Disclaimer:I do not own Naruto or any of its respective characters. I only want to borrow them for a little while...
Author's Note: Hello again! Here is part two of three. It would have been finished last month, but my husband decided to quit his job last month! So, as I'm sure you've guessed by now, I was a little too pissed off to write. hehe Oh, well. What's done is done, and I'm ready to move on. So, what do you say we move on with this story, eh? Phone Tag, Part Two... Begin!
PS: Please forgive any typos. I was up late nights writing this, and I don't have a beta. And... I need reviews or I'll die. *wheeze* You don't want me to die, do you?
Hyuuga Neji leaned against the Academy gate, awaiting the sound of the final bell. He flicked a fallen leaf off his shoulder, casting his face downward to gaze upon the pathway of dirt and trampled grass that was the result of the continuous succession of shinobi cadets. So many of Konoha's legendary shinobi teams had been forged here, on this land. He had been one of those cadets once, and the friendships garnered had turned out to be surprisingly pleasant. He looked up again to scan the lawn which was also their training field. Perhaps it was appropriate for Hinata-sama to find happiness as a ninja. Perhaps it was appropriate for her to be allowed to stretch her wings and fly, even if he couldn't fly with her.
The bell rang, and the students fled through the doors with much haste.
He searched the many familiar and unfamiliar faces as they poured forth from the building like marching ants. Hinata-sama had insisted upon accompanying Uzumaki Naruto for some kind of date this evening, despite her betrothal to Sasuke. Neji's lip curled into a hideous sneer at the thought. Why did she have to be so beautiful that every male acquaintance she had was secretly vying for her attention? And a deeper frown then etched its way across his entire face. Why was his Heiress so alluring? The prodigy released a long, tense groan as the object of his affection glided into focus, and the crowd began to disperse. As expected, she was surrounded by the usual crew of rowdy boys, minus Sasuke. He growled. It was a small comfort.
"Aburame, Inuzuka, Nara, Uzumaki, Akimichi..." They were her friends, and she reveled in their attentions. "Lucky brats..." He scoffed.
They were allowed to enjoy her flirtatious nature, while he'd been forced to give her up. Briefly, Neji wondered what would happen if he persuaded her to spend the evening with him, instead. Perhaps even doing a few things that could be overlooked if he were someone else. Then, he envisioned the calculative expression worn on the painted face of Hyuuga Haikko, and remembered why he'd given her up. Because, in addition to being his Lady, the Leader's wife, Haikko-sama was a weapon; one of Konoha's prized killers, and he didn't want to end up stuffed in a box and tossed in a river... or some other of her tortuous fantasies. It was advantageous for him to obey the Lady, for the Lady was a dangerous kunoichi.
He sighed. Hinata-sama was becoming more like her as the weeks passed.
Neji stepped away from the gate, as the fleeing students began to rush through. They kicked up a cloud of dust, forcing him onto the Academy grounds to escape it. As he approached his Heiress, he spotted the glinting sparkle of sunlight playing in the jeweled facets of her Uchiha comb. It was as if a dazzling, heavenly light had descended upon her. And as he watched her handle the differing male personalities of her friends, he was certain that any one of them would have given their right leg to be in Naruto's place tonight.
Naruto. Of all the low-class peasants... Why did it have to be him?
"Neji-niisan!" She called out, waving, after finally noticing him a few yards away. She was blushing of course, while the nine-tails freak wore an expression of anticipation that was making Neji want to become thoroughly, and violently ill.
He had to fight very hard to keep his blood pressure even and his tone dismissive. "Hai, Hinata-sama," he said. "I was here early, as requested. Not that it makes a difference since the bell rings at the same time every day."
"Oh, well y-yes, but... I just w-wanted to get going quickly today, niisan." She stole a glance at Naruto from the corner of her eye, who in turn looked at her with the eyes of a patient hunter, with hands in his pockets. He leaned back to say something to the Nara, and they both laughed while never taking their eyes off of Hinata.
