I've realised that every short story I write for this one-shot collection will feature the Kitakami river in some way. I don't know why though :)
I don't own Naruto.
The compound receives its first summer light through the patio doors and Neji sits in a plastic chair, the quietude sinking blissfully into his skin. Hinata is down by the Kitakami river and he can see her hand wading about in the water, searching for weeds to blend to medicine. He smiles to himself as she pushes her long hair behind her ear in a vain attempt to keep it dry.
A noise to his right tells him he is no longer alone and he stands to see Hiashi, a proud smile on his face. He takes a seat beside his nephew and sighs deeply, something he rarely does in company.
"I've done it Neji. I've found her a suitor," he says and Neji's stomach clenches. "He is a fine young man from Sunagakure, the son of a wealthy daimyo. They have a bloodline limit!" It is as if all Hiashi's wishes have come true. It is as if all of Neji's nightmares have become reality.
"Are you sure Hiashi-sama? Hinata is so young," he whispers in a vain attempt to make amends, "She will not be happy. She will not love him."
Hiashi looks confused. "It has been a very long time since Hyuuga has married for love, Neji. That's not about to change." Neji grits his teeth. Hinata is nothing more than a doll to be sold to the highest bidder.
"I know that," he whispers harshly and is afraid that he is giving away too much. After all, didn't he make it this far by being aloof and detached? It was the only way to keep their secret.
"Has Hinata met her groom to be?"
"Once," replies Hiashi, "but only briefly. She doesn't know that they are to be married. I would like for you to tell her the joyous news."
She is crying and he is breaking and their world is falling apart. "I cannot marry him, Neji," she whispers horrified. "I can't."
He doesn't say anything, just sits on the small box in the shed where they usually meet. She looks at him imploringly. "I love you! I cannot marry him. And bear his children," she says and her hands are trembling. Neji flinches at the latter. A rage inside of him is ablaze but he reels it in, closes his eyes and breathes as deeply as he can.
"I will have to leave Konoha! You and I will never be together again!" She is trying to get a reaction from him. She wants to know what he is feeling. "Don't you love me?" she asks.
He nods once gently, and then once more. "I do."
She looks outraged and for the first time, her gentle eyes turn fierce. "Then say something!"
She still doesn't understand as she cries beautiful tears at the reception. She blames it on joy but Neji and Hanabi know that this is not the case. "Thank you so much for the gift, Kazekage-sama," she says gently, turning to her new leader. "It is too much."
Gaara proceeds in a vain attempt at being social and Hinata manages to break away from the hoard of well-wishers. Neji joins her because that is what a cousin should do, he tells himself.
"You don't love me," she says. He nods and replies; "I don't love you."
Her tears become fast and she excuses herself quickly. It is easier this way, he tells himself. If she knew that he didn't love her, he adores her, she would never even try to be happy. His body is trembling and his heart is pounding and he needs her near him but knows that it is futile. He should have never told her that he loved her. Better to love and be silent.
She is crying and he is breaking and their world is falling apart.
TBC- Not too sure about this one. Any thoughts?