Tsuki no Kage
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, nor do I own 'Time and Again' by KyLewin.
This story is a oneshot based off of a scene that appears in KyLewin's story, Time and Again. I did not come up with the idea. What I did was rewrite a portion of the story that was originally told from Naruto's perspective so that it was told from Hinata's perspective. This was done with permission from the original author.
To an outside observer, the girl sitting there, bathed in the moonlight, would look like an angel or even a goddess. She did not slouch, though she was seated on the empty floor with no chair or other seat to preserve her posture. Her dark, indigo hair fell in a neat sheet down her back, not a single strand rebelling against the perfect order. Her pale, porcelain skin was without flaw, the moonlight striking it in such a way that it seemed to almost glow. Her face was raised to the moon, and in its glow her delicate features seemed almost unnaturally lovely. Her eyes, pale as they were, looked almost like pieces of that moon that some god or other deity had decided to place into a human's face.
Hinata gazed up at the moon, and only years of training as her father's heiress prevented her emotions from showing themselves on her face. The moon looked so far away. In reality, Hinata knew that it was nothing more than a large rock that reflected remnants of the sun's light onto the Earth, yet there was something majestic and beautiful about it. It was never touched by humans' squabbles and pains. No matter what strife mankind wreaked upon the world, the moon would remain untouched. It had been there before the humans, and it would remain there long after they had gone.
The ideal heiress would be like the moon, she had been told. The ideal heiress would remain untainted through whatever trials her leadership threw at her. The ideal heiress would distance herself emotionally from political matters, so that her decisions would be for the best of the clan rather than for herself. The ideal heiress would keep herself strong and unrelenting in the field of battle, and she would fight to her last to defend her clan.
The ideal heiress was not Hinata.
It wasn't that Hinata did not want to help the Hyuuga clan—she did, very much. She wanted to be a good leader; she wanted make decisions that would help the clan; she wanted to become a kunoichi of whom her family could be proud. And yet she couldn't. Each time she tried one of those things, each and every time, she failed. Her heart would always betray her in the end. Whenever she tried to lead, she would worry too much if those following her were comfortable with her orders, and if they felt that they were being treated fairly. Whenever she made a decision, she would always see how she was hurting the other party with her choice, and could never bear to leave them too badly off. Whenever she tried to fight, her fear of failure would constantly cause her to underestimate herself, resulting in defeat after defeat.
During her younger days, Hinata had been convinced that her failures would result in her demotion to the Branch House, rather than leaving her as the heiress to the clan. She would have been content with that, to be placed in the position to which she clearly should have been born in order to benefit her clan. Her little sister, Hanabi, or her cousin, Neji, would have been a far better candidate for the position of Head of the Clan than her. But both of them were now dead, leaving Hinata as the only candidate left in the Main Family.
Even still, she would not have to lead the clan. Hinata did not know whether to feel sorrowful or relieved at this. Certainly it was a large burden off her back to know that her failures would not condemn her clan any further. But the solution was almost as bad, at least on her part. She would not have to lead the clan, but she would have to marry the man who would. Hyuuga Hiroshi was probably a very nice man, and he would lead the clan well. But the small, aching part of Hinata that was her own still wished that she would not have to marry him. It was only a childish dream, just a fantasy that she should have long gotten over, and yet she could not help herself from wishing that it could have been another man whom she finally married, a man with long blond hair and brilliant blue eyes.
Hinata shook herself slightly. She must not think of herself. She must think only of her clan. The Hyuuga would benefit from this marriage, of that she was certain. As a member of the Main Family, it was her duty to think of her clan.
Hinata rose silently, exiting the room in which she had been sitting for the past two hours and heading towards her home's kitchen. The Hokage would wish to know of this, now that the decision had finally been reached. She would bring him a cup of coffee, as an apology for disturbing him at such a late hour. Though, if she knew him, he would probably still be awake and working. He would need the caffeine all the more then, if he hoped to retain any sense of mind while working so late at night.
Hinata moved silently through the corridors of the Hyuuga Main Family's dwelling, trying to ignore the small part of herself that wasn't acting only for the good of her village and her Hokage with its actions, and was instead thinking that she would get to see Naruto, one last time.
"Naruto-sama," Hinata whispered softly as she knocked on the door to the Hokage's office half an hour or so later. Traveling at ninja speeds, the walk from her house to the Hokage Tower could have taken far less time, but Hinata had wanted to make sure that she was properly composed before seeing Naruto. The blond temporary Hokage was always expressive, and if Hinata's control over her own emotions was anything less than perfect she feared what she might say to him.
