Hello! The idea for this fic came from "someonewaycoolerthanyou" on tumblr. She wanted to see a story like this written, and so I made it. Part of the idea of the last part of this story that you'll read (the part with the letters) came from a story I read once in a different fandom, called 99 Days Without You.
This is a NejiHina fic, meaning it's for the couple Neji and Hinata, in a romantic manner, not just platonic, so if you're not into that, just a heads up! I don't believe the story would particularly bother platonic shippers of this pairing, but I'm a romantic NejiHina shipper, myself, so that's how the story is written.
This fic will be separated into two parts, due to the fact that it ended up being longer than I thought it would be. I should post the second part in a few days, and a week at the latest. Please enjoy!
Fourth Great Ninja War—November-May; Six months
Two months since the end of the Fourth Great Ninja War
One month since awakening; July 19th
"Neji, please…you shouldn't be here," Hinata whispered to him. He couldn't understand why Hinata had become so bitter toward him since the end of the War. He thought it might have been because he was unable to help win the war after having been sent to the hospital for the remainder of it. It was all to save Hinata's life though. She no longer used an honorific at the end of his name. It was always just, "Neji," which should have made him ultimately happy, but he couldn't help but wonder if it was because she had somewhat…given up on him, instead of for reasons of getting closer to him. She never had a conversation longer than two sentences with him anymore. It crushed him, especially since the last time he had seen Hinata, after having regained his memory and come out of his coma, had been when he had jumped in the line of fire to save her life. He knew she must have been angry at him for almost dying—it was the only explanation.
"I'm sorry, Hinata-sama. I'll go now," he whispered back to her. They were both stood inside of Hinata's room. He had come to her room to speak to her about the way she had been acting toward him for the past two weeks, but as usual, he couldn't make himself push her any further when she didn't want him around. He sighed, turning away from Hinata, feeling her eyes stare almost through him as he exited her room.
Ever since he had woken up, nothing had been the same. He assumed everyone had thought him dead. The War had gone on for several months, and he had been in a coma almost the entire time. He didn't blame anyone for having already convinced themselves of his death. No one in the clan ever acknowledged him, which wasn't much different from before. He was a strong member of the Hyuuga clan, but being a branch member, no one ever showed any particular interest or concern in him. It had always been that way. Any time something was said about him, it was behind his back, about how smart he was, or how much stronger than Hinata he was—which always pissed him off. Yes, he was stronger than Hinata, but hell, he was stronger than most of the shinobi his age, if not all. Hinata was strong too.
He felt the overwhelming desire to protect his cousin after having grown closer to her following the chuunin exams when they were younger. They had grown closer as friends, and Hinata held a special place in Neji's heart that he would barely admit to himself, much less anyone else. He always thought he simply felt like a protector to her, since she was his younger cousin, but he had realized after a while that she was the only female he had ever felt so strongly toward, with any kind of emotion—jealousy, rage, concern, and dare he say it: love. And because of that, he also felt sadness, because of the way she acted toward him now, and also because of how down she always seemed.
Neji rarely left the compound because of the fact that all of the recent events had caused him to go into a depression of sorts. He didn't feel like being around his teammates—especially the exuberant Gai and Lee. He told himself that he would avoid people until he was called upon for a mission, which hadn't happened yet, because he was still recovering. He knew Tsunade wouldn't be sending him out on any missions so soon after having been released from the hospital.
One month since the end of the Fourth Great Ninja War
The day of awakening; June 21st
No one really told him anything after he woke up from the coma. He barely remembered anything before waking up that day, in fact. He knew he must have lost part of his memory, because he didn't remember anything past the battlefield. He could remember Hinata's tears as she looked at him bleeding from the mouth—that image would be forever burned into his mind—but after that, everything was a blur. He woke up lying on a hospital bed, fully clothed by the nurses that had taken care of him. There was no equipment around him, and everything in the room looked as if it had been recently packed away and cleaned up. The only thing that told him he was dismissed was the dry-erase board in the room that had "Hyuuga—released to return home" written upon it. He didn't question anything further, taking that single note as a sign he could leave. He felt completely fine after having woken up, and all of his wounds were healed, so he assumed that he had come out of the coma days, or even weeks before. Although, he had only just become conscious of everything, and remembered nothing.
