Neji likes to meditate during the sunsets, sometimes on a certain cousin.
He was meditating on the sunset from the deck of the dojo, watching the colors of the sky reflect into the rippling waters of the river.
He had always thought that. (Now, he wasn't so sure.)
He watched his shadow, his long hair making his head take the form of a spider with many legs. He remembered the night he had woken up from a nightmare about spiders and realized he was only human. He had cried then, cried like he never had given himself a chance to as a child. He still could see the scars on his back when he chose to look in the mirror and the memory of that sacrifice made his heart ache. (Six punctures, two more that are mirrored on both sides of his body.)
One more scar on his heart.
His head drooped a little as the sun did and the spider became merely a circle of black on the ground.
He remembered the training he had put himself through after that battle. He remembered the pain of the kunais and the headaches he would get after a long session, expanding his vision. He remembered the pain of rebuilding old calluses after hospitalization. He remembered the one who had always come down to help him home when the sun was going down over the hills, like now.
The scar on his forehead...
The sun was almost completely gone. The trees were shadows, the river a dark grey-blue.
His shoulder...his side...
(It still ached when he thought about it.) He remembered that tearing-ripping pain of an arrow passing clean through his body... All just to survive. They had all been too young to know what they had been doing. They had been sacrificing themselves, their bodies, without thinking who that would affect. Neji still questioned the Hokage's wisdom in letting them take that mission, but he had dealt with it, as they all had.
(Or had they?)
Was Kiba still waking from dreams of being hunted? Was Shikamaru still having dreams of leading his friends into danger? Was Naruto still having dreams of grasping and loosing? Was Chouji still having dreams of being crushed?
If they were, they weren't talking about it. After all, if they wanted to be ninjas, they couldn't show this kind of weakness. This was their life, they had chosen it, just like their parents before them. (Even though it was not as though people like himself had any sort of choice.)
The sun was down, and he quieted his thoughts for a moment, just to listen for certain footsteps.
They came as he expected them to, a delicate flower's brushings against the well-worn wood. (She knew better than to let him down.) She set down her usual tray next to him, the scent of soothing tea already filling his head. She sat down next to him, her legs crossing demurely as they hung over the edge of the wood, and he thought about how she had confided in him that she really just wanted to be a housewife and enjoy the peace of the land. How, even though she had the strength to fight, she didn't feel like it was what she was meant to do.
Despite the fact that all their parts were the same - black hair, creamy eyes, pale skin, slightly heavy physique in the men, petite physique in the women - the sum each of them came up with was completely different.
"What... What were you thinking about... to-tonight?" she asked quietly as he turned to take a cup of tea. He waited untill he had blown the steam off into the night and a sip of warm liquid had spread through his chilled limbs before answering. Hinata knew how to be quiet.
"Just life," he answered, studying the lights appearing in the hills across the river.
Her head was bowed over her own cup, bangs falling forward into her face. (He knew that she was just thinking out her words, so he stayed quiet.) He had found Hinata a good conversation partner, if you gave her time. In large groups she was near to impossible, but one on one, she shined.
"Neji-chan," he corrected wearily, (for the millionth time.)
"Neji-san," she insisted. Some people really didn't realize the tenatious strength held within that little body of hers, but it was there, and showed itself occasionally. Occasionally in annoying ways like this. Occasionally in nice ways, like when she came to sit with him after he meditated. (At least she wasn't calling him Dono and insisting he sat on a coushion.)
"I am wondering... Will you... will you join the..the ANBU?"
He hesitated as he lifted the cup to his lips, but then continued. (Would he? Could he?)
"I don't know," he admitted. (She was shocked to hear that from him: he who was supposed to have his future planned out in stone.)
"I am a ninja, I will have to take missions, but... I would like to stay here." (Unless you're trying to get rid of me. Then I'll go.)
"I...I would like that, Neji-san. But...But of course you can choose what you want, I mean, it doesn't matter what I think really, I was just saying..."
He could tell she was blushing (she fair glowed) even though her hair was hanging in front of her face (he sort of wished he could see her face).
He smiled a little and his gaze softened. The idea that she cared for him brought a strange sort of warmth to his chest, akin to that of the tea, but it allayed completely those old battle-scars' complaints (like she had those long days before, changing his bandages while he was forced into bed).
(She was refusing to look at him even though he had said her name.)
He reached over the distance of the tea-tray to brush back the long bangs from her face. (He knew he must have looked solomn, but his heart was beating a thousand times a second and this really wasn't the smartest thing to be doing out here where anyone could step out and see them, even her father, and then there would be trouble, a branch house and the heir...)
Her hair was so soft, he wished she'd let it grow just so that there was more of it in the world. Her skin was softer, smoother than his own, the product of perfect genes and breeding. (Infidel! Criminal! Degenerate! Pervert! Blasphomer!)
He leant over the plate, carefully placing his cup down on it with a steady hand in order to free it to reach her farther shoulder. (She looked about as terrified as he felt.)
When his lips met hers... just lightly, fumblingly. They were only teenagers after all. (OhgodsheissobeautifulherlipsaresosoftlikeeverythingelseandIwonderifI'mthefirstforherIhopeshedoesn'trunawayafterIlethergoIdon'twanttolooseherwhoknewIwassuchabadplannerafterall)
He did let go of her, reluctantly, with his hands, but his eyes still held her captive.
(At least there's no san. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?)
"I'd apologize if I could do so truthfully." (He found himself smiling a little, way less than he really wanted to. He had always been cool under pressure.)
She was turning red all up towards her ears. (Was that really healthy?) He prayed for a positive answer to whomever was the god of doomed ninja lovers.
She took a deep breath and her eyes finally met his. (She looked like she was holding her breath, trying to hold herself upright.)
"I...I like you...and...and I don't mind. The...kiss, I mean. I...I don't know..." she gave a little scared laugh that sounded almost like a cough and started looking down again.
Neji let a little more of his smile out.
"It's okay." (This really was kind of embarressing.)
"I'll...Your tea's cold...Do you...do you want to come in now?"
He stood up, stiff from a few hours of sitting and training all day before that, but ignoring it because of the jubiliation making itself known in his head.
(None of them matter, since she said yes.)
"Yes, I will come in now. Thank you, Hinata."
(Always, thank you.)
Later, he heard her knock on his door. (What could she want now?) He was dressed for sleep, and she was blushing a little because he wasn't wearing a shirt. (It was summer, hadn't she seen him without one on before?)
He stood up, expecting news of a visitor or perhaps a mission, but she was silent to his questioning eyes. It was a slow dance, one step after another in her bare feet untill she was close enough to touch one of his scars (Oh don't do this to me now, memory.) and stand up on tip-toe (she really was so much shorter than him standing up than sitting down) to kiss him.
"Thank you," she breathed.
"And...I...do want you to stay with me. Please."
He carefully got his arms around her shoulders without her flinching and held her there. There eyes were mirrors of each other, soft light in the darkness.
"I will, for you."