This (very, VERY) belated birthday gift is dedicated to Noctalis Noctis (who really ought to post her "Ouran" Seven Deadly Sins for the rest of the world to see because it kicks ass).

Characters belong to Masashi Kishimoto.

"Good afternoon, thank you for calling Everyday Gourmet, Hinata speaking."

"Hey, Hinata- it's Sasuke."

Hinata Hyuuga nearly dropped the cordless phone cradled against her ear onto the miniature wedding cake she had been working on at the sound of Sasuke Uchiha's voice. Her eyes crinkled in delight as an eager grin spread over her face. She gingerly moved the cake aside and steadied herself against her marble countertop for support, willing her hands and knees to stop their trembling.

"Sasuke! How are you today?" She took a deep breath, not wanting him to detect the nervous giddiness in her voice.

"I'm fine. How about you? Have you managed to warm up yet?" His chuckle was a velvety, rich sound that set her heart aflutter.

She had bumped into Sasuke yesterday outside the grocery store. She had left home in a thin cotton pullover, in an attempt to take advantage of what was then a rare, warm December morning, but within the time it took for her to gather and purchase ingredients for an upcoming bruncheon, light snow had begun to fall. Hinata shivered, struggling with the heavy bundle as her fingers began to numb. To her surprise, Sasuke came to her aid like a fairytale knight as he draped his leather jacket around her petite frame and removed the sack from her hands, quickly leading her into a nearby café for a steaming hot cup of cocoa.

She giggled softly. "Yes- thank you for rescuing me back there." She vaguely wondered if Sasuke could feel the heat radiating from her cheeks through the other line.

"You're welcome." Sasuke paused for a moment. "Uh- Actually, I called with a question for you, Hinata-"

And my answer is yes, Hinata thought dreamily. Yes. I'll have dinner with you tonight, or we can catch a movie- anything. After a hundred 'no's' she was finally ready to say yes.

"-I need you to create a memorable meal tomorrow night," he said. "I'm having dinner with someone special."

Utter disillusionment washed over her rapidly paling features. She was crushed. "I-I see," she stammered.

"I'll leave all the details to you, Hinata," Sasuke continued. "I've heard nothing but praise in regards to your work."

Hinata cleared the knot in her throat as she went into professional mode. "Is she a vegetarian, or are there any food allergies I should be made aware of?" She was amazed at how calm her voice sounded as she asked the question, her pen poised over a nearby notepad.

"I don't think so," Sasuke replied.

"Okay. How about a mesclun salad with goat cheese to start things off, followed by a main course of beef burgundy, roasted with an array of vegetables on the side?"

"Sounds good."

"What would you like for dessert?"

"Hmm, nothing too sweet. Any recommendations?"

"Hazelnut dark chocolate mousse?" It was enormously popular with her customers.

"Sounds great. I really appreciate you doing this on such short notice. I'd hate to lose face for bringing Chef Boyardee to the table," he joked lightly.

She managed to deliver a weak laugh in return. "I'm happy to do it." Hinata tried to sound as happy as he did. "What time would you like me to drop off the food?"

"Actually... Hinata, would you stay to help me serve it? And set the table?"

Her shoulders drooped. She could, of course, but would she? Serving a meal and setting a romantic mood for Sasuke and his special someone weren't high on the list of things she wanted to do. However, she caved in reluctantly, remembering that Sasuke was a customer placing an order.

"S-Sure," she said, swallowing back her disappointment.

"Thanks." He sounded relieved. "I'll see you tomorrow night then, say, six-thirty?"

Hinata agreed to the time and hung up, her earlier, happier mood dashed along with her hopes. She had misjudged a whole lot more than the weather yesterday.

Despondently, she walked over to the alcove adjacent to her kitchen and stared out at the snow that had piled up in her yard, resting her forehead on the cool glass of the window. Blowing some warm air onto the pane, Hinata drew a picture of a heart and watched as it slowly vanished.

In high school, Sasuke had been handsome and popular, gifted in both academics and sports. He was often seen as arrogant and distant to most people, including his own group of close friends, Hinata remembered, but he always showed an awkward kindness towards her. Hinata herself had been shy and withdrawn and, like most girls, harbored a painful crush on Sasuke, though she never acted on her feelings as openly as some of the others did. The first time he asked her to go out with him, Hinata had flushed bright red and stammered a refusal, wondering if he might be joking. By the time she realized that he wasn't, that Sasuke wasn't cruel, he had invited another girl to the prom.

After graduation, Sasuke left their hometown and spent several years overseas pursuing a business degree, returning to Konoha periodically to visit his parents, and had even asked her out. Her self-confidence had increased over the years, yet she still refused, telling herself that long-distance relationships rarely worked. She was busy with her own studies at a renowned culinary institute and carving out a career, and Sasuke was away most of the time. It was sensible to say no.

A year ago Sasuke had returned for good to start a company with an old friend from college. He was still the same as Hinata remembered him, with an inherent ability to turn heads with his rakish good looks, wit, and effortless charm. She was fully recovered from her brief disaster of a marriage, but she had no intention of letting her heart be broken again. After her divorce, she had opened Everyday Gourmet, which allowed her to utilize her culinary talents by catering delicious meals for busy people. Through her hard work, she was able to purchase a wonderful lakeside home in a private community, make deliveries in her stylish, yet comfortable bamboo-pearl Lexus Hybrid RX, and earned a bit of notoriety when her name and business were featured in Vanity Fair and In-Style magazines when she catered a celebrity wedding. Life was happy and full.

