Clarity

Title: Standing on the Bridges yet to be burned

Theme: 25- Fence (from 30 kisses)

Dedicated to: Hihothedairyo, who specifically requested this triangle- sorry it took me so long to finally get around to posting this chapter 'sweat drop' forgive moi…please?

Pairing-NejiHinaGaara triangle- minor mention of ShikaTem

Warnings: Mild OOC-ness in some places

Side note: Though this is dedicated to Hihothedairyo (who requested this little love triangle) I like to think of it as a companion piece to 'Bridging the Gap' with a bitter-sweet aftertaste…don't know though that's just my opinion of this piece.

Special thanks to my beta-reader Dani-chan: luvs you Dani and thank you!

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For months now, there had been whispers, murmurs, and half-baked promises of Sunagakure being the host of the upcoming Chuunin exam. But even Hinata, the eternal optimist that she was, did not hold much stock in those promises.

After all, similar agreements had been made in the past only to gloriously fall through at the last minute. The Chuunin exam was held in Konohagakure and as of this moment it looked like that fact would remain true for quite awhile.

True, things were different since the alliance between the Leaf and the Sand had all but been cemented two years ago, but relations were still strained and to be frank, Konoha wanted to keep the stream of diplomats, rulers, and Kages- and their deep pockets- all to themselves.

Cynical?

…Perhaps, but it was the truth, or at least the political truth.

Inadvertently, Hinata found that there were a lot of things she had learned throughout the two years she had been betrothed and subsequently married to Gaara.

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One thing that Hinata had learned was Temari's innate talent with all things green…

Both young women were currently knee-deep in greenhouse soil, tilling and overturning a fresh, thin plot of dirt, getting the ground ready for a new batch of flower seeds.

The blonde wiped beaded sweat drops off her brow as blue eyes once again took in Hinata's plump…yet seemingly shapeless form.

A small thoughtful frown tugged her lips downward before the fan-wielder boldly asked, "So…when is it due?"

Pearl-pale eyes blinked. "It?" Hinata questioned aloud.

Temari's frown became more pronounced. "The baby." She said bluntly.

Hinata's face flushed pink. "A-ano Temari-neesan, not for seven more months at best."

Chewing her bottom lip, Temari tilted her head to the side to see if she could catch a glimmer of the slightest hint of curve to Hinata's covered stomach as if she wasn't sure if she should believe the claims that her brother's wife was pregnant or not.

Hinata and Gaara's…relationship, if one could call it that, had many strikes against it almost from the start.

And rarely were the couple affectionate, as when they were, it looked so phony and staged that Temari often came close to gagging.

Rather, it seemed that Hinata was off into her own little world what with the hothouse orchids and vibrant plants she nurtured within the greenhouse.

Whereas Gaara was shackled to the massive responsibilities and paperwork that came with being the Kazekage.

On occasion, outside of publicity of course, the couple would be alone from others and just in the company of one another.

But Temari would hardly call these "romantic rendezvous", for even in private, Gaara was distant and Hinata seemed to be unsure as to what to do with herself. Plus, the girl was utterly clueless as to how to relate and talk to her own husband.

So how could such a pathetically fractured relationship congeal long enough to create offspring?

But Temari had to admit, if it was a lie, a cover-up, it was a damn good one, because every medic she asked, Hinata, Gaara, even Kankuro confirmed that the mousy, pale faced girl was pregnant.

'Maybe it was like the pollination of flowers. Both of them…well, doing it because they have to, not because they wanted to.' Temari mused. Most likely the council was bothering Gaara and Hinata to do something useful with their matrimony and produce an heir.

If that was the case, Temari couldn't help but wonder…did she, Hinata, fight her brother, or did she go to bed willingly?

The woman frowned to herself, disgusted with her own sarcastic and borderline perverse thoughts.

'It's his fault that I'm even thinking about this. He was the one that brought up doubts about this in the first place.' Temari thought, growling under her breath. Never mind that she hadn't seen 'him' in months…

Both women turned their heads as a loud tapping sound resounded from the glass door leading into the greenhouse.

A small, knowing smirk appeared on Temari's lips. Despite the surprise, the blond couldn't help but think, 'Well, well speak of the devil.'

Standing up, Temari brushed the dirt off her knees and unconsciously straightened out the wrinkles in her outfit before turning to Hinata.

"Are you going to be okay in here by yourself?" Temari asked, though more concerned about the planting being completed properly more so than she was for Hinata.

The girl nodded. "Hai." Hinata replied as she curiously leaned forward and gave a half-hearted wave to the lazy Nara- who had been tapping on the glass door a moment ago.

Shikamaru weakly returned the gesture, but it was obvious as to who he was there for so Hinata quickly turned her attention back to her plants.

However, there was something else that caught her eye so the young woman did a delayed double take.