"Let's go then, Hinata-sama!" The prodigy tugged her forward.
How irritating! It might not be any of his business, but that didn't mean he had to stand here and watch ultra-loser salivate over his... no... she wasn't his anymore.
"Niisan!" Hinata cried out. "Don't pull so hard!" She snatched her arm away.
He stopped walking to turn and face her. Damn. He shouldn't have done that. Now she was frowning, and he felt guilty.
"I apologize, my Heiress. I did not mean to hurt you, or upset you in any way." He bowed low to display his sincerity. "But, we must be going. There is little time for you to prepare for your... date," he forced out, somehow managing to keep his eyes from rolling.
Immediately, her face turned five different shades of red. "It isn't a d-d-date!" She exclaimed. "I am betrothed!"
The Kyuubi-vessel could be heard snickering in the background, and unfortunately, Neji had to agree with him. "Then, what is it, Hinata-sama?" The Heiress nibbled on her bottom lip and twisted her hands together. "Hmmm?" Neji prodded. "No reply, Hyuuga-hime?"
"But, N-Naruto-kun said it wasn't going to b-be like that..." Her voice was a low whisper that only he could hear, while her eyes shyly scanned the sparse grass at her feet.
Neji grasped his cousin's hand, loose and gentle this time. "You are naive and sweet, and that is the reason why little words like date and betrothed mean so very much to you," he smiled. "However, actions speak louder than words, Hinata-sama."
Her other hand raised to cover her mouth, then began to tremble. Neji took it in his, holding both of her hands to help calm her tremors. Hinata pursed her lips together then, probably contemplating the wisdom of this outing. But in the end, she said nothing. The Heiress turned to look over her shoulder, and found Uzumaki grinning wildly, giving her two ridiculous thumbs up.
She giggled. Neji felt his eye twitch. She giggled, then ran off toward the gate.
Before following her, the prodigy took a moment to glare death at the nine-tails, who smirked back in ultimate triumph. Now, Neji bore his perfect, white Hyuuga teeth in a nasty sneer.
Hyuuga Haikko, wife of the Leader, sat almost motionless upon the piano bench in the parlor of the Main House. Her left hand rested on the instrument's keys, while the other smoothed away a small crease in the fabric of her kimono. With a coy smile, she gracefully swept a decorative paper fan out of her obi, opening it with a quiet flutter. She then bowed her head slightly to conceal her face, so that only her discerning eyes could be seen.
Hiashi observed her from his seat beside the French style doors across the room. They were getting along much better than he'd hoped. His Haikko-chan had behaved as a model wife since her resignation, and he'd finally achieved all that he had dared to dream.
The Lady began to fan herself, angling her head sideways to display her pale, delicate throat. Her husband's attention was drawn to the movement of her left hand, as it left the piano keys to slowly stroke slender fingers through the single tress of loose, silken indigo displayed in front of her. The rest of her long, long hair was kept combed neatly back, and bound tightly at the end within a tight coil of ribbon.
She was, and had always been the most lovely creature he had ever known, and as they raked through the hair, her fingertips grazed across her skin in a way that was both subtle and sultry.
The Leader allowed a minuscule smile to tug at the corners of his lips. His wife matched it with one of grace and sophistication, and more than a little lust. At that, he could only guess as to her thoughts.
Hiashi sat straighter in the cushioned chair. He was a lucky man to have a woman like her to gaze upon him... and with such heat. She rubbed her red lips together and he shifted in the seat. It hadn't always been so.
"Hiashi-sama..." She sounded wanton and breathless, certainly a tone he was unused to hearing from the strong-willed kunoichi, who had become one of Konoha's top ANBU at the age of twenty. It was a dangerous profession, but it was her life, the very reason she continued to breathe in this world, she had said. And he had looked into her diamond eyes that night, only to see a future without her staring back. Hiashi might not have had his brother's insight, but he was clever enough to realize she would stop at nothing to preserve her freedom.