After having left the hospital room that day, he heard several nurses discussing the War and how Naruto and Sasuke had together beaten Madara and Obito. Neji cursed himself for having missed so much of the War, but he in no way regretted it, because his decision had saved Hinata. He had run his hand across the counter at the front of the hospital, moving some papers with it, and then told the two receptionists that he—stating his name—was leaving. The two of them looked at the papers he had moved, and then both stared blankly at him. One of them started writing something on her clipboard afterward, and Neji took that was a signal that he could leave. He didn't want to waste another second in the hospital.
The first thing he did that day after having left the hospital was head straight to the compound to look for Hinata. He wanted to make sure she was okay. He wouldn't be able to live with himself if Hinata had gotten hurt or even killed while he was in a coma. It was 6:00pm in the day, and the sun was just beginning to set, so he knew he would find her finishing up training by the time he got there. She always stopped at seven, and always trained in the same part of the compound, most of the time with Neji himself. He couldn't wait to see her, to make sure nothing was wrong. Arriving at the part of the compound he knew she should be, he saw her sitting on the ground, looking worn out. She was picking at the grass beneath her.
He walked nearer to her and she hadn't noticed him yet. He was so happy to see that she was alright—it nearly set his heart on fire. She was sweating a bit, but she was as beautiful as always. He looked a little closer at her face, which was partially covered by her long hair. Was that tears? Why was she crying?
"Hinata-sama," he said softly to her, as he arrived beside of her, bending down to get on eye level. Her shoulders shook with what looked to Neji like sobs. "Hinata-sama," he muttered again. This time, she looked up, very slowly. Her eyes were wet and her cheeks were littered with tears. Her eyes went wide as soon as she saw Neji, and she fainted. "Hinata-sama!" he called one more time, hurriedly moving her bangs out of her face and feeling her forehead to make sure she wasn't sick. She didn't have a fever. He moved to pick her up, the bend of her knees in one of his hands, and his other arm wrapped around her back. She felt heavier than normal, but Neji knew it was because he has just gotten out of the hospital. Hinata even looked thinner, like she had lost weight. Neji couldn't believe how weak he had gotten.
He carried her gracefully to her bedroom, laying her upon her bed. He sighed a bit. She was obviously not expecting him to be awake so soon. That was the first time Neji had seen that people had truly thought him to be dead. He couldn't say he wouldn't feel the same if someone he knew had been comatose for so long though. He waited in her room for a few minutes, before leaving. He would try to approach her another time, after the shock that he was awake had worn off of her. Still, he wondered why she had been crying. It worried him to think about Hinata hurting emotionally over anything. He was more than happy to see that she was safe and sound though.
The second time he had tried to approach Hinata had been two days after the incident. He decided to visit her while she was getting a drink from the kitchen. Walking in the brightly-lit area, he saw her leaned against the counter of one of the many Hyuuga kitchens, drinking a glass of water. She didn't notice him until he said her name. Upon hearing it, she jumped nearly out of her skin and looked to where Neji was standing. He saw her noticeably start shaking.
"Looks like I'm finally healed," he said to her, trying to break the silence between the two of them.
"N-Neji…," she stuttered. He thought it sounded odd for the honorific to have been dropped, but it didn't bother or offend him in the least. He only wished that he knew why she was so nervous. They had just gotten out of a war though. Neji knew that War could affect any type of person. Given Hinata's timid and somewhat standoffish personality, he figured she—out of anybody—would be the type of person to be affected greatly by war. That might have explained her crying the other day. Memories of battle could often be harsh. He decided to be careful with her.
"How are you feeling, Hinata?" he asked, approaching her more closely. She shook more, setting the glass of water down upon the counter, he assumed so she would keep from dropping it. She had always been a nervous girl, but now especially so. He hoped Hinata hadn't suffered any losses of friends from the War. He knew she probably wouldn't handle it very well. He didn't know much about what happened in the War except from what he had heard from the talking nurses in the hospital.
Hinata still hadn't answered his question. She just swallowed a bit harshly. This was going to take him a while. He wanted to help piece Hinata back together again from what had affected her so. He could see her small fingers fidgeting with the sleeve of her jacket, and she was avoiding eye contact with him.
"W-why are you here?" her small voice came out. Neji was puzzled for a moment. He didn't know why she would be asking him such a question. Was she wondering why he in the kitchen?
