She sat on the old wooden steps in the back of the Hyuuga compound—a venerable structure that seemed to exist outside the trappings of time, ancient even when her ancestors moved among the confines of its walls—and watched the soft glow of the lanterns that swung rhythmically back and forth on wrought, cast-iron pegs shaped like vines. The sky was a rich shade of indigo dappled with stars, and she heard the melodic hum of cicadas singing to one another in the grass.
Hinata took a breath, the air sweet as it filled her lungs, and let it out slowly, savoring the moment. Inside, the voices of their guests had begun to taper as the night wore on, many departing for the comfort of their own homes and beds. It had been a long day, the celebration in honor of her engagement spanning the entirety of the afternoon and well into the evening hours. Despite her youth and assumed stores of boundless energy, she was tired. Yes, maybe pleasantries were not all that difficult for her to exchange, however she did have her limits, and they had stretched almost beyond the point of endurance.
"What a day," she sighed, resting her weight on her arms as she leaned back, the ebony fabric of her kimono trailing across the ground. She could picture her father's look of disapproval if he caught her in such a position, and that thought alone would have cowed her into submission once, but she was no longer the shy, timid little girl she used to be.
The years since the Great War had changed her, forced her to grow up and take her place as the rightful heir of the Hyuuga legacy. That was her duty, her destiny, and she could either submit her will and allow it to own her as she had for so long, or stand tall and embrace it, make it as much a part of her as the heart that pumped the lifeblood through her veins. She was finished being a coward, flinching away from the world that surrounded her, too afraid to take that crucial step over the threshold of her safe haven, her self-constructed prison.
Hinata often wondered why her cousin scorned her when they were younger; now she knew. Neji was of the branch family and she the main, yet it was she who behaved as though the curse seal was branded upon her brow, not him. She had the freedom he yearned for, but she took it for granted, did not appreciate it as she should have. For the first time, she truly saw herself through his eyes, and was ashamed of what she beheld.
Neji's disdain was well earned.
"He was proud today, though," she mused out loud, a strange exultation swelling in her chest when she remembered the brief glances he'd spared her, the touch of his fingertips on her palm… "I could tell." A smile tugged at her lips. The regard was not one-sided. She'd never been more proud of him than on this day. In the face of the people he had considered his enemies, he held himself with poise and grace, accepting the somewhat empty, even hostile congratulations along with the respectful ones. They had a turbulent road ahead of them, and neither was naïve enough to believe that Neji's recently elevated status would be readily embraced.
But they were prepared to shoulder the burden. For better or worse, the Elders had decided, and what was divided would be whole again in time. The separation had only reaped the seeds of destruction, and Hinata refused to stand idle while her line tore itself apart at the seams. With Neji by her side, they would construct a new foundation that would weather the ages, even if they had to do it by force.
Today had been a prelude for what was to come.
She knew that voice, deep and sensual and rumbling, as if it sprang directly from his core, a voice that was Neji in every way.
"Had enough excitement?" she said, lifting her chin to grin at him. He wore a plain white kimono secured just below the waist with a black sash, his river of dark hair unbound, and the seal uncovered. On anyone else, the style may have appeared feminine, but never on Neji.
He made an indelicate noise. "If I had to endure one more word, I think I would've snapped."
Hinata could not suppress her giggles. "That's why I left," she explained once her amusement was under control. "It's peaceful out here."
"Mm," he agreed, and then his sour expression changed to one of near fondness. Hinata's breath caught in her throat when he extended a hand to her. "Come with me. I…have something I'd like to show you."
Unable to conceive of a reason to decline, she placed one of her own hands in his and allowed him to draw her up. A million giddy thoughts raced through her head, about the warmth radiating from his palm, about the way his grip was not tight, but possessive all the same, about the thumb he traced lightly over her knuckles…
She wasn't used to this, not from her cousin. Their relationship had healed to a degree, however he usually refrained from showing any outward signs of affection. That he chose to do so now surprised her, but also brought her comfort, and with it, a tiny bit of hope that, perhaps, they might be able to love one another.
They walked in silence for a while, he leading, she following. Eventually, she detected a faint trickle of water close by, and felt dew on the sides of her feet, where her simple thong-sandals provided no cover. The trees parted up ahead, and she thought she glimpsed light of some sort, though she wasn't quite sure of the source.
"Neji—" she began, but he had stopped, a smile on his face.
