The next day, Hinata stepped onto the school grounds by herself. It was strange, she mused. Even if Neji only walked next to her to keep other males away from her, he had still been a comforting presence at her side.
Now she moved alone through the streams of other students. There was no older cousin to break the crowd ahead.
Hinata took a step to the side and watched the people rush past. As she stood there, wrapped up in her own thoughts of this odd sense of freedom, a bright mop of spiky yellow hair caught her eye.
Naruto. Little wonder she had picked him out of the crowd. She had been attuned to him for so long now, it was second nature. So natural even, that she had already lifted a hand and was about to step away from the wall. Hinata closed her mouth, curled her hand back to her breast, and frowned at herself, watching Naruto forge his way past barely two feet from her.
A whole chapter of her life had closed when she had decided to challenge Hidan two weeks ago. Naruto was no longer part of her life. Hinata snorted softly, seeing the familiar sight of Naruto brushing past oblivious of her gaze. Not that he was part of it to begin with. Only now it was official. She would no longer watch after him.
Hinata instead looked back towards the doors, the light streaming in to bathe everything around her in the soft glowing tones of an early morning palette.
‘I wanna paint you in gold,’ Hidan had said to her. She looked down at her arms, pale skin gilded gold in the light of the sunrise and she smiled.
Feeling a little warmer, Hinata turned and walked to her first class, sliding easily into the throng of students.
Hidan was being stalked. Ruthlessly, his hunter followed him through the school, eyes following his every move. Calculating. Waiting. Hiding. Occasionally, he’d hear the predator. See a flash of yellow out of the corner of his eye. Hear a stifled giggle. Feel eyes on the back of his head.
By second period, he was thoroughly rattled, especially since the stalker had become stalkers. He snuck into the second period Calculus classroom and crouched behind Itachi. “Yamanaka and her groupies are following me!” he hissed, peeking out at the door. “Why are they fucking following me?! I haven’t done a goddamn thing to them!”
Itachi’s face was expressionless. Inside, he was rolling around, laughing his ass off. Oh, fate was sweet, and karma a deliciously vindictive bitch. “Perhaps your recent relationship fascinates them,” he offered casually.
“Oh shit, are you fucking kidding me?” the Jashin demanded, paling.
“Don’t worry. They will probably lose interest.”
Sitting in a pool of sunshine, Hinata looked out the window at the track fields below. Geometry class had been difficult. Usually Neji would sit next to her, but today he had arrived earlier and had pointedly sat further away. The student he had displaced had given Hinata a confused look, but she hadn’t explained the situation.
Halfway through class, the teacher had given them lab time. Hinata had packed her work away within minutes, pulling her cousin’s lunch out of her bag. She had walked up to his desk and placed the bento next to his wrist. He had ignored her. No words were spoken. A moment later, Hinata had left the room without looking back.
At the cafeteria, she had warmed her lunch in the microwave and had snuck back upstairs. Now, her bento was left half eaten on her lap, her attention far away.
Kakuzu sighed. “We’re going to be late for lunch.”
“Shh,” was the only reply he got as his best friend and frequent partner in crime peeking into the classroom. “I knew it. What a fucking space cadet,” he said gleefully.
“You are an idiot,” Kakuzu declared, turning away. “I’ll get you a burger.”
Hidan waved him off and crept into the room. He sat down next to her, smirking. “So I saw this sexy lady this morning. Bathed in gold. I’m just sad I didn’t get to do it myself.”
At the sound of his voice, Hinata yelped and barely grabbed her lunch box before it slid off her lap. “Hidan!”
“My name!” he replied. “Hello goddess, what’s with the space cadet routine?”
“Uhm,” she blushed and put the box on the table. “I was just thinking. That’s all.”
He quirked a brow. “About?”
Hinata bit her lip and looked out the window. “Family issues.”
“What sort of issues? Talk to me, eh?” he wheedled.
She turned back with a skeptical look, lips twitching. “It’s not all that interesting, Hidan…” Then her eyes widened. “You saw me this morning?” Did he see when Naruto…
He nodded. “Yeah?”
He didn’t look disappointed or angry. So, he must have missed seeing her reach out to the blond. Hinata sighed. One thing going her way for once today. If Neji had seen that, he would have lectured her all throughout lunch.
