just a fancy word for chaos

Chapter Four

The Hyuuga were a proud family.

What happened in the family stayed in the family. Skeletons stayed buried in closets for generations until they fossilized. Dirty laundry was washed only by the scantest of moonlight. Every Hyuuga was taught to believe that there was a greedy, dangerous world out there that died and killed to get at the power murmuring in their genes, and although the Hyuuga served Konohagakure faithfully in return for protection, every Hyuuga ultimately trusted only other Hyuuga to guard their pale, perfect eyes.

Thus, personal feelings for other family members aside, the Hyuuga presented a public image of absolute, structured unity. This perfection was enforced through absolute training, absolute blood, and the absolute belief that an insult to the individual was an insult to the family, to be punished with a vengeance.

Uchiha Sasuke was no Hyuuga, but he had been raised as one. The doctrine of speak-no-family-ill-outside-these-Hyuuga-walls was impressed on him through mild cues and blatant instruction from the moment he stepped into the Main House. Hiashi had watched and handled Sasuke as carefully as he handled his own flesh and blood, and even the most finicky Elder admitted that Hiashi had been a most devoted and responsible guardian. But perhaps blood really was thicker than water, because although the societal construct that was Uchiha Sasuke seemed to assimilate and obey most rules, there was one issue that Sasuke absolutely refused to compromise on.

The cracks on Sasuke's perfect facade appeared when a Hyuuga maid found eight-year-old Sasuke with second-degree chakra burns on his arms. Startling as it was, it wasn't quite as startling as the sight of young Hyuuga Neji with a beautiful black eye and a split lip. The Clan definitely rumbled at the sight of that because while Uchiha was, in a sense, their own, Neji had their blood. But the incident passed relatively unpunished underneath the stern eyes of the Hyuuga Head, and the Hyuuga quieted down soon enough. They didn't know what Hiashi knew. Hiashi had not been distracted by the uproar. He had seen the small bruise marks on Hinata's arms, just as he saw the way Sasuke markedly put his body between tiny Hinata and sneering Neji thereafter. No, Hiashi was not blind, but even with perfect information, he had no perfect solution. Torn between adopted charge, nephew, and eldest daughter, Hiashi decided to let the issue quietly gather dust—and snowball. By the time Hinata and Sasuke entered the Academy, the whole Hyuuga house worked as one seamless machine to keep the Uchiha away from the late Hizashi's son. Really, they wouldn't have bothered so much even if he was the last Uchiha, if it weren't the fact the two children had a terrible habit of clashing outside Hyuuga walls. After the last raised eyebrow from a no-name shinobi, the Elders gave up lecturing Sasuke and settled for ordering Neji to pay the Uchiha a wide berth. Unsurprisingly, this seemed to make the boy only ever more resentful, and although fights occurred less frequently, they were fought with an ever escalating ferocity.

The second crack came when nine year old Sasuke outright tackled an Elder. Again an uproar, and again, Hiashi brushed the incident aside because again, only he remembered what the Elder had been saying at the time. By the time Sasuke turned ten, the whole Hyuuga learned that any time Hinata's lips began to quiver, there would be a dark blur, a flash of black eyes, and usually a fist or a feet smashing into something fleshy and breakable. Although no one exactly approved—truly little Hyuuga Hinata ought to be able to fight her own battles—out of deference to their Clan Head's leniency, they all learned to keep their tone and flinty eyes respectful and demurred. Everyone except Neji that was.

Beyond these flaws however, the Uchiha was tolerable. Acceptable. Perhaps not the perfect asset the Elders wanted, but he served their purposes well enough. Strength excused almost all offenses, and so the Hyuuga learned to bite their tongue whenever Sasuke refused their tailored Hyuuga-marked clothes in favor for the Uchiha symbol. The Hokage paid the Hyuugas the respect they deserved, and they were undoubtedly the preeminent clan of Konahagakure. The Academy teachers had nothing but praise for him, and truly, if only Hinata had half of his talent, life would be perfect for the Hyuuga.

Class was boring as usual. Really, for anyone who came from any family that mattered, the Academy was just a formality.

Not for the first time, twelve-year-old Sasuke scoffed at the civilians—especially the crazy one with pink hair—taking notes. Hinata, who even a whole classroom away could sense him—how she managed to do so was one of those facts of life that Sasuke accepted with the readiness he accepted that the sun always rose in the east— gave a small sigh.

