Rating: K+, most likely T
Characters: Kakashi & Hinata
Extra Info: This is for deviantART's KakaHina Fanclub contest entry. The theme is "Purple Snowflakes." I took the concept of snow and made it not angsty per se, but more serious. Fluffy works are probably the best choice for contest entries, but for reasons that can be found on the KakaHina forum at narutoforums. com, I wanted to capture the two--inside and out--with this fic.
Dedicated to: Every KakaHina lover out there :) And to dream-kingdom aka Santeira for her wonderful essay on Kakashi and Hinata. It was insightful and partly inspired this fic :)
Definition of claustrophobia:
--An abnormal fear of being in narrow or enclosed spaces.
Constricting knots were being wrung in his chest, depriving him of air that his lungs so desperately needed. His breathing became haggard—inhaling was being short-timed by exhaling—his throat was tearing apart, becoming raw from anxiety. Cold sweat erupted through out his body, his mask melding with his face.
He was suffocating.
His body felt numb; his right hand wasn't following the orders issued from his mind. Fear clouded his sight, shock gripping him by the neck in a death-hold.
It was becoming more difficult to think clearly. The blood was pulsating too vibrantly in his head. The ba-dump, ba-dump of his heart unfailingly continued on, though, despite the constricting grip on his chest. Nothing would deter it, not even the chilling numbness that continued to overtake his hand, his arm… The entire right side of his body was becoming more and more unresponsive.
He jerked forward, his entire body humming in reflex as battle-worn instinct took over. A kunai found its way to his hand—the blade sliced skin as he trapped the perpetrator between it and his body. A cry of surprise momentarily broke him out of his stupor before years of experience brought him back to attention. Adrenaline brought out a sharp awareness; frantic breaths escaped his prisoner, hesitance and slight fear laced within them. Trickles of blood spilled over the kunai's blade, staining a beige overcoat with crimson droplets.
Time wore on. Slowly, the person relaxed in his grip, instantly arousing his suspicion. Just who was this, a person who could relax in the presence of a Kage?
Their breathing pattern calmed, slowing to match his. Through the mere inches of space between them, he began to hear the steady rhythm of a heart beating.
The melodic voice broke through the muddle in his mind, bringing him to his senses. The kunai dropped noiselessly in his shaking grip.
He withdrew from the Hyuuga's form, clutching his hands as if he had been burnt.
His lips moved mutely as he backed away, his mind not fully comprehending.
His back met the dug-out's wall and icy wetness soaked through his Kage's robes. He ignored the chill spreading across his back in favor of staring at Hinata who had begun emptying out her backpack. She pulled out a medi-pack with a furrowed expression before turning to look at him, her white eyes focusing on his shoulder.
"You were hurt in the last attack," she said as she made her way towards him.
Leaning down next to him, the young woman cut through the fabric of his robes and began attending to the wound on his shoulder. Lost to the world, Kakashi ignored the prick of pain that accompanied her herbal remedies and instead stared blankly ahead.
The sharp scent of mint and tea leaves permeated the air thickly, the aroma unwittingly relaxing his tense muscles. It was a distraction from the growing feeling of constriction in his chest, he realized. Eager to utilize this newfound fact, he closed his eye and inhaled deeply, tilting his head back in the action.
Feelings of relaxation dissipated with realization. He drew back from her healing hands, ignoring her startled—"W-what are you doing?"—and grabbed the ointment-soaked bandages she held in her hands.
His bandaging was sloppy—out of practice—he observed mirthlessly as he tied the loose ends of the white strips around her wound, keeping firm notice of the growing tightness in her neck.
"I hurt you," he said in explanation.
To his surprise, his hands were abruptly pushed away. He looked up at her, avoiding her eyes, instead focusing his attention on the slightly frozen bangs that hid her unmarked forehead.
She spoke quietly, in simple tones. "You were having a nightmare."
As if that was reason good enough.
"I… You're bleeding."
"I was careless, Kakashi-sama."
Ignoring her eyes was becoming difficult, especially when he suddenly felt the need to shake her shoulders, to make her understand that he had hurt her, had nearly killed her. His gaze slid down, his eye locking with her pearly ones.
To be taken aback.
She was much more stubborn than he—and many others—gave her credit for he realized as he met a firm, unyielding stare.
Time stood still for a few seconds—he observing her, she staring unblinkingly back. Fierce howls continued outside in the snow storm, contrasting with the sudden quietness that enveloped their makeshift shelter.
