Every conversation he had that day was rushing through his head in tandem. Words and faces were being swapped around, but no matter who was saying what, Sasuke cringed all the same. His mother was apparently friends with Sasuke 2.0, Hinata was in wedding pictures with Naruto, and Sakura had bought a basket of tomatoes. It was enough to make him sick.
Since sleep was a distant dream, Sasuke didn’t waste any time just lying in bed. Instead, he climbed out of bed and made his way over to the balcony of his bedroom. For whatever reason, his new neighbor was still at the forefront of his waking mind. Her opal eyes, shimmering in the afternoon light, flickered back and forth from her face to his mother’s face. In reality, they looked nothing alike, but something about Hinata conjured memories of her.
Perhaps it was simply the right place at the right time. Sasuke happened to be heading back to the Uchiha compound, and she happened to live there. She happened to be carrying a basket of his favorite fruit like his mother used to on her way home from the market. It was a lot of coincidences. While Sasuke did his best to rationalize it, some part of Sasuke lingered in the spiritual. Was his mother trying to give him a message?
Consciously, he told himself that was impossible. Even so, though, his gaze drifted over to the next-door neighbor’s house. All the lights were off, and all was silent. Everything was as it should have been. No ghost mothers found much to his disappointment and relief. However, that illusion of normalcy was soon shattered as a shadowy figure slipped from the alley between their two homes.
The shadow paused at the front of Hinata’s house, and a small, pale hand slipped out from around the cloak. It waved toward the house’s balcony, and when Sasuke checked that balcony, only then did he see Hinata, wrapped in a delicate robe and illuminated by the moonlight, waving back at the shadow. A secret lover, perhaps?
Acid was burning in Sasuke’s throat. The acid of the tomatoes must have given him heartburn. Rationalizing was becoming less and less successful, Sasuke found. The heartburn was only getting worse as Hinata spun away and disappeared from his view. Then, suddenly, the shadow figure started sprinting down the road toward the Uchiha compound’s exit.
Sasuke knew he shouldn’t follow. He knew it was none of his business and that he should just get back to bed, but once again, the rationalizing was of no use. Without any more thought, he threw himself over the balcony and landed on the road with a light thud. Glancing around to ensure there weren’t any other waiting shadows, he began sprinting.
It was all normal until the shadow took a turn towards the Hyuuga compound. Sasuke’s mind leaped to a multitude of possibilities. Was she told she couldn’t have a relationship with someone from the clan? Had she hired a spy to monitor the clan? Was she trying to reclaim her role? None of that seemed like Hinata, but did Sasuke really know Hinata? For whatever reason, that realization made his chest ache.
Thankfully, that pain subsided rather quickly as they reached the exterior wall of the Hyuuga clan compound. There, the shadow paused, and in turn, Sasuke froze behind a nearby tree, waiting and watching for the shadow’s next move. He was already internally chastising himself for doing something so foolish when the shadow turned to face his direction.
“You can come out now. I know you’re there.”
Sasuke cursed, this time outwardly, before stepping out into the shadow of the tree. He stared at the hood of the shadow, doing his best to see into it and find out the person’s identity. Already he had a bit more info. He was sure whoever it was, it was a woman. Standing directly across from them now, the shadow was around a foot shorter than he was, and the voice when calling him out had been light, dainty. If they hadn’t spoken with such command, their voice might have been carried away by the wind.
It seemed the shadow was sizing him up now as well. Unfortunately for Sasuke, there was no hiding who he was. Even the shadow he was in wouldn’t hide anything, especially from someone who more than likely had a dōjutsu like the byakugan. The shadow’s shoulders dropped, though, and they even reached up to the edge of their hood. In a swift moment, they dropped the hood, revealing themselves in the moonlight.
“Well, well, it’s Sasuke Uchiha. Hinata told me you were back in town, but I almost didn’t believe her.”
It was Hinata. No, not quite. It was a mini-version. That wasn’t quite right either. She was smaller, stature-wise, and appeared a bit younger. She was also tanner, which was probably indicative of how much she trained in comparison to Hinata. More than that, though, she sternly held her face. Her eyes were cinched as if she were still reading Sasuke, even though she did seem to recognize him. Even under the cloak, Sasuke could still make out the muscles packed onto her thin frame. This was a version of Hinata that harder, tougher, and held herself as if she were the Hyuuga clan leader.
“Well, you know me. Who are you?”
The young woman laughed – cold and rough.
“You can’t tell by looking at me? I’m Hanabi, heiress to the Hyuuga clan.”
That didn’t shock him. Hanabi projected power. What did surprise him was how different she was from Hinata.
“You’re Hinata’s sister, right?”
Hanabi bobbed her head, but then her arms crossed her chest.
