Naruto wakes up after the final battle with Pain, screaming his heart out.

As he opens his eyes, he takes in his surroundings. He appears to be lying in a stretcher bed, in some sort of tent, with two big round blobs hovering over him.

His scream gives out as his vision clears and Naruto is able to recognise the two shapes in front of him as Sakura and Ino staring into his face.

"Hinata!" he manages to get out, "where is she? Is she dead? She's dead isn't she, I killed her! Hinaaataaaaaa!"

The scene plays out once again in his tormented mind.

He sees Pain towering above Hinata's beaten, broken body. She struggles to get back to her feet as Naruto cries out her name, begging her to stop fighting and run to safety, before she is eviscerated by that monster and left lying motionless on the ground in a growing pool of her own blood.

Incensed by the memory, Kyuubi chakra starts to overwhelm him once again. His eyes become red, his fingers elongating into wicked claws.

Sakura and Ino exchange nervous, but not surprised looks. This is not the first time Naruto has woken up since he was brought here. Sakura starts slowly raising her arm, hand clenched into a hammer fist, ready to strike.

"Sakura!" Ino hisses, "not again! It'll just happen all over again when he wakes up next time! That's no solution!"

Sakura looks at the two bumps on Naruto's noggin and knows Ino is right. "But what else can we do?" Sakura asks, nervously observing the whisker marks on Naruto's cheeks grow thicker and darker. "You can't use your mind jutsu on him!"

"…it's so scary in there…" Ino whimpers, looking haunted. Sakura changes her hammer fist into a knife hand, planning to deliver a karate chop to the jugular instead of another bump on the head, in place of a longer-term solution.

"Oooh, I know!" Ino suddenly declares, making some random hand signs, "mind reassurance jutsu!"

"Naruto!" Ino calls in her most calming voice, "Hinata is alright! Look at me, Naruto!"

The pupils of Naruto's eyes, which had become vertical slits, begin to revert back to normal as he takes up her eye contact and latches onto the soothing sound of her voice.

"That's right Naruto, come back to us! Hinata is absolutely fine. You saved her, Naruto! You saved everyone when you went after the last Pain and sorted it all out. We're aaaaaall okay now Naruto, we're aaaaaall fiiiiine."

Naruto's features slowly revert back to normal and his normal cheery smile returns to his face. "Well, that's good! I'm actually feeling all better myself now, is it alright if I go?"

Ino and Sakura exchange uncertain glances.

"Well, you've been out for a couple of days now Naruto, are you sure you don't want to rest a little bit longer before you get up and out there again?" Sakura asks, trying to sound gentle.

Naruto jerks in surprise. "A couple of days?! Woah, then I really need to get going! I gotta go find my girlfriend, she must be really worried!"

"Girlfriend?" Ino and Sakura repeat in unison.

"Yeah, girlfriend! Don't look so sad, ladies. You both had your chance. Especially you, Sakura," Naruto adds with a cheeky grin. "Anyhow… gotta go!" And just like that he was gone.

Ino and Sakura stare at each other, dumbfounded. "Uh, did Naruto just say 'girlfriend?' It sounded like he said he has a girlfriend…" Ino frets anxiously.

Sakura stares after the direction he zoomed off in, also worried. "Poor guy, I knew I hit him on the head a bit too hard that last time!"

"Errr, should we go after him? I mean, the nine-tails will heal his concussion or whatever in no time, right? So it's not as if he's in any mortal danger, probably… Ummmm, what are the odds this thing could come back to be pinned on us anyway?" Ino shrugs, ready to wash her hands of the whole thing.

"I don't know, Ino," Sakura replies, her expression troubled, "I just don't know."

Meanwhile, Naruto was rushing around the recently erected shanty town, frantically searching for his girlfriend. He had to let her know he was okay! He felt a bit funny telling Ino and Sakura the news like that, especially Sakura who he wanted to let down gently, but it also felt so right getting it out in the open.

On his way to nowhere in particular, Naruto notices Tenten and slows to talk to her.

"Naruto! You're awake, thank goodness! You're a real hero, you know that? You single-handedly saved the entire village!" Tenten gushes.

Usually Naruto would be all too willing to bask in actual recognition and praise, but right now he has other things on his mind. "Yeah, good to see you in one piece too. We should catch up sometime. But listen, hey, have you seen my girlfriend around?"

"…giiiirl-frieeeend..?" Tenten repeats slowly, as if sounding out the word would give it a different meaning.

"Yeah, you know, about this big," Naruto holds a hand up to about shoulder height, "real cute, real sweet, real nice," he emphasises this last point by making curvy-wurvy motions with his hands, "you seen her?"

