Note: Hello all! This is my first fic so please review (and no flames please)!

Disclaimer: The characters of Naruto doesn't belong to me, but to Masashi Kishimoto, except for Kazahana Fuji.

The Hyuuga Cousins

Chapter OneThe Mission

I first saw him standing in the shadow.

"Hinata nee-chan," I tore my gaze away from him when I felt my sister, Hanabi, tugged on my coat, "Be careful."

I smiled softly at her, hoping that would be comforting enough. Slowly, painfully, she let go of my arm, and walked away. Something was telling me that she needed to get home as quickly as possible to cry herself out. Well, I would do the same if what was going to happen to me actually happened to her.

I would be going away from Konoha to marry my fiancé in the distant Snow country.

Even though I had always been the more obedient daughter, Hanabi was still shocked at my decision to obey Father's wish to marry Fuji, the distant cousin of the new Queen of Snow country.

For Father, my marriage to Kazahana Fuji would make the Hyuuga clan proud. But for me, it would be a chance to run away from my fate as the heir of the Hyuuga main family. My only chance…

I approached the figure in the shadow, my hands clutching my coat tighter in an attempt to warm myself from Konoha's unusually chilly night air. I reminded myself that it would be much, much colder than this in the Snow country….the country where soon would be my home.

"Good evening, Neji nii-san," I greeted the figure who was still standing perfectly still in the darkness of the silhouettes of the Hyuuga estates main gate.

After a brief pause, he finally stepped out from the shadow and greeted me back, "Good evening, Hinata-sama. If you're ready, we shall leave immediately."

It bothered me at first when I found out that Neji would be the jounin who was assigned to escort me to the Snow country. Although it had been four years since the last time he had tried to kill me during our first Chuunin exam battle, the memory still traumatized me even in my sleep. I had to admit that I had always been…afraid of him.

"I-I understand," I mumbled as I followed him awkwardly.

In order to reach the Snow country, we must travel by ship, and since there wasn't any harbour in the hidden village of Konoha, we must first travel to Otofuku, the nearest village from Konoha which owns a port. It would take approximately three days to get to Otafuku, and adding the time it took for the ship to reach the port of Snow country as well as the time to reach the palace where Fuji resided with his cousin, Queen Koyuki, the total travel would take at least a month.

Yes, so, I would have to spend a month alone with Neji nii-san in our journey.

I couldn't really blame Godaime for that. I knew that there wasn't enough jounin or chuunin left in Konoha to do missions during this period. And anyway, escorting me to the Snow country wasn't really a dangerous one. I should have felt lucky for getting Neji nii-san, the genius and talented jounin of his time, to protect me.

But then again, how was I going to endure one month with someone who scared the life out me? I mean, I knew that he wouldn't kill me, or injure me, for that matter…no, not intentionally…not anymore, but still, the past fear I had felt for him wouldn't cease that easily. Worse, the flashback of the Chuunin exam battle always played on my mind whenever I looked—always accidentally—at that eyes of his. That bluish-white eyes of his which seemed so similar but yet so different from mine. Similar in features but differ in ability. Of course, his surpassed mine greatly.

"Hinata-sama" his sudden mention of my name brought me out of my thoughts, "I'm afraid we must increase our speed in order to reach Otafuku in three days, or we will miss our ship."

"Ah, y-yes," I stuttered back as I quicken my pace, "I-I'm sorry."

Neji nii-san stared at me for a moment but I tried to look away, so I couldn't read his moonlit countenance on what he thought about my behavior. I gave a sigh of relief when he finally turned away and somehow found a strange comfort just looking at his back.

Neji nii-san is eighteen and had grown so much these past few years. He should be well over six foot, his chest was much broader, his voice was much deeper, and of course, his eyes were much sharper. It seemed the only thing that hadn't change was the length of his raven hair, which he also still tied in the same way.

I'm just being stupid…there's no reason why I should be afraid of him. His mission is to protect me after all…he won't harm me. He won't.

But then why, I asked myself, did I still shiver whenever I felt his eyes on me or just by being with him?

I got the feeling that if I wanted to reach the Snow country safely, I had to find a way—no mater what it was—to be slightly comfortable around Neji nii-san.

