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Bullwinkle's Lady

This thread is for the actual round-robin.

12/10/2013 #1
Airyo

Hinata had overpaid.

The motel room lights flickered, and the running water resembled weak tea. The carpet looked and smelled like Hanabi's eighth grade science experiment. There were suspicious stains on the walls. And the bed…Hinata was glad she had her sleeping bag because the only way she would touch that bed was to set a torch to it.

Her determination wavered, and her hand drifted down to her pocket for her cell phone. Her little sister could order her a bus ticket back. She could soothe her father's ire by apologizing and begging for another chance.

Then leave. You are not my daughter.

The words hurt more each time she remembered them.

She let her cell drop back into her pocket. For all she knew, her father had already contacted their carrier and removed her from the family plan. She had used all her courage to step out the door without a backwards look, and Hinata did not have it left in her to check her phone for bars of service.

Hinata exhaled her doubts, unconsciously using the same breathing techniques her father had taught her. She unravled the knot of her worries, taking stock of her situation.

Hiashi had transferred enough to her personal account to last her a few weeks if she was careful. If she found a job, she could save up for a down payment and find herself an apartment. She could live comfortably, in this sleepy town of Konoha where no one had an ear tuned to Hyuuga name. Appearances had to be maintained, after all, and the media wolves had the sharpest noses. Hinata had taken care to buy a bus ticket that took her hundreds of miles from the place she once called home, but she would still need to keep her presence minimized.

Her stomach interrupted with a grumble, and Hinata distracted herself with the basic needs of her body instead of her mind. She had shelter covered, and she had ramen in her suitcase. The microwave was missing, but the coffee maker looked untouched and she used leftover water from her bottle. While it heated, she dug into her suitcase for a cup ramen.

She pulled out a small cat statue instead.

Hinata stared at it for a moment before she concluded that Hanabi must have snuck it in. Hanabi had given her the maneki neko statue as a gag gift years ago. Normally, such statues were cute calico cats that wave in good fortune.The statue Hanabi gave her could only be called a 'maneki neko' on the sheer technicality that it was vaguely feline.

In reality, someone along the production line had messed up. Badly. The red eyes did not even look in the same direction, giving the statue a rather demented look. Even worse, Hanabi had named it for her: 'Sasuke', after her most hated character from a popular comic book series.

"He might be smart, but his personality is stupid," Hanabi had insisted. Hinata had agreed simply to humor her.

She chuckled at the memory and moved Sasuke to the coffee table so he faced her. "It's just you and me now," she said.

She was successful the next time she fished around in her enormous suitcase for ramen. She poured the water and waited exactly three minutes before she peeled back the lid to eat. The steam warmed her face as she bowed her head. "Itadakimasu." The taste of the salty broth reminded her of the times she and Hanabi would sneak into the kitchen for a junk food raid.

Hinata sniffed.

She slurped another loud mouthful, a defiant move against the careful table manners drilled into her head. But the smell of the beef and cheap spices had dredged up the memory of how Neji would always catch them. Then, he somehow always wound up sharing in the "sodium-laden garbage that will give you a heart attack at age twenty."

She wished Hanabi and Neji were there with her, but like the rest of the world, they believed that she was merely banished to the Hyuuga summer home.

Hinata was unable to finish chewing as more and more tears trickled down her cheeks to tickle her chin. A small sob escaped her, a strange wet sound against noodles still trailing from her lips. Hinata bit off the noodles and set her cup down with her chopsticks. She forced herself to finish chewing, clenching a fist to her mouth because she cannot afford to waste food. Hinata swallowed and only tasted sawdust.

She forced a grin as she looked at her dinner companion. "I've been rather unlucky, haven't I? Lend me some of your luck, Sasuke."

Her face crumpled under the sharp awareness that she was reduced to projecting companionship onto an ugly cat statue. She let her long dark hair fall forward to shield her face and struggled to breathe through her sobs.

"Annoying."

She looked up, watery eyes round with disbelief.

A young man scowled at her from across the coffee table.

12/13/2013 . Edited 12/21/2013 #2
Bullwinkle's Lady

Hinata stepped back as anxiety crashed down on her so violently it was difficult for her to breathe. She barely noticed as her ramen dropped from her hands, the salty broth spilling onto the already-disgusting carpet. She managed to maintain a collected demeanor as she said, "Who are you?" But her voice quavered at the end of her line, and she was sure he noticed. Her face was still wet with tears, and she was the antiphrasis of commanding.

"It's me." He looked at her as though she was the unusual one, and as he stood, Hinata took another step back. He was tall, and lean, and could likely overpower her. "Sasuke," he said.

He looked to be about her age – late teens or early twenties. He had dark hair that stuck up in the back, long bangs hanging in his eyes. He was wearing a sleeveless black shirt with a deep collar that left his muscled torso exposed. He was also wearing a pair of black slacks, but his feet were bare, and she could see metal manacles about his wrists and ankles. Their presence was so unusual on the otherwise clean-cut boy that Hinata's eyes lingered on them for longer than was wise.

"You like them?" he said, and Hinata's eyes snapped up to find a humorless, near-frightening, smile on his face. "I'll get you some of your own." His voice was like acid, and it ate at her courage.

"I – I don't–" As her eyes darted away, Hinata noticed the maneki neko was gone from the coffee table, but she could not process what this meant. She was unconscious of the way her body continued to increase the distance between her and the boy, at least until she felt her back hit a wall. She had cornered herself. "Wh-why are you in my room?" she said, as she forced herself to breathe.

"You brought me here." To her horror, the boy approached. She bowed her head behind her curtain of indigo hair, but could feel as he continued to close in, until he couldn't have been more than a foot away.

"Pathetic," he said. She stiffened, because she could feel his breath on her ear. He drew back somewhat, but only to face her directly, his nose inches from hers. His lips were parted, his expression, thoughtful, but still cold as he scrutinized her.

"Are you going to hurt me?" Hinata said, closing her eyes and continuing to breathe. She was pressed as tightly to the wall as possible.

"Do you want me to?" he returned, and it was strange that there was no malice or mischief in his voice. He said it in all seriousness, as though oblivious of the insinuations.

She sunk to the floor. "P-please go away."

"Why would I do that?" he said, as he crouched down to her level. When they met eyes, she noticed his were unique, like hers. His pupils are indistinguishable within the darkness of his irises.

In a burst of strength and nerve, Hinata got up and ran for the door. She could see the boy straighten, and start after her, but she did not allow herself to look back. As she swung the door open, she was momentarily blinded by the strip of sunlight that seared into the room.

Once Hinata was out the door and on the balcony, she took one brave glance back at her would-be assailant, and was surprised to see he was gone. In his place, in the patch of sunlight shining through the doorframe, sat her ill-looking maneki-neko on the dirty, carpeted floor.

12/14/2013 . Edited 12/21/2013 #3
AnnaDax

Hinata blinked, then rubbed her eyes to make sure she was seeing right. Because this wasn't real. It couldn't be.

She reminded herself to breathe, although she failed miserably. Hinata shook her head, feeling weak. In the end she let herself slide down and sat on the floor, her back pressed to the balcony's railing. Slowly, her white eyes peeked through the curtains of her hair to stare at the odd cat-statue.

She didn't remember moving it from the table. But she refused to accept what her eyes had just seen. Because there was no way that this could be true.

Sasuke.

Hinata shook her head once more, starting to feel dizzy. She was tired and emotional, and decided to blame those things for what happened. Sighing, she finally stood up, her white eyes still fixed on the maneki-neko.

I am delusional, she thought as she took a deep breath, exhaling carefully. With all the courage she had, she stepped back into the room and slowly closed on the statue. Her hands hung in the air for a while until she finally decided to take the odd cat-thing and return it to the table.

She must have knocked it on the floor upon running out. She smiled, feeling really stupid. And yet, something wasn't right.

Hinata walked to the door, deciding it was best not to pay any attention to the statue anymore.

She reached the reception of the motel only to find it empty. Not that it really surprised her. She waited a while but no one came. Sighing, she left some money on the dirty counter and grabbed the even dirtier phone. She dialed, then waited.

Hanabi's phone rang, then rang again, then finally reached voice mail.

Hinata took a deep breath. "Hey, Hanabi. S-sorry to bother you. I was just… Um… Never mind…"

She waited for the operator to give her the needed options, then deleted the message and hung up. She was kicked out of her family. Running to her sister for help would only please her father.

She walked back to her room, pondering on what to do next. She needed some sleep, especially with the strange illusions going on in her head, but the excuse for a mattress made her nauseous. She needed a bath as well, but the bathroom was even worse.

Making sure the door was neatly closed, she sat on a chair, cupping her face, taking a few sharp breaths.

She needed a new place. No.

"I need to get used to that," she said to herself. "I am not a Hyuuga anymore."

Hinata shifted her eyes to the maneki-neko and laughed bitterly moving her gaze to the balcony. She watched as the sunlight got brighter, pouring in the room through the tattered, ugly and rather disgusting curtains.

"I need a miracle," she whispered.

"You need to stop being so pathetic."

Her eyes shot up to stare at the same dark-haired boy with horror. He stood before her, leaning on the table, his arms folded on his chest. His face was turned away, but he stared at her from the corner of his dark eye. An odd smile played on his lips.

She managed to fight the urge to scream and decided to back away from him immediately. But her chair did not agree. Its foot somehow got stuck on the old, disgusting carpet and she only managed trip and crash on her back.

Trying to catch her breath, she froze in shock as the boy stepped forward, only to watch him burst into laughter.

12/15/2013 . Edited 12/21/2013 #4
Airyo

The sound of his laugh sent a cold current down her spine and the sensation scattered down her limbs. She sat on the ground and stared at Sasuke, mesmerized. It had nothing to do with attraction or excitement, and had everything to do with the anxiety of witnessing something so wrong.

She had interacted with him twice - brief glimpses as fleeting as dreams - but she can guess that he was not meant for mirth. Her elbows and knees throb as she pulled herself to her feet, tense and ready to flee like a doe at the first snap of the wolf's sharp teeth.

But he had yet to hurt her.

"Are you real?" she managed. He approached, chains clinking on the ground, and stopped less than a step away from her. His expression was no longer so blank. His eyes held the distant curiosity which with one might regard an insect - something weak and insignificant. That, paired with his proximity, made Hinata rather uncomfortable. But she was sick and tired of being pushed around. So even though she shrank away, Hinata did not take a step back.

"Do you want me to be?" he asked. Hinata wondered if he was mocking her with such suggestive phrasing. It was hard to tell when his blank, black eyes that seemed to suck all the light out of the room.

"Who-" Hinata cut herself off, because she had already asked that. "I mean...why are you here?"

"It learns," Sasuke said. She peered at him from between the curtain of her dark hair and decided that she preferred the blank slate of his face from before to this newly awakened predator. "Tell me, what kind of statue did you summon me from?"

Hinata glanced at the empty spot on the coffee table where the maneki neko had sat. She would not be surprised if she was actually locked in some white-padded room, rocking herself back and forth as she muttered nonsense. She was certainly starting to feel like she belonged in a mental facility.

"A good luck charm…" she whispered. The juxtaposition of a cheery symbol of luck and the dour expression on his face boggled her mind. "I asked for luck, for help." Despite her best efforts, she felt a golden swell of hope in her chest.

"That's how it works," he muttered as he raked his hand through his bangs."You bemoan your lot in life and I show up." Her eyes followed the manacles on his wrists.

"A genie, then?" she asked.

He gave her a disgusted look. "No."

"O-oh. Okay." She looked down at her hands as she fiddled with her index fingers. As ill-tempered as Sasuke was, more of his ire seemed directed to his situation rather than her. Her years in the Hyuuga household had made the ability to tell the difference an essential skill. "Do you have any powers?"

"Who said I was here to help you?" he snapped.

"Sorry," she squeaked. He continued to regard her with a withering glare.

"You apologize too much." Hinata jumped and swallowed the other 'sorry' on the tip of her tongue. She studiously kept her eyes to the rank carpet, trying to think of she had triggered his return to statue form before. Perhaps... "Don't even think about it." He gripped her chin and jerked her face up so their eyes met. "The statue is cramped as hell. Don't." There was something that could be described as 'pleading' in his face.

