I do not own Naruto or any of its characters.
This is just a random drabble. To those that have read stories of mine, you should know that this one is more associated with Japanese than my other Naruto fics. It made the names of the techniques flow smoother. No honorifics, however, cos i can't tell heads or tails of them.
Also, be aware that i have altered Neji's childhood a little.
He Who Hates Love
Neji Hyuuga is self-taught. He teaches himself many things. He tutors himself with his clan's Jyuuken, and he knows without having to be advised that fangirls should be avoided. When he is four, he starts teaching himself to hate.
He makes it no unspoken secret to those around him that he despises those of a superior bloodline to his in the Hyuuga Clan. He used not to care about the injustice. All little Neji used to concern himself with was his father, and although Hizashi commonly apologised for 'being too slow', Neji always shook his head and smiled and told his father that he was happy as was.
He hates Hizashi for leaving him all alone.
Then, when he learns the truth, he hates the Main House for taking the loving father away from a son who never even had the chance to say goodbye.
Neji is seven when he decides that he has been too kind to the bastards and begins altering himself, adjusting and refining. He is eight when he walks home from the Academy one evening and comes across his cousin floating facedown in the lake. He stands by the edge and stares at the small body, limbs spread and buoyed as if she had attempted a bellyflop. A small smile creeps into his expression, and he finds that he is satisfied she is dead.
However, when his Byakugan activates on its own accord and he notices the feeble thrumming of her heart, he drops his backpack and dives in to pull her to the shore. After he flushes the excess water from her system with a precise Jyuuken strike and she coughs and throws up in his lap, he wants to throw her back in the damned lake and let her drown.
Neji met Hinata when he was four and she was three. He'd known that he had a cousin in the main house, a daughter born to his father's brother – but he had never seen her, and when Hizashi often told him how generous his brother's wife was, Neji deduced that her daughter would surely hold the same grace.
When he is finally allowed the chance to meet The Hinata, it is her third birthday, and when he sees her, he smiles and she presses herself against Hiashi's leg, pale eyes wide. Hinata is quiet, kind, generous – and weak.
Neji likes her anyway. So, when Hizashi implores his young son to protect the heiress, Neji smiles and responds obediently and willingly. He still likes her even though her father gave his father a terrible headache, because, without a doubt, gentle Hinata would have had no hand in Hiashi's psychotic impulses.
The day after Hizashi recovers and once again tells his son that he is sorry, this time without stating a reason, Neji finds himself aimlessly wandering the estate, and when he sees Hinata sitting on the front porch, staring at the courtyard and swinging her little legs, he respectfully announces his presence with a bow before he sits next to her.
She smiles shyly and quickly averts her gaze when he returns the greeting with a smile of his own. They sit in silence for a while, and Neji is alright with that, as he has recently taken to meditating. He finds himself with his legs crossed and his hands laid on his knees, palms facing upward, and before he even realises he has shifted his posture, Hinata interrupts with a small sound that Neji barely manages to take notice of.
"Ano… Neji, what are you doing?"
Then he discovers that he has adapted the meditation pose. "I'm meditating," he responds, and he unfolds his legs when Hinata's eyes widen. He shrugs and adds, "Father says it will help me find calm when I need it."
"Oh. What… what happened to your head?"
Neji frowns and touches the bandages wound around his forehead with a finger. He has forgotten about them. He reaches up and removes the bandages, revealing a mark coloured in a light shade of green. "Your father gave it to me. It is to protect the Main House, he says."
Hinata is three when she sees the Hyuuga Clan's Caged Bird Seal for the first time, and Neji is six when he finds out what it does.
He hadn't meant to intrude. He hadn't even known the grounds had been sacred. But Hiashi had punished him anyway, and Neji screams and writhes and faintly wonders why his uncle would hurt him. A week later, he draws the incident with his father's two years ago, and the memory of Hizashi prompts Neji to remember the lifeless body in the dark room, and when he overhears a council meeting regarding his father's death, he finds hatred all too easily.
