Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or the Snow Queen. Or the quotes. Or anything really.
AN: Hi, my name is Airyo, and I have a problem with abusing figurative language. Enough said. This is based on the Snow Queen, but ended up a lot more Tsubasa-esque than expected. It is highly recommended that you read up on the Snow Queen (wiki has a nice summary), but not necessary. I kept the fairytale-feel of it, so there is "magic". It's highly allegorical, so please leave realism at the door. I'm also playing with a different narrative style/am too lazy to edit and have strangled normal grammar with sentence fragments, comma splices, and dashes. Erm. Yeah.
Juuho Soushiken is the Gentle Step Twin Lion Fists, the move Hinata uses to fight Pein. I think it sounds kind of dumb in English, so I kept it in Japanese.
Oh, the summer night
Has a smile of light
And she sits on a sapphire throne.
Hinata can't remember.
She stumbles into a table and clutches her head. It throbs, an emptiness that can't be filled. She blinks wet eyes, looks around. She is inside a small cottage, and a lovely blond reaches out to steady her.
"Why am I here?" Hinata whispers. "Who are you?" She was supposed to ask something. A question she didn't know how to ask quivers in her throat, chokes her.
"I'm Ino, the Flower Witch," the blond says. "You just made a wish." She pulls Hinata to a wooden chair and the Hyuuga sits, too lost to be wary. Hands press a warm cup of tea - black, two sugars - into her cold palms. She accepts.
"Let's start at the beginning: Who are you?"
"Hyuuga Hinata." That is easy.
"I...have a sister...Hanabi...a cousin..." She frowns. It shouldn't be this difficult to recall basic facts. "I..." Hinata sips her tea, desperate to fill the silence of her thoughts. The taste is bitter, over-seeped. "I like my tea with a dash of milk and - three sugars is three too many," he says disapprovingly. She laughs and tries to place another handful in his cup. He deftly moves it out of her reach, grabs her arm so she drops -...three sugars," Hinata finishes saying. She blinks away the strange memory. Who was that?
"And?" She inhales to speak. Can only exhale in a soft whimper. The teacup drops to the ground and rolls under the table, leaving a dark puddle on the ground. She closes her eyes. It hurts to remember. But shouldn't it only affect her head, not her chest?
"You really have forgotten everything," Ino sighs. She picks up Hinata's teacup and deposits into the sink. She returns, a swirl of soft robes and strange talismans, and places one finger on Hinata's forehead - warm, soothes her headache. "You wished to forget everything about someone."
"You never told me, but apparently, you misjudged number of memories you held that included this person."
Hinata searches her dress pockets, and pulls out a coin purse. It is heavy and - you can't buy drops of sunlight, Lady Hinata," a childish voice admonishes. "That is silly because sunlight is immeasurable. Just like you. You can't put a value on yourself because - Hinata wondered if she came from a rich family.
"Please help me," she says, extending currency and sincerity, desperation and determination, in the same gesture. Something is so wrong here, even if Hinata can't remember what she forgot. Bits and pieces aren't enough to build a bridge back to the past. Ino sighs and sits back.
"I can't help you now. Only you can undo what you have done to yourself." Hinata trembles.
"Please. Anything." The witch regards her with sharp sky eyes and huffs to herself. Then she's out of the room, leaving a breeze of roses. Ino returns with four dandelions - four tiny suns tied to the earth - in her hand.
"You have a pure heart, so this may work for you. Four stubborn weeds, for the four seasons. When you're found each, the dandelion will seed. You will make a wish for remembrance on each one."
"Each?" Ino tilts her head, and taps one long finger against her cheek impatiently.
"Summer, autumn, winter, and spring. When you've found each season, make a wish. The plants will know if even if you don't."
"How do I look for them?" How does one even find seasons? The seasons weren't singular objects, to be caught and classified. They were fleeting moments, witnessed in transience and missed in memory. The blond witch shrugs.
"I gave you the method, you need to find the means," she says. Hinata crinkles her brows in consternation, but she accepts the dandelions and heads for the door.
"Wait." She turns. Ino holds out her hand. "Aren't you forgetting something?"
"Oh." Hinata reaches for her purse and the witch shakes her head. She points to the long coat hanging by the door, with voluminous sleeves that touch the ground. The dark blue design on a field of white is still dusted with snow.
"I just gave you a few weeds. If you actually succeed, then that is payment enough." Hinata shrugs on her coat. She knows it is hers, because it fits her body - like a familiar hug. Warm arms, warm hands, warm -- and the white fur trim is too warm, but she endures for it will be cold outside.
"Thank you." The Hyuuga bows and exits.
Summer sun rushes her.
Hinata immediately strips off her coat, but her dark dress pulls in the bright rays. She squints against the light. Confusion tangles her brows.
