Nozomi was dragged by Tsunami into the kitchen, pulled along by her wrist. She assumed this was because she had gotten upset and begun to cry. That was one of the things she just could never accept though, was prejudice like that. She knew those jackasses down at the hospital wouldn't hesitate to let Haku die if they discovered he possessed a Kekkei Genkai. It was so unfair, they shouldn't be treated that way just because they'd fought in a war - or even their family had fought in a war. Just because people had bad memories of something, that didn't mean that something was all bad.

Tsunami leaned against the counter, sighing and shaking her navy hair out of her face. She glanced at the sink, still full of dirty dishes from breakfast, and then looked back at her adopted daughter. "Well, Nozomi? Do you have anything more to say in your defense before I dish out some punishment to you?"

Nozomi looked up through her now-bloodshot gold eyes, and managed a slight glare at Tsunami. "You can't punish me. I'm not your daughter."

"Forgive me for being cliché, but as long as you live under my roof, you are expected to follow my rules, Nozomi."

"You never said anything about bringing in a sick, injured boy in need!"

"I would have thought that went without saying! Really, who does that kind of thing?"

"Somebody who gives a chocolate-dipped damn!" Nozomi crossed her arms, looking down.

Tsunami let out a breath and took a step closer to the teenager. "Nozomi, I..."

"Can he stay?" Nozomi asked quietly, barely a whisper. She looked up at her guardian, her eyes pleading. "He doesn't have anywhere to go, and he's hurt. And now he's sick because I was too scared to change his bandages. I feel so... so responsible. He got an infection because of me."

"The infection isn't that bad, Nozomi. It'll clear up in two, three days tops. You didn't mean it. You know how debilitating your fear of wounds has been since you left your family."

"Left my family? Left my family?" Nozomi let out a bitter giggle. "They kicked me out. Saying I left them, that I made the choice to go, is like saying that using a porcupine as a dodgeball is a good idea. It couldn't be farther from the truth. You know that - you know what happened! I've told you, and you still don't seem to get it!"

"You better stop mouthing off to me right this minute, young lady! Your attitude was bad enough when Kaiza died, but I think I'd rather have the Nozomi who didn't speak at all as opposed to this!"

Nozomi sunk down into a chair and put her head on table, resting her cheek against the cool solid. "I wanna see him. Can I go see him now?"

"Not yet." Tsunami put a hand on her hip. "First you need to know what you're going to spend the next month doing."

Nozomi glanced up, not really wanting to argue. "Hmm?"

"For the next four weeks, you are not allowed to leave this house. You cannot go anywhere with Inari, or with your grandfather. Unless it involves staying in the house, everywhere is off-limits. And don't even think of tying the bedsheets together and climbing out the window. I've done that before - you always get caught."

Nozomi shrugged. "It's not like I really have anywhere to go, and Inari will hang around the house if he wants to be with me. If he doesn't, he can leave. I won't try to keep him here. I've got Haku to take care of anyway. It's good that I'm grounded - he'll probably take a month to heal."

Tsunami gave her daughter a look, then waved her hand, just shaking her head. "Go. Go see him."

"Thank you... Mom." Nozomi stood up, not even bothering to tidy up her hair which was strewn across her face, turned on her heel, and left the room.

Tsunami sighed and leaned against the counter, supporting her weight on her elbows and allowing her head to hang between her arms. "What am I going to do with her..."

When Nozomi saw the scene in her bedroom, all of the anger and frustration instantly melted away.

Inari was again sleeping by Haku, but it was different this time. He wasn't sleeping on his leg; he was curled up right beside him, with his face resting on Haku's shoulder. One of his arms was lying on Haku's back, and Haku was asleep too. When Nozomi crept over and carefully peeled the covers back, she found that Haku's arm was wrapped around Inari's waist. Like he was trying to keep him safe from anything that would hurt him. When she tried to lift his arm to pick Inari up and take him to his own room (again), she couldn't. Haku had a tight grip on her brother, and she noticed when she tried to move his arm, his face twisted - his eyebrows slanting down, his lips parting back a bit like he thought she was going to hurt the boy. "Don't you touch him," she heard Haku mumble in his sleep. "I won't let you hurt him."

Nozomi let go of Haku's arm and shook him gently. "Haku. Haku." She knelt down and poked his cheek, hoping that would get him to wake up. "Haku, wake up, hon."

Just as she was about ready to get a hose and turn it on him so he'd wake up, he made a noise and shifted. He raised the arm that he'd coiled around Inari, and rubbed his eyes. He almost yelped in what she assumed to be pain, but he bit it back when he realized that Inari was still sleeping beside him. He blinked a few times and looked up. It took a minute for his eyes to focus on her, but once they did she had his full attention. "Nozomi...?" he muttered, half-yawning as he put his arm back around Inari. He just stared at her for a few seconds with this blank look before finally saying, "You look terrible."

Nozomi rolled her eyes. Men. "Yeah... sorry. Tsunami and I were..."

"Tsunami." He tried to sit up a little. "That's your mother, isn't it? Why aren't you calling her 'mom' anymore? If she's your mother..."

Nozomi shook her head, picking up the book that Inari had left on the floor and placing it back on the pile. "You wanna know a secret?" She leaned down and put her lips by his ear. "She's not my real mom. I'm not even sure my real mom wants anything to do with me anymore." This time she was able to move his arm from Inari, and she picked her brother up. "Why'd you...? I mean, why were you holding him like that? And by the way, um... you talk in your sleep. You thought I was going to hurt him."

Haku looked down, seeming to be deep in thought. He played with the edges of the blanket for a minute, then glanced back up. But he wasn't looking at Nozomi - his eyes rested instead on Inari. "Nozomi... let me tell you one thing that I have already decided." His chest heaved as he drew in and let out a particularly laborious breath. "I will never, ever... let any harm come to that child."

Nozomi shifted Inari in her arms and tilted her head inquisitively, looking at Haku. "How come?"

Haku's hand reached out, but an obvious pain in his chest prevented him from reaching too far. Nozomi bent down so that his hand could reach Inari, and Haku stroked the little boy's hair. "You know... he looks a lot like me when I was little. Shame I wasn't as cute as he is."

Nozomi smiled, then stood up to her full height. She held Inari tightly and opened the door. She took one step, then looked back at Haku and grinned. She commented, "Well, it's a good thing you're cute now" before calmly walking out, shutting the door, and heading to Inari's room.

... She was smart to get out of there ASAP. XD

Sorry for letting this one go for so f'ing long! I know, I'm a bad girl... now if only I could get Orochimaru to dress up in leather while whipping me and tell me that... 'XD I'm an idiot... well, bye-bye now! ^^