"By profession, I am a soldier and proud of that fact. But I amprouder - infinitely prouder - to be a father."
-General Douglas MacArthur
Hyuuga Lien, beloved son of Hyuuga Neji and Tenten, heir apparent to the Hyuuga clan leadership, looked exactly like his father. From his dark hair – left long because his mother wept at the thought of setting blade to those 'darling locks' – to his white Byakugan eyes, to the shape of the bones underneath his skin: in every way Lien looked like his father reincarnated into childhood.
He acted, of course, anything but. The peace of the Hyuuga household was nightly shattered by baby Lien's wailings, and Neji began to sport eye bags that rivaled Sabaku no Gaara's. (His vengeance on Naruto's continual pointing out of this fact occurred when his cousin-in-law's own son, louder even than his, arrived in the autumn). When he was old enough to crawl around on his own – a feat, a proud father was quick to point out at every available opportunity, that Lien achieved much earlier than the average baby – he drove his parents to distraction by disappearing given the slightest chance, invariably found in some strange location, usually in a position that heralded either danger or impending mess. Neji still had nightmares about the time they found Lien on the Nara clan's lands, somehow cradled in the ten-point antlers of a very bemused stag.
Lien was not quiet. He was not shy. He was eternally curious, and no matter how many times you told him he did not understand that throwing his toys into visitors' faces was rude. He was audacious and ambitious: at the age of four he had proclaimed to his 'g'anpa Hashi' – Lien insisted on calling the Hyuuga clan head by that title, despite Hiashi technically being his great-uncle; Tenten pointed out that, genetically speaking, Hiashi-sama was Lien's grandfather – that he, Hyuuga Lien, would defeat him one day soon.
"But fiwst teach me the Ka'ten," he lisped to his enchanted grandfather, who had promised to do so as soon as he was old enough. (Immediately thereafter Uzumaki Shunrei leaped onto his grandfather's lap, next to his cousin, and demanded his own share of cuddling and training).
In other words, he was, in personality, every bit his mother's son.
The Hyuugas, used to less attention-grabbing youngsters, were confused and slightly intrigued by Lien's arrival in their lives. With a pair of adoring parents, loving aunts, an indulgent uncle who was also Hokage, a grandfather who doted on his grandchildren the way he had never been able to with his own offspring, and a hero-worshipping younger cousin; well, Lien was a little spoiled.
For example, he knew that his cries would bring his parents running.
Sure enough, less than ten seconds after he had walked despondently into the Hyuuga clan compound, sniffling, his father had ceased his sparring with a hard-pressed Hyuuga jounin to attend to his teary-eyed son.
Neji scooped the five-year-old up into his arms, bouncing Lien a little in the way he had learnt when soothing a teething toddler. "What's wrong, Lien?" he asked softly, trying to meet his son's eyes.
"I…I…" Lien gulped, then buried his face in his father's shoulder. Neji felt the cloth of his tunic turn slightly damp. Feeling a little panicked as he always did at the sight of Lien's tears, Neji began to unconsciously pace.
When Lien was a baby, fretful and prone to waking at odd hours of the night, Neji had developed the habit of…humming to pacify his infant son. He did not – could not – sing lullabies, the way Tenten did, but found that the sound of his voice pitched low and soothing, even if in a wordless monotone, could often calm the baby down. (Later he discovered that it had much the same effect on the baby's mother – unless he pitched it even lower, and not at all soothingly, which had a different and very interesting effect.)
He began his tuneless humming again, and breathed a little easier as he felt Lien relax slightly against his shoulder. He let the little boy cuddle into his shoulder for a few more moments before stopping his humming and asking, "Can you tell me what the matter is, Lien?"
Lien hiccupped a little before speaking. "We...we were practicing shurikens at the target-range near the Academy…" he began.
Neji, despite the boy's still-despondent tone, fought a grin. Lien wasn't yet old enough to attend the Academy, but he hung around the vicinity (along with Shunrei) with the excuse that they were waiting for their older cousin, Aburame Hino, to come out and play. Their 'waiting-around' time was incredibly fruitful, to the point that both he and Naruto were sure that their sons were the equals of any Academy first-years there, and thus fully eligible for early acceptance.
And of course Tenten's son would spend a good amount of time at target-ranges.
