Disclaimer: I do not own, nor wish to ever own NARUTO or its characters. Though I wish I could've been part of the creative process so that I could tell Kishimoto how to not troll certain characters into one-dimensional personas.
A/N: Thank you kindly for the reviews. I know I've been absent for a long time and have broken many deadlines. For that, I apologize. I assure you guys that it was never my intention to leave you hanging and I feel horrible for it. I'm in my third year of medicine but I have now taken a one month leave of absence so that I can retake my life and reconnect with everything I left behind. True, I doubt I'll be able to do it all in one month but lucky, lucky, this chapter was one of the top priorities of my to-do-list. Again, I apologize for the three years wait. I really want to be a doctor.
Thank you Sodapops for beta-ing the chapter.
Disclaimer 2: There is a scene in this chapter inspired by "Ao Haru Ride". Congrats if you find it. Now without further ado, the Hinata Chapter!
-x-x-x-(Its absence diminishes mediocre passions but increases great ones, just like the wind extinguishes candle lights but fans fires)-x-x-x-
It had started by voicing out an honest observation.
"I um… I like your necklace best because it matches the color of your eyes, Na-Naruto-kun"
This was followed by a warm and kind gesture.
"Really? I've never really taken it off since I've gotten it, really. Hey, wanna try it on, Hinata?"
However, it has been said that fortune and misfortune are equally balanced on the scale of luck.
"Shino, help me out here! Hinata is going to kill herself!"
It is true that even in misery we must never lose our ray of hope; but it is also true that every light does cast a shadow.
"Kiba… it appears I hit a dead end. I don't know how to solve this one without either party suffering for it."
If truer words were ever spoken, it would express that the way to hell has always been paved with good intentions.
-x-x-x- Chapter Seventeen: "Confession (One laughter away from a tear)" -x-x-x-x-x-x-One-x-x-x-x-x-Laughter-x-x-x-x-x-Away-x-x-x-x
"She was a quiet girl… once. Wouldn't hurt a fly! But her family always pressured her into a mold she wasn't meant to fit. I… I worried about her, and even voiced my concerns, for you see, she's my friend. Well, she was my friend. Yet no matter what people told her, she would always reply with a timid smile and thank me for worrying, but that she was above it. At the time I had… admired that about her. I had mistaking it with quiet confidence."
"Believe it, she would reply back. Using that phrase I always used when trying to convince others of things I was unsure of myself. I guess that should've been my first hint. But back then I didn't connect the dots. I don't know why I didn't but… but then one day she… she… she snapped."
A shiver went down Naruto's spine. People may call him dense but he was smart to know he didn't like the direction this movie was taking. The background music had suddenly stopped and that could only mean one thing when watching horror movies. And it usually involved gore.
"Any minute now," the frightened boy thought as he pressed back against his chair, the anticipation doing cruel things to his stomach.
He needed more popcorn.
He didn't want to be scared and he had heard that some people ate away their feelings as a healing process. Plus, if he went to buy it he wouldn't have to be here.
"I think I saw something dark hide behind that scary street corner I would normally never walk into" The woman in the film stated to her other friend. "Stay here while I go deep in there and check it alone."
"Popcorn, think popcorn!" the boy cowered, wanting to reaching for the bag the girl beside him held, his hand only stopping when he noticed how depressingly small said bag was.
"Ne, Hinata?" Naruto called, scratching the bridge under his nose as he spoke, "Are you sure that's all you want to eat?" If he was getting another bag for himself he might as well get one for Hinata. Jiraiya, for reasons that were probably misguided, had given him an extra twenty when the boy told him a girl had asked him out.
Hinata stared wide eyed before quickly hiding her face away behind her bangs. "That's o-okay," she replied timidly, "I'm… um, I'm trying to diet."
"Diet?" he thought with distaste, recalling how obsessed Sakura and Ino were with that particular word. "Why are girls always dieting?" He knew Ino told him she did it because she liked to being told she looked good. And she did look good he asserted to himself, completely disconnected to the climatic butcher scene occurring on the silver screen. "Heheh, I should say something nice." And with that in mind he pronounced the following set of words to the girl beside him.
"It's great you want to diet!"
As soon as those words left his mouth the back of his chair recoiled due to a violent kick that shook him out and onto the hard sticky floor.
"What the?!" he wanted to yell at Kiba, who was sitting right behind him, but Shino intercepted the shouting with a swift "shhh" to remind the sputtering blond they were still in a theatre room and people were staring.
Naruto leered before grumpily sitting back on his chair; completely missing the reason Kiba kicked him. Another thing he didn't comprehend was why Kiba and Shino were sitting behind them instead of next to. Plus up until the moment Kiba kicked him, the two had been content with ignoring the two upfront.
In the letter Hinata had given him the other day, she asked if he wanted to go to the movies with them. He didn't grasp why she wrote it instead of just asking it out loud plainly but she did have a tendency to stutter. "Maybe she has an undiagnosed speaking problem?" He figured. But still, he quickly accepted to go with the three. "I mean, Kiba was gonna be there so why not?"
But then Kiba and Shino chose not to interact with them?
"Could it be?" He thought as the openly gaped at Hinata, who started sinking into her seat because of his intense stare.
"Um," he glanced back at Kiba, who quickly looked away, "Are… we… here because… um, Shino and Kiba are on a date?"
"Why I oughta!" Kiba practically barked as he hurled his cheese and nachos towards the blond. "Of all the possible things you could come up with!"
"Shh," Shino shushed again, "We already knew Naruto could be dense sometimes, although…" he never suspected anyone could be this dense. It was as clear as the moon and the sun that the only reason Kiba and Shino were here was because Hinata was too scared to ask Naruto on a date alone.
-x-x-x- Meanwhile… in the same movie showing -x-x-x-
"Tsk," Neji fumed as he observed the vile song and dance displayed exactly nine rows ahead of his very eyes. "Simply outrageous." He then scoffed to the girl next to him. "Can you believe how rude those idiots are, Tenten? Causing so much commotion in the cinema!"
He shook his flawless head once, twice and even thrice. Forever appalled by the barbarians that attended the same educational system as him. "Have those idiots no proper etiquette?"
"Rude? Proper etiquette?" Tenten bellowed, "You mean like the type of guys who invite a girl out on a movie night just to ignore her because he rather just stalk his cousin? Like a creep!"
"What was that?" Neji said softly, pushing his luscious hair behind fine ears, "I'm sorry," he apologized, "I was straining my ears to overhear what those idiots where going on about. Did you say something?"
"…no," she answered, munching loudly on her popcorn.
She refused to believe it all summed up to this. Hours before she had been enjoying her typical weekend night, polishing her kitchen utensils, when all the sudden she received a random call from Neji demanding her to go to the movies with him as soon as possible. It struck her as odd because the Hyuuga was never one to demand things last minute. He usually had it all planned and predetermined.
So she called Lee about it. From him she found out that Neji had made no mention of this to Lee. Finding it extremely weird she rang Neji's phone and he told her he didn't call Lee because he wanted to be inconspicuous about it. Then he quickly told her at what hour he would come to pick her up before hanging up.
She got excited.
Could anybody blame her?
She had actually gotten excited about the entire ordeal. She had actually thought he was asking her out on their first date. She even bought a Cosmopolitan magazine to make the entire process of choosing what to wear and say legit. And for what? For what? To help Neji chaperon the same cousin he shared a household with?
She was pissed.
If she had her sneakers on she could make a run for it. But no, Cosmopolitan told her to wear heels.
She was beyond pissed.
"Tenten," the embodiment of her frustrations then said, leaning forward so that he could get a better view of the sophomores, "Would you be so kind as to be quiet when you chew your food? You're being discourteous."
"Discourteous?!" She seethed through gritted teeth, "I'm the one being discourteous? Well excuse me for being such a nuisance. Maybe I should do us both a favor and leave!"
Forget the heels, she'll go barefoot.
"Wait!" he said in an attempt to halt the girl that was stomping her way out, "Tenten! What is this about? Hey! Don't keep walking when I'm talking to you! Hey! Tenten! I said wait! Tenten!"
Nine rows ahead Kiba turned his head around and asked Shino, "Was that Neji just there?"
"You just noticed?" Shino asked, although it sounded more like a statement. He then pushed his 3-D glasses back and gave a cocky smile. "Don't worry, it seems his plan backfired."
Kiba scrunched up his nose in confusion, deterrent to ask any more questions for the risk of sounding stupid. However he couldn't keep the comments to himself when he noticed Shino unveil his previously hidden left hand to reveal… "A flower?"
"This," Shino said referring to the flower, "is a purple iris."
"Okay… thank you for the herbology lesson?" Kiba answered, still not knowing what the other was on about.
The one with the flower then unclenched his right hand to reveal a capsule with a bug inside of it. Kiba recognized it as the bikochu. If he remembered right it was a beetle that committed to memory the first scent it encountered after its metamorphosis. Only to spent the rest of its life tracking the source of that same smell.
Shino uncapped the capsule with the hand holding the purple iris before interchanging the positions so that the flower was now inside the capsule and the bug free from its isolation. Kiba watched in fascination as the beetle then flew four rows behind them to spring the screams of two girls he then saw scramble out of the theater room, the bug still tailing them.
He couldn't help but to notice the detective hats those two girls were wearing, the giant overcoats and the glaringly obvious pink hair one of the two girls sported.
"What that Sakura and Ino just now?" Kiba asked, but the only response he received was a sudden glimmer in Shino's eyewear.
