Do You Feel You Need Help?
Author's Note: This story is heavily influenced by a story which I recall neither name nor author of. The aspects I do remember--- drawing pictures, "How do you feel?", spend a day with that person--- are translated into this. I suddenly thought of that story I read so long ago, for some reason, and this is the result.
Being a trained medic, the fifth Hokage of Konoha, Tsunade, was quite concerned with the well-being of her ninja. Most of them decided that was all right, as nearly everyone was in near perfect condition, anyway. Unfortunately, this "well-being", they soon discovered, also applied to mental health. A screening was done, and nearly half the ninja were told to seek counseling from a pre-assigned psychologist at the hospital.
That was why Neji found himself sitting in a chair and glaring at the therapist.
"…so how does it make you feel, Neji?" asked the therapist with a too-sincere smile.
Neji glared at the therapist some more, refusing to speak. Yes, he had possessed questionable motives for living until he had been defeated by Naruto and received an apology from his Uncle Hiashi, but that did not mean he was at "risk of mental instability" and needed to see a therapist, as the screening had indicated. In his opinion, it was ridiculous. He could hear Naruto in the room on one side shouting something at another therapist and Lee in the room on the other side, also shouting something. It was simply his misfortune, not fate, that two of the loudest people he had even met were on either side of his room to meet with their therapists. And, somehow, his cousin's entire team had escaped the need for therapy.
It was quite unfair.
Neji expressed his feelings on the matter by scowling fiercely.
"What have we discussed about negativity?" reprimanded the therapist with a bright smile.
Flatly, "Negativity is not productive." Neji could see the mild worry in how one of her finger muscles flexed. He did not say anything, though.
"Good! And how can we not have negativity? How can we feel without negativity?"
Neji briefly considered the question and determined that it was a pointless inquiry. To be completely neutral was a near-impossible feat for any human, and being positive was counterproductive for a ninja. Besides, negativity was how he usually felt, so it was an appropriate expression for his feelings. Before he could say something to that effect, the side of the room Naruto was on had a loud crash.
"Oh, no!" gasped Neji's therapist. "Excuse me."
Neji silently did, and the therapist left the room. When he could no longer see her, Neji leapt out the open widow and began to make his way home. He was quite pleased about the early dismissal, as he could still hear Lee loudly shouting about the ideals of youth and glory.
Unfortunately, Neji's freedom was not to be. He returned to the same session under the firm grasp of an ANBU who had seen him exiting the hospital. Apparently, Tsunade had noted this possibility and had ANBU posted near the hospital… coincidentally while the ninja sessions were running. The ANBU gave Neji a final shake and before tossing the boy into a chair. Then, the masked person saluted the therapist, who had been watching with an indulgent smile, and leapt out the window just as Neji had two minutes previous.
Neji settled back into the chair. He abhorred these sessions, but there seemed to be no way to escape them. What use were they? He did not feel better about himself or anyone else. Although he had been defeated by Naruto and apologized to by his Uncle Hiashi, that did not mean he had to change immediately. There were still the many years from four to thirteen that he had to accept in his life. The presence or lack of a therapist would do nothing.
"It is good of you to return. The boy in the next room wanted a pet and got overexcited about it," explained the therapist, still bright and lovely as ever.
Neji did not express his opinion that Naruto should not be permitted a pet due to inability to---
"Now, let us continue expressing ourselves," continued the therapist cheerfully, quickly bringing Neji out of his thoughts.
The young ninja frowned at her.
Unfortunately, the therapist was oblivious and currently checking her watch. "Oh, look! We are almost done." Before Neji could express his glee and gratitude by exiting the room, she added, "I have some homework for you. You seem to have a great deal of resentment against your family and friends. I want you to give everyone a compliment before I see you again."
Neji tersely nodded. Whenever he argued, the therapist forced him to draw pictures with crayons.
"I also want you to write them down so that you can read them to me next time."
Neji nodded once more and quickly walked out the door.
