Until The Stars Fall - 1154

The wedding had been perfect, Neji decided, as he sipped politely at a cup of sake. Hinata was sitting with her father, decked beautifully in ceremonial robes that couched design work somewhere north of half a million (but nothing was too good for the Main house). He mused over the delightfully two-faced machinations of his uncle, as the man had only a month ago despaired over the worthlessness of his daughter. How one changes his tune upon the discovery of a lame horse making up for its lack in glue.

A man like Neji could appreciate the irony.

He watched her lovely face smile a smile that never quite reached her eyes, graciously accepting the gifts of money and general wares of the newlywed. Hiashi had a magnanimous look on his face that made Neji want to put down his cup and puke (or punch the bastard, but he knew to what end such an act would lead).

The heat and smoke of the anteroom was stifling.

"Oh, how lovely she looks!" Yes, Neji agreed.

"Ah, she has done her family proud. Our future is secured!" Perhaps, he mused.

"...I certainly wished this day would come a little later. She is still so young, after all." Most assuredly.

Neji had in fact prayed this day would never come, but like most of his prayers it had remained unanswered. Fate and time had worked their magic, and he was left in the most awkward position of his life.

He'd never run from anything, but somehow his legs had pushed him from his seat and propelled him towards the door. He would need the air, the silence, to prepare himself for tonight.


The stars were quite peaceful against a dark blue sky - - velvet purple and warm. Deepest red to orange-pink glowed in the distance, and Neji decided he would remember the sight for an eternity. The lingering effects of the Byakugan tended to hyper set images in one's mind (like a fire brand), and he wondered idly, if this was due to its relation with the Uchiha Sharingan.

His thoughts veered however at the delicate approach of his cousin. It was strange how he could taste her scent before he even heard her - - an interesting and intoxicating mix of lavender and the darkest and sweetest part of the forest.

She whispered his name through the shoji door, and his eyes twitched to the full moon that hung like a pearl in the sky.

If he strained his mind (which was difficult because one lacks imagination when they're given sight to virtually everything) he could see Hinata seated much as he was, back against the paper and wood, pretty combs pulled free from her hair. It made him think fondly of how she'd cut his own hair, shoring it to the required length for his entry into the Black Ops (he could tie a stubby pony tail at the base of his neck now).

"...I'm n-not r-ready for this Neji-nii." Her voice was close to his ear and he could imagine her loving face turned to the door, speaking only for him.

He wasn't ready for it either, and because he knew it in the depths of his heart, in the darkest part of his mind, he set about trying to convince his cousin she was (because over the years, Neji had learned of his aptitude for convincing her of anything).

"You are." It was whispered in return, in that firm and implacable way that Hinata had grown so accustomed to. He could see her pale eyes, brows furrowed with consternation, and the image made him smile (though it was humorless).

"Will it -" Her hesitation pained him, because he knew she was moving away from him already. She thickly swallowed, "Will it hurt?"

Oh god, he just couldn't do this.

Neji closed his eyes and wondered, if he ever did manage to get this damn curse mark lifted, whether it would make a difference anyway. With a dull thunk he rocked his head against the wood.

"...Didn't the women explain this to you?"

There was silence for a time, before she began in a small voice (the one where she would poke her forefingers together).

"Yes, b-but...Neji, I know you wouldn't lie to me. You never lie to me, even when its meant to hurt."

He could feel his heart tumble and bitterly ache. It hurt so bad he actually looked down for a physical wound, because nothing less than a sword through his chest would've caused so much pain.

Neji sighed, because the night was young, and he felt a million years old.

"It will hurt," the slight trembling of her breath made him want to rip open the door and promise she'd never have to do anything she didn't want to - but he didn't. "But pain is fleeting, Hinata-san. You will adjust and your love will adjust accordingly."

Because he knew she needed reassurance more than anything else, and love was a woman's thing.

He was such a deluded little prick.

Neji swallowed over the sting in his throat, the scent of her tears making him want to go far away, as far as humanly possible (though he'd already discussed this with himself and knew it was impossible, despite his responsibilities).

"T-thank y-you, Neji-nii." He thought how awfully funny it was he'd been delegated to brother again (but he wouldn't begrudge Hinata her defenses, as he had his own).

There was silence, though it was of a different sort this time. Heavy steps in the night, on the delicate main house panels, and Neji was half sick and half-angry at the stupidity that put a noble as Hinata's husband and not at the very least a Ninja. He could gut this man in his sleep and none would know.

Except perhaps Hinata (but these were resentful and half-cocked ideas).

He could hear the murmur and whisper of voices, the shuffle of feet, and if he imagined hard enough he might feel the touch of her kiss through the wood.

Neji would stay by her side every day, ghost her steps for a life time, and sit outside her room every night. All because he was charged to do so by some mark on his forehead (and, maybe, if he admitted the truth in the broken silence of the night, who would ever know?).

Even if the mark was gone, he chuckled sadly to himself, Neji would still be her guard until the very stars fell from the sky.

A/N - another difficult piece to write. Do you think the ending lagged? Hmm. Anyway, music of choice was some Celine Dion, b/c that Canadian bitch makes me cry. Ugh, I'm like so sad now. I'll definitely have to do some happy and/or smutty NejiHina after this. Review, anyway. I do like criticism. (PS - I DON'T LIKE THE TITLE! CAN ANYONE OFFER A BETTER ONE? I was going to do it untitled, but that's terrible I think. However, I will take suggestions and change it - with full credit it to the namer! Ahee ahee!)