Note: Inspired by the lack of normalcy in the Hyuuga family; written to make up for Neji and Hinata's lack of an ordinary teenage life, because Hiashi's not really the asshole every makes him out to be, and also because I like Neji/Hina. By the way, Neji is 16 and Hinata is 15. Warning: Pure fluff ahead.
"We will not return till late, Hinata," Hiashi Hyuuga said, adjusting the sleeve of his formal wear as an attendant bustled around him. Hinata stood timidly in her father's room, watching her father's attendants adjust the hem of his clothing with an unconcealed expression of admiration.
Ever since Tsunade had become Hokage, her birthday had practically turned into a holiday. And on every April 19th the most important representatives from each clan would attend the celebration, not returning till the wee hours of the morning.
Members of the Main house were busy bustling around the halls, looking for a few last accessories to grab or a last dab of makeup to put on, and Hinata was afraid to leave her father's room lest she get run over.
"This part of the mansion will be empty, Hinata, except for you and Hanabi…" her father said unexpectedly, and Hinata merely nodded.
The attendants finally moved away and Hinata smiled at the sight of her father glancing surreptitiously in the mirror next to him. He turned to look at her, an expression of closure over-taking his features when he looked at something behind her.
"You will be alone, so that is why I am leaving you with a caretaker."
Hinata followed his gaze behind her and turned around, her look of apprehension fading into surprise when she saw who stood in the doorway.
"I trust I can leave Hinata in your care, Neji?" Hiashi asked, as Neji bowed to him from the doorway and straightened.
Hiashi regarded him for a moment, and Hinata inexplicably shared a sense of elation when she saw the brief look of pride that appeared in her father's eyes.
"I take my leave, then," Hiashi said with his regular firmness, and strode out of the room with Hinata scurrying after him. She stood by the window when her father entered one of the carriages outside, and she waved to no one in particular when they rode off.
She tucked a few strands of hair behind her ear, self-consciously curling a lock that reached her shoulders. Growing her hair long happened on a whim, on a day when she glanced in the mirror and decided she wanted a curtain to shy behind.
Her fear of attention had increased when she felt the awkwardness that came with being a teen, and hoped that her long hair would camouflage the occasional pimple. Awareness of changes in structure made her clothes bigger than Neji's, her sleeves reaching lengths beyond her fingertips.
The poking of fingers had turned to biting nervously on her finger, as the latter provided more coverage to hide behind.
She and everyone else around her had been dismayed to see that she became shyer with age, hiding herself in her father's shadow and training alone or with her team. Asking Neji for tips on mastering the 64 strikes had been a struggle, and she only received the tips when he approached her himself, after seeing her struggle with the dummy in the training grounds.
The first six months after the Chunnin exams had been awkward. But once Neji had been injured in the fight with the Sound nins, she had taken to leaving hand-picked flowers and ointment jars near his bedside, never leaving a hint that they came from her.
And still, when he finally came home from the hospital, his gaze seemed to penetrate through her father's shadow and settle on her. She knew he knew, which just worsened her shyness as she hurried around the house trying to avoid him.
And still, he had been the first to approach her, not mentioning flowers or ointment, but flatly correcting her posture with a gentle push on her forearm. She had stared at him, wide-eyed, as she detected the scent of ginger root and eucalyptus ointment from lingering wounds, and he gave her one last, knowing look before walking away again.
And now, after quiet exchanges of hellos and goodbyes in the halls, after the awkwardness had dissolved into silent acceptance, she still felt the immense difference between them.
Hinata sighed, drawing a line through the mist on the window, the slight chill of winter still lingering in the air, before a slight, wistful smile graced her face.
"At least I still have the fireworks to light…" her finger paused in its descent when she heard him clear his throat.
Alarmed, Hinata vaguely wondered how long he'd been standing there when she turned around, wrapping one overly long-sleeved arm around her middle as her lips parted to accept her "biting finger".
"Yes, Neji?" she mumbled, looking interestedly at her black socks.
He had told her stop calling him niisan. In exchange, she would have told him to stop calling her Hinata-sama, but they both knew she couldn't bring herself to tell Neji what not to do.
She glanced at him momentarily when he didn't say anything at first, and full-blown awkwardness made her cheeks blossom a furious red as Neji glanced out the window as well.
"Do you have something you want to do, Hinata-sama?"
Knowing very well that he had heard her comment about the fireworks, she let her hunched shoulders sag in relief and nodded timidly. "C-Can we go outside, Neji?"