"Winter cannot reach here," someone explains kindly. Hinata turns to see a young man who was built like a great oak, a gentle giant. He stands in a large patch of sunflowers, his face open and round like the flowers around him - kindness enclosed in little lion manes. "The Flower Witch's home is called the Garden of Eternal Summer. I'm Chouji, the gardener." He bends and lifts a heavy basket of gardening tools. Another smaller basket sits by his muddy, booted feet.
"Do you need help?" Hinata asks politely. Chouji grins at her and nudges the other basket towards her. The weave of the basket is rough, like callused hands touched by summer.
"Thank you." She returns a shy smile, and follows him to the garden shed. He places his burden on the ground, and then takes the other basket from her. "I appreciate your kindness. Not many who pass here are willing to take time to lend a hand when their quests consume them."
"Only those in great despair can find the Garden of Eternal Summer." Chouji smiles and points to her hand. "One of the dandelions has seeded." She looks. A soft downy ball, fragile little feathers, balances, ready to take flight.
Hinata closes her eyes, for remembrance, for completion. She blows gently and - the summer night is a heady mix of wisteria and lazy breezes. She approaches a young boy not much older than her standing on the veranda - dark hair, dark clothes - and taps him on the shoulder. He turns. Dark expression.
"Itachi," she whispers. Shrinks away. He blinks away his rage, and forces a ghost of a smile, a blank mask like a curtain, hiding the true events behind the play.
"Lady Hinata." She dares to sit beside him, curled legs, curled fingers. She yearns to reach out to touch, to part that divide.
"Hinata," she corrects.
"No," he shoots back. Then shutters away the snap behind a perfect wall. "You are Lady Hyuuga Hinata. As your bodyguard, I am unworthy to address you so casually. Your new fiance will disapprove."
"Father...he's only thinking of it," she says. Trails off into a wistful tone. "At least ten years...before...n-nothing's sure." She isn't either. "But even if I marry...I...I..." She fiddles with her fingers. He waits, patiently, quietly. "I'm not going to let them take you away." Her words are a tumble of emotions. Her face flames. Forbidden feelings, abhorred affection. Unlocked a Pandora's box.
"The Uchiha are loyal protectors of the Hyuuga, and I swore my loyalty to you, Lady Hinata." He saves her, re-locks her chest, misinterprets, and hurts. "I will fight for you, and so I will only leave you when my life has been given to you."
"I d-don't want it," she barbs back, childish petulance despite understanding. Scrambles to little feet in a clatter of heels and palms. He catches the edge of her sleeve.
"I'm apologize, Lady Hinata." He can't say why he's sorry, and she can't accept because of that 'why'. "Anger will disturb your weak heart. Please calm down." It's hard to lash out at an emotionless statue. She sits back down. He joins her. Two children on the veranda in silence.
The summer night is a mix of a thousand stars and fireflies, sharp bright points in the darkness that can't meet because - the first dandelion scatters.
"His name is Itachi," she whispers in awe, and clutches the stalk to her chest. Her heart fills, and the sudden swell strains as much as it relieves.
She places the first dandelion stalk in one pocket, and the remaining three in the other of her coat. Chouji guides her to the gate. Beyond the fence, she sees hills of green dipping into the blue pooled horizon, guiding perfect herds of clouds above.
"You should put on your coat."
"It is cold outside."
"Good luck," Chouji says. Hinata thanks him, and steps outside.
The wind slaps her face, a shock that leaves her breathless.
Winter engulfs her. Dulls her senses. Lost in nothing.
Hinata walks forward.
hide the path
~John Bailey, "Autumn"
The storm finally tires and sleeps. Snow gives under her boots, and Hinata trudges forward, with aching muscles, aching heart. Exertion colors her cheeks, and her breath in turn adds white puffs to the gray landscape. Lines of silver birches mark her path, stark and staring like soldiers - a procession in isolation.
Hinata removes one dandelion from her pocket. This one's petals are tipped in white, cold sapping away the color. But nothing to wish on. It's been days. Strength wanes.
"Why do you protect a flower in the cold?" a gravelly voice asks. Hinata looks. A raven in the branches, a small spot of certainty in a faded background. "Isn't that futile?"
"Aren't a lot of things?" she asks. The bird shrugs and flutters down to her.
"Doesn't make them not worthwhile." Hinata crouches down to meet the beady eyes of the raven.
"But I have been searching for something that is hard to find. I am looking for autumn."
"Why would you do that? Autumn heralds winter, and we already have it." The raven waves a wing, sharp strokes of black ink feathered against the snow.
"Because I need to remember. A precious person. Uchiha Itachi." The bird hops about in recognition, leaving little pitchfork tracks in the snow.