“Not that it is any of your business. Speaking of which, why are you following me?”
Sasuke found himself mimicking her stance and crossed his own arms.
“What were you doing sneaking out to Hinata’s?”
Hanabi physically bristled. It seemed static was bouncing off her form as she straightened up. While there was no way she would be taller than Sasuke, something about her shift in stance was enough to create an imposing figure.
“What are you doing worrying about what I am doing with my sister?”
While they weren’t physically fighting, it felt like a battle of questions. Unfortunately, Sasuke was losing this particular battle. He had to ask himself, why was he worried about what she was doing at Hinata’s house? Her face flashed through his thoughts, her face molded in what he easily recognized as grief. He wasn’t sure why he was so worried about Hinata, but he knew it had to do with the pain that radiated from her. It was something he knew. It was familiar and comfortable.
It was something he didn’t want her to be comfortable in.
He accepted defeat in their question fight, finally answering one of them. Well, answering it in a way.
“She told me about being pushed out of the clan. Why would you be visiting her?”
It was then the imposing Hanabi’s form softened. Even her crossed arms drooped, to the point it was more like she was hugging herself or just barely trying to hold herself together.
“It isn’t your business. You weren’t even here when it happened.”
Sasuke couldn’t help but agree. She was right. He wasn’t here for any of this, and it was just another cold reminder that the village had moved on without him. The inner wound flared as if to punctuate the point. He had almost forgotten about its existence, which only made the pain that much more staggering. As a result, his own crossed arms fell away as he used his hands to clutch at his chest. Sweat was beginning to bead across his forehead, and his breathing clawed its way out of his lungs. His own breath left behind a painful burn that only hindered his breathing.
Even Hanabi noticed, and she was by him in an instant. She grabbed his arms without question, and her eyes were flitting across his face, trying to find any indication of what was wrong. Now shocked by the cool, unfamiliar touch, Sasuke was doing his best to wave her away even as he struggled to breathe.
“I’m fine. I’m fine.”
His words were a wheeze. Hanabi nearly growled in response, pulling him into a shuffle as she guided him towards the Hyuuga entrance.
“Whatever, Uchiha. Come on. You need to at least sit.”
He couldn’t argue with that. Even if he could actually breathe, there was no doubt he really wanted to sit down and gather himself. Hanabi didn’t take him too far into the compound. Guards were stationed at the entrance, and though they went to grab Sasuke away from her, one look from Hanabi had them cowing back to their positions. Her strength and presence were admirable, even in Sasuke’s state.
A few benches were lining the road through the compound, and at the first one, Hanabi set Sasuke down. Though the wound inside him still raged angrily, trying to reach out and swallow him whole, sitting at least allowed his lungs to rest. He took in as many deep breaths as he could, trying to cool the burning inside himself. Hanabi sat silently beside him, her eyes burning holes in him. It was like she could see it, the wound inside him. All he wanted was to stop her.
“So… come on. Tell me why.”
Hanabi sighed, clearly still unwilling to dive into it. Even so, it achieved Sasuke’s goal as she shifted her gaze to stare down at the road.
“I mean. She’s my sister. Do I really need another reason?”
Though Sasuke didn’t respond, he didn’t really have to. Hanabi couldn’t hold back a laugh as she motioned toward her cloak.
“I know I am not dressed for a family reunion, but it is a bit unbecoming of the Hyuuga heiress to visit the dethroned heiress… at least, that’s what dad would have you believe.”
As Hanabi spoke, the wound within Sasuke was beginning to cool, though it was just as open as it ever had been. Even so, the wound was not Sasuke’s main focus any longer. Instead, he focused on Hanabi as she spoke. Her face was softening to the point that she looked more like Hinata than she had when he first saw her. It was a similar sadness. It wasn’t identical, but it was close.
“She’s lonely, you know? This was her home for a long time, and it wasn’t like we were close, but… even I don’t think she deserved being pushed out of her home completely. You noticed, right?”
“Her house. You noticed all of the stuff? If that doesn’t scream lonely old lady, I don’t know what does.”
She laughed, but it was half-hearted and drifted away by the wind. Silence fell as if she had never laughed at all.
“You seem like you’re breathing alright now. I think you need to go.”
Once again, Sasuke couldn’t argue. He had confirmed everything he needed to, and though he was still burning inside, it wasn’t anything he hadn’t fought with before. He stood up and started down the path back out of the compound. The guards eyed him, and he eyed them right back, but before he could leave, Hanabi called out:
Sasuke turned to look at her.
“I know what is inside you. I know you feel it, too. If I find out you hurt Hinata, I’ll kill the last Uchiha myself.”
And he believed her. Without a word, he turned away and faded into the shadows of the night, the wound roiling inside.
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