Isn't it curiously funny how a person can be so fearing of another? It's as if we were not all comprised of the same things. The same fear, the same weakness, the same organs thriving and pulsing with blood. Life is hanging listlessly on a string – for all people, not just for some. One day, each being that inhabits the planet will expire. Each unborn entity is deserving of the same fate for we all entertain the same sin.

"He's handsome." Ino smiled, holding her face with her hand whilst she sat amongst her associates at their common picnic table.

"He's dreamy." Sakura nudged her accolade in certain agreement.

"He's… strange." Hinata furrowed her brow as she followed her friends in observing the Uchiha from afar.

Sakura and Ino turned to her with a special aura of distain.

"He's strange?" Sakura huffed. "I say, the strange one is y-"

"We're all a little strange." Ino smiled. "But strange is good."

Hinata rolled that idea over in her head for a moment before nodding, "Strange is good."

"Alright then, strangers. I'll just see my way home." Sakura sat up, grabbing her pink reusable lunch pail from the distressed wooden picnic table and pulling on her fuchsia jacket.

"Oh, leaving so soon, are we?" Ino teased bitterly. "I was just getting used to the smell."

"Oh, shove it, Yamanaka." Sakura stuck her tongue out.

"Lighten up, Pinkie." Ino chortled. She rose up alongside Sakura with a knowing grin. "I'll even walk you to your lair – I mean – house."

"You live in a port-a-potty!" Sakura teased.

Hinata smiled lovingly. She had grown so sweetly attached to the argumentative pair in the last three years. She never thought herself to be capable of such – finding another person so genuinely irreplaceable. Of course, she let this way of human compassion follow her in everything she did and it wasn't very difficult for her to empathetically find someone to be precious, temporarily or otherwise. Lately she'd learned to turn the other way at the sight of tragedy. And that was fine, she thought. Others did the same. They systematically disregarded scenes that were simply too hard to look at. Is there any other way to live? It wasn't that though – not at all. It was conceiving the idea that someone loved her in the way that she loved them. That was the hardest thing for her to grasp. In the end, it didn't matter as much. It never did. She had been conveniently placed in their company and she would never complain about not being alone.

"Bye, Hina!" Ino smiled sweetly and waved as the pair walked away in sync.

Hinata smiled. She admired their friendship. Though Ino and Sakura were constantly at one another's throats, Hinata was curious to know if that was true friendship. With the glamorous way she saw it, she knew that it was.

"Bye." She whispered to herself as she sat, fiddling with her fingers. In the distance, Sakura and Ino walked into the horizon – nearly hand-in-hand. On the other end, Sasuke Uchiha fought brilliantly with a tree, well, perhaps not so brilliantly. The tree was certainly winning.

She could not understand why the boy tried so desperately to defeat the tree. What were his intentions? What did he expect to happen by kicking it so half-heartedly? He was him after all. Had he wanted to take the tree down, he could have and would have. Yet, that wasn't the case. Here he was, just kicking the tree with no consequence or reward for doing so.

"It's rooted to the ground." Hinata said quietly to herself as she watched him.

The young, swift-bodied boy had become so much since their trials in the academy. He no longer associated with the people he once considered to be friends. Hinata doubted that he ever did. Instead, he went about town living amongst the citizens whilst simultaneously being emotionally and mentally unavailable. He was neglecting of others. He focused more on himself than any other person. How could anyone blame him? A person can only be broken so many times.

And those girls – those ditsy, bubbly girls – they worshipped his entity. Still. They still recognized him to be superior to everyone else, they still believed that there was a shadow of a possibility that they may one day "be" with him. Although, it was clear that there was no chance. He didn't need them, much less anyone else. Hinata herself found him to be… terrifying. He was the type of person a young child has nightmares about. Not someone she found it difficult to be around so long as she was surrounded by people. The thought of his capabilities, of his past, of his thoughts and words and ideas; they struck her so jarringly that it petrified her to stare any longer.

She quickly ejected herself from her spot on the picnic table and quickly shuffled away, off down the street towards home.

"That boy has gone a bit left, if you know what I mean." Hiashi said smugly as he delicately drew a slim morsel of roasted duck off of his silver-plated fork.

"I don't think so." Hanabi shrugged. "He's a good ninja."

