How Not To Deal With Rumours

Sasuke was not having a good day. In fact, it would be fair to say that he was having one of the worst days of his life. Of course it wasn't the worst day of his life. That would be the day of the Uchiha Massacre and really, he didn't see how anything could be worse than that, although some of his days with Orochimaru and Madara had come close (he supposed he probably shouldn't have called Orochimaru a pervert to his face, or pointed out to Madara how stupid it was to use the moon – the freaking moon – as part of his "genius" plan to conquer the world).

It was bad enough that he was tromping through the ass-end of Fire Country in the pouring rain in pursuit of some missing nin wanted for questioning, the fact that he was doing so with Sai only made it that much worse. It was times like this that he seriously considered going rogue again. Hunter nin be damned, at least he'd be able to pick and choose the missions he went on and none of them would involve Sai (unless it was killing the former ROOT member).

"It has always puzzled me as to why you stayed with Orochimaru for so long," Sai said and Sasuke could have sworn that the normally expressionless fool was actually smiling, or at least doing his best impression with a smile. "However, given your behaviour with Neji, I think I now understand." Sai tilted his head to one side. "Clearly you and Orochimaru were lovers. Was it a lover's quarrel that made you kill him?"

For one long moment, Sasuke seriously considered ramming a chidori through Sai's chest. It would look and feel wonderful. However, just as he was beginning to channel his chakra, his conscience decided to make itself known.

Sasuke blinked as a little Naruto popped into existence on his right shoulder. "Don't be a bastard, Sasuke! Sai is your friend and you don't use chidori on your friends!"

"Right…" Sasuke wasn't sure which was worse, the fact that he was currently hallucinating his conscience into existence, or the fact that it looked like Naruto. "You do realise that I used a chidori on you, don't you, idjot?"

The little Naruto grinned sheepishly and scratched the back of his head. "Well… that's what makes you a bastard. Anyway, don't use it on Sai. Unlike the awesomeness that is me, he will definitely die if you put a hole in him with chidori."

"But he's a fool," Sasuke replied. "And he does call you dickless."

The little Naruto stopped and thought for a moment. "You know… you're right about that." Sasuke grinned and started to gather his chakra again. "But that doesn't mean you should. Just, I don't, kick him in the head or something."

Sasuke glanced over at Sai who was, by now, looking at him strangely. "I suppose I could do that… but it just wouldn't be the same."

"Of course it wouldn't!" A little Madara popped into existence on Sasuke's left shoulder. "You are an avenger and no avenger would ever be content with simply kicking him in the face. Kill, Sasuke, it is your destiny, the destiny of all who bear the blood of the Uchiha!"

Little Naruto glared at little Madara. "Shut up, jerk! Sasuke doesn't have to kill anybody. Besides, Sai isn't related to the Senju, you bastard, so all that 'eternity of hatred' crap you're always spouting doesn't apply. Go off and die already – oh wait, that's right, I already killed you!" Little Naruto stuck his tongue out. "You suck!"

"Impudent child!" little Madara roared. "I am Sasuke's conscience, not you!"

Little Naruto's response was to make a rude gesture and laugh. "Bring it on! I'll kill you just like the last time!"

"That's enough," Sasuke growled, grabbing the two little figures that were currently engaged in a small war on his shoulders complete with mini rasenshurikens and space-time jutsu. "I'm not killing Sai." Little Naruto gave a cheer. "But only because it would cause too much trouble for me in the village." Little Naruto scowled.

As little Naruto and little Madara disappeared, Sasuke glared at Sai. "What are you looking at?"

Sai shrugged. "You were staring into nothing for a while there and talking to yourself."

"Hn." Sasuke knew better than to try discussing things with Sai. As it was, Sai should be thanking the kami that Sasuke's conscience, as warped as it was, had decided he should live.

They managed to travel on in blissful silence for about ten minutes before Sai spoke again.

"Sasuke… do you find me attractive?" Sai asked.

Sasuke almost fell out of the tree they were in. "What?" he screamed, rounding on Sai with a furious glare. "What the hell did you just ask?"

"I was under the impression that you did not have any hearing problems," Sai said. "But what I asked was: do you find me attractive?"

