Hi all, and happy holidays! Special thanks to my beta, Uchiha.s, as always. Also, I finally published an Xmas gift fic, dedicated to all my BOD readers. It's a SasuHina called The Cursed Geisha, and it's up at:

www dot fanfiction dot net/s/8832759/1/

Or find the link in my profile.

Hope you like it! Once again, thanks for being the best readers ever.

And now, enjoy!


Chapter Thirty: Letters

Tonight while I'm reading your letter

You tell me you're going far away

I love you my darling yes I love you

I love you where ever you stray

~While I'm Reading Your Letter, Traditional

Dear Neji-niisan,

I hope this letter finds you well, and that all is quiet in Konoha. I miss home more than ever, and am glad that my term here is halfway finished. They don't call it the Hidden Mist for nothing. I don't think I've seen the sun for three months!

Besides the gray weather, I can't complain. Mizukage-sama has been more than gracious, putting all of her resources at my disposal. She is as beautiful as she is kind—she really cares about the well-being of her people. It's a pleasure to work for her.

As for missions, the Mizukage is keeping me busy. I've helped to ferret out a dozen or so crime syndicates. Don't worry, niisan! I was never in any danger. The Mist shinobi are dependable and strong.

Hinata chews on the end of her quill, because to say that she was never in any danger is a blatant lie. However, if she doesn't want Neji to run to Mist and haul her back home, she's going to have to fib a little bit. Hinata smiles at that. All in the line of duty, she assures herself.

Anyway, I've also been enjoying working at the medical facilities, Hinata writes, and there is no lie there. The staff here are well-trained, and we have pooled our knowledge of medical jutsu from both of our countries to the benefit of all. I daresay that I have new jutsu to show Tsunade-sama herself. Though don't tell her I said so!

What Hinata can't write in the letter are the new healing abilities she has discovered in her golden eye. Erishiki had hinted at the possibilities, had given her the tools to develop them, but she hadn't trained Hinata outright. Everything Hinata has learned about the golden eye, she has figured out herself.

With just her Byakugan, she can read a patient's chakra network and see the blockages. But with the golden eye, she can see a bone break down to the smallest hairline fracture. She can spot diseases in their preliminary stages, thus preventing them from advancing without costly and extended treatment. Best of all, the golden light from her right eye augments her own healing ability. With it, Hinata is now on par with Sakura.

Hinata smiles softly as she completes her letter to Neji. He would be so proud of her if he knew about her new jutsu, but that will have to wait until she comes home. For now, it is Hinata who is proud of herself. She reckons that that may be the greatest gift of all.

"Eh, Hinata-chan, almost done with your letters?"

Broken out of her thoughts, Hinata's gaze snaps up to meet the Mizukage's. "Yes, Mizukage-sama. Just one moment!"

The Mizukage smiles as she perches on the edge of Hinata's desk, her long blue robes fluttering around her. "Eh, Hinata-chan, how many times to I have to tell you? Just call me Mei."

"Of course, Mizu—I mean, Mei-sama," Hinata mumbles, her face flushing with embarrassment. She stuffs Neji's letter into an envelope and shuffles it in to a large stack of mail. She's written to everybody—Naruto, Sakura, Tsunade, Kiba, Shino, Kurenai, and Neji. She's even written letters to Hiashi and Hanabi, short, diplomatic notes to the effect of: I love you, but I am not sorry.

"Um…Mei-sama?" Hinata asks, her voice suddenly timid.

"Hmmm?"

"Um…um…" Hinata shakes her head at her own antics. She's not usually this tongue-tied. Taking a deep breath, she says, "Would you mind terribly if I sent a package via carrier hawk, along with the letters? It's just—I have one friend, and…he's not much of a letter person."

"So you got him a gift instead, hmmm?" Mei answers, her eyebrows raised. "Sounds like a boyfriend to me."

"He's—we're—I—um…" Hinata mumbles, her face turning bright crimson. "I—"

Mei laughs her bright, glassy laugh. "Oh Hinata-chan, you're too cute. Of course you can send a package. Here, give me your mail. I'll deliver them to the mews master myself," she says with bravado.

