Wow! Thank you guys for the amazing response! So much appreciated! To those who did not understand the reference last chapter, a 'hit and run' refers to when a driver crashes into someone and drives away instead of stopping to help. Hope this clears it up for you (^_^).
Sorry for the long wait, things got really busy and some of my other stories snatched my attention. Terribly sorry guys!
Credits go to guest reader Hehe for this chapter's title! Congrats!
Was feeling too ill to beta-read, please bear with me!
Chapter 20: The Test
"You go in and look while I try to find parking," Hinata said, more urgency in her voice than Sasuke had ever heard. He gave her a grateful nod before leaping from the still-running car and trotting towards the entrance of the hospital.
His father greeted him in the lobby, brows furrowed and looking rumpled and worried.
"Sasuke, you've arrived. What took you so long?" Fugaku grunted. Sasuke glared at his father.
"I live on the opposite side of town now, father. Or have you forgotten?" Sasuke snapped, his eyes darting around the hospital in search of his older brother. "Where is Itachi?"
"Your brother is flying over from Kumo. He's bringing a young but very prestigious lawyer with him, because as soon as we find that scum who hit your mother, we'll strip him for all he's worth," Fugaku snarled, face set in a glare.
For once, Sasuke agreed with him.
"Where is Mother?" Sasuke asked, walking alongside his father. Fugaku led him to the elevators.
"They have her in a private room. They are running some tests, but I don't think they are being urgent enough. Her life could be in danger," his father said, angrily stabbing at the elevator buttons with his fingers.
"Did you see what happened? Were you there with her?" Sasuke asked anxiously. "Did you notice anything?" His father faltered for a moment before responding.
"She said it was a light blue car, a convertible. She was just crossing the road after leaving the restaurant where we were to meet for our anniversary, and-"
Sasuke cut his father off.
"Were to meet? Did you not meet with her?" Sasuke prompted, brows furrowing.
"Well… I had a business meeting to finish up, and it ran late-"
"On your anniversary?" Sasuke stormed, slamming his palm against the wall of the elevator. He could feel the anger and disgust coursing through his system. "You couldn't lay off the business for one day father? Not one day? It's a Saturday, for Kami's sake!"
"You think I don't know that? And you are my son, Sasuke. You are in no place to judge. When you have a wife-"
"I have a wife," Sasuke snarled, relishing the surprise on his father's face. "And you know what? I would never choose business over her. No deal could be that important. This is your fault, Father. Your. Fault," he finished, jabbing his father in the chest with his index finger.
"And it's for her sake alone why you aren't flat on your back now, Father," Sasuke added as the elevator came to a stop. As the doors slid open and Sasuke stepped out, his father managed to call out to him.
"Stop acting like the loving son, Sasuke. After all, you were the one that left."
Fugaku allowed the doors to close between him and his son, and Sasuke was conscious that some doors, some unseen doors, would probably never open again after that comment.
Yes, he was the one that left.
But Fugaku was the one that pushed.
And his mother had suffered for them both.
But then again, she was the one that hadn't fought. When one accepts everything, they are bound to suffer for not fighting at all.
Hinata hurried into the waiting room of the hospital and came to stop out of pure disorientation.
In her rush, she'd quite forgotten how this place was for her. In a word, traumatic. Memories of blood and cries of pain swamped her. Memories of death and sorrow and bitterness and words that were never said and could never be said.
Apologies never given.
Why were people like this?
Years and years of pain, and not even on her grandmother's deathbed could her father simply apologise. He couldn't say the two words.
He just couldn't say he was sorry. He wouldn't even have to elaborate, as there had been so many things he had to say sorry for. And the last thing Hinata had seen on her beloved grandmother's face were tears.
And not the good kind either.
Surgical residents and worried family members passed like a blur in front of and around her. Just like the last time she'd been here, she was all alone. Not even a familiar face.
She'd been about thirteen at the time. They'd left her inside while they went outside to argue. There were never raised voices with the Hyuuga, but they knew exactly where to hit to make it hurt. They knew exactly what to say to make it burn for years.
And her grandmother had burned. She'd been so hurt she hadn't recovered.
The scent of the strong disinfectant and that … that smell… that hospitals always seemed to carry assaulted Hinata, and she had to close her eyes and clench her teeth against the memories.
Sasuke. Sasuke needed her.
She moved to the receptionist and gave her a weak smile.
