Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or the movies Trust and Betrayal or Reflection.
A/N. It took FOREVER to finish this chapter. X.x But I'm rather proud of it. XD I think this is one of my best chapters so far. o-o Lol. XDD
Anyway, to a certain reviewer, I'm sorry Hinata-chan couldn't sing in this chapter. I promise sometime later that she will, so don't worry. :D Anyway, it's summer vacation now, so I think I will be able to update more quickly. But don't get your hopes up - my brother tends to hog the computer 24/7 so it's hard for me to get these chapters up quickly. x.x;;;
Please give me your opinions - what you like, what you want to happen later, suggestions, whatever! (: Thanks again for the continuous support! o:
Japanese words in this chapter
Yakitori - grilled chicken on speared sticks
Teriyaki - a type of meat that can be eaten with some type of sauce
Onee-chan - sister
She bolted across the street, trying to force back the tears -
"Hey, watch it, girl!" a man screamed at her through his window.
She couldn't apologize - her voice seemed to have been ripped from her throat. So she simply cast a sorrowful, apologetic look in his direction before continuing on her way, slowing down.
Why...why am I running away? I'm so pathetic. Uchiha-san's right. Why do I just let them say what they want about me? Why don't I do anything? I'm so weak...so pathetic.
She could feel something warm slide down her cheeks. She touched the wet spot on her cheek, her eyes wide, as if just noticing that she was crying. And...and all I can do is cry.
The dam inside her broke as she realized this fact - and she cried harder.
Sakura-chan had been teased a lot back then...but she got stronger and more confident. Soon enough, everyone started to respect her and no one ever made fun of her again. But...I haven't changed at all. I'm still the weak, fragile girl I've always been. It's...it's no wonder Naruto-kun likes Sakura-chan - why everyone thinks more highly of her than me.
She slid down to the ground, feeling more defeated and humiliated than she ever had been in her life. The distant call of thunder rumbled in the distance. She heard people whispering about her -
"It's going to rain!"
"The weather forecast was right!"
"We should get going!"
The sounds of footsteps echoed in Hinata's ears as people ran by, not noticing her. Occasionally, some people would flash her a curious glance before hurrying on their way. But all Hinata could see was the hazy blur of the colorless ground.
Thunder rumbled again. Light rain began to fall, sprinkling delicately against Hinata's skin, clothes, and hair. I wonder...if I stayed out here, would Father or Hanabi notice and worry when I didn't come home?
The light rain quickly turned into a slightly heavy shower. Hinata took no notice of her soaked clothes. Would anyone notice? Would anyone care?
The sound of swift feet dashing gracefully through puddles rang in Hinata's ears. The footsteps stopped in front of her.
"How could you have gotten so far without seeing clearly?" a low, slightly exhausted voice demanded slowly.
She jerked her head up slightly, her eyes wide. "U-Uchiha-san..." Hinata was stunned. "You...you came to look for me?"
"It took me longer than it should have to find you," he said carelessly, not answering the question. "Come on - let's leave. It's not healthy to mope and feel sorry for yourself in the rain."
Hinata hung her head low. "I'm sorry," she whispered quietly, fresh tears brimming in her eyes in her eyes. 'I'm not very good with people..."
"I can tell." Yet, his voice wasn't mocking or exasperated. "C'mon, let's go or you'll catch a cold."
There was a long silence with Hinata sobbing quietly and Sasuke gazing down silently at her. What Hinata wanted more than anything was to just disappear from this world. She didn't deserve to be in this world. She wasn't worth living in this beautiful place. She wanted to...
...die? a voice told her softly.
She swallowed. Death. That simple yet frightening word had crossed her mind several times. What would it be like to die? she would wonder. She sometimes even imagined greeting Death, but her heart would pound heavily inside her chest at the fear of dying. Going through with it was a lot harder than imagining it.
She swallowed again. She didn't want to die, but she didn't want to go on living, either. Life was just so painful and torturous for her. Every day brought more and more tears, pain, regrets, and hopes. She couldn't take it anymore.
A long, quiet sigh escaped Sasuke's pale lips as he ran his hand through his hair, seemingly irked.
"You should stop that," he said sternly. She blinked, startled by the vehemence in his voice. "Why listen to the words of that idiot and his stupid friends? Why take those words to heart and punish yourself for them? Stop beating yourself up just because some idiot said you're lame or whatever. I told you, you're fine the way you are!"
The storm within Hinata's heart slowly subsided, and tears trickled from her wide eyes. He...he insists that I'm fine the way I am. He's the second person to ever tell me that I'm fine the way I am. Mother...
A flashback of her mother smiling and kissing her forehead shimmered in her mind.
"Hinata-chan, you're perfect the way you are. I'm so fortunate to have a wonderful daughter like you."
She had told me so before, but I hadn't taken them to heart because I believed that all mothers thought their children were perfect. Her words seemed like an illusion - an illusion that would protect me from the cruel words that others told me so bluntly. No one else, not even Neji, Ino, Tenten, or Sakura had told me I was perfect the way I am. Because of that, I trusted Mother's words even less...
But he, a well-liked and great boy of high status, is telling me, a mere girl that others tend to overlook...He's telling me I'm fine the way I am. Why...? Why?
Fresh tears streamed down her tear-streaked face. Sasuke...what good have I done for you to show such kindness to me? All my life, I just thought you were some cold-hearted and dreadful person without even looking hard enough at you. And yet...you're still so kind to me. Why...?
Hinata clenched her fists, trying to bite back her sobs. I don't deserve your kindness, Sasuke.
"Ready to go now?" Sasuke's voice was soft and gentle. A small, pale blur appeared before Hinata - and her eyes widened. He was offering his hand, she realized. His compassion caused her to cry even harder, but she nodded weakly and grasped his hand.
Thank you, Sasuke.
-----+ Monday Afternoon+-----
When Hinata placed her glasses over her eyes, it was like waking up from a deep sleep. Everything was so clear and beautiful. She let out a huge sigh of relief.
"I'm so glad my glasses are back! I can see now!" she exclaimed happily. She turned to Sasuke, who was watching her silently, and bowed formally. "Uchiha-san, thank you so much for your help!"
Sasuke looked slightly uncomfortable at her formality. "It's no big deal," he said carelessly, looking away. "So now, I guess you're free, Hyuuga. You're not bound to me any longer." Sasuke turned back to give her a small smirk.
Hinata flushed, wondering if her attitude towards him before had offended him. "I - I didn't -" she started timidly.
"Don't worry," Sasuke held up a hand to silence her, "I know the truth. You don't have to hide it."
The truth? Hinata smiled. He doesn't even know half of it.
The truth is...if breaking my glasses again would let be with him, I would gladly do it. But I'd hate to be a burden to everyone again, especially him. I wonder...would he let me be with him now that my glasses are back?
It wouldn't hurt to try.
+------- Early May (Lunch)-------+
"Wowwww...!" Tenten sighed, relishing in the gentle touch of the wind as it brushed against her face. "It's such nice weather today, huh?"
Hinata nodded, but Sakura and Ino looked very irked.
"Not particularly," Sakura said.
"Yeah. I can't stand wind. It's so cold - " Ino chimed in.
" - and it messes up my hair!" Sakura finished. Ino nodded in agreement. "Sunny days are so much better."
"I don't like the sun," Tenten grumbled. "Hot days make me feel grumpy."
"As if you aren't already grumpy all the time," Sakura teased, to which Tenten stuck out her tongue at her.
"By the way, club meetings are this week, right?" Ino asked.
"Yup. Softball will be so much fun, won't it, Ino-chan?" Sakura smiled.
"Softball?" Ino looked at her like she was nuts. Tenten coughed. "Oh, yeah...yeah, it'll be so much fun."
"Yup, especially since Sasuke-kun's joining softball!" Sakura sighed happily.
"He is?" Hinata was surprised. She had seen Sasuke sign up for the same club she was joining herself. Did he drop out of the club and join softball instead?
"Of course he is, Hinata!" Sakura said.
Tenten coughed again, and Ino giggled. Hinata was beyond confused, but she knew she wasn't supposed to say anything.
"Oh, hey, by the way," Tenten spoke up suddenly, "did you see the premiere of Trust and Betrayal yesterday?"
"Oh, yeah! It didn't look that good, though. I'd rather watch Reflection! It's about Kaoru and Kenshin!" Sakura said. "I like that couple better than Kenshin and that other lady."
"Hey, me, too!" Ino added.
Tenten looked offended. "I don't like Kaoru," Tenten sighed. "And it's not "the other lady,'' it's Tomoe. Tomoe and Kenshin make a better couple than Kaoru and Kenshin anytime!"
"Is not!" Sakura protested.
"Is too and that's final!" Tenten stuck out her tongue at her. "Hey, why don't we all go to the movies sometime?" she suggested, trying to steer the conversation away from being an argument about which couple was better. "My uncle can get discounts at work!"
"Sweet!" Sakura and Ino exclaimed in unison.
"Hey, Hinata-chan, do you want to go? It'd be really awesome!" Tenten looked at Hinata, but she flushed and gazed down at her hands.
"I'm not sure...'' she said hesitantly. "My father doesn't approve of me going out very much." Actually, she wasn't sure because she believed that her father wouldn't notice if she was gone, but she knew that if he found out that she was going out with her friends, he'd be disappointed with her.
"What does he expect you to do, stay cooped up indoors and study all the time?" Tenten sighed.
"I suppose so."
"Well, you could...uh...tell him that you're going out with your friends for some project for school!" Ino suggested, who didn't know how to handle this situation because her parents always let her do whatever she wanted.
"Yeah! It's just a white lie, anyway!" Sakura chimed in.
"Uh..." Hinata swallowed. She hated lying. Lying made her feel like a criminal, even if it was a white lie.
"If you want," Tenten said eagerly, "I can beg your father to let you go!"
"E-eh?! N-no...that won't be necessary!" Hinata blanched. She didn't know what her father would say if her friend begged him to let her go, and she didn't want to find out.
"Well, we'll work this out," Tenten sighed. "See you guys later."
+---- After School ----+
"Today's the softball club meeting, so I have to go," Sakura informed her friends. Ino was nowhere to be seen, but she guessed that she had already gone to the meeting.
"Okay." Tenten had a weird smile on her face. "Later."
"I hope you have fun," Hinata smiled.
"Oh, I will!" Sakura promised, beaming at the thought of joining the same club as Sasuke. She waved goodbye to her friends and skipped off happily, humming under her breath.
+---- The softball club meeting ----+
"Eh? Where's Sasuke-kun?" Sakura glanced around. "And Ino-chan?"
There was no sign of her friend or crush.
"Heyyy, Sakura-chan! What a surprise to see you here!"
"H-huh?" Sakura turned. "Naruto?! Oh, have you seen Sasuke-kun or Ino-chan?"
"Uh, I think Sasuke went home and Ino went to her ikebana club meeting..."
He blinked, scared at the murderous expression on her face. ''What's wrong, Sakura-chan?" Naruto was bewildered.
Sakura was stunned. Impossible...why would the two ditch the club that they were going to join? Unless...
The smirking faces of Tenten and Ino flickered through her mind. Sakura clenched her fists.
"They set this up, didn't they?!" Sakura wailed angrily.
Sakura didn't have time to explain because the meeting was called to order.
"Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Softball Club! I hope you have a wonderful time being in this fantastic club for the whole year!"
The. Whole. Year. With no Ino. With no SASUKE. Oh, no, but with NARUTO of all people.
