"Again," the snake sannin whispered tersely.

Sasuke sighed and again went through the handseals to activate his lightning jutsu. He clearly remembered the day in which his superior and former sensei, Kakashi Hatake, took the time to teach him his very own personal jutsu; trusting him with the deadly attack. He felt sick now, showing this jutsu to his new mentor, Orochimaru. It had to be done, everything was sacrificed.

It had already been two months and he had learned many things. Even his own bloodline had sharpened, as the Sharingan worked with a more deadly potency. Sasuke believed he was actually on the brink of awakening another level of power, his ocular jutsu had never felt so powerful. Currently they were working on concentration of the chidori jutsu. With forbidden measures of training, Orochimaru was showing him how to harness the electricity throughout his entire body, instead of just through his arm and hand in a single form.

"Compress the powersss of the jutsssu, there…"

Sasuke nodded once in understanding, he was starting to get the hang of this. He felt the now familiar shock flow through him as the lightning tried to travel and mingle with his chakra. Unfortunately, it reminded him of her. The pleasurable feeling of her chakra molding within him. Though, now he was distracted, and the jutsu failed spectacularly.

Orochimaru scowled at him, "Clear your thoughtsss Sassssuke."

Once again, Sasuke nodded. Shaking off the reminder of the life, of the woman he left behind. The woman he was vowing to protect. He tensed his body again, cursing himself for once again losing focus. It was such a dangerous thing to do, especially while in front of the very man he was planning to destroy.

Going through the jutsu again, he concentrated on the task at hand.

"Much better," Orochimaru whispered, all the while planning to have a little talk with his henchmen. He got the impression that little Sasuke here was conflicted. That just wouldn't do.

-SoP-

It was time. The house that was usually so full of joy was silenced into sorrow and regret. For Neji, he knew he made the biggest mistake of his life by not immediately going after his beautiful wife. His own actions tore at his heart. He felt guilty, because he was guilty. She was there, right in front of him...broken. And what did he do? Completely push her away. And for what? For her to just leave. Just like that. It stung. His words to her, the fact he let her just walk away, it stung his pride. He was a better man than this, he knew he was, because Tenten made him a better man. He promised himself he would never be anything like that bastard Hiashi. Here he was though, doing his best to ruin his own marriage and family. It was sickening.

And now, what was worse, was that he had to leave Hinata.

Yes, it was truly time indeed. He was surprised it actually took this long for the orders to come through, he expected it at least a week ago. But sure enough, he'd been summoned to immediately embark on a joint mission, he barely had time to pack let alone time to say goodbye to his sister-like cousin. Hinata was in turmoil now, her pain and loneliness was clear as day. His cousin was only sinking further and further into depression. If he had the time to sit with her, to talk with her...to assure her, then maybe he could turn things around. But he didn't have that luxury. No. Neji was a shinobi. A shinobi called to arms to protect his country. He would fulfill his duty, leaving behind his cousin to suffer alone.

"Hinata," his voice sounded faint to his ears, perhaps he was the broken one.

Her smile was false; it was a small attempt to ease him and his worries, "I'll be fine, Neji."

His eyes hardened, "You are always looking after everyone else, what about you?"

Hinata's eyes closed and her bottom lip trembled just the slightest, "Neji," she whispered before opening her eyes and looking up into his ever white-tinted gaze, "I will b-be fine. Just come back h-home."

Neji sighed and brought the stubborn woman into a one-armed hug. He needed to drop the issue because there was nothing he could do. And that knowledge, knowing he would be half a world away when she needed him most, struck him silent. And not just Hinata either, his loving cousin who would be all alone now, but his now estranged wife too. What happens when Tenten came back from her training? He won't be there. He won't be there for anything. It always did hurt when he had to leave his loved ones behind, but this...this all felt so different. It felt as though; as though there was nothing to come back to. Which made him want to cling to the home and his cousin even more.

But it was time.

So when Hinata gently pulled herself away from the only family member left who cared about her, Neji let go of her. And he felt her eyes on him until she and their home disappeared behind him. It was time to drop the hurt, the pain, the ache of leaving it all behind. Slowly yet surely, the shinobi mask took over his persona, it was so easy to fall into the emotionless anbu captain. There he stood, reporting in for duty, meeting up with his squad mates. The men stared at each other. Konoha needed them.

It was time.

-SoP-

Hinata decided to pass on dinner after she got home from work, just like she had already skipped anything for breakfast or lunch. She just didn't have the appetite for food. Kenta remained at her side, while she flitted from room to room, cleaning as she went, anything to pass the time.

Finally, she reached down to pet the familiar curly head of her sole companion. He really had gotten big, his head reached her waist now, he was so tall. But he listened well; oh, he wanted to play all the time, but she had been in such a forlorn mood that he never got the chance to.

