Bento

He was reaching for her instinctively on the bed before he realized she was already up. He could hear her bustling in his kitchen. Whatever Hinata was making smelled good.

Still, he kept his arm on the space she'd claimed as her side of the bed.

He continued to drowse as his eyes stayed closed, still caught in that dreamy state where reality refused to intrude fully into his consciousness. Naruto was still remembering the night before, when she'd been wrapped around his body and the warmth of her love embraced him.

He smiled to himself. Waking up to Hinata beside him was one of the best things he could never have imagined in his life.

It had only been a couple of weeks since she'd moved in, but he was still learning to share his space with a girl—like that time he'd woken up in the middle of the night when he'd heard her shriek of surprise coming from the bathroom. He'd rushed into the room, expecting to fight off an enemy but found her frowning at him with mingled humor, embarrassment, and exasperation on her face.

She'd fallen into the toilet because he'd forgotten to put the seat down.

"I guess I have to remember to turn the light on and check first before I sit down?" she'd said, still with her gentle smile. Then Hinata's soft laughter filled the night.

It made him realize that men and women were different when it came to toilet habits.

Then there was yesterday, when he'd been cleaning in the bedroom. Hinata had already left for a mission, but not before gently hinting that a tidy room would be nice to come home to.

He'd been busy vacuuming the floors when a flash of pink peeking out of the drawers had caught his attention. He'd walked to his clothes chest and pulled out the drawer. There, next to his boxers was one of Hinata's lacy panties. Just the thought of seeing their underwear together in the same drawer made him blush scarlet. He was glad she hadn't been there to see him flushing like an awkward schoolboy.

But it had filled him with so much anticipation for her homecoming that night.

Naruto sighed, still pinching himself that Hinata could still manage to leave him breathless even after months of dating. He finally opened his eyes and looked at the clock.

It was time to get ready. He had a mission with the boys today.

He grinned. Or, as he liked to refer to them: Hinata's boys.

With a loud yawn, he sat up and stretched. He entered the kitchen to see Hinata facing away from him, still at the sink, her hands reaching to untie the strings of the apron behind her back. So he walked up behind her and pressed a kiss to her right ear as his fingers helped her with the knot of the apron.

She laughed and looked up. "Good morning, Naruto," she said.

Of course, seeing that lovely face gazing up at him made him want to kiss her until he could drag her to the bedroom, but she recognized the look in his eyes. She pulled back after a few minutes and placed a firm hand on his chest.

"No," she said with a laugh when he pouted at her. "Not this morning. But tonight when you come back from your mission?"

"Why not both?" he asked with his eager, hopeful smile.

She only laughed, shook her head, then pushed him towards the kitchen table, hoping to distract him from his amorous thoughts.

His stomach growled in anticipation of breakfast and she smiled at him, her brow quirked up, and a knowing look flitted over her face. "See? Breakfast."

They ate breakfast together, one of the many things he liked about having her at his apartment. She was somebody he could talk to while he ate a meal. It was so much better than staring at his wall in silence when he waited those three minutes for his instant ramen to be ready.

"Can you tell Shino that he can pick up the herb he wanted at the Hyuuga garden?" she was saying. "We have that plant he needed for his insects. He can go by the house at any time."

He nodded as he chewed his rice and took a sip of his miso soup. "Okay. I will, Hinata."

When he was done getting ready, Naruto was at the doorway kissing her and saying good-bye. Again, one of those things he was fast appreciating, even though it made him late so many times for his missions.

He picked up his backpack and noticed that it was heavier than usual.

He looked at her. "Hinata?"

She laid a hand on his arm and looked nervously at him. "Naruto, I made you a bento, so try not to shake your backpack so much when you're on your way?"

He stilled. "A bento?" he asked and she nodded with a small smile on her face.

"I hope you don't mind. It's my first time making it for you. So you don't have to eat it if you don't want to, Naruto."

He shook her head at her. "Hinata! When have I ever not eaten what you've made for me?!" he asked with exasperation.

She still looked doubtful, a tiny frown on her face. "Only if you wa—"

Suddenly, he grinned at her and grabbed her roughly, pressing her more firmly to him as he hugged her with all his might. "Thank you, Hinata!" and kissed her opened mouth that had gasped in surprise.