"I had been searching for you today, and found you here. I wanted to make sure you were alright, since you fainted the day before yesterday," he explained to her. He had walked closer to her, and moved to her left side, leaning against the counter like she was doing. He crossed his arms and looked over at her. She still wouldn't look at him. He could tell, now that he was closer, her eyes were tearing up again. She hadn't said anything back to him, so he continued, "Hinata, I know the battle must have been rough. I'm sorry I couldn't be there for the rest of it. But you must understand why I was in the hospital so long. I protected you from…," he paused, swallowing, "dying." After having finished his sentence, he cringed, not wanting to think about Hinata dying, ever. That would be a nightmare to him. He noticed Hinata flinch after his last sentence.
"I-I don't understand what's going on." Tears silently left her eyes now. There was no sobbing from the girl, just large tears rolling down her face. She still wouldn't look his way. He was beginning to get angry with himself. He hated seeing Hinata cry.
"What's not to understand, Hinata-sama? Everything is okay now, just try to remember that. The War is over, and everyone…," he couldn't bring himself to finish his words because he wasn't sure if everyone truly was okay. "Everyone is okay, right?" he said this part softly, not wanting to push Hinata into saying anything that would bring back bad memories. After Neji's last question, Hinata slumped down onto the kitchen floor, and held her head in her hands, now weeping in loud cries. That answered Neji's question. Everyone obviously wasn't okay. Hinata had lost someone close to her. He quickly bent down, touching his hand to her shoulder. She sobbed harder at this.
"P-please g-go away…," he could barely tell what she said through her crying, but he did hear it. His heart sank automatically. He wanted to be there for Hinata so badly. He wanted to ask who she had lost. He hoped it wasn't one of her teammates, because he knew she was closer to them than nearly everyone else. He knew it wasn't Naruto, because of the fact that he had heard the nurses say that Naruto and Sasuke had been a big cause of the War having been won.
Neji hated hearing Hinata say such words to him, but he couldn't force himself on her. As much as he wanted to shower her with sympathy and affection, if Hinata wanted him to go away, he really had no choice. He stood up, reached over to take her water from where it was set upon the counter, bent back down, and set the glass near her with an audible clank so that she knew where it was.
"Here is your water, Hinata-sama. Please drink some of it, and try to feel better. I'll be in my room if you need me." With that, he rubbed Hinata's back once, and then exited the kitchen, feeling utterly useless.
Two and a half weeks since awakening; July 9th
The times after the encounter in the kitchen that he had run into Hinata had been much the same in the beginning. Hinata cried nearly every time that Neji came around. No one, including her, ever tried to come into his room. No one ever came to visit him, which he thought a tad strange for his teammates at least. He assumed everyone was busy with their own lives though, and various other factors. He hoped his teammates were at least okay. One day, he decided to check up on said teammates. He didn't have much energy and never wanted to leave his room, due to the fact that somewhere on the compound, Hinata was suffering, and he couldn't help her. On that day though, he forced himself to leave. He wanted to make sure that Lee, Tenten, and Gai were holding up okay. He hoped none of them were even near the state Hinata was in. It would be a good chance for him to find out about casualties in the War as well.
As he left the compound, he wondered briefly where they all might be. He figured if he could find Lee, he would most likely find Gai, due to the fact that they were both inseparable most days. So, he decided to start at the training ground where the four of them would spar nearly daily, trying to accomplish their goals of moving up in rank. Neji had reached jounin before any of them, but he still trained with them often to help them get to the level they desired to be at. And he knew the more practice he had, the stronger he would become. And the stronger he became, the better he could protect Hinata.
Neji made his way through the forest area to the training ground. He only noticed Tenten there, sending a fright through his body for a split second. He sincerely hoped Lee and Gai weren't… He couldn't think about it. His whole life, he had been trained to keep his emotions at bay, but after having spent six years with his team, he couldn't help but feel an attachment to all of them. Any of their deaths would be a devastation to him. As much as Gai and Lee got under his skin most days with their obnoxious, youthful behaviour, they both meant a lot to him. Lee had become his best friend and rival throughout the years, and Gai had taught him so much. They both were eternally embedded in his heart. Seeing Tenten kicking the practice dummy alone made Neji's heart sink, though. He had to make sure.