Sasuke shifted rebelliously in his seat. Even after all these years, Hinata was just as nice as ever. Which was fine, if it wasn't for the fact she had a nasty habit of moralizing at him to be "nice" as well.

Hinata pressed her fingers on the table. It was the most public show of irritation he was ever going to get out of her, and Sasuke couldn't help but wonder if she was still annoyed at him for this morning. It wasn't his fault they'd almost been late. Hiashi was in one of his lecturing moods, although admittedly, Sasuke's insistence on tomatoes in his lunchbox may have held them up that extra second.


Sasuke glanced around the class again, only to pause when he noticed the absence of orange and blond. Where Naruto had disappeared to, Sasuke would never know, but Sasuke did know that he ought to be wary. The idiot was always up to mischief, and as amusing as it was at times, Sasuke did not want to be caught in the crossfire.

Speak of the devil.

Sasuke had just enough time and sense to jump toward the back of the classroom when something underneath the teacher's desk suddenly exploded. As paint showered the room, Sasuke could make out a telltale orange blond streak chortling at the door.

Hinata, who had been sitting in the second row, wasn't quite so lucky. Although she had managed to dodge behind a quickly raised textbook, her hair had flecks of green and white in it. But Sasuke didn't need to look at her face to know she wasn't annoyed. Hinata had a strange penchant for the pesky blond, and even at Naruto's worst, Hinata always maintained a serene, even shy smile. It irritated Sasuke. Greatly. Hinata certainly hadn't felt the need to extend that same courtesy to Sasuke himself. She got angry with him plenty of times.


The initial amusement of watching the inept Chuunin being showed up by the most idiotic of Academy students died. Sasuke's face was carefully blank when the enraged teacher barely mouthed out the words "early lunch" before furiously dragging the still-chortling Naruto out the room. The students predictably cheered, and Sasuke soon let himself be dragged by the crowd outside.

The boys yelled and ran for their usual spots near the swings. The girls clustered, giggled, watched adoringly as Sasuke walked by. Despite their eager eyes, no one dared to approach.

Hyuuga Hinata was waiting, bento box in hand and the barest of frowns on her face.

"Are you alright?" Hinata said.

"I'm fine," Sasuke snarled.

Hinata furrowed her eyebrows and wordlessly handed him his bento box. There was nothing else for Sasuke to do but take the offered lunch. Any fight here at the Academy playground would be too public, and Sasuke knew from experience that anything remotely untoward would fall on Hinata's head. As agitated as he was, Sasuke wouldn't do that to her.

Sasuke ate his lunch with more violence than necessary. In contrast, Hinata ate hers with inhuman calm. They ate sitting next to each other under the same tree they'd chosen two years ago on the first day of Academy. The tree, silent and uncaring, was unperturbed by the rising tension.

Not too far away, Haruno Sakura watched with barely concealed envy. She couldn't hear any words, but that wasn't unusual. Hinata and Sasuke were notoriously quiet, and even Ino couldn't get the girl to speak more than a few shy sentences. But from her vantage point, half a mind on the usual girly chatter and the other half watching the silent pair, Sakura thought the two looked comfortable enough.

Ever since Uchiha Sasuke had first entered the Academy two years ago, every girl give or take five years from the benchmark age of ten had been smitten. He was like a doll, only better because he was still pretty in a guy way. Although Sasuke could be rude, he was more polite than most of the other disgusting boys who picked their nose and farted in public. In short, Sasuke was a dream come true.

Sometimes Sakura couldn't help but wonder which was worse: that Sasuke existed or that Sasuke didn't exist for her. If it wasn't for Sasuke, Sakura would have never believed such a boy could possibly exist, which would be sad. But on the other hand, it almost felt just as bad to see such a cute boy be so completely out of her reach. Unlike some of the other boys—and indeed, there were a few cute ones, just none as cute as Sasuke—Sasuke didn't even bother playing the game of pretend-you-don't-exist-but-I'll-squeal-and-scream-cooties-if-you-approached. Sasuke flat out ignored every girl that wasn't that damned Hyuuga Hinata. He ignored their bentos, he ignored their cries, and Sakura hadn't failed to notice how Hinata was the only one who was allowed to call Sasuke's name without honorifics.

