I wrote something fluffy.
Disclaimer: Not mine. -despairs-
The rain outside comes down with harsh droplets and crashing booms that shake the very foundations of Hinata's house. Flashes of lightening illuminate everything every few minutes or so, bathing the living room furniture in stinging white light for a flash of a second before disappearing with a clap of rolling thunder.
Hinata pushes herself as deep as she can into her couch cushions, curling her legs and arms around her body, a self-barricade. The hum of the evening news is background noise; the book she has already re-read three times lies forgotten on the carpeted floor; her green tea is cold. She is staring out at the rain through her windows. She catches the best glimpses of it under the orange glow of the streetlights, and the grim silver edges of large puddles.
She watches the leaves of the tall trees whip around in unified chaos, and the bright white headlights of the rare passing car on her suburban street, and the way the drops of rainwater run down the glass— racing and mingling and eventually running out of view, like a game of life.
It terrifies her, and fascinates her.
She falls asleep to the lullaby of the monotonous.
She meets her friends at a nearby diner known for its fries and apple pie— their little weekly slice of Americana life.
She gets there last. She'd woken up late, had some work to do despite it being Saturday, and had lost track of time. She nods at Kurenai, the head waitress she knows very well, and smiles at the swell of her stomach under the small apron. She's due soon.
When she reaches their usual table, her friends are all laughing loudly, uncaring of the annoyed glances being sent their way from several other patrons. Hinata blushes enough for all of them.
(She has always been the modest one.)
She sits down and nods warmly as they each give their respective greetings.
"Hey," Sakura says, smiling, green eyes twinkling brilliantly.
"Nice of you to show up," Ino adds brusquely.
Tenten sighs. "Always straight to the point, eh Ino?"
The pale blonde merely shrugs. "I just tell it like it is."
Hinata giggles a little—
(The routine has started.)
— and hides it behind her hand.
(She has always been the modest one.)
"So," Sakura breaks in next, fanning her hands across the table deliberately, gaining the attention of her three best friends, making the drinks and silverware tremble slightly. Hinata finally notices they have already ordered her lemonade for her, and that Sakura almost seems to be glowing today. "Isn't anyone curious about last night?"
"Oh right!" Tenten says, grinning almost boyishly. "I almost forgot about your date."
"Where did the mysterious Uchiha take you, anyway?" Ino asks.
Hinata looks at her pink-haired friend curiously.
"Well," Sakura answers, leaning forward. "He took me to the park."
Ino looks at her flatly, sipping her diet soda through her white straw and the stirring the ice with it. "What's so special about the park?" she asks.
"Shut up." Sakura's smile never falters. "We walked around for a while. I'll spare you the details—"
"Aw, why leave out the good stuff?" Ino butts in, again.
"— But." She gives Ino a warning glance and continues. "When we got to the playground…"
Hinata fades out of the conversation. She knows it's important, but she tends to space out when her friends recount spontaneous, romantic stories. She is the type that falls for the safe, average guys.
Sakura has Sasuke (since childhood, practically), Tenten has Neji (since they met in college), and Ino has her boy toys every week (since as far back as her memory can go).
Hinata has her cat and her books and her job.
(She has always been the modest one.)
"… went into the tunnel like he said— it's where we met when we were little— and there was a box in it. So I opened the box, and there was a ring inside!"
Hinata snaps back into reality, eyes widening in realization.
"He proposed?!" Tenten bursts out first.
"Well finally!" Ino squeals, grinning from ear to ear.
"That's great!" Hinata cries softly.
Sakura smiles strongly as her friends attack her with hugs and wedding ideas and words of genuine congratulations.
After the initial excitement cools down, the four of them fall easily back into conversation, but the sense of anticipation stays there, bubbling just beneath the surface. Hinata fades in and out of the talking, losing herself in a turbulent whirlpool of her own thoughts. She nibbles on the corner of the sandwich she orders, her usual, always her usual.
"…But really," she catches Ino ranting, "I'm gonna kill her one day. I don't care if she's my boss."
"Ino," Sakura sighs, swallowing a french fry, "All you take care of is her wardrobe. You barely have to deal with her. Try talking to her for at least an hour every day."