"Why didn't you say so? I know of the Uchiha prince. I will show you." He takes flight. Hinata runs after him, midnight hair like ribbons. If she could find Itachi, she could not need to continue on her quest.
The raven leads her to a great castle like diamond stalagmites soaring for the sky. Hinata bends and tries to breath around the cold that rakes her throat with daggers. Her pulse drums in her ears, too fast and too - slow. Faster, weak girl!" She falls to her knees, hissing inhales, squeaking sobs. Itachi watches from the corner with carefully blank eyes as she rises to her feet to face her opponent. She wipes her tears and assumes her ready stance, a crane on the water. Takes flight. Fight and flight, but still not enough to be - strong.
"He lives here," the raven says.
"The name's Echo." The bird gives a harsh caw that reverberates along the trees like his namesake. He takes flight, an untethered kite disappearing into the sky.
"Thank you, Echo."
Hinata turns and approaches the door. A pair of lionhead knockers glower at her, and she taps them twice, two hollow echoes. The great doors creak opens. She slips inside - soft feet, soft breath. There is a long, lonely hall - dark and sad - and a splinter of light at the end. Hinata follows and peeks through the crack.
It's a great throne room, decorated in hues of ice and fire. The king - a single figure - sits in the throne of stone. Frown on his face, crown on his head, with points tipped in sapphires and rubies - tiny drops of tears and blood. She dares to enter.
"Itachi?" she asks. He looks - dark hair, dark eyes, dark expression - like him but not him.
"My name is Sasuke."
"Uchiha Sasuke?" He blinks.
"Maybe. I don't remember." She approaches. There's camaraderie in the absence of memory, kindness to fill the loss.
"I don't either," she admits. He's - embarrassed by me," she says softly. She sits with bandaged injuries - bruised knees, bruised pride, and salve stinging them. Itachi frowns and ties the final bandage tight.
"You were distracted during the spar," he says evenly. He doesn't scold, doesn't acknowledge, doesn't care. Her tears are needles in her eyes. A thumb against her eyelashes brushes them away. "Don't cry. Please." Heart jumps, then withdraws. "I'm - playinga game of chess. By himself. Gray pieces dancing between squares of black and white, the same four moves again and again in endless cycle.
"Good for you," he mutters. "Go away. I'm in the middle of a game."
"But there's no end."
"Which is why I need to finish."
"But you're caught."
"Good for me." He sinks back into the game. Hinata stares, waits. He ignores her.
"Please. I'm looking for Uchiha Itachi." He turns to her.
"I can't help you," Sasuke says. "Only you can find what you've lost. Do you even know what that is?"
"Then you should look for that instead of my brother." Hinata's eyes snap up. Sasuke lifts an eyebrow. Ice-touched lips smirk.
"You tricked me into believing that - she was tied, trapped, terrified. Her kidnapper grins and reaches for her. She bites him. He slaps her. Tries to break her. The door breaks. Itachi - bloody eyes foretelling bloody death - flickers in with cold eyes, colder sword. Glints. Movement. Screams, but not his. And then she's suddenly held to a warm chest, heart beating too fast to be due to the fight but - you didn't know," Hinata accuses in a low voice. She shivers.
"I only remember enough. A pure heart won't keep you from freezing. If you are cold, you can take the coach and horses. I won't be able to finish this game for a while yet." Dismissal. She leaves.
The coach is outside, with four stamping horses, bedecked in fire and flame, burns in color against the faded, falling snow. She sits at the front, surrounded in plush red velvet and warm gold leaf edging. She snaps the reins. The coach rumbles down the path. Icy wind nips at her fingers, but she is prepared for it. Hinata tenses and trembles, slips hand into pocket to warm fingers. Soft down kisses her skin. She lifts the second dandelion and - the autumn moon hangs full and swollen, cradled between the summer and winter winds. She turns to the young man beside her and smiles, shyly, but less so in the dark.
"They cancelled the Moon-viewing Festival," she tells him. Her eyes glow, reflecting the light of the moon.
"Why are you so happy about that?" he asks, polite conversation to rudely keep her distant. She bites her lip, draws courage and blood. "Don't hurt yourself," he scolds. Less polite, better. She plucks timidly at his sleeve. Takes his hand. He lets her, pretending not to notice. Calluses against calluses.
"They didn't schedule me for anything else, Itachi." She hints, hopes. He leans in. Sniffs and scowls every so slightly in consternation.
"You are not drunk. It is unlike you to be so forward." Her eyes widen, face steams red like seafood.
"T-that wasn't what I was implying!" she sputters. Blank face, blank expression in return. Invisible ink on paper only for her to read. He is laughing at her.