But…Neji's eyes narrowed a little as he pursued the thought. Lien and Shunrei spent a great deal of time in the company of older children – children who might conceivably be resentful of the younger ones' skills. Neji could remember being the target of such resentment himself, branch-house prodigy that he was. Hino would stop any such displays in his presence, of course, but the older boy couldn't always be there, and neither Lien nor Shunrei were exactly…diplomatic. (Which was no surprise to anyone, really –none of their parents had ever been known for self-effacing behavior) He could just imagine their reactions to an attempted intimidation.
And he didn't really think that their Hokage-taught collection of profanity would endear them to the older children.
Because of his suspicions, his voice was a little dark as he asked Lien to continue. The little Hyuuga boy sniffled, and wiped his nose on his sleeve. Normally Neji would have scolded Lien for this, but he was too busy conjuring up a list of ways to loom threateningly over bullies.
"Then…then Shun hadda go home, 'cos it was ramen night…"
Neji rolled his eyes. Apparently Naruto's love of ramen was written in his blood; it had been transmitted in its entirety to his son, and it had been hard to say who looked prouder and happier when a tiny Shunrei had, at the tender age of two, inhaled approximately thrice his body-weight in noodles – Naruto or Teuchi, the owner of the Ichiraku.
"But I didn't wanna, so I stayed in the fifty-yard lane and p'acticed my shurikens s'more. But I…I…" Lien snapped his head around as the sound of pounding footsteps reached his and Neji's ears.
"Mommy!" he chirped, just as Tenten came hurtling around the corner, skidding a little as she raced towards her husband and son.
"What happened?" she demanded, unsheathing so many weapons that she created a three-yard radius of sharp and pointy death around herself. Neji's heart skipped a beat as Lien hurled himself into his mother's arms, threading himself carelessly yet safely through the blades. Tenten and Lien did not consider the presence of edged weapons as anything dangerous or out-of-the-ordinary; on the contrary, they seemed more comfortable when they knew they were in close proximity.
It was an attitude that Neji sometimes found rather disconcerting.
Tenten set down her weapons so that she could cuddle Lien to herself; Hyuuga everywhere jumped as several kilograms of steel thudded to the floor. She paid little heed to either weaponry or others as she looked over her young son, checking him for injury. She heaved a sigh of relief when no bleeding wounds or broken bones presented themselves to her searching mother's eyes.
"Now, you tell your mommy what's wrong, Lien-chan," she cooed, nuzzling her son's dark hair.
"That's what I was about to ask," Neji mumbled, carefully stepping over the various blades to come closer to his family.
"Mommy, mommy," Lien cried, his tears starting up again. Neji and Tenten tensed. "I…I…I missed the bulls-eye at fifty yards!" he wailed.
Neji sweatdropped. "What? Is that it…?" He trailed off as he noticed his wife only grow more agitated.
"What? My little eagle miss his target? At fifty yards? THE RANGE-KEEPERS WERE CHEATING!" she proclaimed, hugging her son tighter. "Or maybe it was the windage. Did you check your shurikens, Lien-chan? Were they off-balance? Wind jutsus! Were they practicing wind jutsus at the Academy? They could have done it! Those little brats are always jealous of you, aren't they, little eagle?"
"They don't teach wind jutsus at the Academy," Neji pointed out, but neither of his weapons-crazed beloveds seemed to be listening.
"Maybe…" Lien allowed, seeming to calm down. "It was kinda breezy…"
"There you go," Tenten said, and they both immediately cheered up. "It's okay, Lien-chan. You know what? Let's do some training so the wind won't bother you anymore."
"Yay training!" Lien cheered, now inexplicably holding several miniature shuriken in his tiny hands. "Training training training…" he sang, clinging to his mother's neck like a baby koala – neither of them minding the little shuriken he held a little removed from his mother's skin. He continued to sing his happy little tune, now echoed by his mother as she picked up her weapons, storing them away to the beat of the song.
Neji heaved a little sigh. Tenten, who harbored a deep and subtle resentment against wind jutsus only worsened by her match with Temari of the Sand, had liked to train in the middle of storms in order to overcome her weakness. It had caused more than one really horrible cold which had deprived him of a sparring partner, and later, caused him to be uncharacteristically worried – to the point of making and delivering chicken broth to her.
Thankfully, there were no storms in the forecast.
The next day, two Hyuuga cousins scolded their enthusiastic spouses as Shunrei and Lien threw shurikens into the face of a modified Rasengan – "just as good as gale-force winds!" Tenten had chirped, "Thanks Naruto-kun!"