The First of Many

She had never been particularly brave or strong. Neji knew that, but during his Academy years he chose not to help her, but to resent her and her position; the power it would give her in the future. Hinata would probably never grow out of her fear, much less probable was his growing out of his indifference

And, yet, here he was, years later. Neji stood with her, Hinata Hyuuga the Leader of the Hyuuga clan, swearing to be her sole protector for many years to come. It had been his choice, one she reminded him he could choose to change many times before this day.

"Sh…" he would say, putting a single finger to her lips. "I know. Hinata, I know."

She would just smile, hope shining in her eyes. "Thank you, Neji-sama." She replied every time the conversation happened, kissing him on the cheek. The familiar movements and the clandestine closeness they shared…it was almost torture to his already wounded heart.

The 42nd time she reminded him the ritual had gone normal, if a bit rushed due to the impending loyalty ceremony. But this time, when Hinata went to kiss his cheek like always, Neji swiftly turned his head so his mouth met hers. Strangely enough, she didn't resist. Gasping slightly, she pulled back to end the kiss. "Neji…" she whispered, that beautiful blush he had come to love spreading across her cheeks. "What…?"

"Sh…" he silenced her, a practiced gesture. "Hinata-sama, I know this is odd, I know it may be shameful to you as a leader, but I don't care. These years since the Academy, the Chunin exams…I have protected you selflessly. I have become a confident, a friend…and I have grown to love you." The weight of the confession darkened the air between them.

Hinata's smile was bright enough to illuminate a moonless night. "I love you too, Neji."

They grasped each other's hands, walking into the chamber where the ceremony would be held. Neji squeezed her hand, silently vowing that this would not be the last time they stood together to be joined eternally.

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AN: Naruto was probably the first anime I ever watched (well, after Kiki's Delivery Service) and defiantly the first I liked enough to start buying the manga. I have my pairings, almost none canon, and this is one of them. I now present, Neji and Hinata Hyuuga!! If you're interested in what other Naruto pairings I might be writing soon, check out my Beta Reader profile. All my pairings for everything is there.