"Counter measure?" Kiba pondered. He knew Ino liked flowers and the color purple. He knew she disliked bugs and he was also aware of the specifics of the Bikochu. So that would mean… Shino had suspected Ino and Sakura would tail Naruto on his date?
He stared at Shino again, this time with certain awe. "Shino, you are too much."
-x-x-x- (At the mall, after the movie ended) -x-x-x-
"Man, I don't get this." Naruto whined after taking in his surroundings. Everything looked shiny, fragile and expensive. "Only married people come here. So why are we here?"
He shouldn't be allowed in places like this.
Kiba sighed at the boy's ignorance. He himself didn't want to be here either but his mom bullied him to. Of course, being the alpha male he swore he was, he wasn't about to admit that to his other male friends. So running a hand through his brown hair to fake an annoyed front, he said, "Are you that dumb, Naruto?" He said, slowing down his speech as if the blond actually had an impaired IQ, "This is a jewelry shop. So it's obvious we are here to buy the stuff."
Naruto gave a leveled glare. He could tell when somebody was treating him like an idiot. So he answered back just as slowly and through gritted teeth. "But that's what I don't get. Why are we even buying the stuff?"
Kiba was about to answer "Because every kiss begins with K." What? He'd seen the overplayed commercials. But Shino beat him to it with his unsolicited input.
"Because Kiba's mom made him."
"Gah!" Kiba wailed at Shino while Naruto burst out laughing, calling the brunet a mommy's boy. "Whatever!" Kiba huffed trying to sound macho, "You three stay here while I take care of business."
One gone, three left. Hinata, staring at the floor, Naruto, looking like if he wanted a mosquito to fly by just so he could distract himself, and Shino, who just noticed this was actually the perfect opportunity to engage in a one on one conversation with Naruto.
Shino even felt a little pressured by anticipation. Maybe today will be the day when he actually manages to sustain a conversation without the other overlooking him for someone else. Kiba was gone and Hinata barely spoke. Shino's longest conversation with Naruto had been a mere minute and seven seconds. And fifty-nine of those seconds were spent in Naruto trying to remember if he had met Shino before.
"Naruto," Shino said, inner-self dancing when the other boy actually made eye contact, "I was wondering if…"
"Um," Hinata mumbled for the first time since the movie had ended. "D-Don't you like jewelry, Na-Naruto-kun?"
"No," he answered flatly, "why?"
"B-But," she started to get flustered, "But you have your necklace and…"
"Oh, this old thing?" Naruto said, tugging the necklace out from underneath his shirt. Hinata nodded quietly as she struggled to find her words.
And then she struggled a little more.
Shino left to find Kiba.
"I… uh," Hinata continued, "I uh was wondering if Naruto-kun knew where I, where I could buy a necklace like that."
"Oh!" Naruto reciprocated in excitement, "You like it, right? Am I right?"
"I…" she blushed, Naruto was sounding giddy and it was because of her. This gave her the confidence to confess. "I like it best because it matches the color of your… your, your eyes." By the time she finished that sentence her face was crimson and her mind was spinning. She, in her own way, had just admitted her endearment for him. But of course, the underlying meaning of such an indirect way of speaking was completely missed by Naruto's radar.
"Really? I've never really taken it off since I've gotten it. Heh heh, it's probably the most expensive thing I got to my name". He admitted, taking some time to really observe his necklace. Something he hasn't done for the longest time. Then an idea popped into his mind. "Ne, Hinata! Wanna try it on?"
"I ah, I ah…" she started but Naruto was already accessorizing her.
"See?" he winked at her, "looks good on you,"
A simple comment and a sweet gesture had been delivered. The feeling it evoked on the Hyuuga made her wish she could repeat this moment to make sure she didn't imagine it. But time does not rewind, and that's why, if she could, she would forever freeze this moment for it to never end.
"Stop," she wished with her heart. "Time, please, just stop."
"Ne, Hinata?" Naruto waved his hand in front of her. "Hinata?"
"Is she spacing out again?" he pondered, thinking she was really weird. Nice, but weird. Maybe she was on some sort of medication? He snapped his fingers at her for good measure, but when he got no response he decided to go find Kiba and Shino. Maybe they knew why she spaces out so much.
"I'm… wearing… Naruto-kun's… necklace,"
Yep, she was on a land of swirling hearts and rainbows.
A girl in love always emitted a certain radiance… a certain glow others can't help but notice. One woman specifically quickly spotted the girl with the far-off stare, standing alone, with an unique jewel hanging around her neck.
"That's a pretty necklace you got there," a young lady said, approaching the Hyuuga and pinching her behind to gain her attention. "Family heirloom?" she asked enticingly.
"N-No… um," Hinata responded flustered. She took a peek at the woman's nametag.
"Oh," the woman laughed as she playfully elbowed the blushing girl, "It is from a boyfriend then?"
The way Hinata kept blushing and stuttering picked the woman's interest even further. "You must really like him," she observed, "And he must like you too to give you such a…oh my gosh!" She then said, staring pointedly at it. "Here," she directed, handing Hinata another necklace, "Try this silver one on while I go polish that one."
"Nah ah," the woman touted, "What would your boyfriend think if he found out you let his gift get so dirty." And with that, the woman took Naruto's necklace and pointed Hinata to a mirror, saying she'll return in a couple of minutes.
So following orders like a good girl, Hinata approached the mirror and tried the necklace on but… "It's doesn't feel like silver," she commented. Feeling it and weighting it with her hands.
"Um," she said, approaching the counter where another woman was working at the cash register. "Um… hello?" she called and timidly explained that the necklace given to her felt odd. To this the employer gave her a weird look and claimed the necklace was not one of theirs.
That's when Hinata started to feel an odd but familiar sensation, her pulse suddenly hastening.
Timidly, the Hyuuga explained that an employee called Kurotsuchi had given it to her to try it out, to which the women at the cash register answered with a "bless you," believing Hinata had sneezed.
Now Hinata recognized the familiar sensation as the earlier symptoms of panic, the stress evident in her voice as she repeated the name of the employee. But as she pronounced it she realized nobody in America would be named like that. She also noticed for the first time that all of the employees in the shop were blonds, while the women who had taken Naruto's necklace had short black hair.
Now she was really panicking, but as she tried to ask about it, her mouth would move but the words wouldn't come out. Then she felt a hand on her shoulder and she turned around to see Shino, Kiba and Naruto. With their eyes she could tell they were asking her if something was wrong. But for some reason her ears had stop working. Were they speaking? She couldn't hear.
She wanted to speak but found herself muted. She stared at the employees but they were looking at her owlishly. She focused back on her friends but they couldn't understand her. She wanted to point at her neck where the necklace should be but she didn't want Naruto to find out she lost it. She wanted someone, anyone, to speak in her place. She wanted the woman called Kurotsuchi, if that was really her name, to come out laughing, saying it was all a prank. She wanted her body to stop sweating. She wished she wasn't hyperventilating like she knew she was. Why was it becoming so hard to breathe? Why were the walls closing in on her? Why didn't people stop staring?
She wanted out.
She needed out.
And before she knew it she had fainted. Tears still pouring out as she lay lifeless on Shino's arms, who had moved to catch her before she stroke the polished marble floor.
-x-x-x- (Sunday - The Next Late Morning) -x-x-x-
One foldable outdoor table, with only two chairs set on either side of it. The guest chairs? Hidden and locked away. The room? Illuminated by a single lamp hanging at the ceiling, illuminating only one side of the table
Jiraiya set the KFC chicken, the coke, and his latest unreleased novel on the center. It was about to be noon and since the adolescent he had in custody skipped breakfast, this was Jiraiya's perfect opportunity to interrogate a surely weakened teenager. And there were two subjects he needed to thread.
"Oi Naruto," he sing-sang, settling on the dark side of the table, "I brought ya some KFC"
Immediately a messy looking blond appeared before him, trying to wipe the sleep from his eyes as he made his way to the only available chair. The boy off-mindedly asked if the room had always been this bright before settling in and reaching out for the biggest piece of chicken he could find.
"Morning Brat," the older of the two greeted with a satisfied smile on his face. He waited for the other to grunt some form of reply before jumping to the first subject he needed to address. "Say Naruto," he started, "I noticed you have spent three days already without touching the book I gave you so…," he leaned his way into the table, "does this mean you finished reading it?"
Jiraiya asked this; enthusiastic about a chance to discuss the contents of his latest book with a young adolescent mind, but Naruto just answered with a "nah" and continued eating.
The man's smile fell into a frown.
"So you haven't read the book?"
He was no longer amused. Sure, he knew giving a high-schooler a book was not exactly an appreciated gift but Jiraiya was The Jiraiya. Surely Naruto would be excited about reading anything written by such an excellent author who just happened to also be his caregiver and life consultant.
"So… Naruto, are you going to read it anytime soon?" he egged, but all he got back was a "maybe".
"Insolent little brat!"
That wouldn't do. Jiraiya had to take a flight to New York the next week to present his book. He wanted to discuss it with someone at least once. So if approaching the issue as a role model wasn't going to work he would just have to approach it like any understanding parent would.
And parents weren't selfish. They always placed the needs of their children first. Strategically
"So Naruto," Jiraiya grinned, resting an elbow on the table so that he could nest his head on his hand, giving the other a sideway glance. "How is school going for you?"
"Good, I guess…?"
"Good?" Jiraiya pretended to care but colored the canvas of his face with an indecipherable gesture, asking with an inserted twinge of disappointment, "Just good, eh?"
"Eh…" Naruto finally looked up from his meal and frowned. The boy could tell when someone was condescending towards him. And it always annoyed him. "Well," he continued trying to impress the other, "the teachers say I'm picking up my grades and stuff."
"Good, good," Jiraiya commented nonchalantly. "So you're keeping up with your studies?"
"Yeah… and my friends are helping me out too, so…"
"Wait, wait, wait…" The man said, imploring an immediate pause. He needed time to analyze any possible weak spots on the boy's previous statement. "Hmm," the man pondered further. "I think I got three cards to play here".
1st Card? The hook: "You got friends helping you?"
2nd Card? The line: "Hmm… and are you doing anything to help them back?"
3rd Card? The sinker: "It's the basics of things, didn't you read the book?"
Naruto gave an abashed expression and Jiraiya knew he had successfully reeled the kid in. "Gaki, you don't know where to start, do you? And you want to be president like that?"
"Eh, what does that have to do with anything?" the boy retorted, a red hue on his face. Whether it was from anger or embarrassment was currently inconsequential.
"It has everything to do with it!" Jiraiya shouted back, a little too pleased with himself. Then he retreated back into his chair and gave Naruto a one-over before sighing loudly. "Okay, Naruto. Here is what we're going to do. Do you have any test coming up?"
That was always an important question to ask.
"Good," No distractions, "then you are not allowed to do anything else until you read and finish that book. It'll tell you the basics you need to develop a strong will and about the importance of finding an answer as a group. You're mistreating your friends who could become your potential voters one day. So for the sake of your relationship with the world, don't interact with them any further until you finish reading this book."
Jiraiya gave him a hard stare.
"… okay, okay, I'll read the book." The boy grumbled, before fixing himself with another chicken breast.
"Good," Jiraiya smiled to himself. Sure, he fed a lot of bull but he got what he wanted in the end. Or at least he thought he did, until he noticed something else the blond was not doing. "Hey gaki, why aren't you wearing your necklace?"
"Eh?" Naruto said patting his chest. His necklace wasn't there. He checked the bathroom, the closet, under his bed and in the hamper. "Um… I dunno…?"
"What?!" Jiraiya went berserk and started ranting about the historical importance of the necklace. Again, he added a lot of bull to the history of it but somewhere in his rant he said something about a girl and that triggered it for Naruto.
"Now I remember!" Naruto said proudly, "I gave it to Hinata."
"You dare gave it away to a…" Jiraiya stopped mid-sentence, and his face turned to a different kind of red, "you gave it to a girl?" he said wiggling his eyebrows suggestively. "What was her name again?"
"Hinata Hyuuga," Naruto answered wearily, "why are your eyebrows wiggling?"
"A Hyuuga?" Jiraiya gasped in excitement, "Yes! The apple doesn't fall that far from the tree! Such a trophy. Naruto you got good taste, good taste indeed so…" he smiled. This brought him to the second subject he wanted to discuss with the boy in his custody.
He couldn't stop himself from giggling like a pervert. He was so proud of his young charge. Going out at night with girls and even giving them jewelry like a pimp. "So…" the man continued, mirth in his eyes as he rounded the table, "if you went as far as to give her your necklace…" he gave the boy a one-arm hug, "that means you done it, right?"
"…eh…" the boy droned, blinking twice before asking what did the man meant by "it".
"You know," Jiraiya grinned perversely, "sex"
"No, no way! It's not like that!"
"What?! You gave her your expensive necklace and she couldn't even offer the goods to you?!"
"I'm telling you it's not like that!"
"I don't want to hear it! I'll give you some advice so heed my words for I am a sage!" Jiraiya commanded, tears bursting in his eyes because of how wronged he felt by his boy. "I didn't raise you to be a pussy!" he bellowed, "Next time you see her you take your necklace back! Women who don't give it up are not permitted in my dynasty!"
"No more words! Words are for books! Which you damn need to read! But from now on all I want from you is action! And I better not see your face again without that necklace unless you tell me that you finally lost your V-Card, you hear me?!"
"Fine!" Naruto said, swallowing his dinner in one gulp and locking himself in his room. "Perverted old man! Besides, it's not like if I gave it to Hinata. I just forgot to take it back. On Monday I'll ask for my necklace back and problem solved."
Meanwhile, Jiraiya was giving a silent prayer to the departed Minato. "Forgive me Minato for being too harsh on your son tonight. It's just that when I look at him I see another chance for me to become a great father figure. Don't get me wrong, you turned out great but… I've never seen a man so whipped by his woman as you were. That's not going to happen with our Naruto, though. I'll make sure he's the one who wears the pants in his marriage."
That night, for some inexplicable reason, Jiraiya had a nightmare about a giant bloody tomato monster trying to butcher him.
-x-x-x- (Monday Morning with Neji) -x-x-x-
She was hiding something. And she was clearly panicking about what she was hiding. It was obvious, painfully so. He noticed it first when she arrived two days ago, quickly greeting everyone before locking herself in her room. He noticed it when she cried that night, thinking nobody would hear her because they were asleep.
Neji was not asleep.
He was studying.
He heard every single sob. And it interfered with his studies greatly.
He became suspicious of the severity of her secret on Sunday, when she behaved even more reclusive than what would be considered normal standards for her. This made him lose an hour of productivity that day also, because he immersed himself on the possible reasons while brushing his hair.
"On the bright side, the fact I felt no twinge of pain during that hour is a podium that showcases how tangle free my hair is."
He noticed it again when she had breakfast this morning, in the bags under her eyes which revealed a restless guilt-full night. He had to scold her for looking improper and even demanded Hanabi to apply some sort of make-up to hide those eye bags.
Neji was obligated to serve the eldest daughter, Hinata. The younger daughter be damned, he owed her no favors.
And he specifically noticed it in the way she was walking to school this morning, with her face down, and always behind him. She was walking on autopilot, her eyes unfocused to the outside world, dwelling on her inner thoughts.
Something had happened that Saturday night. On Sunday he had heard her speak to Shino and Kiba on the phone numerous times. And today she looked defeated.
So if she was on speaking terms with her two friends then it could only mean the problem was with the third one. That number one most unpredictable knuckleheaded student of Konoha High,
Neji could see it clearly. Hinata must be troubled by a real life romance. She has been from the day she laid eyes on those American blue eyes and blond hair.
"A truly disgusting ploy," Neji thought bitterly. For the life of him he couldn't comprehend how gullible Hinata could be. Chasing an American dream? Could she not see it was all a heist?
Originally romantic love did not exist in Japan. They only had arranged marriages and sex. Hinata's deluded idea of love was something she obviously adopted from their overseas stay. Could she not see that such sentiments were imparted on her to fuel the economy and expand capitalism?
It's no wonder she wasn't favored by her father. She was an insult to everything the traditional Hyuuga family stood for! A Hyuuga did not allow such emotions to dance them like a puppet. A Hyuuga took control of the system and made it work for them.
And exactly what was Naruto anyways? He's an heir to nothing! He wasn't even Japanese! What fruit could possibly sprout from a union with Naruto's nameless family? Did she like him because he dreamt to be the next idiot to become president? Was he her escape then? To live in the White House, in the land of the free, so she could escape her heritage and her family responsibilities. Were these the reasons why she was so set on Naruto?
"Pah," the Japanese boy let out. Dwelling on the outcomes of Hinata's actions never did him any good. That love, that hope and that admiration she had for the American boy was nothing more than a denial of her reality.
He himself did not really dislike Naruto, per se. The young boy was somewhat amusing and his determination was indeed a positive quality. Admirable, even. That, however, never stopped the blond from becoming a recurrent issue. Again, it was not Naruto who Neji disliked. It was what the blond represented for Hinata that he actually hated. Could it be…?
"Hinata-sama!" Neji said, placing his hands on the shoulders of the startled girl, "Last Saturday, did you sleep with Naruto?"
"Wha-, no, I… I… why would you, I…"
"Enough," Neji responded dismissively holding a hand up to halt her sputter. "It's clear that you haven't"
He doubted she had anyways. No matter how much of a failure she was, she would never stain the Hyuuga name like that. The last thing the family needed was to be featured on the MTV Show 'Teen Mom'. Still, he had to ask just to be sure.
But if it wasn't that…
"Then why are you mopping around?" he asked demandingly, "This has been going around for more than a day!" He stated, narrowing his inquisitive eyes at her, the venom in his words unchecked. "This is about Naruto, isn't it?"
Her jaw slackened, her eyes began to water and her body began to shake before the interrogation became interrupted by a third party.
"Speak of the devil and he shall appear" mused Neji as the probable cause of the problem sped from Konoha's gates to greet the Hyuugas. What happened next only confirmed his suspicion.
"I'm sorry!" replied the girl as she made a mad dash to the insides of the gates, leaving a startled blond dumbfounded, and a long haired brunet un-amused.
"Eh…," Naruto let out, not sure of what just transpired. "Eh…" he continued to drawl until he felt a chill on his neck. He turned around and saw Neji evaluating him with his pale eyes. "Eh… did I do something wrong?"
"That's exactly what I'd like to know!" Neji answered, seemingly displeased by the cluelessness of the blond in sight, so he egged it. "Did something noteworthy happen between Hinata-sama and you last Saturday?"
Neji could see the wheels turning inside the other's head, but they weren't moving fast enough. The Hyuuga could only recall one event when someone ever described him as a patient man, and it was in a statement bathed with sarcasm.
"Typical," Neji sighed out. Whatever had happened, it would have probably been prevented if he had been there. But no! Tenten had to go and make a scene about how deranged it was to keep a close eye on family. "Women," he tooted, if he had known she would make a scene he would've asked Lee to come along instead.
