A/N: Whoop whoop! The LAST ACTUAL CHAPTER OF THE REWARD OF HARD WORK. Say it ain't so! Oh, but my ducky darlings, it is! This is the very LAST chapter of The Reward of Hard Work. Oh my goodness my, it's true, it's true! There won't be anymore after this! It's the finale! The last little bit before the story ends! What will you do after this? Perhaps, go read my other story, Viewfinder? Hm, hm, hm, just a suggestion!

Anyway, yes, this is the last chapter, and no, I won't be doing anything else with this story. It was never meant to go past 3 or so chapters, and then it ended up at what appears to be 9 so that's 6 more than I was planning to write. Tis how my writing usually goes. I expect to write 10 chapters, I write 8. I expect to write 5 chapters, I write 15. It is what it is! Enjoy the last chapter of the Reward of Hard Work

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, but I own the situation and circumstances Sasuke and Hinata are placed in.


Finale

Hinata ignored the looks the Council gave her as she seated herself before them. Seeing as how this was a very impromptu meeting, she was dressed in a simple kimono of dark blue with a red obi, her dark hair plaited down her back to her waist. The young maids who had helped her dress were silent and stunned by the presence of Sasuke sitting on her bed, watching on in quiet intensity. She hadn't wanted to him to leave her side, but knew she would have to face the Council alone. As if they would allow her some kind of emotional support during such a time.

She seated herself seiza and faced them head on, her shoulders square, her head held high. There was nothing they could say that would change her mind about Sasuke, and nothing they could do that would make her want to change. She was stronger now, much stronger than before. And they could no longer treat her like an overgrown child incapable of making her own decisions.

The elderly men stared her down, her father at the end of the line. Pale, pupil-less eyes pierced her skin from eight different angles, but she did not allow them to bring blood to the surface. She was stronger now, and it would be harder for them to make her crumble. She would not crack, she would not break, she would not bend.

Her eyes slid shut as she breathed deeply, opening her eyes on the exhale. Folding her hands neatly in her lap, she lifted her chin high, not looking down her nose at the men before her, but certainly not bowing her head in submission. They would find she was not someone whom they could pull the collar tight on and expect to obey so easily. No longer was she that scared little girl.

The man seated furthest to the left spoke, his voice gravelly and hoarse. "Hyuga Hinata, the Council has asked you to sit before us this day because of allegations against your relationship with the man known as Uchiha Sasuke, also known to be the traitor of Konohagakure –" He stopped abruptly when she raised her hand, not to cut him off mid-sentence, but to request permission. "Do you wish to speak, Hinata-san?"

"If I may, please." At his nod, she settled her hand back into her lap, keeping her voice strong and steady. "Sasuke-san in no way betrayed Konohagakure. Sasuke-san's only crime is defecting from the village at the age of thirteen. And he spent seven years in jail as punishment for that." Her gaze didn't waver as she faced the man down. "Calling him a traitor for simply defecting from the village is too extreme."

The man glanced to his cohorts, who frowned back, before speaking once more. "All right then. The allegations speak of you fraternizing with... Uchiha Sasuke against the advice of your father, the current head of the Hyuga clan." He leaned forward and Hinata stared back. "Are these allegations true?"

"They are true." When he arched an eyebrow, a silent request for her to continue, she did so without hesitation or apprehension. "I was the one who initiated our first meeting, by approaching Sasuke-san for a sparring session. At the time, I had wanted to... test my strength against someone who was much stronger than me, and see where I could improve myself. However, I felt it was not enough to become stronger after just that one session, so I propositioned Sasuke-san to spar with me again. It soon became a habit for me to go over to his residence after I had finished my work at the Academy and to spar with Sasuke-san in his courtyard. These sparring sessions would only last for an hour or two, but I began spending more and more time talking with Sasuke-san afterward, which would extend the hours I spent with him at his home."

The men had grown restless during her explanation, shifting about and murmuring to themselves, their gazes critical as they looked from her to each other in discussion. None of them had probably never dreamed she would ever do something so outrageous as to defy them, and now here she was, defending herself for the actions she had willingly committed. The man spoke once the others had quieted down. "But that is not the true extent of your relationship, now is it, Hinata-san?"

She nodded, fighting off a flush as her mind flashed through the events that had transpired last night. "That is correct. As I began to spend more time with Sasuke-san, I found myself wishing to be in his company more. At first, it began as a simple... friendship. Sasuke-san and I would spar, and then spend a few hours testing recipes in his kitchen and chatting. However, as more time passed I felt myself growing more... attached to him. I began to feel affectionate toward Sasuke-san a-and... he recuperated my feelings."