"Oh that's what you think. Make-up is important and all, but clothes? Clothes make the woman. And she's so fucking picky!"
Tenten lifts one dark eyebrow in skepticism. "Um, if I'm not mistaken, Hinata's her personal assistant. I think that trumps both of you."
Her two paler-haired friends consider it for a moment.
"True, you've got us there," Sakura admits, shrugging.
"I don't know how you deal with her twenty-four-seven," Ino says, violently stabbing the lettuce of her salad and bringing it to her mouth.
"Patience," Hinata replies, with a small smile.
Tenten grins. "You guys should've gone into law."
"And be an uptight, underappreciated female defense attorney like you?" Ino asks, rhetorically. "No, thanks."
"Be nice," Sakura warns. "That uptight attorney is paying for our lunch today."
Tenten waves her hand flippantly, putting her burger back down on her plate.
"So, so, Sasuke. You finally popped the big question, eh? Sakura's gonna be your ol' ball and chain now, eh? Got over your fear of commitment, eh? Gonna buy a big house and pop out a couple of brats, eh— OUCH! BASTARD!"
"Tch." Sasuke brings his fist back down and takes another swig of his beer. "Idiot. Shut up."
Naruto nurses the bump on his head while simultaneously glaring at his good friend and baring his teeth. "ASSHOLE."
Neji sighs, while Sai only smiles eerily. The bar is sparsely crowded around this time of day, and the food is greasy, but this is their routine, just as their girls have theirs. Neji, Sasuke, Naruto, and Ino's Flavor of the Week.
"Congratulations, Sasuke," Neji interrupts solemnly. "It was fate that you two married."
"Hn." Sasuke smirks.
Naruto rolls his eyes and chugs down half his beer. He smacks his lips loudly and wipes his mouth on the collar of his bright orange t-shirt, grinning, all teeth.
"All I know is that it's 'fate' that I plan you the best bachelor party of all time. God only knows what kind of entertainment Neji would get (no offense), and this guy," he points to Sai's smiling face, "will probably be out by the end of this week."
"I can hardly wait," Sasuke replies dryly.
Sai looks at each of the men in turn. "What does he mean, 'out by the end of the week'?"
"Pffft." Naruto snickers. "You're going out with Ino, my friend. Trust me, you'll find out."
Sai blinks, creepy smile never leaving his face. Naruto stops drinking the rest of his beer to look at him from the corner of his eyes. He glances at the paper-white skin, the belly shirt, and the disquieting smile, and he shudders.
Where does she find these guys?
They shower each other with hugs before they depart, and linger outside the front of the diner for a good half hour before deeming it long enough to leave. When Hinata goes to walk back to her car, some small silver model from a few years ago, she is stopped by Sakura's voice.
"Hinata!" she calls, running up to her. Tenten and Ino have already left (to work on a case and spend time with the most recent boyfriend, respectively).
"Yeah?" Hinata asks, politely.
"Would you be up for coming over tomorrow night? Sasuke and me are having a small dinner thing, no big deal, but you should come."
"Of course. But, um, are Ino and Tenten—"
"They're both… busy." Sakura closes her eyes and smiles reassuringly. "Just you… and some other company."
"Great!" She throws her arms around Hinata in a hug, before pulling away and going back towards her car. She shouts, "Be over at seven! Bye!"
Hinata gives a weak wave, fingers curling, a little unsettled.
Neji and Sai leave to find their girlfriends a little while later, leaving Naruto and Sasuke alone with the bill, a myriad of empty beer bottles, and a basket of nacho crumbs.
"Oi." Sasuke crosses his arms and leans back in his chair.
Naruto stops inhaling the crumbs long enough to look at his dark-haired friend. "Yeah?"
"Sakura wants you over for dinner tomorrow night."
Naruto sits up, wiping orange-yellow cheese off his mouth with the back of his hand and grinning again. "Now Sasuke, I couldn't. You two are getting married now, and it would be inappropriate if—"
"Don't finish that sentence if you value your life." Sasuke reaches into the pocket of his jeans to pull out his wallet. "Come at seven."
