Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Edited by my wonderful beta, DreamingCynic. She got this huge chapter done in record time!
Made this Chapter 11 now!
Growling in annoyance he blindly searched for his chiming phone that kept on going off every bloody two seconds. He squinted through his closed eyelids just enough to realize it was still daylight and knew there was only one person sadistic and insane enough to call him at this hour.
Biting back a curse as he heard the phone clatter on the floor, he grunted reaching down, arm outstretched when even the fall hadn't managed to shut the bloody phone up.
Glaring vehemently at the screen he answered the video call and was greeted by the sight of his smirking shrew of a sister.
"Did I wake you butthead?" she cooed apologetically, it might have even sounded sincere if it weren't for the "endearment" attached at the end and anyone who knew Temari would never put to words "nice" and her name together in the same sentence.
An unhappy snarl was all she got in response before he rasped, "Tell me what the hell you want so I can go back to sleep." His voice husky from waking so suddenly.
"Don't think I won't wash your trap with soap, little boy, if you don't control that potty mouth of yours" the blond menace threatened.
While his immediate instinct was to rebel, he knew it wasn't worth it, his sister could hold a grudge and she always, always got back at him. Gaara wasn't in the mood to be looking over his shoulder, checking his shampoo for dye and one day opening his closet to find all his hoodies suddenly gone and his jeans shredded.
"Just get this over with Temari", he sighed pinching the bridge of his nose in exasperation.
Huffing she scowled at him before her lips formed smirk, "I heard about your adventures at the mayor's party. My, my little brother I had no idea you were interested in older women. You left quite an impression on the ladies. Oh what is it they called you?" she mused her finger tapping against her lips.
Bloody friggin' hell how did she find out this quickly, she was halfway across the country dammit!
"The dashing redheaded devil" she pronounced before she gave in to her amusement and began having a good laugh at her baby brother's expense.
"I will not be attending any more parties from now on, so find another sacrificial lamb. Those women are the real devils" Gaara declared steeling himself against his sister's rebuttal.
However he was taken aback at her easy acceptance, "Very well, I won't force you", but relief did not have a chance to descend before suspicion sparked in his mind. Temari would never give in easily there was a catch, he was sure.
It appears he knew his sister quite well because her next words had him up in arms, eyes widened in horror and disbelief.
"You probably won't even have time for parties. I have decided to extend my stay in Konoha, you will be taking charge of the company till I get back", she informed him, acting a though she hadn't thrown his entire world into chaos.
"You must be joking. Temari you can't", his tone gave away his desperation.
Her eyes narrowed and her voice sharpened in response, "The business is as much my responsibility as it is yours Gaara and it is time you pick up the slack. I have looked after you since you were a kid and even now I'm still caring for you, but it has to stop. You have to learn to function on your own without me directing every aspect of your life."
"You would drop this on my shoulders, you would risk the company by doing this?" he questioned disbelievingly.
"Don't be stupid there will be managers and consultants to guide you, but the point is you are going to have to meet with our associates and actually talk to them, not to mention you will be overseeing all our major projects."
To that he had no answer, but to glare at her fiercely.
Temari resisted her own urge to sigh, she could not back down this was for his own good, he would manage somehow. He would have to.
"I did not make this decision to spite you and I believe you are capable of completing this challenge. If you have questions or concerns do not be afraid to ask for help, but know that this is something you must do without me by your side."
His lips were pressed into a thin unyielding line, "Is that all?"
"Yes, they will be expecting you at the office tomorrow at ten I have left instructions as well as your schedule and list of duties. I will talk to you soon, little brother" the blond woman informed before ending their video call.
There was no way he could escape his present troubles by going back to sleep, his mind was in too much turmoil.
He had never bargained for this what kind of cruel joke was his sister playing on him, there was no way he could manage things in her absence. Did she want the company to crash and burn? He had no idea how to run the damn thing and god forbid he was actually going to have to interact with people.
Of course he acknowledged Temari had been looking after him for most of his life and even now she arranged for his bills to be paid and his apartment to be tidied every few days by a house cleaning service, she even made sure to drop by or call to remind him to do mundane, but necessary things like eat and sleep when he was too caught up in his latest architectural project.
Gaara did not like people, he had no desire to talk them or even be around them, he enjoyed what he did, he was good at it a genius even, it was his passion, his obsession. Some new creation was always coming to life in his mind taking shape, his fingers itching to take a pencil to paper before it flew from his consciousness lost beyond his reach.
Their father he thought with a humorless sneer had built on their family's legacy bringing their construction firm to the forefront of the business sector, however it was Temari's business savvy and his talent that had brought them to prominence within recent years.
He had not had to be involved directly with their business dealings, at most he would briefly meet with the clients, listen to their demands, put forth his proposal and let Temari handle the rest, he was not used to being bogged down by nitty-gritty details and financial concerns.
However, his sister had flipped their arrangement on its head and now he was expected to play a bigger role than he had ever agreed to. There was nothing he could do, he could not ignore this challenge yet he had none of the necessary skills or preparation to handle such a task. Argh he could strangle his the wench, this was not supposed to happen, this was not his job! He was just supposed to draw the blasted buildings not look after the whole bloody company.
Groaning he got out of bed and shrugged into a t-shirt he had carelessly dropped on his work chair, then pulled on a clean pair of jeans and grabbed his leather jacket and his bike keys. He had to get out his apartment and clear his head, he had too much going on his mind to even attempt at continuing his latest design plans.
As he pulled up his motorbike, he couldn't help tugging at his clothing the midday sun had made them cling to his body damp with sweat. His vision was obscured as he tried to see through the dust raised by the work in progress at the construction site the piercing, screeches of the drills and the cacophony created by clanging metal and machinery overwhelmed his hearing. Gaara usually visited the sites of one of his buildings when the workday was over and only he and Temari were around to go over the designs with the contractor in peace.
Dragging his reluctant self to the office had been a testament of his willpower or so he liked to tell himself. When he showed up at the firm his sister's secretary, Matsuda had been waiting to greet him going over all his appointments and the meetings he had to attend and the documents that needed to be looked over and signed and the approvals needed by the various departments and potential clients awaiting to speak with him. It was suffocating and the tension and onslaught of demands and the promise of future interactions had caused a headache to blossom at his temples, his eyes constricted by pain.
After hearing a detailed explanation of what was expected of him, he was almost willing to subject himself to another trip to hell, at least then he wouldn't have the future of the entire company hanging over his head like a possible death sentence.
Yes, he sounded like a whiny brat, but he wanted nothing to do with this half-baked scheme of Temari's. He had lived the past 28 years of his life hating social interaction and holding an aversion for the rest of the human population.
What the hell made her think doing this to him was going to change anything?