"I'll show those two jerks a thing or two!" Inner Sakura punched the air angrily. "MY FISTS! I'll get you for this, Ino-pig, Bun Bun-chan!"
"So, what do you think, Hanabi?" Hinata was tearing lettuce for tonight's dinner.
Hanabi looked thoughtful. "Well..." she said hesitantly. "I think Father will probably say no, but it wouldn't hurt to ask."
"I think...he'd be upset with me for even thinking about such a thing. That's why I don't think asking is an option." Hinata sighed sadly.
"You could just go out with your friends without telling. I don't think Father would notice."
"That's just it, Hanabi-chan," Hinata sighed again, feeling more sorrow than frustration. "He wouldn't notice if I was gone. Even if he did...it wouldn't matter to him."
Tears brimmed in Hinata's eyes, and she wiped her eyes hurriedly, pretending that something had gotten in her eye.
"Oh, Hinata, don't say that!" Hanabi was looking at her sympathetically and sadly. "Father really does care about you, I know it! He just has a hard time showing it."
"Maybe." Hinata wasn't convinced. "I...I really love Father, and I want to prove to him that I'm a good daughter, but my efforts are useless." Hinata wiped her eyes again. "I just have to get over the fact that I did not turn out the way he wanted me to be."
"Onee-chan..." Hanabi wanted to say something comforting, but the words wouldn't come.
"Is dinner almost ready?"
They were both startled, but Hanabi was the only one to turn.
"Yes, Father. It'll be ready in a minute," she promised. Hinata didn't say anything, and she pretended to be totally absorbed in tearing the lettuce.
"That's good." Hiashi didn't even look at Hinata. He simply turned and left.
Today's dinner was rice, sushi, vegetables, and thin strips of meat. There was a quiet and almost tense silence in the air as the Hyuuga family ate their dinner without a word.
"I ate very well," Hiashi said quietly after he finished his meal. "Thank you for the meal."
Both Hinata and her sister had cooked the meal, so Hinata thought he was thanking both of them. But she noticed that he was looking at Hanabi, who bowed her head respectfully. Her heart aching, Hinata ducked her head and ate her rice more quickly. She knew that she shouldn't have had high hopes...
Why...why is it that you can never look at me that way, Father? Am...am I not a good daughter?
"I'll...help you clean up, Hanabi," she said as soon as she was finished eating.
Hiashi liked to drink green tea after dinner, but Hinata noticed that today he didn't drink any green tea. She quickly whipped up some tea, and carefully balancing it on a tray, she walked slowly upstairs and to Hiashi's bedroom. The door was open a crack, and Hinata peeked through the crack to see if he was busy with something. If she disturbed him while he was busy, he'd be angry at her, and she didn't want that.
She saw that he was sitting at a desk, his back to her. His head seemed to be tilting down, so maybe he was looking at something?
"...Hazuki..." she heard him say wistfully.
Hazuki? Hinata's eyes widened. Hazuki...is Mother's name.
Hinata's eyes softened. She knew how much her father loved her mother. From what she could remember, Hiashi was a much more open, happy man when Hazuki was alive. After she died, he withdrew and became cold and distant, even to those other than Hinata (although not as much.)
She told herself not to be too upset with her father. Hiashi always had trouble with his emotions, Hazuki told her. Yet, Hinata remembered that Hiashi cared a lot more about her when she was younger. Now, it was like she wasn't even there anymore.
"Hazuki," her name escaped from his lips and rang in the air, a sad and lonely echo.
She silently walked away, sadness settling in her heart. Father, I understand. I miss her, too.
+----The Next Day (After School) ----+
"So did you ask?" Tenten was practically dancing with impatience.
Hinata blinked, surprised at her enthusiasm. "Umm...no," she admitted.
Tenten groaned. "Hinaataa-chan," she sighed, stressing her friend's name.
"Sorry." Hinata blushed.
"Ino and Sakura can go, but I'm not sure about Miharu. She's my cousin," Tenten said quickly, seeing the confused look on Hinata's face. "Anyway, it'd be really nice if you can go!"
This was a surprise. Someone actually wanted her to hang out with them? Sometimes, she felt like they only put up with her because they felt sorry for her.
"If you go, you should watch Trust and Betrayal," Tenten insisted.
"Don't go watching any Kaoru and Kenshin fluffy stuff. It's lame." Tenten sniffed. Hinata had no idea what she was talking about, but she just nodded. "Saturday's when we're going, so you have to ask your dad by today! Or...just like Ino said, you can just tell him it's for a project. But that I noticed that you don't like lying...Oh, gosh, this is complicated." Tenten sighed and ran her hand through her dark bangs.
"Don't worry, Tenten! It'll turn out okay."
Tenten didn't seem to hear because she seemed very interested in the sweet scent that was coming from the small store nearby. It seemed to be a shop full of cakes, chocolates, and pastries.
"Hey, I'm getting hungry! Let's get a bite to eat!" Tenten grinned.
"I'll wait for you, then."
"Eh? Aren't you going to get anything?"
"No. I don't have any money."
"I'll treat you then."
"Wha...?!? N-no...it's okay - "
"Hinata-chan, I'm treating you to something, and that's final."
"The line is sooo long," Tenten complained. She noticed that the line was mostly full of girls, and girls usually took long to do certain things.
"This shop is small, but it's really popular," Hinata informed softly. "The cakes and chocolate they make here are delicious."
"Isn't he cute?" a girl with pigtails giggled to her friend as they walked past Tenten and Hinata and took a table. "I swear he likes me! He looked at me, can you believe it??" Tenten sighed inwardly. So that was it. There was a cute guy at the counter. Go figure.
"He's cute," her friend agreed, "but I like the waiter with the dark eyes! Such gorgeous hair and flawless skin...It's too bad he only works here on Fridays and Sundays. I think he goes to my cousin's school! She should introduce me to him sometime."
The front of the line finally cleared, and Tenten sighed. Finally! She had been staring at the painting on the wall to pass the time.
"What would you like to order?" a familiar and smooth voice awakened her.
I-it can't be...Tenten's eyes widened. She pinched herself on the arm to make sure it wasn't a dream. Ouch, that hurt, she thought, grimacing. It wasn't fake, after all!
Hyuuga Neji was right in front of her!
"N-Neji-kun??" she managed to burst out.
"Oh...Tenten." Neji didn't look the least surprised. "How nice to see you." Neji saw that Hinata was behind the Chinese girl. "Oh, Hinata-sama, you're here, too?"
"Yeah, Tenten was hungry and wanted to get something to eat," Hinata smiled.
She isn't surprised? Tenten thought, bewildered.
"Y-you work here, Neji??" Tenten gawked.
"Yes. I've been working here for almost a year." Neji looked at her as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "What is it? Do you feel that I am not fit for this kind of job?"
"N-no!" Tenten was beyond embarrassed.
"This is a good place to work," Neji commented. "Why don't you work here, too, Tenten?"
"M-me?!" Tenten's voice came out in a squeak. Neji-kun's asking me to work here with him! This is a dream come true! I can die happy!
"Yeah. My manager recently fired a few people because they were slacking off, so he's looking for new workers. If you're interested, you should go apply for the job."
"I-I'll think about it!" Tenten smiled shyly. She knew that she wasn't going to think about it - heck, who'd need to think in this kind of situation, but she didn't want to seem too eager. "I-I mean, uh," she coughed, trying to sound casual, "yeah, I'll think about it!"
"Hey, hurry up already!" a young man behind Hinata grumbled irritatedly. "Quit flirting and get a move on already!"
There was mild laughter. Tenten felt herself turn red. "S-sorry!" she mumbled. The truth was, she really wasn't sorry. What a jerk.
She ordered the tea and cake set for herself and cinnamon rolls for Hinata. Neji gave her the receipt, which had all the information that she needed to know, including the number that would be called when her order was ready.
"Thanks, Neji-kun." Tenten smiled.
Tenten stepped out of the line and heard the man behind Hinata mutter something that made her heart sink to the bottom of her stomach.
That five letter word that described Chinese as being lower than dirt.
Tenten felt as if he had just delivered a blow to her face, and then to her stomach. What was wrong with being Chinese?? Tenten thought, both furious and hurt. She wanted to leave at the moment, even though she hadn't gotten her order yet, but she didn't want to seem like a coward.
"Tenten?" Hinata said worriedly. She knew that cruel remarks like those greatly offended her friend. She wanted to say something to the man, but she felt too scared. She didn't like to confront people. She put her hand on her friend's shoulder, but Tenten just jerked away and shook her head dejectedly at her, indicating that she wanted to be alone.
"I'll have the Cafe Au Lait," the man grunted to Neji. Neji stared at him coldly. "What's the problem? Didn't you hear me the first time?" the man said rudely.
"Oh, I heard you. I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
"What??" the man exclaimed angrily. Some people turned to look, including Hinata and Tenten. "Listen here, punk, you have no right - " the man went on furiously.
"As a matter of fact, I do." Neji jerked his head in the direction of the sign on the counter that read:
We have the right to refuse service to any customers.
The man's face grew red and clenched his fists so tightly that everyone heard a faint crack.
"What for? I haven't done anything!" the man snapped.
"If I recall, you just said something incredibly rude to a customer - no, a friend of a mine." Neji stared at him hard. "That's enough reason for me to refuse service to you."
Tenten's eyes widened and the knot in her stomach loosened. Neji-kun...
The man glared at Neji so fiercely that everyone cringed, waiting for him to mar Neji's smooth, flawless face with his large fist. Finally, he whirled around and stalked out of the shop. Everyone watched him go, and the shop was deadly silent. After a few seconds, the silence was broken and everything was back to normal.
Tenten clutched her receipt tightly, feeling her eyes moisten. She couldn't believe that Neji stuck up for her. To think that he cared enough to stick up for her in front of everyone like that, without being afraid of being beaten to a pulp...she couldn't help feeling happy and proud.
Tenten quickly awakened from her trance and took her order. She smiled at Neji.
"Thanks...I mean, thanks for...what you did." Tenten flushed, feeling her heart flutter.
"Anytime." Neji smiled back.
"Hinata-chan, your cousin is amazing," Tenten told her dreamily after they had left the shop. That's why I love him so much. Neji-kun's so wonderful...
Hinata smiled. The happy Tenten was much better to see. "I know, Tenten. I know."
Tenten was in high spirits as she walked into her apartment.
"Mom, I'm home!" Tenten called out. Chao shuffled out of the kitchen, smiling brightly.
"Ah, there you are - I was getting worried! Come, I want you to meet someone!"
"Who is it?" Tenten followed her mother into the kitchen. She stopped when she saw a dark-haired man with blue eyes at the kitchen table, drinking tea. She was shocked at first, then annoyed. First of all, why was a man over here at their apartment? And why was he seated at the table like some sort of guest?? "Mom, who's this?" she asked rather bluntly.
The man looked up from his mug of tea.
"You must be Tenten-chan," he smiled warmly. "Chao's told me all about you."
Tenten felt a little irked that he was calling her mother by her first name, and without a suffix, too! In the Japanese culture, only close friends or family members had the right to drop the suffix off someone's name!
"Mom, who's this?" Tenten repeated, ignoring the fact that she was being rude.
"His name is Kiroshima Ryou," Chao beamed, "and he's a co-worker of mine! He's staying over for dinner! Isn't that wonderful, sweetie?"
Wonderful??! Is she kidding me?
"Yeah. Great," Tenten said flatly. "Listen, I'll go to my room and do my homework, okay?"
"But you usually eat a snack before you do your homework - "
"Not hungry," Tenten mumbled as she headed to her room. Chao and Ryou glanced at each other uncomfortably.
