"I see…" Kurenai mused and looked up at the girl who had made her way over to her desk to ask for direction as what to do.
Hinata fiddled with the zipper on her royal purple sweater, pulling it up and down while waiting for an answer from her teacher. Kurenai had either gone into a very deep state of thought or forgotten why Hinata had even come up to her desk in the first place because she no longer was looking at Hinata or seemed to pay any attention as she absentmindedly stroked her growing pregnant belly. Hinata gave a small sigh and looked around the classroom decorated with many brightly coloured posters, sketches, and photos, letting her teacher have a moment to herself and possibly recollect herself while she was at it.
The art room was always like a sanctuary to Hinata with the vibrancy in colour, sharp smells of turpentine and paint and the sounds filtering through the walls next to the ill played band room. She continued her glance around the room to the visual graphics class that sometimes shared the large room with her photography class and gave a small smile to Kiba who shot his picture of a terribly drawn dog up in the air to show her. She often wondered why he had joined if he hated drawing so much, though she sometimes figured it was because of Ino, aspiring model, astronaut, and artist who Hinata often caught Kiba staring at.
"Well, this is a partner assignment, so you'll just go in a group of three then, okay?" Kurenai surprised her by suddenly replying to her long ago asked question.
Hinata nodded slowly and frowned at the thought of Sakura coming up to her at lunch to warn her that she would be skipping photography for the comfort of one of those cancer boxes that Sakura called a tanning bed. Sakura was at times a shallow and superficial girl who cared more for her obsession with boys and her shockingly good looks than grades (even though she still managed to keep a 4.0 grade average), but she was still a friend whom Hinata would help lick the open wounds and cover up red teary eyes for.
Hinata sighed again. Sakura was also her assigned partner whenever partnered assignments were necessary, thanks to the fact that their last names were so close together. It was always slightly troublesome and embarrassing when Hinata would have to make the long journey from her desk to the teacher's and tell her that she her partner was yet again "sick". Nonetheless, Hinata nodded and waited for the teacher to give her a new partnered group.
Kurenai seemed to suddenly realize this was necessary too and pointed to two boys sitting at a desk close to the door, arguing amongst each other in manners completely different from another, but seemingly equally effective. "Sasuke and Naruto. Those two always need someone to look after them. You can do that, can't you?"
Hinata gave a weak smile and nodded, taking painfully slow steps towards the two boys who always were seen together and always had a trail of trouble not far behind them. Hinata shuddered. How was she supposed to be looking after them?
"Shit, Naruto, you're even stupider than I thought."
"I am not stupid, jackass! I'm a creative thinker!"
"There is no way we are going to be able to take a photo of an elephant in a tree. Do you have an elephant by any chance? A tree sturdy enough to keep it from falling out? A means of getting it up into said tree?" Sasuke snorted and crossed his arms. "I can't believe I'm having this conversation. Even with you."
"What's that supposed to—Hey, Hinata!" Naruto looked up from his heated debate with Sasuke and grinned toothily at the frightened looking girl who smiled back uneasily. "Can I getcha anything?"
"U-uhm…Kurenai sa-said that since Sakura's not here, I should b-be partnered with you guys." Hinata answered quietly and cringed when she noticed her old habit of stuttering reappeared.
Naruto's grin widened to an even friendlier extent. "That's great! You know how the saying goes, 'two's just boring and three's company!'"
"It's amazing that your stupidity hasn't caught onto me yet. I keep fearing and expecting it everyday. Fucking idiot." Sasuke drawled and tipped his chair back to the wall.
"Hey, bastard," Naruto called across the table and stuck up a well known finger signal to the stoic boy. "We have a lady present, you douche bag, keep the language clean."
