Disclaimer:If I owned Naruto, you'd see a lot more of Hinata in it.
Rating: G [ K – For sad implications, but nothing graphic; you can even read this fic with your mom looking over your shoulder, if you want. In fact, when you start reading something naughty, keep this open in another box and pull it up whenever she enters the room. That'll fool her.
Spoilers:Dun, dun, dunnn...Sasuke-kun is tempted by evil and goes over to the Dark Side (oh yeah, I don't own Star Wars, either).
Summary: Part of the "Lifelong Love" series. The fireworks would have been absolutely perfect for his birthday, Hinata decided, withdrawing her cold hands into the sleeves of her heavy kimono. Summer was the perfect time for fireworks. Mild SasuHina.
Hinata was born in December, right? Right.
"Happy Birthday, Hinata-sama."
As the Hyuuga heiress peeled apart her parched lips to reply, a cloud of breath became visible on the air. "Th-Thank you, uncle. Good morning." She smiled and bowed as she trotted past her elder.
The old man – one of the nicer members of her immediate family – grunted a "good morning" in return and turned the page of his newspaper. With his obligated greetings out of the way, he was free to enjoy his chosen activity.
Hinata wasn't as offended as she probably should have been; her uncle meant well, she was sure. Besides, the fact that he was willing to take time out of his undoubtedly busy schedule to entertain her at her party later that evening made her feel very honored. Yes, very honored, indeed.
Hinata clutched her jacket to her body to ward off the December cold. The inner chambers of the Hyuuga compound were always cold, even in the summer, but the last month of the calendar year was always the chilliest. Hinata was never sure why, since January and February were supposedly equally cold, if not colder, but it was impossible to get warm inside her father's house when the month of her birth rolled around.
Bypassing the dining room entirely, Hinata knocked on a door at the end of the hall instead. "Yes?" a voice answered from within.
"M-May I come in...?" Hinata queried, bowing her head to look at her feet sheepishly.
The shoji door slid open along its track and a pair of slippered feet appeared alongside Hinata's own. "Of course you may, Hinata-sama. This is your home."
Rolling her eyes upwards to gaze upon the face of the speaker, Hinata felt her cheeks warm slightly. "Th-Thank you, Natsu-san." ( 1 )
Natsu-san stepped out of the doorway and, delicately holding onto the doorframe with both hands, bowed to the future Head of the family. The curse mark that enslaved her and the rest of the Branch Family was only partially shielded by her wispy bangs.
Hinata replied with a bow of her own and quickly scurried into the kitchen, the only place warmth could be found within the Hyuuga household. The difference in temperatures was immediate once inside the room; the rest of the house maintained a frigid sixty-degrees Fahrenheit, but the kitchen was easily eighty-degrees – or higher – at all times.
With an average of ten servants inside at any given time, baking and stewing and concocting delicious recipes for the benefit of their slave holders, the conditions should have been unbearable. However, as most of the servants would tell you, "I'd rather bake to death with my loved ones than freeze to death with the Head Family." Besides, there was a back door for taking out the garbage that stayed open and provided ventilation during the summer and, in the winter, the extraordinary heat was not only appreciated but envied by the rest of the house. Hinata visited the cozy place in every season, no matter how hot it got inside and out, finding it far more comfortable than spending her time in silent regret while her father reprimanded her for not being able to defeat her younger sister – again.
Once the door was safely closed behind them, Natsu-san rolled her kimono sleeves up and all facade of propriety was abandoned. From inside her obi, she withdrew a fan covered in a pattern of lilies and fireflies and began to wave cooler air upon her person. "You really don't have to knock every time, Hinata-chan. You're always invited to spend time with us."
Hinata wasn't sure if the warmth in her face was due to the heat of the room or her personal embarrassment, but she kind of figured it was the latter. "I'm s-sorry, Natsu-san..."
With a flick of the wrist, Natsu-san folded her fan closed and rapped Hinata on the top of the head with it. "And stop apologizing. You haven't done anything wrong, for pity's sake!"