"No doubt, he's a good warrior." Hiashi nodded.

Hinata sighed. The scene replayed once more. Here they sat, the three remaining in their broken family, having a mundane dinner. Another mundane dinner.

"How is your duck, Hinata?" Hiashi gestured towards his oldest daughter, who sat directly to his right, Hanabi to his left. "Mine is a bit charred."

Cold as he was, Hiashi could almost be construed as "normal" under any naked eye. He was a regular father – or so he appeared to be, when he wasn't in a state of unadulterated anger. What baffled most was how he could so easily come off as average, yet knowingly be so bitter and manipulative. It was as if he found his off nature to be a common trait of every good, normal father. Hinata had learned that, so long as she kept quiet, Hiashi would remain the calm undefined individual she preferred.

"It's fine." She barely peeped.

"What do you think of the Uchiha boy, Hinata?" Hiashi asked conversationally as he closely observed the condition of the questionable portion of duck breast on his plate.

"I don't very much know of him." Hinata answered with a deep sigh as her mind returned to earlier that day.

"Were you not in the academy together?"

"I suppose we were." Hinata said, still deeply consumed in her memories. "Though, we were never friends."

"Of course you wouldn't be. I mean, he's a killer." Hanabi laughed snobbishly. "You're a weakling."

Words of that nature no longer stung for Hinata. She was older now, stronger. She had nothing to prove. She no longer desired to be seen as "worthy" in the eyes of anyone. To a degree, she understood quite well that it was listless and morbid for her to have no desire for betterment. Though, she tends to think too deeply into everyday mundane dinners.

"You've got much training to do, Hanabi." Hiashi nonchalantly said to Hanabi. That was his mode of discipline, more training. Hinata was glad to be past that part of her life. She was sixteen and too far gone to ever live up to Haiti's inflated expectations. "Hinata, if you're not going to eat your food then I will."

Hinata surrendered her porcelain plate as Hiashi stealthily pulled it over in front of him. She wasn't eating it anyway. "Does that mean I am dismissed?" Hinata meekly asked.

Hiashi said nothing but nodded as he gracelessly piled green peas into his mouth.

"Me too?" Hanabi grinned, almost beaming up.

"Not you." Hiashi answered promptly.

Hanabi frowned, dissolving back into the pile of mass in her seat.

Hinata almost smiled. Almost. Yet again she was faced with a group of individuals who she had unwillingly been born into associating with daily. And she let this happen. It no longer tortured her in incomprehensible ways to be in Hiashi's presence. Hanabi was no longer going to great lengths to surpass her. She tried, just not as hard. They were bearable she supposed. Just barely bearable.

On a night like this she disappeared into her room. The farthest room down the hall, on the left. That is where she dreamt of things far away. That is where she sat and wrote for hours at a time, every thought that crossed her mind. She escaped from her father, her sister, her mother and incomplete memories within the darkness of her domain.

She exhaled as she came up upon it. The dim light of her room comforted her in many ways. She was afraid of the dark, but not of her dark. She had created and nurtured this darkness. Her heart had adjusted to her and it had become the norm. Nothing moved everything in its place. Stuffed animals on the bed. Books on the desk. Curtains in the window. Yes, everything was as it had been when she left. It was the place she knew, the world that belonged exclusively to her. It was normal.

"Normal is good." Hinata smiled to herself as her anxiety seemed to disappear into the bleak and lifeless air of her room.

"We're all a little strange… but strange is good."

Hinata sighed. She removed her coat and allowed it to slide effortlessly onto the pearly white carpet of her room.

Just as she had begun to unwind, the phone adjacent to her began chiming slowly. She had broken it when she dropped it during a heated conversation with Ino. Since then, the ringing had been drawn out and significantly quieter.

She reached over and found the receiver, taking it to her face. "Hello." She spoke quietly.


It was Ino. That happy, unequivocally nonsensical voice could have only belonged to one person.

"Hi there." Hinata half-laughed simply due to the fact that Ino was unnecessarily cheery at every moment she could afford.

"What goes on, Hina?" She chirped over the phone.

Hinata furrowed her brow, slightly annoyed with the way Ino seemed to call at the worst of times having nothing to say.

"I was just about to go to sleep." Hinata replied, somewhat hinting something. What, she wasn't sure yet.