Sasuke looked up at Hinata with the realization she was there. His stare was unnerving and made Hinata fidget and tug at one of the pigtails that Tenten had convinced her to put in. She didn't understand why he didn't glare at her with annoyance or anger as he did with most people even though his lips were turned down at a downwards angle. She didn't talk with the dark eyed boy often if at all, but somehow had managed to come into his good graces that were the biting back of harsh words she would sometimes see rise up in his throat, the grunt of an answer that he spared her instead of silence, and various other small things that others may consider rude, but in comparison with Sasuke were incredibly polite.
He turned away from her and stood up with his camera in hand. "Let's start. Our assignment is to take photos of our partners with interesting perspectives or views." He scowled at the blonde and cobalt haired girl. "But we are not taking any pictures of me."
"What, is the pretty princess afraid that she's not photogenic enough?" Naruto teased with a large grin on his face and cut off Sasuke's retort that was left hanging in his open mouth. "Anyways, I know what the assignment is, Sasuke." Naruto rolled his eyes and stood up too with considerably less grace than the boy across from him.
Sasuke snorted and wiped the lens of his camera with a tissue. "Right. And what about that elephant you wanted in the tree?"
"I obviously didn't mean a real elephant--"
"Um…where should we do this?" Hinata interrupted quietly and looked up at Sasuke, searching for a way to get Naruto on track and an answer.
The boy shrugged and pointed towards the door. "Outside would be a good start."
Hinata nodded and waited for Naruto to gather his camera and trot out with her and was mildly surprised when he began chattering to her amiably about his homework, his physics teacher who always gave him a hard time, and the colour of his boxers (the latter of the topics made her blush a bright tomato red and render her tongue a heavy lead weight) like they had been friends for an incredibly long time.
She smiled through the whole pointless conversation, occasionally putting in her opinion and wondering why this conversation had gotten so easy and long. Before long, the had reached the edges of the campus where the trees were thick, tall, and brightly coloured from the toll that autumn was taking on them, cameras and assignment forgotten.
"Say, Hinata." Naruto scratched his head and looked around before turning to her. "Where's Sasuke?"
Hinata widened her eyes in surprise and realized with a heavy guilty feeling in her stomach that she had forgotten all about her other partner. "I…I don't know. Did we leave him behind at the classroom?" She didn't even remember if he had left with them after telling them that going outside for the assignment would be best.
"Tch." Naruto frowned, obviously catching the habit from Sasuke himself who was always caught with that look and expression. "Well, I'll go look for him, you stay here and start."
Hinata was about to object and tell him that she needed at least one partner to do the assignment, but the words came too late as he sped off in search of his best friend. She sighed and looked at the trees that stood so gracefully tall and proud. Even if she couldn't do the assignment, she could at least take some nice photos that would possibly get on Kurenai's good graces and give her a good enough mark.
She wandered into the small expanse of trees that surrounded the entire school campus and began to take pictures of the leaves that fluttered to the ground, the small puddles of water that nestled comfortably between tree roots, the canopy of trees that covered the clear blue sky, anything and everything that signified the presence of fall.
She traveled her line of sight over to a group of three slightly skinnier and longer trees that came together at the base and traveled slowly apart like an upside down prism without a bottom. The bark on those trees alone was a peeling white with dark slashes of black in them and made the tree seem frighteningly out of place. At the top of the trees between their small expanse of space was a small platform led up by a trail of a multitude of crudely tacked on boards that looked much too unstable for human weight.
The small, reasonable part of Hinata screamed that going up that would only cause a broken neck, or at least several other broken bones, but the other part of her that would kill for a beautiful picture beat down her reason to a broken, bloody pulp and screamed that a picture of these trees from above would definitely get Kurenai's good mark despite her lack of following instructions. It was just too good to pass up.
Strapping her camera safely against her shoulder, Hinata walked up to the boards and began to climb, knowing that if she didn't begin her descent right away without looking back, she would back down and find something of less interest to take a picture of. Each creak of the board that Hinata stepped on brought another sliver of fear into her heart that made her climb even faster for fear that every delayed step on a board would send her flying towards the ground.
