Ino took her seat beside her best friend turned rival a bit nervously. There were at least thirty others in the room waiting for the conference to begin, all of them either doctors, nurses, med students, or other type of providers in the healthcare industry. She recognized a few people who had graduated the year before she, Sakura, and Hinata had; sharing a wave as they saw her too. Others were some of her co-workers at Leaf Medical Center, and yet others she'd never seen before.
Of course Sakura was here early, she was a very punctual girl. Ino smirked to herself how they had both come a long way from the bratty kids and teens they were. They couldn't even really call themselves rivals anymore considering she had no intention of fighting for her pink-haired friend for the attention of any boys anymore. Nope, she had Naruto and was more than happy with him. Kami, she missed the hell out of him now, considering he was out who knows where fighting for their country. She was proud of him, and sure she worried for him, she knew he was made for the military. It seemed he left her behind just as everyone else had. Hinata was off who knows where with her mentor, Tenten joined the military, Naruto was gone, and she barely even talked with Sakura anymore.
To say the least, she was feeling a little lonely lately. "So, do you know what this is all about Sakura?" Ino asked knowing her friend had a rather close relationship with the newly instated Hokage.
Sakura merely shrugged in response before saying, "Not really, I just overheard Dr. Jeking trying to calm Shizune down over something about Lady Tsunade, but that's not exactly uncommon."
Ino laughed, shaking her head in agreement, "That's true, remember in school when poor Shizune had to stay up all night and finish grading our papers that were due the next day because Dr. Senju was too wasted to do it?"
Sakura smiled back at her old friend, "Or when Lady Tsunade snuck out of the office to attend that gambling event in Iwa? She didn't even say anything to anyone, just up and left leaving Shizune with the mess."
The girls grinned at each other, it was nice to be able to talk about memories while the nation was preparing for war. The sense of the freedom people have died to protect washed over them, and then they swallowed and shared a knowing glance. The war hit far to close to home for both of them. Their friends and loved ones were out there fighting for them, fighting to stay alive. As strong as they were, the enemy could be just as strong if not more so.
After a few more sober moments of silence lingering between the two of them, Sakura spoke up once again, "So how are you doing anyway? Now that Naruto is gone?"
Ino smiled sadly and looked at her nails for just a second, "I miss him," she said honestly, "but I trust in him to make it back to me."
Sakura nodded, "I'm glad for you Ino," and her eyes told the blond that she meant it, "I really am."
She would not cry! Ino blinked twice to clear the sudden moisture attacking her eyes, she sent a million-watt smile her best friend's way. "Sakura, I…thank you."
The two girls had been through a lot together and it was nice to see that after everything their friendship actually managed to remain intact. All it took was her falling in love with that idiot Naruto. That big handsome, caring idiot. She sighed to herself, patiently waiting for the day she could bask in his warmth. He radiated compassion and she missed being with him. She knew she was in love with him, she even missed that loud mouth of his.
"Alright then, let's get this started," the Hokage's voice sounded out surprising a lot of people with her presence. It wasn't told that she would be the one hosting the meeting, despite her close ties with the medical field. Dr. Senju was; after all, a revered medical specialist. "I'm going straight to the point as I have another meeting after this. If you are here then you were specifically chosen by me to be here. I proposed to the Konoha Council to add medic-ninja's to their ranks, and after some deliberation, we have come to an agreement based on a trial basis. There are thirty of you here, and if you should agree, you will be trained in basic combat and shipped out to a team immediately."
"You mean we are joining the military!?" One girl cried out in fear.
"Yes, but note this is optional. Our men and women are out there fighting for us, having a medic on their team will save lives. We are at war," she let the finality and weight of the words sink in, "you will have until next week to voice your decision."
"So we aren't being forced to join?" Asked a young male nurse.
"No, but you are being recruited," she told him.
Question after question was thrown her way and it was clear she was growing more and more aggravated. But knew this was a huge choice. Sakura and Ino both looked a little frightened at what was being asked of them. Then they caught each other's eyes and each came to their shared decision. Both for different reasons, but it was the same choice. With a nod they stood up, causing the room to go silent, and spoke out passionately as though they were one, "Yes!"
Lady Tsunade eyed her two former students, "Yes?" she asked with a smirk.
The beautiful blond and pink-haired medics smirked right back at her, "Yes."
This started a chain-reaction as others, some more hesitant, stood up and said the same thing. The sight made Tsunade proud. She too served the military and had maintained connections long after her supposed retirement. There were a few, five in total, who turned down the offer. Some she could understand and some she simply had to accept their refusal out of fear alone. Three of them had young children waiting for them at home and the other two were simply too terrified of going to war.
It wasn't that long ago where the civilians of Konoha were put on the front line when Oto attacked them.
