Hiashi and Hinata returned to the Hyuuga Clan Compound in silence. Hinata couldn't tell what her father was thinking. Without words,they retired to a tea room.
"Leave us, Hiashi ordered a Branch member.
The other Hyuuga bowed and left.
"Now...Hinata, before we begin I would like to say something," the man said.
"Father?" Hinata asked, blinking.
Briefly closing his eyes, Hiashi began.
"I admit...that this is all much to take in. For a long time you were a daughter I loved, but heiress I couldn't accept."
The pale eyed girl's breath caught in her throat.
"You loved me?" she asked weakly.
Hiashi didn't flinch, but his eyes communicated how he felt. In a pained tone he said,
"Of course I did. I am not what one would call an expressive man, but I do love both of my daughters with all of my heart. Which leads me into the next problem."
"Which is?" the bluenette said on autopilot.
It had always been something of an open question in Hinata's mind as to whether or not her father had actually loved her. After the first chunin exams they had become closer, but Hinata couldn't actually remember her father ever actually saying those three words. Until now, that is. So, all I had to do to be sure my father loved me was survive the apocalypse and come back in time, she thought a little cynically.
"I don't know you. I have a woman in my daughter's body. Who I don't know," the grim faced patriarch answered.
"Father...," Hinata said, a little surprised.
"The obvious solution for this is for me to ask. Hinata, tell me about your life. We can discuss what happened to the clan later," Hiashi continued. "So, Hinata-chan. What happened to my daughter to turn her into such a strong woman?"
Allowing herself a small smile, Hinata began to speak.
TenTen didn't know what to think. This entire story of time travel and the shinobi world ending seemed too far fetched, too insane to be true. Yet the Hokage seemed to believe it. Not to mention those abilities that they showed. It also explained why both Sasuke and Naruto were so different from the last time she had seen them.
She felt kind of bad for Sasuke. Yes, he had been...would be a total ass that betrayed Konoha. But he would end up being forced to watch as his body did things he never wanted to do. To be trapped in one's own skin was a fate that no one wanted.
That, of course, left her other team mate. The mysterious Naruto who apparently became a Hokage just like he always said he would. TenTen stared up at her ceiling. How do you relate to someone who's lost everything? Especially one that seems to be handling it better than you ever could, she wondered.
The brown haired girl shuddered. She remembered those ancient blue eyes Naruto had. So old for someone younger than her. Sasuke had given them an overview of what happened. TenTen felt that he had downplayed the worst of it.
Of course there was also this Akatsuki war that was going to be fought in a couple of years, too. TenTen groaned and sat up. There wasn't going to be a lot of sleep tonight for her.
I have to find out more, she thought. With that in mind, she went to the one person who knew should know everything: Naruto Uzumaki.
Hiruzen looked up from his desk. There wasn't any real paperwork, but he liked to pretend long hours. It helped morale and kept people from wondering too much what he did anyway. Besides, even if all the important stuff was dealt with, there was always something or other that he could look into. In front of him stood Kakashi Hatake.
"Kakashi-kun, what brings you back here? I thought you were going home," Sarutobi asked.
Kakashi, for the first time in a long time, looked uneasy.
"I will, sir. I just wanted to talk to you about those two."
Raising an eyebrow, Hiruzen asked,
"Alright, Kakashi-kun. What about?"
Staring straight ahead, the masked jonin said,
"Do you really think they're telling everything?"
"Probably not. They are being very careful to try and control the disruptions to the time line. Yet I believe that, where it counts, they have told all we needed to know," Sarutobi said after a moment.
"I see. To be honest, I'm worried about Naruto and Sasuke."
"To be expected. Naruto and Sasuke both have a heavy burden. Naruto especially," Hiruzen agreed easily.
Looking a little awkward, the silver haired man said.
"Naruto isn't...right, for someone who went through what he went through."
Sarutobi gave a questioning look towards the jonin.
"Hokage-sama, you know that to get the best out of your troops you have to be their father, mother, confessor, friend and more. Naruto, at least according to his psych reports, is one of those people who gets hurt every time he loses a man. So why isn't he half way to breaking down at this point, sir?" Kakashi asked.
The Sandaime nodded.
"A fair question, to which I ask another: what gives a person true strength?"
Kakashi blinked at the apparent non-sequitur.
Sarutobi smiled wryly.