Naruto mumbles something along the lines of "no sense of humor" and "can't take a joke", but silences when he sees his friend's glare.
"Fine," he says, grinning dimly now. "Who else is going? Neji and the freak gonna be there?"
"Busy," Sasuke mutters, putting the money on the table and getting up to leave. "Just you and some other people."
"Cool, I guess." He gets up too, walks quickly in front of his friend, then turns around to make a face, eyelashes fluttering and lips pouting idiotically. "Should I dress my Sunday best?"
Sasuke rolls his eyes and pushes him out of the way, walking out into the small patchy parking lot. Naruto runs after him and links their arms.
"Now darling, don't be ashamed of me."
Sasuke yanks his arm away and goes into his car, making sure to ram Naruto's bicycle (his only mode of transportation) as he pulls out onto the street. Naruto stares at his orange piece of scrap metal dumbly for a few seconds before shaking his fists and turning red in the face. Several pedestrians swerve to avoid him as he stomps out onto the sidewalk.
"NOW YOU OWE ME A NEW RIDE, YOU STUPID BASTARD!"
Naruto promptly arrives at six-thirty the next night by way of taxi. And he's starving. He could eat a horse right now. Grinning, he knocks loudly on the front door of Sasuke and Sakura's shared flat. When no one comes to answer immediately, he begins banging again.
"OI. OIIIIII, I'M HERE." He frowns thoughtfully as he slams his fist against the door. "OPEN UP. I'M HUNGRY. HEY, COME ONNN. HEY. OPEN UPPP—"
The door slams open, and a very angry looking Sakura faces him.
Naruto laughs sheepishly and leans forward to give her a quick, friendly peck on the cheek. "Well if it isn't the bride to be!"
"Naruto," she seethes, grabbing him by the shirt collar and throwing him through the doorway. "Moron, we have neighbors!"
"Well if something like that bothered them, then they need thicker walls." He glances at said walls and shrugs. Then he flashes her a vulpine grin, eyeing her up and down, leaning forward. "Oh, nice robe by the way."
Sakura opens her mouth, closes it, opens, closes, and shakes her head. She throws her hands up and turns on her heel, calling, "Sasuke!"
"Yeah?" Sasuke walks out from the hallway that leads to their bedroom and is greeted with a bump to his shoulder as his longtime girlfriend passes him.
"The idiot's here," she mutters darkly, spinning around to face him when she stands in the bedroom doorway. She wags a finger at him and he fights the urge to roll his eyes. "He better behave himself, or so help me..."
She lets out a puff of angry air and slams the door behind her with a flourish. Sasuke thinks it is lucky she left her threat unfinished. Very lucky. He steps out into the living room.
"Naru— What the hell are you doing?" He looks at his blond friend incredulously. Naruto is dunking his head into their fish tank. He's... Not even Naruto could be that brain-dead, right?
He pulls out his head, spluttering and coughing and sopping. He spits out what looks like a goldfish and then turns to face Sasuke, who is frozen with bemusement and repulsion, and grins through the water, belching loudly.
"I, uhh... hi?" He takes his pinky and thrusts it into his right ear. It feels like a warm pool of water is sitting in it, but it's really only a few drops. Next he shakes his head like a shaggy dog. Sasuke only blinks when droplets of water splatter across his face and clothes; Naruto's sheepish grin grows. "Er. I slipped."
Sasuke deflates. "No, you didn't." He turns around. "I don't even want to know," he mutters. Naruto chuckles, the weird little idiot.
Sasuke comes back with a towel and fresh white shirt and thrusts them towards the blond with, "Orange is horrendous anyway."
Naruto scowls. "Bastard." He pretends he knows what horrendous means, keeping his scowl as he strips away his damp shirt, towels off, and slips on the new one.
Sasuke snorts. "You might want to look in a mirror," he says smugly.
Naruto does. There's a just-for-show one right by the front door, surrounded in an antique old oak frame, big enough for him to see from his shoulders up. His hair is sticking up in every direction. He lets out a small strangled noise and turns to look at Sasuke. Then he laughs. "It still looks better than yours," he observes, words broken with hysterics.
