5

xxxxx

The moment Hyuuga Hanabi walked into his office looking as if she wanted to break shit Itachi knew that something suspicious was going on. Instead of calling her out on it immediately, however, he merely leaned back in his chair, clasped his hands together and regarded her coolly "And to what do I owe the honor of this visit, Hyuuga-san?"

The short woman crossed her arms, looking every bit like the well bred aristocrat that she was in her dark brown business suit "You know why I'm here, Uchiha." Pale eyes narrowed but he did not react.

I am beginning to get an idea, yes. "Do indulge me, Hyuuga-san. It is quite early in the morning and I have yet to have any coffee."

She didn't seem to find his joke funny "I want to know what the hell you two Uchiha brothers think you're doing with my sister. Hinata tells me she had a date with your brother but he all but ditches her for Ino, then I find out you kissed my sister last weekend. I thought you two were better than your reputation for being womanizers."

He only blinked at her and noticed with an inward smirk that her brow had just twitched. Hanabi might be good at manipulating people and intimidating them, but he was Uchiha Itachi and his patience was infinite. He didn't believe in coincidences and he knew Hinata wouldn't have called Hanabi and even if she had, she wouldn't have revealed much unless she had been prodded and asked the right questions. He was also well aware of the fact that Hanabi and Ino were very good friends. If Hanabi had known about the date he was almost positive it had been from someone besides Hinata; she wasn't one for broadcasting her business.

The older Uchiha wasn't entirely sure of what was going on but if they had wanted to fool him they should have waited a few days. Striking so soon now had his gears turning and he was now fully analyzing everything that had happened up to this point.

"You owe my sister an apology." She cut in and he nodded. He did and he would apologize, but he wasn't going to say that out loud. Realizing this, Hanabi walked up and slapped her hand down on his table "Uchiha! I want some sort of explanation, my sister is really hurt and confused. Why did you kiss her if you weren't interested?"

"I do not do anything I do not wish to do." He said calmly "And I do not do things without a reason."

She smirked "Nice try, Uchiha but I'm not stupid and dodging doesn't work on me. You two are going to make this up to my sister."

Itachi let the silence stretch as his mind continued to work out what was going on. It was all too convenient; Sasuke wanting to go on a date with Hinata, insisting that he tag along and then showing a sudden interest in Ino where he never had before. Now Hanabi was in his office early Monday morning, knowing everything that had happened over the weekend. It all fell into place too well. Regardless, he'd play the game for a little while longer.

"What do you propose I do, Hyuuga-san? I have already agreed to apologize."

Standing up straight she crossed her arms "Do you really like my sister, Uchiha or were you just playing around?"

It took him but a moment to respond, knowing that her reaction would probably reveal the true purpose of her visit "Yes, I do care for her."

"Prove it."

He almost smiled, instead he raised his brows slightly "State your terms."

"If you really like my sister, take her out on a real date and give her a real apology. And don't half-ass it, you're not poor, I know that much."

Staring at Hanabi a moment longer instead of answering he pulled out his cell phone and pressed one button. Ignoring the younger Hyuuga's confused stare he closed his eyes briefly when Hinata's voice came in hesitantly on the other end.

"H-hello?" she sounded nervous and apprehensive.

"Good morning, Hyuuga-san. I apologize for calling so early in the morning but I have good reason." When she didn't respond he continued "Are you free tonight?"

Stunned silence. Even Hanabi was giving him a slightly surprised look "I…" it sounded as if she were outside for he could hear cars in the background "I didn't have…anything planned…"

He looked directly at Hanabi "Hyuuga-san, there is apparently some mischief and confusion about. I am not entirely positive of everything going on, however, you do deserve an explanation for my actions towards you thus far. I would prefer to do so properly and in person but I would certainly understand if you no longer wish to –"

"N-no, no!" she hastened to reassure him "I…I have been confused b-but…I never felt that you had meant to hurt me o-or anything like that." Another pause "I..I-I would…like to meet up with you."

