Naruto did not often use Shikamaru's favorite phrase, but right now 'troublesome' fit. He had no idea how to approach Hinata.
Oh well, direct approach it is, Naruto thought to himself. He walked over to where Hinata was standing against the wall. "Hi."
Naruto's sudden appearance caused Hinata to jump a bit. "Hi."
"Is this a dream?" Naruto asked out of the blue.
"I'm sorry?" Hinata looked at Naruto as if he had grown a second head.
"Is this a dream? I mean, I'm seriously doubting that I'm awake. First, you're way too hot to be real, and every time I dream of you, you keep getting hotter. Second, Ino's parties have never been this boring. Usually, Sai has said something offensive and started a fight by now."
Hinata giggled a bit and Naruto felt his legs gain the consistency of cooked ramen noodles. "Are you hitting on me?"
"Maybe a little." Naruto shrugged. "But I'm still wondering if this is a dream or not."
"Oh, this is real," Hinata said with a blush. "But I just ended a relationship and I don't think I'm ready for another yet."
"Really, you're single?" Naruto felt like he just got a bro-fist from God.
"Yes," Hinata answered a bit uneasily. "I have to go. What's your name?"
"Naruto Uzumaki." "Damn it! You can't leave yet!"
"It was a pleasure meeting you, Naruto Uzumaki. You were unintentionally charming," Hinata said with a smile before walking away.
She had barely left the room before Naruto was standing in front of Honorable Kono, who happened to be on the complete opposite side of the house. "Dude!"
"What?" Honorable Kono jumped.
"That girl! She's real, as in, she exists!" Naruto shook his younger friend violently in his excitement.
"What?" Honorable Kono tried to breathe in-between shakes.
"I think Hinata's the one! Is she the one?" Naruto asked in a frenzy.
Honorable Kono swayed in his dizziness. "Concentrate and ask again."
Naruto shrugged and shook Kono a bit more. "Better not tell you now."
"Magic Honorable Kono, you have let me down," Naruto grunted before dropping the younger teen.
"Kakashi! Tell me everything you know about Hinata Hyuga!" the blond asked over the thump of Honorable Kono hitting the ground in the other room.
"All I know is she just moved here from the Stone Village and works at Asuma's delivery company," Kakashi replied lazily as he flipped through his favorite book.
"A Stone Ninja?" Naruto asked in a far off tone. "She's so exotic."
Kakashi nodded. "Go ask Shion and Matsuri, they know a bit more than I do. Oh, and wipe the drool off your chin."
"Semi-girls, tell me about Hinata Hyuga." Naruto used a Body Replacement technique to switch places with some random guy hitting on Shion.
"I hear she just ditched some guy in the Stone Village," Shion muttered, tapping at her chin.
"Oh yeah, she did. That was some kind of big scandal or something," Matsuri added.
Naruto shrugged. Hinata herself had basically told him that. "Hey, Shion, you can see the future, right?"
"Yeah. It'll cost you," Shion smirked. Naruto fished around in his pockets and pulled out nine ryo.
"Is this enough to see if I get together with Hinata?" Naruto asked hopefully.
"Not on your life," Shion snapped. Naruto cursed and rushed over to Ami.
"Ami! Do you know anything about Hinata Hyuga?" Naruto demanded.
"Only that her Gentle Fist could kick your ass," Ami glared at Naruto.
"She can kick my ass? That's so hot," Naruto murmured as he ran over to Sai.
"There is no way she would like you. Hinata only likes guys with dicks." The painter flashed a false smile.
"&$# you, Sai!" Naruto snapped but was immediately confused as a black bar appeared over his mouth and the curse came out as white noise. "What the &$# was that?"
"My job, dickless. I work for Danzo and censor foul language," Sai smirked. Naruto was censored again telling Sai his opinion of the pale moron's art. He stormed off and found Sari refilling her drink.
"Everyone knows what you're asking about, Naruto. Hinata's from a rich powerful family and men line up to beg her father to let them date her," Sari said idly.
