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An Unlikely Love

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‘How could I fail this so badly? How could I let everyone down when they relied on me the most? I am the sole Jonin of our group and yet I am the biggest failure of us all,’ Neji thought to himself. His lavender eyes looked up from the ground to see Sakura lying unconscious in the bed in front of him.
Guilt ate away at Neji, he was the Jonin in charge and yet he was the one sitting, perfectly well, while she was the one in a comatose state. It had been days, the only thing he had done was sit by her bed, hoping she would wake up soon.
Shizune entered her hospital room to check on Sakura, to be surprised to find Neji still sitting there. She looked him up and down as he obviously wasn’t paying enough attention to notice her, probably a side effect of the several days without sleeping or even eating. The more she saw the more concerned she became, he was still wearing the same white robes he had been wearing on their mission, they were still stained with the blood from the mission. His hair, usually well taken care of and free of tangles or breaks, was a mess, tangled, even splashes of mud and blood stained the brown locks as he stayed, not caring about it at all.
“Neji, you should go home,” Shizune let out as she made her way to Sakura to check the chart. “You don’t look very well and you constantly staying here won’t make her get any better.”
Neji looked up, meeting her eyes with his fatigued ones. “With all due respect, this is my fault. I will stay until she gets better,” Neji responded.
Shizune opened her mouth to respond, but closed it again knowing full well how stubborn the Hyuga could be. She made the necessary adjustments to Sakura’s chart and took her leave.
Neji’s gaze fell to the floor once again as she left. He was trying his hardest to fight off sleep as it was getting increasingly difficult, but it didn’t seem he would win this fight. His eyes closed as sleep came for him, finally accepting that he needed to rest.

Word around the Hyuga compound had already started to spread; no one had seen Neji in almost a week but knew he’d been sighted entering the village after his mission. Most people weren’t worried, they had learned not to worry about Neji, but that didn’t stop Hinata from being worried.
She watched as Tokuma entered the Ming House Compound and went to ask him, he and Neji could often be found training together as Tokuma had the better Byakugan but Neji the better Gentle Fist. “Um, Tokuma?” Hinata started, her usual shy demeanour getting the best of her.
Tokuma turned to face Hinata, curious of what she wanted; she rarely talked to him. “Yes, Hinata-sama, what is it?”
“H-Have you seen Neji Nii-san? I haven’t heard from him since he left for his last mission,” she said, the worry on her face being very apparent to any who could see.
Tokuma shook his head in response, he was a little surprised Hinata of all people hadn’t heard from him, Neji was always so close with Hinata. “No, sorry, I haven’t seen or heard from him either. I think Sakura was with him on the mission and I heard she’s in the hospital, he might be with her,” He responded.
Hinata’s lilac eyes widened as she heard the news, how had she not heard of Sakura being in the hospital. She nodded at Tokuma wiping the surprised look off her face. “Thank you, Tokuma,” she said quickly before running off in an obvious hurry.

Hinata quickly made her way through the hospital, only stopping to ask which room Sakura was in. As she approached the hospital room she reached out for the door handle only to stop as she caught sight of her cousin in the chair by Sakura’s bed. She knew Neji better than anyone in the village and as she saw him sleeping in the chair knew she should probably let him sleep.
Neji never fell asleep sitting up like that, if he had it was obvious he was fatigued beyond belief and should probably be left alone. The sight of him wasn’t very positive, but in his current state he was not going to be the best to talk to. Hinata entered quietly, pulling a blanket from the closet and placing it around Neji. She looked between Neji and Sakura, wishing he would come home and she would get better, and turned to leave. As she opened the door and stepped outside, she almost ran right into Shizune.
“Oh, sorry,” Hinata let out quickly as she walked around her and started making her way back to the compound. It was obvious Hinata wasn’t the happiest, but she was at least glad that Neji was okay.
Shizune watched Hinata, with slight awe, before turning back to Sakura’s room. She noticed the blanket placed around Neji and look back toward Hinata as she left. A smile crossed her lips as she thought about it. ‘Perhaps Neji isn’t always this stoic and stubborn if Hinata cares this deeply for him,’ she thought to herself. A slight smile crossed her lips before she turned and walked away from the room.

