Chapter 11 : Damaged Goods
The clouds had slowly dispersed once the sun had met the horizon and the skies cleared once more to the start of a new day. The chill of morning air still hung heavily in the midst of a light fog and it was almost dawn when the little bundle in his arms finally stirred.
Sasuke hadn’t been able to find human life within the 100 mile radius and with his wounds, he wasn’t able to get any further than that. There were many misshapen buildings and towns that had been ravished by war. Nothing other than wolves and insects inhabited the clearing to scavenge for food.
He wasn’t quite sure as to what their location was but he was assured that they were quite a ways from Konoha. The dirt was coppery red while trees grew in abundance with leaves the color of evergreen, very pigmented in color compared to Konoha’s own light green. Grass was rather hard to come by; even though, he was assured that it had rained the day previous, yet the lands laid barren with occasional trees.
Sasuke had discovered a small abandoned temple a little further away from the town and had transported the precious bundle in his arms to a small hay bedding he had made before settling close to her to rest.
Before long, her curled sooty lashes fluttered and tickled the skin of his neck, while warm breath fluttered the cotton as she exhaled. Her delicate dainty hands had furled into the fabric of his yukata tightly as if she was afraid that he would leave her once she awoke from her nightmares.
Perhaps he would.
He hadn’t quite decided what he would do yet.
At first, he had left Konoha to venture out and find himself, to rebuild himself and recompense, only to feel nothing other than emptiness alike to the pang of loneliness before the wretched women came upon him after an engaging fight prior with rogues.
Strangely enough, these women weren’t exotic in skin color, rather pale and pasty and did not hunt him down for his eyes or heritage. They all were mainly interested in the pleasures of the flesh and torture with the help of that relic they had.
Had he of destroyed the staff in the first battle with them then none of this abhorring misery would have happened but, unfortunately, he had made a slight error in judgement.
He had underestimated them, Sasuke mused with a slight irritated frown.
Perhaps the towns near by had been desecrated by them with the help of that dark staff.
“S-Sasuke?” She whispered hesitantly into the lapels of his yukata as he was pulled from his musings to inspect the woman that laid burrowed in his arms. He noted that she had lost quite a bit of weight since their captivity, cheeks still full but having lost the child like quality to them.
Her opalescent eyes were hazy with sleep when she curled herself closer to him, feet wedged in between his shins, the toes slightly cold and chilled when she smiled impishly up at him.
He smirked down at her in amusement.
Perhaps he wouldn’t.
“Hn.” He grunted lightly, watching her rose petal lips purse into an annoyed pout with a slightly amused curl of his lips. “Where are we?” She inquired softly, eyebrows furrowed as her lashes fluttered against the exposed skin of his neck in slow ticklish sweeps.
“A deserted town near the borders of Kotori,” he replied, deep voice reverberating warmly from his chest to her face and hands.
She waited for him to elaborate but it once again started going quiet, comfortably so as he tucked her tighter against his chest.
The quiet atmosphere wasn’t awkward between them, it never had been before but the questions and thoughts that circled in her mind made for no other action than to speak them before she lost the nerve.
He could see the conflict on her face, the hesitation and the questions she wanted to state but unable to because of her indecision and perhaps, nervousness.
Somehow during their captivity, he had managed to learn to read the Hyuga’s emotions rather easily now, it came almost like second nature. Every scrunch of her nose, purse of the lips, or tilt of the head meant something different every time and he found it interesting to inspect her small facial expressions since she was so expressive.
“W-Will you be taking me back to Konoha?” She voiced quickly, albeit softly so as to not anger him.
His lips thinned automatically at hearing the words leave her lips.
What use did he have for Konoha?
She could feel his body tense beneath her fingertips, his aura growing in waves around them that formed into solid anger, hatred, and then finally, nothing.
“M-my eyes won’t be able to heal unless Lady Tsunade looks at them. I haven’t been able to feel my chakra anymore since we escaped.” She murmured the words rather dejectedly, brushing her nose and lips across the pale column of his throat. Had she been more powerful, like Sakura-san or even Ino-san, she would have been able to help him escape earlier and without enduring the torture and humiliation that those woman had wrought.
If only she wasn’t so weak.
She had caused her own blindness; therefore, she needed to fix her own problems instead of forcing so many people into it. She couldn’t be so weak and helpless. She won’t let herself continue to be so useless.
Her dainty fingers curled tightly into his shirt, clutching it with a death grip as she buried her face into his warm chest. The tears burned her eyes and she swallowed them down slowly with the last of her resentment when she finally unfurled her hands from his shirt, smoothing out the wrinkles on his yukata.
"Gomen.” The choked reply fell from her lips faster than she could stop it. Her eyes shimmered in the dim light and he frowned in unease.
Suddenly, she quickly attempted to pull chakra into her palms for healing when fast bursts of pain flared all across her body with an intensity that crippled her.
“Stop!” He urgently stated into her ear, forcing her onto her back as she convulsed from the strain. Tears streaked down her pale face rapidly when she lost control.
Her aura burned wildly, lapping against his own like an injured animal but he grit his teeth against the onslaught. His own aura rose to the surface, buffeting hers before forcefully containing it into her body. He trapped her beneath him, forcing her quaking limbs to submit under his weight.
Sasuke’s legs trapped her struggling ones beneath him before his hands collected her hands in his own, entangling their fingers together as to not damage her any further. She panted painfully, puffs of warm air pillowing his chest. Sasuke caged her in with his body, watching her expression until she finally stilled.