Fuck, he was going to need more therapy when this nightmare came to an end and his sister regained her senses, hopefully that was before he alienated all their clients and turned into their family in social pariahs and led the firm to financial ruin.
While he would of tried inhaling deeply to focus his thoughts and calm his mind he didn't want to end with a cough fit by taking in a mouthful of dust and debris particles lingering in the air, so he settled for curling his fingers inwards, allowing his nails to dig into his palm, the slight pain was enough to draw his mind away from his troubles.
He was just going to have to deal with this one step at a time and try not to blow a fuse.
As he walked through the construction site Gaara was forced to weave and duck around the busy work men who didn't pay him any notice and had not the least bit of concern for his safety, they were all inwardly counting down the minutes till they could go on break and escape the gruelling combination of the sun's heat, their labour intensive tasks and the grimy surroundings.
It took a few minutes of searching, but he eventually found the makeshift station that served as the base for the contractor, the manager and supervisors around the work site.
As he crossed the distance he heard someone in the distance shouting out, "Stop kid! Stop!"
He didn't pay any mind to the yelling, figuring that whoever this kid was would have heard it, but the shouting continued, "You there! I thought I told you to stop! You can't be here!"
The extra noise was grating on his last nerves, not to mention the man was coming closer in his direction. Who the hell was this kid?
"Dammit, are you deaf! You with the red hair I said STOP!"
The last part caught his attention, the man was talking to him?
Spinning around he saw a stocky man wearing a hardhat and sweating profusely bearing down on him, he waited till the man with his clipboard and stained dress shirt reached him his head cocked to the side, feeling puzzled and irritated that the idiot thought he was some punk-ass kid.
Not even pausing to take a breath the man shoving an unwarranted lecture down his throat.
"You are not supposed to be here. This is a restricted area kid, I don't know what you think you are doing here, but you need to leave now before you get hurt and cost me my job."
Before the man could launch into another rant Gaara cut the man short, his patience wearing thin, he didn't have time to waste out here in the hot sun listing to him blather on like a fool considering the rough start he had already.
"Listen I understand you are trying to do your job, that's all well and fine, but you are getting in the way of mine and I don't feel like explaining myself to you right now so walk with me."
Not even waiting for who he assumed to be a supervisor's reaction he strode off in his previously headed direction, listening as the man dogged his footsteps already imagining his face reddening in anger.
Once they made it into the sheltered area the contractor immediately caught sight of him and approached, "Sabaku-san we were informed you were coming to visit the site this morning. You didn't have any trouble I hope?" Baki took notice of the furious supervisor who had tagged along with Gaara.
"I'm afraid the rest of your staff needs to be better informed Baki-san", gestured to the supervisor.
"My apologies sir", the tall built man replied before taking the red faced man aside.
When the pair walked back the man looked contrite, his tail tugged between his legs, "I'm truly very sorry Sabaku-san. I had no idea, please accept my apology sir."
Gazing at the down-trodden employee he stifled an irritated sigh, he hated having to deal with this kind of crap.
"It's fine. Think nothing of it", he waved away impatiently, he wanted them to move off the topic and quickly.
Turning to face the gentlemen he nodded for them to begin briefing him on the work being done.
By the end of the meeting Gaara hated his sister more than ever, what he wouldn't give to bury her neck down in sand and set a colony of angry ants on her while she pleaded for mercy.
Without her there he was left to deal with all the bureaucratic red tape and shipment delays in materials and workers' complaints and seemingly a million other decisions that only he could make.
He was sorely tempted to say sod it all and let everything fall to pieces, Temari should know better than to play games with him. Yet, it appeared he still had a conscience and he was forced to acknowledge that his sister had let him get away with quite a bit, Gaara knew he would not find another job with as freedom as he was given. So with his own self-interest in mind he didn't complain and bore his new found responsibilities with stoicism.
Holding a tray with her customer's order of grilled lamb she almost tripped over her own feet in astonishment at seeing her redhead regular sitting in his usual window seat. Fortunately she regained her balance and carefully set down the order at the appropriate table before retreating back into the kitchen. Her mind buzzed with questions and ideas, simultaneously formulating and discarding every hypothetical explanation for his presence here on a Wednesday afternoon looking more stressed and weary than she had ever seen him.
The diner was pretty much empty around this time of day, with only a few customers milling around. The lunch hour rush was already over and there were still a couple hours to go before school and work were let out.
As usual his presence aroused her tempered curiosity and now she couldn't resist finding out what had brought him here today, what had actually been able to make him break his routine after all this time.
Sometimes it felt like her mind wasn't solely her own, entertaining impossible thoughts, thinking silly foolish things she thought herself much too grounded and pragmatic to consider.
She poured him a cup from the newly made pot of coffee, still hot and steaming she then made her way over to his table with a slice of orange vanilla cake.
It didn't bother her that he hadn't even looked up as she approached instantly reaching out to take hold of the mug as soon as she had set it down. Her fingers were still warm from the heat being radiated by the black liquid.
Taking a long sip his gaze turned to the plate of cake, taking her eyes off him for a minute she turned back to find that the slice simply disappeared, if it weren't for the speckle of crumbs left behind she didn't think anyone would have realized the plate had even been used.
Now things were getting even stranger, Gaara usually took his time coffee was always his main priority. Her brow furrowed a little in confusion as she tried to figure him out, Hinata didn't think he had even tasted the sweet confection.
"Gaara-san did you have lunch today?" she asked trying not to sound overly concerned.
"Hn", was all she got in response, but the grunt was enough to determine that he really meant "no".
Sometimes she did wonder how men managed to survive using grunts and one-word answers, it was inconceivable.
Venturing further she probed, "What about breakfast?"
"Coffee" he shrugged before taking another sip from his cup, the mug was already half empty.
Her initial urge was to scold him, you couldn't get through the day on coffee alone!
The redhead was being careless with his health, and she didn't doubt this was a regular occurrence.
Hinata shouldn't worry about him, Gaara was not her responsibility, he wasn't even a friend really she hardly knew anything about him, but despite trying to convince herself otherwise she felt concern. She had gotten attached as she did with all those stray animals she liked to feed at the park back in Konoha and she deduced enough from interacting and observing him closely that the redhead wasn't one to bother with basic necessities such as eating and sleeping. As far as she knew coffee was his drug and he tolerated her desserts for the most part.
While she couldn't force him to look after himself, at least her mind would feel more at ease if he had something in his stomach other than cake and coffee.
So scurrying back to the kitchen she placed an order for turkey sandwich, nothing fancy, hopefully he would be hungry enough not to fuss and just eat it.
When she brought it back out with another cup of coffee in hand he scowled a little but he dutifully took a bite, taking his time to actually chew unlike with the slice of cake she had first brought.