Something the two of them had made together. It was Hinata who had spotted the slight incline in a stone wall with her bloodline, and it was he who had utilized fire jutsus to melt away the inside. Packing up snow to block the entrance had been a team effort, as was the attempt to build a steady fire with the dry branches Hinata had had the foresight to bring from the foot of the mountain. It suddenly dawned on him that she hadn't had the thin layer of gloves like he had to protect her delicate skin from the elements.
He broke their gaze to glance at her hands.
Chafed. Raw. Cracked. Bleeding.
Moving swiftly, he snatched the medicinal tub in her lap and smeared his fingers in it, coating them thickly. Sharp mint mingled into the air.
He took her by the wrist, not taking notice of the surprised gasp that escaped her lips, and brought her hand close to his face, attempting to see with the flickering light of the fire.
Applying a thin layer to her palm, he rubbed slow circles along it to let the medicine soak in. Trailing from the top of her palm, he moved to her fingers, lightly brushing his thumb over them. Kakashi reached the tip of her index finger, massaging lightly before moving to her others. As he worked down the line, he was surprised to learn that applying medicine was actually quite relaxing. It was satisfying, watching the amazing prowess of medical ointment begin to slowly heal injuries.
It wasn't at all like trying to heal a dying comrade, knowing that against all hope—
A low hiss interrupted the dangerous turn of direction his mind had been traveling upon. It was half for distraction, and half for alarm, that Kakashi looked up sharply to scrutinize Hinata's face, searching for what had caused her pain.
"Did I hurt you?"
She shook her head, lifting her hands in a gesture that meant "Continue," but he was too experienced a shinobi to not see through the act. She was biting her lip entirely too hard and her eyes were watering entirely too much for it to be natural for her to not be in pain.
"Does it sting?" he questioned, turning her hands over to observe them better.
"N-no," she replied quickly, smiling, the strained action forcibly reminding him of Sai.
Kakashi looked at her face once more before turning his attention back to her hands.
"It wouldn't do," he started as he began to apply more ointment, "for my diplomat to be so eager to lie to her Hokage."
He stopped for a second to smile at her, his eye crinkling at the expression of horror on her face. "So," he said as he held her hands in his, squeezing them slightly and opening his eye to look at her seriously when she violently jolted upward, "If it hurts, please tell me, Hinata."
She nodded fervently, her eyes watering from the slight pain, her lip being bitten profusely.
"I-It does hurt, Hokage-sama," she admitted in a small voice.
Nodding in encouragement, he dabbed more salve on her hands. "Where?" he intoned.
"The open wounds sting," she said as she drew her hands back towards herself. Hinata ran her fingers across the back of her hand before sending him a soft smile. "Thank you, Kakashi-sama."
He nodded with a smile of his own, this one more genuine than his previous, and handed the medicinal salve back to her, screwing on the lid tightly. Hinata quietly thanked him as she placed it into her backpack.
His gaze followed her, watching the split-second expressions that crossed her face as she reorganized her pack. Just from observing her, he felt as if it was he who was having trouble finding a place for mission rations and him who was deciding whether it would be more beneficial to place the medi-pack or extra shinobi supplies on top of the pack to allow for easier access.
Oblivious to his blatant staring, she continued to rummage around in her pack. He found that the occasional frown that would cross her features was highly amusing to watch and her sudden looks of epiphany were strangely intriguing.
He reluctantly turned his attention to his stinging shoulder when she finally finished her pack-organizing. Closing his eye, he leaned back into the stone wall. Only for him to snap back up.
Anxiety made its way throughout his body; the constricting feeling in his chest returning, its grip iron and choking. How, the thought ran through the foggy crevices of his shell-shocked mind, how?
How had he forgotten?
The walls were too close; he couldn't stand up for fear of hitting his head. They were pressing in on him, choking him, strangling him…
Pain ghosted up the right side of his body, taking sudden stabs at his twice-broken arm, the old wound in his side from his ANBU days… The right side of his body was numb. He couldn't move. Couldn't speak.
Inhale. Exhale. Breathing wasn't coming as easily anymore. The walls were suffocating him. His breathing was erratic; he was hyperventilating.
Kunai, shuriken—they were in his hands before he could think. He couldn't do this anymore. Inhale. Exhale.
As if in release, the tight coils winding in his chest loosened. Breathing came easier, his lungs inhaled greedily. In his dimly aware state, he could feel the light wisp of coldness from the snow brush against his cheek. His weapons dropped from his hands; he slumped against the wall in exhaustion.
Kakashi opened his eye to catch a glimpse of dark strands leaning over him. A mint-scented hand moved cautiously to remove his hitai-ite. His muscles tensed. A hesitant hand pressed against his sweating forehead.