Chapter Text

“Neji?” Sakura’s voice echoed in his head as he dreamed; only stirring slightly.
“Yeah,” he responded absentmindedly.
After a second of emptiness it hit him what had just happened and he snapped awake in response. “Sakura! You’re awake!” His lilac eyes wide open in response to the person he had so recently seen comatose.
Sakura surveyed Neji as he awoke, gazing upon the bloodied robes she recognized from the mission and his oddly messy hair. “Neji, how long have you been here?” She was more than surprised to see him by her bedside and not Naruto or Kakashi.
“I don’t remember, a few days, however long you’ve been here,” he responded. Neji had not once thought of leaving her bedside, he was the Jonin in charge of the mission and above all, she was his friend. He looked at her with intense, lilac eyes as she sat up; overall he was worried about her.
Her mouth opened but no sound escaped it. She expected Naruto to fuss over her like this, but Neji was another story; he was always so stoic and emotionless. “I...Neji? Have you been home since we arrived?” She asked as she eyes the blood stains closer.
“No, you are my responsibility and above all you’re still my friend. I was staying here until I heard if you were alright or not. I’m glad you’re alright and I’m sorry,” he admitted, he blamed himself for this entire mission going awry and there was no changing it.
“Neji…” Sakura started, being interrupted by someone crashing through the door to the hospital room. With a sudden gasp she looked up, meeting another set of lilac eyes, just like Neji’s.
“Neji, it’s Hinata-sama! She’s been hurt and she’s calling for you,” Tokuma said before anyone even registered who had entered the room. He stood panting, Byakugan activated, obvious signs he had run all the way here from the Hyuga compound.
Neji’s eyes widened, meeting Sakura’s for a couple seconds. In those seconds, Sakura could see how much he cared, how much he had changed from their first meeting in the Chunin Exams. Standing abruptly, Neji turned to Tokuma, eyes widened almost in terror. “Is she alright? She wants me? What happened?” Questions flowed out of his mouth faster than most people could think them.
“Neji just come with me,” he responded. “You can ask her yourself.” Tokuma’s eyes were focused and determined, a lot less scared than Neji was.
Neji looked back to Sakura, looking at the shocked look on her face as well. Quickly he turned back to his cousin standing in the doorway. “Is she in her room at the compound?” He asked, grabbing the headband he had set on the table next to her bed and fastening it to his forehead again.
“Yeah, she’s waiting for you there, just wait for..” Tokuma drifted off as he watched Neji sprint past him, down the hall to the exit. Tokuma looked back at Sakura in her bed, surprised at how fast Neji had acted. Closing the door as he turned, he started after Neji.
Sakura sat and stared at the door, more worried for Neji than for herself. She’d never seen Neji look quite like that; it terrified her to think that someone as strong and composed as Neji could be that worried over one person. “Neji… I hope she’s okay, for both her and your sake…” she muttered as she slumped back into her bed again.

 

As she coughed into her hand blood seeped through her fingers, almost like her insides were rejecting it. Hinata looked in horror at what was in her hand, why was she coughing up blood?
“Sister, you should lay back and rest,” Hanabi said as she pushed Hinata back onto her back. Hanabi was scared for Hinata’s health just as much as anyone else, the only thing she knew for certain is that she found Hinata passed out in the training ground and ever since she hasn’t been able to walk straight of stop coughing up blood.
“Have you seen Neji Nii-san? Is he alright?” Hinata asked, ignoring Hanabi’s earlier request.
“You need to stop worrying about Neji when you should be worrying about yourself. You said he was with Sakura when you saw him last time; he’s strong enough to look after himself. Just get some sleep, I’m sure he’ll come see you as soon as he gets back, he always does.” Hanabi pulled the blanket over her older sister as soon as she stopped holding her down.
Hinata opened her mouth to respond but was cut off by her door being slid open with an aggressive shove. Neji rushed inside the room, not bothering to change the old clothes he had been wearing first. “Hinata-sama, are you alright!? What happened?” Neji asked, his face was wrought with worry and concern.
Hanabi looked back at her cousin, surprised to see him like this. She had only ever seen the strong side of Neji, the one that protected and trained the clan, not the one that could worry worse than she did herself. Hanabi thought because of their past Neji didn’t care for Hinata but she could see that the opposite was true; he cared more than anyone besides herself.
“Neji Nii-san…” Hinata called out, her voice weak as she started to cough again.
“Hinata-sama!” Neji rushed to her bedside and stood there as she reached out her free hand to him. He took her hand in his and stood with her, more concerned than he’d ever been.
With the last cough Hinata passed out, her whole body going limp. Her hand that was gripping Neji’s loosened and slipped down with her body. Hanabi adjusted her sister and the blanket on her as she put a hand around Neji’s arm. “Neji, let’s let her sleep, there isn’t anything we can do now.” Her hand loosened and slipped from his arm as she turned and walked out the still open door. As she was turning to go down the hall to her own room, she turned to see Neji still standing by Hinata’s bedside. ‘Perhaps you have changed, you really care now. Hinata and Father are right to trust you as much as they do,’ she thought to herself as she headed onward to her own room.
Neji stared at Hinata as she lay there, motionless, as he contemplated what was happening. In less than a week his entire life had been flipped upside down with everyone being hurt or ill. Blinking a couple times, he turned as slowly walked out of her room, to finally change out of the clothes he’d been wearing for a week and shower at long last. Sliding her door closed behind him, he turned toward his room.
He walked the few door down to his own room, the only room a Branch member had in the Main House Compound, but then again he was a rather special case. He slid the door open and stepped inside, closing it behind him. As he slipped his sandals off he walked in and removed the headband he wore.
He sat on his bed and stared down at the headband he wore, it had once belonged to his father and he only wore it as a memory to the man no one seemed to remember but him. “Father, what’s happening? Everyone is growing ill and I can’t do anything to stop it, what would you do if the people you cared for were in these positions and it should be you in them?” Setting the headband on the table next to his bed he looked up and ran his hands through his thick, blood stained and matted locks in frustration. Removing the hair tie in his long hair he threw it on the table with the headband and walked into the bathroom attached to his room, standard of all those in the Main House.
He undid the lone button on his stained robes upon entering the bathroom, pulling them from his body as he started the water in his shower. Staring in the mirror for a few moments and contemplating why he was fine but everyone around him seemed to not be he stepped into the shower, intent on finally forgetting the failure of a mission and his failure as a Jonin.
It was a lot of work to remove the dried blood from his hair and clean the cuts in his skin, but he managed to do it after quite some time. Growing tired of the white porcelain mocking him and his failures he stepped from the shower and dried himself before returning to his bed.
“What a mess… if something could go right I would be amazed…” he spat out before laying back in a hurry and pulling his blankets over him. “Maybe things will be better after I sleep a bit.” Rolling to his side where he found it more comfortable he closed his eyes and dozed off, a lot faster than he thought he would all things considered.