But as it was all he could deduce was that Hinata had a close lip on whatever she did which concerned Naruto, but the esteemed boy was clueless about it himself.
"Fine then," Neji announced as he made his way inside the gates, "It seems I have a mutt with fleas to interrogate, so good morning to you, Uzumaki. I'd like to hear a report from you on how having a Hyuuga tutor has dramatically improved your grades, but I must leave."
"Okay…, ne!" Naruto hyped, waving his hand too, "Good morning to you, Neji!"
Called it pride, but Naruto was glad people were noticing his recent good grades.
However, when Naruto raised his right arm to wave his goodbye, Neji's all-seeing eyes couldn't help to notice something in the way the boy's torso pressed against the insides of his black t-shirt.
"I see you're not wearing your necklace today." The Hyuuga observed, "Good idea, to be sincere it has always baffled me how it hasn't shattered from the amount of tussling you do daily."
And with that, Neji left, proud of himself for being able to hold civil conversation with even those on an intellectually lower level. And unlike Hinata who failed at keeping her emotions in check, he prided himself on his ability of being cordial even with amicable troublemakers.
"My necklace…?" Naruto said with a confused expression as he patted the area on his chest were his necklace would usually be hanging. "Oh that's right," he said with purpose, "I gotta find Hinata!"
-x-x-x- (At the Janitor's closet during morning class intermission) -x-x-x-
"Damn, that stamina freak just doesn't know when to quit," Kiba said quietly, observing Shino and Hinata. They heard Naruto's voice outside, asking people if they've seen Hinata. The trio remained quiet as they then heard a dog bark and lead the scavenging boy away.
"Yeesh," Kiba complained again, "That Naruto can be persistent when he wants to be. Good thing Akamaru is so well trained, eh?" he said nudging the side of his friends, but the depressing aura quickly killed his chiding. "What?" he asked, "Too early to joke?"
Hinata started crying. Naruto was actively looking for her and she was hiding. The irony of it! In a world as vast as this one, no one could really measure the distance between one another. That was why people were always frantically searching for that one person they need no distance from. And here she was, hiding from him.
"Naruto's necklace…" Shino started and Hinata started crying louder. "Naruto's necklace got stolen and…"
Now Hinata was even hiccupping. Shino sighed. He'll have to cut short his already rehearsed four minutes speech to one of just a few seconds if he ever wanted to finish the story without provoking the second great flood. This meant he'll have to lay it plain and raw.
"Hinata got duped and Naruto's necklace ended up stolen and we got no way to trace it."
"Waahhhh…" Hinata wailed, but she did so while trying to stop her tears. So she was making faces like if she had tasted something sour and… Kiba decided to stop staring at her face before he started laughing at how funny she looked. It would be inappropriate and he'll end up accused of being a douche. So he kept a poker face on.
"What do you mean you can't trace it?" he asked and Shino answered.
"We asked the manager about an employee called Kurotsuchi but he said there isn't such a name among the people he hired. We then explained the situation and asked to view the security cameras. There was no video footage of the time when the theft happened. Whoever this Kurotsuchi person was, she already had the drop on them. The manager… he doesn't want to call the cops on it and even threatened us against doing anything. He said it was bad publicity and it wasn't his problem since the jewelry stolen did not even belong to the store itself."
"Okay… so what do we do now?" Kiba then asked.
"We go to our next class," the other boy answered and then advised Hinata that it'll be better to just tell the truth first. He did this, explaining that they won't be able to proceed clearly with the next step unless they first admitted their faults.
Kiba agreed with the words of wisdom. She had to keep it together and be strong in times of hardship. She too knew this but…
"But I… I…"
"I know Hinata, but it's not like you can exactly avoid him," Kiba commented as they made their way to their next class. When they arrived, he pointed at the seat right in front of her desk, "Naruto sits right there, remember?"
The girl nodded her head and quietly took her seat. Class was about to begin so she'll have to talk to him after it ends. Or at least that's what she hoped. But as it dwelled on her mind, the object of her concerns poked her on her forehead and said "Hi".
"Hey Hinata," he said again to make sure he got her attention. He could never be too sure with her. "I forgot to take my necklace back so," he extended his hand to her, "Can you fork it over, please?"
"Hi!" She replied automatically before her nerves got to her. "Um… I…. I…" she started, trembling as she tried to find the strength to tell him she lost something valuable.
Her nerves were starting to fry, but she wouldn't let herself be defeated.
No matter the situation, no matter how much it might hurt her afterwards, no matter how much she would stutter or trip on her own words, she would always say what needed to be said.
She would hold her tears in, even as she would tell him she lost the most valuable thing he had to his name.
What would he feel about her once she told him? She already knew he thought she was dark and weird, but that he liked people like her. But what would he feel? "I really have no idea how Naruto-kun feels… about me. I really, don't know"
"Whoa Hinata!" A gruff voice cut in, "You're heating up!" Then another calmer but slightly stressed voice said, "We need to get something to lower your fever". And with that she watched mutely as her two friends lifted her by the arms and escorted her out the classroom. They walked pass the nurse's office and made a beeline back to the janitor's closet.
Kiba was the first to break the silence, again, with Shino replying to everything.
"Okay that won't work"
"Hinata, I'm sorry we made you go through that."
"We? 'fessing up was your dumb idea, not mi-"
Knock, knock, knock
The three went quiet. Maybe the knocks they heard were not coming from their particular door.
Knock, knock, knock
Okay, it was obvious it was their door that was getting knocked on but they still didn't have to answer. Maybe the person would take the hint and walk away.
Then they heard some light and repetitive stomping on the floor. The kind of stomping one would do when getting impatient. Hinata fidgeted, Kiba mulled on whether to open the door nicely or forcefully so that he could accidentally slam it on whoever was knocking, and Shino sighed and opened the door to be greeted by the last person they needed to encounter.
"I heard Hinata-sama had a fever," he drawled, clearly not amused by what he was observing, "but I find you three hidden here when I'm perfectly sure Nurse Shizune's office was on the way from your classroom to here."
Hinata and Shino were temporarily stumped by the male Hyuuga's forwardness. He was quick to the chase, stating the facts with that ever present demeaning quality he often used toward his juniors. Kiba on the other hand got defensive quickly and started barking snide comments back. "And yet you have your own classroom but you're never there. Funny how life works, oi?" Yeah, talking back to superiors was nothing different than an everyday conversation with his mother. It was already programmed on the Inuzuka.
"What Kiba meant to say was we seem to have gotten lost," Shino responded, quickly falling in tune with his friend, "Hinata, you know where the nurse's office is. Why don't you go ahead?"
"But I'm not really…"
"Go!" both her friends said, causing her to nod and leave. Shino and Kiba wanted to escape with her but what they couldn't tell her was that their feet weren't responding to them. It was as if they were being held there by Neji's judgmental stare. Boys had their pride, after all. Neji too, made no effort in stopping her.
Once she was gone, her two friends braced themselves for the verbal assault that was bound to happen eventually. In retrospect, it surprised them Neji hadn't confronted them before.
"I'll start by making myself clear," Neji started, briefly eyeing Shino up and down before sending one long unblinking leer at Kiba, "I don't particularly like either of you."
"Oi, so you don't like me, eh?" Kiba started, pumping his chest out, "Well remember that it's mind over matter. I don't mind and you don't matter."
"Oh," Neji responded almost laughing as he circled around the other. "Does your mind think using that tone on an upperclassman won't matter?"
Neji then stopped moving to bring his right hand to his chin, "but what am I saying? Of course you didn't think things through. The smarter part of your brain is missing. Hmmm," he pretended to think, "Now where was it that I locked that dog I found wondering around without a leash?"
Kiba's hand absentmindedly lowered, wiggling his fingers, expecting Akamaru to lick them but he never felt that slippery tongue. He huffed. He made a move towards Neji but then retreated, moved back a couple a steps to pace around, his tattooed face scowling angrily at the longer haired brunet. Then he huffed again and didn't even try to disguise the punch he threw.
Chocolate tresses flowed like the wind as Neji, in a twirl that would bring the green in the eyes of bun-head dancers, evaded the attack and even shoved the aggressor to a halt against freshly painted walls.
Neji would've laughed at this if his own head hadn't been gently smacked to the wall as well.
"What the?" Neji turned around to see Shino, still with his assaulting hand up, not even bothering to conceal it. Kiba too had to blink his confusion away before echoing Neji's "what the?"
"We're in the halls on class hours and we're wasting time," was all the tallest of the boys offered initially, but as the baffled stares continued to peer on him, he added an "and I sort of felt excluded" to the end of his statement.
Kiba started laughing and Neji slowly passed a hand through his hair before letting out a dignified huff. "Fine then," he said, "I'm here because I know Hinata is hiding a secret concerning Naruto and I know you two are in on it." The other two were about to retort but Neji shush them by raising a hand, "And no, I am not talking about her obvious crush on him."
"If it's a secret you will understand why we can't share it," Shino said in a way that reminded Kiba of a politician, "Just rest assured that we are taking care of it."
"Well you're obviously not doing a ve-"
"He said we're taking care of it!" Kiba interjected, still itching for a little brawl.
Neji, again, gave both of them a hard stare before admitting that so far neither of them have been a bad influence on his cousin nor had let her astray. "I'll leave this to you two then." He said, releasing his hostage from against the wall. "Kiba, your mutt has been in your class by Naruto's side all this time. So let us consider this encounter a warning of what could've happened. But," he said composing himself to leave, "if this isn't resolved within a week, you'll be hearing from me again."
