Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or any of its characters. If someone wants to give me Sai, though, I'd be more than willing to take him off your hands.

Warnings: language


"Love is just a word until someone comes along and gives it meaning."


Chapter 4: New Emotions

Hinata looked down on the silent Hyuuga compound from her place on the hill above. It had gotten so much easier over the years to sneak in and out of her home. Something she was and always would be eternally grateful for.

With a sigh, she turned and dashed off into the trees, running along until she reached the small lake she'd been heading towards. This place was so beautiful, especially at night. The water was so calm and clear. Stripping down to just a tanktop and shorts, she shivered a bit in the chilled night air, stepping onto the water's surface and slowly making her way to the lake's center.

Looking down at her reflection she saw the round moon hanging overhead, nearly the same shade as her pale eyes. She studied the picture for a moment before her eyes slid shut, leaving her in complete darkness. Without the burden of sight, her other senses took control, her hearing magnifying to catch the slightest sounds, smell becoming more aware of the varying scents on the crisp air, touch feeling the cool water at the bottom of her feet, the wind blowing lightly through her fingers, and her chakra stretching out to explore her surroundings, giving her a kind of sight her eyes could never match.

"Byakuugan."

Taking slow, deep breaths she began to move through the motions of the gentle fist technique. The movements were done at first in an almost mechanical way, having been drilled into her since she was a small child; they weren't clumsy, far from it, but neither were they as graceful as when many of the other Hyuuga clan performed them.

Then the movements changed. As the girl began to perform Protection of the Eight Trigrams Sixty-Four Palms, they became a dance. A quick-paced masterpiece that no one else could hope to match. This jutsu was Hinata's creation. It was hers and no one else's. Others had tried, but no one could dance like her. No one.

Faster... faster... FASTER!

Another presence made itself known, and she let the jutsu drop, Byakuugan searching for the source of unknown chakra, hand reaching for the kunai tucked in the waistband of her shorts.

"Well, Hinata, I see my information was correct. That was quite impressive."

The Hyuuga heiress blinked in surprise, fingers releasing their grip on the blade, kekkei genkai slowly deactivating. "Tsunade-sama."

***

A week passed and Hinata easily fell into the boring routine of life in the ROOT compound. And it was very, very boring. Most of her time was spent cleaning, something she'd never had to do much of living as a Hyuuga main branch member. Not that it was hard; she was shown once the proper way to do it and she did it. It just felt pretty bad knowing that all her hard work training to be a ninja was now worthless. At least for the time being.

On occasion, someone would come back from a mission with an injury. Hinata knew it was horrible to wish harm on other people, but she really couldn't stop hoping more ROOT members would get hurt so she could heal them more often. Because it was the only thing she could do that actually made her feel worthwhile. And if she didn't keep practicing she would get rusty. It was that fear which made her spend all her free time at one of the secluded training areas, beating up practice dummies, going through katas, meditating. She refused to let her shinobi skills go to waste, she knew she would need them again in the future, but it was frustrating to train and not be allowed to work to your full potential. Because she never knew if someone was watching. And she had to keep her cover.

More than wanting to go all-out in training though, Hinata wished she had someone to talk to. She had tried on several occasions to start conversations with some of the ROOT female members near her own age, but that had always led absolutely nowhere. She hadn't seen Sai since that first day a week ago, and she found herself craving his companionship. It was no surprise she hadn't seen him, he'd said himself he barely came to the underground compound anymore, but she had really enjoyed the time she'd spent with him. Admittedly that was probably because he was the first person she'd talked to in months more than the fact that it was him but still. It's not like he was bad company. He really did try and be friendly, and she couldn't help but think his cluelessness was kind of cute. Still, she knew in the back of her mind that she probably wouldn't see him for a long time. That's why she was shocked when he knocked on her door a week after their first meeting, fake smile in place.

"S-sai-kun."

"Ohayou, Hinata-hime."

Hinata's lips twitched into a small smile at the newly given nickname. Sai had slipped into it during their last conversation, and Hinata very much doubted he'd even realized he'd done so. She wasn't sure what exactly had prompted the artist to give her that specific cognomen, but there were multiple reasons she could think of. Quite often she'd been called the Hyuuga princess, both as an insult and as an endearment, as Shikamaru had done not long ago. Generally, she found she wasn't too fond of it since it made her sound like a spoiled brat (and the Hyuuga had always preferred her sister to her anyway), but when Sai did it... well, it was Sai. Besides, compared to the other nicknames the pale ninja had given people (Naruto as dickless, Sakura as ugly, and Chouji as fatty), she was more than happy to have him call her princess, regardless of its exact meaning. "Ohayou. It's very good to see you again. What brings you here today?"

"I was hoping we could have another discussion."

Yes! Hell yes! "Of course. Come in."

Sai slipped gracefully into the small room, immediately taking a seat on the bed which creaked beneath his weight. Hinata sat next to him, unable to hide how happy she was that he was there. "Did you need to see Danzou-sama for something?"

"No. I came to see you."

She froze as the words ran through her head, shocked at what they implied. "You came all the way down here just for me?"

"Hai." The fake smile dropped away to be replaced by his usual blank face. "I thought you would be lonely again. Seeing as I had no prior engagements today, I decided I would visit you."

Hinata blushed and had to restrain herself from throwing her arms around his neck and hugging the life out of him. "Arigatou."

"There was also something I would like to ask your advice on."

"Oh?"

"Hai. I was told that for many years you had an infatuation with dickless."

Any and all blood in the kunoichi's body rushed straight to her face. "R-really now? And, uh... who told you this?"

Sai smiled. "Everyone."

Great. And to think at one time she'd actually thought she hid her attraction well. She would call her younger self naive, but that really didn't cut it. Now that she was gone, the others were probably all making fun of her for it, getting a good laugh out of her stupidity. "Yes, I had a crush on him for quite some time. Why do you ask?"

Instead of answering, though, he countered with another question. "You said 'had'. Does this mean you no longer wish to copulate with him?"

Hinata laughed lightly, but her face was nearly purple by now. "Sai, at the time I barely knew what copulating was. But no, I no longer like Naruto that way... at least not how I used to. I mean, if he did ask me out, I'd probably say yes. Not that that would ever happen..." She glanced over to find the boy staring at her fixedly, as if trying to solve a complex puzzle. "Why are we talking about this?"

"Several reasons. Mostly because I want to know how you knew you had 'a crush' on him." He fixed her with the same blank stare as always, but a light pink tinge covered his cheeks. "I have read about it in several books, but I found them inadequate at explaining the symptoms of love appropriately. I wish to know how I can find out whether what I'm feeling is lust or... more."

Love? "Sai... do you think you might love someone then?"

"Hai." His eyebrows drew together in perplexity. "It is a most confusing feeling, or rather, multiple feelings. I'm finding it very difficult to sort it all out. That's why I was hoping you could help me."

Oh boy. Why her? "Are you sure you wouldn't rather ask someone else? Maybe Sakura-san?"

Dark eyes bored into her skull. "Ugly would just hit me."

Well, that was true enough. Still, she wasn't sure she was the best person to give advice on love. She had only ever 'loved' one person, and while it had been very real, it had still been a child's love. And she had never even gotten up the nerve to tell her love how she felt. How could she help anyone with this? "Ano... I still don't think--"

"Anything you tell me will be fine. I am at quite a loss right now, and you are the only person who will both listen and not yell at me."

Way to guilt her into it. "I guess I could try..." She took a deep breath, steadying herself. It wasn't like he was asking her for the answer to the meaning of life here, he just wanted some help with his emotions. It was good he was trying to learn. "I think the reason the books didn't work well was because love affects every person individually. There is no set reaction. For me, when Naruto used to get near me, my heart would speed up, it would get hard to breathe, my stutter would get worse, I would blush..." She glanced over at the enraptured boy. "But I'm a very shy person, and you... you're not. Why don't you tell me what you feel that you think is love."

Sai nodded and thought for a moment before answering, "First of all, I know I am physically attracted to him. That is more of an instinct than an emotion, I believe."

Hinata silently agreed.

"I am very comfortable around him and enjoy teasing him and seeing his reactions, more than I do other people. I enjoy spending time with him more than anyone else. When he is happy, I am content."

Hinata nodded to each of these things, thinking they were good and definitely indicated a strong friendship if nothing else. But that was just it, was there anything else? These things were nice, but--

"And when he touches me, even if he just brushes my arm, I feel my stomach get warm. I like it very much when he smiles, and I like it most of all if he smiles at me. I sometimes have to restrain myself from reaching out to touch him. The need to feel physical contact with him is stronger than anything I have ever felt. I can't stop thinking about him, even when he is not there. And I want to protect him, always, more than Sakura or Yamato-taicho. More than anyone."