The admission surprised him, he had to admit. Even though the situation had looked rather shady and horrible she still had refused to think ill of him. Then again, her kind and positive nature was one of the reasons he had fallen in love with her in the first place "Tonight it is then. I will stop by at six-thirty if that is acceptable?"

"Yes…that's fine."

"I will see you at six-thirty then." Hanging up he leaned forward, regarding Hanabi "Now that I have complied with your attempts to manipulate me, I do believe an explanation is in order." He raised two fingers "I have but two questions to start. One, how deep was my brother involved in this obvious plot and two, why did my brother resort to such measures if he held no true interest in Hyuuga-san?"

It wasn't the entire truth. Sasuke had been interested in Hinata, somewhere along the way that interest had abruptly waned and this elaborate plan had been concocted. She didn't need to know that.

The woman laughed and shrugged, a wry smirk on her face "I told them you wouldn't be so easily fooled. I gotta give you credit, I had expected you to struggle through it for at least a day or so."

This time he did smile "You played your hand too soon; Uchiha do not believe in coincidences. Then again, it was not me you were trying to fool for any extended period of time anyway, correct?"

Another shrug "Sasuke did it because if he hadn't, you never would have asked my sister out. You know, you older siblings always feel like you have to sacrifice your happiness for the younger sibling…did you ever stop to think that maybe seeing you unhappy would make us unhappy? Really Uchiha, do you honestly believe Sasuke would want to be with the girl his brother is obviously in love with? Give us siblings a little credit, we care about you as much as you care about us."

"He could have simply told me he was truly not interested…"

Hanabi snorted "Whatever. The moment you would have found out that he had done it because of your feelings for my sister you would have felt bad and backed off and you know it. Oneesan is the exact same way. She would blame herself, thinking she had somehow deprived me of something. How do you think that makes us feel, knowing that you're sacrificing your happiness when we want you to be happy? You guys are dumb when it comes to that sometimes."

He leaned back again, taking in her words. As much as he did not wish to admit it, she had a point. Sasuke hadn't told him because he had felt that he couldn't, so instead he had resorted to sneaking around. He did still feel bad, however, and Hanabi must have noticed it for she made an irritated noise.

"Try being selfish for once." She snapped as if reading his mind "Us younger siblings won't be offended, in fact, we'd love it if you were stingy every now and then."

Dark eyes blinked at her a few times before he began to chuckle lightly "Very well," he said lightly "you have made your point on behalf of younger siblings everywhere and I will comply."

Her expression became very serious "She's always liked you, you know. She just never thought she'd have a chance with you so she tried not to think about it."

Briefly, he looked away from Hanabi "I see." There were times when he seriously disliked the fact that he and his brother had as many admirers as they did; it made women like Hinata feel as if they could never compete or that she wouldn't be considered attractive to them. Both males had been fond of Hinata, his feelings were just deeper than Sasuke's. Much deeper. In the end, he was still a human being, he had never believed himself to be better than anyone else or that he had to have a vain set of standards. "Is there anything else, Hyuuga-san?"

"Yeah, don't screw it up this time. If you like my sister, be a man about it."

Itachi smirked briefly but there was no humor in his eyes. He wasn't entirely sure what would happen tonight and he had been given a lot to think on "I'll try not to disappoint. Now, if you do not mind, I would like to get to work now."

xxxxx

"Hello? Aniki?"

"Sasuke. I know."

Silence, then a sigh "Listen, the only reason –"

"I did not call to berate you. Hyuuga-san – the younger one – made some valid points to which I will continue to evaluate. The fact that you had not felt that you could directly come to me is no one's fault but my own. With that said, you no longer need to pretend to be interested in Yamanaka-san, that is not something –"

"Who says I'm not interested?"

A pause and then a small chuckle "I see. I wish you luck then."

