A/N: Written for no other reason than just because I wanted to, which makes it the first in a very long line of request-fics.
Future!fic, in which Hinata becomes the leader of the Hyuuga. Yes, I know it's been done. I haven't done it, so shush.
When had she become a lady worth protecting?
There is a kind of darkness that can only be found in the Hyuuga compound during a summer night. It is heavy and warm and hardly dark at all, glowing softly with the light of unseen lanterns, never perfectly quiet but never loud.
Neji could have recognized his home from just a corner of this blue-twilight night, having spent countless number of them sitting on the deck outside Hinata's room staring into it, keeping her safe from whatever might be hiding in it.
Tonight was the last night he would be obligated to stand this guard over her. Tomorrow, she would undergo the ceremonies and come out of them as the Lady Hyuuga, head of the house. Then she would have a full detail of guards to watch over her, and Neji would guard her during the day as she traveled the town. He was to be her constant companion, never further than a cry for help.
Once, years ago, he had resented this fate with everything in him. His classmates remembered it, and until recently they had still looked at him strangely when they saw him being courteous to Hinata. He couldn't blame them-- he'd spent years of his youth ignoring her, reviling her, and on one or two notable occasions attempting to kill her. Freedom had seemed something inattainable while she lived and stood in his path, filling his vision for the future with servitude to her.
That had not changed. Freedom, in the sense he'd believed in it back then, was still far out of his reach. What had changed was the freedom he chose to believe in.
He could have chosen to betray his family in the name of that impossible freedom, been hunted down, and likely would have died. At the least he would have been banished, alone and friendless in a world that would know who he was after one look at his winter-pale, pupilless Hyuuga eyes.
It had taken him a long time to realize that freedom was not what was waiting for him past Hinata-- it was here, in the choice. He was free to choose what to do. He could run, or he could stay, and nobody could take that choice away from him.
So he had chosen, freely, to stay. To serve and protect, to wear the brand on his forehead as a badge of pride rather than as a shameful failure.
He had not felt constrained to any written fate since that very first choice. Every moment that he spent now sitting outside her door was one he chose to give, of his own free will.
Hinata understood that, and never asked anything of him she knew he would not choose to give. Perhaps that was why caring for her was never a burden.
She had changed as well, more slowly and gradually than he had, but no less greatly. She was still fainting and filled to the eyelashes with her usual unrelenting terror. The world frightened her unbearably no matter what it did. What had changed was how she chose to deal with her fear-- she accepted it now, understood that it would likely never change, and had determined to do her best anyway. She had sworn that she would lead the Hyuuga family to prosperity and security no matter the cost to herself, and she was already making steps towards making that vision come true.
Neji could remember the first time he'd realized that being her servant would not be a shameful thing.
She had stood up, shaking so hard she could hardly breathe, and made a speech to the rest of the family about her plans for the future, her own and that of the family. Her breath had come in short, weeping gasps, and her brow had been beaded with sweat, but her voice had hardly faltered at all.
In that moment, he'd thought she was the most courageous person he'd ever met.
Courage, after all, was not about being above fear. It was about being terrified and doing what needed to be done anyway. Hinata had that ability in spades-- she had never been above fear from the moment she'd been born. It was her constant cold companion.
Neji stared out into the Hyuuga dark and wished, not for the first time, that there was something he could do to make her feel safe... even for just an hour.
The next morning, he waited outside her door as usual as her handmaidens fluttered around her, coaxing her hair into a great blue-ribboned confection, draping her with silken fabrics and ties until she could hardly move, a prisoner within a brocade coffin.
She met his eyes when she came out, the despair in them shining clear and dark. The handmaidens swarmed around her, chatting animatedly, immune to her silence in their midst... an island amid their noisy sea. Her hand moved from her side, reaching out as though to take his hand, but she couldn't reach him through the wall of women around her.
Taking pity, he strode forward and chased them off with a pale glare. They fled, muttering amongst themselves, leaving Hinata to sag with relief within her cage of silk.
"Are you ready?" he asked her quietly.
She shook her head and tightened her fists at her sides. "I'm scared," she whispered. "W-what if I can't make them l-listen? What if they d-don't like my ideas? I-I don't want to be a f-figurehead, Neji."