Taking a deep breath and reminding himself, once again, that he was a loyal member of the village and not a violent psychopath, Sasuke managed to restrained himself. In a very, very brittle voice, he replied, "No, Sai, I do not find you attractive."

Naturally, Sai just couldn't let the matter drop. "Why?"

"Sai, shut up." Sasuke looked up at the sky. The clouds were dark and he could see the occasional flash of lightning. It would be so easy to just use kirin and claim that Sai had been killed by a normal lightning bolt. Hell, no one would ever know…

"Is it perhaps my hair? Do you prefer long hair?" Sai paused. "That would explain why you like Neji and why you liked Orochimaru, but then again, Naruto doesn't have long hair and –"

That was it. Lips pulled back into a snarl, Sasuke grabbed Sai by the collar of his shirt and flung him out of the tree. The other man managed to right himself just before he hit the ground, but Sasuke wasn't done yet. With a growl, the Uchiha drove his fist into Sai's jaw. The blow knocked Sai onto his back and Sasuke stood over him, eyes already the deep crimson of the sharingan.

"Sai, if you want to live, you will shut up, right now."

"Hmmmm… you seem to have reacted quite violently to my words," Sai said, casually wiping some blood off his lip. "Perhaps you are in denial."

"Denial?" Sasuke's fists clenched. Never mind his conscience, Sai was a dead man. He'd had enough. Not only had Sasuke been tormented by fangirls on their way out of the village, all wanting to know if the rumours of a torrid love affair with Neji were true (they were not, damn it!), but he'd also been accosted by several fanboys all of whom were convinced that they now had a chance (they didn't!). It didn't help either that Neji, the idiot, had just holed himself up in the Hyuga Compound, relying on his clan to fend off all the curious civilians and ninja. Sasuke could only hope that Tenten would get back from her mission soon so that she could castrate the idiot with a blunt kunai. Hopefully, he'd get to watch.

"Yes, Sasuke," Sai said. "Clearly you are in denial about your latent feelings for –"

Sasuke leaned down and grabbed Sai by the throat. "What did I just tell you? Shut up!"

Any joy that Sasuke might have felt about finally getting around to strangling Sai lasted only as long as it took for him to realise that they were no longer alone. Dropping Sai back to the ground, the Uchiha turned to find that the missing nin they were after was right there staring at them with a look of complete horror.

"Uh…. sorry for interrupting," the missing nin said. "Please continue."

Sasuke glared. "What exactly do you mean by that?"

The missing nin took a slow step back. "You're Sasuke Uchiha right? Word is that… well, you're not exactly straight, so I figured that you and the pretty boy over there were…"

"Were what?" Sasuke wanted to scream. Somehow the rumour had managed to get outside of Konoha. When he found who was responsible, he was going to kill them and slowly too. "What did you think we were doing?"

It might have been the crazed gleam in the Uchiha's eyes or the look of utter madness on his face, but the missing nin suddenly realised what a precarious position he was in. Smiling nervously, he quietly began to gather his chakra. "Well, you know… weren't you two… uh… making out?"

Sasuke's closed his eyes. When they opened they were no longer simply sharingan, but mangekyo sharingan. "You know, I only have to bring you back to Konoha alive. It probably doesn't matter if you're missing a limb or two." He smirked. Yes, he could definitely get away with maiming a missing nin even if he did have to try and come back with Sai in one piece. "You're mine."

However, Sasuke only managed to get a single step closer to the missing nin before something wrapped around his ankle and tripped him. He turned to find that he'd been tripped by one of Sai's ink animals.

"Let go of me, Sai!"

Sai shook his head. "I'm afraid that our mission was simply to capture the missing nin. I cannot let you force yourself on him!"

Needless to say, what happened next was not pleasant. Not for the missing nin, and most definitely not for Sai.

X X X

In contrast to Sasuke, Hinata thought her day was going rather well. Her morning had consisted of a delightful dream involving her, a certain blonde jinchuriki, and a gaggle of little blonde children with the byakugan. They'd all been eating pancakes with maple syrup and once the children had gone off to attend the Academy it had just been her and Naruto. Naruto had come up with some… well… deliciously creative uses for syrup that had nothing at all to do with pancakes. Hinata blushed. It was just a dream, but she couldn't help but wonder… after all, Naruto always had been so very creative.