Tenten looks blank for a moment, then stares up at the two large bumps on Naruto's head in realisation. "Oh, yeah… your uh, girlfriend, right! Umm, I think she was hanging out near the medical tent! Yeah, that's it! Let me go take you to her and-"

"No no," Naruto interrupts, "I was just there and didn't see her anywhere! Don't worry about it, I'll just keep looking. Later!" And just like that, he was gone.

Tenten rushes with all her might to the medical tent, hoping against hope that the situation isn't as bad as it seems! She pulls up short once she spots Ino and Sakura, who are sitting on the bed Naruto just vacated, arguing in heated whispers. They stand up guiltily as soon as they see Tenten rushing in.

"Sakura, Ino! I just ran into Naruto! I think something's wrong with him! He had these big bumps on his head and he was saying all these strange things, about – "

"- about how he's looking for his girlfriend?" Sakura finishes for her gravely.

The colour drains out of Tenten's face. "Oh crap, oh no, he's already been here? Ino, did he see you too?"

"Yes, I was right here with Sakura all three times he woke up," her eyebrow quirks at the evil look Sakura is sending her but she continues, "why?"

Tenten looks like she's going to be sick. "Well, when he described the girlfriend he was looking for he said she looked like this," she makes curvy-wurvy hands to demonstrate, "and since he was already talking to me, but Ino he already saw you… that means…"

"Oh, no." Ino says weakly.

"Heeey!" Sakura cuts in, puffing out her pigeon chest, "what are you saying, huh?"

Tenten turns to stare into Sakura's eyes with a look of pure dread. "I'm saying… that logical deduction would mean he's looking for…" she paused, waiting for Sakura to catch on… Nope.


"Andyou'reflatasapancake." Ino adds in a rushed whisper.

"Oh my GOD!" Sakura exclaims, "HINATA!"

Naruto is starting to get impatient, he can't find his girlfriend anywhere and it feels like he's been searching for minutes, tens of minutes! He's on the verge of summoning a few shadow clones but stops when he happens upon Neji Hyuuga, of all people.

Naruto runs up to Neji enthusiastically. Neji's eyes widen in surprise at seeing the newly dubbed Hero of the Leaf run up to him with no apparent injuries, save for a couple of bumps on his head.

"Neji, Neji! Boy am I glad to see you!"

"And I you, Naruto. The entire village owes you a large debt of gratitude," Neji says with a bow of sincerity.

"Even you?" Naruto asks oddly.

"Yes, I do consider myself part of the village," Neji answers, somewhat awkwardly.

"That's great old buddy, because I actually need your help!"

"You need my help?" Neji replies sceptically.

"That's right! Listen, have you seen my girlfriend around anywheres?"

"Your, girlfriend?" Neji replies uncertainly. Oh dear, he thinks, Lady Hinata will be devastated.

"Yeah," Naruto continues, "you two are related and all, so I figured you would know where she'd be or something, y'know…"

Neji blinks incredulously. "We… we're related?" Could it be that Naruto was dating a Hyuuga?

Naruto scratches the back of his head awkwardly. "Oh, umm, well I thought so… Not that I think you guys all look the same or anything, but I coulda sworn she said that her father was the brother of, umm, your father? Or brother? Or something?"

"I… I have no brother," Neji replies numbly, his entire body suddenly going cold. "My father had a brother though…" He's almost too scared to say it… "...he is the clan Head."

Naruto squints at Neji speculatively, "uh, yeah, that sounds right."

"…the father of Lady Hinabi and Lady Hin… Hin…"

"Hinata!" Naruto finishes for him excitedly. "Wow, I guess that means Hinata has a sister too, huh? That's cool, I wonder if she's pretty like her." He makes curvy-wurvy hands to demonstrate.

"Lady Hanabi is a child!" Neji cries out in dismay.

"Ooooh, kay…" Naruto waits for a beat. "So Hinata, have you seen her?"

"Nooooooo…!" Neji wails in despair, sinking to his knees.

"Umm, alright, just thought I'd ask. I'll keep looking around then, thanksbye!" And just like that he was gone.

Neji stares blankly at the ground, wondering where he had gone wrong. He was Lady Hinata's protector, he made it his business to discreetly keep informed about all aspects of her personal life for the sake of her emotional as well as physical well-being, when on Earth had this happened?! Unless… His genius powers of deduction kicked in. Naruto had two pretty serious-looking cranial contusions. Maybe, just maybe…

He runs as fast as he can, like his life depends on it, like his Lady Hinata's life depends on it!