"How may I help you?" the receptionist said with practiced sympathy.
"What room is Uchiha Mikoto-san in?" Hinata asked, her voice strained.
"I'm sorry ma'am," the receptionist said with a small smile. The Uchiha were a prestigious family, known by pretty much everyone. So were the Hyuuga. "Only family members are allowed in her room."
She'd have to stay outside again.
As Hinata opened her mouth to beg the woman to let her up, to try to explain that Sasuke might need her, it hit her.
She was family.
A streak of confidence moved through her.
"I know," she said, her smile strengthening. "See, I am Uchiha Hinata. Mikoto-san is my mother-in-law." The receptionist gaped. Disbelief tinged her eyes. Hinata subtly rested her hand on the counter so the receptionist could see her ring. Still, the receptionist didn't seem to believe her.
"Hinata-san." Hinata turned at the familiar voice. Itachi-san stood behind her, his usual blank mask intact. "Have you found out what room Mother is in?"
"I'm sorry, Itachi-san, she doesn't believe that I'm Sasuke-kun's wife," Hinata said, a little nervously. Itachi-san pinned the woman with a cold stare. He didn't even have to say a word. The receptionist squeaked an apology and hurriedly told them the room number.
Just as they turned to move in the direction of the elevator, confident footsteps sounded behind them, then, Itachi-san spoke again.
"Kioshi-san, do you have everything?"
And the voice that haunted Hinata even now answered. It was the same smooth, confident tone. That same convincing softness.
"Aa, Itachi-san. I always come prepared."
Kioshi was here. Hinata's heart thundered in her chest. Her breathing escalated. Oh… Oh Kami. She hoped he didn't see her.
"Oh Kami-sama, Kami-sama, please don't let him see me. Please don't let him see m-'
Hinata's frantic plea was interrupted when Kioshi spoke again.
"And who is this? I don't believe we have been introduced, though I feel as though we've met," his said with a white-toothed smile. A dashing smile.
"Ah. This is Hinata-san. My Otouto's wife. Hinata-san, our lawyer, Tataki Kioshi-san," Itachi-san said, dark eyes moving from one to the other. Kioshi didn't even falter. He bent in a graceful bow.
"Pleased to meet you, Uchiha-san," he said smoothly, but the look in his eyes as he rose told her he had not forgotten her. At all. It had only been a few years after all. Three if one were counting.
"P-Pleased to meet you too, Tataki-san. Please take care of us," she managed, eyes stinging. Why him? Why now? He looked sharp and sexy and confident, just like he used to. She wondered what she looked like.
It didn't matter.
He had nothing on Sasuke.
"Shall we?" Itachi-san said, before turning and leading the way to the elevators. Hinata followed close behind, and Kioshi pulled up in the rear. She could feel his gaze sliding up and down her back, and she felt to scream. When they got in the elevator, he positioned himself next to her in such a way that his hand kept brushing hers. And when Hinata tried to move away subtly, he would simply follow her with easy movements. As if it were completely natural.
"Is your wife as beautiful as your younger brother's, Itachi-san?" Kioshi asked, his tone completely respectful.
"I am not married, Kioshi-san," Itachi-san replied softly. It sounded perfectly normal, but Hinata knew what Kioshi was doing. He would never tell her anything directly with Itachi-san there. The elevator was becoming too stuffy and small.
"Ah. My mistake. It's so hard to tell when people are attached or not these days," Kioshi murmured politely, gaze sliding back down to Hinata's face. The elevator came to a stop in a matter of moments, but it had felt like forever to Hinata. As Itachi led the way out, Kioshi rested his hand at Hinata's lower back to guide her forward. Only his hand slipped a couple inches downwards as they began to move. Hinata clenched her teeth and stepped out of his reach, which in turn had her matching paces with Itachi-san.
She sensed Kioshi's eyes at her back the entire walk to Mikoto-san's room, and Hinata's nervousness at meeting the parents only doubled because of Kioshi's presence. Inside the room, a dark-haired woman in her mid to late forties lay on the bed, a few scratches on her arms and some bruises on her face marring her otherwise perfect skin.
"...And I am trying to tell you that I'm fine," she was saying to a rather worried-looking Sasuke who was leaning over her bed and frowning at her bruises. Both Uchiha looked up as Hinata, Itachi-san and Kioshi entered the room, but before any of the parties could speak, the door burst open and Sasuke's father stepped in. Hinata could see the resemblance between Sasuke and his father, though Uchiha-san had a rather strong, grim face. The smoother lines of Itachi's and Sasuke's faces obviously came from Mikoto-san.
