Naruto sighed deeply. The blond might love training, but there was nothing he hated more than useless training. For the last few days, ever since he'd finally summoned the Chief Toad, he'd felt like his training with the Pervy Sage was going nowhere! His frustration was growing, but then he felt a small voice in his mind telling him to stick with it. He smiled briefly. "Thanks, Hinata," he thought.
Jiraiya saw his godson seeming frustrated, then was surprised when the boy suddenly smiled. "What was that?" he wondered to himself. "He must be thinking about that Hyuga girl he's been hanging out with so much lately." Turning to the blond, he decided it'd be more fun to needle him than to just sit there doing nothing, which was what he'd been doing for a while now, since the girls who had been supplying him research material had left. "You've been spending a lot of time in the hospital lately," he commented, trying to seem disinterested. He chuckled to himself when the blond stiffened. "Yeah, I know all about your visits to the Hyuga girl. I think Naruto's got himself a little girlfriend."
Naruto sighed again. "He would know about that, wouldn't he? Freaking Pervy Sage!" he thought in frustration. Naruto sat down and let his gaze drop to the ground. He wanted the old sage to think he was entering his mindscape to talk to the fox. He was going in there, but not for the furball. He had discovered that his bond with Hinata was manifested physically in the mindscape, and he was going to try something with it now. Within moments, he was standing in front of the fox's cage. Reaching over, he grabbed a rope that was near the cage and gave it a yank. He hated to do this, but there was no way he was going to deal with Jiraiya before he talked to Hinata.
Meanwhile, Hinata was just laying down again after having eaten her lunch. She was infinitely glad for this when she felt herself getting tugged into her mindscape. It was, to say the least, a very odd feeling. She was somehow not surprised when she found herself standing in front of the Nine-Tailed Fox's cage in Naruto's mindscape a moment later. Looking around, she found Naruto holding some kind of silvery rope. "What's that?" she asked.
Naruto gave Hinata a small smile. "It's our bond, I think. I noticed this thing in here last time when we had that one dream, and I figured that's what it had to be. Apparently, I was right; when I tugged on it, you showed up in here."
Hinata thought a moment, then nodded. "That would make sense; I did feel something tugging me in here, I guess it was that." She took a deep breath. "So, what did you need, Naruto?"
Naruto sighed. "You know how you said you don't want to tell anyone about us?" he said. Hinata nodded, her eyes worried. "Well, I think the Pervy Sage already knows."
Hinata gasped and covered her mouth with her hands. "How could he know?" she asked. Naruto shrugged. Hinata shook her head. "Oh well, I guess there's nothing we can do about it."
Naruto nodded. "If I can get him to be serious, I can probably get him to promise not to tell anyone about us," he said. "And it might do us some good to have at least one person know...especially if it's him. He might be an old pervert, but he knows how to make people vanish if need be. Plus, he's damn good at being discreet when he wants to."
Hinata sighed. "You have a point. How much does he know, you think?"
Naruto shook his head. "I have no idea. He could know everything for all I know. I do know he knows I've been coming to see you, and that's plenty of reason for me to bring him in on the whole thing, really, just so he'll keep his mouth shut about that part of it." Hinata nodded reluctantly; she'd known their relationship wouldn't be a secret for long, but she'd hoped it'd be longer than this. "Well, is it okay with you if I tell him everything then?"
Hinata sighed. "Might as well, I guess. We can't risk him telling anyone else whatever he knows already. I'll leave you to that...will you come see me tomorrow?" she asked shyly, tapping her forefingers together.
Naruto rubbed the back of his head and chuckled. "Of course, I wouldn't miss it!" he said. "See you tomorrow." With that, he let go of the silvery rope, and Hinata vanished from his mindscape. "I'll have to be careful about when I do that," he thought to himself. "Don't want to leave her in a trance when she's cooking or anything like that."
Leaving his mindscape, Naruto discovered a worried Jiraiya looking at him curiously. "What were you doing, Naruto?" he asked when he was sure his student was completely awake.