"Regardless, my duty as your bodyguard is to prevent such a possibility. " He remembers himself. Mirth deflates, air lost from a child's beloved balloon, and he drops her hand. They weren't children anymore. Never were since she was chosen. "Your purity is a precious thing. It is my duty for fight for it. Defend it." Even from himself. Dead voice, remarking on a distant curiosity, burns lover's letters on a funeral pyre. A thing. A concept. She hides behind an battered shield of levity.
"You're mean." I love you. "Why are you like that?" Why can't you let yourself love me? Why can't I be allowed to love you?
She exits the room. He follows, a shadow sewn cruelly to her footsteps.
"I hate being the chosen bride," she whispers. To the night, to the stars, to herself.
"I know." To the night, the stars, to himself. A conversation only if they looked too hard.
The autumn moon watches in silence as maple leaves reach up. Reaching, but - the seeds scatter on tiny wings, lost among the snowflakes. Her heart aches more. It should hurt less. She wonders if she was right to forget the first time. But the ache is a warm one, and anything is better than a vacant, cold hollowness in the wintertime.
"Itachi. I love him." Four simple words sear her veins. Heart renews, pumps new life and determination. She will find him. The wheels of the coach creak on, groaning but still moving. Still turning.
in a world of one color
the sound of wind.
~ Matsuo Basho
The robbers are strange ones.
"Fair blossom, where is your destination!" yells the little green one. Yells. Hinata shrinks away, fumbling for her purse. How much for them to leave her alone? Teeth sparkles brighter than than the icicles pulling on the tree branches.
"We are the Handsome Green Beasts of the forest, the Turtle Doves of Perseverance! If we can't protect you, I vow to run three-hundred laps around the Mirror of Reason Lake!" the big green one yells. "On my hands!"
"Sir Gai, you are so cool. You are glowing with coolness!"
"Sir Gai!" Proceeds to yell their names against a sunset. The third one is fortunately not green. The Un-green one hangs her head in shame and covers her face. Hair-buns like ears on her head and bandages on her fingers and feet. Wounds of the weary traveler.
"Don't listen to those two, Lady Hinata." Hinata starts.
"You know me?" The Un-green one blinks.
"You don't?" Hinata shakes her head.
"I've forgotten. Everything about Itachi." The Un-green one whistles low.
"Well, I'm Tenten. It makes sense since - she's still not strong enough to defend herself. Purity is fragile, so you will need to watch her carefully, Uchiha Itachi." Hiashi addresses him as if she were not there. "We only have a few days until the wedding. The Demon King will only accept her if she is pure." The sacrifice. Her for the betterment of everyone else but her. A trade. Hatred. But she's too pure for such feelings, right? Snide bite in her mind, with quiet composure - cool glass - on the outside. Smooth surfaces of poise over the jagged edges of her hurt. They leave the meeting. He stands close. Roughness filed away even though - he was your bodyguard. That's a lot of memories. So you're looking for you them then?" Hinata nods.
"Remembrance. That was what I was told to wish for when I asked the Flower Witch."
"You actually found the Garden of Eternal Summer?" Surprise. Pity. A bitter cocktail for Hinata to swallow. She nods again.
"I don't even remember how I got there." Tenten winces.
"The winter hits everyone hard," she says. "Even someone who's as pure as you." The wording is odd and Hinata frowns in consternation, a tangle of strained thread at her brow.
"What do you mean by that?" The brunette looks at her curiously.
"They say that winter isn't as cold when your heart is warm."
"Who says?" Tenten shrugs, a silent sigh.
"Do you remember Itachi?" The other girl nods. Hinata leans in with hope. Clasped hands, clasped heart, trying to open.
"Small bits. It's hard to remember much in this winter." Hinata sags into her seat. Bits aren't enough to piece together a puzzle. "Last I heard of him, Itachi left with another woman after your wedding." Hinata pauses. She isn't breathing, forces herself to inhale. Air coursing through her body, floating, fainting. Sighs. Wants to cry.
Married. But not to him.
"Do you know...where he went?" she asks. A nod. A switch, turning on the cruel searing light of hope.
"The Snow Queen," Tenten says. "And - it's become this," she mutters. Markers for days fades to a measure of hours, and she throws the hourglass against the mirror. Doesn't break. Doesn't bend either. Her wedding robes lay across the bed, a spill of white hiding the black sheets underneath, a mockery of purity. "I'm scared," she whispers. "I can't let you go. What will happen to me after tomorrow?" He pulls from the shadows and stands near her. He doesn't touch her. Can't break the spell of false resignation.
"I will fight for you. My life is yours, you know that." A cruel fact that only echoes of what she really wants.
"I don't want your life because - her palace is nearby."