"I guess I should take you for a walk Kenta."

The puppy's head lifted and Hinata could see the excitement glowing in his eyes at her use of the "w" word. She gave him a weak smile, and then the smile grew when he gave her a small and soft kiss on her hand. Placing the harness on him and connecting it with the thick leash, they headed outside. She was grateful that he remained at her side, even though it had been such a long time since she took him for a walk like this. Now feeling guilty about neglecting the dog, she determined that she would walk him every day just like she used to. It wasn't Kenta's fault, he had no idea of the troubles around him.

Avoiding the park at all costs because of the memories it held, she continued to walk straight. A wave of dizziness hit her hard, and she dropped down to one knee. Kenta licked her face, and nudged her with her head. She mocked a laugh and rose from the ground. So like her to fall without someone there to hold her up, even Kenta couldn't have stopped her that time. But he did at least keep her walking straight so she couldn't wander into traffic, as she seemed prone to do.

Her thoughts only traveled to the man that was now missing from her life, and she didn't mean her dear cousin. She tried to avoid thinking about him, it hurt so much to do so. It did still hurt, no matter how numb she thought she was inside, it hurt. Maybe that was why she unintentionally neglected Kenta, because of the constant reminder of...of Sasuke. Her mind kept changing its thoughts, making her think he was to blame, then think she was the reason, or Oto, or just anybody to make the pain go away. Hanabi always told her that she was strong, but Hinata didn't feel as though she were. There was only the loneliness. Even when surrounded by patients and staff at the hospital, she felt alone; surrounded in the echoing silence.

Her vision blurred again and she felt her heart race pick up. No, this was not happening. She was not going to have an attack right here in the middle of the sidewalk!

Kenta paced around her, as they came across a bench. Gasping for air in her panicked state, she sat down shakily, taking her time to breathe. Maybe it was for the best, if she could just let it consume her, maybe then the pain of her dark thoughts would all go away. If she succumbed to the darkness then she could see her mother and sister again, laughing and teasing her like always. Yes, that sounded very nice, she thought, as the shadows in her vision finally won the battle, and she sank into another fainting spell.

Kenta whined as his brown eyes watched his mistress fall to her side, lying out awkwardly across the bench. He barked twice, licked her face and kept nudging her with his nose. Feeling a presence closing in on them, he growled in warning. He would protect his mistress no matter what. No one would be allowed to take advantage of Hinata while she was unconscious.

-SoP-

Just because the attack had come and gone, didn't mean that her mission was complete. She felt that she should still continue to watch over her, and apparently the new Hokage felt the same. It was true that Yugao usually served as the Hokage's personal guard, as she did for Sarutobi Sandaime. But orders were orders and she had an established connection with Hinata Hyuuga.

That wasn't the half of it, she felt damn protective of the girl, especially now that she was living all alone, other than that huge goofy looking dog. It was hell on her being the one to break the news of Hanabi's death to her charge. She wasn't one to embrace emotions, but there was a soft spot for the Hyuuga sisters and their plight. The Konoha shinobi world was in chaos with the Sarutobi clan slaughter. Their leader had been killed in action. Lady Tsunade eventually got everything back in order again, but it took time. Patience and trust were required from everyone. Emotions were high and soaring, the need to avenge and defend the strike on their country was fierce. All over the country recruitment offices were full of angry men and women seeking out to make a difference.

Konoha was going to war.

Still though, she remained here, carrying out her mission on watching over and protecting Hinata. She wasn't the only one watching the surviving Hyuuga though. The formerly missing nin watched over the girl as well. As for why, she wasn't entirely sure, it angered her though that he did. Yugao wanted nothing in common with that Uchiha, his clan had always been twisted and full of deception. Oh yes, she knew that Itachi Uchiha was now, after recent appraisal, considered a hero. But the fact he could actually pull it off and mass murder everyone in his family still made him a slaughterer in her eyes, still a betrayer to her nation. Don't get it wrong, she knew very well that she was also a cold-hearted killer. Yugao Uzuki never hesitated to take life if needed. But your own family? There are some things, some lines, that she could never cross.

Maybe the hard truth of it all was that his actions made him a better ninja than her. That he could carry out orders, any order, and do it so flawlessly without question. That is a good and rare value in the eyes of a nation and its kage. Maybe. That could be part of the reason for her strong distaste of the man. So yes, it greatly bothered her that she kept noticing his presence while tailing Hinata throughout the past few months.

She had mentioned it to the Godaime, Lady Tsunade, that he was also keeping tabs on her, but the Hokage just told her not to approach him. What was the deal anyway? Why wasn't the man locked up, or under more questioning for his acts while involved with the Akatsuki organization? They were nothing but an underground group of terrorists. Oh that's right, he was acting as a double spy for Konoha. But how much of Konoha did he actually reveal to the criminal organization in order to climb the ranks? It just didn't sit well with her, she still viewed him as a criminal, an opposition of her home land. Yet, the new Hokage seemed to trust in him. Whatever, she would try to remain indifferent, especially now that the girl seemed to be in trouble.

