Chapter 18

Life Altering

8 months later...

"You're what?" They all shouted.

Hinata stood up to deliver her news. Ever since Tenten got pregnant, she wasn't allowed to go on missions and so Ino had come up with a great idea about a weekly get-together. This week all the kunoichis met up at the Yamanaka's new apartment. It was just a few homes down from her family's flower shop, which was convenient for her. The people that showed up today were Sakura, Yuki, Tenten—who was nine months pregnant—Hinata, and of course their hostess, Ino.

Hinata nodded. "It's true. Tsunade-sama did the tests herself." The Hyuuga was almost as giddy as a schoolgirl. Although, who wouldn't be if they were in this situation?

"Did you tell Naruto yet?" Sakura asked. She imagined he'd be the first person to know.

"Um, not exactly." She pressed her two index fingers together. "You see, I was going to tell him last night but it didn't go well."

"What happen?" Ino asked.

Hinata looked around nervously and blushed. "Well, eto...He came home from an exhausting mission and I knew he looked tired. I made him some of his favorite ramen and when I went to give it to him, he'd passed out right there on the couch. I didn't have the heart to wake him and then this morning he'd already left with Sasuke-kun and Sai-kun on another mission."

"It's okay, I'm sure you'll be able to tell him." Yuki pat Hinata's arm.

"Yeah, cheer up." Tenten added.

"Thank you," she smiled and sat back down, taking a sip of coffee. "So, Tenten-chan, when are you due?"

Tenten rubbed her belly and gave a soft smile. "Any day now. Oh, I almost forgot," she held out her left hand and something sparkled on her ring finger. Everyone gasped and awed as they looked at the silver band. It wasn't a diamond or anything that special, but it was Neji. He was always a simple guy. She blushed red as everyone caught a glimpse.

"He proposed?" Ino nearly shrieked. She lived for these kinds of things. "When? How? Give me all the details."

Tenten gave a nervous laugh. Now it was her turn to be put on the spot after Hinata averred her news. "Well, it was a few nights ago when the moon was full. I usually walked the Hyuuga compound around that time but this time he accompanied me. We talked for a bit, mostly about baby stuff, and when I thought the night couldn't be lovelier he got down on one knee. I thought I was in a dream or I was going to pass out." She put her hands up to her cheeks to hide the enormous blush on her face.

"How sweet," Sakura sighed.

"You know, though, this wasn't the first time he proposed to me." She admitted.

Everyone's eyes nearly came out of the their sockets. "What?" They said in unison.

She nodded, "Yeah, about a month after I told him I was pregnant, he asked me."

"Why didn't you accept?" Hinata asked. She too had a blush on her face. "I mean, you loved him then didn't you?"

"Of course I loved him then and now. But it didn't feel as though he was doing it out of love. I felt as though it was because of the baby." She placed her hands back down on her stomach to feel the baby kicking inside. "I didn't want him to do it out of duty or 'my honor'." She quoted him. "This time, though, I know he means it. After the baby's born, that's when we're going to worry about plans."

Ino squealed. "Oh, I'm so happy for you! It almost makes my news that much unimportant."

"You had some news?" Sakura asked. It seemed like everyone was sharing today.

She nodded. "Sai and I are moving in together." She clapped her hands together and blushed. Yes, Yamanaka Ino blushed.

"But you just bought this place." Hinata commented.

"Don't tell me..." Tenten trailed off.

"Uh-huh," she nodded, "We're taking the next step in our relationship. I guess that only leaves you, Yuki-chan."

Slowly, the younger girl started to shake her head, "Actually...Kiba-kun and I are moving in together."

"Shut up!" Ino punched her in the arm.

"Well, I mean, he kinda had to. He hadn't been making payments on his apartment lately and his mother wouldn't take him back, so I agreed for him to move in with me. Do you think it was the right move?" She asked.