Slowly turning her head, Hinata could see that a short distance away- walking on to the Kazekage's office- was a familiar face.

Heartbeats stalled then started yet again, this time rapidly racing inside her chest. She recognized those robes, knew that long brown and unbound hair, and…knew that face as well as she knew her own.

'Neji…niisan.' Hinata thought, suddenly feeling oh so cold even while standing inside a greenhouse in the middle of a desert.

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Sea-green eyes skimmed over the scroll unfurled before him.

This was lunacy…and Gaara for one should know, yet he couldn't say what was on his mind…oh how he wanted to though. Years as a Kazekage had instilled- rather drilled- unimportant things like double-talk and niceties into the young man's skull to the point that the headaches it gave just didn't seem 'worth' it.

But this…this was a joke. It had to be.

Rolling up the scroll with quiet ease, Gaara then placed it to the side without a thought.

At this silent dismissal, eyes the color of frosted glass narrowed into slivers of ill approval. "You haven't even finished the scroll, Kazekage…have you made a decision as to its contents already?"

An ink pen was withheld from its jet-black well, a quick 'X' mark scribbled across the scroll before he passed it back to the intruding Hyuuga.

Neji glared down at the marking, but pocketed the scroll nevertheless. He did however, linger, quietly defiant this time against a foreign leader rather than against the traditions of his own clan.

This time it was Gaara's eyes that became narrowed. "Your request to return Hinata to Konoha and back to your clan has been declined, so I suggest that you not waste anymore of my time, Hyuuga Neji."

At first, Neji looked as if he was about to turn around and leave, but instead- as if no afterthought was required- rigidly stood his ground.

Gaara merely stared at the upstart Hyuuga, waiting, yet at the same time willing the intruder to leave.

"There was a conditional clause within the marriage contract." Neji began, his tone of voice calm and nonplussed, as if it mattered little to him one way or another as to where Hinata lived.

But Gaara could tell, it was almost like a underlining instinct actually, that not only was the scroll a 'sham', so was the request penned inside it and signed by a false leader.

Still, rather than call Neji out as a liar- which he would very much like to- Gaara tolerated the Hyuuga prodigy, and his impertinence, a bit longer.

Neji, despite knowing that he was being patronized, continued onward. "The clause stated that if Hinata-sama was not with child within the first three years of your marriage than she was to be returned home."

Gaara nodded curtly. "I remember."

Neji's gaze narrowed even more. 'He's hiding something.'

Slender and sun-tanned fingers tapped once against the surface of the desk before Gaara busied himself with other paperwork, dismissing the Hyuuga with one final comment.

"Talk with your cousin. She'll tell you herself that the 'clause' you mentioned no longer applies."

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"Hinata-sama…"

At first, she ignored the knock against the wooden door leading into her bathroom. Rather, the woman took in a deep breath and sunk her head under the cool water, washing away planting soil, irritating grains of sand, and sweat that had accumulated from working inside the greenhouse.

Rising to the surface, Hinata gasped softly for air, long strands of damp dark hair sticking to the side of her face, while a small hand reached out to blindly reach for the long white towel to cover herself.

At that moment, the servant opened the door and walked in, gaze averted as Hinata dried off and dressed.

"Yes?" She asked quietly while adjusting a silken lavender sleeve to sling over her right shoulder.

"A visitor has requested to speak with you."

Full lips pursed together, the bottom one quivering ever so slightly because deep down, right into her core, Hinata knew who that visitor was.

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A cool gaze observed as the servant shuffled out of the main chamber and just barely squeaked behind the door before pressing her ear against it, ready to listen in as to what was going on.

Neji scowled.

Had these people nothing better to do than to pry into the private lives of others?

A sort of ironic smirk fitted along the young man's mouth. If that was the case, then the Hyuuga household wasn't as dissimilar from this place as Neji originally believed.

It was another minute or two before Hinata finally emerged from the bathroom. It was…surprising to see her dressed in wispy, thin, and silk fabrics, not a hooded parka in sight and her skirt looked more akin to grayish-blue tissue paper.

Dressed like that, Hinata looked like some sort of gypsy, a female desert vagabond, rather than the prestigious lady of the Kazekage.

At that thought, Neji frowned once more, to which Hinata offered a small, simpering smile.

"Neji-niisan…welcome." She said softly, thought it was evident- as was Gaara's dismissal- that Hinata was not there to welcome him.

Her milky eyes held so many questions, all of which Neji wanted to avoid answering.

Rather, he slowly walked the short distance between them and before Hinata could turn away, a hand was in her hair and lips were a hair's breath away from her own.

Shivering, the inward debate going through the young woman's mind first flittered through her pale vision, then, as the eyes dropped, as if to close, it looked like she had already given in.

But then something…something inside shifted and moved ever so slightly.

The new life inside of her was giving its mother a light reprimand.

