Relevant notes: Does not fit into canon timeline or work with established December weather patterns.
A/N: Christmas fic turned birthday fic (because I don't think the Naruto characters celebrate Christmas) that caused me a lot of frustration and took up a lot of time that I should have spent with Dazzle (which is not coming along at all).
Edited (24th December 2007): Fixed part v.'s warped time frame.
Something Like Complete, Utter Shock
There are sunflowers lying at her feet.
As a kunoichi, Hinata has had three key lessons drilled into her regarding unexpected deliveries, which may be summarised into five words: 'danger,' 'trap' and 'run or destroy.'
As a normal human being, she thinks said lessons sound like the paranoid ideas of the delusional, but she is trekking a very dangerous career path.
Carefully, she pulls the gates to the Hyuuga compound close and turns to inspect the flowers more closely. She remains at a fair distance away, feet poised to dash away if need be, and activates her Byakugan to search for something to explain the flowers' presence. All she sees is a slip of paper tucked beneath them. Hinata eyes it warily and makes a quick decision, because she knows if Neji comes out before she whisks them away, the poor things will be nothing but a pathetic hill of ash. She tentatively leans forward and plucks the paper from its resting spot.
There is very little on the sheet, except for her name printed neatly across the top, and a single word in the centre: Seven.
Hinata's nose wrinkles.
She hears quick and purposeful footsteps behind her, headed for the gate, and she scoops the sunflowers up. She thinks they should be safe, considering they haven't yet exploded, or released a dangerous toxin, or fired weapons at her, or...
She decides she is going mad.
As Hinata scurries away with the flowers, she remembers the note. She counts them.
There are seven.
The next morning, she is at a training session with Tenten, Ino and Sakura when an irate-looking Neji storms up, waving a box in her face.
'What is this?' he asks, just as Ino manages to disarm Tenten. Both girls stop their battle at the outburst and join Sakura beside Hinata, breathing heavily.
Hinata considers telling him it is, in fact, a box, but she doesn't think he looks like he would appreciate her light-heartedness.
'No,' she replies, taking the safe option.
'I found it when I left this morning,' Neji answers. 'It appears to be a gift. For you.'
Hinata doesn't understand why Neji is so furious- is he jealous that it isn't for him?- but she is curious as to what the box contains. She wonders how she can take it from her volatile cousin without triggering an explosion.
Tenten comes to her rescue by gently tugging the box from Neji's hands and passing it to Hinata.
'Come spar with me,' she orders and Hinata's eyes widen at Tenten's fearlessness. To her surprise, Neji complies with only an inaudible mutter and the pair stroll away before beginning their match. Ino and Sakura exchange looks and giggle.
'Who would have thought Neji could be so obedient?' Sakura whispers laughingly, managing to make Neji sound like a well-trained puppy.
Sakura and Ino turn to Hinata.
'Open it, open it!' Ino says in a sing-song voice.
Hinata does as she is told and she finds six small cinnamon rolls, all with a generous covering of icing. She tries to contain her squeal of joy at the sight of her favourite snack.
'Ew,' Ino comments. 'I hate that stuff.'
Sakura smiles brightly, glancing from the box to Hinata's face.
'Hinata has a secret admirer!' she declares loudly and Neji and Tenten both misdirect their kunai on catching the announcement.
Later, after Neji returns to Hinata the note that accompanied the present, she spends fifteen minutes frowning over the only words that adorn it: her name and the word six.
Ino wastes no time in spreading the news that Hinata has a secret admirer. By the next day, Naruto is making loud jokes at her expense whenever he happens to meet her, Lee is sighing dramatically at her new 'taken' status and Kiba slips into a nightmarish father role. He and Akamaru trail her like bodyguards, passing a strict inspection on any male- and female- who approach her.
'Someone's leaving me gifts to find,' Hinata points out, tired of her new shadows. 'They aren't coming up to me and giving them personally.'
'It's only a matter of time now,' Kiba says wisely, and Akamaru gives a bark of agreement.