He nodded, and Hinata quickly scurried out of the hall to her room, returning a minute later with an armful of huge roman candles, shattering stars, silver salutes, hydro crackers, and one enormous thing that resembled a missile.
Neji stared at her.
"Hinata-sama," he said, unable to hide the surprise in his tone. "Did you get all of this yourself?"
Too distracted by the sound of whistling rockets and explosions outside, Hinata forgot her mumbled response and nodded happily instead, jamming on her slippers before she went outside.
The idea of Hinata being a pyromaniac had never occurred to him till now, as he pulled on his own shoes and followed her outside into the courtyard. He glanced up at the house when he caught Hanabi's ghost-like face peering outside from her window.
He half-heartedly motioned for her to come down, but she merely gave a small wave and continued to watch from her window.
Hunching his shoulders at the chill, Neji jammed his hands into his pockets and walked over to the patch of grass Hinata was crouching on. She had broken the soil there into loose fragments with a spade, and was already jamming in the first roman candle.
She glanced up, her eyes glistening with an excitement that must have made him appear less threatening, because she smiled at him.
"Do you want to light it, Neji?" she asked, raising her eyes to a bright red light that soared overhead, looking enthralled.
She offered him a packet of matches, and he accepted it hesitantly, raising an eyebrow suspiciously at the roman candle embedded in the ground.
"Just light the pink string," she said breathlessly, and moved back a few feet as Neji pulled out a match and struck it against the brown strip on the packet. It made a scraping sound but didn't light, so he tried it again. Still nothing.
Glaring at the stubborn match, he pushed the head of it against the strip, then dragged it against it forcefully. Hinata's muffled giggling could be heard in the background as he watched the head break off the match in dismay.
Hinata approached him and he held out the matches, expecting her to light it, but she handed him another match.
"Try striking from the side, like this," Hinata demonstrated, producing a lit match as she did so. Neji watched the glow of the flame diffuse across her features, highlighting the look of childish euphoria that appeared in her shining eyes.
…well, Neji had heard from a certain green-clad jounin that you learned something new every day. And today, Neji learned that Hinata had a thing for fire.
Taking the match she offered him, Neji carefully did what she told him, the brief blue flux of ignition illuminating his small smirk of triumph. Hinata backed off again, squinting in the cool air, smiling in anticipation when Neji crouched next to the roman candle and lit it.
He hadn't expected the shower of sparks to travel down the quick so fast, and he stumbled back when the spark entered the roman candle.
For a moment, it looked like it had caught fire, but then a globe of green light shot out from the top, making an echoing popping sound as it soared into the night sky. He heard Hinata laugh excitedly in the background when a red globe of light shot into the sky, and he couldn't help but follow the colourful orbs with his eyes until they faded into the dark sky.
The candle extinguished after seven pops, and Hinata wasted no time in planting the rest. Hinata lit the second one, a very large and uncharacteristic smile lighting her face as she rushed back to him, her dark hair blowing in all directions from the wind.
The sight of the candle catching fire would stimulate some sort of anticipation, Neji found, feeling the corners of his mouth lift in satisfaction when a blue orb shot into the sky. Crossing his arms over his chest, he rubbed at his goosebumps as Hinata ran forward and planted another candle.
Noticing the thin black material of her ridiculously long shirt, Neji wondered whether Hinata even realized that her breath was misting in the cool air. She seemed not to notice the cold and offered him the matches again, and soon the last candle let loose its purple orbs or light.
Hinata's gleeful clapping infused the air along with the last echoing bang, and Neji just shook his head in faint amusement and wonderment when she grabbed the silver salutes and the hydro crackers. These were much smaller than the roman candles, and blew up in a shower of sparks.
…which Neji learned the hard way when a face-full of sparks nearly lost him his eyebrows.
Hinata then offered the shattering stars firecracker to him, and he followed her example, jamming the end of it into the soft soil. Repeatedly lighting the cracker from a crouch and quickly stumbling back had cramped his legs, but even Neji was curious to see how this one would go off.
Blue sparks shot out from the top, then with an ear-piercing shriek, bright sparks of green light whistled into the sky, exploding in a shower of stars with a sound like thunder.
Hinata laughed when Neji's eyes widened at the deafening sound, muttering a barely audible, "damn."
"There's one more," Hinata said, and quickly jammed it into the ground, eyeing the largest missile-looking cracker wistfully. Neji was better prepared for the violent noise this time around, and crossed his arms when Hinata lit it and moved back again.