"Where?" Her voice was a snarl of desperation, tangled in between hope and fear and just too much feeling. Tenten stares at her, and slowly points down the road.
"Take a left a the fork - you can't miss it," the brunette says. Hinata snaps the reins and sends the horses galloping before Tenten and the Green ones could say anything else. She couldn't care any more about social niceties or common courtesy. She must find him.
The Snow Queen's palace is easy to locate. It sits like an lighthouse on the opposite side of the Mirror of Reason Lake, a mocking beacon of safety in a land of blue bruised danger. Hinata pulls the horses to a stop. The fastest way is across the frozen surface of the lake, tiptoe across the waiting treachery. The ice is slippery and each step is a cautious slide forward. She slips, slides, struggles. Falls, and then crawls. The blurry reflection of her image on the ice accompanies her, palm to palm.
There is a jagged pillar of ice in the middle of the lake, and Hinata inches her way towards it, a flag in a too-smooth sea. A raven caws, a breaking of noise in the silence, and flutters to her.
"Echo?" she asks. It shakes its head and lands on her shoulder.
"Reflection," it answers in a soft voice. "Echo's mate."
"I know Echo. He guided me to the Uchiha prince."
"But that isn't who you're searching for." Hinata stops and stares into the black eyes of the wise raven. Cold bites into her hands insistently, and she must keep crawling forward if she didn't want to freeze.
"No. I am searching for Uchiha Itachi. For remembrance."
"He's here." Hinata can't think, only a scramble to him on shaking limbs. He stands sentinel inside the ice pillar, eyes closed as if sleeping. Peacefully. At peace. A coffin of frozen time. He - only stands there, the damned perfect soldier, as she is led to her new husband. Her veil hides her tears, and blurs her vision until she can only see Itachi and her husband. Three points of a triangle with all the lines erased. She hates him (and loves him more) because he is a statue that doesn't move even as her heart is burning itself into glass, ready to shatter with only a whisper of the truth. What use is an anchor that doesn't try to hold her? Hinata has to save herself from drowning because everyone else - is trapped, from time, from life, death, love. From her. The thinnest part of the ice is an inch thick, separating their faces with all the solidity of a thousand miles. Hinata feels tears scratch her eyes as she tries to scratch at the ice, tries to thaw the barrier and to thaw the blue tint that grips him in an image of death. She tries her arms, her cheeks, her shoulders but the ice only takes and doesn't give. It is so cold it doesn't melt, only bites at her skin as she tries to warm the chill of countless years.
"No, no, no, no," she whispers, breath fogging the ice between them, obscuring him. "I've searched for you, but this isn't finding you." She's only found another reminder of how much she's lost of him. "Wake up," she cries. "Damn you Itachi, wake up!" She pounds the unyielding surface, never noticing her skin splitting and bleeding and freezing immediately, small rubies paid in the price of blood. Priceless yet worthless.
"That's no way to wake up our lover," a cool voice comments. Hinata whips around, leans against the pillar of ice behind her for support.
The other woman is beautiful. She wears pure white, like a dancer caught in the perpetual movement of a snowstorm. A crown spun of delicate diamonds and frost rests on top of dark hair, frames a pale face and pale eyes. The Snow Queen wears a sneer.
She also wears Hinata's face.
No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow. ~Proverb
"Who are you?" Hinata demands. Confusion tugs her mind in countless directions, but her heart didn't waver in its cold cage. "What have you done to him?" The Snow Queen smiles, all ice and frost on her lips.
"Shouldn't I be asking you that, Hyuuga Hinata? Who are we?"
"We?" The other her laughs, high and cruel, the shriek of metal clashing against itself. She attacks and Hinata skitters, slides, slips out of her way. She lands on her elbows and knees, a distant knock against already numb limbs. The Snow Queen doesn't give her a chance to get back up, and strikes again with clawed hands. Pain slashes across cold cheeks, Hinata is knocked back, and the landing steals her breath away and - the altar is formed like a cage, with a ceiling that conceals that dead, winter sky. It's hard to hear, to see, to breath. Her groom is the Demon King himself, a tall foreboding man with a mask and an enormous sword at his side.
"Do you take King Zabuza as your-" She refuses. The dove becomes the lioness in the space of one snarled word.
She turns and runs from the altar, from her cage, and back to him. Pandemonium tears the room apart, but his arms close around her, compresses until the world is a diamond moment of only them. The vague facets of their affection solidify in the blink of an eye, suddenly a lattice of bonds stronger than anything in the world.
"I can't do it. Please don't make me do it," she pleads. He only nods, but Itachi's dark eyes are like a spill of ink, a tumble and rush of all the words he couldn't say and she couldn't hear and iloveyous. She understands, and buries her face into his chest and breathes the warm, clean scent of him and all the dirty clouds of her doubts fall away into perfection.
