A/N: Hi everyone! Even though many months have passed since my last update, I want you to know that I haven't stopped thinking about this story. I have a lot planned, and I hope to update a few more times over break (reviews always speed up that process, by the way!).
This chapter will be familiar to any of you KDrama fans – it's the scene where one main character gets drunk, and then a whole lot of messy feelings start flying around. I'm confident that by the end of this chapter you'll want to punch Sasuke more than ever, but have faith! There's a lot more to come, and – spoiler alert – this story has a happy ending.
So anyway, here's my early Christmas (or holiday of your choice) gift to all of you. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto
It took Hinata an hour of aimless wandering in the streets of Seoul before she realized that she was being extremely foolish. Yes, Sasuke had acted like a jerk. He had no right to embarrass her like that. It was petty and cruel, and she'd thought better of him. But that didn't mean she should have let his words get to her to such an extent. For heaven's sake, she didn't even know where she was! There could be thieves around here waiting for people walking alone, and she wouldn't have a prayer of outrunning them in her dress.
If Hinata let Sasuke's words goad her into making stupid decisions, then she really would be a fool. It was time to go back to the house, where Naruto and Hanabi would be waiting for her, no doubt worried sick. Seeing them meant seeing Sasuke, but Hinata knew a confrontation was inevitable. There was no use putting it off any longer than she had to.
In fact, the unbearable embarrassment that had driven Hinata to leave the party was now beginning to change into a cold anger that allowed her to consider her situation with astonishing clarity. She found that she had some things she wanted to say to the arrogant bastard, and as long as her rage sustained her she wouldn't have any trouble mustering up the courage. Tonight was the best time to give Sasuke a piece of her mind – it would show him that she wasn't going to sit back and be treated like a second-class citizen, just because he happened to be her employer. This wasn't Joseon, for crying out loud!
Hinata muttered to herself for the entire subway ride home, planning what she would say to Sasuke when they finally came face-to-face. She got a few strange looks from other passengers, and the grandmotherly lady sitting next to her edged as far away as her seat would allow. Hinata never even noticed, and was still shooting fierce accusations at an imaginary Sasuke when she got off the subway at her station.
When she reached the house, she saw that Sasuke's car was not yet back in the garage. She checked her watch – it was almost midnight! Why wasn't he back yet? Hinata had finally worked up the courage to give Sasuke a good telling-off, and he didn't even have the decency to be at home!
Hinata snorted angrily, not really caring that she was being illogical. She decided not to go inside the house, because Naruto would only try and make her feel better, and Hinata didn't want to be reassured. She wanted to keep hold of her bright, brittle anger, at least until she could unleash it all on Mr. Uchiha himself. So she waited, pacing at the end of the driveway like a tigress in a cage, or perhaps a cat waiting at a mousehole.
She was lucky, for Sasuke didn't keep her waiting long. Only five minutes after she had resolved to wait, a taxi rolled up to the curb. Hinata immediately spotted Sasuke's jet-black hair pressed against the back seat window.
Why would he take a cab? Hinata wondered. He had a perfectly good car, and the only reason not to drive your own car was if you were… damn.
"I swear, Sasuke," Hinata muttered, approaching the taxi, "if you went and got drunk, I am going to-"
The back door opened, and Sasuke fell halfway out of the cab, before catching hold of the door again with an outstretched hand. "Eashy, there," he said unsteadily. He got to his feet, and after two tries, succeeded in shutting the door.
Hinata said a bad word under her breath. Getting angry at a drunk person was like trying to catch a fly with chopsticks: it didn't work, and trying only made you more frustrated.
In contrast, the taxi driver looked overjoyed to see Hinata hurrying over. "He's all yours now," he called out the open window. "And ma'am, pardon me for saying this, but if you can find it in you, you ought to forgive your husband. A man don't drink like that 'less he's done something to anger the missus." He ducked his head apologetically as Hinata blushed a dark red.
