A/N: First Neji/Hina…because they are just so freaking awesome! Inspired by Sintari, Hiasobi, Sunfreak, and all the other amazing N/H authors I've come across. I pray to someday be as talented as you guys…

As always: read, review, and make my day!

Disclaimer: Nothing's mine.




He'd pick on her like no one else, he'd once hated her like no one else, and nevertheless, his job was given to no one else…to protect her from everyone else.

Until your dying day, my boy.

At first, it had been to fulfill the wish of a dead man, the only person he had ever loved.

It was safe to say that most people did not know of this role of his because if they had, they would likely have told him that he was going too far, irrationally and idiotically far, almost recklessly…but Hyuga Neji had been anything but reckless. In the past tense.

Lately, he had become far beyond reckless with his actions and done too much without thinking, almost instinctively, that at times it was hard to believe that this was the levelheaded Hyuga genius of this time.

And so he would always give Uzumaki Naruto hell whenever he'd take Hinata out for ramen and then hit on his pink-haired team mate the next day. So what if he wanted to become Hokage? He wouldn't let the idiot-blond get away with anything at all.

And he would put Inuzuka Kiba in the hospital—saying his hand had slipped—not once but twice when the boy had said he'd walk her home at night but had stood her up, forgetting about it, or whatever the hell his excuse was.

He had walked her home himself in stony silence and although he knew that his cousin would disapprove of him roughing up her teammate, and though the extent of his duty in no way required him to hassle Kiba, he did so anyway.

She got upset over that, of course, in that gentle way of hers which he almost found irritating. As always, he wanted to tell her to grow a backbone, to slap him when she felt like it, or to yell and say what she wanted to out loud and when she wanted to. She was Hinata-freaking-sama to him after all.

And no doubt, she did want to scream and curse at times, he could read it all very clearly in those pale eyes like he could read just about everything else about her, but instead, she'd tell him softly that he need not go out his way to trouble others for her sake.

He could have chosen to be cold and heartless then, to lie and tell her that it hadn't been for her sake. That nothing had. He could have said that it was simply because he didn't like the look of Inuzuka's face—although if he had thought about it long and hard, that wouldn't have been much of a lie.

Kiba had always been close to Hinata, perhaps a little too close for Neji's liking. Even without any blood tie, the boy with the dog on his head and the fang-like face paint had been something of a brother to Hinata and had likely, Neji guessed, done a better job of being there, protecting her, and doing his job, than he himself had.

Wasn't Kiba the one who had checked up on her in the hospital? And even after, Kiba would accompany her everywhere to ensure that her internal wounds would not act up again. What had Neji, the reason for those wounds, been doing then? Where had he been all along? Training to become a Chuunin, wasn't it?

Ridiculous goals. Ridiculous fights. In so many ways he had lived a ridiculous life...and yet, something still kept him going.

His job was given to no one else…to protect her from everyone else.

He did not know when it started. Had it been the day they had marred his forehead or had he perhaps been born with it? He just knew that now it wasn't to simply respect his father's wishes.

After his first fight with the failure Uzumaki boy, he had come to believe that one's fate could more or less be changed or directed, at least. Some things, however, could not.

Never mind that he still picked on her like no one else. Some things were not meant to change.

It was justified because, after all, hadn't he also loved her like no one else?

Never mind that it wasn't the I-want-to-buy-you-flowers kind of love but more like the I-will-kill-the-bastard-that-hurts-you kind, the I'll-always-be-there kind, the nothing-will-harm-you-before-it-kills-me-first kind. Love was still love.

Until my dying day.