Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. He and his show belong to Kishimoto-sensei. May they long be his.
Pairings: Naruto x Hinata, mild Sasuke x Sakura
Authors Note: I wrote this months and months ago, on a request from a friend. Hopefully you like it - I'm really not that good with NaruHina. Hope you guys like it, even though it's generally more angsty than NaruHina usually is!
It is the dark of the moon, and she realizes how utterly unprepared for this all that she is. The ground is trampled with blood, old and new, allies and enemies alike. The salty, metallic scent in the air — of blood and rotting flesh — is enough to make anyone sick.
But she has a mission, and she searches frantically. She is a kunoichi, but that is not why she searches with her white eyes that are the furthest thing from blind. She searches because she is afraid — afraid for him, and what might have become of him. There are so many dead — Kiba and Akamaru, Yamanaka Inoichi, Mitarashi Anko, Lady Hokage Tsunade. And those are only a few.
She knows that if he dies, she will break.
A feral roar splits the air, enough to make the air buzz and the ground shake with the volume of sound waves. Her knees go to jelly, but now she knows where she is heading, and so she begins to move forward deliberately, avoiding the bodies that litter the ground.
When she reaches him, Naruto is not Naruto. Chakra ripples off of his body, palpable enough to see without the Byakugan, though her bloodline limit is active. It feels sinister and terrible, bleeding off of the creature with its six tails.
Here, that terrible chakra has burned away the blood and corpses that have become so commonplace elsewhere. It is almost a stark contrast to see a stretch of bare ground.
Two others are at the scene. Pink hair, some of it matted down with sweat and blood, stands out among the color of soil. Sakura is weeping silently, chakra flowing from her and into the body that she kneels in front of. It takes Hinata a moment to realize that — through the burns that cover him — this is the Uchiha boy.
He is alive, but by inches.
Charred and blackened skin, face and hair caked with blood, he is nearly unrecognizable from the proud young man they all knew once.
Another roar rips from the creature, angry and inhuman. The very air vibrates with the force of the roar, and she is nearly driven to her knees as chakra bleeds off of it. Her entire body is shaking now, as the creature turns its glowing eyes on them.
It eyes the three of them — the only living within hundreds of meters. There is a glint in those deeply red eyes, inhuman, as it eyes them as it might something amusing.
She knows in an instant that if she does nothing, they will all die. Sakura is exhausted, and using the last dregs of her chakra just to keep Sasuke alive. He himself is unconscious, barely hanging onto life.
She is the last one with chakra, the last one who can do anything to save them. It is her duty — to the village, to everyone, to her family, to herself and her life. But she is afraid, terribly afraid.
Neji-nii-sama would do this so much better, she thinks, and it is just another reminder that he is even now lying among the carnage, chest almost torn open, his teammates trying their hardest to keep him alive. He can do nothing.
The creature lumbers forward, without any pretense at a surprise attack. It is clear that it believes them easy prey, only light amusement.
She readies herself to fight, dropping into a Juuken stance. The activation of chakra in her hands is also a Juuken technique, one that will stop or divert chakra flow. This only works with the Byakugan, and she brings chakra to her eyes as well.
She traces the creature's chakra pathways, looking for the major areas in which it flows. She is surprised — most chakra pathways are tied to the heart, and she is afraid of hurting Naruto. But all of the chakra pathways lead to one place — what, if there were any sort of human being, would be the solar plexus.
If she can land one blow there, she may have a chance.
The creature swipes at her, but she dodges it. She is agile, if nothing else, and the creature doesn't seem to take her seriously.
It throws a few more blows at her, and these she dodge easily, looking for an opening. Now that she has demonstrated her speed, it is starting to match her. She is not ready for this, not prepared at all, and she knows that she has just made a fatal mistake. It may already be too late.
The next time it swipes at her with its chakra claws, she does not dance out of the way. Her eyes are on the four limbs, as she moves in closer, aiming all the time for that concentration of chakra at the navel.