Sasuke snorted "Luck? Maybe. First I have to get revenge. She said the 'p' word one time too many. She wouldn't make it easy for me, I'm sure as hell not going to make it easy for her."

This time he started laughing lightly "You two have fun with that."

"You gonna tell her the truth, aniki?"

There was a long pause "Yes, at this point I do believe I should."

"Even though she might reject you?"

"…Yes. Her feelings are more important than my pride."

"You definitely got it for her bad, aniki. I never thought I'd hear those words from you."

Another chuckle "We all have to grow up someday, Sasuke. It takes some longer than others. I will be late returning to the apartment tonight, do not worry about dinner for me."

"Sure thing." Silence "Itachi?"

"Yes?"

"Good luck."

"Hm." he sounded slightly amused "Hopefully I will not need it."

xxxxx

Her room was a complete and total disaster zone. Most of it had to do with the fact that she was still unpacking, the other was her tossing around clothes trying to find something to wear for her date tonight.

She truly did believe that Itachi had never intentionally tried to hurt her, he wasn't that sort of person. He had claimed that there had been some mischief that he wasn't completely sure of. It was all confusing but she knew he had asked her out tonight to set the record straight and she wanted that. His words from Friday night still bounced around in her head. If what he had said was true then it meant that he did have romantic feelings for her. Hinata wasn't entirely sure how she would deal with that, this was Uchiha Itachi after all, but they had known each other for years – she didn't want to be estranged with him.

Although she was sure Ino would have been able to fit her into something appealing she didn't want to call her. If what Itachi said was true about there being mischief going on she was almost positive her blonde friend had something to do with it. Hinata wanted the truth so she could put the situation behind her, which meant no outside interference or viewpoints.

Knowing that he was more than likely going to take her some place fancy she ended up going with a dress Hanabi had picked out for her almost a year ago. It was black with somewhat thick straps. There was cleavage showing but definitely not enough to seem unsightly. The top looked as if it wrapped around her in a crisscross fashion before flaring out, the front cutting off right at her shins to slope down at the back. She kept her hair down and wore a simple designer watch. By the time she had finished putting on a light amount of makeup he had arrived.

Heart pounding, she steeled herself as much as she could, walked out to her door and opened it. Itachi was a few inches taller than her so she had to look up at him. He was wearing a dark red silk shirt, his coat, and black slacks. While that was all well and good, it was the way he looked at her which had her face turning a bright shade of red. At first there had been slight surprise which had quickly turned into something else entirely.

He smiled warmly at her which made her heart and stomach do some rather funny things "You look beautiful." He said sincerely and her face brightened even more "I've never said it before but I have always found you to be so."

Her mouth almost dropped. The smile had disappeared and he was definitely serious. How was she supposed to feel about that? He had found her beautiful? But she was…

"Th-thank you…" she looked down demurely. A hand caught her attention and she looked at it before looking up at its owner. His gaze was unreadable but that meant little, she had known him long enough to know the less he showed the more he was trying to hide. Gingerly, she took his hand, fascinated by how his was so much larger than hers. Crossing the threshold she closed her door and locked it. When she turned to face him again she found he was staring at her intensely. With his free hand he brushed fingers along the side of her face and jaw, warmth in his gaze although his expression was flat and emotionless. He looked as if he were going to say something, thought better of it and began to lead her from the apartment complex to his car.

The drive was silent but surprisingly not uncomfortable. Somehow an unspoken understanding had happened between them. It wasn't just that; Itachi seemed…different. He seemed to be less guarded and was more open. When he looked at her she could see the warmth in his gaze instead of cool indifference. There was also a subtle heat there as well; either he was a good actor or he was truly interested in her. It was as if he no longer felt a need to hold back, which made Hinata wonder why he had felt the need to do so to begin with.