"Please...let me go," she whimpered. His fingers dug into her skin enough to cause pain. Sasuke blinked at her in shock, as if he hadn't realized how much force he had been using, and then released his hold on her.

As soon as she was free, Hinata lunged for the yellowing curtains and pulled them back, nearly ripping them off the wall in the process. Sunlight invaded the room, blinding her. But when she looked back, the maneki neko was on the ground, in one of the angled squares marked by the window.

Hinata winced, heart pounding against her rib cage like a wild thing as she sank to the ground and hugged herself. She made a mental note not to think about how unlucky she was, to 'bemoan her lot in life', because she did not want to face the angered spirit the next time he woke.

12/17/2013 . Edited 12/17/2013 #5
LastUchihaAlive

Later that night, Hinata had tucked away the cat statue safely in her bag. Although she knew what it contained, she refused to believe that Sasuke was real, or that he had touched her.

He hadn't confirmed that he was real, he simply asked, "Do you want me to be?" as if he could control such a thing. However, it was a common theme in their small conversations (if you could even call it that.)

The young woman shook her head, disregarding everything that went on that evening. With a heavy heart, she began to tuck herself into the sleeping bag, feeling disgusting. "I had a bed," she whispered to herself. She knew the statue wouldn't hear her, and allowed tears to drip down her cheeks. "I had a bed and a family…"

Her sobs increased until her head ached and she drifted off into a dreamless, unpleasant sleep.

Unbeknownst to the slumbering girl, Sasuke was standing in a shadowed corner, watching her curiously. His dark eyes slid over to the bed, where he quickly walked over to and sat. Sasuke listened to her sleep, taking the time to stretch his back. "Pathetic child," he offhandedly said to himself.

"I don't know how the hell we'll move this bed!"

"How did you even get this bed in the hotel?"

Sasuke's ears perked and he turned his head.

"The land lord and I have an…agreement…"

"I am surprised at you!"

"We will sell the bed, how about that?"

Sasuke smirked slightly. His bare feet touched the cold ground and he ventured his way out of the small apartment and into the hallway. He had to admit, it was a terrible place, with rank odors and mysterious stains everywhere. He almost felt bad for the girl. She was obviously of important descent, and he didn't understand why she was out by herself in such a place.

With a soft shrug, he looked at the cream colored door, next to Hinata's. He gently wrapped on the door, earning instant silence from the strangers inside. The door opened slightly, to an older man looking out. "Yes? What is it? Do you understand what time it is?"

Sasuke sneered. "I do; perhaps you would have kept your voices down if you did. I heard you were selling a bed."

The old man looked Sasuke up and down curiously. "What is it to you?" His eyes focused on Sasuke's manacles.

Sasuke noticed this and angrily stuffed his hands into his pockets. "I want it."

"How much are you willing to give us?"

Sasuke wondered how much money his owner had. While opening his mouth to speak, he noticed the old man's raggedy appearance. He was not a wealthy man, it seemed, and Sasuke could offer a low price. He said the amount he was the thinking and the old man smiled. "I will write you a note and give you the money tomorrow afternoon."

"Fine- but if you do not, I will have to find you."

Sasuke resisted the urge to roll his eyes but nodded. "Give me the bed."

The door opened completely and a woman glanced up at Sasuke. "Who is this?"

"I am Sasuke," Sasuke replied coolly. He could understand her curiosity, but did not reciprocate the feeling. "I am retrieving my bed now."

The older couple backed away and allowed Sasuke to enter. He looked at the man, who was staring at him. "Now?" he asked incredulously.

Sasuke was beginning to feel agitated. "Yes, now." He turned to look at the bed, which looked clean and white. He liked the idea of his owner being pleased with him, but quickly snuffed it out.

"We are leaving tomorrow," the woman softly said, "and we need the money. Go help the young man."

Sasuke raked a hand through his hair before lifting his side. The older man lifted the opposite side and they began to work it out of the room and into the hallway. Sasuke chose to walk backwards, so he could control it, while the man followed his lead. Sasuke, although he was trapped as a possession, preferred to lead and give direction. Bossiness was one of the reasons why he was cursed.

The old man was surprised to see the beautiful woman sleeping on the floor after they had set the bed down. "Is that your wife?"

Sasuke had fished a piece of paper out of the girl's bag and was righting him a note for the bed. He did not reply.

The man studied Hinata for a few long moments before saying, "She is beautiful. You must be very lucky. It was kind of you to-"

Sasuke shoved the note into the man's hand and turned with a finalizing grunt. The man gulped, happy for the money but curious about the body. With a shrug, he left the apartment.

When Sasuke heard the click of the door, he smiled, feeling a small bit of pride in his chest. The bed was placed next to the old one, but far enough that he did not think the girl would contract some illness. Satisfied with himself, Sasuke hopped on the bed and rolled into a sleeping position.

When Hinata awoke, she opened her eyes to see a new, crisp bed. "What in the world?" She softly said, getting up.

She adjusted her over-sized pajamas and looked at the bed. She immediately noticed the maneki neko statue lying on the plush sheets and she laughed awkwardly, picking it up. "You aren't all bad, huh?" Hinata blushed slightly but gratefully looked at the bed. Laughing once more, she kissed the cat and tossed him back on the bed. Today, she would hunt for a job.

12/17/2013 #6
Bullwinkle's Lady

Grateful that she had brought her flip-flops and some towels with her (as there was no way she was using the stained towels the motel had provided, let alone placing her bare feet in the bathroom), Hinata took a hasty shower, noting to buy some bleach to scrub it down later. With her towel wrapped around her, she used a spare one to dry her hair as she walked out of the bathroom. She paused as she noticed the maneki neko lying on the bed where she had left it. Blushing, she turned it around, then paused again, and instead put it into the closet, closing it quickly as spiders descended from the interior ceiling. She felt guilty about shutting it – him away there, but was still unclear about the parameters of – whatever he was. Was the boy – Sasuke – conscious in the maneki neko? Could he see and hear everything that was going on?

She could not get over the knowledge that he had been able to touch her. Ghosts were not supposed to be able to touch the living. And if he wasn't a ghost, then what could he be?

Hinata's mind drifted back to the manacles she had seen on his wrists and ankles; the clink of his chains that dragged along the floor. The bindings suggested he was bound somewhere…or to something. The mankei neko? But how? And more importantly – why?

As Hinata got dressed, she tried not to feel particularly self-pitying, lest Sasuke made another unwanted appearance. She pulled on shorts, a tank top, and a loose jacket, leaving her long hair to hang down her back. She then grabbed her shoulder bag and headed for the door, before hesitating, and returning to the closet. She opened it and lifted the cat statue – Sasuke – brushing some spiders off him as she did so. As her hand caressed the cat's porcelain cheek, she reflected on how such a crude-looking figurine could produce such a handsome-looking young man. It was sort of a contradiction, and the concept made her smile slightly.

Trying to dismiss these idle thoughts, Hinata stuffed the statue into her shoulder bag. He was her "lucky charm," after all, and it only seemed logical that he would accompany on her first outing in her new town. Though she felt some anxiety at the concept of Sasuke making an ill-timed appearance while she was out and about in Konoha, she somehow could not convince herself to put him back down. Besides, it was morning time, and Sasuke seemed adverse to sunlight. She was sure everything would be fine.

And Hinata would not admit it – not to herself, or him, or anyone for that matter – but her lucky statue made her feel so much less alone. Even if she was just imagining everything. Even if he was a figment of her budding insanity.

When Hinata opened the door to the balcony, she was surprised to see an old man standing on the other side of it, on the verge of knocking. He blinked at her for a moment, before lowering his arm, and smiling.

"Oh, it's you."

"I'm sorry, do I know you?"

"Oh, no. But I remember you from last night."

"Sorry?"

"Your husband – he let me in."

"Husband? W-what are you talking about?"

"The bed. I sold him the bed, and helped him bring it in."

Comprehension filled Hinata's eyes. "Oh – right."

"Yes, the young man's name is Sasuke, am I right?"

"So you can see him too…" Hinata mused.

"What was that?"

"N-nothing."

"Is your husband in, by any chance?"

"I – um – no." Hinata shook her head.

The old man frowned. "He agreed to pay me this afternoon," he said, showing Hinata the note Sasuke had given him the night before. "I understand I'm early, but my wife and I are in a rush you see…"

"Right. Of course." Hinata dug into her shoulder bag and pulled out her wallet. "How much?"

"Ten-thousand yen."

Hinata was surprised. That was not expensive at all. She counted some bills and handed them to him. In return, the man gave her the note.

"Thank you, miss. And thank your husband for me as well. Lovely fellow," he said with an artificial smile, before walking off.

Hinata stared after him for a moment, before looking down at the note in her hand. In neat black handwriting, her apparition had signed it Uchiha Sasuke.

Hinata felt a chill run down her spine. Uchiha was a name she had heard before, but only in the macabre children stories she had been told growing up. She did not know where the stories had originated, but had never expected the name Uchiha to materialize in real life. The legend was of an old and dwindling clan – more ancient even than the Hyuuga – whose members, in the dark of the night, had the strange ability to…

Hinata lightly shook her head. It was an old and silly myth, that was all. The name was purely coincidental.

But as Hinata headed down the balcony and towards the stairs, she could not shake her apprehension. Could it have also been a coincidence that Uchiha Sasuke happened to be a spirit trapped within the confines of a ceramic cat? That he was biting, and shackled, and easily agitated?

Nipping her bottom lip, Hinata walked down the stairs, and down a path that led off the property. Now was not the time to worry about things that were hardly even real. She had to focus on more acute problems – like finding a job.

12/18/2013 . Edited 12/18/2013 #7
AnnaDax

The old woman on the other side of the counter looked at the girl once more, narrowing her eyes.

"What was your name again?"

"H-Hinata."

The old lady raised her eyebrows. "Hinata?" Her gaze fixed on the girl's pale eyes. "Hyuuga Hinata?"

Hinata had visited four more placed in her job-hunting attempts, only to always get greeted with the same questions. Her clan was famous, she knew that and had expected such situations. But this was a bit too much for her to handle.

The girl noticed that the old lady was actually expecting a reply, so she nodded uncomfortably. "H-hai."

"And what is a Hyuuga doing, looking for a job? And in Konoha?"

"I-" She tried to explain, but only opened and closed her mouth a few times, finally looking away. A sigh escaped her lungs. "I just need a job."

"I figured that much. But what I don't understand is why, when you should have a fortune."

Should I, Hinata asked herself. Because the only thing she was fortunate about was having the opportunity to start her life over. "I want to earn my own… fortune."

"Earn a fortune? In Konoha?" The woman laughed, hitting the counter with her hand to support her enthusiasm. "You must be joking."

Konoha was a small city, but it was often crowded with all kinds of tourists, come to see the town's own Mount Rushmore. There had to be a place that she could work at. Whatever it was. And she would find it.

"I am sorry to bother you," Hinata noted and bowed lightly, almost running out of the small gift-shop.

She walked up the street, her eyes fixed on the ground. Her hair covered her features like a thick veil of black smoke, moved graciously by the morning wind. She tried to hide herself behind her hair-fence, not even realizing that this only made her more appealing. People stared at her, intrigued by her, by the way her pale complexion was in contrast with her hair. And her eyes, almost translucent…

"Hey, is that a Hyuuga?" she heard people whisper.

Biting her lower lip, she took deep breaths, not even paying any attention to where she was going. Because right at that very moment, she needed to be somewhere quiet and alone. Was it a mistake to leave the motel so early?

Was it a mistake to leave her clan?

Another deep breath caused her head to feel light. Hinata squeezed her eyes shut, still walking with no particular direction, trying to contain herself.

Concentrate, Hinata. Concentrate. Another deep breath. You ran away from the Hyuuga clan for your own good, she continued debating in her head, struggling to reason with her own self. And you will be fine.

"I will be fine," she whispered, lifting her eyelids to stare at her unconsciously moving feet. "I just need to find a job. I really need to find a job…"

But before she could continue mumbling to herself, she tripped, almost falling on the ground face first. And yet, strangely, she managed to regain her balance in time. Did she stumble in her own feet? Because it almost felt like someone tripped her.

She looked around, but in a moment had forgotten all about that. Because before her stood a ramen shop. And on its door was a sign.

Help Wanted.

