"Oi! Naruto let's stop for now. I'm hungry," Sakura said breathing heavily. They had been training all morning and Sakura was getting tired.
Naruto relaxed from his fighting stance and ran up to Sakura, "I'm hungry too. Let's go get some ramen!"
"Alright," she said then frowned, "Have you seen Sasuke-kun today?"
"Tsunade-obaasan called him this morning, something about an injured Chunin," replied Naruto.
"Oh...," she said.
"Well! What are we waiting for? Let's go!" Naruto started marching off in the direction of Ichiraku.
Sakura smiled and followed. He had changed.
"Itadakemasu!" Naruto started devouring his ramen.
"Hey guys what up?" Kiba came over to them, followed by Shino and Hinata.
"Hello N-Naruto-kun, Sakura-chan" said Hinata blushing and poking her fingers together.
Shino nodded his head.
"Hello," replied Sakura sweetly.
"Hi guys! What are all of you doing here?" asked Naruto.
"We came to eat lunch, you idiot," said Kiba, stating the obvious. Akamaru yipped at his side agreeing with his friend.
"Watch who you are calling an idiot, idiot!" Naruto shot back.
"You all better not start fighting in here," called the Owner.
"He started it!" yelled Kiba and Naruto at the same time and then glared at each other.
"So what were you guys doing?" asked Sakura.
"We were just training and decided to take a lunch break," answered Hinata quietly.
"Sakura. Shino. Kiba. Tsunade-sama wants to see you three. There is an injured Chunin that seems to be poisoned," said Sasuke walking up to them.
"Huh. Right now?" whined Kiba.
"That's what she said," replied Sasuke.
"Right. Let's go," said Shino.
"Wait! I'm coming too!" said Naruto getting up.
Sasuke shook his head, "Tsunade-sama only asked for the three of them."
"Naruto you wouldn't leave Hinata all alone would you?" asked Sakura hinting a threat so lightly that Naruto was oblivious to it.
"Huh?" said Naruto confused, then grinned. He put his arm around Hinata's shoulder in a friendly hug. "Of course not! I wouldn't leave her alone!"
Hinata's face had already turned many shades of red but she managed to stammer, "N-Naruto-kun, you d-don't h-have to stay for m-me. You c-can go if you l-like."
"No. I'm going to stay. Tsunade-obaasan doesn't need me. Plus I can find out what's going on later," he answered
"Good, now let's go. We don't have much time," said Sasuke. The four ninja went of in the direction of the Hokage's office.
Naruto sat down quietly next to Hinata. He looked down at his ramen but made no motion to eat it.
"N-Naruto-kun? A-are you okay?" asked Hinata worriedly. She had never seen Naruto sitting and not eating ramen or being so quiet. Right now he was doing both. It would have been a source for concern for anyone who knew Naruto well enough.
"Have you ever felt ignored by the people you love the most?" asked Naruto grimly.
"Huh?" Hinata was taken by surprise by Naruto's question. She though about it and decided to answer honestly. "Yes," she said sadly, "It's awful. You feel ignored, invisible and betrayed by the people who mean the most to you. The person you love sees you nothing more than a friend. You feel like a transparent ghost just floating around only noticed when making trouble and never else. You feel useless and unworthy like you don't matter to anyone else. You feel like you're in the way, like things would be better if you didn't exist. It's a horrible, awful feeling."
Hinata looked up and saw Naruto's piercing blue eyes boring into her. She blushed madly and looked down. She poked her fingers together willing herself not to faint.
"Hinata...," Naruto was surprised that Hinata understood exactly how he felt. He hadn't expected someone like Hinata to feel rejected like him. Sure her family was tough, but people liked her, and she was accepted by everyone. She was strong, caring and determined. He couldn't imagine anyone rejecting her. "Hinata how do you know exactly how I feel?"
"I...uh...," Hinata turned a deeper shade of red, "that is...I..."
"Could it be...," Naruto thought about it for a second and came to a conclusion. The only way she can feel the same way as me is if she is in the same situation that I am in.
"Could it be that you are in love with someone and they don't love you back!?" asked Naruto.
Hinata's eyes went wide, "Yes...I mean. No...That is..."
"I'm going to find out who it is and help you get them! No one should feel alone like that!" Naruto decided. He couldn't bear to see someone as kind as Hinata feeling so rejected like himself. She was always so shy and sweet. He would definitely help her.
"So...who is it Hinata? Huh? Hinata!?" Naruto was just barely able to catch her as she fell unconscious.
Unknown to the two of them five of Shino's bugs just returned to him telling him and three others that their mission had been a success.
"NEJI! Hey Neji! Wait up!"
Neji turned to find Naruto chasing him. He stopped and waited for the blond ninja to catch up.
"What is it Naruto?" he asked.
"I was wondering," Naruto grinned sheepishly, "Do you know who Hinata likes?"
"Huh?" Neji was caught off guard.
"Who is she in love with? Do you know?"
Who aside from you doesn't know? Naruto just how dense can you be? "I'm sorry Naruto, but I'm not at liberty to speak of Hinata-sama's feelings without her consent," he replied diplomatically, "You really should ask her yourself. Frankly, I'm surprised you haven't figured it out yet. Maybe you should ask her."
"I tried that," Naruto replied, "but she keeps turning red and fainting. I think she might be sick or something. You should take her to the doctor."
Neji was shocked beyond belief at how utterly clueless Naruto could be.
"I'm sorry Naruto. I can't help you," Neji said again.
"Aargh...fine!" Neji laughed inwardly as he watched Naruto stalk away, grumbling about difficult people.
Kiba turned to find a very breathless Naruto. Naruto had been looking all over the village for Kiba and had finally found him training in the forest with Akamaru.
Since Neji had refused to help him, Naruto could only turn to Kiba for information. He could have gone to Shino but Shino scared the living daylights out of him. No, he wouldn't go to Shino.
"Oh hey Naruto, something wrong?" asked Kiba, relaxing from his fighting stance. Akamaru landed beside him and barked a greeting.
"No, I was just wondering...," Naruto trailed off. Maybe asking Kiba isn't such a good idea.
"Yes? You were wondering...?" Kiba prodded him on.
"I was wondering if you knew who Hinata is in love with." Naruto asked, deciding Kiba was better than Shino.
Kiba's eyes went wide and he burst out laughing.
"Y-you mean, y-you haven't figured it out yet?" Kiba asked in between laughs, "You're probably the only one who doesn't know!"
"Aaargh...well are you gonna tell me or not?" Naruto growled, embarrassed that apparently everyone knew but him. Naruto waited for a moment to see if Kiba would tell him, but Kiba was having too much fun laughing at Naruto's expense. So Naruto left, angry and embarrassed.
Naruto wandered the streets of Konoha, face contorted in frustration. Who does Hinata like? She's so shy and quiet! So how can everyone know who she likes but me? How could I have missed it? Naruto growled, annoyed that he couldn't figure it out.
"Huh?" Naruto looked up and jumped back, startled. Shino was leaning on the side of the building just in front of him.
Shino walked up to him, a couple bug floated towards him. Unknown to Naruto Shino had been monitoring his progress, in part due to Sakura's request and in part due to his own concern for Hinata's feelings. Since Naruto had been failing miserably he had decided to step in.
"Naruto, you haven't figured it out yet have you." Shino stated, rather than asked.
"Huh?" asked Naruto rather dumbly.
"You're still trying to figure out who Hinata likes," Shino explained.
"How do you know that?" Naruto pointed an accusing finger at Shino.
"My bugs don't miss anything," Shino replied, gesturing at the black specks floating around him.
Naruto shivered. This was why Shino scared him. Shino said nothing but knew everything. It was unnerving. Defeated, Naruto hung his head and mumbled his agreement.
"Naruto, think about it," said Shino, "Every time Hinata is around you, near you or even hears your name, she blushes and faints. She never stutters unless she is speaking to you. The first time she stood up for herself was during the Chunin exams, after you told her not to give up. She used your phrase during her fight against Neji, 'I won't give up. That's my way of the ninja.' The first time she proposed a mission was to help you find the Bikouchuu, so that it could help you find Sasuke. She worked hard to develop her own technique, working tireless days and nights, telling herself that if you were in her place you wouldn't give up. She did it to gain acceptance from her father, from Neji, from me and Kiba, but most of all from you.
Shino stopped to look at Naruto. Confusion, doubt and shock were written all over his face. Naruto could tell where Shino was going with his speech, he just couldn't believe it. But he knew Shino's words were true. In fact he could recall some instances where Hinata had been especially kind to him.
"Naruto," Shino continued, "Hinata holds you in the highest respect. You have become the source of her strength, determination and commitment. She admires you. She admires you to the point where you could safely call it an obsession, an infatuation. Naruto, she loves you. Whatever you do don't break her heart."