"Hiashi-sama," Haikko breathed his name again. "Should we retire early this evening?" One suggestive eyebrow was raised.
"This afternoon, you mean," Hiashi corrected. "But we mustn't. The children will be home soon."
Ever so slowly, her tongue swiped the small open space between her lips, and he knew that had he not been sitting, he'd have found himself on the floor, betrayed by weakened knees. Oh, how dazzling she was! For him, it was love at first sight. But for Haikko, it was the death of a dream, that had almost culminated in her death. He leaned forward a bit. He had known then that the only way to keep her would be to let her go. So, he did.
As Heir, Hiashi had acquiesced to her demands as a shinobi. And in return, she had acquiesced to the marriage, and its demands. Hyuuga Haikko was the only Lady to have served Hokage-sama in that capacity, and the only Hyuuga to do so for as many years. He was proud of her. She had proven her worth as a weapon of Konoha. But now she was home... with him.
Hiashi finally stood, enjoying the way she followed him with her entrancing eyes. He came closer, and was thrilled to see the excitement in her expression. It was that smirk of hers that gave it away. And though there were more years displayed on her face now than even traditional makeup could conceal, to the Leader, she looked just as enticing as the virgin he'd wedded so long ago.
"Haikko-chan," he purred. Hiashi waited while she slowly closed the paper fan, then he grasped her wrist. He pulled her up to stand before him. "I'm going to paint your portrait," and he noticed her small gasp at the words. "Does that make you nervous, woman?"
Haikko lowered her eyes and tried very hard to suppress the flash of heat warming both her cheeks and her temper. Hiashi grinned. She was blushing, and his own eyes danced with satisfaction.
"Hiashi-sama. I would prefer not to..." She hesitated, then clamped her mouth shut, unwilling to speak as the Leader of the Hyuuga slid his hand into her loose tress of hair, grazing his own fingertips across her porcelain throat.
"My Lady," he whispered, while twisting silken strands between his fingers, "you will stand on my pedestal and pose for my portrait, because it is my will for you to do so." He felt her shiver as his lips drew closer. "My beautiful wife..."
"Um..." Hinata's reluctant voice interrupted them. "Exc-c-cuse me..." Her words drowned in an ocean of silence.
Hiashi whipped his head around to the image of his daughter and her hound, awkwardly intertwined within the doorway. He could have laughed at the hideous face Neji was making at her. It seemed she had tried to retreat back the way they'd come, no doubt after having seen more than she'd cared to.
The Leader beckoned her forward with a sharp flick of the wrist, and his daughter reluctantly pulled herself away from the wall that was his nephew, approaching with docile steps.
"What is the meaning of this intrusion, daughter?" Hiashi demanded.
Hinata stopped in front of him, her head bowed. "I w-wanted to inform my honorable father of my intended plans for this evening." Her small hands wrung together as she paused to glance at Haikko, who was now fanning herself in a graceful manner to distract from the heated blush the Leader had caused. "And to have his permission, of course," she added, darting her gaze away from her flustered mother.
Hiashi's eyes narrowed. "What plans are these, daughter? Your future father-in-law has already informed me of his planned training session with your Uchiha." Hinata's eyes lit with surprise, and her lips pursed together in that contemplative way that reminded him so much of her mother. The Leader continued. "Sasuke will be unavailable for the next two weeks. Just where do you think to go without a proper escort?"
"I have an escort." The Heiress matched him with a quick retort, and her head inclined slightly to implicate her cousin. "Neji-niisan has volunteered to take me," she lied. "There is a film that I would like to see, and a friend of mine from the Academy will be attending, also."
"And what friend is this, my daughter?" Of course, the Leader was already aware of whom she had planned to cavort with, but as his daughter was finally exercising her gods given gifts of deception, he would allow her to build this house of cards. And he would watch as she either upheld the foundation of her lie, or was buried beneath it.