"Love, odd as it is for a shinobi like me to say it. Some people say that the greatest way to prove your love is to die for something. I like to think that it's living for that thing. "
The masked jonin processed that thought for a moment.
"Hinata...she's the reason he's functional?" he asked.
"I believe so. You're right, war is a terrible thing; it destroys lives and souls. That Naruto's soul is still relatively intact is both a testament to his resilience and Hinata, I think," Hiruzen said.
Kakashi hid a frown.
"What happens if Hinata dies, then?"
The Sandaime's smile dropped.
"Then we will see whether or not Minato's faith in the boy was well placed. Now, I believe you had something to ask about Sasuke?"
The silver haired man said.
"Well, yes. I don't think that Sasuke is acclimating to the new memories as well as Naruto and Hinata."
Hiruzen's eyes narrowed.
"Really? Do you have any reasons?"
Kakashi shook his head.
"Just that Sasuke seems to have moments where he's not quite there."
"I see. Keep me informed," the Sandaime said after a moment.
The masked jonin gave a slight nod
As Kakashi turned to leave Hirzuen called over his shoulder.
"Sir?" Kakashi said.
"You can not allow your past to haunt you now. We have too much at stake. Focus, at least until after we've dealt with Orochimaru," the Sandaime ordered.
The masked jonin nearly froze at that.
"I'll try, sir." he said.
With that, Kakashi left the office.
Kurenai sipped at her drink as Anko went on about some poor damned soul that she had been working on today. It wasn't that Kurenai didn't care about her friend's job, but after the revelation earlier this evening, she just couldn't bring her self to care about how Anko had worked slivers of bamboo into the man's toe-nail bed one by one until he talked. No, Hinata...was more important. Kurenai didn't know how to feel about this new Hinata... .
"Nai-chan, you alright?" Anko said.
Kurenai blinked, startled out of her thoughts.
"Sorry, Anko. You were saying?"
Anko pouted at her friend.
"Nai-chan, you weren't even paying attention!"
"Sorry," Kurenai said again.
With a speculative look, Anko asked,
"What's with you, Nai-chan?"
Kurenai waved her friend off.
Anko just gave her friend a look of both disbelief and annoyance.
"Fine. I just learned some things tonight; still processing them," Kurenai said after a few moments.
A predatory smile spread across Anko's face.
"Oh, secrets? Anything you can share with your old friend?"
Kurenai shook her head.
"No, sorry. This one is blacker than black, as I understand it."
The smile disappeared.
"That secret, eh?"
"Yeah," Kurenai said apologetically.
Anko gave a grunt of annoyance.
"Well, you could at least explain why it's got you so down."
Kurenai shook her head again.
"Anko, I can't get into it. I just...I just feel like someone I knew is gone now."
"Oh...one of those," Anko said.
It happened sometimes. You made friends with a perfectly nice person, only to find out they were a sleeper agent or ANBU. A secret like that had ruined many a relationship.
"Something like that," Kurenai said.
After knocking back her own drink, Anko asked,
"Well, shouldn't you get to know them for real, see if you like 'em?"
Kurenai blinked. It was a remarkably simple answer. If she didn't know what Hinata was like now, wasn't it in both their interests for her to at least try and get to know the girl?
"You're right...," Kurenai mumbled.
"Of course I am, Nai-chan!"
With a chuckle at her friend, Kurenai went back to their earlier conversation.
"Sure, Anko. So, you were saying something about bamboo slivers?"
"Yeah...," Anko went on about the joys of T&I.
Kurenai could only smile. The more things change.
Naruto and Sasuke sat in Naruto's apartment, drinking tea.
"So, that went better than expected," Naruto said.
Sasuke gave Naruto a dry look.
"Your optimism is inspiring."
The blond shrugged.
"Sasuke, you know that could have gone a lot worse."
Sasuke nodded in agreement, but said,
"You know that we haven't heard the last of this."
"Right. Still, only one person demanded your head," Naruto replied.
Sasuke shook his head. Naruto always tried to put a positive spin on things, but some things can't be made positive.
"For now. You know that I skimmed over the worst of it," Sasuke said.
Frowning, Naruto gave a simple response.
"It wasn't you, Sasuke."
Silence fell between them. Sasuke finally said,
"I know. But I still have those memories."
Naruto offers immediately,
"If you need to talk, let me know."
A small half smile seemed out of place on his face. Even after everything, Naruto still stood by him. Better then my own brother..., Sasuke mused.