At least just for a month.

After what seemed to be hours worth of running through the forest of Konoha, Neji nii-san at long last declared that it was time to rest. Dawn wouldn't arrive until a while later so he built a fire to keep ourselves warm. Through the dense forest top, there was only just enough moonlight shining through to help me see the surroundings.

Neji nii-san leaned against a tree near me, not too close and not too far away. Eternity seemed to have passed in silence between us although it had only been a few minutes. Struggling to think on what to say, I unconsciously played with my fingers again, a habit which I hated but couldn't seem to stop.

"Why do you do that?" his sudden question gave a jolt.

I looked anywhere except him. "Eh? Do-do…what?"

"Your hands…"

I could feel my face turning scarlet and quickly drop my hands to my sides. "No-nothing…just an old habit."

He didn't say anything anymore, so I cleared my throat and tried to start the conversation this time, reminding myself again and again that this was necessary so as to survive from boredom for this one month. "Um, Neji nii-san, thank you for escorting me to the Snow country."

He paused for a moment before answering in a bored tone. "You don't need to thank me. I do this as a mission."

My cheek turned a deeper color of burgundy. "Ah, yes, you're right…"

He was right. This was his mission. If it wasn't, he wouldn't even bother to look at me, let alone protecting me.

But somehow, for reasons which I couldn't seem to comprehend, I felt a little bit…sad. Yes, the fact that he won't even care about me if he wasn't forced to made me feel disappointed. I mean, we were cousins after all, so why couldn't we have a normal relationship between cousins like anyone else? Even after he had tried to kill me, I wouldn't hold any grudges if he was willing to…

"So, you're going to marry a royal?"

It took a while for his question to sink in. "Ah! Y-yes…I guess you can say that."

"Your father would be so proud," he continued. I wasn't sure what his tone of voice was implying, "How do you get to meet him anyway? Snow country is very far away from Konoha."

It surprised me how he actually bothered to ask me about those matter, and I couldn't deny the fact that I was truly happy. So happy that I had forgotten I was supposed to be scared at him in the first place and actually looked up to see his face. It was only after my eyes met his that the realization struck me, and I quickly looked away again, just like a child caught with her hand in a cookie jar. But if Neji nii-san noticed my peculiar behavior, he chose to keep quiet about it.

"He came to Konoha a few months ago with his cousin, Queen Koyuki. She's a friend of Naruto-kun, if you must know," I mumbled, and couldn't help wondering if he even heard me, "Naruto-kun introduced me to her and Fuji-san. Before he went back home, he asked Father for me."

"So you marry him because you wanted to…I thought that your father forced you since I've never seen you together with Kazahana before," he said, almost with a sigh of relief, which made me surprised. I didn't know he care about me. At all.

"Well, to tell you the truth, I haven't really…talked that much with Fuji-san. I was actually surprised when he proposed to me," I said softly, remembering the kind countenance of my future husband. "But yes, I want to marry him."

I felt his eyes on me for a second before he spoke out, "But, do you think this is wise? Marrying someone you barely know…"

I looked up at him in surprise again, but this time, I didn't look away when our eyes met. I was that surprised.

My mouth opened slightly to say something but nothing came out.

What can I say? "Oh, yes, I don't want to marry him at all. I don't love him! But what can I do? This is my only chance to escape the Hyuuga family."

Neji seemed to notice my growing discomfort on the issue, because he adjusted himself so that his back was facing mine and grew quiet, as if telling me that he wanted to sleep.

But I knew well enough that he couldn't. And neither could I.

Note: The Snow Country and Queen Koyuki are characters from Naruto the movie. But Kazahana Fuji is my own character (except that I borrow his last name from Koyuki since they're cousins anyway). For those who haven't watched the movie yet, Koyuki's father was the emperor of the Snow country but he was killed by his own brother who wanted to take over the reign. Koyuki was rescued by Kakashi (who was then an Anbu), and becomes an actress, playing as Fuun-hime (and later, Icha Icha Paradise ). In the movie, Naruto's mission is to protect her while she's shooting her next film in the Snow Country.