"Come in Hinata… er, Hinata-dono," she heard Naruto's voice reply from the other side of the door. Time and familiarity had done away with Hinata's fainting, but even the sound of Naruto's voice still filled her with the same rush of giddiness that it had as a child. Had Hinata been anyone else, she would have cursed.
"I brought y-you some coffee," she told Naruto as she opened the door and stepped into the Hokage's office. As she had anticipated, he was hunched over his desk doing paperwork, despite the lateness of the hour. Midnight had come and passed several hours ago, and yet Naruto still slaved on. Hinata did not know whether to feel proud of his determination or annoyed with his stubbornness.
"Uh, thanks, Hinata," Naruto told her with a smile. "That's really nice of you." He rose from his chair and stretched—Hinata wondered dimly how long it had been since he last left the seat—turning to survey the village from his window. The view that it offered of Konohagakure was marvelous, and the sight of the war-torn village in a state of almost peacefulness was refreshing. For a few moments Hinata was content to simply gaze at it with Naruto, though that contentment was destroyed when she realized where his thoughts must be heading. The contrast between the outward peacefulness of the village and the true turmoil it was in because of the war would not pass Naruto by. If Hinata knew him at all, then he would be worrying over the problems the war was causing to his people, rather than the problems his stress was causing to himself.
Taking a step forward, the former Hyuuga heiress lightly bumped him with her hip to distract him, an action that did not even begin trigger the blush that once would have accompanied it.
Naruto grinned sheepishly at her, showing that she had been correct in her assessment of his thoughts. She smiled back and handed him the coffee while taking a deep drink from a second mug that she had brought for herself.
"You know, there are people who are supposed to get me things like this… you didn't have to come all the way from the other side of the village just to bring me some coffee." Despite the words, Naruto grinned, though whether from appreciation for her actions or from the relief of the caffeine Hinata wasn't sure. It didn't matter. This was why she had wanted to bring him coffee instead of simply delivering to him her news. If she had just brought the news, then this meeting would have been far more somber, and less like a visit with a childhood friend. Even if it was only for a moment, Hinata treasured any time that she was able to spend with Naruto where politics or the war didn't intrude.
"I don't mind," she told him aloud. "Besides, the only ones still here are Konohamaru and Udon, and you probably sh-shouldn't eat or drink anything they get you." Her cheeks had turned a faint pink by the end, though hopefully Naruto wouldn't be able to notice in the dim light. He didn't appear to, for he chuckled at her comment, though the sound was interrupted by a long yawn.
"It's getting late, N-Naruto-sama, you should go home," Hinata told him, concern leaking into her voice.
"I liked it better when you called me 'Naruto-kun' or even just 'Naruto,'" he replied. It was a poorly disguised effort to change the subject, but Hinata chose to follow it all the same. Practically everyone left from their childhood circle had been hounding Naruto to get more sleep lately—if he hadn't listened to them, then one more night of prodding by her would accomplish nothing.
"You are an adult and the leader of the village, not just a childhood friend. It would be inappropriate for me to call you that… Naruto-kun." It felt nice to say it, just once. Just one last time. Naruto grinned in response and took another sip of coffee. For a long moment they sat together like that, just two childhood friends enjoying a rare night of peace together. Then Naruto had to speak the words that Hinata knew he would eventually say, the words that would shatter that peaceful moment into irreparable fragments.
"So why are you here, Hinata-chan?"
"I thought you should know," she began, "the Clan Elders have decided."
"Decided what?" It took all of Hinata's strength of mind to answer that question, especially knowing what Naruto's probable reaction would be.
"They do not w-wish for me to become the Head of the Clan."
"But they have to!" Naruto all but shouted, barely giving her a chance to finish speaking before his outburst began. His obvious outrage at the news was so heartwarming that it was almost painful to watch. Hinata did not deserve for such a caring person to be her friend. She looked towards the floor and bit her lip, barely noticing as Konohamaru and Udon burst into the room looking for the source of the trouble. Naruto apologized and shooed them out with instructions that they should go home and sleep; it was too late to be working. Hinata noticed the irony of that comment, though she did not remark upon it. Konohamaru however did, and the resulting argument probably made as twice much noise as Naruto's original outburst, only ending when Naruto threatened that either the two younger boys could go home or he could "help" them on their way. With much grumbling, they relented.
Naruto and Hinata stood in relative silence for a moment, during which time Naruto regained some degree of control over his emotional state. His voice was far quieter when he next spoke, though Hinata was not sure if that was necessarily a good thing. "What do you mean they don't want you to be the Head of the Clan?"
"T-they do not feel that I am… right… for the job," Hinata replied, picking her words carefully even as she burned with shame for having to say them.
"But with Hanabi…" Naruto's voice trailed off as Hinata felt the familiar hollow ache that always accompanied the mention of her dead sister. "Uh… I'm sorry," he added awkwardly. It was clear from the way that he rubbed his eyes as he spoke that his words had been brought on by a slowly-functioning, sleep-deprived brain more than anything else.
"No, you're right," she told him. "With my sister dead, they have no choice but to leave me in the Main Family… however, they have arranged a marriage for me to the man who will officially run the clan."
"Arranged a marriage?!" It was probably a very good thing that Konohamaru and Udon had already been sent home, though Hinata would hardly have been surprised if they had been able to hear Naruto's shout from there. "They can't do that!"
"Forgive m-me, Naruto-sama," Hinata began, unconsciously returning to the more formal way of talking that did nothing to improve Naruto's mood, "but they can. My father is dying, my favored little sister is dead… and the most powerful Hyuuga in a g-generation, Neji-niisan, is also dead. It is the job of the Clan Elders to decide who will make the best leader in t-times such as these, and they do not feel that it is me."
"But… but they can't make you marry someone just because they… can they?"
"Yes, N-Naruto-sama, they can. I-I am, after all, a Hyuuga, first and foremost."
"Damn it Hinata," he growled, "don't pull all this meek crap! You know damn well you would make a great leader for your clan! Why are you letting them do this?"
"Because I have no choice," she replied softly. As a girl, the idea that she had caused Naruto to become displeased with her in any way would have either sent Hinata into a fit of apologizing or stunned her into silence. She noted with some pride that she had grown beyond that timid little girl. It was growth; it just wasn't enough to save either her clan or herself. "Times are hard and the Hyuuga are scared and confused. If I go against the Elders, it will only further split us. I will not do that."
"But there has to be a way," Naruto insisted, "something someone could do to force them to see things right…"
Hinata didn't want to say it. She didn't want to give any clue, lest Naruto's reaction destroy her. And yet she needed to tell him. For years, Hinata had been too shy, too afraid to admit her feelings for Naruto. And because of that she would never have him. If… if Naruto was never given the chance to figure the solution out… if she married Hiroshi without him ever knowing… then she would always wonder what could have been.
"There is," she whispered quietly. Almost immediately, Naruto's eyes opened and he stared at her.
"What is it?" he demanded eagerly. He didn't understand. Hinata could tell just by looking at him.
"I can't tell you," she told him sadly. "If I did, it would be meaningless… as bad as this marriage will be… worse, perhaps, because I would always wonder if it was real… if it was done for the right reason… and I can't be that selfish."
"What are you talking about?"
Hinata turned towards the window, staring out at first the stars, then the lamps of the streets of Konoha, then the stars again. Her home seemed so tiny, so fragile when compared to the vastness of the heavens. It was almost as though one harsh breath, one poor decision, would be enough to send it crumbling into ruin.
She would not be the one to make the poor decision.
What are you talking about? "A childish dream that I held onto for far too long, I fear, Naruto-sama," she replied with a smile that tried to hide the tears she could feel building in her eyes. "If… if it was possible, there wouldn't be a reason for me to say it out loud anyway…"
"Hinata," Naruto addressed her, reaching out to place his warm hand on her cold shoulder, "just tell me what to do and I'll do it, I swear. I won't let them do this to you; I don't care what it takes." A few of the tears began to fall from her eyes at his words. Hinata knew that he meant the words. If she would only tell him, he would see the solution. He would marry her in a heartbeat, to save her from a fate that she didn't want. And yet that fate would be even worse, because she would have to live with the knowledge that she had sacrificed Naruto's happiness to save her own. She lifted her eyes to his face, wanting to tell him how much his words meant to her, but froze at the sight of what she could read on his face.
Naruto's emotions had always been open to the world. He cried when he was sad and smiled when he was happy. Even when he lied to spare another's feelings, the mask he would don would be so transparent as to be worthless. But now, Hinata could see more than just emotions on his face. She could see thoughts. Plans. Naruto was thinking as a temporary Hokage, thinking of what his power could have to offer her. He was planning to make decisions that could condemn the Hyuuga clan, the village of Konohagakure, and, most importantly, himself, in order to protect her.
