Revised chapter. Thanks to A Dreamer Always. She is like... I dunno. Obviously I sound like a child without her.
I do not claim any ownership to Naruto.
Hinata could not remember a day in her life when she had been excited about shopping for clothes. She had always been self-conscious when it came to her body and this affected the way she shopped. Hinata always purchased and wore the same type of skirts and blouses. Conservative and tasteful and ever the lady she had been groomed to be, she never ventured the plunging neck lines or the ever shrinking miniskirts Ino had so often strode in to their office with.
She didn't feel as though she could pull it off.
But today, she felt different. Today she was going to pick the dress for her summer wedding and she was going to show Naruto that she didn't need to be in her comfort zone all of the time. As an added bonus, Neji had convinced Hanabi to join her sister in this escapade, seeing as this would also be when Hinata attempted picking her bride's maids' dresses as well.
Her twenty year old sister was, of course, less than happy. The air between the two girls had been thick with tension ever since Hinata had walked away from their broken family. Hinata was desperate to reconnect with Hanabi but Hanabi was unwilling to reciprocate the feeling.
Hanabi was snapping gum at a far corner of the bridal salon as Ino browsed the racks with Hinata. Ten Ten was seated on a cream colored chair in front of the three way mirror, brown eyes following the pair with interest at each place they paused. She was well into her third trimester of pregnancy and was a little upset she couldn't participate in Hinata's wedding as she would have liked. "Do you have a kind of picture of what you were interested in wearing Hinata?" Ten Ten called from her seat, hand idly rubbing over the large swell of her stomach.
"Not really, nothing too flashy…" Ino scoffed.
"Really? I saw that reception hall you guys picked, you need something flashy in order to stand out like you should on your wedding day in a place like that." She reached up and pulled out a large white gown, the plastic covering crinkling loudly as she shook it out. The attendant cringed from where she watched as Ino ushered Hinata to the fitting room. "Something like this, let's see how it looks!"
After a few awkward moments of grumbling and complaining, a triumphant Ino pokes her head out of the dressing room door. "Okay, guys, ready? Hanabi?" The girl looks up from her phone. "Here we go!" She moved out of the way and Hinata followed, head ducked and shoulders slumped as she stepped on to the pedestal set before a mirror. Ten Ten clapped her hands together.
"Oh Hinata… you look like a princess!" Hinata tugged at her hair uncertainly.
She had to agree. It was a lovely gown. The full skirt had crystal embellishments and the bodice had an intricate pattern of lace. The sweetheart shape showed off her generous cleavage and exaggerated her waist. When Ino stepped forward to pin her hair up away from her shoulders and place a long veil in her hair the picture was complete.
Despite how it complimented her Hinata felt this wasn't right.
"I don't know…"
"Come on Hinata," Ino huffed. She walked around her and adjusted the skirt of the gown. "You look great. This has to be it." Ten Ten was close to tears.
"You look lovely." Hanabi put her phone away and walked over to give Ten Ten a handkerchief. As Ten Ten proceeded to blow her nose Hanabi spoke up.
"You do look nice," she mumbled, not looking at anything in particular. This made Hinata hold her tongue on her self-criticism. This was the closest Hanabi had spoken directly to her in five months. She put her chin up and watched herself in the mirror.
'Naruto would probably love this…'
"I'll take it."
"What're you doing here?" Sasuke asked when he spotted Hinata sitting primly on one of the chairs he has before his desk. She turned around and he noted the dark circles underneath her eyes.
"There's been a change of plans. Neji's wife went in to labor last night and the baby has been put in to intensive care. I'll be attending the benefit in his stead this weekend."
"You could have just called." He threw his suitcase under his desk and started shuffling through the papers before him.
"This was on the way home… I hope you're more prompt with your other engagements." She stood and he could see out of the corner of his eye just how fatigued she truly appeared. Her skirt was wrinkled. That said a lot to him. At all of their other encounters he couldn't help but note how clean cut she was, just like her cousin.
She moved towards the door and, before he could stop himself, he called out. "My condolences… to your family… about the baby, I mean." Hinata froze at the threshold before turning back slightly to offer a small smile.
"They had wanted it to be a surprise… He looks just like her." She swallowed. "Thank you." She said finally before leaving his office.