It becomes even more embarrassing when Kurenai asks to see her in private after their afternoon training session and proceeds to give her advice on relationships. Kurenai quickly passes dating and launches into a lecture on the more physical side of relationships, before Hinata's strawberry red face convinces her to stop.
Hinata is grateful for the quiet indifference of her other acquaintances, which serves to cool the fervour of the others. Shikamaru, on being told by Ino, gives Hinata a bored look and walks away with an equally uninterested Chouji. Tenten simply smiles whenever she sees Hinata, helping the younger girl by keeping Neji busy with training. Naruto's obscenely loud remarks are halted by a punch from Sakura and a muttered insult from Sasuke, whose response to Ino's news comes in the form of a smirk and a roll of the eyes.
Hinata is most grateful for Shino's intervention in the Kiba issue. A quick talk later and Kiba apologises and promises to stop following her.
It is when he does stop that the third gift arrives, passed to her by a little girl as she heads home that evening. Hinata's enquiries produces few answers, as the girl seems to have been bribed into silence by big swirly lollipops. Resigned, Hinata watches her go before opening the box.
Nestled inside are five delicate glass animals. Hinata sees what looks like an ox, a sheep, a snake, a horse and a dog. While the selection of animals is a bit odd, she thinks they are very pretty, shimmering in the last rays of sunlight.
As she expects, there is a slip of paper alongside the figurines with her name and the number five.
She hurries home with her head full of thoughts.
'Okay,' Ino says, very firmly. She adjusts the folded blanket tucked under her arm before continuing. 'We need to go through everyone we know and eliminate suspects.'
Hinata giggles softly at Ino's word choice.
'Chouji and Shikamaru are too lazy to go to the effort of leaving gifts for someone. Chouji would just invite you out for lunch and Shikamaru would... suggest you watch clouds with him. Or something.'
'Sounds romantic,' Sakura says, mock-seriously.
'You can eliminate my team,' Tenten puts in, quite unhelpfully. 'I think you know why.'
'Naruto is in no way the type to anonymously leave gifts. He would take you out for ramen. And Sasuke...' Sakura pauses.
'Is mine,' Ino supplies.
'You wish,' Sakura fires back and the conversation dissolves into a brief argument. When they finish, having seemingly dismissed Sasuke as a candidate, Sakura turns to Hinata.
'What about your team?' she asks.
'No, I don't think so.' Her team acts like a tight-knit family more than anything and she can't imagine them leaving presents for her all over the place.
'Then, who else is there?' Ino asks, looking puzzled.
'You're being too close-minded,' Tenten says in her usual practical manner. 'You're assuming three things: That it's a boy, that he's someone we know and that he's around our age.'
Her words sink in and the other three girls gasp.
'Tenten!' Ino exclaims. 'You can't possibly think that an adult is leaving these gifts for Hinata! Ew! Imagine if it was one of our teachers! Or maybe one of the Sannin...'
She doesn't elaborate on which one, but Sakura gives a horrified screech and chases Ino towards their picnic destination. Hinata and Tenten laugh as they watch the pair pound into the forest clearing and slide to a stop, staring at something. Sakura kneels down and pokes at the ground.
'Hinata!' Ino shouts excitedly. 'It's another gift!'
Hinata and Tenten hurry to them and crowd around the box on the floor, which is covered in large holes. Sakura glances at Hinata.
'It moved,' she says in a hushed voice.
Hinata activates her Byakugan with some trepidation and breaks into a wide smile when she sees what's inside.
'What is it?' Tenten asks curiously, noticing her expression.
Hinata picks up the box and takes off the lid, tilting her head back slightly as four butterflies burst out and flutter into the sky. They cluster together for a moment, a bright splash of oranges and reds against the blue sky, before disappearing in different directions.
'Wow,' Sakura says, breaking the silence. "I want your secret admirer.'
Hinata smiles in secret delight at the latest offering as the girls spread out their things and sit down.