Naruto looked down. He would never do anything to hurt Hinata. He couldn't. He remembered the first time he had really talked to her. She had given him medicine for his cuts and bruises. She had been so shy and timid about it. It had been right before she was paired against Neji. He could still remember his anger against Neji for what he had said and done to her. Telling her that she was destined to be a failure, that she would never change, Naruto knew Neji was wrong, and Hinata had proved it by becoming stronger.
He remembered that right before the Chunin finals he had found her training on the practice fields. She looked so cute hiding behind the large wooden target, poking her fingers together. Naruto could remember her words clearly, "Thanks to you Naruto-kun, I was able to change just a little, I think...From my point of view, you were always a proud man who makes a lot of mistakes. You make mistakes and get stronger from them. I believe that is true strength."
Naruto laughed to himself. That time in the hospital, when Hinata had suddenly turned red and fainted; it was because he had been so close to her face, not because she was sick.
Naruto felt like a complete idiot. Hinata, how is it that I never realized that you were always there for me, cheering me on? Was it me who made you feel alone and rejected? Well, I promise you won't feel that way anymore.
Naruto finally looked up. He was surprised to find that Shino was nowhere to be seen and that there were only a few streaks of light left in the sky. Slowly his feet carried him home, his mind still lost in thought.
After being ignored and cast out, after feeling the pain of hateful rejection, Naruto was amazed that he had finally found someone who loved him for who he was. He was amazed at how easily Hinata could see into his heart and make him feel like he wasn't alone.
Naruto looked at the quite raven haired girl standing next to him. Hinata stood there in silence, too afraid to speak. He watched as she switched from poking her fingers together, to twirling her thumbs, back to poking her fingers again. Her face was turned down but he could still see the faint blush that lit her face. Naruto grinned.
"Hinata?" he called, but Hinata was too lost in thought to have heard him.
"Hinata?" he called her again but got no response.
Naruto reached out and took her hands in his. Hinata gasped and looked up startled. When she realized that it was Naruto who was holding her hand her face took on an even deeper shade of red.
"N-Naruto-k-kun?" she barely managed to say.
"You really shouldn't hide your face like that Hinata-chan," Naruto smiled at her, not letting go of her hands.
Hinata didn't respond. She couldn't. Her voice had caught in her throat.
"I wanted to thank you," Naruto continued, "Hinata, I had never realized it before but..." he trailed off unable to find the right words.
"Hinata...you're amazing!" he finally said, "You once told me that true strength came from learning from the mistakes you make. You've worked so hard and have managed to show how strong you are to everyone. You're caring, kind and loyal. You can see deep into people's heart and make them feel like they aren't alone. Even when we were at the academy you were probably the only one who was actually nice to me. You've always cared about me and you're always making me feel better. When I'm around you, I feel like I have nothing to prove, like who I am is enough for you. It's a wonderful, beautiful feeling. You're hardworking, dedicated and an amazing friend. But to me..." he stopped and looked into her eyes, "...to me, you're so much more. Hinata I love you.
Hinata was speechless, her heart racing. Hot blood rushed to her face as Naruto's strong arms wrapped themselves around her slim figure. Instinctively she buried her face in his shoulder, breathing in his fiery scent as her vision faded.
Naruto smiled. He knew she would faint. He kissed the top of her head and looked down to see her calm, innocent face. She looked cute and vulnerable in his arms, like a small white rabbit. But Naruto knew what she was capable of; he had seen her love, her dedication and her determination. She was the only one who, from the very beginning, saw past everything else and believed in him. Naruto knew that he didn't have to prove anything to Hinata, she would love him no matter what and he would love her the same.
A/N: phew That was REALLY, REALLY hard to write, especially the end. But I made my deadline! WHOOT WHOOT! Please review. It would mean so much to me. Any advice on improving my writing would help too. Thank you!
Nae'ka-chan: again thankyou for always pushing me to write more. I hope like this one and now the surprise...drumroll ...I have a sequel to this one! I know its not much of a surprise but since you're always asking me to write more i was hoping you would like the surprise.
Amaya-chan: Since this is the first NaruHina fic that you have read I hope you liked it. Actually it's the first NaruHina fic i have written. I was wondering, do Naruto or Sasuke seem OOC. I tried to make it so they weren't but im not sure...