Hyuuga Neji was in a bad, bad mood. The medics had bandaged his eyes when he'd been sleeping, and he wasn't pleased. He'd torn them off as soon as he'd gotten up, as he always did (honestly, you'd think they'd get the point by now. Medics were supposed to be smart and all, right?), and had also pulled the IV out.
No drugs. Least of all sedatives. They did weird things to his head, and Neji didn't like being in anything less than absolute control of himself, if not the situation he found himself it.
He heard Hinata, and tried to soften his scowl for her. It came of as more of a grimace, made more apparent as he tensed.
Goddam bones, why wouldn't they stop throbbing? Fuck, it hurt. He didn't remember them hurting this much when he'd set the stupid wrist. Maybe that just went to show how far he'd been out of it.
"Hinata-sama," He acknowledged.
The tea was welcome. The food, less so.
He wasn't hungry in the least.
She crept in silently, moving over to set the basket on the beside tray table and began pulling things out of it. "I brought jasmine," she said, opening up the thermos and pouring him a cup. "And I made some onigiri. There's fresh fruit too, you should be able to keep for later. I know the food here isn't the greatest..."
As she moved to hand him the tea, she noticed the trickle of blood on his arm from where he'd pulled the IV out. "Niisan... you're bleeding. Let me get that..."
Neji followed his cousin's gaze down his arm. Ah, so he was. How had he not noticed that? It wasn't a huge amount of blood, but it was more than a trickle. It didn't hurt, though. Not at all. And if nothing else disturbed him about the whole thing, the fact that he'd failed to notice it at all was a bit troubling to Neji.
He shook his head. "Don't bother." He was still wary of contact with others. Contact made him want to hit something, or at the very least stand on even footing, so he could jerk back properly.
He placed two fingers over it, applying pressure. It would stop soon enough.
The food smelled good, but he wasn't hungry. He took the tea, though. It was good.
She noded sadly, turning her face to try and hide the hurt in her eyes at being pushed away. It almost felt like everything that they had worked so hard to bridge the gap between them had been undone. And it pained her to realize that while Neji had returned to them, it wasn't fully the dear cousin she had mourned for all these months.
"It's ok... to accept help from others." almost whispered to him as she set her handkerchief on his lap before going back to unpacking the lunch.
She set the bento boxes on the table, in case he decided he wanted any, and then slipped into the bathroom, coming out with a small vase that she filled with wildflowers she had picked for him on her way in. They weren't as pretty as the ones she used to collect with him in the springtime, but she'd hoped he would appreciate them at least.
First food and now flowers? This was...unexpected. Neji looked at the flowers blankly, his brain having trouble grasping the concept that they were for him. Why should Hinata bring him flowers? What had he ever done to deserve that? All he'd ever done was hurt her.
He looked away, pretending he hadn't seen her place the small piece of fabric in his lap. He wouldn't stain her things. Hinata didn't need that.
Vaguely the jounin remembered a time when he'd collected flowers with her. But that had been a long time ago. The past, and there was no use in dwelling in it.
A hard cough forced its way up his throat, and Neji swore as he hacked. He was getting blood on his mouth, trying to wipe it away before Hinata saw it and failing miserably. She was a kunoichi, and trained to notice such things, after all.
He didn't remember hurting this much.
With blood on his mouth, he asked, rather shortly, "Why?" Then, softer, not quite so tainted with his bad temper and vaguely homicidal thoughts, "Never did anything to deserve it."
It was true; Hyuuga Neji had let his comrades down when they needed him, and even if he hadn't told the Oto-nin anything, well, he'd let them take Hyuuga secrets and live to brag about it.
And he knew very well that they would have broken him, had they chosen to ask questions.
She was at his side in a heartbeat, taking the handkerchief and wiping at the blood on his chin despite the fact that she knew he would probably push her aside in a moment. As she works, her slightly rounded belly brushes against his knees on occasion, though she pays no mind to this.