Again blue sparks appeared at the top, and Neji slowly uncrossed his arms, his eyes widening when the sparks grew in proximity. One additional thing that came with 360 degree vision was having the visual acuity of a hawk, and the shudder at the base of the shattering star did not go unnoticed.
Hinata hugged herself, bouncing on the balls of her feet as more sparks flew out, and she heard Neji shout. She hadn't expected Neji to get excited as her over a shattering star, and she raised her head to give him a mutual smile of enjoyment.
The smile faded when she saw him waving his arms and running at her, the shrieking of the shattering star drowning out his shouts, and she glanced at the mass of sparks before her.
Her eyes widened when she saw the shattering star topple onto its side, spinning on the ground as sparks flew out of it. A shrieking sound, and an ear-piercing whistling shattered the blackness of the courtyard with an array of green light.
Hinata gasped when the shattering star released a green missile of light in her direction, and the sight of a speeding ball of light coming towards her merely made her raise her arms to shield her face.
Hinata yelped as Neji tackled her to the grass, and the missile of green light slammed into the ground where she had stood. Another missile of green light screamed right over her head, and she clutched at the grass as Neji draped his arm over her, forcing her closer to the ground and shielding her head.
Those ten seconds of hailing green stars flying in all directions had been the longest of her life, and she only released her hold on the grass when the shattering star finally extinguished.
"Neji…?" she said weakly, her face still buried in the crook of her arm. There was no reply, and Hinata felt the air leave her lungs at the sound of silence.
"N-Neji-niisan…?" she whimpered, raising her head slightly, hoping to hear him scold her for calling him that.
She gasped in relief when she felt the pressure of his forehead against her temple cease, and he untangled his fingers from her hair, moving his arm from her shoulders as he sat up.
"I told you not to call me that, Hinata-sama," he said as she sat up, looking at him with wide eyes. He had a strange expression of mixed annoyance and relief on his face as he surveyed the tiny bonfires all over the courtyard.
"Are you hurt, Hinata-sama?" he asked, turning to look at her as she gaped at him.
"F-Fine," she stammered, and he nodded before getting to his feet. He stared down at her shocked face, and silently offered her his hand. Mumbling an incoherent thanks, Hinata hesitantly took his hand and he effortlessly pulled her to her feet.
"Hinata! What did you do?" came an indignant shriek from the house.
They both turned to see Hanabi running towards the nearest fire, glaring at the sight of Hinata and Neji standing in what looked like a war zone.
"Put all those fires out before it spreads!"
Hinata didn't need to be told twice. The three Hyuugas tromped through the grass, stomping out the fires until all that was left was the mutilated remains of the shattering star and burnt patches of grass.
"I'm sorry," Hinata wilted when Hanabi glared at her again. "It was an accident…please don't tell father. It's all my fault anyway, I don't want N-Neji…" she glanced at the ground, her face flushing red.
"…to get in trouble."
Hanabi merely rolled her eyes and sighed, glancing off to the side.
"Do you think I'm stupid? Why would I tell father? He would probably blame me for not keeping an eye on you."
There was a moment of awkward silence, and Neji distracted himself by eyeing how many grass stains he'd gotten on his shirt from saving Hinata.
"There's still one left," Hanabi suddenly said nonchalantly.
Hinata looked up, hoping she was right about what her sister's tone implied. Hanabi merely shrugged, and started back to the house, muttering. "No point in letting it go to waste…"
Smiling hesitantly, she timidly offered Neji the packet of matches. Giving her a wary look, he glanced at the huge firecracker she had saved for last, and went over to light it. Despite having been nearly toasted by the shattering star, Neji couldn't help but feel slightly curious about how this one would turn out.
Making sure it was in the ground properly, he lit the blue quick and quickly moved back again as the spark disappeared inside.
There was an enormous, hollow sort of bang, and a massive blue orb of light burst through the plume of grey smoke, disappearing high into the sky with a high-pitched wail. Neji and Hinata watched it travel forty, fifty, sixty…and finally seventy feet into the air when it exploded.
Hinata gasped when the blue orb burst into a shower of indigo stars, exploding outwards in the shape of a perfect circle. The sizzling blue lights lingered as they drifted through the air and silver streaks of light drifted against the black backdrop.
Neji glanced at her elated face from the corner of his eye, the slightest smirk lifting the corner of his mouth at the sight of her awe-struck expression.