His gaze lingered at the spot where she stood a few moments longer before turning back to his work.
The party was in full swing by the time Hinata and Naruto walked through the doors. It had taken her an hour to convince her fiancé the importance of his presence there. She needed his support right now, Hinata wasn't sure if she could keep a straight face with all those people lurking around, especially since the majority of them would recognize her from her father's company's less than savory past.
"I hate this tie." Naruto grumbled, pulling at his collar. She tightened her grip on his arm.
"Please don't start," she whispered. She had to apply extra concealer when preparing for the event. With the baby and her cousin's wife being in the hospital, she hadn't been getting much sleep. Naruto hadn't been helping to ease her growing stress.
"Naruto?" The pair looked up and spotted a cherry blond in a long silvery gown moving through the crowd towards them. Naruto's eyes lit up in recognition.
"Oh my gosh, Sakura, it's been so long." Hinata released his arm as he pulled away to give the woman a hug. Naruto's grin went from ear to ear and they went on in conversation. Hinata felt put out. She didn't notice the dark figure that was suddenly beside her.
"Enjoying yourself?" Sasuke said close to her ear. She jumped a little and looked up at him. Naruto looked behind him just then.
"Oh how rude of me, Sakura this is my fiancé, Hinata-"
"Hyuuga, yes it's a pleasure to meet you." She reached out a hand and Hinata clasped it weakly. The glint in this woman's eye telling her she knew her family's deep dark secret.
"Likewise," she couldn't keep herself from mumbling.
"Congratulations on getting Naruto to settle down with you." She nodded mutely as the two continued their conversation, already ignoring her in order to properly catch up.
"Would you like a drink?" Sasuke asked, studying her closely. She watched the back of Naruto's head for a moment longer before nodding.
She needed a drink. She nodded and Sasuke ducked through the crowd, soon returning with two flutes of Champaign. Hinata took the glass graciously, taking a generous swig and shaking her head at the tart taste it left in her mouth. Sasuke watched her out of the corner of his eye.
"Hasn't been much better huh?" Hinata's eyes moved along the crowd, obviously keeping track of her fiancé's movements. She hummed a response.
"The baby is doing better." She shrugged and he nodded.
"That's good to hear."
The pause in conversation settled into an awkward silence. Sasuke cleared his throat. He shifted his weight on his legs and put his hands in his pockets and then removed his hands remembering he was supposed to be keeping up appearances. "We should… mingle," he ventured. This was the whole reason they had come to this even anyway.
She startled and looked up at him, eyes going wide. "Oh, shoot. I forgot about that… I'm not very good at first impressions." She worried her bottom lip and her fingers played with the bottom of her glass. She had her hair drawn up in a tight bun at the base of her neck, her bangs framing her face and the touches of make-up making her eyes look bright in the low light of the banquet. Her dress was an olive color, a halter top that cinched at the waist and accentuated her curves. She was pretty enough. Sasuke squared his shoulders.
"Just follow my lead, come on."
He took her arm and tucked it in to the crook of his, leading her through the crowd, searching for the faces he knows they'll need to make pleasantries with. He spotted one man in particular, very hard not to spot actually, and headed towards the back of the room.
Standing in a shadowy corner of the room, scotch in hand, was a tall man wearing a surgical mask. He was dressed smartly, his dark suit looking clean and pressed and he probably would have made for an intimidating figure if it weren't for his slouched posture and the way his tie was loose. His eyes crinkled in a smile hidden behind the mask as he watched the pair approach.
"Well what do we have here? An Uchiha in the midst of us common folks? Who knew we could count on someone of your status to be gracing us with their presence." Sasuke took the man's offered hand and gave it a firm shake.
"I wasn't sure if you'd be too ill to attend this benefit so I'm just as surprised to see you here Kakashi. Please, allow me to introduce Hinata Hyuuga. She and her cousin have taken over Hyuuga Pharmaceuticals and have made a generous donation to your research facility. Hinata, this is Kakashi Hatake, the founder of this fine research program and facility."
"The pleasure is all mine," the tall man, Kakashi, extended his hand to her and she took it with all the confidence she could muster. "You'll have to excuse this," he said motioning to his face. "I'm a little delicate at the moment." She blushed realizing she must have been staring.
