It was never out of hate, but out of pain.

He would skirt around, clinging to the façade that he really did hate her; though deep down he knew it was exactly the opposite.

Neji Hyuuga was not a man of many words, but one always seemed to echo throughout his mind: Hinata. Her name filled his mind to the point where he would get distracted in the middle of training with Ten Ten and Lee.

"Focus, Neji." Lee called from where he practiced his taijutsu. "Now is not the time to be daydreaming. Especially about one as great as Lady Hinata."

Neji scowled. After years of being a squad – even after becoming jonin – his teammates still knew him too well. "I don't know what you're talking about, Lee," he grumbled, forcing himself to keep the edge out of his voice. But it was there, and he knew that they could tell.

He finished early, as always, but excused himself instead of staying to train with his teammates. It was a rainy day, the kind he always found himself lost in. Lost too, was Hinata.

She had grown quiet strong in their years since being Chunin. The strength required for half of the ninjutsu she used was incredible, far beyond what Neji knew himself capable of. The pain she could inflict with a single touch, a single look…Neji shook his head, trying in vain to shake the thought out of his head.

I will not succumb to pain, he thought. I am a stronger shinobi than that.