'I don't understand why each note has a different number,' Ino says, peering at the now familiar paper slip. 'It's like a countdown to something.'
'I think it's counting down to my birthday,' Hinata informs her. The third gift had prompted the theory and it is the most logical one she can find.
'Why didn't you tell us?' Ino asks and she brushes aside Hinata's murmured response of not wanting to make a fuss, happily making plans for Hinata's birthday.
The admirer is momentarily forgotten.
Team Eight leaves for a day long mission, much to the other girls' disappointment. As they see her off, they speculate on whether Hinata's secret admirer will be able to get a gift to her before the end of the day, to which Hinata offers a negative response.
'Don't be so pessimistic, Hinata!' Sakura admonishes. 'This guy must be pretty smart to stay anonymous after all this time, so if he's determined, he'll get it to you.'
Kurenai keeps up a steady flow of conversation as they travel, right up until she suggests they take a break. Kiba and Akamaru, who seem to have an endless supply of energy, bound happily around as the others perch themselves on tree logs. Hinata opens her bag with the intention of finding her water bottle and instead spies a small box on top of her belongings.
'What's wrong?' Kurenai asks, seeing Hinata's wide-eyed stare. She glances at the box and smiles. 'Another present?'
Hinata looks up to see Shino eyeing the gift thoughtfully. When he notices her questioning gaze on him, Shino coughs lightly and leaves to join Kiba and Akamaru.
Hinata finds three tiny pins inside the box, each topped with different varieties of butterflies. She looks at them, wondering how in the world her admirer left her the present without her knowing. Kurenai seems to read her thoughts.
'Did you leave your bag unattended at any point today, Hinata?'
Thinking back, Hinata recalls seeing the little girl who'd passed her a gift earlier tripping over a rock. She'd dropped her bag to help the girl, because it had hindered her movements. It must have been during that moment that the gift was slipped into her bag.
Kurenai smiles again, this time a little mischievously.
'Your admirer is very dedicated, it seems.'
Hinata blushes and studies the pins again.
She meets up with her team in the late afternoon after their return home and Kiba proposes they have lunch together. She and Shino acquiesce and they walk in companionable silence in search of a new restaurant to try out.
They bump into Sakura, Naruto and Sasuke and Hinata quietly fills Sakura in on the previous day's events.
'I told you so!' Sakura tells her gleefully. 'Have you got anything today?'
Hinata shakes her head and at that precise moment, Ino sprints up to the group, waving two small bouquets of delicate flowers.
'Hinata!' she calls out. 'This is for you!'
Sakura demands an explanation.
'I'm getting to that!' Ino snaps, handing Hinata the flowers and glaring at her pink-haired friend. 'I was working at the shop today and I had to go into the back room for something. When I came out, there was a note ordering these bouquets for you and the money for them on the counter.'
'You didn't see anyone at all?' Sakura asks in disbelief.
'Yes, I looked into the future and knew the admirer would leave an order today, so I activated my Byakugan to spy at him through the walls,' Ino retorts heatedly. 'Of course I didn't!'
Kiba looks impatient at the long wait for his lunch, so Hinata bids her friends goodbye.
'Do you like them, Hinata?' Ino asks before they leave the group. 'Your admirer has good taste.'
'I love them,' she replies cheerfully.
She briefly wonders at the absence of a note, but puts it aside once her team find a restaurant. Shino eats his meal, more quiet than usual, and Kiba chatters non-stop, pausing now and then to let Hinata get in a word.
Shortly after the team part ways, Hinata meets the same little girl who'd helped pass to her two of her gifts so far. With a twinkle in her eyes, the girl delivers a note to Hinata and wishes her 'good luck' before skipping off.
The note is much lengthier than the previous ones, but still quite short and simple. It says that if she is willing to accept a final gift, she is to be at the same clearing she'd found the fifth present in at midday the next day. It tells her she doesn't have to go alone, but to use her discretion in choosing someone to accompany her.
Hinata agonises over this opportunity of meeting with her admirer for the rest of the day.
