Thanks! The actual culmination to a relationship is still key scenes away, but here are a few more snippets from this ‘verse that I can squeeze into my thirty minute break:
Ooh, okay, so let’s see… there’s a specific direction I want to go for this, and it’s not necessarily Shikako/Neji as much as it is building a foundation for the ship.
So it’s canon!DoS ‘verse and playing up on the Sensor Squad thing–because I think this would be the most likely way Shikako and Neji end up on a team together. And for some reason, I kind of want it to be from Hana’s POV.
Like, Hana wants to make the jump from chuunin to jounin (and *fingers crossed* become the jounin sensei for Hanabi, Chiyako, and Ranmaru) and the best way to do that (outside of wartime, that is) is to prove you can handle leadership in really bizarre missions.
And, well. Tsume knows which set of people has the most bizarre missions.
It makes sense, I think, because Neji and Shikako are both part of the newest crop of the Sensory Squad and even though Shikako is higher ranked than Hana, the age difference and lack of experience means she wouldn’t chafe under Hana as team leader. (And, probably, not being in charge is a relief to her).
It’s also not as if Neji has a set team to run with (not like Team Eight) and for a complete sensor team you would want a Hyuuga, an Inuzuka, and a chakra sensor of some sort. So maybe not only is the Sensor Squad a roster for individuals, but there are also semi-permanent teams so that for those who weren’t on a genin team together they can develop rapport.
Anyway here’s a little of what I’ve got for that:
What a mess they must look like, the three of them standing around awkwardly, uncertain. Well, perhaps not Neji–Hyuuga’s don’t really do awkward so much as displeased, perhaps the heiress is closest but even that’s more shy than ungainly–but she and Shikako definitely carry his share.
Zou, bored, head butts her thigh, and Hana shakes herself out of it. She’s going to be a jounin, she can’t be deterred by such a minor thing.
As if sensing Hana’s resolve, Shikako’s posture straightens out as well, the three of them now standing less like a group of children told to play nice together and more like a proper team.
“We’re a little too familiar with each other to need introductions,” Hana starts, “but we don’t exactly know how each other works, and I know better than to suggest sparring.”
Against the Hyuuga prodigy, there’s exactly one way a taijutsu-only spar would work. But given the scale of Shikako’s other abilities and Hana’s own Haimaru-bolstered attacks, there’s no other option that wouldn’t end up someone hospitalized. Which isn’t exactly the best way to get the Jounin Commander’s attention–good attention, anyway.
“What are you suggesting then?” Neji asks, almost bracing himself. Well, his jounin-sensei was Gai, he’s probably had to deal with a lot of non-sparring exercises.
Hana smiles, all teeth, and brings out a bright red ball. She can feel the slight breeze of Mitaru’s tail wagging, can hear the way Sanji shifts onto all fours.
“Let’s play a game.”
For most people, the Haimaru Brothers are identical. And, well, that’s not exactly a surprise–they are from the same litter, after all, and most people don’t have the benefit of a Inuzuka’s keen sense of smell. Even then, sometimes Hana’s mum gets them mixed up, though usually she’ll cover that up by picking up two by the scruff of their necks and having Kuromaru pick up the third just to remind them that in comparison to the Alphas, they are still just puppies. Kiba and Akamaru don’t particularly care about differentiating them, they just start annoying whichever one is closest.
But the Haimaru Brothers have been Hana’s partners for years: she raised them since they were actually puppies, and named them all. (Granted, she was four at the time and not terribly prepared for the responsibility, so it’s no surprise that they ended up with the names they did.)
Mitaru is the excitable one, easily distracted, but the best sniffer because of it. Sanji is an old soul in a young body, calm and logical and, if she’s going to be honest, kind of lazy. Oh, he won’t shirk his duties, but he’s definitely the kind of dog who would rather lounge in a sunbeam than run around in the grass. Zou is the most aggressive, usually the one who joins a fight first, and the one who gets into the most trouble with Kuromaru and mum.
(Yes, they’re all named three.)
Some of their personalities are reflected in their bodies: Zou has a bulkier front to better support his attacks. Mitaru is leaner, faster than his brothers, constantly moving around. Sanji… could probably stand to lose a few pounds, but his fur is always the neatest so at least there’s that. But those are all such minute differences that to even the Byakugan the Haimaru brothers look identical. She’s not sure how they fare chakra-wise, but most chakra sensors’ focus on differences in human chakra signatures, not animals.