"We're here," he said, and then tugged her forward, passing through the gate of trees.
Her mouth opened, and her eyes went wide.
"Gorgeous," she murmured, and even that was an inadequate way to describe this place. All around them, moss bearded the stones that lined a small creek, and wildflowers of all shapes and colors sprouted between them. A lone weeping willow stood at the head of the brook, its mournful, drooping branches tickled by the flow of water. The tiny pinpoints of bright gold she discovered were fireflies, the miniscule organs on the underside of their abdomens winking in and out while they flew.
The atmosphere was as ethereal as a dream, the faery kingdom of Queen Mab, and Hinata had never seen anything of its like.
She whispered, "How did you find it?"
Neji's smile was sheepish. "Luck," he replied honestly. "I stumbled on it by accident when I was searching for a spot to meditate."
"I…I can't even…" She froze when he gathered her hair, now almost as long as his, and draped it over her shoulder, exposing her ear and a section of smooth, porcelain neck.
"Then don't," his lips brushed her skin, "and dance with me."
Her body was one giant mass of sensation, all stemming from that one spot, that one mouth, that one voice…
She could not comprehend why Neji was doing this; she knew without having to be told that he was seducing her, and it was working. If he commanded her to jump, she'd ask him how high, or how far, or from where… He had her in his grasp, and she'd do anything he wished.
Isn't that what he wants? The rational, cynical part of her mind questioned. You've always had power over him, and the tables have turned. He's manipulating you, silly, foolish girl.
And the funny thing was…she didn't care.
Critically, he examined her kimono, sliding a finger under the V of silk at her collarbone and gently inching it down. Hinata barely moved, barely dared breathe as he revealed her bandaged chest, the top and sleeves of the garment hanging limply about her waist.
The breeze nipped at her flesh, but she was far from cold. Neji's closeness behind her radiated heat like an oven; she felt feverish, liable to collapse if he didn't hold her up.
Dangerous…I should stop this…
She was Hyuuga, the eldest of Konoha's noble clans. She wasn't supposed to show such weakness. Hadn't she already borne enough grief for that offence as a child? Hadn't she transformed herself into a formidable kunoichi whom her opponents took seriously? And for what? To forget all the hard work and the training and the blood she'd shed in an instant of pure, unadulterated lust?
Oh, she knew what she should do; she just couldn't get her traitorous body to obey.
So I really haven't changed…everything is exactly the same…
The surface of Neji's hand slid along her left arm, effectively cutting short her reflections. His right arm he lay alongside her corresponding limb, and curled them inward, so she fit snugly against him. In the dip amid neck and collarbone he rested his chin, and she closed her eyes, head tilted to give him better access.
As he had led her here, he led the dance, a series of dips and twirls and smoldering glances. Hinata could not say for certain how long they moved together with the rush of the water in the creek as their accompaniment, only that it ended when he removed his hand from around her middle and turned her face so that their eyes, identical, pupil-less orbs, were at a level.
He's beautiful, she realized as his mouth descended upon hers, yearning and demanding and loving all at once. He kissed with an intensity that made her mind reel, and, although she had little experience in this area, she snaked her arm behind his neck and tangled her fingers in his hair, pulling him closer. There was no point for modesty, now.
By the time they broke apart, flushed and gasping for air, he was cross-legged in the grass and she was in his lap, the fireflies perched on tree limbs and rocks to watch in fascination.
After she caught her breath, she leaned back, head nestled beneath his chin, and glanced up at him. She saw her future in his eyes, in the curve of his nose, in the decidedness of his lips…
"We can make this work, can't we?" There was a hint of desperation in her tone.
He was quiet for a moment. "Do you want it to work, Hinata?" She ordered him to stop addressing her with the honorary 'sama' a while ago, and he seemed to have no trouble obliging.
Questions within questions, she thought wryly. He's as insecure as I am.
She replied, "Yes," and showed him the smile she'd saved for him and him alone, the smile only he could induce. "I want you," she whispered.
It was what he was searching for, and she knew it because his arms tightened around her. Yes, perhaps they were bound by circumstance, but that did not mean they had to be victim to it.
"Then it will work," he said softly.
She trusted him.
This is the result of a dream I had at, oh, 3 'o clock last night. The scene plopped itself in my head, and I had to get it out before it drove me crazy… :is jealous of people who can pop out drabbles in under an hour: