Alright! Here's a little side project thingy I've been doing as well as TKC, so I thought I'd share :) If you don't like NejiHina, then I'm afraid this isn't for you!

As usual, I own nothing, and enjoy!

"Neji I-I didn't think you were much… much of a drinker…?"

Hinata let the hidden question hang in the air between her and the young man – she stood closely by his side, while he perched himself on a rusty looking bar stool; weak metal groaning quietly under the weight of the male Hyuuga. His usual stony composure and the grim set of his jaw not their familiar threatening selves that evening; in fact, they were barely recognisable in the foreign environment that was a local, if not shady looking, bar.

Neji swayed slightly at the sound of her voice. Lazily, he swivelled his head in her direction; short glass in hand, single eyebrow raised in an idle question.

He hiccupped, making no effort to cover up his inebriated self.

"The hell you doin' here?"

The young woman frowned deeply; Neji never drank. Sure, he would regard her in a dismissive and cold manner, but he was always sober in his cruel recognition of her. This drunken version of the young man troubled her – as little compassion he showed her, she couldn't help but worry about Neji, especially once his promotion to AMBU Black Ops Capitan had lead him further afield from home and into more danger than he would happily admit.

Hinata brushed her hair nervously from her face, the motion seemingly catching Neji's eye, and she blushed slightly "I was told I'd find you here…"

"And whyyyy, Pray—" He hiccupped again. "Pray tell, would you wanna find me? Oh future Clansmaster…Head… Woman… You…" he began searching for the right words in the bottom of his glass, the clinkof the ice hitting the thin glass echoed dully. Hinata sighed.

She dragged the stool next to Neji out, and gently placed herself upon it, shuffling herself closer to the bar, and rested her elbows on it and her head in her hands. The counter beneath her stuck to soft skin of her elbows like used cello tape – peeling herself slowly from it. Hinata could only imagine how many beverages had been spilt and left to dry on worn, wrinkly wood of the bar. Finally, she regarded her petulant companion from the corner of her eye, as he summoned the bartender for another drink.

"Put it on my tab" He murmured numbly. The bartender nodded mutely. Hinata sighed again. Gently.

Her shyness had subsided slightly with age. Her desire to lead her clan in an honourable and respectable manner had demanded it. Yet, it always seemed to creep up on her once again, like a distant memory, when she was around the stern and unyielding Neji Hyuuga. Her words would often fail her, unless she pried them out with sheer force of will. He would never fail to make her feel … small. She would often wonder what that meant – why only he could affect her in such a way. Why only she was with him, or even remotely close to him, did her heart create such a ruckus within her chest, like a thunderstorm crashing around inside her? Maybe 'small' wasn't the right word to use.

It was merely nervous, she would tell herself. No more… And yet—

"Well? Whaaat you don' here?" He didn't turn to face her this time, and Hinata was unsure if it was a sign of deliberate disrespect, or he was just too fascinated with his own reflection in the mirrored shelves behind the bar.

"Sakura-chan … she—she told me you were here. She told me you often… come here"

"What of it?"

"I was… Concerned. You were injured in your latest mission…?"

A harsh chuckle escaped Neji's lips – he stopped his glass just inches from his mouth, and the grim set of his jaw tightened ever so slightly. "Not me, my men"

Hinata knew not to question further, as she watched the young man knock his drink back harshly; some splashing his cheeks in the hasty consumption. His eyes seemed to burn and shine with a vibrant metallic fire; she began to worry if he was going to try and devour the glass as well as the beverage inside.

Finally, he set his glass down loudly onto the bar, once again hailing the bartender with the wave of his hand.

The elderly looking bartender began to pour Neji his drink, his salt and pepper moustache failing to hide the disapproving line of his mouth. Or was it concern? Hinata didn't really notice, as she eyed the golden liquid curiously, noting the distinct smell with a feeling of recognition and dread. Her father drank whiskey every so often – the smell became a quick signifier of her father's disappointment. He would always ready himself a drink of the liquid relief after each confrontation with his eldest daughter; her lack of obvious strength and commitment to the clan seemingly driving him to find any means of comfort.

Whiskey was his favourite. Hinata's stomach tightened slightly.

"Umm… don't you think it's about time to head… home?" a quick glance above the bar stated the time. 9:37PM.

The dark look she received told her otherwise, and she haggled with other ways in which to lighten the mood and the dark shadow of tension that seemed to linger over the pair.

"Ok then, Can—May I try some then… please?" Her tone was soft, relaxed.

And most definitely expecting a downpour of verbal abuse and rejection.

"Ha, think you can handle it?"Neji held the glass up to her, a slanted smirk growing on his lips as he saw the shocked expression from the woman beside him "What? I may be a dick, but I have my—" *Hic* "—my moments"

She stared at him for a long moment, and smiled tenderly at him.

She had always been aware of his low self-esteem, despite his proud, if not arrogant disposition.

He hiccupped again in response, and gestured towards the glass he offered her.

Gingerly, she took the glass from him with two hands – she knew her father would kill her if he knew what she was doing, but she didn't care. She'd come to ensure her clansman had returned home unharmed, both physically and mentally. And since he didn't look hurt physically, but wasn't too keen on sharing his experiences, perhaps a little bonding was in order – and what was better at building bridges than a little booze?

Nervously, she sipped at the golden liquor; the burning sensation exploded in her throat, and she gasped aloud at the unexpected pain, spluttering and coughing loudly. Neji laughed aloud brashly at the sight of the woman choking on his favourite beverage – he swivelled his seat to face her, leaning his elbow upon the bar and resting his head in one hand. His grin still remained when she looked up at him, her face a bright scarlet and she coughed lightly, her eyes shifting to look around them, making sure she didn't cause a ruckus.

"That was disgusting! How do you drink that!?" her exasperated and dumb-founded tone only made Neji laugh again, as he took the drink from her and finished it with one quick swig. As the alcohol hit him again, hidden mischievousness began to stir, as Neji regarded the girl.

He knew how to push her buttons.

"Heheh, too bad, guess it's the kind of drink only for true leaders and diplomats…. If ya can't handle ya drink, how you gonna handle your politics? Your men, even? Tsk"

Hinata flushed a deeper shade of red as she stared at him. Neji grinned widely.

"Order me one"

"One what?"

"Whatever that drink was. I want one"

Both eyebrows rose in feigned surprise, yet his smile never shifted "You sure? Oh Great Lady!? Heheh. You wanna test your skills against me?" Once again, he hiccupped.

Hinata's chest rose slightly as she took a deep breath; she knew what Neji was doing, testing her to see how far she'd go. Seeing if she would back away from his challenge. She had been tempted to refuse, yet the sparkle in his eyes now as he regarded her sent a shiver of anticipation down her spine, and she knew this would be her only chance to finally get close to him, and put the past behind them.

Hinata let the breath she'd been holding escape with one gentle swoosh, and then met the glazed yet powerful eyes of her clansman, noting the beauty of his face in the dim light of the bar. The smooth set of his jaw, the high set of his cheekbones, the thin yet alluring line of his lips –

"Indeed, Oh G-Great Capitan, I—I wish to test my skills… against you".