How to Save A Life

Chpt. 3: No Need For Introductions

It had begun to rain during their trek... well, downpour seemed a more apt terminology. All the same, it only added to Hinata's frigidity, causing her goose-pimpled person to pucker even more, her pale lips to variegate to a bluish hue.

The gelid shower had snuck them from behind, gathering din as it gained velocity. She'd heard it approaching, yet couldn't quite place the distant echo of millions of fat, icy drops of water splattering the cement as it rushed towards them; seemingly, specifically for them.

She had known the weather was brisk that day, but had she known she was going to survive the night and it were to rain, she would have worn a hell of a lot more than a wife beater and jeans. Add to that the fact that her shoes were really moccasins (which she never wore socks with), and anyone could understand the degree of shivering her body had reduced itself to. It had to be at least twenty/twenty-five degrees, and she was feeling the effects.

He didn't really seem too bothered by the weather, however, and so kept his pace, her cold, slippery fingers clasped tightly within his own as he pulled her onward. She sneezed, rubbed her cold nose with the back of her unoccupied hand. He glanced backward for a second, but continued onward for a few moments before pulling her under the veranda of a closed printing shop.

He released her hand once they were safely tucked away from the torrent and turned to face her. She was breathing heavily, her hair sticking to her face in neck in thick, wet cords. He looked as composed as ever. They stared at each other for a few moments, and she began to wonder how long the deluge would last, how long she would have to withstand his striking gaze (Glare? She couldn't really tell).

"Hn," he grunted after a few moments of assessing her condition, "You're wet."

She blinked up at him, then looked down at herself, and if all of the blood cells in her face were not frozen solid, would have flushed in mortification once she realized how her beater clung to her anatomy like a second skin.

She raised toned, pale arms to cover her person, all the while shivering like an old dog. She frowned a bit when she looked back up at him, opening her mouth to admonish him for staring at her.

"... choo!" was all that came out.

She sniffled, rubbing a finger against her desensitized button of a nose and looked away from the amusement crinkled in his eyes. He shook his head, sighing as he reached up to undo the first button of his peacoat.

"Stupid girl... here," he murmured, his words holding no malice as he hung his coat out to her by the hood. She looked up at the coat, a sigh of relief escaping her as she reached a hand out to take the proffered garment.

"Thank..." she began, choking on her words as she viewed his lean arms, aligned with smooth, hard muscles. His forearms were corded with veins, not too many, but enough to tell that he exercised on a regular basis, perhaps daily.

She shook herself internally, admonishing herself for staring at him. He waited patiently for her to take the coat, an eyebrow raised at her in question. She took it graciously, giving him a small smile in return. She wrapped it around herself, immediately enveloped in his warmth. She inhaled subconsciously as she slid her arms into the too-long sleeves, taking in his scent for mental evaluation. It was masculine, of course, warm and delicious with a faint hint of cigarettes. She imagined him walking down the street, women walking the opposite way making u-turns as they caught a whiff of him. She withheld a giggle; he seemed like the type that wouldn't appreciate her laughing at his expense .

"T-thank you," she murmured. Great. This was the fifth time she'd stuttered in front of him. Didn't he know how many years it'd taken her to get that under control? He seemed to know everything else...

He didn't seem to take notice as he reached forward with both arms, invading her personal space to lift the oversized hood onto her head. She tilted her head upward to peek at him from beneath it.

"But..." she began as he reached for the buttons, "you don't have any sleeves!"

He finished buttoning the wooly coat before responding, bending a bit to get the ones at the bottom. He sighed as he straightened up, folding his arms over his chest and scrunching his brows at her very obvious observation.

"Yeah..." he began slowly, "... that's how a sleeveless turtleneck works."

She shook her head, his sarcasm flying straight over it. She thought he misunderstood her.

"No, I mean, you'll get-"

"Come on," he interrupted, snatching her hand up to zip back out into the rain, raising his other arm to shield his face as he raced up the street. The crowds had thinned out since the rain had commenced , so their momentum had picked up easily; no one to weave through, no resistance. They made progress quickly, traveling all the way to the outskirts of the downtown area, where the buildings began to become scarce, and people even scarcer.

