Author Note: This fic is my response to a challenge, which is to portray Naruto as a shy Jinchuuriki. I'm not going to put the exact details, just know that's the main thing. Make Naruto shy. Also, keep in mind at the beginning of this story, Naruto and Hinata are just starting at the academy, so I'm imagining them as being 8 years old. Anyway, on with the story!

Chapter 1

Today was Naruto's first day in the Ninja academy. He walked in very slowly, head hanging, looking at the ground, refusing to meet anyone's eyes. He knew everyone would see him, but he knew they wouldn't actually SEE him either. He opened the door to the room where he would be having class and shuddered. He wasn't afraid, not really, just nervous. He sighed, thinking that ahead of him was another day of rejection and people ignoring him. He finally looked up and scanned the room. He was looking for an empty seat that was at least somewhat isolated from the other students.

As fate would have it, there was only one seat that even slightly fit his criteria. And that seat just so happened to be right beside a very pretty girl with raven hair and lavender eyes. He saw her looking at him. She was actually looking AT him, not through him like everyone else always did. Slightly encouraged, Naruto sighed and walked over to her.

"G-G-Good m-morning, M-Miss. I-Is th-this s-seat t-taken?" he asked, stuttering more than usual. He hated meeting new people, it was always so hard!

The young girl blushed. "N-No, g-go a-ahead," she said back, stuttering some herself. She was just as surprised as he was. He was surprised that she had looked at him without that cold look and allowed him to sit there, she was surprised that this boy, who she thought was very good-looking, was not only asking to sit by her, but seemed to be as shy as she was herself.

Naruto sat down slowly, staring at the desk in front of him, his eyes misty with unshed tears. They weren't tears of sadness, just frustration. He was frustrated with himself for not being able to work up the nerve to talk to the very pretty girl next to him. The girl, whose name Naruto didn't even know, seemed as shy as he was himself, and she was looking at the desk in front of her, her eyes almost completely closed, a slight blush on her cheeks. As the two sat there beside one another, Naruto thought back to all the times before he'd tried to talk to people, tried to get their attention.

Needless to say, it had never worked. The very few times people would even look at him at all, they would have a look of either total coldness and hatred, or a look of anger, depending on what he had done. He didn't understand why everyone seemed to hate him. He had tried pulling pranks around the village for a short time, but that hadn't worked. Every once in a while someone would yell at him, but most of the time, they just looked at him, then at what he had done, then turned their backs on him, once again rejecting his very existence. Eventually, he gave up on that. When he tried talking to villagers, they just gave him very cold stares as if his words were wrong simply because he had been the one to say them. He tried everything he could think of, and the results were always the same. No one would acknowledge him. They'd just stare at him with those cold eyes then turn away as if he didn't exist. He tried to mask the pain with smiles for a while, but those cold eyes just wouldn't go away. Over time, he had become what he now was: very, very shy, someone who rarely left his home and, when he did, rarely spoke at all. He developed a stutter after a while as well. The stutter was a reflection of his nerves and his fear of continued rejection.

Naruto didn't know it, but the girl beside him, Hinata, was thinking of much the same things during the time he sat there beside her. She thought of all the times she had tried to talk to her cousin, Neji, who had gotten very cold since his father died. She thought of the times she had tried to gain her father's attention and had him look at her with very cold eyes, telling her she was a failure and a disgrace to the clan. She thought of the times lately when she had tried to talk to her younger sister, Hanabi, and been given the same cold stare she got from her father. Her father favored Hanabi, she knew, and Hanabi had grown conceited because of it. In spite of how cold her cousin and sister had grown toward her, Hinata loved them and couldn't bear to cause them pain, so, when they sparred, she always held back and allowed herself to be hurt time and time again. Of course, this made both of them more and more conceited, colder and colder, and made her father see her as even more of a failure every time. So it was that she was caught in a vicious cycle. The result of all of this was that she became very shy and quiet, speaking only when spoken to and eventually developing a stutter as the chill in the eyes of her clan grew deeper and colder.

As each of them thought about their rejections and the chill they each saw in others' eyes, they looked toward one another, then jumped in surprise at being caught looking at the other, blushed deeply, and both began a new train of thought, similar to one another, but different from what they had been thinking of before. Both were confused.