The restaurant was supposed to be American-style high class cuisine; no burgers at this joint. Taking his arm she found that the place lived up to its name: New Vegas. It looked like the pictures she had always seen of that city; large and elaborate, crystal chandeliers and gold trim everywhere. The walls were red with an interesting design to them and she wasn't entirely sure but there seemed to be a small casino off to the side as a separate room. Once again the Uchiha had no reservation and once again it had not been needed. She wondered just how many connections the man had.

They were guided up a beautiful spiral staircase to the top floor. It gave them a wonderful view of the full interior of the place and Hinata did find it enchanting. Once they had placed their orders he began to speak although he was not looking at her but to the side.

"Your sister paid me a visit this morning." He informed her and she gasped, hands flying to her mouth in stunned horror.

"I'm…I-I'm so sorry, Uchiha-san…" that little sister of hers…they definitely needed to have a talk in the future "I hope she…I hope she wasn't rude…"

The corners of his mouth twitched upward slightly "She was…insightful." This time he did smile, tilting his head in her direction "She did not do or say anything I did not need to hear. In any case, it would appear that our siblings found us too stubborn to deal with concerning direct confrontation and so they resorted to mischief. I suppose I can only blame myself for most of it but it was definitely done out of love and concern, not malice and spite."

Hinata somewhat understood what he was talking about but mostly was confused "I…don't understand. What did they do?"

He turned to face her and their gazes locked. What he was thinking or feeling she had no idea, she just knew that whatever it was, it seemed intense. Then he blinked as the food arrived, breaking the spell.

"I am not entirely sure when it happened, but Sasuke discovered my true feelings for you and instead of confronting me on it he decided to set up a scenario to where his lack of interest towards you would seem legitimate. He had expressed an interest in you and it was the reason I said nothing, thusly starting these chain of events. Had I told him the truth none of this would have happened."

"Y-your t-t-true feelings?" it barely came out as a squeak. She was still confused but she was beginning to get an idea of it. Sometime after what had happened between them Sasuke must have told him he was interested and Itachi reacted accordingly. It had been selfless on his part and it confirmed her suspicions that he hadn't tried to hurt her on purpose.

But true feelings? What on earth did he mean by that? Just thinking it made her feel as if her heart were about to burst from her chest and she fought to keep herself from letting out shaky breaths.

His face was still bland and neutral; his eyes told a different story "Yes. I know it must have been confusing. I apologize for the misunderstanding, you are right in the fact that it had never been my intention to hurt you."

"Oh." Looking down at her half-eaten plate of pasta she poked at it with her fork "If…Sasuke-san hadn't, um, said anything…what…"

"If he had not expressed an interest in you, I would have tried to determine if you held any feelings beyond friendship for me and I would have pursued you if you did." When she looked up at him with surprise and confusion he sighed slightly "I have held feelings for you since the beginning, Hinata, but you did not seem interested and so I hesitated in doing anything about it. You had always seemed content with our relationship the way it was and I had not wished to ruin that or make you uncomfortable."

It was only the fact that she had been raised to be proper at all times that her mouth stayed glued instead of dropping and possibly revealing all of the food she had been chewing. From the beginning he had liked her? That just seemed unreal. "W-why?"

The question confused him and so he jumped to the most logical conclusion he could think of "Why did I not say anything all this time?"

She shook her head "N-no I mean…why me? You're…" she cut herself off when he actually slightly frowned at her.

"What is so wrong with you that I would not find you appealing?" did he sound…offended?

"I…" she didn't know how to answer the question without upsetting him as she was obviously doing "It's just…I'm me and you're you."

He did not initially respond; instead he sat back a bit, regarding her "Hinata," she blushed at his familiar tone with her "do you believe me to be arrogant or feel that I consider myself to be above others?"

Pale eyes widened "No! No, t-that's not…I mean I'd never…"

"Then why do you believe that you're so beneath me that I would not find you to be my type or to be attractive? What sort of woman do you see me being with, exactly?"