Hinata, heeding the scolding, pulled away so that Neji's lips caressed along her still damp hair.

Both pulled away, Hinata's smile had dissolved into a look of pained remorse whereas Neji looked utterly bemused at the rejection.

Then, he recalled Gaara's rather cryptic advice.

Veins knotted along the side of Neji's face, as he literally looked right through Hinata.

The young woman squirmed in protest at Neji's scrutiny, which thankfully didn't last too long, because soon the answer became clear.

As the veins fueled by chakra receded Neji glared with great resentment at the unborn infant, its own chakra system just beginning to form.

"…Neji," Hinata began softly.

"I must go."

"No!" Hinata said, only to clamp down on her own lips, teeth impressing into the soft skin, turning her mouth red.

"Please don't go. I have missed you…"

"Obviously you haven't missed me too much, Hinata-sama." Neji said coldly, his back still turned to Hinata.

A trembling hand reached forward, her own skin having gone from a pasty pallor familiar to that of the well-bred Hyuuga's to a light tan from spending hours underneath sunlight.

"Don't go, niisan," Hinata asked, now on the verge of pleading. "We can talk."

A dry noise escaped Neji. It was not quite a laugh or a sarcastic snort but rather something in between.

"Talk? Talk of what, Hinata-sama? You have already made your choice so nothing I have to say could convince you otherwise."

Hinata rushed a few steps forward only to have Neji walk to the door, open it, shoving past the eavesdropping maid in the process, and close it in Hinata's face.

A small and shaking hand reached up to press against the door as salt-water collected behind closed eyelids.

"I'm sorry…" Hinata whispered as her nails dug into the grooves of the wood. "Neji…I'm so very sorry."

But, despite her honest apology, Hinata knew that this was for the best.

Certain ties had to be severed so that newer and stronger bonds could be forged.

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It was well after midnight before tired footsteps trudged across the bedroom floor.

A broad, cone-shaped hat was propped upon the end of a chair followed closely by the long trailing white and blue robe. Before the footsteps walked on, they faded away as a door was opened and closed behind the figure.

Lavender hued eyes blinked as the bed dipped slightly under added weight. The smell of sandalwood greeted Hinata as she crawled over from her 'side' of the bed, edging closer to Gaara.

Nervous ripples fluttered along Gaara's skin as soft and still calloused fingertips smoothed along his shoulders and neck, but eventually, the tension melted to the point that he allowed Hinata to come closer.

"…Rough day?" She asked.

A slight ironic sneer appeared on thin lips, before the red-head inclined his head slightly, but Gaara didn't answer that question aloud.

Reading his expression, Hinata's tone turned thoughtful. "Ah…one of 'those' days then." She said before releasing him.

Gaara, however, didn't seem to pull away, rather he turned over in bed and it was Hinata who shivered as warm fingers ghosted along her exposed belly.

"Did you see your cousin?"

The question sounded simple, but Hinata could hear the unreadable inflection in Gaara's voice.

"Hai, I did," She began, but then shifted uncomfortably. "But he had to leave quickly…clan business I suppose."

Silence filtered in between the couple before Hinata gingerly took Gaara's hand, bringing the knuckles up to her lips.

As if she was reading his mind, Hinata said truthfully, "Don't worry, please. I meant it when I said that I would never hurt you, Gaara."

He wanted to believe her, but Gaara and trust were two words that didn't go together.

His fingers coiled tightly in tension, intertwining between Hinata's digits, reluctant to release her. Realizing that she would be sleeping in the center of their bed tonight, Hinata smiled, a gracious and soft expression, before lightly kissing her husband on the lips and guiding Gaara's hand back to her stomach.

"I know you can't feel it kicking yet," Hinata said softly. "But that…" She raised Gaara's hand a half inch higher. "Is our child."

A slight shudder rolled down Gaara's spine. If he had been afraid of harming Hinata at the beginning of their marriage, the red-head wondered just how on earth he would handle a delicate infant.

Sleepily, Hinata spoke. "You'll do fine…we'll be fine." She finished, lightly curling her fingers within Gaara's, both of their palms resting against her belly.

Once Hinata had drifted off to sleep, Gaara leaned in and gently returned her earlier kiss by pressing his lips against her parted mouth, then moving his and her hands from Hinata's soft stomach and up to the red kanji tattoo on his forehead.

The quiet hours after his wife was already asleep were the only times that Gaara trusted himself to actually return her sentiments.

Maybe…someday in the distant future, he would actually show or say what was really on his mind when she was awake. But for now, the twilight hours would have to do.

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Notes: Sorry if it wasn't 'dark' or 'sensual' but I just thought that this triangle would work better with a sweet-sort of angle, but …eh sorry if it was too OOC or sugary-sweet. Anyway, thanks for reading! I'm still taking requests so keep 'em coming kay?

Later!