"Word travels fast," Naruto spoke in an impressed tone. "There must be an Ino-powered gossip field around."
Naruto decided to pick someone random out of the crowd to test his theory. He walked up to Yakku, a friend of Matsuri's, and pulled him aside. "What am I about to ask you?"
"Hinata Hyuga's got some baggage, dude," Yakku nodded.
"Holy crap, Ino's presence does triple the speed gossip spreads!" Naruto exclaimed, then whistled in awe.
"What are you doing?" Ino didn't quite shriek. "Why are you asking everyone about Hinata Hyuga?"
Naruto's eyes went wide. "You know about Hinata? Tell me now."
"She just moved here and got a delivery job. Hinata stops by the flower shop once in a while," Ino gleefully spread the latest gossip.
"I know about the move. But the flower shop?" Naruto was practically begging for more information. A few seconds later, Chouji, Ino's boyfriend, arrived and threw his arm around Ino's shoulder.
"Hey babe." Chouji smiled as Ino rested her head on his shoulder. "Didn't that Hinata just break up with somebody?"
"How 'just'?" Naruto's eyes went wide.
"Hasn't been that long. I heard she bailed on him or whatever. Must have been a shitty relationship or whatever?"
Ino groaned. "Yes, but I didn't want Naruto of all people to know that! The girl needs a bit of space!"
"I don't know what it is about her. I've got it bad." Naruto was talking more to himself than Ino and Chouji.
"Naruto! You cannot scare off the coolest girl at my party! I know you haven't had a real girlfriend in a year, but..." Ino started to rant. Suddenly the lights died, and a dozen people yelled at Sai. Naruto made a dismissive noise and started to counter Ino's accusation.
"Whoa, babe, Naruto's dating some pink-haired chick. I think he's finally moved on." Chouji stepped in to stop the brewing 'Battle of the Blonds'.
"A Pink-haired chick? That isn't moving on! That's... I can't even think of a word to describe how pathetic that is!" Ino ranted.
"Sai?" Naruto and Chouji said at the same time. Naruto was completely unaware that he was indirectly admitting dating Sakura was pathetic. All of his available brainpower was focusing on Hinata.
Ino thought about it for a moment before nodding. "Good point."
After a few minutes of failing to get any more information on the girl of his dreams, Naruto decided to go home to sleep. The party had sucked, except for the short time Naruto had spent with Hinata. So, he decided to go home and dream about Hinata.
"Guess who's toasted!" Kankuro shouted as he barged into the room. Naruto groaned when Kankuro turned on the lights and whipped Naruto in the head with a combination of house keys and chakra strings.
"It's everyone's favorite gay puppeteer," Naruto mumbled into his pillow.
"Damn right it is," Kankuro boasted proudly as he collapsed onto the bed he and Naruto shared.
"You know that girl from my dream?" Naruto recited happily.
"Yeah, but I'm going to pretend she's a guy," Kankuro answered sleepily.
Naruto rolled over and smiled at the ceiling. "So, I thought she was just a dream... And at Ino's party, there she was!"
"Hey, there he was." Kankuro was manipulating, only half consciously, one of his puppets to turn out the lights.
Naruto took a deep breath as the lights turned off. "I know that Hinata's the girl of my dreams."
"Then you should break up with your pink-haired fake girlfriend," Kankuro said.
"I mean, I haven't been this sure about something since I decided ramen was the greatest food ever." Naruto grinned as he spoke.
"Then you should break up with your pink-haired fake girlfriend," Kankuro repeated.
Naruto sighed. "Yeah..." Suddenly the phone rang. "Hello?"
"I can't believe you're going to juggle two chicks!" Ayame screamed on the line.
"What? I'm not going to juggle two chicks!" Naruto defended himself. "How do you even know about this anyway?"
Ayame groaned. "Kankuro, duh!"
"But, he's not even conscious. Hell, he's not even the one texting! It's freaking Crow!" Naruto shouted in disbelief.
