A/N: Ahmm... I have no excuse for the lack of updates for this fic! ^^; I apologize for taking my sweet, leisurely time in updating this -6 or 7 months to be exact...-but I hope you guys find this chapter satisfactory. Honestly there's been so much interest in this fic that I'm rather surprised as well :) Thanks everyone for your reviews and alerts and faves!
Disclaimer: If I owned this, the love triangle would be between Kakashi, Hinata, and Shikamaru. Seeing as how it's focused on Sasuke, Naruto, and Sakura lately, it's obvious I don't own, right?
Her fingers skimmed across the tabletop, tracing a figure eight on the gleaming surface. The porcelain clock's second hand ticked away the minutes, and the minute hand dutifully made a full circle. Hinata sighed into her palm and straightened her inelegant form slumped over the table.
...two hours late.
He'd promised to—
Hinata broke her train of thought and berated herself. It was not his fault that shinobi did not have regular hours, not his fault at all that even the Hokage himself was not able to leave his office to keep promises.
Not even promises made to his newly wed wife.
Hurriedly, she swiped away any stray tears she might have shed and grabbed her favorite pair of chopsticks.
Cold vegetables were chewed with a grimace and washed down with lukewarm soup. Hinata swallowed and absently made a mental note to heat up the food for him when he returned later that night.
A week passed by in a similar manner, with no sight of or word exchanged with her "husband." The only indication that Hyuuga Hinata was indeed married to Hatake Kakashi, Seventh Hokage, were the slight traces of his chakra around the house and the empty plates that would be waiting for her when she woke up in the morning.
Hinata could only feign a carefree and optimistic attitude for so long.
"Kakashi-san," she said during a rare afternoon when they were both home.
"Hm?" murmured the man over an important-looking scroll.
Hinata bit her lip, gathering all her resolve, and leveled her gaze with his obscured face. To her relief, Kakashi seemed to notice the graveness in her expression and set aside his scroll, fixing on her an expectant look.
"I— Kakashi-san, a-actually, I have been thinking…" She trailed off, her thoughts traveling too fast for her to compute it into words. "I…"
"You wish to return to active duty, right, Hinata?"
Hinata blinked at him, her mouth agape. How had he known? How could he possibly—
Her shock dissipated when she met his gaze – his single visible eye smiled at her with an almost approving expression.
Had he been expecting this all along? she wondered, feeling her respect and admiration for the man and his astuteness begin to climb exponentially.
"Y-you're right," she finally managed. "I wish… to return to my kunoichi duties. With all due respect, Hoka—, Kakashi-san."
The man rose from his seat at the table, grabbing the scroll and tucking it under his arm. He grinned and said, "I'm not the most interesting man, Hinata, as you've probably figured out." Hinata began to protest, but he spoke over her and continued.
"I knew you'd get bored, having to take a break from active duty to fulfill… wifely duties." Here, Kakashi coughed with meaning. Hinata caught on quickly and felt a blush burn her cheeks at his implication. He carried on with an amused smile. "You were born a kunoichi, Hinata, and I don't expect our marriage to change that. I'm sure I can, ah, persuade the Council to amend that part of our contract."
Gratitude blossomed in her chest, and, instinctively, Hinata bowed, bending from her waist down, wanting to show the man whom she owed so much to the full depth of her gratefulness. She straightened her spine and, to her surprise, was met with the sight of a frowning Kakashi.
At her questioning tone, his frown disappeared, but left an unreadable look in its place. Unease took its place in the multitude of her feelings as his silence continued to mount. Finally, Kakashi released a short sigh and spoke.
"It's nothing, Hinata."
His unconvincing words did nothing to placate her growing unrest, and he seemed to notice it, judging by his suddenly awkward cough.
"It's just…" he tried again. "Sometimes I feel like you don't see this… relationship very clearly."
"Wh-what?" asked Hinata in bewilderment, not at all comprehending what he was getting at.
"I am Shichidaime Hokage, Hatake Kakashi, and you are?"
His random self-introduction left Hinata at a loss for words. Her eyes fixated themselves onto his face in concern for his health, both mental and physical. Perhaps the stress of Kage duties had been getting to him…?
…and perhaps it was just her imagination, but did it not appear as if he had gotten… thinner? An unhealthy sheen coated what was visible of the man's face as well, and dark bags underlined his eye in what could only be exhaustion.
"And you are?" prompted Kakashi again, effectively breaking Hinata from her concerned scrutiny of him.
Slightly befuddled, Hinata answered in monotone.
"I am Hatake Hinata, w-wife of Hatake Kakashi."
Her words slid off her tongue with practiced fluidity, and, with that, understanding dawned in one splendid swoop. Despite herself, Hinata found herself smiling.
"I… see, Kakashi-san." Her smile widened at his approving nod.
"We're on equal footing, Hinata." Kakashi tapped her on the head once with the scroll in a teasing manner, much to Hinata's chagrin. "I'm getting too old to bow that low to anyone anyways."
Stunned, Hinata began to protest his supposed decrepitude, but Kakashi just chuckled in amusement as he left the room.
Not leaving, however, without saying the one sentence Hinata had perhaps been wanting to hear all along.
"I'm looking forward to having dinner with you tonight."
"…I admit, that wasn't quite the reaction I was expecting."
Hinata shifted on the balls of her feet, carefully avoiding the gaze of the Hokage and his assistant. Her eyes focused on the dizzying swoops of a messenger bird outside the wide windows as she tried to form her words coherently.
"Kakashi-san, I appreciate y-your efforts that allowed me to take missions, b-but… don't you have any missions outside of Konoha?"
Kakashi scratched the bridge of his nose with a delicate finger and flipped through the mission scrolls on his desk. The Chuunin beside him gave a start and pointed at a scroll with an excited, "Oh, look, there's o—"
"Hm, no, we seem to be all out of A or B-rank missions," said Kakashi, smoothly cutting over his assistant.
Kunoichi or not, there was something terribly suspicious about the scene she had just witnessed. Suppressing an exasperated sigh, Hinata took the C-rank scroll proffered to her with reluctance.
"Have fun," called out Kakashi as she left.
It's on the short side, but I'm not running short of inspiration or motivation, so I'm certainly thinking that there'll be another chapter up soon :)
Thanks to Idle Writer of Crack for her encouraging review. Her review prompted the rushed omake, hah. Hope she doesn't mind me taking the idea.
Thanks to everyone for your lovely reviews!