Sakura could remember the first few days of the Academy. Back then, everything had been so new, so fresh; everyone had been so inexperienced and unknowing. Of course they'd mobbed Sasuke. They'd cut out hearts, folded origami cranes, spent all night making sloppy bento-boxes, all so they could grab his attention for just one heart-stopping moment.

Sasuke had let them squeal. At first. He didn't hit them, nor did he even scream. If anything, he'd almost been like every other shy boy, bewildered into speechless shock by the sudden attention he received. But when one of the girls made a mistake of throwing a hissy fit about Hinata, things went swiftly downhill. It was almost fortunate that the girl in question had a boy cousin who intervened. Not so much to defend her, but more so as to act as a punching bag for an enraged Sasuke. The Instructors had stepped in quickly, but not quickly enough.

"Stupid," Ino had muttered. "Sasuke would never hit a girl." Although Sakura nodded and pretended to agreed, deep down she wasn't so sure. Regardless of the true intentions, ever since then it had become a well-established play ground rule that both Sasuke and Hyuuga Hinata were strictly off-limits. Sasuke didn't seem to mind when some of the other clan-ed kids—slang used by civilians to refer to Academy students whose shinobi ancestors stretched back at least four generations—such as Inuzuka Kiba and Aburame Shino moved to talk with Hinata, although the girl in question often seemed to be rather reluctant to speak. Sasuke had even grudgingly, very grudgingly, allowed Ino to approach them on the rare occasion. Sakura, whose parents were merchants, was afforded no such courtesy.

"That lazy bastard better not graduate before me."

"What?" Sakura turned and blinked at her beautiful, blonde best-friend.

"The Genin Exams. Honestly Sakura, have you been listening to a word I said?"

Sakura blushed when the question finally settled into her mind. "Sort of," she mumbled. "Are you nervous?"

"A bit," Ino admitted. "But I'll rather die than let Shikamaru get ahead of me," Ino grumbled.

"Don't worry, we'll be fine," Sakura said automatically. Her head nodded and her fingers brushed Ino's sleeve even as her eyes slid away to the two silent figures beneath the tree.

Life wasn't fair.

The moment class was over, Sasuke leapt to his feet and made a beeline for the door. The girls and boys cleared a way for him, and Sasuke did not look back to check if Hinata was following. If she got lost in the crush, Sasuke would have words—an interesting turn of phrase he'd picked up from sitting through so many Clan meetings. It was the Hyuuga Elders's way of saying I'll Hyuuga—or in this case, Uchiha—you into at least the third level of hell.

"Sasuke, I need to run an errand."

Sasuke paused just outside the Academy building and cocked his head. He felt Hinata's presence hover right behind his shoulder.

"Long errand or short?" he frowned suspiciously.

Hinata made a small humming sound. "Short—one of my cousins just had a baby and I want to buy flowers."

Sasuke visibly twitched. "Let's go, before Yamanaka gets back home."

Hinata laughed underneath her breath. Personally she thought Ino was a nice girl, loud and bright. Hinata envied her sometimes.


Hinata blinked and would have turned if Sasuke had not grabbed her arm. Hinata barely had time to brace herself before he suddenly began to run. Hinata allowed herself to be pulled along, although just before they crossed the street she thought she heard the word 'coward' echo across the playground.

"I don't want to waste time on that Naruto-baka," Sasuke muttered darkly.

"I don't understand why you dislike him so much."

"And I don't understand why you don't!" Sasuke hissed. Hinata huffed but allowed him to loosen his grip just slightly, so his hand slid down her arm to grab her own sticky hand.

It wasn't market day, but the village bustled nonetheless. Merchants, villagers, and customers of death and dagger crowded Konahagakure's streets. It was just as well that the shinobi—shinobi with real hitaites, not delusional Academy students who thought they could throw a kunai—ran over the roofs. As Sasuke watched one of them flit by, kunai and hitaite glinting in the sun, he couldn't help but feel envy.

I'll be one of them tomorrow.

It was easy to tell who was a local and who was a foreigner from the way they reacted to Hinata's eyes. The locals smiled and nodded, while the foreigners either flinched or pretended not to see. Both of the children were long used to this kind of attention, and they didn't think twice about feeling eyes hover over them as the two flew into one of the side-roads and headed for the Yamanaka florist shop.

Somewhere distant and yet close, a masked man slowly blinked and walked away.

"Why, if it isn't little Hinata!"

