Not entirely sure where this came from, but that good junk...I make no promises on how good/bad it is...

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto...duh.

Why did I come back here?

Despite her adamant resolution to never return to the Hyuuga compound, Hinata found her feet slowly trudging their way up familiar paths to her old home. No, "home" was too strong a word. Her former "residence," she amended. Had five years really passed?

It still brought a grim smile to her face to remember how she had boldly severed all ties with her clan before the council at the obstinate age of fourteen. It seemed like only yesterday she had stormed out the front gates with nothing but a sack of clothing. The threat of seeing Neji's expression, whether hurt or proud, she had dared not look to find out, kept her facing forward with no last glimpse of her old life.

Things hadn't been so bad since then. Kurenai-sensei had allowed her to move in indefinitely, and the Hokage, Tsunade-sama, had insured that no unfortunate repercussions came about as a result of her dissension. Hinata had blossomed into a strong, stern jounin under the guidance of her friends and teachers, away from the critical eyes of her father.

Yet here she was, nineteen years old, arrayed in black for the funeral of the man who had spurned his own daughter. She wouldn't have bothered with the solemn occasion at all, but surprisingly, the council elders sent a private invitation requesting her presence. Kurenai-sensei had insisted that Hinata go and attempt to reconcile with her clan, but it was the thought of speaking to Neji that made up her mind.

After her "betrayal" of the clan, main house and branch members alike had been forbidden to speak to or acknowledge Hinata. Her training had rid her of most of the weaknesses she used to carry, so Hinata managed to ignore their ignoring her tolerably well. Still, Hinata wanted to talk with Nii-san again. She missed her big brother.

"Well," she sighed as she stood before the great gates, flung open to admit mourners from all over Konoha. "Here goes nothing."

Upon entering the estate, Hinata immediately noticed her "adoptive brothers" sitting near the back of the chairs set up before a large coffin. Kiba, oblivious to the glares certain Hyuuga were giving him, stood up and waved wildly as soon as he saw Hinata. Shino just sat there, staring ahead, not bothering to stop his wild friend from embarrassing himself in the midst of a funeral gathering.

Wrapping his favorite kunoichi in a huge hug when she reached them, Kiba asked in hushed tones, "Hinata, are you okay?" Hinata would have told him she was just fine had he not continued straightaway, "'Cause if you want to ditch this stuffy crap right now, just say the word."

Giggling a bit at her friend's somber reverence, the slightly squished girl replied, "I'm fine, Kiba-kun." Dog boy finally released her and she took the seat between her two old teammates. Shino turned his head and offered her a nod, so she added, "Thank you for coming, too, Shino-kun."

The yard was packed with people in black milling about everywhere. Hinata searched the crowds, hoping for a glimpse of Neji. Her cousin was nowhere to be found, but her crestfallen face granted her a watcher of her own from the other side of the assembly.

Why did I come here? Uchiha Sasuke was never one for social functions, even dark, brooding ones where people didn't do much talking. So why, then, was he sitting down, waiting for a Hyuuga funeral to begin? It could have had something to do with the personal invite he received from the Hyuuga clan elders. After coming back to Konoha a year or so ago, he had been ostracized for his traitor status. Being invited to an event for one of the village's most strong and noble clans was not something to sneer at with it being one of the first signs of acceptance he'd found since returning home.

It looked like this was going to be an interesting time for him, anyway. Who should be sitting on the far edge of the aisle but the former Hyuuga heiress herself, Hyuuga Hinata? She looked so sad as he stared, but could she really be upset over Hyuuga Hiashi's death? From what that loudmouth Naruto had told him, Sasuke thought that the shy little girl had finally had enough of his disastrous parenting skills and left the clan altogether. Either way, it couldn't hurt to go sit closer to her, Inuzuka, and Aburame. Somehow, Sasuke didn't think he'd feel very comfortable sitting in a sea of quiet grieving once the ceremony started, and the Inuzuka was like Naruto- nothing ever stayed quiet around him.

Stealthily walking over to the threesome, Sasuke couldn't help but recall the few missions he'd been on with Hinata since returning home. She'd certainly matured from the shy, little wimp she used to be. True, she still clung to some of her old fashions, but she'd left behind her stuttering, her incessant blushing, and even her crush on Naruto. In their place, she'd acquired a sense of self-confidence that quietly promised pain to anyone who tried to hurt her.

Sasuke soundlessly slipped into the seat directly behind the former Hyuuga heiress, and she acknowledged his presence with a quick glance before returning to her conversation with Kiba and Shino. Content with his new vantage point, Sasuke could now be "Sasuke" and stare straight ahead for the whole ceremony, incidentally, directly at Hinata. He wondered if having his eyes on her for an hour or so would bring out any of her past discomfort at being an object of attention. The mental image of a stuttering, blushing Hyuuga squirming in her seat at her father's funeral actually brought a small smirk to his face. Yes, this was going to be very interesting.

Neji almost bolted to the gate when he first saw Hinata-sama walk in, but he knew he would have to wait until after the ceremony to speak with her again. He, a branch member, had been given one of the highest places of honor in the front row, and to get up from that spot before all the rituals were done would be like begging for severe punishment. Still, when he saw the Uchiha relocate to the chair behind his cousin, Neji almost forgot about the punishment thing. Sure, the hokage had cleared Sasuke of the treason charges, but that guy had no business being anywhere near his little sister.

