Chapters: 3/? (I'm hoping between 5-10 chapters)
Summary: With Madara having all but wiped out most of the noble samurai clans of Konoha, the council have taken the last able bodied members of the remaining families to be placed into protective custody until matches can be made and new heirs are born. SasuHina, multiple side pairings.
Notes: This idea came to me in a dream. Some folks might find it similar to The Debut in concept, but it's got a lot of differences. For one, this isn't going to be some long drawn out drama. It's a romance story straight up. Hopefully, you all will like it. I'll upload it to FF once I feel I'm mostly through with the story altogether. Unbeta'd/WIP. I'll be going back through the chapters, since there's a big difference writing-style wise between chapters 1 and 3.
Tonight, her potential fiancé picked the second to last slot for the 'event'. As the clock struck ten, Hinata sucked in a sharp breath and slowly stood from the pillow she had been using for meditation. Her pale blue yukata awaited her, carefully folded within a slender white box. With trembling hands she donned the fabric over her body, the soft whisper of cotton cool against her skin. Instead of wearing her hair up, she pinned one side with a hair clip and allowed the rest to fall over her shoulder.
Trepidation dogged her steps as her feet padded softly against the polished wooden floors of the estate. For all her earlier bluster, gaining the Uchiha's favor would go a long way in reestablishing the honor her clan had lost. Her father had been one of the few to support Madara's rise to power before he had betrayed the other clans. Had they not suffered almost as many losses as the Uchiha, her clan would have been branded traitors and lost everything. Knowing the last survivor of the clan had chosen her first brought no sense of ease to Hinata. If he attempted to hurt her to get revenge she would not be surprised.
The fluttering in her stomach grew to a low rumble as she near the baths, and her grip tightened on the small bucket handle with her toiletries. The only thing she could do, at this point, was to use all of her skills and training to make a good impression. He had seemed kind when they first met. A little moody, but not at all hostile. She could only hope his good humor continued.
To Hinata's surprise, as she rounded the corner where the baths resided, she spotted her potential betrothed leaning lightly against the wall. His eyes opened and head rose at the same time, unfolding his arms to straighten his posture. Their eyes met and she found his dark, inky gaze almost hypnotic. Compared to her empty white eyes, his appeared to be an obsidian pool of emotion, full of determination and...anticipation?
"You won't be needing that right now." he said, pointing to the wooden bucket in her hand. "We're going to the dojo. I made sure it'd be late enough so we wouldn't be disturbed."
"Eh?" she asked intelligently. He was obviously serious - Hinata could hardly see him as the joking type. She raised her burden, blinking owlishly as if it would spontaneously burst into flames as she tried to wrap her mind around his words. "You want to...spar?"
His mouth tilted upward in a parody of a smile that refused to meet his eyes. "If you're going to be the wife of an Uchiha, you'll need to be able to defend the home and my heirs if I'm not there and we come under attack. My mother died defending ours, and the enemy didn't walk away without feeling the wrath of an Uchiha matriarch. I won't marry someone useless. Can you meet the requirement or not?"
Images of her stern-faced father flashed in her mind's eye, and Hinata suddenly felt a heavy pang of wistfulness and regret. The night of the massacre would forever haunt her nightmares. She would never forget the feeling of holding her dying father in her arms, promising to fulfill his wishes to restore honor to the Hyuuga as his life literally slipped through her fingers in a stream of crimson liquid. In one night, her father had died, her uncle's corpse had already been cooling from the initial attack. She bore the scars of that night's battle, she and Hanabi, and yet somehow they had survived.
Warm, calloused fingers dipped under her chin, and Hinata glanced up and saw death. Haunting, familiar, laced with pain and sacrifice. Although those weren't her eyes, white and deceptively unfeeling, she felt as if she were looking into the mirror of her own heart. The air became heavy and tense, yet a sort of kinship passed between them. An understanding.
"You were there." his voice, flat and emotionless, whispered against her skin. "When his men attacked."
"I couldn't save them." the words brushed across her lips, burning cold on her tongue. Then reality clicked back into place and she realized where she was, with who, and the spell shattered, forcing her to clench her fists so as not to turn into a trembling mess. Instead, she found her will and steeled herself to answer his question. "I can meet the requirement. My mother taught Hanabi and I naginatajutsu before her passing."
Sasuke blinked, and for a split second he appeared to come to some sort of revelation before his expression clouded over with confusion. He shook his head once to snap out of his stupor and his face melted back to its usual cold demeanor. "We'll see. Come on."
The women were generally forbidden to wander toward the dojo, as the majority of the men's quarters were in the vicinity. At least one couple apparently settled things amicably, if the soft moans from one of the rooms they passed were any indication. Hinata's cheeks burned hot at the wonton sounds, and she tried not to think of how, very soon, she would probably be in Sasuke's room doing the very same thing if he approved of her. She thought of Sakura, and how the pink-haired woman would probably trade actual limbs to be in her place. Guilt wormed its way up her stomach and she pushed the emotion back down.
As much as she felt a traitor to Sakura's feelings, were the positions reversed, not a single woman would have hesitated to make their attempts to seduce the surviving Uchiha. If her and Ino's lifelong spat over him meant anything, Sakura would have given her an apologetic smile, but she would not have put her life on hold for Hinata's feelings. To do a same would be an insult to her friend. Sakura could do without her pity or attempts at charity.
Sasuke opened the doors to the dojo, flipping on the lights and heading toward the weapon rack without a backward glance. Setting her bucket to the side, Hinata entered warily, her gaze scanning over the empty and massive hall. All the mats and practice dummies were either stored away or put aside, and as anticipated, the dojo was completely empty. The smell of newly polished wood reminded her of home. Her family dojo had once been just as large before the attacks, and while repairs were still underway, she had the sinking feeling her beloved hall would never quite feel like home.
Hinata closed her eyes and envisioned her mother, tall and graceful, moving through the naginata katas as if she were one with the weapon. As children, she and Hanabi had sat with wide eyed wonder as their mother calmly called out each move, explained every pivot and sweep. Although Hanabi had caught on swiftly, it was Hinata whom her mother spent extra time training. If she concentrated hard enough, she could still feel the cool grip of her mother's slender hands over her sweaty and chubby fingers. Hizashi had never managed to have enough patience with his eldest daughter, but her mother had never been deterred.
"You will make a fine wife for a fine lord." she would say. "Even when the winter and clouds block the warmth of the sun, it is always there, shining, waiting for its moment to bring warmth and life back to the lands. Your stumbles are the clouds, your hurdles the winter. Eventually, my little Hinata, they will pass, and you will shine so bright you will blind the heavens."
"Here." Sasuke's gruff voice rippled the image of her mother until she blurred and finally disappeared from her mind's eye. Hinata slowly opened her eyes, still trying to grasp tendrils of the fond memory. Tears burned behind her lids in warning, so she regretfully banished the nostalgia lest she make a fool of herself in front of the Uchiha. He had in his hands a plain white kimono and a dark blue hakama ensemble, neatly folded and being presented to her. When she glanced up at him curiously, he merely raised a brow as if to say 'What? You expected me to have you fight in a yukata?'
Okay, so maybe her thoughts had briefly stirred in that direction, but everything about tonight had been one surprise after another. Pleasant surprises, as she honestly held no wish to share a bath with a man who was not guaranteed to marry her, but unexpected all the same.
"Thank you." she gingerly took the offering and hurried to change, not wanting to waste any more of his time and potentially irritate him more than she probably already had. Patient would not be the first term she would use to describe him.
Hinata changed and exited the room in quick order, her eyes snapping immediately over to Sasuke who was going through basic naginata katas. She watched his back and shoulders flex as he moved with no small skill, and she caught the wooden practice katana strapped to his back. A tiny smile found its way to her lips at the sight. All samurai had preferred weapons, some even carried naginatas of their own, but if she had to guess, his go to weapon would always be the katana. Just as well, his direct personality and blunt mannerisms went well with an up close melee weapon.
"You can grab your own over there." he called over his shoulder. His deep voice cut through the silence and she jumped at its abruptness. "The one on the far right has the best balance besides this one, though."
"You're not...going to use the bokken?" the moment the question left her mouth she felt stupid. Of course not, why else would he be practicing with the naginata if not to use it?
She expected him to stop and call out her foolishness, but instead he continued his practice without turning to her. "I'm giving myself a handicap since I don't know how good you are. I haven't used a naginata since I was twelve. If you've been practicing all of your life, this should put us on somewhat equal footing."