Hinata allowed herself to give a sigh of relief when he hadn't made a complaint.
While she didn't pry, he offered no information, but for the next couple of weeks Gaara spent a lot of time at the diner. He usually came in around after lunch and then stopped by around 9 or 10 for dinner accompanied by files and paperwork and his phone was constantly beeping with the sound of new messages and incoming calls that he often had to put it on silent.
Her curiosity grew increasingly, but so did her concern for him.
His pallor was washed out and sickly, the rings around his eyes had become darker, even though she feed him and kept him supplied with coffee he was noticeably thinner and his energy was lagging. It appeared to Hinata that it probably took every ounce of Gaara's willpower to get out of bed in the morning and even then he must be thoroughly exhausted. Really she had no clue about what was going on, but it reminded her of how overworked and stressful Sasuke had often looked before they had grown close, his single-minded dedication to his family's company, his lack of concern for his health and overall wellbeing.
Back then she could have done nothing for him, they weren't close enough for him to accept her help, but the progression of their relationship had given her the leeway to ensure that he ate properly and got adequate sleep and generally didn't neglect everything else for the sake of his work.
Gaara-san was not her husband, he was a little more than a stranger, but she couldn't watch from the side-lines as his sudden change in behaviour and overwhelming workload wore him out completely until he ended up hospitalized.
Her indecision to approach him plagued her incessantly she couldn't sleep well, her thoughts were filled with horrible scenarios because of her inaction and his frequency at the diner made it even more difficult for her as his decline became more apparent.
It was Saturday night when she found him rubbing his eyes, bloodshot and glassy. He was stifling a yawn, his eyelids drooping occasionally and his pen kept on slipping out of his hand. It was obvious his body was exhausted and desperately in need of sleep and the worst part was he was the redhead was fighting it every step of the way.
The sound rang out like a gunshot a startling almost frightening sound in the near deserted diner, Hinata spun around from where she had been cleaning counters and saw the spatter of coffee and shards of ceramic scattered on the linoleum floor. Her gaze then darted to Gaara who looked dazed and puzzled at the fate of his coffee mug.
This was the only wakeup call she was going to get and Hinata sat up and paid attention.
The redhead was clearly spent, if he was so disoriented and fatigued for wares to be broken due to inattention or exhaustion-borne clumsiness he had no business working. How was he even supposed to get home in this state? She would hate herself for the rest of her days if she let him leave only to find out he had been injured or worse yet killed because he fallen asleep behind the wheel.
She didn't know how she was going to get him to listen to her, but she would force his hand one way or another, this had been going on too long.
Grabbing the cleaning supplies she pulled on a pair of gloves before she began picking up broken chunks of the cup all the while methodically coming up with a plan. First she needed to tell Kurenai she was leaving early then she needed to get Gaara to follow her instruction without protesting followed by getting him home safely, somewhere along the way she hoped to talk some sense into him to get him to realize how foolish he was being with his health. Though in his current state she didn't know if anything she said would make the slightest impact.
God she wished there was someone she could call to come get him, but it was already so late and she had no idea if Gaara had anyone who could come pick him up and carry him home.
"Gaara-san I think it's time for you to leave," she spoke gently just returning from disposing of the broken cup.
Shaking his head he tried to brush her suggestion aside, "I'm sorry about the cup I'll pay for it. Nonetheless I have at least two more hours of work to get done and I know you aren't closing remotely anytime soon."
Keeping the softness in her voice, trying not to react to his unyieldingness she added a firm touch from her resolve, he was not going to dismiss her that easily.
"That may be, but you Gaara-san are finished here. While I am sure your work is immensely important, it will still be there in the morning and you are in no condition to continue on like this."
"I knocked down my cup and I yawned a little so what I'm tired, but that does not give you the right to instruct me on my 'condition'."
Hinata really did not like confrontations and she had hoped he would go along with her recommendation, seeing the sense in her words, but he was being a stubborn mule. However Gaara was in for a surprise if he thought she would back down. He was harming himself and she couldn't bury her head in the sand and pretend it wasn't happening.
"Please do not mock my concern for you Gaara-san. You need to go home and rest. If you tore yourself from your paperwork for just a few minutes you would realize you are past your limit."
He scowled and she could tell she wasn't getting through to him so taking a fortifying breath she changed tactics, "If you won't leave I am cutting off your coffee supply."
"Then I will go someone else," he snarled.
"Very well, if you must, but I refuse to passively watch as you recklessly jeopardize your health, then how will you even get any work done being laid up in a hospital room connected to an IV because you wouldn't take a break. You fail to realize Gaara-san that you are only human. If you keep pushing yourself you are going to fall apart I guarantee it."
The redhead glared at her looking like he wanted to protest, but instead he sighed rubbing the back of his neck and pushed down his laptop screen. Lethargically he began to gather the files and charts he had scattered across the table putting them into his bag.
As he rose, Gaara's body swayed ungainly on his feet reaching out quickly to steady himself, closing his eyes before taking a moment to regain his balance.
"Goodnight Arata-san," he nodded before turning to leave, the effort showing as he concentrated on walking steadily.
Dammit there was no way she could let him leave on his own. She had gotten him to take his break only for him to fall asleep behind the wheel and crash while driving was not her objective.
"Wait Gaara-san" she called before she hurried to tell the kitchen staff she was leaving early tonight hastily grabbing her coat and her bag she left behind a chorus of "goodnight" to meet the redhead.
"Let's go," she prompted motioning for him to exit through the door with her.
As they stepped outside he turned to her, "Where are you going?"
"With you, of course," she shot back with what she hoped was a confident smile.
His cognition was definitely impaired since he looked at her blankly, the question mark apparent on his face.
"There is no way I can let you get home by yourself" she explained, "You're in no shape to be driving but I doubt you'd take the bus with me and leave this behind, "looking pointedly at the silver porche he had come in. For the last couple of weeks he had opted for this enclosed sporty number over his kick-ass bike.
"Arata-san I am grateful for your concern, but there is no need for you to escort me home."
While he protested Hinata knew she could wear him down, he was too exhausted to put up much of a defense and if he didn't have it in him to fight back he sure as hell could not be trusted to drive home safely.
For her sake though she really hoped he didn't live on the outskirts, because then she would have to call a cab and her recent pay-check would be gone before she could touch it.
"I think you're a very capable man Gaara-san, but you don't acknowledge your own limits. I know you don't agree, but for my own peace of mind please let me accompany you. I'm to trying to infringe on your privacy, but your current state worries me. Please."
Hinata's imploring eyes held his willing him to give in, to accept her offer.