"Inuzuka Kiba." No stutter. No falter, or flinch. If the Leader hadn't already known that she was lying...
"And, your protector has agreed to this?" Hiashi turned his stare toward the eyes of his dead brother's son, and was met with a calm sort of resignation. That, and the telltale twitch that never failed to reveal the boy's innermost thoughts.
"Hai, Hiashi-sama," Neji spoke in earnest. "I will escort my honorable Heiress on her outing, if it pleases the Leader." He bowed, satisfyingly low.
Truly remarkable that the boy should be able to conjure such convincing words, while still managing to leave open the opportunity of avoidance. If it pleases the Leader, indeed. But, what else could one expect from the Hyuuga genius.
"It pleases me," Hiashi answered, and was also pleased to see the scorching glare exchanged between the two, quick though it was. Neji looked away first, and the Leader nodded toward his victorious daughter.
"Be gone, child," he dismissed, "and do not return until midnight."
"Midnight!" Both children exclaimed in tandem, while his wife giggled quietly. Hiashi supposed he shouldn't be surprised by their reaction. A two hour extension added to an already liberal curfew probably seemed suspicious, at best.
"B-But, I have s-s-school tomorrow, otousan."
"Do you?," the Leader turned his back on them then, staring out into the garden through the French-style doors. Let them suspect. It should keep them both out of trouble. It was just a few hours. Those two could handle a few hours. Besides, it just so happened that Hinata's plans coincided with his own, and nothing that Uchiha Fugaku could say would convince Hiashi to alter them.
He caught a glimpse of his wife beside him, staring from behind that paper fan.
"Perhaps I will write an excuse for your absence tomorrow. Perhaps I will let you sleep for as long as your beauty requires. Perhaps I will allow you to spend the day in whatever way you wish." He paused, peering over his shoulder. "But only if neither of you return until midnight."
Finally, his daughter registered the boon he was handing her. The Heiress bounced in place a few times, smiling happily, and her father could not halt the softening of his expression. He had to face away from her once more.
When was the last time she had smiled like that for him?
"Arigatou, otousan! Okaasan!" She bowed to both of her parents, and the Leader knew that her hound had followed suit.
Those two. Always testing the limits of his patience. But as the children bounded back into the hall, Hiashi wondered just whose patience would be tested most this evening. His own, or Neji's?
Once again, Hyuuga Neji found himself absolutely helpless in his service to Hinata-sama. His entire life was a tool for her use, and she had been using him far more effectively and frequently than ever before.
"Why?" The prodigy demanded in a single word, as he strode beside her down the long corridor.
"Why not?" The Heiress quipped.
He held his breath for five seconds, for it was the only way to suppress the growing rage. "What kind of answer is that supposed to be?"
"The kind I have no obligation to give, niisan."
Neji stepped in front of her, stopping the girl in her tracks. "I do not want to watch you doing whatever it is you plan to do with Naruto!" He hissed, leaning in close while she stepped back against the wall. "It is bad enough that I must endure the thought of you with Sasuke, but I will not be made to aid you in this!"
"Neji-niisan..." Hinata placed a palm upon his chest, gently pushing him away. She could never, would never know just how much she hurt him with that action. "Sasuke-kun and I are not a thought," she said. "We are a fact. And nobody said you were going to watch anything."
He began to lose the battle with his temper. "If you're such a fact, why are you planning a secret tryst with his best friend?" He hissed, erasing the space between them. He could feel her hand shaking now, as it remained resting lightly on his chest. "What exactly do you think that conveys to everyone, Hinata-sama?"
The corners of Neji's lips curved slowly upward. She was struggling now. Struggling to stay perched on her tower of naiveté. She would fall soon, and he would have what he wanted; that which was best for her. She would stay with him tonight. They would be together, safe and at home.
But alas, it was not be, for Hinata sighed, calming herself while twisting one long lock of indigo around her forefinger.
