A/N: Yes. I should be updating something else. However, I've had this oneshot written for ages and decided to just post it. I wrote all of it, almost every word, on the "Notes" app of my iTouch. I feel pretty hardcore.
Took a pretty popular topic and wrote it the way I wanted to.
Life is short. The gods take a breath, blink their eyes, and a thousand men fall.
Shinobi rarely last so long.
This is a fact they are all aware of, and therefore, they live as though each day is their last. During missions, they give and receive blows, they kill and are killed, they torture and are tormented. They live through hell and see horrible things.
It is no surprise then, that when they return to their beloved village, they forget the happenings from the weeks before and become little adult-children, teenagers in search of touches and whispers gentler than the ones to which they are so accustomed.
Hyuuga Hinata does not like to rush. In her missions, she is slow and calculating rather than quick and impulsive. She draws her hells out, letting them last weeks sometimes instead of days. Her technique irritates many of her friends, but she refuses to relinquish it. Most of her missions are done alone now, by her own request, with help standing by in case she needs it, which she seldom does. Her way minimizes the bloodshed, keeps the civilians alive and sacrifices no one. She becomes but a shadow in the midst of the enemy, hidden or disregarded as part of the background. She never goads her kill; she takes what she must and then slinks back to her village quietly.
Her teammates have noted her changes with alarm. She no longer smiles shyly or twiddles her thumbs; her stutter is gone and her blush is now a beautiful rarity. She stands up straight and tall, and she speaks like a Hyuuga—unsmilingly, stolidly, and emotionlessly. She no longer cares for hiding her body and wears what she is comfortable in, which is still more modest than most. Her hair is long and well-kept, and it is her only sign of vanity. She takes clan matters seriously and does not forget that she has taken lives. She lives, but not fully, yet she is aware that she may not have much time left. She is not afraid of death; she is willing to embrace it when it comes to her, and she does not believe in her teammates' definition of 'living', in their little sins.
They wonder aloud what is wrong with her, and she tells them that she has only grown up.
Upon her return to Konoha, she is unsurprised to hear that the Uchiha has been found and forcefully dragged back to his village. She is only slightly disturbed when she enters her suite in the manor and finds it occupied by the avenger himself. He lies flat on one of the sofas, sprawled. When she activates her Byakugan, she finds almost all of his chakra paths blocked, keeping him from using ninjutsu and genjutsu, and, she realizes, much of his taijutsu as well. The Haruno girl has been merciless on him.
His instincts are still sharp, however, and he spins around to face her. His eyes are black and endless, and against her expectations he has grown nicely into adulthood. His gaze is full of distrust, but it is childlike and afraid. He has been cornered, and he knows this. He is defenseless and at her mercy.
Yet she knows that if she ever has to hurt him he will never tell her to stop.
Hinata unhooks the scroll from her door, reading the words slowly and carefully. This is her next mission—to watch and guard the Uchiha. Tsunade specifies that she was chosen because she had no real emotional ties to him and therefore would be uncompromising and wary, but she knows she has been chosen because of her meticulously organized technique. The Hokages trusts that she will work slowly to heal him and to remind him of his brother's wish.
Hinata sighs and closes her door. Her technique is unlikely to work here in Konoha; it is more functional in strange lands. She doesn't operate through silence; she must be unseen. How is she to be unseen when she is the only one he will see?
She reads over the scroll again and he watches her warily. From it, she learns that he has successfully killed Itachi, and was found just on the outskirts of Konoha by patrolling Anbu. He maimed two of them in their attempt to capture him, but luckily one of them was Hyuuga and managed to block some of his chakra paths. Sakura had rushed to the scene and crushed his ribs with a powerful punch—he had underestimated her, of course, and not made a serious attempt at dodging. She had dragged his limp body back to the hospital, repaired the wreckage she had wrought, and quickly proceeded to block off his paths, tying them into tight, strained knots. Chakra was not blood, once blocked, it would not build up but slow down. The result was a shadow of the deadly man that had existed before. He could probably never again be shinobi, and if through some miracle he did, never regain his former strength. Hinata spares another glance at the avenger, meeting his cold eyes again.