What's Mom thinking, bringing a guy over here?? Tenten thought angrily, slamming her math textbook shut. She let out a long breath. Okay, calm down, Tenten. He's probably just some guy new to town and Mom feels sorry for him...yeah, that must be it. I mean, why ELSE would she bring him over?
Tenten was slightly reassured, but her mind still wasn't completely at ease.
She couldn't concentrate on her homework, so she threw aside her textbook in disgust and flopped onto her bed. She wanted to forget the whole thing, so she tried to think about Neji. Pretty soon, her anger was replaced with happiness at the thought of her crush. She daydreamed about him for a long time when all of a sudden -
"-Tenten! Dinner's ready, honey!"
Tenten jumped slightly. Then it occurred to her that she hadn't helped her mom with dinner at all. She would always help her mom with dinner everyday, but today...well, she supposed today was an exception. She didn't want to hang around that Ryou guy.
"Tenten?!" her mom called again.
"Coming!" she yelled back, sighing as she trudged to the kitchen reluctantly.
" - so then my sister got angry at me because, you know, she treasured her hair quite a lot, and she had to cut it because she couldn't get the gum out - " Ryou was laughing.
"Ryou, shame on you!" Chao pretended to scold him, but she was giggling in a weird, high-pitched voice that made Tenten shudder inwardly. It sounded so...well, unnatural.
The whole time, Ryou and Chao had chattered about random things and Tenten was tuning them out, eating her meal silently. What was the point of calling her to the table if they weren't even going to acknowledge her? Tenten thought, exasperated.
"Oh, by the way, Tenten-chan," Ryou began.
Wow, it took him THAT long to figure out I was here? Tenten resisted the urge to roll her eyes.
"You do get good grades, right?" he asked curiously, picking up a bit of chicken and placing it in his mouth.
Tenten shrugged. "Guess so," she said off-handedly.
Chao looked upset. "Tenten!" she scolded in a don't-be-so-rude tone.
"Nah, it's fine, Chao," Ryou smiled. "Anyway, Tenten, you look so much like your mother...so beautiful and youthful!"
"Ryou!" Chao's face reddened, but she smiled pleasantly.
Ugh. Somebody gag me before I throw up. Tenten was annoyed that he was kissing up to her mother, and mad at her mother for letting him kiss up to her!
"May I be excused?" Tenten said loudly, getting up from the table noisily. Chao looked at her in surprise.
"But, Tenten, you only ate a bowl of rice!" her mother protested. "You usually eat about three bowls for each meal, don't you? Are you feeling ill?"
As a matter of fact, I am. But what she said was, "No, it's just that I have to...uh, study. The exams are coming up, you know."
"The exams are at the end of May, right?" Ryou cut in curiously. "Wow, Tenten-chan, you sure are devoted to your schoolwork! That's good."
Tenten turned away and hid her scowl. Her mother gazed at Tenten's back with puzzlement. Knowing her daughter, she was a lazy procrastinator and studied at the last minute (and amazingly still got good grades.) But Ryou's compliment made her smile.
"Okay, Tenten," Chao said happily, "if you must study, then go study. But later I'll bring a snack to you, okay? You'll be able to think harder with more food in your stomach."
"Yeah, okay," Tenten mumbled, walking off to her room.
Tenten managed to finish her homework in about an hour, and still her mother had not come to bring her a snack. She was feeling a little hungry, but there was no way that she was going back there...
How stupid. Mom's probably too busy talking to Ryou to remember to bring me something to eat, Tenten thought angrily. She sighed and got out a manga book she had borrowed from a friend and started to read it.
" - Thanks for helping me clean up, Ryou-kun," her mother's voice rang out. "Oh, by the way, can you bring this to Tenten? She's probably hungry right now."
"Sure!" Ryou replied.
Crud. Tenten bit her lower lip. She didn't want to be confronted by himShe quickly turned off the lights and jumped into her bed, pretending to be asleep.
A few seconds later, she heard Ryou enter the room. He chuckled under his breath.
"Asleep already, eh?"
Ryou sighed and put down what seemed to be a tray on the table next to her. She knew it was still there because she could hear his soft breathing. She felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up on end.
"Sweet dreams," she heard him murmur. Then he shut the door behind him.
Sweet dreams, my foot.
"Thanks for the dinner, Chao! I'll be leaving now, okay?"
"Okay. I'll see you tomorrow then, Ryou."
She heard the front door close. In her heart, she was happy that he had left.
+---- The Next Day (Break) ---+
"We're really sorry, Sakura-chan," Ino grinned.
"Oh, please," Sakura rolled her eyes. "I can tell you're so sincere."
"You can always withdraw if you want," Ino suggested. Hinata didn't really know what was going on, but she guessed it was about the thing that Tenten and Ino were grinning about the other day.
"Yeah, but it'd make me look bad if I withdrew," Sakura mumbled. "And what really sucks is that I'm on same team as Naruto and that jerk named Wakamatsu Judai for a month."
"You're kidding! Judai?" Ino shook her head pitifully. Judai was a highly popular boy with dark brown hair and gray eyes. He wasn't exactly mean, but if you were on the same team as him, you had to get ready for a whole bunch of insults and cuss words that would come out of his mouth when you messed up.
Hinata bit her lip. She knew Judai really well, and it hurt badly when he yelled at you for screwing up. She felt sympathy for her pink-haired friend.
"Yeah..." Sakura sighed.
"Oh, that really sucks. I feel sorry for you!" Ino sighed pitifully.
"Oh, now you feel bad for me!" Sakura clenched her teeth.
"Hey, what's up with you, Tenten? You've been as quiet as a mouse!" Ino commented, trying to change the subject.
"...It's nothing." Tenten let out a long sigh and turned away.
"Aw, c'mon, we're friends, right? Tell us!" Ino urged.
"Maybe some other time." Tenten didn't want to bother her friends about her troubles.
"Aw, okay." Ino was disappointed. She knew not to bother her when she was in this mood.
"Oh, yeah, we're still going to go the movies on Saturday, right?" Sakura piped up.
"Yeah," Tenten smiled for the first time that day. Thinking about the movies made her forget about Ryou...a little, anyway.
"So, we're all going. How about you, Hinata?"
"Um, I don't know." Hinata flushed. "How long is the movie, by the way?"
"About two hours and half or so."
"Come on, Hinata-chan, you should go!" Sakura pleaded.
"Yeah, it'd be so much fun if you could go!" Ino added.
Hinata did some quick thinking. She could tell her father that she'd go to the library to study. He wouldn't suspect that she was going out...
Even though she hated lying, she thought that maybe just this once it would be okay. After all, there was nothing to do at home and she loved to be with her friends.
"Okay, I'll go," Hinata agreed.
"Awesome! This will be so much fun!"
"Sasuke-kun! Please accept these gifts that we made with love for you!" Sakura and Ino, their faces turning pink, shoved their boxes of cookies into his arms. He looked down at them with a bit of a grimace, but he glanced at the two girls and nodded his head politely.
He didn't like receiving gifts from his admirers, but he couldn't bring himself to reject them. He remembered back in elementary, he had rejected some girls' gifts and they all started crying so hard that a teacher came by to see what the problem was. The teacher had given him such a long and annoying lecture that he decided rejecting his fangirls' gifts wasn't worth hearing it again.
"Bye, Sasuke-kun!" they giggled, skipping down the hall. He sighed, thinking that now was a good time to dump them in the trash can nearby.
"Hey, Uchiha, more cookies?" Shikamaru came by, noticing the boxes of cookies.
"Unfortunately," Sasuke responded flatly. "You want them?"
Shikamaru looked like he was going to say no, but he thought for a while. "I'll give them to Chouji," he decided, shrugging.
"Fine." Sasuke gave him the boxes.
"It really is troublesome, isn't it?"
"I feel your pain!" Shikamaru sighed. He, too, had his own fanclub. "They're so persistent, aren't they? Girls are so troublesome."
"Do you really think so?" Sasuke smirked a bit at Shikamaru.
"What do you mean by that?" Shikamaru arched his eyebrow.
"Oh, I don't know...It's just that rumors are going around that you and Yamanaka are dating.''
Shikamaru let out an exasperated sigh. "And you believe it?"
"...I don't know what to believe," Sasuke pretended to give a doubtful sigh. "It's just that...I have this...ah, feeling that you're still hung up on her."
Shikamaru's eyes narrowed. "What are you talking about?" he mumbled irritatedly. "I never liked that troublesome girl."
"I don't like her, okay?!" Shikamaru deadpanned.
"Relax, Nara, I was just joking." Shikamaru honestly couldn't tell if Sasuke was joking or not.
"Well, what about you? Rumors are going around that you have the hots for Hyuuga." It was kind of a lame thing to say, but Shikamaru wanted a comeback and that seemed like something good to say in this situation.
"Idiots these days will believe anything."
"That really is offensive, Uchiha." Shikamaru pretended to sound hurt.
"Oh, my bad," Sasuke said sarcastically.
"Well, I'll go give these to Chouji. So, I'll see you around, Uchiha."
"Wow, they look delicious!" Chouji smiled happily, taking the boxes gratefully. "Thanks, Shikamaru!"
"Hm, Sakura-san and Ino made them, huh?" Chouji murmured, noticing the tags. "I'll bet they're good, then! Sasuke-san must be crazy to reject this!"
"Mm-hmm," Shikamaru mumbled, watching Chouji open Ino's box of cookies and pop one in his mouth.
''This is pretty good. Hey, you want some?''
"No, thanks. I'm not eating anything that troublesome girl made."
"Aw, come on, Shikamaru! It's your favorite flavor - mocha!"
Shikamaru twitched just a little.
"...I haven't had mocha in a while." Shikamaru reluctantly took a cookie from the box and bit into it. Chouji grinned. Success.
"You can have more," Chouji said generously. Shikamaru took about ten cookies and stuffed them in his pocket.
The bell rang to signal the end of lunch.
"Aw, it sucks that Miyazono-sensei doesn't let us eat in class," Chouji said sadly, putting the boxes away in his backpack. Shikamaru sighed and glanced around for any signs of their teacher before popping a cookie into his mouth.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING EATING THE COOKIES I MADE FOR SASUKE-KUN?!?!?"
Shikamaru nearly spat out his cookie and he looked up into the furious face of Yamanaka Ino.
Crap, he thought.
"How could you! Stealing cookies from Sasuke-kun! You're such a...such a..." Ino tried to search for a word to describe him. Everyone who was currently in the room was staring at the two, confused about the commotion that Ino was making.
"A cookie-stealing thief?" Chouji said helpfully.
Shikamaru shot him a dirty look. Thanks a lot, Chouji.
"Yeah, you're such a cookie-stealing thief!" Ino screeched.
"I didn't steal them," Shikamaru said defensively, feeling uncomfortable under the intense stares of his peers, who were whispering to each other furiously. "Uchiha gave them to me."
"Ha! As if he would ever give them to you, you cookie-stealing thief!" Ino snapped. Shikamaru was suddenly aware that everyone stopped talking and was staring at the front of the room. He glanced at the front of the room, too, and his stomach lurched.
"Ino - " he said.
"Stop lying, I know you stole them from him!"
"Ino," he said, a bit more loudly, gritting his teeth.
"Admit it, you were jealous that Sasuke-kun got cookies and you didn't!"
Ino glared triumphantly at Shikamaru, who remained silent. She was suddenly aware that someone in the front of the room was clearing her throat.
