For months, I have been on the edge of the Naruto-fanfiction diving board; today, I make the leap. I give you Prodigals, my first stab at Naruto fanfiction. First-posted, anyway.

Basically, it centers around the adventures of Naruto and friends when Sasuke and Hinata return to Konoha after running away. That and Naruto and Hinata hooking up. NaruHina, baby. Holla!

Pairings: NaruHina (definite) SasuSaku (possible) SakuLee (possible); NejiTen (definite)

Er. So. ENJOY!


Prodigals

Chapter 00

Prologue


Konohagakure, 11 AM. Hyuuga Estate.

"You have failed. Both as a ninja and as the Heir to our clan. Your loss to a Branch house member and subsequent hospitalization have brought shame upon us all."

Hinata couldn't speak or cry out. She simply nodded.

"You are worthless. Completely worthless."

Worthless.

She nodded again. She was worthless.

The Clan elder stood before her with his cold, white eyes – like hers, but also so unlike hers. Those eyes were so cold… strong. She was weak. To reiterate, worthless.

Her father was out of Konohagakure no Sato on business. The Elders, against his wishes, had wanted to place the seal on her. With her father away, they would get their wish, taking advantage of his absence to their benefit. The Head Elder began to necessary ceremony.

"Hyuuga Hinata. The Caged Bird Seal, used for hundreds of years on the Branch House of the Hyuuga, will now be your fate. Do you understand?"

"Yes." It didn't really matter she was getting the seal. This was just a nightmare anyway. A common one. It would end soon.

"You will become a member of the Branch. You will live with the Branch. You will sleep with the Branch. You will work with the Branch. Your duties will lie in the protection and service of the Main House. Do you understand?"

"Yes." Not a stutter. She felt proud of her dream-self.

"As a member of the Branch, some of your duties will likely include attending to your Heir, Hyuuga Hanabi, in her daily tasks, household assignments, and etiquette. Hyuuga Neji will no longer be your protector, but the protector of Hanabi-sama, the true Heir. Do you understand?"

"Yes." Wasn't tomorrow the day of the Naruto-kun's match against Neji-niisan?

"You will now be branded with the Caged Bird Seal. Good luck be with you, Hyuuga Hinata."

He moved his fingers in the motion of the hand seals required to complete the process. Hinata's world went black and she knew nothing more.

-

When she awoke, it was much later in the day. Twilight was just settling in. Hinata sat up in bed, disoriented. Her forehead was suddenly on fire, like millions upon million of tiny, flame-filled pinpricks, piercing every inch of skin available. Her pounding migraine escalated painfully. She cried out.

A Branch member came rushing in, holding a bottle in her hand.

"Hinata dear, take this. It will help you head," murmured Hitomi gently, handing the bottle to her and smoothing hair over her forehead in a motherly fashion.

The small genin gulped greedily. Hitomi smiled. "Good girl, Hinata."

Her head cooling, Hinata frowned slightly. Not because she was in pain, but because something seemed off about Hitomi-san today…

"Hinata, listen to me please."

There it was again. What was wrong?

"Hi-na-ta… are you in there? Focus. You'll need a few days of rest before you're ready for training. I've laid out some bandages for you, because I know how you like to wear your forehead protector around your neck."

What was she talking about?

"I'll be back in a bit to check on you, okay?"

The girl nodded mutely.

"Bye, Hinata."

Her eyes snapped open just as Hitomi left. That was it. Hitomi wasn't calling her Hinata-sama. She was just calling her Hinata. The brunette jumped out of bed and ran over to the vanity. She stared into the mirror with morbid fascination, tracing her marked forehead with cold, slim fingers.

She was Branch.

NO! Her mind cried out. I wanted to get stronger! I wanted to prove myself! This isn't fair! I wanted to show Naruto-kun – I wanted to show him I could… make something of myself…

Tears burned her eyes. She saw the window of opportunity – the one on the other side of the room, open and waiting. Hinata grabbed the pale yellow binding on her bedside table and slipped out without a sound.

-

Mother would know what to do. Mother always knew.

Hinata walked into the Hyuuga section of the cemetery, trying to draw as little attention as possible to herself even though the place was completely deserted.

Her gravestone was simple but elegant, and it fit her perfectly, Hinata thought with admiration. In Hinata's young eyes, her mother was a vision of perfection. An image of grace, beauty, and motherly love, someone who made her father smile that special smile. That stylized view would never leave her and for that she was very grateful.

"Please, mother. Tell me what to do. Show me! Anything… I'm just so confused. What would you want me to do?"

"Your mother would want you to be happy."

Hinata whirled around, heart pounding loudly in her eyes. Her face went beet-red, having been caught speaking to thin air. "Can I h-help you, s-sir?"

The strange man smiled down at her. He towered over her at nearly six feet, but he was of a thin, wiry build. His face was kind and his words were filled with sympathy. His eyes caught hers. Those silver eyes were fascinating and she couldn't look away.

"No," he said. "But I can help you. Would you like some help?"

YES! Her brain screamed. However, logic stalled this answer. "Excuse m-me, but I d-don't really know w-what you m-mean."

His smiled widened. "Of course you do. You wonder why you were sealed, why you were put in the Branch house. You wonder why life is so unfair to you, taking your mother and then your hopes and dreams of proving yourself. You wonder why you were born, if all you are to do is suffer."

Hinata was speechless. These were the deepest, darkest secrets of her mind, ones she didn't dare confront in the light of day, let alone in the light of day with a complete stranger. That should've alerted her to the danger.