Yugao was surprised when Hinata came out of her home with the dog in tow. With everyone gone, Hinata had pretty much stayed to herself. That meant not walking the dog or anything extracurricular other than working at the hospital and staying home. She followed their path, as they moved further and further away from the girls' neighborhood. Yugao watched as she knelt to one knee, she thought perhaps it was to tie a shoelace, she hadn't noticed the weakness that was now so plainly clear on the girls features.

The dog actually growled at her when she approached the now unconscious Hinata on the bench, but then quieted as she hushed him and tended to Hinata, seeing as she was familiar to him by now. Studying Hinata, she could easily see the tension marring the girls features, and that she was even more pale than usual. It seemed as though all color had left her face. She didn't flinch or become aggravated as a male suddenly kneeled next to her, she already knew it was the Uchiha and had expected his appearance. She sent the male a small glance and nodded once.

She would have to set aside her differences with him for now, Hinata needed medical attention, and she needed it fast. She stood back and watched as the formerly missing shinobi gently picked up the Hyuuga female and turned towards the hospital swiftly. Tossing a glance towards the dog, she decided to take the puppy to the Hyuuga's home before following after them. Hopefully by the time she arrived to the hospital he would already be gone.

Such is not her luck.

-SoP-

It was pure coincidence that old man Dr. Jeking had stopped Asura at the front exit that evening, wanting to discuss the improvements on Hinata's performance. Yes, it was fate, she believed, as both her and Dr. Jeking's mouths dropped when seeing a tall dark-haired male with intense black eyes, carrying the unconscious body of their young talented apprentice.

Both doctors immediately went to him, Asura taking in her vitals as her old mentor and colleague questioned the man. She barely heard him as he said she collapsed on a bench while walking her dog, and that he had no further information. Dr. Ryu Jeking yelled out for the emergency staff, and led the tall man still carrying Hinata towards the emergency wing.

"She's extremely dehydrated, we need a drip stat," Dr. Sarutobi called out loudly. She received a nod from a passing nurse, before leaning down to listen to her chest with her stethoscope. "Her heart beat is normal and lungs sound clear, I need Hinata's chart to check her history."

Another five minutes passed and Hinata was now lying on a cold steel table in the examination room, while Itachi stood outside of the closed door. He was awaiting the high-ranked kunoichi to join him soon to ask about Hinata's status.

Asura poured over her chart, taking note of her heart condition. "Set her up for an EKG, take her labs check glucose and toxicology levels. We'll need a CT of her abdomen, chest, and head. Come on, let's move."

Itachi eyed a girl with pale pink locks rush into Hinata's assigned emergency exam room. Soon afterwards another female joined him, the girl with long purple hair. He gave the kunoichi a slight nod of the head and went back to staring at the door. Yugao took the nod for what it was, a silent translation that he didn't know anything yet.

"Hinata! What's happened!?" Sakura demanded as soon as she entered the room. She could hardly believe it when she found out it was Hinata whom was rushed into the ER. No wonder all the nurses and attendants were flurrying around. Not only were two of Leaf Medical's top respected doctors barking orders, but everyone loved Hinata. Sakura made sure that she would see to her friend personally, she had to make sure that she would be okay.

"She collapsed walking her dog…"

"She has HCM and experienced an attack last summer, is that what's going on?" the pink haired girl asked in a stern voice.

Asura shook her head no, "I don't think so, but they are setting her up for an EKG now. She's really dehydrated, but her heart rate is beating at regularity, is there anything else you can tell us, Sakura?"

Blinking, the girl took her time, "S-she's been depressed, but…she's always been in good health that I know of, except for her heart condition."

Dr. Sarutobi nodded, and continued reading over Hinata's chart. "Sakura, why don't you further question the man outside who brought her in, see if you can get anymore information from him."

The girl nodded and turned to exit the now hectic room.

Itachi and Yugao stood silently side by side, and both were content to remain quiet and wait for any word from the doctors working on her. Soon that girl with the pink hair, a Dr. Haruno according to her badge, came through the door with a determined look in her eye.

She walked directly towards Itachi and spoke, "Are you the one who brought in Hinata?"

The Uchiha nodded mutely.

Sakura took a moment, blinking, she thought for a second there that this was Sasuke, but Hinata said he left for a mission some time ago, so then who was this man? "She was walking her dog Kenta?"

Itachi felt the urge to raise his brow, apparently Hinata and this girl were closer than he realized, he ignored the urge and nodded once in agreement. They were co-workers, of course they would be friends. His little sister seemed to be a girl that everyone got along with.