Well, with her morning starting off so well (although it had been a shame that she'd woken up before things could reach their, ahem, finish), she decided that it might be nice to make a few bowls of ramen and have an early lunch with Naruto. She really couldn't think of a better way to spend lunch than with the person she loved. Also, like most ninja, she had a reasonable grasp of psychology, and by associating herself with ramen, which Naruto absolutely loved, she would, hopefully, get Naruto to absolutely love her too.

However, her plans hit a snag when she turned up at Naruto's apartment with the ramen only to find that he wasn't there. That was strange, because she knew for a fact that he didn't have any missions lined up (having the Hokage's assistant for a friend did have its advantages, even if lately Sakura had been acting a bit too much like Ino for her liking). So where could he be? She was just about to leave, when the door of the apartment next to Naruto's opened.

An old man stepped out of the door. He looked at her for a moment with a puzzled look on his face and then he saw the ramen. Smiling kindly, he waved her over. "You wouldn't be looking for Naruto, now would you?"

Hinata blinked and then followed the old man's gaze to the ramen she was holding. Of course, the ramen had given it away. "Um… actually, I am. Do you know where he is?"

The old man looked her over for a moment and Hinata stifled the urge to fidget. "Well, I'm glad that Naruto has finally found a nice, decent woman like you."

"Oh?" Hinata's voice was eerily calm. "Have there been other women?"

A shudder ran through the old man. "Yes, but not the good sort like you. I'm talking about fangirls. They've been stalking him for years now, you know, keeping an eye on his house, trying to peek in through the windows." Hinata made a mental note to have several Hyuga patrol the area. "The problem is that he's just too kind, you know. He even brings them umbrellas sometimes when it rains and they're getting wet." The old man made a disgusted sound. "I told him not to bother because it only encourages them. He should be more like that Uchiha and give them the cold shoulder."

Hinata smiled thinly. "I wasn't aware that things were like that."

"Oh yes," the old man said. "Ever since he defeated that Pain fellow and people found out who his parents were, there have been gold diggers popping up all over the place." He smiled at her again. "But you're different. Unless I'm mistaken you're a Hyuga, and the Heiress at that, so it can't be his money you're after."

"Um… thank you."

"Yes, and you're much better than that pink haired friend of his." The old man shook his head. "Such a violet young woman. Always punching people through walls and the such." He pointed at a dent in a nearby wall that bore a disturbing resemblance to Naruto. "She did that just last week, you know."

"Really?" Hinata twitched. Sakura was her friend, but really, she would have to do something about her punching Naruto into walls.

"She most definitely did," the old man said. "And she made it look easy too. But you, you're a lady, aren't you? Why, you even brought him ramen." He laughed and shot Hinata a sly look. "Now that's a good idea. The way to a man's heart is through his stomach, and I think that goes double for Naruto." His eyes dropped below Hinata's face and she blushed. "Besides, you've got nice child bearing hips, which is good, because you can just tell that any children Naruto has are going to be rowdy from the get go."

Hinata blushed furiously. "We… we haven't gotten that far!"

"Of course not," the old man shot back. "He's a gentleman, although he really should get moving. He's not going to stay young forever. Still, at least he's not like the Uchiha… such a waste, him liking men and all." The old man shook sighed. "Anyway, if you're looking for Naruto, you might want to try the orphanage over near the south side of the village."

Hinata nodded. "Thank you."

The old man just grinned. "You better get a move on, that ramen won't stay hot forever."

As she hopped from rooftop to rooftop, Hinata felt a little like kicking herself. She should have expected something like this. It was easy to forget sometimes, because Naruto was so popular now and had so many friends, even if some of them were a tad violent – Saukra – or just weird – Sasuke – but things hadn't always been that way. He didn't like to talk about it much, but she had heard a few things from Iruka about some of the problems he'd had before people finally started to accept Naruto for the great person that he was. It was only natural then that he'd spend some time at the orphanage. She knew that he would hate for anyone to feel as alone as he must have felt when he was a child.