"He's not my-" but the taxi driver sped off, leaving her protest dangling. Hinata sighed, and turned to survey her inebriated employer. He was moving slowly toward the house, eyes on his feet, while weaving back and forth. Hinata had half a mind to leave him there, but after a second her nicer half prevailed. She gripped Sasuke's upper arm and began to guide him to the front door. He followed obediently, still looking down at his shoes.
"Come on, then," she said, as they neared the door. "Let's get you to bed. I can always yell at you in the morning, and with the hangover you're going to have I think it will be twice as effective."
But when she spoke, Sasuke froze. He raised his head, staring into her eyes with feverish intensity. "Hinata?" he asked. His voice was low, intense. Sasuke took his arm out of her grip, and took hold of her shoulders with both hands. Hinata was so shocked that she didn't pull away in time. "You," Sasuke whispered, "you're stuck… right here." He pointed to his head.
Hinata backed up a step. But Sasuke followed, and Hinata couldn't retreat any more because the house was in the way.
"You torment me," Sasuke whispered.
Hinata's heart pounded wildly as Sasuke leaned forward. She couldn't move, couldn't breathe, couldn't think. She put her hands on his chest, but her arms refused to obey her brain's command to push him away. Closer, still closer came Sasuke, his eyes hot and hungry. Without understanding why, Hinata stopped resisting. She closed her eyes, and tilted her face upward.
Sasuke's lips pressed against hers, gently at first. Then a fire roared through her, and Sasuke seemed to feel it as well, because the kiss deepened until it wasn't gentle at all. Hinata wrapped one hand in his hair, pulling him closer.
But when Hinata paused for breath, she caught a whiff of alcohol, and reality brought her rudely to her senses. Her eyes snapped open, and she gasped. This time she pushed Sasuke away. He tripped and fell backwards, landing awkwardly on the smooth pavement of the driveway. He rolled away from her, and Hinata stayed where she was, unable to check if he was all right.
That was how Naruto found them when he opened the door. "Damn," Naruto said, coming down to stand next to Hinata. "Sasuke went on a bender. Did you just find him like this?"
It took Hinata a few seconds to comprehend the question, but as soon as she did, she nodded vigorously. "Yes! I was… I was coming back, and…"
"Don't worry about it too much," Naruto advised, shaking his head. "Sasuke has some demons, and every now and again they get too strong for him to take on alone. I'll take care of him for now. Don't worry," he added, grinning at her. "I haven't forgotten about the dinner. Once he gets some water and some sleep, I'm going to rip into him about how he treated you. Believe me, he's going to think I'm the Grim Reaper before I'm done with him."
Hinata could only nod weakly. Naruto gave her a puzzled look. "Are you ok?"
"Oh, yes, I'm fine," Hinata said hurriedly. "I guess I must have walked too much on a full stomach. I'm feeling a little queasy."
"Make sure to get your rest tonight," Naruto replied, looking worried. "I'll check on you just as soon as I've got this lug squared away." He pulled Sasuke upright with surprising strength, and then firmly marched his friend inside. Sasuke was practically passed out, although once he mumbled something that sounded dangerously close to "Hinata."
The front door closed, leaving Hinata alone with her thoughts.
Well, she reflected, wondering if the strange calm she was experiencing was actually shock. This changes things.
Hinata was not stupid, and she was too honest to be able to lie to herself. She liked her boss – and yet, "like" was hardly the word to describe the raw wave of desire that had rushed through her at his touch. No wonder she had been so affected by his cruel words at the dinner party.
But… did he like her? Hinata replayed the words he had said to her only moments before. They sounded like he did, but then, he had been drunk. Maybe Sasuke was the kind who declared love to any girl he saw after a few beers. Hinata had known more than a few boys like that at University.
Hinata, why are you so stupid? She asked herself silently, resting her head in her hands. There are so many reasons why this can't work. But there was no answer.
One thing was for sure: pondering Sasuke's mood swings all night was not a productive use of her time. She would be much better off following Naruto's advice and getting some sleep. A little distance from her wildly careening emotions could only be a good thing. In the morning, she would figure out what to say to Sasuke. She would figure everything out… just not tonight.