A burst of soft murmurs spread through the seven men, and Hinata met her father's eyes. He looked as if he were made of stone, his expression still and unwavering. His hands rested on his knees, bent into sieza position like her own, even though she knew it hurt his back for him to stay seated in the position for too long. From where she was placed before the Council, she could see that his hands were gripping the material of his yukata, the fabric bunched beneath his fingers. She bobbed her head in acknowledgment, offering a thin smile that belied just how confident she was, and watched the shock spread first in his eyes then appear on his face briefly, before she turned away and faced the men, who were now quieting down and readying to question her once more.

The man frowned darkly. "Hinata-san, you admit to being affectionate toward... Uchiha Sasuke. Has this relationship progressed any further than you have so far described?"

There was no hiding her blush of embarrassment, her one – of hopefully many – night of passion with Sasuke bringing heat to her skin, but she kept her gaze focused with the man's. She was not ashamed to admit what she had done – in fact, she should not have to worry at all about what she did with her body in her spare time. She was am adult woman, and it was not their business who she shared her body with. "Y-yes. Last night, Uchiha Sasuke and I made love."

She jumped, her eyes going wide with shock, at the soft gasp Hiashi made from across the room, his head dropping down against his chest at the words. Hiashi was not shocked or surprised by many things, and yet the news that she had had sex with Uchiha was enough to make him hang his head disturbed her. She rolled her lips shut, returning her gaze back to the men of the Council, who appeared just as startled as her father. But her resolve had chipped by just a tiny bit. Her father, who never revealed his emotions, had just now shown her what he thought of her relationship with Sasuke.

And it hurt.

Breathing deeply, she turned her attention once more to the man, who kept his gaze on her father. "You understand now what is happening, don't you, Hiashi-san?"

For a long moment, Hinata felt as if Hiashi would never raise his head, but eventually he looked up and once more, locked gazes with her. Her chest grew tight, her shoulders trembling, but she held her eyes steady against his, unwilling to be the first to look away and show how weak her resolve was. She was strong, stronger than any of these men expected her to be, and she would not be browbeaten into submission any longer. Hiashi would have to learn someday that it wasn't enough to tell her that she wasn't good enough to get her to stop and listen.

His voice was low, but there was an underlying tone of … something, that she couldn't identify, something almost bitter and saddening, but not quite. "I see now, Councilman, that my daughter refuses to let go of her... infatuation with the Uchiha traitor, though I have demanded that she do so immediately. She has disobeyed me time and time again, for a man who has abandoned his friends and family because of a rumor. I see that my daughter... is not as wise as I first expected."

"Then, Hiashi-san, your judgement is clouded."

Hinata blinked, feeling as if her ears had been filled with cotton. Her father's had felt like invisible senbon needles, piercing her abdomen and chest, shortening her breath and leaving her cold. She knew Hiashi disapproved, and she knew his dislike rivaled only that of Neji's, but to hear that he though her unwise and foolish before the Council was... excruciating. This was the man who was teaching her to lead the clan, and he thought her unwise?

She was so caught up in Hiashi judgment of her that the man's words almost didn't register, but Hiashi's lowered gaze made the situation all that more surreal. Of course she knew her father cared far too much about her and Hanabi, which might have explained his spiteful words in an attempt to keep them from getting too far away, but to hear someone say it aloud was... disconcerting. No one ever talked back to Hiashi, no one ever doubted his judgment. Hiashi was the unequivocal leader of the Hyuga clan – for someone to go against him...

The man turned his gaze on her once more. "Hyuga Hinata, though many of the men in this room disapprove of your affection for Uchiha Sasuke, we have only once been ignorant enough to try and stop someone from falling in love." A thin, almost indiscernible smile spread across his thin lips as he studied her. "And we ended up with the Uchiha clan." He shook his head. "You have been advised time and time again not to fraternize with Uchiha Sasuke... and you have gone against that advice. Even so, I can see from here you are a smart enough woman not to let yourself be swept away by foolishness." He cleared his throat, leaning toward her. "We never called this meeting to punish you, Hinata-san. But rather, to let you know, that as an adult, you make decisions that reflect upon yourself, and it should be no business of others whom you chose to spend your time with, least they be of... reputable actions. If you wish to continue to see the Uchiha, that is your choice. We have seen the consequences of separating people who have chosen to be together – we don't wish to see them again." He raised a weathered hand, and with an impervious twist of his wrist, dismissed her. "Go. We have much to discuss with your father."