"Hello, Tenten," he said to the girl, walking nearer. She continued to kick the dummy. He figured she must not have heard him. He walked closer, crunching some twigs that lay in the path. He cleared his throat. Tenten finally turned around and looked to where Neji was standing. She just stared at him, looking surprised. He felt bad for not having told his teammates earlier that he was out of the hospital. The whole issue with Hinata had been bothering him too badly, though, and he hadn't felt like communicating with anyone else.
"Seems I'm finally out of the hospital. Took long enough, huh?" He asked her, smirking. It felt refreshing to see Tenten's face. He had missed his friend. Tenten merely chuckled a bit, smirking back, and then turned back around to continue her training. Something seemed to be upsetting her, Neji concluded. This made his suspicions rise about Lee and Gai. "Where are those two idiots?" Neji tried to keep his voice lighthearted and in a joking manner as he asked about his other two teammates.
"Lee and Gai should be here soon," she muttered, almost to herself. Neji nodded and sat under a tree near the dummy that Tenten was still practicing with. He was relieved to hear that the two green-clan men were safe. It was like a weight had been lifted off of him. He knew it was going to take some time for things to go back to normal. Konoha was still being rebuilt, and everyone was remembering everything that had happened in the past year. Many lives had been lost, he knew, and it was going to be hard for everyone to adjust back to how it was before, if it was even possible. Since Neji hadn't been present throughout most of the War, its effects weren't so prevalent with him. He only saw the after-effects through everyone else's lives. He just had to wait for everyone else and try to help them along the way. Especially poor Hinata, he thought.
A few more minutes passed and Tenten decided to take a break. She wiped the sweat from her brow and walked over to where Neji was. He moved to the side a bit to allow her room to sit at the tree as well. She sat down, panting heavily from her training. She closed her eyes, leaning her head back against the tree. Neji looked over at her and smiled. He was so glad to see her. Tenten was like a sister to him, and seeing that his sister was doing so well after the War pleased him. Tenten was a strong girl, both inside and out. Shinobi had to be emotionally and mentally strong to be able to carry out their tasks, but Tenten was especially so. He was proud of her growth.
"Sorry for making you wait!" Came a voice in front of them. They both looked at who said the words, already knowing by his voice who it was. Lee was waving at them, with Gai at his side. Neji and Tenten both waved back as the two men reached them.
"That's okay, Lee," Tenten answered him.
"It appears you have already been training, Tenten!" he said to the girl, bending down in front of her, reaching out and wiping a bead of sweat from her forehead.
"What energy!" Gai exclaimed, proud of Tenten's work.
"Tenten's a hard worker. You guys should know this," Neji interjected at the two men's surprise at her early start.
"Yea, yea. I just wanted to get warmed up first," she answered, standing up with Lee. Neji stood up along with them.
"Lee, go throw kunai at the bullseye until you can get ten in a row in the middle! We'll stand over here and cheer you on while Tenten continues to rest," Gai explained to Lee, moving to stand between Neji and Tenten. Neji usually sat out small exercises like this, observing with Gai.
"Yes!" Lee answered, joyfully bounding over to stand several feet in front of the target. As he began to throw the kunai, Gai turned to Tenten, observing her.
"Tenten…" he older man began.
"I'm fine," she answered quickly. At her short, immediate reply, Neji looked around Gai to regard her. So Gai had also noticed that she looked troubled.
"Tenten, I also noticed something seems to be bothering you. We're your teammates and your friends. I don't know much about what happened since I was comatose during much of the War, but you know that all three of us are here for you," Neji explained to her. It was the only think he could think to say, since he felt like an outsider in the conversation. He hated not knowing what all had happened. He hoped to get some explanations soon.
"I'm fine…really. It's just going to take some getting used to, you know? It's still in my mind, and I know it's still in Lee's too. I can see it in his eyes," Tenten said, looking down at her feet. Neji saw Gai nod once, looking serious, and then they all three continued to watch Lee. The whole conversation had him wondering how much had actually changed during the War. He was content to see his teammates alive and well, and so, after a short explanation that he had somewhere to be, he quickly left. He wanted to find out more.