Smiling, Hinata walked ahead. There was hope. And maybe the Maneki-Sasuke really brought her luck. She opened the door, then quickly closed it, letting the small bell above it ring twice.

"Ooohaio," a voice called from another door behind the counter, probably where the kitchen was.

Hinata tried to maintain the smile on her lips and looked around for an empty seat, only to find the place completely empty.

"Up for some early ramen? Coz you're at the right place, ya know!" The voice turned out to actually belong to a fair-haired boy, who finally came out of the kitchen, wiping his hands and whiskered face with a towel. He offered her a shining smile, reaching all the way to his sky-blue eyes. "What can I get you?"

"A job?"

12/19/2013 #8
Airyo

He blinked for a moment and then a mischievous smile lit his face.

"We don't have that on the menu. I've never heard of Job-ramen before. Do you know what it tastes like because I wanna try that."

Hinata's hope deflated like a punctured balloon, and her shoulders drooped as she turned to exit. Even out here, the Hyuuga was famous enough that people felt like they had the right to mock her. Like she was no longer as human because her name has been in the news.

"Sorry for the intrusion," she muttered. She clutched her bag to her and tucked her head down as she gripped the door handle.

Chairs clattered behind her. She looked back to see him leap over with the counter. "Shit, I was just teasing." The boy rushed up to her. Hinata squeaked, but didn't move as she stared up at him. Up close, the blue of his eyes reminded her of the country skies, where the air wasn't polluted by smog. She felt her face heat.

"Sorry," he reiterated. "We do need help. The lunch and dinner rushes are awful. It wouldn't be bad if there was some way to clone me but as awesome as I am, I don't have that ability. Do you have any experience in waitressing or cooking? What hours are you available? By the way, I'm Uzumaki Naruto, believe it!" He ended the whole spiel with a cheesy thumbs up and wide, white grin.

Hinata reeled, trying to keep her eyes from swirling in her head. The Hyuuga was a family that valued efficiency. Everything had to be small neat movements and controlled expressions all boxed inside thin, perfect lines. And Naruto was the exact opposite of everything she was and hated about herself.

"I-I'm Hinata." She bit her lip in a moment of indecision as Naruto waited expectantly for her family name. Hinata want this job, more than any of the other ones. She could already see herself working here - late nights in the soft glow of the shop, greeting customers with a soft smile and easing their hunger with bowls of piping hot ramen, sneaking in small moments of chit chat with Naruto or the other workers. Maybe after a while they could all be friends. The Hyuuga name was an effective barrier, just as much as the bodyguards, the limos, and their notorious poker faces. It all came down to a single word. Hinata sighed and whispered it with more breath than sound. "My name is Hyuuga Hinata."

Naruto frowned, eyes narrowed. Hinata braced herself for the rejection, the questions.

"You didn't answer my questions," he said. He was sulking, of all things. "Do you really want to be hired? I can't just guess what hours you'll work or what you can do."

She stared back up at him. "You don't care?"

Naruto's tanned face pinched up as if he had eaten something sour. Confused, Hinata realized moments later. "What are you talking about? Of course I care about Ichiraku Ramen. That's why I'm interviewing you so I can make sure you're good for this shop, right? I mean Hyuuga's a super rich family, no offense, so I don't know what you've actually done before."

"You really don't care..."

"I just said that I care!" he said with an indignant pout. Hinata smiled as he crossed his arms.

"You're right, I don't have much experience but I can start immediately. I'm a hard worker and I'm do my best to learn everything you need me to. So please - " with a rush of courage, she bowed so sharply Naruto was forced to step back to avoid being headbutted in the stomach "- hire me. You won't regret it. I'll be the best worker you've ever hired."

She held her position, wishing and hoping with all her might. Naruto's silence was worrying. After a moment, she peeked up from between her bangs. Were...were his eyes glittering?

"That was the coolest speech ever, Hinata!"

She self-consciously straightened up and poked her index fingers together. "Thank you..."

Naruto clapped her shoulder with a heavy hand. "HIRED!" he yelled with a tone usually reserved for sparring matches. Hinata stumbled, but caught herself. He grinned at her. "Come on, let's get your uniform and hours figured out…" She followed him to the back room of the shop, still in a state of shock.

She had found a job. Someone who didn't care about the Hyuuga name had hired her. She was not sure if it was because of her good luck charm, but just to be safe, Hinata mentally thanked Maneki-Sasuke.

Her life was finally on the upswing.

12/21/2013 #9
LastUchihaAlive

Hinata returned home with a bright smile on her face. She smelled of ramen noodles and flour was caked into her nails, but she was happier then ever.

She began humming a light tune, stripping down for a shower. She ignored the stains on the wall and turned the water on hot, letting the steam rise. "Oh, Naruto," she said into her mirror as the water heated up. "Thank you." Her cheeks turned red when she thought about the man, his bright eyes and his happy smile, but blamed it on the temperature of the shower. He didn't care about her last name or her 'wealth' as everybody else had. He was so simple yet so utterly complex, Hinata knew she could spend a lot of time with the man. Well, she really wanted to spend time with him. He seemed to have a knack for making her happy. Naruto was blond, tall, and very...sexy.

Hinata blushed darkly and shook her head. How inappropriate of her to think of a male in such a manor.

Hinata stepped into the shower and let it burn her pale skin, which somehow always soothed her. She had met one co-worker, a bubblegum haired woman named Sakura. She didn't say much to Hinata, but she was working the counter and didn't have much extra time. The woman sang happily in her shower, grateful for the day. She forgot about the cat statue and the nasty hotel and her father for a while.

Hinata turned off the warm water, beads falling from her hair and onto the cool ground, with a calm smile. Her fingers reached for her plush towel but they did not meet. She quickly looked over and cursed softly. "I wish I remembered my stupid towel," she grumbled. She moved to open the door but it swung open suddenly. Hinata gasped and covered her chest as the man with dark eyes stared down at her, a towel draped over his arm.

"Is this what you wanted?" His tone was serious and Hinata was beat red.

"What is wrong with you!"

Sasuke looked confused, tilting his head slightly to the side and saying, "have I done wrong?" Hinata snatched the beige cloth from him and wrapped her body quickly, shivering from the outside air.

Sasuke stepped closer, invading her space. "Are you cold?" He asked.

Hinata screamed and pressed her back against the wall, covering her red face. "Please, Sasuke, I am naked!"

Sasuke stopped and looked down at her body. An evil grin spread over his face. "I apologize, is there anything you need?"

"Since when d-do you grant any wish?" She slumped to the ground, weary of unclothed state. He stuffed his hands in his pockets, feeling slightly human as she squirmed under his gaze.He did not answer and Hinata gulped, feeling a dark aura from Sasuke. "You said you weren't a genie..."

He stifled a sigh and gently walked forward, his eyes never leaving her form. "Do not question the dark and terrible powers I posses." His voice was so silk, so serious, and Hinata shivered.

"I'm beginning to think you're just really good at conning people. All you did was get me a bed and eavesdrop on me while I was in the shower."

"Are you feeling bold?" Sasuke snapped, his brow lifted. He got closer to the girl, squatting down eye level with her. The heat radiated from her skin. "I could kill you, child. You're pathetic ignorance is almost funny."

Hinata felt her lip quiver and tears threatened to fall from her lavender eyes. Why was she so weak? "Why can't you be kind to me?"

Sasuke looked at her before all the emotion on his face left. He stood upright, saying, "Is that what you wish?" He outstretched his hand and Hinata stared at it unbelievingly. He did not grow impatient- he simply stood with a bored, waiting look.

"I-I do not understand you, Sasuke."

He withdrew his hand. His long fingers grazed his shackles, acknowledging his entrapment. "I have not been close to people - women - in many years." Hinata's eyes widened but he continued. "I could act impulsively around a woman, lying bare at my feet."

She was silent as he turned on his heel and left. Sasuke's scent filled the air, only to be described as aged cinnamon.

Sasuke sat on the female's bed. He could not decide for himself-bad or good? When he was trapped, countless years ago, he had been given an ultimatum. Sink to his level and corrupt a beautiful, innocent woman or rise to her. Fall in love. Sasuke had been trapped for so long that he was entertaining the idea of corruption- but if he was good he did not have to trap another, because he knew his life was hell and it was shameful to do that to another. Sasuke put his arms above his head and lay on his back, musing for a while.

12/22/2013 . Edited 12/31/2013 #10
Bullwinkle's Lady

Naruto allowed her to place the maneki neko on the counter, beside the register. He had instantly adored it, polished it, and claimed it would bring them good luck.

Truthfully, Hinata did not know whether the cat would bring good luck or misfortune, but she had all intentions of finding out.

People came and went, no more than three patrons at a time, until noon, when every table in the shop filled up with customers behind large bowls of ramen. As Hinata boiled broth and kneaded dough in the back room, she could see Naruto smile with pride at the bustle from his spot behind the register. Sometimes he would come back and check up on her, looking her up and down as she tried to pretend not to notice.

"Nice posture," he would chirp approvingly.

"T-thank you," Hinata would respond, not knowing what posture had to do with making noodles.

Hinata had her own vantage of the customers through a window where she deposited bowls of food for Naruto to distribute. She liked that she was not out in the open all the time, yet she could still enjoy the smiling faces and the playful banter the customers exchanged with Naruto. She got distracted by it on a consistent enough basis that she was making a mess, her apron covered in dough. Naruto did not seem to mind. He took her disheveled appearance as a sign of a strong work ethic. In fact, Naruto did not mind a lot of things. It was almost impossible to displease him.

Hinata's hands worked automatically as her mind drifted to her boss's chronic smile. She glanced through the serving window in hope of getting another peek of it, but a potent darkness caught her attention and stole her gaze. There, sitting alone at a table, was Sasuke, and he was watching her. Hinata felt herself drop her hands.

Wiping them on her apron, she went to the door of the backroom, and opened it. When it closed behind her, she leaned against it, remained there for a while, exchanging Sasuke's stare with one of her own. She could hear Naruto yammering with a customer somewhere by the counter, but it all seemed to be background noise. She felt drawn to Sasuke despite her fear of him. Her feet carried her over to his table.

"My tea," he said, still watching her with that restrained aggression that seemed to define him.

Hinata lowered the cup she had not realized she had been carrying. In fact, she was not sure where it had come from. It was a cup of green tea, and she placed it in front of Sasuke, who reached up, and wrapped his hand around it. Then his skin seemed to bleed.

But from his hands, instead of blood, poured a dark, inky fluid that slowly encompassed the cup, then seeped into the tea, turning the beverage as black as his eyes. Hinata watched it occur, almost in a hypnotized state.

"Here," he said. He lifted the cup and offered it to her. "Drink." Suddenly he was the one making commands.

"Un," Hinata mumbled, taking the cup. She continued to gaze down at it with her half-lidded eyes. She lifted it to her parted lips-

Someone grabbed her free hand, and she was jerked out of her stupor. Deeply breathing, Hinata turned to face Naruto, who stood just inches away.

"What are you doing? I've been calling you for the past five minutes. Orders are starting to get backed up," she said with a frown.

"I-" Hinata stammered. "He-" She looked back at the table, but Sasuke was gone. She turned to the counter, to look at the maneki neko, that had not seemed to have moved an inch. Hinata blinked a few times. What had happened? Had it been real?

"Sorry," she said, lightly shaking herself. "I'll get right on those orders."

But Naruto did not release her hand. Instead, he held it tighter, and she felt color rise to her cheeks.

"Are you okay?" She had not thought the blonde could get any closer, but he proved her wrong as he narrowed the space between them, scrutinizing her so curiously; so innocently.

"F-fine," said Hinata.

When Naruto released her hand, Hinata started for the back room, but paused to throw a glance at the cup of tea left on the table by the spot where Sasuke had been. The cup was full, the fluid green, its steam dispersing as the beverage cooled.

Taking a shuddering breath, Hinata walked back to the back room. She did not look at the maneki neko again.

12/24/2013 #11
AnnaDax

Maybe Hanabi would be mad, but she didn't feel like taking the maneki-neko back to her motel room. Naruto had insisted it was the ramen shop's lucky token and she had found no place in her heart to disagree with him. Not that she wanted to, especially after the strange tea-hallucination from today.

Besides, Naruto was too good to her. He was kind, and sweet and all of a sudden her cheeks were burning again. Lying in her bed, Hinata cupped her face. It was best for her to get some rest, another workday awaited her.

