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.
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.
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.
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.