Sasuke only sighs.
Hinata smooths the skirt of her dress down for what feels like the millionth time, adjusts the way her pocketbook hangs, and takes a deep breath. Be sociable, comes the mantra in her head. Be sociable, be noticeable, be—
She clears her throat, fixes her hair, glances at the slim watch on her wrist and notices with some guilt that it is exactly 7:06. She walks down to the end of the hallway and pauses when she hears sounds behind the door. Then she knocks, delicately.
Be sociable, be noticeable, be sociable, be noticeable, please just be—
Sakura opens the door and smiles. "Hi," she says, and Hinata returns the greeting quietly. "Come on in." She does.
Sasuke's standing up in the middle of the living room; he nods at her, a fellow silent person, and says something undistinguishable to someone on their couch. Undistinguishable because—
(Hinata's breath catches when she sees his blue eyes, his shock of hair, his blinding smile, he's everything she's afraid to be, everything she'll never be, everything she wants to be, he's everything, everything, everything.)
— she is too preoccupied in her staring.
"Hinata," Sakura says, "This is Naruto Uzumaki, Sasuke's friend."
(She likes his name, it fits him, odd and out there and unique.)
He walks over to her.
(And oh god, his smile, look at his smile.)
He shakes her hand jerkily. "Nice to meet ya, Hinata," he says.
(Her face feels much too hot, he can see her blushing, can't he.)
"O-o-oh," she says. She immediately feels the veil of humility fall over her. She suspects it will sit there the rest of the night.
Sakura says, "Dinner's ready."
(The world starts moving again.)
"So, Hinata," Sakura's voice is mischievous as she hands her friend the next soapy dish to dry, "What do you think of Naruto?"
Her face flushes again. "He seems nice," she answers, after some hesitation.
Her flush grows darker. She rings the drying rag in her hands and stares down at her toes. "Very nice."
Sakura moves her own eyes away, focusing on the pan between her hands, slick with water and soap. "He seems to like you. He wouldn't leave you alone during dinner."
"Oh, really?" Hinata attempts to mask her curiosity and hopefulness and humanity as always. "I... didn't notice."
Sakura hands her the plate to dry. "Mm. Can you hand me that bowl?"
"... and she's real pretty and she smells nice and I like her hair and I didn't know Neji was her cousin and—"
Sasuke groans a little. "Shut. Up."
"Okay." Naruto rocks back and forth on his position on the couch. Not even ten seconds pass before he's asking, "So, is she single?"
Sasuke nods weakly. The plan is working even better than Sakura and he had expected. He won't say easy, because, holy shit, Naruto's still talking, but better works. Better is good. Better is—
Naruto shoves his shoulder. Is he still talking?
"Hey. Bastard. Are you deaf?"
"Anyway, I was just asking—"
Sasuke holds up a hand. "Just stop. If you like her, ask her out. You don't need to play twenty questions with me first."
Sasuke half-groans again. "No," he says firmly, finality in the word.
Naruto sticks his tongue out. "... Bitch."
"Idiot," Sasuke mutters, sinking lower into the couch.
"Sasuke, can you come help me for a second?" Sakura's voice floats out from the kitchen as Hinata timidly walks towards the living room, ballerina steps.
Sasuke gets up silently, gives Naruto a meaningful look, and leaves.
Naruto sits up when Hinata takes the couch across from him. He suddenly feels very self-concious, and she's not even looking at him. And he suddenly realizes she's too refined for him, she's too pretty for him, she's too good for him. She probably doesn't even like him. His palms get sweaty. Most girls don't like him.
He makes sure to keep the tremors out of his voice when he says, "So what'd you do for a living?"
She looks up, almost startled, and Naruto wonders if she forgot he was here and feels his heart sink a little.
"I-I, um," she stops for a second. "I'm a PA."
"Right," he says, nodding his head, "a PA."
She actually smiles at him a little. His throat gets drier. "A p-personal assistant."
"Oh," he replies, grinning, "Oh, that's cool. For who?"
"Karin," she answers. There is no last name, only the stage one that everyone knows. Like Madonna, Karin tended to tell people smugly.
