Hey there, I'm back from another of my patented random long breaks for no real reason. Sorry for the pause, I was adjusting to my third year at uni for those who want more than a joke to justify the long gap between posts. It feels good to get back to my writing and hopefully I should slip back into my schedule without too many problems. I hope there's not a noticable decline or drop in writing quality from the break I took, I did my best to ensure everything remains about level but obviously I'm not a great judge of that being biased as I am and all.
Hinata was trembling as the rest of her team left, her breathing rather shallow and her eyes screwed shut her petite hands clenched into tight fists that had her knuckles whitened as she silently shook with too many emotions to easily discern.
As the silence stretched out it was Kurenai who broke the silence first, giving Hinata a look of almost maternal concern that was wasted with her eyes closed, though with a Hyuuga it was hard to be sure. "Hinata?" she queried her worry obvious in her voice.
"Why!" Hinata snapped, her voice not angry exactly but certainly as close to angry as Kurenai had ever heard her.
The fact that she'd been the one to truly coax the gentle girl into anger for the first time struck Kurenai far worse because she knew the heiress. Hinata never got angry. The caged seal and her clan was the topic that brought her closest but even so that just saddened her more than enraged. "Beca.." she began before Hinata once more spoke up.
"Why! Why'd you do that! To Naruto-kun! To me.. to Ino." Her vehemence was poured more obviously into her attack on Naruto than on herself. Hell if Kurenai's skill in reading emotion was worth anything she was sure Hinata seemed angrier about Ino than herself as well.
Kurenai couldn't help but feel slightly proud of the young girl for standing up for her team-mates, she'd worried that Hinata was simply too soft to ever make a shinobi but finding the girl's line in the sand was heartening, there was fire there that would make a fine shinobi yet. Even as this pride swelled she pitied the girl for her apparent inability to care about herself, had her family eradicated her self worth so? That she felt she deserved whatever she got?
No. No, she concluded a moment later, it wasn't quite that bad. Hinata was definitely also angry for her own sake but it had been her team-mates', Naruto's, inclusion that had caused her to actually erupt. For just a moment Kurenai wondered if she couldn't aid Hinata in learning to put her foot down by victimising Naruto but an instant later she discarded the unfinished plan, guilt rising that she'd even considered it. To sacrifice one student for another? Unforgivable!
Whether she realised it or not Kurenai had lapsed into silence as her mind was working over and digesting the various emotions she was reading off her student. That silence did not help her case at all as Hinata, who had been impatiently waiting to an answer to her demand, drew the only conclusion she could from the lack of response. That Kurenai had had no reason, she'd tortured them on a whim. Her face screwed up and contorted unable to decide if it wanted to be upset or livid, the tears sparkling in her eyes finally managing to leak out as a chocked sob broke from her lips "I trusted you!" she managed "I thought you cared! I really..." a hiccup ad sob broke her off as she turned away from the Jōnin unable to bring herself to look at her.
"I do care!" Kurenai insisted strongly, bending down to Hinata's level she reached out to turn the young Hyuuga's head so she could meet her eyes, her heart aching as the young girl flinched. Actually flinched! At her touch. These were the moments she hated her craft and job but she knew what she had done was for their own sake and that was what allowed her to go through with the act as vile as it undoubtedly was.
"You tortured us!" Hinata almost spat her answer shrinking away from Kurenai, she thought she'd known the woman but after that test her trust was shattered and the Jōnin was suddenly someone who might do anything to her.
"I did." she agreed, her tone deliberately gentle. She didn't really regret that she'd done it either but she at least let some of her distaste at having to do so show. "But don't think I enjoyed doing it, that I wanted to do it." her grip firmed slightly as she made sure to let her red eyes lock with Hinata's lavender orbs.
"But why! If you didn't enjoy it then why?!" Hinata was sobbing now, impulses and instincts from running to the older woman in times of distress screaming at her to hug the Jōnin, but she was the cause of the distress so these feelings did nothing but pour salt on the wound, reminding her of the now tainted memories she held of Kurenai.
Kurenai could see her charge's distress and reached out gently encircling the young girl in a hug and drawing her close, she felt Hinata stiffen in her grip but didn't let do "I had to do it Hinata-chan, being a shinobi is hard, it hurts." she took a slow breath as a few choice scenes of her own career picked that moment to flash through her mind "Not everyone can be a shinobi, you all needed to know what you were signing up for, what might happen. I didn't want to hurt you, I don't think it's right but if it will prevent even one genin from being raped, or killed, or captured because they went into this not understanding the risks then I'll do it a thousand times over."
As Kurenai explained Hinata had slowly relaxed once more in her arms, the young Hyuuga giving a feeble nod as she buried her head into the Jōnin's shoulder. "m sorry." she mumbled softly, she was still shaken and upset by what she had seen, the look she'd seen in Naruto's eyes, but at least she still had Kurenai. Even as she drew a warm feeling from the knowledge her surrogate mother figure did care about her the guilt at having accused her, having thought all those nasty things, bubbled up from within her. Her hands wrapped around the older woman as if afraid she would pull away of disappear as the young, damaged, girl sobbed out her emotions, choked apologies slipping from her lips whenever her lungs and chocked cries would allow it.
Kurenai held Hinata as she cried, doing her best to help the girl calm down and whispering soft words of comfort and assurance. Despite the fact that most genin only learnt their lesson when a team member was killed or worse and despite her certainty that she had been right to ensure the academy students had known what being a genin could mean she couldn't help but wonder, as she held and consoled the girl she'd driven to tears, if she could have taught the lesson in a kinder way; if her experiences as a shinobi had lead her to overestimating how tough fresh academy students would be. Has she managed to destroy any chance of working with her students before she'd even gotten started?
Naruto was good at shrugging things off and moving on, most things he could push down in mere moments to the point where it might seem they didn't affect him in the slightest. It was the product of his difficult life, a necessary survival tool. But for the young ninja there had always been a few sticking points, a few things he couldn't forgive or forget. Attacking his precious people was the biggest of these and the illusion had forced him to see just that so it was perhaps no surprise that as he walked through the streets homeward bound he still looked shell shocked.
But it hadn't been real. That fact alone made it a little easier for Naruto to push the memories down and as he did so his mind locked onto something far simpler. Kurenai-teme had done it to Ino-chan and Hinata-chan too! His eerily blank, tired, look suddenly twisted to a grimace of pure rage as he gritted his teeth.
The air around Naruto was thick with his killing intent as his walk slowed to a halt. She'd tortured them!His precious people! His hand twitched for want of a kunai as he glanced back the way he'd come. Maybe he could catch her and give her a piece of his mind.
'Naruto-kun! Calm down, please.' Kyuubi finally decided to intervene before Naruto did something stupid, as it was he was lucky it was still a little while before the streets filled up otherwise he certainly would have caused a stir with the killing intent he was producing.
'Calm down?!' It was almost a screech 'She tortured them! Hinata-chan an... ' he trailed off as the realisation suddenly hit him. Oh kami! Hinata-chan! If anyone had been watching they would have seen Naruto's expression abruptly change once more, the miasma of killing intent that had clouded the boy blowing off as if it had never been as his face twisted into one of regret and self deprecation. Ino-chan would be fine, he didn't know her as well as he knew his Hyuuga princess but the girl had a fire in her not dissimilar to his own, she'd bounce back and she had her family to fall back on. Hinata-chan though, she had no-one, he knew she'd normally go to Kurenai-teme with this sort of thing but that bitch had been the damn cause this time! How had he been so out of it he hadn't even thought to comfort his precious people! He was so useless!
'Hinata-san will be fine.' Kyuubi assured Naruto softly even as the boy broke into a dead sprint back towards the park he wasn't even sure Hinata would be there but it was his best guess.
'Fine?' Naruto's tone was clearly disbelieving. Hinata-chan could be, was, awesome and strong! He knew that, it was clear as day to him. But her family had built all these chains to keep her down; to stop her from seeing how great she was. Naruto was working on breaking the chains but he was worried this would only tighten the hold they had on her, Kurenai had been the only other person Naruto knew who was trying to help Hinata like he was. Especially if she decided that it was all her fault this had happened and that she deserved it as the girl had a bad habit of doing, Naruto was completely oblivious to the hypocrisy of that thought, his own particular brand of martyr complex totally justified and correct to his mind.
'Yes. Fine.' Kyuubi kept her tone carefully soothing but even so there was a definite hint of you should know this already to her words. After all Kurenai had actually explained the reason for it to the team and they were ninja so inattention to such a vital piece of information was almost inexcusable. Even if Naruto didn't seem to have processed the facts Kyuubi definitely had. 'Kurenai-san will comfort her.'
That statement was surprising enough to make Naruto momentarily stumble in his stride, a slight loss of grace only noticeable to other shinobi "What?!" he cried out 'She's the one who did that to her!'
'It was just a test, she explained it to you.' Kyuubi reiterated Kurenai's reasons 'She needed to see if you were up to the hardships of shinobi life, she wasn't doing it to hurt any of you.'