Closing her eyes, she drifted into sleep.

Her dreams were as chaotic as ever. She was at work where the ramen was not boiling properly, then Naruto came to her rescue, having a set of nine fox tails come out of his trousers for some unknown reason.

And then something black fogged her mind, and it creeped inside it, crawling, covering her whole mind and body in a terrible coldness. Hinata started suffocating. She woke up almost with a scream, sitting up in her bed, rubbing her eyes.

Taking deep breaths she decided to check the small clock on the table beside her, almost to find herself screaming. The maneki-neko statue was there, positioned carefully so its odd eyes could stare straight at the girl.

Hinata panted. She was covered in cold sweat and couldn't really figure out if she was still dreaming or not. It was dark outside. The clock showed it to be almost four in the morning. And the statue was magical, there was no doubt about it. It had found its way back to her and she would probably need to get used to that.

"You need to be at the ramen shop," the girl mumbled, more to herself than to the statue.

"And you should stop wasting my time."

Her white eyes shot up in panic to find the maneki-neko was gone from the table.

Sasuke stood a few meters away, leaning on a wall, facing her. Only that his eyes were fixed on something he was holding. Hinata blinked, finally noticing that he held a small tea-cup. The air around her was feeling colder with each second, and yet no steam came from the cup.

Slowly, Sasuke walked to the girl, finding it fun how she tried backing away as if she could run anywhere.

"Drink it," he spoke.

Hinata was taking deep breaths, trying to stay calm, staring at the black liquid that filled the white cup. She could see her breath in the air. Her teeth chattered from the coldness.

"I don't want to," she spoke, her voice weak.

"Drink it," the boy spoke again, his onyx eyes fixed at the dark liquid, "or I will force it down your throat.

Hinata finally managed to detach herself from the bed and jumped up, running to the other side of the room. She tried opening the door but found it locked. And when she turned back in panic, it was too late.

Somehow Sasuke had materialized before her. He decreased the distance between him and the girl and held her chin with his empty hand. She struggled, even tried to kick him.

But it was too late. The cup was emptied in her throat.

Snapping her eyes open, Hinata shot up in her bed for the second time, she looked around the room to find it empty. Even the maneki-neko statue was missing. The sun was shining brightly and she was late.

She got into her ramen-uniform and ran to the Ichiraku shop, somehow making it in time. The cat-statue was on the counter. This had all been a bad dream. Hinata took up to preparing some ramen, feeling strangely dizzy. Maybe because she had missed her breakfast. But it didn't matter. She was sure Naruto would help her feel better.

12/26/2013 #12
LastUchihaAlive

Hinata waved goodbye to Naruto, ignoring the ugly cat on the counter. It hadn't moved all day and Sasuke hadn't appeared either- but she still did not feel right. Her throat burned and so did the pit of her stomach.

She left the shop, uncaring of her messy hair or uniform (which was covered in flour). She remembered a store she had passed once, on her way to the ramen shop and had completely disregarded. But the blue lights of the sign came back to her mind, as she stood before it.

Amara the Mystical and All-Knowing

Hinata felt ridiculous, pushing open the purple-painted door hesitantly. "H-hello?"

At first, she couldn't see anything. It was all black, and Hinata quickly turned, ready to leave. "Wait, child." Hinata froze at the elderly voice. She fearfully, slowly, turned back, and a blue light suddenly ignited on a table a few feet away. Hinata's breath caught in her breath as she studied the scene before her. An old woman, who was covered in wrinkles and warts, sat in a large, red chair with a snarl. Her long hair, colored white, was tied messily in a braid, cascading down her many shawls. "You seek some information, no?" Her accent was thick. Amara, the old woman, reached her bony fingers forward and swirled her hands above an orb, smoke filling the glass ball. "You have come to the right place."

Hinata licked her lips. Her first instinct was to run from the place, but a certain sense of tranquility surrounded her. "Yes, I seek...I need money help." She was lying- but she had lost her courage and wanted to leave sooner than later. "I just wanted a paper with a lucky chant written on it, or perhaps you could read my fortune."

Amara sneered. "I know you lie- sit." She snapped her fingers and a chair suddenly pushed itself out from the table. Hinata would have been surprised before, but she had seen a cat statue transform into a man. "You have romance problems- no, it is a spirit, a male spirit."

Hinata hesitated but nodded reluctantly.

"Has somebody cursed you, child?" One of her eyes was brown but the other was milky white, as if she had gone partially blind. She stared at Hinata intently.

"No, I don't think so."

"Have you cursed yourself?"

"N-no, I don't think so..."

Amara huffed. "What are you certain of?"

Hinata blushed and swallowed hard. "After I left my house-"

"You did not leave willingly."

Hinata's brow furrowed. "I don't think that matters right now."

Amara smiled slightly and waved her hand. "Okay then, continue."

"After I left my house," Hinata started again, "I found a maneki neko in my bag. I assumed it was from my sister- we got it years ago, from some little shop- and she named it Sasuke. I didn't think much of it at first, but then..."

"But what?" Amara's eyes had filled with interest and she leaned in closer, eyes narrowing.

"A man appeared, claiming to be Sasuke, the cat from the statue." Hinata knew any normal person would think she was utterly insane, but she found herself continuing quickly. "At first, I was brought some good luck, as maneki nekos typically bring- I got a new bed and a job. But then, Sasuke- the c-cat- turned really...angry. He appeared at my job with a cup of tea, b-but the tea turned black... After Naturo came- my boss- Sasuke disappeared. But, it didn't end there. I saw him in a dream last night, and he forced me to drink this bitter, sweet-smelling black drink in a little tea cup. My stomach and throat have been on fire and I don't know what to do. I fear that he will be back soon. Please help," Hinata finished lamely, her voice shaking. She suddenly got the chills and realized she had broken out in a cold sweat.

Amara pursed her lips. She leaned back and looked at Hinata, silently musing. Hinata gulped again, waiting. "You say he was trapped in a statue?"

"Yes- he said his name is Sasuke Uchiha."

Amara's eyes widened a fraction but she quickly regained composure. "You have very few options, child, but I will help. This spirit was somehow cursed because he was a selfish, bossy man. He is condemned to bring people good fortune and the only way he can escape is to help you. Except, he is still thinking selfishly. I believe this drink, this black poison you speak of, is a potion to trap you in his place."

Fear consumed Hinata, her stomach knotting up as she said, "How can I stop it?"

Amara stood and hobbled slowly to a dark shelf. Her long fingers picked up a small bottle of purple liquid, and once back at the table, she handed it to Hinata. "Drink this for now."

Hinata nodded and gulped it down. "How do I get rid of him?"

"Make him fall in love with you, or destroy the maneki neko."

"That's easy enough," Hinata sighed, feeling relieved. "Do I just smash it?"

"No, you must find the creator of the statue and kill him."

Hinata sat for a moment, completely thrown off. "Excuse me?"

"If you kill the creator, you kill the curse."

"How do I find the creator?"

Amara shrugged. "I don't know, but good luck. Here's your bill." She slid over a piece of paper to the girl.

Hinata payed it and exited, her face slack and filled with confusion.

When she had completely left, Amara leaned back and let out a loud sigh. "That was too close," she whispered. "I almost told her I was the one who cursed that boy." The old woman shook her head and sighed again, muttering, "Too close."

12/27/2013 #13
Bullwinkle's Lady

Hinata stopped by a nearby grocery store and spent a good amount of her remaining cash on cleaning supplies. When she got back to her motel room, she opened the windows, and scrubbed down every visible surface until her arms were numb. Though the carpet continued to look rather dingy, she had managed to make the bathroom shine to the point that she was no longer apprehensive about placing her bare feet in the tub.

Though she had partly wanted to do an aggressive cleaning of the motel room since first laying her eyes on it, part of her motivation in doing it was to distract herself from the things Amara had told her. That the only way to get rid of Sasuke was to either kill a potentially innocent person, or to somehow make Sasuke fall in love with her. Both of her options seemed not only unappealing, but impossible.

As Hinata curled up in bed that evening, she mulled it over again and again in her mind. If she didn't get rid of Sasuke, he would try to get rid of her – that, she was certain of. Tossing and turning, she drifted off in a restless sleep.

When she resurfaced, she supposed she was dreaming. At least she thought it was a dream. She was in a circular, stone room, with no windows. She was sitting against the wall in just her nightdress. Hinata groggily looked up to see Sasuke standing over her, and tensed. "W-where am I?"

"You're in the maneki neko," he said coolyl.

"H-how did I get there?" Her eyes darted about in panic. Had Sasuke finally managed to trap her?

"I'm am Uchiha," said Sasuke. "Have you not heard of my lineage? I can capture you in your dreams. You drank the black elixir, after all." Sasuke closed in on her, crouching down beside her. "Now I can take you here whenever you're asleep." He watching her go pale.

"I'm g-going to faint," she managed.

"You're already unconscious," he said, reaching out to her chin, but curiously, not touching it. His hand remained mere centimeters from her face, and Hinata held her breath, fearing he would hurt her, but he simply pulled back. His eyes flickered down to her wrists.

"Though I seem to have some limitations here. You're not wearing chains, like I am. How did you counteract the elixir?" His eyes flickered back up to glare at her.

"I – I didn't-"

"Don't lie to me," said Sasuke, leaning closer in his usual disregard for personal space.

Her eyes squeezed shut, she tried to push him away, and strangely, her hands were submerged in a coldness, like gas or liquid, instead of cloth or flesh. Hinata opened her eyes to see that her hands had gone right through him. "We can't touch each other," she whispered in shock.

"Not here," said Sasuke, still watching her coldly.

And as they sat there together, Hinata felt her fear begin to ebb. If Sasuke could not touch her, that meant he couldn't hurt her. At the same time, he could still get to her in the real world, when she was not asleep. So she would have to be careful, and make sure nothing she said would antagonize him. Hinata drew up her knees and wrapped her arms around them. As she stared at them, she could not help mumbling, "I want to go back."

"Until you wake up, you're stuck with me. Now, and every time you fall asleep."

Still staring at her knees, Hinata managed a shaky nod. The concept made her feel disinclined to fall asleep anymore at all.

12/30/2013 . Edited 12/30/2013 #14
AnnaDax

Silence fell into the odd room. There was barely any light in it, and yet, the girl could clearly see Sasuke's eyes in the darkness. It took her a few seconds to understand that their color had changed. They were red. Crimson. It was almost as if they were glowing.

Taking a few deep breaths, Hinata tried to calm herself. Could she wake herself? Maybe if she pinched her arm or something…

She heard the boy laugh, which caused her to shiver.

"Can you read my mind too?" she asked, her voice crackling.

"Thankfully, no. But I can catch a glimpse of what you experience here. This place is my world, remember?"

Her white eyes drifted to the ground. She inhaled, letting the freezing air fill her lungs and calm her senses. This wasn't fair. It wasn't.

"How can you be so evil?" the girl finally asked. Her voice was a mere whisper.

In an instant Sasuke was before her, inches away from her face. He had knelled down and was staring straight at her, his eyes the color of blood. And even though Hinata knew he couldn't hurt her, she couldn't help but press herself to the wall as much as possible.

"Evil?" he asked, obviously mocking her. "Evil," he repeated, this time stating it. "Do you have any idea how much time I have spent in this damn statue? If you were in my place, you would've gone evil as well, girl."

"My name is Hinata," she answered, gathering all the strength she had to look at him. "And no, I wouldn't have turned like you. Because you've evil way before you were locked here."

Sasuke slammed his fist on the wall, inches from her face. A huge thud echoed in the space. "Why do you think that you know so much about me, girl?"

He was doing his best to mock her, to make her feel uncomfortable, but Hinata had enough experience with such situations. Her father had taught her that much. The girl gripped the wall for balance and slowly stood up, mirrored by Sasuke. He stood before her, closer than she would ever be comfortable with, his eyes fierce. He did not intend on moving.

Hinata took a deep breath, closing her eyes. She held it for a moment, then exhaled. She took a step forward, then another one, until she felt a terrible coldness overwhelm her whole body. When she opened her eyes she turned around to see the boy staring at her. She had successfully passed right through him.

And Sasuke was surprised. Shocked. Frustrated. His lips were parted, but he did not speak.