"That has nothing to do with any of this." her hands soft yet firm as she pulled his aside to finish cleaning his face and then start on his hands. "You certainly didn't do anything to deserve what was done to you. Why deny yourself even the smallest comfort offered by those that care about you?"
Her movements are deliberate, not hesitating for an instant as she finishes her task, looking up to his eyes. "After what you've been through, you at least deserve that much."
She was at his side faster than he could jerk away, and wiping the blood away. He tensed, eyes widening, fingers twitching erratically. Hinata wasn't afraid, nor did she move away. Neji pulled his head away from her, so he didn't have to see her kind face. He didn't want to see that, didn't want compassion, least of all from her, didn't.....
Akira, Chie. Why were they dead and not him? They deserved it more than he did. Akira had a family, Neji remembered, a wife and daughter, both kunoichi. Chie didn't have anyone, but she'd been a nice woman, always looking out for him, always smiling. He'd read their files, done the paperwork. He knew about them now, though in a way he supposed it didn't matter at all.
They were dead, gone. Had been for a long time and wouldn't be coming back.
He didn't push his cousin away, though part of his sorely wanted to. "Why are you here, Hinata-sama?"
Hinata sighed as he turned away from her, his question weighing heavily. It was one she had asked herself several times as she had sat there waiting for him to wake up.
"Because... when you went missing, I wasn't allowed to do anything. Father locked me in the compound, Tsunade refused to let me search with the others. All I could do was sit and stare at your name on a stone and pray for you. I used to wonder if I could have made some difference in it all... but now, I can"
She looked down at the bloody cloth in her hands, at the ring on her finger. "Father has no say over me now, and Godaime has pulled me from missions. I'm free now, which probably never would have happened if not for you. I only wish... to return the favor."
Things were getting a bit confusing. Had Hinata wanted to go searching for him that badly? Well, perhaps it was her nature, for she was nothing if not kind. Neji knew that well enough, and only hoped no one would someday decide to take advantage of the fact.
Neji turned his head back to her, and for the first time, saw the ring. He blinked stupidly at it before realizing the implications. "You got married?"
He wondered to whom. And if he'd need to murder anyone once his bones healed. Neji was a bit protective when it came to the things he considered his, and Hinata, being HIS younger cousin and occasional student or comrade, was one of them.
And the fact that she'd been taken off of active duty didn't do anything to set her husband in a good light.
Oh god, he hoped it wasn't a civilian. That just wouldn't be right.
Looking up at him, she smiled, cheeks taking on a rosy glow they'd so often lacked these days due to her constant nausea. "Hai... back in June. It wasn't to be till December originally but... things in the village went a little crazy."
Hinata tucked the handkerchief back in her pocket, only to fidget with the ring, spinning the simple gold band around on her finger in her newest nervous habit.
"You didn't really miss anything with it. There was going to be a ceremony and all the normal fuss. But Shikamaru-san had gone missing briefly. And then after Sasuke was attacked, it was agreed the matter should be done quickly and quietly. Even with all the precautions, we didn't manage to escape the trouble..."
The young woman grew silent, her fingers stilling at the thought of what had happened so shortly after her nuptials. She'd tried so hard, and succeeded so well at ignoring those events, only to blindside herself with them now. The gaze of her pale eyes grew distant as she retreated inward, completely forgetting about Neji as he sat there watching her.
Insanity was so common-place in a shinobi village, Neji didn't doubt the explination. He was sorry he'd missed the wedding, though it undoubtably would have been more than a little ackward. Marriges between Hyuuga, arranged (as many were) or not, usually had a few hard feelings that had to be mended, ruffled feathers that had to be soothed. Ah, their great system of politics at work.
But he still didn't know to whom she'd married. Best to ask, then. "Whose the man?"
A pause. Then. "He is a shinobi, no?"
Neji had a feeling the Hyuuga elders would have suffered a long and dawn-out death had it been otherwise, but kunoichi did as kunoichi pleased, and that was one of the world's greater truths.