"You of all people should know how much getting cheated on sucks!" Ayame said sternly.
"Ugh, I know!" Naruto groaned.
"Then you should break up with your fake pink-haired girlfriend!"
"I'm going to," Naruto whined.
"Really? Oh my god, I have to send a mass text about this! My baby brother is growing up!" Ayame hung up the phone. Naruto followed suit and stared in awe at Kankuro. The puppeteer was unconsciously controlling his puppet, Crow, who was sending text messages.
"How does he do that?" With that final thought, Naruto fell asleep.
The following day was when Naruto had told himself he would break up with Sakura...it was, after all, the right thing to do. He'd never really believed he loved Sakura...even in his mind, she was just a...placeholder of sorts. Naruto picked up the phone and dialed, dreading the sound of her voice.
"Hello?" Sakura said.
"Hey, Sakura, it's me," Naruto said, feeling lame. "Um, can we...talk?"
Sakura could tell from his voice something was up, but she didn't show it. "Yeah, sure, let's meet...over by the flower shop, okay?" Naruto agreed and the two hung up.
Ten minutes later, the two were wandering around Konoha, Sakura enjoying Naruto's proximity, Naruto staring off into space distractedly. "Oh, Naruto, I wanted to invite you over for dinner tonight," Sakura said out of the blue.
Naruto looked at her, a little worried. "You mean...to your house?" he asked. Sakura nodded. "Like...to meet your parents?" She nodded again. "Why would you want to do that?"
Sakura smiled. "I want you and my parents to meet, Naruto...because..." she trailed off. Naruto waited. "Because I'm...in love with you." The word "love" seemed to hang in the air between them like pink smoke. Naruto made a motion to wave it away.
"Um, Sakura...the thing is...I think we should break up..." he trailed off. Sakura was looking at him with a devastated look on her face. Then she did something Naruto never expected. She hit him! The two had been standing a short distance from Ichiraku's when Sakura hit Naruto, but an instant later, Naruto found himself embedded in the forehead of the carving of the Fourth Hokage's head. Naruto could only say one thing to that. "Ouch."
Naruto sat up and realized he was in his bed. "Ouch again."
Kankuro was sitting at the kitchen table. "Well, shit, I was hoping you'd die so I could get a new roommate."
"It's good to see you too, Kankuro." Naruto flashed a fake smile before bolting to the computer. He started frantically typing away. Kankuro sighed and shook his head.
"Did you do it?" The puppeteer asked.
"I just ordered something, so I'll see Hinata soon," Naruto said gleefully.
"You dumbass, that's not what I'm asking. Did you break up with Sakura?" Kankuro finished his question with an exasperated growl.
"Who do you think punched me into the Fourth Hokage's forehead?" Naruto responded to Kankuro's question with one of his own.
"Sakura took it poorly then. Remind me to keep her away from my brother. I don't think the world needs two violence-prone idiots getting together," Kankuro mumbled.
Naruto jumped from the computer to in front of the door. "Wow, I think that's the most you've ever talked about your brother. Heck, Temari never mentions him either," Naruto said in shock.
"Let's put it this way, any meeting you would have with him would probably end in violence," Kankuro said idly.
"Yeah, that's nice. Waiting for Hinata." Naruto quickly dismissed Kankuro's concerns.
"Why would the 'girl of your dreams' even show up here? I know you aren't dating. And what are you even waiting for?" Kankuro asked in disbelief.
"She works at Asuma's delivery company and she'll be delivering the Toad Summoning Contract I ordered," Naruto stated simply.
"First, how can you be sure this Hinata will be the one to deliver your order? Second, you can't just buy a Summoning Contract off the internet!" Kankuro yelled. It was either raise his voice or have Crow beat Naruto to death. The second option was tempting, but Kankuro needed Naruto to pay his rent money next week. There was a knock at the door and Naruto shot to his feet.
"Time to prove you wrong!" Naruto shouted triumphantly. He swung open the door to greet Hinata.