He had greatly mistaken her. She wasn't the fragile, naïve, easily manipulated childish girl he could toy with until he destroyed her. No. She was not the open book he had thought her to be. She was much more.

This was bad. It was really bad. Because if she was so bipolar, it would make things too complicated.

"I know so much about you because I have dealt with enough people like you, Sasuke. You are egoistic, and mean, and nothing is ever good enough for you. Well, I am not like that and I'll never be, as much as my father wanted. I will never be chained in here."

Sasuke blinked. His red eyes flickered, turning back to their onyx color.

Hinata blinked as well, finding that it was somehow much easier to breathe now. She lay on her back, in her bed, staring at the ceiling of her motel room. It took her a few more seconds to understand that she was out of that dream, or hypnosis, or whatever it was.

Confrontation, she thought, sitting in her bed. He either couldn't stand to be confronted, or she had completely caught him off-guard.

Standing up, Hinata dressed and headed for the ramen shop. It was still dark outside, but she couldn't sleep. She wouldn't. Besides, she had enough things to do and certain blond people to stare at to get distracted.

If every night would be like this, she would need to find a way to live with it.

12/30/2013 #15
LastUchihaAlive

It was late, and the ramen shop's closed sign was hung on the door, lights illuminated the inside. Hinata quirked one fine eyebrow and pushed open the door gently, softly calling, "Hello?"

She heard a loud thump and somebody swear. Naruto peaked his head out from under a table, a frown on his face. "What the he- Oh, Hinata, what are you doing here?" His face turned curious, but she could see the ghost of a smile.

"I couldn't sleep." She wasn't too surprised to see him after hours, because this was his shop, but she was surprised to see him here so late past midnight. "Why are you here?"

"Same reason. Plus, after you left this crazy family of like eight kids came in and stuck gum all over the bottom of my tables." He raised a scraper and grunted, standing up. "Do you wanna help out? Er, no, take a seat. I don't wanna make you work this late."

Hinata obediently sat in a booth far from the register. She didn't want to look at the cat statue.

Naruto wiped his hands on a white cloth and quickly joined her. "What's troubling you?"

Hinata smiled at him, a blush threatening to dust her cheeks. "I have bad dreams sometimes, that's all."

Naruto nodded. "Me too! Sometimes, I dream of this guy with dark hair. He never says his name, but he's got red eyes and a pet snake." He laughed softly and shook his head. "I know it sounds weird, trust me. But Sakura has similar dreams, ya know?"

She nodded, leaning her chin into her palm. He was easy to talk to- and look at.

"Ya know, I was thinking about it. You have really pretty eyes!"

Hinata blushed. "Thanks, Naruto."

"You must wear contacts!"

She shook her head, the fear from earlier completely drained from her body. She felt safe near the blond boy, almost tranquil.

"I need some," Naruto said. "I can barely see the menu bored from the cash register! They're so expensive though, ya know? But ever since you brought in that little maneki neko, we have made some impressive money."

Hinata nodded, not thinking. "Yes, it is a nice little thing, isn't it?" She stared into his cerulean eyes, lost in the deepness of his shiny orbs.

"I wish I had one at home, to be honest!"

"I wish I did too."

Naruto stared at Hinata, smiling softly. "Yeah, you have nice eyes."

Hinata nodded.

They were silent for a moment, before Naruto's stomach rumbled. "Ah, sorry, working makes me hungry!"

Hinata jumped up. "Let me make you some ramen! I'll pay for it!"

Naruto snickered. "Is this a date?"

Hinata giggled and turned, heading for the kitchen, giddy.

When she opened the door, she nearly threw up. "Hello, kitten."

Sasuke crossed his arms, leaning against the counter. His eyes were angry, but thoughtful.

"S-Sasuke."

His brow arched.

12/31/2013 #16
Bullwinkle's Lady

Now that they were alone together, her courage was shredded to bits. She tried to walk passed him, aiming herself for a bag of flour perched on a shelf across the room, but Sasuke caught her wrist and jerked her to face him. He grabbed her other wrist as she tried to pull away.

"Let go," she managed.

"Or what?" he challenged, reminding her of her impotence against him here, in the real world. "Where's your self-righteous preaching now? Evil, am I? I'll show you evil." His hold on her wrists tightened until it began to hurt.

"Hinata are you okay in there?" called Naruto's voice. The door to the back room swung open, and the grip on her wrists disappeared. Hinata had not even noticed her eyes were squeezed shut, until she opened them to find that Sasuke was gone. Instead, she stood alone in the kitchen, with her arms drawn up in a strange fashion. Naruto's blonde head poked into the room. "Who are you talking to?" He gave her an odd look.

Hinata lowered her arms and tried to gather her composure. "N-no one," she said, glancing down, and it was obvious that she was lying.

"Oh…" said Naruto. "Well…don't have too much fun back here." He flashed a confused smile, and left again.

Catching her breath, Hinata collected the bag of flour. She poured some onto the counter, then went to the sink and washed her hands.

It was the second time Naruto had interrupted one of her encounters with Sasuke, resulting in the Uchiha's disappearance. She wondered what it all meant. Hinata went to the stove and turned on a pot of water to boil.

"That dobe…" said a voice, and Hinata looked up to see that Sasuke had reappeared, now leaning on the counter a few feet down from where she had poured the flour. "What are you doing with him?"

"This is his restaurant," Hinata responded, hesitating, and forcing herself to return to the counter. She started to work on the ramen, not looking at Sasuke as she did so. "So you know him…." she mused, suddenly curious of Naruto's role in this supernatural enigma. "W-who is he? To you?"

"He's an Uzumaki," Sasuke seethed, but it wasn't a name Hinata recognized. "If you intend to hide behind him–"

"The only thing I intend to do is f-finish this ramen," Hinata whispered back. It did not strike her that they were bantering; that they might have developed a quasi-normative routine she was settling into in lieu of terror.

"Hn." Sasuke's eyes flickered down to her hands as they kneaded the flour. They trailed up her long arms, her slender throat, then back down along the tendrils of indigo hair that went to the small of her back. "Stay away from him. He'll be the death of you," he warned.

Hinata felt herself flush in anger. "And y-you want to lock me in a statue. I think I'll w-weigh my options." She flattened and sliced the flour evenly before dumping her freshly-made noodles into the pot of water boiling on the stove. Afterwards, she walked right passed Sasuke and out of the kitchen, intending to join Naruto to pass the time before she finished the broth.

1/1/2014 . Edited 1/1/2014 #17
AnnaDax

Naruto gave the girl a few worried glances. She stumbled into chairs, bumped into walls and crashed into the back-room's door quite a few times.

She did not look sleepy. She looked upset.

"Hinata?"

The girl almost threw the dishes she was holding in the air. Thankfully, the blond caught her hands, securing the porcelain.

"S-sorry, you caught me off guard."

She raised her white eyes to gaze at him, finding his blue ones strangely serious. Their color was dark in the dim light, reminding her of the ocean.

The two stared at each other for a while in complete silence. At a point Hinata realized Naruto was still holding her, his fingers placed firmly over hers. She smiled awkwardly and tried moving out of his grip, but he didn't quite let go.

He held her gently, as if she was fragile. But he wasn't releasing her. "Will you tell me what's going on in your head?"

The girl blinked. "I… I was just thinking about some stuff. Sorry, I'll pay more attention."

His eyes were the night sky. "Hinata." Naruto leaned, closing the distance between them. She tried backing away, but he held her still.

Hinata continued staring at him, but she couldn't even blush. Something was not right. Her vision was somewhat foggy. Then head suddenly spun, and it spun so wildly, she feared she would lose her balance. "What… What was your name again," she heard herself murmur, even though she had no idea why she was asking such questions.

"Naruto," the boy spoke, his voice a mere whisper.

"Uzumaki… Naruto…"

"Yes."

"Uzu… maki…"

Hinata felt her feet give in. The ceiling appeared before her. The room spun. But these blue eyes were there, still and unmoving in her clouded mind. Her lips parted as she tried to breathe. But the air was suddenly too warm, too thick to inhale…

A strange, crashing sound filled the night. It helped Hinata regain some of her senses. She managed to grip the counter, successfully placing the dishes on her side, just then realizing that Naruto had released her.

His back was facing her. His arms hung lifelessly on both his sides.

The glass part of the door had shattered. The windows were now only sashes. The glasses on the shelves were only little shimmering crystals now. All of the water and sake bottles had turned into sharp, translucent rubble.

All in the ramen shop that was made of glass was on the floor now. But it wasn't blown apart. Everything had suddenly turned into a glass waterfall and had simply poured onto the ground in a very beautiful and rather terrifying way.

Hinata parted her lips as her gaze absently moved to the maneki-neko. Its oddly painted eyes were not so odd right anymore. In fact, the red irises had shifted just slightly, but enough so both could focus on the Uzumaki, who silently observed the debris all around him.

The girl watched him laugh lightly. He then turned to stare at her from the corner of his eye, a gorgeous smile on his lips.

"I knew it."

1/2/2014 #18
Airyo

His eyes were like the maneki neko's - bloody irises and pupils like slashes of ink.

"Naurto..." she whispered. Hinata took a step back. The broken glass crunched beneath her feet like thin ice. "What's going on?" The questions about the glass, about Sasuke's cryptic words, about... everything tangled and twisted in her mouth. But her courage failed to unknot her tongue and she could only stare at Naruto in betrayal.

He was supposed to be normal. Average and unassuming and yet the center of it all - a balancing point in the midst of chaotic extremes. Maybe it was only her projection of such a role, but he had let her believe it.

And she had let him fool her.

Naruto blinked. The violent red of his irises softened to violet, then back to blue she had cherished. "Kinda nice, isn't it?" he asked in a low voice. He sounded hesitant, even though the hair on the back of Hinata's neck stood at alert. "Not having that Bastard knocking on your consciousness."

Hinata didn't respond. She knew it wasn't so simple. But the room wasn't spinning anymore, and her body wasn't acting on its own accord anymore.

"I did you a favor, since it seemed like he was really messing you up." Naruto gestured to the spill of crystals that was left of the glass in the shop. "This mess was just the recoil." He rubbed the back of his neck and scowled at the ground. "Man...I really don't want to clean it up...think a vacuum cleaner will do the trick?"

His attempt at humor was as flat as old soda. All Hinata could think about was Sasuke. What had he done to Sasuke? What had Naruto done that removed his presence? Her mind was clear - clear and cold and empty.

"I wish I can understand what is going on."

Hinata squeezed her eyes shut. She was wishing for Sasuke to appear, for him to do something. Anything to break this strange, horrible nightmare. At least Sasuke was a horror she knew. She had told him she would take the chance with Naruto, but that was before he had shattered everything made of glass within a 10 meter radius around him.

But she did not know Sasuke's circumstance as well as she thought she had. Even minutes earlier, Hinata would have been delighted that it was just her and Naruto in the shop.

Silence remained. Nothing.

What had he done to Sasuke?

"You want to understand? It's easy," Naruto said with a laugh. He walked to the shelf and picked up the maneki neko statue. He tossed it up in the air and caught it with the same hand. "There's a cursed demon called Uchiha Sasuke trapped inside. It has latched onto you and will sooner betray you to escape. And that is something that I, as an Uzumaki, must prevent." Naruto presented the statue to her. "So all you, the owner, have to do is give this thing to me. Just say the words and I'll take care of the rest."

Hinata studied the statue. She peeked up at Naruto's expectant expression. There was a hard sort of determination in his eyes. It should have be an easy choice.

"Let me think about it," she stuttered out instead. The edges of his smile sharpened.

"What is there to think about? Isn't it to your benefit?"

She bowed her head. "Please."

"Hinata, you said you wanted to understand." Naruto reached out and laid a large hand on her shoulder. "Then why are you being like this. I'll just--"

"Dimwit, can't you understand English?"

They both turned to the new speaker. Sasuke glared at them. He leaned against the wall for support, one arm curled around his stomach. He covered a wet cough, and red speckled the pale canvas of his hand. Naruto froze for a moment, then snarled as he stepped between Hinata and Sasuke.

"You weren't supposed to escape. Uchiha." Naruto spat his name like a curse.

"It's to be expected when you're the one doing the spell. You were dead-last in your class, weren't you, Uzumaki?" Sasuke gave a rough chuckle. "The girl said 'no'."