Hinata immediately bowed to Ino's mother. "Yamanaka-sama," she said.

"Don't -sama me! I'm no lady," Ino's mother chuckled. In a way, it was true. Yamanaka Kaoru was only a civilian despite her marriage to Yamanaka Inoichi. The Yamanakas were not quite as insistent on shinobi bloodlines as other clans, for most of their heritage was not reliant on bloodline, but still the Elders had not taken it too kindly when Ino's father had first declared his intent to marry Kaoru so many years ago. Despite her civilian background, Yamanaka Kaoru had proven to be a loving mother, and more importantly, an apt administrator of Yamanaka funds and the extended Yamanaka family. Even the Hyuuga Elders openly admired her, although they were just as quick to remind Hinata that they would not condone such a marriage for the Hyuuga Heiress.

"And you must be Sasuke! My daughters chatters on and on about you. Must be difficult being so handsome, eh?" Yamanaka Kaoru said with a wink.

Much to Hinata's inward amazement, Sasuke almost like abashed. "It's fine," he muttered. Kaoru laughed and waved him off.

"Boys will be boys and girls will be girls. But anyway, Hinata-chan, what brings you here today?"

"One of my cousins just had a child and I wanted to give her flowers," Hinata said shyly. Sasuke protectively hovered around her, not going as far as to put his body in between Hinata and a bemused Kaoru, but his eyes were politely wary, if such a thing were possible.

Aw, cute.

"Daisies then," Yamanaka Kaoru said, thinking out loud, pretending not to notice. "Nothing like daisies for a new mother." She bustled toward the back of the store. "Wait a moment!"

"She's not so bad," Hinata whispered. Sasuke shrugged. Hinata took it as a good sign.

Kaoru soon returned with a beautiful bouquet of daisies. She insisted on giving Hinata discount and then sent away the girl with a smile and wave of her hand. "Sasuke, come here for a moment."

Sasuke reluctantly approached. Hinata curiously lingered at the door, until Kaoru made a shooing motion, forcing the girl to step outside.

"Be nice to Hinata-chan or else someone will take her away," Kaoru whispered into Sasuke's ear.

Sasuke flushed and didn't even bother to say good bye before he stomped out. Kaoru bit back a giggle as she watched the boy dodge Hinata's questions and forcefully drag the girl away. Just as they disappeared behind the corner, the bells attached to the front door jingled.

"Okaa-san, I'm home!"

"Ino, don't shout so loudly," Kaoru scolded. Ino shrugged.

"Okaa-ssan, there's a Genin test tomorrow. I think I'll actually pass this time!"

"Congratulations," Kaoru said. She smiled and did her best to hide her unease. She knew from the moment Ino had been born what her child was destined for—it didn't make the fact any easier.

'They grow up so fast,' Kaoru thought. She looked wistfully at her beautiful daughter.

"Anyway Ino, did you know you just missed Sasuke and Hinata?"

Like Kaoru expected, her daughter squealed. "Sasuke-kun was here?" Kaoru thought that if she squinted, she could almost see hearts twinkling in the air around Ino. For a brief moment, she wondered if she should warn her little daughter. But Ino was fast approaching the age where Kaoru could no longer protect her. Kaoru didn't know the head or a tail of a kunai, but in matters of the heart, she thought she knew a thing or two, and her instincts were telling her to lay low.

After all, even if Ino was soon being sent out to risk her life, she was still only a twelve-year-old girl.

"Hinata-sama, Uchiha-kun, I didn't expect you to come!"

Hinata shook her head. "No, don't say that." She smiled at the small, tiny, helpless bundle. "Hello Hideaki-kun."

Branch member Hyuuga Kyoko chuckled and looked fondly down at her new son. "He's quiet now, at least."

"Does he…?"

"Yes, he has the Byagukan." Kyoko's eyes dropped. Her husband looked away. "He'll have the sealing ceremony in a month."

"I'm sorry."

"It's not Hinata-sama's fault," Kyoko managed cheerfully.

Sasuke watched as Hinata chattered quietly with the Branch Hyuuga. Even after all the years, Hinata still found it difficult to talk to strangers, but with her own family, she was all heart. The Elders may strive for cool, detached formality, but over the years Sasuke had noticed Branch family were somewhat informal, partially because of the outsiders that married into the family. Although the Branch family was still managed by the Hyuuga-head, love matches did happen from time to time, and outsiders, even outsiders that came from established shinobi families, were usually a lot more open about their affections. Hyuuga Kyoko had been lucky enough to marry for love, and although her husband was only a low-ranking Jounin, he quite obviously adored his wife.

It made Sasuke wonder whether or not his own parents had married for love.

Probably not.

"I don't want to bother you any longer. Thank you for having us," Hinata murmured.

"Don't say that, Hinata-sama! It was very kind of you to come." Kyoko moved to bow, but Hinata shook her head as she rose.

"Don't, you'll wake up the baby." She gave one last smile before she bowed and left. Sasuke nodded and vanished after her.

"The Elders would say you're wasting your time," Sasuke said idly as they walked toward the Main Compound. Hinata fiddled with her fingers.

"Do you think I'm wasting my time?" she whispered, hiding her eyes behind her bangs.

Sasuke thought for a moment and then poked her forehead. "If it makes you happy."

It wasn't exactly an answer, but from the way Hinata smiled, it was enough of an answer for her.

Behind them, Hyuuga Kyoko tucked in her newborn son into his crib with a sigh and moved to lean against her husband.

"So the rumors were true."

"Hm?" she murmured.

"The Uchiha really does follow Hinata like a dog."

Kyoko recoiled. "It's Hinata-sama!" she snapped. "And you should be thankful Sasuke is willing to protect her. Kami knows her life is hard enough as it is."

Her husband looked surprised. "Kyoko—"

"Don't speak of what you don't know." She softened. "I love you, but there are some things only a Hyuuga would understand."

"I heard a Genin test is happening tomorrow," Hyuuga Hiashi said calmly. Hinata tensed.

"Yes, Otou-sama," she said quietly. Neji pretended not to hear her while Hanabi peered out from behind her rice bowl. Sasuke pointedly snapped up the last of the fish.

"I'm sure both of you will do well." It was a discreet order.

The ends of Hinata's chopsticks trembled. "Yes, Otou-sama."

Although not so much as an eyebrow twitched, Neji got that look on his face, the look that made Sasuke want to smash his fist into Neji's nose. Sasuke forced his irritation away, and instead of placing the fish in his own bowl, he shoved it into Hinata's rice.

"Eat," he said curtly.

The chopsticks stopped trembling. "Thank you," Hinata murmured. Neji outright frowned, while Hanabi and Hiashi watched silently, thoughtfully.

Later that night, Hinata sneaked into Sasuke's room. Sasuke had been expecting her, and he raised himself on his elbows when he heard the paper door slide open. Hinata padded to kneel next to the futon.

"Don't tell me you're actually nervous," Sasuke said flatly. Hinata stared at the ground and pulled at her sleeping robe. She had outgrown the biting-lip habit when she was ten, after Sasuke had snapped at her about it for two years, but she still couldn't stop fidgeting whenever she got anxious.

"You'll do fine." Sasuke laid back down with a huff.

"But what if—"

Sasuke snorted. "If you don't, then I'll stay behind an extra quarter," he said calmly.

Hinata gasped. "You can't do that!"

Sasuke frowned. "Keep your voice down."

"But Sasuke, you can't."

"Of course I can't. Which means you have to pass."

Hinata blinked.

"We're supposed to be on the same Genin team, which means you have to graduate," Sasuke said. Even when lying down, he seemed to be able to shrug. "Don't worry about it, baka. Go back to sleep."

Once again, they weren't nice words, but Hinata brightened all the same. She tapped Sasuke's wrist twice.

"Good night. Thank you again."

"Baka, stop saying thank you," Sasuke muttered.

Iruka passed the Hyuuga Clan Head on his way into the Hokage's office. He immediately bowed and murmured greetings. Hiashi only nodded, and Iruka didn't have much time to wonder why Hiashi was having a meeting with the Hokage before he was called in.

"So, these are the results. I see that Naruto's name is on here as well," the Hokage said around his pipe as he stared at the list.

"Given the situation with Mizuki," Iruka said nervously. "I thought he deserved it."

"I agree. You weren't wrong in doing that," the Hokage said.

Iruka breathed a sigh of relief and then straightened. "I've taken to planning a draft of possible team combinations—"

"You've put Hinata and Sasuke together. Why is that?"

Iruka blinked. Out of all the teams he'd made, he hadn't expected to be questioned for that. When he had been drafting the teams, that combination had been one of the easiest and obvious ones to make, almost as easy and obvious as the Ino-Shika-Cho trio.

