Shelter in Your Arms

The soft impact of liquid with tile was what initially woke her. Hinata had always been a light sleeper, and as paperwhite eyes opened blearily to stare around her darkened room, ears picked up the nearly inaudible sound as the occasional droplet struck the roof over her head, the erratic sound gradually increasing in tempo and pitch as more raindrops joined their fallen brethren to spill their bounty onto the roof of the Main house buildings.

Rain?

Pushing herself up onto her elbows, the white-eyed girl brushed strands of long dark hair from her face, tucking the indigo tresses behind one ear as she rubbed one fist across her eyes. Picking up the clock from beside the futon, she peered at it through vision left hazy with sleep and the suddenness of awakening. Blinking at the hands on the face, she brought the device closer to her face to get a better look in the dimmness of her bedroom only to let out a startled bleat and a jerk of her shoulders when the loud crack of thunder echoed through the empty hallways of the Hyuuga compound.

The clock dropped forgotten from hands that suddenly began to shake slightly as the petite heiress gulped back the shaft of sudden fear. Thunder. She hated thunder, had hated it ever since she could remember. While she liked the rain, liked watching the silvery drops of water fall unbidden and unbridled from the sky in a torrent of grey, enjoyed listening to the rhythmic tempo as the drops pounded with stacatto noise into the tiles of the roof, Hyuuga Hinata was utterly petrified of thunder. It didn't matter that she knew perfectly well the thunder couldn't hurt her. She'd been told that, in many ways, many times. From the servants and her mother gently reassuring the child she had once been, to Neji's sarcastic and often scathing retorts about how real shinobi weren't afraid of such a silly thing as thunder, to her father's disdainful mentions of how someone her age had no room for ridiculous childish fears. But...that didn't make the fear go away.

Tucking her knees up to her chest, the indigo-haired girl wrapped her arms tightly around trembling legs, burying her face in her knees and repeating a mental mantra to herself.

It's just a noise, it can't hurt me, I'm NOT afraid of it...Just a noise, can't hurt me...

She'd tried, tried so many times to put the fear aside, and each time she thought she had managed it, fear clawed it's way back into her mind. Well, at least it was night. There were no family to see, no friends to notice, no one to register her fear. No one to ridicule her for it. Shivering at another loud peal of thunder as the rain's patter increased to a near-deafening roar, Hinata found herself wishing she was her child-self again. At least then, she'd been able to go running to someone else's bed in search of comfort. But this time...there wasn't anyone. At least, not anyone who would welcome her presence.

I wish...I could go stay with Neji-niisan...

THAT thought was immediately pushed from her mind. No, she could NOT go and stay with Neji. Disregarding the fact that he'd certainly not welcome her, crawling into bed with her cousin was probably a bad idea. Because despite the fact that most people would have looked at her strangely and wondered what was so bad about seeking comfort from a family member, Hinata knew better. Knew the way she secretly watched Neji, the way she actually felt about him. Those feelings were a carefully-guarded secret, locked up in the depths of her mind where no one else would see them. People on the outside...they wouldn't understand. Wouldn't know that while such a custom as marrying within your clan was unusual in most cases, with noble families such as the Hyuuga, it was as everyday as toast with jam. And people on the inside...well, they wouldn't understand either. He was Bunke, she Soke. That in itself was taboo, regardless of reason. Not that it mattered to Hinata. To her, he wasn't Bunke, wasn't Hyuuga, wasn't cousin or fellow shinobi. He was just Neji.

Startled out of her musings by an even louder clap of thunder then before, the girl buried her face in her lap for a moment with a terrified little whimper before she was scrambling out of the covers and heading out the door and down the hall. Feet took her unerringly for the one place she kept trying to convince herself that she shouldn't go. With what seemed an unreasonable amount of effort, she forced her feet to stop, hand mere inches from the handle of the door. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes, allowing the outstretched arm to drop. No. She could be strong, she didn't need comfort. And...she shouldn't be here.

Or at least, that was what she told herself before the lightning flashed and the thunder echoed again. A cry of fright, and the door was wrenched open and then closed again before she found herself burrowing underneath the blankets and against the sleeping occupant. Well...he had been asleep. Deep sleeper though he may have been, Hyuuga Neji found it rather difficult to keep up said activity when confronted by the sudden slam of his door and the impact of his smaller cousin's shaking form. Startled by the sudden shift in his sleeping arrangements, he jerked away, hand reaching for a kunai before sharp eyes recognized the trembling figure that curled next to him, shoulders shaking slightly with suppressed sobs.

Hinata-sama...what is she-?

Realization dawned on him as the rumble of the thunder sounded yet again. Of course. Hinata-sama had always been afraid of thunder. In fact, when they were younger, she always seemed to find her way into his futon on stormy nights like this. But this...this wasn't the child who he'd played with. This...was a 16-yr old young woman who was clinging to him like a drowning person clings to a life preserver. And that...was something that the older Hyuuga was realizing was a definite problem. Schooling his features into their usual cold expression, he placed hands on her shoulders and pushed the girl away to regard her with a frown.

"Hinata-sama, what do you mean by coming here like this?"

She flinched at his tone, eyes downcast. She'd been right, he was angry with her. But...maybe she could at least convince him to talk to her, try and take her mind off of the storm. With a sniffle, she wiped one hand across her eyes.

"Neji-niisan...I...the storm...I just wanted…thunder….I'm scared..."

Chocolate-brown eyebrows drew together over alabaster eyes. He knew that already. It still didn't explain why she'd sought him out for comfort. Neji pushed aside the small voices in his head that reminded him he wasn't entirely opposed to the idea, and that kept whispering suggestions to him that he was determined not to follow through on. He most certainly did not think that way about Hinata-sama, and he definitely had no intention of giving into those certain..."urges" that seemed to enjoy tormenting him when he thought too much about the girl who was currently in his futon.

"I am aware of that, Hinata-sama. It still doesn't explain why you are here."

"I...I didn't want to...to be alone…can I…..stay with you? Please?"

He had to give her credit, he supposed. She was shy and meek to begin with, and it was rare that she could manage to get out a sentance without stammering or repeating herself. And yet she'd somehow just managed to actually ask him if she could stay. But...problem. Neji caught himself staring at her as she looked up to fix tear-filled white eyes on his own. Swallowing hard and thankful that the darkness of the night hid the flush he knew had to be invading his cheeks, he cleared his throat and glanced away. Not good.

"Hinata-sama, is that entirely proper? You aren't a child anymore."

She knew that, knew that he was right. But...she still wanted to stay. Wanted comfort. And...she felt safer with Neji. Despite all that had happened those few years ago during the Chuunin exams, Hinata trusted him. Dropping her head, unable to continue meeting his gaze, she nodded.

"I...I know. But...please? Just…just this once?"

Opening his mouth to refuse her, to send her away, Neji paused. She was trembling, curled up against his side, looking so small, so helpless. And as much as he wanted to make her leave, he just...couldn't. Not now. With a sigh, he carefully slipped an arm around her shoulders, pulling her against his chest and allowing her dark head to rest on his shoulder.

"Alright...just this once."

It was ok, wasn't it? Afterall, it wasn't as though he was doing anything wrong, or admitting or committing to anything. It was just shelter from the storm. And it would be alright. Just once.