Compliments were simple enough. They were expressions of respect and good wishes. He started with the easiest.
"Uncle Hiashi-sama," he called when he met his uncle in the halls. Neji almost began thinking of how neither his uncle, Hinata, or Hanabi had been indicted by the screening for punishment in the form of therapy lessons. How had the Main Branch weaseled out once more?
"You are a strong, valuable leader." That had not been difficult to think of. His uncle was strong, as shown by his verbal wish to be rid of Hinata, and valuable, as shown by the council's decision to sacrifice Neji's father for Neji's uncle.
Unfortunately, the Leader of the Hyuuga Clan seemed confused. "Neji?"
Neji simply bowed and left. He was not going to repeat himself, after all!
fThe rest of the day went in a similar manner.
"Hanabi-sama, you look like you killed someone."
"Naruto, I find you amusing at times."
"Gai-sensei, you look like a big shrub."
"Lee, you look like a small shrub."
"Tenten, you look as if you have lost weight."
"Hokage-sama, I see you have your drinking under control."
"Hinata-sama…" There really was nothing he could say to her. Neji briefly considered recycling a compliment, but she did not look like anyone else in the Hyuuga family nor had she lost weight. She was weak, a bit dim, and faint-hearted. He had started well, too, but somehow, it had become more and more difficult to find appropriate compliments.
It was also hard to give compliments people liked, especially to females. Hanabi had immediately demanded whether or not it was meant to be an insult, Tenten had attempted to slap him (and did not succeed), and the Hokage had been dumbfounded for a moment while her assistant, Shizune tittered behind a file with his name on it. On the other hand, Gai and Lee had been immensely pleased to be compared to similar objects and tried to envelop Neji in a Hug of Friendship. Naruto had been confused and simply stared blankly at Neji.
However, the result of the exercise was that Neji had not felt better about himself in any way. If anything, he felt worse. He should have been capable of completing the exercise, but was it really his fault that Hinata was a terrible excuse for a Hyuuga and a ninja?
The therapist was also disappointed. "You are not trying, and that makes me sad."
Neji could already imagine having to draw hundreds of smiley faces to help him become more positive. "I did as well as I could, considering the circumstances," he answered through tight lips.
"You could not even think of a compliment for your Hinata-sama." She clucked as she looked over the others, such as the one commenting on the Hokage's drinking. "I want you to think of something better about them. Let us try the Hokage-sama first."
What was there to say? Their new Hokage was a chronic drinker and a terrible worker. The only reason she did not just skip going to office in favor of visiting a pub was because she let her assistant work hard while she drank! What made her valuable, Neji occasionally heard others remark, was her reputation as one of the Sannin--- not her work ethic. Then again, she was also a good medic… but Neji did not want to think about anything remotely connected to therapy. Finally, he offered, "She has the ability to utilize a great deal of strength." Brutal force, so to speak. It was terribly barbaric in a way no Hyuuga would ever admit to.
The therapist had a pained expression, but she went back to being cheery a moment later as she asked brightly, "What about your Hinata-sama?"
Neji bristled irately. She was not his in any way, and he would never want her. Having her would be like having some weak pet he would have to constantly protect. The bothersome thought that he was actually her Protector came to mind, causing him to blurt without thinking, "She is a dumb animal in need of euthanasia." He had tried to think of her as some being requiring kindness and special understanding, but euthanasia had been all that came to mind.
The therapist did not bother to hide her emotion this time. She was, quite clearly, shocked. "Why, Neji!" she exclaimed. "That is not kind at all and quite negative." She calmed herself before Neji could reply that ninja who were kind often died earlier. "I want you to draw a picture about your feelings regarding your Hinata-sama."
Neji disliked drawing pictures, but the box of crayons was pushed towards him. He considered what to draw as he mused about how "Hinata-sama" was not anyone he wanted. The sound of Naruto shouting in the next room about "Sasuke-teme" and the therapist there gently inquiring whether Naruto felt inferior to Sasuke brought Neji out of his thoughts. The idea of Neji's therapist possibly doing the same to Neji was bothersome, so Neji began to draw.