Hidan was still watching her expectantly, so she smiled. And softly punched him in the shoulder. “You didn’t say hi, you jerk.”
He grinned. “I knew you loved me,” he teased. “So where’s your second lunch box?”
Her blush from his first offhand comment still pink on her cheeks, Hinata shook her head looked down at her hands. “I-I’m sorry. I gave it to Neji in class.”
“It’s cool. Did that bastard say thank you?” he asked, leaning back against the wall.
Hinata looked out the window again. “No,” she said softly. “He won’t talk to me now.”
Hidan paused mid stretch, eyes narrowing. “Why fucking not?”
Pale eyes watched as students raced around the track. Teachers standing off to the side, blowing whistles. Sunlight everywhere.
Hinata let a wry little smile stretch across her lips. “I yelled at him yesterday, remember? I don’t think he liked that.”
Strange thing was, she had yelled at him, confirming all his fears, yet the family hadn’t been told of her outburst. When she had finally returned home that night, the expected confrontation had been absent. It had left her confused. She had seen her cousin later than evening and again in the morning, but he had walked by without acknowledging her. His lack of regard had shaken her more than Hinata had expected.
She brushed her fingers through her hair and sighed. “Maybe I shouldn’t have–”
Hidan was shaking slightly, even as he stood and stalked from the room. “I’ll kill that bitch,” he hissed. He heard her startled gasp, and then her footsteps as she rushed after him. He hurried toward the classroom where Neji sat.
And the breaking came when Hidan saw the untouched bento, and Neji’s cafeteria tray. “You fucking little cunt!” he hissed, stalking over. He shoved Neji’s tray off the desk, sending it clattering to the floor, and then reached out to grab the Hyuuga.
Neji quickly swatted his hand away and got to his feet. “Jashin. What is the meaning of this?”
Hidan snarled and bared his teeth. “Like you don’t know, you cocksucking little bitch!”
“Hidan! Don’t please!” Hinata was frantic at his side. “He-” she broke off when she saw the way Neji’s eyes flickered in her direction, but refused to focus on her. Even now, he was ignoring her even as she was trying to defend him. Hurt and still confused, she took a step back, hands falling away from Hidan’s shirt.
“M-maybe…” she said tremulously, brows furrowed in distress, “… maybe, I should be happy you aren’t talking to me. Your silence is enough.” Her pale eyes closed. “Do you hate me that much?”
She took another step away, then another. Finally, she turned and fled entirely.
Hidan cracked his knuckles. “Prepare to bleed, fucker!” He lunged.
Neji ducked beneath the wild swing, driving his fist into Hidan’s solar plexus. Hidan stumbled back, and then proceeded to brush the hit off like it was nothing. Neji’s eyes widened. A trick? That has to be it...
At least… He hoped so.
It took literally no time at all before someone saw the brawl and ran for help. Which attracted attention. Shortly, a small crowd had gathered, though they wisely refrained from entering the trashed classroom. Kakuzu glanced in, frowned, and went off in search of Hinata. As much as he could make money from this, she was probably off somewhere crying.
He frowned at the thought. I hate crying women…
He finally gave up and started listening in at the doors of the various girls’ bathrooms. He found her on the second floor. Luckily, she was the only one in the bathroom. “Hinata?” he asked, stepping inside.
There was a sniffle, and then, “Ka-kakuzu?!” She certainly sounded shocked. “No! Get out!” He could hear her stumbling, and then the door of a stall shutting. “Go away!”
Who does she think I am, a slut? I don’t do shit for free. “No.”
“Dammit Kakuzu! This is a girl’s washroom! You can’t be in here!”
He just crossed his arms and stared wordlessly at the door of her stall.
“You’re still there aren’t you?”
A scoff. “Yes.”
“Why?” At least she wasn’t crying anymore.
His glare darkened. “Shits and giggles.”
There was a beat of silence. Then the latch unlocked and Hinata peeked out. She looked pretty bad. “That is so not even funny,” she hiccuped.
He ignored the comment. “I take it Hidan found out about Hyuuga’s neglect?” he asked.
Hinata’s eyes widened. “H-how do you know about Neji?”
“That information will cost you.”