"Are you done yet, Yamanaka?"
Ino gulped. She turned slowly and forced a bright smile.
"Uh, Miyazono-sensei! I didn't know you were there!" she tried to laugh.
Mitsuki folded her arms and stared at her so intensely that Ino's eyes dropped to the floor.
"Yamanaka, I will be seeing you after school."
Ino's heart sank to the pit of her stomach. She had never gotten detention before!
"Yes, Miyazono-sensei..." she forced herself to say.
"And you, too, Nara."
"What? But I didn't do anything..."
Mitsuki stared him down until he sighed and mumbled, "Fine, fine...how troublesome..."
As if nothing happened, Mitsuki faced the entire class calmly. "Today, we will be making pancakes filled with sweet beans..."
Ino couldn't concentrate on what Mitsuki was saying. All she could think about was...
I hate Shikamaru.
Of course, Ino and Shikamaru were paired up together. But now, Ino couldn't even bring herself to look at him. She didn't even speak to him, not even to criticize what he was doing. Shikamaru found that this was a relief, but after a while, it got depressing. He almost wished that Ino was back to her grouchy self again.
When class was over, he looked at Ino and considered saying sorry, even though it was her fault they were in this mess. But when she noticed that he was looking at her, she turned away quickly and ran out of the room without looking back.
"Ah, Nara, Yamanaka. Sit down." Mitsuki didn't smile.
They both took a seat. Mitsuki stared them down again, nudging her glasses with her thumb.
"You do both know why you're here, right?"
"Because she was acting like a complete lunatic over nothing..." Shikamaru mumbled.
"Because he is a cookie-stealing thief," Ino grumbled at the same time. They both glared at each other and looked away with a hmph.
Mitsuki sighed heavily. "All this over cookies? I can't understand you two. You two always fight over the smallest things."
They didn't respond.
"I was considering giving you two detention for disrupting my class, but," she added, noticing the way Ino's face fell, "I decided not to do that."
"Really?!" Ino said hopefully.
"Yes, but you're still getting punished."
Ino's face fell again.
"I've noticed that you two don't work so well together," Mitsuki continued. "It's been weeks and you still can't work together without biting each other's head off. Care to tell me why?"
"Shikamaru can't cook at all," Ino said irritatedly, not caring that she sounded rude to her teacher. "It's really annoying because I feel like he's always bringing me down."
"I would try to do better if she stopped being so bossy," Shikamaru spoke up.
"I am not bossy!" Ino said shrilly. "It's your fault that you can't cook for your own life so I have to take control to get everything right!"
"Maybe if you stopped being so pushy, I would - "
"I am not pushy, you - !"
"Yamanaka, Nara, I asked for a straight forward answer, not another argument!" Mitsuki let out another sigh and rubbed her temple, as if they were giving her a headache. "Okay, I've decided your punishment. You two are going to stay after school every single day until you both get along."
"What?? But, Miyazono-sensei - !" Ino tried to protest.
"No buts," Mitsuki cut in sharply. "You are right, Yamanaka, I give you that. Nara lacks good cooking skills, so after school, you can help him improve his cooking skills. And Nara, if you learn how to cook, Yamanaka will stop bothering you."
"But..." Ino bit her lip furiously, trying to think of something to convince her teacher that this was a horrible idea. A light bulb clicked in her head. "But Miyazono-sensei, I have after school club meetings. So I can't come after school!" Ino congratulated herself for being so smart. Surely Mitsuki would change her mind!
"Every day?" Mitsuki said calmly, crossing her arms.
"Uh...no," Ino was forced to admit, her hope deflating like a balloon.
"So, then, on the days you don't have club meetings, you'll come straight here to this room and work with Shikamaru on a small cooking project."
Ino groaned inwardly. She didn't want to see Shikamaru more than she had to!
"Miyazono-sensei, please - !" Ino begged.
"I'm sorry, Yamanaka, but it's for your own good." Mitsuki gazed at her sympathetically, but her voice was firm.
"Why should I come in here for some stupid cooking lessons?" Shikamaru spoke up, exasperated.
Ino was almost relieved that he had said that. If Shikamaru wouldn't come in, she wouldn't have to, either! Surely Mitsuki wouldn't go through the trouble of forcing him to go!
Mitsuki seemed prepared for this, though. "I hear your parents are very strict about you getting a 5.0 GPA, isn't that right, Nara?'' Mitsuki said nonchalantly. "I wonder what they would say if your GPA were to drop...''
Shikamaru's eyes narrowed with irritation.
"...Fine." Shikamaru crossed his arms. "Am I excused now?"
"You're both excused." Mitsuki glanced at Ino. "Your ikebana club meetings are on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday, right?" Without waiting for an answer, she went on, "I'll be seeing you both on Sunday. Good day to you two."
"Ino! What kept you?" Tenten asked curiously.
"Miyazono-sensei wanted to talk to Ino after school," Sakura explained. Ino had told her that during the last class of the day. "What did she talk to you about?"
Ino sighed. "...Don't wanna talk about it."
Ino looked so sad that Sakura patted her on the shoulder. "Cheer up, Ino-chan!" she tried to comfort her. "Hey, I have an idea! Let's go to that cake shop! Wanna go, guys?"
Tenten flushed and didn't say anything, but Ino's eyes lit up slightly. "Okay!" she said, sounding a bit happier.
"I'll tag along..." Hinata spoke up timidly.
"Great! Let's go!"
"I hope Sasuke-kun waits on us," Sakura giggled. "Does my hair look okay, guys?"
"Eh?" Tenten and Hinata were shocked.
"You didn't know? Sasuke-kun works here on Fridays and Sundays!" Ino informed them eagerly.
Tenten remembered the conversation the two teenage girls had the other day. "Oh, that's great," she grinned. "Maybe he'll give us a discount."
"So does my hair look okay?" Sakura insisted.
"It looks great," Tenten said airily, but she was looking at the menu.
"You didn't even look at it!" Sakura said shrilly.
"It's okay, Sakura-chan...your hair looks fine!" Hinata smiled.
"Oh, yeah, that reminds me," Tenten said, looking up from her menu. "Did you guys know that I invited Sasuke to come with us to the movies?"
Hinata almost fell over from shock. Sasuke, of all people, going out to see a movie?! It was like...Sakura or Ino had become man-haters.
"He is??!" Sakura and Ino exclaimed in unison.
"Uh, well, I'm not entirely sure," Tenten grinned sheepishly, fidgeting. "He said no at first, but I begged him so much that he finally gave in and said 'I'll think about it.' "
"Hm." Hinata was surprised. She had a feeling Sasuke had a strange sort of respect for Tenten, so that was why he agreed to "think about it." Was it because Tenten wasn't a fangirl? Or was it because she wasn't like most girls? She was stronger than most and could stand up for herself when she needed to, so Hinata could understand why Sasuke respected her.
"Oh, there he is now!" Tenten waved at Sasuke, who had just set down a tray of mugs at a table near them. "Sasuuuuke! Over here!"
He turned at the sound of her voice, looking a little annoyed, but he walked over to their table. Hinata had never seen him in any other outfit other than the school uniform, so it was weird seeing him in a waiter's uniform with a nametag pinned to his chest.
"What do you want to order?" he said dully.
"I'd like a strawberry sponge cake, please!" Sakura piped up happily, her face in her hands as she gazed dreamily at him.
"Filling or toppings?" Sasuke didn't look the least bit fazed that Ino and Sakura were staring hungrily at him, as if they were wolves circling around a pig.
"Chocolate filling and kiwi toppings!"
"I'd like the vanilla custard cake," Ino chimed in, "and a mango-flavored smoothie!"
"Sage French cake for me, please," Tenten smiled, "and a peach-flavored smoothie!"
Sasuke wrote everything down and looked at Hinata. "And you, Hyuuga?" he waited.
"N-no, it's okay, I'm not buying anything."
"Aw, come on, Hinata-chan! The cakes here are to die for!" Tenten urged.
"I know, but I don't have any money with me...again..." Hinata blushed.
"Don't worry, I'll pay for you. Sweet bean -filled pastries on me, Sasuke-kun!" Tenten declared.
Hinata bit her lip. She didn't like it when others had to pay for her, but she knew that her protests would be futile.
Sasuke wrote it down and said, "We'll have it out for you in a few minutes."
When he left, Tenten nudged Hinata.
"What?" Hinata looked at her.
"Do you notice that Sasuke addresses you by your last name?" Tenten grinned widely. "And he looked at you before!"
"What are you trying to say?!" Sakura made a face at Tenten.
To avoid any conflict, Hinata spoke up timidly, "He only looked at me because I didn't order instantly like everyone else."
"Of course! Why else would he look at her, Tenten?" Ino sighed.
"That doesn't explain why he addresses her by her last name," Tenten insisted.
"Your point?" Sakura looked annoyed.
"Hey, Sakura-chan," Hinata cut in casually, trying to change the topic, "is strawberry sponge cake good? I've never tried it before."
Sakura's mood changed instantly. "Yup! It's really good! You should try it sometime!"
"Maybe I will," Hinata smiled.
Sasuke came to their table with their orders. Sakura and Ino thanked him dramatically, as if he had just proposed to them, while Tenten shook her head.
"Oh, by the way, you're coming to the movies with us, right?" Tenten asked.
"Oh, are you?" Sakura smiled her best smile at him.
That is not the answer I was hoping for! Tenten sighed. She knew Ino and Sakura were thinking the same thing.
Sasuke was quiet for a moment. "I usually don't like going to the movies," he said finally. "It's too loud and crowded and troublesome. But," he said quickly, sensing that Tenten wanted to interrupt, "that movie did look interesting."
"Sooooo?" Tenten waited impatiently.
"So, I guess so."
"YAY!" Tenten looked as if she won the lottery. Sasuke looked a bit disturbed by this. "Sorry, but Sakura and Ino are coming, too. You won't mind, will you?" Tenten seemed awfully worried and anxious, as if she believed that he would change his mind.
"Hey!" Ino and Sakura said at the same time. "What are you implying??"
"It's no big deal." Sasuke shrugged. He had gotten used to them already.
Ino and Sakura cast smug smiles at Tenten, but she ignored them.
"Which movie are you watching, anyway - Reflection or Trust and Betrayal?"
"Trust and Betrayal, I guess."
Ino and Sakura were deeply disappointed, everyone could tell.
"Oh, so you're watching it with us?" Tenten smiled.
"Guess so." Sasuke glanced over to a table that had just been taken by new customers. "I have to go wait on some other people. Later."
"Okie dokie," Tenten waved as he left. "This'll be great, won't it? Sasuke and all of us together at the movies!"
"Yup!" Sakura and Ino agreed between bites of their cakes.
"Yeah," Hinata smiled. The more the merrier, she guessed.
+ ---- Tenten's Apartment ---+
"Mom, I'm home!" Tenten called out.
"Yes, sweetie?" her mom called back from the restroom. The door was open, so Tenten guessed that she wasn't using the restroom. She looked in and her eyes widened. Her mother was patting her hair and looking in the mirror!
"Uh, Mom, what are you doing?"
"I'm gonna go out, sweetie."
"Oh, somewhere," Chao said dreamily. Tenten watched, surprised, as Chao sprayed some perfume on herself. Her mother never bothered with those petty things. "I'm sorry I won't be eating dinner with you today, sweetheart. Dinner's in the refrigerator, so when you're hungry, just heat it up."
When Chao finished putting on lipstick, she pursed her lips at the mirror and then turned to smile at Tenten. "So, how was school?"