"What's going on here?" both thought. "Even the clansmen/villagers don't accept me, so why is he/she not looking at me like they do? Why does he/she not reject me? Is there something different about him/her? Or is he/she just trying to get me to lower my guard so he/she can hurt me even more?"

Neither knew it, of course, but they were both thinking those questions about the other. Naruto decided to wait until roll was called to find out this girl's name and to talk to her when they had their lunch break. That decision made, he sat back in his chair and looked around the room. Since he was in the back row, no one was looking at him. He sighed and waited for class to start. Hinata, for her part, decided to wait for roll call also to find out the boy's name. She wanted to talk to him, or have him talk to her, but she knew she would never have the nerve to do it herself. Therefore, she hoped the boy would talk to her. She'd wait, she decided. She'd just find out his name from the roll and wait and see if he acted in any way. She sighed, sat back, and looked over the class, neither one noticing that they had both assumed the same posture.

The two shy kids had been sitting back and observing their classmates for about ten minutes when their teacher, Iruka Umino, entered the room and called the class to order. As Iruka called the roll, Naruto and Hinata each learned who the other was. Naruto felt a bit intimidated by Hinata, now that he knew she was part of such a prestigious clan. Hinata was even more curious about who Naruto was, seeing as she'd never heard the name Uzumaki before. Beyond that, the two pretty much ignored the roll, neither of them cared much for who else was in the class; both saw their other classmates as "one more person to reject me" and so neither paid much attention to their names. Hinata did pick up on there being an Uchiha in their class. She knew her clan hated the Uchiha clan, so she decided to avoid that student, Sasuke, especially. Naruto was more intrigued by the buzzing sound coming from one Shino Aburame than anything. He wondered what the sound was, but beyond those two things, neither Naruto nor Hinata reacted to any of their classmates in any way whatsoever.

As the class proceeded, Naruto noticed that Iruka seemed to be watching him from time to time, so he kept his attention on what was being said. He blushed any time the sensei looked at him, but he kept his attention focused on the lecture. Hinata felt herself included in the sensei's gaze and blushed as well, but neither of the two said anything. Both simply paid attention and sat quietly. Soon enough, it was time for their lunch break.

Hinata scurried away from Naruto when they were dismissed for lunch. She was afraid he wouldn't talk to her again and she'd feel the pain of being rejected yet again, so she ran. Naruto watched her as she hurried to a tree and sat down in its roots. He followed her, slowly, but determined. He had made up his mind that he was going to try to talk to this girl. She hadn't rejected him yet, and she didn't seem to change when she learned his name, so he'd try with her. Maybe, just maybe, she'd be different from the others. She had her face turned down as she ate her lunch, so she didn't see Naruto approaching her.

"Um, H-Hinata?" he said quietly, half-hoping she'd hear him, half-afraid she would. She jumped a little and looked up.

"Y-Yes, N-Naruto?" she answered, blushing.

"Would y-you mind if I s-sit w-with you?" he asked her, blushing deeply.

"Not at all, N-Naruto. Sit down," she answered, a kind smile on her face. Naruto couldn't help but return her smile, in spite of his red face. He sat down in front of her, looking everywhere but at her. He didn't want her to think he was eying her body, but he couldn't make eye-contact with her either, so he looked everywhere else, mostly at the ground. Hinata saw his gaze being directed downward and realized he was as nervous as she was about this. She couldn't help it. She giggled.

Naruto's eyes snapped up at her giggle. He blushed, thinking she was laughing at him. "D-Did I d-do something funny?" he asked, feeling embarrassed.

Hinata gave him a kind smile again, then shook her head. "N-No, Naruto, you didn't d-do anything funny. I was just thinking," she said, still smiling. It felt good to have someone paying attention to her like this.

Naruto smiled back at the girl. He was enjoying having someone pay attention to him too. "Oh, well, what were you laughing about then?" he asked her. For once, he didn't stutter. He was feeling comfortable with this girl, which surprised him, but he liked it.

Hinata gave the boy in front of her a small smile. "I could just tell you were nervous, that's all. The thing is, I'm really nervous, too. I'm n-not used to having someone acknowledge m-me. That's why I giggled. We're both nervous about this," she said, surprising herself that she was able to say that much almost without a stutter. She was feeling somewhat comfortable with this boy as well, and she really liked the feeling.

