By Little Sharingan
Disclaimer: Naruto and all affiliated characters are the property of Masashi Kishimoto, Shounen Jump, and possibly Toriyama's World. No copyright infringement intended.
Author's Note: In place of new chapter for Answers and Something Wicked, here's an extremely short oneshot that guesses at how Hinata's feelings for Naruto may have first began. As always, comments and suggestions and welcome. Thanks for reading! And stay tuned for new chapters. I swear they're almost done…
Such eyes, the passers-by would murmur in quiet wonder; have you heard about the power of Hyuuga eyes? And they would stare at the dark-haired little girl, smiling and bowing with respect as she walked through the streets two steps behind her father like the dutiful daughter she was. It was always this way as the Hyuuga heads walked in imperious silence, a slow, deliberate processional to the Hokage's private meeting room. As the heiress to the clan and all the power that came with it, Hinata was required to attend official functions to learn how a Hyuuga handled matters of the state. It came as no surprise that the people of the village, grateful for the strength the Hyuuga clan provided, would treat her with such deference.
"I wish they would stop looking at me," Hinata whispered almost inaudibly, her eyes cast downward in a futile attempt to escape the villager's insatiable curiosity.
Neji didn't even look at her as he continued to stand guard by her side. "You are a Hyuuga."
"I know," she conceded meekly. "It's why they stare."
"That's not what I meant. It doesn't matter what they do," he replied, his words clipped and tone terse. "You are a Hyuuga. Things such as this should not bother you."
"Does it never bother you, Neji-niisan?"
His lips thinned into a grim line. After a moment of thought, he answered, "I have one purpose, and that is to protect you, Hinata-sama. Nothing else should matter."
Hinata's gaze turned back toward her feet as they made their way. "But it does matter, doesn't it, Neji-niisan?" she asked softly.
He didn't respond, and the two children walked in a stony silence that had become all too familiar since the death of Neji's father. Hinata sighed and contented herself to observe the people that milled the street. Venders garbed in aprons and scarves stood by their wooden carts, holding up various fruits and vegetables as enticements to the lunchtime crowd. To her right, a pretty woman in a deep blue kimono laughed at the side of her husband as she held onto his arm in delight. To her left, a young blonde boy in a bright orange jumpsuit scowled at the old lady who ushered him out of her store with a broom. A slight frown tugged at her lips; she had never seen someone mistreated so.
"And don't come back, Naruto, you little monster!" the storekeeper yelled, waving the broom at the child in a threat.
"I wouldn't want to, you old hag!" replied the boy loudly. He shoved his hands in his pockets, kicking furiously at the ground as he vented his frustrations on a pebble that was unfortunate enough to find itself in his path.
Hinata peered closely at the strange boy, marveling at his boldness. Naruto. It did not take Hyuuga eyes to see that behind the child's mask of stubborn nonchalance, lay hurt and loneliness. But he didn't let those feelings show, didn't let the woman have her victory. Any tears of shame or anger were held at bay by determination and courage shining in those clear, blue eyes. Hinata felt a swell of admiration blossom for this boy who'd caught her attention. He was so brave, so unfettered. He was exactly as she wished to be – free.
Naruto looked up absently from his irate mutterings to catch the eyes of the Hyuuga heiress as she passed in the stately convoy. He seemed to regard her with a kind of clarity that came with true honesty, the type of honesty that went beyond words but straight to the heart. A blush crept over Hinata's pale features and she stared back at her feet again. When others looked at her, she could tell they saw nothing more than the Hyuuga identity. Yet, when Naruto had looked at her, even in a passing glance, Hinata could have sworn he saw only her, and it was terrifying and exhilarating all at once, to have her soul laid bare before his blue eyes.
Author's End Notes: Thanks to Mucktron for looking through this for me before posting. If you're looking for good fanfic, head over to her site.