"Oh, dear!" Chao was startled by the ringing of the voice.
"Don't worry, I'll get it!" Tenten got to the phone and picked it up. "Hello?"
"Oh, is that you, Tenten-chan?"
Tenten felt her heart skip a beat. "K-Kirishima-san?"
"I thought so. Are you well?"
"Uh, I guess so..." But what she was really thinking was, WHY THE HECK ARE YOU CALLING?!
"That's good. May I speak with your mother, please?"
"Um, uh..." Tenten didn't want her mother talking with him.
"Is she home?"
"Tenten? Is it Ryou?" Tenten heard her mother call from the restroom.
Tenten faked some static noise. "Um, what did you say, Kirishima-san - SHHHKKKK, I can't hear you SHKKKK, I think I should hang up now, okay SHKKK."
"Tenten-chan, is something wrong with the phone?"
"SHKKK, huh, what was that SHKKK, sorry, I think I'll hang up now, so SHKKK bye!"
"Tenten!" Chao was staring suspiciously at her daughter. "Just what do you think you're doing?"
Tenten gulped. "Uh, well, I was - uh, just fooling around..." she tried to grin.
Chao snatched the phone from her and held it to her ear. "Hello? Oh, Ryou-kun! I'm very sorry for what happened before - I don't know what got into her - what? Oh, Ryou-kun...don't embarrass me like that!" Chao blushed. "Anyway, I'm sorry I'm late - I'll be there in a few minutes, okay? Okay, bye, Ryou!"
"Next time, Tenten, if you do anything rude like that again," her mother warned with a sigh, "you're grounded."
"What??" Tenten was shocked. "Since when did you ground me for little things like that?"
Actually, her mother never grounded her at all. She was the type who didn't believe in grounding children.
"You were completely rude to him and you embarrassed me!" Chao insisted. "Please don't do anything like that again."
Tenten opened her mouth to protest, but she swallowed her words at the disappointed look on Chao's face.
"Sorry, Mom. I won't do it again."
Chao smiled. "Okay, that's good. Bye, honey!" Chao leaned down to kiss Tenten on the cheek.
"Mom!" Tenten warned. "You have lipstick on!"
"Oh, I'm sorry." Chao smiled sheepishly and patted Tenten on the head instead. "I'll come home after seven, okay?"
That late? "Oh, okay," Tenten tried to sound casual. She smiled weakly, but when her mother left, her smile turned into a scowl. So her mother was going out on a date with Ryou? No, it couldn't be - it was probably some sort of party...but no matter how fancy the party, Chao never used make-up or perfume...
Tenten bit her lip and her eyes narrowed. There was no way she was going to let Chao spend any more time with that Ryou guy...even if it meant doing something dreadful, she would. There was no way some guy was going to get between her mother and she.
+---- At the Hyuuga mansion --- +
"Father, I'll be going to the library tomorrow to check out some books for school," Hanabi announced over a dinner of fried rice, vegetables, and teriyaki. "Is that all right?"
Hanabi looked over Hinata, which was the cue for her to speak up. "Father, I'll be going to the library, too, if that's all right," Hinata said timidly.
Hiashi put some rice in his mouth and chewed, not answering her. Hinata waited patiently.
"Do what you like," he said flatly after swallowing.
"Thank you, Father," Hinata tried to smile. She wondered why she even bothered to tell him when he didn't really care at all.
+----- The next day-----+
"Have fun, onee-chan," Hanabi smiled at her sister.
"Thanks, Hanabi-chan," Hinata smiled back. She walked to the theaters, which wasn't really far. Tenten and Sasuke were there already, including -
"N-Naruto-kun??" Hinata was shocked to see him standing there with the others. "What are you doing here?"
"Miharu couldn't come," Tenten explained, "so I gave the ticket to Naruto."
"The movie is gonna be a blast!" Naruto smiled.
Hinata smiled weakly. "That's great," she said. She wasn't really sure if she was speaking the truth, and she hated herself for it.
"Anyway, here's your ticket," Tenten handed a ticket to her. "You're watching Trust and Betrayal with me and Sasuke in about ten minutes. Naruto, Ino, and Sakura are watching the other one in twenty minutes."
"Okay." Hinata was half sorry that she wouldn't watch the same movie with Naruto, and half relieved as well.
+---- Trust and Betrayal ----+
"Sh-Shinta...you must live on...Live...!"
Hinata planted her hands over her eyes, but she had already seen what had happened. A bandit had just stabbed a young woman right through her neck. Hinata wasn't sure why she agreed to see this movie. This was bloody and violent! Not her kind of movie.
Not to mention that it was super loud and she couldn't block out the screams of agony and slashes of the swords even if she covered her ears.
She was sorry she hadn't gone to see Reflection with the others. Ino and Sakura had told her it probably wouldn't be as violent.
"It's not that bad," Sasuke mumbled, who was sitting next to her. "The blood looks fake, so it's not really scary."
"Yes, it is," Hinata sniffed. He was a guy, so he couldn't understand.
More blood splashed across the huge screen and Hinata squeaked, shading her eyes from view again. Sasuke just sighed.
+---- Reflection ----+
"Hurry up, you stupid commercials!" Naruto sighed, glaring irritatedly at the blaring screen.
"Yelling at it won't help much!" Sakura crossed her arms over her chest. "And why are you sitting next to me, anyway?"
"Uh, there were no other seats?"
"Moron, there's plenty of other seats!" Sakura yelled, gesturing to the numerous empty seats surrounding them.
"Shhhh!" several people glared at her. Sakura turned bright red, but she mumbled an apology and sank in her seat.
"Yeah, shhh, I'm trying to listen to the commercials," Ino joked.
"Whatever," Sakura mumbled.
"Hey, I have to go to the bathroom, okay? Save my seat." Ino got up, walked down the aisle, and left the room.
"Hey, Sakura-chan, want some popcorn?" Naruto offered her his large tub of buttered popcorn.
"Yuck! It's butter popcorn!" Sakura made a face. Seeing the shiny grease on the popcorn made her stomach twist. How could anyone eat so much of that fattening stuff, anyway?
"What's wrong with butter popcorn?" Naruto looked hurt.
"Butter is fattening, and I can't afford to get any more fatter than I already am!"
Naruto blinked and stared at her like she had just arrived from Jupiter. "But, Sakura-chan, you're already skinny," he said slowly.
"No, I'm not! I'm not skinny enough!" Sakura turned away sheepishly, feeling embarrassed.
"What are you talking about, Sakura-chan? You're perfect the way you are!"
Sakura found her face heating up, but she didn't think it was from anger. "Sh-shut up," she mumbled. "What do you know, anyway?"
There was silence, which was disrupted by the soft growl of her empty stomach. Sakura pressed her hand over her stomach to muffle the noise. She had only eaten an apple and a croissant for breakfast. She couldn't afford to eat more than that. Otherwise, she'd feel sick with herself for eating more than she should.
"I know that you shouldn't worry about how skinny you are," he said seriously, "when you're already perfect the way you are."
Wh-wha? Sakura turned to stare at him, only to find a perfectly serious expression on his slightly tanned face, and a warm smile upon his lips. He...seems like he really means it. Sakura's eyes softened. Naruto...
She could feel herself blushing, but she quickly turned away and forced her expression into an dark scowl.
"Spare me your flattery, Naruto." She was back to her I-find-Naruto-positively-annoying attitude.
+---- Trust and Betrayal ----+
A very pretty woman flashed across the screen, a small smile on her snow-touched face -
"To...mo..." the defeated man choked out, tears sliding down his cheeks -
A sword had crashed down the back of his neck!
Hinata knew that was coming, but she found herself yelping softly and clutching the closest thing next to her because the sound of the sword stabbing through his flesh had been so loud.
"...I'd prefer it if you didn't disturb me while I'm watching the movie," came Sasuke's low voice, both annoyed and amused at once.
Oops! Hinata could feel her face grow red. "S-sorry!" she apologized, letting go of his arm. She reluctantly turned back to the screen and pity aroused in her heart at the sight of the dead man.
She remembered that Tenten had said that Tomoelooked better with Kenshin than this other girl named Kaoru. She thought it was weird and ironic that Tomoe would fall in love with the man who killed her fiancée.
Even though a lot of the scenes were pretty bloody, Hinata was a bit interested in where this movie was heading.
+----- An hour and a half or so later -----+
"I...I'm so sorry, my darling," Tomoe smiled sadly, her deep chocolate eyes full of remorse. Her hand fell limp, and her eyes closed. Kenshin shut his eyes as well, and held her close, shaking slightly with grief.
Hot and moist tears welled up in her eyes. That's...so...sad...
She sniffled and wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her sweater, but as soon as she looked back at the screen, fresh tears streamed down her face. She didn't feel embarrassed because she heard other people crying as well.
"You're pretty emotional, aren't you?" Sasuke gazed at her curiously.
Hinata smiled weakly. "Yeah. It's so sad!"
"I'll have to live with my broken heart..." Kenshin's head was bowed sadly and respectfully over the lifeless body of his wife.
More tears came out. "Ohh...I don't think I can stand watching this anymore!" Hinata sniffled. It was such a good movie, but it was so sad...!
Sasuke reached into his pocket and handed her a handkerchief. Hinata blinked in surprise, but she smiled and accepted it gratefully.
+---- Reflection ----+
"Oh, my god...that's so sad...!" Sakura was crying. Kenshin had just died in Kaoru's arms, and to top it off, it was playing such beautiful and sorrowful music!
"Not really," Naruto said awkwardly. He didn't have a tissue to offer her, and it was weird watching her cry like that.
For once, Sakura didn't hit him. Everyone watched as the scene shifted to a young man resembling Kenshin and a young lady resembling Kaoru walked onto a bridge, surrounded by falling cherry blossom petals.
The credits rolled onto the screen. There was a slight commotion as everyone got up and started to leave the room, sniffling and dabbing at their eyes and chattering about how great the movie was.
"That was such a beautiful movie!" Sakura sighed.
"Totally," Ino agreed. Her face, too, was tear-streaked.
Sakura smiled wistfully. "Kenshin's such a devoted boyfriend," she said. "I wish I had a boyfriend like him."
Naruto glanced at her, and instantly, he knew what she was thinking at the moment. He ducked his head in an attempt to hide his envy.
All of the friends met up outside the theaters. Each girl, except Tenten, was crying.
"Gah, the movie was so sad!" Ino wiped her eyes.
"I can't believe it...they died in each other's arms...so sad...but at least they're in heaven together!" Sakura smiled wistfully.
"Ew." Tenten made a face. "Kaoru and Kenshin make such a bad couple."
"Nuh-uh!" Sakura was offended.
"Well, whatever," Tenten shrugged. "Trust and Betrayal was good, but it made me tear up. I can't believe that the producers of Samurai X made Tomoe kick the bucket like that so Kenshin could hook up with Kaoru!"
"Tomoe's...weird," Sakura shrugged. "I don't like her that much, and she doesn't really look good with Kenshin. They're such a serious couple. But Kaoru and Kenshin are a really funny and romantic couple! That's what I love about them."
"Ditto," Ino piped up.
"Ew." Tenten crossed her arms over her chest. "What did you think, Hinata?"
"Uhh..." Hinata wiped her eyes. "The movie was good."
"Do you like Tomoe and Kenshin together?" Tenten pressed. It was obvious she wanted her to agree that Tomoe and Kenshin made a good couple. But Hinata didn't need any urging. She really liked that couple. It was so in-depth, tragic, and beautiful...
She was a sucker for that stuff.