It was also darker on this side of town; small, dank looking buildings lining their side of the street and empty abandoned lots lining the other. It was the distribution district, probably for some of the smaller and older companies of Konoha. Her father had closed down some small factories near this way. She had accompanied him.

He pulled her towards a small, run down building on the corner of the dead end street. It was gated, oddly enough, and it appeared abandoned at first glance, but as she peered up at it through the rain, she could see streams of light peeking from between the old blinds, heard the muffled thud of bass through the old walls.

Sasuke reached up to unhook the latch of the tall steel gate before pushing it open with a grunt. The gates swung open slowly, creaking loudly as the rusty hinges grated against one another. He stepped aside to allow her in first before he followed behind, closing and re-latching the gate. He gripped her hand once more as they made their way up the walkway.

Hinata's breath came in shorter and shorter pants the closer they got to the building, her heart hammering in her chest as anxiety slowly slid it's clammy fingers around her throat. Soon she was hyperventilating, her chest seizing as she struggled to get oxygen to her brain. Sensing her distress somehow, Sasuke stopped and turned around to peer at her with scrunched brows, placing his hands atop her shoulders.

"Are you alright?" he yelled over the sound of the rain. She shook her head, raising her hand to pound lightly on her chest.

"Can't... breathe... An...xiety," she murmured between breaths. He nodded, somehow hearing her over the noisy downpour.

"Come with me," he shouted, turning and pulling her by the arm to the steps. There were only four of them, but she counted them anyway, in an effort to stop the sound of the blood rushing in her ears. He stationed her against a pillar adorned with leafy vines, and she slid down until her arms could encircle her knees.

He bent at the knees so that they were eye-to-eye, balancing himself on the balls of his feet as he quietly scrutinized her.

"Breathe," he stated calmly, "just breathe."

"I'm... t-t-trying t-to..." she whispered. But he'd heard her, reaching out to place a hand on her knee in a placating manner. She did as he told her. Closed her eyes, deep inhales, long exhales. Repeat.

"Better?" he asked her after a moment, once her breathing had evened out. She opened her eyes and gave him a small nod, which he returned. He shook his head, removing his hand and sitting so that he could lean back on his palms as he watched her through his long bangs.

"Parties really aren't your scene, are they?" he asked her, his brow raised in curiosity. She shook her head.

"I don't like people my age," she admitted, "I'm sorry." He sighed once more, lifting a hand to run it through his soggy locks, which had begun to hang to the nape of his neck.

"Don't apologize, but don't panic either. It's not as bad as you imagine it to be. Just a few of my..." he paused, glancing upward in contemplation, "... associates. Believe me."

"Associates...?" she mimicked questioningly. He nodded, but didn't elaborate, choosing to stand and hold his hand out instead. She hesitated for a moment before accepting it and allowing him to heave her to her feet.

"You should eat more," he mentioned briefly before turning to the door.

She was, admittedly, a bit stunned by his fly-by declaration, as if simply stating facts. Her father had it drilled into her brain that she'd needed to lose a few pounds, made her exercise everyday, trimmed her meals. She shook it off as he twisted the door knob and turned to motion for her to follow before disappearing inside.

She heard the music stop before Sasuke was greeted with a chorus of salutations, the loudest being, "TEME! Took you long enough!" She heard a thud and a few chuckles next. Then,

"OW! You didn't have to push me, you cold-hearted asshole!"

"Hn. Don't hug me, then."

"What took you so damn long?"

"I was..." pause, "...hold on."

Footsteps. She heard his boot-clad feet marching her way and her stomach dropped. She took a step back, ready to trash their agreement and flee. It wasn't worth it. The anxiety was coming back. The inadequacy, the intimidation... weighing her down, tightening her throat like a well-made noose.

He stepped back out onto the porch, crossing his arms over his chest and frowning in her direction.