As Hinata moved to the front door, her hand rose to her lips. They still tingled faintly, alive with the memory of Sasuke's touch.
The next morning Sasuke opened his eyes, and immediately wished that he hadn't. The sunlight coming through his window felt like knives gouging into his brain. He groaned and swept the covers up over his head, wondering why he hadn't drawn the shades last night. His head ached terribly, and for a moment Sasuke was too preoccupied feeling sorry for himself to remember how he had gotten here.
It came back in flashes, and he pieced his memories together with a growing feeling of unease. He'd been at the bar, trying to calm down after he'd lost control at Sarutobi's… yes, he'd definitely been there. But he'd gone elsewhere, too… he remembered drinking a bottle of soju and eating some kimchi at a street-side stand on the way home. Then… was there a cab?
Yes, the restaurant owner had ordered him a cab. Then Sasuke got home, where Hinata… Hinata!
Sasuke sat bolt upright, ignoring the renewed pain as the sunlight hit his sensitive retinas. Hinata had met him at the cab! They had… Sasuke clutched the blanket, as if for protection, as a foggy memory of kissing Hinata surfaced. What had he done?!
A loud knocking came from outside the door, startling him so much that he almost jumped off the bed. "Yes?" he called, or tried to. His throat was dry, so it came out more like a croak.
The door opened, almost giving Sasuke a heart attack. He had no idea what he was going to say to Hinata, he- it was Naruto. Sasuke let out his breath in relief. Naruto entered the room, maneuvering around the door while balancing an enormous tray in one hand. It supported a steaming bowl of porridge, a pitcher of water, and a mug of tea. Naruto's expression was thoroughly amused.
"And how are we doing this morning, sunshine," Naruto said in a sing-song voice that made Sasuke want to punch him.
"Perfectly fine, thank you," the Uchiha growled. "Just leave that and go."
"My, my, aren't we grumpy," Naruto said with mock disapproval. "Let me remind you that I have never taken orders from you, and I certainly don't intend to start now. Now eat your porridge, drink your tea, and get comfortable. You and I have some serious talking to do."
Sasuke groaned, but took the tray from Naruto without protest. He should have seen this coming, especially after that fiasco at Sarutobi's the other day… but somehow, the events of later that night seemed much more important than anything he'd said before.
Sasuke bitterly regretted what he'd said, for a number of reasons. But he wasn't going to say that to Naruto, and even if he did, it wouldn't have gotten him out of a scolding from the world's most noble (and annoying) blond. So Sasuke set himself to endure.
The porridge was just the right temperature, and laced with enough honey to keep from being too bland. Sasuke couldn't suppress a small sound of enjoyment. "You can thank Hinata for that," Naruto said pointedly. "I would have pulled out the fried eel from the refrigerator and let you suffer. I can't believe you got so drunk that you decided to sleep in the driveway – what must Hinata have thought of you?" Sasuke choked involuntarily, drawing a snort from Naruto.
"If you're going to yell at me," Sasuke said through another mouthful of porridge, "you'd best get started. I have work to do later."
Naruto gave him a look that Sasuke couldn't decipher. "I'm sure you do. Well, I'll get right to the point. First, not only were you an insufferable, arrogant prick at dinner, but you were also all wrong. Remember that thing you said about Hinata having a year left on her contract?" Naruto took out a folded piece of paper from his jacket. Sasuke immediately recognized the homemade contract he had signed with Hinata.
"I took a look at this last night," Naruto said idly. "The time frame specifies a month, Sasuke. Not a year."
Sasuke stared blankly at the paper, beating his already overtired brain for a response. "A mistake," he said at last. "I forgot the terms of the original agreement."
"That's not like you," Naruto declared, watching like a hawk as Sasuke raised his mug of tea, using it to cover his expression. "But let's move on. Let's get to the part where there's nothing – let me repeat, nothing – in this contract to prevent Hinata from working another job if she lands one. Trying to keep Hinata from taking two jobs just because she signed this contract isn't just heartless and controlling, it's illegal."