She reached the orphanage in record time and took a moment to compose herself before she slipped through the front gate. After all, it wouldn't do to look anything but her best (she was, however, forgetting the fact that Naruto had seen her absolutely drenched in the blood of her enemies before and that at least some part of him found that very, very attractive, not to mention, the Kyubi most definitely approved). Quickly, she checked to see that the ramen was still warm. To her relief, it was, so now all she had to do was find Naruto. However, before she could activate her byakugan, she heard the sounds of children laughing followed by Naruto's boisterous voice cheering over the top of them.

As quietly as she could because she really did want to see how Naruto handled children (although what she'd really like was to see Naruto handled their children), she crept around the side of the building over to the playground at the back. Naruto was there in the middle of the playground surrounded by a crowd of awed children. He was gesticulating wildly and making all kinds of sounds to accompany the show that he was putting on for the children.

"You see, Kakuzu was one creepy guy," Naruto emphasised the word 'creepy' and a moment later a kage bunshin appeared that he quickly henged into a cartoonish caricature of Kakuzu, complete with threads and detachable limbs. "He was tough too, because he didn't have just one heart – he had five and all of them were rotten!"

The children 'ooohed' and 'aaaahed' appropriately and Hinata couldn't help but smile, as well. A second later, Naruto made another kage bunshin, which immediately henged to look as he had during his younger years.

"Luckily for me, before I fought Kakuzu, he'd already spent a lot of time fighting Kakashi and the others." Several other kage bunshin appeared and henged into caricatures of Kakashi and the others. The Kakuzu bunshin shook its fist at the others, who all replied by making faces. "Plus, just before I fought him, I'd just come up with this awesome new attack – the rasenshuriken – and after a bit of fighting, because Kakuzu was really tricky, I finally managed to hit him with it!"

The younger Naruto bunshin summoned a glowing sphere of chakra and rammed it into the Kakuzu bunshin who let loose an overly dramatic cry of pain and then vanished in a cloud of smoke. Hinata giggled. She hadn't been at that particular battle, but she was pretty sure that things hadn't gone quite so smoothly. Although Ino had told her a bit about the fight, and she somehow doubted that the caretakers of the orphanage would be pleased if Naruto used a real rasenshuriken for his story. It would probably blenderise everything, including the orphanage and the orphans, which would probably make a pretty big dent in Naruto's chances of being made Hokage.

As the children all clapped and cheered at the demise of Kakuzu, Naruto stiffened and then looked directly at where Hinata was hiding. Her eyes widened. Had he sensed her? She was really quite good at hiding so… her eyes dropped to the ramen she was holding. Of course, Naruto could always be counted on to know when there was ramen nearby.

Putting a smile on her face, she stepped out into the open.

"Hinata…" Naruto said, his voice low and deep and with just the right amount of roughness to it to send all sorts of wonderfully pleasant shivers through her. "You brought me ramen!"

And before she could say a thing, he had swept her up in his arms and was swinging her around in a big circle. It took everything she had to keep the ramen from spilling, especially when he was so close to her and looking so very handsome.

Finally, he put her down and stepped back with a slightly embarrassed look on his face. "Um… I thought we could have lunch together, Naruto." Hinata was keenly aware that all of the children were looking at her now and that some of the little girls looked less than pleased to see her.

He grinned. "Sure, so long as you don't mind eating here." He scratched the back of his head and looked around nervously. "It's just… well, I try to come back here whenever I can, you know."

She smiled. "I think it's lovely that you come back here." A flush crossed her cheeks, but she pressed on. "It's very noble."

As the two of them sat down beneath one of the trees to eat their lunch, Hinata noticed that one of the children was staring at her particularly intently. It was a little girl, perhaps seven or eight, with blonde hair and lilac eyes. She blinked. The girl could almost have been her and Naruto's child…

"Are you all right?" Hinata asked.

The girl crept over a little shyly and tugged on Hinata's sleeve. "Um… are you blind?"

Hinata's eyes widened and she giggled as Naruto almost spat out a mouthful of ramen. Swallowing hastily, Naruto looked over at the little girl. "Hey, Akiko, you shouldn't be so blunt." That was a little ironic considering Naruto's usual behaviour, and the girl looked a little downcast until Naruto reached over to pat her on the head. "Look, I'm not mad or anything, it's just that you probably shouldn't just ask people if they're blind out of the blue like that." He grinned. "Besides, Hinata isn't blind. In fact, she's got better eyes than me."