Hinata wiped her eyes and leaned her head forward to rest on the door jamb. “Unbelievable.” She stayed that way for a few minutes, breathing deeply and slowly rebuilding her composure. Finally, she sighed and twisted out of the stall.
“Now what?” she asked, going past him towards the sinks. “You stay in here until I leave?” She sounded tired, wrung out.
“Maybe.” He watched her, still frowning, and mentally hoped Hidan would beat the ever-living shit out of that asshole before the teachers stopped him. Fucking ass. Maybe I’ll put him in debt.
Hinata looked up from splashing water over her eyes, droplets ran down her cheeks. “Kakuzu, you can’t be serious.” She wiped the moisture from her face and looked at him again. “Oh God. You are.”
He shrugged. “Seems that way.”
“Even if other girls walk in here and scream at you?”
Another shrug. “They do that anyway.”
Hinata opened her mouth, and then shut it again sheepishly. Yes, she had done that too.
They stared at each other for a moment, neither saying a word. Hinata was the first to break, letting out a hopeless sigh, she turned to look in the mirror. “Yikes,” she muttered at her reflection. She turned the faucet back on and pushed her wet hands through her hair.
“Know any quiet places where one can hide from everyone for an afternoon?” she asked as she tied her long blue hair back in a low ponytail. With the hair pulled back, the line of her jaw and the pale slope of her neck were suddenly visible.
Hinata caught him looking and smiled slightly. “Ten bucks?”
He nodded. “Follow me,” he said, and lead her away. Five minutes later, they were in what Kisame called the Hidey Hole. Once she was settled, he held out a hand expectantly.
She handed him the money, then pulled out another five. “How do you know about Neji?” she asked again.
“Spy network,” he replied, pleased.
Pale eyes blinked at him. “Why did you search for me?”
He sat down on a beanbag. “Because Hidan is otherwise occupied, and could not come himself.”
“Oh.” Voice soft, Hinata looked thoughtful. “Thank you.” She twisted her fingers, and the one five slid aside to show the second beneath. She held them out to him.
He accepted them like the greedy money monger he was. “What do you plan on doing about it?”
One eyebrow rising, Hinata smirked and lay back down on her own beanbag. “About Neji? That information is going to cost you, my friend.” She sobered quickly though. “Since, I don’t really know myself. I had thought that Neji would tell my family about my transgressions. However, when I got home–it didn’t seem that way.”
The pale girl trailed her fingers through the bangs that framed her face. “I don’t know whether he’s angry at me or if he’s ashamed of me. And I don’t know if I should do anything about it, other than leave him alone.”
“I meant about Hidan fighting your cousin,” Kakuzu corrected.
Hinata groaned and covered her face. “I don’t know,” she mumbled finally. “Congratulate him for one awesome fight and then tell him to never do it again?”
Kakuzu chuckled. “I’d love to see that.”
One pale eye peeked through spread fingers. “He is going to be okay right?”
Kakuzu nodded. “Should be. And even if he isn’t, a kiss should do it.” It was impossible to tell if that was a joke or not.
Hinata let her hands drop and shook her head, smiling slightly. “Should I be offended or comforted that you’re completely dismissing my family’s prized natural fighter?”
He smirked. “Who cares? Hyuuga is a dick and I hope Hidan rips him a literal new one. I would pay money to have that happen.”
The girl next to him sighed. “I’d say Neji wasn’t that bad–but we’d both know I’d be really reaching there. I just hope Hidan doesn’t get hurt too bad.”
Kakuzu blinked. “He hasn’t told you?”
“Eh?” Hinata blinked back at him. “Told me what?”
He paused. “Normally, I’d charge, but… Hidan would probably kill me anyway.” He shrugged, not looking that worried about it. “It wouldn’t matter if Hidan got hurt. He’d love it anyway…. He’s a masochist.” Pause. “Five bucks.”
She actually stuck her tongue out at him. “Dream on.” The girl crossed her arms and looked up at the ceiling. “So he likes pain. Loves it.” It looked like certain things were clicking into place in her head.
Kakuzu smirked. “That doesn’t bother you?”
She rolled her eyes. “I live in a family of sadists, I think by now I prefer dealing with someone on the opposite end.” One hand came up to rub the back of her neck thoughtfully. “And I don’t have to worry about him hurting me.”