"It's a very strong match, having a Hyuuga and a Uchiha placed together. Hinata is also the only girl who Sasuke actually likes." Iruka shifted, almost guiltily. "And given the custom of putting the last with the first, Naruto would be placed with Sasuke. Hinata is one of the few girls who doesn't discriminate against Naruto, so it also made sense to place her—"

The Hokage shook his head. Iruka snapped his mouth close immediately and waited.

"Place her with Shino and Kiba. Sakura can be moved to complete Team 7."

"Hokage-sama, if it isn't too presumptuous—can I ask why?"

The Hokage looked steadily at Iruka and rather gently said, "What do you think a Genin cell represents?"


The Hokage took a long puff on his pipe before answering. "For one thing, it's survival. Ideally, all Genin would survive long enough to make Chuunin. Unlikely, but ideally that's the case. Thus, we must plan these cells out accordingly, in order to maximize the greatest survival for the greatest amount of people, all for the greatness of Konahagakure."

The Hokage gave a raspy chuckle. "At least, that's the mindset we tell ourselves. There's one thing we forget though, Iruka." The Hokage looked steadily into Iruka's eyes. "Beyond the fact that these are shinobi to our village, these are also individuals with their own circumstances. In the case of Hyuuga Hinata, there's more at stake here than survival."

"Tell me, Iruka. Do you believe Hinata will survive if she's placed with Sasuke? It's not a trick question."


"Of course she will. And if she doesn't, it'll be in a situation where Sasuke dies as well. Don't look at me like that, you know as well as I do what kind of personality Sasuke has."

"Surviving is one thing, but Hinata needs to learn to be strong herself. If she is to become the Hyuuga Head some day, there are things she needs to learn that can only be learned away from Sasuke's shadow."

"As for Sasuke himself, it's about time he realizes there's a world besides himself and the Hyuugas. Not that I am not displeased with the relationship he's built with his foster family, but the Hyuuga Clan is a rather stratified society unto itself. Am I making sense or do I sound like a meddlesome old man?"

Iruka could only bow. He bowed deeply, sincerely. "I wish I could think like you, Hokage-sama."

The Hokage sighed.

"Don't think that way. I wish I could be like you, Iruka, and I do mean that sincerely." He slouched and glanced out the window, where Konahagakure glittered in the night. "I wish I didn't have to do this job. It makes an a man think of bad, no, evil thoughts about humanity. I'm too old for this."

"Class, settle down!"

Even Sasuke leaned forward. Anticipation hummed in the air, coursing from student to student like an electric current. Sakura gripped the edge of her desk, hard.

"I will now announce the teams. Team 1…"

Every girl that was announced in the first six teams sighed with disappointment. So much for their dreams to be placed with Sasuke-kun. In contrast, the girls that remained uncalled were close approaching the point of hysteria. Only Hyuuga Hinata remained somewhat close to calm. She mentally ticked off the boys left and tried her best not to blush when she realized Naruto remained un-called.

"Team 7. Uchiha Sasuke—"

As one, all the girls sucked in their breaths. Even the ones who knew there team assignations waited, wondering who would be the lucky girl they would all universally hate.

"Uzumaki Naruto—"

Naruto looked scandalized while Sasuke had a resigned, but unsurprised look on his face. He had been expecting it, given the Academy tradition of pairing the dead-last with the top rookie.

"—and Haruno Sakura."

The girls roared. Sakura's eyes were wide and her cheeks were flushed. She pointed at herself, as if not quite believing it. Three seats behind her, Hinata had gone very, very white. Next to her, Sasuke looked furious.

"Team 8—"


In all the years he had attended the Academy, no one had ever heard Sasuke raise his voice. Sasuke was the cool kid, the one who always kept his head, even when Naruto did his worst. The classroom went silent.

"Excuse me?" Iruka said. Even from his seat in the very back of the classroom, Sasuke's dark eyes bored into Iruka's own, and although it really shouldn't be that scary, it was.

"Why am I placed with that team?" Sasuke gritted out.

"These are orders, Genin," Iruka snapped. "If you have issues with it you can return that forehead protector."

Hinata grabbed Sasuke's arm. She minutely shook her head. After a long moment, Sasuke sat down.

"Team 8, Aburame Shino, Inuzuka Kiba, and Hyuuga Hinata."