Tenten is unsurprisingly calm when Hinata tells her of the note's contents, but Hinata is somewhat confused at how Tenten doesn't seem to have any concern over the planned meeting. The older girl agrees to join Hinata with absolutely no fuss and doesn't object to Hinata's hesitant decision that she actually meet her admirer alone.
'I'll stand by in case something goes wrong,' Tenten assures her, but Hinata thinks she sees a slight smile on Tenten's face that suggests she has no belief that it will.
Hinata feels guilty for not letting Ino and Sakura in on her secret meeting, especially when they excitedly discuss what the final gift might be, but she believes that the note is referring to the pair with its mention of 'using her discretion.' The note soothes her fears that her admirer is a complete stranger, because she doubts a stranger would know of Ino and Sakura's fervent interest in her secret admirer.
Tenten accompanies her to the clearing ten minutes before midday and takes her position in the surrounding greenery. She promises she won't watch the rendezvous and wishes Hinata luck with whoever it is. Again, Hinata notices Tenten's sly smile as she disappears.
Fidgeting nervously, Hinata waits, wondering who the admirer is. As she stands there, it suddenly occurs to her that the entire admirer business might be an elaborate joke. She doesn't know why anyone would admire her.
The minutes slip by and Hinata's anxiety increases. She doesn't know whether to wait any longer or to leave.
'You have someone waiting for you over there,' a voice remarks approvingly. 'Wise decision.'
Hinata spins around, butterflies doing a mad dance in her stomach and her face immediately freezes in an expression of something like complete, utter shock.
It's Uchiha Sasuke.
His lips lift in a half-smirk, half-smile at her reaction and he steps closer to her.
'Is-Is this a joke?' Hinata manages, forcing herself to rise above her shock.
'A joke?' Sasuke frowns. 'Why would it be a joke?'
'I-You're-This-' Hinata doesn't know which sentence to complete first.
'Did you expect someone else?' Sasuke asks, looking a little disappointed. It clears away almost instantly and she sees his well-used stoic expression settle into place.
'No!' Hinata blurts out. 'I mean, I didn't know who to expect.'
'Are you disappointed that it's me?'
'I don't know,' Hinata answers truthfully, looking down at her feet. 'I didn't think... it would be you, that's all.'
'You can't see why I would like you, right?' Sasuke draws even closer and Hinata is surprised at how easily he understands her.
'No,' she answers, feeling a little nervous at his proximity. She fights the urge to move back.
'I don't really know either,' he says lightly and she glances at him to see an oddly mischievous look on his face.
'Do you want your final gift?'
She nods, but she can't see any box or bag in his hands. She watches him curiously.
'This is your gift.'
He leans forward, resting a hand on her right cheek as she freezes again, and presses one very gentle kiss on her lips.
Her face instantly feels like it's on fire.
'Happy birthday, Hinata,' he tells her, looking indecently amused, and he saunters away, as cool and composed as ever.
She is still frozen when Tenten decides it's been long enough and joins her in the clearing.
'Well?' Tenten asks. 'Did you like him?'
Hinata is still stunned, but she manages to nod her head very slightly.
'I...I think I do.'
A/N: Not really of any importance, but you may like to know:
1. Neji knew Sasuke was the admirer. He saw the note from the second gift and recognised the handwriting (Don't ask me how). He later went to confirm it, which is why he still held onto the note.
2. Neji told Tenten of the admirer's identity. She convinced him not to interfere.
3. Shino suspected the admirer was Sasuke. He'd been on his way to meet his team for their mission and saw the girl-tripping-gift-slipping scene play out and naturally, saw Sasuke.
4. The glass animals were chosen according to the 'Chinese Astrology' page on wikipedia. Choosing by birthdates didn't work out, so I chose by personalities: Hinata (sheep), Sasuke (snake), Kurenai (horse), Kiba (dog) and Shino (ox).
I had an elaborate plot planned out and then I just lost interest, but all this worked into that old plot.