Rushing through the trees, he eventually made it back onto the main road. He was heading toward the Hokage tower to discuss matters with Tsunade. To begin to help his friends and Hinata get back to normal again, he first needed details of the war. He briskly walked further and further down the road until he noticed a sign to the right that hadn't been there before. Out of curiosity, he stopped to read it. "For those who gave their lives for the peace of the Shinobi world," was written in intricate lettering on the shiny wood. He looked beyond the sign, seeing a path leading to what looked like a newly formed cemetery. Neji's heart jumped.
He knew that there had been casualties in the war, but he never expected there to be so many that a whole new cemetery could be formed for them. And this was just for Konoha shinobi, he imagined. He took a few steps down the path, knowing that what he would find in the cemetery would answer all of his questions. After entering the quiet area, the first name he noticed was "Hatake." His heart sank, knowing what was coming. Reading the stone further, his bad feeling was made reality when he saw that it was indeed Kakashi. His heart ached like never before. He never knew the man very personally, but he and Gai were rivals and best friends. He imagined Gai was suffering immensely. And Naruto, Sakura, and Sasuke… he thought. He didn't know about the Sasuke situation yet, but it seemed that Sasuke was back in the village, and forgiven by all.
Neji willed himself to move on through more headstones. Some of the names he didn't recognize and some he knew only a bit. The cemetery was vast, and he knew it would take him days to get through them all. It was an awful, sad sight to see. He knew now that most of the village was grieving. Most everyone had lost someone close to them. He hated to think about it. He felt extremely lucky that no one close to him had passed—especially Hinata. She had so much in store for herself; she had a huge future ahead of her. He hadn't found any of her teammates or close friends in the cemetery yet, and he sincerely hoped that he wouldn't. He decided he would leave more of his searching for another day.
Five weeks since awakening; July 26th
Neji hoped that it would be his last visit to the cemetery on that day. He had spent the last three weeks staying in his room and training mostly, but other times, he tried to speak with Hinata. She still didn't have much to do with him, but he gave her the space he knew she needed. He was ever determined to help her in some way, though. That was why he visited the cemetery at least two times a week to discover new names. He had found out lots of information from reading names on the stones. He had found out that Shikamaru and Ino's fathers had both passed during the War, which put him to the knowledge that not only was Team 7 and his own team suffering from the loss of Kakashi, but Team 10 had lost two of their parents, and were more than likely also in anguish.
He was at the back portion of the cemetery now, nearly finished with the names, when his breath caught in his throat. The name he saw made his eyes widen and he had to read it a few more times to make sure he hadn't read it wrong. He wasn't mistaken though. He immediately left the area, set on finding Hinata. Neji ran until he felt like he nearly took flight to get back to the compound. Although, when he got nearer, he found who he was looking for. Hinata was walking slowly his way with flowers in her hands, looking forlorn, as normal. Neji halted, breathing heavily from having run so fast.
"Hinata-sama!" he said, standing in front of her when it looked like she was going to bump into him. Hinata jumped out of fright, not expecting to hear her name, and especially not from Neji. She stopped, and then looked at him, her eyes glossy, nearly dropping her flowers. "Hinata-sama…," Neji frowned deeply, his heart aching for her. "You should have told me," he touched her cheek gently, "about Shino." The words sent Hinata's tears rolling down her cheeks.
"Neji, I…" she started crying harder, "You really don't get it, do you? It's been over a month."
"Hinata-sama, I know it's only been such a short time since the War. I don't blame you for crying over your teammate, no one blames you." He had never been a good person to go to for emotional support. It was one of his weaknesses—emotion. When it came to Hinata, he found strength within himself, though. He couldn't bring himself to put up some sort of front around her when she was hurting like this. He wanted—needed—to help her. Hinata shook her head at his words, smiling only slightly.
"Thank you, Neji." She seemed to be lost in thought for a moment as she closed her eyes, the tears still silently rolling. "Would you mind coming with me to visit Shino-kun?" Neji's eyes lit up at the recognition Hinata was finally giving him. Now that he had found the cause of her strife, he hoped the young girl would finally get a little closer to him. It was all that he wanted. Since he wasn't able to help physically in the War, his sincerest wish now was that he could help Hinata during the mourning of her friend and teammate. If he could accomplish that, and see her lovely smile once more, then missing out on the War would have been worth it all.
"Of course, Hinata-sama," he answered, walking silently with her back toward the cemetery.