"Really?" Akiko asked. "Wow."

Naruto nodded sagely and gave Hinata a sunny smile. "Yes, really. The noble Hyuga clan have the keenest eyes in the village. Sure the sharingan can copy your moves and stuff but the byakugan can see through walls!" Naruto cackled. "Man, I could have pulled so many awesome pranks if I'd had eyes like that when I was a kid."

The girl looked back at Hinata. "Can you really see through walls?"

A little taken aback by the look of awe on the little girl's face, Hinata could only nod. "Most walls, yes."

Akiko grabbed her by sleeve and pointed at the upper floor of the orphanage. "Can you see what's in that room over there?" she babbled. "Can you? Can you?"

Hinata looked over at Naruto who just shrugged. Activating her byakugan, she glanced through the wall. "It looks like a pantry."

The girl nodded. "It is. Now can you tell me where the cookies are?"

Hinata looked more closely at the room. "The cookies are on the second shelf from the door, hidden behind the potatoes."

Akiko cheered. "Hah! I knew they were in there." Looking decidedly less shy, she began to rub her hands together with a crafty look on her face that Hinata could easily imagine on Naruto's face. "Now that I know where they are, I'll get them for sure the next time…"

Naruto chuckled and bopped Akiko lightly on the head. "No stealing cookies." He took a quick look around to make sure none of the caretakers were around and then leaned down to whisper into Akiko's ear. "Or at least no getting caught and if you are caught, no telling anyone that Hinata helped you, okay?"

Akiko nodded back with an utterly serious look on her face and Hinata had to cover her mouth with one hand as she tried to hold back a laugh. She had a feeling that it wouldn't be long before Akiko put in an application to join the Academy. As they continued to eat, a few more of the children wandered over and it was amazing to see Naruto keep up a steady pace, even with a child on either knee, as well as one hanging off his back like some kind of money.

"Hey," Akiko said as Hinata and Naruto finished eating. "If you can see through walls, you can see through other things too, right?"

Hinata nodded. "Most things, yes." What the child was asking about was common knowledge in the ninja world, but probably not to civilians.

"What about clothes?" Akiko asked. "Because I was playing cards with Shuji the other day and I just know he was hiding some in his shirt and…"

Hinata blushed as she tried to think up the appropriate response. Of course, the byakugan could see through clothes, but it was kind of hard to admit that with Naruto looking right at her. It would be tantamount to admitting that she had used the byakugan like that (she so had) and that was not something she wanted to do, especially when the person she'd used it on was right there. Besides, it had only been the one time (but she could remembere absolutely everything…).

"Um… yes," Hinata stammered.

But rather than ask why she was blushing so much or looking at him so strangely, Naruto just shrugged. "That makes sense. It would be weird if you couldn't. Still, you'd never do anything like that, would you, Hinata?"

Hinata gulped. "Umm…. no."

With lunch out of the way, the children were eager for another game.

"Let's play hide and seek," one of the children suggested. "We haven't done that for a while."

One of the other kids scowled. "Hide and seek is boring. Naruto always wins!"

Akiko grabbed Hinata's sleeve. "He won't win this time! We've got her and she can see through walls!"

The other children all looked at Hinata in awe.

Naruto smirked. "Heh. Well, I guess it's only fair that you have a ninja to help you against me. So, Hinata, you up for a game of hide and seek, unless you're busy or something?"

Hinata didn't even have to think it over. More time with Naruto? She'd just have to reschedule that meeting of hers with Sakura and the others. "No, I'm not busy at all."

"Good." Naruto turned to the children. "Now, it's the same rules as usual. All of you against me, except this time you guys have got Hinata. Remember, you have to count to a hundred and then you can go find me." He leaned forward and poked Hinata in the forehead. "Now to make things fair, Hinata, don't turn on your byakugan until they get to a hundred, okay!" He leaned forward to whisper in her ear and she was sorely tempted to just turn her head a fraction and… "And don't make me look too bad, okay, Hinata?"