"I had those interns order some food that is more befitting for an Uchiha," Uchiha-san said. He paused upon seeing the others in the room, then looked at Kioshi with a piercing stare. "You must be Tataki Kioshi," Uchiha-san said.
Hinata flinched when Sasuke looked up sharply. Seriously, this was way too early for Kioshi to pop back into her life. Way too early. Especially after the conversation they'd had last night.
She'd picked his name as a safeword… retarded move. But Uchiha-san was not done making the situation strained.
"Who are you?" he asked, staring pointedly at Hinata. "And what are you doing in this room?" Hinata gaped at him, not sure how to really tell Sasuke's father that she was married to his son.
Sasuke saved her.
"She's my wife, Father. This is Hinata," Sasuke said, his voice sounding tight as he rose to his full height and took several steps closer to Hinata. He took her hand and squeezed it gently. The move relaxed Hinata enough that she offered the other occupants in the room a small smile.
"Why, Sasuke, she's precious," Mikoto-san said with a welcoming smile. "Come here, dear, let me see who's tied the knot with my boy. I just can't understand why you didn't let me be a part of this, Sasuke-kun!" Hinata opened her mouth to say something, anything, but another squeeze from Sasuke's hand had her changing what she'd been about to say at the last minute.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Uchiha-san, Uchiha-san," she said, bowing respectfully for both Mikoto-san's and Uchiha-san's benefit. Mikoto-san smiled, obviously pleased with Hinata's manners. Uchiha-san, on the other hand, did not look impressed.
"What name did you carry before you married my son?" he asked sternly. "I'll not have some gold-digger sniffing at my son's boots like a common dog."
"She's gone past the sniffing stage, Father," Sasuke defended her. "And she has no reason to be a gold digger. Her family name was Hyuuga." There was a pregnant pause in the room.
"Hyuuga?" Uchiha-san repeated. "You're one of them?"
"Father, I will not have you use that tone with my wife," Sasuke said, stepping protectively in front of Hinata and glaring at his father.
"Hyuuga, hrm?" Kioshi murmured softly, but loud enough that the others in the room could hear. "I stayed with some Hyuuga once… insolent set, but the did have this daughter that was pretty good in the sack… Hinat-..." he mumbled to Itachi, then his head jerked up and he stared point blank at Hinata. Sasuke's hand was squeezing Hinata's so hard it was now painful.
"Hinata? Hyuuga Hinata?" he said, clarity rushing to his eyes. "Sweetheart, I've been looking for you!" he said, taking several steps forward and taking her face in his hands in several swift movements. Sasuke grasped Kioshi by the shoulder and pushed him away from Hinata… who was so stunned and blindsided by the turn of events that she could hardly even breathe.
"Don't. Touch. My wife," Sasuke snarled.
"What is going on here?" Uchiha-san asked curtly, his voice raising. Now momentarily forgotten, Itachi moved to his mother's side.
"This is better than television," Mikoto-san whispered to Itachi.
"Mother," Itachi replied with a hint of disapproval in his voice. "This has to do with the life of your son." Mikoto waved an arm in dismissal.
"Oh, I think they'll be fine. Look at him. Fighting," she remarked, pride evident even in her whisper. And it made Hinata look.
The planes of his face were hard and set, his mouth in a grim line and his dark eyes glowering and Kioshi.
"You don't understand," Kioshi said, looking over at Hinata with a desperate expression. "We were in love. We were together and life… life pushed us apart, but Hinata, it's you! I found you!" he exclaimed.
Hinata was officially confused.
"Urm… I wasn't hiding. And I was never in love with you," she said. Kioshi's face fell.
"Right. So you said. But I still hoped I could make you forget Naruto, the one you claimed to be in love with. That was only three years ago, Hinata. Have you said goodbye to Naruto as well?" Kioshi asked, stepping closer.
"Why are you twisting the past?" Hinata asked, growing distressed. He was coming so close to revealing something she had only just admitted to Sasuke. "You were the one that left. You knew we were never in love… and no, I'm not with Naruto. I'm with Sasuke." Kioshi shook his head. He was relishing the audience. He was trying to destroy something Hinata had barely even come to grips with having.