Almost allowing her thoughts to pull her in completely, she almost missed his questions. Shaking herself, Hinata pulled herself back to the present. Neji was actually talking to her, calmly for now, and his thoughts seemed to on more pleasant things.
"Of course he is," said with a nod and a blush. "it was actually quite a surprise to most of the village when the word finally got out. I've... attracted a lot of attention with my marriage..."
This was the moment she had been wondering about. The two men had been on fairly good, if not curious, terms with each other at the time of her cousins disappearance. But just because they enjoyed each others drunken company didn't mean he would approve of him taking her for his wife. Hinata mentally steeled herself as she looked up to meet his eyes, pale on pale, as she finished her sentance.
"to Uchiha Sauske"
Hyuuga Neji didn't comment on the revelation, though his urge to hit something, really, really hard, and continue beating it down until it screamed for mercy, and then finally murdering it, came back in full force.
Uchiha Sasuke. Well, well.
....He supposed she could have done worse, though a major part of him was sorely doubting it. Neji supposed he'd have to get used to the idea sometime, and now was as good as ever. For Hinata, if no one else, he'd have to at least make a decent attempt at being civil.
Or relatively so, at the very least.
He nodded, though Neji's jaw had a distinctive tick in in. "I see."
He wasn't happy with her news. It was easy to see from the flex of his jaw, the slight tensing of his fingers, even the almost imperceptible dilation and constriction of his pupils that his first reaction was anger, thought at who what exactly she couldn't be sure. Looking away, Hinata visibly wilted beside him.
"You... don't approve." her voice soft and apologetic. "Gomen, I... didn't mean to offend you."
If it upset him that she was married to him, what would he think when he found that she was carrying his twins? Maybe, it was just too much of a shock for him. Maybe... it would be best not to tell him that much for now. But she couldn't wait forever, and soon it would be unmistakable. She was nearing the end of her third month, and already beginning to swell. Not to mention her fluctuating chakra patterns. She could hide the pregnancy for maybe a few more weeks but, he might be angry if she waited too long.
Not knowing what else to do or say to him, she started to turn to gather her things.
"My opinion does not matter," he said simply. And it didn't. Not at all. For Hinata would do as she saw fit to, and he would support her in all things to the full extent of his ability. His personal feelings didn't affect the events which had already happened, so there was no use in fighting against them. He could accept them, or not. Such was simple truth.
Neji didn't have to like it, and he wasn't sure he did, but there was no changing it, so he supposed he'd have to get used to the idea. Uchiha Sasuke. Well, at least the Hyuuga Jounin would know who to hunt down, should he feel the need to resort to homicide.
He looked away, jaw clenched. "I...am sorry. For my rudeness."
The medics had told him about this, told him to expect it, the sudden and often violent fluctuation of his moods. They hadn't told him the last part, but Ibiki-san had, when the older shinobi had come by to collect the paperwork Neji had managed to finish. Ibiki had told him to expect that his capability for violence, and the willingness to commit it, would increase drastically.
'It matters to me...' she thought silently as she fussed through her basket as if looking to find something.
"It's alright, niisan. I... didn't expect you to be happy about it." She wasn't sure what she expected. More violence? possibly. A ton of questions? of course. But something about his silent irritation towards it scared her.
Fidgeting with the basket handle, she turned her head to look over her shoulder at him. "I know you're not happy with a lot of things right now, and I'd really like to help you... if you'd let me." It was a simple statement, hiding a deeper question. Hinata waited quietly for his response, bracing herself for more rejection.
Neji closed his eyes tight, biting his lip. God, why did she have to do that? He didn't want to think about it; he wanted to just...push it away. But he couldn't do that. Not when Akira and Chie were dead. He would never forget them, couldn't ever do that. You didn't abandon your comrades. Ever. Even when they were dead and you, or at least a small part of you, was wishing you'd joined them.
Why did these things have to be so goddamn complicated?
"They killed Akira first, then Chie. Didn't wake up til...they were gone. Blood all over the floor."