"Yeah," Hinata admitted, to which Tenten grinned triumphantly and the two other girls pursed their lips. "Oh..." Hinata handed Sasuke back his handkerchief. "Thanks."
Sasuke pocketed the handkerchief under the wide eyes of Sakura and Ino.
"Hey, wanna go grab a bite to eat?" Naruto suggested. "I'm starving."
"Me, too!" Tenten agreed. "There's a fast food shop near here. Let's go!"
"What would you like to order?"
The group had decided that they wouldn't go up one by one, but instead, they would just order all at once and then chip in for the total.
"Sushi, please," Sakura smiled at the cashier guy, who flushed under her direct gaze, "and a large-sized M & M McFlurry."
"Me, too," Ino chimed in. "Except I want Oreos instead of M & M's in my McFlurry."
"Okay," the cashier punched in a couple of numbers.
"Do you guys serve ramen?" Naruto asked.
"Darn. In that case, I'll have sushi, too, and Pepsi."
"Teriyaki for me, please," Tenten said, "and Coke."
"Yakitori," Sasuke said in a monotone.
The cashier punched in some numbers and glanced at Hinata. "Are you ordering too, miss?" he asked politely.
She blushed at his politeness. "N-no, I'm just here with them," she smiled. She had only brought enough money to buy the ticket and pay back Tenten for the pastries she bought her yesterday.
"Okay. The total is 1450 yen. Your order will be ready in a minute."
The group took a table and waited for their order. When it finally arrived, everyone dug into their food eagerly. Hinata simply sat and waited for them to finish.
"You aren't hungry?" Sasuke looked at Hinata curiously, chewing the chicken delicately.
"Um, not really." Just then, a soft growl came from Hinata's stomach. She blushed. "Well, maybe a little." She had only eaten some pastries and drank a glass of milk in the morning.
Sasuke nudged his bag of yakitori over to her.
"Hm?" Hinata blinked.
"Eat some. I can't eat them all anyway."
The mouths of Sakura and Ino hung open slightly in shock as they watched Hinata smile, blush, and thank him quietly before helping herself to some of the chicken.
"Don't open your mouths like that! It's gross," Tenten joked.
They both stuck out their tongues at her.
"That's even grosser." Their tongues had bits of rice all over the place. "Hey, guys, wanna go hang out somewhere for a while?" Tenten suggested.
"Sure! What did you have in mind?" Naruto said eagerly.
"You mean like shopping?" Ino suggested. "I think I'm running out of clothes."
Tenten rolled her eyes. It was hard to believe that. She was sure Ino had at least ten wardrobes. "No. I mean like something we could all enjoy."
"What's wrong with shopping?" Sakura seemed offended.
Tenten rolled her eyes again. There were two guys here. What did Ino and Sakura expect them to do while they went shopping, carry their bags for them?
"I was thinking we should go to the arcade! It's nearby, anyway," Tenten went on, ignoring the faces that Sakura and Ino made. "You know, the arcade in that mall. So if you want," she addressed Sakura and Ino, "you guys can go shopping and me, Sasuke, Naruto, and Hinata can go to the arcade."
"Hey, sweet! I love the arcade!" Naruto exclaimed.
"So what do you think, Sasuke?" Tenten said hopefully.
He shrugged. "I guess I have time to kill, so I'll stick around for a little longer," he mumbled.
"Now that I think about it, I don't need any more clothes...for now. So I'll hang out with you guys at the arcade, too!" Ino grinned.
"Yeah, me, too!" Sakura agreed. Tenten rolled her eyes yet again, knowing the girls only changed their mind because they wanted to be with Sasuke.
"What is there to do in an arcade?" Hinata spoke up timidly, biting into her chicken.
"Play games, mostly." Tenten smiled. She liked games.
"Like what?" Hinata asked curiously.
"Um, depends. But I really want to have a go at DDR!"
"Oh, DDR! I love DDR!" Sakura spoke up excitedly.
"Me, too!" Ino chimed in.
Naruto frowned. "DDR?" he repeated in confusion. He didn't remember seeing a DDR in an arcade.
"Dance Dance Revolution," Tenten explained.
He frowned even more. "That sounds girly. I don't think I want to play it."
"It is not!" Sakura glared at him, offended that he insulted one of her most favorite games. "Girls and guys can dance. And only sexy and dreamy guys dance."
"Totally! Girls like that in a man," Ino agreed.
Naruto thought for a while. "You know what?" he said brightly. "I think I'll have a go, too."
Sakura rolled her eyes. Figures.
"How do you play DDR?" Hinata asked, puzzled. She had never gone to an arcade before, much less play any games.
"You'll find out," Tenten assured, throwing her empty bag away. "Hey, guys, hurry up! We're not getting any younger here!"
+ ---- At the Arcade ----+
"Ta-dah! This is the arcade, Hinata-chan!" Tenten beamed at Hinata, who peeked nervously into the large room. There was many machines that had blaring screens, and the sounds of guns shooting, swords slicing through air, laughter from girls and guys, and death cries of game characters rang noisily.
"It's...crowded." Hinata gulped.
"Well, what'd you expect? Everybody loves the arcade," Tenten said as-a-matter-of-factly. She walked over to a machine that wasn't used yet. On the right side of the machine it said Tekken 4 and had a picture of a young man wearing a jacket with a hood that concealed a lot of his face. Funny, he looked kind of like Sasuke, Hinata thought. "The DDR place is too crowded," Tenten sighed, "so I'll wait for a while before going over there."
She popped in a coin into a slot and a loud noise erupted from the machine. Hinata watched as Tenten moved the controller stick until the cursor on the screen landed on the face of a young Chinese girl of about 18 years. Tenten slapped her hand down on a red button.
"Xiaoyu Ling," the male voice rang out.
"Huh. That girl looks like you," Sakura commented, who was watching her as well.
"She's cute," Ino commented, "but she looks young."
"She's older than us, y'know," Tenten informed.
"Seriously?? Gosh, I feel young!" Sakura shook her head. They watched as Tenten bashed buttons to make Ling Xiaoyu perform a bunch of martial arts move on the opponent, who was a big panda bear named (ironically) Panda.
Panda gave an inhuman death cry as her health bar reached zero.
"Xiaoyu Ling wins!"
"Hey, you're good at this," Naruto said admiringly. "Can I go against you when you lose?"
"Nah, let's just play now. Put in a coin and we can go against each other."
"Okay!" Naruto put in a coin and the screen lit up brightly as the words NEW CHALLENGER flashed across it in big, bold letters. Tenten chose Ling Xiaoyu again, but Naruto chose a dark-skinned guy who must have been at least 6 and a half feet tall.
"Marduk Craig," the male voice blared.
"Go Tenten!" Ino and Sakura cheered.
"Hey! How come no one's cheering for me?" Naruto joked, pretended to sound offended. Hinata didn't know who to cheer for, so she smiled weakly and mumbled some encouragement to both of them. Sasuke just crossed his arms and watched.
It was a tough match for the two of them, and sweat dripped down their faces as they bashed buttons repeatedly. In the end, Xiaoyu dodged Marduk's kick and hit him smartly, which chopped off his remaining life.
''Noooo!" Naruto moaned.
"Yeah, haha, I beat you!" Tenten, sweaty and all, grinned triumphantly at the defeated blonde.
"You got beaten by a girl, Naruto. You should be ashamed of yourself," Sasuke said smugly.
"Shaddup, Sasuke-teme. Let's see you do any better."
"Fine, I will." Everyone watched, shocked, as Sasuke put in a coin and gave Tenten a challenging smirk.
"Let's do this, eh?"
Tenten regained her composure. "You're on."
Tenten chose Ling Xiaoyu again, but Sasuke chose the young man that looked like him.
"Eeee, go Sasuke-kun!" Sakura and Ino cheered.
"Hey, whose side are you on?" Tenten was annoyed.
"Uh, go Tenten?" Naruto shrugged, not wanting to cheer for Sasuke.
It was a fierce match. After a while, they were down to their last bit of health. In the end, Sasuke won. Tenten groaned.
"DANGIT!" she wailed. "I-I almost won!"
"Yes, you almost did," Sasuke said smugly. Tenten rolled her eyes.
"Conceited jerk," she said, but a little smile told everyone that she was joking. "Hey, wanna have a go at Soul Calibur?"
"Just because you lost to me at Tekken?"
"Don't flatter yourself," Tenten stuck out her tongue at him. The machine labeled Soul Calibur 2 stood right next to Tekken. The two inserted a coin in the slot and chose their characters.
"Silence!" Tenten's character, Taki, a Japanese ninja with long, dark hair, hissed.
"I got you!" Sasuke's character, Kilik, a Korean man with medium-length, brown hair, cried out.
"Oh, wow, I like Kilik, too!" Tenten smiled. "He's hot." Of course, not as much as Neji, but heck, who cares? I ADORE his hair.
Ino and Sakura wrinkled their noses. "Not particularly," Sakura sniffed.
"Ditto," Ino agreed. It was clear they were thinking, Sasuke-kun's SO much hotter.
"No one asked for your opinions," Tenten joked. Everyone watched as Taki and Kilik started kicking and whacking each other with their weapons. Tenten's eyes lit up as she backed Kilik right at the edge of the ring. Kilik was sidestepping, but Tenten used a command that made Taki bend down and slice her weapon at Kilik's knees, causing him to fall backwards - into the depths of the outside of the ring.
"...Damn. Didn't see that coming." Sasuke was irritated.
"Whooo-hooo, she kicked your butt big time, Sasuke-teme!" Naruto laughed.
"...Shut up. You lost to her, too, if I recall."
"...W-well, that's because - " Naruto tried to protest.
"How could you kill off Sasuke's character like that, Tenten?" Sakura wailed.
"Yeah, that was totally mean." Ino sniffled.
Tenten rolled her eyes. Yeesh, since when did they care for Kilik at all??
Sasuke won Round 2, though, to the delight of Sakura and Ino and to the major disappointment of Naruto. It was a sudden death match now.
"Gyah, Tenten, get away from the edge of the ring!" Naruto yelped as Taki fell right at the edge of the ring.
"I'm - trying!" Tenten clenched her teeth as she tried to control her character to move away from the ring. Yet, for some reason, when Kilik performed a move that struck her in an upward direction, Taki bounced off the ring.
"Ehhhhhh??! NO WAY!" Tenten's jaw dropped open. "I-it's a glitch! That wasn't supposed to happen!"
"Why not?" Sasuke said with a heavy sigh.
"B-because...y-you can't knock someone out of the ring when they're on the ground!" Tenten cried out helplessly. "I-I demand a rematch!"
"Hey, Tenten, mind being a little considerate? This is getting a little boring," Sakura sighed.
"Yeah. All we're doing is watching you play games against the guys," Ino chimed in.
Tenten was about to shoot back a smart reply, but she noticed Hinata standing there looking totally isolated from everyone.
"Well, fine. In that case, why don't we all watch Hinata-chan play games against the guys?"
"Ehh?" Naruto, Sakura, and Ino cried out at the same time.
"Wh-what??" Hinata stared at Tenten, dumbfounded. "B-but I don't know how - "
''Just bash buttons. That's my advice to beginners," Tenten said hurriedly, pushing Hinata to the machine. She entered a coin into the slot and pressed a button. "Hey, Sasuke, go easy on her, will ya?" Tenten winked.
"Would it make a difference?" Sasuke sighed, inserting a coin in the slot. He quickly chose Yunsung, a Korean guy with brown hair.
"Nice try!" Yunsung smiled at the screen.