Although Hinata hardly considered herself a competitive person, his words stung at her pride and made her eyebrow twitch with annoyance. She took a few low, calming breaths and strode over to the weapon rack. Even with his advice, she tested each naginata for balance, eventually settling for the one on the far right.
Really, she shouldn't let his words bother her. Sasuke was, after all, a well respected samurai with countless battles and campaigns under his belt. When he had taken over for one of his uncles as general, the Uchiha territory expanded exponentially under his genius. Only his brother Itachi had been able to boast of such victories, but had been recalled early by his father Fugaku to compete with Madara's bloodline for leadership. Fugaku had won and Madara had been forced to step down once again. Shortly after had been the betrayal.
In an all out battle, Hinata could never hope to truly defeat Sasuke, yet her inner pride burned and her fingers itched to properly wield her weapon. If she could not get him to take her seriously now, he never would if they married. He was testing her on more than just her skills with a weapon, she realized now.
"What happens if I win?" she asked.
Sasuke barked out a harsh laugh and readied his weapon. "You won't."
Pride. The Uchiha were a proud people, so naturally, he would test his future wife, who would lead and be the core of the clan. Her grip tightened on her weapon and she shifted to the ready stance and waited for him to strike first.
He swept in fast, blade pointed behind as she raised hers mid level. The speed at which he moved caught her off guard and almost cost her. Instead, she smoothly side stepped to the left as he lunged forward. Their weapons connected as she swept the naginata in a downward arc to block. Hinata immediately went on the offensive, taking a step back to twirl the blade side to strike at his shoulder. Somehow he managed to sidestep and back away at a speed no normal human could have possibly managed. Another one of his mocking smirks flitted his lips when he noticed her brow furrow in frustrated confusion.
"You thought you had me." he said. "How cute."
Hinata refused to lose her cool and be baited into dropping her defense. She moved back into a defensive stance and waited.
And so the dance began.
Years might have passed since Uchiha had last wielded a naginata, but his skills were nothing short of stellar. Where he lacked grace he made up for with speed and sheer power, keeping Hinata on the defensive and forcing her to constantly rethink her strategies. Thankfully, he stopped taunting her to concentrate, and she felt a sense of pride knowing he had to keep his focus or else potentially lose to her.
Their spar reminded her of happier times, of laughter, soft and stern voices. Not since the attack had she been pressed so strenuously. For a moment, she tried to imagine Hanabi in front of her, long locks tied behind her head in a low braid, the faintest hint of a mocking smirk playing on her lips. Her little sister had also resorted to taunting to assist in disarming her enemy. Had the match been between Hanabi and Sasuke, she knew the new Uchiha clan head would have been hard pressed. Still, Hinata had her pride as a Hyuuga and as an older sister. Returning home defeated simply was not an option she would be willing to consider.
Sasuke left himself open to numerous blows, but his lightning-fast reflexes prevented her from properly taking advantage. As the time passed, sweat trickled down her brow and dampened her clothes, but she refused to yield to him. Her hair, tied back into a low ponytail, clung to her clammy and hyper sensitive skin. Unfortunately, her opponent's only show of fatigue came from his heavy breathing and an insultingly small amount of moisture beading his brow and upper lip. She would tire long before he, so either she made the attempt to end their spar now with a secret technique passed down to her by her mother, or continue the song and dance until she was defeated from pure exhaustion.
The tension in the air grew heavy and dense and the two fighters broke from their lock to gain some distance. Hinata readied her weapon in an upward stance, spreading her feet far apart, knees bent. Sasuke took in her angle, the fierce determination in her eyes, and carefully flowed into a defensive position. The stance itself to the trained eye appeared a bit weak to the left, and so she decided she would focus on the right. She poured all of her energy and focus into her mind and limbs, and her body blurred out of sight. Her opponent hesitated long enough for her to strike, and a savage rush of achievement and pride soared through her as they both realized not even his un-godly instincts would save him.
The two wooden weapons echoed loudly within the dojo as they met with a loud 'clack'. Sasuke's weapon went flying high and he purposefully staggered back just out of range of Hinata's final blow. From there, everything happened in flashes of white and dark fabric and somehow, she quickly lost her advantage.