"Or just plain seeing you for the following hour," a teacher interjected nonchalantly, causing the three brunets to turn around and see the girl's P.E. teacher, filing her nails with an all too pleased smile on her face.
"Mrs. Mitarashi," Neji started but the teacher didn't let him finished. They could tell she was really pleased with herself.
"No no, Hyuuga," she responded, "when I heard a ruckus, was I surprised to see the Inuzuka? Nah, not really. Did I expect to the Aburame? It was bound to happen by association. But," and her eyes really did glittered when she said that "but". "But to see an Elite Honor Student such as a Hyuuga mixed in this. Oh you just made me a legend in the faculty. Because today," she emphasized that last word, "will be the day these following set of words will be pronounced. Neji Hyuuga, your friends and you have just earned yourselves detention for the rest of the class you were all supposed to be attending. Now follow me," she even did a curtsy, "I'll escort you."
Yeah, Anko couldn't wait to tell Kurenai and Yugao about this one.
-x-x-x- (Lunch hour: Boy's Perspective) -x-x-x-
To say she was impressed would be the understatement of the year. Was it possible? To some miniscule degree, yes, but it still seemed unreal to Yugao Uzuki, the substitute teacher. She truly believed that the odds would rather favor her future children inheriting purple hair than they would her ever witnessing such a sight. But here she was, occupying the library desk while observing the Naruto Uzumaki reading a book that was not a graphic novel, quietly.
Of course, she was quick to notice the granola bar the boy thought he successfully snuck in, but she would not march there and scold him for violating the library rules. If the boy was indeed under some sort of spell, she would definitely not risk breaking it. So instead she chose to remain at the desk, marveling at the sight.
Until she noticed the interference of another one of the wild cards Konoha High had to offer, the socially awkward junior known as Sai.
She saw as the pale boy, always dressed in black, made his way to the uncharacteristically studious blond to sit next to him. But then she realized that today really was a weird day, because on his face another rare sight was seen.
Yeah, she couldn't wait to tell Anko and Kurenai about this one.
The book Naruto was trying to read was the one that supposedly had the answer to solve the interpersonal problems he had to deal with, according to Jiraiya. So naturally the teen decided the faster he went through it, the better. After all, the old guy had been adamant that Naruto should not do anything else until the book was read.
He knew he was the type of person that got distracted easily so he figured the library was his best bet. Nothing ever happens in a boring place like this. But as he tried to read he felt someone staring intensely at him. Now, he's grown accustomed to being targeted by all kinds of eyes, from those who would wish him ill to those that held delight in them. But the particular set of eyes digging into him held no particular set of real emotions. Yet the stare was nevertheless persistent and invading.
It was Sai's.
Naruto knew it was him. Not a minute after he had sat down to read the other sat next to him, without saying a word. Not even "hi".
In reality, Sai just wanted Naruto to be the one to initiate the conversation. So the substitute teacher kept observing them for any development.
The sophomore finally lifted his gaze at the upperclassman and said, "hi".
"Hi," Sai smiled with that practiced smile of his, "I didn't realize you enjoyed reading books."
"I don't," Naruto let out flatly, burying himself back into the book, "But I'll read this."
Sai nodded and continued smiling, his eyes off Naruto this time. After a minute of silence passed, Sai spoke again.
"I heard that in the weekend you and some friends went to the movies."
"Yeah," Naruto let out, "It was a blast. Hanging out with friends is the best."
"So I've read," the other responded, and another minute of silence passed before Sai continued with the conversation. "I heard Kiba, Shino, Hinata, Ino, Sakura, Neji and Tenten were there too." He smiled again and closed his eyes, "So… I was just wondering if there was a reason I wasn't invited."
"… Naruto?" Sai said, but Naruto was busy reading, so Sai nudged him, "Dickless," he said and still got no response. So he blew in his ear.
"Wha-What the heck?!" Naruto spluttered, "The heck, Sai, the heck!"
"What?" Sai asked curiously, "You were none responsive and I read in a book that blowing into your partner's ear alerts and arouses them into a more receptive state"
Naruto narrowed his eyes, "Just what kind of books are you reading?"
"Oh," Sai perked up at the possibility of Naruto actually showing interest in his hobbies, "Well, the books I like to…"
"Ahhhhh," Naruto yelled, racking nails through his hair back and forth, "I need to read this." Then he buried himself back into his book.
"… I like to read about friendship" Sai finished with another smile. "Though I can't seem to get it right yet" he finished but Naruto wasn't paying attention again.
For some reason he couldn't quite grasp he hadn't managed to get on better terms with Naruto or Sakura. He had presented drawings for them, had tried initiating conversation with them, and had thought he made some progress. Yet still, they still functioned on their own private agendas and didn't include him in any of their plans. He pondered on it and concluded that out of three people, two couldn't be the problem. So if there was something not computing it was probably his own fault.
Yet all the books said that in this type of situation the best solution was to talk it out. Yet here he was, trying to communicate but Naruto preferred to read a book instead. Something the blond himself admitted he hated doing.
-x-x-x- (Outside the Library) -x-x-x-
Kurenai Yuuhi was on her way to the library to pay Yugao a visit when she spotted Shino and Kiba mumbling things to each other in front of the school's library, both looking inside as if spying on someone, on a lunch hour. Normally these two preferred to dine outside, favoring the fresh air, and normally, these two would be around Hinata Hyuuga. She was to question her two students about this but she overheard Shino tell Kiba the latter should do something for Hinata.
"What? Why me?" Kiba grumbled.
"Because…" Shino answered.
"…because what?" Kiba challenged.
"Nothing," Shino replied, "Just because."
"…okay…" Kiba withdrew, seemingly convinced, "Fine, I'll tell him."
"Tell whom what about Hinata?" the teacher wandered as she saw Kiba put his game face on before entering.
Another minute had passed since the substitute teacher saw Naruto and Sai interact. After it, the upperclassman took his leave but stopped at the door as he saw another student, with red tattoos on his cheeks walk up to Naruto. It was almost immediate how the newcomer swiped the blond's book away and started chatting animatedly with him. The substitute teacher glanced back at the door but Sai was no longer there.
"Oh well," she told herself. Seeing as Naruto was no longer studying, was talking loudly with the other, and was even eating at the library, she got off her desk and escorted them both outside with a complementary detention slip for disturbing the peace and violating the no food rule.
-x-x-x- (Lunch hour: Girl's Perspective) -x-x-x-
It was another one of those bizarre days. Boring with the imminent feeling that something sensational was about to occur, but still didn't, making the already boring day drag even longer because of an unfounded sense of anticipation. "When did school become so boring?" Ino pondered as she tried to enjoy her light meal. She was sitting with the other girls at the cafeteria, the popular girls. Sakura was there too, but she was too busy with her phone to even notice how dull the day was.
"Weird," Ino said inaudibly, the blonde found it weird that Naruto or that new third, Sai, weren't beside the girl with the artificial hair color. One day, Ino assured herself, she would find what Sakura's real hair color was. Preferably, before their graduation.
But now that Ino thought about it, lately Sakura would sit at the other table with the boys, and the other gang. Glancing at the table she noticed only Hinata was sitting there, alone.
"Now that's really weird, why is Hinata there alone?"
"Eh?" the other girls at the table responded, making Ino realized she spoke her mind aloud. "Well," she said to explain her comment, "It's just that normally Shino and Kiba, and even Naruto and Sai would be sitting there with Hinata." She then search to see if she could spot Chouji and Shikamaru but the found them in a corner playing chess.
"Hmm," She thought to herself, looking to explain the turn of events. The only noteworthy thing to occur was the Hyuuga apparently had a fever before first period started, and her two friends took her to the infirmary. But Hinata was the only one to return to class while the other two suspiciously never returned. Then Naruto, instead of running off to the cafeteria like he normally would, went to the other direction. Maybe he went to do something with Sai? But that wouldn't make sense. Sakura was sitting right beside her and she didn't look worried about anything. If Naruto was up to something, surely the pink haired girl would be on his case already.
The laughing interrupted Ino's trail of thought, as she realized the girls around her were chatting avidly about something.
"I just can't stand a girl like her, right? Always acting so timidly around the boys and such."
"Ugh, she's such a housewife"
"Keeping her head down like that and giving the boys a cutesy upward glance like that when spoken to. Ew, like get over yourself."
"Like yeah, it makes me sick. Are guys really into girls like her? She makes the rest of us look bad."
"And she's not even that pretty."
"I know, she used to be this ugly girl but then suddenly the boobs came in and now she's all vulgarly fragile."
"Remember three years ago when she was so fat and disgusting looking."
"Yeah, she pisses me off."
"No wonder she doesn't have any girlfriends. Cutesy pigs like her are always only surrounded by boys."
It didn't take Ino long to figure out the girls were bitching about Hinata. With the way they kept scuffing while glancing at the girl who sat alone at the cafeteria. Thinking back to it, the second she realized Hinata was sitting alone, she should've invited her to sit with the rest of them. "Damn, I must be off my game today." But now it was too late to invite her. Not now with all the other girls hating on the lone girl. And the worse part of it, Ino realized, was that she herself was the one that probably started this. If she hadn't pointed out that Hinata was sitting alone, the other girls wouldn't have noticed.
"It's just the atmosphere. She makes herself look weak, but she makes it look as if she is really giving it her all to strive, just so that the boys would think she's cute"
"What? Really? So she puts on this cutesy act around the boys?
"Yeah, I know, I used to say 'hi' to her out of pity."
"Oh wow, you are so nice. They should give Miss Congeniality awards every semester. I'm sure you'd win them all."
"I know, right?"