Itachi was actually offended; if she hadn't known him for years she wouldn't have noticed it due to how flat he had sounded. Instead of responding she regarded him a bit sadly, feeling guilty. Everyone put the Uchiha family on a pedestal, the brothers especially. They were handsome, came from a good family, geniuses in their own right, and could have any woman they wanted. She didn't really want to answer his question because it would only further offend him and if she were honest with herself she couldn't blame him. The types of women she and many other females saw him with were all completely superficial. Beautiful, full figured, possibly a celebrity or someone rich and famous. Itachi wasn't a superficial person so why would he date a superficial woman? Even though she was probably the only female he allowed to be close to him she had shared that same mindset even though she knew better.

"I…I'm sorry." She said finally and when he blinked his gaze seemed a bit warmer and he looked slightly apologetic.

"I have never considered myself to be a man who had a type or preferences when it came to women. If I did, however, it would be you, not a supermodel or a rich man's daughter as women seem to believe I would desire."

That statement made her unable to continue to look at him and her gaze shifted back to her plate of food. She didn't reply and he did not press her for one so they continued to eat in silence, Hinata taking in his words. Itachi was a quiet, down to earth individual who preferred solitude over crowds. He was not a socially exciting person, in fact most women would find him to be rather boring were he anyone else. He was kind but did not open himself up easily. None of those traits complimented the type of women he was associated to possibly being attracted to. He would more than likely prefer an individual like him; quiet, unobtrusive, kind, and intelligent. Someone who didn't enjoy being in the limelight, someone perfectly content to spend nights at home simply enjoying each other's company or doing whatever they wished.

Someone like her.

Looking up at him she frowned slightly "Uchiha-san I…" she paused when she took in his expression. It was a slight smile but it was there nonetheless and she found herself returning it. 'No harm, no foul' was what his expression seemed to say and she felt relieved. Hinata would have felt horrible if she had truly hurt his feelings.

"There is a park not too far from here," he took a drink of his wine "would you care to join me for a walk afterwards?"

Her response was to nod. There were still a few things he wanted to discuss with her, she could tell by his mannerisms and tone. That was fine, she wanted to know them. For one, what were Itachi's feelings exactly? He said he had feelings for her but how deep did they go? And what now? Now that she knew everything had been a misunderstanding along with overall lack of communication on all sides what did that mean for them? Then the real question; what did she want from all of this? Hinata was still a bit unsure.

They did not get dessert; Itachi paid for their meal and the two were now walking arm in arm towards the nearby park. As they entered she regarded the name curiously. "Fuuhaizu Park?"

"The Suna company sponsored this park." he explained "Although it is not the season, during the spring and summer months all of the rose bushes you see come into bloom. Sakura trees were placed here as well and it is when you see the most individuals here during the year."

As they walked along the cobblestone walkway she took in the lush trees and grass, the beautiful water fountain in the middle and the dozens and dozens of rose bushes that lined the entire area of the park. 'Wind Rose' was definitely a suitable name and it was beautiful even without all the flowers. Their walk was mostly in comfortable silence. It was nice being so close to him and she could hardly believe that it was happening. Whenever she looked up at Itachi she was struck at how someone as handsome and regal as him could possibly have any feelings for her. Everything about him was so…perfect.

They stopped once they reached the path that passed by the actual fountain. It was lit with shifting lights and the statue itself was beautiful. It was a woman looking as if she were climbing out of a beautiful rose. Her hands were spread out in front and it looked as if roses were spilling from her hands along with the water. It was truly beautiful and she found herself entranced by it. She was very aware of her date standing very close behind her, also looking up at the statue. When a warm hand gently slid down her arm her face began to flare and she turned slightly to face him.

