Disclaimer: I wonder if anyone would notice if I claimed ownership of Hiashi and Tsume?

Summary Notes: Well, between the screw up that is my life and the chaos that is my final weeks of schooling, I whipped this up. At...1:14am. On a school night. Because I'm an insomniac and I've developed a fondness for these two. And was encouraged by reviews on Stoic Vulnerability to keep going with them. Yay.

Set after the Battle of Konoha (Sandaime's Death) because it's convenient. And because I thought seeing the shinobi, especially the parental figures, showing off was EPIC. Who the hell wants to watch Sasuke whale on Gaara when you can watch Tsume claw someone's eyes out, or Hiashi pwn an entire platoon, or Shikaku be all cool and awesome and shadow-screw someone. Or...Inoichi not even break a sweat in a fight. Or Chouza...man, Chouza was EPIC. InoShikaCho was EPIC.

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He would always find her.

Lord Hyuuga Hiashi was not a romantic. Romance implied rosy idealism. Impossible dreams. Foolish optimism. Romance was the stuff of children's fairytales, of theatre and drama, where against all intractable odds, the two forbidden lovers would conquer all with the power of their love alone. Save the world. Live happily ever after despite that thing called Logic screeching and waving a kunai in protest.

Strange though, how some of the best stories of forbidden love ended in tragedy. Like Romeo and Juliet - blind love that could never be, because they were from two different worlds, two different clans who would never reconcile. Though when you looked at it logically, two such foolish, selfish beings would never have lived happily ever after, in Hiashi's opinion. But perhaps that was why such stories appealed to the common people.

Because, more often than not, they were a mirror image of the harsh realities of life.

Hiashi was not a fool. Or a romantic. If he was, did they seriously think he'd have lived this long? Risen this high, Commanded and led, for goddsakes, the most powerful clan in the Fire Nation? No indeed, Hiashi was not a romantic. He was a cold bastard at the worst of times, and that suited him just fine.

Like now, it was simply logic in his mind. A simple belief long held. He would always find her.

He would find her because she was his friend. His fellow comrade. His fellow leader and shinobi.

He would find her because after this many years, it was safe to say he knew better than anyone. He knew, or could pretty well guess without the help of his Byakugan, where she would be. It was only natural, after all.

Well, natural enough. Hiashi suspected several people he could name off the top of his head who would have a seizure from the shock of discovering just what he was looking for, why he was currently trekking through the trees as though on a hunt when the shinobi of the Sand and Sound had fled, and the sounds of battle had long ago ceased.

Did she know Sandaime was dead? He doubted she'd heard, if his suspicions were correct, yet he also knew that she had a very irritating habit of knowing things before she actually heard them. And he knew he should be back in the village, counting the casualties amongst his own clan, ensuring their welfare. That was a leader's duty. Not searching the forest mindlessly for some kunoichi who had a bad habit of disappearing into a figurative dark corner to lick her wounds, like the dogs she bred. It was one thing he'd tended to criticise her on in their capacity as leaders, though now, he knew he'd never get away with that again without her accusing him of being a flaming hypocrite.

But, as Hiashi liked to remind himself, he was a cold bastard. What he did was nobody's business. Not even the damned to hell elders who sat on the Hyuuga council. Not even the Hokages themselves.

If he'd stopped to think about it, Hiashi might have been wryly amused at the irony of that comment in relation to what he was currently doing. The cold bastard indeed, dressed in his tattered robes, normally tidy hair tousled and torn from its ponytail in the prior battle, traipsing through the forest in search of an elusive presence. An elusive warmth that he had been unable to locate in the aftermath of the battle, and had refused to ask anyone for the wherabouts of. Her blasted whelps included. He'd simply taken one look at Kuromaru, deciphered the old, scarred dog was alone (and busy tending to his fellow pack members) and thus, left.

He could just imagine the looks on his old team mate's faces if they discovered his intentions. Actually, now he thought about it, Shibi would just give him that intent, knowing look that was more irritating than any glare from Hiashi himself, and Tsume...ha, Tsume-chan (as he so liked to call her in their youth when he was hellbent on pissing her right off) would probably grin cockily and call him all manner of mocking endearments, which would no doubt dissolve into him insulting her, and then an all out bloodbath would ensue.

Speaking of...

There you are.

Hiashi's mouth twitched in a droll half smile, the expression a rather frightening one considering his Byakugan was activated. He took a moment to survey the trees, watching that one suspicious little leaf fall past his nose to the ground in lazy spirals, as if he was wholly unaware of another's presence. It was an old game, one he'd relished in playing because it annoyed her so damn much. Eventually, though, he turned his Byakugan-assisted gaze up, crossing his arms and deliberately pasting his characteristic haughty scowl on his face, knowing it would achieve the desired attention.

Inuzuka Tsume glared at him with an almost feral ferocity from where she was sprawled against the branch, back against the tree. Her dark eyes were narrowed to intimidating slits (a frightening sight, he acknowledged, but he came from a clan who prided themselves on mastering the 'scary eyes' look, thanks very much), and her arms were crossed tightly over her chest.

"Piss off, Hyuuga," she spat, not even bothering with the mocking pleasantries of adressing one another with honorifics. Strangely enough, that told him as well as anything could that she wasn't feeling well. So he simply smirked slightly in response, narrowing his eyes as they travelled down the achingly (yet very wrongly) familiar contours of her body, taking note of the nicks and scratches of battle. Small things, acquired without notice. Completely natural for a fighter who went in with all guns blazing like Inuzuka Tsume. Another perusal of her body, and he saw nothing obvious about her injuries.

He knew better though. He was far from an imbecile or blind; he could see the blood darkening the mesh of her wrist guards where her arms were crossed. She was hiding the wound - typical - and it didn't look life threatening, but it was obviously paining her, and he watched impassively as those dark eyes dilated slightly as movement triggered the pain, causing a flash of pain to pass through the Inuzuka leader's gaze even as she tried to quell it.

It was rather painful, being reminded of your mortality. No matter how small.

But then, good leaders were aware of their limits. It was those unaware of such nuances that led to the inevitable destruction of their rule. Their clan. Their people.

They both knew that. And right now, Tsume was suffering the repurcussions of that reminder.

Hiashi waited. He'd found her, now, he simply needed to wait.

It seemed like an eternity. But then, Tsume stood up. Or tried to - exhaustion and blood loss had weakened her physical resolve (even if her mental resolve was as strong as ever) and she swayed before her eyes rolled backwards and she lurched forward.

The muffled rapport of flesh hitting ground was strangely absent, though.

Hiashi's feet touched the ground, staggering back a few steps with the added weight they were supporting. Blood stained his obi as he leant back against the tree trunk, yet he was ignorant of it, and his eyes seemed to dart around the surrounding area as if checking for spies before they faded to their normal opaque violet, closing momentarily as his chin rested against her forehead, soft, wild brown hair tickling his nose as he supported the unconscious form against him.

"Fool," he murmured, shifting his head to look down at those plain but oddly sweet, sleeping features. "What kind of a leader gets themselves injured by a weakling foreigner? You'll be the death of me, taking up my time having to make sure you're not dead from your idiocy."

Lord Hyuuga Hiashi was not a romantic. His mind operated on pure, cool logic and fact.

And it was simple logic that no matter who you were, from lowliest beggar to highest daimyo, watching out for what you loved was a fact of life. Particularly when they wouldn't look after themselves.

And we both know I'll always find you, little idiot.