Kakuzu smirked. “Good. I’d hate to have to get between you, but if it bothered you, there would be no choice.”
“Get between?” Hinata gave him a confused look. “How so?”
He smirked. “That doesn’t matter.”
“Hmm.” The confusion eased away from her expression, and worry replaced it. Not an improvement. “What do you think I should do about Neji?”
Kakuzu shrugged, leaning back further so that he was resting against the wall. “Buy a sharpie and his favorite snack. He’ll be in the hospital a while, and you can sign his casts.”
The Hyuuga girl stilled on a small gasp, then after a second let it out in a shuddering sigh. He guessed imagining that Neji bastard in multiple casts threw her for a loop. Might shock her, made him happy.
“N-no,” Hinata finally stuttered out still examining the ceiling, “I meant whether I should try to reconcile with him.”
Kakuzu quirked a brow. “He’s your family. What do you think?” he asked. “He might be a douche, but he’s what you’ve got.”
Strangely, the girl let out a sharp bark of laughter. When she turned face him, the momentary mirth was wiped away. “I may not even have that soon,” she said flatly. “Neji may not have told my father about Hidan, but if what you say is true, he won’t be able to hide his injuries. They will ask me, and I will tell them about him. And…” She closed her eyes. “I don’t know what will end up happening.”
“I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see. Hyuuga brought it on himself, Hinata. Remember that.” He frowned.
“It’s not about Neji,” she murmured, then continued in a stronger tone, eyes opening to watch him. “I’m talking about my family’s reaction to me seeing Hidan.”
“There’s nothing wrong with him,” Kakuzu snapped immediately. Then he paused and scowled. “Okay, so there’s a lot wrong with him. So?”
“Primarily? And the only real reason from my family’s point of view?” Hinata’s lip actually lifted in disgust. It was a new look. “He’s not a Hyuuga.”
Kakuzu scoffed. “They can go do their incest shit all they want. They can’t tell you who to care about, or who to date, and if they try, I have no qualms with sending them into bankruptcy.”
Silence reigned as Hinata soaked that one in. After a while though, she giggled.
“Oh God,” she snickered “The Hyuuga clan in financial need, lining up at the soup kitchens.” She slapped both hands over her broad smile and curled up into the beanbag in a giggling fit.
Kakuzu added twenty to Hidan’s escalating debt, and smirked. “Perhaps I’ll give ’em fifty dollars on Christmas.”
The pale girl gasped for air and grinned at him. “You’re awful!” She spent another few moments just trying to breathe before speaking again. “I should probably go find Hidan soon.” Her eyes slid over to Kakuzu. “You know, for the whole, congrats and banning from beating on my cousin speech.”
He nodded. “You probably should. Check the office first. Gai and Ibiki should have broken it up by now. At least I hope so.”
Nodding, Hinata pushed herself up from the beanbag and stood head cocked to the side for a beat. Then, she turned a warm gaze on him. “I don’t feel like hiding anymore, Kakuzu. Thanks.”
He shrugged. “My pleasure.” Another twenty went on the albino’s debt, and Kakuzu gave her a pleased smile. Definitely worth it.
Following Kakuzu’s predictions, Hinata found herself waiting in the outer section of the principal’s office.
She was all kinds of terrified just sitting in a chair. The receptionist was really nice though. Hinata had stuttered out her reason for being there and the dark-haired woman had gently smiled and mentioned that there was a water dispenser in the far corner and some caramel candies in her desk.
The Hyuuga had smiled back and seated herself. She would stay here until Hidan came out of Sarutobi’s office. To hell with the rest of her afternoon classes.
The office was really quiet, and while Hinata was really not trying to listen, the murmuring from the other side of the door gave her some hope. At least Hidan wasn’t yelling.
Silence fell for a moment, and Hidan’s voice broke it, a little higher. “And I’m just supposed to f-fricking stand by while that jerk treats her that way?! How the hell is that fair?!”
Sarutobi-sensei’s answer was much quieter, and almost impossible to make out. “Please watch your language, Hidan. I understand how you feel, but interfering would only make things worse for her.” A pause followed, rife with tense frustration on the youth’s end. “Hidan, you cannot do things like this, ever. This is not acceptable behavior, do you understand me? Hidan, please look at me.”