"How fickle you are, Hinata," Kioshi spat. "Are you going to do the same thing to this guy that you did to me? Are you gonna toy with him, do your little innocent act? Are you gonna sleep with him and get his hopes up, and then cut him loose while you go after your beloved Naruto-kun?" Kioshi stormed.
"Liar," Hinata gasped, taking a step back. "You liar. You know it wasn't like that! You're purposefully twisting things! Why?"
"It's all on you, Hinata," Kioshi returned, acid in his voice now.
"You were the one that came to me, that o-offered," Hinata stuttered, wishing she could just hide.
"You were the one that didn't refuse," Kioshi said flatly. "They have a word for people like you."
Then Sasuke punched him.
The feeling of his fist colliding with Kioshi's face was painful, yet one of the most satisfying feelings he'd felt recently. There was a loud 'crack' as the lawyer's nose broke and the man went reeling backwards from the force of the hit. So much for Kioshi's symmetrical appeal.
The part that Sasuke hated the most about Kioshi was that he'd made Sasuke doubt Hinata. For just a moment. They say the best lies contain elements of the truth. So Sasuke suspected that some elements of what Kioshi had been saying were true, but whereas Hinata had been consistent in her approach to the scene, Kioshi had changed tactics so many times that it was cause for the doubt to be transferred back to Kioshi. And Hinata had never once appealed to anyone in the room to believe her. She'd never tried to explain herself or her actions. The memory of their argument the night before and what she'd told him flashed across Sasuke's memory, and he knew by the raw pain he'd seen in her face that there was no way for Kioshi's side of things to be true.
He'd been in love with Hinata for long enough to know who she was. He knew her character. She was weak-willed and indecisive at times. She was often scared to stand up for herself, and she was gullible. But she was also loving and gentle and tender-hearted. She was also loyal and sweet. She was nothing close to what Kioshi was insinuating, and Sasuke's hatred of the man, and his jealousy resurfaced as he thought.
And as he'd thought, Kioshi had continued his strange conversation with Hinata, trying to achieve some sort of a result… and that Sasuke had no idea what he was trying to prove or gain by his words was even more infuriating.
His last veiled insult at Sasuke's wife, however, was the final straw.
"Sasuke! Stop this instant!" his father commanded. The look in his father's eyes made Sasuke pause with shame and disappointment. His father had fallen for Kioshi's play, whatever it was.
"This man was slandering my wife," Sasuke snapped, no longer caring about respect. "I will not stand for that. And for your information, Tataki-san," Sasuke snapped. "I already know the full story from my wife. We don't keep secrets from each other. I don't know what your game is, but you're not getting between me and my wife. Get out of this room before I make you."
A muffled sob from behind him changed his focus to Hinata, who had her hands pressed to her face. She ran past Sasuke and fled the room.
He followed her immediately, panicking at the thought that he might have said something wrong. Scouring his mind for anything he might have said to hurt her, Sasuke rushed down the hall behind her. She rounded a corner disappearing from his sight for just a moment.
"Hinata," Sasuke called as he followed her, but the rest of his words were cut off when small hands grasped him by his shirt and pushed him up against the hospital walls. Hinata.
"Hinata," he said softly when he looked down into her face. She wasn't speaking, but her eyes were saying everything that needed to be said. Sasuke felt his face heat.
"Stop looking at me like that. You're making me this close to being glad that that damned Kioshi showed up," he muttered. Hinata never replied, but went on tiptoe to give him the first full on, voluntary, proper kiss she'd initiated.
The smells and sounds of the hospital faded from Sasuke's awareness, and it was just Hinata. When they pulled away moments later, there was a full, but comfortable silence between them.
"Thank you," Hinata whispered, her fingers gently tracing Sasuke's jaw. There was a tenderness in her expression, a sense of warmth in her manner, that Sasuke had never experienced before in his life. She wasn't saying the words he really wanted to hear, but he was feeling them all the same. When she said them. When the words actually came from her lips… Sasuke didn't know what he would do. He needed to hear them.
And he was so close.
Sorry, no lime or lemon this chapter! I wanted to create some sort of instance where Hinata would finally let down that barrier to trust that she's had up so far. She's been kinda on the fence because she was scared, and I wanted it gone. I feel there are a few more chapters left before I mark this as complete. Five more is the number I am thinking.
Let's make them count, lovely reviewers! Please remember to suggest a nice, random chapter title to make things fun~! (^_^)