Six weeks since awakening; August 2nd-12th
Neji had noticed that Hinata seemed to care less now when he approached her, but he could see the distant look in her eyes, like she wasn't even there. He grew continuously worried about her as each day passed. He watched her from afar often, as she spoke with her sister or father, even with Kiba or Naruto sometimes (he tried avoiding watching her with her friends though, as to give her some bit of privacy and keep himself from being a complete stalker). As much as he watched her, he noticed that out of everyone she came into contact with, she seemed to be the one in the most misery. Neji thought that everyone could see that too. And to his discontentment, when she was around Neji, she seemed to be saddest. He hated himself for that. He wished so badly that he had been there for Hinata more in life so that she would realize that he truly did care about her, and would always be there for her, to help her through anything.
At the beginning of the week, he noticed that Hinata had started visiting the Hyuuga therapist. The clan had its own therapist that would help the members who visited relieve themselves of their problems. Neji had been a few times after his father had died, only to realize that he felt he could better cope on his own. Whether it had been Hinata's father that had asked her to start going, or Hinata's decision herself, Neji was glad of it. He sincerely hoped that speaking about what was bothering her to someone would help her, even if that someone wasn't himself.
It was a few days after she started seeing the therapist that Neji noticed Hinata started carrying a notebook around with her. Often, he would see her sitting by the pond at the edge of the compound, writing in the notebook. Sometimes she was even crying—it took everything he had not to run to her and wipe away her tears when he saw this. But he knew staying away from Hinata was what she needed. When he was around, she seemed to get worse. She acted sweet to him when he did come around, but he knew that it was simply Hinata's personality. She couldn't be mean to someone even if she tried.
It was at the end of the week that Neji truly felt like he was having some sort of negative effect on Hinata. It was starting to get dark outside when he had been walking back to the compound from visiting the cemetery (after having given up on trying to find his teammates to train with). He saw from the light on the street, Hinata was also walking home. The strange part of the scenario, though, was the two men—who were stupidly drunk—following Hinata. She hadn't seemed to notice it, but as they walked closer to her, he knew she would notice and likely panic. They were making crude gestures behind her back, and Neji was going to have none of it. He swiftly made his way to Hinata's side and said hello to her. Her heart nearly jumped out of her chest from having been startled by him. She muttered a small hello, but her voice seemed blank and dead.
"Listen, Hinata-sama. There are some guys following you, but I'm going to take care of them. I want you to keep walking, okay? It's not because I don't think you're an adequate enough fighter to take them on, but I'm going to, and want to, deal with it," he explained to her, turning around to face the men that were still several feet away.
"Neji, please-" she began to protest, but he had already started speaking.
"I don't know what your intentions are with Hinata-sama, but you both have two options: go back to the hole you crawled out of, or deal with me," he said sternly to the both of them, crossing his arms. Neji's name and face were vastly recognized around Konoha. Everyone knew of the "Hyuuga prodigy." Neji never used his status as a means to intimidate anyone, but he was glad for it in that moment so that he could protect Hinata. They both just kept walking toward Hinata, though. Were they deaf or just stupid? He knew he had spoken loud enough for them to hear him, he had spoken up in a threatening voice.
"Neji," Hinata began again. She sounded on the brink of tears. The men still took no notice of Neji. This got him tremendously angry. He stepped closer to them, taking the stance for fighting.
"If you want it that way, then," he said. He could hear Hinata's voice slightly panicking from behind him.
"N-Neji, I'm going, okay? Please don't fight them," her voice was wavering, and he heard her footsteps go into a light run in the opposite direction away from the men. Keeping his attention on the two of them, he saw them take notice of Hinata running. They grinned at each other and took off after her, right past Neji. He was so startled by the fact that neither of them even acknowledged his existence that he almost couldn't move for a second. After gaining his senses back, rage seared through him. He turned around and took off after the men.
"Hey!" he yelled at them both. He was fuming. At this, they finally turned around to see him. The look on both of their faces pleased Neji greatly. They both looked utterly terrified. He knew he had quite a name around the village for being a strong shinobi, but even he was startled at how surprised they looked. "I said leave her alone." His words were dripping with venom. He moved toward them further, and one of the men fainted onto the ground.
