Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
There was too much blood. His vision was stained red and was oddly limited. It hurt to hold up the Byakugan, but he couldn't risk not to.
He must return.
It felt endless, the trees. Was he lost? There were so many and so clustered together. His vision was still red. There were enemies around. To his left; and he threw a kunai. Heard it meet flesh, but kept on running. Was there pain from the cut on his arms and legs? Red stained vision gazed at his legs but only saw red. He turned to the trees, but his vision was still red.
Within his panicked state, there was comfort to his cheeks. Lengthy strokes up and down; possessive and protective. There was a bold kiss, as if trying to suck the nightmare out of him, leaving him breathless. Baritone melodies lulled frightful nightmares away to a dreamless slumber.
The first thing he noticed when he woke was that his eyes were not opening. Strange because he was always the kind of guy to just spring from his bed and fix his bed hair into straightness. Honestly, bed hair is just the worse state you can leave your hair in… other than having it dunked in ramen soup. He still had to get back at the blond.
Secondly, he distantly heard voices behind white doors. "Hokage-sama, why hasn't he awakened, yet?"
"He's replenishing his chakra. It was severely depleted to the point of falling unconscious the moment he reached Konoha. His eyes had somehow been exposed to poison and rendered useless. It'll take some time before he'll make a full recovery, Tenten."
That explained why his eyes were covered, and the uncomfortable hospital bed.
"But my honourable Hokage-sama, Neji's been sleeping for days. Gai-sensei tells me being immobile so long is bad for the strength of mind and body!"
Days? Hyuugas do not get put to bed for days by some measly poison and chakra depletion!
"I don't need you brats interrogating me or telling me what's good for the Hyuuga brat. He will make a full recovery even without my assistance. Damn it, what time is it? Shizune will probably hide all my alcohol again for being late to see the Kazekage…" The voices trailed off and Neji was left in silence.
Thirdly, which really ought to be the first thing he should have noticed, was that his whole body was sore. His toes hurt, his knees burned (skinned them maybe), his spine ached, his neck was heavy, but the throbbing at the back of his head was what drew his attention. He supposed with his eyes out of commission it wasn't wise to use the Byakugan to see through the bandages.
He remembered this is what the body feels like after forcing every last drop of chakra out of his system after a rather hard training session with Gai-sensei. He felt like a wrung milk carton.
Distantly, before drifting into unconsciousness, he thought of how much he wanted to scratch his nose.
Blood drips in long strands. Run again. When will he be able to finally stop? He must run. Were the trees still green as he remembered? He is blinded, but still he must kill to survive.
The next time he woke up, he was sure it was night time. The hospital air breathed with summer dew, someone had opened a window for him, and was comforting against his bare skin. Neji thought he was sweating beneath his bandages.
There were no bustling nurses and med-nins. But with such a peaceful atmosphere, what could have woken him?
Turning his ears (which very much itched because of the coarse bandages across his closed eyelids) to the microscopic sounds of the night, he heard the scamper of mice (at this hour? Surely the witching hour has come and passed…). With a more keen focus, the noise he first thought was scampering paws sounded distinctly different and vaguely familiar. Who's heard of mice in Kohona hospital, anyway?
Then he became aware of a breathing somebody at his bedside.
Every muscle tensed. If he screamed for help, someone would come and rescue him before ominous somebody would attack. But then would they come in time?
Subsequently he slapped himself mentally (ouch, it was the only part that didn't hurt), Hyuugas do not cry for help. He wondered what would make a good weapon. The pillows? The blankets? Surely he can lift a finger to bind the attacker.
He soon realized that however long this thought process took, the attacker had not attacked. Heck, the scary somebody had not even moved. Was he or she waiting for a reaction? A scream that will provoke the attack? Even as wild thoughts scampered through his drugged and aching mind, the stranger stayed unmoving. Coming to a conclusion, Neji decided to act upon the classic "who are you".
