Story: The Oddity

Title: The Piano

Summary: "When her fingers slide over the keys, when the dips in her fingerprints catch on the lip of the ivory, she can pretend so many things."

Character: Hyuuga Hinata

Disclaimer: Do not own.

Notes: Erm. So, this is an experiment. My first Naruto, and of course I chose character studies. I've already written Sakura's, which will go up next, but I'm not exactly sure who to do next. Help?

She used to play the piano.

When her fingers slide over the keys, when the dips in her fingerprints catch on the lip of the ivory, she can pretend so many things. She can pretend that she is beautiful, that she is open and happy and that she doesn't spend most of her time wishing she were better. There isn't improvement needed, here. For once – just once, the only place – she can rely on talent and skill and she can feel her own strength.

When she plays, people stop and listen.

They don't know who she is, this little girl with her closed eyes and her sad mouth and pale skin, but they envy her. They cluster around, quiet, and the music rushes into their minds, through their eyes and their ears and their mouths, and they can almost taste the melody brushing the back of their tongues.

Even as they envy her ability, her sadness pulls them in. They wonder if she is blind, if she is alone, if she has anyone other than the little dilapidated piano sitting in the window of the music store. They all wonder, and they all leave, after a while. They all notice her, but eventually the melancholy drives them away.

Eventually, the melancholy drives her away.

At sixteen, she still has closed eyes and a sad mouth and pale skin, but she hasn't touched the keys in ten years.

She is drawn to the instrument alone in the dark corner, to the sticking keys and the limp strings, and she sits down and gentle presses down. The note that echoes is wildly off-key, warbled and ugly. It sounds rather like she feels. They still haven't noticed that she's gone, still sitting there chatting and laughing and being lovely and perfect, so she sits and tap tap taps, and suddenly the music is drowning her, is clogging her mind and breath and she gasps, hands flopping off of the piano. The chord that sounds is pleasing in its dissonance, and it helps.

She stands up abruptly, and leaves. When she slides back into her seat, they still haven't noticed that she left.

At eighteen, she has a sad mouth and pale skin, but her eyes are open.

Across the table from her, sipping from a dish of sake, is a concert pianist. His fingers are smooth and their prints do not catch on the lips of keys. He is considered a prodigy, and she is here to kill him.

But before she does so, she listens to him play.

He is drunk, but the music he plays is studied and controlled and unmistakably violent. She sees the danger in him in the notes that rise off of the keys, harsh and precise. But there is beauty in everything he does, beauty that she can only have when she is pretending to be someone else. The music strips away everything and leaves only the truth.

So she leans over him as he plays, presses her cheek to the top of his head, and slits his throat onto the keys. He dies playing music, and those five final notes ring in her ears for years.

At twenty-one, she has pale skin, but her mouth is upturned.

She sits before a piano again, and her silk sleeves rustle like river grass. She can feel the weight of his gaze on her back – you don't have to do this, you don't have to – and it presses down on her fingers. The chord is pretty, and it makes her frown for a moment.

She doesn't want pretty. Her music has always been ugly and sad, just as she has always been ugly and sad.

But, she reflects, at the moment she is neither, so perhaps it is time for her to play something different. She slides along the keys, selecting her favorites, her old friends, tangling them together so they weave scraps of cloth that shimmers and shifts like the silk of the loose kimono she is wrapped in. She is still little and quiet, but her eyes are open on his, and her mouth curls at the corners, and her skin is flushed because there is melancholy in her music, but it is muted and leaves only the faintest aftertaste of bitterness, something that used to be there but she has now forgotten.

People stop and listen.

Next: Sakura.