Neither speaks, and she is glad that he is not talkative. She would not have known how to react if he tried to make conversation. Then again, what could they even talk about? The weather?
She steps in front of him, not breaking eye contact.
"I am Hinata Hyuuga. I will be taking care of you."
She sees his eyes widen imperceptibly and smiles smugly. So he had not recognized her. Of course, they had never been close, and she had changed, after all.
At that moment, he turns away defiantly and stares at the sofa. She wonders whether he can walk at all, and who had carried him in. Perhaps Tsunade herself. After all, she must have had a long, arduous debate with her father before getting permission to house a former missing-nin in the prestigous Hyuuga household.
"Do you need something to eat?" she asks. He does not respond; she does not expect him to. She daren't betray any frustration with a sigh, and instead, continues. "Are you thirsty?"
He seems to pull himself yet farther away from her. His face is buried in the arm of the chair. "Go away."
She does not. She is not his servant, and she knows now that she need not respond to disrespectful commands.
"Do you want anything? Anything at all?" She cannot hide the edge of mistrust in her voice and doesn't try to. He needs to know that while she acts hospitable, she is not the vulnerable one.
Finally, he turns around and glares at her. His black eyes are cold.
"I want you to undo this stupid thing Sakura has done to me. I want to get out of here." He pauses, giving her a moment to absorb his words. "But you aren't allowed to let me do any of those things, right?"
She smiles, ever so slightly. Smiling is now rare for her, but it suits her face--her mother did not name her by heart.
"I can take you outside," she offers. He sneers.
"What if I decide to run?" he dares her.
Her smile becomes a threat and she allows her Byakugan to flash threateningly.
"I will give chase. And after I catch you, I will make sure your legs cannot betray you again."
This silences him for a moment, but their ensuing battle does not gauge the winner on quickness as much as wit.
"What if you can't? What if I'm stronger than you?"
Her face contorts into a brief scowl, and she considers beating him to a pulp just to prove to him she can. But that would not be the point, and besides, Sakura would probably be unwilling to fix him if the damage was too extensive.
So she speaks instead. "You forget I am Hyuuga."
His eyes darken. "Never," he whispers.
Her smirk becomes taunting. "Then you know that I can see the extent of Sakura's work."
He stiffens. She knows well that he knows that something is severely wrong with his body, but he may have just attributed it to his injuries. She also knows that he cannot activate his Sharingan—she has seen him try and fail too many times in the few minutes they have been talking. It is useless—the pathways that snake along his optic nerve were bound the tightest. Sakura has made sure that unless she changes her mind, he will never use his bloodline limit again.
"What did she do to me?" he growls, but his eyes widen with fear.
Hinata kneads her hands and then kneels down, putting a hand behind his back to help him up. He is too weak to sit without her assistance, and too tired to resist. When he is finally up, he groans, and she looks sadly at his firm arms, knowing that they will soon be horribly atrophied.
"She has blocked many of your chakra outlets."
He knows what this means, and realizes why his nin no longer obeys him. He simply no longer has it.
"Can it be undone?" he whispers hoarsely. This is his way of life; he knows nothing but violence. No amount of discipline can keep him from sounding anxious, and, to Hyuuga ears, terrified.
She smiles. She has more power over him than he thinks here as well. "I can undo them."
He looks at her expectantly, as though to ask her why she has not begun already. When she laughs, he looks affronted.
"You're mocking me!"
She nods. "I am. Please be realistic, Uchiha-san. I have changed. I will no longer respond to intimidation." Her voice wavers a bit. "I am no longer weak."
His lips furl into a smirk. He has heard things about her, and they please him greatly.
