumbled weakly towards the door he had indicated. She peeked in through the window in the door, but the lights were off, and she couldn't make out anything beyond a shape in the only bed the room contained. As quietly as possible, she slipped into the room and shut the door behind her, wheeling her IV stand over to his bed. The metal wheel of the stand tapped the chair against the wall with a morbidly cheerful clang, and Hinata froze. But Naruto didn't even stir. It was disturbing to see him sleeping so still, but she was fairly sure she could yell at him and he wouldn't so much as twitch.

Carefully, she sat beside him on the bed, trying to ignore the bandages that wrapped around his forehead and neck and seemed to cover most of his body. Forgive me, Naruto-kun. Would he be angry when he woke up? Angry that she stayed and got hurt, or angry that she hadn't fought harder to get help or save Sakura...? Or would he just be angry with himself? Probably the latter.

"Hinata..." Naruto's lips barely moved, and his eyes flickered open. She wondered if she had spoken aloud on accident.

"Naruto-kun! I'm sorry, go back to sleep. I'll go." She started to get up, but Naruto's hand twitched towards hers as if he was trying to stop her. She sat down again, frowning.

"No...I think we should...talk." He tried to sit up, but gave up after a moment or two. His words were slurred together, as if it was hard for him to talk properly.

Hinata's heart sank. "Just get some rest, we can talk later." She knew this conversation was coming, but that didn't mean she was looking forward to it.

"Should be...now." Naruto half smiled, resting his hand on top of hers.

Hinata decided to spare him. "Naruto-kun, it's okay. I know what you're thinking." He blinked at her, frowning. "I...right now isn't the right time for us. You have enough to worry about without worrying about hurting me too." She knew this wasn't about her or Sakura or even Sasuke. It was about Naruto, what he needed and what was best for him.

"Hinata..." He looked apologetic and very sad, like there was a lot he wanted to say but couldn't. Hinata forced a smile that came out as sincere and caring as she meant it.

"It's our turn to protect you, Naruto-kun. Sometimes...you just have to let your friends take care of you. I'm not going anywhere, none of us are. I'll always be here for you." She wanted to say more too, she wanted to tell him how much she loved him and how much Sakura did too, but she couldn't. Someone outside the window was masking their presence, but she was fairly sure she knew who it was.

The best thing she could do to help Naruto was to bring Sasuke back. That's what she had told herself. She had told herself the only interest she had in the younger Uchiha was the interest that came from wanting to help Naruto. But the truth about Sasuke was deeper, she knew that.

Leaning in, Hinata kissed Naruto's forehead and stood, knowing he was asleep again before she had shut the door to his room. She glanced around, making sure she was alone, then pulled the IV out of her arm and slipped out the window.

Sasuke was leaning against a tree, watching her with an impassive face. She thought of what she wanted to say to him carefully before speaking, walking towards him slowly. "Sasuke-kun. You shouldn't be here."

He clearly hadn't been expecting that. It was only because of how well she knew the subtle ticks of his eyes that she could see the surprise there. "Itachi is getting farther away as we speak. The longer you delay going after him..."

"You aren't going to try to stop me? To beg me and say how much Naruto and Sakura need me?" The sound of his voice shocked her. He was so cold, so detached, it was as if they had never met.

"No."

Sasuke stared at her for a few seconds. "Hn." Then he turned, about to jump away. Hinata grabbed his wrist.

"But when you're done. When you've killed Itachi and when you've settled the debt owed to your clan...you should come back."

Sasuke jerked his arm away, shaking his head slightly. He took two steps, then Hinata spoke up a little louder.

"I want you to come back, Sasuke. Not just for Naruto and Sakura." He froze. Hinata's heart was pounding in her chest, but she had never been so sure about anything in her life. "Please. I want to know that I could see you again one day. I know you care about me, even if it's just a little bit. I know you do. I care about you too. If you wanted me to, I would leave Konoha tonight. I've already done that, I've already shown you what I'd do for you." She moved closer, putting one hand on his shoulder and turning him around to force him to look at her.

She didn't know exactly what she felt for him. All she knew was that those feelings were intense, passionate, and ran just as deep as the ones she had for Naruto. The only difference was that the feelings she had for Sasuke were undefined. They just existed, far beneath the surface, in their raw form. She needed time to sort them out, but she knew time was something she didn't have.

"Sasuke-kun. Come back to us someday, come back to me." She felt a sudden tremor in her fingers that originated from her heart. He looked so impassive. His onyx eyes were completely unreadable, and he was frozen in place. "Do you know...? Do you understand how much you mean to me?"

"Yes."

No... Hinata sensed his tone as he spoke, realizing what was about to happen.

"I just don't care." He swatted her hands away from him, then vanished with a small swish of wind.

Hinata gasped, feeling as if she had been punched in the stomach. But she didn't feel like crying. She didn't even feel sad or rejected. Only frustrated. He was so far gone, he wasn't even allowing himself to feel anymore. He wouldn't feel anything besides hatred. And hatred was so much stronger than friendship or love. That hatred was the only thing that could keep him away from the people who cared about him.

But Hinata hated him too. She hated him more than she loved Naruto. For everything that he was and everything that he had done. She had felt pain before, even felt betrayal. She thought she understood what he was feeling, where he was coming from. She just hoped that the hatred she had would be enough to destroy the darkness growing inside him. Hinata promised herself she would find him again one day, and when she did, she was going to save him before there was nothing left to save.

Hinata turned around, climbing back into the hospital. Her next step was simple. Kakashi had the Sharingan, and he had just agreed to train her. So she was going to find out why her Byakugan had interacted with Sasuke's and Itachi's the way it had.

After that, she would become stronger. She would protect Naruto, and she would train harder than ever.

Hinata would hold Sasuke in her heart until Itachi was dead. Then she would go after him.

To be continued...

Author: Oh no...do you hate me? On a scale of one to a hundred, how much do you hate me? Lots? You may hate me because there was no lemon, but I couldn't put one in without it seeming like Hinata was being used. So you'll just have to wait for the sequel to see the SasuHina, which WILL be coming soon. The sequel will be called Raven, and it'll be mostly Sasuke, as opposed to this story which was mostly Hinata.

Raven will also be more about Sasuke and Hinata's relationship and Hinata finding that fine line between love and hate and feeling both at the same time for a single person. Also, Hinata will get to do a lot more saving in Raven. It'll take place two years after this one leaves off, and I'm going on the assumption that Kishimoto doesn't kill off Sasuke or Hinata and leaves Naruto open-ended. That way we can pretend this actually happens. ;)

Of course, if he DOES kill Sasuke or he pairs Sasuke and Sakura together or Naruto and Hinata, we can just say this is what WOULD have happened, yeah?

REVIEW! Tell me what you liked, what you didn't like, etc...And if you're an artist and feel like drawing something related to this, I'll probably be more inspired to get that sequel out faster. If you're super impatient, check out my video on my profile. It's kind of a trailer for Raven.

Until next time!
-Spar