Much to her surprise, in the year since his return, Sasuke had not asked her for a date. Though they were both busy with their careers, whenever they saw each other- Hinata had just bought a custom-order PC with his help- they talked, mainly about the computer and the website Hinata had set up for her business. Sasuke was remarkably computer savvy and insightful. Strictly business, nothing more.

She turned from the window; eyes brimming with tears. Yesterday, sitting in the café with Sasuke, she had felt so sure he was interested in her. He had looked into her eyes and touched her hand as they talked as flurries of snow drifted outside.

She shook her head. No. Sasuke Uchiha only saw her as a friend. Determinedly, she picked up the ivory white piece of fondant she had been working on earlier and draped it carefully over a small cake round, smoothed out the sides, and repeated her earlier actions for the top portion of the two-tiered masterpiece. After adorning the cake with a lace pattern and several sugared edible flowers, the cake was finally complete. It was pointless, moping around like this, wishing she could change the way things were. That window of opportunity may have been opened to her long ago, but she chose to turn away from it. Taking a deep breath, she now had to plan and prepare a romantic supper for two.

The following evening, Hinata rang the doorbell of Sasuke's condo, hoping she looked cheerful and efficient. The truth was, she was miserable. However hard she tried to distract herself with work, ever since Sasuke's call the previous day, she was filled with regret and sadness. Still, she had prepared a wonderful feast of fresh greens with deliciously tart chèvre, beef burgundy simmered to perfection in a cabernet sauvignon reduction infused with thyme and garlic, a colorful medley of sugar snap peas, carrots, squash blossoms and baby red potatoes, and her mousse was to die for. Hinata would have given anything to be the woman sitting down with Sasuke tonight to share this meal. Standing on the doorstep, she reminded herself firmly that it was too late. Sasuke had asked her to be with him many times, and she had repeatedly said no. He's moved on. It's time for me to do the same.

The door opened and Sasuke stood before her, Adonis-personified, in a deep red button-up shirt and black pants. His smile seems a bit nervous, though, Hinata thought. He must be in love.

"You look very pretty tonight, Hinata," he said, after taking her coat.

She stared at him in surprise for a moment. "T-Thank you."

The crisp white dress shirt and black slacks were the uniform she always wore when asked to serve a meal in a customer's home. The outfit was practical and unobtrusive. Her midnight blue locks had been tied back into a neat ponytail. She stepped into Sasuke's home, nodding in approval at the crystal vase of red rosebuds and baby's breath placed in the center of his dining room table.

"That looks very nice," she said. "Do you have candles?"

"Yeah- I bought some today," Sasuke readily replied, and Hinata followed him into the kitchen, ignoring the shooting pain she felt in her heart. Sasuke had not forgotten a single detail. Flowers, candles, soft music playing in the background... This woman must be very important to him, she mused sadly.

Depressed, Hinata started to work, placing the salad, beef and delicately seasoned vegetables onto their respected plates. She arranged the tableware as Sasuke lit two tall white candles. Hinata laid a bottle of red wine and two glasses on the table. Sasuke had earlier moved the dessert into the refrigerator to keep chilled.

"Everything looks perfect," Sasuke remarked, as they surveyed their handiwork. The tablecloth and napkins were white and neatly pressed, and Hinata guessed that the burnished-platinum edged plates Sasuke provided were the best he owned. Everything was bathed in the soft, intimate glow of candlelight.

"When will your friend arrive?" Hinata glanced at her watch.

"Hmm?" Sasuke looked vague. He smoothed out a non-existent wrinkle in the tablecloth.

"When will she get here?" Hinata repeated patiently. She changed her mind. She wouldn't stay to see who this woman was. "I could leave now, since everything's ready. If she's late you can reheat the entree in your microwave..."

"No." Sasuke's expression had grown anxious. "Hinata- she's already here..."

Puzzled, she frowned at him. "I didn't hear anyone at the door."

He was staring at her, uncertainty pooling into his dark eyes. "I was afraid to be straightforward about this, Hinata. You've turned me down so many times, but that day in the coffeehouse made me hope if maybe something had changed." He removed a red rosebud from the crystal vase and handed it to her. "Please say you'll have dinner with me tonight."

Amazement shone in her lavender depths and joy filled her heart. She took the rosebud and caressed a soft petal tenderly with her fingertip. "This… you did this all for me?"

Sasuke nodded his head and swallowed nervously.

"Sasuke," Hinata beamed softly, a smile on her lips. "I would love to join you for dinner tonight."

Oh, the fluff. This story was written as a one-shot, though I couldn't help but wonder if I should attempt to write this in Sasuke's point of view... Maybe. Eh. Anyways... Thank you for reading- and my sincerest apologies for those of you who submitted reviews to my other stories... I'm usually pretty good about replying, but work has really taken up so much of my time. Forgive me? XD

Again, happy belated birthday, NN!!