The lights faded into the darkness soon after, and it was interesting to watch Hinata's lifted head bow down again, her shoulders hunching as she once again wrapped that ridiculously long-sleeved arm around herself, biting on the index finger of her other hand.
They both started back to the house, and only when Hinata saw Neji in the light did she notice his appearance.
"You're hurt," she said softly, her voice muffled by that long sleeve as she looked at his bleeding forearm.
"It's nothing," he said, noticing the cut for the first time.
"No, I'm sorry Neji." She bowed her head until all he could see was that curtain of wind-blown hair.
"Hinata-sama. You are from the main house. You shouldn't bow to anyone but the elders of this family. Least of all me…it's unbecoming." He said firmly, sounding remarkably like her father.
Nodding silently, she raised her head again, her troubled gaze focused on his arm. "C-Come, Neji…I'll dress that for you."
She was relieved that he didn't protest, and she led him over to a sofa in the den. He waited there until she came back holding a cloth, bandages, and ointment.
"All of this isn't necessary," he said, eyeing all that she put on the table in front of him. Hinata chose not to answer, and instead took a seat next to him, nervously hiding all but her fingers in her long sleeves as she picked up the cloth.
As if treating a deep flesh wound, she gently wiped away some of the dirt near the cut, squeezing cool water onto the marred skin. Neji watched her expression as she did this, noticing how she had bowed her head again and that her forehead was aglow with a blush.
She patted it dry with her sleeve, only allowing him to glimpse the tips of her fingers. She then reached for the ointment, and dipped her finger into it, scraping out the white mixture. She spread a fine layer over the cut, then gently rubbed it in with the pad of her thumb.
The scent of ginger root and eucalyptus suddenly infused her senses, and she froze when she realized what she had done. She glanced up, her eyes wide when she noticed Neji staring at her with a closed expression on his face, and she found herself unable to speak.
Mouthing wordlessly, she returned her attention back to the cut, and put away the ointment. She wrapped it in a thin strip of gauze, tying it firmly at the top. She now hid both hands in the sleeves, her fingertips trembling as she self-consciously tugged on her hair again, accidentally smearing leftover ointment into the indigo strands.
"T-Thank you, Neji," she murmured softly, scratching at her cheek in an excuse to cover her blush. "For saving me from the firecracker."
Neji stared at her, waiting for the moment she realized how absurd that had sounded. She realized it almost immediately, and muffled a giggle with her sleeve, breaking the tension.
"Yes," he said dryly. "There's something I can tell my children. I saved Hinata-sama from a rogue firecracker."
At Neji's pathetic attempt to sound humorous, Hinata's giggles turned into laughter and she hoped her face wasn't as red as it felt. When she finally got a hold of herself, she glanced up to see him looking at his bandaged arm, an unreadable expression on his face.
"Thank you, Hinata-sama," he said quietly. "For the ointment."
Hinata didn't need to think twice about what he said, and knew he was referring to the ointment she had given him when he had been hospitalized. Growing even more reclusive, she shyly curled a lock of her hair again, and nodded in reply.
"Do you have anything else you have to do?" Neji asked her after a few seconds, and Hinata glanced at the time. It was only 8:43 PM, and she was far from feeling tired.
"Y-You don't have to watch over me anymore, Neji," she said. "I'm just going to…I don't know…" she blushed again as he waited for her response. "I think I'll just watch a movie."
She hesitated. "Unless…unless you want to join me, Neji?"
There was a moment's silence, and she glanced up to see him looking at the bandage thoughtfully. "What genre is it?"
Hinata blinked. "Something scary."
A small smile overtook her features, a pleased smile. "We can s-share the popcorn, Neji…um, one more question."
"Buttered or natural?"
What the hell, Neji. Go nuts while you're at it. "…buttered."
"Okay," Hinata said, sounding slightly less reclusive and more relaxed as she left the room. Neji watched her leave without turning his head, wondering what had compelled him to stay here, and watch a scary movie with Hinata in the main house den.
Scratching at a dark grass stain on his shirt, Neji realized what being with Hinata for an hour had done to him. He looked like he had gone rolling around in the grass, had singed some of his hair, and was now sporting a decent cut on his right arm.
"H-Here, Neji…" he glanced up, taking the large bowl of popcorn from her arms as she placed two cans of coke on the glass table in front of them.