Instead of the beautiful woman who dominated his dreams, there was a very large white dog sitting on Naruto's doorstep.
"Wow, you've surpassed me in creepiness," Kankuro laughed. The dog dropped a scroll it had been carrying in its mouth and ran off. Naruto grimaced at the drool-covered scroll. He picked it up gingerly and repeated 'ew' over and over again. Naruto opened the scroll and started to read.
At least, he attempted to read the scroll. "This handwriting is worse than mine! Kankuro, come here and help me with this!" Naruto ordered.
Kankuro was overtaken by a morbid curiosity and actually walked over. "I can't tell if this is challenging you to a fight to the death or a fight to the egg. I can't believe what I'm about to say, but..." Kankuro was shaking his head as he spoke.
"What?" Naruto asked in genuine curiosity.
"We've finally found someone whose kanji sucks worse than yours," Kankuro announced.
"I told you that a person with worse handwriting than me existed," Naruto smirked as he spoke. "I'm going to wash my hands. This is as gross as the time you forgot to use the signal."
"Whatever, I'm going to the store." Kankuro said in a huff. Naruto shrugged and went to wash his hands. Naruto hummed one of his favorite songs as he dried his hands. He thought it was a bit odd when the lights flickered. "We paid the power bill."
Naruto did a double take when he opened the door. The door didn't open to a small apartment. Instead, it opened into the Konoha Ninja Academy. There was a strange song with incomprehensible lyrics drifting through the halls. Naruto turned to the blackboard, but nothing was written there. He turned around and saw Hinata cross one door to another.
"Hinata!" Naruto called and bolted up the stairs to the top of the classroom. He practically erupted from the classroom and into the hall. Hinata was skating towards another door. It took Naruto a second to recognize the door on which Hinata was about to knock.
"Hinata!" Naruto shouted excitedly and sprinted to the front door. He was so excited that he failed to notice he was somehow back in his apartment. Naruto flung open the door. "Hey!"
"N-Naruto Uzumaki?" she asked, half remembering the guy she saw, half reading the name from her delivery log. Naruto grinned and nodded. Hinata held out the scroll and a small clipboard. "Sign here, please."
Naruto took it and was signing his name. "Hey, Hinata, I know this sounds really lame, but would you like to go out sometime?"
Hinata blushed. True, she had just gotten out of one bad relationship, but she still couldn't deny that she had one rather handsome young man in front of her. "What the hell, why not?" she thought to herself. "Sure," she said.
Naruto grinned. He wanted to bounce off the walls yelling, but for now he settled for just grinning. "Sweet," he said. "Actually, my band is in this Battle of the Bands thing tomorrow, would you come to it?"
"You have a band?" Hinata asked, surprised.
"Yeah, we suck, but please come?" Naruto knew that sounded lame, but he didn't care.
"Okay," she said, then started to take off.
"Hey, can I get your number?" Naruto called out. Hinata stopped, came back, and handed Naruto a small slip of paper with her name, a number, and a line of seven x's on it. "Girl number," Naruto said to himself before going back into his apartment. He never stopped to think just what the line of x's might mean...
"I have to tell Shikamaru and Temari!" Naruto cut off his own thought with a shout and took off running.
Naruto practically kicked down Shikamaru and Temari's door in his excitement. "You guys aren't going to believe how awesome I am!"
Naruto's announcement was met with silence. He looked around and noticed Temari's door was shut and a Wii-mote was hanging from the doorknob. "Wow, they take their Wii Play rivalry seriously."
Naruto opened the cupboard and fixed some instant ramen. He was happily combining his two favorite things, eating ramen and thinking of Hinata, when Honorable Kono strolled in.
"Hey Naruto." Honorable Kono sat down next to Naruto at the counter.
"Today is officially the best day ever," Naruto said blissfully while he slurped down his ramen.
"Are you talking about your breakup with Sakura? I knew about that already from Ayame's mass text."