Hinata slowly climbed to her feet, nearly stumbling over the hem of her kimono before catching herself and transitioning into a deep bow, her voice thick with emotion. Relief and joy mixed in her stomach, leaving her with the sensation that her head was floating six inches off her shoulders. It was... heady and intoxicating, to know she no longer had to worry about what her clan would think, what her family would do in order to separate Sasuke and her. She had spent days agonizing over what the Council would say to her, if they would try to yank her leash tighter and confine her – but only now did it connect that they too had witnessed the war, and had seen Sasuke fighting along with Naruto and the others to protect the village, and understood why it had occurred. "I... I am truly grateful for you, oji-sama. You cannot possibly understand the depth of my gratitude for you in this very moment –"

"Be on your way, Hinata-san. I'm sure Uchiha-san has grown restless, sitting in your bedroom and awaiting your verdict." The man turned his gaze on Hiashi, who looked positively livid. "However, you Hiashi-san, need to discuss with us why you called us out for such an outrageous offense..."

She slid the door shut on the man's words, not wanting to hear her father be reprimanded on behaving childishly. It went against everything she knew about him, and she quickly spun on her heel, rushing down the hall toward her own bedroom. She kept her head down, her hands folded somberly in front of her as she passed the maids within her household, appearing to be chastised and solemn, but really making sure no one would see the delirious grin that covered her face. Soon, the news would spread throughout the compound about what the Council had decided, and she would no longer have to deal with their frigid stares, but would need to bear their profuse admittance to their guilt. For now, however, she wanted to revel in what had occurred in Sasuke's arms – the only person who could possibly understand her excitement.

She had won.

Perhaps, not in the way that was expected, but she had won... against Hiashi, against Neji-niisan, against the men who had glared at Sasuke and murmured that he was a traitor as they retreated from Sasuke's house this morning. She had won, and there was... nothing they could do to stop her now.

She stopped before her bedroom, and like always, Sasuke opened the door unbiddened, his eyes quickly searching over her, checking for the worst possible outcome. "What happened? What did they decide on?"

She let her smile burst forth, her hands immediately flying up to cover the goofy grin that took over her mouth. "I... They approve of our relationship. They said they never called the meeting as way to determine my punishment but rather to show me that they trusted I could handle myself." She sagged with relief when Sasuke wrapped his arms around her, pulling her as close as possible and moving her into the room, the door sliding shut with a soft click. Her arms slid around his shoulders, her fingers tunneling through his hair as she buried her nose in his throat, breathing deeply, filling her head with his scent. "They said... that I was a smart enough woman that I... wouldn't be swept away in any foolishness." Her throat grew tight as blinked back tears. "They... they trust me."

His hands sank into the fabric of her kimono, his head resting on her shoulder as he gave a hoarse chuckle, the relief evident in his tone. "Why wouldn't they trust you? I could see a long time ago that the only ones getting their panties in a twist were Neji and Hiashi." He tugged at her braid, dragging his fingers through her hair to release it the plait. He pressed a kiss to the corner of her mouth, murmuring gently. "These are the rewards for your hard work, Hinata."


A/N: So, wow! Wowza. Totally not what you were expecting right? You were all like, WHOA, HERE WE GO, HUGE FIGHT, IT'S ABOUT TO GO DOWN. And then that old man was like "Nah girl, it's cool. You doin' a'ight girlfren, do you thang." Okay, maybe it wasn't completely like that, but you were totally prepared for a huge debate between Hinata and Hiashi and yada yada yada. And it didn't happen. Oop. Whatcha gonna do about it? Well, I would suggest my other fanfic, Viewfinder *batting eyelashes innocently* it's full of all kinds of cussing and swearing and people being little sassypants if that's you're thing *angelic smile*

Thank you for reading for so long, and for bearing with my bullshit my beautiful, ducky darlings! You're the bee's knees, the cat's pajamas, the toot in my flute! You're ab-so-lute-ly amazing and it's such applesauce that we gotta let this struggle buggy go! (that was all 1920's slang) Please, review this last chapter and tell me what you think, what you felt, and how you can't wait to read something else by me! Tell me how I should improve, and maybe what anime/manga/book/whatever I could write fanfiction for next! Until that time, however, this is goodbye, my dears! Keep your dreams close to your heart ~ A Dreamer Always