"Were you walking with her?" she asked.

He shook his head to indicate no.

Sakura sighed, "Do you know who she is? I mean, did you walk by and see that she was unconscious?"

Yugao interrupted, tired of the man's insolence, "Hinata and I are old friends, I noticed her walking and was heading towards her to say hello, but before I got to her she collapsed on a park bench."

"Oh, they didn't say that you were with her just that he brought her in," Sakura said nodding her head to the silent man, "did she say anything before she passed out?" the pink haired doctor asked, turning to the girl with purple hair, the supposed friend that she herself had never seen before.

Yugao remained still, "No, but luckily this man helped us, he took her to the hospital and I took her dog home."

Itachi's eyes clenched slightly, "Is she going to be alright?"

Sakura and Yugao both looked towards him, both taken in slightly by the smooth tone of his voice. Sakura folded a clipboard under her arm, and said, "We won't know anything until we get her test results back, I can show you both to the waiting room if you follow me. I know that you are her friend," she said to Yugao, "but sir, do you have any connection to Hinata?"

"Hn," he replied, taking the lead and walking away from both women since he already knew where the waiting room was and declared, "She is family to me."

Sakura gasped as Yugao frowned and narrowed her eyes on his back, she knew Hinata and Sasuke did not marry. She heard Sakura's voice, "Are you a Hyuuga sir? I will need to contact her father and let…"

He shook his head no once, and turned back to look at them, "I am her brother."

Sakura walked a few steps towards him, "What is your name, so I know who to call for?" In reality, she was curious, he looked so much like Sasuke, she wondered if he had a sibling. This man could certainly pass as one to the handsome shinobi.

"Itachi Uchiha," he said in a low voice before disappearing around a corner leading to the waiting room.

Sakura smiled, her thoughts were confirmed. He had to be Sasuke's brother. But he said that Hinata was family to him, so that meant…did Sasuke propose to Hinata before he was deployed!? She turned to the other woman, and was slightly surprised to see eyes basically glaring daggers where the man had been, "A-and your name miss?" She had said that she was an old friend to Hinata, but Sakura didn't know her. She and Hinata had the same group of friends, but she supposed her childhood friend could be friends with others she didn't know. Hinata had always been friendly. Quiet, but friendly all the same.

"My name is Yugao," the lady said before she walked off to follow the man known as Itachi to the waiting room.

Sakura watched her retreating back with an odd expression on her face. Then shrugged and went back into Hinata's room. No time to analyze them now, Hinata's health was at risk, and was much, much more important to her.

-SoP-

Asura frowned down at her slow waking apprentice.

Hinata could clearly see the disappointment written all over her mentor's face, as her vision slowly came into focus. Where was she? Blinking, she looked around her surroundings, she was at Leaf Medical? Kenta…where was Kenta? She tried to rise from her laying position, but Asura pushed her back down.

"Hinata, I'm sorely disappointed with you. You're a doctor for crying out loud, how could you do this to yourself!?" Asura was severely upset with the pale-eyed girl.

"What? B-but Dr. Saru-Sarutobi, wh-what am I…why?"

"You passed out Hinata, while walking your dog."

"Oh…K-Kenta…wh-where is he?"

Asura folded in her arms under chest and looked away from her slightly, "One of your friends took him home, while you're brother brought you here."

"Neji and Tenten are here?" Hinata asked in confusion.

Dr. Sarutobi frowned further and checked her pulse and felt for a fever…normal. She sighed, "Hinata, why? You know how unhealthy it is, how could you risk it?"

"R-risk? Wh-what?" Hinata kept closing her eyes, she felt so, so weak.

"Tch, you're so malnourished, it's not funny. I thought better of you Hinata, I really did."

Tears suddenly pricked Hinata's eyes, why did everyone she looked up to; respected, loved, why did they always look down on her, "I'm s-s-sorry," she hiccupped out.

Relaxing, Asura sat on the bed next to her and wiped a tear that rolled down her cheek, "I'm just worried Hinata, you have to get yourself together."

Hinata nodded, "M-malnourished, you mean…"

"You haven't been eating have you?"

She frowned to herself, her eyes lowered, "I haven't b-been hungry, but I ate…"

Asura shook her head, "No, you haven't been. The tests confirm it." She caught both hands with her own and looked into her bright lilac eyes, "You have to eat, especially when you're carrying. Hinata you know it's not healthy."

Asura watched as her eyes widened, mouth gaped open, and all color drained from her face.

So…she didn't know.

-SoP-

A/N: And there's the shocker! Riiiiiiight, I think some of you perceptive readers already had it all figured out, lol! Anyway, let me know what you think of the turn of events. Also, I can now be found on twitter as Lady_Crack_ I'll give story progress updates every once in a while. Til next time...

I heart you all! ~Lady crack (Oh and cheh is awesome)