Now that was really offensive. These girls were all talking smack about Hinata, and they didn't even know her at all. Hinata was the nicest, sweetest girl Ino has ever met. And she wasn't fake either! Hinata was a girl with a strong heart and an unbreakable will. Boys just like her for her… and the boobs helped too. Hinata comes from a family that pressures her with sky high expectations, like all stereotypical Asian families do to their children when attending an American school. Yet Hinata still managed to resist being molded into what her father wanted from her. That girl was as real as they came!
These were the things Ino wanted to say. And she would have if it were only a couple of girls she had to handle; but the problem was that it was all of the girls at the table who were dropping insults.
All of them
As they kept on with their offensive comments, Ino noticed from the corner of her eyes that Sakura too grew aware of this but quickly pretended to be on her phone when she noticed Ino staring, but not without first looking apologetic about it. Meaning, Sakura wasn't going to defend Hinata. And a girl like Hinata shouldn't even have to go through these types of things but… then again, Hinata didn't really ever make an effort to befriend other people outside Kiba and Shino, whom both just happened to be guys.
"I, I'm not okay with being alone." Ino's heart confessed. She knew this to be true. She had Shikamaru and Chouji, but she still ventured toward Sakura and some other girls. It's impossible to be with guys all the time. There were things only a girl should deal with as well as things only boys should deal with. Ino knew from day one she feared isolation. Only around friends did she feel confident in her abilities. She can't help it; her father raised her that way. Ino was a hothead sometimes, she wouldn't deny, but she wouldn't do anything reckless unless she knew her friends would back her up.
"Ugh, but that Hinata really pisses me off"
"It's just that the boys like the obedient type, right? As the idiots they are?"
"Actually, Naruto isn't really attracted to the obedient types, is he?" As far as Ino has seen, Naruto has always pursued the type of people who talked down on him. He's such a glutton for pain sometimes. "Wait, why am I even thinking about him?" But she really did have to wonder. She knew Hinata liked the boy but… did Naruto like her back, like at all?
"How can she just sit there eating her food alone?"
"She's so full of herself. I bet that if she wanted, she could get any boy to sit with her."
"She'll never blend with us. That's why we can't invite her to sit with us."
Anger was boiling up. These girls had no right to talk about Hinata like that. "I should defend her." Ino thought, but she didn't. And it wasn't because she was afraid of going against all the other cool girls from her class. Heck, there once was a girl who got bullied everyday day because of her supposedly large forehead. Ino defended and befriended her but in the end all she got as payback was a girl who tried to steal her popularity and love interest. But that girl she took pity on eventually did turn out to become her friend.
With Hinata it was the reverse case. She was her friend, and because of it, Ino pitied the small amount of friends the Hyuuga girl had made on her own. The comments came to a halt when a menacing aura filled the cafeteria. It was a presence hard to ignore, that of a new guy with an obvious criminal past.
They all observed as the eyebrows-less boy walked with his tray of food toward the table Hinata was seated. He stopped beside her and in a quiet voice that carried over, he asked if he may seat there. The shy girl nodded and the boy slowly made his way to the opposite side of the table to place his tray there.
"See," the girl beside Ino started, "Told you a disgusting girl like Hinata could easily get any guy to…"
The girl never got to finish her sentence, because as she did Gaara turned around and gave her a menacing glare, before settling down with Hinata.
"That boy sure has a powerful presence," Ino thought sourly to herself, because it made her realize the boy did what she herself wanted to do. Shut the girls off. Question was, was it coincidence? Were the girls talking so loud that Gaara did this to defend her? Why would Gaara, of all people, suddenly start defending people? But if that was the case, and the girls were really speaking too loudly, did that meant that even Hinata could hear them?
"No," Ino covered her mouth in astonishment. She couldn't guarantee that what Gaara did was just a mere coincidence, but what if Hinata could really hear them? "Why didn't I stop this? Why did I hesitate? Why did I allow it?" These were the questions that were now plaguing her. This lack of respect, this freedom of speech, and the nonchalant way the girls addressed her served as a strong revelation to Ino.
A leader did not cower, a leader did not fear she wouldn't be liked for thinking differently, and a leader did not just stand by and not fight for what she believed in. She was the class rep, she should've kept order. When did she start growing soft? Such weakness could cause a revolt. She needed to set the example.
"I've never been the type to sit back and let others fight my battles so… why did I hesitate? Why didn't I feel secure in myself?"
Not two minutes later, Sai, followed by Shino also sat with Hinata. Then Shikamaru and Chouji followed. Sai waved at Sakura, who sighed in response, got up and sat next to him. Making the other girls wander if Sakura and Sai were an item or something of the like. The change of topic made Ino tune them out, angry at how Sakura unapologetically sat between Sai and Hinata, and angry at herself for not having the courage to do the same.
-x-x-x- (After School Hours) –x-x-x-
"Hey guys, guess what?" Kiba said with a happy grin, "Naruto and I got talking about this really cool game. So tomorrow I'm sleeping over at his place to play it." Yep, practically a nighttime date with the other boy. Kiba's face was practically glowing with joy at the notion. He really felt good about how things panned out.
"…and?" Shino asked, clearly expecting other news.
"And what?" Kiba countered, no longer feeling confident about his personal achievement.
"Did… um… did you tell him?" Hinata asked almost apologetically. She felt guilty for troubling him with her situation.
"Ah… hehehehe," Kiba laughed awkwardly, "I couldn't. I mean, he was all smiles so you know…"
"Interesting," Shino commented, pushing his dark shades back against his face, "I understand Hinata not being able to confront his smile but it surprises me that even you would be afraid to make it frown."
"Yeah well," Kiba quickly got on the defensive, "what about you, eh? Why don't you tell him?"
"Eh, why not?"
Shino looked away, picking the curiosity of both Kiba and Hinata. "Naruto and I have finally started speaking with each other after all these years so…" Shino stopped, taking time to breathe in and out his heavy confession. "I don't want to risk ending it by delivering bad news".
"…" Kiba and Hinata continued staring.
"…" Shino remained silent.
Kiba broke the silence.
"Wow… I had no idea you were so selfish."
Akamaru barked, agreeing with his owner.
So there laid the three, unable to move to the next phase of their plan. Hinata fidgeted with her hands, Kiba patted Akamaru, and Shino stood still like a statue, all wondering what their next step should be. That is, until Shino came with his next brilliant idea.
"How about we just tell Naruto, together, all three of us?"
"Tell me what?" the boy in question asked, appearing beside them, perked up at the event of people wanting to talk to him.
"Ah…," Kiba started but quieted. Shino elbowed him to continue. "Ah… well, oh yeah," the boy then said as if he had realized something, "Want to grab a bite with us? We sort of want to talk to you."
"We," Naruto asked, raising an eyebrow as he glanced at the three, "do you guys always go everywhere together?"
"Yeah, we do," Kiba answered on the defensive. Something about the way Naruto raised his eyebrow pegged him wrong. "We go places together, y'know, that's how friendship works." He then feigned interest in his knuckles as he tried to speak as indifferently as he could, "Not that you would know anything about functioning as a unit."
"Hey don't look at me like that." Kiba responded, adding a customary shoulder shrug, "It's no news to anyone that Sasuke, Sakura and you were a dysfunctional trio. Sorry man".
Naruto gritted his teeth before pushing the other back. "Take that back, dog breath! You know nothing about us three!"
"Don't go pushing me, fox face. Just telling it how it was. Accept it and get over it, sheesh."
Shino then pulled his friend back and tried to make peace by explaining what Kiba meant, in a way that hopefully didn't sound antagonizing. "What Kiba means to say is that you three had no real teamwork. It would either be Sakura trying to get with Sasuke, you trying to get with Sakura, or Sasuke and you challenging each other."
"So what's your point?"
"Naruto…" Kiba continued, going around Shino to face the blond upfront again, "did you ever try to do something with Sakura that involved hanging with Sasuke too or did you just wanted to go someplace alone with her? In that same sense, did you ever come up with a prank, strategy or challenge with or against Sasuke that involved Sakura's help or was she always kept as a bystander in the things you did with him?"
"Kiba's point exactly" Shino finished, or intended to, but Kiba had always felt the need to say the last word.
"Truth hurts" he said, "Hinata agrees with me on this point". And of course, Kiba's favorite tactic for winning any argument was by outnumbering the odds by saying Hinata agrees, even when half of the time, she didn't really. This made Shino want to facepalm. They were supposed to help Hinata and Naruto get together, not dig a gap between them.
"Yeah," Naruto fronted, dusting the imaginary dust of his shoulder as he addressed Kiba, "Yeah well I got something important to read, so bye!"
"Fine!" Kiba scuffed.
"Fine!" Naruto scuffed back.
"I already said fine." Kiba said condescendingly as he walked pass the blond, purposely bumping his shoulder into him. Naruto turned to shout something back but felt deflated when Hinata timidly bowed her head at him and said her goodbyes. He scratched the bridge under his nose and awkwardly said bye to her.
"Stupid dog breath," he grumbled after the three were gone. Tomorrow, when Kiba came by to stay the night, Naruto will make sure he adds salt to whatever drink he offers the dog boy. "Heheheh," Naruto couldn't help snickering as he imagined the sour face Kiba would make.
"Uzumaki Naruto…," a gravel filled voice called, creeping the hell out of Naruto as he turned to see Gaara standing there, with empty looking eyes surrounded by a heavy mascara. Truly, every time the red head crept behind him he couldn't sense him, but once he did, all Naruto would be able to see and feel was his presence.
"Um… hi Gaara, what's up?"
