|Sunbeams in a Dark Forest
Author: MangKulas PM
Sequel to Moonlight and Water. Again, Hinata's and Neji's relationship come under focus, forbidden in most cultures but interesting to the lot of us, anyway. Hinata finds that there are many ways to fall in love.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Hinata H. & Neji H. - Chapters: 7 - Words: 8,639 - Reviews: 58 - Favs: 45 - Follows: 17 - Updated: 02-15-08 - Published: 12-17-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3951079
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Author's Note: This is a story, ultimately, about Hinata's and Neji's relationship. But I've always thought that Hinata's sincere admiration for Naruto would create in her conflict of genuinely loving two people. One barely knows that she's alive. The other can't touch her without bringing society down on his head.
Sunbeams in a Dark Forest
CHAPTER 1: TEA
In the end, it wasn't a question of whom she loved more or whom she loved best. It was simply that she loved both.
Of course, the result wasn't simple at all. Nowadays, Hinata Hyugaa didn't agonize over her strength so much as her duplicitous heart.
She felt like she was cheating.
It was a stupid thought. She hadn't even confessed her love to Naruto. He wasn't even aware of her love despite how embarrassingly obvious it became whenever she fainted in his presence. How could it be cheating when the person you love doesn't even know you love him?
Logically, Naruto had no exclusive right to her feelings, but Hinata had adored and silently cheered him on for so long that it felt like she was cheating.
Worse, she didn't love the other person willingly. The feelings stole into her heart, quietly, slowly, with no permission granted, built over time in small, repeated, increments and in a series of tiny epiphanies like sunbeams in a dark forest.
A lot of them had happened around tea, Hinata thought wryly.
How awkward it first had been. She would bring the tea out for her cousin and her father after their training and her father would ask her to sit and share a cup. And silence would linger between the three of them, Hiashi not being a man of many words, Neji and Hinata still teetering on unstable ground after the Chuunin Exams and all that happened after. It wasn't a comfortable silence, at first. Even Hiashi had to clear his throat a few times.
But the day after the miserable failure of Bikochu-retrieval mission, Hiashi ventured to ask about the mission and Hinata's cheerful determination, her disarming admittance of the mission's failure, cracked the dam. When she bought the tea out, Neji asked about Naruto, and they fell to talking about his pranks before, and the Fifth's frustration with him, to about the Fifth, herself, so that a very pleasant afternoon passed by. And a ritual was born.
Sometimes, Hanabi would be present, and the sisters would giggle at something stupid the boys in Hanabi's class had done or something hilarious that Hinata's male teammates said. And Hiashi would mutter under his breath, while Neji carefully drank his tea and kept his eyes inside his cup.
Sometimes, Hiashi and Hinata would leave and there would still be tea left. And the lazy afternoon sun would shine down on Neji and Hinata as they fall into silence, listening to the breeze.
There was that one time. When leaves had started to fall to the ground and the air had become crisper in Konoha. In Hinata's mind, she called it the tea of sharing a cup.
Hinata had been leaning against the post holding up the roof of the walkway that went around the open courtyard. Neji was once more sitting beside her. Hanabi had been at the Academy and Hiashi closeted away with elders in another part of the compound.
She'd dropped her tea cup. And it had crashed to pieces on the hardening ground. She had jumped up with alacrity and was prepared to run inside when a hand on her forearm forestalled her. Hinata had looked down at her cousin and saw him offering his cup.
"Just share mine," he said easily, as if he'd always done this before. As if he'd always done this before.
For some reason, it made Hinata think of the Chuunin Exams and all the coldness that had existed between them previous to that day. And ridiculously enough, it filled her eyes with tears.
Her heart had expanded at that moment, at that picture of his hand offering the cup so naturally, that her heart overflowed. Even if she had been on speaking terms with her cousin, it was only now that the full weight of the change had hit her.
Neji had looked up, alarmed, "It's all right. It's just a cup. I'm sure a new one can always be bought."
Hinata had laughed and, impulsively, she had given her cousin a hug.
Neji did not hug her back, but what was important to Hinata was that he didn't stiffen or pull away He just gave her a puzzled look as she sat down.
"I'm sorry, niisama," she said, "I was probably just a little tired. Yes, I'll share the cup if you don't mind."
"Eight birds," Neji said, before a flock of pigeons took flight from the roof that overhung above them. He released his Byakugan.
Hinata gave her cousin a sideways look. "Why are you counting those birds, niisama?"
Neji only shook his head as the quiet settled back into the open courtyard of the compound. "Just testing the blind spot in my Byakugan."
Hinata gave a soft laugh.
"What is it?" Neji asked, frowning.
"Just a thought. Even in our own house, we watch ourselves and think of every possible attack."
"We're shinobi, Hinata-sama. I don't think that can be avoided."
Hinata's eyebrows rose. "Can't be avoided? Do you still believe in fate?"
Neji's eyes widened and Hinata suddenly felt shyness descend, as if the question had crossed some invisible line that she should have avoided. She was about to retract the question, when to her surprise, Neji frowned and started to say something.
"It is…not that. I should know, better than most, about freewill and fate," and he half-smiled.
It was an expression that Hinata had never seen before. It wasn't a smirk. It was a genuine smile that manifested not exactly out of amusement, nor joy. It was a smile conscious of itself. A half-smile. She unconsciously pressed a hand to her stomach as she listened to her cousin and watched that half-smile.
"It is just that…peace is hard-won. It is also hard-kept. I don't want needless sacrifices to happen." And there came a look in his eye that told Hinata about a dead father being remembered.
Hinata raised her cup and drank her tea and half-wished that her cousin would half-smile more often. But she already knew that those smiles would be rare and precious things.
It would have been fine if those feelings had not come to light, and instead just built themselves up inside of her and pretended to be love for a cousin, for a friend. But those unforeseen feelings, built over time, in small increments over things as silly as tea, were laid open for Hinata to see.
This happened in the year Naruto came back.
END OF CHAPTER 1