He grabbed her by the wrist, pulling her away from him as he readjusted his hitai-ite. "I'm not sick," he rasped.
What a time for her to choose to be stubborn, he thought dryly.
"I prepared fever pills for the mission. I put it in my bag…"
It was as he had first thought—her voice was melodic. Soothing. The grip on his chest was withdrawing; frenzied gasps for air were no longer necessary.
Desperate to use this… distraction, he asked her in a teasing tone, "Are you always so well-prepared?"
He could practically feel the heat from her blush. "N-no, I just thought… Sickness spreads easily d-during winter. I… I don't want anyone to become ill…" Her voice trailed off as fingertips met with the fabric of his mask. "C-can I—"
"I'll do it." As an afterthought, he quickly added, "Thank you," before turning away to pull down his mask and swallow the pills.
The conversation came to a stand-still. The stiffening silence nearly blocked out the roaring winds outside the snow walls.
Fear clawed at his throat, forcing his mouth open.
"Do you like snow?" he threw out hastily.
She looked at him—startled by his sudden question—before looking down at the densely packed snow they were sitting on.
His head snapped to look at her, searching her calm face for her unexpected answer.
Her fingers ran a slow trail in the white snow, turning her fingertips a frosty red. "Snow reminds me of kunoichi," she said with a faint smile. "Able to kill under the guise of beauty."
The constricting in his chest paused at her explanation, the faint thrumming of his heart slowing to match the sudden peace of his body. Matching the sudden quietness outside their makeshift shelter.
"The blizzard," whispered Hinata, her eyes shining at the end of the storm.
Moving as if possessed, he knocked down the packed snow wall with his forgotten weapons, making sure to widen the space enough for two shinobi.
He crawled out swiftly, on the alert for any threats, always on the alert. Frosted air met his cloth-covered cheeks; a landscape of flat white space greeted his sight. He looked up warily. The sky was blocked by ominous clouds—the dark buffets promising of even heavier storms to come—but for now, it was safe.
Crunching footsteps came from behind him, arms struggling with two hefty packs. He grabbed both, stringing them along his shoulders, the sudden openness bringing about new strength.
"Let's go," he said with subdued cheer, trusting that she had destroyed all evidence of their stay.
She nodded at him, a warm smile gracing her features. "Hai, Hokage-sama."
Kakashi stood motionlessly in front of the memorial stone, disregarding the fact that it was sunrise and that he should be at the Hokage's office, doing paperwork. He shuffled the pages of Icha Icha minutely, his attention focused on the stone in front of him, his sight seeing only the familiar engraving.
Peace overtook him, mixed with the guilt, always the guilt. A quiet sigh escaped his masked lips before he looked up at the overcast sky. Rain looked inevitable today, he mused. His thoughts were interrupted when a familiar chakra signature entered his vicinity. Without turning, he called out to her.
"Good morning, Hinata."
She was silent for awhile, her breaths inhaling, exhaling, with the whoosh of the wind. He stood there, waiting—expecting—her usual polite greeting, only to be taken by surprise when she finally spoke.
"You weren't sick," she said in a tight voice.
The leaves rustled as dry wind whistled through the trees. For a second, Kakashi took the time to marvel at how different the seasons were between the Land of Fire and the Land of Iron. Snow covered the Land of Iron's towns during all the seasons, yet in Konoha during winter, only a light rain could be expected.
"W-why didn't you tell me?"
It was most unlike her, he thought, to ask someone such a direct question.
"I-I could have chosen a b-bigger place… B-because of me, you had to s-suffer."
"We're even, then," he said, hoping to appease some of the guilt both were currently plagued with.
She gave a choked laugh. Alarmed, he turned to look at her, hoping to all the Gods that she wasn't—
Her scratched palms wiped away the tears hurriedly as she tried to speak. "F-fear is d-different from injuries." Tears rolled down her cheek, down her chin… and soaked into the bandages tightly wound around her neck.
"You're right," he murmured, pocketing his Icha Icha, his body wavering between wiping away her tears and running away.
He chose neither.
"Do you want to know why?"
Hinata sent him a startled look, her tears finally dying down. They stared at each other for a few moments more before she gave him a slow nod.
His heart pounded loudly in his rib cage, the painful ba-dump, ba-dump canceling out the slow constricting in his chest. But still he licked his lips dryly, sending an overt glance to the memorial stone, before beginning.
"My best friend... was Uchiha Obito. By the time I realized that, however, it was too late..."
Fear is different because it can't be stopped, healed, or forgotten.
I personally think it's very vague, but perhaps it'll appeal to some? There was probably some OOC-ness, as well. Ah, well. Lend me your thoughts, please?