That new habit again. Neji knew from experience that if she continued like this, her Hyuuga mask would be back in place very quickly. For her, the motion was akin to reeling her strength back in, coiling it tightly. He was skirting the edge of her temper now, but what choice did he have?
"I will say this only once, niisan. All I need from you is your presence in the time it takes to walk from the Main House to the gates of the compound. From there go where you want, as long as you don't follow me," she frowned.
"Are you serious!" He snapped. He couldn't believe his ears! Was she daft? Or insane? "I can't do that! I can't leave you alone with him!"
"We aren't going to be alone, and you will do as I say."
Neji poured every molecule of intimidation he could into the glare he gave her next. "What am I supposed to do while you're off frolicking with Naruto?"
"Do whatever you like," she spat back at him. "Surely you have better things to do than follow me around Konoha. Don't you have any friends?" She sounded so concerned for him, but it was herself and her own wellbeing that she should be concerned with!
This was outrageous! Her behavior didn't make any sense! She had coveted her chastity so well, and for so long, even from him. Why would Hinata-sama put herself in such a position? It was as if she were desperate to see this... date... through to its inevitable end! He just couldn't stand it! Couldn't stomach it! He couldn't let this happen! He couldn't...
"Also," she whispered, looking past him and down the hall, "you must be more quiet, or the servants will hear you."
His glare was piercing. "I do not care what the servants hear!" But he lowered his voice anyway. He wasn't getting anywhere by being rude. Perhaps if he tried a more contrite approach. "I have been good, Hinata-sama. You know that I have. But, you can not make me do this. You can not..."
For a moment, he seemed to get through to her, for her eyes softened. But when she took his hand between both of her own, the tightness of her grip conveyed physically the absoluteness of her power over him.
"You had your chance to back out, niisan. Instead, you chose to help me. So, what will you do now? Will you go back there to tell my father the truth?" Her pearlescent eyes were narrow and focused. "Will you?"
The prodigy could do no such thing, as a slave can not disobey its master. He was hers. Her hound, her tool. To be used in what ever way she saw fit.
Neji looked away from her, no longer able to meet her diamond eyes. "If I had spoken against you, Hiashi-sama would have punished you. It is my duty to protect my Heiress from all harm, even that caused by her father."
Hinata's smile was a sweet one, melting him to the core. "Then, you have already made your choice. Just as I've made mine. All I want now is for you to honor that decision."
It was true, and even though he wished it, the prodigy could not now speak against his own words. He would do as she asked, even if it cost him his pride... and his heart.
"Why are you so intent on doing this?" He pleaded one final time. Perhaps he could find some comfort in her reasons.
His Heiress looked at him with that lovely, moonlit gaze. "You would never understand," she said. Hinata pushed past him then, hurrying toward the stairs. Neji could only stand and watch her dart away.
Why? Why was she always running away from him?
"I don't have much time. You should get ready, as well, and meet me in my room in half an hour!" She called, as her shadow disappeared up the staircase.
When she was gone, Neji let the anger and regret overtake him, as he began to tremble in this sad and forlorn state. The Hyuuga prodigy had a long night ahead of him. A very long, very unpleasant night.
Uchiha Itachi sat at his desk, reading over details of his next assignment. He could sense his little brother's presence from behind his bedroom door. Was Sasuke really so intimidated that he couldn't even knock? Well, whatever the reason, the Heir was pleased to know that his otouto was so frightened of him.
"Sasuke!" Itachi yelled, and was rewarded by the sound of his brother's startled gasp. "Either come in, or go away. If you want to practice spying, then might I suggest finding someone who isn't ANBU." There was no answer, and he could hear no movement beyond the door. The brat was still standing there, which could only mean one thing. "Now, otouto!"
The door opened quietly, and Sasuke stepped tentatively forward, leaving the portal wide open.
Itachi closed the mission folder, slipping it into a desk drawer. "If I have to continue solving your problems, I'm going to start charging interest." He swiveled his whole chair around to face his brother. "How does fifty percent sound?"