The therapist looked down at the paper thrust into her hands. "You have drawn a dead bunny-rabbit."
"It died," said Neji by way of explanation. Hopefully, it had been a miserable death.
"Is that why it is writhing in agony?"
"Yes." Of course.
"Why does it have no eyes?" wondered the therapist.
"Because it died." The Hyuuga eyes burned away after a certain amount of time its possessors spent being deceased, whether the individual was of the Main or Branch House. While the empty eye sockets were considered to be "creepy" by some, it was a useful way of determining the amount of time any Hyuuga had been deceased.
"Why is that?"
"It is simply how it is." Even if it were so, Neji was too loyal to the Hyuuga to begin betraying clan secrets to his therapist, who he was getting to hate more than he had hated the Main House.
"Does this bunny-rabbit have a name?"
Neji shook his head, feeling tired of the conversation.
"Let's give it a name, Neji."
The therapist frowned, but produced another sheet of paper. "Please draw another picture of your feelings about the same person."
Neji sketched another beautiful interpretation of his cousin and handed it to the therapist. As he waited for her remarks, he tried to get the feel of wax off his fingers.
"Why, Neji!" gasped the therapist. "Why is there someone killing the bunny-rabbit?"
"Because it tried to kill them."
There was a slight pause. Finally, the therapist said, "Neji, I think that we need to work on this a while. You seem to have a great deal of anger directed towards your Hinata-sama. Your homework this time is to spend an entire day with her and show her your pictures. Then, draw a new picture and bring it to me."
The next morning, Neji knocked briefly on Hinata's door. When there was no answer, he slid the door open to see Hinata still sleeping. After feeling disgusted at the habits of the Main House, he sat down to wait for her to wake up and begin spending a day together.
"I must spend the day with you," explained Neji when Hinata awoke.
"O-oh…" stuttered Hinata. As usual, she was dim and witless. "D-did my Father---"
Hinata nodded and went into the bathroom to prepare herself. Neji patiently waited while observing her room. She was, at least, a neat person. Neji did not think he could have endured spending time with a messy individual.
"What do we have to do?" asked Hinata when she had prepared herself for the day.
Neji considered the question. "You may choose," he answered graciously.
Hinata did not want to train, as she remembered the recent Chuunin exam quite well, but she had to pick something… "Breakfast?"
It was a good choice, considering the time. Neji silently made his way to the door and waited for her to lead the way to breakfast. He could not walk in front of a Main House member through the halls, due to etiquette, and he could definitely not walk in front of the Clan Heir! Fortunately, Hinata started walking towards the Dining Hall before Neji could think too much on the matter.
"What now?" asked Hinata.
"Lunch." They might as well go through the meals.
"B-b-but…" began Hinata hesitantly.
Neji looked at her questioningly, not realizing how intimidating his gaze was.
"It is not lunchtime yet," the other said quickly, as though he had scared the words out.
That was a valid point. "What do you want to do, Hinata-sama?"
Hinata still hoped that they could avoid training, so she suggested browsing the Hyuuga library. Neji agreed, and they spent a quiet six hours ignoring each other until… "Ah… Neji-nii-san?" called the heiress hesitantly.
Neji put down an engrossing text by one of his ancestors on how to kill humans and frowned at his cousin. "Yes, Hinata-sama?"
"It is towards one. Mayhap we could… have lunch?"
After putting down the book, Neji decided that he was also feeling somewhat hungry. He followed Hinata back to the Dining Hall, where some of the other Hyuuga stared at them. Neji, however, paid no attention to the others. He was far more interested in the delicious meal which had been prepared. The scent of the rice with the eggs mixed in was overwhelmingly---
Neji silently lifted another portion to his mouth before shaking his chopsticks slightly and resting them on his bowl. "Yes, Hinata-sama?" he answered in a tone of great suffering.
