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A Man More Loved

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He hates her, he thinks, as he stares at her open face, her joyous expression, that shining look. Her eyes could never be dark, even when he came to her door in the night years ago, sneaking behind her father's back; her eyes were bright in even a light-less room.

And he hates her for that sometimes. Like now, he hates her when she turns that face on him, smiling, and says, " And Naruto-kun, - I suppose I shouldn't call him that, now, huh? - He said he'd look at the papers tomorrow, that he was proud to see how well my clan has done since father- well, since, you know."

She ends blushingly, but still smiling. The Hokage always did have that effect. He starts to feel the edges of a scowl, but schools his face, watching the woman before him start taking out hairpins and pulling off heavy silk. The Hyuuga are a proud people, not founders of the Hidden Leaf, not quite, but they are the ones who gave their land for the city's foundations, here at the edge of the river where Hyuuga have always lived. That a Hokage comes to their door and eats at their table is fitting. It is fitting too that they should remind the Hokage of their worth by showing their leader off as beautiful, deadly, and intelligent.

And Hinata was that, all of that, tonight, sipping on ceremonial sake and laughing and blushing and barely saying a word as official business was taken care of all around her, papers saying what she did not.

But still.

Neji thinks she is not at her best as a living doll at the table's head, however prettily her make-up gets painted on. Hinata is still, after all these years, too timid, too stuttering for that. She has always looked her best blood dribbling down her face as she stands back up, thoroughly out-classed and out-fought at every turn, her actions showing that innate refusal to back down. Its how he felt, later, about that time he almost, almost killed how Naruto must feel too. Hinata almost died for him, once. In that one, long ago act, she shined finally and for the first time in front of the one she wanted to see it most, never understanding the all-seeing eyes that were already upon her. Uzumaki's good faith in her had always meant so much more then. Still means so much.

"Do you still smile when you get his approval, even now?"

She stares at him through the mirror, eyes never leaving his. Besides this, only the slightest pause in her movements give any indication she has heard the question at all. Putting down a facecloth, she turns, and disrobes, still staring. Then she moves in a slippery grace that betrays her as shinobi, and walks to the tatami mats on the floor.

"That is not a question, when you say it like that."

Her words are soft, as they always are. Her words are truthful, once again nothing out of the ordinary for the Hyuuga Head, but he has never hidden what he is from her. Byukagan can see all, both hers and his. What use in hiding for either one? None save in this, of course.

"You are a man," she says, opening her arms, welcoming him to bed. "More loved by the Hyuuga, by me, than any other."

And, as he takes her welcoming for what it is and slides under the covers into her arms, the words come jarring back to him. Its not exact, not quite what his father once said. Words are different here and there, ringing not quite rightly. It is not a sign and neither is it a reassurance. He holds her tightly just the same, wondering how long will it be before this person he loves is taken from him too.