"Oh – SAME!" Ino laughed. Hinata exhaled. This wouldn't end easily. "BUT – I just wanted to check in because you went totally MIA after lunch today."

Hinata smiled, someone cared. "Did I?" She indulged a bit in her friend's concern. Partly because she wanted to reveal the motive of Ino's call and partly because she hadn't been aware that she went "missing" earlier.

"Yeah, I came back to sit with you and you were gone! It was, like, ghostly or something." Ino rambled on.

Hinata blushed. She imagined telling her why she had left, because she got spooked by the idea of being so close to Sasuke alone. What could he possibly do to her? Well… everything.

"I just got a little tired." Hinata said finally after a long pause from her and a long stream of general consciousness from Ino.

"Oh well, that's all fine but I'm just saying." Ino went on.

At that moment, Hinata's blood froze when she was startled by a noise just outside her window. It was like an anvil had just dropped from out of the clouds. She questioned its source for a moment, stepping cautiously closer to her window with the phone in hand.

"Hold on, Ino. I'll call you back." Hinata said gently, ending the call and place the phone on her window sill just before she opened it curiously.

She poked her head out, observing the scene of her backyard. A small patio, trees, trees, trees and more trees. Nothing out of order really, that was until she saw it. A person coiled into an unrecognizable shape on the ground in the distance. Her heart pounded as she automatically assumed the worst. Someone had died right before her eyes.

She pulled on her coat and went straight for the door. She ran down the long hall which led to her domain and on the other side, her living room. Hiashi and Hanabi still sat awkwardly indulging in the fine foods prepared by expert hands. They hadn't even noticed Hinata flying by and out the door. They seemed to be too absorbed in their meals, or their own thoughts – like there was any differentiation.

Outside, the air was cold and it pressed deeply into Hinata's breath as she panted. She turned and lapped around their large complex to find the poor soul she swore she'd seen. For a moment, she thought she'd lost it or that she'd never seen it in the first place as she looked about with no fruit for the effort of her searching.

Then she heard the cry of a man. Her eyes flickered respectively to the source of the cry. A shadow eagerly attempted to force their weight onto a 60-foot oak tree as they tried to pull themselves to a standing position. Hinata quickly sprinted over to the figure, devoid of any thought of who it could be. It could have been an escaped prisoner, a refugee, a serial killer, a robber intending to clean out her entire house. But it wasn't.

It was the Uchiha who she'd thought so distastefully of.

"A-are you… okay?" She questioned shyly. All of her bravery seemed to sink so lowly into the pit of her stomach when she saw his face.

Even at the moment, he was terrifying. He fell onto the ground. Leaves peppered his black hair; his eyes reflected pain and his hands desperately gripped his shin. He didn't bother to answer her question; he merely gritted his teeth and breathed in and out. The basic, the minimum.

"I-is your leg okay?" Hinata stepped back subconsciously. She wanted to help but compromising her life wasn't the best way to do so.

"Get. Away. From. Me." He mumbled through a pained voice.

"I-I t-think your leg might be broken." She managed to force through her lips even as they shook. She glanced up at the trees. It was almost impossible to see the sky above them. Then she glanced back at him. "Did you… did you fall out of that tree?" She felt stupid even asking. How mortifying was that? Who did she think she was even suggesting such a thing? He was the Uchiha prodigy. Fall out of a tree? Him? No.

"Go home." He heaved roughly through gritted teeth as he clenched his shin mercilessly. "There's nothing you can do."

"I am home." She said. She'd lost herself for a moment there. Who did she think she was, talking back that way? She swallowed the lump in her throat as she couldn't help but stand there and wait for him to kill her.

"By go home, I meant leave. Get out of here. Go away. I don't need you here. Get lost." He growled, eyes locked onto hers in the most painful of ways.

Hinata took several slow steps back, her eyes never leaving the scene.

Sasuke glared at her as she moved away. It struck her at that moment, just how fearful he was. He looked like a battered animal. He was crouched in pain, closely watching the movement of a harmless bystander as if they'd worsen his condition.

"What will you do?" She muttered.

"Die here." He grunted in return. He wasn't much for humor.

"You're not hurt that bad." Hinata spoke softly and thoughtfully.

"You wouldn't know." He mumbled in searing pain.

