Title: A Prior Engagement.
Claimer/Author: This story is written by and belongs to Emmy Kay.
Summary: Hinata's on a blind date – and guess who crashes? NaruHina. A little fluffy, a lot goony. Oneshot.
Disclaimer: Naruto and all affiliated characters belong to Kishimoto Masashi. This story is written without permission and for personal/fan/nonprofit entertainment purposes only.
Personal note: I've always loved a screwball romantic comedy – so this is my version. Could be seen as a companion piece to "A Boo-boo," but doesn't have to be.
"I am engaged." Shino said, almost immediately after he sat down at the table where Team 8 had a standing weekly reservation at a favorite sushi restaurant. Whoever was in town would show up, and it was often Hinata and just one of either Shino, Kiba or Kurenai, as her teaching was the only regular schedule amongst the four. Hinata didn't mind - she rather liked being the conveyor of news and didn't ever want to miss a chance to see her old teammates.
Hinata looked at him with some surprise. Kiba was shocked. His mouth flapped open a few times before he found his tongue. "Engaged, as in, to be married? "
Shino nodded. "Engaged to be married."
"I didn't even know you were seeing anybody." Hinata commented.
"I met her two weeks ago." Shino gestured for the waitress.
Hinata's eyebrows rose to her hairline. "Two weeks, Shino-kun? Isn't that very early?"
"Our families arranged a meeting. She is from the Kagame clan – they are a widely respected insect-using family from the Land of Grass."
"What's her name?" asked Hinata, openly curious.
"Junko," Shino answered.
"What's she like?" Hinata tried to imagine a girl who would marry Shino and that Shino would also marry. In all the years she had known him, he had absolutely nothing to say regarding his own personal romantic relationships. As far as she knew, he hadn't had any. Although Kiba disagreed. Of course, Kiba was a great talker of his own prospects and liaisons and generally assumed everyone had something going on. They never spoke of her own situation – or lack thereof. For that, Hinata felt nothing but gratitude.
"She speaks very well. She has very good posture." Shino ticked off her attributes. "Her table manners were impeccable. And she dresses well."
Kiba was beside himself. He couldn't get past Shino's mind-boggler of an initial statement. "How do you know you want to marry a girl you only just met two weeks ago?"
"Junko and I had dinner three times over the course of those two weeks. It was quite genial," defended Shino, as emotionally as he had ever said anything, which was barely detectable from his usual tone of voice.
"Two weeks!" Kiba thrust home his point, obviously thinking his was a winning argument.
A little gleam ran over Shino's goggles. "Our chakra insects are compatible."
Kiba let out a bark of laughter. "That's one way to tell!"
And that conversation was why, Hinata thought, she had allowed herself to be sucked into the current tactics and stratagems of her extended family. They had been pushing her to marry since she was 18, with increasing pressure over time. However, due to mission-based absences and her own careful planning, she had managed to avoid doing anything meaningful about it for a full 4 years.
Marriage to a Hyuuga, she knew, was a great incentive for many both inside and outside the Land of Fire. Even though Hinata was no longer the heir to the family, marriage to her brought not only wealth and political influence, but the potential of having Byukagan brought into a family's bloodline. This over-abundance of riches had driven many marriage-minded parents to the doors of Hyuuga House.
Whereupon they cooled their heels and found their own way out. Because Hinata was not interested in being married. Or rather, she was not interested in marrying anybody her family was interested in her marrying.
Well, she hadn't been interested. But that had changed. She wanted to believe that she was capable of change. Hadn't she changed already? She had lost her stammer and banished her fidgeting – and that had to mean something.
Another part of her personal transformation meant changing how she approached her non-existent love life. Nothing she had done before had ever been of any use with a certain Naruto Uzumaki. She was sensitive, maybe overly so, to the sly jokes and innuendos that came up whenever his name was mentioned around her. This couldn't go on any longer, this farce of a romantic attachment.
Whatever Hinata had felt for Naruto, whatever she had wanted to believe in the past - now, she realized, those were the fantasies of a little girl. He was never going to marry her. How could he want to marry her when it was so painfully obvious he barely even noticed that she was alive?
And this is what she explained to Shino and Kiba the following week.
"Oh, no, not you too," Kiba groaned.
"I cannot agree with your decision," Shino said.
"Why not, Shino-kun?" asked Hinata. "If it's okay for you to have an arranged meeting, why can't I?"
"I know exactly what I am doing, and what I am looking for. Junko was the same. You," he said, and she could almost feel the compassion behind the goggles, "would never be happy in such an arrangement."
At this point, she felt the sympathy from the both of them. It was Kiba was spoke. "Because, Hinata. C'mon."
Feeling a little abandoned because her friends did not immediately seem thrilled with her new plan, she pleaded, "Other people besides Shino meet and marry and are happy – why not me?"
"You are not other people," Shino replied.
Over her friends' objections, Hinata said, "It's too late. The matchmaker already has a setup for the weekend."
The first suitor, a rather portly red-faced young gentleman, was from a branch family of the daimyo's clan. The matchmaker, a bland-looking middle-aged woman with a sharp nose, introduced them. Then she suggested they have a walk. Perhaps Hinata-sama could show her new acquaintance the fine gardens of Konoha? Perhaps a meal? Hinata didn't have to use her kekkai genkai to see the dollar signs behind those suggestions.
Hinata thought things were going reasonably well even if it was quite dull, as he did speak quite eloquently. However, he was far from the most enthusiastic walker she'd ever met. They had only gone a little way into one of the village's many parks when they came across a stand of flowering grasses. This lead to the gentleman's alarming change of color to a distinct violet, and a pronounced wheeze in his voice. Hinata had to hurry him back to the house, and as she helped him across the threshold, she thought she heard the distinct sound of a corset stay snapping.
The second suitor, a tall gentleman with a magnificent head of auburn hair that culminated in an extravagant ponytail, was from a family renowned for their ninja weapons craftsmanship. Perhaps Hinata-sama could show him the academy, as he had expressed interest in the place where so many ninja received their start?
He was quite genial. As Hinata lead him through the building, they stopped in a practice room. She had thought to show him where some of the more esoteric weapons training occurred. When she went to open the cabinet, he suddenly looped an uninvited arm around her neck and shoulder, drawing her closer to him. As she opened her mouth to protest, a sudden shower of kunai and shuriken sprayed viciously all around them. It was only by dint of her application of Shugohakke Rokujūyon Shō that they escaped unscathed. Unscathed, that is, except for the top of his finely crafted, patently false hairpiece, ponytail and all, which had been pinned to the wall behind them.
The sheepish group of students apologized terribly, as they had thought one of their beloved senseis was being ambushed and attacked. "Don't ever do that again," Hinata reprimanded, keeping her face absolutely straight as she slipped them each a bundle of hall passes. "You'll know what will happen."
The students hung their heads as they surreptiously pocketed their sudden windfall. "Yes, sensei. We're very, very sorry."
The third suitor, a short gentleman with a pronounced lisp, was from another clan famous for their dojutsu. Perhaps Hinata-sama could bring him to Hokage's palace where there was an exhibit on Konoha's famous artists. Hinata could feel an edge of frustration in the matchmaker's latest suggestion for "Hinata-sama."
For his height, suitor three did have excellent posture. Unfortunately, this was of no help when a team of maddened bullocks tore through the streets, catching hold of the hapless gentleman. His baby-girl-like cries were completely inaudible over the crazed bellowing of the bulls. The poor fellow was dragged several blocks before the drover could calm the animals to a stand-still.
Several weeks later, she found herself in a rose-colored kimono and red obi, walking down the street next to suitor four. He was quite tall, with neatly combed, well-trimmed white-blond hair. Isao Jin. The first son of a prominent family in the capital of Fire, age 25.