"What shall we do together after lunch? The library again, mayhap?"
Through instinct, Neji determined that he disliked the idea. His opinion was not at all objective and he was quite aware that his feelings were probably because Hinata had suggested the activity, but he still disliked it. "No." He was very aware of the scowl he flashed her way as he spoke.
Hinata looked frightened as she answered, "A-all right, Neji-nii-san. What do you want to do instead?"
What could they do instead? "Training---"
Hinata looked ready to faint.
"…or not," continued Neji quickly, not wishing the trouble of having to carry his cousin's body around for the rest of the day.
A short amount of time passed, and both of the children finished their lunch. "We can sit in the garden and talk," suggested Hinata as she carried their bowls to the wash pile.
Neji silently stood up to follow his cousin to the garden, a beautiful place shared by all Hyuuga, though some Main House members seemed to think they could tell the Branch House members to get out of the area. He frowned, thinking of a time only two years ago when Hanabi had jumped on a rock and demanded that Neji get out. The girl had shouted something about stepping on flowers, but Neji had only been standing on some ugly weeds which had somehow grown. (Later that day, Neji had recommended that the Hyuuga Garden caretaker pay more attention to his gardening duties.) He honestly could not understand his cousins at times.
"It is a nice day out," Hinata remarked suddenly as she seated herself on a rock.
Neji was somewhat annoyed to realize that the only rock close enough to Hinata's rock was the very rock Hanabi had been standing on to shout at him from. Neji opted to remain standing.
Feeling hesitant because of Neji's lack of answer and decision to remain standing, Hinata commented, "This is where Hanabi was growing some flowers two or three years ago." She gestured towards the rock Neji was avoiding. "She never said what happened to them, but you can sit there, if you want to…" Hinata trailed off, uncomfortably aware that Neji was still standing and she was still sitting. It was like a servant waiting on a princess, and she did not want him to feel like that.
However, Neji still did not want to. So, he leaned against a tree.
"How are your therapy sessions?" Hinata insisted on asking.
Neji glared at her severely, forgetting momentarily that he had resolved to reconcile with his family.
"I-I-I just wondered why you must spend a day with me."
"It will enhance my ability to protect you if I know your habits better," answered Neji as though giving an explanation.
Hinata nodded slightly to acknowledge the truth of the remark. "Have you talked about me, then?" she wondered.
"Yes," answered Neji. Then, remembering the pictures, he withdrew them from within his shirt and handed them to her. "These represent my feelings towards you."
Unfortunately, Hanabi, who still had a grudge against Neji was crushing her flowers, had followed the older two and now leapt out of a shrub and took the pictures. Neji did not quite care who saw the pictures, so he made no move to retrieve them while Hanabi examined the images. "Dead rabbits," she remarked out loud, causing Neji to smirk maliciously while Hinata looked shocked and frightened. Hanabi put the pictures away in some pocket of her garment and regarded her sister and her cousin with amusement. "I wonder what Father would say…" she cooed.
Neji's face became blank as he suddenly realized how threatening the pictures actually were.
Hanabi laughed. "Do not worry… yet. I am going to save them and frame them in my room."
The artist simply relaxed against the tree, knowing that he could not have his pictures back at this moment even if he wanted them. If he attempted to forcefully regain them, he could be accused of assaulting the heiress' sister! At any rate, Hinata now knew why Neji had to spend the day with her. Neji looked at the heiress and counted all the ways he could identify her feelings of nervousness.
"Do you really feel so violently towards her?" asked Hanabi, breaking the silence of Hinata's mortification and Neji's calculations. Despite being seven, her language and deductions were mature. She was a precocious child.
"Hanabi-sama, the pictures are eloquent enough," answered Neji with the slightest hint of scorn.
Hanabi turned her Hyuuga eyes, which were useful for evaluating other people, and proceeded to mentally dissect her sister. Neji waited impatiently for an answer as the sisters, both very still, regarded each other. "You have no reason to see her as a threat," stated Hanabi finally. It was a damning remark to make about the Clan Heiress, but true enough--- in some ways.