He opened his mouth to do so and found that he was alone.
"Tenten, did you visit last night?"
"No, visiting hours was long over before dark. Are you sure it wasn't the drugs making you believe things were there?"
"Possibly," Neji did not think the ominous presence the fortnight could have been his imagination, but was unwilling to speculate with Tenten. Instead he asked, "How is Lee fairing?" Mindlessly, he tuned out her words with the right hums of acknowledgement to falsely indicate he was listening.
Assuming his night visitor was a he (and that he wasn't imaginary), what was his purpose? How did he get past hospital security? Did he know this stranger? Did anyone else get 3 am visitors?
Nevertheless, Neji thrust this event to the back of his head and focused on getting well. It was probably a one-time thing.
Neji snapped awake that night when the presence solidified itself at the same spot by his bedside. He swiftly analyzed the situation with his drug free mind. He asked Tenten to leave multiple shuriken and kunai with him and they were hidden under his pillow and mattress. The person did not move. No chakra was being emitted either. While he was glad the stranger was not performing a harmful jutsu, this also meant he could not identify the chakra signature.
A couple of moments later, Neji began to feel frustrated. The stranger was just standing there! He pondered on the next course of action. Last time Neji spoke, the stranger left in a blink. He didn't want the stranger to leave, peculiar enough. Stranger Danger was curiously comforting. So he didn't speak.
Without anything to focus on other than the other person in the room whom did not do anything remotely interesting, his mind drifted back to sleep. Absentmindedly, Neji wondered if the soft caresses on his cheek were the slipping bandages.
The next morning, obviously the stranger had left. Neji cursed his injured body for making him lose consciousness. It turned out that it would take only a few nights before his chakra is fully replenished in his body and for the poison in his eyes to clear. This was extraordinary, but good to be able to recover so quickly.
He received a visit from Naruto, which was a surprise. Neji had been devising a plan to get back at Naruto, except the blond was not-so-accidentally shoved, lost his balance, and fell into his portable urinal. Lucky for him, it was empty (Neji refused to go into that undignified thing). So Neji postponed his revenge and was content to hear see Naruto's pitiful struggle to pull the small thing off his rear. He wished he could have seen it.
He was ever so thankful of his no longer sore and ever healing body that allowed him to sleep on his side. The stranger melted into his room so smoothly, he didn't notice till later. Teleportation jutsu? Shadow jutsu? Water? Air? He kept his breathing steady and deep, faking sleep, ready to strike at any moment.
The stranger seemingly sure that Neji was fully asleep promptly hummed a recognizable and indescribable baritone melody. It was the same from his dream! Did that mean he was watched even while he dreamed of blood and lost? Was the kiss dreamt or did this person—?
With a shock, soothing chakra surged into him and he refrained from tensing at the last moment. It was healing chakra. Was this why he was healing so quickly? Why was this stranger doing it so anonymously?
The baritone was undistinguishable. It did not seem to come from any of his comrades. He had so many questions and no answers unless he spoke. Still Neji listened in wonder of the lonely melody, allowing it to lull him once again to a restful sleep. This time, he was sure the caress was not the bandages' fault.
How did he do that? Instantly waking, Neji sat up without any trouble. It was the third night the stranger lulled him to a dreamless sleep.
"Hyuuga-san!" A nurse entered the room in a fuss, "You shouldn't be sitting up with your injuries."
"I feel fine." He waited for her to do a thorough check up. Twice.
"It's a miracle; you must be a quick healer." Double checking with a doctor, the bandages were removed and Neji embraced his sight for the first time in a week. He even welcomed the sight of white hospital walls. On the far side of the room, lay bouquets of flowers. Vibrant pinks, reds, yellows and greens. How he missed that blue…
He slowed his heartbeat to fool the person into thinking he was in a deep sleep. His breath immediately followed its example. Consciousness in his clutches, he realized how his stranger slipped in. Not through the door, but through the cracks of the window.