The Heir narrowed his dark eyes. "You do remember the poems I wrote for Hinata-chan," he smirked. "They were lovely, and she liked them very much, didn't she?"
"You never let me forget, aniki," the younger Uchiha answered.
"You still owe me, Sasuke."
"You still haven't told me what you want in return."
"Hadn't I?" He stood from the chair, beginning a slow, menacing approach. "Oh, well."
Itachi was fascinted by his little brother. The way the boy looked upon him with such admiration, and yet such hatred. But why should Sasuke hate him? Hadn't he always been there for him? Whenever otouto needed him. Even if he never knew it.
Itachi's palm fell onto Sasuke's unruly mass of hair, ruffling it further. "Why are you here, anyway? Father should be tilling the soil with your face, right about now." It was plain enough to see that all the boy really wanted to do was run away. Yet, he stayed, having taken only a single involuntary step backward. How unacceptable. They would have to work on that.
"I need to use your phone." Sasuke huffed.
"My phone?" The Heir was becoming quite amused. "That's the reason you're not getting beaten to a bloody pulp right now?" He scoffed out loud. "Father must be going soft."
"It's important, that's why." He shoved Itachi's hand away. "The future of the Clan is at stake."
"Hn. You mean the future of your marriage, because I assure you, the Clan's future is very much unchanged."
"What do you know?" Usually, that phrase would have been drenched in sarcasm, but not today. This time, Sasuke was genuinely inquisitive, not to mention absolutely clueless. The Heir couldn't help but laugh.
"I knew about your fiancées date before anyone else did," he said. "You know how I like to keep an eye on my siblings."
Now, otouto looked quite scared. Fascinating.
"I am your only sibling," Sasuke clenched his fists and bared his teeth. How noble. "Stay away from Hinata-chan." How futile.
Itachi sauntered past his brother, shutting the door and locking him inside. "Oh, come now, otouto. You can't expect me to do that."
Itachi could hear the slight trembling in his brother's voice. "She's mine," he sounded like he was trying to convince himself.
Oh, how he loved to make otouto squirm. One of the few pleasures the Heir enjoyed in this violent life.
"But, you need to use my telephone, don't you?" He would take this time to alter the subject. No sense in getting the boy all worked up now. "Go on, then," he pointed toward the desk. "But it will cost you."
Sasuke approached the desk, fighting the urge to look over his shoulder all the while. Good. He should be wary, even of his older brother. However, he never did look back, which Itachi found most irritating.
"How much will it cost?" The younger Uchiha rested his hand upon the phone, still not daring to meet his brother's eye.
Itachi took a seat on the bench at the foot of his bed, stretching. "We can discuss price later, otouto." He gestured for him to begin. Sasuke hadn't yet turned around, nor did the boy sit at Itachi's desk. He was but a statue of tension and fear. "Sasuke, are you going to wait all night?"
He picked up the phone receiver to begin dialing the number. "Do you mind?" At last, his gaze shifted toward his brother, then at the door.
Not a chance.
"Baka. It's my room, and my phone. I'm not going anywhere."
Reluctantly, Sasuke completed the call and awaited his fiancées answer, while Itachi watched and listened only a few feet away. How utterly priceless. So much leverage gained in a single night. He smirked. It was almost criminal. Sasuke would have to do better if he ever truly thought to surpass him.
"Hinata-chan," the boy tried to sound stern. "We need to talk," he informed the Hyuuga on the other end. "What do you think you're doing? You can't go out with Naruto! You can't go out with anyone!"
"Otouto." Itachi interrupted. Sasuke gasped, then placed his hand over the phone. It was so easy to command his attention. "Lower your voice," the Heir commanded.
Sasuke glared at his brother, but lowered his voice. "You know exactly what I'm talking about, Hinata-chan. I forbid you from going anywhere with him."