Sitting next to the fuming Hyuuga prodigy, Tsunade chuckled, wondering how Neji's glare hadn't burned a hole in the coffin before them, yet. He was adamantly avoiding looking back at Hinata now that Sasuke was there, but he was practically trembling from the effort.

"Hyuuga-san, would you please relax? It's not as bad as you're making it, yet," she sighed. Gee, where was a cup of sake when you needed it?

The young man's pupil-less eyes gave her a look of incredulity. "Yet?"

For a genius, the kid was pretty slow. "I've been setting those two up on missions together since Uchiha got back, but they're both too reticent to take advantage of it. Stupid brats…"

After regaining the wind that statement had knocked out of him, Neji had to say, "Hokage-sama, you can't be serious. That traitor isn't anywhere near good enough for Hinata-sama."

Why couldn't they serve sake until after the funeral? Why hadn't the blasted thing started already? "Shut up, Hyuuga." No sake was making Tsunade very irritable. "I happen to think they'd be very good for each other. Besides, it would be an amazing medical opportunity to study a Byakugan-Sharingan hybrid." The hokage's eyes shone at the thought of such a pair of eyes.

By this time, Neji was sweating up a storm, and it wasn't just because of the sun. "I apologize, Hokage-sama, but I cannot allow Uchiha to pursue my cousin."

Tsunade wasn't fazed at all. "Interfere with my plans, and you'll die a long, painful death." Well, she may have been the hokage, but she meant every word of that. "Besides, five rounds of sake says they won't do anymore than say hello today."

Neji began fervently praying that the hokage would win that bet. Even as a Hyuuga main house member stepped to the front to begin the funeral, he prayed as he had never prayed before that the hokage would win her five rounds of sake.

"Well, that was the most boring party I've ever been to in my entire life," Kiba yawned loudly as they finally stood up. After spending the better part of four hours glued to a chair listening to some geezer prattle on about the virtues of Hyuuga Hiashi, he was once again oblivious to the disapproving glares numerous Hyuuga were sending him. Their unhappiness only heightened when Kiba's yawn was followed by a very loud growl from his completely empty stomach.

Hinata chuckled a little at her friend's lack of propriety in this particular setting. "Come on, Kiba-kun. Let's get you something to eat."

The three friends were in the main aisle and headed for the gate when a dark shadow blocked their path. With the sun coming at the angle it was, none of them could tell who was standing there.

"Who are you?" Kiba blurted out. Shino rolled his eyes at his friend's typical, blunt behavior.

The dark figure answered in a deep voice, "I'm Melvin – the slightly odd wise person who appears every now and then to tell you stuff."

Hinata's eyebrows rose in disbelief. She couldn't believe she was hearing this, from him. No one could see Shino's expression hidden behind his glasses and coat.

Kiba, on the other hand, made his reaction loud and clear. "Really?" he asked in youthful anticipation.

"No, you idiot," the mystery man replied.

"Neji-nii-san!" Hinata yelled in greeting as she rushed to hug her cousin.

Kiba gaped in disappointment, but he quickly realized he should be angry. However, Shino put a hand on his shoulder to remind him that Hinata hadn't talked with Neji in forever. Then, Kiba's stomach growled again.

Hinata didn't want to leave Neji so soon, but she knew Kiba's stomach waited for no tearful reunion. "Neji-nii-san, would you like to join us for lunch?"

Just as the stern Hyuuga was about to reply, another dark shadow loomed over the group.

From the darkness issued forth another deep voice. "Just in case the mutt's about to ask: No, I'm not the Easter bunny."

"I wasn't going to ask that, you jerk!" an outraged Kiba shouted.

Neji immediately tensed up. Here was the moment of truth. "Uchiha," he kind of greeted.

Stepping into the light, Sasuke acknowledged him as well. "Hyuuga."

The tension in the air was practically tangible. Poor, hungry Kiba would have carved out a slice if he had a good dinner knife on him. His stomach growled again.

Knowing that he must end this conversation soon and protect his cousin, Neji broke the silence. "Hinata-sama, we should get going before Inuzuka-san starts eating the chairs."

The ex-Hyuuga heiress laughed a little and allowed Neji to pull her in the direction of the exit.

Almost out, Neji thought.

Wait, Hinata had almost forgotten her manners. With a turn of the head, she called back, "Good-bye, Uchiha-san."

Sasuke spared her a small glance. "Hyuuga-san." She didn't need to know that he had done nothing but stare at her all throughout the stupid funeral. She didn't need to know that he always remembered his missions with her fondly because they didn't involve a teammate rummaging through his pack to answer the question most of Konoha's female population asked. (That would be: Does the great Uchiha wear boxers or briefs?) Hyuuga Hinata didn't need to know any of that; at least, not when it would save Hyuuga Neji from buying the hokage five rounds of sake.

Never underestimate the hearing of an Uchiha.

Well, it was meant to be a lot more serious when it started, but...yep...I blame Neji...Review please! (And if you happen to like Vampire Knight, check out my other fic "Hidden in the Storm"...which I should probably be working on now instead of idiot little oneshots...)