So for her new team’s introductory exercise, they’re going to play a game called Three Dog Monte.
… and I would continue, except it is approaching midnight and I have to get up early in the morning Clearly I’d follow through with a Hana POV of how Shikako and Neji kind of blossom into a terrifying set of shinobi with long hair and (literal) killer legs, while she remains oblivious to the fact that she, too, also falls under that categorization. And she kinda watches fondly and amused at how Shikako and Neji (maybe literally) dance around each other and their feelings.
Anyway, if you like it, anon, let me know? I might have time to write more of it tomorrow *fingers crossed* schedule permitting.
If ever Hana had doubts about the rumors surrounding Shikako’s tendency for strange missions, they would be soundly corrected after they receive their first mission.
“Catching Tora the cat?” Shikako asks incredulously. Beside her, Neji not so stealthily shudders–ah, even prodigies hate that cat.
Her partners growl at the name, but settle down easily enough with quick pats to the head.
“That’s D-rank,” Neji says, with a tone less scornful and almost hopeful, “Shouldn’t a genin team be doing this?”
Hana sighs, she had the same reaction, “Normally, yes,” she says, because she is team captain and she can’t complain about missions–that’d be setting a poor example, “Except normally Tora the cat isn’t in the Forest of Death.”
Shikako flinches, laughs nervously to cover it up and says, unconvincingly, “Ah, yeah. Fond memories about that place.”
Neji actually turns his head to look at her, which is the Hyuuga equivalent of staring open-mouthed in astonishment.
It’s definitely a reference to the Chuunin Exams last year, but considering those Exams included an invasion, the resurrection of two Hokage, the death of another, and a jinchuuriki Hana’s not surprised that she doesn’t know that particular story.
“Let’s get a move on,” Hana says instead, “The sooner we find that damn cat the better.”
Of course, Tora has somehow embedded itself into a colony of giant tigers.
Three exploded trees later, the sudden appearance of a hippopotamus, and a literal rendition of catching a tiger by it’s tail, Team Hana presents a grumpy Tora to the Fire Daimyo’s wife.
Shikako is covered in mud, two of the Haimaru brothers have bald patches, and Neji’s shirt sports four greenish stains of questionable origins. But the Fire Lady is suitably impressed and pleased by the unspoiled condition of her beloved beleaguered cat.
Hana waits until the Fire Lady has left and immediately bursts out laughing. After a moment, Shikako joins in and Neji, maybe, has a smile curling on the side of his mouth. Well, even if this mission didn’t earn her experience toward jounin status, she can definitely say she’s having fun.
Weekly training sessions are put into place–not including missions, of course–and so every Thursday Team Hana gets together and plays far more games than a pair of chuunin and a special jounin probably ought to.
She confesses as much to her teammates, she doesn’t want to make it seem like she’s patronizing them, but a lot of her ideas for team building do revolve around what a trio of genin might like.
“I enjoy it,” Shikako reassures her, “Kakashi-sensei and I made a game when I first joined the Sensory Squad to help me hone this ability, so I look forward to these sessions,” she says.
After a moment’s pause, Neji adds, “They’re not unappreciated,” which is high praise from a Hyuuga indeed.
It’s another few weeks–another three missions–before Hana begins to notice something going on between her two teammates. It’s nothing major, and Hana might not have caught it at all if it weren’t for that Thursday when, with Shikako out on a mission, it was just Neji, her, and the Haimaru brothers.
It’s when she’s breaking the news to Neji–she’s captain, after all, and should be the one to keep track of her team–that something just clicks. Hyuuga’s are near inscrutable, of course, but that just means their rare emoting is all the more noticeable.
Sanji, ever observant and the brother most well-versed in human interaction, walks over to Neji’s side and leans heavily against his leg comfortingly. Fifty kilograms of dog causes him to stumble for a moment, but he indulges the affectionate gesture stoically and doesn’t even brush away the dark gray fur clinging to his clothes.
… yeah, so still no actual Shikako/Neji, but it’s building slowly I may get back to this at another time.
What should I call this ‘verse?
edit: This ‘verse is now called “Hiding and Seeking” courtesy of @the-grand-gemini