"No, that kind of sucked. Sakura didn't take it well and punched me through the Fourth's Head." Naruto shuddered as he recounted his ex-fake-girlfriend's inhuman strength.
"So, what made today awesome then?" Kono asked as he pilfered an apple.
"Not only did I see Hinata today, which by itself is enough to make any day awesome, I got her number and she's coming to the Battle of the Bands," Naruto bragged.
"Nice," Honorable Kono said approvingly. "Have you told Shika and Temari yet?"
"I haven't had a chance. You know how intense their Wii Play matches can get," Naruto confessed with a sigh.
"Wii Play?" Honorable Kono squawked. He couldn't believe Naruto could be that dense.
"Shadow Possession Complete." Shikamaru's voice filtered through the wall.
"Shikamaru, you cheating bastard!" Temari groaned.
"See, Honorable Kono, Wii Play." Naruto explained sagely.
Honorable Kono hit his head against the counter a few times. "They're playing all right."
The next few minutes were passed in silence, barring the occasional grunt or moan from the next room. Naruto laughed at 'the rivalry' and Konohamaru smacked his forehead against the counter a few more times. Shikamaru and Temari eventually emerged from the bedroom. Honorable Kono jumped off the stool and ran up to Temari.
"If they were playing Wii Play, how do you explain the bruises on Temari's neck?" Honorable Kono asked while pointing at his two disheveled friends.
"Wii Play is a full-contact sport, Honorable Kono. It doesn't help that Shikamaru loses control of his Wii-mote at the worst possible times." Naruto explained nonchalantly. Shikamaru pinched the bridge of his nose and Temari face-palmed.
"To prevent this situation from becoming even more of a drag, what are you doing here, Naruto?" Shikamaru would have asked in annoyance, but that would be too much trouble; therefore, he just said it in his normal lazy tone.
"To tell you the awesome news." Naruto bragged again.
"Please tell me you've learned to play more than one note." Temari pleaded with Naruto.
"Even better. The breakup was successful. Then, I got Hinata's number and she'll be showing up at the Battle of the Bands." Naruto crossed his arms and smiled triumphantly.
"Are you sure that the breakup with Sakura was successful?" Temari asked.
"We broke up! I swear! You know I'm the last guy who would juggle two chicks!" Naruto pleaded his innocence.
"Then why is she staring through my window?" Temari shot back.
Naruto looked to the window and jumped in shock. The bass player turned to his band-mates and nervously rubbed at the back of his head. "She's become a creepy stalker from the looks of it."
Honorable Kono grabbed the squirt bottle the band used to water their house plants. He walked to the window and opened it. "Bad stalker! Bad!"
Sakura scurried off. Honorable Kono rejoined the band at the counter. Naruto, completely unfazed by the recent turn of events, rubbed his hands together. "So, Battle of the Bands! I can't wait!"
Naruto must have zoned out again because the next thing he knew, they were arriving at the Battle of the Bands. He grinned as he looked around briefly and found Hinata waiting for them at the door. "Hey Hinata!" he called.
Hinata turned and smiled. "Hey, Naruto," she said. Then she noticed the writing on the outside of Naruto's guitar case. "The Yellow Flashers, huh?"
Naruto grinned sheepishly. "Yeah, we took the name from my dad's old nickname; he got it from this jutsu he created that let him move really fast and left a yellow flash behind."
Hinata looked worried about that, but didn't say anything. Naruto gave her a small smile and took off to meet with the other members of his band backstage. Hinata wandered up to the balcony and sat at a table, where Ayame was already sitting.
Ayame, seeing the girl sit down, smiled kindly. "So you're Hinata, huh?" she asked. Hinata turned toward the voice and nodded. "Naruto hasn't been able to shut up about you for days now, you know."
"Really?" Hinata asked. Considering she'd met the guy twice and agreed to come to this, that was a bit of a surprise.
Ayame chuckled. "Yep, he's such a hopeless romantic. Ever since he dreamed of you, it's been 'Hinata this' and 'Hinata that'."