"I'm good for now."
A knock at the door destroyed the quiet atmosphere.
"Think we have our first visitor," Naruto says.
The door was opened to reveal TenTen half way through knocking again. Looking inside, she did a double take. Sasuke just casually sitting on the couch sipping tea was not what she expected.
"Sasuke? Why are you at Naruto's place?"
Naruto answered for him.
"Two friends hanging out."
TenTen gives a look before continuing.
"Right. Anyways, I want to know something."
Nodding sagely, Naruto says.
"The true secret to public speaking is to pretend they're all naked. Just don't look at the attractive women while doing so."
TenTen glared at him.
"No, not that, you jerk."
Without missing a beat, Naruto continued.
"In truth, the Ichiraku family recipe is passed through the mother, not the father."
Sasuke looks a bit startled at that.
A flicker of emotion went through Naruto as he answered.
"Yeah. Ayame told me after Teuchi passed away."
The two boys looked at her intently.
"On what?" Naruto asked.
"You're trying to annoy me into going away, aren't you?" TenTen said.
"Maybe. Is it working?"
"No," TenTen answered.
"Damn," came from both the boys.
Naruto let out a sigh before putting on a smile.
"Alright, what did you want to know, Panda-chan?"
TenTen let her irritation show.
"I am not a Panda!"
"Totally is. Right, Sasuke?"
"Leave me out of this." Sasuke folded his arms.
TenTen suppressed her annoyance again.
"Anyways. What happened to me?"
The two boys looked at each other.
"The same thing that happened to everyone else. You died," Naruto said.
"How?" TenTen demanded.
Naruto's face became grim.
"Like a good ninja. That's all I'm telling you, TenTen."
TenTen huffs in frustration before turning to the other boy.
"Sasuke, you tell me."
"No." Sasuke was firm on his answer.
"...Why not!" TenTen demanded.
Sasuke let out an irritated grunt.
"To quote a poet I killed for being annoying, 'Let no one know their fate, so that they are not puppets of fickle destiny.'
TenTen replied, irritated.
"But it's not going to happen now because you've changed things."
"No, probably not. But that's not the point of not telling you."
"Then what is?"
"The point of not telling you is so that you can choose your path freely, TenTen," Naruto answered.
After a moment to process this, TenTen gave her eloquent reply.
Sasuke shook his head.
"No, he's right. If you know the future, it becomes pretty much all consuming, and it's hard to think of other possibilities."
Naruto picked up where Sasuke left off.
"I'm not Panda-chan!"
Naruto continued without noticing.
"Anyways, the point is...let's use an example. Let's say I tell you everything, including how because you married a guy named Daisuke, you went and did something kind of stupid that got you killed. If you ever met Daisuke again, would you really let him have a chance, knowing he helped cause your death? Or would you close your heart and deny yourself happiness so that you could live, even though there are no guarantees?"
TenTen frowned. ...Would she? She didn't think she'd let him in. She didn't know. At the same time, not dying seemed like a good thing
"I...probably not. But is that really a bad thing?" she said.
Naruto got an odd look on his face.
"What, giving up love for survival? Depends on your philosophy. But like you just said, it's different now. We can't guarantee the same thing is going to happen as it did before. So why prejudice you?"
TenTen scowled. While she didn't like their reasoning, she could understand it.
"Hmph...can you at least tell me my skills?"
Naruto considered this for a few moments.
"You were one of my best kuinoichi. A mistress of weapons without par. You lived up to Tsunade's reputation; surpassed it, really. For now, you're doing fine. Just consider what you would do against someone who can wield wind."
TenTen frowned. Naruto had told her nothing she couldn't figure out, but she had never asked Naruto to be specific. There might be another way.
"One of these days, I will find out what you're hiding," TenTen said firmly.
Naruto suppressed a sigh.
"TenTen, I know how curious you are, but some things are better left buried. None of us are going to tell you, so drop it. I will get that as a written order if I have to."
TenTen looked mutinous before clamping down on her emotions. Her tone biting,
"...As you say, Hokage-sama."
The bun haired girl turned and, ramrod straight, marched out of the apartment.
Sasuke and Naruto shared a look as the pair sat in silence for several minutes.
"You staying here tonight?" Naruto asked.
"If you don't mind," Sasuke said.
"No problem, but I'm going to slip out for a bit," Naruto said, getting up.
"You have fun with your wife."