"There is some history you do not know yet, Hanabi-sama."
"Maybe not," admitted Hanabi, "but she is not very strong, is she? How can she threaten your existence, other than the obvious?" It was a reference to the Cursed Seal, which Hinata would inherit Activation knowledge of by virtue of birth. "I think you should talk to your therapist."
Neji managed to restrain himself. It was quite fortunate that he did; if he had not, he would have been in front of the Hyuuga Council within an hour for assaulting a seven-year-old.
"You have therapy because you have issues which may need to be solved." It was noticeable from the tone that Hanabi had heard the phrase elsewhere and was parroting it now. "So I think you should."
The pictures and Hanabi's entrance spoiled any possibility of ending the day peacefully, so Neji simply followed Hinata around for the rest of the day until she fell asleep in her own bed, at which point Neji retired to his own. He felt that the day had been a waste of time and was quite ready to tell his therapist just what he thought. Unfortunately, his therapist had a different interpretation of the events.
"It sounds as if you and your Hinata-sama had a wonderful day!"
Neji bristled at the continued use of "your Hinata-sama", but did not say anything about that. "Why?"
"You had meals together, read together, gardened together, relaxed together… did you enjoy yourself, Neji?"
That was a simple question to answer. "No."
Hinata was simply an unpleasant person to be around.
"How did you find it?"
"Why do you find it bothersome?"
"She should be miserable."
"And she is not?"
Actually, she had seemed miserable, which was not a completely unpleasant thought. On the other hand…
"Why should she be miserable, Neji?"
"She is weak and foolish. Even her sister does not respect her." The assessment was clear and certain.
"Why do you feel this way? Could there be someone who you think feels that way? Look inside yourself and reflect---"
"I am content with myself, and she caused my father's death."
The therapist blanched, but recovered quickly. "How does that make you feel?"
How did the therapist think it made him feel?
Neji returned to the Hyuuga complex feeling dissatisfied with the therapy session. True, he usually felt dissatisfied about it, but he was much more dissatisfied today than on the other days. His random homework this time was to do random acts of kindness for other people, so Neji started by uprooting some ugly weeds in the garden to help the garden caretaker. Unfortunately, the caretaker fainted--- probably with joy--- when he saw the weeds lying on the ground, so Neji never got to ask the caretaker to sign his "kind deed" sheet.
Neji had been off to the Dining Hall for a snack when he saw his dear cousin Hinata trying to catch a chicken. It was probably for dinner, decided Neji. Being determined to complete his assignment, Neji helped Hinata by killing the chicken with a well-placed Jyuuken. Hinata stared at the dead chicken with the air of one who could not believe her luck. No, wait… she seemed---
It was at this point Hanabi ran up to Neji and stomped his foot. Hard. At least she had not used chakra to enhance the attack. Neji had succeeded in avoiding taking the attack fully, but it was still painful. He cursed the Main House inwardly, knowing that he could be at risk of punishment if he let anyone hear his thoughts, and asked irately, "What are you doing, Hanabi-sama?!"
Unfortunately, anger vented, Hanabi had already run off and could not answer.
"Neji-nii-san… why did you k-kill the chicken?" asked Hinata.
"To help you."
"Ah," answered Hinata as she slipped a vial of what looked like medicine into her pocket.
Neji wondered what she could possibly want with the medicine in her hand while trying to kill a chicken but decided it was none of his business. "Please sign here to acknowledge my random act of kindness."
In a trembling hand, Hinata did.
For the rest of the day, Neji did many random acts of kindness. In fact, he did so many that he almost lost count. The therapist would have to be pleased.
The therapist was pleased. "How did it feel?"
Neji considered the matter, recalling when he had helped Hanabi train, helped Hinata kill a chicken, helped the gardener destroy weeds--- the experience had actually been… "It was satisfying," he answered honestly.
The therapist clapped once. "Wonderful, Neji! You have made a great deal of progress. I am so pleased that you like---"
"I did not like it."
