I thought it was about time I gave Hinata a little attention.


Disclaimer: Nope, don't own it. Sorry.

Neji is a writhing mess on the floor.

Hiashi watches out of the corner of his eye, politely turned away from his youngest's emotional outburst as Hanabi screams in fury at Neji.

" How dare you hurt my sister?! How could you hurt Hinata?!"

Because against everything Hiashi has ever done, against every match he's ever pitted them against one another in, Hanabi loves Hinata blindly, with frightening loyalty that doesn't quite override her loyalty to her father. But Hinata is kind where Hiashi is cruel, and she heals where Hiashi hurts and so her younger sister can't resent her for her weakness, can't hate her the way the rest of the clan hates that weak, whimpering mound of flesh.

And maybe Hiashi can't hate her so much anymore either.

Hinata's always been the failure, the one that didn't come out right, the child that motivated him to have Hanabi. She's quiet and shy and stutters and can't do anything right. Her form is flawed and her manner is too soft for a Hyuuga and she's a little mouse with too much of a heart and not enough steel in her.

And though she's his daughter, and though on some level he has to love her, a part of Hiashi, a cruel bitter part of him that awoke with the death of Hizashi, resents her, resents the softness, the gentle touch she brings to the Hyuuga name, when it should be feared. That part of him shoved Hinata into the arms of Yuuhi Kurenai, despite (or even possibly because of) the warnings of the dangerous lives genin lead.

Sometimes, this thought makes him sick.

Most times, he ignores the feeling in his stomach.

But this time he can't.

Neji is incoherent and so his story is no more than a mass of stutters and unformed words leaving his cracked lips. Vaguely, looking down at his nephew, Hiashi wonders if this is really the way to handle the situation. The pain inflicted on him over her injury will probably only make Neji hate Hinata more, Hiashi thinks, but makes no comment. So, as he knows he can't get the story straight from Neji's mouth, he'll get it straight from Neji's mind and extracts the memory with minimal ease from the boys mind.

He watches impassive, as the vision shows him little Hinata, trembling and crying and so useless it almost makes Hiashi cringe. She shakes and sobs as Neji psycho-analysizes her, flaunts all her weakness for her age mates to see. She curls up in herself and Hiashi is almost so disgusted that he is about to leave the story a mystery.

And then the Uzumaki boy shouts for his daughter to defend herself, and, after a pause, Hinata looks at Neji.

And both of the males see there a Hinata they have never seen before.

Hiashi hears Neji register this in his own mind, but the shock staggers him. Hinata doesn't stand up for herself. She sits there and takes whatever is thrown at her. She doesn't fight back. She flops to the ground in a graceless heap, boneless and bereft of chakra. Hinata doesn't stand her ground, hands in the Jyuuken stance, Byakugan blazing, shoulders rigid and mouth set in a grim line. So this girl-child, this little imposter wearing his daughter's face and clothes, can't be sweet, failing little Hinata. There's just no way.

But it is.

Sure as the sun rises in the East, this is Hinata, emboldened by the words of encouragement he'd never given her, strengthened by the knowledge that, if only for one instant, she has the courage to step toe-to-toe with her prodigy cousin. Her eyes are fierce and her will is strong. This is not a Hinata Hiashi has ever seen enter the Hyuuga compound, or spar with her sister, or collapse on her bed after a hard day of training. This is someone Hiashi has never seen before in his life, someone he never knew existed. It's a person Hiashi's ignored and put down and pretended isn't there for a majority of her life.

This is Hinata.

And then, Neji lands a blow, and Hinata is pushed back like a rag doll, useless and weak again, and Hiashi scoffs at his own stupidity, the light of his epiphany fading as quickly as it came. He waits patiently, for Hayate to call the match, quite forgetting that it took far more than one solid strike to put Hinata in the condition she is in right now. He waits, but no call is made. Instead, there is something that Hiashi, for all his prowess with the Byakugan, never saw coming.

Hinata gets back up.

She hauls herself to her feet, blood dribbling down her chin, a look of confidence (the likes of which Hiashi has never known his eldest to posses), shining through her pale eyes. She stares her cousin down.

"…I…n…never…go back…on my word…"

Despite himself, Hiashi feels Neji begin to tremble. Whether this is out of anger or admiration, even Hiashi can't tell.

"Because…that's…my ninja way too…!"

The Hinata Hiashi knows has never had a nindo. She is such a weak ninja that she has no need for one. To hear this proclamation, this statement, rattles Hiashi more than he cares to admit. Hinata is growing, he realizes belatedly. She's growing. When did she start growing?

He watches, trying to clamp down on the warm feeling of pride (Pride? In Hinata? It's a new sensation.) as she throws herself into the fray, dodging and twisting and spinning, all hands and hair and a web of blue chakra circling about them like a deadly cloud. Her points are blocked, her energy is useless, Hiashi knows this and he knows Hinata knows this, but still she continues, climbing back to her feet with each blow, breathing hard and ignoring the blood slipping past her lips. She runs forward, hand outstretched, eyes ablaze, and Hiashi's own Byakugan activates, and he sees the language her body is communicating, sees the message she can't hide from his eyes.

Please, watch me now.

Hiashi doesn't know who this message is for, but he can guess, because behind Neji, seen with his almost perfect vision, is a blue-eyed blond, looking at Hinata as though seeing her for the first time ever, alive in her glory and preservation.

And then Neji strikes her to the heart, and she falls to the ground, unmoving, unconscious, and most importantly, beaten.

Hiashi makes to withdraw from Neji's memory, the smug, guilty feeling permeating from his nephew's mind more than a little disturbing. He distinctly hears Hayate begin to call the match, and tries to steady his oddly racing heart, the image of his daughter, her eyes fierce and her back rigid, burning into his brain. He shakes his head, feeling strangely sympathetic for Hinata's attempt to fight Neji, hopeless and doomed as it was. He has nearly retreated completely from Neji's memory when a voice halts him.


The Uzumaki boy, his blue eyes furious and his face twisted in a scowl, calls all attention to him; looks of disbelief and annoyance beat at him like a rough wind. He pays no heed. The girl next to him screams at him, What are you doing?! She's collapsed! She got nothing left! Hiashi wants to shout with her, to tell the boy that his weak little daughter has given her all, that she can offer no more, because that was the most strength she's ever shown, and maybe, just maybe, he's a little proud of her, a little impressed that pathetic, soft-spoken, stuttering Hinata stood up to a genius, stood up to Neji and stood her ground, took his beating and lasted longer than the mere ten seconds he'd been betting on! He wants to shout all this but can't, because quite suddenly the vision has taken on an eerie silence, and Neji's mind stutters in shock. Only the Uzumaki boy, with his whisker marks and obnoxiously loud voice, looks down on the arena with a knowing smile. Neji's eyes turn back to the place where Hinata fell, and Hiashi feels his own heart stop at the sight the two males meet.

She's getting back up.

Weak, pathetic, useless, aggravating, failure Hinata is getting back up.

She hauls herself to her feet, inch by painfully slow inch, shaking and choking on her own breath all the way, eyes down cast and head bent. Neji's mind shrieks curses and murmurs about impossibilities, because his blow hit her in the heart, she should be down, she should be dead! But she pulls herself back up to her feet in front of all the genin participating, in front of the cousin who's trying to kill her, and in front of the father who wasn't there and can only see it through someone else's eyes. And Hinata's face looks up at her cousin's desperate question, covered in sweat and dirt and blood, a small, understanding smile on her face. Hiashi's Byakugan sees her message –He's watching me-, and knows that it isn't for either his or Neji's sake that she's putting her life on the line. There's someone in the crowd she wants to see her, to acknowledge her, and it isn't her father, who's bullied and ignored her, and treated her like dirt, casting her aside for her little sister. It isn't for Hiashi that Hinata will spread her wings, the man realizes, and then he looks at her, really looks at her for the first time since Hanabi was born.

And he sees.

He sees all the fierceness, all the strength and power beneath her baggy coat. He sees the will and courage gleaming in her pale purple eyes. He sees the determination, the hope, the sheer intensity that is Hinata's wish to change herself, to take just one step away from the mouse she's always been, and towards the lioness she knows (knows now, believes now, is certain of now) she can be. He sees her, Hinata, with all her flaws and faults and weaknesses and softness, balanced by all her virtues and strengths and steel. A failure, standing tall in the face of adversity, standing straight and proud against the world that has so cruelly labeled her. He sees his daughter for the first time in years, and realizes that she's grown without him, found her place in the world, found the people she wanted to protect, the people she would gladly die for, without him. She's changed without him, grown and spread her wings to the world without him, fought and killed and protected all without her father there to witness it. He realizes with a jolt (too late, far too late) all the things he's missed about her, about Hinata, about the weak little failure who keeps getting back up. A failure does not get back up. A failure stays down and accepts their fate as a failure. They do not get up after they are knocked down. The strong do that. Those who will be leaders and protectors and guardians do that. Those who will make history do that. Failures don't get back up. But Hinata is a failure and she keeps getting back up, and this means something very important, Hiashi knows, but he can't quite grasp at it. He hears Neji tell Hinata to put her suffering at ease, and then her mouth opens and Hiashi grasps at the meaning behind Hinata's refusal to quit.

Neji didn't beat her.

He looks at his daughter through Neji's eyes, battered, bloodied, bruised. But there no defeat in her eyes, and no surrender in her stance and Hiashi feels as though the world has dropped out from under his feet.

Because Hinata is not beaten. She is bloody and sweaty and hurt, but she is not beaten.

Hiashi pulls himself from Neji's memory, his oldest's words ringing in his ears.

"It's you, Neji-nii-san, who is suffering far more than I…"

Hiashi controls his trembling and turns away, calling for a servant to see to Neji. He passes by his daughter's empty room, (she's still at the hospital), and some vague idea about what flowers she might like enters his fatigued mind.

(It doesn't matter how many times you fall down, but how many times you get back up.)

No quote I've ever read has ever personified Hinata's side of her fight with Neji.

I hope you'de enjoyed this piece.