Hidan growled. “Why? Why am I the one in trouble? Is it because I don’t have that bastard’s connections? That’s it, right?” Sarutobi started to speak, but Hidan cut him off sharply. “Or is it cause I broke his wrist? Guess what, this is what I got for it. It’s not like I filled that asshole full of holes!”
Forget pretending to be a statue! Hinata’s head swung around as she stared wide-eyed at the closed door. Hidan was hurt! Okay, so was Neji, but… The word ‘holes’ bounced around in her head.
It didn’t sound like Neji was in there with Hidan, and her cousin was obviously not out here, awaiting his turn. So, either Neji had his talk before Hidan or he was in the nurse’s office.
Hinata bit her lip. And Hidan was right. The Hyuuga protected their own… as far as she knew, her albino didn’t have anyone. Well, he has Kakuzu. And the rest of his friends… and me. And maybe by extension, my friends... Hinata folded her hands in her lap and started to think really hard.
Sarutobi sighed. “I understand that, Hidan. Please calm down. Here, have a cookie.” Then followed the sound of porcelain sliding on wood. “Unfortunately, I’m going to have to punish you. Both of you. Now, you can either have detention after school for the rest of this week and the next, or suspension for the same amount of time. Which is it?”
Hidan grumbled about work for a moment. “Suspension. It’s not like I’m any use here anyway.”
“Very well. You’re dismissed. Please tell Shizune-san that I would like a word.”
The sound of the door opening pulled Hinata out of her thoughts and she snapped her eyes up to see Hidan looking down at her.
“Hi,” she said, smiling slightly.
He sighed. “Hey, goddess.” He looked at the secretary. “He wants you.” Then he ignored the woman and held his hand out to Hinata. “C’mon.” The door closed behind Shizune. “I’m outta here. Come with me?”
There was no hesitation as Hinata placed her hand in his open palm. Screw classes right? She smiled a little more. And not like Neji at all. He had asked, not grabbed for her hand. Though… “Are you hurt?”
Hidan gestured toward his left eye, where it was starting to bruise, and grinned. “And I’m pretty sure the bastard fractured my collar-bone.” He pulled her to her feet. “But no worries. I broke his hand, and then knocked the sonofabitch out.” He tugged her out the door.
“Fractured–Hidan!” She yelped as they stepped out into the hallway. “Don’t you need to get that looked at?” No slugging him in the shoulder until she found out which side Neji had gotten to.
“Tch, no. They can’t do shit about it anyway, so what’s the point? C’mooon, let’s just fucking ditch. I’ll treat you to fast food and then movies, deal?”
Hinata frowned at him. “Hey, I’m entitled to worry a little okay? And forget fast food, I’m getting you real food.” Sliding an arm around his waist, she squeezed lightly. “You’re still getting the movie though.”
He grinned. “Not gonna argue. My place? We gotta big screen.” He wiggled his brows hopefully, even as the bell went off overhead, signalling the end of sixth period.
She snorted. “Well, definitely not going to be my place.” First the bar, then the junk yard, now his home? “Promise not to grope me?”
He grinned even more at that. “Only if you beg me!” he replied as they reached his locker. He stopped and spun the lock. “There’s just one rule for the house. You break it, you buy it. Well, I’ll probably end up buying it, knowing Kakuzu…”
Standing off to the side, Hinata watched him pull various items from his locker. Thankfully, she had already stopped by her locker after leaving the washrooms. Which reminds me… “Does Kakuzu have a favourite food?”
Hidan shrugged, tossing the last of his crap in his bag before slamming the locker shut. “Beef stir fry, or inarizushi,” he replied, and slung his bag over his shoulder. He spun the lock and then turned to her, catching sight of Itachi passing in the crowd. “Hey, we’re leaving,” he said as the Uchiha approached. “I kicked that Neji bastard’s ass, so I’m suspended.”
Suspended? Hinata blinked wide eyes at Hidan as Itachi tilted his head. She blinked again as a small smirk lifted the side of Itachi’s lips.
“Your fan club will be thrilled about that, I’m sure,” the Uchiha responded. Then he nodded and turned to go. “I will let the others know. We’ll see you at work then.”
“Yeah, okay,” Hidan replied. “See ya.” He turned his attention back to Hinata. “Shall we, goddess?”