The matchmaker had introduced them and then suggested they have a walk, despite the sky being overcast and grey. Perhaps Hinata-sama could show Isao-sama around the sites of the village, as this was Isao-sama's first time in Konoha. Perhaps this walk would lead to healthy lunch. Perhaps then they would come back, safely, for tea. There was a hint of a plea in the matchmaker's voice.
Hinata peeked at Isao from beneath her eyelashes. He did have very good posture. He was quite handsome, in a classic square-jawed, Roman-nosed, high forehead, well-bred, intelligent sort of look. He was well-dressed, in dark hakama and a light-colored kimono with his family crest on the back.
"Konoha seems very charming," he said, looking about in a lively, interested way. Then Isao looked at her for an appropriate, but flatteringly long time. "Very charming."
Isao did speak very well. Hinata could not imagine him ever putting a foot out of line. They had already discussed poetry, the arts, and touched on aspects of foreign relations between the Five Great Shinobi Nations. He was very well informed. "Yes. I love it. But," she sighed. "There has been a lot of construction, so it's not quite the village I grew up in."
"I have heard about the terrible events of the past years. I'm very sorry," he said, sincerely.
"Oh, it's all right," Hinata shook her head to dispel the little aura of sadness that had started to collect around her. She looked around, and with determined brightness, said, "Where would you like to eat? There are all sorts of restaurants down this main street."
"Wherever you would like, Hinata-sama," his pale blue eyes, the amazingly translucent color of water running under ice, smiled down at her.
"Oh, no, you are the guest here, Isao-sama," she demurred. "What are you in the mood for?"
"Why don't we walk down and see?" he countered, inclining his handsome head slightly in her direction. After a few hundred meters, he turned to her and said, "How about – "
Hinata closed her eyes in horror. It couldn't be. That voice. Of all the places and times and people, right when things were going so well. She willed it not to be so. Pasting a smile on her face, she asked, "What were you saying?"
Isao opened his mouth, but it wasn't his voice that filled the street around them.
"Ramen, ramen, raaa-mmmuuuunn!" Hinata could hear the drool dribbling off the words.
Ichiraku Ramen Bar was straight ahead, its large red and white paper lantern easily discernable from where they were standing. Isao chuckled. "How about ramen?"
Hinata began, "Only if you really want – "
"RAMEN!" The words bounced off the walls, vibrated up from the ground, and even seemed to cause the cloud-covered sky to shiver.
Isao pulled the white and red noren out of Hinata's way. "After you," he said. She stepped forward into the restaurant, which consisted of five stools placed in front of a long, well-worn and lovingly maintained two-level bar of blond wood. The air was filled with the scents of long-stewed meats, and onions, and a hundred secret spices. Hinata then turned to smile at Isao, and as she did so, a long lean body in black and orange nudged Isao aside.
"Oji-chan! Ayame-san! Make mine an extra-large miso pork! Don't forget the ginger!" Naruto yelled into the bar. Only belatedly did he notice Hinata standing in front of him. Isao he seemed to miss completely. "Huh? Hinata? What're you doing here? I didn't know you liked ramen."
"I've never been here before. The idea just sort of…came out of the blue," Hinata said, a little quirk to her lips.
Isao stepped in behind Naruto, and received and returned the greetings of the shop's proprietor and the perky young woman behind the bar. Then he waited for Hinata to sit. Hinata was waiting for Naruto to sit so she could pick a seat next to Isao. Naruto was standing, she supposed, because everybody else was standing.
"Oh," said Naruto, wisely, perhaps feeling the standing had gone on too long. "You're wearing that dress, it makes it hard for you get on the stools. Here - let me help." Without any further ado, he grabbed Hinata under her thighs and lower back, hoisted her up and then plopped her down unceremoniously on the center seat. She struggled for a moment against the bar to right herself. Her zori dangled precipitously for a moment off her left foot, and then lost its battle with gravity, falling to the floor.
Naruto hauled himself up on the stool to her immediate left. "Get the shoyu ramen. It's great."
Isao walked around to sit on the stool to Hinata's immediate right. The bar-girl handed him a menu. Isao glanced at it.