Saying nothing he unlocked the doors and settled in before lowering the window and motioning for her to get in.
Holding back a grin of delight she scrambled to seat herself before he changed his mind and left her standing in the dark.
It was a quiet drive, he wasn't much of a conversationalist to begin with, but the redhead didn't appear to have much energy to do anything else beyond concentrating on steering the car.
Periodically she glanced over at him while appreciating the feel of the plush leather seats and that oddly crisp scent that she couldn't detect the source of. It had been a while since she had been inside an expensive car such as this. For the most part of her life Hinata had been chauffeured to wherever she had needed to go, it was only a whim and to acquire a small slice of independence she had gone for her driver's license, but she had been hard pressed to find an opportunity to actually put her driving skills to use.
Using the public transportation system for the first time had been something of a shock, the amount of noise and bustling people all heading in different directions, a whirlwind of sights and sounds and smells assaulting her senses, she was dazed by the end.
While the car cruised smoothly along the deserted streets, she unconsciously relaxed the purr of the engine fairly silent from the interior of the car. Hinata took the opportunity to look out her window admiring the bright city lights and the looming blocks of concrete and sandstone stacked neatly side by side unlike Konoha which was a haphazard sprawl of skyscrapers and crumbling reminders of a prior era.
Her musings eventually turned to memories of Sasuke, it was inevitable though it had taken a while to accept it she realized that there was hardly an aspect of her life that didn't hold some connection to him, little reminders that brought the memories bubbling to the surface.
On the rare weekend when he left his phone off and detached himself from his office they had taken afternoon drives. Sometimes travelling miles to visit the coast or impromptu picnics in the orchards dotting the countryside only a couple hours drive outside the city limits.
Sitting beside him occasionally taking her hand in his own, the feel his thumb stroking the inside of her palm. An unexpected feeling of serenity and security would envelop her and Hinata couldn't say she had ever felt as content as just being there next to him. That elusive feeling that convinced her in those moments that nothing could touch them, that as long as they were together nothing bad would ever happen, that she would be protected.
She used to bite her lips to stop from smiling, feeling giddy with delight that Sasuke was willing to spend this time with her, no distractions, no expectations or worries, being at ease with her like this, that he found her pleasing to be around, that spending time with her wasn't another chore or an obligation for him, but was a break from all his duties. Their physical chemistry was unquestionable, but beyond that it was those moments that proved that they shared something special and worth cherishing.
That's why it surprised her when she felt something reminiscent of that rare treasured feeling creep upon her suddenly. While it was something to ponder on it didn't bother her, she was still much too in love with her husband to consider it was something worth fussing over.
Thankfully they were still in the heart of Suna and she thought it was safe to say they were not headed towards the outskirts. Momentarily they paused at the stop light and she turned to ask him how far away they were from his home when she noticed his closed eyes and relaxed posture.
Alarmed Hinata placed her hand on his shoulder shaking him slightly, calling his name, "Gaara-san. Gaara-san."
He gave a soft murmur and his eyes twitched, but he was still wasn't fully awake.
Dammit the light had just turned green.
Raising her voice she shook him more roughly "Gaara-san. Gaara! Wakeup, wakeup!"
Her concern and panic were mounting, idling by a traffic light at this hour in the night was just asking for trouble. There at least two cars behind them blowing their horns in angry impatience. Eventually his lashes fluttered open, his gaze unfocused. Forcing herself to stay calm she instructed firmly, giving him chance to react otherwise, "Park the car at the curb, Gaara-san."
Uncharacteristically he obeyed without a sound and they both took a moment to centre themselves.
"How far is your home Gaara-san," she asked finally.
"A few minutes away at most, it's about 10 blocks away."
"Alright. You can't fall asleep like that again. Please I'll try to help you stay awake till we get there, but you have to focus, you can't let your tiredness overwhelm you."
Nodding he turned on the ignition and shifted gears, keeping up her end she began to prattle on about mundane nonsense to fill the silence and to keep him alert asking question in between to ensure she still had his attention.
They finally pulled up in-front of a well lit building that couldn't be more than 10 or 12 floors from the general vicinity she knew that the apartment buildings in this area of the city came with a pretty price tag attached. While some were extravagant with detailed plaster moldings and statues of mythical beings like angels and gargoyles along the perimeter that was meant to an old world touch to these new structures, but they appeared eerie in the dark.
Gaara's building was rather understated in comparison, but she had no doubt the interior décor was every bit as sophisticated and luxurious as its peers. Using a remote control the redhead opened the gate that led to the building's underground car park. It was practically a car showroom for the toys of the wealthy beneath the building, a couple of Ferrais, a Hummer or three, she spotted a Lamborghini, a Lotus and even a Rolls Royce.
With this lineup she didn't doubt the building came with fantastic security measures implemented judging by the luxury vehicles all parked alongside each other. She had never really understood the fascination the rich had with fast, pricey cars. It seemed so excessive and extravagant, more so than ever now that she had a closer look at what the working class made do with.
Shutting off the car he slipped out and she followed noticing Gaara's prized motorcycle parked nearby before reaching to grab his stuff before he could get a chance. The man looked like he was barely holding himself upright he didn't need to worry about carrying his baggage as well.
Walking towards the elevator it took him a few tries to punch in the code to gain clearance for his floor. By the time they entered the wall to wall lined mirror box she knew that some very important people lived here who paid good money to protect themselves and their privacy.
When they came to a stop she discovered they were on the ninth floor stepping into a softly lit open space tastefully done in warm tones, all creams and toffee brown, the miniature palm trees were a nice green touch. There were only two doors on the opposite ends of the space. Moving to the left one the fatigued overcome redhead fished out an odd looking metallic card with ridges and bumps etched into the surface before swiping it , a click was heard then they were entering his apartment which took up half the floor apparently.
She wasn't sure what she expected but this wasn't it. His place was a mess, it looked like a hurricane had hit, there were dirty dishes and clothes strewn everywhere, a grimy layer of dust covered everything. The used coffee mugs were left on every available surface. If she headed into the kitchen she would bet her pay-check the sink was stacked with dirty dishes and the fridge was probably filled with mouldy leftovers. The thing that really bothered her was the smell, the air was stale and frowzy.
She actively had to remind herself that holding her nose would be considered very impolite. With a bit of effort she noticed the cozy furnishings, the tan leather sofa, a loveseat, a wide screen LCD mounted on the wall and a top of the line music and entertainment system. Off to the side on the right there was a modern, fully equipped kitchen that would make Choji green with envy and a corridor at the other end that probably led to the bedrooms. Placing his bags on the already crowded counter she pulled out her phone and called for a taxi not feeling up to looking for the nearest bus stop in an unfamiliar neighbourhood at this late hour.