He shrugged. "There's nothing for it but to try, right? Don't worry, Hinata-hime." That last was his own nickname for her. The Hyuuga had no princesses. "They're good ideas. They'll listen to you." He paused, then reached out and met her hand halfway. Her hand was so much colder than his. "It's not as if you'll be standing there alone."
Hinata sighed, a sound that was nearly half-sob, and leaned into his shoulder. She rarely touched him like this-- it was a measure of just how much worse the fear was today that usual. "Why are you still here, Neji," she murmured under her breath, probably not even intending for him to hear.
"Because I chose to be," he answered simply, and began leading her down the hallways towards the fate that had been drawn and detailed for her since she was born.
That was another reason he had chosen to stay-- she was no more free in the sense of his old belief than he was, and yet he had never heard her complain about it even once. She simply accepted that this was how her life would go and decided to make the best of it.
He respected her for that more than he thought she probably realized.
Around the corner from the meeting hall, she stopped dead and caught his sleeve with her free hand. "Neji," she whispered.
She peered around the corner at the imposing double doors, as though checking to make sure no one could hear her or see her or speak to her. "Thank you," she said quietly, without a trace of a stutter. "For staying."
He didn't answer, only tightened his hand on hers and walked with her until the doors boomed shut behind them and the time to choose was done.
What wakened him he could never figure out, even days afterwards.
It didn't matter in any case. What mattered was that he woke up, and without bothering to dress properly, slipped out and around the corner in time to see the guards of Hinata's room fall and a dark shape slip between them.
He was fairly sure he knew who the shape belonged to, and felt a moment of absolute despair. He would never reach Hinata in time to save her. His feet, normally so fleet and soundless, seemed impossibly clumsy and loud as he bolted the few short steps to her door. Without slowing down, he reached out and caught the doorframe, pulling himself around into her room without losing any momentum at all.
It wouldn't have mattered if he'd run faster. He would have been too late anyway.
Hanabi stood over Hinata's bed, a victorious smile broad and toothy on her face, but... there was something wrong. Something strange. The smile was frozen on her face, and there no blood on her upraised dagger, and there it was, that was it--
"Neji," Hinata cried out, weeping and very much alive. Hanabi's blood gushed steadily across her bedspread as her sister toppled slowly to splay across Hinata's legs and then slide to the floor. She left a streak of gore behind her. There was a dagger in Hinata's hand, and it was coated black in the half-light of the Hyuuga night.
He crossed the floor to her on shaking legs and knelt at her bedside, avoiding the pool of blood spreading from Hanabi's fallen body. "Are you all right?" he asked dimly, unable to think of anything wiser to say that would calm her panic.
She nodded once, slowly, and the dagger fell from her suddenly nerveless fingers. Seeing his eyes follow it, she gave a hysterical smile and said "I a-always keep one under m-my p-pillow, and I d-don't sleep very w-well."
"I'm glad," he said, and realized with a sudden flash of wordless understanding that he meant it. "Come on, stand up. This needs to be dealt with."
Hinata obeyed mindlessly. The next hour passed in a shocked blur as the house was roused and the scene inspected. There was little doubt in anyone's mind that it was exactly what it looked like-- Hanabi had always hated and envied Hinata, and had expressed an intention to take her place on more than one occasion. She had come to kill Hinata, and Hinata had won.
The members of the house looked at her with a strange new expression that it took Neji several minutes to recognize as respect.
Finally, at Neji's unsubtle urging, they assigned a few night guards to clean up the mess and left Neji to care for Hinata.
"What do you want to do?" he asked her gently. They stood in the hallway outside her room, unable to decide on a direction. It was past the witching hour, and the cold and smell of blood were in direct contrast to the surreal feeling of the strange time of night.
"I..." she gasped, faltering. "I-I don't know. I-I don't want to be a-alone, I-I'm so a-afraid."
"I don't blame you," he said, the second revelation of the night for him. He didn't blame her.
The world was a frightening place. His lack of fear compared to her constant terror was a numbness on his part, not an over-sensitivity on hers. She was afraid because she saw their world as it was, without the rosy lenses that his strength in battle and confidence had put over his eyes. He believed that he could win over anything, and so was not afraid. Hinata understood, in every moment, that all it would take is one mistake for her to lose and die, and she also understood that about every other person she spoke to. When she looked at people, she saw how close to death they already were, and was afraid.
He made the decision for her by putting an arm around her waist and leading her to his room.
"I-I can't, this is y-your bed," she stammered, blushing.