"So, Hinata-sama, you've never eaten here before?"
"Do you have a preference, Hinata-sama?"
Isao ordered salt noodles for both of them.
Naruto glanced over as if he had just noticed Isao's presence. He leaned towards Hinata. "Hinata, is this guy a friend of yours?"
Isao, in his perfect clothes and most likely perfect hearing, stiffened.
"We've just met," she replied, trying to be honest, "But his family and my family have known each other a long time." She made the introductions she really didn't want to make. "Naruto-kun, this is Isao Jin. Isao-sama, this is Naruto Uzumaki. Naruto and I went to school together."
Isao's pale eyes flicked over Naruto. After an insultingly brief assessment, they returned to Hinata's slightly anxious face. "Oh yes, the Ninja Academy. You must have been a top student, Hinata-sama."
"No, Sasuke Uchiha was the number one rookie in our class," Naruto butted in. "It was Sakura, though, who had the best written grades. I," he said, without a touch of shame, thrusting his thumb at chest, "was at the bottom of the class."
"Hn," Isao murmured. "Really?"
Why, Hinata wondered, oh why was this happening to her? Right when she had turned over a new leaf and tried to set a new course for her life, why did she have to see the one person she really didn't want to see?
There was nothing obviously wrong with Isao Jin, she thought. Nothing that would set him aside as a possible match. He was, in a phrase, Mr. Possible, if not Mr. Right. This is what she must focus on – what was possible.
Hinata ignored, with all her might, the fugitive warmth that had started bubbling up under her heart since she first saw that sunshine yellow hair poking in through the restaurant's curtains. This feeling seemed a catalyst to every other emotion – making the highs more pleasurable, and the lows infinitely more painful. Her senses were heightened when she was around Naruto - colors were drenched in richness and warmth, her skin sensitized, smells and tastes accentuated.
This feeling, so full of light and joy, was about the impossible. This was a feeling that Isao Jin, for all his excellent posture and manners, didn't call forth in her. Which should be a relief. She must remember how hard it was to live at such an intensity of sensation. She pivoted towards Isao on her stool.
"Yes, I went to the Ninja Academy," she confirmed. "I'm teaching there now."
That caught Isao's attention. "How do you like it?"
"I enjoy it very much," Hinata said, happily.
"Oh yeah, she's a great teacher." Naruto enthused. "The kids love her and they learn a lot."
"Thank you, Naruto-kun," Hinata said, wishing he would go away.
"It's nice that you bring in all these specialist jonin to explain things to them."
"Do you?" Isao asked, a funny note in his voice.
"She's awesome," Naruto vouched. "When I came in to do a taijutsu demo, she had already told them the importance of falling right, and why practice tumbling was such a good idea. Those kids even knew a couple of stances. I wish she had been my sensei."
Hinata blushed, and turned even darker red under the gaze of two very different sets of blue eyes. Then the ramen was served. Her "Itadakimasu!" was inordinately thankful. She lifted a spoonful of the broth to her mouth, pleased to find it nicely savory. Then she took a pair of chopsticks and happily tasted the noodles. However, the bowl was enormous, and she set it aside after only a few bites.
Isao leaned against the side wall of the bar to look at Hinata. "So you like children?"
"Oh, yes," Hinata nodded. "They're wonderful."
"That's good to know." Isao smiled. "Children are important. They carry the family name, honor the ancestors, and continue the traditions."
"Bah!" said Naruto. "That's not why normal people have children. Regular people have children because they like them and want to have them."
"Do you think women should work after marriage?" Isao asked, patently ignoring the other man.
Hinata started to feel the heat creep up her cheeks again. It was too soon for a question like that! "If – if I was an active ninja and taking missions – I would probably stop after marriage – it might be too dangerous," Hinata said, thoughtfully. "I wouldn't want to be away from my children and husband. But I'm teaching – so I think I could continue to teach after marriage."