Hinata swallowed thickly. "Okay." Her voice came out a little strangled, but she couldn't find it in her to care.

As the children began to count to one hundred, Naruto vanished. Hinata found herself looking forward to playing the game. The truth was she'd never played hide and seek before. In a clan full of people with the byakugan, the game just seemed a little pointless, but she had seen children playing it in the park when she was little and it had seemed like a lot of fun.

When the children finally reached one hundred, they took off in all directions to search for Naruto. Despite the blonde's wonderfully outgoing (most would say annoyingly loud) nature, she knew that when he really wanted to, he could be very difficult to find.

Only Akiko remained behind, and she again tugged on Hinata's sleeve. "Come on, help me find him!"

Hinata giggled and activated her byakugan. When she saw where Naruto was, she had to struggle to hold back her laughter. Naruto was perched on the tree directly above where the children had been counting. Moreover, he had just spotted her and he made an exaggerated winking motion, one he knew she'd catch with her byakugan on. Still chuckling softly, she ignored his frantically waving arms, and walked over to the tree. Then, much to Akiko's delight, she gave the tree a stout kick.

Naruto tumbled to the ground. "Aw, come on, Hinata, that wasn't even five minutes!"

Hinata smiled softly. "Akiko was very persuasive."

"Hah!" Akiko latched onto Naruto. "I've got you now! What do I get for winning?"

Naruto put on a mock scowl. "Isn't the joy of winning enough of a reward?"

Akiko shook her head and then punched him in the stomach. Being as small as she was, she did nothing more than give herself a sore hand. "Ouch." She pouted. "Well, I should get a prize for being the first person to beat you."

"You did have Hinata's help you know," Naruto pointed out.

"You're right." Akiko smiled happily. "So you should give both of us a prize!"

Naruto sighed dramatically. "Fine… I suppose I could help you steal some of those cookies." He got back to his feet and pulled Akiko up with him. "So how about you follow me." He made a kage bunshin. "I'll let the others chase this guy around and you and me can go snag some cookies." He smirked. "Hinata can keep an eye out for trouble."

As Hinata followed Naruto and Akiko, she couldn't wipe the silly smile off her face. Here she was sneaking into an orphanage to steal some cookies and she couldn't be happier.

"Wait," she whispered softly as the three of them pressed themselves against one of the walls. "There's someone around the corner…"

X X X

In an ideal world, Hiashi would already have stepped down as clan head to spend most of his time drinking tea and babysitting several fine young grandchildren. However, the world was far from ideal, and rather than dealing with grandchildren, he was just now dealing with a nephew who might not produce any.

"Neji," Hiashi began, staring across the table at his nephew. "I have heard some… rumours."

The younger man sort of twitched and Hiashi had to calm himself. It was very tempting to just start screaming, and really that's what he probably would have done under normal circumstances. But last night, Hinata had approached him and made it very clear that she wanted him to handle the matter delicately. Naturally, he'd scoffed a little – he was still the clan head – but Hinata had backed up her soft words with a wonderfully malicious glare that had looked just like her mother's. It had been quite heart warming and Hiashi had decided that perhaps he could go along with his daughter's wishes. Besides, whenever her mother had gotten that look, disagreeing had led to pain. Lots of it.

"What are these rumours that you've heard?" Neji asked.

Hiashi sighed. "I spoke to Hinata yesterday and she told me that you might be… reluctant in discussing things. However, I would like to hear your side of things. Perhaps," and Hiashi really hoped this was the case, "There has simply been a misunderstanding."

Neji was tempted to throw himself to the ground at Hiashi's feet. Finally, someone was looking at things with a decent amount of sanity. He might still be able to get out of this alive, because if Tenten found out and he didn't have the greatest excuse since the founding of Konoha, he was a dead man. Or rather, he'd wish he were dead. She was too good to just kill him straight off.

"Uncle… it's like this." And so Neji explained what had happened, starting from when he'd snuck into Sasuke's house and ending with the disaster at the restaurant.