Naruto smiled. He was doing that a lot today. "I'm not used to being acknowledged either. It's really nice. And yeah, I am n-nervous. I have b-been ever s-since I sat d-down b-by you," he said, frustrated that his stutter was returning. "When you heard my name, I was sure you'd look at me like everyone else does, with coldness in your eyes, like you were rejecting me," he continued, blushing furiously now. He didn't know why he was telling her this, but it felt right somehow.

Hinata was surprised. He was afraid she would reject him? "I-I w-w-was afraid y-you would do that to m-me, Naruto," she said, surprising the blond. "Everyone in m-my f-family looks d-down on m-me. They all think I'm a failure, and they look at me so coldly. I was so afraid when you f-found out who I am, you'd reject me the same w-way th-they do." Like Naruto, Hinata didn't know why she was telling the boy this, but it felt right.

Naruto really was surprised by all this. Had he finally found someone who would accept him? He decided to take a chance and find out. "H-Hinata?" he said. Said girl looked up at him, a questioning look on her face. "W-W-Would you l-like t-to b-b-be m-my fr-fr-friend?" he asked, stuttering more than usual. He was terrified she'd say no and run away from him.

Hinata was shocked. No one had ever asked her to be their friend before. She guessed that Naruto didn't have many, if any, friends either. She blushed furiously, then nodded with gusto. "I'd l-like th-that v-v-very m-much, N-Naruto," she said, smiling. Naruto gasped at her response, then smiled at her, feeling much better than he had upon arriving at the academy that morning. He was still nervous, still shy, true, but now he wasn't completely alone; he had a friend. A friend who was as shy as he was, yes, but he had a friend. Hinata felt much the same. They both had a friend now. For anyone else, it might not have meant much, but for them it was the best thing that had ever happened to them.

It was only moments after this that their lunch break ended and they had to return to the classroom. Naruto walked beside Hinata feeling much better, but he was still afraid to even look at anyone else in the class. The two shy friends found themselves sitting together again, this time more or less on purpose. Naruto even managed a slight smile for Hinata, who returned it, blushing deeply. Like the morning classes, the two sat quietly, listening to their lessons. Naruto had never been the best at concentrating, so paying so much attention to any one thing for so long was causing him a serious headache. Hinata was much more used to concentrating, so she didn't have any trouble in that arena.

As their classes ended for the day, the two new friends walked out of the academy together. Naruto hid himself in some bushes nearby. Hinata saw him and walked over to where he was hiding. "W-What's wrong, N-Naruto?" she asked him.

Naruto was surprised she had followed. He blushed. "N-Nothing, H-Hinata. W-Why do y-you ask?" he answered.

"Well, you're h-hiding over h-here," she answered. "I just thought s-something m-must be wrong for you to b-be hiding from everyone."

Naruto realized he'd been caught. "I just d-didn't want to s-see p-people l-looking at m-me like they always do," he said back.

Hinata thought a moment, then made a decision. She held a hand out to him. "C-Come s-stand with me. I c-can't say they w-won't look at you like that, but if th-they d-do, we'll face th-them t-together," she said, smiling kindly. She didn't know why, but she wanted to have him beside her. After all, they had both spent their lives getting those cold stares. She doubted the stares would go away, but having someone with her would make it easier to deal with, she figured.

Naruto was flat-out stunned by this. "A-Are you s-sure, H-Hinata?" he asked her.

She nodded. "Come on, st-stand with me," she told him. "I w-want you by me."

Naruto thought about this and stood up, not taking her hand. He came out of the bushes, blushing deeply, and stood beside Hinata. He saw her looking at him and blushed deeper. Having her look at him like that was nice, even if it did make him nervous. She smiled at him, kindness shining in her eyes. He smiled back, his eyes glinting a little as well. A few minutes later, a member of Hinata's family showed up to get her, and the new friends parted with a final smile. After everyone else was gone, Naruto went home. He ate a light dinner and went to bed, thinking of his first friend the whole time. As he fell asleep, he had a slight smile on his face, thinking that maybe, just maybe, the future wouldn't be so bad.