He spoke flatly, wondering why he was doing so at all. Hinata didn't need to know this, probably didn't want to, either. But he spoke, eyes blank and emotionless as his cool voice. Talking about was somehow much easier than thinking about it, or even writing about it in his report.
"Didn't ask me anything. Not a goddamn thing." At this Neji's jaw clenched painfully, his lip almost splitting with the pressure he was placing on it. More blood would flow if he bit down even a tough harder, so he made an attempt to loosen. It didn't work.
"You learn to block it out, but it..takes a while. Have to scream before you can get numb."
They gotten him screaming in under three hours, training or not. Neji wondered just how pathetic that was. He was supposed to be a jounin, a good, elite shinobi. And shinobi didn't scream.
"But even after the screaming... after the numbness takes over and you're not even sure it's really happening to you it doesn't stop."
His words stirred something inside her, a combination of nightmares she had endured about her missing cousin and clouded memories of her own brief captivity. And before she knew it the words were spilling out of her mouth, words she'd never said to anyone, and had never intended to share with him, knowing he had suffered far worse then she did.
Hinata was leaning on the nightstand now, her back still to him but her eyes having regained that distant gaze, as if she was looking at something only she could see.
"Gradually, the detachment only feels like consent, that you're giving them permission and allowing it to happen to you. And afterwards, when you're alone in the darkness, sometimes you can still feel hands on you. you close your eyes and you can still see them hovering over you..."
Neji shuddered, hard. Blood came from his lip as he bit it, jaws tight. Hinata, what had happened to Hinata? Then came the flashback, so intense he almost howled as the needles, the blood, and oh fuck...
Hurt, hurt bad, bones snapping, blades, sharp, cut deep, but not deep enough to make it just stop...
Don't scream. Don't you dare scream.
He snapped out of it almost as soon as it took him, shaking and trembling all over. And all the while hating his weakness, for Hinata, Hinata, whose voice held so much pain, was so calm, so controlled. He was supposed to protect her. How could he do that when he couldn't stop shaking?
"You know you're breaking, so close to it, and you know you're gonna die." Neji kept talking, just kept talking, because that was all he could do. "But you can't remember...how to do it. Can't remember how to make yourself die, and they won't do it for you, they like it too...much."
There was a low whine from the bed, breaking the Uchiha's wife from her reverie. It was a panicked, choked sound that'd she certainly didn't remember her assailant making, and it pulled her back to the hospital room.
There was a wave of nausea as the images faded and she turned back to her cousin, watching him tremble and grip the edge of the mattress. It made her chest hurt to watch him. All the more so at his next words...
'But you can't remember...how to do it. Can't remember how to make yourself die, and they won't do it for you...'
Hinata didn't here the rest of it, already moving towards him. Grabing him by the shoulders, she pulled him to her, embracing him as she had wanted to for so terribly long. Her arms wrapped around his neck and shoulders, cradling his head as it was brought to rest on her shoulder, squeezing him to try and still the shaking.
"It's alright to forget that. You don't need to do it anymore... don't have to remember that anymore, Neji. You're safe with me, no one is going to hurt us here... we're safe." Tears were streaming down her cheeks as she pressed her forehead to his temple, whispering desperate pleas to him to not give up on her, he'd made it so far. His body tense and rigid against her as she fought to comfort him. "You fought off your tormentors, you freed yourself and found you way home. I've got you... I need you still... please don't remember that... don't remember how to die... please"
Still shaking, even harder then before, Neji didn't push her away, though it was more a thing of terror then control, for at the moment all his eyes saw were the walls of Sound, and Akira, Chie, dead eyes watching, always watching even as they rotted away, gone eyes gleaming in there bloody skulls.
He wouldn't fight, wouldn't do...anything. Then maybe it wouldn't hurt so much, and he could stay numb. Medics hadn't liked it when he fought, and medics could be unbelievably cruel when they found the occasion to be. Set your nerves on fire, snap your bones with chakra so they wouldn't bloody their already gore-encased hands.