"Byakugan." She merely stated knowingly.

And then there was silence for a moment.

She approached him slowly and cautiously. The humorous thing was, as she came closer, he remained still like a statue. His eyes observed her meticulously as she came closer, knelt down and brushed her hand over the surface of his exposed leg.

Her heart raced and her vision blurred as blood rushed to her face. She wasn't charmingly embarrassed as she usually was. She was nervous, shaking at that. What if he snapped? Her neck, that is. She moved her hand over his leg, applying gentle pressure in certain places and observing his responses. He winced accordingly, glaring at her with a special sort of resentment, the kind of hatred a child feels for the nurse injecting him with a life-saving vaccination.

"It's sprained." She finally said. "Your knee… it's just sprained."

He responded with an uneven grunt.

"You just need to rest it for a moment… apply ice… then maybe a warm towel -"

"What are you, a nurse?" He seethed miserably.

Hinata shivered but managed to recover. She always did.

"T-then y-you just need to rest… t-try to stay off it f-for two weeks at the least." She finally finished, exhaling a great amount.

Then, once again, there was a silence between the two.

Hinata was sure she could hear the unmistakable sound of her own heartbeat. The AV node played a generous tune, so fitting of the situation.

"I'll… I'll just get some ice." Hinata hurried back inside of her home to her ice box. Trekking across the scape of her house, she'd discovered their once-dinner to be adjourned. Hiashi was now gone and Hanabi watched TV lifelessly in their living room. Peace had been restored.

Hinata opened the ice box, retrieved several cubes of ice and tossing them into a hand towel that hung from her kitchen sink. She half expected Sasuke to be gone when she returned.

Unfortunately, there he remained, now reclined on the ground. Hinata came upon his slowly, curious as to why he would stay. So he was in pain? He was also in her backyard, and obviously had no desire for her company.

She sat next to him on the ground and pressed the ice-filled cloth against his knee gently. She could feel the startled movement of Sasuke's leg under her hand. She chuckled inside her head. So he wasn't so cold-blooded after all.

For quite a while she said nothing as her palm rested over the ice that was on his knee. After a while her heartbeat steadied and she began to feel quite comfortable even. Sasuke didn't say a word though Hinata knew he was awake. His eyes were glued to the endless height of trees above him and he breathed in and out audibly in the silent dark of the night.

Finally, she removed the ice carefully, noticing how small droplets of water raced down the Uchiha's leg and entangled themselves in his moist leg hair. "Is that better?" She asked almost silently.

He didn't respond, at least not for some time. She sighed to herself, blinking a few times since it was much later than she'd ordinarily stay up. Yeah, it was reasonable for him to ignore her. Everyone else did.

Then he finally answered, his voice now calm and smoothed over. "What about the heat?" He said.

"Oh yes, the heat." Hinata stood up. "I'll fetch a warm, wet towel. That will help." She said as she went about the same routine as she had before, going in and fetching the necessary tools to heal the boy and returning with an unshakable doubt in her mind that he'd even be there. Yet, once more, there he was laid on the ground in her backyard, not a care in the world.

"It's a bit hot." She warned him as she placed the hot cloth delicately over his knee. He inhaled as it pressed against the flesh of his knee. The pain had dulled and now all that remained was the relentless throbbing of a good time gone wrong.

The mood had changed significantly. She'd barely noticed it. Before, she cowered at his presence. Now, she was nursing him to health lovingly. She shook her head. Not lovingly. It was out of obligation.

"What are you doing here?" She managed to get out after prolonged time contemplating whether or not it would cost her her life.

"Training." He grunted in return. At least he said something.

"Why train with trees?" Hinata questioned. Simultaneously it held a bit of humor as she recalled his battle with a tree earlier that day.

"Why wear a coat all the time? Why s-s-s-stutter so much? Why help strangers? Why ask questions?" Sasuke breathed flames right into the girl's face. It stung harshly on her heart. She said nothing. She deserved that outcome. She prodded too much. She deserved it.

"Sorry." She peeped. "I… I think that's enough now." She said, collecting the two cloths she'd used on him. "You'll be fine in a few days." She said hurriedly make her way back inside.

Sasuke's eyes followed her as she left. He gritted his teeth. She was so repulsive.