His eyes widen. He leans forward without thinking. "The actress that Sakura and Ino work for?"
She nods and he watches her face get red and wonders if he's done something wrong. He leans back again. "Wow," he finishes. "Beats my job." He suddenly wants to change the subject. She doesn't need to know that while she's surrounded by celebrities all day, he's waiting tables and scarping dry vomit off the wall in the bathroom of that run-down bar on the dark side of town.
He panics and stands and the words bubble out of his lips before he can stop them.
"I gotta run," he says.
And he does.
"That's so not like him," Sakura sighs. Hinata puts the phone on the counter and pushes the speaker button as she pours milk into her bowl of cereal.
"I hope I didn't offend him," she says quietly, bringing the spoon to her mouth.
"No, I'm sure that's not it," Sakura's voice comes out sounding funny and farther away, resonating throughout the room. "Maybe he just remembered something important he had to do."
"Well, I have to go finish getting ready for work, so I'll talk to you later, okay?"
Hinata pushes her cereal away.
She hates Mondays.
"You're an idiot," Sasuke says, knotting his tie in the mirror by the front door. "And why are you in my house?"
"First of all, it is an apartment, not a house. Don't flatter yourself, you can't afford one of those yet." Naruto sits up from where he is lying on the longest couch in the living room and points at his friend. "Second, you invited me in. And third, you're an idiot for still teaching a bunch of stupid teenagers about Shakespeare and writing and crap."
Sasuke can't really disagree, so he doesn't answer. Sakura had left a half an hour ago and Naruto had shown up only minutes later, as if purposely avoiding her. He hadn't commented then either.
"I hated my English teachers in high school," Naruto adds spitefully.
Sasuke pats his head as he passes him to grab his watch by the TV. "Don't worry loser, they hated you too."
(Naruto wants to thank his friend for not bringing up the topic, as if knowing he doesn't want to talk about it, as if knowing why it happened anyway, but the thanks is silent and so is its acceptance.)
"Now get out of my house."
"Hina, could you please get me a bottle of that Fuji water? Make sure it's only that, I won't drink anything else."
Hinata glances up from her clipboard by the actresses's side. She hates that nickname. "D-do you mean Fiji water?"
Karin doesn't spare her a look. "No, I'm sure it's called Fuji water."
"... Right. I'll see w-what I can do."
"Thank you dear," Karin winks at her, and Sakura curses as the freshly applied mascara smudges. Hinata smiles as she walks off.
"This would work so much better if you could hold still," Sakura stresses, swiping under the starlit's eye with a tissue.
"Or if I had a more competent make-up artist," Karin sniffs.
She hates Mondays.
Sasuke's grading papers during his free period when his cell phones starts buzzing against his thigh. He's the only one in the teacher's lounge besides the ancient napping Calculus teacher in the corner and that skinny Home Economics teacher that was always staring at him. She's looking at him now, but he purposely sat himself with his back to her. He drops his pen and takes his cell out of his pocket.
"Yeah?" he answers.
"Hey, it's Naruto. Look, I've been thinking, and I need your help."
Sasuke lifts his eyebrow and leans back against his seat. "Hm?"
"Yeah, yeah, don't be an asshole about it."
"I can't make any promises."
Naruto snorts ungracefully. "Figured. Anyway, I have a question first. And gimme the truth, alright?"
"Hn," Sasuke says.
"... D'you think Hinata liked me?"
Sasuke blows a strand of his hair out of his eyes. "Based on what Sakura told me, yes."
"Really?" comes the eager answer.
"Really. But I guess you left a little early to find out."
"Yeah, well, it's hard to explain."
"I bet—" The bell rings. "Oh, shit."
"Wait, I'm not done yet—"
"Well I have to go." He snaps his phone shut and picks up the pile of crappy essays he has yet to grade.
Sasuke strips down to his boxers and slips on a gray teeshirt before he slides into bed next to his future wife, who is reading a book with a glaring "Oprah's Bookclub" sticker on the front. He notices her eyes aren't even moving; she's just staring at the page without really taking in any words.