She laughed when he pulled back. "I just told you to be careful with your bag!"

But there was one more kiss to share before he finally stepped out of the apartment.

Kiba and Shino were already waiting at the Konoha gates.

"Hurry up, asshole!" Kiba said as he scowled. "You certainly took your time getting here."

Naruto didn't care. "I'm on time, jerk!" he responded with a sunny smile.

Shino only turned around and headed out with a brief nod and a quiet "Good morning, Naruto."

Their mission for the day was an easy one. They were helping with reconstruction efforts from a minor earthquake that occurred a few miles away from the village. Thankfully, there were not too many injuries and the damage was minimal. All the survivors were being treated and there had been only one casualty.

For a few hours, they worked alongside the local residents to clear debris and rubble—until Shino looked up and saw the sun was high above them. "Time for lunch," he declared, knowing that Kiba and Naruto wouldn't think to rest once they got it in their heads to compete against one another. Today, they were stuck in their endless battle to outdo each other in the cleanup.

Naruto frowned at Shino when he'd heard the quiet order to break, but he remembered the bento that Hinata had made for him and his face broke out into an eager grin.

The three found a place to sit down. Naruto reached into his bag and brought out the bright orange furoshiki that contained his lunch.

"Ta-da!" Naruto said with a flourish as he held up his bento.

Kiba and Shino looked at the orange cloth wrapped neatly around the bento box and shared a smile.

"Oh, Hinata made you lunch?" Kiba asked slyly as he brought out his own chopsticks. Beside him, Shino was already unwrapping his onigiri.

"Yup!" Naruto said as he rocked side to side hugging his bento excitedly. Eventually, he stopped, carefully untied the knot on top, and unwrapped the furoshiki covering, revealing a shiny, lacquered, maroon box inside. He lifted the lid and found his mouth watering as he looked at the carefully arranged food.

It looked exquisite, healthy, and delicious.

Kiba leaned forward, snuck a peek at his bento, and said, "Hmmm. Looks good!"

Then he sighed. "I miss the days when Hinata made us lunch."

Naruto laughed. "Yeah, well, now it's my turn." He took out his chopsticks and picked up a piece of kara-age, her homemade fried chicken.

He sighed and closed his eyes as he chewed. The meat was juicy and tender, but the outside coating of panko was still crispy. It was savory, with hints of soy sauce and some sweetness. Then he picked up a piece of carrot that had been sliced thinly and mixed into some type of salad. His eyes widened, enjoying it even though he knew he was eating a vegetable.

"Tastes good?" Kiba asked, knowing the answer already, his mouth full of his own sandwich.

Shino watched him expectantly even as he worked steadily on his own onigiri.

"Yeah," Naruto replied with a pronounced nod.

He looked down again at his meal and smiled as he thought of her.

Hinata. Such a good cook. Always, their meals at home were some of the best he'd ever had in his life.

Hinata, he thought again. And it suddenly hit him, the message of her handmade bento: I love you.

Even though we're not together right now, I'm still thinking of you.

He could feel it, the loving care she'd taken to cook his food. He could imagine her standing in the kitchen earlier this morning, humming to herself and always with the smile on her face as she probably cut the vegetables and stirred the pot.

All that effort just to make sure that he was happy.

It humbled him and made him feel so grateful to have her in his life.

Unbidden, the memory of his early school days flitted through Naruto's mind. Back then, he'd watched the other kids eating their packed lunches, their bentos made by loving hands in the early hours of dawn.

He'd always look down on the pieces of bread on his desk and forced himself to eat, trying not to think about how impersonal and cold his own meals were. It was always something light: instant noodles, onigiri, but usually bread. Bread that was packaged in crinkly plastic, made by machines in a factory and bought from the store.

Not wrapped in a piece of cloth that was his favorite color, food carefully chosen for their health benefits, nor arranged thoughtfully in a box.

He picked up another piece of chicken and popped it into his mouth, chewed again as he thought of Hinata and her love for him.

Naruto gave a deep sigh and tried to discreetly wipe away his sudden tears.

He blinked and looked up to see Kiba and Shino gazing at him with concern and understanding in their eyes.

"Feels good?" Kiba asked, a kind smile on his face. Shino was nodding.

Naruto grinned at both of them. "Yeah, feels really good."