She was informed it would be a 40 minute wait apparently they were short staffed and tonight was especially busy.
Gaara had wondered off and more than likely had collapsed on his bed, she refrained from imagining what a disaster zone that must be. While she didn't feel too comfortable staying in the lobby Hinata wasn't eager to sit on any of the available chairs and the surrounding mess really did bother her. Even her apartment on her most hectic of weeks had never degenerated into this.
So despite her tiredness and the ache in her lower back from standing on her feet since early morning she began to pick up the coffee cups carrying them into the kitchen. After shrugging off her jacket she dug around for the dish soap and a scrub before tackling the unwashed pile of wares.
Sudden movement caught at the corner of her eye made her jump and spinning around she saw Gaara with a damp towel around his shoulders, hair wet from his apparent recent shower clad only in a pair of sweatpants.
The first thing she noticed was how pale he was, he more so than the last time, his pallid colouring was disconcerting to her. His skin retained a slight flush from the heat of his shower, but whatever muscle mass he had before was now gone, in fact he was now leaning towards being just shy of skinny, his overall slenderness making him appear diminished it was a disturbing comparison to his former image.
Her staring got away from her and blushing in embarrassment she gave an awkward smile as her gaze snapped back to his face trying hard not to show her concern.
Grabbing a dishcloth he began drying the dishes and putting them away. Together they worked in silence until the sick was spotless.
Unable to keep her curiosity at bay the words were slipping from her lips before she could stop them.
"I'm not trying to pry and you can ignore me if you want, but please can you tell me what's going on. I'm worried about you Gaara-san." Hinata wrung her hands nervously fully expecting him not to answer.
Sinking down into the only chair wasn't totally cluttered by stuff he let out a tired sigh, tossing his head back then he began speaking.
It was confusing to say the least a bit like watching a movie from the middle and trying to peace it together without knowing the background story, hearing strange names that had no faces or significance and a timeline of events that didn't make total sense.
More and more questions popped up along the way, but she kept them to herself she had figured out pretty quickly that Gaara needed to get this off his chest and she feared her questions could disrupt his release and he would clam up once again.
When his account of the last few week was finished Hinata implored kindly, "May I ask some questions. I just want to understand the situation a little better."
"Fine" he replied curtly.
"So your sister, Temari is taking some time off in K-koh-konoha," stuttering over the name of her former home, "and she left you with the responsibility of running your family's architectural and construction firm."
"Alright then. Now you haven't had any previous experience and you are entirely new to the business aspect, so you must start from scratch. As a result of this your current design projects are suffering because you don't have the sufficient time and energy to dedicate to them anymore and your creativity is lagging."
This time her gave a grumble, but didn't dispute what she had said.
"By trying to play catch up and manage all these new tasks you've pushed yourself to the point of exhaustion, on the verge of collapsing and your sister isn't due back till next month. Also you're having problems at the firm and on site because they don't respect you and keep thinking you're a kid am I right?"
Nodding his head he pressed his hands to his face and she could tell he was feeling overwhelmed and in over his head.
"One last question. Does your place usually look like this?" she gestured to his apartment in complete, and in obvious disarray.
"Temari's not here," was all he said as though that was explanation enough. Creasing her brow she asked, "Your sister cleans your apartment?"
Scowling he shook his head, "No she hires a cleaning service to come by twice a week and her assistant stocks the cupboards and fridge. My dry cleaning and laundry are also taken care of by her and she pays the bills."
Stunned she gaped at him, this man was 28 years old and his sister ran his life. Massaging the back of her neck she could feel the tension headache forming. Dammit no wonder he was struggling she basically dropped him into the deep end of the pool and told him to either sink or start swimming.
Hinata definitely understood why his sister had done it the redhead needed to learn to fend for himself , but this was not the way to do it. Though with what little she knew about him she didn't doubt he could be obstinate and resistant to change.
There was no way she could leave him like this she couldn't even if he hadn't asked for her help and would probably assume she was butting into his life and not to mention she was taking on more responsibilities on her plate than was wise.
Yet she could not detach herself from the situation. Hinata felt compelled to help others because it disturbed her to see them in trouble or struggling. She felt helpless and pathetic about her own inability to change herself and her life around on her own, but that didn't mean she couldn't direct her efforts towards doing good for someone else.
And Gaara mattered to her especially and looking back on how she had learned to become independent living on her own with no one to fall back on she knew she could help lessen his budenr and aid him in managing his life as it was now, so he could strike a balance.
As her resolve settled her phone chimed and distractedly answering the call she was informed her cab had arrived.
Turning to the redhead she spoke earnestly, "I have to go now, but I am coming back here tomorrow in the morning ok, and I am going to try to help you. So please will you stay home and get some rest. I'm sure you can get your work done here," from his skeptical look she scrambled for another ploy to try and persuade him to see things her way.
"Your drawing plan for the new grand hotel being built in Tea construction is due in less than a week and you have to get your proposal finished."
She could see the conflict and annoyance written on his face, but she felt confident enough that she had gotten through to him. Fetching her jacket and her bag Hinata gave a wave before closing the door behind her and heading towards the elevator. She definitely didn't see herself getting much sleep in the near future.
Around 3 AM or so she had eventually drifted off to sleep spending most of the night scribbling away in her notepad, searching for numbers in the directory and compiling a momentous "to-do list" along with trying to rearrange her entire schedule. As soon as she had gotten home she called Kurenai and asked to have the morning off switching to the evening shift instead, that way she could spend her days putting her plan into action.
Sleeping through her alarm she work at half 8 feeling bad about her late start, but reasoned that the redhead needed the sleep before she intruded. Dressing she then left her apartment walking down the street till she got to a nearby coffee shop picking up breakfast and ordering a cup of their strongest brew for her favourite customer.
Catching the bus she pulled out her phone scrolling through her contacts looking for the newest addition. While Gaara had been worn out and focused on driving she had coaxed his number from him, taking a deep breath to calm her nerves she pressed the call and it ringed.
And she waited anxiously.
And it kept on ringing.
Then there was the dreaded voicemail.
Feeling disappointed she called back by the forth ring she was ready to hang up when she heard a click and she was greeted by an irritable voice, "What."
Glad he had actually answered and ignoring the likely probability she had woken him from sleep she piped cheerily, "Good morning Gaara-san."
The next thing she heard was the beep of the call being disconnected, looking at the screen of her phone she gapped. He'd hung up on her.
Feeling very much slighted she started, "That was-"
"It's too damn early for your chirpiness. Now what do you want," he cut across.
"Oh, ah well we are um supposed to meet this morning?" her tone making it sound more like she was asking rather than telling him.
She heard annoyed muttering before he snapped back, "Whatever. I'll call ahead and tell reception to expect you." Then he ended their call.