"It'll be fine," Hinata whispered. "It'll be fine."

"Saying it twice doesn't make it true," Sasuke snapped.

Hinata tugged on his arm. "We are shinobi," she said simply. "We will survive." She tried to smile. "Besides, it's not that bad."

Sasuke wasn't fooled. Despite Hinata's soft voice and even softer smile, it didn't hide the fact it really was that bad.

Author's Note: Below is my explanation in case readers are confused by the characterization. I do my best not to be out-of-character, and thus I provide the following "thesis" on why Sasuke is Sasuke and Hinata is Hinata:

Firstly, in my interpretation of canon, much of Sasuke's character comes from him living without a family for over seven years. Assuming that he really was left alone in the Uchiha Compound, not only does he have to fend for himself in terms of daily chores—and as every college freshman knows, there is no greater time to feel homesick than the first time you have to do laundry yourself—there will be extended periods of time where he has to go without human contact. Even if he never becomes quite close to the Hyuuga, he's still in an environment where he's exposed to a familial structure on a daily basis.

Secondly, even though the Main Branch is a real-politick, dog-eat-dog-world, amongst the Branch families it is logical to suspect there are some happy families. Given Hinata's nature, Sasuke would undoubtedly be exposed to examples where real happiness does exist. Although he isn't consciously aware of it yet, Sasuke is somewhat aware that there really are good things in the world—such as Hinata herself. It would be no exaggeration to say that Hinata is literally a pillar of existence for Sasuke. Hinata is almost like a mother, in the sense she provides unconditional love. For every young child, such a love is very important, and although Sasuke definitely remains scarred from the Uchiha Massacre, in some sense some of the worst psychological scars have been tempered by Hinata's existence.

Thirdly, it makes sense that Sasuke would transfer his protectiveness instinct onto Hinata. While in canon, Sasuke didn't have anyone to protect after the Uchiha Massacre, which inevitably lead to the death of said protective instinct and the growing belief that there's really nothing left in the world for him—and don't say Naruto and Sakura, because arguably by the time they enter his life at age twelve, it's almost too late to fight against a long-ingrained grudge, and Orochimaru just proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back—here Hinata just happens to be there at the right place at the right time. Even more importantly, Hinata is one factor that isn't overshadowed by Itachi's memory, which makes her doubly important in the shaping of Sasuke's psyche.

Lastly, as readers have noted, Hyuuga Hinata seems a lot more "confident". I wouldn't say confident is the right word, but she definitely has self-esteem. For Hinata, Sasuke is self-esteem. Sasuke may definitely still be a selfish son-of-a-bitch, but for Hinata, once again, he's one factor in her life almost—not a completely, but almost—completely removed from the Hyuuga power-struggle. He may snap at her for being weak, but it won't be the same snap that the Elder's speak. The Elders would press on Hinata that being weak means failing the Hyuuga, while Sasuke would snap at Hinata for being weak for her own sake. Read that sentence twice, my dear readers. I'm sure it'll make sense.

The Academy scene is also quite significant. Readers may wonder why fangirls don't, well, obsessively fan-girl in this alternate universe as they do in canon. One word answer: Hinata. For the same reason why in real life celebrities sometimes fear of revealing a relationship because it may hurt their popularity, similarly put, Hinata puts a damper on things. The fact she is a Hyuuga also will undoubtedly incite an inferiority complex in several of the girls. Similarly, Ino and Sakura would have no reason to break up.

Although I accept that canon is a manga at heart, an entertaining shounen which needs humor and action, if you look at the Naruto-verse realistically, there should be a lot more angst in terms of the whole clan vs civilian situation. History proves that in a militaristic society, there will be class stratifications based on strength and bloodline. Konohagakure would undoubtedly be the same. Pandemonium is my attempt at bit of realism, and reality is often unpleasant. Thus, I have tried my best to stress the tensions between the clan-ed and the non-clan-ed.

I hope I haven't given away too much spoilers here, but I feel it is important to know. Pandemonium may be a romance, but it is also a political drama. If it feels to hard to handle, I have written plenty of other fluff for readers.

"Thesis" aside, I hope you have enjoyed this chapter! I would love to hear from you; reviews tell me if my meanings are being conveyed. They also let me know what the reader likes or dislikes, and fundamentally, that changes the story as well.

Thank you!