"Sor – " Hinata stopped herself at the last second and folded her hands over her mouth lest she let the forbidden word escape.
Natsu-san and many other members of the kitchen staff laughed aloud at Hinata's expense. "Hinata-chan, I can't wait for you to become Head of the family. We'll all smile a lot more often when that day comes."
Finally, unable to resist, Hinata lowered her hands and began to laugh with the rest of them. Emboldened by the idea that at least one person believed in her, she replied with a verbal thanks, "Thank you, Natsu-san. That's very n-nice of you to say."
"And I mean it, too," Natsu-san said with a wink.
"Hear, hear!" cried a woman several years older and many pounds heavier than Natsu-san from the stove nearest to them. "We all believe in you, Hinata-chan!"
Many others – young and old – replied loudly with the same sentiments, causing tears to well forth from the corner of Hinata's eyes. "Th-Thank you, everyone."
"And speaking of joyous occasions," interrupted Natsu-san, waving her folded fan at everyone to get quiet. "We've got a little birthday surprise for you. We all pitched in to get you something that we hope you'll actually like this year."
Hinata giggled a little at Natsu-san's obvious resentment for the gifts her family usually got her. "Who gives a three-year-old a scroll of ninjutsu?" she was fond of complaining. "Not a single toy on the pile, not one!" While that hadn't quite been true, as proven by the balding teddy bear sitting on her bed at that very moment, Hinata was pleased by the indignation on her behalf.
"Y-You didn't have to do that!" Hinata immediately began to object, waving her hands around wildly. "R-Really! I couldn't possibly – "
After withdrawing a large, rectangular box from inside one of the larger cabinets, Natsu-san thrust it into Hinata's hands, forcing them to stop their protesting. "It's too late, Hinata-chan. No returns, no refunds, no store credit; if you don't accept our gift, we're going to have to throw it away."
Hinata hugged the neat, store-wrapped package to her chest and reveled in the very real affection that had purchased it. She had always been grateful on her birthdays, but rarely was it because someone bought her a gift out of love.
"Well, open it!" Natsu-san insisted, guiding Hinata to a stool at the counter. All the kitchen workers – chefs, sous chefs and dishwashers alike – gathered around with anticipating smiles on their faces.
"Open it! Open it!" they chanted in a mismatched rhythm.
Without further bidding, Hinata began searching for a proper place to begin carefully, oh-so-carefully, unwrapping her gift. She didn't want to tear the paper, after all.
One of the youngest members of the kitchen – a dishwasher who had to be even younger than herself – shouted, "Rip it open! C'mon, we don't have all day!"
As most of the kitchen staff seemed to share the boy's sentiments, – "Rip it! Rip it open!" – Hinata did as bidden. Slipping her fingers beneath the crease on the back, she took a deep breath and pulled – hard.
After the first tear, the rest was easy. Hinata pulled the paper off the box with reckless abandon, ribbons of paper flying around her before drifting to the floor in multiple messy piles. Once successfully unwrapped, Hinata pried the top off the box and looked inside with the fevered excitement inspired by her joyous wrapping paper slaughter.
"Oh...it's b-beautiful!" Hinata exclaimed, reverently folding back the tissue paper inside.
"It might be a little big," Natsu-san explained, leaning over Hinata's shoulder as she lifted the beautiful piece of clothing up to get a better look at it. "But you'll hit another growth spurt soon and...fill it out nicely, I'm sure."
It was a jacket, much in the same style as the one she wore nearly every day, but for a much larger, much more...developed body. The front – complete with the deep pockets she favored – was a deep indigo blue that was a shade or two darker than her natural hair color. The sleeves and hood were of a soft lavender hue that (she assumed) would bring out the minimal tint in her eyes. In the bottom of the box was a folded pair of pants that perfectly matched the darker portion of the jacket and became the last piece of a complete outfit.
"Do you like it?" the dish boy asked, tugging on the jacket sleeve that Hinata was currently wearing.
Overcome with gratitude and affection for her benefactors, Hinata could only nod in reply.
