Ten years. Ten years since they’ve all had the time to meet. Their duties to their nations have kept them busy and apart…but with a decade of peace to celebrate, there are no more excuses to avoid one another.
The celebration is held in the Earth Kingdom. Ba Sing Se plays host, the liberated city dressed for the occasion. Benders of all elements gather in the streets to give thanks for the first ten years of harmony after a hundred of war and hatred.
Naruto greets all with wide smiles and warm embraces. Kiba howls hellos alongside an aging Akamaru, the polar bear dog. Sakura, vivacious as ever, gives claps on shoulders that stagger the most solid of men.
And as Sasuke and his brother approach, Hinata offers polite bows and soft salutations.
He almost has to do a double take.
They saw each other last several years ago when trades were finally fully opened to the Fire Nation again. Still a teenager growing into herself then, Hinata had hidden mostly in the background as those older than her handled the talking. But now…now she’s come into her own.
Garbed in a sapphire dress that glitters like a moon-drenched ocean, she holds herself with poise and grace. Last Sasuke heard, she’s become matriarch over all of the Southern Water Tribes. Clearly having learned how to handle such a title, the welcome she gives them is genuine, yet well-mannered.
“Fire Lord Itachi. Prince Sasuke. It’s been so long.”
“Too long,” the elder brother agrees, matching her bow. “You look stunning, Hinata.”
She laughs politely into a hand. “You flatter me. And you both look well - have your treatments been holding up?”
“They have. And anymore are few and far between. A full recovery may yet be out of reach, but I am simply thankful for what I have.”
A knowing glint shines in the waterbender’s eyes. “Well then, don’t let me keep you. I’m sure the others are eager to say hello.”
Nodding, Itachi takes his leave, and Sasuke gives a small scoff. “Is there anyone who won’t tease him about that?”
“Do you not?” Hinata asks, still smiling coyly.
“I’m the worst of them. Mostly I’m just glad to think of Father’s face when he hears his heir is sweet on a waterbender. You’d think by now they’d both stop denying it.”
“Perhaps your brother merely wishes to be cautious. Such a transition may still be…difficult for some of your people.”
“They’ve endured bigger changes since the war’s end. All that matters to me is that he ends up happy.”
There’s a soft hum of agreement. “…yin and yang, hm? Fire and water.”
“The sun and the moon,” Sasuke muses, mostly meant to be to himself.
“So…it doesn’t bother you?”
“That she’s a waterbender?”
Sasuke can’t help a slight pause. “…if you’d asked me that ten years ago, I’d laugh in your face. But times have changed…so have we. There’s still a chance for a firebending heir. I’m not worried.”
“I suppose there’s always your offspring to consider.”
He can’t help a barking laugh. “Yeah…sure.”
Hinata’s head tilts. “…have you no thoughts to start a family?”
A long moment of silence passes, Sasuke’s brow furrowed and slightly dark with thought. “…I’m not sure. I…” He hesitates. “…I spent several years of my life being a horrible person. I nearly threw my brother aside for power. I treated his healer like dirt beneath my heel. I hunted you and your friends like animals, all to prove my worth to a man who was more monster. A monster I nearly became. I’m not sure I’m suited to having a wife or children.”
Expression somber, Hinata glances aside. “…and yet you’ve changed. You said it yourself: none of us are who we were as children. War did terrible things to us all. But you put that aside: your pride, your lust for power. You helped us. We’d not have won the war without you.”
“And yet it would have been far less terrible without me and my prior deeds in it.”
“Sasuke…we all have good and evil inside us. In the end, you chose good. And you continue to choose it, every day. Do you think you might someday change your mind?”
“…I don’t know. And that scares me.”
Silence falls between them again, each lost in their own thoughts.
“…I know…I distrusted you at first. It was hard not to. But eventually you proved me wrong. Proved all of us wrong. If you could bring yourself out of that hole of anger and jealousy you were in, then…you’re stronger than you give yourself credit for, Sasuke.” Lifting a hand, Hinata lets it rest gently against his cheek, feeling him stiffen but guiding his gaze back around. “…I trust you now. We all do. Why can’t you trust yourself…?”
Staring down at her, flickering his gaze between her eyes, Sasuke tries to think of an answer. “…no one knows me like I know myself.”
“…then maybe you just need to let someone in so they can.”
Her calm logic against the coals of his self-deprecation douse them like icy waters.
…how had she put it? Yin and yang?
“…I don’t know who would want to take that risk,” he murmurs, her palm still cool against his skin.
“…well, I -”
Jolting, the pair of them stagger apart as Naruto’s voice booms over the gathered crowd. Arms lift as he smiles like a sunrise. “The banquet is about to begin! Please, take your seats and join us for just the first phase of this celebration of a whole decade of peace!”
As his speech concludes and the crowds begin to murmur and shift, Hinata and Sasuke give one another a glance, a bit sheepish at the broken atmosphere. “…I’ll…see you after the feast,” Hinata offers, stammering slightly as she once did when younger.
“…right.” Giving a stiff bow, Sasuke seeks out his brother, taking the seat at his side.
“Where have you been, little brother? Did Hinata keep you occupied so long?”
Mind still jumbled, the prince flickers his gaze over. A few seats away, on the other side of the table, his brother’s healer engages the other waterbender in smiling conversation. Ah…he didn’t know they were friends.
“…yeah. Guess she did.”