Hinata peered around Naruto's broad form to stare at Sasuke. All his previous interactions with her had a measured distance in them, even when he was invading her personal space. He had treated her as tool. And even now, he was serving his own interests by defending her. But with a sheen of sweat on his forehead and a glint of real anger in his dark eyes, Hinata couldn't help but think just how human he seemed.

1/2/2014 . Edited 1/6/2014 #19
LastUchihaAlive

Hinata blinked, feeling almost bad for Sasuke. She pressed her hand to Naruto's back and shivered, feeling his warm skin. She wondered if Sasuke's was cold in comparison. "N-Naruto, don't hurt him."

Sasuke smirked slightly at Hinata turned away, blood trailing down his legs from his stomach. "Hinata," Naruto said with frustration, his eyes never leaving the Uchiha's, "don't tell me to stop. I want to help you."

Hinata was angry that she didn't know why they hated each other. She didn't want Naruto to hurt her curse, because seeing him hurt bothered her. She knew Sasuke could care less about her and her feelings, but the kind woman disliked the deep grimace on Sasuke's face. Slowly, she moved past Naruto and stepped on the glass, listening to the faint crunching of the shards under her feet. She noticed the maneki neko had vanished from her hands as she paced toward Sasuke, her thoughts muddled.

"Hinata, please," Naruto said. "He will hurt you."

Hinata stood between the two. "Sasuke," she began, "are you alright?"

Naruto gently grabbed the crook of her elbow and pulled her away. Looking her in the eyes, he whispered, "Uchiha wants to use you to escape. He's gonna trap you."

Sasuke didn't deny it. He wiped the blood from his lips. Hinata looked at his pitiful form, shaking her head. "He's better then that..." She didn't believe her own words, even though she wanted to. Sasuke was evil and fearsome, but she almost sympathized with him. Anyone would go crazy from being trapped in that little room for so long. "Sasuke, you can escape by helping me."

Naruto pulled her behind him and said, "Leave Hinata alone, got it?"

"Or what?" Sasuke asked.

Naruto stared into Sasuke's black eyes, unsure of what to say.

Sasuke paced forward. "What, Uzumaki? Cheh, you are so stupid."

Naruto growled, suddenly grabbing Sasuke's shirt. "I don't want to see you use her."

Sasuke's hand wrapped around Naruto's wrist and he said, "What is she to you? She is a just a pathetic, little girl- she won't do you any good."

1/3/2014 . Edited 1/4/2014 #20
Bullwinkle's Lady

Hinata winced at his words. It was not the first time Sasuke had called her "girl."

As inclined as she was to believe she was motivated by sympathy for the Uchiha, she knew that was not the extent of it. There was a strange protectiveness manifesting in her chest, something instinctive; frighteningly natural.

"Stop!" she said, watching Sasuke raise his fist.

At Hinata's warning, Naruto was able to block the attack. He slammed Sasuke into a wall and gripped his throat, his eyes glowing red again.

"D-don't!" she cried, watching as Sasuke's own eyes became wide, scarlet pools. Three tomoe spun within them, and she was suddenly more fearful for Naruto than she was for him.

Sasuke grabbed Naruto's wrist, squeezing it and causing the blonde to grunt in pain. He detached Naruto from him, his grip tightening until there was a disgusting crunching noise, embellished only by Naruto's screams. The blonde uttered a high-pitched whine, like a wounded animal, as Sasuke grip continued to tighten. Hinata watched on in horror, unaware of the veins that surfaced on her temples.

"Stop it!" she screamed.

To her surprise, Sasuke did just that. He froze in place, almost unnaturally. The only parts of him that moved was the blood dripping from his lips and the wound on his stomach. Naruto stumbled back and fell down as Hinata hurried over.

"A-are you okay," she hurried passed the blonde, to Sasuke's side, unaware as the veins sunk, and he became animate again. His eyes turned black, then narrowed in pain. She grabbed his arm and wrapped it around her shoulders, feeling dizzy. Was it because of all the blood? "What's…happening to me?" she said faintly, the world beginning to swim. She looking up at Sasuke's clenched jaw.

It will be fine.

His lips didn't move, but his words echoed around her. That, and the blackness, as his eyes swallowed her whole.

"We'll be safe here."

Hinata stared up at the stone ceiling and realized she was back in the maneki neko. She sat up to see Sasuke slumped against a wall, still gripping his abdomen, though the wound had disappeared. There was a grimace on his face, and dark shadows beneath his eyes.

"What's going on?" she wanted to know, climbing onto her knees and sitting on her heels. She kept her distance from Sasuke, but watched him worriedly.

"You are a Hyuuga, are you not?" he said coldly, eyes narrowing at her. "Like the Uzumakis, your people have reign…over spirits."

She thought back to how she had ordered Sasuke to stop fighting Naruto. How he had frozen at her command, so completely, he had resembled a statue for just that moment.

"Reign?" said Hinata, growing increasingly stunned.

She remembered the strange queries Sasuke had made to her in their previous encounters. How once she had asked, Are you going to hurt me?

And he responded, Do you want me to?

"So I'm your owner…" Hinata whispered, staring at Sasuke, but he only glared back. "I c-control you." And all this time, he'd had her believing otherwise. He had scared and insulted her, even threatening her on some occasions. Had it all been to divert her from the truth? "You've been p-protecting me."

Sasuke released a sharp exhalation; a hiss of contempt. "You are my owner," he said cynically, and she merely continued to stare. "And I'm not protecting you. I'm preserving our connection. It's the only way to…" she trailed off, suddenly weary, but Hinata suspected she knew what he had meant to say.

"To t-trap me here."

"Aa," said Sasuke, with no hesitation. "To trap you here." His hand shaking slightly, he reached up to massage the bridge of his nose. More traces of that secret humanity. As Hinata observed him, she noticed the tremble went as far as his shoulders and down his arms – in fact, his entire body was shaking. She crawled over to him, entranced by it. Why was she still drawn to him? He himself had said that all he wanted was to use her.

"Naruto's spell – it…" Sasuke trailed off. "I need to rest." His trembling became more violent.

"What do I do?" Hinata said. Only then did she notice she had come to be mere inches away from him.

Sasuke lifted his eyes to peer at her. "If you give me to Naruto, I will die."

"But y-you're a spirit. Aren't you already–?" She reached out, as though to touch him, but then stopped herself. Despite that she knew her hands would pass through him, she was embarrassed that she would try to touch him in the first place. Sasuke observed her blunder in indifference.

"That's for you to decide."

"I don't want to go." The words came spilling out, and she didn't even know why. Why did she want to stay in this empty, stone cavern, with Sasuke, and all his hostility? She watched his eyes close completely, and absently reflected on his beauty. It was ironic that in her dreams, she was here, with him. But in his, he was alone. She made the mistake of blinking, and everything was gone.

Hinata groggily crawled up from the shard-covered floor. The windows were framed with jagged glass teeth, sunlight pouring through them, and bouncing off the shards littering the floor. They decorated the shop with misshapen white stars. Naruto was seated on the ground beside her, gripping his wrist in pain. As Hinata sat up, she did not lose herself in his cerulean eyes, the way she usually did.

"Are you all right?" he said hoarsely.

"I'm f-fine," said Hinata. She stared at her lap, feeling guilty, as though she had condescended to some horrible contract.

"I was just trying to protect you," he said.

"I'm fine," Hinata repeated. She did not meet his eyes again.

1/5/2014 . Edited 1/5/2014 #21
AnnaDax

"I'm sorry," Hinata whispered.

The blond barely heard her, but her eyes told him enough. He smiled. "It's my fault, ya know."

"But..."

"I knew what I was doing. I made all that mess."

The girl couldn't really meet his gaze, so she took to staring at the floor. The vacuum cleaner had done a wonder and not a single piece of broken glass could be seen. The problem was that the ramen shop had to close for the day so that all the windows and doors could be repaired. They had not sold a single bowl of ramen, and besides, all the damage was covered by the Uzumaki's own budget.

Hinata shouldn't have come. She could have done something else, rather than drag all her problems to her workplace, and to Naruto, who was just too helpful.

"Thanks for helping me out," the boy spoke, flashing his bright smile once more.

"Of course... I-"

"We're almost done, Naruto," one of the workers interrupted her, carrying the newly-repaired door in his hands. He walked past Hinata, but stopped and turned back, staring at her. "You're new here, aren't you?"

She nodded. The boy smiled at her, revealing a pair of long canines, and ran his fingers through his nut-brown, spiky hair, completely oblivious to the two dirty stains, smeared on both his cheeks. He had probably gotten too close to the greased hinges of the front door.

"Kiba, stop fooling around," someone yelled from behind.

"And you stop fussing around, Shino. I'm coming."

Still smiling at Hinata, the boy walked ahead but failed to notice the table on his left. He bumped into it, knocking whatever was on it on the ground.

The girl almost screamed, watching as the maneki-neko statue fell head first. She tried to catch it, but she just wasn't fast enough.

For a few moments the room fell completely silent.

"Ugh, sorry," Kiba mumbled.

But he did not need to apologize. Hinata knelled on the floor and picked up the statue to find that there was not a single scratch on it. Her eyes drifted to Naruto. The blond stared at the cat-sculpture in her hands in a very indifferent and very bored way. Because he knew the statue wouldn't break, it was magical. If only things were that easy.

It was already dark when they finally left the ramen shop. Hinata waited for the Uzumaki to lock the newly-fixed door, then bowed to him lightly.

"I will come early tomorrow so I can compensate for the losses."

The blond gave her a bright smile. "No need to do that. We have enough clients to get back what we lost in just a day."

The girl nodded, feeling a light blush stain her cheeks. "H-hai."

"It's late. I'll walk you back. Where do you live anyway?"

Suddenly the girl paled. "I... There's no need for you to do that, I live just around the corner..."

Naruto's blue eyes fixed on her for a few long moments. "You are staying at that cheap-ass motel, aren't you?" Her silence was enough of an answer for him. A slight hint of disgust ran through his handsome features. "Nope, that ain't gonna work. You'll stay with me while you find a better place-"

"I c-can't do that," Hinata exclaimed.

"Of course you can. I am not going to let any of my workers live at a place like that hideous motel. Only hobos and tramps stay there. No place for a girl like you."

"W-what?" Hinata was desperately trying to keep his pace.

"My parents passed away when I was a baby. They left me the ramen shop and a huge apartment."

"But I-"

"No buts," he spoke, then turned around to stare at her. Hinata almost crashed into him. "I insist." There was too much determination in his eyes.

"I... I caused you too much trouble, Naruto-kun. I just... I can't-"

"Hinata." His voice was low. Serious. His arms moved and he carefully placed them on her shoulders. "I saw you tug the damn statue in your bag. If you're not going to let me take that burden from you, then let me at least be able to keep an eye on you. You've gotten yourself into a lot of trouble." Seeing he was making her uncomfortable, the boy let go of her and just offered her a warm smile. "My guest room is empty anyway. If you hate it that much, you can come back to this... motel."

The girl smiled back awkwardly. Naruto really wanted to help her. He was too kind, and she did not deserve it. This seemed important for him, and she couldn't really turn him down, could she?

"O-okay," she spoke and tried to give him a better smile. "Just... for tonight. I'll be out before you know it."

Smiling widely, Naruto nodded and let her go gather her luggage. He stared at her as she disappeared into the dark, smelly lobby of the excuse for a motel. His eyes traced the bag that hung on her shoulder.

If he was careful and if everything went as planned, the Uchiha clan would finally become a simple legend. Once and for all.

1/6/2014 . Edited 1/12/2014 #22
Airyo

The knowledge that Naruto was waiting for her made packing quick. Hinata tossed all her personal effects into her suitcase with uncharacteristic haphazardness. But she still paused to give the room a long glance before exiting.

Even if it was a "cheap-ass motel", it had still been her first home away from the warm, gentle shelter of her childhood. It had been the stage for her first unsteady and reluctant steps on her own feet. And it had been the place she met Sasuke. For all his blunt insistence of his evil motives, Sasuke had seemed merely resigned to his role, his purpose. For him, it was the only path his narrow vision could hold.

Her eyes lingered on the bed. He had procured it for her. Even if it was with her own money, it was one of the most considerate acts someone had done for her. Was it really another ploy to capture her, mind and soul?