"I slept outside the door for years," he reminded her. "It won't hurt to do it again."
"B-but then I-I'll be alone," she said in a voice so quiet he had to nearly press his ear to her mouth to hear her.
Once again, he saved her the decision and crawled in next to her, fully dressed against her silk nightgown. When she didn't protest, but rather buried her face in his shoulder and clung to his shirt, he pulled her into the circle of his arms and dragged the blanket up until it covered her nearly completely. "Better?" he asked.
"Yes," she said, "I f-feel strange."
"In what way?" he asked, apprehensive, hands stilling on the covers over her thin shoulder.
She was silent for a moment, apparently trying to figure it out. "I-I'm..." Her hands crept across his chest and under his back until she was so close he could feel every tremor... that she wasn't having. She was still, free of the ceaseless trembling which had plagued her as long as he'd known her. "I-I don't think I-I'm afraid right now," she whispered, sounding awed. Her stammer had also faded. "I-I didn't recognize it because the last time I felt this way, I-I was fighting for my life... against you. I-I was really angry, and that mostly blocked out this feeling... I-I feel safe," she said, tears trickling down her face.
He tightened his arms around her, startled by a swell of pride so strong he nearly wanted to weep himself. "You won," he told her. "Hanabi tried to kill you, and you killed her first. She's always been stronger, but when it really counted, you won. You're stronger than her now."
Hinata was silent for another moment. "I-I knew all I-I had to do was hold her off until you got there," she said quietly.
"You didn't need me to save you," he persisted. "You won that one all on your own."
"I-I've never won anything before," she said, even quieter.
Neji couldn't think of a single thing to say to that, so he just held her as the Hyuuga dark faded into morning, until she fell asleep in his arms and rested easy for the first time.
As she slept, he contemplated the possibility that he might be falling just a little bit in love with her.
He fell a bit further when he realized that though she was now the Lady of the Hyuuga with a full complement of guards-- who were now much more alert thanks to Hanabi's attempt-- she did not plan on relaxing her shinobi training regiment in the slightest.
After about a week of recovery from the incident, she called him out of his bed so early in the morning the dark had hardly begun to fade yet. Rain was falling outside, pouring off the gables in thin, cool rivulets.
"Train with me," she said shortly, oddly powerful.
He was awake in an instant and dressed in two, following her out into the early autumn rain. The cold light of pre-dawn crept across the underbellies of the clouds. He resisted the urge to shiver and took up his stance in the middle of the courtyard.
And just like that, without any warning whatsoever, Hinata was flying at him across the flagstones, palms blazing and eyes determined.
Taken aback, Neji absorbed the full force of her blows for several seconds before he could get his feet under him and fight back. He didn't know what had changed within her to give birth to this new power, but this Hinata was a far cry from the stumbling acolyte he'd been so contemptuous of. It was like she was dancing, her limbs perfect extensions of her thoughts, flexible and flowing through his guard. Soon enough he was fighting in earnest with all his sharp, decisive power. He wasn't losing, he was far more used to power than she was, but miraculously, neither was he winning.
The rain ran through her hair and flew off the ends in silver streams as she spun and whirled with brilliant speed, landing just as many blows on him as he landed on her. They were drenched to the skin. Neji wasn't cold.
After perhaps half an hour, she called a halt and moved off by herself to the end of the courtyard while Neji took shelter under an overhang and wrung out his long hair.
The next few minutes were ones he was sure he would never forget.
By herself, under the stormy morning sky, she was dancing for real. He could still recognize her movements as those she'd just used in the sparring match against him, but freed from the need to react to a free-thinking opponent, they were uninterrupted and smooth, nearly liquid. She was moving like the river moved, curling around invisible objects, using her momentum to launch her over obstacles, flowing as though her limbs had no limitations at all.
Watching her, forgotten hair dripping down his back, Neji fell the rest of way in love with her.
"When did you learn to move like that?" he asked her when she finally reached the end of her ritual-- there was really no other word for it-- and came up to stand next to him under the overhang.
"Years ago," she answered, nearly glowing with exertion. "I even used it once."
"Then why haven't you used it since?" Neji was perplexed. If she fought like this always, she would be easily the match of most of her classmates.
She played with her hands, staring down at them rather than at him. "I felt like, if people knew I-I could be strong, they would challenge me more," she admitted. "Like Sasuke-san. Everyone was always after him, hoping to test their strength against him. I-I didn't want to be like that. I-I like it better when people underestimate me."