It is another mistake, and she has not counted for the tails. The creature turns, fast — one of the six tails clips her across the hip, with enough force to throw her back. There is an ache there, but she is too much in shock to even feel the extent of the damage.
She is down.
The Kyuubi creature turns away from her, seeming to lose interest. Perhaps it simply doesn't care. Either way, it is turning away, toward the only other living presence in this area burned clean of everything.
Suddenly, she knows what the creature is going for. And she knows that she cannot let it happen, because when Naruto is back, he will blame himself. He should not be the one to hurt his own friends, the two most important to him.
She thinks of him swearing to protect them, and her chest clenches.
She wants to keep him from that act. He will hurt, if he attacks them, and he is not supposed to hurt. He is supposed to be loyal and resilient and cheerful and the possessor of boundless energy. He is not supposed to hurt.
She moves, but it is slow. Eventually, she finds the energy to stand, and this energy transfers itself to her legs, so that she is moving forward, first slow and then faster. She is stumbling forward, clumsily, her lamed leg threatening to buckle under her. Somehow, it stays.
She reaches the Kyuubi creature, just before it charges the roseate-haired medic and the fallen Uchiha. The Hyuuga girl stands in its path, in the path of this rampaging monster. She is the weakest of her clan, the failure, and she is slight in the face of such chakra and rage.
Its red eyes stare her down, and for an instant she sees death.
It will tear her apart, limb from limb, its strange chakra burning the skin from her body, and then it will continue and destroy the village, and beyond that everything, until the entire world is consumed in fire and everything will cease-
Her hands connects with the body that is surrounded by chakra. She has gotten in one blow, and her aim is good. Still, she wonders if she has failed, if that great chakra has overcome her own.
The creature stops.
Its eyes are red, wide, mouth curled into a feral snarl. It is frozen, unmoving, statuesque.
She barely has time to realize that she has done it, before she feels a strong hand on her shoulder. Hinata turns away from the Kyuubi-creature staring her in the eyes, to see the Uchiha. He is standing, leaning heavily on his sword, charred skin slowly saturating his clothing with blood, but he seems not to notice his wounds.
There is a fire in his red eyes.
"Stand back," he says, and his voice is rasp, in the dry heat.
She falls back wordlessly, and hits the ground. She has time only to see his eyes swirl red, before she falls into unconsciousness.
She wakes slowly, but she does. Hospital lights and a heart monitor greet her, as does some of the pain. Her hands are wrapped in bandages, and there is a brace on her leg. She is injured, but she is alright
Hinata is suddenly afraid. That she has failed, that the others are dead, that she is the only one left.
Some of her fears are allayed, as Sakura walks through the door, responding to a change in the Hyuuga-girl's heart rate. She looks harried but well, and certainly alive.
She smiles wearily as she realizes that Hinata is awake.
"Everybody…?" Hinata asks, afraid to even voice the question.
"Alive," Sakura says with a smile that seems relieved. That smile quickly slides off her face. "Well…"
Hinata wonders if her heart has stopped. It feels like it has.
"I'm sorry… Kiba…"
It is like a slap to the face, the reminder. "I know," she says, and her voice chokes with tears already shed.
Sakura looks sorry. "Neji-san is alright — his teammate managed to save him," Sakura says. "He's unconscious, but alive. He's not the worst off."
Her expression changes, and Hinata knows that she is thinking of Sasuke.
"How is he?" Hinata asks.
"Bad," Sakura says, and she doesn't bother hiding the worry in her voice. "He tried to take on the Kyuubi himself, but he couldn't hold it in place long enough to subdue it. There are third degree burns all along his arms and chest, and his wounds won't close for longer than an hour. If Tsunade-sama were alive…"
But she is not.
Hinata is shocked at the extent of the damage, but she smiles at her fellow kunoichi. "Then what are you doing here? I'm perfectly fine," she says.
Sakura smiles at her gratefully. "You can walk, you know — the brace should keep your leg in place," she says, before she leaves the room, walking briskly.
Hinata smiles, as the pink-haired medic disappears out of the door. She knows that the girl is worried, and this reminds her that she is worried herself. If Naruto were injured, surely Sakura would have told her.