Now he wasn't quite so shell shocked he could actually process what Kurenai's intention had been, a low growl of annoyance bubbling from his chest "She should of warned us." he groused, knowing full well that would have made the test pointless. Dammit. But she had hurt his precious people! And for that she deserved some kind of retribution. Maybe he'd get her address of Hinata-chan, let's see how scary she would be with bright, sky, blue hair.. or orange clothes, or maybe he could do... hmmm. This would require some planning if his retribution for Ino and Hinata's sake was to fit the crime.
Despite having calmed down significantly Naruto still wanted to see if he could catch Hinata before she went home, Kurenai might of helped her but Naruto still felt bad that he hadn't. It took him a few minutes to backtrack into the park and he found it empty, or rather the person he was looking for was gone.
Sighing guiltily he glanced around 'I missed her.' he announced
'I can see, but if you're that worried about her you can check on her later.' Kyuubi offered
Naruto frowned softly as he considered Kyuubi's suggestion. He rarely went near the Hyuuga compound, both because he didn't feel confident in his ability to resist the urge to punch Hiashi's stupid, ugly, face the moment he saw the man and because both he and Hinata really didn't want to flaunt their relationship in public. But Kyuubi was, as usual, right they were on a team now. The perfect excuse to go see her and Ino. Ino was a little closer so the boy turned and set off towards the blonde's house, his pace now back down to a mere walk. 'Thanks Kyuubi-chan. I'll go check on them now.' he smiled warmly, lovingly, as he thanked her knowing that although she couldn't see the smile in the traditional sense she's just be able to feel it in the same way he was able to feel her expressions and actions sometimes.
'You're welcome.' Kyuubi's warm tone gave Naruto the distinct impression she was smiling right back 'You might want to wait a little until you visit them though.' she giggled gently 'They might want to see you but I doubt their families want you banging on the door this early in the morning.'
A sheepish chuckle escaped Naruto as he slowed to a stop, leaning against a nearby wall 'That's true.' he frowned softly in momentary annoyance 'Then what am I going to do until then?' His mind whirling with worry over his precious people and impotent, lingering, anger at Kurenai.
Kyuubi could easily feel Naruto's emotions through their link and even if she hadn't by now she knew the boy well enough that she would have been able to guess them fairly accurately. Naruto needed something to distract him and for the energetic blonde that left only two options. Training or time with his precious people. In his current state she doubted his chakra control would be anything other than sub-par and he'd not progress nearly as much as he should. Looks like she'd have to sacrifice her time and spend some time with her Naruto-kun. Oh no. What a horrible fat. She giggled at her own joke for a moment 'Mmm well I can think of a few things.' there was a definite teasing lilt to her tone that sent a blush skittering across Naruto's cheeks.
The genin could feel his cheeks heating at the sultry undertone in Kyuubi's voice 'Oh? Do tell.' he tried to match her tone with a coy one of his own but his embarrassment rather undermined his effort, much to Kyuubi's obvious amusement as her laughter echoed through his mind.
'Well we were in the middle of something before you had to go do that test weren't we.' she all but purred 'What was it again... oh I just can't seem to remember, it's on the tip of my tongue.' another laugh ruined the teasing mood as Kyuubi went from teasing seductress back to normal in but a moment 'Find somewhere comfy and come in here, I know we can find something to do to pass the time.'
Naruto was silently releived that Kyuubi had sopped teasing him. He'd been reading a little more of those Icha-Icha books to try and immunise himself from her ability to fluster him at will. Only a little. And only for that reason. He wasn't a pervert. Honest. But it had only served to make his embarrassment deeper as he was exposed to more and more things that the vixen could be hinting at. Though honestly he refused to believe some of the things in that book ever actually happened in the real world. 'I'll head home and then come see you Kyuubi-chan.' Naruto decided.
'See you soon' Kyuubi agreed readily, already planning what they could do to fill the time. After all Naruto was a genin now and more importantly an official adult. Not that she cared for such human labels but that had been one of Naruto's main arguments against her push for more intimate displays of affection. She knew it was just an excuse to try and hide the blonde's surety he'd muck up or hurt her or just be bad at it but maybe without that excuse to fall back on she could finally break through that barrier and show him that he'd do just fine. Well. It was going to happen in his mindscape, he literally could have the stamina of a god in there if he willed it to be so. Her eyes sparkled with lust at the prospects of what could be done in this world where Naruto could simply decide how long he was going to last, how good he would be. Not that she'd tell him it was the mindscape doing those things, why waste a perfectly good confidence booster for a man who's own vision of his self worth was distressingly low?