Winter Flower.

Neji sometimes thinks Hinata is a flower in the middle of winter; he constantly asks himself how will it possible for a girl like her to be the heir of the Hyuuga clan. He remembers the first time he saw her and the smile they shared; he remembers thinking that she was very cute and that he really wanted to protect her. Then, he also remembers how his father looked so sad when he said those words. Most of all, he remembers how that memory was forever tainted when the Cursed Jutsu was put on his forehead.

Now, while he gets better in the Hyuuga complex, he watches Hinata from the window of the room he was given. He hadn't expected that, but after coming back from the hospital with precise orders from the Hokage that he was to have two weeks of complete rest and then two more weeks before starting to train again, his uncle had said that there was a room prepared for him.

He sometimes wonders if Hinata had something to do with that. When he arrived he was almost sure that he smelled that particular kind of medicinal herbs that seemed to follow his cousin wherever she went, and every time a nurse comes to change his bandages, he notices the ointments that she does. Still: he has been a week there already, and the only times in which he has seen her has been from his window, watching her train besides Hanabi, even if the Second Daughter is already much better than the next heir. Sometimes, he hears Hinata's footsteps behind his door, but she never knocks.

While watching Hinata and Hanabi practice, he has seen them smile to each other, sometimes. He sometimes wonders how it would have been to have a brother, and he remembers his mother's black eyes: how she couldn't recover from Hizashi's death. He wonders if his brother (if he had had one) would have been better than him, and if in that case, would he have been as proud as Hinata towards her sister? Or would his brother would have wanted to help him, and spare those few minutes in which they were alone to talk of nothing and everything at the same time?

Hanabi has to walk away: more practice probably. Hiashi told him that she was probably going to graduate from the Academy soon. Neji watches Hinata wiping her forehead, smiling calmly. He also wonders if that smile is ever going to be for him again, or if Hinata is always going to be nervous of his presence. He wonders if that small smile they shared when children won't ever happen again, and a part of him feels strange because of that (sadness, maybe? He isn't quite sure). Neji thinks that maybe winter has completely destroyed the flower.

Suddenly, Hinata raises her head and looks straight at him. For a moment they just watch each other (if Neji was one to admit of being afraid, he'd say that he was almost afraid of breathing in that moment) and he can almost feel Hinata's blush. Then, for his surprise, Hinata smiles. It's a shy smile, a small one, but still without the Byakugan he can almost see how his cousin's lips curved a little bit upwards, his suspicion confirmed when she also raises her hand towards him, just a little.

Neji copies both gestures (the hand and the smile) as best as he can, and he keeps them even when one of the maids goes towards Hinata, taking her inside the House. The Hyuuga genius keeps the smile even while he lays in his futon. While closing his eyes, he thinks that maybe there are times in which flowers are stronger than the winter.