"Y-you're…" the other spoke, horrified. He quickly bent down and grabbed his friend's arm, putting it around his shoulder. He stumbled, trying to get away while dragging his friend. "I'm way too drunk."
"Bastards…," Neji muttered, watching them disappear from his view down the street. Now he had to make sure Hinata was okay.
He made his way back to the compound finally, nodding to the guard who was sat outside of the entrance. The guard continued to read his book. It was completely dark out by the time he found Hinata sitting on a stone bench near one of the training areas near her room. She had her knees brought up against her chest, and her head was resting face down on top of her knees. She was crying again. Neji had seen Hinata cry more in the last month than he ever cared to see in a lifetime. She was such a beautiful girl, even when she cried, but he hated seeing her tearstained cheeks, knowing that she was hurting so badly on the inside.
"Hinata-sama…," Neji carefully said, walking towards her. He sat down next to her on the bench, putting his hand on her trembling back. "Why are you crying? Everything is okay now. You're safe. I'm never going to let anyone hurt you." He slid a bit closer to her as she continued crying and he wrapped his arm around her back, placing his hand on her arm, pulling her closer to him. He wanted to comfort her. Hinata didn't deserve to be going through any kind of pain.
"I can't take it anymore, Neji. Everything isn't okay. It's all so messed up," she wept. Neji frowned visibly. He knew she was going through all kinds of agony. He only wished he could help her to feel better again after the loss of her friend.
"Things will get better with time, Hinata-sama. I promise you. I know that's something that everyone says, but try to trust me. Things are always bad before they get better. Everything hurts right now. It's all still fresh, and the wounds haven't even begun to close yet. It may take months or even years, but the hurt you're feeling over the loss of Shino will eventually get better. One day you and Kiba will be able to look back on the memories you had with him, and you'll be able to smile knowing how bravely he fought in the war, and what great times you three shared." Neji had never been able to comfort anyone with words his whole life. Comforting words weren't something that came natural or easy to him like they did with Hinata. She was able to comfort anybody, with her small, soothing voice, and words of advice. But as Neji sat and watched the girl he had grown to love crying in his arms, he found the words within himself to say to Hinata. He was determined to do anything he had to to save her from her pain, even if that meant he had to dig down deep within his stoic Hyuuga heart and bring out the words he never thought he could say. After he had finish, he heard a small laugh from Hinata. This surprised him.
"It's so cute, Neji," she began, lifting her head from her knees finally. She was still crying a bit, but through her tears, a small smile fought its way onto her face. "I never knew you could say such nice things. But, I'm afraid your words are only going to be a temporary relief. You don't know the entire story, Neji…" She seemed to trail off after this, like she wasn't sure what to say next. Neji tried to encourage her.
"What do you mean, Hinata-sama?"
"Please follow me, Neji," she asked quietly, holding out her hand. She looked very uncertain at the movement she made. Neji looked at her small hand held out to his, and took it within his larger one. She then led Neji through the compound, passing different buildings, unspeaking, until they reached the back of the compound where the pond was that Hinata sat by often. Near the pond was a large willow tree, and a bit away from that was the entrance to a small Hyuuga cemetery. A tradition started around ten years before Neji and Hinata were born that every Hyuuga member be buried there. Before, the branch members were to be buried in the Konoha cemeteries, but as the years went on and branch members gained more rights, they began to be buried in the Hyuuga compound cemetery.
The Hyuuga clan was a large one, but their compound which held all the members of the clan was also large, so there were several acres of land that had been reserved to use for the cemetery. There were many members buried there, but it wasn't near enough to even begin to fill the cemetery up. Hinata seemed to know exactly where she was going. The further she walked, the more Neji felt her hand start to tremble. He felt the incredible urge to hold her again. They weaved through several headstones until Hinata finally came to a halt in front of one in particular.
The first thing Neji noticed was that the rock's material looked fairly new, and also, it was covered in flowers and other small memorial items. The second thing he noticed was that Hinata's sobbing had started up again. He could tell she was trying her hardest to suppress it, but there was no mistaking her heavy breathing and the shaking of her hand. That was when Neji noticed the last thing. He focused his gaze on the headstone's letters: Hyuuga Neji. At that moment, a rush of emotion hit him swiftly and he nearly fell to the ground. He was trying to comprehend everything. It was in that moment that it all became clear to him.