Throughout the story, Hiashi went through a gamut of emotions. First, there was horror at hearing that Neji had snuck into the Uchiha's house (by the Kami, it was true!) followed by relief as Neji described how he and Sasuke had only talked (yes! There was still hope). However, as Neji began to describe his plan in more detail, Hiashi felt a wave of despair sweep over him. His nephew was a genius, a ninja of great power and tremendous intellect. There was no way that Neji could possibly have come up with something so obviously destined for failure, which meant that he was lying and that…

"That is enough," Hiashi said softly. "Neji, I've heard enough."

Neji smiled. He was saved. "So… uncle, do you understand now?"

Hiashi understood all right. Perhaps Hinata had been right. Truly, Neji was a young man caught in the grips of denial. Still, Hiashi would do his best to handle things properly. He owed it to Neji's father to see that Neji lived the best life he could, even if it was with a traitorous Uchiha.

"Yes, Neji, I understand." Hiashi put on what he hoped was a comforting smile and hesitantly reached over to pat Neji on the shoulder. "You don't have to try and hide things from me with some crazy story."

Neji wanted to scream. Had everyone else in the world gone insane? Hinata and Naruto had reacted the exact same way when he'd tried to explain why Sasuke had been disguising himself as Tenten. Surely, they'd heard of using genjutsu for that before, hadn't they? And now Hiashi was smiling at him and telling him that he didn't have to hide anything. Not only was the older man's smile terrifying, what with only half of his face smiling while the other half seemed caught in a permanent from, but now Hiashi was touching him. That was just wrong. Hiashi didn't touch people to comfort them. He touched them to paralyse or kill them.

"If you wish to be with the Uchiha," Hiashi said. "I will do my best to support you. As your uncle, it is the leas that I can do."

There was a knock on the door and they both turned as Hanabi entered.

"What is it?" Hiashi asked.

Hanabi looked at Neji and he paled. He knew that look. He'd seen it before when Hanabi had been in midst of plotting a particularly vicious scheme, like the time she'd managed to have a law passed at the council requiring all of the members except for her, Hinata, and their father to shave their heads. Fortunately, for the clan, the law had been repealed, but still, it had disturbed the elders to no end that the young woman hadn't just threatened to humiliate them, she actually had. She'd also had the same look on her face the day she'd attended her fist meeting between the different clan heads with Hiashi. Apparently, Kiba had been there and she'd said something that had aggravated the Inuzuka so much that he'd had to be forcibly restrained and sedated (what Neji didn't know was exactly what Hanabi had said. Due to the inappropriate nature of the remarks, Hinata had declined to tell him, but she did say that it involved Kiba, Akamaru and things that the two could do together that weren't socially acceptable, all of it delivered in the most poetic and noble phrasing imaginable).

"One of your teammates is at the gates," Hanabi said sweetly.

"Yes?" Neji croaked. Please it be Lee… please let it be Lee… "Which one?"

"The one who wears green." Hanabi winced. "Lots of green. Tight green."

"Yes!" Neji screamed. Thank the kami it wasn't Tenten. There was still time to come up with an excuse and live.

For his part, Hiashi could only watch Neji celebrate the arrival of his very male teammate with a sense of detached disbelief. Was Neji a… a… player?

"Uncle," Neji said. "If I may be excused?"

Hiashi nodded slowly. "You may, but please… remember, a man should be faithful to those he cares for." Hiashi sighed. "And please consider how the Uchiha may feel before you do anything foolish."

Neji just stared. Did his father think that he… with Lee… He was going to be sick. Muttering an apology, he sprinted from the room.

"He is running awfully quickly now isn't he?" Hanabi commented with a sly smile.

Hiashi just nodded. Perhaps he should have this Lee investigate more thoroughly.

X X X

Neji almost screamed when he woke up to find a haggard figure crouched next to his window. However, he was a proud member of the noble Hyuga clan and Hygua did not scream. So instead, he practically threw himself against the far wall and scrambled into a fighting stance. It didn't help either that the figure by the window had glowing red eyes.

"Hyuga…"

Neji's byakugan activated and he bit back a growl. "Uchiha."

Sasuke scowled. "I've been out of this village for a week and you still haven't done anything to get rid of those stupid rumours about us. What have you been doing all week, hiding in your clan's compound like a child?"

That had been exactly what Neji had been doing, but he wasn't about to admit it. "I have had other matters to attend to, Uchiha."