Then hands claw at them, trying to tear them apart but - she couldn't cry out.
"Get up, little coward Hinata," the Snow Queen croons, sings a lullaby to lay her to rest. She kneels in front of Hinata as she slowly gets back on unsteady feet. She coughs, and red sprays the ice. "You weakling, you broken little bird. Should I kiss it better?" A cold hand grips Hinata's chin and - she lets them rip away at her rich silk robes, because she didn't care as long they didn't rip him from her.
"We will have to fight to escape." He unsheathes his katana, and parries away of their attackers. She steals a kunai, hacks away at her kimono until she can freely move. White falls away from her, shackles of an expectation torn away. She incapacitates several men with his help, chakra flaring at her finger tips like fireflies.
"I will fight for you," she promises. A new meaning.
"Always, for you," Itachi affirms. Same words, different meaning, and the transformation is like a phoenix born of ashes of their past. His eyes burn and he presses a fleeting kiss on her mouth. Kissed by fire, sears her soul. All the cliches blown away for want of description.
And then he turns and beheads an attacker. Hinata is unimpressed by his reaction, pulls his face to her for more small sips of his lips, and downright smirks when his eyes cross slightly. The fire and adrenaline and feminine power coursing through her veins is heady and addicting. She strikes a guard behind him, and the victim collapses choking on his chakra. Itachi blinks and glares. "Stop distracting me. We're in the middle of a fight." She laughs as she - forces her to look up. Pearl eyes look down at her condescendingly. Her own eyes. Is that what she sees in the mirror? A weakling?
Screams of rage, and two black blurs attack the Snow Queen. Echo and Reflection, her saviors bringing new hope on wings. The Snow Queen bats them away with a screech, in a tangle of talons and tufts of hair. Red mars the pure black and white visage of the Snow Queen, rage mars her familiar face. Feathers float down to the ice. Black snow against the white as - they fight, back to back. Yin and yang, fire and water. The jilted groom, the Demon King himself, attacks them with his great sword. Itachi flickers in front of Hinata, and catches the blade with his katana, a butcher's knife against a needle. Mist engulfs them, and the screams of the wedding guests fade to a stifling silence. The Demon of the Icy Mist. Hinata's Byakugan flares, white vision cutting through the fog. She watches just as Zabuza cuts Itachi in half. The Uchiha scatters into a flock of ravens.
Then she can't afford to watch any more. Glints warn her. She barely dodges the senbon. A beautiful boy with long brown hair traps her.
"I can't let you leave," he tells her sadly. "I'm sorry." Single hand seals. Then mirrors of ice encase her. Trapped again. No. Hinata drops into crane stance, and spins out of the way as senbon fly in from all directions. The boy jumps between the mirrors, and she can only follow in vain. She can't hit him. Can't touch the image in the ice mirrors. He leads her around, and she can only crash clumsily into her own reflection.
Itachi crashes into her cage, shattering the sides that enclosed her. Distraction was all she needs and she stops the boy with soft touches. He kills the beautiful boy. Shards scatter, spill and strike.
Hinata clutches her chest and screams as- clawed fingers catch the birds in cruel grips, squeezing the life out of the valiant ravens.
"Quick!" Echo croaks.
"The dandelions!" Reflection hisses.
Hinata doesn't understand, but she hurries and digs out the two remaining weeds from her pocket with fingers so numb and bloodless they felt like bones. Both had seeded, winter and spring - despair and hope - hand in hand. She closes wet eyes and blows as hard as she can, wishing desperately for remembrance and help and - he holds her in his arms and runs from the ceremony hall. They dash through the trees. He dodges the gnarled fingers of the dark branches. The Demon King is dead, lying by his loyal servant, the beautiful boy with the ice mirrors. She hurts, oh, she hurts so badly as if her body is trying to crack like the frozen surface of a frozen lake. They are so close to freedom, so she can't hinder him. She only whimpers and presses her face into Itachi's neck, drawing strength from the hard rhythm of his pulse. Hers was weakening.
"Can you endure?" he asks her. Stops, spins around a pursuer. Pins him with pinwheel eyes and then, again, they run.
"You're a terrible liar, Hinata." She sobs out a strained laugh. He shifts her to one arm, parries the blows of another attacker, and then kicks him into a tree. He resumes their escape. Glares down at her with red eyes.
"You called me 'Hinata'. Finally," she whispers. Reaches up, touches a face she could only look at before. Exquisite pain in her chest. Then the real kind of agony that makes her tense and shake. His arms tighten around her.
"You can't go on like this," he declares. Swings left, doesn't stop. No longer running from somewhere, but running to somewhere.
"Itachi, what are you doing?"
