A/N: This fic deals with the pairing of Neji and Hinata, and yes, they are first cousins, so if this pairing offends you, please read no further! And please, no flames! This is my first Naruto fanfic, and Neji/Hinata is one of my favorite pairings. This fic is kind of angst-y, but that's only because Neji is involved, HA! Anyway, hope you enjoy!

PLEASE READ AND REVIEW!

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or any of its characters at all or ever…

Bloom

He didn't think it should feel like this. Hot lips met soft ones, and he cursed himself for it. Revenge shouldn't hurt his heart so much.

She made a soft sound and he pulled away suddenly, as if only now realizing that his actions had consequences. He studied her eyes—eyes that were mirrors of his own. Her face was flushed and she said nothing, but she didn't turn away. No, she stared right back at him, a look of shock and hope plastered on her pale features.

"Neji…nii-s-" She whispered.

"No," he cut her off firmly, "don't call me that." His voice suddenly turned threatening and she seemed to half-cower at his words. He was cruel, and he hated himself for it.

He hated the fact that he had probably just stolen his cousin's first kiss—something she most likely had not intended for him, of all people. He hated the fact that he had been contemplating the act—and more, much more—for months now. He hated the fact that he had grown up bitter and selfish and cold, so unlike her—she, who possessed compassion and a true strength he could never know. He hated the fact that he knew he could change now, knew he could cut his ties with fate and become a different person, but he didn't know where to start.

She was still there, looking at him. He had accosted her in an empty hallway in his family's part of the complex—the Branch House. What she had been doing in that part of the house eluded him, but he supposed it was on some errand of her father's. Or maybe she was just there to torment him with her pretty face and half-smiles and kind words.

"Neji…san…" She started again, leaving off the "brother" part, he was happy to hear. "That…that…" she blushed and stuttered a little. He had to look away, lest he grab her even more violently than before and steal another one of her kisses. "That was…my…my first kiss…" She stared at her feet and he stared at the top of her head.

"I'm sorry, Hinata…I…" He couldn't think of anything else to say. He wasn't sorry for what he had done, he was only sorry for the circumstances—that it had to be her, and that he had to hate himself for only wanting it to be her. He covered his face with one of his hands in a moment of defeat.

After a long silence, she spoke again.

"No," She said, and when he looked up she was smiling just a little bit, "I'm glad…glad it was you." And with a rustle of her silver kimono—he realized then how beautifully it matched her eyes—and the soft sound of socked-feet on the wooden floor she had turned the corner and was gone.

He stared after her in shock—the image of her blush-tinged cheeks and dark hair and half-smile imprinted in his mind, while the weight of her words were carved deeper than any hurt in his heart.