Hinata wiped the tears from her eyes, suddenly filled with a sense of urgency that shunted her earlier problems to the side. "Naruto-sama, you must not do anything foolish!" she cried. "The village needs you as its Hokage, if you… if you do what you are thinking, nothing good will come of it."
Naruto frowned at the word 'Hokage' and sighed. "Ah, come on, I assign assassination missions all the time… no one would even have to know…"
"Naruto-sama!" Hinata cried again. "You must not! There is a way to stop this union from happening, but… but if that is not possible—and if you didn't instantly know what I was speaking of, it isn't—then this way is better. The Hyuuga will get a strong leader and Konoha will keep its strong Hokage." It hurt, but it was true. It was completely and irrevocably true. Hinata would not hurt Naruto like that just for herself.
Naruto stared into Hinata's pearly eyes, trying to find the answer she spoke of. Hinata held his gaze, though she longed to drop her eyes to the floor. Naruto had always given her the impression that he could see into a person's soul just by looking at them with those brilliant blue eyes. But he would not see the secret within her, not this. For his own sake, she would never allow him to find it.
"What about you?" he asked. Hinata looked away, breaking their eye contact before the emotions welling up in her could be seen by those eyes.
"I am a citizen of Konoha and a member of the Hyuuga clan, Naruto-sama. I will get a strong leader for my clan and keep my strong Hokage."
Naruto's jaw flexed. "I told you and Neji I would change the Hyuuga…" Hinata remembered that. Naruto had sworn to help them, because they were his friends. She really, truly had believed that he could, and she knew that Neji had as well. That had probably been the bitterest pill to swallow: the realization that even Uzumaki Naruto could not save everyone and that sometimes things did not end happily. She smiled in bittersweet sorrow at the memory of that time, years ago, when she had believed that they did.
"Things are not always as they seemed when we were children, nor do they always go the way we had hoped… or secretly dreamed…"
And there was one dream that could never come true. Not now. Not after this.
Decked out all in white, pale as the moon. Shining like the moon. Hinata knew that was what she looked like the next day as she walked down the aisle. It was ironic, and Hinata wondered if anyone besides herself saw it. The ideal heiress would have been the moon. The ideal heiress would never have needed to be placed in an arranged marriage in order to give her clan a chance.
Hinata was not that heiress. She never would be. It was impossible for her to be the moon. No matter how hard she tried, no matter how much she strived, she would never reach that seat of perfection. She was the shadow of the moon, nothing more.
To the guests and well-wishers, the occasion was a wedding, but to her it was a funeral. As long as a person had hope or a dream that they could cling to, then that person could go on. And when that hope died, the person died inside as well. For years, it had been Hinata's goal to improve herself, to become a woman that her father could be proud of. To become a woman that Naruto could be proud of. For a while she had succeeded in bettering herself. But it had not been nearly enough. This wedding was proof of that, of the idea that now and forevermore she would be deemed a failure. She always had been, and now she always would be.
Perhaps the worst part was that she could see it. That future that was now closed to her painted itself so clearly now before her helpless eyes that it was painful. She could see herself, a stronger, better version of herself, gaining the strength that would be necessary to lead her clan through these times of trouble. She could see herself sparring against other members of the Hyuuga clan, members to whom she could vividly remember losing painfully, and winning. She could see her father looking at her with different eyes, the eyes one fixes on a child that fills one with pride to refer to as their own.
Most painfully of all, she could see herself standing beside Naruto. She could see herself standing there beside him in his office, the way that she had done a hundred times in the past few years. It could have appeared like any one of those times, except Hinata could see the small band of gold encircling her third finger. And she could see Naruto laughing and smiling the way he hadn't since before the war began.
For a moment, the two figures just stood there, smiling happily at each other. Then Naruto closed the distance between the two of them and they kissed. The picture in her mind's eye blurred at that point, because Hinata's physical eyes were filling with tears.
Maybe in another time, another reality, that future would have been possible. Had she only tried harder, it may still have been. But now, it was no more. It was just another closed book, a future that died before it ever had a chance to be born. In another story it might have come true. But not in hers. Hinata would never be the girl who was strong enough, or confident enough, or wonderful enough to lead her clan or deserve the love of someone like Naruto. She would never be that moon-like girl. She would only ever be the shadow.
A/N: For those of you who are wondering about the title, 'Tsuki no Kage' means 'Shadow of the Moon' when translated from Japanese. Thanks to my sister for beta-ing this story and thanks to KyLewin for writing 'Time and Again' and letting me write this.