Sakura had grown fondly of the woman, especially since she was her old apprentice and all, and so she had to be honest with her. "Just be honest with yourself. We can't make any decisions for you."

Yuki acknowledged the advice with a nod. "So, Sakura-senpai, do you have anything to share with us?"

Sakura shook her head when, in fact, she did. But she didn't want to take away from everyone else. There would always be next week to tell them.

The rest of breakfast went like normal where they discussed latest missions and other gossip around the village. One of the biggest topics was of Shikamaru. He recently was given the title of Ambassador to Sunagakure and of course Sakura mentioned the time she encountered Temari at his apartment...half naked. It wasn't a surprise to Ino, though, as she simply commented that she'd always had a sixth sense about these things. Another topic was of Kiba and Shino's relationship. They had been teammates for years and about eight months ago, Kiba discovered that Shino had been seeing his older sister. Of course there was a huge fight between them that Hinata had to intervene in, but they hadn't spoken to each other since. It worried the Hyuuga that they would no longer cooperate, especially since they hadn't been on a mission with each other since.

Sakura didn't try to worry herself, though. She knew that because they were nakama they would reconcile their feelings sooner than later. As her mind wandered, she couldn't help but to think back to Tenten. She had a baby on the way and was getting married. Hinata also came to mind, and seeing her happy face made Sakura happy. Was she ever going to be that happy? Sakura placed her hands on her stomach and sighed.

She had taken a turn down an uncrowded street. Anyone would be able to tell it had been deserted for a while, considering the lack of care that was there surrounding the buildings. She passed a closed shop that seemed like that for at least a decade and saw the familiar crest in the window. Sakura had walked right down into the old Uchiha district. No one was allowed to come here anymore, seeing as it was condemned, but she knew she hadn't made a wrong turn. So Sakura continued down the district until she reached an old mansion.

This house wasn't like the others. It had recent work done to it, seeing as there was no more tape across the front or graffiti. She walked inside its complex. The garden was still dead, no flowers bloomed and most of the trees were still scorched. Walking along the outside, though, she noticed the new floor boards and how clean they were. The shoji screens were being repaired and repainted. Sakura couldn't help but to run her fingers over the pictures. There were fans and circles all over as well as small nature scenes. She smiled.

A few months ago, Tsunade offered this home to her and Sasuke for a very cheap price—considering that he wouldn't take it out of charity. They bought it, of course, and ever since he'd been here repairing it. Apparently, this had been his childhood home. Sakura could imagine a little Sasuke running about and bothering his mother as she prepared his lunch on a warm summer day. She sat down and looked over at the dying tree. She imagined it was once beautiful and bloomed during the spring, showering the yard with its petals and possibly fruit. Sakura could also imagine a small koi pond right under it with bright colorful fish circling inside it. Perhaps, the garden was going to be her project.


She turned around and saw him standing there with no shirt on. He was drenched in sweat with a hammer in his one hand while the other wiped sweat from his forehead. Sasuke had returned to his former attractiveness—though he really never lost it—thanks to his extensive training regiment and mission intake. She was always speechless whenever she saw him like this.

"Sakura, what are you doing here?" He asked, seeing that she wasn't responding.

Snapping out of it, she replied, "I was just clearing my head." She smiled at him. "This place is really looking wonderful."

Sasuke took a seat next to her and basked in the sunlight. It was late summer, so rebuilding a house wasn't the best idea in this heat. He looked exhausted.

"Wait, didn't you leave for a mission earlier today?" She asked. Sakura remembered seeing him off and Hinata mentioning it at breakfast.

He nodded, "Yeah, I left, but the dobe managed to get a concussion by hitting his head on a tree and falling about a few feet to the ground. He's at the hospital now."

She rubbed her forehead and let out a sigh. It seemed like that would happen to Naruto. "Is it bad? Should I head over and check up on him?" Sakura was about to get up when Sasuke grabbed her wrist and pulled her back down.

