"Naruto would have been devastated if you had died." Sakura said. "You should have seen him after you were, you know, hurt. I’ve never seen him fight with such intensity."
Hinata gasped. She tried to sit up a little, but the pain drove her back down.
"Naruto-kun?" Hinata breathed. "He, he really was? Sakura-san, you really think so?"
"I know so." said Sakura.
Hinata sat quietly for a moment, a small smile creeping onto her face,
"Sakura-san," Hinata said after a moment. Her voice was crisper, and color was rapidly returning to her face. "Can we raise the bed up a little, so I can sit up?"
"Sure." Sakura said with a smile. "But not too much, I’ve still got a little bit of work left."
"Thank you," Hinata said as Sakura finished making the adjustments with a button on the side of the bed. The heir to the Hyuuga clan’s main family considered Sakura with eyes so white that they appeared pupil-less. After a moment the eyes flickered with . . . trust?
"Sakura-san," Hinata began. "The truth is I was terrified because . . . because I didn’t expect to see him again. Now he knows what I told him and . . ."
"By "him" you mean, Naruto" Sakura interjected.
Hinata nodded and took as deep a breath as her injuries would allow.
"Sakura-san, I’ve seen the way he looks at you and . . . and . . . how can you stand it? Sometimes I think I would give anything for him to look at me that way, but . . . but I am also terrified of it!"
It was Sakura’s turn to be taken aback. She licked her lips, not knowing what to say, and was again thankful for the mask. She couldn’t even meet Hinata’s desperate gaze, and lowered her eyes as if in thought. But Hinata didn’t stop. Her words poured out of her like a dam that had burst, and Sakura realized she’d been needing to tell someone this for a very long time, but was scared to find someone to listen.
"I . . . I’ve loved him all my life, admired him, believed in him. He’s suffered so much, you know. Nobody seems to realize that . . . but . . . but . . ."
"But he never gives up on his dreams, no matter what." Sakura finished for Hinata, who was on the verge of tears. And it was in that moment, that at last Sakura understood. She and Hinata were the same. Both of them had loved someone they placed on a pedestal. So high was their place that they seemed untouchable. They both hoped, hurt, and wrestled with their feelings as they tried to figure out how to get the attention of the one’s they loved.
Words began to march out Sakura, sounding at first like simple advise for her comrade. Yet, they resonated from somewhere deep within Sakura’s own soul, and she realized she was lecturing herself at the same time.
"Hinata, you can only love for the sake of love for so long, before it begins to eat at you. You can’t hide it, but can’t force it either. You have to make a stand somewhere." Sakura paused, and as she met Hinata’s eyes again she realized her comrade was listening intently. But Sakura had only just gotten through the easy part.
"And we’re ninja. Ninja adapt. Once you make your stand if love fails you, you have to move on. You have to read underneath the underneath, and not let yourself be consumed by your own passion. That doesn’t mean your love has to stop, but . . ." now Sakura felt her eyes fill to the brim as well, "but you have to find love that will be returned. Our business is too dangerous, the chances that we will die in battle too high to be waiting around for something to happen. Telling Naruto what you feel had to be done, but don’t get stuck there."
Hinata smiled broadly, showing teeth for the first time that Sakura had ever seen since she’d known her. The girl had taken the words to heart.
"Well then," said Hinata. "It seems we’re rivals."
"Right." Sakura said with a small laugh. "I won’t go easy on you though, and I think I may have a bit of a lead."
"That’s alright," Hinata said. "I’m not going to lose, either. But . . ."
Sakura raised an eyebrow.