Finally Neji found who he was looking for in the medical tent. "Tenteeeeen!" he wails with the last of his breath. "I… (puff) Naruto… (gasp) Lady…. Hinata…!" Message conveyed, he leans forward with hands on his knees, huffing and puffing for a few seconds, before straightening and giving Tenten a small nod of urgency. She'd know what he meant.

"I know what you mean!" Tenten exclaims, glancing around at the others, "he told me, Ino and Sakura the same thing. We think he has a pretty serious head injury of some kind."

Neji nods smoothly to the other two girls in the tent as if they hadn't seen his earlier frantic and somewhat unkempt display. "Ino," he says, "Sakura," nodding his acknowledgement in kind as he said their names.

"…Neji.." The two girls say back coyly. Sakura does an awkward half-curtsy, unsure of how to respond to someone so regal and traditional-looking. She ain't from no noble clan and she's also basically never seen Neji up-close before... So, awkward.

Neji stares deeply and meaningfully into Tenten's eyes. "He must be stopped…." he utters tremulously, "….before… Lady Hinata..!" He passes out in a dead swoon into Tenten's arms.

"Huh, who knew that ran in the family," Ino quips offhandedly.

Naruto feels like he must have searched everywhere around the rubble and remains of the Village Hidden in the Leaves looking for his girlfriend, to no avail. On top of that, he wasn't getting firm answers out of anyone he asked!

His eyes light up when they fall across the one person who was guaranteed to know everything, Shikamaru! He was lounging on a mound of dirt with his best bud Choji, watching the clouds drift by.

"Shikamaru, Choji! Boy am I glad to see you guys!"

"Naruto!" Choji exclaims, tears springing to his eyes, "you're awake! Oh, I have to thank you, thank you so much, my Pa…" he embraces Naruto in a tender hug, words failing him.

"Hey that's enough Choj, arrgh I can't breathe..!"

Choji releases Naruto from his judo grip. "Sorry about that, Naruto. But if there's anything I can ever do for you, anything –"

"Yep!" Naruto interjects, "I'm looking for Hinata, my girlfriend. It would really help me out if you could help me find her."

Shikamaru finally takes the trouble to speak. "Hinata?"


"Hinata Hyuuga, your girlfriend?"


"Congratulations Naruto, I hope you find great happiness together!" Choji gushes obliviously.

"Thanks Choji! You sure are a pal!" Naruto beams back.

Shikamaru sits up and assumes his working-out-a-problem pose with his fingers pressed together forming a kind of circle. Something was wrong. If Naruto and Hinata truly were dating, Ino the big fat gossip would have found out and told him all about it. Also, how were they able to hold a complete conversation with each other without Hinata fainting, let alone agree to go steady? Troublesome.

"Say Naruto," Shikamaru drawls, "how long have you two been dating?"

"Uh, not very long," Naruto replies innocuously.

"I see, and when exactly did you two get together, if you don't mind my asking. Before the battle with Pain?"


"Since you woke up?"

"I just woke up a few minutes ago and she wasn't there, that's how come I'm looking for her now!"

"…I see…" Shikamaru pauses for thought. So this alleged union occurred while Naruto was unconscious? How troublesome. He'd have to handle this very delicately. "Naruto, I notice you've got a pretty good bump on your head right there. You've been out for a couple of days, so if your healing ability still hasn't fully cured it then it could be quite serious, maybe you should get it checked out in the medical tent."

"Why is everyone trying to make me go back to the medical tent? I already saw Sakura, plus Ino was there too! Now I'm looking for Hinata! What is with everyone today? I just want to find my girlfriend!"

Shikamaru sighs. "Look Naruto, how do I put this… Are you sure Hinata is your girlfriend?"

Naruto nods with pink-tinged cheeks.

"Okay, let me try this another way. Did she ever actually say to you, 'yes Naruto, I am your girlfriend now,' or something to that effect?"

Now Naruto looks slightly flustered. "I, umm, er… well, not exactly… the last Pain was there and she was there and there were those chakra rods and blood was EVERYwhere… and the screams… but I thought she said, I thought…" He looks down at Shikamaru and shrugs, his certainty beginning to crumble at the edges.

"It's okay, Naruto," Shikamaru says, holding a hand out and patting the air near Naruto's leg, "there was a lot going on and all of this adrenalin pumping through your system, who knows what you may have thought you saw or heard…"

"…what… what are you saying?" Naruto asks, crestfallen. "You think… maybe… she's not my girlfriend..?"

Choji looks from Shikamaru's largely inexpressive face to Naruto's pained expression, to the bench across the way that Yamato had put near the relatively unscathed pond in the remnants of a park. "If you're not sure, why don't you just ask her? Hinata's right over there," he says helpfully, pointing at the young lady sitting on the bench.