"No," he told her, "it's not bad. Besides, should you be walking around so much in your condition?" He cocked an eyebrow at her.

Sakura had to control her laugh. "Fine, I won't go. And my condition?" She also cocked an eyebrow. "Sasuke, I'm pregnant...not dying of flesh eating parasites."

He shrugged. "So, did you tell them today?"

She shook her head. "They were all excited to say their stuff. I didn't want to take anything away. I'll just wait until next week."

He sighed and slung an arm around her shoulders, pulling her close to him. Though the sweat made him look sexy, it didn't feel sexy. A very moist man wasn't appealing and so Sakura gave a slight shove to pull him off her. He simply looked at her questioningly.

"Um, I think you need a shower." She said, making a disgusted face—teasing him of course.

Sasuke took notice of his appearance and...smell, nodding in agreement. "Right, I just have to do something first."

"What are you working on?" She asked.

"A room," he was hiding something and this peaked Sakura's interest.

She gave a soft smile. "Which room~?"

He leaned in towards her ear and whispered, "It's a surprise."

The simple sentence sent chills down her spine and made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. She gave a light shudder. "Oh," suddenly, she was breathless. He had a knack for that. She tried to change the subject, "So I didn't know you could paint."

Sasuke was in the middle of getting up when he stopped midway, looked at her, and sat back down. "Painting?"

"The screens," she pointed to the closest one. "if you didn't paint them, who...?"

"Sai was over earlier. He wouldn't stop following me and came here. Apparently, he read in a book that a home should show the owner's personality, and offered to paint the screens." He explained.

She slowly nodded, "That would explain why the pictures were so familiar." She trailed off. "So...what can I do to help?"

He got up onto his feet and brushed off the dirt from his pants. Offering her a hand, he helped her up while catching a glance at the dead garden. "Sure," he nodded towards the garden's direction. "I don't have a green thumb, as you can see. Do you mind?"

The vision of a vivacious garden with its excellent greens, pinks, and blues along with any other color she could find. The koi pond circled her thoughts as it laid under a blooming cherry blossom tree. In her mind, she could already see the petals cascading down and scattering along the walkway leading from room to room. The smells of early spring, late summer, and early fall filled her senses all at once as she pictured herself spending time underneath the stars and moon. It was a dazzling image.

"Alright, I think I can manage that." She gave him a wink.

"Sakura-senpai! Sakura-senpai!"

Both Sasuke and Sakura turned around at the familiar voice. No one came to the old Uchiha compound so when they heard someone else approaching, the both of them were a bit wary. Of course, they really didn't need to worry. Just hearing another's voice around the area was a bit surprising.

"Sakura-senpai!" Yuki came into view. She was breathing hard and a strange look took place on her face.

"Yuki?" Sakura got up and stared at the red head. "What are you doing here?" She asked as soon as the woman was in hearing distance.

Once Yuki stopped before them, she bent down and was breathing hard. Clearly, she had been running for a while. She had to catch her breath, but the news she held was so great she started to talk between breaths, " have to...get the hospital...Tenten is...having her baby...!"

"What? Really?" Sakura was immediately filled with joy. The day had arrived and of course it had to be on the day she had off. "Alright, I'll be right there." She turned to Sasuke and he gave her a nod. Giving him a kiss on the cheek, she and Yuki turned around and headed to the hospital.

Hinata had passed Sai on the street and after hearing about Naruto's "accident" she made her way to the hospital. She was relieved to find that he wasn't badly hurt. His biggest injury was the cut by his hairline where he hit his head. He needed about ten stitches to close the gap and of course his hair was already stained with blood. After he was taken care of, he was admitted into the hospital for the night just to be sure he didn't have a concussion.

She sat on the edge of his bed and watched him sleep. When she had arrived, he was already asleep and she didn't have the heart to wake him. So for now, she simply watched him. He was always entertaining to watch whether awake or not, but either way, she enjoyed his presence. His breathing was soothing to her as they were in a private room, the only sounds coming from him and the chirping birds outside. His hair had shifted with the incoming breeze and she brushed a strand away from his face. He smiled at her touch.