"Who are you?" This was where Hinata made a fatal mistake: she let the hope creep into her voice.

His smile got even wider. "Someone who can help."

-

She was back in her room before Hitomi had even noticed she was gone.

"How are you feeling, dear?" asked the matronly woman with sympathy. She knew the pangs of the Branch well.

Hinata smiled at her, a real smile, something that obviously surprised the older woman. "I'm feeling wonderful. How are you?"

-

Konohagakure, 12 PM. The Next Day.

Naruto was having second thoughts.

He was up against Neji, the genius prodigy of the Hyuuga Clan. He was the top genin of his graduating class, the Sasuke of his year. How could the three-time dead-last Academy student ever compete with that?

It's hopeless, he groaned to himself. I'm never gonna win this!

"Naruto-kun?"

He jumped. "Hinata?"

She smiled at him without blushing or anything. It seemed kind of strange that she wasn't. "The very same. Don't you have a match very soon?"

Naruto laughed sheepishly. "Well, I guess I'm just – "

"Feeling nervous?" she supplied. "Having second thoughts?"

"Well, yeah." He muttered, looking away.

"You know, Naruto-kun… I have always admired you. I still do. No matter what, you always get back up. Even though you failed the Academy exams so many times, you always tried again. You always tried your hardest. You are a failure… but you're a proud failure."

He was speechless, but she continued.

"I always watched you get up and wondered how you could do it. I drew my nindo from you, Naruto-kun. You inspired me."

"Hinata –"

She hugged him. It was filled with her obvious affection. Naruto was stiff as a board at first, as if he had no idea what to do with physical affection, before he hugged back. She pulled away, smiling slightly, with a little pink dusting her cheekbones. This one fact made him a little more comfortable – blushing was definitely a very Hinata thing to do.

"I know I'm not very strong right now, but I promise, the next time we meet, I'll be stronger. Okay, Naruto-kun?"

He could only nod.

"See you around, maybe." She turned away and started to walk off.

"Hey, Hinata-chan!" She turned back for a moment. He grinned. "I like people like you!"

Hinata smiled again, blushing a little more, before disappearing into the trees.

That would be the last time Naruto would see her a long while.

-

Border between Kuso no Kuni and Hi no Kuni, 12 PM. Six Years Later.

Sarutobi Asuma, Yuuhi Kurenai, and Hatake Kakashi were currently sitting in a seedy bar, very bored. Their teammate, Maito Gai, was scouting around the area.

"I don't know what the Hokage was thinking, sending us out here," said Asuma, slightly sullen. "There is absolutely nothing going on."

"Well, she must've had a good reason," said Kurenai, doubt creeping into her voice. Asuma shot her a look. "Riiiight."

"Shut up."

"What do you think, Kakashi?" Asuma asked pointedly. Kurenai rolled her eyes.

"Hm?"

"I said, do you think this mission is the real deal or a wild goose chase?"

"I don't know. But our source claims that the Shadow Siblings were last seen up here, and the source is very reliable."

Kurenai smirked triumphantly. Asuma pouted a bit. "You suck, Kakashi."

"And if I do…?"

Their banter was interrupted by Pakkun, who ran helter-skelter towards Kakashi. "There's a fight going on," the little dog summon said breathlessly. "I'm pretty sure it's the pair you're looking for." Kakashi smiled grimly beneath his mask and readjusted his forehead protector so that his Sharingan was visible.

"Direct me, Pakkun."

-

Two figures, a male and female, each dressed in all black, battled the bandits with an expert's ease. They were completely silent as they fought and wore strange masks. Half was black and half was white. With only tiny slits for eyes, they were completely smooth and flat. The only way to distinguish them was the slight flourish of the eye – it was the woman's. As soon as the bandits were dispatched, the woman relaxed her attack stance and slouched her shoulders. Removing her mask, she stretched and opened her eyes.

They were a pale lavender color. Kurenai stifled her gasp. This girl… this girl had an uncanny resemblance to her little Hinata, except she was grown up. There was the same heart-shaped face, the soft, feminine features, and those big, bright eyes that seemed so unexpressive on any other Hyuuga. Kakashi spared his teammate a glance, obviously noting the similar features and how they might distress her.

The man reached out and put a hand on the Hinata-clone's shoulder, which she shook off. "Oh, cut it out," said the woman. "I'm so sick of this, Sasuke. I want to go home."

With obvious frustration, the man removed his mask. "Did you have to ruin the moment?"

"What moment? The moment of gloating about your superiority? How male of you."

"Geez Hinata, note the sarcasm."

"Sasuke, note my pissed off state of being. I want to go home. I am not waiting to go there because some crackpot old man –"

"He is not a crackpot!"

"Oh? Prove it."

"…shut up."

"That's what I thought!"

Clearly, this was an argument made many times before.

"And it's not like they won't be glad to see you! You will totally be feeling the love, I guarantee it."

Sasuke shook his head stubbornly.

"I believe in what he said, even if he is a crackpot old man. So we're not going back until –"

"Until what? Until you have your clairvoyant vision? Until pigs fly? Until the apocalypse? Use your newfound divine connections, Sasuke dear, and tell when I get to go home!"

Sasuke began to open his mouth, but someone answered for him.

"How about now?"

They both heard the darts whistling in the air but were unable to dodge in time. Both their necks were pricked at the same instant. The last thing Sasuke saw was pair of familiar mismatched eyes.


So! Tell me what you think... about the writing itself, the plot idea, etc., etc. Hit me up, folks.

-FPC