"Talk about hot," Sakura grinned.
"But of course, not as hot as you, Sasuke-kun!" Ino added eagerly.
"Of course!" Sakura nodded. Sasuke merely grunted in reply.
"Choose a character, Hinata-chan!" Tenten said eagerly. Hinata sighed heavily, but obediently moved her controller stick and hovered her cursor over random squares.
"I don't know who to choose."
"Then choose someone at random," Ino spoke up.
"Ew, but what if she gets somebody like...this guy?" Tenten reached over and hovered the cursor over a square. An image of an ugly, huge, and bulky monster popped up, making the girls (except Tenten, of course) cringe. He had pupil less eyes and a big, red object that was thumping over his chest - which, everyone figured out quickly in disgust, was his heart. Not to mention that he was wielding a HUU-UUUGE ax that looked especially sharp...
"Okay, don't choose random," Ino squeaked. "Just choose...some really pretty girl or an ultra hot guy."
"O-okay," Hinata shuddered. She finally decided that she liked the image of a teenage girl named Talim. Hinata liked her hairstyle - two braids hanging past her shoulders, as well as her large, attractive eyes. But...her outfit was so strange...and revealing! She wore puffy sleeves, baggy, multi-colored socks, white shorts, and a strapless top that showed a lot of her stomach.
"Change the outfit if you don't like it," Tenten sighed.
Tenten pressed a button and in a second or so, Talim popped back onto the screen with a new costume. It looked really cute and bright, Hinata thought, pleased. She chose Talim eagerly. Talim twirled around on the screen and cried out, "How's this?"
"Pretty cute," Naruto commented. "Hey, does anyone know how old she is?"
WHAM. Sakura's fist met his head.
"For one, she's a FICTIONAL character!" Sakura gritted her teeth. "And two, she's too pretty for you. And three, she's probably more mature and older than you, and I don't think you go well with older and more sophisticated women."
To her surprise, Naruto grinned at her.
"Sakura-chan, you mean it?" he said hopefully, stars twinkling in his eyes.
"Huh?" Sakura deadpanned. "Of course I do, idiot!"
Naruto smiled dreamily. "I knew it all along!" he sang happily. "You secretly believe that I go better with girls like you, right, Sakura-chan?"
"WRONG!" Sakura yelled.
Naruto rubbed the bumps on his head with a grin. "Don't worry, Sakura-chan," he said happily. "You're still the only girl for me!"
The words echoed in Hinata's mind. She let out a sad, little sigh without thinking. Sasuke was the only one who noticed. He glanced at her, but did nothing more.
Hinata tried to take off her mind by bashing the buttons randomly, as Tenten said. Meanwhile, Naruto and Tenten were shouting advice in her ear, and it made her head ache.
"No, don't attack thin air!"
"Use B to guard!"
"Get away from the edge of the ring!"
"Watch out, he might strike you out of the ring!"
Good grief, what was with all this fuss about games? Hinata sighed inwardly. But she had to admit, it was pretty fun being cheered on by her friends...even if she WAS losing pathetically.
"Aw, what did I tell you? You should have stayed away from the edge of the ring!" Tenten sighed after Yunsung struck Talim out of the ring.
Hinata flushed. "Sorry."
"It's okay, you're just a beginner." Tenten smiled.
"Yeah, when I was a beginner, I was twice as bad as you, Hinata-chan, so don't worry." Naruto grinned, rubbing his head sheepishly.
Hinata smiled weakly at the comforting words. Round 2 started. She managed to inflict a little damage on Sasuke's character, but he had easily knocked off at least half of her health already. Kilik did a horizontal move with his long stick that whacked Talim near the edge of the ring.
Hinata pushed two buttons randomly as soon as Kilik ran up to Talim to attack her - and to her surprise, Talim grabbed his leg and dragged him.
"All right, good work, Hinata-chan!" Tenten cheered. "He's gonna die now!"
"Really?" Hinata watched as Talim shouted, "Go - away!" and whacked Kilik twice, sending him flying out of the ring.
"Hmph." Sasuke's mouth twitched. Everyone could tell that his pride was injured.
"Wow, that was a shock! Hinata-chan won!" Sakura said.
"Hurray for bashing buttons!" Tenten joked.
"Who should be ashamed now, Sasuke?" Naruto jeered. ''You lost to a girl who's just a beginner!"
"...She was lucky," Sasuke deadpanned flatly.
"Yeah, yeah, excuses, excuses..."
Round 3 started. Hinata lost, of course. But she had managed to win at least one game, so that made her feel a little bit better.
"Good game...for a beginner," Sasuke smirked. Hinata flushed.
"Hey, why don't you go against Naruto, Hinata?" Tenten suggested.
"No way! This is getting boring. Let's go play DDR," Sakura declared.
"Yeah, I feel like dancing!" Ino chimed in.
"Okay, okay, keep your shorts on, gals..." Tenten sighed.
Two teenage boys - apparently twins - were currently dancing, and cheers and squeals were erupting from the crowd surrounding him. Hinata watched, stunned, as their legs moved so rapidly that their arms were simply flapping at their sides. How could anyone dance like that??
The boys finally stopped, panting and grinning as they watched the screen blare. They both got B's. All the girls began to squeal.
"What's all the fuss?" Naruto frowned. "A B isn't that great."
"It is when you're playing Heavy mode," Sakura informed him irritatedly.
"HA! I bet I could do better than both of them," Naruto boasted smartly.
The boys chose another song to dance to, but before the dance started, they took off their jackets, to the delight of the girls in the crowd. The girls all started screaming, and when the twins tossed their jackets into the crowd, the girls all tackled each other to grab either jacket.
"Yeeesh," Naruto sweatdropped. "What girls would do to get their hands on a guy's jacket..."
Hinata watched the screen in silent awe. Apparently, you had to step on the arrows on the dance pad according to the arrows that popped up on the screen. Your timing had to be right, too. It looked hard, but it looked kind of fun, too...
When the guys were done, they made a great show of walking off the dance pad and wiping the sweat off their faces in a "sexy way" that made all the girls squeal and sigh.
"My turn!" Tenten hopped instantly onto the pad while most of the crowd was distracted by the boys.
"Me, too!" Ino hopped on.
"I take on the loser!" Sakura called out.
"Standard or Heavy?'' Tenten asked.
"Heavy!" Ino grinned. They danced to a song called "Butterfly." Hushed whispers of "they're good" or "they're pretty cute" erupted from the crowd. They both got B's, but Tenten got just a little more bad marks (almosts and boos) than Ino did. Tenten got a higher C than Ino in the next song, but the last song Ino won with an A against a B. Tenten reluctantly hopped off the dance pad.
"My dance skills have gotten worse because I haven't practiced much," Tenten sighed.
Sakura jumped onto the dance pad. "My turn!" she said happily. She giggled, swishing her long, silky tresses. "This is gonna be so much fun!"
"Wow, she's cute," a guy mumbled to his friend.
"They're both cute," his friend whispered back. Several guys nodded in agreement.
"Yup, but the pink-haired one is my girlfriend!" Naruto informed them smugly. "So stay away from her or you'll be sorry."
"IDIOT, WHAT NONSENSE ARE YOU TELLING THEM?" Sakura screeched at him. She was too far away to smack him, but the fire in her eyes made him laugh nervously and back away just in case she tried to jump him.
"Sakura! The song is starting!" Ino said.
"Right," Sakura clenched her teeth. Sakura and Ino started dancing to a song called "Let's Groove Tonight." Sakura defeated Ino narrowly. Sakura beat Ino in the next two games, too.
"Okay, who wants to go against her?" Ino called out with a heavy, defeated sigh, wiping her sweaty face as she stepped off the dance pad.
"Oh, I will!" Naruto waved his arm eagerly and went onto the dance pad. He changed his mode to Standard. Sakura, feeling obliged to have the same mode as him, changed her mode to Standard as well.
"Why am I going against you?" Sakura said irritatedly.
"Don't worry, babe, I'll go easy on you!" Naruto winked.
"ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! I'M THE ONE WHO WILL BE GOING EASY ON YOU!" Sakura roared at him.
Naruto whistled innocently as he looked at the list of songs. "Hey, let's choose this one!" Naruto selected a song called "Listen to Your Heart" by DHT.
"Awwww, isn't that cute, Sakura?" Tenten called out. "You two are dancing to a love song together!"
"Shut up! The song doesn't have anything to do with us!" Sakura said angrily.
"It's okay, sweetie, you don't have to be shy!" Naruto winked at Sakura flirtatiously.
"SHY? SAY THAT AGAIN...AFTER I KNOCK OUT YOUR TEETH!" In her rage, she got boos on the first few arrows. Meanwhile, Naruto was dancing like a pro.
"You sure you're a beginner, Naruto?" Ino called out, sweatdropping. In the end, the two both got B's, but Naruto had higher marks.
"I...can't believe I lost to him!" Sakura mumbled in dread, walking off the pad.
"I should have gone easier on you, then, huh?" Naruto said worriedly.
"Hmph." Sakura turned away angrily.
"Hey, there's two more songs, y'know," Tenten informed Sakura smartly.
"Sorry, I don't feel like dancing anymore." Sakura shook her head, feeling utterly humiliated. Losing to this guy...in front of Sasuke and everyone else! She felt like sinking into the floor.
"Then I won't dance, either," Naruto said with a bit of remorse as he walked off the dance pad.
"Hey, why don't you two dance?" Tenten asked Sasuke and Hinata.
"I don't dance," Sasuke said stiffly.
"I don't know how to dance," Hinata admitted timidly.
Naruto shoved Sasuke onto a pad, while Tenten pushed Hinata onto another one.
"Well, too bad!" they both said in unison, grinning.
Hinata flushed. Too...much...attention! she wailed inwardly, her face growing beet red. Everyone was cheering them on. She could feel herself sweating and suffocating - and it was only partially because there were too many bodies around here! She tried to block out all the noises and the staring eyes, but it was impossible...
"Dance! Dance! Dance!"
Sasuke finally seemed to give in, because he (rather irritatedly) selected a song at random. The song was "Everytime We Touch," a love song by an American singer named Cascada.
"Hey, Hinata-chan, you should have changed to Beginner Mode!" Ino yelled out.
"Wh-what??" Hinata said, panicking.
"Too late now," Sasuke said, amused. Hinata took a deep breath, trying to ignore the fact that at least thirty people were surrounding her, staring at her. She gazed at the screen timidly. There weren't that many arrows...
"I still hear your voice when you sleep next to me
I still feel your touch in my dreams..."
Right. Right. Right. Down. Left. Up.
Boo. Almost. Good. Good. Boo. Boo.
Hinata winced as the mocking words flashed across her side of the screen.
"Aw, isn't that cute? 'Everytime We Touch.' That's a really nice song for the two of you, ne?" Tenten giggled.
"It was random!" Sasuke rolled his eyes, annoyed.
"Yeah, Tenten," Sakura made a face. "Give poor Sasuke-kun a break, will ya?"
"It's fate," Tenten went on dreamily, jokingly. Hinata sighed a bit. It was finally clear now that Tenten really thought she and Sasuke made a cute couple. She didn't get it. She and Sasuke were too different. How could they ever be a couple?
He was just a friend, anyway, right?
"Forgive me my weakness but I don't know why
Without you it's hard to survive..."
That's all he could ever be, right? Sasuke couldn't be anything more than a friend...
"It's only slow because it's the opening of the song," Sasuke told Hinata, who still had the I-don't-think-this-mode-is-THAT-hard look on her face. Hinata squeaked a little as she noticed the numerous arrows that were popping up on the screen now. WHAAA...how am I going to dance this?