"Choji!" Shikamaru cries out in exasperation.

"Yeah, thanks Choji!" Naruto beams.

"You're welcome!" Choji grins back.

Naruto steels himself and starts making a sidling path towards the bench.

When he has closed half the distance between them, he feel Hinata's eyes lock onto him and looks up to see a bright blush liven up her demure features.

Ino, Sakura, Tenten and Neji all run up to Choji and Shikamaru in tight formation, Tenten and Neji bringing the two boys with them in coordinated shoulder tackles as they dive behind the dirt pile. The group hunkers down and Shikamaru only looks mildly irritated while Choji is happy to get caught up in the excitement.

"We're too late!" Sakura hisses, "she's seen him! We can't pull him out now!"

"Oh, Lady Hinata," Neji moans miserably, "I can't look!" He claps his hands over his eyes dramatically.

"Don't slack off now, people!" Tenten commands, taking charge. "We need to assume damage control mode! Sakura, be prepared to revive Hinata in case she has a heart attack or something!" Sakura nods dutifully. To her left, Neji moans.

"Choji! Maybe you should biggefy yourself or something so you can prepare to catch Naruto in case he tries to make a run for it!" Choji shrugs and expands his arms out, posing like a baseball catcher.

After what to Naruto seemed like an eternity of walking in slow motion, he has finally made it to the bench. He shyly drops his eyes to the dirt and sits down on the furthest most edge of the bench away from Hinata.

He gulps and scoots a little closer. "Uh, h-hey, Hinata," he stammers, his voice cracking slightly under the pressure.

"H-hello, Naruto," Hinata replies mildly with her usual stutter.

Naruto looks down at the space between them and dares to scoot even closer, so they are now nearly touching. Hinata lets out a little squeak of alarm but doesn't move away. Good, he thinks, this is good.

"I uh, ahem… Umm, Hinata?"

"Yes, Na-naruto?"

"I was, looking for you, yknow? After everything that happened and all."

"W-well here I am," she replies, shrugging.

"Yeah… that battle with Pain was really intense. You know, you were there?" He winces at the awkwardly upturned sound of that last sentence, making it into a question he dreaded the answer to.

"Y-yes," she replies calmly.

Naruto's brow relaxes with relief at this admission, he knew he wasn't crazy! "Yeah, you really helped me out you know, I was a goner for sure before you stepped in!"

She smiles at her sandals and blushes at his praise.

He turns to look at her, trying to compel Hinata to return his gaze with sheer force of will and the intensity of his cerulean stare, "….and then, you said…."

She lifts her head and blue meets pure white in an unwavering stare. "Yes," she affirms clearly.

He takes in a deep shaky breath, "and, so, I thought that means…" he presses his trembling, clammy hand into her warm dainty hand, intertwining fingers, "…you're my girlfriend?" He unknowingly ceases breathing in the moments that pass waiting for her response.

"Of course!" she replies in her loudest of conversational squeaks with a proud smile.

Naruto smiles euphorically and turns bright red before passing out due to the flood of emotions he is overcome with and also forgetting how to breathe. His head lolls onto her shoulder as his unconscious body resumes what his conscious mind failed to keep up.

"They're holding hands," Neji reports stiffly, still covering his eyes with his hands and looking through them with the Byakugan.

"Awwww," everyone else behind the dirt mound coos sentimentally.

"Oh… and now Naruto has passed out. Naruto, can you believe that?" Neji crows, chuckling along with the quiet murmur of laughter around him.

Suddenly, his own voice twists into a strangled cry of dismay. He watches on in horrified silence as Hinata leans over and gives the unconscious Naruto a chaste peck on the cheek, then gently repositions him so that he is comfortably stretched out on the bench with his head resting in her lap.

"What iiiiiis iiiiiit?" Sakura hisses with irritation.

"Lady Hinata..!" Neji cries out, before falling into yet another swoon, this time landing in the soft cushion of Choji's enlarged hands.


Woohoo, second fic everrrrr completed! Who's the one fic pony now, huh? Not me, that's for sure!

Anyhow, I know there's a Favorite button nowadays but it would really mean a lot to me if you could post a review to let me know how you feel about the story! Constructive criticism is my favourite! "Haha that was a cute fic" is nice too, but it's so much more meaningful if you say something from the heart like, "that character was way OoC!" or "you kept switching from past to present tense and it was really offputting!" or what have you

This fic would have never been completed without the deadline of a ridiculous research report about free will and determinism hanging over my head. It's amazing how assignments can be terrific motivators for doing anything else in the world that you've been meaning to do but have been stuck on! Now, to learn how to play the piano!