Hinata blushed. He dreamed of her? Somehow, that thought made her feel...warm and fuzzy inside. Then Hinata heard something she thought she'd never hear again. A voice she knew all too well.
"Well, well, well, if it isn't the failure of the Hyuga Clan," the voice said. Hinata stiffened and turned toward it, her eyes hard, her lips drawn in a tight line. "And what are you doing here?" asked Hinata's sister, Hanabi, the one who had spoken.
"I'm here to support my boyfriend," Hinata answered, emphasizing the last word for Hanabi's benefit.
Ayame, trying to break up the tension, said, "Hi, I'm Ayame, this is my boyfriend Kabuto, and Naruto's roommate Kankuro."
Hanabi picked up on the name of the one absent person. "Oh, Naruto, is that your boyfriend Hinata?"
Hinata glared at Hanabi. "Yes, it is, as a matter of fact. He's the bassist of the Yellow Flashers."
Hanabi snorted. "Figures, you would like a failure like him...since you're such a failure yourself."
Hanabi missed out on one small bit of information about Naruto. He had extremely good hearing. He kept out of the situation for now, but inside he was seething. NO ONE treated Hinata like that. He hadn't missed that she'd called him her boyfriend, either, and that very thought gave him a chill.
Moments later, Hanabi was called to stage for her own band's first song. Seeing her take her seat, Temari growled, "They have a girl drummer?"
"And now, we'll hear from the Flaming Crackers, visiting us all the way from the Village Hidden in the Mist!" said the announcer. The next sound anyone heard was Naruto cracking up laughing at the name of the band.
"I guess that means you're all gay, huh?" Kankuro yelled out. Hanabi flipped him off, an annoyed look on her face.
Naruto, seeing this, snarled, "Oh, that's IT!" He'd had enough of this girl's attitude. He ran forward, intending to slap her across the face. What he wasn't expecting, however, was for her band-mates, Udon and Mizura, to jump in front of her. His slap landed on the side of Udon's head, forcing him and Mizura to bang heads. The impact was so hard, the two boys burst...into coins! Naruto looked at them in surprise for a moment, then bent to pick up the coins. "Sweet, free cash," he said to himself.
Hinata, hearing him, called down, "Aren't you even a little upset that those used to be people?"
He looked up at her. "Nah, I'll just use them to take you out to dinner and never see the corpse-money again, so it's all good," he said, giving her a cheeky grin. Hinata sat back down, blushing furiously.
Naruto was turning to go back to help his band get ready when he heard it. "NARUTO UZUMAKI!" a voice yelled out. Naruto turned and saw a guy about his age flying at him. Instinctively, he put up an arm and blocked the punch aimed for him. He punched the guy across the face.
"REVERSAL!" a voice called out. Everyone looked at Honorable Kono like he had grown a second head. "What?" he asked, as if he hadn't said anything.
"Who are you?" Naruto asked the new arrival.
"I'm Kiba Inuzuka, and I'm Hinata's first evil ex-boyfriend!" the guy declared. Naruto just looked at him, a bewildered look on his face. "Didn't you get my letter, explaining the situation?"
"I got a letter...I guess that was it...I tried to read it, but I couldn't tell if you were challenging me to a fight to the death or a fight to the egg," Naruto said. "So I kind of ignored it."
Kiba glared at the blond. "YOU WILL PAY FOR THIS INSULT!" he screamed and rushed at Naruto.
Solvdrage's Author's Note: The Madness Continues. And yes, that is Kabuto/Ayame. And no, we haven't been drinking.
HGF's Note: To clarify, no, that pairing won't be permanent *shudders at the thought*. Come on back next time to see if this fruitcake is for real or not.
Kiba: Who's a fruitcake?
Kiba: Why I oughta...
HGF (slaps Kiba): Shut up!
Kiba: But mommy, I don't want to go to school today! (falls unconscious)
HGF: Anyway, see you all next time!