Neji pondered that for a moment, and thought he might understand. It is always best to have one's enemy underestimate one. That way they will be caught off guard when one's full strength is revealed, and the chances of victory are greatly increased. Yes, he understood. He'd just never thought Hinata capable of fooling everyone, especially himself, so thoroughly.
"I see. That was... impressive."
Hinata beamed at him, clearly happy with his praise. "I-I can't be the head of the family and be weak, c-can I?"
He shook his head. "No, you're right. I just... I didn't think..."
"I know," she said. "I made sure no one knew. I always practice before anyone gets up, and stop as soon as I see anyone moving."
"Thank you," he said, surprising himself, "for showing me this."
"I trust you," she said simply, with a smile so sweet he felt his chest tighten around his heart. Not a hint of a stammer. "You won't tell anyone. You always let me keep my secrets."
He nodded, not trusting himself to speak lest he tell her a secret of his own.
The hall fell perfectly silent.
Hinata stared down the table at the man, of the branch family, who had just spoken. Her hands were shaking, but from behind her, Neji could see the ramrod-straightness of her spine and knew that it wasn't all fear.
"What makes you say that, Sasabe-san?" she asked, a thread of steel in her voice Neji had never heard before.
The man, stoop-shouldered and sour-faced, stood up and glared back at her. "I say it because it's true," he snapped. "Everyone knows that women can't lead as well as men. Find a husband, or we'll find one for you."
Hinata stood unhurriedly, the silks of her robes rustling around her small form. She would hardly come up to his chest if she were standing before him. "I-I beg to differ," she said, the stammer coming from more from her barely restrained fury than from the fear he knew she also felt.
This was the first time any of the family had dared to test her. They had been considerate of her after her sister's death, allowing her to take her time to get used to the role, but apparently that grace period was over now. He rested his hand on the dagger tucked into his waistband, ready to do whatever was necessary.
"Yes, well, beg all you like. It's an established fact." Sasabe crossed his arms, glowering down at her.
A shiver went through Neji as Hinata let her hands relax at her sides. This was a side of her he'd only ever seen glimpses of during their morning training rituals, whenever she spotted a hole in his guard and focused in for the kill.
"I-I suppose, then," she said, deadly soft, "you also believe the Godaime Hokage is unfit to lead Konoha? You believe that this unprecendented level of peace and prosperity i-is just a fluke?"
Sasabe opened and closed his mouth soundlessly like a fish, for a moment, then drew himself up again. "She's different, she's near enough to a man herself."
"I-I'll let her know you say so," Hinata said with a hint of amusement.
Hinata continued. "The Hokage regardless, I-I will not stand for being judged on my ability to lead simply because I-I am a woman. If in the future I-I should lead this family towards ruin, I-I will step down myself. However, unless and until that happens, you will defer."
"I will not," said Sasabe belligerently, hand on his own dagger.
Neji leapt in front of her and assumed his stance, glaring lethally.
A hand on his arm stopped him. "No, Neji," Hinata said behind him, voice soft but full of resolve. "Let me handle this."
Unwillingly, he stepped aside and let her face her opponent.
Her hands were loose at her sides, shaking slightly but not enough to be seen from anywhere further away than from where Neji was standing. She took a deep breath and met Sasabe's eyes unflinchingly. "Stand down," she said. Her voice was not raised, but it was clearly an order nonetheless.
"No," he said. "Either agree to get married and let your husband lead, or--"
"Or what?" she interrupted.
"Hinata-hime, don't," Neji whispered fiercely in her ear.
She ignored him. "I-If you will not stand down, Sasabe-san, you give me no choice."
He sneered. "Oh, are you going to challenge me to a duel? I'm terrified, honestly."
Hinata smiled. "Good," she said simply, shocking the audience. "Shall we?" Then she turned and swept out of the hall, leaving the unspoken command for everyone to follow her trailing behind her.
Before they even realized it, the rest of the witnesses-- there were perhaps a dozen of them-- were standing in the courtyard, arrayed around the outside and out of the way. They murmured amongst themselves, perhaps in regret for the approaching impeachment and possible death of their new lady.