But she had felt safer with Sasuke, inside the maneki neko, than behind the broad back of Uzumaki Naruto, who had snapped the threads of Sasuke's hold on her.

Hinata gripped the handle of her suitcase, wishing there was someone she could discuss her situation with. She didn't worry about unwarranted appearances because Sasuke was probably busy with...whatever spirits did to recovering, and even if he did appear, he would mislead her.

Hinata shook her head. There was little point in circling the same doubts. She turned and exited, pulling the door shut behind her.

"You ready?"

"Yes."

He grabbed her suitcase. "Come on. Let's go."

The night air was chilly, and the lamps gave an eerie cast to the street. Hinata followed a few steps behind Naruto, lost in thought. Usually, she would have delighted in the crisp tones of autumn in the breeze. Night was a time of peace, but she felt restless as she followed Naruto's broad back and dandelion hair.

We'll be safe here, Sasuke had said.

Both of them, safe from Naruto? Sasuke never made any airs about his motives - he was out for number one. At least it seemed that way. He wasn't the type to be sloppy with his pronouns.

Like the Uzumakis, your people have reign…over spirits.

Hinata wished she could call Neji or Hanabi or someone back home to ask, because she had to wonder if the Hyuuga's success was related to the supernatural world she had discovered. A lifetime of clan politics had its toll, after all. The Hyuuga and the Uzumaki had similar abilities, yet it was clear that their clan paths had diverged in opposite directions. The Hyuuga name was powerful, so saturated that the mere word could be used as currency. Hinata had a good memory, and she had never heard mention of Uzumaki until this past week.

If they had similar abilities...would that make the Uzumaki partners...or rivals? And why did everything center around her, the Hyuuga who wasn't Hyuuga any longer?

Hinata's feet stopped. A few steps later, Naruto noticed the silence and turned with a curious look. His blue eyes looked violet under the pale glow of the streetlamps.

"Naruto...who are the Uzumaki?"

1/7/2014 . Edited 1/10/2014 #23
Bullwinkle's Lady

"The Uzumaki…" said Naruto wistfully, as though reminiscing. "They're an old and elitist clan – kind of like yours, Hyuuga Hinata." He threw her a grin and turned away again.

Hinata hurried to keep up as he continued walking. "I had never heard of them."

"Their descendants are few and far between. Not prolific like the Hyuuga, and not extinct like the–" Naruto caught himself.

The Uchiha, Hinata thought. So the legends were true. "What are we…ano…why are we…" She tried to put it in words. "…how come we're–?"

"Supernatural?" said Naruto as he approached an ordinary-looking building. "I'm surprised you would ask me something like that, Hinata-chan. You are the one keeping the statue-spirit to do your bidding."

"My b-bidding?" said Hinata, following Naruto inside. "He's not d-doing my bidding."

Naruto led her to a glass elevator that seemed out-of-place in the dusty property. He slid a key card to unlock it, then stepped aside to allow her to enter it first. "Well you control him, ne?"

"Yes, but–"

"And you take him with you wherever you go?"

Hinata reddened more. "Y-yes, but only to–"

"Protect him?"

Hinata searched for a retort, but found herself lost as to what to say. She could feel her chest tighten at the memory of Sasuke bleeding in Naruto's shop. She could remember her fear at seeing the statue clatter to the floor earlier that day. Was that what she was doing? Protecting him?

The elevator came to a stop after what felt like a thirty-flight ascension. The building had not looked nearly so large from the outside.

"Make yourself at home," said Naruto, as he strolled into the penthouse.

Hinata stared at amazement around the largest living room she had ever seen.

One of the walls was a massive window that must have been camouflaged to look like the rest of the building from the outside. It gave a view of the beautiful Konoha skyline. A marble fireplace was built into another wall, a fire already crackling within it. A large set of white couches were perched around a glass coffee table, which, in turn, were set on a large beige rug. Beyond that was the impeccable gray wood floor.

"The movie theater is this way," Naruto explained, as Hinata wandered after him, gawking around. "The aquarium is downstairs, of course. We have the freshest shark meat on this side of the Pacific. I'll have a guest room prepared for you. Would you prefer the east wing of the west?"

"W-west," said Hinata distractedly.

Naruto smirked. "Figures."

"W-what do you mean?"

"Kakashi, take her to her room."

Hinata stiffened as a gray-haired man emerged from the shadows. Before she knew it, she was being shooed off by him, Naruto disappearing behind a maze of passages.

The guest room was just as gorgeous as the rest of the apartment. Hinata looked around it, still feeling numb.

"Dinner will be served at six," said Kakashi.

Hinata quickly turned around. She had forgotten he was behind her. "Right," she said, though she had no intention of attending dinner. She forced a smile. Kakashi eyed her and left.

Once alone, Hinata went over to the king-sized bed in the center of the room. She threw herself upon it, squeezed her eyes shut, and tried, fruitlessly, to fall asleep. After several minutes of tossing, turning, and grumbling to herself, she accepted that she was too anxious to fall asleep. Yet all she wanted was to see Sasuke again – to make sure he was all right. She was still unnerved by the condition he had been in when they had parted.

"Yo," said a weary voice.

Hinata sat up from the sheets, wide-eyed and disheveled. "Hi," she whispered back.

Sasuke was seated on the edge of her bed.

1/11/2014 . Edited 1/11/2014 #24
AnnaDax

They kept silent for a while. Sasuke was looking away, seemingly preoccupied with something outside the large window. However, Hinata could not miss the way he absently held his stomach.

There was no blood on his shirt anymore. Did he change? Probably not. His clothes were a part of his spirit form. Then was he healed? Her white eyes fixed on his stomach again, trying to decipher whether he was fine now. He struck her as someone that would not show pain, no matter how much he hurt.

"Where are we," he asked, nearly startling her to death.

Hinata sat up. "At N-Naruto-kun's place." The room was really dark. And yet, she couldn't miss how Sasuke's blank expression changed into a surprised one, morphing into a very, very angry look in the end. His onyx eyes stuck to her, his face furious.

"Are you insane?" he hissed at her.

The girl blinked and shifted, trying to increase the distance between her and the angry spirit-man. "I'm not sure anymore," she finally managed to whisper.

Sasuke needed a few seconds to grasp her reply. In the end he rolled his eyes and stood up. "We are leaving."

The girl just watched him, completely disregarding what he was saying. For a dark stain had appeared on his shirt again and he didn't even notice it.

"You are bleeding."

The boy looked down, finding that she was indeed right. Clutching his stomach with his right arm he returned his attention back to her. "Didn't I tell you that he is dangerous? You need to stay away from him." His dark eyes traced her white ones. She was inspecting the wound on his lower abdomen, her expression worried. "Are you even listening to me?"

"Do you need a medic?"

It was his turn to blink at her. He then threw his head back and laughed silently. His shaking didn't help the bleeding but he didn't really care. "I am a spirit. Your human doctors will do me no good."

"Then who will?"

This caught Sasuke off-guard. His face became serious, though he had no intention of telling her. "Get out of here now."

His voice was low, a mere whisper. And for some reason it sent shivers down her spine, but Hinata shook the feeling away and also stood up, making sure there was enough distance between her and the boy.

"Why isn't it healing?"

Sasuke grit his teeth. "This is a wound that damages the energy flow. It takes time to heal. This is why you shouldn't be here at all! Kami, do you even have anything in that head of yours?"

"Let me see it."

"You can't do anything about it," Sasuke lied.

"Sit down," Hinata spoke with the most calm and serious voice she could produce.

And to her surprise, it worked. Sasuke obeyed her immediately, but his expression was bitter.

The girl took a step forward. "Now lie down," she explained

The boy rolled his eyes and let his back hit the soft mattress. He stared at the ceiling, annoyed to his limits.

"D-don't move," she whispered, her voice soft.

Hinata moved closer, leaning above him. It was working. She really did have control over him. Taking a deep breath, she exhaled slowly, reaching in. She hesitated but finally took the end of his shirt and pulled it up, revealing a perfect set of six-packs. She would have blushed to death by this sight, if it wasn't for the deep, horizontal cut.

She heard him hiss, so she immediately backed away and hurried into the spacious bathroom. She grabbed a towel, wet it neatly, then returned, placing it over his lower torso as gently as she could.

"You never struck me as a girl who strips men so unceremoniously."

She almost squeaked, startled by his voice and by his words, and took a few steps back. "I'm n-not stripping you…"

"No, it's okay," he spoke lowly, staring at her from the corner of his eye. He still couldn't move thanks to her blunt orders. "Strip me all you want."

He was mocking her. And trying to frustrate her, and it was working. With her eyes widened, she looked away as he laughed at her.

"You are…" she whispered, bringing him another towel, "a jerk."

Sasuke laughed some more, but coughed. He squeezed his eyes shut and hissed. "Can I move now?"

"Y-yes," Hinata replied and watched him curl in a ball on the bed.

"Kuso…"

"Your wound wouldn't have opened if you weren't so mean."

And yet the cut on his stomach wasn't bleeding so much anymore. She didn't know what had caused it to get better. But she was happy to see that he was recovering, at least to some extent. She handed him the second towel and he took it, tossing the bloody one on the ground.

It took her a few moments to realize that she was standing quite close to him. Sasuke lay on his back and stared at her, holding the wet towel to his stomach. Hinata awkwardly fixed her hair behind her ear. Why did she feel the need to help him at all? He was mean, and rude, and abusive, and handsome, and frustrated her too much.

A sudden knock on the door dragged her out of her thoughts.

"Dinner is served, Hinata-san."

"I w-will be right there!" she called and listened as Kakashi walked away. She turned her white eyes to Sasuke. "Get some rest," she mumbled, then rushed out of the room.

1/12/2014 #25
Airyo

Dinner was simple, and it was all the more jarring given their dining conditions. The cutlery was weighty silver, the glassware was crystal accented with gold, the table linens…Hinata had a feel for quality of such things, after more than her fair share of fancy Hyuuga banquets, and even she was impressed. Though they only numbered three, the large oaken table could have seated a party a full family with places to spare. Kakashi stood a few steps behind the tall back of Naruto's chair, as silent and attentive as a guard dog.

It was quite a picture.

Hinata had never witnessed Naruto eating first hand, but he was the type to apply the same boundless energy to food as he did to anything else. She watched from across the table as Naruto fit an enormous bite of mashed potatos into his mouth. Yet, his table manners were immaculate - terrifyingly so, with no elbows on the table, silent chewing, lips sealed shut, back straight, shoulders back, and every technical detail unforgotten. Other than the bulge in one cheek and the cheerful glint in his eyes, Naruto was the very image of a young rich master.

Just like the master, there was something a little bit off about the butler. While his suit was perfection down to the very last crease, he wore an eyepatch and had hair that appeared as if someone had just electrocuted him. Then again, he had greeted them with "Yo" and bow. That should have been her first sign.

Naruto glanced at her and grinned. "Not bad for a ramen shop owner, ne?" He gestured to the dining room with his spoon. While the styling was understated, the extravagance around her was overwhelming after her weeks in a motel that was arguably a step up from sleeping on the street.

"Your home is lovely," she said with soft smile, her body moving automatically under the puppet strings of courtesy. "I am honored to be invited here." Naruto blinked at her for a moment, and then guffawed, nearly spraying mashed potatoes across his plate.

"You're too funny, Hinata!" he laughed, pounding the table and making the silverware clatter. When he could breath again, he took a sip of water and waved for Kakashi. "Get Hinata some wine - she needs to relax!"

"Of course." Kakashi inclined his head and exited.

"And you should eat. If you're a stickler for all that nice manners stuff, you should accept the food!"

Hinata down at her plate. She had barely picked at the peas, and had left the mashed potatoes and steak alone untouched. The memory of Sasuke's blood, bright against his pale skin, had ruined her appetite. She had never witnessed anything so grave on this side of the television screen.

"Sorry," she said. Hinata picked up her fork and prodded at a pea until it stuck on the tip. She bought it to her mouth and closed her lips around it. Satisfied that she was at least attempting to eat, Naruto turned his attentions back to his food.

To Hinata's relief, Kakashi returned with two bottles and a wine glass. "Red or white?"

The dark liquid of the Merlot sloshed in the bottle. The vivid image of Sasuke curled over, arms folded over his stomach and his eyebrows drawn down in pain . She swallowed hard.