"Come on," he said calmly, taking a couple of steps toward her, "Have an open mind. No one here is going to judge you. You just have to come out of your shell a bit. Find the things in life worth living for."

She took a deep breath, then another. Her stomach began to unclench with his soothing words, the fact that he'd come back out for her, the fact that he'd given her his coat... he seemed very sincere.

Why was she resisting so hard? Isn't this what she had been wishing for on the bridge? Someone to look at her differently, someone to take an actual interest in her? And there he was, in his deceivingly ominous glory, all sarcastic humor and deadpan honesty...

And candidly, it was refreshing, a relief from the disapproving eyes of the Hyuuga family, the scathing remarks and demoralizing words thrown her way from her own father. This man... had shown her more concern and physical interaction than she had received from her father in years. And though it had only been in the way of guiding her, and words had been few, she felt that it was sincere, that he'd wanted to do these things for her. Had she been so conditioned by her father that she couldn't see when people were encouraging her to open up, to... be herself?

"You're father is not in there, Hinata," he murmured. "There's nothing to fear in there. I'll be right with you."

He reached out to grasp her hand and she finally nodded, reaching her other up to push back his oversized hood and brush her water-logged bangs from her forehead.

"Okay," she agreed with a nod. He looked a little skeptical, and mildly shocked that all it took were a few encouraging words, given the massive panic attack she'd just had.

"Okay...?" he asked. She nodded once more.

"Okay. Just...relax."

He turned once more, and entered and even though she'd agreed to brave the party, she found herself hiding behind him as he ushered her into the old building.

"Oi! Bastard! You never answered my question!" came the same voice before, and given the fact that he'd called Sasuke "bastard" twice since they'd arrived, he was probably the same one from the phone call. Naruto.

"I was..." Sasuke paused as he pulled her from behind him to push her in front of him, and she gave a small squeak as she was met by the biggest, bluest set of eyes she'd ever seen. "...making friends."

They were met with silence as Sasuke closed the front door with his foot and the young man in front of her digested this information, quizzical eyes calculating this unlikely equation. His hair, too, was in disarray; golden, feathery locks jutting in all directions. He looked like he sounded, loud and obnoxious with his neon orange cut-off shirt and dingy, sagging jean shorts. The legs were frayed at the end, and on his feet he wore black strap-up sandals. He was tanned from head to toe, and standing with fisted hips, she could see the blonde, wirey thicket peeking from under his arms. He stared at her, his lips puckered in contemplation and his sandaled foot tapping against the burgundy carpeted floor as he looked her up and down.

Then, like a light switch was flicked in his brain, his eyes brightened and he released a boisterous laugh, rocking back on his heels and lifting a hand to adjust the orange aviator glasses strapped to his forehead.

"Well, look here, everybody! Sasuke brought a date! How cute!" he shouted teasingly, clasping his hands together and making fishy lips at them. Hinata blanched, her eyes bulging as she shook her head slowly. Ten seconds in the door, and she was already near hyperventilation.

"W-we... I'm n-not... He just-" she stuttered unsuccessfully before a pale arm shot past her peripheral vision and a gloved hand shoved his face aside. The blonde stumbled away, yelping indignantly as he fisted his hips once more.

"Hey, you grade-A douche! Don't touch my pretty face!" he hollered, smoothing the back of his hand over a whiskered (scarred?) cheek.

"Shut the fuck up, you moron. Where's Sakura?" he muttered as he stepped around Hinata to survey the room.

"Watch your mouth..." she muttered as he passed.

She took that time to study the room also. Though upon closer inspection, it seemed to have been a lobby of some sort (a rather large one, at that), with a drinking fountain and unisex bathroom adjacent to the front door. There was a winding staircase to her right, a couch, a loveseat, a recliner, a massive coffee table decked out with a variety of snacks, and a boastfully large plasma television to her left. All seats were occupied with people who were seemingly occupied by the television. She wondered if their exchange was a regular occurrence, then, seeing as no one saw fit to intervene.

