Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Kishimoto Masashi, not me. Why would I want to own a boy with a demon fox inside of him? I've got enough problems as it is.
Notes: My second Naruto fanfic (well, third in the order I started writing them, but second completed)! If Hanabi seems out of character, frankly, I'd be shocked you could tell, because I can find nothing BUT vague descriptions and contrasting portrayals of her to begin with. As for Neji, I'm still getting to know him (and maybe you can help with that by reviewing?).
"Hyuuga Secret Arts" will be devoted to Neji and Hanabi, and how the events in "White Dog Night" (yes, there will be more) change their relationship (you'll have to read that to find out what happens to Hinata). I'm trying to set it up so that each chapter here corresponds with the chapter of the same number there. You don't HAVE to go back and forth, but it might give you a better sense of what's happening when that way.
Series Summary: Hanabi turns to Neji for training, and eventually, unknowingly, companionship.
Chapter Summary: Hanabi makes Neji an offer he probably shouldn't refuse.
Hyuuga Secret Arts
(Companion to "White Dog Night")
Part 1: The Art of Scratching Backs
A Naruto Ficlet by
Nate Grey (XMAN0123-at-aol-dot-com)
Hyuuga Hanabi was in his bed.
There were a million things wrong with that, and in most of the best-case scenarios, Neji would be dead by nightfall. It didn't matter that he had no memory of ever even being close to Hanabi, much less touching her, or that he saw her even less then he did Hinata. All that mattered was that nothing good could come of this.
Hanabi didn't seem at all worried. She actually looked very calm, sitting there with her hands resting in her lap, staring down at his perfectly still form expectantly.
Neji took this as a cue that he should stop pretending to be asleep. He didn't know her that well, but if her name was any indicator, he didn't want her to explode because she ran out of patience with him, or for any other reason. Certainly he knew better than to just brush her off. Hinata may not have been willing to use her limited but significant power over him, but Hanabi was not quite so innocent. He'd seen her practicing the hand signs that would activate the Cursed Seal years ago, and it had since made him tread very carefully around her.
"Neji-oniisan. You're not fooling anyone. I know you're awake."
He dared to open his eyes fully. Hanabi was still staring down at him, but now leaning over him slightly, so that her long, dark hair was just barely brushing his face. She didn't seem angry at having had to wait on him to 'wake up,' however. That was a relief, albeit a very small one, considering.
"Is there something I can do for you, Hanabi-sama?" he asked warily. In truth, he was mostly offering so she would leave quickly.
She nodded slightly. "There is."
It became apparent to Neji that only one of them found this current situation awkward. Still, it was his room, his bed, and his discomfort, so more than likely, he would have to be the one to say something.
"It doesn't involve us being in my bed together, does it?"
Something Neji couldn't identify flickered across her face, but it was replaced all too quickly by her neutral expression. "Do I make you uncomfortable, Neji-oniisan?"
That was a loaded question if he'd ever heard one. He was very careful in his answer. "More the situation than anything else. It would not be appropriate for us to be found this way, Hanabi-sama. Surely you know that."
"I do," she agreed. "Though, I don't care."
Her words only made him feel more uncomfortable. "I doubt I would be in any condition to fulfill your request after I had been punished for such an offense," he reminded her.
Hanabi actually scowled, just before she looked away. "You are correct, of course."
While she was distracted, Neji sat up and quickly got out of the bed, dressing as fast he dared without drawing too much of her attention. He wasn't sure what he would do if she told him to stop. If he didn't, she could activate his Cursed Seal, and if they were found, it would be her more valued word against his. All she really had to do was tear her clothing a bit. She never seemed to wear anything more than flimsy shifts and sandals, anyway. He had assumed this was either for easy movement, or a sign that she had resigned herself to her fate as the younger sister of the Hyuuga heir.
Hanabi waited until he was done dressing before she spoke again. "I want you to train me."
He slowly turned to face her, certain that he'd heard wrong. "Is that all?" he asked after a moment.
She seemed insulted by the disbelief in his tone. "You say that like it's nothing. If otou-sama knew-"
"I know," Neji interrupted. "He'd be furious. So why are you asking me to do it?"
"I've told you. I don't care what anyone thinks."
He shook his head. "Why do you want me train you? There are others who could teach you better than I could."
Hanabi's eyes flickered, and Neji knew he'd just made the mistake of lighting her fuse.
"I am not interested in learning what someone else could teach me," she answered, her soft voice somehow like steel in that moment. "I am only interested in what you could teach me, Neji-oniisan. That is why I am asking you, and only you."
That was high praise, coming from Hanabi, and he would probably never hear it from her again. But Neji was curious now. He wanted more information. Hanabi was definitely up to something in requesting his help, and he had a very good idea of what that might be. There was one way to find out for sure.
"She is nowhere near as qualified, but I imagine Hinata-sama would be more than happy to help you," Neji ventured, watching the girl's face carefully.
Hanabi's expression did not change at all as she spoke. "One does not seek aid in the arms of an opponent."
He shook his head, almost sadly. "She is your sister."
"The same way your father and mine were brothers, you mean?"
It was a low blow, and Neji had to turn away to keep from losing his temper. As it was, he had to bite down on his bottom lip to stop himself from saying anything that Hanabi might feel the need to punish.
"So you do understand that blood does not always equal loyalty," Hanabi said. "I trust we will have no further complications, then."
"So that's it," Neji muttered angrily. "You want me to train you to defeat Hinata-sama?"