Neji would never let the latter happen, but the first was up to her. He had seen Sasabe fight-- the man was blunt, but quick, and had years of experience under his belt that she simply lacked. On her side, however, she had her beautifully unexpected new style of fighting, and all her learning at the academy was still fresh in her mind. Years of inactivity had not dulled her reflexes. Neji decided that the match was so close to even as to make no matter.
A lady named Hiroko stepped up and volunteered to mediate the match, and was quickly accepted. Hinata and Sasabe shed their extra clothing until they could move without restriction, then squared off against each other.
Neji could nearly feel the terror rolling off her in waves, but her face was the same as it had been those years ago, facing him across the chuunin exam ring. She would not hesitate, and she was no longer weak as she had been then.
"Begin," said Hiroko.
Sasabe barrelled across the flagstones towards her, clearly intending to simply crush her without giving her a chance to use her strength.
Neji smiled. It wouldn't work. He was fast, but Neji was faster, and he had never caught her on a first charge yet.
Sure enough, she slipped out of his way like a fish in water, leaving him to stumble past her unexpected absence and recover from the surprise. Meanwhile, she had already got her feet under her and leapt into the air, bringing her foot into direct contact with his kidney. He roared with pain and swung about him, catching her a blow on the shoulder than she simply rolled with, tumbling through the air and coming to rest on her feet with one hand on the stones.
The murmurs of the circle intensified. Neji didn't blame them. He'd never seen her fight against anyone else like this, only himself, and it was very different seeing it from the sidelines.
Without pausing to wait for her to stand, Sasabe charged her again, his steps more controlled this time in anticipation of a dodge. Hinata, however, did not dodge this time, opting instead to slide his first blow off her left arm, his second off her right, and come right inside his guard. Her hands were still occupied warding off his hands. Neji wondered for a split second how on earth she planned to use the signature Hyuuga technique with no hands when he saw her feet begin to glow.
When had she learned that? He made a note to ask her just as she shattered both of Sasabe's feet with a rapid movement that looked exactly like tap-dancing. Then she spun, still within his reach, and kicked out his left knee. He fell to the ground bellowing in pain, reaching out to catch her in his large arms, but she dropped flat to the ground and flipped away in a move Neji was absolutely certain no one else in Konoha could have pulled off without dislocating their shoulders.
Back on her feet, she crossed the ground to her kneeling opponent and delivered three concise blows to his throat, sternum, and head that left him sprawled on the flagstones, insensate.
She stood and faced the crowd, who were shocked silent. "Hiroko-san," she said.
The mediator shook herself. "Hinata-sama... wins," she said, clearly not believing her eyes. The fight had lasted hardly a minute. Hinata would only have the bruise on her shoulder to prove that she'd fought at all.
Neji was shaking with relief, and a flood of pride that made his eyes water. The early morning sessions with him had paid off tenfold.
"Do you contest my right to rule?" she asked the gathered dozen. "Speak now if you do. I do not wish to repeat this little display."
"No contest," one man said shakily.
"No contest," said another, a woman this time.
Around the circle, each noble bowed their head and acknowledged her their undisputed leader.
"Thank you. This meeting is adjourned. I will call you back tomorrow, after Sasabe has received medical attention and is ready to sit in again. Dismissed."
The crowd filed away to their respective chambers, leaving Hinata standing in the middle of the courtyard, staring up at a sky that was threatening to rain. Neji brought her clothes down to her and offered to help her dress, but she shook her head and smiled at him.
"No, thank you."
Neji stood silent for a moment, trying to gather his thoughts and calm himself before he said something irreversible. "Hinata-sama," he began, with difficulty. "You... are a lady worth protecting. I will follow you as long as you'll have me."
To his surprise, Hinata first turned the most radiant smile he'd ever seen on him, then burst into tears and sank to the stones with her hands over her face. "I-I was s-so s-scared," she cried. "I-I thought f-for s-sure I-I was going t-to l-lose, and n-nobody would f-follow me anymore--"
Unable to stand impassive in the face of this, Neji fell to his knees beside her and pulled her into his arms, rocking her quietly as she sobbed. "I told you that you're strong," he murmured into her hair. "Why can't you just believe me?"
"I-I d-don't know," she said. "I-I'm j-just so used t-to being weak, I-I guess."
In response, he held her tighter as if to pull her right into himself where nothing could ever touch her again. "Hinata-hime, I..."