That is why he found pleasure when he saw Hinata in the lake, floating lifelessly in the water.
But he saved her and carried her home on his back and let her cough water into the back of his neck every few seconds.
He knows it, and, although she remains silent, Hinata knows it as well.
From the moment he cast his backpack to the grass and gathered himself to spring into the lake, he had the intention to save her, and that meant that he cared.
He had not been pleased, of course. He had sat in his room a long time and meditated deeply. Berating himself an idiot did little to console him, so he immersed himself with excuses:
The elders would have found out anyway – surely someone must have seen him.
He had only tried to test his capabilities in the water.
He had mistaken her for a villager and did not realise until he had hauled her out of the water.
Blood was thicker than water – no, scratch that.
The truth was twisted, transformed and morphed beyond recognition. Neji found that he preferred it that way. So he forgot about it.
Until a year later, when Hinata presents to him a gift, the first one she has ever given.
Neji turns his head slightly when she appears behind him, stepping out of the manor. He ignores her and his wrist flicks out to jab at the dummy's torso with more force than necessary, sending flecks of straw spraying into the air and brushing against his cousin's face.
She flinches, but does not go away. "N-Neji…"
He continues to disregard her presence.
"Neji, I-I have something… for you."
He stops and glances over his shoulder. "For… me?"
She appears to be startled by the veins that are fading from his eyes, and she only manages a dumb nod. He waits, and she hurriedly bows her head, extending both her hands toward him. Her feet shuffle around nervously.
It is a ribbon, made of silk and coloured in a shade of navy blue that glistened black in the evening sun.
"What is the meaning of this?"
Hinata flushes. "It's for your hair; I-I saw one of my classmates g-give one to her friend and she looked happy so I thought…" She makes a small whimpering sound. "I wanted to thank you… f-for saving me last year."
And he remembers. It wasn't like he had forgotten – surely not. He had only ignored his memory. But he doesn't want to remember, so he turns away and manages to blow the dummy apart with a single strike that startles Hinata to no end. He waits for her to leave and scuttle off in fear. When she doesn't, he cannot help himself.
"What were you doing in the lake anyway?" he asks coldly, and she jumps slightly at his voice.
She tells him about the chakra-controlling exercise Hiashi had set her. She explains that her father forbid her from returning until she had mastered it, so she had worked herself to extreme fatigue – and he knew it from there. Neji's eyes flickers when he hears of the training Hinata has been put through under Hiashi's guidance. He asks her, emotionlessly, how to perform this particular exercise, and when she is all too happy to elucidate, he stores it into his memory, and he attempts to walk on water the next day.
But before that day came, Hinata insistently presses the ribbon into his possession. "Keep it," she stammers. She thrusts it into his hands and leaves immediately, her face a blush of scarlet.
Neji stares at the silken fabric in his hand. Then he pulls back his hair, gathers it in a loose ponytail and ties the ribbon around it.
There was no other explanation for it; he cares.
If he didn't, he would have thrust the gift at his cousin's turned back regardless of the hurt she would suffer from.
It's the reason why he never taunts Hinata when she falls to her younger sister in training.
Why he hasn't killed her when given so many chances.
Why he tries to avoid her team in the Forest of Death, knowing that he would kill to accomplish a mission.
Why he attempts to kill her and not leave her in pain during the preliminary match.
Why he forgives Hiashi when the truth is revealed and why he tells his uncle so.
Why he wordlessly tells Hinata with his eyes that the knucklehead would be back when Naruto leaves for his training trip.
Why he, not Hiashi, is the one who picks up Hanabi from the Academy on the day of her graduation.
Why he teaches Hinata Kaiten when her father would not, just to ensure that she would survive the second run of the Chunin Exam.
Why he uses the same technique on Naruto when the latter asks Hinata out and brings her back in tears.
Neji cares. He knows he does. And even though they say nothing, his family knows too.
That's why he hates them.