A/N: For the record, no sane writer ever does a wedding scene.

By the way, am I the only one that thinks Hanabi looks more like Neji than Hinata? I think she and Hinata are half-sisters, and am treating them as such for this story.

Chapter 3: Begonia

"Just to make sure I've got this completely right," Hanabi muttered, pulling another clip off the table to inspect it. "The official story is that you and Lee have been secretly dating and decided to elope. To save you from Father's wrath, Tsunade decided to send you and your new husband on this mission. Doesn't that kind of scandal defeat the point of you being well-bred and well-mannered? I wouldn't think the Daimyo would want you anywhere near his children."

Hinata had been careful not to reveal the ulterior motive of the mission to her sister; just that she would be the acting governess for the Daimyo's children. It seemed her sister knew, or at least suspected, a deeper reason, as she kept trying to work more details out of her. "Tsunade-sama seems to think that the uproar caused by the scandal is less than if she sent any of the other available kunoichi. If he seems upset, I am to try and paint a picture of Father as a tyrant, and not at all like the Daimyo."

That shouldn't be too hard. Hinata couldn't even imagine the kind of trouble she would be in if this wedding were real.

"I think it's sad that I'm the only one allowed to attend." Hanabi muttered, grabbing the more elaborate pieces of the hair ornaments off the stand. "I suppose Neji-niichan will be there, but nobody is supposed to know he is. It makes sense to not have Father, either, but my mother could have. She's the one that should be doing this instead of me anyway."

This was probably true. The elaborate hair style and hood probably should have been done by a professional or mother instead of her fifteen-year-old sister. Hinata couldn't say, however, she was too upset about not having anyone there but Hanabi. Her father had made it clear that he did not consider his daughter married, and that she better not behave with Lee like she was, and Hinata had never gotten along very well with her step mother.

A part of her wished that her own mother could be here, but that was only silly fancy to miss her. She had died when Hinata was still an infant, killed in someway that was yet another family secret. She couldn't remember her mother but in pictures, and those had all disappeared not long after Hanabi was born.

"It's amazing that Father still had your mother's wedding kimono, though. It fits you very well." The younger girl smiled one of her rare smiles as she added the last of the gold combs to her sister's blue hair. "Are you ready?"

"No." Some called it a weakness, but around her little sister Hinata never felt the need to act differently. To prove she was strong. Hanabi was ambitious and well trained, but they were friends. If she couldn't depend on her younger sister then who would be left? "Four days ago I hadn't e-even been on a d-date and now I…"

The white cloth of the hood was draped slowly over Hinata's hair. "Will do what you have to as a ninja to make the clan proud."

"Yes." She clasped her trembling hands in her lap, trying to force them to stop. She shouldn't be afraid. Perhaps she could not count Lee as a close friend, but she knew him well enough to know he would never harm her. He would respect her privacy too, she knew, as he had a reputation around the village of defending the woman's bath house from peepers without ever once glancing himself. There was nothing to be frightened of.

Minus the fact that she was getting married and being sent on an extremely important and high risk mission, upon which the fate of life as she knew it might hang.

There were several loop holes built into the ceremony that would later be used to invalidate it once the mission was over. The first was that Guy-sensei, though he could, technically, perform a civil ceremony shouldn't do such in a Shinto shrine like they were using. Another was that the sake usually used in such ceremonies would be substituted by plain water in Lee's glass.

Her father was still concerned about how this would affect her future marriage prospects, as no family of quality would want, as he had kindly put it, used goods. Even so, he had given in to Tsunade just as the Hokage had said he would.

With one last reassuring squeeze of the shoulder, Hanabi quietly left to take her place for the ceremony. As Neji was technically her family, so even if Lee had invited him he would stand with Hanabi while TenTen faced them as the representative of the family Lee did not have. The shrine itself was little more than a small room on the ground floor of the Hokage tower. It was used almost exclusively for hurried wedding such as this; when the thought of being separated by death without this solemn vow became too much to bare.

Tucking her fan into her obi, and carefully taking up her hakeseko and kaiken, Hinata checked her make up one last time. It was perfect, just like she'd expect her sister to do. Like she was in everything. If she was older, would Hanabi have been assigned this mission instead? Would their father have so easily stood by and just let her go?

No, with Hanabi they would have been willing to fake a wedding and trusted her to be a good enough liar to cover any possible slips. She would not have had to endure the humiliation of this sham wedding, all alone and sent to the care of a man she didn't love and barely knew.

Of course, being married off to a stranger had always been a possibility. After her third birthday, when it was clear she would survive her sickly baby hood, Hinata had been surrounded by rumors of potential engagements nearly every month. She'd been shown pictures of her potential husbands, often times they were old men who frightened her, and after her school work and gentle fist practice she would spend her evenings being drilled and taught how to be the perfect wife to her future lord.

Father had never even tried to find Hanabi a powerful husband to care for her. While Hinata was learning the proper way to walk in a kimono, Hanabi was attending clan meetings and learning the gentle fist moves reserved for the clan heir. While Hinata perfected the art of rolling sushi, her sister perfected sixty-four palms. The clan had pretended to acknowledge her as the potential heir; that she might somehow take up the place that was hers by birthright but really, there had never been any doubt.

And people wondered why she had not tried harder to pursue Naruto.

Tears were threatening to fall, but Hinata was tired of crying. She had shed tears most of her life, yet it had never changed a thing. All it would do now was ruin her make-up and have her seem childish and weak to the man she would call husband for who knew how long. It was with her head held high and eyes without moisture that Hinata stepped into the room where everyone was waiting.

On one side of the room stood Neji and Hanabi, dressed in long black silk kimonos. Across from them stood TenTen, and Hinata found the grip on her composure slipping. TenTen was wearing a beautiful white silk kimono covered in red and gold clouds like a sunset. It could only have been a very expensive gift from Neji, as using the Hyuuga clan symbol clearly marked her as his. It should be the two of them being given this opportunity to wed, without fear of backlash from the clan. Neji could have handled the children, he was good with them. He even secretly liked kids, and TenTen could have learned. Tsunade could have said that there were no eligible kunoichi to be found and insisted that Neji was trust worthy. They would have been so happy for this chance, instead of the cold dread that seemed to spread throughout Hinata's body.

In the middle of the room stood their officiator. Guy was dressed in a formal looking black robe and had glasses perched on the bridge of his nose. They made him look deceivingly distinguished, and in any other situation Hinata would probably have smiled.

Then there was Lee. Dressed in the formal black kimono and grey hakama that Tsunade had purchased for him, he didn't look very much like himself. None of the characteristic energy or confidence was apparent, either, as he seemed to stare off at nothing without a trace of a smile on his face.

How could she have been so selfish? She wasn't the only one suffering through this, was she? No, Lee was stuck with her, the weak little girl, who was probably so unlike the woman he'd pictured himself with. Lee, as far as she knew, adored strong confident girls like Sakura and Ino who trained hard and were unafraid of the world they stepped out into. Unlike Hinata, with her small mouse voice and inability to lead anyone anywhere.

She walked on trembling knees wishing for the support of someone, anyone, to walk the small distance with her. Ordinarily she would have had her father, or the matchmaker, to hold her hand and give her away. But, in this case, it was the village itself offering her up. It was a lonely feeling.

No sooner was she in her place, shoulder to shoulder with Lee, than Guy-sensei began to speak. "We are here today to witness the beautiful occasion of two astonishing souls in this most youthful vow of holy matrimony."

Behind her, Hinata heard Hanabi giggle and Neji softly sigh. Even to those who admired him, and Hinata knew that Neji really did, Guy could be overwhelming at the best of times. Would her new husband talk like that? It was so difficult to follow, how would she ever know what he was saying? What if he should be insulted because she couldn't do things as he wished when she did not understand? Before, the fact that Neji was on a team known around the village for their quick tempers had seemed funny, and now she couldn't help being a little afraid.

"We are here to witness," the Jounin continued, oblivious to Hinata's anxiety or the slump in Lee's shoulders, "these two set out on the most challenging journey of their young lives. Though their spirits sore with youthful enthusiasm, flying with two is much harder than flying solo."

Birds? She never felt like a bird. More often than not she felt like a glass doll, something to be admired but never touched.

"However, Lee, Hinata, you must take inspiration from the birds if you are going to reach the heights of your potential. Stick together through the stormy wind, my cute student and his beloved. Let nothing part you, and you will reach the destination of your hearts desire!"

This wasn't helping Hinata to feel better at all. He kept talking like they had chosen to be here or even wanted to. What her heart desired most right now was to turn and run out the door, and find some nice secluded cottage where not even the ANBU could find her.

"These feelings may be just fledglings now, but with this push out of the nest they will…"

"Enough with the theatrics, we get it," Neji interrupted, much to Hinata's relief. Even if she was only halfway paying attention, she wasn't sure how much more she could take.

"You do not like the speech, Neji?" Guy frowned, looking over his glasses at the boy over Hinata's shoulder. "I originally wrote the speech for your wedding, but I felt the message would still apply. I am sorry you do not like it."