"Hn. I think women should stay home with the children, and take care of the husband and the household. Children need a mother at home, and a husband needs a wife waiting for him when he gets back from a hard day at work," Isao announced.
"Oh? I guess I understand what you're saying—" something flickered in the corner of her vision. Hinata turned her head slightly, and then stopped, uncertain if she could watch any more. Naruto had inched over to pick through the toppings left in her noodle bowl. She hunched a shoulder to block out the sight.
"I think," Naruto said, "it depends on what the whole family needs and wants. If they need the income, or if the wife wants to work, I don't know that the husband has that much to complain about. Marriage should be about teamwork. And," he continued, extending his chopsticks toward Isao with a snap, "the husband should be willing to stay home if that's what's good for the team."
"Like you would be willing to stay at home," Isao challenged the young ninja, coldly.
"Sure," Naruto grinned, pulling the remainder of Hinata's ramen toward himself. In a gesture as intimate as a kiss, if completely graceless, he picked up her used spoon and scooped up some broth, sucking down the liquid vigorously. "If I could be a work-at-home Hokage, or a flex-hour leader, I would do it. For my home team." He took an enormous pull of noodles. "Wouldn't that be great, Hinata?" he said, around a mouthful of food. An orange-clad elbow jabbed her familiarly in the ribs. "Me staying home with the kids? Eh? Eh?"
Isao had a look as if he wondered how it all got away from him. He eyed the young shinobi, who was busily scarfing down the remainder of Hinata's noodles. Then his glance turned to Hinata. Hinata returned his look with one of her own, wondering what else could happen.
With great deliberation, Isao set his bowl far off to the right, up against the wall of the bar. He carefully counted out some money and left it next to his bowl. "Hinata-sama, it was a great pleasure meeting you and visiting your charming village. I fear there are some previous commitments to which we all must attend. Perhaps I shall see you again." He got off the stool and bowed slightly towards her.
"Isao-sama –" Hinata began, as she watched Isao disappear through the noren.
Naruto lifted up the noodle bowl to noisily slurp down the broth, all the way to the dregs.
Then Ayame exclaimed, "Hey! There's only money for one and a half bowls!"
Hinata turned back, sadly. She reached for her own wallet, which was secured between the underlayers of her kimono above her obi.
"So what if there's only money for one and a half bowls, Ayame-san?" asked Naruto of the bar-girl.
"They were on a date, Naruto-kun," Ayame explained impatiently. "Couldn't you see?"
"It was a date?" Naruto asked, incredulous. The bar-girl picked up a towel and coughed something like "clueless" into it.
"I'll pay, Hinata," said Naruto, kindly. "It's not your fault the guy can't count."
"He knew perfectly well how to count!" Ayame yelled at him. "Don't you get it?"
"Huh?" Naruto scratched the back of his head.
Trying to prevent further discussion of the humiliating way her date ended, Hinata said quickly, "It's okay. I'll pay for it, Naruto-kun. It was ordered for me." She paid the remainder of the bill and left a generous tip. Half a bowl of ramen was pretty cheap. The cost of trying to change her life and failing in front of the cause of that desire to change, now that felt quite expensive.
"It's quite pretty," Ayame commented, gesturing to the purse.
"Thank you." Hinata looked at the purse, a zippered pouch of indigo silk, embroidered with a single crane beside a pine tree. "I made this when I was 12." She tucked the purse back into its accustomed spot over her heart.
"I'm sorry," said Ayame, nicely. "Also about that one –" she rolled her eyes in the direction of the other occupant of the bar.
Hinata gave the other girl a little smile. Then she wondered if she really would ever see Isao again. Probably not. He was so…so perfect. It was most likely inevitable that a man who had absolutely nothing wrong with him would find something wrong with her. She drooped a little. It was sort of sad. And yet way back somewhere deep inside, she was vastly relieved.
"Why would you want to go on a date with that guy?" Naruto asked, a little rudely.