She felt out of sorts and stunned, she barely caught his last minute demand to "bring coffee."
Well she hadn't been excepting that kind of reaction and it made her doubt briefly if she was going to accomplish any good by helping him or would she only earn his resentment.
No, she couldn't think like that she would do her best and help him in whatever way she could.
Getting off at the closest bus stop she still had to walk at least a couple blocks, at least it was still morning time and the sun hadn't reached its apex just yet, she would dread having to walk in the midday heat. Around that time it was just too hot to be outside and most businesses closed up or lunch or took a siesta till the worst was over. Tourists in particular were always being carried to the nearest hospital for sunstroke and suffering from dehydration. Then there was the sunburn, some were so bad their skin became inflamed and turned boiled lobster red, it wasn't a pleasant sight. For the life of her she couldn't tan and while it took prolonged exposure to the sun to actually get burned her skin got red and itchy just stepping out under its glare for even a few minutes without slathering on a thick layer of sunblock.
In the daylight the surroundings seemed even more impressive, light gleaming almost blindingly off glass panels and arched windows.
Approaching the entrance the door man nodded to her greeting her politely while holding open the door.
Steeping into the lobby she met the receptionist.
"Good morning I'm here to see-" then her voice faltered as it occurred to her she didn't even know his last name. Mortified she look at the receptionist to see her smiling kindly back at her.
"Are you Nakamura Arata?" continuing once Hinata confirmed her identity, "Sabaku-san is expecting your arrival." Then she signalled to a tall, lanky man with slicked down hair.
Hinata's eyes lit up in recognition he had been around when she had left last night. Speaking to the other employee the receptionist instructed him to escort her to Gaara's room.
By the time she stood in front his door poised to knock her nerves returned in full force.
As she stood there contemplating what she was going to say when the door swung open suddenly and a hand shot out grabbing the coffee cup from her hand. The door was about to close on her when she regained her senses and moved into action wedging her foot in the doorway to keep it open.
Ok that was beyond rude.
Shaking her head she wondered to herself if she really knew the redhead and what she was getting into.
No matter her doubts though she had made up her mind and she would see this through, she wouldn't back down, he needed her help even if he was too proud or stubborn to admit it.
Entering his apartment it was pretty dark the heavy drapes were drawn over the windows and one would hardly suspect it was daylight outside stepping in here. It looked pretty much the same and leaving Gaara to enjoy his first shot of caffeine for the day she pulled the curtains apart and thought the place looked even worst in sunlight, making the true extent of the mess visible.
It would take her a couple days or more to get through all this cleaning up by herself and she didn't have that kind of time to waste and she had not come here to play housekeeper .
So making a space for herself, pushing aside some of the clutter she pulled out her notepad and turned to him.
"Did you sleep well?" she started trying to ease into things.
"Good enough. Now why are you here?" the redhead setting down the now empty cup looked at her piercingly.
"I- uh, Gaara-san I'm here because….because I want to help you get a handle on your life I want to help your straighten it out so you can see where you're headed."
Cocking his head he asked plainly, "Why?"
How could she say this, how could she put it to make him understand what she was really thinking.
"I consider you a friend. I don't know everything about you and you're just a customer at the diner, but I care about what happens to you and right now you are under a lot of pressure and so much is going on in your life and it's hard for me to just to stand back and pretend you're not in a bad shape, because you are.
"I'm really just asking you to let me help you that's all I really want. That you won't try to push me away and you'll accept what I'm trying to do for you," she pleaded sincerely praying he realized her desire to aid him, her good intentions.
Hinata couldn't tell what he was thinking and she hoped that he wasn't going to shoot down her offer to assist.
Her gaze focused on him when he sighed and shrugged, "Alright what do you need?"
Struck speechless that he had agreed that he was willing she couldn't help the joyful smile she beamed at him.
Looking at her notepad she started off, "Well…"
She decided to tackle his apartment situation first discussing the cleaning crew, making a stop for groceries, ordering meals to be delivered to him or at least stacking his freezer with frozen meals. Actually taking steps not to let everything pretty much go haywire and to keep on top of things
Then she began discussing with him his work routine, helping him learn to manage his time and delegate responsibilities, a good bit of the things he had been doing could have been assigned to someone else to follow up on and report back to him. Over the course of their discussion she referred to a lot of her experiences with Sasuke and how he coped with his intense work schedule and always managing to stay in the loop and a step ahead.
Once they had cleared a starting ground she allowed him to go off and make his work-related calls and start putting her advice into play and she doing her own calling and making more notes and jotting things down as they came to her.
When he finally got off the phone Hinata was struck by a surprising thought that stirred her concern, she wanted to dismiss it, but she knew better than to make assumptions.
Silently hoping she was just being foolish she probed, "Out of passing curiosity what do you wear to the office?"
"Clothes," he replied with a deadpan tone looking at her in a strangely.
"I know that," she sighed in exasperation, "but what exactly does your attire consist of?"
"Why does that matter? Are you trying to dress me up again?"
"I would just like to know, please stop avoiding my question."
Shrugging he mentioned easily, "Jeans and a tee most days."
Oh good god she thought, please tell me he is joking.
"What about those shirts I had you get when we went shopping," she asked fearing her passing thought had homed in on a much more pressing problem.
"They are still in the bag they came in."
"Why didn't you wear them?"
"Why would I in the first place?" he retorted not seeing her point.
And he wondered why they considered him to be a kid if he was dressing like one.
Helping him was going to be much harder than she thought initially.
Somehow he had managed to pull himself out of his rut which had lasted for two days. Two days of sleepless nights, tortured days, not a sip of water or a morsel of food touched his lips. Sasuke just did not have the motivation or reason to make an effort, withering away like a wrath was simple once you stopped caring about trivial things like hunger or thirst.
Eventually exhaustion got the better of him and he feel into a fitful sleep. When he woke up, the sun had already made its ascent and his bedroom was bathed in its warm light.
"Fucking birds," he muttered.
Their god-awful, cheerful tweeting were assaulting his ears, he felt terrible, almost reminiscent of a really bad hangover, his mouth felt dry and cottony, his tongue heavy and the taste was enough to make him grimace in disgust.
As he moved from his slumped position on the couch, a creek in his neck made itself known and a foul odour that assailed his sense of smell was coming from him. It was to be expected if a person hadn't taken a bath in three days.
Pushing himself upright he raked his hands through his messy, greasy hair passing them over his face touching the prickly black stubble along the way, he had always meticulous kept himself clean shaven so it was a very foreign sensation to him.
Trudging to his bathroom suite he gave his teeth a good brush all the while ignoring the vacant sink right next to his before breaking out the Listerine savouring the burn of the alcohol.