"Saving you." The fear in his eyes doesn't belong. Hinata can't say anything, afraid of the reality that was pressing in on them.
He takes her a garden full of sunflowers, blows past them into the cottage nestled among flowers. The Flower Witch stands up, startled and Itachi's standing before her, Hinata still in his arms.
What is this place?
"Fix her," he demands. Sweeps away the tea set on the table and gently sets her there. Ino leans over, probing fingers on Hinata's forehead and throat and chest.
"The mirror that shattered is one that reflects all the ugliness of the world, isn't it?" Itachi nods, unsurprised by the news, and Hinata coughs until blood trickles out the side of her mouth. He wipes it away with his thumb. Ino sighs, stand. "Mirrors like that are only wielded by the purest hearts. But when broken, the shards are also the most dangerous." Hinata doesn't understand, doesn't want to understand. Digs fingers into Itachi's arm.
"I don't want to be here," she insists. "Please. Let's leave." Itachi ignores her. Doesn't meet her eyes. The Flower Witch turns and looks at them.
"The shards are killing her. They will warp her, and twist her. Her heart is too pure, too weak to withstand that kind of strain." Hinata hates the sad pity on Ino's face.
"I know. But how do I fix this?" Itachi asks. Ino studies him with too-sharp eyes.
"You can't." She condemns them with two words. A fairytale closed shut before it even starts.
"I can. I will take her place. Just give me the way." Itachi doesn't beg or plead. He faces the Flower Witch with unshakable will. Ino stills, and then sighs.
"There is a price, then."
"What is it?"
"You. You will have to take the fragment of darkness from her and guard it for all eternity."
"No!" Hinata cries. Tries to sit up, and curls into herself in agony instead. "I will not allow it. Let me fight, please let me fight for you, pleasepleaseohkamiplease!" Sobs garbles her words but they weren't listening anyways. What if the princess didn't want to be saved? What if the princess is the dragon and the evil queen and all the darkness in her reflection put together?
"I will have to shatter her heart to find the pieces. She will continue to live, but the memory of you will hurt her."
"I'll do it." His face is blank and bare and she could read so much love in between the lines of his expression that she can't bear it . "Please also erase her memories of this exchange. Let her think that I left her for someone else, so she won't try to find me."
"I will take a vow of secrecy if you would so require it. Say your goodbyes. We don't have much time." Ino leaves to give them some privacy. Itachi turns back, finally looks at Hinata. Tears trickle down her face and he brushes them away with his knuckles. She takes his hand, warm and callused, her protector for nearly all her life, and cups it to her cheek.
"Please don't do this to me. There must be some other way." Tendrils of hatred twist in her heart. She hates and hates this situation, because she isn't allowed to love. The darkness of the shards was already at work. She pleads but she already knows it's in vain. Hinata knows her body is rejecting the darkness in her. White and black. Coexistence is impossible except in a haze of gray death.
"I have to."
"No, you don't," she hisses between her teeth. "You shouldn't sacrifice your life like this." This isn't a fucking duty. Itachi smiles gently, sensing her broken thoughts.
"No, I don't. I choose to. I will fight for you."
"And I can fight for you. I can finally be with you. Don't you want me? U-us?" she insists. White eyes, white knuckles, white lies. His smile is too loving, too warm, too final. Her heart is breaking, and not because of the shards embedded in it.
"I will not risk your life, Hinata." Doesn't answer her questions.
"So you can risk - " A finger on her lips. Silences her protests. Eyes bleed into Sharingan.
"Sleep, Hinata." Immediately, her eyelids grow heavy. She fights, but she is already weak with hurt. He doesn't say goodbye. Feels his hands smooth back her hair. Memorizing her.
"You stupid martyr. I won't want your life. I want..." she slurs. "I love..." And her eyes close, cutting him away from her vision and - the final dandelion seeds scatter in the breeze of her breath. She hangs her head, staring at the blurry reflection of herself in the ice of the lake. Mirror of Reason. There is no reason, only love filling her like madness. It isn't a cloud, it isn't a fog. It is a flame, burning with everything away and leaving only clarity.
"I will fight for you," she whispers to him. For him. She stands, hurts already numb, and activates her Byakugan. The All-Seeing Eyes. Omniscience is useless when there are no secrets. Her mind has forgotten but her body remembers. Chakra for her eyes. Chakra for her feet. Chakra for her fists. Blue chakra of icy purpose swirl in her hands. Juuho Soushiken. The broken bird rises, winged by lions that roar of rebirth. She soars, crane stance. She becomes the griffin. Bird and lion and beast and lover and she faces the truth.
She must save him from herself.