"So it begins..." The Heir whispered to himself. He suspected it would start long before their vows were sealed, but this early? It took a special kind of bastard to speak to his woman that way.
"Oh, yes I can," Sasuke spat into the phone. "Don't get too cozy with the dobe, 'cause I'll see you both in the village tonight. Count on it."
This was the kind of self righteous prick his otouto was becoming? Too much like their father. Such a tragedy. That lovely Hyuuga Heiress deserved far better. In fact, she deserved to have her pick of men in the village. Hmmm... Itachi crossed his legs, leaning back against his bed. Yes. Her pick. That is what the Heir would give her.
"Do I have what? My father's permission? I could ask you the same thing, but yeah, as a matter of fact, I do."
Pitiful, Sasuke. Itachi wondered if the Heiress would even go through with the marriage, when the time came. Like the rest of the Uchiha, he was pleased by her willingness to join their Clan. She had so much to offer them. But, there was also a small part of him that wished she wasn't bound to his useless brother.
"It's Naruto I don't trust, Hinata. You're sweet, but you don't know him like I do."
"And you don't know her as well as you think you do," said the Heir. A few more moments passed, and Itachi could discern screeching coming from the phone. He could also feel the tension building within his brother.
Sasuke held the phone away from his face. "She hung up on me..." He set the receiver back upon its base on the desk. "I can't believe this," he snarled, swiping a frantic hand through thick, black hair.
The Heir smiled as his brother turned to face him. "Believe it," he mocked the boy with the words of his very own arch-nemesis. "Now, get out."
"You're filthy and you smell like combat," his nose turned up in disgust. "If you plan on going into the village, you might want to clean yourself up first."
Sasuke took a long look at himself. "Yes... you're right, aniki." He slunk over to the door, unlocking it, then waited a few seconds before speaking again. "Thank you," he said, in the lowest most shallow tone he could muster, "for letting me use your phone." Itachi spoke not a word. Nothing. Only stared until the brat caught the hint, and left.
When the door was shut, the Uchiha genius stood from his bench and again took his seat at the desk. He still needed to review tomorrow's assignment, but that could wait a little while longer. Instead, he picked up the phone receiver, finding the redial button. He smirked. First, there was a very important call he had to make.
Hyuuga Hinata snatched up her cordless phone once more. Looking at the caller ID, she saw the same number that Sasuke had called from earlier. She'd hung up on him less that two minutes ago, and wasn't expecting to hear from him again so soon.
She resisted the urge to throw the phone through a wall. He'd made her so angry! Just who did he think he was? Giving her orders like that, as if she were a servant! Well, if he wanted another tongue lashing, she would give him one. And another when he showed up in the village. Hinata did not have to put up with that kind of pompous attitude.
It was difficult enough having to rebuke her own niisan every few minutes, and she'd had to deal with his attitude nearly her entire life.
Hinata pressed the button to accept the call, but before she could say a thing, a different voice sounded from the other end.
It wasn't Sasuke.
::Imouto, do you know who this is?::
The Heiress began to tremble, and her voice stuck in her throat. "I-It-t-tachi..."
::Yes, imouto. I'm pleased you remember my voice.:: How could she forget? No one could forget the most terrifying shinobi in all of Konoha.
How he had looked at her that day when her father forced her to use the cursed jutsu. And the way he had scrutinized her after Neji had been sent away. His eyes were so cruel, but his words... so soothingly kind, when her father hadn't had any kindness for her.
Itachi was a dichotomy. I take no pleasure in this, he had said, and Hinata doubted she would have come out of the ordeal with any sense at all intact, if not for the Uchiha Heir.
"Is there s-s-omething I can d-do for you, Itachi-san?" Why was he calling her? What in Heaven or Earth was going on?
::You will call me aniki from now on. Or if you prefer, oniisama. You will, won't you, imouto?::
"H-Hai! Of course... aniki..." She swallowed hard, sitting down upon her bed. That particular word left a very peculiar taste in her mouth. "Um... wh-what can I do for you?"
::Actually, this call is more about what I can do for you. Would you like to know what I can do?::
What should she say? Was there truly a safe way to answer that? Sasuke had warned her that his brother was unpredictable, even a little crazy. She couldn't deny the fear he immediately provoked in her, nor could she ignore his questions.
::Answer me, imouto.:
No one had ever called her that before. Not even Neji-niisan. And the way he spoke the word... it seemed to mean more to him than just 'little sister'.
"H-Hai!" She stuttered. There was a long silence, and the Heiress was left wondering what the Heir might possibly be plotting. Because he was plotting something. She was sure of that much. And he was making her very nervous.
::Tell me this, imouto. If you had your pick between Sasuke and Naruto, which would it be?::
Hinata's mind went totally blank. Oh, no! Oh, no! Oh, no! Maybe this was as bad of an idea as niisan had said. How many more people were aware of her plans? Her heart was racing, and the dread was mounting. And she'd been so happy only a little while ago.
She could almost feel the deep, rumbling chuckle through the phone receiver.
::Relax, imouto. I am only talking about your plans for tonight.:: But was he? Did he really only mean tonight? Because it sure sounded like he had something more consequential in mind.
::Right now, otouto is preparing to ruin your evening. But I could put a stop to it. Easily.::
The fine hairs on Hinata's arms began to stand on end.
::All you have to do, is say yes.::
A very real sense of dread began to bubble up from her gut, then. "What do you mean, 'put a stop to it'?" Somehow that didn't sound quite right coming from Uchiha Itachi.
::I'm not going to hurt him, if that's what you're wondering.:: It was. And how did he know what she was thinking? Was he truly that skilled of a shinobi? Hinata's stomach began to churn and her skin was visibly pale; even more so than was normal for a Hyuuga. Of course he was that skilled. He was ANBU.
::Consider it my gift to you. Well, Hinata? Do you want Sasuke to come to the village? Or, do you want me to stop him?::
The Heiress paused to consider his offer. She had come so far already, and it was nearly time to leave and meet the boys at the gate. She gnawed right through the pain in her bottom lip as she succumbed at last to the nervous habit. What should she do? What should she say? Again, she swallowed that persistent lump in her throat. This could be her only chance...
"Yes!" The word tumbled out. "Stop him! Please, aniki!" And she couldn't shake the feeling that she'd just signed a deal with the devil.
::As you wish, imouto. We can talk later about what, if anything, you owe me.::
He was smiling. The Heiress could not see him, but she knew. It was a smug sort of silence filling the space between them now, and she could feel it. Hinata had played right into his hands, just like Sasuke-kun. Just like all the others.
"But, you s-said it was a gift..."
::I did, didn't I? Hmmm... Perhaps I was just trying to find a reason for us to talk later, imouto. We can talk later, can't we?::
"Y-Yes, of c-c-course, aniki." Uchiha Itachi had the most unnerving personality she had ever encountered. So much more dangerous than Neji's...
::Very well. You know, Hinata, I think I am going to enjoy having you as my imouto. Little brothers can be such a nuisance.::
He chuckled once more.
::Good night, little sister.::
"Um... good night... aniki..."
And he was gone.
Hyuuga Hinata gently placed the phone receiver upon her nightstand, totally ignoring its empty base. She collapsed backward onto the soft comforter and pillows, and lay there, sprawled out in contemplation.
On the day she had agreed to marry Sasuke, she had no idea it would lead to so many unforeseen changes. Life was so much more complex than ever before.
She sighed, then slid her arm upward to gently stroke the comb that was still binding her hair.
Thinking back on Itachi's words, she had to disagree on one seemingly minor point. It wasn't the little brothers that were such a nuisance. It was always the older ones causing the trouble. And now, instead of only one, Hinata found herself with two.
Fabulous. Just fabulous.
End Part Two