But she was pulling away, standing up, raising her face to a sky which was opening up and weeping on them both. She spread her arms and closed her eyes, accepting it as if it made her happy, which it may have. And then, glory be, she began her dance again, her rain-dance, the one that made Neji fall in love with her in the first place. Seeing it again drove that love deep into his soul, to somewhere it could never be evicted from again.
He waited until her dance was done, then took her by the shoulders and kissed her with all the fervour he'd swallowed until now.
Unexpectedly, she met his face halfway down, standing on her toes to press her lips to his and winding her arms around his neck. He got the sense she'd expected this, somehow, had almost been waiting for it.
The rain fell. He danced with his princess, and she danced with him.
When had she become a lady worth protecting?
Neji didn't know exactly, but there was no doubt in his mind in this moment that he would die to protect her if it was necessary.
She was standing before the entire Hyuuga family, all fifty-odd who lived in Konoha in addition to a few others who had come in for this, and telling them that she did not plan to marry. The uproar was predictable-- what about the bloodline, you must, you have to, you can't-- but she stood serene in the midst of it.
"I may someday consent to bear a child," she said, making Neji look sharply at her, "but I will not marry. That is my final word."
The crowd barraged her with questions, demands, orders, but she was unmoved. "The tradition of main and branch families is one I intend to eventually do away with in any case," she said calmly. "There is no need for me to marry. There will be many Hyuuga children to choose from. It is my hope that we shall never again have to choose a leader based solely on blood rather than ability."
Again, an uproar, but now they were distracted from her earlier declaration in favour of this greater scandal.
"I will answer any questions you may have tomorrow, in an orderly form," she told them, somehow making herself heard over the cacophony. "Talk amongst yourselves tonight and see if you cannot understand why I wish to make these changes."
With that, she turned and left, Neji at her heel. She went directly to her room, and invited him inside.
"Why?" he asked her, bewildered despite the joy exploding in his heart. "Why did you say that? What do you mean, you won't get married?"
Hinata was smiling at him, and the words faltered in his mouth. "Neji," she said. "Three guesses."
He gaped at her. "You're insane?" he floundered, completely off balance.
"Possibly true, but not the main reason. Two left."
"You like watching them flail around like distraught chickens whenever you say something controversial like that."
She laughed, a peal of silver. "Also true, but again, not the main reason. One more try."
"What happens if I don't get it?" he asked mutinously, crossing his arms.
She shrugged. "I'll just tell you, I suppose. But it's more fun if you guess."
There was only one possiblity left that he could think of, and he couldn't believe it, not that. She couldn't possibly be crazy enough to throw the entire family into chaos just because-- "You love me?" he said weakly, his voice strangely thick.
"Took you long enough," she said, and then blushed ferociously. She looked so like the old, fainting Hinata in that moment that he nearly laughed.
"I've tried to tell you several times," he mused, "but you always seem to vanish before I can spit it out."
"What?" she said, looking so painfully hopefully that he nearly felt guilty for dragging it out like this.
"I have never loved anyone but you," he said honestly. The moment he said it, he suddenly felt loose and relaxed, as though he'd escaped a prison of secrets and silence after years of being bound. "When I said I'd follow you forever, that's what I meant."
A smile tore across her face, one he'd never seen the like of before. It was blinding, radiant... it took his breath away. "You'll stay with me?" she said breathlessly.
"Even though you can only ever stand at my back, a servant in everyone else's eyes?" She sounded much like he felt-- as though she was terrified to believe him in case he was lying, like she would never recover if it wasn't true. "Even if someone finds out and reviles us for it?"
"When I said 'always,' I meant always as in always. Not as in 'always except when it's inconvenient.'"
It was a thin line they would walk, always shadowed in secrecy, and Neji knew it too. One slip and everything would come crashing down around them, despite all her years of hard work. It was beyond risk. It was madness.
Shinobi were always a little mad anyway. A little more could hardly hurt.
Neji's hair was grey, but it was still long and straight, and he still stood behind her with a hand on his dagger.
Her hair was grey too, but she was a leader like none the Hyuuga had ever had, and she had told him in the sanctuary of his room that she reckoned that to be worth every grey hair on her head.
He had no idea how many years they had left, but he had chosen every day of his life since his youth to stand here with her and keep her safe, and he had no intention of choosing any other way until the day there would be no choices left to make.
She was, after all, a lady worth protecting.
A/N: There. Now I almost feel like I've done my favourite pairing some twisted form of waffy justice. shrug I hope you enjoyed it.