Neji suddenly remembered everything right before his death. Every word he had said to the crying Hinata as she watched his life slipping from him. Everything he said to Naruto, in regards to a part of himself always being within Hinata, wanting the blonde to protect her. He felt immediately grateful to Naruto for keeping Hinata safe through the war, when he couldn't. He had given everything he could give to Hinata. His love had burned so strongly for her, and even though she had been about to give up her precious life for Naruto, he would have never let her do that in a thousand years.
Even though he now understood everything, like why no one acknowledged his existence, and everything Tenten and Gai had been speaking about, some things he still couldn't explain. One being Hinata could see him. When he thought back to the day he had met Tenten at the training area, and to what they had discussed, he realized that their "conversation" could have very well been one sided. Everything that was said could have been said even if Neji hadn't have been there. His heart ached, not because he knew now that he was dead, but because he knew now why Hinata was such a mess. Not only had she lost her teammate, Shino, but also her cousin. Neji didn't think he and Hinata were near as close as he would've liked them to be, but they were friends still, at the least.
He looked to his left at said girl and noticed her eyes were shut tightly as if trying to will everything away. Her hand was gripping tighter onto Neji's. He wondered how that could be possible, since he was apparently a ghost and all, but he didn't care. He held Hinata's hand tightly and proudly. He didn't plan on ever letting her go, even if he was a "ghost." Hell, he would be her guardian angel if he had to. He wanted to protect her forever. He didn't care that he was dead. He didn't care that his entire future and plans were all gone. There was nothing he could do about any of that now. But what he could do was make sure he kept Hinata alive and safe.
"Hinata-sama," he began. She continued to cry. He now understood why she had fainted the first time she had seen him. He most likely would've done the same if he had seen someone that was supposed to be dead. He wondered how it was Hinata was the only one that could see him, and how the two men following her had done so as well. Hinata still didn't respond to Neji speaking her name. "Hinata-sama," he said again. After no response once more, he completely turned away from his grave to stand in front of her. He lifted the hand that wasn't holding hers to her face and lightly wiped away her tears.
"Neji…I'm sorry," was all she could manage to choke out.
"Hinata-sama, you have nothing to be sorry for. Actually, I appreciate you bringing me here. As I know you've noticed, I didn't know that I had…moved on from this world. I want you to know something though, Hinata-sama," He took a deep breath. These were the words he always wanted to say, the words he now regretted not saying before he had died. "I love you." At the three words, Hinata slowly opened her slightly swollen eyes and looked at him. He smiled at her, a genuine smile. There was nothing else to lose, and Hinata needed to know now more than ever how he felt. "I've loved you for a long time now. From the second we met as kids, I thought you were the cutest girl I'd ever seen," he chuckled a little. She was still watching him, her tears starting to slowly stop. "And even though we had a bit of a falling out for a while, I'm glad we became such good friends in the end. And you should know, even though I'm in this…state, I'm always going to protect you. I'll be your guardian angel, Hinata-sama. I'll be your protector, like I was always supposed to be when I was alive."
He moved forward, embracing Hinata, holding her tightly as if to take all of the hurt inside of her body and transfer it to him. She wrapped her arms around him as well, resting her head on his chest, feeling entirely safe. He would gladly take all of her pain away from her if he could. He might not have been able to do that, and he might have failed at keeping himself alive, but one thing was for sure: he would be there for her until she breathed her own last breath.
"Neji?" he heard her voice after a moment. He opened his eyes, watching Hinata look a bit frantic. She had apparently let go of him. He furrowed his brow, wondering what was wrong, and reached out to her once more. He put his hand on her shoulder, but when he did so, he saw that it went right through. She looked around, clearly confused. Neji sighed. He knew nothing about being dead, or being a spirit, but he assumed something like this might eventually happen. He didn't know what the trigger might've been that would've caused him to not be able to be seen by Hinata any longer, but whatever it was had clearly happened. He watched her face, grimacing at how sad she looked. He knew Hinata had probably come to the same realization that he had by this point. He sat by his head stone watching Hinata stay for hours by the gravesite, until she fell asleep on the ground. He watched over her all night long, like the protector he was always supposed to be.
I would really love to hear your feedback, even if you only have a few words to say. I hope you enjoyed the first part!