Something alive crawled in.
Shino? He played with that thought. Why would the Aburame heir heal him? Temptation lured him to open his eyes to see the unmoving stranger. He fought with the overwhelming curiousity to see who had been pouring his chakra within him. Would it be someone he knew? An enemy nin? Jiraiya?!
Eyes about to burst open when a warm-hot, lovingly heated hand rested on his forehead as a universal sign to check for wellness. Judging by the bold hand's actions, Neji can safely say it was part of a routine. The hand trailed down, brushing hair away from his closed lids and rested on his cool cheek. He prayed he wasn't blushing.
His cheeks were always too sensitive; the strength sapped out of him at the gentle touch. Languidly, he considered that he didn't care who this person was if this person was able to make him feel this safe and good.
Then all too suddenly, a loving and shy touch brushed his lips. He felt live breath warm his skin. The other pair of lips spoke of longing, regret, and goodbye. Frantically, Neji opened his eyes.
Disoriented, Neji tried to remember if he knows anyone with such green eyes. They were turquoise gems, hard and beautiful, framed by dark red lashes blinking repeatedly. A split second later, the electrifying lips disappeared.
Out of instinct, Neji yanked the green eyed stranger by the front of his shirt. The rough yank pulled the stranger with a silent 'oof' onto Neji's chest. He didn't struggle, the initial surprise gone, replaced with a calm gaze.
Finally, Neji realized his stranger wasn't really a stranger. Pale, green-eyed, and read headed was the gorgeous one-tailed demon holder—
The red head stared coolly back.
Neji floundered desperately for what to say, and to say it properly, "Kazekage-sama? You were the one who stood at my bedside for a week? You healed my wounds by pouring chakra into—what are you doing?"
"You are looking stressed at my appearance. Removing myself from your presence will be better for your health."
"Don't you move," Neji's hand clutched onto Gaara's arm, "I know what is good for my health and what is not. You will answer my questions."
Gaara actually took time to cross his arms, successfully removing his arm from Neji's grasp and said, "The answers to the first two questions are yes."
Gaara was silent, as if hesitant, "You are a good ninja."
"So is Lee, but would you have healed him as you have me?" Neji knew he was pushing for an answer he guessed, but he wanted to hear it.
"You are very beautiful," Gaara stated as a matter of fact. Somehow that was more flattering. Cheeks tinted, Neji muttered a "thank you".
"I admire your strength from afar and I am fascinated by the serenity and confidence you exert. You have compassion in your right hand and newly discovered defiance in the other. It would be a waste for a ninja of your charisma to remain in bed." The Hyuuga shifted bashfully.
When Gaara felt Neji had no more questions, he moved to leave. But Neji draped a possessive arm around the slighter body, "I did not say you may leave."
"I did not realize I need your permission."
"You will stay regardless."
"I will stay if you have a purpose. As you are silent and clearly offended by my words, I will leave."
"Gaara," he said, using his given name, "Why did you kiss me?"
The sound of their breathing seemed to amplify in wait for his response. The red head met Neji's opal eyes, "I apologize. I am willing to accept the consequences of my actions and try to appease—"Neji lifted a hand to the back of Gaara's head and pulled him down for a sweet kiss.
"You never answered my question." His whispered barely audible.
Voice unshaken it seemed, Gaara answered, "I have deep feelings for you."
"And I you," Neji smiled. It wasn't a lie. His heart pounded vigorously and he felt an outrageous amount of affection. This man with a possessive kiss and even grander protective warmth had driven away his nightmares effortlessly. "Stay with me tonight."
In the morning, they would sort out their awkward relationship. But for now, they rearranged their limbs so both would fit the bed. Gaara, being shorter (Neji noted smugly), fitted quite nicely under his chin. As Neji drifted off to dreams, Gaara watched faithfully, his admiring hand caressing ivory cheeks.