Girls squealed as they watched Sasuke move gracefully and silently upon the arrows, scoring greats and perfects and only a few goods.
"Oh, my gosh, he's so hot!" a girl yelled to her friend.
"And he can dance!" her friend sighed happily. "Guys who can dance are totally sexy."
"I know. He's my boyfriend, though!" Sakura told them smugly.
"Forehead-chan, what nonsense are you telling them??!" Ino screeched.
"Hinata! Just try to get as many arrows as you can!" Tenten called out.
How?? Hinata wailed inwardly. She meekly tried to dance to some of them, but boos kept popping up on her screen. This is so hard...I can't...I can't do it! Hinata stood motionless, feeling mortified. Now she could feel everyone staring at her, staring and thinking, What a loser! She can't dance!
I can't do it. Hinata felt a lump grow in her throat. I can't.
"Don't give up just yet, Hyuuga," she heard Sasuke say over the loud shouts of the audience.
Hinata's eyes widened. He's right. I...I can't just give up without trying.
Hinata took in a deep breath and watched as the arrows left the screen. A few seconds later, more arrows popped up. Right. Up. Right and Left. Down. Down. Up. Up and Right. Right...
Great. Almost. Good. Good. Almost. Almost. Good. Perfect...!
"Go, Hinata-chan!" Tenten yelled happily.
Before Hinata could stop herself, a wide smile spread over her face. I...I can do this!
Several boos and almosts appeared on the screens, but she could see that she was getting some goods, greats, and perfects, too. When the song ended, Hinata felt herself panting, soaked in her own sweat.
Sasuke got an A, but Hinata got a D. Even so, Hinata couldn't stop smiling. It was actually fun!
"Can we try another song?" Hinata said, wiping her forehead.
"You mean you don't mind everyone staring?"
Hinata felt herself blush as she finally remembered that there was an audience. She had been having so much fun dancing that she hadn't given the audience much thought.
"...I think...I'll manage." Hinata gave him a shy smile.
"If you insist." Sasuke's lips twitched.
Hinata winced. "It's hot," she mumbled, tugging at her jacket wistfully. It felt like the end of a PE class with Maito Gai as your teacher. But she hated showing more skin than was necessary in public, so she always hid her body in baggy and long-sleeved clothes.
"So take off your jacket," Sasuke said nonchalantly.
"...But..." Hinata murmured under her breath.
"Just take it off," Sasuke said, more loudly this time because he was annoyed.
Upon hearing what he said, everyone stared at him with eyes as big as pancakes. Eek! Why's everyone staring? Hinata blushed, staring down at her shoes.
"And all this time I thought you were - " Naruto began, but Sakura stomped on his foot. "Ouch!"
"...Whoa. Sasuke, that was rather...straightforward!" Tenten spoke up, fighting back a suggestive smile.
"...Get your minds out of the gutter," Sasuke said darkly, casting a deadly glare at everyone. "I was talking about her jacket."
"...Oooookayyyy..." the entire audience nodded meekly.
Sasuke picked a song at random called "Hikari - Remix" by Utada Hikaru. By this time, everyone was chattering again. For some reason, this made Hinata feel better. If they were talking, that meant that there were some people who weren't staring.
"Whoo-hoo, go Hinata-chan!" Tenten called out. Naruto put his fingers to his mouth and whistled. Sakura and Ino laughed and clapped and cheered. Hinata couldn't help feeling more relaxed now that her friends were cheering for her. It was a bit embarrassing, but it was reassuring, too.
This time, Hinata did a lot better. In the end, she managed to get a C. Sasuke, of course, got an A, which did make her feel a little bad, but not that much. She was a beginner, after all.
"Wow, you did pretty good, Hinata-chan," Tenten smiled.
"Yeah, you did good for a beginner," Sakura added.
"Totally," Ino chimed in.
"Yup, yup!" Naruto grinned.
"Th-thanks." Hinata smiled back. At least...she had her friends' support all the way.
+----- An hour later -----+
"Well, see ya, guys!" Tenten, Ino, and Sakura were getting picked up by their moms. Hinata, Naruto, and Sasuke were going to take the bus home.
"Later," Naruto waved back.
"Bye..." Hinata smiled weakly.
Hinata and the boys went on their way silently to the bus stop. When the bus came, they got on silently.
"...That was fun, wasn't it?" Naruto spoke up, trying to break the silence.
Hinata was about to agree, but Sasuke responded first. "...Hn."
"Don't act so unenthusiastic!" Naruto balked, a vein popping at his temple. "After all, why'd you come in the first place if you thought it'd be boring??!"
"I didn't say that."
"Well, you're sure acting like it!"
Hinata giggled to herself and they both looked at her.
"Sorry...that was rude of me." Hinata blushed.
"S'okay," Naruto grinned. "Hey, you're pretty good for a beginner! You did good at DDR AND you kicked Sasuke's butt at Soul Calibur!" Naruto glanced at Sasuke and sniggered. "I can't believe you lost to her!"
"At least it's better than getting whacked on the head all the time for acting like such an idiot," Sasuke retorted.
"WHAT WAS THAT?!"
Luckily, the announcement of the next bus stop put an end to their argument, although Naruto was glaring at the back of Sasuke's head as they made their way to the front and paid their fares to the driver.
"Hey, kids, you got anything special for your mothers?" she asked curiously.
They all froze, motionless. She stared at them like they were total idiots.
"Mother's Day is coming up, you know," she said as-a-matter-of-factly.
"...Yeah, we know," Naruto spoke up finally, grinning weakly. The woman stared at them silently before shrugging and turning away. They went on their way without another word.
As soon as she entered her room, Hinata's gaze settled upon the portrait on the wall. It was the only picture that had her mother in it. In her family albums, there were no pictures of them, and she guessed that her mother had taken all the pictures. The only picture she had of her mother was blurry and unclear, but she still kept it. She didn't want to throw anything of her mother away.
She continued to stare at her mother's face. Her mother smiled back at her, her eyes closed in bliss. Hinata's eyes drifted to the calendar. Tomorrow was Mother's Day.
Hinata's heart ached. She had already experienced an empty and sad Mother's Day several times, but it still hurt each time the special day came by. To watch as other people gave gifts and hugs to their mother, while she could do nothing but wish she had a living mother to spend the special day with...
Hinata sighed sadly. Sasuke and Naruto didn't have mothers, either, she thought sympathetically. It was probably just as hard for them. She couldn't just feel sorry for herself like she was the only one without a mother.
She found herself smiling at her mother's face. "Mother, you'll never guess what happened...I went out with my friends today! I watched a movie and went to the arcades. It was so much fun! Aren't you glad for me, Mother? Today...today was a really happy day for me. I ... smiled a lot more than I usually do."
A tear slid down her face, but the smile remained. It was like her mother appeared before her and whispered something that she usually told her daughter...
"If you're smiling, then I'll be smiling, too."
+---- Saturday Morning ----+
Hinata quickly shut off the alarm. She yawned tiredly, but forced her aching feet to move. When she walked past the door to Hanabi's room, she almost squeaked when the door opened.
"Why are you up so early?" Hanabi said curiously.
"I need to go somewhere." Hinata blushed. "You should go back to sleep."
"I was already awake, studying for a test today," Hanabi blinked.
"Uhh...then you should get back to studying!"
"...Okay." Hanabi closed the door and Hinata sighed a breath of relief. She walked down the stairs and went to the kitchen to eat a brief breakfast. Then she put on her jacket and went out the door.
"It's cold today," Hinata mumbled to herself. She clutched the bouquet in her hands and walked on. She entered the cemetery - but almost gasped when she realized that it wasn't empty! Somebody was kneeling at a grave, laying a bouquet of flowers at a grave. She jumped behind a nearby tree, not wanting to be seen by the person. She had wanted to come early in the morning because she thought no one would be here, but she guessed she was wrong.
She couldn't help but peek around to look at the person again - and she realized that it was Sasuke!
"Hey, Mom," she heard him murmur, "I brought you your favorite flowers. Forget-me-nots."
Hinata's eyes softened. Uchiha-san...
"...So, how's heaven? Pretty nice, huh? No trouble, no pain, nothing...but it'd be better if you were here, you know."
It was weird hearing Sasuke sound so remorseful. It was so different from the sarcastic and dull Sasuke. Perhaps he showed more emotion than he led others to believe...
"Anyways, Happy Mother's Day...and send my regards to Dad, will ya?" Sasuke gazed at the grave somberly, a sad smile upon his lips.
Her body was aching a bit from standing so rigidly, so she moved just a bit. It was a big mistake, for her foot crunched a couple of dead leaves.
Eek! Hinata flinched. I hope he didn't hear that -
"...Hey, I know you're there. Come out."
It was wishful thinking. Hinata sighed, but she came out obediently.
"Oh, it's you." Sasuke's expression was blank, and his voice was in a monotone now.
"...I-I'm sorry. I didn't mean to..." Hinata bit her lip. "I didn't mean to intrude on your privacy.."
"It's all right." Sasuke stood up. "I was just going to leave, anyway."
He walked right past her. Hinata looked at his retreating back. You..seem afraid to show emotion, Uchiha-san. Her eyes softened. Why is that?
Hinata walked to her mother's grave and set down the bouquet.
"...Hello, Mother." Hinata smiled. "You know what's strange? I just saw a different side of Uchiha-san that I never saw before. I...I used to think that he could show nothing but amusement and annoyance, but I guess I was wrong. He has a loving side, after all.
"Mother...do you think that someday Sasuke will open up and show that side more often?"
Silence responded, but she went on, anyway.
"I'd like it if that happened. He'd...he'd be much happier, I believe. And...I want him to be happy. I want the loneliness and the sadness in his heart to clear away. I...want him to smile. If he's smiling, I'll be smiling as well. And...you'll be smiling, too, won't you, Mother?"
The sounds of birds chirping rang in the air. Hinata stood up and smiled softly at her mother's grave.
"Happy Mother's Day."
A/N. I'm sorry that there's no LeeTen or ShikaIno in this chapter. I promise I'll try to squeeze some in the next chapter! xD
Yeah, and I know bringing in Ryou was a bit out of place...but I wanted to put more of Tenten's personal life in here and I just felt like adding in that rather cliché plot about some girl whose husband-less mother falls in love with this guy but the girl doesn't want another father...Yup, yup. XD Tenten's a minor character in the series, so I wanted to give her more spotlight.
I know I don't put much of Sakura in here, but...I don't really know what kind of personal life she would have. Same for Ino...but I'll try to figure something out for the two of them. XD And btw, I have NO IDEA about the whole grading system for the Japanese. I'm pretty sure it's 5.0 instead of 4.0, but...o-o -shrugs-
And the movies the gang watched belongs to the creator of Samurai X. o.o;; (Btw, I based Tenten's anti Kaoru/Kenshin and pro Tomoe/Kenshin feelings off myself...sorry if I offended any pro Kaoru/Kenshin fans out there x.x;; )
I was thinking of having a newcomer sometime later. She will kind of be a major plot because she is going to make friends with Hinata and something is going to happen so that Hinata will realize some things about life, friendship, and maybe love. I won't spoil it, though, but here are the characters that MIGHT be the newcomer: Tayuya, Kin, and Temari. So, yeah, I was just giving everyone the heads up so everyone won't be like "O.o?!" later. Lol. XD I'm not sure who to pick yet, so if you guys want, send in your suggestions about who the newcomer should be! (: