Chapter Four

Hinata merely gazed out the window. In the back corner she sat with a snuggled expression settling on her face. While the kids conversed loudly during the lunchtime, Hinata took to enjoying her bento box that she carefully prepared the night before- she was always prepared if she held an all-nighter. The usual graced her elegant lavender lacquered box: rice, meatballs, and her specially made potato croquettes. For the most part, those were one of the things that made her last throughout the day. Unfortunately, with being a prized food item, cooking it with an almost heavenly taste comes with it. And with a heavenly taste that melts delectably into mouths, greedy foragers sniff their way into heaven.

She faced a sniffing boy with ruffled chestnut hair; noticeably, his nose twitched up and down like a little puppy that she would usually use as comparison. It was nothing unusual, however; Inuzuka Kiba was a man amoung dogs. He lived and breathed in a household filled with every kind of breed his family was able to muster. She would know. On several occasions, Hinata found herself bringing the week's missed assignments to the dung-filled plot they would call a lawn (this is usually found as the topic of complaint on numerous neighborhood meetings.) Instead of thinking about one unfortunate incident that involved her backside, Hinata turned to Kiba with an embarrassed smile- not so much embarrassed but embarrassed just for the heck of it.

"I packed in a few extras for you," she quietly prodded.

"Hinata-chan is so wonderful, hm?" Kiba answered. He slapped his hands together and gave a firm and resounding "Ittadakimasu!" as he dug into the bento box. Apparently, packing in a few extras meant the whole damn box. Nonetheless, a nonplussed Hinata smiled tentatively as she watched her first friend dig into the fluffy white rice.

If it weren't for him, she would have drowned within the oncoming crowd of prodigies and geniuses, or at least that's what she thought of them. As soon as Ino and Shikamaru came into the little gathering, it tumbled like a giant snowball when Akimichi Choji carried his plump self across the lawn. Although not likely to be claimed as one of the top students, Uzumaki Naruto made his grand appearance with a shout and a kick. Even though it was undeniable how much of an idiot he was, being unpredictable became one of his strongest suits.

With almost all of the group assembled, minus the vice president named Aburame Shino, Hinata felt as though she was being suffocated under the pressure of their radiance. So perhaps she may be exaggerating, but when they all squeezed into a circle, she felt herself slightly nudged out.

Just when she finally decided that her presence wasn't needed, a big heavy jacket wound up like a ball smashed into the circle and scattered those who made it up.

Kiba claimed it was a ball that he was trying to catch. Neji pointed out that balls were prohibited at this part of the school (due to the many injuries recorded at this very place.) In which, Kiba laughed quite loudly and ran away to find Shino before a very heated Neji caught his tail.

So perhaps he didn't save her on purpose; well, she really didn't know what to think at that very moment when some screamed and others kicked.

One thing was clear: Hyuuga Hinata had the worst case of vocalization and socialization problems. Why she didn't leave the budding circle of inner geniuses in the first place? Neji and Hinata attended one private lesson in the morning together (courtesy of Hiashi;) but mostly due to the fact that Hyuuga Neji was a somewhat comforting presence. And with that being said, that certainly didn't say much for how many friends she had at school.

"Neee, Hinata-chan! You didn't eat your sweet bun," Kiba pulled her back into the present.

She looked up at him and then at the bun in her hands. Without any further thought, she relinquished her food. In return, an empty bento box was handed to her.

"You're the best," he cried out, giving her a thumbs up.

With a flush face, she nodded and proceeded to look out the window.

"You're always daydreaming," Kiba noted a bit solemnly.

"M-Maybe- I'm sorry-"

"Hey, hey, what are you apologizing for? Geez."

"I'm sorry-"

"Wait, stop before you go any further. Look," and with a wave of the hand that seemed to wave off her next apology, Kiba then finished his thought, "you wanna talk about the weather? You seem to look at it often, y'know."

"It's nice."

It's nicer than watching the numerous girls that crowded the table where Naruto and Sasuke sat. The latter seemed to be immeasurably annoyed at how each girl clung to him and then Sakura had to swat them off... over and over and over again.

"Yea, it's nice for playing soccer," he added to her short reply.

"I-I don't play soccer," she said quietly, looking over at him with her usual embarrassed expression- which was one of the reasons why Kiba found her so irresistible in a very sisterly way (or so he kept telling himself.)

"Right... you don't! Not that it's bad or anything," he chuckled. A cheeky grin made it to his face.

Hinata didn't say anything further; a small smile was enough to end the conversation.

Kiba only sighed. What was he going to do with her? They were friends, but not personal; and yet, Hinata treated him very personally simply because she has had no personal relationships before now... which wasn't all that personal. Simply put, she was inexperienced.

All the more, it made her adorable.

Kiba shook his head and reached over; he gave her two pats on the head and she flushed again.

"I'm sorry," she quietly squeaked.

And for the life of him, Kiba never understood why she apologized at that very moment.

"Haruno-san, you're so lucky aren't you? How many months has it been already?"

"I think it's already been almost half a year." Sakura gave a quick glance to the young man munching on his rice ball for affirmation; unfortunately, he didn't answer as he merely looked off to the side. And as adept as always, she easily shrugged the situation off as if it never happened. "I hope I've done well, though."

"What do you mean, done well!?" Naruto interjected with a haste look towards Sasuke. "What have you been doing to her, bastard?"

Sakura grabbed his arm forcefully and said through gritted teeth, "I hope I've done well, and that's the end of it! Stop adding stupid embellishments!"

Strange looks gathered on the faces of their spectators. Almost half a year and she hopes she has done well. On being a good girlfriend? Questioning her ability on being a good girlfriend certainly brings other questions into precedence. First and foremost: Are they both happy being a couple? When a few remembered, the lack of physical contact only strengthened their reasons in questioning their relationship.

A few smiled at this revelation.

Others hid a look of worry under their cheery faces.

"I'm sure you did well enough," one girl offered- due to her shallow thinking, she wasn't aware of the deeper implications.

Naruto vigorously nodded to back up this statement; Sasuke rolled his eyes.

Sakura smiled nervously. "Right, I did wonderful." Her right hand snaked its way to Sasuke's; and with a strong hand conditioned from tennis practice, she tightly squeezed. It was as if she was ensuring that Sasuke was indeed with her. "I did great."

On the other side, Sasuke simply spaced out as he looked out the window. Well, not so much as spaced out, but watched with underlying disgust as Inuzuka Kiba flailed his arms excitedly and jumped to and fro. In doing so, the back of his mind kept banging at the utter lack of sense that protruded: Exactly why have you been watching the fool spasm like a stray fish on land?

And actually, that brings him to a very interesting fact on fish- or at least, that's what he thought. He was having a fun day picking the scales off fish one day. It was just lying on the counter, gutless and helpless, and he found the pattern to be oddly attractive. So what else would he do with it? Pick it off (after all, that would be anyone's first thought, right?) And while doing so, it just so happened he picked off the line that hid fluid-fillled canals and cells which transmit vibrations to the brain. As he later found out, it was called the lateral line- it helps fish detect their predators and prey. It was an at home dissection with the easiest of tools: his own hand.

In the back of his head, he noted how he liked to see lesser things suffer under him (for the moment, he forgot the most crucial factor: it was dead.) To see its wide eyes staring up at him in fear (still dead.) To have it struggle beneath his finger (dead.)

Sasuke couldn't help it; he gave a deep rumble of an evil laugh. In which earned him a few gasps and uncertain giggles.

For Naruto, he slightly shivered when noticed just how evil it was. Which was a first this time as he usually just watched Sakura with a deep longing.

"Yea, you think it's funny too, Sasuke-kun?" Sakura continued off on her tangent about a topic he wasn't aware of reacting toward.

He answered with a tired gaze.

"Mm, graduation. It's only a few months away. I haven't even decided what college I'm going to."

"I don't think that's a problem, Sakura-chan!" Naruto once again interrupted with loud encouragement. Sakura flashed him an irritated growl, so a classmate decided to intervene with her own opinion. "I don't think that's a problem. After all, once you've done your entrance exams, then anybody would want you."

"I guess not," Sakura answered with perky smile- odd considering how Naruto almost said the same thing.

"I have a feeling you're going to Tokyo University with Sasuke-kun, though."

Sakura settled quietly into her seat. Sasuke suddenly returned to the conversation with a short piqued interest.

Naruto flinched. And what about him!?

"I mean, you're both going to make it, aren't you? You and Sasuke-kun are in the top five of our school. It would make sense that you would pass the entrance exams."

"Plus, you're both together."

"It would make sense."

It would make perfect sense.

Sasuke gave a dismissive nod.

Naruto twitched. And what about him!?

Sakura returned a hopeful look. "You know what they say about Tokyo U."

"Maybe," he finally spoke with a lingering voice. He had purposely avoided telling her that he wasn't going to take the entrance exam or going to pursue any other higher education. His father had once told him that he would have a chance; Sasuke naively took his word for it.

"No matter right? It's the start of third term. We have, what, two months ahead of us- including this month?" Sakura brightened up as she finally heard him.

"But that means two months of examination hell."

"We'll be booked with cram school."

"Why are you going to cram school, anyway, Haruno-san?"

"Always trying to show us up huh?"

"Haha, of course. She even has Tsunade backing her."

"Since when?"

Kiba seems to be having trouble; Sasuke noted as the conversation turned stale once more. He returned to watching to weather outside, but Kiba's flailing arms demanded attention once more.

"Hinata-chan! You've gotta help me! I've only a few weeks until the entrance exams!" He apparently heard as Kiba decided to announce it to the whole class.

"What do you mean you're busy?"

"What? What club? I didn't know you were in a club."

"It isn't as important as the entrance exams!"

"What about sewing!?"

Sasuke chuckled inside his head. He knew exactly what he was talking about. He knew as much as Kiba since the latter yelled, "Quilts for your club? What type of club is this?"

To think, one little meeting brought him on a personal level with Hyuuga Hinata; and with that thought, he finally laid his eyes on her with amusement crinkling in his eyes. She was there, just as cute as yesterday, with her hands held up in defense and a nervous smile seizing her lips.

"Kiba-kun, p-please," she weakly mustered as Kiba started shouting to no one in particular.

"Oi! Idiot! Stop shouting so much! We're trying to have lunch!" A voice shouted from the side, which happened to be right beside Sasuke's ear.

A vein popped in front of Hinata's eyes. "You're having lunch? That's nice you consider it lunch with that shit for food in your bowl!"

"This is quality instant ramen! Maruchan made it!"

"What? Wait, what flavor?"

"Lime Chili with Shrimp of course!"

"Hey... that's actually really good."

"Isn't it!?"

"Have you had the Sapporo Ichiban brand yet?"

"Yea, shrimp for the win!"

"I was thinking the same thing!"

Although it was interesting how Naruto and Kiba found similar grounds on brands of ramen, Sasuke finally couldn't stand the incessant loud voices his classmates made while talking about shrimp flavored noodles, or how the chili flavored ones made by Nissin hit the "spot."

Hinata started thinking the same thing, no matter how much fondness she held for the two. In a different way, her inner voice wasn't chanting "idiot" or "dunce" or, as a personal favorite, "lummox." In fact, thinking ceased as she found their conversation filling her head. A resigned and troubled grimace settled on her face as consolation.

"Kiba! Naruto! Shut up already!" Sakura intervened as her senses finally reached it limit.

"Ne! Ne! Sakura-chan!" Naruto whined as he waved his hands about. "We were just about to talk about the spicy flavor! I think you'll really like it, the ones by Nissin Demae, ne? They're vermicelli noodles!"

"It's not the matter of whether or not I'll like it!" Sakura vehemently replied. "It's the fact that you're shouting across the room and it's indecent!"

"Just a bunch of stuck-ups that's all," Kiba shouted just to get on her nerves.

And just when Sakura finally took a step across that line, a divine intervention arrived in the form of a pretty brunette with a single ponytail and many barrettes.

"Inuzuka-san, I have a question for you," one classmate called with a sweet voice. Kiba's eyes widened slightly and his cheeks flushed terribly as he noticed it was a rather cute girl.

Hinata's jaw almost fell limp as he jumped up from his seat and followed the young girl outside the classroom. The room fell dead silent along with her as they realized how much of a fool he was. Unbeknown to Kiba and known by everyone else, her classmate was going to lead him to Aburame Shino, the only person that could ever tame the school's very own pet dog.

Naruto shook his head in disbelief.

Sakura smiled in relief.

Sasuke looked over at the window and finally noticed how clear of a day it was.

Hinata noticed how quiet it has gotten again- at least in her little spot. While the rest of the class returned to its lively activities that consisted of not eating lunch, Hinata quietly munched on what was left of her sweet bun that Kiba carelessly dropped on her desk.

It was nice, this daily life, where she accepted fading into the background. A usual tumble here and there, but it was always the same: she was just watching. She liked it that way anyway. Going through life as an unassuming person felt like a godsend, though as much as she wanted this, it could never be. Especially noting how a bump in with another young man with the status of most pursued bachelor on the school, Hinata noticed just how much it can never be an unassuming lifestyle. Although it hasn't caused a ripple on her social status (yet) she knew there were consequences when a person finds out what you really did in your past time. And just because of that, her eyes kept trying to wander over to where he sat just so she can confirm that there was person at school who knew what she was about. Even if he wasn't aware that sewing frills has become her life, at least he knew it existed within her.

So fate won as she finally let her wandering gaze fall on the other side of the room. Her eyes met his; it held for at least a minute.

And finally.


There in his black depths was a flash of recognition.

And for the first time, she didn't want to accept being pushed back into the background. It felt good being noticed by a person who knew just a little about her; or in the case of Hyuuga Hinata, someone who know everything about her.

She was the only one at the shoe lockers that day. It was courtesy of her father that the school gave special privileges to her and Neji. However, it ended up being Hinata alone at the shoe lockers since Neji always made it a point to oversee the cleaning of the schools. One other person was also granted the leniency with cleaning, and that was Uchiha Sasuke- it goes without saying why.

He wasn't at the lockers with Hinata, much to her dismay. Which was odd because only a day ago she ignored the very existence of him.

Now, here she was with a shirt hanging limply in her hand. It was also a tad depressing because she had to go through a haze of worry and incredulity to come to a decision. Coming to the simple decision of whether or not she should give the shirt suddenly felt like a complete loss.

With her indoor shoes still on, she walked out to the hallway where students ran past her as they scrubbed the floor. Or rather, ran wasn't particularly the right description. They positioned themselves like a bridge from the heels of their feet to the clothe in their grasp; they scurried down the hallway on all floors like big lumbering rats- although comparing them to big lumbering rats was a feat when there were no big lumbering rats (at least, for the most part.)

"Guess what Hinata-chan!"

She gasped as she saw Kiba enter the hallway stripped down to his shorts. It was rather a shock to see him like this since the rest of the students opted to be sheltered from germs. Whether or not he was in the right mind was no matter. From the first day she met him he wasn't ever in the right mind.

"K-Kiba-kun?" she managed.

"Shino gave me bathroom and hallway duty. I didn't know he could do that," Kiba laughed as he rubbed his head.

"Shino can be very strict with you," Hinata weakly commented.

"Becaues I talk about food with that idiot?"

"He's... not an idiot."

"Yea, nice argument Hinata-chan."

"I-I'm sorry."

A sigh and a pat on the head. This became a usual habit whenever Kiba said something offending. "I was kidding," he muttered as he mussed her hair.

"I'm sorry."

"Hey, don't start that now."

"I-I'm sorry!"


"I'm- I..." She took a deep breath, and even almost gagged. Pride almost radiated from her surprised expression; unfortunately, it was smoothed over when the next few words became hard to articulate. "Um, have you um..."

Kiba looked strangely at her. He ushered her out of the hallways before their classmate had the chance to topple them over. "What's wrong?"

"Um, have you.. have you, you know, seen... ah-"


"No, no!" She cried out, her face pinking considerably.

"Then what? I haven't seen you stutter this badly," Kiba paused, "well, stutter this badly on your own accord- hey nice word huh?"

"B-But- K-Kiba-kun!" She hustled even more closely to his ear and whispered ever so lightly, "Have you.. have you seen- aa- Uchiha-san?"

The students heard a resounding yelp that oddly sounded like "That bastard?" But because of the ambiguity of the statement, they dismissed it as another student (most likely Kiba or Naruto) having another tussle.

Hinata's face almost blew up in flames. She waved her hands up and down, which signaled him to keep his voice down. Muttering a strangled apology, Kiba nodded and looked off to the side. "I dunno. I mean, come on... I don't watch the guy."

An exasperated sigh followed; this sigh prompted look of confusion made it to the face of a very troubled young man in gym shorts.

"D-do you know where he is?" And please don't go on a random defense into your sexuality because I wasn't asking that question please stick with the topic thank you very much...

"I think he headed out early. He went to the nurse's room before the day ended, remember?"

"I-I remember."

"Right, well. I don't know whether or not he would still be here- but more likely than not he's already gone. You know how it is with the rich folks huh? Especially when a little downer is just ahead, eh?"

"Thank you anyway," Hinata said with a bow.

Kiba didn't notice as soon as a few girls walked his way with a few giggles. In the midst of the giggling girls was Yamanaka Ino who stuck her tongue out at him as they passed his stripped appearance. "Get to work, dog," she had called out; and with a pat of the broom against his backside he pursued the girls with a joking manner evident in his speech and gestures.

Feeling slightly jilted, Hinata smoothed out the rest of her nerves and went back to the entrance. Just when she was about to work up the courage to do something, two let-downs occurred to dampen her spirits. Not that she wasn't used to it...

She laboriously shook off her shoes and replaced it with her regular ones. This change in movement always signaled when Hinata was currently hitting rock bottom. On several occasions, it almost got her killed even. One obvious time was when she ignored the speeding car down the road. Neji had heroically saved her that day by swiftly running up to her and pulling her along into the mud- it was raining that day. That stoic cousin of hers heroically saved the day by ruining her homework on her terribly executed english grammar. God forbid she would turn in paper riddled with mistakes. It's sad to say, but hinata sourly thought of this conclusion when she found out she was at least five inches away from the oncoming car (Neji had miscalculated.)

Hinata's sluggish movements were even more noticeable as she walked down the road. Onlookers noted the eerie scene as she made her way through the crowd with a drape of long black hair covering her face.So if there was anything more uplifting in a day, it was going to the convenience store to buy a cheap set of needles that came in those "One-Two-Three Easy Seam" packets. After all, Hinata had a full day ahead with making a new outfit. Plus, she really wasn't lying about those quilts she needed to make for the club.

So as she entered the convenience store with a considerably happier face on, her first instinct was to buy the little packets of needles that she didn't need. Hinata would have jet-lined straight for the shiny bodkins if it weren't for Naruto's statement flashing across her head, much like an annoying advertisement: "Try the Nissin Demae Spicy Vermicelli Noodles! It'll always light a fire on a dark day- literally!"

A full-on image of the package flashed trough her head; and conveniently enough, there it was on the shelf of the convenience store. Hinata stood there with half a mind for a good while. She didn't like spicy things in particular... but for some reason she felt like having noodles.

She wasn't alone on that thought either.

Right beside her, with an equally half a mind, stood Uchiha Sasuke with a dazed expression. His hand was in the motion for reaching the packets, but it stopped halfway through. It was as if he had physically and mentally stopped himself from doing the most horrible: buy something his "best friend" had recommended.

The two had disregarded each other's presence until the very crucial moment when they reached for the packets. The crinkling of the plastic shook them into reality; its fine artificial mass making enough noise to alarm them of their wrongdoing.

As their eyes met, everything fell neatly into place. Both of their faces flushed a dark color. Both of their bodies made spastic movements back. Both of their voices stuck inside their throat. Both of them released their packets.

He was breathless for only a moment as he watched the young woman's face crinkle into absolute horror. As soon as he found his voice again, he bluntly barked, "That brand is horrible!"

His provoking statement did well as she caught her breath and replied, "I-I don't think seafood is very good e-either."

"Seafood is healthy for you. It's loads better than that spicy stuff."

"B-But Naruto-kun mentioned it-"

"Like that idiot is the authority over instant ramen. You're better off with the curry udon."

"I don't like sp-spicy things."

"Then why were you buying something spicy in the first place?"

Hinata rose to answer, but trailed off as she wondered why she wanted to buy it; because she felt like it wasn't a valid reason... or was it?

"I-I just felt like it that's all," she answered in a huff.

"Well..." he paused briefly. Well, who could argue with that logic. After all, he followed that very philosophy almost everyday. He sighed and twiddled with his hair. "It's an anathema against all cogent notions- who in their right sense would purchase detrimental products to suit their rebellious needs."

"Not so much as it is highly juvenile to insert random synonyms in order to achieve discombobulation," Hinata retorted, feeling highly frustrated at how he muttered words classified as synonyms but do not necessarily have the same connotation. Moreover, said words provided a lot brain foraging within a minute or so; the odd word discombobulation was circling her head fortunately. How so? She saw it on a pass through of the dictionary. She just thought it looked funny and remembered it. And she found the word so endearing, she made a little reminder in the back of her head: People's heads discomfortingly bob when faced with confusion.(Note that these are honors students.)

Sasuke almost choked back a laugh at the forced statement.

"Shall I consider you a cut above the company?"

"W-With all due respect."

Sasuke almost bit down on his tongue to fight back the oncoming smile. Through most of the day, this was by far the most entertaining.

"Hi, Hyuuga Hinata," he drawled.

Hinata flinched slightly as she took notice of the tone that he adopted. It was unlike those that he usually had with Sakura or the rest of the school. It wasn't particularly insulting, but it had a subtle mocking that was only meant to tease. And usually, when confronted with teasing, Hinata couldn't help but absorb its qualities and use it for her own.

"H-Hello, Uchiha-sama," she replied with a smile.

"How have your skirts been lately?" he asked, even though he didn't care about her dresses at the very least.

"I-I finished just yesterday."

"Like a throw up of candy canes and lollipops I'm assuming?"

"I wouldn't have it any other way," she replied with a laugh.

Sasuke's eyebrows quirked upwards. "I've never known you to be so... chatty."

"I-I think I should say the same for you."

He chuckled inwardly

"Sometimes I don't like talking."

She carefully looked over to him.

"I... I'm too afraid to talk."

He carefully looked over to her.

"I like quiet people better," he said to no one in particular. He had hastily looked away from her.

"Just like how you'd rather have tomato flavored ramen."

This caught him off guard as she stated little known fact about him- and it wasn't so much teasing as it was poking fun.

Hinata noticed Sasuke's momentary relapse into silence, and so she did the same. They didn't observe each other but the packages and bowls of instant ramen before them. And with that comfortable silence, the two ran through the flavors of ramen inside their head: miso, tonkatsu, shrimp, seafood, miso, spicy, miso...

After finishing the whole row of neatly organized packets on shelf, Hinata turned to look at Sasuke who seemed to be twirling his hair again. His face held a pensive but hardened look; very much telling how he was thinking about what exactly was going on in here. Sympathizing with his sentiments, she opened her mouth and willed her voice to be known again.

"U-Uchiha-san, I-"

She was interrupted.

"When are you going to buy my tomatoes?"

Hinata flushed vividly. It was once again an unexpected statement coming out of him.

"Wh-when are you going to pass by the shop?"

He thought for a moment, wanting to push how far she can go.

"Never," he answered with a satisfied smirk.

But what he didn't anticipate was the frown that made it onto her face. For a moment, he had forgotten just how meek and emphatic Hyuuga Hinata was. In the game he played within his head, he had simply regarded this as playtime- especially when he had simply ignored her at school today. When she took all the noodles she wanted from the shelves and payed for them in one swift movement, Sasuke was still adding up the factors of what he did. When she left the shop in a hurry, he finally realized that Hyuuga Hinata had tried to make friends with him in a very unorthodox way.

He had to admit it. It was the first time he felt a little bit guilty, especially when he initiated the interaction... then ignored her (for a very good reason he might add and later embellish)... then ridiculed her (which he has been doing for some time now.)

Most especially, when she pressed against his hand and murmured a soft, "I'm sorry," did he feel guilt stabbing at him.

He observed the shirt that she silently passed onto him... and twitched.

There were frills at the hem of the pockets.

Ending Note: The setting is weird. I know- but I won't go into detail on that. The relationship is complicated. The cultural references may be incorrect. But no matter- forge ever onward! And yes. Discombobulation is a word I like, so I used it. Go around and say it to people, then you'll see why. Funny isn't it? It's for the reason to sound smart and stupid at the same time that I use that word. Sometimes, I admit, I feel really stupid when I say rare words (but perhaps that's only me.)