Then Hinata, sweet, kind Hinata, her voice was in his ear, and Neji tried to listen, but the words didn't quite make sense, not like they were supposed to.
Neji pressed forward into her, not crying, but close, and shaking all the harder because of it. Contact, though it made him edgy, no, more than edgy, was the only thing he could turn to now.
"I'm...so sorry," he whispered.
He'd made her cry, made her worry, remember her own pain, and Hinata was the last person who deserved that. Neji deserved to remember his own stupidity. His own mistakes. He was weak, pathetic, if he couldn't even handle this.
"No... don't be sorry..." she whispered back. She finally understood why it had angered Sasuke and Shino to hear her apologizing to them when it had been her in the hospital bed, weak and battered.
She was encouraged by the feeling of him leaning in and she smiled softly, tears still falling. Hinata climbed onto the bed next to him, pulling him with so she could try and comfort him properly, her maternal instincts and gentle heart taking over and she tried to sooth him, holding him securely against her swollen body.
"It's alright niisan, there's no one else here. Just you and me. You don't always have to be strong... all I want is for you to get better."
There was something in the way she simply sat there, holding him close to her body, telling him things his mind couldn't understand. Neji felt calmer, more rational, and eventually his shudders creased.
There were no skulls, no blood. No dead teammates with there accusing eyes glaring out of their rotting and gone faces. Just the hospital, Konoha General, and Hinata with her kindness.
Neji sighed, closing his eyes as he leaned against her. He ignored the pain in his chest and wrist, for suddenly it didn't seem so bad as it had earlier. A part of him wondered if it had all been in his head, the severity of the pain. A way of dealing, maybe, though it was undoubtedly a dark one.
Ah, but these were dark times, and their world was a cruel one. Maybe it was, in an twisted and yet oddly fitting way, a reflection of the things he'd never let himself think before. You never thought about the darkness of things until you'd been blinded from it.
Neji allowed himself to relax a bit, knowing Hinata wouldn't hurt him.
When he began to relax, she said a small prayer to the heavens. She knew it would take a lot more then this, a lot more time and tears, several angry words and possibly broken furniture. But that he could sit here now and let her so close was a good sign. That her cousin was still in there, and that there was hope for the young man yet.
They sat there for a time, huddled together on the bed. Hinata had started humming softly at some point, the old lullaby her nurse-maid from the branch house had sung to her and little Hanabi when they were very young. As she hummed, she rubbed his back softly, sometimes stroking his long, silky hair, helping him relax a little further at a time.
Though she could still feel his general unease in the way his muscles would tense if she stopped or moved suddenly, his stillness and silence made her wonder if possibly she'd put him to sleep. She wouldn't have minded, knowing that these days she herself couldn't sleep peacefully without someone holding her. Leaning down, her cheek lightly brushing against the top of his head, she spoke to him softly.
"Nissan... are you there?"
The Hyuuga opened his eyes at the question, blinking slowly. "Hai," he said simply. He hadn't slept easily for a long time, usually opting for one of the medics to knock him out, or simply giving in to his insomnia and staring out the window for hours upon end.
The nightmares would have been easier to handle if they'd only been flashbacks of his torture. But no, he didn't get those when he slept. Instead, Neji was plagued endlessly by images of his dead teammates. Chie would smile at him, and told him everything would be fine, because they were lean, mean, tough-ass Konoha Jounin, just as she had when the mission had began, and just as unaware of her own mortality. Akira would just chuckle softly at his comrade's antics, and remind everyone not to do anything stupid, since he was the Team Leader, and if they were going to go wrong, then it would be him who pulled them out of it.
Neji never did anything in these dreams, just observed and watch, as Akira led them, showed them the right path to follow. Chie would bitch and complain, but always followed the orders, and always look back to see that the youngest off the squad was still with them, a half grin forming on her crooked mouth, to assure him that all was well and it would always be that way. Because they were shinobi, and as convinced of their own immortality as anyone who never faced the real prospect of dying, and painfully so.