"Sasuke-kun!" someone shrieked to her right, and she looked to see a tall, slender young woman with stunningly pink hair flying down the stairs two at a time. She streaked across the ground like a lightening bolt, and Sasuke had enough sense to release Hinata's hand before she launched herself at him, sending him flying into the front door.

He hacked as he righted himself, and she released him with a rich, hearty laugh, all windchimes and easiness. She whacked his back with an open palm a few good times before he waved her off, seeming not to mind his dampened state one bit.

"Iie, I'm good, I'm good," he muttered through gritted teeth. "Ano, Sakura... why do you do that every time? You know I smoke."

She pixie haired girl tsked, shaking her head in dismay.

"Then stop smoking, boke," she admonished with a bop to the side of his head, "I'll stop doing that when you give up that nasty ass habit!"

"Like you're one to talk..." he muttered, ignoring her glare as he side stepped her to walk towards the group of people stationed at the T.V, Naruto in-tow. "Oh, and that's Hinata."

The woman rotated to turn exotic green eyes toward Hinata, a curious frown etched onto her face as she if she hadn't noticed her standing there.

"Hm? Oh! Hi, there!" she laughed, rubbing the back of her head sheepishly and extending her other hand for a shake. "I didn't notice Sasuke-kun had brought someone with him! How rude of me!"

Hinata shook her hand, a small smile gracing her features as her eyes traced the many tattoos lining the young woman's forearms. Dragons and koi fish, sunrises and chubby faced cherubs wrapped around both slender arms in colorful sleeves, only stopping because the actual sleeves of her lilac hoodie were bunched around her elbows. She looked at her face, and something vaguely clicked in the back of her mind...

But... this couldn't be her...right? Not with all these tattoos. Not with her eyebrow pierced and a small, black hoop smack dab in the middle of her pouty bottom lip... right?

At the same time, Sakura cocked her head to the side, a look of slight confusion sliding over her features as she released Hinata's hand. She stroked her chin thoughtfully, squinting as her eyes ran over the pale girl's features.

"Hm... You seem vaguely familiar... Do we know each other...?"

Hinata swallowed, shook her head slowly, uncertainly, because she honestly didn't know. She knew she recognized the young woman, and she had a vague idea from where, but given her appearance, she just had to be mistaken.

"I don't... I don't think so..." she answered quietly, meekly. The girl shook her head, taking a step closer and leaning into Hinata's personal space as if getting closer would help her figure it out.

"No... no, I think we do," the girl murmured, more so to herself than to anyone else. "But from where...?"

The air between them was slightly tense as Hinata's eyes darted about the room, searching for an escape route, if need be. A brief thought of her father somehow being involved in this skittered across her brain. What if he'd closed her parent's shop? What if this girl was homeless because of him, and that's why they were squatting in an old, abandoned office building? She subconsciously took a step back, towards the way she had entered. This girl seemed intense. She might need to run for her life if she was correct and the girl pieced it together.

Then Sakura's features brightened as she straightened to her full height once more, her bright smile revealing perfectly pearly teeth.

"Oh, I know!" she said with a snap of her long, slender fingers.

"I know where we know each other from!"

AN: Yare, yare. I know how long it's been. I apologize if anyone was actually waiting for me. Life just... sweeps you up sometimes, ya' know? Also, I apologize for the itty-bitty cliffhanger. Really, just a shortened chapter. But this is where the story begins to pick up a little momentum, where some of the more racy things come into play. Hinata begins to open up a bit more in the next few chapters, takes a few risks. This story isn't meant to be dark, so it isn't really going to be. A little angsty, maybe, but there will be humor, comfort, friendship, etc...

Sasuke's not completely soft, don't fret. I think he just realizes what Hinata needs at this time, given his own history, so he's trying as best he can to make her comfortable (without losing his cool, of course).

Thank you for anyone who's reviewed, added, and/or favorited my story and I. Very encouraging. I'm sorry I'm too lazy to actually respond. -_-''

Perhaps next chapter.