"I said that the experience was satisfying."
The therapist attempted to interrupt again. "Which means---"
"I abhor my family and my cousins and you!"
"Let us talk about something else, Neji."
"Who has had a great impact on you?"
"Do you get along with her?"
"She is dead."
"How does that make you feel?"
The end result was that he had to tell his fellow ninja how important they were to him and why. He started with the Hokage when being assigned a mission, causing her to stare at him with a ruminative expression. "What did you say, Neji?"
Neji declined to repeat his remark.
"I believe it was because of your therapy, though?"
"Shizune, I am starting to think that the therapy was a bad idea," the Hokage remarked to her assistant.
Shizune continued sorting files as she answered, "It could be. The Uchiha's smiling made people call the emergency number many times with the belief that a rogue ninja had infiltrated the village in the Uchiha's body and Naruto-kun kept finding himself being chased by angry villagers when he tried to be helpful. The therapy may have caused more problems than it solved."
The Hokage sighed heavily and handed a file to Neji. "Here is your mission."
When Neji completed the delivery and returned home, Hinata and Hanabi were standing outside of his room. He wondered what they were doing there. Might Hanabi be there to demand that Neji move further away from the Main House area? Was Hinata here to demand that Neji treat her with more respect? Or were they together by his door simply to bother him with their presence?
"Hanabi wants to apologize," Hinata explained.
Neji doubted that, based on what he could see.
Hanabi said something which sounded like, "I apologize for framing your pictures in my room so that Father saw them and thought that you were being ill-treated by your therapist." She ended with a stiff, slight bow. Before Neji could respectfully request that she repeat her words, she walked away haughtily.
"Is there anything else, Hinata-sama?" Neji asked when he realized that Hinata was not going to leave him in peace as her sister had.
"Would… you like to join me for tea?"
Greatly puzzled, Neji simply stared at her.
"We can have it in my room." She was soliciting his company.
"I do not drink tea at this time of the day," lied Neji glibly. His cousin would not be skilled enough to discern the lie.
"Would you like to do something else?"
The sudden realization that Hinata wanted to do something with him, not have someone random as company for tea, shocked Neji more than it should have. He recovered quickly. "No."
It was with some satisfaction Neji watched her bow her head, but when she began walking away dejectedly, he felt guilty for some odd reason. "I have time for tea, actually."
"You are definitely making progress, Neji."
"Yes." The therapist smiled in an indecently cheerful way. "You voluntarily spent time with your Hinata-sama with no prompting!"
Neji admitted silently that it had been a pleasant, companionable silence as they drank tea. In fact, he would be amenable to doing it again--- and that was what confused him. Hinata was still all the things he had thought she was before, but she was actually quite tolerable and almost likable.
"How did you feel about it?"
It was that word again.
Neji could hardly be expected to unravel the intricacies of his feelings regarding his cousin, so he stood up and walked out the door.
He probably would have been in trouble had not the Hokage happened to have sent out announcements that the therapy sessions were being terminated for all ninja concerned, except in certain cases who would be notified of this. It was with some trepidation that Neji pulled at the letter to be sure there was no extra notice in his envelope. Fortunately, he was not included with those who had to continue therapy.
Neji was so content with his therapy-free life that he carelessly agreed to drinking tea with Hinata and Hanabi in the garden. It was all right to be generous to the dumb creatures which required special understanding once in a while.
Despite his usually perfect observations regarding Hinata, he failed to notice Hinata thinking that mayhap therapy had been good for him after all.
"I knew the therapy was good for them!" laughed Tsunade as she opened another bottle of sake.
Shizune tried to pull it away. "How? And give me that sake!"
"Just look! Naruto has been more helpful. That Uchiha has been nicer to Naruto. The Hyuuga who implied I should stop drinking---"
"You should," interjected Shizune quickly.
"---is bonding with his family. And… oh, I love this crystal seeing-ball Sensei left me!"