Eventually they were captured, and eventually they died, Akira with his narrowed eyes and silent pride, refusing to speak even when they broke his fingers one by one, Chie with her rage and screaming indignance, even as her throat was slit, she still fought, hissing and snarling as blood bubbled up through the slash and her eyes faded away. Both had fought to protect their younger teammate, the one who was chained to the wall to their right, unconscious and unaware of them.
And Neji could only watch as the events played over and over in his head, stopping as Chie hit the floor, blood spreading out in a thick, steaming puddle, and he had wondered at the color, for how could someone so unafraid to die have crimson blood like everyone else?
The same dream, over and over again, repeating endlessly in his head like a broken record.
The jounin sighed, but didn't close his eyes again. "What happened to you, Hinata-sama?"
Perhaps it was cruel of him to ask so bluntly, especially when his cousin had been so kind to him, but it was the only way Neji knew how to learn.
She stiffened noticeably, her hand pausing halfway in a long stroke across his shoulders. 'What could he be talking about? Does he know? But how? Who?' It was a fairly vague question. But still, there could only be one answer he was looking for. She thought about lying to him, telling him she'd been ambushed on a misson, but it wouldn't work. he'd know it wasn't true. Some people just aren't able to lie, and Hinata was one of them. She drew a deep breath, letting it out in a shaky sigh, unconsciously pulling him closer as she started her own tale.
"It was... back in July. Me and Sasuke had only been married for a month, and he'd just been returned to duty for some... minor C or D rank mission. I can't even remember, but he was only to be gone for a week." Another sigh, and a sad smile. "It was the first time we'd been separated since the paperwork had been signed. And I still felt odd being in his apartment, knowing he wouldn't be back for another few days so... I tried to stay out of it as much as possible. Maybe... maybe I should have just tried to spend a little more time there..."
Hinata went silent again for long while, as if that was all he had to say on the subject. Picking out her mistakes through that day. It had started so normal, so completely mundane. Had it been any other day she would have forgotten it all.
How she had spent the morning training with her teammates till it came to an abrupt halt when Akamaru found a half buried shuriken with his paw. Kiba took him home immediately for his sister to examine, not wanting to risk his companion being pulled from action due to an infected leg. Shino offered to walk with her for a bit, catch up on how things were for her now that she was married, but he too got pulled away by a message from the Hokage. She should have gone home then... should have taken that as a sign to leave... if only she'd gone home.
With a shakey sigh she tightened her grip on him, pulling him close like a child afraid of the monsters in the closet, except this time the monsters had been very real.
Something was wrong, very wrong. That much was obvious. Neji blinked as Hinata stiffened, tugging him closer to her. He didn't like it, but didn't comment, and if he tensed, his cousin was too lost in her own thoughts to notice. If Hinata needed him to be there for her, then he would deal, put his personal thoughts on the contact she was giving aside. Simple as that.
"To dwell in the past...is to not allow yourself to move on," he said slowly, choosing his words carefully. He wasn't the best at comforting others, at helping them through their nightmares, but Neji had to make an attempt for Hinata. If he did nothing else to repay her kindness, he would give her his words, flat as they might be, and his presence, tense as it was. "I am not saying to forget it ever happened. Just...don't focus on the "what ifs". There is no changing it."
He should follow his own advice, or not give it at all, he knew, but it was the only thing he could think of to say to his cousin. It probably wasn't going to make her feel better, and there was a good chance it would indeed make her feel much worse, but Neji felt he had to try, had to do something. Anything.
He paused, feeling stupider by the second, and muttered, somewhat roughly, "You don't have to talk about it, if you don't want to."
"It's ok... I suppose... I would rather you hear it from me." Her voice was hushed and timid, more so then it ever had been. These words were only for Neji. If he could share his pain with her, she could at least let him know that, though different situations, he's not alone in his suffering.