Neji stared at the soft drinks. "Your father forbade Naseki-san from getting these, Hinata-sama…"
Hinata shook her head, a small, guilty smile over-taking her features. "It wasn't the cook. I-I had them in my room…Kiba gave them to me to try, and let me borrow the movie."
Neji didn't reply to this revelation, choosing to instead stare stonily at the TV. That Kiba…he hadn't liked the look of him since he'd first met him. What was he thinking? Going around giving Hinata-sama soft drinks and scary movies…he'd be giving her crack next, if Neji didn't keep an eye on them.
"I didn't know you liked scary movies, Neji," Hinata said timidly, attempting to converse as she put the video into the VCR.
"I don't normally watch any sort of movie," Neji replied shortly, pretty much killing the conversation right there.
"Well, you might like it…it's a ghost sort of movie. I-I like those better than the slasher ones.," she said, surprising him with this tidbit of information.
"Ghost sort of movie?" Neji repeated.
"Mm-hmm," Hinata nodded, popping a few pieces of popcorn into her mouth. "It's starting."
Neji spent the first few minutes of the movie feeling awkward and out of place on the leather sofa, the soft seating preventing him from keeping his ramrod straight posture. He glanced at Hinata, noticing how she had curled up comfortably against the armrest, nibbling on the popcorn.
His face formed some sort of grimace and he allowed his spine to relax, moving back to lean into the soft leather. Almost immediately, it felt as if his chakra control had slipped from his grasp and his energy just puddled into his feet, making his legs unbearably heavy.
Though slightly disturbed by the sheer feeling of relaxation claiming his body, he allowed his back to lean against the soft leather, tucking one arm behind his head.
He glanced at her again, noticing her wide-eyed stare on the TV, and realized he had missed fifteen minutes of the movie. Hinata reached for her coke without taking her eyes off the screen, snapping open the cap and taking a nervous sip.
Neji eyed the can suspiciously before snapping open the cap like Hinata had done. Having been raised on milk and water his entire life, he wasn't prepared for the powerful acidity of the drink when he took the first sip.
Hinata jumped when he started coughing, his eyes watering as his inexperienced taste buds panicked at the foreign liquid.
"Are you okay?" she asked in concern, and Neji merely waved his hand at her, clearing his throat before he took another sip. After a while, the acidic feeling had died down and he decided he rather liked the strange, sweet taste.
Thirty minutes into the movie, and he could sense the anxiety rolling off of Hinata in waves when a terrified woman ascended the creaky stairs, calling out to her missing husband.
The woman had ascended the stairs and was now heading into a dusty old room, and Hinata whimpered audibly when she crouched down near the bed. Neji's eyebrows rose slightly when Hinata clapped her sleeve-covered hands over her ears, squinting at the TV through partially closed eyes.
"She's going to die," Neji said casually, and Hinata squeezed her eyes shut.
"Tell me when it's over," she whimpered.
Neji stared at her in exasperation. "Hinata-sama, why are you watching this…if you're not going to watch it?"
She just shook her head, and Neji smirked at her childishness. "It's over."
Hinata opened her eyes just when the woman spotted her husband's head under the bed and was violently snatched under by a very convincing looking specter. Hinata let out a short, shrill scream, and Neji had to sip more of his coke to keep from smirking.
"Neji!" she shrieked in a mix of terror and indignation. "T-That wasn't fair!"
Somewhat pleased that she had lost some of her annoying shyness, he merely shrugged and kept his attention on the TV, though his gaze remained fixated on her the whole time.
"Is he going to die, too?" Hinata asked, as if he had actually seen the movie before.
"No," Neji said insightfully. "But he is."
And sure enough, the said unfortunate man was decapitated in the next scene.
"How do you know, Neji?" Hinata finally asked, after he prophesized a man getting possessed by the spirit. "Have you seen this?"
"No," he answered, crushing his empty can. "Lee was blabbering on about it last week."
Hinata deflated at his answer, and looked somewhat put out. "But then…you'll know w-what happens in the end."
"Lee didn't tell me about that," he answered, and seemingly satisfied, Hinata shifted her attention back to the movie. Neji merely smirked as she fell for the lie, and kept his eyes focused on the TV, though watching her as he did so.
His hand brushed her sleeve occasionally as they reached for the popcorn, but she didn't seem to realize it as the cloth covered her skin.
And even at the end of the movie, when he was supposed to be paying attention to the ghost being sent to hell, he found that watching Hinata smile without bounds was a much more interesting sight.