"Of course not," she replied at once. "I will do that on my own. But it is not enough to defeat just her. I want to be formidable. Feared. Respected." She paused. "I want to be... what you would've been, had your father been in the main house instead of my own."
"And why would I help you claim what you say should've been mine?" he asked bitterly.
"Because when I am heir of the Hyuuga Clan," Hanabi said quietly, staring directly up at him, "I will remember you."
She meant it. That was what really surprised him. He could tell that she meant every word. Hanabi meant to remove Hinata from the picture, either by defeating her or worse. It was an endless cycle, and no matter what, the backstabbing would continue between Hyuuga siblings, so long as there were two inevitable fates in store for them.
Hanabi apparently took his silence for consideration. "I could give you anything that was in my power to deliver, Neji-oniisan. Perhaps even a few things that were not."
"And if I refuse to train you?" Neji asked suddenly.
Hanabi's face instantly hardened. "Then I would remember that instead," she replied coolly.
It was a threat, plain and simple. No, more like a guarantee that if he didn't help her now, she would destroy him later. Really, it wasn't such a big thing. He was always looking for an excuse to train more, and there was no doubt in his mind that Hanabi would be an excellent study. Such determination almost always transferred over into fast learning, especially when aided by the Byakugan.
"How do I know I can trust you, Hanabi-sama?"
"I will make an oath in blood, if you wish."
He smirked. "Even those can be broken."
Hanabi merely stared at him, as if he'd said something incredibly stupid. "I do not needlessly spill my own blood, Neji-oniisan. Nor will I betray it. Oneesan and I may be of the same blood, but she is not of my blood."
Neji couldn't deny that he was concerned now. He had heard of such hatred within a clan only once, and even that story was shrouded in rumors and shadows. The proof did not lie, however: there was only one Uchiha left in Konoha, and if Neji's instincts were right, he was now looking at a future ANBU captain, and the true heir of the Hyuuga Clan.
And this could very well be his only chance to win her favor, for as long as it lasted.
"We will not speak of this again," he said at last. "I will meet with you twice a week. No more, no less. You will challenge no one that outranks you without my permission."
Hanabi said nothing, waiting for him to continue.
"If you ever activate my Cursed Seal, our training ends."
"I will abide by your terms," Hanabi replied simply. "But if we are discovered, I will attack you without warning."
Neji didn't have to question her logic. If they were found out, it was the only way he wouldn't be punished. His shame at being overpowered by her would be seen as a very fitting punishment in itself. That Hanabi apparently attacking him unprovoked would merit her no real shame was a given.
"So. We have an agreement," Hanabi announced as she leapt lightly to the floor.
"It would seem so," Neji agreed, watching her carefully.
Hanabi moved to the door, pausing long enough to look over her shoulder at him. "I will remember this, Neji-oniisan." And then she was gone.
He instantly questioned the wisdom of what he had agreed to. He could always hold back, and not teach Hanabi everything he knew. But how long before she learned that, as well? How long before she was able to defeat him, too? How long before he was no longer valuable to her?
He would have to learn more. Much more. More than Hanabi would ever have time to learn on her own. So long as he had some knowledge that she needed, she would not dare betray him. And so what if he was only shaping her into an even more efficient killer? All that mattered was that he knew at least a few things that she didn't. That precious knowledge would keep him alive, for a time. If it ever ran out... well, they would find out once and for all who really deserved to be the heir. The title may not have been available to him officially, but it was in the eyes of his peers, the elders, even Hanabi's own father, at times. They knew who brought the greatest honor to the Hyuuga Clan. Hanabi knew it as well. It was why she had chosen him in the first place.
Neji went through a mental checklist as he left his room. He had a light schedule today, and that night would be perfect for his first training session with Hanabi. He would have to come up with a way of signaling her on the nights he was available, and it would be best to keep rotating them, so as to avoid regularity. Perhaps a kunai slipped under her door, or tiny notches in his doorframe. Hanabi was unusual in that she frequently barged in on members of the branch family for no particular reason, so no one would think it odd if she were seen passing by his room. He'd always found that habit of hers annoying and a bit worrisome, but now it would actually aid their cause. Maybe she had been planning this even then? If she had, he would really have to work to stay several steps ahead of her sharp mind.
For Hyuuga Neji was many things, but he was not, nor did he ever intend to be again, a victim. If making his cousin into a living weapon was the only way to keep her from being the knife in his back, so be it. He would rather have his back scratched than stabbed any day.
End of Part 1.
Again, characterization comments most appreciated. I'm especially curious about the honorifics Hanabi and Hinata typically would use to address each other, and how Neji addresses Hanabi. I get why Neji would say "Hinata-sama," but would the same apply to Hanabi, or any other member of the main house (that seems odd to me, calling everyone –sama when they should technically be few and far between, but then I don't have a Cursed Seal on my head), or just Hinata because she's supposedly the heir? As for the sisters, I think Hanabi might resent Hinata for a number of reasons, so I just use the standard "oneesan" there.
And just for future reference: I'm not sure what the official setup is, but for the sake of convenience, I'm assuming that the main house and branch house of the Hyuuga Clan not only refers to two parts of the family, but to two physical houses as well. Now I suspect there's more than just two buildings on the Hyuuga land, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn certain parts of the land were for main house members only. There has to be somewhere like that, if certain secrets have been restricted to the main house (the Cursed Seal jutsu, for example). Speaking of which, there's a chance Neji wouldn't recognize the Cursed Seal hand signs even if he saw them. But if the boy really is a genius like they say, I think he'd put two and two together eventually.