Gaara frowned as he broke eye contact. He stared at his feet, frustrated. Met eyes with Naruto but then looked away, this time to the right. He took a digital camera out and glared at it as if it was the cause of whatever internal dilemma he was having. Naruto asked if something was wrong but Gaara just briefly met eyes with him before glaring at the camera again. It seemed like he was being forced to do something that involved the camera. The problem was figuring out what?
"My sister," he finally said, actually looking bashful for once, "My sister insists I take a picture with…. my… two… friends."
"Rock Lee and you," he revealed. The redhead then frowned and sent the blond a menacing glare. He wasn't going to back down from this. Not if he wanted to avoid having his sister nag him all night long about this. She was relentless when she wanted something and she had already set the frame in his room where she would place the photo of his friends and him. "Damn this," the redhead cursed, he actually felt bashful about this.
"I don't mind taking a picture," Naruto laughed light-heartedly. It seemed Gaara was really making an effort to change his ways. He even said they were friends. "But I don't see Bushy-brows"
Again, Gaara frowned and looked away, before glaring back and commanding Naruto to do something about that. After receiving a scowl, Gaara tried again but tried to choose a nicer set of words.
"I was hoping you could talk to him for me," he said honestly, though his face and voice reverted to revealing no emotions, "It's rare to find him without his two other friends or that annoying mother hen he so emulates. It's uncomfortable to approach him about this with his established friends so blatantly present".
"Hey! I have friends too and you're talking to me about it!" Naruto reasoned out.
"You have friends… I've noticed that to be true". Gaara paused, giving himself a break to formulate well his observations. "You have lots of friends but I've noticed that you're not the type to follow the crowd. Somehow it feels like you're not on their same wavelength and are always pushing to do and settle things on your own, your way. Like a selfish person."
"Who are you calling selfish?!"
"I… meant no offense by this observation, as I said, it's obvious to me that you have lot of friends" he clarified, before continuing with his observations. "However, at the end of the day, even just now, you always move on your own, leaving your friends to cluster among themselves without you".
"…yeah well…" Naruto pouted and frowned at the same time. What Gaara just said sounded strangely familiar to what Kiba said. Heck, even Jiraiya said something similar the other day.
"I… wouldn't mind walking a path like that." Gaara confided, now having an easier time speaking his mind. "I don't need the constant company, my siblings are present enough at it is, but to know I have friends everywhere I look. I don't think I'd be able to hate such a sentiment". Though he will have to admit to himself that he did feel uncomfortable when a large group of people shared his cafeteria table. He had chosen the table where a girl he recognized from class sat alone. And he only chose that table because there was only one person there. Then he felt someone say something about him and he glared at the person. But as soon as he did, people he had never care to speak to sat there with him. He easily recognized Sai, Naruto's co-worker, and Sakura, the girl he beat up when he first met Naruto. Sakura didn't make eye contact once with him during the lunch break, but nobody else seemed to mind they were sharing a table with him.
Truth be told, he wanted to leave as soon as other people sat with him, but his body turned rigid and he felt like if he would suffer a seizure if he tried to move. Not to mention he was already fighting against his usual psychotic thoughts.
"I say we go to the gym," Naruto said, giving Gaara the thumbs up, "I bet Bushy-brows is running his afterschool laps about now."
Effectively, they found Rock Lee running through his laps, with their Coach Gai yelling cheesy words of encouragement. Both Naruto and Gaara decided to just sit by the bleachers until the athlete finished. No sense in getting involved in that teach-student appreciation-fest.
It actually felt nice, for Gaara, to be able to just sit there, with a friend, while listening to said friend shout random phrases at Lee like "Go Bushy-brows," and "Your running is weird!" It actually felt like the perfect time to make conversation. Something he didn't even realize he ever wanted to do.
"Uzumaki Naruto," he started, "There is something else I wanted to talk to you about." Again, he felt like he was threading another uncomfortable topic, but this one wasn't forced on him. This topic was born from genuine curiosity. "We two are similar, aren't we? This thing that always makes me hate myself. How do you manage to not let it bother you?"
"What are you talking about?" Naruto asked, yet he recalled encountering Gaara at the hospital that only tends to people with rare or untreatable diseases. "Oh, that." He frowned. He didn't enjoy being reminded of it. He still sort of regretted revealing it to Sasuke and Sakura. Sakura specifically, she freaked out as soon as he said it. Sasuke didn't really understand it at first but the next day he had shown genuine concern after investigating it.
"I guess I don't really have to deal with it," Naruto let out, "I mean at first I did but not anymore." He still remembered his harsh infancy. "I was born without parents; and when I was really young a rich couple wanted to adopt me. Thing is they took me to a lab to check if I was genetically predisposed to any serious diseases and guess what, turns out I was. After that, it appeared on my medical record and nobody wanted to adopt me anymore. The people taking care of me also stopped treating me kindly. I no longer had a future in their eyes."
"My mother died of it shortly after having me," Gaara confided, also taking his turn to talk about his childhood. "My father didn't know she had the disease when they got married. It's of dominant inheritance so chances were half of her children will also have it," at this, an emotion akin to hate made his way onto his voice, "It is actually unethical to get tested for it. The United States of America is firm in its stand against genetic counseling for it, especially on young children. My father however, tested my siblings and I after mom died. They were the lucky ones."
Gaara felt a lump form on his throat as he spoke of this. He swallowed it before finishing his story. "This neurodegenerative disorder has genetic anticipation, meaning the children of the deceased will suffer from it at a younger age the parent did. My mom was no older than thirty when she died. Father, to him I don't exist. A son is someone who can continue the legacy of his father. So he won't bother on someone without a future."
"But, that can't be true," Naruto offered, sounding a little panicky, "Pervy Sage, the guy that adopted me, said he found out my parents died of an accident. But that I'd probably get the disease when I turn forty five or something like that."
"Oh…" Gaara said, pausing as realization stroke him, "Uzumaki Naruto, you don't have seizures, do you?" he asked, to which the blond shook his head no. He also shook his head when Gaara asked him about jerky movements, defective muscle coordination, declines in cognitive or mental abilities, abrupt behavioral changes, suicidal thoughts and episodes of psychosis.
"You have the Adult Onset," the redhead stated, realizing at the same time as Naruto that the disease ran faster on Gaara.
"Don't say it," Naruto said, his voice sounding pleading. "Is this how Sakura felt when she found out about me?" It was his first time seeing the disease from an outsider's perspective. When people pitied him, he got angry. He didn't want any of it. He hid it. Outside from his two friends and Jiraiya, only Principal Tsunade and Nurse Shizune knew about this. Aside from all the medical staff whose hands his medical record ever went to. But to actually meet someone else, with the same disease but an even worse onset, he couldn't stop his eyes from watering. It was one confession hard to swallow.
"There is no need to hide it." Gaara said solemnly, "I'm actually glad our school Principal allowed me to attend Konoha at such a weird time schedule. The way she stared at me when she accepted my application gave away that she already knew someone in the same situation." He sighed, "I guess even among the unlucky ones there are those luckier than others."
Then Gaara said the words Naruto didn't want to hear.
"I have the Juvenile Onset Huntington's disease."
-x-x-x-(Late Afternoon: Outlets)-x-x-x-
They ran. They caught a wind of hope and they ran to it. Shino had been looking for pawn shops or jewelry stores online. He figured that by today it should be the earliest a stolen necklace like Naruto's would appear, only if the jewel was sold locally. Chances were slim but when he refreshed the page he found it on the new arrivals list. The trio were now running to the outlet, Kiba ahead with Akamaru, Hinata with her credit card in hand, and lastly Shino, trying to keep up without looking like he was getting exhausted.
The dog owner of the three had refused to believe it a first. There was no way such a piece would end up at an outlet, but then again, he was never into jewelry so he really couldn't estimate its worth. But one look at the online page and Hinata was already on her way. Shino tried calling, but the line was busy. And it couldn't be bought online either.
"Woof" Akamaru would bark as they closed in on the shop but before Kiba could reach it, the dog took a left and ran to the opposite direction of the shop. "Not that way!" Kiba yelled, running to catch his dog, and leaving Hinata and Shino to themselves. "Get the necklace you two!" he said as he followed his pet, letting his friends know not to wait for him.
Akamaru kept speeding until he toppled a couple, quickly climbing on the female of the two.
"Sorry, sorry, sorry!" Kiba apologized repeatedly as he finally reached his dog and yank him off the tackled female. "This is bad." He thought as he yelled at his dog, something he hated doing. "You don't jump on strangers like that!" It was really bad. What if the girl got injured? Would they press charges? Akamaru hasn't done something like that before. But the dog, instead of looking apologetic like all trained dogs should look, he kept barking at the girl as her boyfriend helped her up. "Shut it, Akamaru! Do this again and I'll put you on a leash!"
Finally getting his dog to calm down, he dreadfully took it upon himself to bow at the couple like Hinata would do, and proceed to throw one apology after the other, inserting a "please don't sue" between his excuses. He kept his head down, waiting for the inevitable rebuke, and he even braced himself for the punch the boyfriend was sure to throw at him. But when nothing came he slowly looked up to meet the couple the dog had troubled.
The couple looked like they were high-classed and in their mid-thirties. The male stood tall, wearing a black suit, black tie, and a violet dress shirt, his hair a weird orange color. The female, also stood tall with her high heels, also wearing a black backless dress, showing cleavage and the dress would open to reveal her right leg. Long, toned and hairless. Her hair was an electric blue color. Both of them had more piercings than what Kiba could count but they still managed to look classy with them. Bad-ass, and regrettably for Kiba, they looked like mafia. The type that could shoot him dead over the simplest provocation, stash his body, and never be found.