"...Nothing like that. We're too young."
Sasuke took a moment to catch on before looking away.
"I didn't mean it like that."
An awkward silence between the two fell.
"See you later, Sasuke." Naruto said at last.
Before Sasuke could respond, Naruto disappeared.
Inside the Hokage tower, various people burned the midnight oil to finish various tasks. Fuu of ROOT was one such man.
Fuu mechanically worked through the documents that he had been assigned. Even though he had been trained to do his duty without complaint, managing what was essentially clerical work was something of a step down. A mere month ago, he had been planting evidence of a Kusa sponsored coup in Takigakure, the better to bind that nation to Konoha.
Danzo-sama didn't truly believe alliances could last, but they were useful tools until the inevitable betrayal. It had been hoped that Takigakure would eventually make itself an out and out vassal to Konoha. Danzo-sama knew it already was in everything but name.
No, this work was beneath a man with his skills. Fuu frowned at the odd thought. There was to be nothing but loyalty to Danzo-sama and Konoha. Yet he was...unhappy to be doing a vital if unglamorous job for Konoha. What was this? Was the conditioning breaking down; would he be forced to feel again?
No. He wouldn't, Fuu decided. He would not let himself become that...thing again. Broken by the strength of Inoichi and cast out from the clan. Slowly drinking himself into an early grave. He, Fuu of ROOT, would not allow it. He had come too far and worked too hard to go back to that weak, emotionally compromised man.
Another stack of paperwork went through Fuu's hands even as his mind became locked into an old conflict with itself.
Hiashi sat in what could be generously called a den but was more accurately his office. With the removal of the Elders, much of the work he had previously pushed off on to them was back in his hands. The paperwork proved a welcome distraction from the troubling conversation he had had with his daughter.
It wasn't that he wasn't proud of Hinata; no, indeed he was impressed with her. Impressed that despite the world coming to an end, his daughter had found her steel and stood against all that attempted to destroy her and those she loved.
But that steel was so very brittle. Hiashi was a master of reading people, and more importantly, he knew his daughter. For all of his...indiscretions with raising her, Hiashi knew her. He knew how she used to watch over Naruto from afar, braid Hanabi's hair, and try so hard to cheer Neji up when all he showed was contempt.
Hiashi knew the gentle heart that Hinata had, so much like her mother's, was breaking, and he had no idea how to fix it. The problem was that Hinata didn't realize it herself. How she had that same blank stare that he had during the last war. Hinata was on the edge of burnout. With no immediate threats to keep her at constant fight or flight awareness, her mind was catching up. No, Hinata didn't know this. However, he, as her father, had. But there was still no way to fix it.
With a sigh, Hiashi set down his pen and looked at the full moon. In truth, he did know one person that could help his daughter. Naruto Namikaze, her husband and love, could give her what he could not. Still, Naruto himself was also dealing with all the things Hinata was. The Hyuuga patriarch could only hope they were strong enough and wise enough to help each other.
That didn't make the waiting any easier. Picking up his pen, Hiashi went back to work.
Naruto slipped into the Hyuuga compound. Even with the old purge, the guard patterns and layout hadn't changed enough to give him real trouble. Ordinarily he'd just go through the front door, but it was too late. Normal visitors would be told to come back tomorrow. Naruto wished he still had the clout of being the Hokage behind him. He didn't have it, though, along with so many other things. The control, the power that had been at his fingertips was gone. Still, he had gained that power once. He would do so again, only this time without wasting his efforts on short cuts like the Kyuubi.
Shaking his head, Naruto stopped outside of Hinata's room listening for the sound of anyone near.
He could only hear the soft breathing of his Hinata-chan. Naruto knocked on her door softly. Exactly 3 times in 3 seconds. It was something of a code that they had developed. Had to with the long years on the run from Orochimaru.
The door opened to a somewhat sleepy Hinata.
"Naruto-kun?" Hinata asked, coming instantly awake.
"Hinata-chan," Naruto said as he smiled at her.
Hinata looked around worriedly.
Keeping his grimace suppressed, Naruto said.
"Nothing's wrong. I just...had to see you."
Hinata shook her head.
"You...shouldn't be here. If someone sees you..."
Naruto just grinned.
"Hinata-chan, have I ever cared what anyone thinks?"
Hinata gave a reflective look at him.
"Put that way, no."