"I'm glad you're safe," she told him. Hinata leaned in and gave him a kiss on his forehead, gently on his bandage. Every fiber of her being wanted to tell him, but he was unconscious. There was no way he was going to remember this.

But maybe that was a good thing. Maybe she could practice telling him while he was like this. Maybe it would alleviate some pressure and nervousness she had.

"Naruto," Hinata began, "I love you, you know that?" Smiling to herself, she added a smile. Of course he knew that. She always told him how much she did. "You love me too, right?" Again, there was no need to answer that. Hinata knew that, even though he didn't say it much, he loved her. She could see it in his eyes and actions. "Well, I hope..." she trailed off because he started to stir.

His eyes slowly opened, and once he was able to tell that it was her he smiled. Naruto let a huge yawn escape and looked around, realizing where he was. He pressed his hand to his forehead and grimaced when he felt the pain from the touch. Hinata gave him a smile and he reciprocated with a wider more toothy grin of his own. She helped him sit up in bed.

"Are you alright?" She asked.

He nodded and scratched the back of his head. "Uh, yeah...I'm guessing someone told you what happened, huh?" The blush was already creeping on his face.

She gave him an I'm-so-sorry kind of look and then laughed. He looked a bit confused when she laughed. Once the feeling left her system, she tried to calm herself down and shook her head. "I'm sorry, but I couldn't help it. How can the greatest ninja in the entire village succumb to something like a tree branch?" Once she said it aloud, she had to refrain from laughing at him again.

He gave a little pout before pulling her in close to him. She hiked her feet off the floor and curled up beside him, careful not to pull on his I.V. He wrapped his arms around her and started to pat her long black hair. Whenever he did this Hinata knew he was thinking of something. It was starting to turn into a habit lately and it was scaring her a bit.

"What's wrong?" She asked, trying to look up at him.

He shook his head and gave her another toothy grin. "Nothing," looking at her non-believing face, he rephrased the statement, "I mean, maybe it's something." He shrugged and sighed. "Why...Why doesn't your father like me?"

"M-My father?" She was taken aback. This was definitely a surprising question. "Well, um, I don't know. I never noticed that he didn't like you. I mean, what's not to like?" She buried her face in the crook of his neck. "You're funny, sweet, kind, and handsome. I certainly like you. Shouldn't that be enough?"

He shrugged again. "I guess, but I just don't feel right. I feel as though I don't have permission to be with you."

"You're also a gentleman," she added. "I gave you permission to be with me. Isn't that enough?"

Naruto was quick to reply, not wanting her to burst into tears or storm off, "O-Of course it is. I just," he sighed, "I never had parents growing up, but I know that if they were still around, I would want them to like you. And I'm sure they would, but your father doesn't like me."

Hinata gave him a kiss on the lips before saying, "Then maybe we should have a discussion with him. We'll get his permission together."

He smiled at that and gave her a squeeze around the midsection. Instinctively, Hinata pushed him away, not wanting to hurt her. Naruto noticed this and cocked an eyebrow, curious as to why Hinata did what she just did. "Is there something wrong?" He asked.

She quickly shook her head. "Uh, no, nothing's wrong."

He wasn't that dumb to fool and continued to look at her. "Hinata, is there something you wanted to tell me?"


The door burst open then and saved the Hyuuga from answering his question. Ino had come running in wearing her nurse's outfit. Her shift mustn't have finished yet. She came over to Hinata's side of the bed and stared to pull on her wrist, coaxing her out of the bed.

"Come on, Hinata, Tenten's having her baby!" She cried.

"What? Now?" She was a bit easier to get out of bed now. "Where is she?"

"She's down the hall. Come on," Ino gave another light tug.