"I was sitting under the old willow tree, down by the river when he found me. I noticed when he landed in the tree just a short distance away, the way the leaves started falling down... in July. I knew I couldn't fight him alone... but there was no way I could outrun him..." but I didn't even try... she didn't add that last part, only thought it to herself. it would have been easier if I'd just laid down right there...
"I was knocked unconscious... or put in a trance... I'm not really sure. I woke up in a small cabin, sparsely furnished. He gave me tea... with opium... or something like it, and when I got to weak... to disoriented..."
Pale eyes closed, a tear sliding down her cheek as she tightened her grip on his shirt for a moment, before pulling away. Hinata couldn't remember anymore... the drugs had seen to that. What did surface was dizzying and distorted, and many times confusing. The visions of those hands and eyes, the pressure of being pinned down beneath him, unable to breath as the air is repeatedly forced out of her lungs...
What had hurt worst of all was her return, and watching how she made the others around her suffer. The quiet sighs Shino would make when she would suddenly shy from him. The defeated looks from Kiba when his antics that she had always quietly amused ner now left her upset. And Sasuke... the anger in his eyes when he saw the marks on her, the way his arms tightened when he would have to carry her around the house because her legs weren't strong enough to hold her, and the anguish on his face when she would wake in the night , screaming from her nightmares, to run from his attempts to comfort her because in the dark and her panicked mind, he looked to much like her attacker for her to be sure who it really was beside her in the bed.
"Such a... disgrace..." muttered silently to herself
Though she didn't say exactly what had transpired, Neji could guess. Hinata was a kunoichi, and female shinobi did risk such things, much more than their male counterparts. The Hyuuga thought of it clinically, dispassionately, for the was the only way he could think at the moment. If he gave in to his emotions, made the whole thing personal, then he would only hurt Hinata more.
But this had not been a mission; this had happened at home, when she was off-duty. He could, to some extent, understand her shame, her barely concealed embarrassment. That wasn't right, not at all.
"Do you hate him?" The question was spoken coldly, and Neji seemed almost not to care if she answered him or not. It would be best if his cousin could bring herself to feel rage, such homicidal rage that it simply would have to be channeled into actual homicide. That was one way to deal, he knew. Better to have her hate than to feel shamed.
Hatred moved the dead, brought hope to the broken.
It was such a strong word. Stronger then anything negative she could ever feel towards anyone, even him. Sometimes she thought she would like to, but really? Why bother?
"No" her voice cracked as she wiped at her cheeks, trying to calm herself. "He was hated before this by many. He's hated by many more since. Adding my own will accomplish nothing, and for now... I have more important things to focus on than him."
Hinata hugged herself briefly, trying to push it all back down. She had buried herself in her depression and self pity for a while, clinging desperately to people by daylight, afraid if she let go they would fade in a puff of smoke... proving her nightmares were the true reality.
And dear, sweet Sasuke... her husband has been so kind to her through this all, no matter the burden she has become. He never once blamed her, only himself, and would argue and beg with her fiercely if she ever tried to take any away. They had watched the experiance eat away at each other till they would become a tangled, sobbing heap. But they had been given some hope...
If she hadn't been under medical care, they wouldn't have learned so fast of the baby. Her husbands child that she had carried, safe and unharmed, through the ordeal. They had only just recently found that not one, but two had lived through the attack, and like her grandmother, she carried twins. And then, the bigger miracle... her cousin being returned to her, alive.
She leaned over again, resting her head lightly on his shoulder, still hugging herself. "Why should I worry about him, when you are far more worthy of my attention?"
He almost chuckled, but refrained at the last moment, remembering his ribs. It seemed that his words would not have to move her to something that simply wasn't in Hinata's nature. To hate was not her way, and though Neji couldn't quite understand that, he accepted it as it was, for Hinata would never change her ways, and he was fine with it. The world had enough murderers, and not enough kindness.
Not enough people like Hinata and too many like him.
He paused, feeling someone molding their chakra, almost going to activate his eyes, but refraining. It was weak at best, but noticeably there. Neji wondered at it, and blinked.