But that doesn't mean that he is alright.
She edges herself off of the bed, carefully, testing her weight on her injured leg. It hurts, and she hisses in pain, before she notices the crutches leaning against the side of the bed. Smiling softly to herself at her foolishness, she grabs those and places them under her arms.
She is careful of her injury, as she edges out of he door. The hospital is busy with patients and staff, and nobody notices her long enough to care that she is wandering about, unless she is in their way. Eventually, she decides to go outside.
She hobbles into a garden, and she sees immediately who she was looking for. He is sitting on the bench, looking uncharacteristically contemplative, almost morose. His normally blue eyes are downcast, but he looks up when he hears her.
"Hinata-chan…" he speaks, and his voice is choked.
She blushes at the sight of him — her first love, her only love — but hobbles forward so that she is closer to him. This time, his presence doesn't make her so nervous as it did before, and she wonders what to attribute that to - her subduing of the Kyuubi no Youko, or the fact that he is sad and he shouldn't be.
"I heard, what you did… thank you," he says, and his voice is choked. "Sakura-chan… Sasuke… if you hadn't been there, I might have…"
She leans forward on the crutches, so that she can give him a kind of an awkward hug. "But you didn't," she says simply, smiling at him so sincerely it makes her heart ache.
He stares at her for a moment, blue eyes wide. And then he returns her awkward hug full force, taking no mind of the crutches that she sits on. They land on the ground, but it doesn't matter, as he is able to support her.
She lets out a small cry of pain, and Naruto laughs a little bit, before helping to set her back on the crutches.
The road back to recovery is long, but Naruto is there with her every step of the way. Even if it is just gratitude that keeps him by her side, Hinata is thankful for every moment that he spends with her.
She is not the only one recovering. Neji has spent weeks in bed, most of them unconscious, although he has started to fill the Hyuuga complex with complaints at being bedridden. Lee trains still, even with his arm in a sling. Sasuke managed to live, miraculously, but there are burn scars all along his body, and he will never feel anything with his left hand again.
Sakura has stuck with him every step of the way, dealing with his frustrations and his tempers. She seems to have boundless patience for the temperamental Uchiha, and Hinata can't help but admire her.
Naruto talks of his friends daily, or of ramen, or anything really. She is always listening, and he apologizes sometimes for talking to her so much, when she's so defenseless. She never says it, but she doesn't care at all — any time spent with him is a blessing. Even if it is only out of gratitude or a sense of obligation, she has never been so grateful in her life.
Once she is declared fit to take her brace off, Naruto continues to stay with her. At first, he says that it is because he wants to make sure she doesn't injure herself again. As the months wear on, he stops saying it, and it becomes a routine to spend time with him, when they aren't busy.
Naruto is busy quite a lot of the time. They are already considering him as candidate for the Hokage position, and it is this which he talks of the most. He tells her that he has supporters, among the clans of the village — one of whom is her father.
Hinata is surprised to learn this. She wonders who told him of the blond boy's merits.
It is on one of these days, when he has spent so long talking with the daimyo of Hi no Kuni, that he takes her out to a secluded area. She thinks nothing of it, instead content to just walk with him.
They talk — or rather, Naruto talks. He complains of the daimyo, of their stuffiness, of how much paperwork he has to do. He talks of ramen, and what he will do once he is Hokage, and how Sasuke finally owned up to himself and asked Sakura on a date.
But then Naruto falls silent. Hinata turns toward him, confusion in her eyes. He is looking at her, blue eyes wide, and she blushes under his gaze.
And then suddenly he is kissing her, her face and her ears and her neck and her lips, over and over again, until she is breathless, and doesn't know what to think or say or do. Instead, she tilts her head up so that she can kiss him back. She has not realized until this moment just how much she has ached for this.
She does not know how it has happened.
She only knows that it did, and it is the most wonderful feeling in the world. It is like breathing in air, like her heart pounding, like feeling acutely everything around her.
It is like living.
And when he kisses her again, his lips warm and soft against hers, she smiles.