Hinata looked over at Naruto and he nodded toward the door, signaling her to go to Tenten. She gave him a smile and took off with Ino down the hall. As they passed hall after hall, they met up with anxious Yuki along with an equally anxious Sakura. They all entered Tenten's room where she was more than happy to see their familiar faces.

It was six hours into labor now, and Sakura felt frustrated. She was a medical ninja and couldn't do anything for Tenten. Seeing her friend in pain contraction after contraction made her feel useless. Sakura could also tell that both Yuki and Ino felt the same way, but what could they do? In this case, they had to let nature take it's course and wait until it was time.

Tenten started to scream in pain and Sakura rushed over to take her hand. Ino held her hand the last time and after seeing the bruise, she was a bit reluctant to do so. But it was a small price to pay for her friend's comfort. Tenten's grip was fierce which was no surprise considering she was kunoichi who dealt with heavy weapons and such. Sakura tried to not let Tenten see her face as she squeezed down because she knew it would make her feel bad. Again, this was all she could do.

Around the eighth hour, Tenten was only half way there before she was allowed to push. The sweat had matted her hair down to her pillow and she was groaning in discomfort. Though she had extreme discomfort, Tenten had refused any drugs that would ease her pain. She said that her and Neji talked about natural birth, considering it was the best and healthiest way to deliver. Plus, that was how the Hyuuga clan did it.

Ever since her and Neji got together, Tenten focused on getting used to their customs. She couldn't attend meetings, but Neji would tell her what was going on. When he was away, she would spend time with Hinata or any other female Hyuuga member, just to see what their role was within the clan. Of course, Hinata's role was a bit different considering she was of the main branch, but she was still very helpful. And when Tenten and Neji were together, they were inseparable.

"Where's Neji?" Tenten moaned.

She was laying on her side and Sakura was taking the shift of being with her for this hour. Ino and Yuki stepped out to take care of some of their hospital duties while Hinata had to go check on Naruto. About three hours ago, Tsunade had come to check on Tenten but there wasn't much progress. Sakura was also visited by Sasuke and she told him to go back home, saying that she probably wasn't leaving the hospital until Neji got there.

"We're trying to get a hold of him." She told her while rubbing her back. Sakura knew that this was soothing for her, but it wasn't much to cure the pain.

Neji had left on a mission about four days ago and he was scheduled to come back today, but that was back around noon time. Now, it well into the late night and it wasn't looking as if he was coming until morning.

"I want him," she sniffled. Tears silently slide down her cheeks as she buried her face in her pillow. Tenten was a tough kunoichi and just seeing the tears broke Sakura's heart. "I want Neji..."

This wasn't her first time delivering a child. Sakura had helped plenty of experienced doctors deliver children, but because Tenten was her friend, it pained her to see her this way. Was it going to be like that for her? She placed her hand on her stomach and thought to herself.

"It's alright, it's alright," she smoothed out Tenten's matted hair and whispered.

The next few hours were brutal. Sakura was feeling a bit sleep deprived from staying up all night with her and if she felt this bad, Tenten must've felt a hundred times worse. She checked all her vitals and how far along she was. Just a few more centimeters and it'll be time to deliver. It was starting to drive her crazy not knowing where Neji was. Every time Tenten asked, she had to lie saying he'd be there soon.

Shizune had come into the room and evaluated Tenten's vitals following how far along she was. She gave a beaming smile. "I think it's time," she told them.

"What? No! It can't be time!" Tenten's voice rose two octaves. "Neji's not here yet!"

"I'm sorry, Tenten, but we have to take you to the delivery room." Shizune told her.

"No, no, no," she shook her head, "I can't!" Tenten started to cry and moan as the contractions got worse. "Sakura!"

The pink haired kunoichi leapt to her side and took hold of her hand. "What is it?" She asked.

"Where is he? I can't have this baby without him!" There was no holding back the tears now. She gripped Sakura's hand and pressed her forehead to her hand. "If he's not here, can you please not leave me?"

