A/N: Started a meme in white_knuckle and this is the first request I received. Requested by ren_no_jutsu, title: "Music From Another Room," pairing: NejiIno, and line: "You know, this music really doesn't suit you."

I *heart* this request. *_* The story is partially inspired by a pic in the junk section of uzumaki addiction of Ino with her hair down and smoking a cigarette in this little black dress.



"Music From Another Room"



Ino's fingers are white and graceful around her cigarette- graceful like the smoke around her fingers. She doesn't smoke often.

But it's been a bad weekend.

There was a party last night at the Hyugas'. She didn't like what it was celebrating.

Ino sits on the piano like one of those old-fashioned movie goddesses, just waiting for a player to sing to her. Legs crossed, hair loose and casually tangled around her shoulders. Her shoes are on the bench, her stockinged feet nudging them slightly.

She looks beautiful. But she would be surprised to realize it.

Ino has a high opinion of herself, and it is mostly deserved. All the same, though, she feels ugly right now, in her little black dress and snagged stockings, her hair a mess and makeup slept off.

Last night she found out that Sasuke Uchiha is getting married. Not to Sakura, but to Temari of the Sand. It is an arranged marriage. Their countries want a stronger peace, and Sasuke wants to revive his clan without the weakness of loving someone. Temari doesn't really care at all- Sasuke is handsome and his bloodline is sublime, and she loves no one in particular. To both of them it is convenient.

Last night, Ino also found out that Sakura and Lee are seeing each other. They have known about the marriage for a while and are very happy for Sasuke. Temari's personality is strong and has only gotten stronger over the years. They believe that she will be good for him.

So Ino is forgotten again.

It's a common thing lately. The girls who used to fawn over Sasuke- because he was "safe," he was distant- have moved on from their training-wheel crushes and are meeting real lovers and husbands. The boys who never really cared about girls have finally gotten over that phase and are reciprocating such emotions. Of course, that is not true for everyone- Shikamaru and Chouji still have no interest in girls at all and most likely never will. Ino is starting to suspect something.

But that aside, people are in love, and she feels forgotten. Sasuke is engaged. Sakura and Lee are together. Hinata and Naruto are already married, and Ten Ten and Shino have been exchanging curious looks as of late. Kiba is such a ladies' man that he will probably never settle down, but he is happy that way.

Really, of their odd little almost-group, Neji is the only person to have completely avoided the trap.

And speak of the devil, of course . . .

"What ARE you doing in here?"

Those white eyes. That odd blank face that was so hard to read.

That Neji.

"Good morning," Ino greets, smoke spilling out of her mouth as if she were a dragon.

Neji just scoffs. "You reek," he says bluntly, wrinkling his nose in disgust. Ino just shrugs. Between her too-strong perfume and the tobacco smoke, she's not surprised. She's even less surprised by Neji's bluntness. He's been hanging out with Naruto so much that whatever tact he DID have has been stamped out of him.

It's interesting to watch the Hyugas try to exist with Naruto as a member- they wouldn't let him marry Hinata unless he joined the clan. They thought they could break his spirit and control him.

Even Sasuke and Neji nearly split their sides laughing when they heard that.

The fact, though, is that Hinata is the head of the Hyuga now and, despite her stutter, can now talk rings around anyone. And when the other members of the family think they've won, it's really she who has. Even Hanabi cannot beat her in this way. It comes from being in love with a man who has to have everything explained in bite-sized chunks and has the stubborn tenacity of a centuries-old demon behind his stupid ideas.

So Naruto is a Hyuga now. He and Neji spend most of their time together- Hinata's usually busy with her work as the head of the family. They train, they fight, they bitch at each other . . . it's kind of like their respective relationships with Sasuke and Lee, only friendlier. Or possibly, it is less friendly.

It's hard to tell with those guys.

Neji sits on the piano beside her- it is the only place TO sit in this disaster of a room- and steals her cigarette, grinding it out against the bottom of his shoe.

"Disgusting habit," he says flatly, still wearing that disdainful expression. "Don't spread it around my family's house."

Ino wants to say that it is not really his family, but she can't be quite that spiteful this early in the morning without coffee. She slept on the piano all night and is too tired and sore to swap insults right now. She can't even bring herself to whine about her wasted coffin nail.

"What are you doing back here?" Ino asks with a sigh. It's not like it isn't obvious that this is a place someone comes to be alone.

"Looking for you," Neji replies.

She blinks and accidentally knocks one of her shoes off the bench. "Excuse me?"

He shrugs. "You weren't around. So I went looking."

"Ah," Ino says, as if she understands. She slips off the piano and onto the bench, pushing back the cover off the keys.

"Ah," Neji agrees, as if he understands her himself.

Ino starts to play. The song is melancholy.

"You know, this music really doesn't suit you," Neji remarks.

"Maybe not," Ino admits with a little smile. "Have anything better?"

Neji just shrugs again. He is smiling, though.

Ino's music reminds him of birds.



* ende *



. : listen to the music of our single heart : .