"I've got something to tell you about, Pervy Sage," he said. "And you might want to sit down...this is going to take a while."
It had taken Naruto nearly an hour to explain everything that was going on to his mentor. Now, the blond was watching the sage with a calculating expression. Jiraiya could tell from the boy's look that, if he screwed up now, the boy would never trust him again. "So let me get this straight," he said seriously. "You made a vow on her blood, so now the two of you can feel each other's feelings and hear each other's thoughts. She knows about your tenant, and the two of you are dating. For now, though, you want to keep it a secret until things settle down. Is that about right?" Naruto nodded. "Okay, kiddo, I won't tell anyone for the time being."
Naruto sighed in relief. "I need to ask your advice about something, Jiraiya," he said. The fact that he called the man by name for once caught the sage so off-guard his attention was instantly riveted on the boy. He had never once done that, which meant that whatever Naruto was going to say, he was deadly serious about it. Naruto took note of this. Taking a deep breath, he continued, "The first time I met Hinata in my mind was in a dream...and we had sex in the dream. We've met in a dream a couple other times, but nothing happened then, we just talked. Then the other day, when I was in her hospital room, I almost had sex with her right then and there. I really don't know what came over us, but she wanted to, too. The only reason we didn't was her heart wouldn't let us." Jiraiya was giggling perversely and had a slight nosebleed by this time, but at least Naruto could tell he was listening. "I just...I don't know how I'll know when the time is right for us to...you know, do it for real. I don't want to rush her, and I don't want to do it too soon, but how will I know?"
Jiraiya took a deep breath and wiped his nose quickly. "I wasn't expecting him to come to me for advice about that!" Jiraiya thought to himself. "Still, I can't make light of this. He's got good reason to worry, and he's being mature enough to ask someone about it. I'm still surprised he asked me, but hey, whatever. I'm glad the brat trusts me enough to bring it up to me!" Returning his attention to Naruto, the Sannin gave a small smile and told him, "I can't even begin to explain how you'll know, kid. You'll just both know. Everything will work out just right, and you'll both just...know." Naruto gave him an annoyed look. "I know that doesn't help much, but trust me, kid, you'll know. And it won't just be you, either, she'll know, too. And when you both know, you'll make love, and it will be the single most amazing thing either of you has ever experienced or will ever experience. That first time will be the most special time of both your lives, and it's a memory you will cherish forever. I can't really say any more about it than that. The only advice I can really give you is this: it's a time you'll remember for the rest of your life, so make sure the memory is a good one!" That said, the elderly sage seemed to slip into his own thoughts; in truth, he was remembering his own first time. He may have awakened the next morning with a horrid hangover only to get pounded by an angry hungover Tsunade, but it was worth every second! Even to this day, he could remember that night as clear as if he'd been sober, and the memory of her pert breasts and erect nipples had fueled many a Make-Out Paradise writing session. The look on Orochimaru's face as they left his apartment the next morning was just icing on the cake.
Naruto sighed and sank into thought himself. "Well, that was worthless," he thought to himself. "I mean...what kind of advice is 'you'll just know'? I mean, in all fairness, he's probably right, but really, that doesn't help at all!" Standing up, he turned to the old sage. "Well, thanks for the advice, I guess," he said. "Now, can we get some training done today? I still need to get better at accessing the furball's chakra whenever I need it."
Jiraiya chuckled at the blond's nickname for the fox, then nodded. "Sure, Naruto, sure. Let's see what you've got." And so their training for the day began.
Hinata sighed as she returned to her own body after talking with Naruto. It just had to be Master Jiraiya, didn't it? It couldn't be the Hokage or Kurenai-sensei or Kakashi-sensei, no, of course not, it just had to be the most infamous pervert to ever come out of the Hidden Leaf Village! Over the next few minutes, she caught flashes of nervousness, worry, and relief from Naruto as he, presumably, told Jiraiya about them. He sent her a brief flash of comfort to let her know nothing was wrong, then he suddenly got excited; Hinata giggled. Apparently they were going to get to training.