Sasuke nodded up and down, feeling like a puppet with an overeager handler. He just wanted this entire conversation to disappear, so he could forget all of the stupid things he'd said. "I know, I know, I was wrong. Of course she can work at Hidden Leaf if she wants. Hell, she can have a thousand jobs for all I care. I was an ass, all right? Let's just leave it at that."
Now Naruto was looking at him as if he'd sprouted horns. "Are you admitting that you were wrong?"
"Yes, damn it! I'm admitting to anything I have to, if it will get you to leave and let me get through this hangover in peace. I'll… look, I'll apologize to Hinata if you want." Sasuke's insides quivered at the thought of seeing her again, but Naruto was a stubborn fool who wouldn't leave him alone until he did what Naruto thought was right.
Naruto leaned back, seemingly at a loss for words. "Uh… ok. You're being surprisingly mellow about this, Sasuke."
"If you don't get out of my room in ten seconds, I'm going to throw this tea at you," Sasuke threatened. "Take that stupid contract and tell Hinata she can do whatever the hell she wants. Leave me to my porridge, asshole."
Naruto grinned at Sasuke, that goofy, lopsided grin that always made him want to smile in return. Instead, Sasuke scowled as fiercely as he could, and pointed at the door. "Out!"
Naruto hopped off the bed, holding his hands in front of him as if warding off an attack. "I'm going!" He laughed, then turned serious for a moment and pointed right back at Sasuke. "But you'd better apologize, got it? I'll knock your block off if you don't!"
"We both know you can't take me," Sasuke scoffed. "But I'll apologize anyway, if only to save your face from getting pounded into the dirt by my fist."
They comfortably traded a few more insults, and then Naruto left. Sasuke ate his porridge slowly, thinking all the while. He reached only one conclusion – things had gone too far. But last night had been a result of the alcohol. He refused to admit it might have been anything more. Sasuke had no time to act like a fool, and no room in his heart for anything but hatred.
Sasuke knew what he had to do, and he promised himself that he would do it. Then he looked down at the porridge, which he was still shoveling into his mouth, and remembered that Hinata had prepared it. She'd probably made the tea, too – he shoved the tray aside with a sudden jerk, slopping hot water onto the sheets. Enough! From now on, he was going to ignore her completely. She would be invisible, the way she ought to be.
When Sasuke went downstairs, Naruto, Hinata, and Hanabi were all at the table in the kitchen, waiting for him. There was an awkward pause, but Sasuke strode resolutely forward. He poured himself a mug of coffee from the pot next to the stove, and turned to his best friend and their two housekeepers. All right… he would fix the mess he had made last night. Then Hinata would become invisible.
"I…" his voice was small, and sounded strange to his own ears. He cleared his throat, and tried again. "I'm sorry for what I said last night at dinner. I was mistaken. If you have an offer to work at Hidden Leaf, or anywhere else for that matter, you're welcome to take it. In fact, you should. At the end of the month, once your contract is up, it will be best if you have another opportunity lined up."
Hanabi uttered a sound of protest at that, but Sasuke talked right over her. Sasuke kept his voice steady, trying not to look too closely at Hinata. Her lips were drawing together tightly, and her brows were raised. He pushed on, hoping that she wouldn't hear the lie in his voice.
"And I also apologize for coming home in such a state last night. Naruto told me you found me in the driveway, and I guess I must have had a little too much to drink." Sasuke's winced inwardly at the shameless evasion, but pressed on. "I hope I didn't make too much trouble for you."
There was a question in those pale eyes as Hinata watched Sasuke, and more than a little pain. But all she said was, "Not at all. I accept your apology."
"Thank you. I hope we can all avoid any further unpleasantness for the remainder of the month. Now, if you'll all excuse me, I have a few things to take care of at the office."
He left his coffee on the counter, practically untouched, and gathered up his briefcase and coat on the way to the door. He felt three pairs of eyes on him as he walked away, but he didn't look back.