Her hands trembled in the aftermath. She had never felt anything as painful as that before.
Could she have really damaged herself that much?
Her broken ribs had been jostled in the slight movement and the pain spread rather fiercely throughout her sides. Hinata wheezed pathetically in choked pants, gagging for air with eyes wide open in distress.
Why was she so weak?
“Calm down,” he murmured comfortingly, almost reassuringly while pressing his lips against the skin of her neck as he talked.
There were no other options now.
He knew for certain that her well of chakra must have been damaged during their fight against the collar and there was an indefinite amount of time before it could heal properly.
Her wounds were far too severe for them to be waiting any longer. Several broken ribs, cut wounds and head damage had to be healed now or she would suffer the consequences later. He knew he could find any healer but they could do more damage than help if he wasn’t careful.
Sasuke didn’t want to risk the recovery of her eyes. There are far too many enemies out there who want to kill him and this would also put her in danger because she would be caught in the crossfire if he wasn’t careful. Other than that, who out there didn’t want their hands on the Byakugan eyes?
Out of the two of them, Hinata was the only one who had the affinity for healing but she would not be able to heal herself due to the lack of chakra.
He figured that the only way to keep her safe was to bring her back to Konoha since her byakugan eyes would attract too much attention along with his own mismatched ones.
Why he wanted to keep her safe and protected is lost to him.
“We will return to Konoha,” he stated in finality as her head snapped to him, unseeing eyes watching him. Hinata choked back a gasp, hands trembling as air finally reached her lungs. Her muscles all ached, body strained from the sudden pain before finally relaxing into the bedding.
“Thank you,” she wheezed out, a ghost of a smile flitting across her lips while a blush burned her cheeks scarlet when she realized the intimate position they were in.
His body was still seated above her own when his fingers released hers to sweep her matted bangs across her temple. He lightly touch the bump on her forehead and her breath seemed to remain locked in her lungs. She felt his slight caresses across her temple and brow before he finally removed himself from her body but the rapid beating of her heart did not calm.
Strangely, she had felt rather comforted by his touch. Who knew that his touch could be so soft and delicate? Everyone around her had always made him out to be a blood thirsty monster who killed without remorse, without a second thought and his only saving grace was Naruto Uzumaki.
But she could clearly see that Sasuke Uchiha was not a monster and he did not need a Naruto Uzumaki to be his saving grace. Not when he handled her with such care and surely not when he held her close to his body and shared his warmth with her the way he was.
A silly smile smoothed across her lips when he helped her up and her fingers tangled themselves into the sleeve of his yukata as if she was afraid to let him go. True enough, she feared losing him and letting go of him.
She only had him now.
“I’m going to go look for food, wait for me.” His breath was warm on her flushed cheeks when he smoothed her hand off of his yukata and stood up.
Delicate fingers curled into her palm, dark lashes lowered as she heard his footsteps become smaller and smaller.
She didn’t want to seem clingy but she was already starting to miss his warmth and intense aura.
What was it like before she had met him?
Hinata frowned lightly.
She would have probably still be in Konoha working diligently to rise in rank until she reached anbu to prove herself to her father.
Nothing she ever did would be enough.
Her lips pursed. If she knew any better she would have known that father wouldn’t be bothered by her rise in ranks and would probably rip her out of her world to marry her off in hopes that her offspring wouldn’t be as much of a disgrace as her.
Hinata picked loosely at a small thread on the edge of her sleeve.
At least she still had Kurenai sensei and her comrad- -Oh no!
She totally forgot about them! Her teamates! Kiba-kun and Shino-kun had been hurt immensely when those women had chased after her!
They had taken a lot longer on this mission then was needed so she knew for certain that another team must have been sent out to make sure everything was alright. Perhaps they had found both her team mates and returned them to Konoha to seek medical help.
But then, why had no one come for her? Why had no one rescued Sasuke and her when she needed them most? She was sure that they had been struggling in that cell for far longer than 3 weeks and not once had there been any rescue attempts.
None that she knew of anyways.
Hinata nervously gnawed at her bottom lip, eyebrows pinched in concern.
Sasuke was taking her back to Konoha soon. She would be able to confirm her comrades safety when they returned to Konoha and see what had delayed the search team in finding her and Sasuke.
Suddenly, warm familiar hands touched her thin wrists and Hinata was jerked out of her musings. She cautiously expanded her aura slightly until it brushed against his and immediately sagged into the familiar warmth until their auras blended in unison, comforting and warm.
“I found some berries,” he stated, depositing a couple red berries into her palms, cold and damp against her skin as the corner of her lips turned upwards.
“Thank you.” Hinata nearly cried from actually being able to eat real fruit, actual real food that didn’t make her want to throw up just at the thought of it.
He watched the elation form on her face, absolutely beaming in happiness as she ate the first few berries before finally tossing a few into his mouth.
They were slightly tart with a hint of hidden sweetness that made her relish their taste all the more. She had forgotten what real fruit would taste like from everything that they had been forced to endure.
“Thank you.” She whispered quietly, every intonation was full of gratitude and happiness even when he only grunted a reply to her words. The tears that shimmered in her eyes were a complete contrast to the wide smile that lingered on her lips. She blindly gazed at him with a smoldering look of affection and something else that he couldn’t name.
He didn’t realize that his pulse thrummed rapidly underneath his flesh in a tattoo of foreign rhythm until it calmed down enough for him to continue eating.
Somewhere deep down, he couldn’t shake off the feeling that something had changed, something that will completely change his world.