But the remaining people in front of her, these 25 men and women were brave enough, passionate enough to risk their lives to save others. It was what made them the best of the best in her eyes. Yes, they were going to war, but they would win as long as they held the will of fire in their hearts. Such was Konoha's tradition.
Neji frowned heavily as he and Uzumaki continued their silent search of the exposed hideout for Orochimaru. Kiba communicated earlier that he had only caught onto their smell after they were inside the huge, winding, twisting, trap-filled complex. There wasn't a single trace, no hide nor hair, of Sasuke or anyone else in relation to Orochimaru and his underlings.
They were already gone.
"Damn," he muttered to himself drawing Naruto's attention.
"You okay Captain Hyuuga?"
Said captain eyed him speculatively, since when did Naruto address him appropriately? "Keep searching Uzumaki."
The blonde nodded enthusiastically and turned his eyes back onto the pale white stone walls that made up the current room they were in. They would have to document their findings and bring in proper researchers once they clear the area. Something was still bothering the Hyuuga though, something was just not right. And it was his shinobi gut that told him to immediately duck down that saved his life.
The silence following the action was near deafening to Neji, what the hell just happened? The kunai that would have killed him vibrated as it settled itself into the wall behind him. With narrowed eyes he turned his scary byakugan eyes onto the blonde.
"Mind telling me why you just tried to kill me?" he asked with clenched teeth.
A smirk never before seen gracing Naruto's face took over as yet another kunai blade was sent towards the long-haired anbu captain, this time with a paper-bomb attached. The explosion triggered another trap and soon enough Neji found himself nimbly moving out of the way as spikes fell from the ceiling. Hiding behind a pillar Neji prepared himself for battle. He made two clicking noises in his headset alerting the others that he needed back-up. Back to the situation at hand though, another explosion sounded a good twenty five feet away from him. He barely had time before the floor gave up beneath him, sending one of his shurikan spiraling down into the deep depths that was now visible.
Crouching, Neji slowly made his way, listening to gain information, but seemed to be only taking in silence. Naruto was never this quiet, never this proper. If he had to guess, he bet the real Naruto was still running circles in the forest, trapped in some mind genjutsu. Shit.
Quickly going over strategies, he stood up and made himself visible. 'Naruto' was ten feet to his left, that same eerie smirk pulling at his lips.
"Show yourself," he commanded.
'Naruto' smiled in amusement, "What would be the fun in that?"
"No fun," Neji told the fake Uzumaki, "just restoration of honor before I kill you." Slowly the henge dropped and a man with glasses and silver hair took Naruto's place. Kabuto. Orochimaru's right-hand man. Neji nearly grinned at the opportunity in taking down this wanted man. He would try to keep him alive, of course, so that intel could question him.
"Now why would you kill me when I am the only one willing to share with you the location of your little Uchiha friend?" the rogue medic taunted.
Neji's eyed narrowed further, "We will find him and we will eliminate him, don't worr…"
"…You'll never find him until he wants to be found, if he ever will that is," Kabuto interrupted.
Taking a step towards his opponent, Neji kept his face blank, "Your worry for Konoha relations is unwarranted."
Kabuto continued to grin openly at the Hyuuga, "I'll gladly share information with you, if you give me something in return. Not just about Sasuke's current location, I'll even give you the exact date and time of Lord Orochimaru's next planned attack. I'll even give you the name of the city he's going to level." Not taking the bait Neji pushed forward and leaped into action. Moving his hands into a perfect offense, striking and closing at least twelve critical points into Kabuto's form. Orochimaru's henchman appeared to be in pain but then started laughing. "All you are doing is showing me your weaknesses, Captain Neji Hyuuga. All I want is some information, you should consider making this deal with me."
"Or what?" Neji spat out, readying himself to attack again.
Kabuto smiled at him, "Or you could lose your cousin."
A cold fury swept through him, but he managed to keep his reaction internal only, not giving the man an inch, "I've already lost one cousin, what's one more?" That fucking piece of shit Uchiha! It was all his damn fault! He got Hinata involved with probably the most dangerous man in the world!
Kabuto shook his head, "Oh we know just how close you and little Hinata are, you don't have to save face in front of me. We just want to know where she is and why Konoha decided to hide her."
"I thought that much would be obvious," Neji sneered, reeling in the shock of the knowledge that Hinata was in very real danger. His mind grew panicked with need to get to her side as fast as possible. He had to slam down his brotherly need to protect her and think fast. Was it true what Kabuto just said? Konoha is hiding her? It couldn't be true, he would have known about it if…wouldn't he?
"True, we already knew about Sasuke's little relationship with the pretty little doctor…" Kabuto suddenly stopped talking and threw another paper-bomb causing just enough of a distraction for his escape.