The ledge of the wooden platform came into view and she gave a cry of relief as she threw herself onto it. She didn't even get up for several seconds as she let the gratitude and relief that she had not fallen to her death and the sudden tightness in her chest that she realized she had no idea how she would be getting down mingle together into a nauseous blend of emotion. Finally, she took an unsteady step up and looked around at her surroundings.
She must've been forty feet in the air, towering over other trees enough to see the small back roads that were lined with houses such her own and wound their way to the large highway teeming with cars. It was incredible. She had never been this high in open space before, and the wave of dizziness that came to her was not all from the sudden change of height, she was sure.
Whipping her camera off of her shoulder, she began to snap away at the scenery, photographing the bird that was for once below her in a tree as opposed to above, the tops of the warmly coloured leaves, and the blue sky dotted with small cotton balls of clouds. It wasn't until she felt the thump of feet and hands climbing the tree did she slowly stop and turn to face the ledge which she had climbed up. Who would be coming up here? Would it be a teacher coming to reprimand her? What about a passing man who happened to see her up here? Would anyone hear her scream? Dozens of scenarios raced through her head that was letting rampant thoughts run wild, each one worse than the next.
Tears welled in her eyes and she crouched down into a ball out of despair, holding her arms out in front of her defensively. After seeing a hand make its way onto the ledge for support, she clenched her eyes shut and screamed, "Stay away from me!"
There was no growl of a predator, no roar of a voice to tell her to shut up, no chastising of a teacher; nothing but silence that made Hinata's fears even more ill at ease. Footsteps made their way across the small platform and Hinata sobbed against her knees even harder, gripping her thighs so harshly she was sure that marks would be left.
"What are you doing?" A voice much softer than what she had expected or even hoped asked from above her.
Slowly, Hinata looked up into the unblinking eyes of the Uchiha orphan who tilted his head at her with curiosity and amusement. A horrified look spread across her face and she quickly wiped away the tears that betrayed her silliness. She would never live this down. Sasuke would tell Naruto how much of a freak she was, and Naruto would in turn tell the whole world. Did he think she was some sort of crazy weirdo? She would too if she found a classmate screaming and sobbing at the top of a tree for her to stay away.
"I-I'm sorry." Hinata whispered and shakily stood up, the blush tainting her skin giving away the sheer embarrassment she was feeling. "Sorry."
"Why?" He asked, genuinely surprised.
"For…f-freaking out like that." She looked down at her feet and almost wished that she could leap out of the tree.
There was a snort that could've been mistaken for a laugh as he leaned against a wooden rail that surrounded most of the platform and looked as if it would collapse from the weight he was placing on it. "What did you think was happening?"
"N-never mind." She shook her head and cautioned a look at Sasuke who was staring out at the expanse of land beneath them. There was no denying the small tug of attraction that she felt towards the boy with the should-be-illegal good looks. It was by no means a crush or anything nearly as severe as that, but she was a normal teenage girl who could appreciate beauty in the simplest sense.
His hair had been cut since when she last remembered and she wasn't sure whether or not it was disappointment or delight on her behalf that came from this change. No longer did his hair run amuck in longish tangles that always brushed in front of his eyes or tickled his ears, but now gave him an edgier look that made him look older and…sexier. As if reading Hinata's thoughts, he ran his hand consciously through it, probably thinking that the feeling was foreign.
He had pretty eyes too, such a deep navy blue that most girls thought they were a black onyx. How she hated that cliché. Onyx was a stone, and stones showed no emotion. Though many thought the Uchiha was the same way, Hinata could tell his emotion ran deep, merely veins of feeling so deep it was often mistaken for not being there. But she could see otherwise with the conscious crinkle between his eyebrows as he continued to touch his new style of hair, the quirk of his lips that happened when he came up onto the platform, and the discreet laughs he would sometimes share with Naruto.