What happened next was hard for Hinata to understand. She began getting flashes of images. First, she saw an image of a small river. Next, an image of a tree approaching quickly met her gaze. Next, she saw Jiraiya knocked over and laying on his back. Then she was treated to a very up-close look at about ten Narutos. This was so confusing and strange that the girl simply closed her eyes tight and shook her head, trying to fight off the niggling idea that she was losing her mind. After she shook her head, though, the images stopped, so she guessed she was just seeing things. It was still weird, but she shook it off.
Naruto, meanwhile, had felt Hinata's fear and worry. He had no idea what had caused it, but he was glad it faded after his last clone dispelled. "I'll have to make sure to ask her about that later," he thought.
Hinata sighed, then got up and made her way to the bathroom. "That was weird," she said to herself, looking at herself in the mirror over the sink. Splashing her face with water, she felt a bit better. Taking care of her business in the bathroom, she returned to her bed and closed her eyes to relax.
Just as she got comfortable again, Hinata's peace was interrupted. Kiba burst into the room, Akamaru yapping excitedly about seeing her. Hinata smiled at her teammates, then nodded to Shino when he entered moments after Kiba. Kurenai wasn't far behind the two boys. Hinata smiled at her sensei as she entered. Surprising no one, it was Kiba who spoke first. "How are you, Hinata?" he asked her.
Hinata smiled. "I'm feeling fine, Kiba," she said back. "It's nice to see you all. How are you all doing without me?"
Kurenai smiled at her favorite student. "We'll survive, I'm sure," she said. "But we all miss you, Hinata."
Hinata sighed and blushed slightly. "I'm sorry I'm such a burden," she told them. "Even when I'm not there, I hold you back." As she said this, Naruto got a flash of her depression and sent her another flash of comfort. Hinata smiled slightly at his caring action.
Kiba came over to Hinata and rested a hand on hers. "You're not holding us back, Hinata," he assured her. "You're our friend, and we miss having you there with us, that's all!"
Hinata smiled, then pulled her hand out from under Kiba's; she knew it was just a comforting action, but it still felt somehow...wrong to let Kiba do that when she was with Naruto. "Thank you, Kiba," she said quietly.
It was Shino who spoke next. "His actions are simply logical, Hinata," he said. "You are our teammate, our comrade, and our friend. It is logical for us to comfort you when you are sad."
Kurenai rolled her eyes and rested a hand on Shino's shoulder. "What Shino is trying to say," she said, "is that we all care about you, Hinata, and we're not going to let you be down on yourself when there's no reason for it."
Hinata giggled and smiled at her team. "Thank you, all of you," she said sincerely. "I'm glad I have friends like you."
Kurenai smiled at her team. "When you get out of here, Hinata, we're all going to take you out anywhere you want to go," she said. "You may have lost, but I think you improved during the Chunin Exams, and you're going to be okay, and that is something worth celebrating!"
Hinata blushed deep red and smiled at her team as the two boys nodded. "Thank you, all of you," she said. Just then, she got a flash of love from Naruto, which only made her blush all the deeper. Immediately following on it was a flash of Naruto's mischievous grin. Hinata sent him a flash of a glare, followed by her own love so he wouldn't think she was really mad.
Naruto chuckled at Hinata's reaction; he'd been training about twenty minutes when he felt Hinata suddenly get embarrassed, so he sent her a flash of his love, knowing full well it would embarrass her all the more, which it did. That glare she sent him was probably the cutest angry look he'd ever seen, and the love following it more than made the glare worth it.
Hinata had to smile at Naruto's antics, but she wasn't about to say anything to her team about that. Kiba noticed her deeper blush, though, and couldn't resist teasing her. "You're thinking of Naruto again, aren't you?" he said. Of course, Hinata blushed deeper still, inventing a new shade or two of red in the process.
Kurenai grabbed Kiba's shoulder and gave him a glare and a shake of her head. Shino simply looked at Kiba with an eyebrow raised disapprovingly. "It would be illogical to embarrass our teammate further when her heart is in such a fragile state," he said in his usual monotone.
