A/N Heh, heh! Hey kids! So, I finished NaNoWriMo early (YOSH! I WIN!) and I got bit by a plot bunny for a new fic. I estimate it'll probably be around 5 chapters, a shorty but a goody. I'll probably update again by next weekend:)


When Hinata leaves Konoha, heartbroken but resolute, the last person she expects to see over the rim of her porcelain tea cup is the last Uchiha, whose blood and guts and flesh she saw explode like fireworks in the last war. She yelps, spitting hot tea all over his shirt. "You look like you've just seen a ghost," he smirks, and Hinata thinks that some people are just better off dead. SasuHina

Quotes are from traditional bluegrass versus which are in the PUBLIC DOMAIN and are not owned by anyone:)

Apples in the summertime, peaches in the fall, if I can't have the one I love I don't want none at all.

"You're—you're what?" the Hokage asks her incredulously.

Hinata looks down at the floor; there's a a gray patch on the red carpet that she finds extremely engrossing, a little stain from when his oldest child threw up last winter. It had been a bad flu that year. Not that he knows that she knows the origins of that throw-up stain; or, maybe, he does. Sometimes, Hinata thinks that he has known all the time.

"I'm tendering my resignation," Hinata murmurs, the sound barely audible. She still looks down at the floor, knowing full well that she would drown in the ocean of Naruto's eyes if she looks up, that her resolve would dissolve like salt, and…and. And she must be stronger, stronger, stronger than this. Stronger for him? Stronger…despite of him and because of him and everything, everything she does and has done and will ever do is for him and.

And she is done.

Her resignation papers are in one hand, and a newspaper advertisement is in the other.

Naruto stands suddenly, a flurry of papers cascading to the floor like white and black feathers, and he speaks, but Hinata can't make out the words; his voice has the cadence of a beautiful song, and for a moment, Hinata is lost in the melody. His strong, heavy hand rests on her shoulder and she backs up with a yelp; the spell is broken, and his hand falls, uselessly by his side. And because she is a coward, and she has always been a coward, she wordlessly hands him her official resignation paperwork and all but flies out of his office, her long black hair waving out behind her like a banner.

The day had started normally enough; Hinabi was reading her tiny child the story of the ugly duckling. Hinata had been visiting; she had been sipping tea, her eyes glazed over like a film-lined pond; watching Hinabi talk about ugly duckings was much like listening to a mallard squawking about the indignities done to less fortunate animals: and wasn't that just awful, darling, when the duckies were mean to the poor little swan? Oh yes, we must never be mean to those who are ugly…

Except that Hinabi was the proverbial hissing duck, and Hinata was ugly: but she was no swan. Hinabi had all but stolen Konohamaru away from Moegi after the former had proposed to the latter; Hinabi would often joke about it, I knew he was too good for her, and it would make Hinata's stomach clench. She knew what it was like to be an ugly duckling who never turned into a swan.

In a way, this ruthlessness makes Hinabi the perfect leader of the Hyuga— that's what Hinata thinks as she runs through the streets, her cheeks flushed from exertion, ignoring people who try to hail her on the street.

Perfect. That word describes Hinabi to a T; she is more beautiful, she is stronger, she is smarter, she is everything that Hinata is not.

Five years. It had been five years since the last, so-called, Great Ninja War, where Madara was sorely thrashed, and Sasuke's body was smashed to smithereens, then buried under the earth, the teeny tiny rent pieces of flesh, all laceration and the blood, oh the blood covered the earth and the sky like a great fireworks explosion.

Naruto gives a speech every year, on the anniversary of the war's end; he talks about how much he loved Sasuke, like a brother, he would say; and he cries in front of the multitude of Konoha residents and rends his garments and beats his chest; behind him, a white memorial stands in front of the old Uchiha district, and in her heart, Hinata thinks that it is all too much, but she says nothing and weeps along with the civilian women. But who and what she is weeping for is a mystery, even to her.

And Hinata is weeping now, she is confusing past and present, but she knows where the tears come from this time and it rends her breast like the exploding flesh of the Uchiha traitor.

Earlier that morning, after the Ugly Duckling Incident, as she liked to call it, Hinata walked aimlessly though the town, upset but not knowing why, or what to do about it. So she bought herself a doughnut, a cup of coffee, and the morning paper; it seemed like a good idea at the time.