And blinked again as realization hit him.
Hard. As it, slammed his face into a solid surface and then kicked him in the teeth hard.
"You're pregnant?" He asked bluntly, feeling incredibly dense for not noticing the fact earlier.
"As I said... more important things to worry about these days."
The color was draining from her face as the nausea swept in again. Still, she managed a weak smile, moving her hand to try and sooth the little one who had started pulling chakra. "I was wondering when you'd come to that conclusion... that or accuse me of getting fat and lazy from not training enough."
Gradually, whatever was going on inside her belly subsided, as did the pull on her energy and the subsequent vertigo. Shizune had almost laughed in relief when she realized why Hinata was having such a hard time. It wasn't so much morning sickness as borderline chakra exhaustion from supplying not 2, but 3 people.
Her lavender eyes were watching Neji curiously now, wondering his full reaction to all of this. From the look on his face she knew he could most definitely see it now, how her abdomen wasn't just slightly distended by a few extra pounds, but starting to round out low, by her navel. Far from heavy with child, but getting into that stage that you could tell she wasn't just fat. Shifting slightly to let him see better, she reached for his hand, bringing it gently to rest over the spot that had drawn his attention.
"They are strong and healthy, despite what happened to us. At least someone made it through unharmed."
The chakra he felt was strong under his hand, pulsing along side Hinata's, but with a slightly different rhythm. Children. Hinata's kids. Neji felt his eyes widen even more as he felt his cousin's belly. He felt like an idiot for not noticing the development earlier. Now that he was enlightened, it was indeed quite obvious.
Hinata's belly, for one thing. Hard to mistake it for anything other than what it was. Her chakra, erratic and twisting in its flow as it was. And her face, calmer now that her mind wasn't on dark things. It was relaxed, and...content seemed the best word to describe it.
She looked good, he decided, wondering if Sasuke knew just how lucky he was, getting a kunoichi like Hyuuga Hinata for his wife. If he didn't, well, then Neji would just have to talk with the Uchiha, wouldn't he? Get a few things strait, so there wouldn't be any....unfortunate misunderstandings.
Ah, Hinata would have his hide if Neji did anything truly horrible to her husband, but what she wasn't aware of wouldn't hurt her.
He looked up at her, hand still on her belly, feeling it shift slightly under the weight of his palm. "I will protect you, and your children, I promise you, Hinata-sama."
Unlike before, his eyes were sincere, and his voice was warm, honest. He would do as he promised.
She smiled at him, a mixture of joy and relief. It was good to see that determined look, to hear his voice calm and relaxed. To have him here, his hand almost protective over her unborn, she had wished for it since she'd first seen him lying in that hospital bed. But still, she knew he wasn't ready yet. He still had a long way to go.
"You need to recover first. You've suffered badly, and you need time to heal." Looking back into his eyes, she could see the damage that remained there, even without using her byakugan. "I know that, it will be hard for you, but please let the medics work on you. I promise," she squeezed his hand for emphasis, "that I won't let them do anything harmful. I'll come everyday for any treatments. And maybe... when you're well enough to leave here, you could come recuperate at my home. I'm sure it could be arranged, that is... if you'd want to."
He felt his lips twitch slightly, almost a smile, the closest he'd come to one in a long time. Home. It would be good to go home. And it was also good to see Hinata, despite the ghost of pain he could still sense in her eyes. Life was, though not exactly normal, but when was it ever that?, getting back into its proper order.
"Of course." He paused, thinking about how best to word it. "And I will be more civil." Though how he was going to accomplish this was questionable, but saying it was bringing him one step closer to actually accomplishing it. Neji had a feeling things would work out, somehow.
Hinata would get better, eventually have her children. He'd recover, get back on active duty, and when the time came, he'd train his cousin's children, make them into strong shinobi, make their mother proud of them. He'd protect them all, make sure nothing like this ever happened to them, or to Hinata ever again.
It was true, what they said. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.