"You are weak. You've never killed an innocent, have you?"
Her eyes narrow, and she wonders how he knows this. He fails to realize that, rather than being ashamed, she is extremely proud of this feat.
"I could kill you, though," she says truthfully. He almost killed her Naruto. She may no longer harbor the same love for the boy, but the pain of seeing him in so many pieces still haunts her. Her expression twists, and her beautiful face becomes dark and cruel. "I wish Sakura had finished you," she admits. Her kunai is suddenly in her hands, and the temptation flares into something more real— into a craving.
His smirk only widens. He eases the knife from her hand easily- she no longer seems to see much more than her loathing and lets him. He lifts it to his eyes and marvels at his weakness— even that small gesture seems to drain his energy. He takes her wrist, and she snaps back into awareness, watching him warily.
He drags the blade slowly across the skin. They both watch as the blood beads and then trails down to her elbow. She shakes with rage, barely feeling the pain, but does not budge.
His smirk fades slightly, and then she looks up at her with empty eyes.
"I'm hurting you, but you still don't attack back. Is that not weakness?"
She bites her lip as he drags it across her again. She doesn't know why he lets him cut her, but she feels like a martyr. She has nothing to prove and yet everything to prove. Slowly, he drags his tongue against the blunt side of the knife and tastes the blood there, and she thinks him a monster.
"You're wrong," she whispers, "I hate you, but that hate doesn't govern me. It does you."
He lifts an eyebrow, but the effect is diluted because he knows how right she is.
"I am stronger than you, because I know how to forgive."
The little girl she once was is long gone, and even the cold Uchiha can see the strength in her that he lacks.
He drops his hand, and the kunai falls to the floor and rolls away. He turns away from her again, hiding his pout. He hates losing but has been doing so much of it lately that it is bothersome.
"I want to go outside," he admits quietly. She looks up at him while she heals her arm, and is amused by the fact that he winces at the sight of her chakra.
"Please?" she says liltingly.
He scowls, annoyed, but goes along with her anyway. "Please."
With a smile, she helps him to his feet. He clutches her shoulder like a vice, shocked that he is actually this helpless. His legs shake with the effort and he is astounded that such strong-looking limbs could be so unfaithful.
"She took out your legs too."
Sasuke curses at the thought of the pink-haired kunoichi, but shudders when little Hinata puts her arm firmly around his waist and helps him outside.
Natural light is the best remedy for the defeated, and although he has spent many days and nights under nature's elements, the sun's warmth feels especially refreshing on his skin. The Hyuuga manor's main courtyard is directly outside Hinata's suite, and only the Main branch and their guests are allowed to enter. He does not know the honor of even being near it.
She puts him down on a rocking chair, and then glides back inside. He closes his eyes and lets the breeze brush through his hair and sighs.
She is out with the tea a second later, and he wonders how she brewed it so quickly. He doesn't ask, however, and downs the drink in one gulp.
"I could have poisoned that," she says gleefully. His eyes narrow reproachfully.
"But you didn't," he mused aloud. "You must not hate me at all."
"Don't flatter yourself."
He nods, laughs, and asks for more tea. She delivers, and this one is not poisoned either.
Months pass and he is still in her custody, though she hardly minds his presence any longer. He can walk now, on good days even run, but he cannot go far before the burning in his gut forces him to stop. His eyes are bright and alert and chilling.
He reveres her, although he would never think of telling her so. She is quiet around him but not shy, her threats against his health are both authentic and coquettish. She is good to him and treats him like a friend. She protects him with the ferocity of a she-wolf. On multiple occasions, he has heard shinobi at the door, people he has wronged in the past, come and call for his head. If they survive the first set of Hyuuga (especially if her cousin was home, they seldom did), they would face off with the Heiress herself, who would smile sweetly, secretly destroy their clones, and incapacitate them, all in the matter of minutes without touching her Byakugan. When she is finished, she calls for her servants to 'escort' their visitors out, and they never return.