Ah. "Sai, I'm not the best with these things, but that definitely sounds like love to me."

The boy blinked, as if he'd forgotten she was there, then turned to her slowly. "Really?"

"Hai." She mustered up the best smile she could because he was looking unsure of himself, like he didn't know what to do with this new information. "So... who is it you like?"

His eyebrow shot up in confusion. "I already told you."

When? "Ano... no, you didn't tell me."

He seemed to be reviewing their conversation in his head before nodding and agreeing with her. "You're correct, I did not. I was under the assumption it was obvious I was referring to dickless."

Oh, so Sai liked Naruto. That made sense, Naruto was a great guy, attractive, outgoing, funny. He was also the first person to really try and reach out to Sai, however clumsy some of his attempts might have been. And the way they argued constantly but were still obviously close... Yes, it all made sense.

"Should I consider you a rival for his affections, hime?"

A... what? Really? She tried to keep herself from laughing, seeing as how Sai was dead serious, but it was this very earnestness that made it all the more amusing. She ended up doubling over in a fit of giggles, clutching her stomach as she tried to catch her breath. "No, Sai... You definitely don't have to worry about that. Even when I was head over heels for Naruto I couldn't work up the courage to tell him. I certainly wouldn't make any moves now."

Sai nodded, satisfied with her answer, when he said, "I have another problem I would like to ask your advice on then."

"Yes?"

He looked right into her eyes, deep, black penetrating orbs. "Dickless is male."

A snigger escaped her at the statement. Don't laugh, don't laugh, don't laugh. "He is indeed. Is that a problem?"

"Not for me, I prefer males..."

Hinata watched the way he looked away from her, obviously distressed. Or at least as distressed as Sai could be. After a moment, she put the pieces together. "You're worried Naruto will never like you because you're a man."

A small nod. "He has expressed similar notions on several occasions. Told me before he... 'doesn't swing that way'."

Hinata understood better now, and she frowned deeply. "He told you that? He's a liar."

Sai blinked. "Excuse me?"

"He's lying if he said he doesn't swing that way. I know for a fact he swings both ways. Why do you think he was always so keen on getting Sasuke back?" She sighed and shook her head. Stupid boys. Could never just admit to their feelings. "Also, he and Kiba got together briefly after getting drunk at Neji's birthday five months ago. Niisan and I caught them together... in my room."

Sai didn't seem to know what to say to that.

"I thought it was funny really. Neji... he wasn't quite so amused. Especially when Kiba asked if we wanted to join and then tried to grope me..." She slowly turned bright red at the memory. "B-but I digress. We were t-t-talking about y-you."

The pale shinboi's brain worked hard to try and process the new information he had just been given. It never used to be a problem before, thinking things through and then acting accordingly, but the more in touch he became with his lost emotions the more difficult it became to think clearly at times. Times like now, when his stomach was fluttering in that odd, uncomfortable way and his pulse had sped to a rapid pace. Excitement, that's what this was. Excitement and something else he wasn't yet familiar with. Apprehension, perhaps? He would have to check his books later. For now...

Sai fake-smiled in exactly the way he'd come to realize Hinata hated and said the one thing that was sure to rile her up. "You're stuttering again, hime."

The flash of opal eyes and hardening of the usually soft face didn't fail to disappoint him. And as petty bickering ensued, Hinata was reminded of just how unique her new friend truly was. Because only Sai had the ability to purposely start an argument with someone and feel infinitely closer with them afterwards. He was the only person the Hyuuga knew who you loved more after he thoroughly pissed you off.

***

Dark hair fell around the girl like a curtain as she bent low over the desk, pen scratching hastily over paper. 'Contact with Smiling Man. Possible ally. No movement detected.'

She frowned, hesitant for just a moment, before deciding that the code name would have to do. The only other one she could think of was 'Artist' and that seemed even more obvious. This was at least a bit discreet.

Hands flying through the familiar signs, the same tiny slug popped into existence before her. Smiling and whispering a few encouraging endearments, she gave the little summon the paper, watching wistfully as it popped away again, wishing she could do the same. At least she wasn't so cold and hungry anymore. Her mood brightened a bit as she recalled the 'Smiling Man' who had been to see her just yesterday. At least she wasn't so lonely anymore.