His expression was unreadable but his eyes shined with an intensity that not even the night could dull. Gently, she felt fingertips brush along her chin, tilting her head up towards him "While this was not exactly the way I would have preferred for everything to have happened I once again want to apologize for hurting you." He slowly turned her until she was fully facing him "The one thing I will not apologize for, however, were the events prior to that incident. Although kissing you had been a rash decision on my part, I do not regret it and so I cannot apologize for it." the fingers that had been under her chin shifted to brush along her jaw line "For hurting you, I will…" his gaze shifted only briefly "my heart is in your hands to do with as you wish, be it to accept or discard. It was only recently that I realized but I am in love with you Hinata and I probably have been for quite some time. I would love nothing more than to be with you but I would understand if you did not wish to involve yourself with me after what has happened."

Hinata stared at him, eyes wide, face crimson, mouth slightly agape. He loved her? He was in love with her? The shock of such an admission had floored her, so much that she began to feel light headed and darkness claimed her as she fainted.

Warmth surrounded her when she finally managed to regain consciousness and she realized that she was sitting on something soft. Making a small noise she tried to curl up a bit and buried her face into…a chest.

Eyes snapped open and she sat up straight, heat rushing to her face once more as she came almost nose to nose with Itachi, who was had her on his lap looking very amused. A brief glance showed that they were still in the park, he was sitting on one of the benches near the fountain. The warmth had been from his arms, which were still wrapped around her. Since her brain was still on overload she said the first words that came to mind.

"Y-you l-love me?" this time it was a squeak and he smiled.

"Yes."

Brain was still not properly functioning "Really?"

This made him laugh lightly and his arms tightened around her "Yes, really." He seemed so content and at first she had thought he looked a little strange or different because of the various facial expressions and his lighter attitude. It took her a moment to realize that this was Itachi, he had simply discarded his mask of indifference. His warm smile definitely melted her heart "I do not expect you to feel the same way, Hinata, I had years to come to terms with my feelings…but you deserved to know the entire truth. I can only hope that the admission won't drive you away."

Still running on auto-pilot she shook her head "No, I…" she looked down at the arm around her slender frame "I…I l-like you…a lot. I, um…I was just a little shocked." He raised an eyebrow at her and she giggled "Okay…maybe really shocked."

The warm smile faded but his expression still seemed light and content, not guarded like he normally was "Hinata, if you will have me, I would love to be with you."

As if she would, or could, actually deny him. Smiling, she nodded and made no protest when he drew her in to kiss her. It was soft and gentle and his hands shifted although she wasn't paying close attention. Her arms went around his neck as she pressed back, a chill moving through her when he made a low noise. He coaxed her to part, immediately deepening the kiss as his tongue slid in, exploring. His hands shifted to her neck and then something cool brushed along her skin. When she tried to pull away his arms instead moved back around her body; a hand delving into her hair. The kiss became more intense and she tried – and failed – not to moan softly when a hand slid up her bare back. Another noise, this one a little rougher than before, emerged and he pulled away, his dark eyes intense with emotion.

Her hand came up to brush along the necklace he had placed on her. She remembered it from the double date that day. It was a very simple necklace, silver with small rings, no real design.

"My mother gave that to me when I was a young boy," he explained to her "it was given to her by my grandmother. It is the only material thing I cherish and I…" his fingers brushed along the metal that was now pressed against her skin "want you to have it." His gaze shifted back to her "How everything came to be was not at all what I would have wanted, although I hold no real regrets. It doesn't mean I will accept it; I wish to do things right this time…instead of revealing myself while drunk at a night club."

With a small giggle she laid her head against his shoulder and tried not to let out a sigh when lips gently brushed along her temple "You don't have to do that."

"I know." His voice was low, lips near her ear. She shivered as hands moved along her body and lips pressed lightly against her neck "But I will."

AN: That's it folks! I didn't want to drag it out or make it too sappy so there ya have it. I hope you liked the story and I hope the ending is acceptable to those who were waiting for it. I hope to do some more ItaHina in the future but I had fun writing this. Itachi is always interesting to write.

"Till next time, children!" (I will so give you a virtual cookie if you know where that quote comes from)