I have a certain lack of ownership of the intellectual property I am currently using, making my actions technically illegal. Sorry.

Chapter 3: Crushing, Painful Failure

This is the chapter of the day of our first and greatest disappointment. The day that should have been a simple progression on the path to becoming ninja wasn't. Also known as the day Hatake the Bastard ruined everything. May he die in extreme and unusual pain.

Hinata

There is a certain kind of pain that's a good deal worse than other types. It's the kind of pain that makes you wish you were dead so that it'll stop. It's the kind of pain that leaves you defenceless in its wake. It makes you helpless and hopeless and pathetic. The worst thing about this kind of pain, though, is that it leaves no sign. There is no evidence to show people that you are suffering, that this is a bad time, that you can't even muster the energy to move because it hurts so badly. But even if the people around you did know how much you were hurting, they wouldn't care. They wouldn't give a damn because you aren't worth anything to them. Every sufferer of this kind of pain instinctively knows this.

Someone in that kind of pain can do crazy things.

This is not to say that Hinata was in that kind of pain. She wasn't. She didn't do crazy things, though sometimes she thought about it. She tried hard to please her family, tried hard to be someone worth noticing, tried hard to do all sorts of things. And when she inevitably failed, well, she tried hard to take consolation in the fact that she'd tried hard.

All these things set aside, some days it just didn't seem worth the effort to roll out of bed. The morning of June 6th, however, was not one of those days for Hinata. The morning of June 6th was going to be a good morning, it was going to be the morning she finally proved to her family that she too could be a ninja, that she could (one day) be the leader of the clan. And she would do all of those things after she got out of bed. Any second now, she was going to wake up and take on the world.

Just perhaps not this second. Maybe at some point in the seconds to come a rush of vital energy would rejuvenate her and allow her to waken, ready to fulfill every dream she'd ever had. Hinata wondered, half-asleep, what dreams come true felt like. Were they like chocolate? She'd had chocolate once. She was pretty sure it'd been the best thing she'd ever tasted. She hadn't been allowed much of it, as it was a very expensive import from the South Islands. Hinata drooled on her pillow. Then her alarm went off.

Hinata sat up, wiping her face. She turned off the alarm with a delicate touch. Throwing the damned thing against the wall was inappropriate behaviour. She took a moment to appreciate the silence of way-too-damn-early. It was nice. Peaceful even. Outside, it was still raining. Hinata fixed a pleasant expression on her face, because in the Hyuuga household you never knew if someone was watching, and then got dressed. She slid on flexible sandals, first the left one, then the right. She straightened out the room, ensuring there was little, if any, evidence of her existence in it. Now it was nice and clean.

Hinata surveyed the room, tugged on the sheet to remove a wrinkle, and pulled out a black umbrella from the oak chest filled with her possessions. Then she left.


Training ground seven was an empty waterlogged field next to a stream. The stream was working its way up to—

A raging inferno of water!

--being a river. Actually, it was lapping at the bottom of the red bridge that crossed it, creating a hollow thumping sound that echoed ominously through the predawn air. The field was a grassy swamp, the long bladed grass floating in an inch of water which was draining steadily towards the stream. The rain splashed as it hit the ground.

Hinata wondered why she'd bothered with the umbrella; she was soaked to the knees and damp everywhere else. Then she saw her new teammates and felt significantly better about bringing an umbrella. They were both doing their best impressions of drowned rats, their normally wild hair plastered against their skulls in unflattering helmets. They were sitting on opposite railings on the bridge, it being the highest ground available in the clearing.

Hinata walked over, intending to join them, before realizing that sitting next to either of them would be awkward. So she stood on the edge of the bridge, as far from both of them as she could, and resolutely avoided eye contact. Not for the first time, she was grateful for the Hyuuga eyes. They made it damn hard for people to tell if you were making eye contact, even though you almost always were.

Thirty minutes later, Naruto squawked and fell off his rail, pointing at Hinata. "Who are you?!" He stumbled to his feet and asked, "When did you get here?!"

Hinata stared at him, wondering if this was some sort of test. What was the right answer? Would he get mad if she told the truth?

"She got here ages ago," Sasuke sneered. Hinata felt bad that no one had ever told him how stupid he looked when he sneered. He looked sort of constipated.

Fuck you.

Probably one of those things that family was supposed to teach you, Hinata thought, pitying the poor orphan boy.

Die.

It was only to be expected that he'd grown up to be a manner-less freak.

Sleep with one eye open. It'll be the eye I put a fork through.

"But who— Ah, hi Hinata," Naruto recovered nicely, obviously looking at her. "Do you know where the perversion of nature is?" He raised his voice at the end of the question until he was almost shouting.

"Why are you shouting?" Sasuke asked him, looking at him disdainfully.

"Because the last time I insulted him he appeared out of nowhere to defend himself." Naruto explained, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "Duh." He added, rolling his eyes at Sasuke.

"He didn't appear out of nowhere, he came in through the door." Sasuke corrected him. "Though I suppose that you might not have noticed his incredibly obvious entrance, seeing as you are, in fact, a total failure."

Hinata noted, somewhere in the back of her mind, that Sasuke became much more verbose when he had someone to insult. Practically a chatterbox, even.

"I totally noticed!" Naruto defended himself vehemently. "I was exaggerating to make a point." He finished with a pout.

"Riiiiiight." Sasuke drawled, "Just like you noticed Hinata?"

"It's dark!" Naruto said. "The rain is loud! Unlike you, I wasn't facing her!"

Hinata hummed softly and wondered why the scary man who was to be their sensei (a fact she was carefully suppressing in the back of her mind) was late. Perhaps he had a mission of vital importance. Then she realised that no sane person would give him a mission of vital importance. Which, now that she thought about it, didn't bode well for the future of their team.

She was surprised; she would have thought that the Uchiha heir, at least, would have been put on a team that had potential. Hinata was only the de facto clan heir of the Hyuuga, her position dangling on a thread finer than trip wire, so she wasn't too surprised about being relegated to be trained by an obvious mess of a human being. But she'd have thought that Sasuke would have been put under someone competent. Nobody seemed to like Naruto, so his being on this team wasn't too unexpected (disappointing, yes, unexpected, no). Hinata had kind of hoped that Naruto would be given a chance for once.

We could've been an awesome team. We weren't, but that doesn't mean that we couldn't have been.

Both the boys settled down, scowling. Naruto over losing the argument—

I didn't lose!

--Sasuke over some obscure reason that doubtless made sense to him.

It was raining. I wasn't about to show my joy through interpretive dance.

The rain fell unabated.

Later the sky turned slate grey rather than pitch-black. The sun had risen. Its rays didn't pass the clouds, but the world had lightened nevertheless. Now, at least, Hinata could see color.

Hinata shuffled back a few steps to keep her feet out of the water. It was several inches higher than it had been when she had arrived. It was slightly worrying. The grass lay flat, blanketing the surface of the field in verdant shades of green.

Waiting was an awful activity, she decided. There was nothing to do but stand there and listen to the rain splash on her umbrella. And watch the two boys eyeball her umbrella with jealousy. She knew she should offer to share. But the offering would be awkward and embarrassing; she wouldn't know what to say. So she watched the water rise instead.

It was a long time later when Hatake arrived. A very long time. Five hours and thirty two minutes after he'd told them to meet; he appeared out of a suspiciously solid cloud of fog, his umbrella cradled in the crook of his arm to leave his hands free for his book. The rain hadn't stopped or slowed, the clouds hadn't lightened or moved, and the light hadn't strengthened or changed, but Hinata knew precisely how long she had been waiting. She knew this through the use of a watch, a device obviously unknown to the filthy pervert in front of her.

Hinata expected Naruto to yell at Hatake, but apparently five and a half hours in the rain was enough to drown even his spirit. He looked decidedly soggy. However, this left all three in a bit of a quandary. If Naruto didn't yell, conversation wouldn't start. Sasuke wouldn't say anything, Hinata didn't know what to say, and Hatake was serenely reading his book. Without Naruto—

--The world would fall apart, the oceans would boil, rivers of blood would spawn plagues of blood frogs, the sun would turn to ICE!!!!

--No one would start talking. This, Hinata decided, was unfortunate. The longer they stood there, well… the longer they stood there. It was cool, wet, and her feet hurt. She should say something. But what? Maybe a query of some sort… Hmmm.

"Well?" Sasuke glared through his dripping fringe of hair with all the force his beady little Uchiha eyes could muster.

While you sat there and twiddled your thumbs and hoped someone else would do something?

It's not the person who attracts the attention of the pervert who wins; it's the people who don't.

"I should send you back to the Academy right now." Hatake said his voice bland and emotionless. "Actually, I may do so." He sighed, as if this were a trial on him and not on them.

"What are you talking about? We're genin! You can't send us back to the Academy!" Naruto's voice cracked; five and a half hours in the rain had left his voice strained. It probably wasn't used to the lack of exercise.

Hinata shivered. She knew better. They could be sent back to the Academy right now. They could even be banned from becoming ninja. Her father had explained it all in excruciating detail before he had calmly told her the consequences of each result. The consequences were not ones that she wanted to endure.

"Yes. I can." He responded, his single squinty eye glaring at them with the force of… something forceful.

Your word use impresses me so.

"You stood outside waiting for what, three hours?" He was terribly cool, showing less emotion than the rain.

Five hours, Hinata retorted defiantly in the safety of her own mind. Five and a half hours.

"Why?" Hatake turned the page. "It's raining. As far as I know, it's been raining all day. Why didn't you go home?"

"Because you told me not to." Sasuke answered, as if the answer was obvious. He flicked back a strand of wet black hair and glared at Hatake.

"Are you really that stupid? You stayed out in the rain for three hours when you could have left? In the absence of a superior officer you should have gone to the Hokage tower and reported said absence." He looked up from his book and asked, "As far as you knew, I'd gone missing. Why didn't you seek help?"

"You know what? You're right! We should have left instead of waiting for your lazy ass!" Naruto snarled. Hinata noted that rain seemed to make Naruto somewhat irritable. He looked rather miserable. "Useless mother fucking son of a bitch." Naruto snuffled wetly, robbing the moment of its drama. He wiped his nose with his soaking wet sleeve, which probably didn't help much. Hinata fumbled with her pocket, pulling out a handkerchief, then stuffed it back into the pocket. She'd offer it to Naruto when Hatake was glaring a little less.

"You really are a stupid little shit, aren't you?" Hatake asked, most likely rhetorically. He snapped the book shut and slid it into his kunai pouch, giving it an affectionate pat. "Okay. I'm not allowed to fail you without testing you or something." He shrugged like he couldn't imagine why there was such a rule. "So, despite the fact that you are obviously dumber than that slug I stepped on earlier, this is your chance to prove that you are capable of joining the ranks of Konoha ninja."

Hinata shuffled nervously. What did he mean? Did he want some kind of report on their skills? Maybe he wanted them to fight each other? Stupid man! Why couldn't he be clearer? How was she supposed to know what to do without orders?

Hatake sighed. "Last chance, if you have anything that will convince me to take you on as students, now is the time to pull it out of your ass." He waited several seconds, watching them stand there. "So, nothing from you, you useless little bastards?" A few more seconds passed.

Hinata felt the sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach that she associated with impending failure. This test, it was just like every other test put before her. They never told her the rules; she never knew the conditions for victory, she could only fail again and again. She wanted to scream at the bastard and tell him to take his dumb book and go away. She didn't want to do this again, she didn't want to have to stand there and wonder why this asshole doing this to her. There's no way to win and it was so damn unfair. There was only one way to go from here. She made her face as expressionless as possible and hoped it would work. They can make you fail, but you can deny them the satisfaction of it mattering.

"What do you want me to do?" Sasuke asked, shifting restlessly, causing an odd squelching noise that Hinata belatedly identified as his clothes. They were not as ninja silent as usual once they reached their saturation point.

"Show me a reason to teach you." Hatake told him, tilting his umbrella back to get a better look at Sasuke.

"Like what?!" Naruto exclaimed in frustration, his voice doing odd things—

"Odd things" makes me imagine Naruto's voice getting into a committed relationship with a paper crane or something. Be more descriptive.

I didn't critique your writing style, so don't you dare bother me about mine, Mr. I-use-romance-novels-as-a-writing-guide!

It's better than Miss. I-like-to-stew-in-my-own-angst!

Of the two of us, I am not the one who has brooding issues.

Sasuke, shut up and let her get back to writing about me.

Narcissist.

--that made Hinata wonder if he was coming down with a cold or something. He certainly didn't sound very good. He growled (causing a nasty gurgling noise to burble from the back of his throat). "Throw out a damn suggestion! It's not like I can do things if I don't know what things to do!"

"Surprise me." Hatake said, waving a hand dismissively. It was clear that he expected nothing from them. He probably wasn't wrong in that assessment, Hinata mused grimly.

Naruto charged. Hinata caught the movement from the corner of her eye, a flash of dark orange running towards Hatake. Well, perhaps not a flash. Naruto wasn't exactly making good time. He sank ankle deep into the water and splashed it everywhere. Three steps in, still at least two meters away from Hatake; Naruto tripped on nothing and fell face first into the rainwater swamp. The soaking wet blond struggled up, his arms trapped in some strange way by the grass. He had a very strange expression on his face. Hinata could only catch a glimpse of it from this angle, but it looked like—

"SNIZLEPH-SNOK!" Naruto sneezed.

Hinata blinked. Naruto discreetly tried to wipe the thick ropes of snot off his face, but, well… there really wasn't a discrete way to do that.

I take it back, make her stop writing about me.

"You are..." Hatake seemed at a loss for words. "Pathetic. I've never seen… Useless." Hinata assumed they were missing some words there, as it didn't quite make sense otherwise. Hatake looked pretty choked up. Presumably from laughter, but one could never tell. "They actually let you pass?"

"Hey, I'm going to be Hokage!" Naruto shouted back, waving his hands wildly to prove his point. He looked offended.

Hinata watched in awe. She could hear barely muffled snickers from Sasuke (who wasn't nearly as stoic as he liked people to think) and Hatake sounded like he was choking, but Naruto just sat there like he didn't know that they were laughing at him. What was it like, she wondered, to have such faith in yourself? He was sincere as a conman, sitting soaked to the skin in a jester's costume, vividly green mucus striped cross his face, and he had the confidence of a king. Hinata could see no doubt in his eyes, only determination. How could anyone be so disconnected from the rest of humanity?

I'm glad to know you think so well of me.

I got over it.

"They must have started sending me the losers." Hatake chuckled, as if inviting them to share the joke. Oddly enough, no one else was laughing. "You all fail. Go home and do whatever non-ninja people do with their time. Don't bother returning to the Academy." He waved absently and walked into the suddenly thick mist at his back, his feet barely skimming the top of the ankle deep swamp.

Hinata watched the other two — children, she supposed, as they certainly weren't genin anymore — paled to greyish tones under the dim lights. Eleven o'clock, June 6th, she watched as her dreams cracked, broke, and fell into pretty, useless pieces. She wondered if she should have said something.