They exchange proclamations of hatred like greetings, almost daily, but now they are less true, almost contradictory, to their true feelings. Slowly, those are dropped altogether, replaced with more mundane 'good mornings' and 'hellos'.
He asks her all of the time why she hasn't killed him yet. Each time, she smiles and does not answer. Each time, she reaches for his face to check for a fever, or asks whether his bandages need changing.
She refuses to say that she actually enjoys his company, that he eases the intense loneliness she sometimes, as the Heiress, feels. She refuses to say that he seems to grow less and less haunting by the minute, that really he is quite good-looking, that caring for him has become effortless.
Kiba and Shino worry. Mission or no mission, Hinata has cooped herself up for far too long, and on whose account? At first, they deceive themselves with the comfortable belief that she is simply being loyal to her village and performing her Mission to the best of her abilities. When Kiba starts picking up the Avenger's fiery scent on her clothes, however, when Shino's insects begin to feel a strange shift in her moods, they begin to suspect. They voice their concerns to her quietly, and she smiles sweetly, escorts them out, and locks the doors.
They do not speak often, but their touches become more frequent. Gentle brushes of hands, subtle but poignant, exchanged in silence.
He smiles now. They are small, gentle things, not the untamed ones from before. These ones are soft and elusive, affectionate instead of cynical. She smiles back, though much more broadly, and they both settle into a comfortable silence.
In his dreams he often sees her, hovering above him, tears glistening on her lashes. She touches him gently in small, scattered presses, her cheeks flushed and smile meek. She looks like the girl he remembers more, the one who twiddled her thumbs and couldn't look him in the eye.
Once he wakes, however, the dream is gone and he is met with darkness.
One day, she wakes him up in the early morning. He rolls awake and doesn't bother to look irritated-- he knows she sees right through his ruses anyway.
"Sasuke," she says simply, "We're going out."
He grunts and rolls out of bed completely, moving with only half the dexterity of his former self. She smiles with hope that he is getting better, not with fear that he is regaining his strength, and affords him some privacy to change. His tenacity and hope have kept his body lean and loosely rippling, has rekindled the omnipresent fire in his eyes. Fully dressed in the black Uchiha hakama she had made for him, he presents himself and they leave.
He does not know where she takes him. Logic tells him to be distrustful, to assume that she is sending him to danger. Something else keeps him at her side.
Hesitantly, he reaches for her hand, not for support— he no longer needs that— but for warmth. Her fingers intertwine in his easily, and more than anything he wants to see her face and gauge the reaction there. The streets are nearly empty, but those who do roam are all shinobi. He closes his eyes and ignores the threatening glares people throw at him from across the street, then smirks when he hears a hum of confusion. She shrugs almost imperceptibly as though to tell him to forget it all, and then sweeps away a curtain at the entrance to a store and guides him inside.
It is a restaurant, and despite the curtain, a Western-themed one. Hinata glides to the counter confidently, dragging him along behind her. A woman at the podium appears, wearing a black blouse and slacks, and leads them to a table.
She orders for him and they eat in silence. She senses his anxiety, but waits until he has cleared his plate before asking for the bill.
As they are leaving, he finally whips her around and asks the question he has longed to for very long.
So simple, yet so dizzyingly multifaceted. She looks up at him inquisitively, her lips pressed into a firm line. He doesn't quite know which 'why' he refers to— the original 'why didn't you kill me?', 'why have you let me train?', 'why do you treat me like a guest when I am your prisoner?'
Instead, he asks, "Why does it hurt like this?"
Immediately, he scowls. This is not what he wants to say. He has already encountered these bothersome feelings and deemed them ridiculous, shoved them haplessly away. Why now, should they arise again?
But then she smiles and he wonders if it could possibly be worth it.
"Do you need some salve?" she asks coyly, and the fact that she is playing along makes his chest rumble in a joyous roar.