Hinata snapped her gaze guiltily towards Sasuke's gaze who suddenly snapped a picture of her and made her blush. Oh, fabulous. Not only was he going to think that she was a freak show, but that she was also infatuated with him for staring so long. Not to mention the probably horribly unflattering picture he had just taken of her.
"Yes?" She asked and frowned with displeasure as he flipped through the picture on his digital camera with an amused smirk on his face. She looked back at her camera that was held faithfully in her fingers. She didn't use a flashy digital camera like most of the other students in her photography class did, but a camera that actually required film and a dark room to create the photo, it always seemed much more authentic that way.
"I said, 'Why are you up here?' Then I lost your attention to something else," Hinata was sure that the blush on her face was probably almost brown in colour by now from the smirk he gave her. "and I tried getting your attention back."
"Why are you up here?" She fired back at him.
He was unfazed by this question and shrugged as he continued to look down at the tiny screen of his camera. "I come here often."
"Naruto's looking for you…"
He shrugged. "Let him, he knows I regularly leave him during partnered assignments. Now if you'd be so kind as to answer my question…?"
There wasn't any real reason why Hinata should've answered to this arrogant boy, but she sighed and did so nonetheless. "I thought it would be a nice place to take photos."
"It is, isn't it?" He asked and turned back to face the scenery. The breeze blew stray hairs of his around in a lazy way, his pose was relaxed against the almost rotting railing, and the look in his eyes was so content that Hinata couldn't help but slowly lift up her camera and hope that she had turned off the flash.
Unfortunately, the quiet between them was so deep that his eyes flickered dangerously towards her at the sound of her shutter closing. Her eyes widened in horror as his own narrowed and his catlike paces made their way over to her. Scrambling backwards until she hit the wood board behind her that served as a rail, she whispered constant apologies.
He made his way over until there was no room for Hinata to move and he placed both hands on either sides of her. "What did I specifically ask at the beginning of this assignment?"
There was a creak from the rotten wood pressing into Hinata's back and she couldn't help but look down at the ground that was a dizzying distance away. She gave a small scream and clutched onto Sasuke's thin shirt, her fingernails scratching his hard chest beneath the shirt in her haste as she murmured more apologies, begging for him to let her go.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," She continued to gasp and threw her arms around him with a screech as he pressed her further against the rail.
"What did I ask?" He asked again in a patiently steely voice.
"Not to take any pictures of you!" Hinata cried and pressed her face into his shoulder to hide the view of everything else. Oh, God. She was going to die. She was going to fall to her death and die.
"And what did you do?" He asked in the same tone as before.
"B-but Naruto's not here! The assignment is t-to take picture of y-your partners!" She sobbed and tried to lean against him to get further away from the ledge.
Sasuke seemed to take this into consideration as he slowly stepped away from the edge with the frightened Hinata still firmly attached to him. "Well, I need one of you then too."
Hinata slowly lessened her grip and looked up at him, her shock still too great to do much else. "B-but you're already t-taken one."
He shrugged and looked down at his camera that he had turned on. "I deleted it. It wasn't very flattering."
She was still too stunned to blush.
He looked down at her wide eyes almost hesitantly before tilting his head and angling his lips around hers. Hinata didn't think it was possible for her eyes to widen further, but they did. What was she supposed to do? Why was he doing this? What was going on? Too surprised to do much else, Hinata closed her eyes and let Sasuke bring an arm around her waist.
There was a flash of light that Hinata could still tell went off from behind her closed eyelids and Sasuke slowly lifted his lips away from hers and viewed the picture he had just taken. His arm had been angled at an upwards angle so that the landscape beneath them was still seen from behind their pressed together faces.
There was an actual grin on Sasuke's face as Hinata looked down at that picture while still dazed and said, "That is not being handed into Kurenai."
He replied with another kiss.
And this time the flash did not go off.
This had been in my head all week after spotting a similar group of trees with the same platform in it at my own school. I asked my friends what was with it, and they told me a hobo lived there.
Needless to say…I don't venture up it, nor do I plan to.