And both of them were staring at him disapprovingly.
"Kiba," Shino called for him, with Hinata in tow, "We were late. The necklace was already bought."
"Hah!" Hinata gasped, pointing a shaky finger at the lady with the piercings. Around her neck, Naruto's necklace.
"Holy shit," Kiba let out inaudibly. Now he knew why Akamaru did what he did.
"My necklace," the lady said after sending the dog a glare, "is there a reason you're staring at it so intently?"
"Well, you see," Kiba started but was surprise when Hinata spoke over him and said, "That's Naruto's necklace!" Surprising even herself for the outburst, Hinata felt pressured to continue speaking as she told everything about how the necklace got stolen to how she really liked the boy it belonged to. The couple would throw an impassive glance toward each other as the story went on, and after Hinata finished, the lady shook her head and said. "The story you told me is one hard to believe, but if the emotions you've attached to this necklace are of great value then you should've never taken it off. Now it is too late to lay claim to that which is no longer yours to hold". And with that she grabbed her partner by the hand, ready to leave. Yet Hinata surprised them all again by blocking their way and spreading her arms wide so that they couldn't go pass her.
"I can't let it end like this!" Hinata said, sounding like she was about to cry but resolute in her stance. "I used to always cry and give up... I made many wrong turns... but Na-Naruto-kun... Naruto Uzumaki helped me find the right path!" she revealed, "I always chased after him... I wanted to catch up to him... I wanted to walk beside him all the time... I just wanted to be with him... He changed me! His smile is what saved me! And don't want him to hate me. That is why I'm not afraid to stand for this! Please, I'll pay for it but I…"
"Enough," the boyfriend finally spoke, his voice commanding and clear. He glance at his girlfriend and asked, "Konan, was it Uzumaki the name this girl just said?" Receiving a nod from her, he turned to the teenagers and asked, "Is this Naruto Uzumaki connected to someone who goes by the name of Jiraiya?"
Neither Hinata nor Kiba knew the answer to that one, nor understood why the question was even relevant. But Shino answered with an affirmative, explaining how Naruto was a foster child and Jiraiya his adoptive parent. Kiba just marveled at how Shino would always be very informed about even the most random of facts.
Again, the elegant couple shared a glance before the male closed his eyes and said, "Events always occur without warning. It is only after the fact that the reasons become clear".
"Indeed," the lady now known as Konan affirmed. She took off the necklace and handed it over to Hinata, but not before giving her some words of advice.
"Here, I hope for you this will become the bridge that leads your heart to peace. But remember this is but a mere object. It is up to you to be the support holding that bridge up."
"Keep it," the man said as he led his lady away from the teenagers. "Don't pay us back with money. We won't need it."
They were gone, and the teenagers could only gape as they stared at the necklace. They did it. Hinata did it. This nightmare was finally coming to an end.
Wasting no time they called a cab, a good idea in retrospect because it started to rain heavy just after they climbed the yellow car, and made their way to Naruto's home. Kiba let Hinata know on what floor the apartment was and stayed in the taxi with Shino. This was something Hinata had to do alone. She climbed the stairs, almost tripping twice when it got slippery, but she made it there nonetheless.
The two boys were wandering if everything would turn out okay when they heard something shattering not a minute after. Looking out the window they saw it was Naruto's necklace.
"Stay here," Shino told the other, exiting the cab to collect the shards before climbing the stairs. Eight minutes that felt like an eternity to Kiba passed before his two friends returned to the cab, wet and necklace-less.
"So?" Kiba asked.
"Naruto slipped after Hinata gave him the necklace. It was an accident."
"Yeesh, what a dumbass!" Kiba chuckled. He could imagine the hilarious face Naruto had as he tripped, and the cute pout he would make after. Yet his chuckles came to a halt when Hinata revealed she confessed her feelings to him. He grew angry when he later found out Naruto suddenly lost his voice and didn't accept or reject her feelings.
"You were brave," Shino finally said, giving her a comforting smile. "I don't believe this is the end of it. I'm sure Naruto himself is not sure of what his feelings are right now." He said reminiscing on these last few weeks. "Before Sasuke left, if you asked Naruto he could probably tell you who his best friend was, who the girl he liked was, and what his dream was. I don't believe the Naruto of now could answer those questions with confidence anymore. But your confession might be just what he needed to set himself back on the right track and start finding his new answers."
Kiba and Hinata just sat quietly as their friend spoke, too drained to refute anything, not that they needed to. The words of their friend were actually comforting.
"If Naruto is the one you love I doubt this could be considered a setback". Shino then said, shifting his eyes towards Kiba to say the rest. "Because only those who cannot confess their feeling out loud are the one who will never be able to win the battle".
-x-x-x-(Next Morning: Homeroom)-x-x-x-
Homeroom was like everyday living for the student who didn't face a confession the day before. But for those who did, they sat quietly at their desk, not meeting eyes with anyone. It was only a minute before the first period started that Mr. Kakashi Hatake surprised everyone by arriving on time. But the surprised was short-lived because they noticed it was because Mr. Iruka Umino dragged him along. The latter teacher then addressed the class about the issues the seniors of Konoha High were facing, reporting that even after the school dance, those high-schoolers hadn't raised enough funds to fund a prom night outside the school premises. The root of failure was determined to be that they lacked a solid class directive.
Ino, who had been paying attention with vague interest, got alerted after said statement. She felt her pulse quicken, already able to see where Mr. Iruka Umino was going with it.
"So to avoid an event like this from repeating itself, I propose we revise your class electives for class president, vice president, treasurer and secretary." He suggested, "Of course, if the class feels good about their current team, we can leave it as it is. Remember, the people you chose will represent the class for the following years until graduation".
"I nominate myself as class president!" Sakura immediately said, raising her right hand up as she spoke.
"No way," Ino immediately shot back.
"Now, now girls," Mr. Umino said, "remember you can only run for it if someone else nominates you."
"Um," a male student raised his hand to speak, "I actually don't want to be class treasurer anymore. So if someone else wants to take the role then so be it."
"Me, me!" a female student then shot her hand up, "I would like to nominate Ino Yamanaka to remain as class president, and I would like to nominate Sakura Haruno as class treasurer instead of being our current vice-president". After she spoke, other girls also nominated Ino back as class president, all saying she's been doing a great job so far. It kept going like this until Shino raised his hand and said, "I nominate Naruto Uzumaki as class president."
"Huh?" were the response he generally received; even Naruto himself looked shocked at it. So then Shino explained himself. "It's obvious to all of us Naruto Uzumaki's goal is to become president. A challenge like this will do him good. But I nominate him not only because of his goal in life but because I believe he has the ability required to unify the class further."
"I second that motion," Kiba then said, followed by Hinata who smiled at the nominee before speaking. After that, another boy nominated Naruto while another girl nominated Ino. The nominated girl then sent a glare at Choiji and he raised his hand to vote for her. She would have glared at Shikamaru but the boy was fast asleep. Yet when Gaara shocked the class by not only participating but by nominating Naruto as well, Mr. iruka brightened up to the idea to holding up a proper election.
"This can't be happening," Ino thought as she stared at her now giddy adversary, a nasty sense of realization overtaking her as she did.
Ten years ago she had helped, out of pity, a girl with a big forehead. That girl later tried to match Ino in everything and even tried to upstage her. That girl, after finding out that they just so happened to be crushing on the same boy, spitted on their friendship and went to become her rival for years to come. Ino had sworn to herself she would never go out of her way to help out another pitiful soul. From then on she would look out only for herself, and her selected set of friends.
Ten years later, on the mall's food court, she took pity of a boy who was hopelessly in love with the girl who betrayed her. Ino didn't do it out of spite against Sakura. She helped Naruto only because she pitied him. But just like with Sakura, she ended up befriending, looking after, and even cherishing the person she once pitied. Yet again it would seem like the story was about to repeat itself. The person she aided would again seek to steal what was rightfully hers.
With a heavy heart Ino realized this.
Naruto was just another Sakura.
"Hey whiskers!" She giggled, making her way to her adversary. The cool ones knew how to mask their emotions and she was no different. At this Shikamaru started to awake and he heard as Ino told Naruto that they should totally do battle for the elections exactly as the politicians did it, with campaigns, propaganda, debates and everything.
He watched as Naruto smiled back and shook hands with Ino, accepting the challenge. A second later Shikamaru realized everything that went on while he slept and sat in shock at the mistake Naruto had just made.
Do as the politicians…?
Politicians won by dirtying the name of their opponents.
-x-x-x-( End of Chapter Seventeen: "Confession" )-x-x-x-
A/N: There you go! So many confessions, right? Love interest, diseases, insecurities and resentments. Team 8 dynamic's really was fun to write. Shino Abarume has so much potential personality-wise. I wish people took notice of it more often. Well, with this I end the Mini Shippuden Arc. All that's left in the final one, the "Presidential Arc", as you guys just read, it starts now. Ino vs Naruto here we go! I confess I'm thrilled to finally reveal the reason I handpicked Ino Yamanaka as the final boss against Naruto.
A/N2: Does anybody know how the change the flag on my profile? It's bothering me because it says I'm from USA but I'm actually from Puerto Rico.
A/N3: Again, I apologize for going three years without an update. Still, I was pleasantly surprised I still kept getting reviews even in my absence. How did my story kept being found, it's a mystery to me. But thank you all. Every time I got one I would try to type some lines in. I'm happy I finally manage to update.