Looking at his haggard appearance and the bruised skin surrounding his eyes he gave a gruff sigh. Anyone who saw him now would think he was a refugee on the run.
Taking a whiff of himself he promptly took began shedding his clothes, stepping into his massive shower letting the multiple spray heads batter his filthy form. After he gave his face a well need shave. By the time he was dressed he felt a bit more human and his appetite had made its reappearance.
His grief was still raw and clawing at his self control at the back of his head, but he had to get it together. The shock had worn off and his wallowing in self-pity and despair was over now, there were things that needed to get down now.
It was time he regain control of the situation.
Switching on his phone he erased all the missed calls, voicemails and texts that had accumulated while he had slipped away from reality making his first task to call Nara ordering his right-hand to meet with him at his house.
Despite all the lazy genius' grumbling he arrived in less than 30 minutes, led by the servants to the Uchiha's office who were all very concerned over their master's recent behaviour.
Sasuke sat behind his desk nursing a cup of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee.
Shuffling in the newcomer perched himself on the arm of the room's only sofa, the one Hinata used to lay on reading a medical journal or taking a nap while she kept Sasuke company, her excuse every time he asked was that she just wanted to be close to him.
"You've been MIA for two days," the genius drawled, stating the obvious. He didn't say anything more and Sasuke offered nothing in return, so they left it at that.
"I've been doing some more digging around. Beyond clearing out her bank accounts she booked a ticket on a train to Kiri from there her trail disappears.
"She hasn't used her credit cards, made any phone calls using her cell any possible leads have turned up nothing, she left no traces. Unless Hinata turned out to be a spy or a government official, she had help covering her tracks."
Those last words made the Uchiha growl he had little doubt the Hyuuga had only been too obliging to help her disappear.
Not bothering to take note of the Uchiha's agitation he continued, "It's doubtful she left the country, but I'm confident she is now living under a new identity. As of the moment there is nothing to work with.
"I've taken the liberty of placing tabs on the Hyuuga and brought up the calls Hinata last made, one of them was placed to one Hyuuga Hanabi."
Upon hearing that name the now empty mug went flying from Sasuke's hand in a fit of rage smashing against the wall.
That spiteful little bitch was the one who had conjured up the mess right before he left. She was like a vulture just lurking till the opportune moment to tear into and feast on his wife's fears and doubts. He had underestimated the imp and now it came back to bite him, but no more he would see to it that the manipulative wretch would learn not to play with him and interfere with what was his.
Sasuke wanted to rage at their families and tell them to all go to hell, but he didn't know how much they knew and he would lose his cool and maim the pathetic lot of them if anyone even muttered a mean word about his wife and god forbid if they should start bombarding him with potential marriage proposals.
Despite his turmoil Sasuke laid low for the next couple of days anxiously awaiting any new leads on his wife's whereabouts, but it had been futile. At every turn in Shikamaru's search he had been blocked, no new info, no monetary transactions, no security camera feeds, no phone calls, nothing!
Someone had carefully wiped clean every trace of this woman, it was beyond frustrating for the lazy genius. There was no doubt in his mind that there were some very powerful people with the resources to stump him and this knowledge did not please the Uchiha one bit.
And his tabs on the Hyuuga had revealed nothing noteworthy, they did nothing to suggest any of them had any contact with the Hinata or were up to anything suspicious.
It was too early in the game, the Hyuuga were alert and on their toes anticipating every move the Uchiha made effectively countering and setting him back to square one unable to move forward.
It was a bitter pill to swallow, but he couldn't do anything for Hinata, but wait patiently until they slipped up and he couldn't get passed their defenses. Sasuke was not used to waiting he was a man of swift, decisive action, always having the necessary means and the cunning to dispatch his enemies. However this time he had come up against a foe who had the upper hand and was too deeply connected to his own clan forcing him to play docile and wait for his moment to strike back.
But he would be damned if he let Hyuuga Hanabi and the rest of her pompous clan think they had gotten the better of him. Uchiha Sasuke was not a man to be trifled with lightly.
Sasuke gritted his teeth and contacted the Hyuuga politely requesting a meeting with Hanabi. Graciously of course the Hyuuga heiress designed to meet with him despite her terribly busy, very demanding schedule.
The little beast made it seem like she was doing him a bloody favour.
While he didn't like meeting on enemy grounds he agreed to come to the Hyuuga compound, a sprawling complex that had continued to expand with each generation. The maze of interconnecting buildings and pathways would have had an outsider wondering for days on end searching for a way out.
Tradition was of the utmost importance and in the six hundred years of this clan's existence little had changed, if anything their inflated ego and pride had grown to gigantic proportions.
He was often left to wonder how Hinata had managed to survive in a family as cruel and unforgiving as hers, yet she still retained the ability to demonstrate kindness and compassion.
The scars that they had inflicted on her though were in plain sight.
His sweet wife had no faith in herself, no confidence in his abilities, despite everything they had managed to overcome she saw herself as a disappointment always trying to prove herself, but falling short of her family's expectations every time. Sasuke didn't think anything she did would ever please those bastards.
It had frustrated the hell out of him the way she had refused to lift her eyes, her head always downcast and submissive. The way she wilted and folded in on herself when she was in the presence of her sister or her father.
Saske did not do grand speeches or inspiring pep talks, in fact he didn't enjoy conversing with others in general declaring the line of conversation his business associates and colleagues engaged in was tiresome and banal. Yet with Hinata he wanted to know what went on inside her head, what she thought, what was her view. In the beginning she had been so timid he was afraid any sudden moments would spook her and getting answers from her was only slightly easier than pulling out a tooth, even then her responses were vague and neutral, never giving a clear indication of what she really thought.
It took a while for her to realize he actually did want her opinion that he cared about what she had to say.
He tried to make her understand that she wasn't as silly or incompetent as she thought herself to be and while getting into medical school proved she was smart she didn't make much of her accomplishments.
People often slipped up around her saying things they normally wouldn't dismissing her presence , but all the while she was listening and soaking up everything going her processing and assimilating all that information which showed how insightful and observant she was providing him with a new outlook or solution that he hadn't considered.
And now because of her clan, the people who had the gall to call themselves her family had driven his wife away. These self-righteous assholes had managed to take away the only person left who could make him smile, who made understood him, who cared about him, not his money or his family name or whatever those social climbers were clamoring for who panted after him at every event.
Regardless this was just another stumbling block in their path and nothing and no one was going to stop him from getting her back.
The guide who had been assigned to lead him though the labyrinth had brought to an ornate pavilion, its style suggesting it was not a recent addition despite its well-kept appearance. Blossom trees along with a few Japanese maple bordered the perimeter. It was actually appeared to be a rather inviting scene, but he scoffed inwardly the Hyuuga were all about their pride and keeping appearances, this would not put him off his guard.