Hinata rings circles around the Snow Queen, drawing long glowing ribbons of light as she attacks. Hood falls back, hair joins in dark streams that mix with light. A dance between two partners becoming one on a stage of blue and ice and gray. The Snow Queen screams and matches her blow for blow, palm for palm. Her own face twisted and mutated. She is fighting herself, so how can she hope to win when the two of them were hopelessly blurred together?
Moment of thought, hesitance, and the Snow Queen strikes her down ruthlessly. Hinata slides across the ice. Hurts. Still stands back up.
Sometimes fighting meant losing.
Hinata charges, blood mixing with the tears, and breaks through the Snow Queen's defenses. Fingers brush the other her's throat. Doesn't cut. Hinata embraces her instead, locking arms around the Snow Queen's torso. Fists rain down on her back and Hinata endures, because that was what everyone did in wintertime.
"I'm sorry," she confesses. "I shouldn't have rejected you." The Snow Queen struggles and snarls and spits at her. Hinata keeps her hold, tightens. "I'm sorry. I forgive you, so please forgive me." Forgiveness and remembrance, things once lost to her, are found again.
The other her's fight fades, fists weaken to only a mockery of a protest, until the devil in her arms slowly shrinks to crying little girl.
"You never even tried to accept me," she accuses between her tears. An unwanted child to be cherished for all her faults. Hinata only continues to murmur apologies and soft condolences, hugs her tighter and tighter until the other her dissolves back into her in a burst of light.
Hinata gasps as a new facet of herself she never knew was missing forces her into the terrifying awareness of reality. Darkness colors her heart like an artist shading in a picture, breathing dimension into flat lines. Pure white is formless without black lines to contain it, just as black ink is lost without a canvas of white to dance upon. A piece of a broken puzzle slides into place again. Becomes dimensioned, becomes whole-souled, becomes someone. Herself. She kneels in wonder and breathes, air filling the newly discovered crevices of her heart.
Hinata remembers herself and rushes back to Itachi's prison.
Already, the ice is melting. She wipes away at the thin sheet between their face, probes it with chakra until...
The ice splits. He is released and Hinata pulls his limp form out of this prison.
"Itachi?" she whispers hesitantly. He is in her arms - her skin against his - but he is still so cold and dead to the world. Everything is thawing, renewing, waking. Why isn't he? Echo and Reflection wing down to them and land on his shoulder. They both cry and dissolve into a flurry of black feathers.
Then he breaths in, the first great inhale of a newborn, new and reborn and he opens his eyes to the world. To her.
"Why are you here?" he asks bluntly. "I thought I -"
Hinata is so unimpressed by his first words to her that she impresses her displeasure on his lips. A kiss to wake him from stupidity.
"I remember everything now," she accuses softly when she pulls away. "It's okay now. I faced the Snow Queen. It was me all along. My darkness that you took from my heart. I'm stronger than her now. Stronger with her." He stares at her, and his mouth leans into a smile.
"I'm proud of you." He stands, helps her up, and fits her hand into his. Interlocked fingers, filling the spaces of the other. Itachi's skin is cool, but warms to hers. "We should go before -"
He steadies her.
"Before the ice on this lake melts completely." They jump back to solid ground.
"Thank you." Itachi looks back at her with confusion. A warm breeze lifts his ponytail and caresses her bangs in the same sweep of air. Mixes strands like tangled threads connecting them. Hinata smiles. "Thank you for saving me. So I could save myself."
The air warms. Spring warms. Hope warms.
His lips are warmest against her hand.
Love is in the air, tossing the seeds of scattered dandelions across the land. The frozen surface of the Mirror of Reason is thawing, shattering cold armor for the invasion of the next season. Spring marches in.
Winter is over.
- Dandelion - name from "teeth of the lion" in French
- In the original "Snow Queen" the protagonist meets a robber girl with two pet doves. I thought of turtle doves and since Gai summons turtles...yes, completely horrid un-pun...
-Griffins stand for courage. I'm sure anyone who's heard of this little series called Harry Potter knows that. But did you know that the hieroglyphics for 'griffin' stand for 'heat, summer'?
- Yes, you might have noticed a similarity to themes I had in Come Full Circle...that's actually unintentional. I just really hate making Hinata weak. And the lost memories thing works for a reason. I can shove about 20 chapters of plot into 1 chapter. Bwahahaha.
- Naturally, some things are going to get cut out when shortened. This is why I don't write one-shots. Too much to say in too little time...feel free to use your vast imaginations to fill in the holes. For example, I have no idea what Neji and Hanabi are doing. Maybe chilling on the sides and drinking hot apple cider? There's really no room for them other a brief mention. So please don't ask me where so-and-so went, or how did Hinata know so-and-so, or what is so-and-so's history. I really don't know. XP Feedback on everything else, however, would be much appreciated!