She had flipped through the paper, her all-seeing eyes scanning the black type but not really comprehending anything. Surreptitiously, she glanced at the personal ads, and considered becoming a lesbian; there were a few promising blurbs in the "Women Looking for Women" section. It was Hinabi's advice, really; since Hinata obviously had terrible luck with men. But in the end, none of the adverts appeal to her, and so she stuffed sugary cake into her mouth and washed down the sweet, chalky taste with black coffee; she turned a page. It was the employment section.

That newspaper page is currently clutched in Hinata's hand, and is dotted with tears, while Hinata herself is still run, run, running, as if she can outrun the past and just start over. On the crumpled newsprint is a circled ad that reads as follows:

New Fire Temple (by the border with Tea) is looking for Vestal Virgins to tend the fire of our Lady, blessed be her name, the Hearth Goddess! Benefits include generous pay, full healthcare, a spacious room at the temple; food and clothes included. Generous paid vacation packages!

Applicants must be female, virgins, and must be willing to make a life-time commitment to our Lady, blessed be her name. Interviews begin at the end of the month. We hope to meet you soon!

At the end of the advert, dates and addresses are given; Hinata now knows them by heart.

And as Hinata packs her small bag—one change of clothes, a small bottle of castile soap and her toothbrush, a picture of her mother— she wonders again why she is doing this? As she asks herself this question, her hands still over her pack and a cascade of images flutter through her head:

Naruto and Sakura's wedding. Tenten and Neji's wedding; Shikamaru and Temari, Choji and Ino, Hinabi and Konohamaru; worst of all, her father and some buxom black-haired woman, a lower officer from the branch family who had saved his life in the last war.

And then, the three pink-haired children of Naruto and Sakura; Hinata often watched their parents tuck them into bed from her habitual perch outside the Hokage mansion; and yes, she knew it was stalking, and no, she turned off her byakugan the minute Sakura and Naruto started sucking face, thank you very much. Hinabi had handed her a card to a very good therapist who specialized in counseling those addicted to voyeurism, and Hinata had burned said card with a chakra flare, again, thank you very much.

Hinata blinks and stuffs the rest of her meagre worldly possessions into a bag and wipes the blinding tears from her eyes. She knows Naruto is a good father; she can see the kindness in his eyes when he kisses his children goodnight, even though Hinata herself is many feet away. And she knows Naruto is happy; he loves Sakura very much, and he always has, and sometimes, when he kisses his wife, Hinata can't look away, and she thinks…she thinks…

She thinks things she shouldn't think, and she shuts off her ocular jutsu and smacks herself in the face, right in the eyes, as if she can erase everything she has seen.

And back to present time: as Hinata reaches the gates, her pack strung over her shoulder lackadaisically, as if she is some kind of devil-may-care hobo, her breath catches in her throat because everyone is at the gate—damn Naruto's sense of drama and the haraishin that ostensibly brought everyone and their mother to the gates— and there is Sakura, with that same stupid look on her face, the one that is half-sorry and half-nervous that she always wears around Hinata, because she knows.

And beside her is Naruto, his blond hair moving in the wind with the grace and perfection of a bleached wheat field, and his eyes. His eyes know, too. Though he pretends he doesn't know. And then Hinata curses herself, because maybe, just maybe, stalking the legendary disciple of the Toad Sanin wasn't the smartest thing to do, because he could sense her the whole time and he never said anything, just ignored it all, like Sakura's uneasy smiles and half-hearted hellos; and Hinata hates her life, and wishes the hearth goddess, whom she does not believe in, would just smite her on the spot in a blazing ball of fire.

Her eyes rove, briefly, to Kiba and Shino; they are holding hands, and their eyes beseech her to stay. And Kurenai sensei, her five-year-old son in her arms, she opens her mouth as if she wants to say something, but shuts it again when her eyes meet Hinata's.

Hinata bites her lip. The bitterness catches up with her, then: everyone standing in her path, between her trembling body and the gates, they all have a lover or a child. Even Rock Lee, Konoha's number one Ugly, had fathered several illegitimate (and youthful!) children over the last five years with various and sundry, good looking civilian women.

And Hinata is alone. She is always alone. And so she is going to offer her body, mind, and soul to the Vestal goddess, where at least she will won't be surrounded by people who are getting laid; by people who love and are loved.

She meets Naruto's eyes one last time, and she can tell that he knows what she is thinking and feeling—because he has always known, but yet, makes no move to really acknowledge— and before anyone can tell her what she is doing is stupid, and foolhardy, and where the hell is she going anyway— she shushins away, and all that is left of where she was standing are a few rose petals, fragrant and falling on the wind.

a/n yeah, it starts a little angsty; things will definitely get lighter next chapter:)

reviews= faster updates:)