The two stood there a moment. Naruto was not sure what he was going to say. He just needed to see her, just to get some alone time with the woman he loved. As he studied Hinata's face, he commented,
"You seem at peace."
"I had a talk with my father."
Naruto didn't quite growl out his next question or anything.
"And what did he have to say?"
Hinata picked up on it anyway.
"Naruto-kun, calm down. It was...good."
With a a scowl, Naruto said.
"The man who emotionally-"
Only for Hinata to cut him off.
"It wasn't emotional abuse. Not intentionally."
The scowl fell away.
"He hurt you."
Hinata gently caressed Naruto's face.
"...Yes, he did. But Naruto, my father is many things. Above all, he's only human."
"Doesn't make it right."
A soft smile.
"No, it doesn't, but it does mean that I can forgive him. You know how much I love my family."
For a few moments Naruto just stood there, enjoying Hinata's touch.
"Yeah, I know. It's just...this whole night has me messed up."
Hinata nodded and dropped her hand.
"While I can't really let you in my room, give me a few minutes and meet me outside, okay?"
Half jokingly, Naruto let out a frustrated,
"It shouldn't be a problem for me to stay in the same room as my wife."
Hinata patted Naruto's shoulder.
"My dearest Naruto-kun, patience."
"Hai, hai," the blond said before leaving Hinata alone.
Outside the compound, Hinata smiled as she saw Naruto waiting for her there. Even with everything else that happened tonight, the one constant in her life was still true. Naruto loved her with everything he was.
It was a welcome point of stability in an otherwise chaotic life.
"I missed you," Naruto said.
"We were only apart for a few minutes... ."
Naruto just grinned.
"Still missed you."
She missed this, Hinata realized. The goofy Naruto that would go out of his way to show how he cared. The War...the War meant he hadn't showed up much.
"So, what do you plan to do, Naruto-kun?" she asked.
Rubbing the back of his neck, Naruto answered.
"Well, I thought I would give my wife a moonlight walk."
It was late, and there were so many things they had to do in the morning. Still, Hinata wanted to spend real time with her husband.
"That sounds wonderful," she said.
Naruto extended a hand.
"If you'll come with me, Hime?"
Hinata grabbed his hand, and the pair walked off.
The walk had ended with Naruto and Hinata both sitting against a tree looking up at the sky. They had awkwardly made small talk, even as they recognized that this evening had become even stranger.
Naruto and Hinata both had to come to grips that the War wasn't on now. They had loved and courted during one of the bloodiest wars in history. Now they had to love each other in peace, without the omnipresent of death behind them.
Struggling to break the awkward silence that had fallen between them, Naruto said,
"You know, you never did tell me what you and your father talked about."
Hinata gave a shrug.
"We talked about a lot of things. Who I was, what I had done, who I loved... ."
Naruto tensed. Hiashi had died for him, but the the two had never been close friends.
"And how he take it that last?"
Hinata smiled at him.
"Well you...impressed him tonight with the Rasengan."
"I always worried...," Naruto trailed off.
Hinata shook her head.
"Naruto-kun my...my father died for you. Do not think he didn't like you."
Catching the stutter and guessing it's meaning, Naruto put an arm around Hinata.
"It gets to you too, doesn't it?" he asked.
As she curled into Naruto's side, Hinata gave a simple,
Naruto asked gently,
"Do you want to talk about it?"
Hinata shook her head.
"It's nothing we haven't already discussed."
The blond suppressed a frown. He wanted to help more...but he had to wait for her to open up.
"Alright, Hinata-chan. I trust you."
Hinata gave a grateful look.
"Thank you, Naruto-kun. ...Hold me?"
"Of course," Naruto said.
Naruto pulled Hinata on to his lap and wrapped both arms around her.
As Hinata rested her head on Naruto's shoulder, she felt the dark thoughts leave her. Even as Naruto's breathing slowed and he fell asleep with her in his arms, Hinata felt content. Orochimaru was coming, but they would win. She'd finally be able to have the life with Naruto she always wanted.
As they both slept under the night sky, on the cold ground, for the first time in a week they slept soundly.
AN: Hi everyone, um...sorry for taking so long to update. I hope that you enjoy this chapter. I would like to thank my Beta Bookworm 702 for helping me with this chapter and general editing. I also thank you readers for giving my story attention. As this is coming out on Christmas Eve; a Merry Christmas to you all. Or Happy whatever Holiday you celebrate. Have a good one