Neji must have made a face, or something, as TenTen giggled madly from the other side and even Lee seemed to perk up a little. He spoke at least. "You didn't write the speech just for me, sensei?"

"Alas," Guy moaned, with a tearful look that could only have accompanied the word alas, "I am afraid I thought I would have a little more time to prepare yours, my youthful Lee. When Tsunade approached me, I of course leapt at the opportunity. I do have more later that I wrote just for you, but perhaps I can share it another time? Neji does not seem in the mood for my wisdom."

"He usually isn't," TenTen chirped. "It is probably best we hurry, though, sensei. We want to give Hiashi-sama some plausible deniability. He won't have that it both his daughters are gone for too long."

"Of course, of course," the older Jounin said cheerfully, though he looked anything but. "I suppose we ought to go right to the vows then."

The rest of the ceremony was largely a blur of motion and tradition. It was something Hinata had rehearsed since she was a tiny child, to ensure that she not embarrass the clan in anyway one this important day. She knew the right thing to say, and the right way to say them. The only thing that pulled her out of her automatic haze was TenTen's snort into the sake cup when she and Neji took sips from the sake cups in place of the absent parents.

There was no reception, and evening found her and Lee alone in the hotel Tsunade insist they have for the next day before they left. They were to order dinner through room service, at the expense of the village, and not come out until she summoned them the next day to finalize the details.

Lee was sitting on the bed while Hinata struggled to remove the elaborate hair decorations at the low vanity. How she was going to get out of this kimono on her own remained to be seen.

"That was interesting," Lee muttered, and she watched him flop onto his back on the bed. Somehow he'd already gotten out of his wedding clothes and into a comfortable looking pair of green flannel pajamas. She couldn't help being a little envious.

Unsure how else to respond, Hinata said nothing as she continue to fight with the pins. Interesting is probably not the word she would have chosen for the situation they were currently in. More like miserable.

"I can't believe TenTen hit me for saying that if she wasn't pediaphobic we wouldn't be in this mess."

"Pediaphobic?" That sounded terrible, whatever it was, and Hinata found herself suddenly concerned for TenTen's well being as she half turned to look at the young man sprawled on the bed.

The grin Lee sent her way was positively cocky. "A fear of children. The closest I've ever seen her come to breaking down was when Kurenai-sensei had her hold her baby."

It wasn't really funny at all, but Hinata could appreciate that Lee was at least trying to make things less awkward while she worked and tried not to think about having to sleep in the same bed as a boy for the first time in her life. "Ishi is a sweet girl. I don't know how anyone could be frightened of her."

Lee 'hm'ed thoughtfully, rolling his eyes to the ceiling. "TenTen has her reasons. Anyway, I thought Guy-sensei preformed the ceremony very well. His speeches are always truly inspiring. I'm less afraid of this mission now, aren't you?"

"A-ah," was all she managed to squeak, deciding to use the kimono's restriction of her rib cage as an excuse if asked. How did other brides manage this? Of course, she thought with color springing to her face, their husbands probably usually were of some assistance, weren't they?

She could see her face reddening in the mirror, and lowered her head to try and hide the blush behind her bangs. All of the sudden, Lee was behind her, his hands on either side of her head. "Let me help you with that, Hinata-san."

"N-no," her eyes widened and she jerked away on reflex. How had he gotten so close so quickly. "I-It's alright, Lee-san. I am m-managing. You don't have t-to…"

He cut her off by removing one of the clips and allowing a lock of hair to slide down her neck, causing her to shiver. "We are supposed to act as husband and wife, are we not, Hinata-san? Please, allow me to help you when needed, and I swear I will not let you down."

How could she say anything to that? With no appropriate response coming to mind, she sat silent and still while Lee's fingers worked through her hair, undoing the elaborate twists and working out the places it had become knotted. When it was all done he stepped back, a soft smile on his face, before reaching down and loosening the knot on her obi for her. It was a surprising action, and Hinata couldn't decide whether she felt more thankful or terrified.

"Let me know if I can be of anymore assistance to you, Hinata-san."

She stood, grabbing her nightgown, to make her way into the bathroom. "I-If we are m-m-m-married now, I…" her mouth moved in the shapes she wanted to say, but no sound came out, so she tried again. "I think it is just Hi-Hinata now."

"Hinata," Lee muttered quietly, as if trying it out, and she left him sitting there nodding to himself. When she returned after her bath, Hinata found that the bed had been stripped of one of a blanket and one of it's pillows. A quick search of the room revealed them, and Lee, snuggled comfortably on the floor.

With a sigh of relief, and a greatful smile in Lee's direction, Hinata climbed between the covers and allowed her eyes to close. It had been an exhausting day, and she was asleep in moments.