"Ah...white please," she whispered. He set the other bottle down and poured a glass. She accepted, taking a sip before setting beside her plate. Naruto was correct. She needed a drink. While this might have been old news to everyone else, she only learned about the supernatural elements of her family today.

She clutched her head. Everything was blurring.

"Hinata!?" Naruto yelped. She looked up to tell them it was okay, I'm fine, it's just stress but then she froze. She watched Kakashi as he reached a hand up to his eyepatch.

Even as her head ached with each quick pulse of her heart, Hinata could only think about how Kakashi's exposed eye had the same crimson pattern as Sasuke's.

1/14/2014 #26
LastUchihaAlive

Her head fell down to the table and her eyes shut.

For a long time, she was surrounded in darkness. Her limbs ached, as if she had been running, and her head was clogged. She wanted to say his name, ask for help, but she could only see the red eye burned into her mind.

"Wake up already."

Hinata knew the irratable voice- it was him, it was Sasuke. She rolled onto her back and coughed, taking her time to open her eyes. Two red eyes were staring down at her, but they were unlike Kakashi's. They were harsh and steely, a window into his cold soul that Hinata did not fear. She knew these eyes. These were a danger, if she could even call him that anymore, she was familiar with.

"Hello," he said, his tone annoyed. He backed away from her, and she took a moment to glance around. She was inside of the statue.

"S-Sasuke...?" Hinata sat up, panting slightly. Her throat ached, and she suddenly felt numb. "What is going on?"

"I don't know. You're clearly asleep."

Hinata nodded. Something about her state was wrong, she felt almost like she was fading, and it hurt. "How long have I been in here?"

Sasuke shrugged. The wound on his stomach was healed and the only evidence that it had ever been there was the slight tear on his shirt. "Not long, I guess. You appeared a while after my nap." Sasuke's eyes roamed her figure for a moment before he frowned. Worry etched itself between his brows. "You are becoming-"

Hinata gasped when a pain shot through her arms. She looked down at herself, and saw that she was fading away. "Sasuke, what's happening?"

Sasuke grunted and shook his head. "He must have known, that dobe..."

Hinata desperately looked up into his face. "What?"

"Naruto must have known about the potion that got you in here."

"B-But I tried to counter act it, and it didn't work!"

Sasuke shrugged. "His was stronger, I guess." He spared her one last glance. "Bye."

Hinata screamed in pain as she was ripped away from her subconscious. Her eyes flew open and she gulped open the fresh air in her bedroom, grasping the sheets underneath her. "Hinata, you're awake!"

She panted, looking over. The blonde man was seated beside her bed, a smile pulling his lips up. Hinata looked around in fear, her eyes rushing to the bed side stand. The maneki neko was not there. "Where is he?"

"Where is who?"

"Where is Sasuke?"

Naruto reached out and gently patted Hinata's knee. "Calm down, Hinata! Everything is fine, you're safe!"

"What did he do to me?" She rubbed her arms together, taking comfort in the solid flesh. "Your butler, what did he do?"

Kakashi stepped away from the door, shrouded in shadows. If Hinata could see his face, she would see he was smiling softly. His eye crinkled bashfully. "Hello, Hinata. I really didn't mean to frighten you, you see. Naruto told me about your little problem, and I wanted to help."

Hinata looked back at Naruto. The blonde rubbed the back of his neck and said, "I didn't order him to. I kinda freaked when you passed out. But Kakashi explained everything to me. Apparently, he knew of a woman who got trapped or whatever, and long story short, he found an elixir to bring her out. It's insanely powerful, and you might want to lie down."

Hinata frowned. She understood, but confusion still muddled her brain. Her pale purple eyes met ecstatic cerulean ones, and she couldn't help but long for the black orbs she had grown accustom of.

1/21/2014 #27
AnnaDax

Hinata lay awake in her bed, staring at the ceiling, trying to figure out what to do next.

Because she had to find the statue. She couldn't bear the fact that someone's life, even that of an evil spirit, depended on her, and she had let it slip between her fingers.

But Naruto was not easy to persuade. He had insisted on her getting some sleep and had promised to talk more about the maneki-neko in the morning. And she had to stick to that. Because tomorrow was Saturday, her day off. And she would have enough time with the blond to figure out what he wanted to do with the statue.

Nothing of this was natural. Damn, she wasn't normal herself, as much as she denied it. And the fact that her clan had come in the possession of a demon-infested statue only proved her fears – she was in a deep mess.

Exhaling, Hinata rubbed her eyes and tried to fight the tears away. She was miles away from her home, as awful as it was. She no longer had the protection of her cousin, nor the tranquility of her sister's bright mind.

She was alone, in a town she knew nothing about. She was practically living with a guy and she could not handle with that thought, even for a night.

Hinata shot up in her bed and tried to stay calm. The room was enormous and so beautiful but then why did she feel so much better in the closed place of the maneki-neko prison?

This was madness! She was going mad, and had no one to blame but herself.

She needed air. She needed to sleep. And she needed to find the cat-statue before she went completely insane.

Absolutely unsure why she was suddenly so panicked about Sasuke, having in mind that he was an evil spirit capable of all sorts evil things, she started hyperventilating. Because if anything happened to him it would be her fault. He had warned her.

Her head still spun thanks to that butler guy and his "special" wine. Hinata was upset, and angry, and she just wanted to find Sasuke. She had to. Fighting away the tears from her eyes, she tried to be rational but failed miserably. Her head spun more and more, and she felt the urge to lie down, but instead slowly stood up, headed to the door. This wasn't a normal headache. This place was insane. She had to get away from the house and Naruto, and his one hell of a butler.

But she had to find Sasuke first.

The girl reached the door only to clash with it. She had lost her balance. The headache was now a burning sensation that spread to her temples, only to find its way to her eyes. Hinata reached in to rub her aching forehead but almost ended up screaming.

Because what she was seeing was not normal. She was delusional, there was no other explanation. But then how did she see Kakashi through her room's floor? How could she follow his movements, watching him read an odd-looking book in his armchair?

It was as if she was looking at a negative image of the world. This was crazy. And yet it was happening.

Half freaked-out, Hinata disbelievingly moved her eyes. She could see a few people on the street outside… And she could see the maneki-neko, placed on a small table in a room on the other side of the house.

She gasped upon noticing the energy that flowed from the statue, something that was meant to be invisible and yet there it was. There he was. Sasuke was still locked in there.

And as if in a dream, Hinata found that she could no longer see him. She was staring at the wall of her room, feeling slightly dizzy.

Not caring to think this through, she opened the door of her room and ran down the huge and too long corridor. It was around 3 AM. And she could really use whatever she had activated in her panic a few moments ago. But there was no time to be cautious now. She had to take Sasuke and get as far away from here as possible.

Hinata pressed her ear to the door but heard nothing. So, with a deep breath, she twisted the door-handle and tiptoed inside. It was dark and quiet. Walking ahead she found the statue, positioned on the other end of the room, on a small tea-table close to the window. There was barely any light, but she couldn't miss noticing the statue's eyes. Its crimson gaze was glued on her in a way that made her freeze in her tracks.

Something wasn't right.

"I knew it'll work."

She spun on her heels a little too late. Naruto had appeared in the room somehow, and was staring at her with his gorgeous eyes, dark-blue in the dim light. He closed the door behind him, locked it and tucked the key in the pocket of his black pants. His baggy jacket was gone now, which left him in an orange tank-top that revealed a bit too much of his muscular torso for Hinata to feel comfortable.

And yet, she managed to find the strength to step back, taking the maneki-neko statue in her hands. She took one more step towards the window as Naruto walked ahead.

But the boy decided to stop. He had no intentions of frightening her, not at all. She was fragile, and yet strong enough to unlock what members of her clan could only dream of. She was interesting and beautiful. And he had a whole night to persuade her to be on his side. One way or another.

1/27/2014 #28
Airyo

Naruto didn't volunteer any information, and only watched her with a soft smile. Hinata clasped the maneki neko closer to herself. Her pulse filled her throat. She licked her cracked lips.

"W-what would work?" she asked.

"Your powers, of course!" he said with a wide smile. Hinata blinked. She wondered how she'd missed how sharp his canines seemed until just now. It wasn't like he tried to hide it.

"My eyes?" she asked in a whisper. He nodded. "Do you have powers too?" It was disconcerting to focus on his features while the colors of what Hinata assumed to be his aura swirled. He resembled one of those inferred pictures - Naruto was haloed in brilliant blue, but the center of his silhouette was a sinister crimson that reminded Hinata of Sasuke's (and Kakashi's) irises.

Her gaze lingered on his navel, where the red was so saturated it seemed to burn itself into her mind. Hinata felt light. Her whole consciousness seemed to sink into towards that warmth, like a moth drawn to a flame. She took a step forward.

A cool hand covered her eyes from behind her. Her x-ray vision faded, leaving her in darkness. A split second later, she realized that her hands were empty.

"I wouldn't stare too long," Sasuke murmured into her ear. "That is not of this world."

She heard Naruto snort. "Neither are you."

Sasuke tensed. His long fingers curled, but remained gentle on Hinata's face as he pulled her back into his chest. The gesture would have been protective if Sasuke hadn't proclaimed his goal of sacrificing her for his freedom. "At one point, I was," he said. He almost seemed nostalgic. "That was not the case for the Kyuubi you hold inside you."

It wasn't his proximity that made her uncomfortable. Maybe it wasn't comfort, but paled in comparison when the boys sounded so honest while speaking of insanity.

Hinata grasped Sasuke's wrist. To her surprise, he gave no resistance when she pulled his hand away from her eyes. Hinata stepped away from him, so she could see both boys. They watched her with eerily similar expressions of curiosity. They were like the sun and moon - so different, but upon a closer examination, also inevitably connected.

"What is the Kyuubi?"

"You've studied your folklore in school, haven't you?" Naruto asked.

"A fox spirit that can be benevolent or malicious. It has nine tails and has great intelligence and wisdom, but can also be prone to causing mischief," Hinata recited in a low voice. Her stomach sank. Naruto nodded in agreement as she spoke. As if it were all true. She really shouldn't be surprised at this point.

2/2/2014 #29
LastUchihaAlive

"But," Hinata said softly, "Naruto, you aren't malicious. Right?"

Naruto grinned and lifted his fist, giving her a proud thumbs up. "That's right! I'm here to protect you, and help you discover your powers! And then, you can successfully put this dobe to work, ne?"

Hinata frowned. She had no real use for Sasuke, if he left her she wouldn't suffer. But admittedly, she felt safe near him. And maybe it was because Sasuke wouldn't have anyone to use if he didn't have her, but maybe it was because he genuinely enjoyed her.

Hinata nearly smiled at that last thought- Sasuke didn't care about her more then he had to.

"Let's go, I'm bored," Sasuke suddenly said.

Naruto rolled his eyes. "I was only joking. You gotta learn to lighten up."

Arching a perfect brow, the 'curse' said, "Whatever."

"Well...what exactly are they? M-my powers," Hinata said lightly. She stepped forward again, subconsciously edging closer to Sasuke. "I mean, does it have a name? What can I do?"

"Oh!" Naruto cried, regaining himself. "It's called the B..Byakugi?"

"Byakugan," Sasuke sighed.

"Yeah, that!"

"What's it do?"

Naruto frowned. "Well...it helps you look through stuff."

"What did you expect?" Sasuke snapped. His brows were furrowed and Hinata had the sudden urge to smooth them out. He would get nasty wrinkles someday. Can he even get wrinkles? Hinata smiled softly up at him, wondering what the dark, angry man would look like with deep set lines. Giggling softly, she turned back to the blonde.

Sasuke's lower lip jutted out as he failed to dismiss the smile.

"Anyway," Naruto said, shrugging, "it's really useful for finding stuff. Do you want to here more?" His smile grew and his blue eyes sparkled, despite the dim lighting.

"No," Sasuke growled.

"Go away," Hinata sighed, waving at him.

Suddenly, the small cat statue fell to the floor.

"Good job," Naruto laughed.

Hinata frowned. "Sorry, Sasuke," she whispered to the maneki neko on the ground.

"Come here," her boss said, grabbing her wrist gently. He pulled her to a small bed in the center of the room, unused for what seemed like years.

2/6/2014 #30
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