"Long day?" he asks.
She shuts the book, puts it on the dresser next to her, and comes back to wrap her arms around him securely. "The longest," she answers.
"Hn." He leans over to click off the lights. "I know the feeling."
She grins against his neck. "I think," she says, "our double lives are getting the better of us."
Sasuke eyes her in the dark. "Double lives?" he asks.
She nods. "We're playing a dangerous game with our secret matchmaking."
He snorts. "Oh, that double life."
"Mm." She basks in his warmth. Her voice is growing sleepy with it. "But I think... it'll be worth it in the end."
A breeze blows in from their open window, disturbing the curtains, making them wave like pale ghosts. Somewhere a cricket is chirping.
"We'll see," Sasuke answers. But Sakura is already asleep.
Tuesday— nothing of significance happens.
Wednesday— the same.
Thursday and Friday— nothing.
On Saturday Naruto gets a phone call, ten AM sharp.
"H'llo?" He mutters sleepily into the receiver, only to find that he is speaking into a sneaker. He curses mildly and fishes around his floor for his cell, which he answers on the last ring. "WHAT."
"Good morning moron. Come over here, now. We need to talk."
"Son of'a bitch."
He's still half asleep when he stumbles up to his friend's door and knocks. He swipes at his eyes; they keep tearing from all his yawning.
Sasuke answers the door.
"About time," he says, and steps out of the way so that Naruto can get inside. Naruto curses at him his under his breath but enters.
"Why the hell did I have to come all the way over here, you bastard? I was working 'til two last night! Or is it this morning? Either way! Not cool of you man. I need my damn sleep—"
Naruto realizes Sasuke is not in the room anymore.
"Bastard!" he says, and then there is a faint knock on the door.
Naruto scratches the back of his neck. "Hey asshole, you gonna get that?"
Naruto lets out a frustrated sound from the back of his throat. He had a bad week, he's so not in the mood for this. He peeks through the little hole in the door to see a fisheye view of Hinata in a white summerdress.
His stomach does a somersault.
He takes a deep breath and reaches for the doorknob. I can do this, he tells himself, I can do this I can do this I can do this.
He pulls his hand back, then stretches it forward again, hesitation. I can do this.
He opens the door, holds out his hand and says,
"Hi. My name is Naruto Uzumaki. I work in a bar downtown, my best friend is an asshole, and I was kind of a jerk to you."
Hinata blinks her pretty lilac eyes at him. Her face doesn't even get red this time.
"O-o-oh," she says. Naruto grins.
Sakura's voice breaks the spell. "Well finally." Naruto and Hinata turn around and see a pink-haired head appear from behind a couch.
Sasuke's sigh comes next, as he walks out of the hallway. "Were you spying on them the whole time?"
"... Yes. Duh." Sakura walks over next to her fiance, positively beaming at Hinata and Naruto. "I think I deserve to see the product of all our hard work."
Hinata's brow furrows a little, but then she is smiling and taking the smallest of steps into the room to stand right beside Naruto, who is scratching his head in confusion.
He looks over at her. "I don't get it," he whispers.
She laughs lightly, behind her hand, always the modest one.
"Huh," Naruto says, face contemplating. "Do you wanna go out for breakfast with me?"
The blush comes back. "S-sure."
They turn around together, Naruto chattering away about all the good breakfast spots and Hinata staring at him with a warmth in her eyes that was not there before. A change from the routine.
The door closes behind them.
Sakura glances over at Sasuke, who lifts an eyebrow at her.
"We're good at this." She grins dangerously. "You know, Ino did break it off with Sai yesterday... And she did used to have a crush on that guy you work with... Shikamaru, I think?"
"No." Sasuke looks at her like she has two heads.
"Fine." She crosses her arms and turns her face to the side. She freezes. Her eyes narrow, her arms fall, she walks over to the wall where their fish tank sits.
"Sasuke," she says with measured slowness, "Where did that plastic hamburger go?"
"The plastic food I had in here is all gone. The fish tank toys? There was a fake burger in here and now its gone!"
"Oh, god," his face gets paler. Sakura turns to look at him.
"... He really is an idiot."