Kiba scratched at one of his cheeks, thoroughly shamed. "You're right. Sorry, Hinata," he said.
Hinata shook her head. "It's okay, Kiba," she said then. "And yes, I was thinking of Naruto."
Shino gave Hinata a small smile. "It is logical to be thinking of someone you care about, especially when the person is going to face a perilous trial in the near future," he said. "It does you credit, Hinata."
Kurenai chuckled at her student; Shino was so hard to read sometimes. "You'll have your chance with him, Hinata," she said. "He might be a bonehead, but he's not stupid enough to reject you."
Hinata met Kurenai's eyes and flashed her sensei a private smile. "I know," she said softly, then added, "Naruto really isn't as stupid as you guys think sometimes, though."
Kurenai was a bit surprised at the private smile Hinata sent her way. "Could it be?" she wondered. Deciding to not say anything to the girl about that at the moment, she commented, "That's probably true. Of the four of us, you probably know him the best, Hinata. I meant no offense."
Hinata waved her sensei off. "I know that, Kurenai-sensei," she said quietly. Then she yawned. "Sorry, guys, but I really should get to sleep. It's been something of an eventful day, and I'm tired."
Kurenai nodded in understanding and herded the two boys out after they all said their goodbyes to their teammate. Even Akamaru gave a cheerful bark of farewell. Kurenai gave the girl in the bed one final parting smile, and then they were gone. Hinata sighed deeply and lay back on her bed. She sent a burst of happiness over the bond to Naruto to let him know everything was all right, then closed her eyes and began to drift toward sleep.
When Naruto got Hinata's burst of happiness, he was just getting into his apartment. The day had been long and less than productive, so he was a bit frustrated. Her happiness made him smile, though. Going through his evening routine, Naruto got himself ready for bed just in time to practically collapse onto his mattress. Within moments, the two Genin were sound asleep.
Naruto arrived at the hospital the next morning and found Hinata standing in front of the receptionist's desk. "Oh, Hinata!" he said, surprised. "Are you getting released?"
Hinata smiled. "Yeah, they said I should be okay to go home today. I'm going to watch the finals first, though."
Naruto smiled back. "That's great!" he said. "You'll get to watch me beat up Neji then!" Hinata could tell he was a little worried about the match, but it wasn't anything he couldn't handle.
She smiled and rested a hand on his arm. "I'm sure you'll do great," she said then.
"Me, too," he said back, forcing a smile. Hinata looked at him, worried, then asked what was wrong. "I'm just afraid...if I fulfill the vow...we'll lose our bond," he told her.
Hinata gasped. She hadn't thought of that! "Well...even if we do...let's just promise to stay together, even then, okay?" she said.
Naruto smiled and nodded. This time, his smile was real. "Yeah, that's a promise!" he said.
Hinata looked at the clock hanging in the room. "Oh, no! You're going to be late!" she told him. Naruto saw the clock and gasped; she was right, he had to get going!
"You're right, gotta go, Hinata!" he said. "I'll see you after the finals, okay?" Hinata nodded, and Naruto took off out of the hospital toward the Chunin Exams Arena. Hinata left after the receptionist finished checking her out of the hospital.
Naruto got to the Arena just in time to hear the Hokage giving a speech to begin the finals. Hinata arrived during the speech along with Kiba, who had come to pick her up from the hospital. Kiba and Hinata found some seats and sat down; Kiba just happened to be sitting right next to two Chunin he vaguely recognized but couldn't place just then. Hinata smiled as she saw Naruto down on the ground of the Arena. "Good luck, Naruto," she thought. Naruto caught her eye and smiled at her briefly before returning his attention to the proctor, who was showing them something Hinata couldn't make out from where she was. After a few moments, everyone but Naruto and Neji made their way into the stands.
The proctor turned toward the crowd and called out, "May the first match of the Chunin Exam Finals...BEGIN!"