"Oh Mei-sama, you d-don't have to—"

"Of course I don't have to. I want to. Also, there's a cute guy who works at the mews," Mei says with a wink. "Come on, fork it over."

Hinata presses her packet of letters into the Mizukage's hands. With forced nonchalance, Hinata withdraws the small package from her desk drawer and holds it out to Mei, face down.

Mei smiles a cat-like grin and turns the parcel over. "Ah. Uchiha Sasuke. So he's your boyfriend."

"I—we're—I—"

"So I finally learn who your boyfriend is, after all these months. Good for you. I heard about what you did for him, of course. He's awfully good looking."

Hinata is blushing too furiously to respond at first. "Th-thanks," she mumbles after a long, awkward pause.

Mei simply laughs, leans over to ruffle Hinata's hair, and makes off with her mail. When Mei is no longer in sight, Hinata sits down in her chair heavily and rests her forehead on her desk.

That Mizukage. Taking her mail had all been a ploy to find out about Sasuke. For an all-powerful leader of one of the most fearsome shinobi nations, Mei acts an awful lot like a boy-crazy academy girl.

Smiling despite herself, Hinata forces her blush to cool and turns her attention to the mountain of paperwork on her desk. She is deeply ensconced in her work when Mei waltzes in a second time, perching her derriere on the edge of Hinata's desk once more.

"You sent him tea?" Mei asks, incredulous.

Startled, Hinata looks up and almost spills her inkwell.

"Mei-sama," she says with an exasperated sigh, "it's i-impolite to look through other people's m-mail."

Mei places a hand on her bosom. "Me? Spy? Nothing of the sort. It's basic protocol to go through all outgoing mail. I just happened to stick around while they were checking it."

Hinata leans her cheek on her palm. At least Mei makes no pretense of having read all her letters; that is precisely why Hinata has omitted key facts from her communications.

"Mmmm," is Hinata's taciturn response.

"Come on, Hinata-chan—tea? Why tea?"

Hinata looks down at the stack of papers in front of her. "He likes tea."

"But—"

"But n-nothing."

"Eh, getting information out of you is like pulling teeth from a crocodile. I should set the interrogation squad on you! Imagine, not wanting to gossip about your good-looking boyfriend. Why, if I had a boyfriend like that, I would tell you every single detail." Mei flutters her eyelashes and fixes Hinata with an expectant gaze in a vain attempt to get more information from her.

Hinata just shakes her head. Not for the first time, she thanks Kami that Mei does not have mind-reading jutsu. Instead of replying, Hinata takes a powdered doughnut from the box on her desk and shoves it into her mouth. What was once a baker's dozen is now down to less than half. Hinata has always liked doughnuts, but she finds that the stress of the job—and perhaps, the stress of the Mizukage prying into her personal life—are beginning to effect her waist line.

She hopes that Sasuke likes his women with curves.

Mei flips her long auburn hair over her shoulder and speaks into the silence. "Hinata-chan…you realize you've put on some weight since you've come here," Mei says, as if echoing Hinata's thoughts.

"M-maybe just a little bit," Hinata mumbles around a mouth full of food. "I can't help it that the Mist makes the best doughnuts I've ever had. Anyway, I'll work it off on the next mission. Speaking of which," Hinata says, shuffling her papers, "seems like there's some unrest to the south. It might be another syndicate. I'll go and—"

"Oh no," Mei gasps, "I can't send you on any more syndicate-busting missions!"

Hinata eyes her curiously. "Why not?" When Hinata follows Mei's gaze and sees that she is staring at Hinata's protruding stomach, Hinata winces. "You d-don't want me to go…because I'm f-fat?"

Mei titters at that. "Oh Hinata, you're not fat."

Hinata resists the urge to slam her forehead down on her desk. Instead, she takes another doughnut and shoves it into her mouth. It's chocolate covered with sprinkles, and it has some kind of caramel cream filling. After polishing off the delectable pastry, Hinata finally responds.