Steeping forward the guide announced his arrival before executing a bow and leaving the two alone.
Her brown hair was pulled back into a high ponytail, her clothes were well pressed and impeccable, her posture was flawless and an aloof expression adorned her face masking her thoughts. Hyuuga Hanabi was every inch the clan heiress and no doubt would be a formidable opponent, but he would not be easy prey and it would do her well not to underrate him. Then again he wasn't in much a charitable mood to be handing out advice.
She arose at his presence, inclining her head as decorum dictated and he played along before seating himself opposite her. Sasuke accepted the offer of tea and they sat in silence as she went about preparing him a cup.
"I admit I expressed surprise at your unexpected request to meet with me Sasuke," she spoke first as she placed his tea before him, her tone courteous though the lack of honorific was noted. It conveyed a closeness that did not exist between them.
"I apologize for the short notice, there was an unforeseen development which prompted this meeting," he chose his words with care, once again following her lead, maintaining the veneer of politeness.
Taking a sip of her brew she delicately set down the ceramic cup.
"The urgency in your message implied something of importance has occurred."Folding her hands she directed her gaze at him fully, a flicker of amusement and challenge were reflected in her pearlescent eyes. At first glance those eyes were so similar to his Hinata, though that impression would never linger for long in anyone's mind. These women were dissimilar enough that even with their trademark features one would hardly suspect they were sisters.
"Just how exactly do you think I can be of assistance Sasuke."
Keeping his eyes fixed on her he responded to her challenge. "Some weeks ago I heard you spoke to my wife, the encounter left her quite unsettled."
Arching a finely shaped brow at him Hanabi nodded her head, "You are correct we did speak, though it was a while back we did not part amicably, but that is hardly unusual Hinata and I have always had a difference of opinion. How does that conversation pertain to your current matter, which you have yet to inform me of."
Ignoring the jab at the end he continued, "She was affected enough by your meeting that night to broach the subject of divorce."
Making a noncommittal sound of interest she shrugged before raising her cup to her lips, lingering on her appreciation of its taste.
"Is that so?" With just the right amount of astonishment before giving a slightly puzzled look, "How should that be the matter? You are still married are you not? Unless you have more news for me." Looking expectantly at him.
His fists tightened below the table as he tried to keep the frost out of his voice. He could not reveal himself just yet. "Do not fear we are still married, she is my wife and will continue to hold that position."
"You are her husband I'm sure you know her the best," the heiress rewarded him with a mocking smile.
No, this was exactly what she wants, that pest wants you to get angry to lose you cool. Keep your shit together Uchiha he told himself, he had to if he wanted to get his wife back.
"You're right I do know her best and that means I also know her weaknesses as do you. I would rather not delay this any further so I will admit the reason for my visit. Hinata is gone and I want you to tell me where she is." Leaning forward in his seat, his eyes were hard and glinting dangerously.
"Gone you say. As in she ran away, she deserted you," the menace jeered, her face twisted into a parody of sympathetic concern.
Through clenched teeth he hissed, "Yes, she is gone."
"Well I suppose it was only a matter of time, she always was a weakling, but I am intrigued to know why you would think I would know her whereabouts. We are hardly close."
"I am no one's fool Hanabi I know exactly what my clan and yours intend and Hinata is no longer part of that picture."
"It's not like we have done anything to her, you said it yourself she left on her own"
"And you are not above involving yourself in coercion to make her take that decision," he fired back his body tightly coiled and vibrating with leashed fury. What he wouldn't give to wrap his fingers around that proud, scrawny neck of hers.
"What proof do you have? How do you plan to implicate anyone," she scoffed waving away his accusation. "Hinata made her decision all on her own, she could have stayed, but she did not. She ran away as cowards do and you would do well to move on just the same"
"Whether you choose to tell me or not I refuse to give up on her. She is my wife and I will get her back." In the haze of anger obscuring his thought he rose, an enraged towering form above her.
"Ah, but Sasuke at what cost will you get her back. You have bigger worries little Uchiha and bringing home my pathetic older sister would not be in your best interest."
Slamming his hands down upon the table rattling the wares he glared at her, "Are you threatening me?"
"I am simply offering pearls of wisdom, but this is not a threat this is a promise. If you continue to pursue your dear wife you will forfeit your right to be heir."
"Then I will resign myself to that fate. I am not backing down."
Letting loose a dark chuckle she gave him a saccharine smile, "But Sasuke if you are no longer the heir Uchiha Corp is no longer yours and certain changes if I may will certainly come to pass that you have been pushing against."
The horror and shock engulfed him as his mind furiously processed the implications of her words, hating that he had been caught off guard by this unexpected move against him.
His efforts over that last few months had been to expand the reach of the company in the global market. The recent economic downturn had the higher-ups seeking to cut costs and eliminate liabilities. He was the only thing standing in the way of hundreds of employees losing their jobs and their livelihood. They would not stop their cutting insurance benefits and pensions plans there would be no respite, no remorse. The workers would have no recourse, they could form no protest because jobs were too scarce to jeopardize by fighting back.
He was trapped, there was no choice.
Hatred and contempt for this woman and their clans had narrowed his thoughts into a single sharp focus. He would destroy them, utterly and completely obliterate these spawn for standing in his path, for attempting to manipulate and trying to box him into a corner.
"I will not be cowed so easily Hyuuga Hanabi and I do not give in to ultimatums. You will regret crossing me," were his parting words before he left hating the victorious smirk on her lips.
Jumping into his car he gunned the engine already speeding out of the Hyuuga compound on to the streets of Konoha taking the long route through the forested back roads to his house. Sasuke needed to work off his anger and frustration before he could plan his next move.
In a sudden flash of brilliance he narrowly avoided colliding with a tree as he took a bend to sharply losing control before mashing brakes as the car skidded to a halt.
His body was humming with anticipation not even shaken by his close encounter. Grabbing his phone he called his right-hand man.
"What? This is my first nap in 18 hours," the genius on the other end grumbled.
Ignoring the grumpy, disgruntled voice he ordered, "Find the location of Uchiha Itachi. I want it by tonight."
A/N: This chapter took forever to write, I'm sorry for the delay, but I do hope the length made up for it and that you guys enjoyed reading it.
The next chapter will feature a time skip, this fic is moving about 2 years into the future. Chapter 11 will fill in the blanks and discuss Hinata's adventures working with Gaara. Also what do you think about the Hyuuga's latest scheme and Itachi is going to pop up in the future!
Thanks again for all your support I love the reviews! Feel free to ask me questions and leave your comments.