When her vision cleared and the stray weapon hit the ground far in the distance, Hinata could feel the heat of Sasuke's body pressed against her, the iron grip of his arm around her middle. The bladed end of his bokken felt cool against her throat as she swallowed thickly. Unnamed emotions churned within her stomach and chest, warring for supremacy even though she had no idea for what reason or why. With more courage than she felt, her pearly white eyes rose to meet his chaotic obsidian. Heat and something passionate but unfamiliar to her burned within those inky depths, and for a moment she seriously believed the silly rumors of Uchiha being able to steal a person's soul with only a glance. They remained in their position long after the echo of his fallen weapon clattering to the ground faded, the only sounds being their heavy breathing.
Somehow, somewhere, Hinata managed to speak up first. "Y-you cheated." she whispered, unwilling to raise her voice and risk breaking whatever spell had managed to fall over them.
A slow and genuine smile curved Sasuke's lips, and the blazing inferno in his eyes simmered to warm amusement. "You never said I couldn't have the katana. And in a real battle, your enemy will probably utilize more than one weapon." he spoke so calmly, as if standing in the middle of a dojo with a woman in his arm and a blade to her throat was casual happenstance. All the same, Hinata found her liking him amused over his standard bored detachment. He appeared to be the sort of person who rarely smiled, and her heart fluttered happily with the knowledge she managed to bring such a positive emotion out of him.
The moment faded, but Hinata sensed a change had settled over them as they straightened and he put a bit of distance between them. Although she had lost the spar, she felt she had passed his test to gauge her pride. Hopefully, their encounter would put her ahead of any other candidates. When the competition had begun, Sasuke had hardly been her ideal choice, especially with so many women desiring him. Upon being chosen, her initial motivation had been to restore honor to her clan, especially since the Hyuuga had been indirectly responsible for the slaughter of the Uchiha by endorsing and supporting Madara's agenda verbally and financially.
Hinata could sense no malice, resentment, or anger toward her, and that alone spoke more of Sasuke's character than anything else he had done since his arrival. For him to want her to be more than a simple trophy wife endeared him to her. Neither of them loved each other, but if he chose her, she would work hard to be the proper samurai wife he needed because he had proven he deserved nothing less.
"Hyuuga." Sasuke had ventured over toward where his naginata had fallen and was now headed toward the weapon rack. "I don't really want a wife."
Her heart seized up in her throat and her chest tightened painfully at his proclamation. Hinata clutched the naginata in her hand in a painful grip. "Oh. I see."
"But I'm not an idiot." he continued. Sasuke carefully replaced his two weapons, but kept his back to her. "I've always known I'd have to get married and start a family, even if I wasn't heir. Even though I'm here, all of this has been against my will up until now. That's why I did this spar, instead of trying to go along with some stupid and perverse bath ritual like all these other idiots."
"You were testing my pride," she said, nodding even though he couldn't see. "I'm glad it was this, instead of that."
"Yeah." he turned finally, his expression having reverted back to the neutral mask he wore. "This isn't...easy for me to say so I'm just going to come right out with it. You're the one I want, but I'll understand if you decline since you're a Hyuuga."
"I..." she paused, unsure if she had heard him correctly. "But we were the ones -"
He waved her off and rolled one shoulder in a shrug. "Madara screwed with everyone, he had supporters in my clan too, even though we cast him out. I don't care about all of that, I just want the bastard dead for what he did. I hold no ill will toward you or your clan. And I don't need an answer now, there's still another week befo -"
"Yes." she blurted out. Sasuke blinked at her a few times in surprise, giving him a cute, boyish look. Hinata resisted the urge to giggle, instead closing the distance to place her weapon back on the rack. "Yes, I will marry you, and help you restore the Uchiha clan."
"Hn." was all he said in response.
Even though things were settled, a sense of awkward discomfort filled the silence, and the two young adults fidgeted nervously, unsure of what to do now that they had reached an agreement. After a tense moment of silence, Sasuke broke the ice first with a sigh.
"I'm heading to the baths." he announced. "I'll call on you tomorrow, after I've spoken with the matchmakers. They'll probably wish to speak with us concerning the wedding. Go and get some sleep, you'll need it."
"A-alright." she barely managed to get the words out before he headed out, leaving the dojo without a backward glance. Hinata stared at his retreating back and then the door long after it slid closed. Her courage and determination left with her future husband, and nervousness clawed its way to the surface, leaving her stunned and shaken.
Had all of that just happened? What in the world had she been thinking? Marrying someone like Sasuke, could she truly do such a thing? Hinata had no answers, only an upset stomach and images of a rare smile and heated black eyes warming her heart..