"Mei. You just called me fat…and then not fat. I'm not self-conscious about my w-weight…" she says, placing a protective hand over her stomach.

Mei scoots off the desk and begins to pace. "You really don't know, do you? Oh, Tsunade is going to love this. She was sure that you knew—she even bet me twenty casks of sake on it." Mei gazes at Hinata. When Hinata just blinks up at her, Mei continues, "You're one of the greatest medical ninja I've ever met. You have fantastical eyes that see through and under everything, and yet…and yet you have no idea. You really have no clue."

Hinata licks powdered sugar off of her bottom lip. "Can we not t-talk about this while I'm e-eating?" Lord, but Neji would kill her if he knew she has grown accustomed to eating thirteen doughnuts for breakfast every morning. But like she said, she can't help it—she craves them. She can't work until she's had her fix.

"Honey, you're not fat," Mei says at last. "You're—"

"Pleasantly plump? Thanks for the f-flattery," Hinata mutters. "Now why is it that I can't go on any more syndicate-busting missions? That's half of the reason why I came to Mist, isn't it?"

Mei stops her infernal pacing and sits in a chair across from Hinata. She rests her elbows on the table and spears Hinata with a hawkish gaze. "Hinata-chan…when was your last period?"

This time, Hinata really does slam her forehead down on her desk. "Mei…really? I don't—"

"As Mizukage, I demand an answer," Mei breaks in, and though there is a hint of teasing in her voice, she really is using her political power to get an answer out of her. Hinata cannot refuse. If the Mizukage demands an answer, then Hinata will have to provide one.

Hinata groans. She lifts her head from her desk, certain that rainbow sprinkles have been mashed into her forehead.

"I don't get periods anymore, Mei-sama. I'm infertile." Those words used to be so hard to say; now, they hardly bother Hinata at all. "Now can we please—"

But Hinata can't get another word in. The Mizukage, feared lord and leader of the Hidden Mist, a woman who can spew lava out of her mouth and boil her enemies alive, is laughing hysterically. Mei falls out of her chair and proceeds to roll around on the floor, chortling and snorting like a pig.

Hinata just shakes her head from side to side and picks out another cream-filled doughnut from her rapidly dwindling supply. Kami, she's really turned into quite a glutton over the last three months, and it's not just doughnuts, either. Her sweet tooth has grown to include cookies of all varieties, fruit pies, and even the special Mist candies made out of chocolate, cinnamon, and fish eyes. She never had sugar cravings like this before; it must be something about Mist Country.

Just as Hinata reaches for the final doughnut, Mei props herself up on Hinata's desk with a wheeze. "Oh, I haven't laughed that hard in ages. Oh Hinata-chan, you are a treasure. An absolute treasure."

"Mei-sama, I don't—"

"Hinata-chan—you're pregnant."

Hinata drops the last, most precious doughnut onto the floor. "Wha…?"

"Use those fancy eyes in your head, and your medical training, and put two and two together," Mei offers with a sly smile. "Come on, do it already. I'm not getting any younger."

Hinata stares at the Mizukage. Slowly, Hinata licks her sugar-coated fingers, then activates her Byakugan. The back of her neck beads with sweat as she looks down at her own belly—

And faints.

Luckily, Mei is not the Mizukage for nothing. She catches Hinata before she brains herself on the back of her chair. "Really," Mei mutters to herself, "you've got this powerful ocular jutsu and you can't even see what's right in front of you."

Mei lays the unconscious kunoichi on her desk, right on top of her papers and doughnut crumbs. Then, she reaches for the doughnut that has fallen on the floor and chews it thoughtfully.

"Mmmm, blueberry cream. My favorite," Mei mutters happily, waltzing out of Hinata's office with a spring to her step. After all, she's just won a bet with Tsunade-sama.


Mwhahaha, if you are a reader who predicted that this might happen, leave me a big "I told you so" in your review. You get a gold star!

Thanks for reading, and please, review:)