All she could do was nod. "Of course, I won't leave you." She promised.

"I'm so scared." She muttered.

"I know...Me too." Sakura agreed.

As they were wheeling her down to the delivery room, there was a ruckus not too far away. The voice was familiar as it was calling for Tenten. Her head perked up and she demanded that they stopped where they were. Of course Shizune was against it, but Sakura was there to make sure she got what she wanted.

"Tenten! Tenten!" Neji called. He didn't know where she was.

"NEJI!" She hollered back. Her screams were much louder than his because they had a boost from her contractions.

He sped past the nurses that were trying to stop him and went to Tenten's side. She released Sakura's hand and grabbed either side of his face. Their kiss sent chills down Sakura's arms and raising the hairs on the back of her neck. She backed away and felt relieved. She also felt less scared. Knowing that they had each other, it seemed as if they could accomplish anything.

"Come on, we have to get to the delivery room." Shizune told them.

They broke apart and Sakura smiled, nodding for them to go ahead. She told them that she'd be waiting for them after everything. Tenten thanked her and told her to go get some sleep, considering she hadn't slept a wink last night. Sakura humored her request and nodded, watching as they went through the doors to the room. Taking a deep breath, she made her way down to the waiting room. She found the most comfortable looking chair and sat back, awaiting for sleep to take her as she waited.

Hinata came back to the hospital and saw Sakura still sleeping in the waiting room. She knew she had to wake her, but she looked too peaceful. Instead, she went to visit Naruto. He, too, was asleep but it was about to wake him anyway. She slowly stroked his cheek and brushed away his stray hairs from his eyes. Again, he sighed at her touch. It was as if he knew whenever she was around.

This made her smile and lean down toward his ear. She whispered, "Wake up, Naruto. I have something to show you."

She had to shake him a few times, but eventually his eyes began to flutter open. When his vision cleared, he smiled at her. His hand went to his aching head and winced at the sudden pain since he forgot about the gash.

"Take it easy," she told him and helped him to sit up. "How're you feeling?"

He stretched and yawned before shrugging. "Not so bad."

"That's good because I wanted to show you something." She took his hand and helped him out of bed.

He wrapped his rob around him and walked with her down the hall. They had to take the elevator down a few floors, but they came out on the third floor. He kept bugging her as to where they were going but she wouldn't answer. Hinata was sly. She made sure that he didn't read the signs leading to which floor held which practice until they came out to a large glass window. Inside were hundreds of small beds which held newborn children. Various pinks and blues lined every other bed along with small round babies.

"What are we doing here?" He asked.

"Do you see the baby in the pink blanket, third one from the right in the second row?" She asked and pointed in the direction. He nodded. "That's Tenten and Neji's daughter, Hana."

Naruto's jaw dropped. "Sh-She had the baby? Already?" He couldn't believe it.

She nodded, "Yup." Taking his hand, she started to trace circles in his palm as her eyes never met his. He looked down at her and waited for her to say something else. "I love you."

"I know." He said softly. "I love you too."

She knew. She had always known but he rarely ever said it. Hinata knew that he was afraid to lose her like he did his parents, and that was why he never really said it. For a child growing up without having that constant love, she could relate. Ever since her mother died, she never clicked with her father and therefore never got the attention a normal child would get with their parents. On a level, she could understand his problem. Though, this made those words very special to her whenever he did say them.

"Naruto," she started and looked up at him. She could tell he was waiting for her. "I'm...I'm pregnant." Hinata waited for his response.

It took a while for those words to sink in and then like a firework he went off. He picked her up and spun her around while he laughed. Tears streamed his face as he nuzzled into the crook of her neck. She wrapped her arms around his neck when he finally put her down and imitated his nuzzling. They stood there for a while as both of them soaked in this moment. Hinata, obviously, already knew the feeling, but now that he knew, she felt even better. She felt ready for the next step.