There was suddenly a harsh rap against her door, making her jump in her seat, eyes widening fearfully. Shit, had she been caught?! No. She forced a deep, cleansing breath, willing herself to calm down. No, that was doubtful. Even if someone had managed to feel the small fluctuation of chakra that jutsu caused, that didn't mean they would know which jutsu it was. It could have been one of the simple cleaning jutsus Danzou's subordinates had taught her themselves. She shouldn't be worrying yet.

Schooling her face into an expression of slightly concerned curiosity, she opened the door, peeking out at the ROOT member standing there, purposely avoiding eye contact, and not just to help keep her cover as a weak, shy little girl. It did always genuinely disturb her to see the dead, hollow look the ROOT members' eyes had.

"Hyuuga Hinata. You've been summoned by Danzou-sama."

Once more, the girl didn't bother to correct him and say she wasn't a Hyuuga. She gave him a trembling nod, the trembling not all fake, and scurried to follow his quick pace to Danzou's... office-thing. She didn't really know what to call it.

It was as she approached the heavily-bandaged man that she prayed to Kami she hadn't been caught. For several reasons. First of all, this was a mission of the utmost importance, she knew that. She had been the one sent because, quite frankly, she had been the only option. If she failed, there was no one else. The same trick wouldn't work twice anyway. She was it, and she couldn't fail. Second... well, she wasn't afraid to die, that wasn't it, but she didn't believe for a moment that Danzou would simply kill her were she found out. And no one in their right mind wanted to be tortured, whether it be for answers or simply to fulfill an old shinobi's sadistic needs.

The man turned his familiar scowl on her and she flinched before she could stop it, his presence just so... overwhelming. No wonder she feared him so much as a child. "Good, you're here. I have need of your services."

From the way he was speaking, it didn't seem she had been caught, and it took all of her willpower not to sigh in utter relief. Her services... he likely needed a stain removed or, if she was particularly lucky, an injury healed. She could handle that.

Movement on her left caught her attention, and she let her eyes subtly shift in that direction. Letting her fists clench to show her surprise so her face would not, she realized she recognized the man standing there. He was a shinobi, a jounin, though she couldn't for the life of her remember his name, had she ever known it. She was entirely sure, however, that he was the ambassador to Konoha from Kirigakure, the one who had been sent after a very tentative treaty mostly involving trade rights had been signed with the other village not six months ago. What was he doing here, with Danzou?

The ROOT leader's visible eye shifted to the younger man, whole posture radiating boredom. "Well?"

Hinata watched as the foreign shinobi stepped forward, a smug smirk playing on his lips. He was looking her up and down as if she were a piece of livestock for sale rather than another human being, and his eyes... His eyes had a look that shook her to her very core. Hungry, greedy... lustful. Her stomach began a series of rapid backflips as she began to realize just why she had been called there. Which services it were that Danzou required.

"A Hyuuga? That's awfully high-class of you."

Danzou's response was a disdainful snort and an off-handed wave, his attention already wandering elsewhere. "She's a disgraced shinobi, a disowned Hyuuga, and a coward who should never have been allowed within the Konoha ranks. I trust, however, she meets your requirements."

"In ROOT, sex is used only for interrogation purposes or to gain possible allies, not for pleasure."

Possible allies. A foreign shinobi.

Hinata felt her nails dig into her palms nearly hard enough to draw blood when the ambassador chuckled lightly and shot a lecherous grin her way. It took every ounce a strength she had not to attack when he forcefully grabbed her chin and wrenched her head up.

"Big breasts and a pretty face. She'll do just fine."


Oh God! The story isn't dead! That's right, kids, I updated (though it is rather short). This particularly story isn't as easy to write as some of them, so it's slow in coming. I really do apologize, but I swear I haven't abandoned it completely. I'll keep typing away, and hopefully the next chapter will come a little faster this time. Patience is a virtue!

And in response to Hinata seeming perhaps a bit OOC from the manga... well, this Hinata is a little older, but the biggest difference is that this Hinata has finally gained some real confidence in herself. You know how awesome she would be if she stopped being so self-conscious. So if she ever seems a little off, it's because that's what I'm going for.

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