"You know, it's kind of weird that Hinata-chan's little admirer didn't leave a gift for her this year. He usually drops it off by now," the older lady known as Akiko-san ( 2 ) suddenly said.
This statement caught Hinata's attention and finally drew her eyes away from the magnificent gift that was still held before her. As she slowly lowered the garment back into the box from whence it came, she listened to the kitchen workers chattering about the mysterious gifts she received every year with no name tag. Before now, she had assumed that they had all been acting coy by denying involvement in the gift-giving of years previous.
Natsu-san whipped her fan open again and, as she cooled herself with it, replied, "You know, you're right...I wonder where he's got to?"
"I was at the market the other day," another person, a man this time, said. As he leaned forward the rest of the staff leaned with him to better hear the conspiratorial whisper that followed. "And I saw his face on a poster. He's a missing nin now."
A few of the gathered group gasped aloud. "That was him?" a few replied, obviously shocked.
The man nodded sagely, his loose, wrinkled skin wobbling as he did so. "Yep, that was him. He's a traitor, that one. Left the village to join the ranks of one of the most dangerous shinobi who ever lived, says my friend who works for that new lady Hokage."
"I'd never have believed it!"
"And I thought he was such a nice boy, too..."
"Well," Natsu-san said, still cooling herself with her fan. "The kid always was a little gloomy, if you ask me. I was starting to become wary of giving Hinata-chan his gifts since he always looked like he was skulking about."
Initially, Hinata felt nothing about this information. It processed through her system slowly, seeming more impossible every second, yet somehow oddly...plausible. If he was the one...
"Well, enough about that," Natsu-san declared, ending the conversation about the supposedly evil little boy who made a point of showering Hinata with gifts every year. "Let's bring out the cake!"
There was a murmur of agreement and one member of the party, Akiko-san, broke away from the group to go retrieve the pastry. She returned a couple minutes later with a cake beautifully decorated in purple and blue flowers that was ablaze with thirteen candles.
Hinata paid little attention as they sang, focused as she was on the sour feeling in her stomach. She hadn't felt so ill since she'd first learned of his departure from the village and, now aware that he was the giver of all the personal gifts – hair clips, a cute little butterfly cage, a set of kunai with a note that said "for your protection" – she had received over the past ten years, she felt even worse than before.
"Blow out the candles, Hinata-chan!"
With her eyes closed tight, Hinata took a deep breath and made a wish.
That night, as Hinata watched the elaborate display of fireworks her father had purchased to celebrate the "continuity of the clan," she thought of the boy who had failed to send her a gift for the first time in ten years. He really was a "missing nin," it suddenly occurred to her.
The fireworks would have been absolutely perfect for his birthday, Hinata decided, withdrawing her cold hands into the sleeves of her heavy kimono. Summer was the perfect time for fireworks.
There was an expression of fondness on her face as the tears began to drip from her eyes. They fell from the end of her chin and adhered to the front of her powder-blue kimono, leaving behind dark spots that seemed to relay memories of their own.
— — —
( 1 ) "Natsu" means "summer," btw.
( 2 ) "Akiko" means "autumn." I guess I'm going for a seasonal thing amongst the help, huh?
Authors Notes: OneShotOneShotOneShotOneShot! In case you weren't sure, that means that I won't be writing anymore chapters to this story. It's part of a series, though, so go read some of those (you'll find them in my profile).
I wrote this as a (belated) birthday present for myself, so I don't really care if no one else likes it. And Happy (Early) Birthday to Hinata, too; our kinship as "December babies" is probably the only thing we have in common, so I'm totally clinging to that.
I know, not as much SasuHina in this one as some of my others, but I kind of wanted to focus on Hinata for once instead of Sasuke. And, I know, I keep mentioning that f!#ing teddy bear, but it'll make sense next story. Promise.
The final chapter of SnJ will be posted sometime next week once my exams are over. I also hope to write a story explaining the bear sometime around then, as well.
. ( . Ms Videl Son . ) .
–Love can be black and white. SasuHina.