"Oh it's fine- I-I mean… I just… I understand." Hinata took a step back from him and wiped her palms on her dress, suddenly all too aware of the temperature in the room. Sasuke continued without pause and allowed Hinata to learn a little more about this man.
Apparently Kakashi was a recognized and respected researcher. She should have recognized his name immediately; he used to work for her father some time ago at their labs. He was actually the one who helped develop what would have been the ground breaking medicine that would have saved her mother's life… If it had worked. Kakashi had left Hyuuga labs a few months before Hinata's mother was recorded to have begun taking doses of the medicine with an illness of his own. Looking at him more closely, Hinata could see the dark circles under his eyes and how his clothing seemed to hang in a way that suggested he was much thinner than when he had originally purchased the suit.
"How is Itachi?"
"Same as he always is, he's been dealing with Suna. After they had that whole embezzlement shit they were dealing with."
"Oh my, sounds like a real pain." Kakashi chuckled before turning his attention to Hinata. "So, your father recently passed away. It must be hard, taking over a company and grieving at the same time."
Hinata spluttered on her Champaign. She wasn't expecting him to turn on her so quickly. He continued. "I remember you father, very intelligent. The man knew what he wanted and how he was going to get what he wanted. Working with him was an interesting experience."
"He was… always like that," she offered lamely, averting her eyes and wishing Neji were here to take care of this socializing thing. Kakashi nodded solemnly.
"Either way, I am sorry for your loss."
"She's not alone though," Sasuke spoke up suddenly. "She and her cousin are doing well and have already pulled the company up from where it was quite a bit. It's a… good thing." He cleared his throat and pushed his hair away from his face.
"I see, I see. Well, if you'll excuse me, I see some potential donations hanging around the bar." Kakashi ducked away leaving the pair alone.
When Kakashi was out of sight Hinata turned to him.
"How did you get them to accept our donation?" Sasuke narrowed his eyes.
"Why does it matter now? You didn't seem too concerned when I told you about it." Her posture was tense and there something in that pearly gaze that didn't allow him to hold out as long as he would have. He sighed. "Sakura and I went to college together. She took over after Kakashi got too sick to run the place and I called her up. She wasn't too keen on it at first and I'm not surprised as to why, but she took it because the money is good and she is my friend." He shrugged. "Why didn't you tell me Kakashi used to work for your father?"
He watched as she deflated and worried her lip. "I didn't remember his name until he brought it up. I was… very young at the time." She shook her head and her eyes were unfocused in the direction of the crowd. "I had other concerns at the time."
"How did you meet Naruto?" Hinata turned back to Sasuke. He was leaning back against the wall, his dark gaze following someone in the crowd. She followed his line of sight and saw a familiar blond head of hair weaving through the crowd, trailing behind the shimmery silver of Sakura's dress.
"He was actually working under one of the men working on the story of… my mother's death. That's how I met him. He was different… from everyone else. You could just tell by looking at him." She shrugged, turning back to Sasuke as Naruto was joking with Sakura and some of her associates.
"Hmm…" He pushed off the wall and straightened his jacket. He knew they should move on. He knew he should be parading her through the crowd as Sakura was with herself, and introduce her and make them see how different she is from her father. He didn't want to know… but the question had been nagging at him since he first saw her. "Hinata, I've been meaning to ask. What exactly happened with your mother…?"
She shifted her weight and he expected her to shy away from him, as he had seen her do when others had approached the subject. But she didn't. The gaze she turned to him was surprisingly steady.
"I didn't know… what they were planning. When she started getting better all I could think about was how miraculous it had been. Then it turned for the worse and she was gone so quickly… I didn't realize it until a few years later… I was looking for a certain file on… I can't even recall." She shook her head. "I don't think my father ever wanted us to find out… anyone to find out. It was… sort of the reason why I left, mixed with a few other things. It was leaked to the press after that and he accused me of betraying our family… I never tried to reconcile with him. I didn't think he'd die like he did but I wasn't surprised. High blood pressure and all…"
'So… she didn't know…'
"Come on, we need to get busy before these people get too drunk to remember your name."