Summary: Despite everything, Hanabi was forever coming in second, so she felt she had to work five times as hard as anyone else just to prove to herself and the world that she was not useless, even though she was never first. Never the best. Always a substitute.

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or any characters therein. I merely came up with this take on Hanabi's life, thoughts, and feelings.


Reflection

In the pre-dawn light of the Hyuuga compound, the dull thud of metal against wood interrupted the near-silence. A lone kunoichi dedicated to perfecting her craft was target-practicing, tossing kunai around with well-studied precision. Hanabi Hyuuga, the second child of clan head Hiyashi, the second most gifted Hyuuga of her generation, of secondary importance, in the grand scheme of things, was forever trying to prove herself and attain something just out of reach.

It is not that she was bitter, per say, but rather that she felt as though she had to try five times as hard as anyone else to make up for whatever she was lacking, however impossible that may be. She felt she had to honor those who could not live up to their potential or fulfill their purpose. Her sister, while first-born, was not favored by their father as a suitable heir. He did not think that Hinata was strong enough, or good enough, so Hanabi felt that she had to make up for that perceived lack and be an even better daughter and heir.

Thud. A kunai hit the edge of a target.

Neji, while older and male and a genius, and certainly the best Hyuuga to be the next clan head, was of the branch family and thus could never inherit. Because of this, Hanabi felt she had to be even better, so she would not let down the clan and no one would say that Neji would have been better, in the very likely event that she was named heir instead of her sister.

Despite everything, she was forever coming in second, so she felt she had to work harder still, just to prove to herself and the world that she was not useless, even though she was never first. Never the best. Always a substitute.

Thud. The next kunai hit the target just a little closer to the center.

Certainly, Hanabi was gifted, bordering on genius. This helped a little, even if she was not quite at Neji's level. She had talent. Weapons came naturally to her and the hand-to-hand style that the Hyuuga clan was famous for was not difficult for her to master, especially under her father's exacting instruction. For such a very long time, her father had favored her over her sister, since Hinata was so shy and did not learn as quickly as herself; and since he could not favor Neji, the son of his sacrificial twin. However, the pressure Hiyashi exerted was immense and the heavy burden of the clan, a burden Hanabi was not born to bear, caused her to act in such ways that now caused her shame.

Thud. This kunai avoided the center and instead struck the opposite edge of the target as the first kunai.

So hard had she tried to please her father that she had scorned her sister and treated her cousin not unlike a favored slave. Even after her father's reconciliation with Neji, and later Hinata, Hanabi remained distant from them.

At first, she was jealous and angry and hurt and perhaps a little lost. She had lived her entire life as the favored child, sweating and bleeding to meet her father's expectations while her sister and cousin were free from responsibility. And for what? For Hiyashi to suddenly take Neji under his wing and for Hinata to regain her position as clan heir? What, then, was left for Hanabi? What was she supposed to do now? Abandoned, cast aside in favor of those who had always been first, her purpose taken from her. She was lost.

Thud. Closer to the center again, but still not there.

Such feelings, such dedication and effort from one as young as she had been at the time were not easily dismissed. It was a long time before she was able to reconcile those emotions and come to terms with her new reality. She had been relieved of her burden, the burden of Hinata's birthright, of Neji's genius. She was free. While still bereft, Hanabi was also relieved. Now, she would have a chance to live for herself, at least for a while. She could explore more than the way of a Hyuuga shinobi. She could really experience life.

Of course, it was not so easy for Hanabi to bridge the gaping chasm that she had dug between herself and her family. In fact, she did not even know where to begin. Despite this, she made progress, however slow and awkward, to the point that she had regular, engaging conversations with her cousin. In fact, Neji was the closest thing that she had to a confidant and friend. As for Hinata, well, they were still a little awkward, but the sisters had forgiven each other and were mending their relationship.

Thud, thud. A pair of kunai hit opposite edges of the target.

Given her admittedly aloof and blunt nature when she was younger, a nature that seemed to drive people away, and one that she still possessed despite her attempts to moderate it, Hanabi had not actually been in possession of any friends. She had acquaintances, of course, and family members and servants who were little more than stern elders or silken toadies, but she had no one to call "friend." While it had never bothered her when Hiyashi had been dictating her life, after Hinata and Neji returned to favor, she had found herself quite suddenly alone. That, more than anything else, was probably what had contributed to her initial, volatile reaction.

With no one to fall back on, or talk to, or seek advice from, a very young Hanabi had been left on her own to steep in the injustice of her situation. A girl who, despite her upbringing, was still a child was forced to cope with everything on her own. Is it any wonder that she had such a hard time of it for so long? If anything, it speaks very highly of her that she managed to come to the correct conclusions on her own, despite how long it took her, and was able to bring herself to reconcile with her family and admit her mistakes.

Nonetheless, that was all behind her. Hanabi had her teammates, now, and her sensei, and Neji and Hinata. She had a stable net of support to fall back on, if necessary, and she was very grateful for it…not that she would ever admit such a thing to any of them. She still had her pride, after all.

Thud, thud. Two more kunai struck the target very near the last two, but still not touching the center.

Despite her progress with her family, and the relief that she was no longer burdened with all of the clan's strict expectations, some habits proved impossible to break. So, she was here, in the compound's training ground during the early grey hours, hard at work on her day off.

Though Hanabi still grew frustrated with herself when she did not achieve perfection, these early hours were for herself. No longer driven by stringent duty to kin and clan, she found her weapon exercises to be rather relaxing. In fact, the practice of keeping her weapons skills sharp and developing new techniques was almost therapeutic.

Yes. These early hours were hers and hers alone. Certainly, she knew that her own life, and often the lives of her teammates and others relied on her skills, but it was a different sort of pressure than she used to have. Less political, more pure. The weapons were hers – her art, if you will – and she did not mind losing a little sleep if it meant she could spend the time honing the skills that could save lives. Later, she would work on hand-to-hand, or ninjutsu, or perhaps something entirely new, something that did not come quite as naturally to her.

She spun the final kunai around her finger and released it with a hard flick of the wrist. Thud. It had flown from her fingertips, launched into her Byakugan's blind spot. She turned and allowed herself a small smile as she found that it had landed dead center, completing the cross pattern she had been working on. Thus, it was with a feeling of pleasured satisfaction that she left the training grounds to prepare for the day ahead.

.:The End:.


Author's Note:

This is a character study on Hanabi who, despite being a pretty interesting character in my humble opinion, has not had a lot of screen time in Naruto. I always wondered how the expectations of her clan and father would affect her at such a young age, given the fact that her father was embarrassed by Hinata and could scarcely stand to look at Neji for several of Hanabi's crucial developmental years. You have to admit, that is a heck of a lot of pressure to put on a ten-year-old, or however young she was when this all started. No matter how skilled she was, the whole situation was bound to mess her up at least a little. Then, what would it have been like for her entire purpose in life to be suddenly taken away? What scars would it leave? Would she eventually learn to cope? I did not explore the latter as much as I could have, but I'm still pretty happy with how it turned out.

In fact, I am strongly considering using the version of Hanabi I described here in a full-fledged fic. Hanabi's life after being tossed aside by her father. Well, perhaps nothing quite that dramatic or cruel, but something to that general effect. I'd like to give her a chance at a normal life and further explore the scars that she doubtless still has hidden in her heart. Let me know if you're interested in reading such a thing. Of course, I might write it even if you aren't, but it is always better to have an interested audience.

Whether you loved it or were less than impressed, reviews are welcome. Push that little blue button!