When the smoke cleared Neji saw Shikamaru, Kiba, Chouji, and Lee now in the same room with him. "Kabuto was posing as Naruto, after him!" he barked out the orders.
An hour later and no Kabuto to show for it. Shikamaru and Chouji had found Naruto battling a snake summon and together the three quickly had it dispelled. Neji was silently fuming at the missed opportunity yet reeling inside while pouring over the information Kabuto relayed to him.
Was it true?
It had to be, why else would Kabuto bother to mention Hinata at all? Maybe just to get under his skin but Neji could feel that it was deeper than that. By the time Neji sorted through his thoughts he felt a simmering anger rush through that he'd never felt before. Not when he laid witness to his uncle's abuse to his cousins. Not when his father was murdered for the sake of the Hyuuga. Not when he felt the first loss of a soldier under his command. Not when his country was viciously attacked. Not when Hanabi died. No. This fury was the mark of betrayal. Neji was just now putting the pieces of what that trash Uchiha left behind. It wasn't just a simple facet of Hinata's heart being broken. Hinata was being targeted by the most dangerous criminal the world has ever known. Little, shy, innocent Hinata.
One thing was for sure. Sasuke fucking Uchiha was a dead man.
Tenten sighed and stretched out her legs after she got off the bus.
She was finally back in her home town and honestly, she couldn't wait to see Hinata and make it up to her. A few of her new friends waved bye to her as they set out towards their own homes. She smiled at them, happy that she was able to find some people to help pass the time during the lonely evenings without her husband or best friend there with her.
The walk back to the house was a good hour at least, but hell, she was used to marching for much longer than that by now, so it was hardly nothing at all to her. She set out, taking in the familiar sights and seeing the progress the townspeople had made after the air raid. There were people out as well, but it was overly quiet. She remembered the place always being thriving and alive with movement. Laughter seemed to always fill the air, and now, she didn't see a single child playing in their yards or the park. It was a reminder that things had changed. People were a lot more guarded now and they had every right to be.
After shifting her pack on her back she made the turn onto the quiet street they lived on. She was hit with homesickness and fought the urge to run to the house and pull Hinata into a much needed hug. Hinata always knew what to do, she was always such a great source of comfort. Always there when needed the most, and Tenten definitely needed her best friend.
Tenten knocked on the door knowing she hadn't taken her key when she left. When no one came to the door after another five minutes of knocking, Tenten figured her friend was working at the hospital. She made her way around the back to search for the spare key Hinata always kept hidden in a rock under one of the trees in the yard. She thanked her new flexibility for climbing over the fence quite easily. After retrieving the key she made her way around the pool and up the stairs on the deck to unlock the back door. Then she sighed deeply as she had forgotten the back had a different lock. So she made her way back over the fence and onto the front porch of the house. Finally the key unlocked the front door and she had access to the house.
She smiled as she closed and locked the door behind her. Everything looked just the same. The same furniture and television set were a sight for sore eyes. She made her way to the bedroom she shared with Neji and paused after opening the door. The bed was made with tight folding lines and she just knew that Neji was the last one to have made it. It was all just as she remembered it, a picture of them on the nightstand locked in an embrace with their lips kissing.
And all of a sudden it was too much, too soon. She shouldn't be in here, not while this huge rift was between them now. She slammed the door behind her and fought away the sudden tears that dripped from her eyes.
Where the hell was Hinata?
Wiping the tears from her cheeks, Tenten laughed bitterly to herself. She was a kunoichi damnit, she was above all these stupid emotions. Yeah right, she was lonely and she needed her friend in the worst way. Hell, she needed her husband. To see him and tell him she was sorry and stupid for leaving while they were fighting. Was it too late now? Did Neji forever hate her? Kami she has so many letters from him now, but she still hadn't opened a single one, too scared to see what he had to say.
Slowly she made her way to the kitchen, reliving both good and bad memories as she moved along. She opened the fridge and that was when she got the first inkling that something was wrong. There was no Hinata home-made cranberry juice. Hell, there wasn't anything at all in the fridge save for some old ice trays. She looked around, the calendar still had up last month, Hinata was a stickler for keeping it updated and nothing had been written down for well over two weeks.
Then it hit her.
Kenta hadn't greeted her yet. He hadn't barked at her as she climbed over the fence. She first thought maybe Hinata wasn't at work but taking him for a walk, but…where was his food bowl?
A/N: I know...it's been forever since the last update, but I gave you a good 5 chapters or so. These were each raw and unbeta'd (sorry cheh), I just wanted to get them out there. Now the bad part: I fully still want to finish this story but it's going to be a while before another update, consider it an official hiatus...but I'll come back eventually!
Please, let me know what you think of the new developments, who knows I might find more inspiration!
You guys are so awesome, can't thank you enough for the support! ~Lady Crack