Underneath his skin, laid something he couldn't exactly identify, which was highly unusual considering his abilities. But then again, perhaps he should not be surprised.
After all, even with those white eyes of his, Hyuuga Neji couldn't see feelings.
It irked him and freaked him out. With his childhood, he had never had a reason to doubt – in his eyes everything that happened had a reason, and it was clearer than crystal to him what he thought. Then, there had been a brief period of doubt, when he suffered his first defeat ever to someone who was not his relative. Soon, however, he was back on his feet, realizing that he could be wrong about people after all. But that didn't change that most of his opinions were set in stone until someone provided him with material strong enough to break it.
As for everything else, there was an exception. Hinata, he had decided, was a person he had been wrong about, and that was something he realized on his own.
One day, he had started watching her. Subtly, so that she would not know, he had trailed after her, yearning to understand her reasons and correct his own mistakes.
It was raining heavily that evening, and dark menacing clouds were hanging on the sky. Neji had expected thunder to strike any minute, and so had Hinata. Yet she had not stayed at home under the safety of the solid buildings, but frowned as if she was extremely worried about something, and then promptly left. She hadn't even excused herself to her father, surprisingly enough.
That was when Neji really saw her for the first time. Curiosity awakened, he made an excuse about having a head ache and quickly slipped away into the grey afternoon.
He did not bother bringing an umbrella with him; it would only be swept away by the wind anyway. And it was not exactly the definition of being stealthy, trying sneak around with an umbrella.
Carefully, as to not alert his cousin of his presence, he hid in the shadows, watching her with his byakugan activated, memorizing the path she took.
A couple of minutes later, she stopped moving, and Neji copied her, knowing she'd be more on her guard now. So Neji watched as she started to stare at something from afar.
At first, all he could see was an old, run down playground. But when he watched Hinata again, and her gaze intensified tenfold, he knew where to look.
To his surprise, he recognized the object of her attention, and mentally scolded himself for not realizing who it was earlier.
The boy's hair looked oddly dull in the rain, but his sky blue eyes seemed to match the weather today too. They were like a storm of blue and dark grey.
He sat on one of the rusty swings, strangely still for being a loudmouth brat.
Naruto, was it…? It should have been obvious; his cousin had been stuttering and blushing around the boy as long as he could remember. Not that he had paid it any mind before, but he could at least have tried to remember that little piece of information.
But when he looked at Hinata now, he saw no blush on her cheeks, no quiet giggling, and no clumsy twiddling with her fingers. Instead, she had an expression of sadness and still admiration on her face.
Suddenly she yelped and stumbled out of her hiding place, and Naruto flinched.
Neji didn't make a sound even if he would have liked to laugh at Hinata for being so inattentive that she had been scared when a bird landed on her shoulder. He couldn't.
For a moment, Naruto looked more vulnerable than Neji had ever seen him before – not that he had seen him much at all before, mind you. Then, a few seconds later, he had pulled a big, goofy grin onto his face, and directed it towards Hinata, who started stumbling over her own feet and blushed again.
"Hey, didn't see you there, Hinata-chan!" said he brightly.
Neji was sure there was an edge in his voice of something entirely different from happiness.
"Ah…" stuttered his cousin. "N-Naruto-kun, what are you doing out here in this weather."
The boy looked puzzled. "Why, I forgot the keys to my apartment somewhere, and I can't very well climb the walls and to get in through the window when they are this slippery… I could ask you the same, by the way."
Something told Neji that Naruto had very much liked to say: "I'm brooding, what else?"
"I… Oh. Sorry about t-that…"
Neji could have sworn she was about to offer him to stay under the Hyuuga family's roof, when the blond boy rose from his swing and told her to go home before she caught a cold.
His cousin was disappointed, he could tell. She flinched as if she had been burned and bowed her head so that the blond boy would not see the hurt in her eyes.
"Hai, Naruto-kun", she murmured softly. "Sorry for disturbing you."
"That's okay", said the boy. "I just think it would be a shame for a cutie like you to get a cold!"
Hinata smiled a bit. "But, won't Naruto-kun get cold?"
"Nah, I'm fine. I don't get colds, so there's no need to worry. Now, get home before you get sick!"
"Hai. Thank you."
When she finally disappeared around the corner, Neji crept forward to take a closer look at Naruto's face.
And at that very playground, he got the biggest shock in his entire life, even though he should be far more shocked by other things.
Naruto was crying.
Something stirred in Neji's chest.
He stood there a bit longer, unnoticed, and then he turned and left.
That was the day the foreign feeling had started to crawl underneath the surface of Neji's skin.
Today was different. A few months had passed by since that rainy evening, and Neji had gotten used to watching Naruto from the shadows.
One time, he had noticed a villager following the boy, looking none too friendly. Naruto's shoulders had tensed, and Neji understood that he was aware of what was happening. But he had done nothing except pretended to be as cheerful as usual and whistled a merry tune.
It had not taken long before the villager pulled a knife out of his sleeve. On his roof top, Neji had bristled and pulled out a kunai.
While the man never had gotten seriously hurt, he did have nightmares for weeks to come.
Another time Neji had watched as Naruto tried to court a certain pink haired girl. With no Sasuke around to watch her, she didn't think about not going too far. The words her mouth had said, were downright cruel, and would be even to someone who was not as plagued by loneliness as Naruto.
Again, when he thought no one saw him, the boy had melted into a puddle of misery.
It was usually like that Neji found him.
Today was different. It would be different.
Naruto looked up from his hidden spot. Instead of getting the glimmering sunshine in his eyes, he saw something human-shaped.
He didn't like it when people found him like this. He was not supposed to be a gloomy person; that made his precious people worry and his not-so-precious people look down at him with malicious glee in their eyes.
A helping hand was offered, and Naruto took it, not knowing what to think about it.
Standing up from his previously curled position, Naruto now saw the person's face.
He smiled softly.
Neji said nothing, but instead bent down to press a light kiss against Naruto's cheek.
Naruto sighed, content as the older boy's arms sneaked around his waist.
There was no pity in Neji's eyes, and no contempt.
…Just pure acceptance.
Perhaps, life was not so bad after all.
A/N: Another one-shot, although a little bit happier than the last one, and a bit rushed. I intended it to be a bit longer, but I'm pretty satisfied with this too. :D
Tell me what you think?