"I don't think that will be necessary," he assures her. Then, with a sudden movement, he pulls her to him.
The confusion around them buzzes and then peaks as she embraces him as well. Weakly, he slides to his knees, nestling his head in her bosom. She sighs and strokes his hair as he pulls her closer, like a child clinging to his mother.
"I love you," he whispers over and over again. "Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. I love you."
She sighs and then drops to her knees so that she can see him. His eyes are swimming, his cheeks flushed red. He looks years younger and much more vulnerable.
But she knows he is being foolish. She presses a finger to his lips and silences him sternly, and her Hyuuga gaze is empty. Pain flashes through his eyes, and then he hardens and darts to his feet. She grasps his hand and drags him back to the manor. They do not speak, but his heart is breaking. He has never loved nor known love, and the shock of rejection reverberates through his bones.
They finally enter her suite. She pushes him inside and locks the door before falling, flustered, to her knees.
"Sasuke. That was stupid. Very, very stupid. What if someone heard you?"
He feels his old anger reemerge, and grinds his teeth angrily. "Is that what you're worried about?" he hissed. So she hadn't heard what he said, just that he seemed unforgivably weak while saying it.
He looks up and sees that her chest is heaving and her eyes brimming with tears. She retorts fiercely despite this.
"They would have taken you away from me. Locked you up in some cold dungeon somewhere." Her eyes flash. "They would kill you, and that would kill me."
He stares at her incredulously as he digests her words. It is hard not to feel hopeful, not to pretend that she has just returned his feelings. When he does not answer, her face turns an even shade of pink and she stares up at him pleadingly.
"If they heard about us...about any kind of romantic relationship between us... they'd lock you up and accuse you of trying to corrupt me."
He quirks a brow. "Have I corrupted you?"
Her lips quiver and she hangs her head.
"Yes," she whispers, "You have no idea."
He feels a pressure in his chest where she falls against him, feels a firm, warm, trembling form as she pulls him close. Hesitantly, he rests her chin in her hair and sighs deeply.
"Use your Sharingan," she breathes.
He frowns. "You're being ridiculous."
He sighs, inhales deeply, and activates it. He can barely contain his surprise when his surroundings suddenly swirl into amazing clarity. He pulls her away sharply and sees the tears in her eyes—and the guilt.
She cuts him off as the tears stream down her cheeks.
"I haven't loosened everything yet. Your legs and arms are still tied. If you try to escape... I-I'll make sure I stop you!"
He isn't even remotely offended by her still existent distrust. Having the Sharingan back is too great a gift.
"You... I wasn't dreaming," he whispers. He chuckles darkly as he begins to see everything afresh, anew. The opposing mirrors in the corner of the room reflects over and over and over again, and he can see every detail despite the distance. It's been months.
She doesn't ask him what he means, just continues to sob quietly. He listens to her for a moment, noting the tiny, nervous movements of her hands toward each other.
"If you betray me," she hiccups, "Ill make you regret it. I'll find you and ki-"
Sasuke cuts her off. She may feel something for him, but she doesn't really
trust him. Not completely. It's a truth that is both understandable and frustrating.
"I won't run," he pledges. "I swear, I'll stay right here."
Right now, I just want to be by your side.
She looks up, and her iridescent eyes are like precious pearls.
It comes out incredulous, but there's an undeniable happy lilt to it. Like she really, really wants him to mean it. And she does.
"Yes," he whispers, and this time when he holds her she melts against him.
Hyuuga Hinata is fresh, she is strong, she is born anew.
Also, she is in love.
Sometimes, the richest wines are those left alone to ferment.
A/N: One-shots are the pleasant one-night stands of the fanfiction world—all the fun without any of the commitment. :D
No kiss. I know. Didn't think it'd be appropriate in this fic, seeing that their relationship moves at lightning speed anyway. :P
Please tell me what you think of this one.