Sasuke's frown deepened. "Well, you had better attend to the rumours." He made a disgusted sound. "Somehow, the rumours have spread outside of Konoha. The missing nin I was after had the audacity to think that Sai and I were…" he could scarcely force the words out. "Making out."

For a moment, Neji was tempted to point and laugh. It would have been horribly immature, but given how things had gone for him recently, he'd take what he could get. However, the memory of Hiashi accusing him of liking Lee of all people was still too fresh for it to be really funny. "I see. I will investigate. Once I find out who is responsible, I will deal with them."

Sasuke nodded before an eerie smiled crossed his face. "And Tenten?"

Neji breathed out a sigh of relief. "Not due back for a few days, I think."

Unfortunately, for Neji, fate was not so kind.

"Neji!" Tenten cried as she burst in through his window, knocking Sasuke to the floor. As the Uchiha picked himself up with a groan, Neji could only wonder as to how the compound's security could get so lax that people were literally bursting into his room. He also couldn't help but wonder if Naruto had also been taking advantage of the drop in standards and resolved to triple the patrols around Hinata's room. "I heard this crazy rumour…"

The weapon user trailed off as she noticed Sasuke lying on the ground. Her mouth formed a perfect 'O' and she looked from Neji to Sasuke and then back again. Before she could begin babbling, Neji grabbed her.

"Listen to me!" Neji growled. Damn it, this was his love life on the line here! "Don't listen to those rumours. What really happened is…"

By the time he'd finished explaining, Tenten had gone from shell-shocked to enraged. Somehow, Neji had a feeling that the change in mood was not a good thing.

Tenten put one hand over her face. "So, let me get this straight, Neji. Your brilliant plan was to have Sasuke here disguise himself as me? And you didn't think that something might go wrong?" Her voice had taken on the eerily calm tone that Neji knew preceded an explosion of violence. "And you, Sasuke you went along with this?"

The Uchiha just looked away.

"Well, I expected something stupid from Sasuke," Tenten growled. "I mean, no offence, but Sasuke, you're pretty much the poster boy for bad decision making." She glared at Neji. "But I expected better from you."

With a growl, Tenten drew a pair of kunai and lunged at Neji. They went down in a tangle of limbs, Tenten doing her best to stab him to death and Neji doing everything he could to avoid being turned into a pincushion.

"Stop struggling!" Tenten screamed. "You're only making me madder."

Sasuke managed to get two steps before the pair rolling around on the ground dragged him into the battle.

And that was the scene that Hiashi walked into when he and several other Hyuga arrived to investigate the sounds of screaming coming from Neji's room. The three ninja were a mess of tangled limbs, with both Sasuke and Tenten trying to strangle Neji.

Hiashi coughed politely to gain their attention. "Well," he said, far too traumatised by this point to really care. "It would seem that your interest is not only confined to men, Neji." He nodded at Tenten whose shirt had gotten ripped open somewhere during the melee and Sasuke whose clothes were little better. "Still, at least this way I'll have some grandchildren."

X X X

Author's Notes

First of all I neither own Naruto, nor am I making any money off this.

Well, it's been a bit of a wait, but not nearly as long as the last time (the less said about that the better). I just couldn't resist continuing on the little sub-plot about Sasuke and Neji's failed attempt at genius. I will say however, that pretty much the entire first scene, particularly the bit where Sasuke deals with his conscience were last minute additions (this seems to happen a lot with this story, it just seems to be the way of things).

I thought it would also be good to have Naruto and Hinata dealing with each other in a less formal situation, and the orphanage seemed like a good place. I can definitely see Naruto visiting to try and keep the children happy. Of course, with someone like Naruto in their lives, the children are going to be pretty mischievous.

On a side note, I find the use of Edo Tensei in the manga hilarious, which is probably not the reaction that they are going for. I am seriously waiting for Kabuto to use it to reanimate his dead pet rabbit or something (and now that I've thought about it a bit, I have this urge to slip something like that into a later chapter, but we'll see). That's not to say that I don't understand how horrifying it is. For example, watching Asuma and his team fight each other is quite sad, but really, it's not a question of who they reanimated, but who didn't they reanimate.

As always, I appreciate feedback. Reviews and comments are welcome.