"There was nothing wrong with him," she defended. "He was everything I was supposed to like and admire. He's rich, good-looking, from a good family, has excellent manners, my family approves…"
"Rich? Him? He only paid for one and a half bowls of ramen!" Naruto scoffed. "Besides, there was something wrong with the way that guy looked." He scrunched up his face. "I think his eyes were crooked."
"They weren't," Hinata said, sighing. "They were perfect."
"And that hair," Naruto continued, deaf to Hinata's comments. "He's going bald. Definitely a baldy."
"He just has one of those high foreheads."
"And he looked like he had a stick up his butt," Naruto criticized.
"That's just good posture."
"So," Naruto said, bringing the topic back around, "why'd you do go on a date with a bald, crooked-eyed guy with a stick up his butt?"
Weakly, she attempted, "Shino got engaged after a couple of blind dates like that."
"Shino's engaged? Engaged, like to be married?" he asked, surprised.
Hinata explained about Shino as concisely as she could. Then she ended, "Shino said she had good posture, excellent table manners, and spoke very well."
Naruto laughed raucously, his body bent over his knees. "Nobody marries nobody because of stupid things like that!"
"He said their chakra bugs were compatible."
This checked the laughter. Naruto mulled over the concept for a minute. "Well, if the bugs are a part of Shino, and they're okay with her bugs, which are a part of her – I think that means something. I don't know what exactly, but something." He shrugged, heavy thinking obviously over. "That's better than something stupid like they know not to stick a chopstick up their nose at the table! Geez, even I know that!"
"I-I," she gulped, hard. She stared intently at the grain of the wood in front of her. Very quietly, Hinata said, "I wanted to be happy. I just wanted something not to go wrong."
Gently, Naruto said, "Hinata, don't you know? It's not about having nothing go wrong, it's about something being right."
Hinata took a deep breath to reply, then stopped. She gazed up at him, taking in the for-once serious expression in his eyes - those eyes so perfectly blue they put the deepening shades of the evening sky to shame. She was not certain when she had last looked Naruto directly in the eye, if she ever had. She took in his entire face, so dear to her for so long – noting the transformations made from boy to man. The angular eyebrows, the whiskery marks on his cheeks, the firm chin, and the slight frown that pulled the corners of his mobile mouth down as he concentrated on her. Her heart thumped, once, twice.
Without the intensity of color and light Naruto brought into her life, what would everyday be but a sad, pale echo of the wonderful dreams she had all but given up on? Wasn't it better to dream in color than to live in shades of grey? How could she be content with shadows when she had dreamed of the sun?
Naruto was so – so – everything; maddening and embarrassing and hilarious and thoughtless and kind and caring. He made her want to scream and cry and laugh, often simultaneously. He could break her heart with a single look, or like now, a chance phrase. He was right – she had found something right. She had just not wanted to admit it because it wasn't happening the way it happened for other people, the way she wanted it to happen, the way she thought it had to happen.
"Yes. Of course. Thank you, Naruto-kun." Hinata smiled at him, a sweet smile that reached all the way up to her glowing grey eyes. "I really must be going."
He blinked at her, as if he had walked from a dark room into the dazzling bright light of midday.
The petite brunette stepped out of the bar and into the sunlight that had already broken through the clouds. A freshening wind blew a little black speck off the back of her kimono. It flew and flew until it landed on a long, pale forefinger.
Shino listened to the bug, and then turned and reported to Kiba.
"So," Kiba summarized, "Kurenai-sensei took care of suitor one. I got the students together," he grinned, "for a little practice. You sent the bugs to annoy the bulls. So how did Naruto end up there?"
Noren = shop curtain
Zori = a type of Japanese sandal worn with kimonos
Hakama = a type of clothing worn over kimonos that look similar to wide-legged trousers
Cranes = symbol of fidelity, as Japanese cranes are known to mate for life
Pines = symbol of steadfastness
This would be #15 of the 30 kisses challenge. "Perfect blue." A lot of blues in this story, thinking about the saying "Blue comes from indigo, yet it is bluer than indigo."
A sort of meditation on why Hinata would continue to have feelings for Naruto.