I'm back! After a long break from my stupid computer (which is so useless it hangs all the time), I'm finally back! Thanks for your pretty reviews, everyone . I promise to write, er, more regularly (well, if I'm not busy with school and all). Anyway, here's another chapter (not so good, actually). Btw, you must have noticed that I changed the rating? Well, I guess since the you-know-what won't start anytime soon (how can it? You know from the way Neji treats Hinata that they must get closer and care for each other first before other things happens). Ah well, enough babbling and see you in chapter seven!

The Hyuuga Cousins

Chapter Six The Mistake

We had been onboard the ship, The White Sands, for a completeweek now. If the ship would reach the Sand Country in time (the weather hadn't been at all good. It was amazing how the White Sands could stay afloat amidst all those thunderstorms), there was only another weekmore to go. In the meantime, my relationship with Neji nii-san hadn't been any better than the weather either. That little incident in which I came barging into him clad only in a towel seemed to irritate him greatly. For one thing, he wouldn't go any closer than two meters from me. And for another, he wouldn't look at me if not highly necessary. If I didn't know any better, I would have thought he was acting exactly like how I used to act around him (well, all right, I still DO act that way around him, but still). But even so, he still refused to let me go anywhere without him tagging along.

"Because it's my duty to protect you…" was what he would mumbled whenever I tried to convince him that I could go to the dining room to get some hot water for my cup noodles perfectly by myself.

"Really, Neji nii-san," I would tried again and again as politely as I could, "It won't take more than five minutes. Just let go alone, okay?"

But of course he wouldn't, and God knew how easily I could argue with him Haha. As if.

So, as usual, I found myself walking towards the normally crowded dining room with Naji nii-san two meters behind me. When we got there though, a familiar face greeted me.

"Ah, it's you again, Missy!"

"Good afternoon, ma'am," I replied politely to the lady froma weekago who had delivered me the nightmare of being stuck in the wrong ship for two weeks, "Are you having your lunch?"

"Oh no, I've finished mine actually. Just bringing some up for Yoichi—my son," she smiled before turning her beetle black eyes at Neji nii-san, who was staring at her suspiciously from behind me, "Your, er, brother?"

"Huh? Er, no, he's my, um, cousin," I stammered as I heard Neji nii-san clearing his throat uncomfortably.

"Oh," the lady said, with both of her eyebrows rose, "Well, see you then."

I let out a silent sigh of relief when she finally sauntered off. I quickly filled up my cup noodle with hot water, and rushed back to Neji nii-san's side, who was looking at me strangely now.

"Um, well, just now was, um…" I started but couldn't seem to continue. Instead, I was tongue tied again, my face bypassing red and turning maroon.

He didn't say anything but merely whipped around, with me hastily walking up behind him and trying not to spill the hot water at the same time. When we reached my room, he stopped so suddenly that I knocked into him, making the cup noodle flew into the air.

"Aah!" I cried out when I felt the hot water stinging my hands, silently thanking God that it didn't touch my face, "Neji nii-san, I'm so sorry—eh?"

Looking like he was in a mad rush, he came over to me and carried me gingerly towards my room, kicking open the door. He rushed over to the bathroom, and showered my hands with cold water. I tried to stifle my scream (it stings!) by biting my lips, which actually worsened the condition, and my lips started to bleed.

"What are you doing!" shouted Neji nii-san in frustration, making me cringed in fear and humility at my own foolishness.

He snatched a towel—my towel, this time—from the hanger, and draped them carefully around my hands, before carrying me again towards the bedroom, and laying me slowly onto the bed. He went away the instant he put me down, only to come back a few seconds later with a small towel clutched in his hand. The bed springs creaked as he settled on it beside me, and bent over me to dab my bleeding lower lip with the towel. When he was finished, the glare that I had been anticipating in dread came back onto his young, masculine face.

"Do you see what I mean now?" he said coldly, "If I'm not here beside you, who knows what will happen to you?"

I chose not to say that the reason why I almost died of being scalded by hot water was all his fault for stopping suddenly.

"I'm sorry…" I whispered as I looked up at him, moving my hand unconsciously and received a stabbing pain I return, "Ow!"

"Hey, watch it!" He grabbed a hold of my right hand—in a gentle way—and started blowing it. This action of his, of course, made me blush. I had never expected him to go so far to doing this. I guess, getting your hand scalded with hot water once in a while didn't seem that bad.

Unfortunately, he stopped blowing my hand (an action which somehow gave me many overwhelming yet incomprehensible emotions) when he caught a glimpse of my expression.

Oh no, did I look stupid or something, I thought worriedly, my face must have resembled a baboon's backside! Oh, why am I cursed with the ability to blush so easily?

Unlike mine, his expression was unreadable as his eyes fell upon my now swollen lips. "Do you know why she thought that I'm your…brother?" he asked, slightly above whisper that I must strained my ears to hear him.

"No…" I said, kind of whispery too, and without thinking. He had brought my hand near his lips now, and I could feel his warm breaths against the cold skin.

"You don't know? You really don't know?" he asked again, and I gulped, feeling his long, raven hair touching my neck as he bent lower and lower over me.

"Neji nii-san…"

"That's because we look alike," now his warm breaths were blowing against my lips instead of my hand, and I confessed that I had to restrain myself from jumping about a foot and a half into the air in shock, "Remember that night in that town with the festival? The owner of the inn thought that I'm your brother too."

"Yes…" was all I could manage to let out.

"Well, of course we look alike," I could see myself clearly in his famous Hyuuga eyes, "Our fathers are twins, after all, aren't they? That basically makes us brother and sister."

Hey, wait, I'd never thought of that!

"Brother and sister?" I asked breathlessly, feeling relieved and disappointed at the same time when he moved away.

"Yeah, but that doesn't mean I'm going to be—or act—as your brother, though," he stood up, his back facing me, "Just rest for a while. Your hands will be okay."

"Neji nii-san!" I called out desperately when I noticed him leaving the room. He stopped abruptly, but didn't turn around to face me. I gazed at his back, feeling rather strange of the emotions that overcome me. A few days ago, I would give anything so as not to meet his eyes, but at this moment, I wanted nothing else but to see him. To see him looking back at me.

Turn around…

"Neji nii-san, I want to know…" I tried to ignore my mind that scream out in protest of my action, "I want to know why you hate me so much!"

Turn around and look at me…

"It's not just because of Otou-sama isn't it?" I prayed that the tears wouldn't spill out—no, not yet, "There must be something else, right? What is it about me that annoys you?"

Turn around and give me your attention…

"Neji nii-san!"

Just for a second, please turn around…

"I…"he murmured softly as my tears threatened to spill, "don't…hate you, you know."

I couldn't say anything in reply. My mouth was too busy gaping at him.

"I have never hated you, Hinata…" came the gentle murmur again, as if in confirmation of its earlier statement, "Never…in my whole life…"

"You're lying…" I mumbled, feeling dazed, "Or this is just a dream…"

"Maybe…" he finally turned around, and slowly rested his palm on my forehead. It felt warm against my skin, just like how his breaths had been.

"Go on and sleep now," his voice was close to my ears, "I'll be watching over you."

He would be watching over me?

Oh, this was a dream, all right. Because… the real Neji nii-san wouldn't have felt so warm as he lay close beside me. Because the real Neji nii-san's lips wouldn't have felt so soft against the wounded skin of my hands. Because the real Neji nii-san wouldn't have ignored the formality and called me 'Hinata'…